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 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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Small Beginnings – Pastor Tommy

One of my favorite things in the world is the annual Native Plant Sale hosted by our local Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s a great fundraiser, with the parking lot of the Heard completely full of volunteers selling native flowers, shrubs, and trees. You can learn about building a native ecosystem, attracting pollinators, what to plant where and when. I always keep the date on my calendar to look forward to.

Of course, when you buy a plant at this sale, most aren’t full sized. When you buy a tree, what you take home is a sad little stick in a big pot of dirt, maybe with a handful of tiny leaves, maybe not. The sign says “redbud” or “rough-leaf dogwood,” and you more or less have to take it on faith.

I’ve been going to this plant sale for years now, and let me tell you about scrawny little twigs. They turn into trees! Now my backyard has a Mexican plum that blooms every year. I watch cardinals and mockingbirds play on the limbs of my redbud, and my granddaughter climb on my Texas red oak. My yard is like a different place.

I’ve been thinking about those trees this month, as we talk about small things making a big difference. This is a lesson we have learned again and again in 2020. Seeing a friendly face on a zoom call. Taking a few spare cans of food to the Little Free Pantry. Finding eggs at the supermarket. These things add up to blessing. We have all felt it. And the things within our power to do, no matter how small, can bless others more than we can imagine.

If you haven’t filled out a pledge card, I invite you to click here. Think about what you have and what you can give. Through God, the smallest twigs can grow into huge trees. And your gift, even if it may seem too small to matter, can transform the lives of God’s children in our community, across our country, and all over our world.


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Work to be Done – Pastor Tommy

Dear friends,
 
I spent most of last night and all of this morning praying for our country.  The images from our nation’s capital were shocking and distressing.
 
Today, I pray God will bless our nation.  The darkness and division we are living through did not spring up overnight, and it will not heal overnight.  We must be intentional as we work together, and the work will last a lifetime.
 
As United Methodists, we are committed to our principles.  To do no harm.  To do good to all.  To walk faithfully with God.  Let us hold to these principles and remember that our words matter.  Our actions make a difference.  Our prayers are important.  Let us work together to bring healing to the real injury that has been done.  The Apostle Paul says “let us not grow weary in doing good, for we will reap at harvest time if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all” (Gal. 6: 9-10).
 
Hang in there, friends.  Don’t lose heart.  Pray that our church will continue to be a light in the darkness.  There is so much anger and deception loose out there.  Don’t give in to it.
 
Dr. King says “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Commit your words, your actions, and your prayers to being a source of light and love.  Small things make a big difference.
 
God bless you, God bless our church, and God bless the United States.
 
Pastor Tommy

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Advent and Waiting – Pastor Tommy

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Now the seasons are changing. The turkeys on Church Street are gone, and Christmas lights are up. In the life of the Church, we have stepped into the season of Advent, the weeks of preparation before Christmas.

As you saw on Sunday, other things have changed, too. After talking with church leadership, staff, and our local medical professionals, we have decided to temporarily pause indoor in-person worship. We have said from the beginning that we would allow our decisions to be guided by the data, and our current and projected COVID numbers indicate that we need to take a step back from large indoor gatherings for a while.

Advent is a season where we long to be together. But Advent is also a time of patience and expectant waiting. We have lots of great activities and volunteer opportunities prepared for this month – read about them below! We will continue opening our outside spaces for small groups. And of course we will continue worshiping online. Your church staff is actively monitoring the numbers, and we will be back in the Sanctuary and Dyer Hall again as soon as we safely can.

Although our ability to gather together is limited right now, we are all in this together. Together is the only way to make it through. Stay safe – you know how to do that. Be kind and patient – Jesus shows us how to do that. Stay connected to your friends, family, and Church – you’ll find ways to do that in this newsletter. Seasons change, and we will be back together soon.

Blessings,
Pastor Tommy


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The Village UMC – Pastor Tommy

Dear friends,

What a great weekend we had! We were able to gather outside at the Hub on Saturday and in the parking lot on Sunday. How beautiful to see familiar faces in person and to hear each other sing and pray. How special was the Sanctuary on Tuesday at lunch for come-and-go prayer. We will have all three of these opportunities again this week. Go to our website and register if you would like to come.

This Sunday, we will also worship together online. It is Communion Sunday, so be prepared with your elements. Also, we have a tremendous opportunity for our communion rail offering I would like to tell you about.

Ten years ago, Rev. Derek Jacobs started a group in South Dallas that would become The Village UMC. This Sunday, they will livestream worship from their own new church building for the very first time. Derek has long been a friend of ours. He was present at the groundbreaking for our new church building in Melissa. We have been walking together for ten years, learning from each other about how to start new churches, and (recently) how to build buildings during a time of quarantine. We are blessed to be connected to God’s powerful work at The Village, and we are so excited to see this congregation find a long-term home.

Let’s make a special offering this Sunday for The Village – to celebrate a successful new church start, to give thanks for new disciples of Jesus, and to praise God for the beauty and diversity of the churches in our North Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
 
God Bless,
Tommy

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Hurdles – Pastor Tommy

Hurdles

This month, we are talking about making a path through the wilderness. What does it mean to walk a new way? What does it feel like to travel through unfamiliar territory? One thing that’s true – it takes practice to become good at walking through new places.

When I was in high school, I ran the hurdles. The 330 yard intermediate hurdles were brutal. You had to focus on each obstacle. You had to watch your step. You had to practice your technique and continually tape bruised ankles and knees. That said, the more I did, the better I became.

The Bible teaches that in unfamiliar times, God is with us. The teachings of the Bible can guide us. The love of Jesus can form us. No matter the length of the race or the difficulty of the obstacles we must hurdle, we can remember who and whose we are. If we practice love every day, our feet will know the way before long.

See you in Church, online.

Blessings,

Pastor Tommy


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Wilderness – Pastor Tommy

I grew up hiking and camping. I know the feeling of wandering in wild and unfamiliar places, of trying to follow the trail, of sometimes missing the signs and not being sure where to go next. The anxiety, the panic, of not knowing how to get back to the path I’m supposed to be walking.

So many stories in the Bible are journey stories. Stories of going from one place to another through danger and uncertainty. Stories of making our way through the Wilderness. In these stories, holy people – Saints, Prophets, and great leaders – find themselves lost, despairing, and afraid.

But in all of those stories, God gives direction. The stories and teaching of Scripture help us to find our way back toward the path toward God’s future.    

Over the next four weeks, I will be preaching about finding our way in the wilderness. This Sunday, we will talk about Jacob wrestling with the angel. We will also celebrate Holy Communion, and remember that Jesus is the truth, the light, and the way.

Sometimes we know the path and wander away from it. Sometimes we can’t see the path. Let’s spend this month seeking the path together. 
 
Blessings,
Pastor Tommy

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First Day of School – Pastor Tommy

I remember the first day of school when I was growing up in Irving, Texas. The smells, the sounds, the feel of long pants after a summer of shorts. I remember my kids’ first days of school. I remember the energy and many emotions. How it felt when they left for their first years of college. I remember first days of school volunteering at Caldwell, handing out pencils and holding open doors.
 
This year, though, it’s different. Our schedules are different. Emotions are different. The excitements and worries and difficulties are magnified and complicated.
 
Many things are different this year, but we are still the same. We help each other. Love each other. Pray for each other. This is who we have always been.
 
In this Echo, you will see the names of church members who are teachers, administrators, and staff in our schools. Please pray for these wonderful people. Pray for our students and parents.
 
Also remember, in times when so much is different, love is still the same. Speak love. Act love. Post love on your Facebook. Jesus said “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
 
Let’s be the Church together. Let’s be our best selves together. Let’s remember who we are and whose we are.
 
Blessings,
Pastor Tommy
 

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Communion – Pastor Tommy

This Sunday is Communion Sunday. I can’t believe how long it has been since we worshiped together in person. I miss it. I know you do, too.
 
Because it has been a different experience in the mornings, it has been harder for me to get ready for worship. I have to be more intentional in prayer on Sunday morning. I have to limit distractions. A few weeks ago, waiting in my office for our service to start, I decided I should take time to clean my desk. I ended up accidentally throwing away my sermon notes, and didn’t realize it until I went in the sanctuary to start worship! Now, instead of cleaning or scrolling through social media, I breathe deep. I spend time picturing your faces and praying for you by name.
 
Take time to get ready this Sunday. Prepare an altar, maybe a cross and a candle. Pray over the elements as you lay them out. Picture the faces of your church family members, of everyone you love and miss, and pray for them by name. Pray for your pastors and worship leaders (pray that they aren’t frantically searching for Tommy’s sermon notes!). Pray for the Spirit to come.
 
We will worship together on Sunday. Be strong and courageous. Do not grow weary. God is with us. See you online.
 
Blessings,
Tommy

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