A Season of First Sundays – Pastor Stacey

It’s finally happening! After years of prayer, planning, and fundraising, Melissa UMC is opening the doors of our own church building. I’d like to be the first to invite all of you: come worship with us!

Beginning this Sunday, April 25, we will be moving to an expanded worship schedule for A Season of First Sundays. We will have worship services at 9 and 11 am weekly through May 23. These services will also be livestreamed on Facebook live and to our YouTube channel for those of you who are traveling or feel more comfortable at home. Your reservations are requested due to the limited seating in these services and masks will be required.

Just like moving into a new home or apartment, it will take some time to get settled in this new space. In the coming weeks and months, you will see changes from week to week… stained glass, playground, portable classrooms, furniture and more. You will hear about the establishment of Connections Coffee and may have the opportunity to sample some early espresso creations. We will be talking often about new opportunities in children and youth ministries, small groups, worship and more.

Take a moment today to sign up below for the services you plan to attend in the next 5 weeks!

I am excited to worship with you during A Season of First Sundays! Come see the good work you are doing in Melissa.

Blessings,
Pastor Stacey


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Growing Perfect in Faith – Pastor Chris

What does a fully formed disciple of Jesus look like? How can we create a space in which the youth of our community can grow toward being a mature disciple of Christ? These are the questions that drive youth ministry. Sure, we also ask questions like, “How do we entice more youth to come to our church?” and “Is it a good idea to put a Happy Meal in a blender and then have a contest to see who can drink a Happy Meal smoothie the quickest?” (spoiler alert: it’s not), but the questions that really drive us are those that explore how effective we are in helping youth to grow in their faith.

We have been studying the life of Jesus on Wednesday nights, and this week we started with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. We looked at the structure, and discussed how the values of Jesus often run counter to the values of humanity. Where we tend to value wealth, Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). While we value power, Jesus says “Blessed are the meek” (5:5). Jesus goes on to teach about the love of enemies, and putting the needs of others before our own. Together we questioned the text: what does Jesus actually expect from us? Is Jesus using hyperbole to make a point? We might be tempted to think so if it weren’t for what Jesus says in 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The word “perfect” there is the Greek word teleios, and it does not mean a mathematical perfection, but rather would be better translated as “mature.” If you think of a fig tree, then that tree is perfect when it produces the fruit that it was created to bear. It doesn’t matter if the branches are all gnarled, if it lost limbs in a storm, or if some of its leaves are brown. What matters is that it produces fruit, and it is in the bearing of this fruit that the tree finds perfection. The same is true for us. When we bear the fruit of ministry in this world that God has creates us to produce, then we are fully formed disciples of Jesus.

What has God created you to do? What fruit are you called to bear into this world? We explore these questions regularly with our youth. And now, we do that face to face. We are back meeting together, and you are invited to be a part of figuring out what it means to follow Jesus in this world. We gather on Sunday mornings at 10:05 am in the Hub (our youth building, across the street from the main church building) to talk about Jesus. We gather on Sunday afternoons to grow in our faith. Our 6th grade confirmation class meets at 4:30 pm, and youth in the 7th – 12th grades meet at 6. We study the Bible on Wednesdays at 7:00 pm, and we try to dig down deep into the Scripture and find the Living Word of God. We are also meeting virtually. Through all of this, we are exploring our call to be fully formed disciples of Jesus, and we are learning how to love the world around us. Come join us!

Blessings,
Pastor Chris


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Reopening – Pastor Abe

The world is beginning to reopen – stores, restaurants, theatres, offices are coming alive again. Although the church never closes (because the work of Christ in the world never stops!) we have not been able to worship in person in a while. This Sunday, however, we will begin to responsibly meet in person again. As things reopen and people begin to reunite, I’ve been pondering these questions: what do I want to reopen myself to? And what would the perfect reopening look like?

Early in the pandemic, Dave Hollis said, “In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.” Great question! What do you want your new normal to look like? What do you want to open yourself up to in your vocation, your relationships, your faith, your hobbies? And as you open yourself up to these things again what do you want them to look like? What would be the ideal situation in each of these areas?

The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians, “The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead. It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose (Phil 3:10-12).”

Paul gets it. He is living for the resurrected Christ. He is not dwelling on the past or longing for the good ol’ days. He is growing forward, pursuing Jesus in all he does. I want to be like Paul as we begin to reopen. In a world filled with many good and great answers, Jesus is the best answer! If we could give people the opportunity to experience who Jesus really is, the world would truly change.

We are an Easter people! Grab hold of this truth, pursue it, live it, share it, and may our “new normal” be centered on Jesus!

 


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O Guiding Night – Pastor James

“O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn! O night that has united the Lover with his beloved, transforming the beloved in her Lover.” So reads the fifth stanza of “Dark Night,” the poem from which we get the saying, “the dark night of the soul.” But notice how the poet—the sixteenth century mystic John of the Cross—doesn’t convey a sense of fear or anxiety. Instead, this song is about the “beloved” who has found solace in God. But it took the cover of “darkness” for this transformation to occur.

This week we find ourselves at the culmination of the 2021 Lenten season. Just like in the biblical account, the weeks leading up to this moment seem to have been a blur. But now time is slowing down again, sharpening our view as things come to a screeching halt at Good Friday. But given what occurs, many have asked, “what’s so good about it?”

Luke’s Gospel has Jesus proclaim with his last breath, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (23.46). While this verse is familiar, it portends a voyage into the darkness. The ecumenical version of the Apostles’ Creed tells us that Jesus “descended to the dead” during this time, a mission of plumbing the depths of desolation and despair as only God could. It is a time of silence. It is a time of mystery. It is a time of deep, abiding trust. And the “darkness” of Good Friday is one through which all Christians must pass.

The mystery of Friday—and Saturday—is a time of transformation. It’s under the cover of this darkness that God comes to us, softly, silently. But before we can respond, we have to “descend” into the depths of our very selves and face the demons that would blind us to the loving reality of the cross. We must die to the old self, imitating Christ’s self-emptying for us, and trusting in the Spirit’s promise to enliven us once again.

The first “Good Friday” inaugurated a new age. In the years since, many have commemorated this time by setting aside these final hours of Lent as sacred moments of reflection and introspection. My prayer as the season winds down, in this liminal time between Friday and Easter, is that we the beloved remain faithfully grounded in love and can share in the refrain, “O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn!” That makes for a “good” Friday—and every day beyond.

 


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Grace to Rejoice – Pastor Tommy

Dear friends,
 
This Sunday is Palm Sunday. It’s the day we remember Jesus returning to Jerusalem for Passover. Crowds of people came to celebrate his arrival, singing hosanna and laying down palm branches before him. It’s always one of the most joyful Sundays of the year!
 
It feels a little difficult to rejoice after the last twelve months. I know that. For many of us, grief still seems too near. We carry burdens of loss, death, guilt, and isolation, and these burdens are not easy to lay down. But during Holy Week, grief and joy exist together. The celebration of Jesus coming to Jerusalem. The injustice of his arrest. The tragedy of his death. And the everlasting joy of his resurrection. We feel and remember all of these.
 
I have plenty to rejoice about, when I think about it. The Texas sage in front of my house that I thought had been killed by the snow is breaking out in new leaves. Friends and loved ones who have been on my mind for months are finally getting their vaccines. And, of course, we will be worshiping face to face again this weekend!
 
Pastor Abe and I will be leading a special outdoor devotional and processional around the church grounds on Sunday, singing songs and rejoicing. If you haven’t RSVPed to let us know you’re coming, please click here! You can also join us for online worship at 9:00, 10:05, and 11:10 on our website. And don’t forget to look at our schedule of Holy Week and Easter Sunday services, both online and in-person.
 
Come celebrate with us! We will keep wearing masks, distancing, and taking care of each other. I know that God will give us the grace to rejoice together once again.
 
Blessings,
Tommy

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Grace to Grieve – Pastor Patty

Nestled beside the ancient gnarled olive trees of the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of All Nations rests atop what tradition holds as the rock where Jesus prayed. Facing west from the Mount of Olives looking toward the Temple Mount, a dramatic mosaic over the church entrance shows Jesus weeping. The Latin inscription is inspired by Hebrews 5:7, “…Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears…and he was heard.” For the tearful grieving people surrounding him, Jesus offers his own heart, cradled in the protective hands of an angel.

The church is quiet and dim, reminiscent of the gloom of night that surrounded Jesus in his grief and agony. Jesus grieved for the people he gave complete and perfect love. He mourned what he left behind and he agonized over what lay ahead.

Jesus was not alone in his anguish. God heard his prayers. Angels provided a comforting presence depicted in the mosaic above the chalice-shaped altar that stands next to the exposed rock. Peter, James, and John can be seen huddled beyond a nearby olive tree as Jesus leans against the rock and prays. They struggled to be fully present to Jesus (they kept falling asleep), but they were there.

The words of Luke 22:43-44 frame the images: “Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.” Jesus entered into the fullness of human life and experience. He loved, he grieved, he wept, he prayed. He leaned on his friends. Jesus, who embodied love and grace, needed the grace to grieve.

God, give us grace to grieve. Give us grace to make space for grief. To allow ourselves to take time for grief. To rest in the arms of Jesus as he weeps with us. Give us grace to remember that we are surrounded by people who carry numbing grief, often silently, needing grace to grieve. Give us grace to be gently present to those who grieve. Give us grace to grieve the hurts of our neighbors, of all nations. Give us grace to agonize over injustice that in our tears we offer our own hearts with compassion, conviction, and grace for all in the love of Jesus Christ. Thank you God, that in your grace, we never grieve alone. Amen.

Peace,
Rev. Patty Froehlich


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What is Love? – Pastor Ed

Mother Teresa said, “Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.”

Wait a minute! I need a moment to process that statement. We do not like to be kicked in the teeth, especially if we are doing good to others. The authority of Mother Teresa’s words boldly brims over from the devout way she lived her life for God and for others.

What is Love? In the book of 1 Corinthians 13 we find a list of what Love is all about. We can start there. We may at times look at that list of expressions of Love and check off the ones we are able to live out as we compare our everyday life against them.

Ask Jesus what Love is. When we look at Jesus and the way He showed love, what comes to mind is His life doing good, suffering and dying on the Cross for us. And, of course, His Resurrection. Christ showed love by giving up His life. But there is no Resurrection without His denying Himself in favor of others. There is no Resurrection without His speaking truth to power in favor of the outcast. And there is no Resurrection without His laying down His life for you and for me. You see, living for others involves self-denial and sacrifice, and those can be painful. The question is, to what extent are we willing to put in the effort and to sacrifice?

Thinking about the Covid-19 pandemic, it feels like we are about to turn a corner, but I cannot get over the fact that more than five hundred thousand lives were taken so far. We are the survivors. And while we wait for most people to be vaccinated (and not everybody will), how will we continue to show love to others in light of 1 Corinthians 13, especially verse 7 that reads, “love always protects?”

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, called us to “do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.” How can you and I protect the lives of those we love until everybody is safe from this virus? Are we willing to put in the effort and sacrifice even if it means we may be kicked in the teeth? God gave us God’s best. Jesus was willing to pay the price so that you and I could have life, and life in abundance.

What is Love?
Your turn.

Peace and good health,
Pastor Ed Volfe


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Grace to Forgive – Pastor Stacey

Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.”  Matthew 18:21-22

There is a children’s book that I used to read to our girls entitled “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz. It is the story of a boy who had the kind of day when everything possible that could go wrong went wrong. Some days are just like that. We all have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Typically, on those days, I am as much in need of forgiveness as I need to forgive those around me.

God give us the grace to forgive.

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things that Jesus asks us to do. Can you imagine Peter’s face when he thinks he is taking a leap of faith to forgive someone seven times and Jesus corrects him to say as many as 77?  In some versions of the Bible, Jesus says 70 times 7. Can you imagine forgiving someone 490 times?

God give us the grace to forgive.

Forgiveness is not about excusing bad behavior or putting yourself in a harmful situation. If you have been hurt, neglected, or abused by someone you trusted, Jesus does not expect you to continually put yourself in a harmful situation.

Forgiveness is about softening our own hearts and making room for the Holy Spirit to change our lives and maybe the lives of others. Forgiveness is about letting go of our own hurt and allowing God to begin the work of healing. Forgiveness is about a fresh start and God doing a new thing. It is about letting go of that which weighs you down and making space for Jesus to enter. Forgiveness is about growing in grace and learning to have more love for God’s world and the people in it.

God give us the grace to forgive.

If you are struggling with forgiveness for someone in your life or maybe even for yourself, give yourself a little bit of grace. Remember that God sees, loves, and forgives you. God even sees, loves and forgives those in your life that you find it hard to forgive.

As we walk through these days of Lenten preparation, may your heart be softened and may you hear Jesus whisper, “You are forgiven.”

 

Blessings, 

Pastor Stacey

 


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What Did Jesus Pray For? – Pastor Abe

What and who do you pray for? When my children were little, I taught them the typical bedtime prayer (click here to see me praying with my two-year-old son in 2012). Following the prayer, we would list all the people and things we were thankful for. So, what would Jesus pray for? The Gospel of John records Jesus praying, “I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one” (John 17:20-22).

Jesus didn’t pray just for his immediate disciples, but also for those who would believe in him because of their word. That means Jesus prayed for us! Jesus prayed for generations of people who would place their faith in him. His prayer for them, and for us, is that we would be unified so that the world around us would know the love and grace of God. Many people have a hard time fully embracing the unique and unparalleled message of the gospel in Jesus Christ – through no effort or merit of our own we are loved by God.

So, let’s get together by coming to Jesus and seeking his life, his love, his will, and his Spirit to help us be what he has called us to be. We are called to be a living example of God’s love and grace in the world. Take time today to pray for future generations who will place their trust in Jesus, and then share your story of God’s grace in your life with someone else.
 
Blessings,
Pastor Abe

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Grace to Hope – Pastor Tommy

I hope this finds you safe and warm. It has been another hard week.

Blessings upon everyone who is struggling through these cold days. Blessings upon all of you who are reaching out and helping your neighbor. Many of you have been helping with our Salvation Army warming station. And many of you have helped turn the Hub into an emergency shelter. You’ve brought food and water, and provided a warm place for people to spend the night. Thank you. With your help, the help of local businesses, and the help of the McKinney Fire Department, we have been able to share the Heart of Christ in a crucially important way.

It was an unusual Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, to say the least. Nevertheless, Lent has begun. Outside our expectations and as a new experience Lent has begun. In the dead of winter, in the face of a pandemic, Lent has begun.

This year, we are going to talk about receiving grace. After a year of suffering, heartbreak, and sacrifice for those we love, we aren’t asking you to give up anything for Lent, or take on a new discipline. We have given up so much already, and we have taken on new disciplines that would have seemed unimaginable a few years ago. Those sacrifices continue. But for Lent, we will ask God to give us grace. Grace for ourselves, and grace to share with our neighbors.

On Sunday, we will remember that grace received gives us the ability to hope. We see spring in the midst of winter. We see life in the midst of death. Light shines, love reigns. Hope lives, because Jesus is the light of the world.

God bless, stay warm, and keep checking on your neighbors.


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