Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
I hope you are having a good week and, like I am, looking forward to next week’s Thanksgiving holiday. Around this time every year, I am reminded of the importance of gratitude in my life. I think gratitude – giving thanks to God and to one another – is so powerful that it is the focus of a three-week sermon series called, With Grateful Hearts. On Sunday morning, we’ll share the second message in the series: Give Thanks in Every Situation? The Scripture readings will be Philippians 4:4-9 and Ephesians 5:15-20. We are going to consider if it is possible to give thanks and be grateful, even when we don’t feel grateful. I believe this message will speak to all of us, but if you, or someone you know, is struggling with the approach of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I think it will especially helpful. Invite a friend and join us in worship.
Please stop by the church and visit the United Methodist Women’s (UMW) Craft Fair. There are many high-quality crafts, delicious baked goods and treats, and a wide-variety of unique items for sale. Lunch will also be available. The Craft Fair will be open today (Friday, November 16) until 6:00 p.m. and tomorrow (Saturday, November 17) from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This is a fund-raising event for the UMW. Since the UMW started hosting the Craft Fair many years ago, they have raised approximately $300,000 for life-changing mission projects in our community and around the world.
Next Saturday (November 24), the United Methodist Men (UMM) will begin selling high-quality Christmas trees. Like the UMW, the UMM raise money to support projects in the church, community, and world. Your support makes it all possible. The UMM are looking for help selling trees. If you are available, go to this link and sign-up to help.
In the spirit of gratitude, I want to thank everyone who has turned in an Estimate of Giving (EOG) for 2019. So far, we’ve received 134 EOG’s for a total of just over $613,000. As I said last week, this is a good start, but we need to hear from everyone who considers St. Matthew’s to be their church home. We hope to receive 260 EOG’s and at least $1,170,000 so that we can do everything that God is calling us to do next year. If you have not done so already, please take a few minutes and let us know about your plans for giving next year. Clearly, we want to support the ministries of the church that make a difference in our lives and in the world, but we also want to grow in our faith through generosity. If you need a physical copy of the form, you can download it at this link. Either bring the form with you on Sunday or mail it to the church. You can also make your Estimate of Giving online. Don’t forget that online giving is available. If you want to set-up automatic payments to the church, you can use the online Estimate of Giving link. You can also fill out the back of the Estimate of Giving form. Online giving saves church resources and makes sure you can fulfill your commitment when you are traveling. Many people find online giving helps them grow in their stewardship. Please note: if you use our automatic online giving service, it must be reauthorized every year.
I know that many of you are paying attention to what is happening in the larger Church and are interested in how The United Methodist Church (UMC) is responding to national and world events. You can get news and follow the UMC on social media through www.umc.org. Specifically, I want to let you know that the UMC’s Council of Bishops have issued a joint statement with Bishops in Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador in response to the Central American migrant caravans. You can read it here. I appreciate that the Bishops are calling us and our leaders to recognize the power of our words and choose our language carefully, especially when we talk about people on the margins of society, people – created in the image of a loving God – who are seeking a better life.
As I hope you are aware, there will be a called session of the UMC’s General Conference in February 23-26, 2019. “The purpose will be to receive and act on a report from the Commission on a Way Forward based on the recommendations of the Council of Bishops. The 32-member Commission was authorized by General Conference 2016 and appointed by the Council of Bishops to examine paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and exploring options to strengthen the unity of the church.” (From http://www.umc.org/topics/general-conference-2019-special-session)
Bishop Kenneth Carter, the episcopal leader of the Florida Annual Conference and president of the Council of Bishops, served as a moderator for the Commission on a Way Forward. At this link, you can find a video interview with him that address concerns about General Conference and what the implications might be for congregations across the denominations. One of the things he says, that we need to remember, is that no matter what happens in February, the mission of God’s Church will continue.
Finally, in last Sunday’s sermon I quoted Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast who said, “It’s not happiness that makes us grateful; it’s gratefulness that makes us happy.” If you’re interested in hearing more, Br. Steindl-Rast has done a Ted Talk. You can watch it here. According to his bio, Br. Steindl-Rast “meditates and writes on “the gentle power” of gratefulness.”
“‘The gentle power” of gratefulness.” I like that. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.