First United Methodist Church

Service Times

9am Contemporary | 11am Traditional

Pentecost Devotion: Birthday Party People

In the family I grew up in, we went all out for our loved one’s birthdays. In my childhood home, birthdays were a big deal. We would hang up streamers in the living room, blow up balloons, hang up a Happy Birthday banner, wrap presents and have “breakfast in bed.” One of our favorite parts of the birthday day is eating our meals on the red “You are Special Today” plate. I have carried all of these things into my adult home and my children have readily embraced these traditions. They LOVE birthdays. Even their favorite stuffed animals have birthday celebrations several times a year.

I share this because I am writing this devotion on Tuesday, May 23rd which happens to be my sweet husband’s 38th birthday and it got me thinking about what a birthday is really celebrating. It comes around every year, but I believe there is deep meaning behind this celebration. One of my favorite spiritual leaders Henri Nouwen, writes this:

“Birthdays need to be celebrated. I think it is more important to celebrate a birthday than a successful exam, a promotion, or a victory. Because to celebrate a birthday means to say to someone: “Thank you for being you.” Celebrating a birthday is exalting life and being glad for it. On a birthday we do not say: “Thanks for what you did, or said, or accomplished.” No, we say: “Thank you for being born and being among us.”

What a helpful reminder to celebrate being known and being amongst us in a world that has its own measurements for success. Frequently our worth is measured by something else. Maybe our worth in this world is measured by the framed degrees on our walls, the money in our bank accounts, the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the people we are social with, the schools or teams are children are a part of, and the list goes on and on. But when I think about how much God loved the world, Jesus’ incarnation showed us that the Father measures the things of the heart and the worth of the soul.

When we celebrate the life of a loved one, we are remembering that we are a better person, more loving, gentle, and giving because that loved one influenced us. Or to quote the prayer prayed at a Celebration of Life Service:

“Eternal God, you have shared with us the life of Robert.
Before he was ours, he is yours.
For all that Robert has given us to make us what we are,
for that of him which lives and grows in each of us,
and for his life that in your love will never end,
we give you thanks.”

Did you notice that? For that of him which lives and grows in each of us…what a beautiful way to say that our lives matter. And so if birthdays are really truly about exalting life and gratitude for those that live life amongst us, then how can we begin to celebrate the birthday of the body of Christ?

This Sunday is Pentecost, and along with the gift of the Holy Spirit and how God’s spirit brought order to chaos, we are celebrating the birthday of the Church. We are remembering the ways in which the Church of Jesus Christ exalts life and lives amongst us. Not as a building, or style of music or order of service or charisma of a preacher, but the Church, the body of Christ exalts life and lives amongst us.

And so the question I leave with you this week for you to chew on and talk to others about it this. How are you apart of the body that is living amongst the world, making it more vibrant, telling others that they matter? How are you making people feel special and loved and treating them like they matter to the Creator of the Universe? How are you acting like Birthday Party people in a world that really needs more balloons, more red “You are Special Today” plates and definitely more cake?

There is a party coming and we are all invited. Will you join in on the celebration? Happy Birthday to you!

We encourage you to wear RED this Sunday in celebration of Pentecost! Learn more about this special day at the link below.

Health Insurance Overview

Watch today’s update to hear from Pastor David, Pat Albert, & Bob Constant about our current health coverage and the role of our Staff Parish Relations Committee.

Devotion: Humbly Following Jesus

Devotion: Salt, Light and Tartar Sauce?

Earlier today, I ran to Publix to buy the final parts of our Christ-like Servants Pillar Meal. We gather every second Tuesday with the ministries of that Pillar to encourage one another, learn, pray and fellowship. I ran in quickly before heading into the office, with the purpose of being in and out but the Holy Spirit had other plans. I quickly noticed a homeless woman walking through the bakery section admiring all of the fresh food and talking to herself about how delicious the items looked. She and I started talking near the Publix soups and when she said, she loves soup, but can’t afford any today, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “You feed her.”

I asked her if I could buy her a cup of soup and at first, she said yes, but then she thought about how she didn’t really have a microwave to warm it up in so what she really wanted was a sub. And so I walked with her over the sub-station and she ordered a turkey sub with two kinds of cheese and all the fixings. But she didn’t want any sauce, she said, because as she held up five packets of tartar sauce, she was going to use tartar sauce instead.

Now, I am not a food snob and I am really no expert on sauce combos, but I can’t say I have ever used tartar sauce on something not fish. Maybe I have a lot to learn and maybe I have been living under a rock, but my new friend says it is all the rage.

And it got me thinking about being the church. As we heard on Sunday, the Way of Jesus is to be vitality in a world that is losing its liveliness and strength. When we, as a group, are called to be light and salt, it connects us back to our calling to represent God on earth and to be the representatives of another world, another kingdom where Christ is seated upon the throne. Jesus is very clear in Matthew 5 that we are salt and we are light, but if Jesus was there in the Publix sub line with me this morning, I believe Jesus would also agree with my new friend that we are tartar sauce too.

Maybe the church has always been in the “fish”ing business, but now we are called outward and beyond into the sub-business. Maybe being salt and light looks different today in this post-pandemic world and the church is called to be tartar sauce as well. Maybe we need to try things we have never tried before for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

Now, I’m not planning on having a turkey sub with tartar sauce anytime soon, but I will look at my approaches differently. I will think with more caution about doing the same things I have always done while expecting different results. I will try new things in how I talk to the people I interact with, in how I shine light in broken circumstances and in how I attempt to bring salt into bland and flavorless situations. But I won’t close my eyes to new ways of being the church either. Quite frankly it is time to diversify our “sauce collection” to reach more people, in more places, in different spaces than we have been used to in the past. And it means we will be uncomfortable. It means that we might have to try tartar sauce on our turkey sub once in a while because that is what incarnational ministry is all about. And we may love it, and we may say, “No, thank you,” but are you willing to give it a try? Imagine what God’s Kingdom will look like in five years, ten years, or the next generation because we tried something new!

Financial Update from Pastor David!