Today I Saw God
News travels fast. At 2:24pm on Tuesday afternoon my daughter, who lives in DC, messaged me asking, "Do you know what's happening on Point Rider Lane?" She had seen a news link, shared on Facebook by a friend from her middle school soccer team who was concerned about the helicopters flying over her house. I didn't have an immediate answer, but soon I would. What does one do with news like this? As Tom put it yesterday, "the worst possible news."
We do what people do in hard times. We gather and share the news.
Yesterday, I pulled into the church parking lot past an oddly marked vehicle. In the driver's seat sat a man furiously typing on his laptop. I thought this odd because, as usual, I was arriving only minutes before the start of the service. Why wasn't the man getting out and coming in? When I walked by, the ads printed on the side of his car told me why. He was from the media, probably on deadline to submit this morning's story.
Floris UMC worship was news. And the news outlets were reporting it.
I felt a little odd, then, walking into the service. Wasn't sure what I would find there. But I was greeted, as usual. Welcomed, as usual. Seated, as usual, although thesanctuaryseemed a bit more full than usual. The sermon title had changed, but we were still welcoming new members and handing out Bibles to our 3rd graders. Just like usual. Then we sang our opening hymn, so familiar, so fitting: I Love to Tell the Story.
It felt a bit ironic but so fitting. Today, an old, old story was breaking news.
We are a community suffering through tragedy. And so we come. To be comforted and to connect. To ask questions with no answers. We bring our grief and our sorrow. But we come. Tom's wonderful heart for all of us was poured out in his words.
Tom brought to mind a message I heard this summer delivered by Rob Fuquay, a pastor in NC. The theme was the "I am" statements of Jesus. Rob was teaching from John 11:25-26. Jesus said to Martha whose brother Lazarus lay in the tomb, "I am the resurrection and the life…Do you believe this?" Rob asked us if we could put our trust in this. Rest in this. Because the resurrection was not just for those who have died but for the many left behind, the people who have to live with death. Who carry grief.
Tom Berlin cautioned us that "grief carried casually can easily convert to anger." So, so true, Tom. Thank you. But grief, cradled carefully, the way our church has helped us carry it this week, can be made alive again. Life, notresuscitated, but resurrected.
As the song goes…I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story, because I know 'tis true; It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do. I love to tell the story, 'twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story, for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest. And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, 'twill be the old old, story that I have loved so long. I love to tell the story, 'twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
What a privilege we have as keepers of the whole story… of Jesus and His love.
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I'm glad Tom is back from General Conference. And that has nothing to do with the preaching, teaching or the leadership in his absence. I am glad Tom is back because I was worried about him there. His letters (blogs, facebook and tweets) from Florida were a bit frightening. Clearly, they were battening down the hatches in Tampa, expecting high winds. I wondered what it would take to stand up to hurricane force winds.
Part way through the Conference a friend told me I could tune into the live coverage at www.UMC.org. So I did. Very briefly. I saw and heard the presiding Bishop, the speakers at the various microphones, the calls for votes. And Iread the constant stream of realtime text messages. Oh my goodness. Let's just say, my fears were not alleviated. This is the church. My church. It looked and sounded very much like the rest of the world.I wouldn't have lasted 30 minutes in that conference center.
Cut to my life back here in the easy chair of Northern Virginia. I'm at the gym chatting with a neighbor who used to attend the Episcopal church down the street from Floris. She tells me it's been so sad, the split in their church that caused her family to leave it and now hasresultedin its closing its doors. "Fortunately," she tells me "I only have to worry about what I do. How I treat others. I just have to take responsibility for myself."
That's true, I guess, as far as it takes you. But not for the church leadership. They need to work in the bigger picture, to set a course that will guide the whole church. So, when storms come, congregations have a game plan. And I don't think that "every man for himself" is a good strategy. We need to be prepared. And to prepare our children.
It didn't take me long to picture the classroom full of confirmation students it was my privilege to lead in small group. One class is dedicated to learning about the "social principles" of the United Methodist church. In preparation to teach this class, I photocopied the social principles section of the UMC Book of Discipline. And I, well, I scanned thisbecauseit is long and wordy and, frankly, very broad-ranging. It, as Tom says, "casts a wide net."
But I'm glad I have it in handbecauseI want these young teens to know that theirchurchcares about these issues. More than that, it cares about the people who face these issues. That it has taken time to address them and to findlanguagethat expresses a common (or at least majority) opinion. There is some direction, some guidance and a fair amount of wiggle room, actually.
And just when those confirmands start yawning and figuring these principles are stuffy and distant, I assure them that these issues will find them. Personally. And when they do, it won't beblackand white. There will be a whole lot of gray. And they'll be making a decision that may have big consequences. I tell them the story of someone nearly their age who didn't speak the hard truth to a friend and paid for it with his life. All of a sudden, they're all ears.
There comes a point when social principles become personal principles. When "What does the church think about this?" becomes "What am I to do about this?" When the rubber meets the road or the oars meet the waters, on very choppy seas. And fear threatens tooverwhelmfaith. Yes,Jesus did say, "Do not be afraid." But he didn't say, "there is nothing to fear." (Perhaps Churchill?) We need a strategy against that opponent.
When we join the church we pledge our prayers, our presence, our gifts and our service. And one other thing: our witness in the world. Perhaps that's when personal principles point us back to the bigger picture. We can be personally disciplined in study and prayer, even worship and giving. But principles can't make us care. We have to choose that. And when we do Christ's power is unleashed in the world and on the waves. It mayreach those who don't yet know the salvation that Christ offers. Personally, I want to have achurchto bring them to. That's a denominational business.
The view from my window says there are storms blowing in. Tom, it was good to have you attheoars of General Conference; I'm imaging you are bit sore from the effort. I'm wondering if maybe you have even bulked up a bit.Welcome home.I'll see you at the gym!
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Dear Floris Family,
I am still in Tampa, where the General Conference of the UMCcomes to a close tomorrow. It has been both an inspiring and challenging two weeks and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday. Here are some things happening at Floris that may be of interest to you.
Rebuilding Together Day a Success
This past Saturday, a team of 40 Floris members participated in National Rebuilding Together Day. Our participation in this program is a tradition that spans many years. Saturday's team spent the day working in Falls Church on the home of a 90 year old woman, Ms. Wright, and completed dozens of projects to make her house safer, brighter, more accessible and much more comfortable. Groups completed landscaping projects, patched a hole in the roof, fixed electrical issues, replaced light and bathroom fixtures, and painted large portions of the inside and outside of the home. I am grateful to those who participated in this ministry that is making such a lasting impact on the quality of life for the vulnerable in our community.
Footprints for Hope
Last spring many of you participated in the Walk for Hope, an event which benefited Connections for Hope and its partner agencies. This year, Connections for Hope will hold Footprints for Hope on Saturday, May 19. The event will include a 1-mile walk, a 3-mile walk and a 5K run. Money raised by this event will support the many programs at Connections for Hope, which include medical assistance, homework tutoring and homeless prevention. To sign up for Footprints for Hope, go to the Helping Children Worldwide website. Staff and volunteers from Connections for Hope will be at Floris on Sunday in the Gathering Space to answer questions and register anyone who is interested in participating.
Visit Stone's Cove on May 6
Stone's Cove is once again partnering with Connections for Hope to offer a dining and fundraising opportunity. This Sunday from 11 AM to 9 PM, let your server know you're there to support C4H and 20% of your check will be donated to the center. Stone's Cove is adjacent to Red, Hot and Blue in the Clock Tower shopping center. This is a fun way to support the important work of C4H. Find out more about the Stone's Cove event, including the "mini-match" donation option.
Student Ministry Car Wash
Our students will be in the lower parking lot on Saturday, May 12 from 10 AM to 3 PM washing cars. Be sure to come by and have your car washed, enjoy refreshments and learn about this summer's student mission trips. All donations received support these mission trips. This is a great way to support our students as they make a difference in the community and the world.
Senior Transportation Seminar
Many seniors struggle with transportation issues. If you or someone you know is a senior who needs transportation to and from doctor's appointments, etc., I want you to know about a free seminar Floris is hosting tomorrow at noon. Bring a bag lunch and come hear from the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services about your transportation options.
Westminster Ringers Concert
The Westminster Ringers are coming to Floris on Saturday, May 12, at 7:30 PM. They are a community handbell group of 18 ringers with 150 years of experience between them. This will be an entertaining and inspiring concert for all ages. Tickets are $6 and can be purchased on-line or at the door. Proceeds of the concert will support Camp Hutchison. For more information contact Laura Shelton.
This Week in Worship
Sunday we will hear our fourth sermon in the sermon series, Why Should I Care? I look forward to being with you again as we consider Why Should I Care About My Church? Scripture: John 6:16-25.
Dear Floris Family,
I am currently in Tampa attending the General Conference of the UMC. I ask you to keep me in your prayers during this time. While I'm here I will be blogging and posting to Facebookand have recently opened a twitter account. You can follow me at @revtomberlin. If you want to follow the deliberations of General Conference, you can do so at the General Conference 2012 web page. Here are some things happening at Floris in the coming weeks that may be of interest to you.
Stop Hunger Now Packaging Event
On Mother's Day, May 13, from 2:30 to 5 PM, we will hold our first ever Stop Hunger Now packaging event in Fellowship Hall. Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief organization that provides life-saving nutrition to children and families around the world. Our goal is to package 80,000 meals that will be shipped around the world to feed the hungry. Space is limited to 250 participants so be sure to sign up if you'd like to participate. This is a great event for the entire family and all ages are invited to attend. Visit our website to learn more or to sign up for the Stop Hunger Now packaging event. If you can assist with the set-up for the event starting around 1 PM, please contact Jake McGlothin.
Serving God Study
Serving others is a core value in our Floris community and leads us to congregational vitality. Serving is also a cornerstone of our United Methodist heritage. Beginning Tuesday, May 15, this four-week study will focus on learning how we can serve at Floris, in our community and in the world. This is a great class for those who are new to Floris or not sure where to begin serving. Sign up for Serving God on our website. For more information contact Cheryl Brock.
Camp Hutchison Recruitment Continues
Thank you to all of you who stopped by the Fellowship Hall this past Sunday to learn more about Camp Hutchison. We will continue Camp Hutchison Recruitment this Sunday in the Gathering Space where you can pick up information about the camp, meet some of last year's volunteers and learn how you can get involved and impact the lives of children in our community.
Many of you have asked about the time commitment involved in this ministry opportunity. For those of you who are interested in being an instructor, assistant instructor, counselor or junior counselor, we ask that you give at least one week, although two weeks would be preferred. For other assignments, like enrichment, Fun Fridays and nutrition volunteers, there is more flexibility. If you have questions, please contact Jake McGlothin, who is very eager to talk to you about your involvement.
This Week in Worship
Sunday we will hear our third sermon in the sermon series, Why Should I Care? Come hear what the Bible has to say to us in these turbulent times. This week we will consider Why Should I Care About the Environment? Scripture: Genesis 1:20-31.
Dear Floris Family,
I leave this week to chaperone my daughter Hannah's high school chorus trip to Orlando. From there I will travel to Tampa for the General Conference of the UMC. Please keep me in your prayers during this time. If you want to follow the deliberations of General Conference, you can do so at the General Conference 2012 web page. I plan to blog while I'm there, so check the Floriswebsiteonce General Conference begins next week.
I have never used the eNote for a personal appeal, but I want to ask a favor for Jacqueline De Los Rios and her husband, Rosen Todorov. Many of you know Jacqui, who serves as the Latino Ministry Program Director. I have known Jacqui for seven years in her roles on staff here at Floris. Two years ago our staff gathered to greet her as she returned from being sworn in as a citizen of the United States after a great deal of study and effort.
While Jacqui is from Bolivia, her husband Rosen is from Bulgaria. He has served here at Floris as a volunteer weekly for the past several years. He and Jacqui met in the U.S. and were married three years ago. Rosen has been in the application process for citizenship for several years and has had multiple hearings. After he and Jacqui were married, immigration officials were concerned that it was for a doorway to citizenship rather than love and relationship.
Having attended their wedding reception and experiencing this couple for years at the church, I know Rosen as a dedicated and loving husband.
Due to the record created by an unscrupulous immigration attorney, a deceitful employment agent who helped Rosen find initial work in the U.S., and a language barrier that contributed to the confusion, Rosen's Application for Pardon was denied at a recent immigration hearing. If you would like more information about Rosen's specific legal situation, please contact Barbara Miner. Rosen's new attorney is helping them make an appeal as a result of the denied Application for Pardon. His lawyer has asked that they circulate a petition that will demonstrate that it will be an extreme hardship for Jacqui if Rosen is deported. The petition also establishes that Rosen and Jacqui are a part of our community here in the U.S. If you know Jacqui or Rosen and would be willing to sign a petition of support, it would be a blessing to them. They could use your help.
Now here are some items of interest at Floris this week.
Camp Hutchison 2012
This Sunday we will begin our recruitment for Camp Hutchison 2012. Camp Hutchison is a four-week enrichment summer camp for Hutchison students where volunteers provide students with a safe and fun learning environment. This year, it will take place from July 9 to August 3 at the school. Judy Baldwin, the principal, will be joining us on Sunday and we will have an information session with refreshments after each morning worship service in the Fellowship Hall. I hope that you will consider being a part of this ministry that has an impact on children in our community.
Kid Nation Communion Class
Our Kid Nation Ministry will be offering another Faith Development Program on Communion Friday, April 27 at 7 PM. This is a great opportunity for you and your child to learn about communion and the theology behind the practice. This class will have interactive and hands-on activities so you won't want to miss it. Find out more information or register for Communion Class.
Empty Bowls Event a Success
You may know that an Empty Bowls event was held here at Floris for the first time on Friday night. A local organization, Giving Circle of Hope, sponsored this event benefitting Food for Others. We received word from Cathy Waters, the event chair, that $21,673 was raised. This is the largest amount they have raised in the 5 years they have held the event. She extends a big thank you to all of you who assisted and attended. Your efforts will help fight hunger in Northern Virginia. View some photos taken at Friday's event.
Many of you had the opportunity to see the Space Shuttle Discovery as it flew over our area. I thought you would enjoy seeingthis picturetaken from our parking lot.
This Week in Worship
Sunday we will hear our second sermon in the sermon series, Why Should I Care? Does the Bible have anything to say to us in these turbulent times? In what ways does loving God have to do with caring about the world? Come hear thoughtful answers to some of the hard questions facing us today. This week we will consider Why Should I Care About Global Poverty?Scripture: Luke 16:19-31.