Words of Hope – Pastor Stacey

Hope is something that I have always held as an anchor in my life. Hope in the times of trial and adversity. Hope in the moments of uncertainty or confusion. Hope in times of grief and loss. Hope grounds and centers me in the easier moments of life, but hope is pivotal in those moments when life is more difficult. In the past year, times have been difficult, and it is my prayer that hope has been a grounding and centering force in your life. If today is a tough one, I have included something that might help get you through.
 

Take a look at this picture of our new Melissa UMC building at sunset. Do you notice how the lights in the tower look a bit like a lighthouse or a beacon? I have stood on this property countless times in the last 7 years. For the first 5 years of my ministry in Melissa and McKinney, the vision of that building against a sunset sky sometimes seemed more like a dream than God’s vision that would some day be reality. Yet, here we are.

Hope is watching children gather in this building and speak to the truth of God’s love for them, which is greater than they can imagine. Hope is youth gathered for games in the yard or Bible study in the commons. Hope is the group that gathered even this week to sit and read the Bible over their lunches as we learned together. The Church will always be so much more than a building, but this building is an important tool for God’s work in Melissa and surrounding areas.

Maybe that is what is giving me the most hope in these days on the heels of a pandemic as our lives begin to regain a sense of normalcy… Hope is God’s people as they gather, again and again and again.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” – Jesus, Matthew 18:20

Blessings,
Pastor Stacey


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Better Together – Pastor Abe

If you want to have an experience that is out of this world, try scuba diving. I’ve been diving for two decades and am grateful for so many wonderful adventures. I’ve dived in rivers, ponds, lakes, in all the oceans but the Arctic, and from five different continents. I’ve seen shipwrecks, whales, Great White and tiger sharks, turtles, rays, octopus, and thousands of fish species. I’ve logged hundreds of hours under the water, but there is one thing I’ve never done – been diving alone. Scuba divers should always dive with a buddy. Not only do you get to share the marvel of diving with others, you know someone is there in case of an emergency. Diving is not to be done alone, and neither is life.Pictures of Pastor Abe Scuba Diving

People are important, relationships are important, and journeying through life with others is vitally important. Throughout scripture we see the importance of journeying through life with others. Early Christians engaged in life together through teaching, fellowship, communion, prayer, miracles, radical generosity, and corporate worship. Small groups were a place where people loved, forgave, served, bore burdens, encouraged, prayed, equipped, spoke truth in love, confessed sins, and treated each other as precious members of one body.

God uses people to form people. So don’t go at life on your own. Gather your friends, co-workers, or neighbors and encourage each other in the faith. Join a small group or Sunday School class and share the marvel of life together while knowing you have each other’s back in a time of need. Living for Jesus is too wonderful not to share it with others!

Blessings,
Pastor Abe


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Change is Coming – Pastor Tommy

Dear Friends,

You don’t need me to tell you what the last fifteen months have been like.  Fifteen months!  We have gone through so much fear and isolation.  We have lived with uncertainty.  And through it all, we have found new ways to connect and be the Church together.

In McKinney and Collin County, our COVID numbers are heading in the right direction.  More and more of our congregation has been fully vaccinated.  These are encouraging signs.  Throughout this crisis, your church staff and leadership have worked hard to keep everyone safe.  Our beautiful, historic church building helps us feel close and connected when we gather together, but it has given us a unique challenge when trying to figure out how to avoid crowding together in small indoor spaces.  I’m pretty sure “crowding together in small indoor spaces” was almost chosen as our church motto, but I’m glad we went with “sharing the heart of Christ from the heart of McKinney” instead.

With all this in mind, we will be starting a new worship schedule and new safety procedures, beginning next month. Starting June 6,  we will be resuming our 8 o’clock Sanctuary and our 11:10 Sanctuary and Wellspring services.  We will be putting our Outdoor service on hold.  And, while we will still encourage everyone to wear masks (especially while singing), fully vaccinated people may choose to take their masks off indoors.  For more information about these changes, you can find our announcement here.

We are taking steps toward normal again.  Small groups are coming back, and we are working to provide new spaces and times for them to gather.  If your group wants to meet in person but doesn’t want to give up the flexibility of a zoom meeting, we would love for you to try out our new technology to hold hybrid meetings – the church staff will help you get it set up.  As always, we will continue our online worship, where people from all over the US and the world worship with us every Sunday.

Keep being disciplined.  Keep caring for each other while we get completely to the other side of this.  Keep praying for your church.  If you can get a vaccine, please do.  And I will see you in worship.
 
Blessings, 
Pastor Tommy

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United at Pentecost – Pastor James

A couple of years ago I took a “personality” test on-line that attempts to highlight the user’s natural gifts. Of the top five traits that the test revealed, the number one for me was my sense of connectedness—that all things are linked and have meaning together. It’s no surprise, then, that when I think of Pentecost, I think of unity.

Luke’s account in the Book of Acts stands in contrast to the story of Babel we find in Genesis (11.1-9). There, people are trying lay claim to something they were never intended to do or be. They overextend themselves, assuming that they have all the answers, that they are fully independent, and that they themselves are gods. It’s a disaster. And it results in confusion, discord, and divergence.

The Pentecost story represents a reversal of course from the dysfunction of Babel. People from all over the known world had come together to commemorate the giving of Torah on Sinai—God’s revelation to the people (this is what Pentecost celebrates in Judaism). But when they gathered, they received a new revelation, one that transcended their respective differences, but one that was nevertheless communicated in their own cultural context by the power of the Spirit. Just like at Sinai, the birth of the Church was accompanied by signs of God’s presence, but this time they came as understanding, harmony, and unity.

This connectedness is the same outcome that Jesus prays for in chapter 17 of John’s Gospel, a vision of oneness of the people situated in the fullness of divine love. But this divine unity doesn’t mean uniformity; Luke makes this clear as the people retain their ethnic uniqueness throughout. Instead, God’s unity means we have a common purpose and goal—recognition of Christ as Lord.

As we celebrate the birth of the Church this weekend, let’s be mindful of what it means to live out this truth. Let’s see and experience our connectedness in Christ. Like the crowds that Peter witnessed to, we retain our unique strengths, but we don’t have to have all the answers. Instead, let’s live what one writer calls an “inter-independence,” as fully differentiated persons freely sharing our gifts and talents with one another to uplift the Body and maintain its overall health. Let’s manifest an abiding presence with each other, valuing diverse opinions and including those voices in our journey together. And in the end, let’s understand that we are perfected only in Christ.

Happy Birthday to the Church; through the Spirit of God that connects us, may she have many more!

Blessings,
Pastor James

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The Image of God – Pastor Patty

What pictures are created in the visions of your imagination when you think about God? What feelings do you experience? The Bible offers metaphors for who God is and how God relates to us: the rock we cling to, our shield, shepherd, light, breath. Scriptures point to God as a loving father and also as a maternal presence—protective, nurturing, and loving.

“God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female” (Gen. 1:27). A masculine image of God may be more familiar for many, yet God is not limited by our language, our understandings, or our imagination. We can dive deeper into the nature of God by also seeing the image of God reflected in our mothers and women who have been like mothers in our lives.

God is described as a protective bird whose wings provide refuge (Ruth 2:12, Psa. 91:4). Jesus longs to gather the children of Jerusalem “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matt. 23:37).

God’s words in Hosea 11:3-4 reveal a tender, nurturing, loving, motherly image: “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up in my arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with bands of human kindness, with cords of love. I treated them like those who lift infants to their cheeks; I bent down to them and fed them.”

As we pause to honor mothers and motherly persons in our lives, our hearts warm with gratitude for the special women who have taught us, nurtured us, and loved us unconditionally, reflecting how God loves us. When our memories bring reminders of complicated or broken relationships, grief, or longing, God is there too with a promise: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” (Isa. 66:13).

You are created in the divine image. You are a precious child of God. You are loved. God gathers you in and holds you close in the shelter of strong wings. God, with the compassion and care of a mother, will not forget you (Isa. 49:15).

Blessings to you,

Rev. Patty Froehlich

 


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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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