First United Methodist Church

Devotion: O Come, All Ye Faithful

Every Advent season, I can rarely get through the lyrics of “O Come All Ye Faithful” without tearing up. The up-beat march and the joyful melody keeps me smiling all the way through. As I heard this song recently on the Pentatonix Christmas Album (which is my favorite version; I highly recommend) I loved how the voices, power and passion built over the three verses. It ends with a choir, dressed in red robes, swaying together to the beat in every size, shape and color and what an image of the Kingdom of God this is. So it is no surprise that as I read the lyrics again in preparation for this devotion that I was struck by the word ALL. The invitational nature of this word reminds me of our Communion Liturgy when the pastor says,

“Christ our Lord invites to his table, ALL who love him,

who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.”

Even after 37 years of walking with Jesus, I am still overwhelmed by the grace of God that invites and beckons ALL to share in the joy and the triumph of the manager. All are invited to faithfully follow and to obediently love. I hear this Christmas Carol as an invitation to belong, believe and become.

As I looked into more of the history of this Carol, maybe the word ALL was written in because of the collaboration team. While this Hymn is attributed to John Francis Wade in 1743 and it included the Latin text in its first version, it was worked on by a group of people. I share these notes from the United Methodist Discipleship website:

“This favorite Christmas hymn appears to be the result of a collaboration of several people. What we sing is a 19th-century version of a hymn written in the 18th century.

The Latin text comes from the Roman Catholic tradition, found in an 18th-century manuscript in the College at Douai located in northern France beginning around 1561 and continuing until it was suppressed in 1793. The college was exiled to England at the time of the French Revolution (1789-99).”

Like Scripture itself, this hymn had several versions, languages, and contributors over time. The theology came from both Protestant and Catholic traditions, Latin and French languages were translated too. Originally written by the Englishman, John Francis Wade, the first manuscript was dated in 1743, and the English language translation of stanzas one, two, three and six is the work of Frederick Oakeley (1802-1880). He was a translator of Latin hymns during the Oxford movement who worked closely with Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), a leader in the movement. Oakeley became a Roman Catholic and was known for his ministry to the poor at Westminster Abbey. Oakeley’s stanzas, penned in 1841, first appeared in F.H. Murray’s Hymnal for Use in the English Church (1852). And then Abbé Etienne Jean François Borderies, who was inspired upon hearing the hymn, translated three additional stanzas, of which four and five are included in the UM Hymnal, to fill out the Christmas story.

What I hear in the history of this hymn is once again the echoing of ALL. Writers from Protestant and Catholic faiths, those who spoke Latin, English, and French, those who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries all faithfully followed Jesus, had a story to tell and a new stanza to add.

And so as we inch closer to the manger, as we make our way to Bethlehem to see the Christ Child, how are you listening to faithful voices along the way? How are you being informed by those that have a different voice, language, or tradition? Our God is the God of ALL because ALL is situated in grace. And so as you sing this carol, as you wrap your gifts, as you attend parties and worship and embrace the moments of craziness, may you open your ears for the voices that you haven’t listened to lately or the faces that are not a part of your normal circle of friends and welcome them also to the manger. To come, faithfully one and ALL.



Devotion: Christ As Our King

For an additional resource on this topic, CLICK HERE to view a video from the Bible Project.

Devotion: Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

Now I realize that I am not like the Apostle Paul in this moment. I am not sitting in prison, writing words to his congregation that he might never see again.

Words from Philippians that say:

3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”  Philippians 1:3-6 The Message

I am not in prison, but in fact, sitting in my office on this rainy Friday afternoon the week before Thanksgiving and it occurred to me that it has been awhile since I said thank you. In this season of gratitude, I wanted to offer thanks. But I hope you know how thankful I am for this church and for all of you during every season of our lives as we follow Jesus together.

I thank you as a Pastor that I have the privilege of serving with you, hearing your stories, praying with you through times of trial and getting to worship with you in the ups and downs of life. I appreciate being able to see God work in your lives and through the ministries of this church; I feel filled up by God’s grace because of this everyday.

I thank you as a wife that you pray for my husband and his congregation and that you understand the struggle we face as a busy clergy couple, especially on Sundays.

And speaking of Sundays…

I thank you as a mom who love my children well. Who smile when my son comes up midway through the Lord’s Prayer to ask me to open up his goldfish bag. Thank you for loving my crying baby who needs her mother even when I am needed up front to lead worship. Thank you for loving my oldest to allow her to really grow up here and ask questions and dance and sing and be herself.

But thank you mostly as a beloved daughter of God. I feel lucky every day to get to be a part of this church’s ministry and thankful that God called me here three and a half years ago. I think it is easy sometimes to take for granted our blessings and the people that love us well. And I just wanted to share that if I don’t tell you enough, I am thankful for all that you are to me and my family.

And not only that, I can see the hand of God at work in your life. I see spiritual depth and maturity in the way you are wrestling with the hard issues that our culture is forcing us to deal with. I see how you care for your fellow church members and Sunday School friends, I see how you serve outside these walls, and want to make the world a better place. I hear you struggle to know how to follow Jesus and be the church in this post-pandemic time and I am right there with you.

But I leave you with this. Our future is bright and filled with great expectations. Your pastors had a Clergy Day apart with the Bishop this last Tuesday and close to 300 clergy from all over our Florida Conference came out to worship, pray, learn and have communion together. We heard from our leader, Bishop Tom Berlin, and we encouraged each other. I heard these words and I share them with you.

“Joy and Hope are an act of RESISTANCE to despair!”

And I couldn’t agree more. And so, wherever you find yourself this holiday week, I bet you will hear the brokenness, the frustration, and maybe some despair. But I encourage you to counter that with Joy and Hope, because there is much to be thankful for in this life we live and on this journey of faith. And today, I am especially thankful that I see Joy and Hope in each of you!

May this prayer be a blessing for you, today and always.

Almighty God, giver of every good and perfect gift,
teach us to render to you all that we have and all that we are,
that we may praise you, not with our lips only,
but with our whole lives,
turning the duties, the sorrows, and the joys of all our days
into a living sacrifice to you;
through our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.



Devotion: Transformative Power of Love

What a wonderful weekend we had to celebrate our partnership with INUA. Please visit INUA’s website to learn how to support them. Let’s find resonance in Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Our collaboration with INUA Partners isn’t merely a transaction; it’s a shared commitment to embodying Christ’s love through tangible acts of compassion.

As we delve into the inspiring stories of transformation and hope from INUA Partners, we hear Psalm 82:3 resounding in our ears: “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” INUA Partners serves as a shining light of advocacy for those in need, and our support is an extension of this divine calling to uplift the marginalized and safeguard the vulnerable.

Also let’s consider 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Our involvement with INUA binds us in a spiritual kinship, forging a connection that transcends geographic boundaries. Through our collective efforts, we become instruments of positive change, fostering a ripple effect that resonates with the transformative power of love.

There are some who may question why we choose to support a ministry all around the world instead of focusing on problems closer to home. However, I believe we can do both. As Christ’s followers, we are called to be a light in a dark world, and partnering with others allows us to shine even brighter. No matter where we are, we have the opportunity to make a positive impact and spread hope.

So, let our partnership with INUA be more than a momentary joy of this weekend; may it be a catalyst for sustained involvement, an enduring commitment to fulfilling God’s call to compassion and justice. In this shared journey, our actions create a tapestry of hope woven with threads of love, mercy, and transformative grace.

Unity, Grace, and Love,
Pastor Philip

6 Questions for Our Church to Consider

Check out today’s update to learn about 6 questions our church family needs to consider in the coming year!

Devotion: The Light That We Cannot See

This past week, Ryan and I finished watching the mini-series on Netflix called, “All the Light We Cannot See.” It was excellent. It was a book first; maybe you have read it, but it follows two teenagers trying to survive World War II. One teenager is a brilliant and resourceful blind girl and the other teenager is a German orphan pressed into serving the Reich because he has an affinity for fixing and operating radios. They are both connected because they listen to the radio frequency 1310 where they hear “The Professor” share about the goodness of life, the joy, the kindness, the humanity. And how if you look closely enough, you can see the light that no one else can see. The book adapted for TV was beautiful and tragic and deep and reminded me at times of the hope we have in God’s Kingdom to look for the light even when it is hard to find.

While I will never know what it was like for the people in the 1930s and 1940’s living in war-time Europe and trying to resist the evil and oppressive Nazi regime, I do know what it is like to look for the light, even in the darkness. Jesus constantly uses the metaphor of light and darkness to talk about the reality of the world. We all know what it is like to sit in darkness, wait in obscurity, struggle until daybreak and dance when the sun rises. In one way, there is good that happens in the dark. We sleep and rest and our bodies repair themselves. There is quiet in the early hours of morning and at least in my currently reality, a quiet hour or two at night that allows my husband and I to relax and enjoy something on TV. But we never want to stay in the darkness for long; we are people of the light. We yearn to see beyond the shadows and live in the vibrancy of day.

And so as I was watching this show unfold, listening to its beautiful music, swept up in the characters and conflict, I heard the Spirit asking me to put myself in their shoes and also look for the light. When I am weary and overwhelmed by my work and my world, I have to consciously look for the light. When people disappoint and scare me, I have to struggle to see the good. When the Middle East is in conflict again, when Congress can’t agree, when there is one more senseless mass shooting, I angrily demand to see the light. Maybe you can relate. There will always be moments when we find the light more easily, but Jesus says, that what sets us apart is having the compassion, deep faith and spiritual maturity to see the light that no one else can see. And then to point to that light when others only see darkness.

In the famous epilogue of John’s Gospel, we often read these words at Christmas time because they point to Emmanuel, God with us.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:4-5 NIV

But not only did light enter into this world 2,000 years ago, but light continues to enter into every hopeless and desperate moment every time a person of the light chooses to point to it, over the darkness.

Said another way:

“What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” 
John 1:4-5 The Message

May we live like people who hope in the God that blazes bright for all to see. May we trust that our darkness, their darkness, culture’s darkness will never last. And may we act, and trust and move and believe that the light of life can never be put out.

If you know it, sing it with me.

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine let it SHINE!”

Facility & Air Conditioning Update

Watch today’s video to hear from Deb Rogers, our COO, regarding our facilities and an update on our air conditioning system.

Security Task Force Update

Watch today’s update to learn about the work of our Security Task Force team.

Devotion: What you focus on grows

I don’t know about you, but I want to look back at my life and see that I have used my time and energy well. I want to be able to look back at my “energy meter” and know that I spent all of it by pouring myself out for others and sharing the light of Christ with those in my sphere of influence. On Sunday, in worship, we talked about stewarding our time and energy in such a way because we want to “live like we are dying.” And as I talked through this thought with my Spiritual Director on my Sabbath this week, she reminded me of the quote you see below.

Let me start by saying that I am the LAST person who should be giving advice about how plants grow and when my mom reads this she will chuckle, because she knows. Every orchid plant she has given me, every flower, even the succulents…I somehow manage to kill. I can’t keep plants alive and the fact that we have a growing lime tree, blueberry bush and banana tree in our backyard is only thanks to my husband who has the gift. I have however kept other important things alive, like my three healthy children and an 11 year-old dog…but plants stand no chance with me!

But for our purposes of this devotion, thankfully this saying is about more than just plants, it is about growing our focus. Expanding and Including new passions, people, and ideologies that help us reach our neighbors. We grow our focus in a number of ways, but today I invite you to think about the second part of this saying which reshapes the way we steward our time and turns it toward what we concentrate on. I challenge you to go back and read a few stories of Jesus and see if the Bible stories ever mention how long Jesus spent with people. For instance, if you make a pastoral appointment with me, I will usually mark an hour into my calendar, or maybe a little longer if food is involved. But Jesus never managed his time like we would today, with alerts when his healing sessions were running over or reminders to add in travel time as he and his disciples walked from one city to the next.

Jesus didn’t manage his time because he was being irresponsible, but because he was focused on something else. His focus was always so intent on loving, serving, healing, reconciling and teaching that time was spent differently. Now that is not to say that he had no boundaries and gave and gave and gave until he had nothing left…no, not at all. Jesus was self-aware enough to know when he was empty or tired or spent. Instead, it seems from the Gospel accounts that Jesus remained present and focused on the people he was directly in front of, not being pulled to the next appointment on his calendar.

This seems like a freeing way to be in relationship with one another even if this is countercultural to how we live out the rest of our lives. If we want to grow our faith and grow our relationships and grow our witness and grow the Kingdom, then I believe it starts with managing the focus of our time and energy instead of letting our time and energy manage us. For some of us, this might be easier because we don’t right now have kids and their schedule managing us, trust me, I know. Or maybe it isn’t kids or grandkids that take up a lot of your time but your job or caring for a loved one. Those schedules too are unpredictable and often draining. With whatever time and energy we do have, my challenge for all of us is to use the moments that we do have to optimize our own focused attention and move us into a space that strives for authentic relationship. Maybe it is listening before talking, or putting down your phone, or turning off the background noise or shaking up your routine because you aren’t afraid to be interrupted. Remember, what you focus on grows and I don’t know about you, but I want to look back and see that I focused my time and energy on things that have a lasting impact on God’s Kingdom.

If you don’t have any plans next Thursday, October 19th from 11am-1pm, I would love to talk over past devotions with you, hear your stories and encourage you in your faith journey. I will be on the Winter Park Campus in the Parlor, so just bring your own lunch and meet me there.

Charge Conference Update from Pastor David

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