Weekly Updates for the Week of August 27th, 2017

This past year I’ve been remiss in posting all the wonderful things that the church, the charge and the community have been busy doing.  I have kept the calendar up but I have not posted since Christmas 2016…shame on me.  So many bake sales and potlucks, Fifth Sundays, old pastors and new, many efforts to benefit the community from Helping Hands and the Barnardsville Men. You have all done so much!!

In July the Barnardsville Men (a group of men from many churches in the area) held a BBQ to benefit Bailey whose illness has become expensive and life-threatening.  The even raised $8,500.00 to help with medical expenses.

Also in July we said goodbye to our friend David Peeler and welcomed a new pastor, Alycia Johnson.  Please come and visit with us and get to know our new pastor.

On Sunday (8/13) we had a council meeting (with the largest council group ever!) Minutes to follow this post.

Please sign up for scripture reading!!  The scripture will be sent and posted here every Wednesday regardless of whether I have any other news.

Barnardsville Men had a breakfast this past Sunday (8/20.)  Here are the minutes to that meeting:

  • Barnardsville Men are sponsoring the counseling center st the church house. Addiction Counseling is scheduled to start Saturday Mornings in October. We will be creating a flyer and possibly a webpage.
  • Veterans group meets 10-12 Wed mornings at Big Ivy, tell anyone wanting fellowship or counseling about it.
  • 8,500,00 raised at the BBQ benefit for Bailey Willis’ treatment. This community is amazing!!  The God who put us here for each other is amazing!!
  • If you know of folks needing wood for the winter let us know. We will be talking to Lighthouse to see what they anticipate the community needs for wood will be this year.
  • Sept 17 at Antioch next men’s breakfast.
  • Thanksgiving service…what charity to benefit,…be thinking about this. Maybe our counseling service. Still planning where it will be held and who will preach.
  • Steve announced the BUMC Christmas Tea Dec. 10th. Call for musicians. Several folks who have done this in the past have prior engagements or have moved out of the area.  We need you!!
  • One family has been brought to our attention as needing housing.  Be in prayer about this.
  • Paul and Tim will work on creating a flyer for Barnardsville Men to send to churches.


The scriptures for Sunday, September 3rd are Exodus 3:1-15 and Romans 12:9-21.
The title for the message is “Standing on Holy Ground



Posted in Barnardsville Men, Helping Hands, Updates, Webpage | Leave a comment

Weekly Update for the Week of December 6th, 2016


  • The Annual Christmas Tea will be held at
    Barnardsville UMC on December11th at 3:00pm
  • Christmas Eve Service will be held atnativity2
    Pleasant Gap UMC on December 24th at 5:00pm
  • Christmas Day Service  will be held at
    Barnardsville UMC at 11:00 am

Regular services will be held at all churches on New Years Day.

Outreach Opportunity:

Please send your Season’s Greetings to those in our congregation that are shut in this Christmastime. Contact Tim or Carla if you did not get an email with names and addresses.  Our folks would love a Christmas card!!


Posted in Events, Updates | Leave a comment

Weekly Update for the Week of November 9, 2016

maryjFifth Sunday was great.  Lots of good food and Wayne’s Halloween party was a blast!


  • TODAY, Nov. 8: if you haven’t voted, please do.  Regardless of your choice, please go and let your voice be heard…besides it gives you fair griping rights for 4 years.  What is it “it is better to have voted and lost than not to have voted at all”…no that doesn’t seem quite right.  Well vote anyway…its good for you and its good for your country.

    Polls are open 6:30 AM–7:30 PM. You’re allowed to vote if you’re in line by 7:30 PM. Bring an accepted ID, if required

  • Sunday, November 13th, 2016 Barnardsville Men’s Breakfast at Barnardsville UMC
  • Sunday, November 13th, 2016 1:30pm Annual Charge Conference at Barnardsville UMC for the entire Charge. We will be voting on our slate of officers. We anticipate a short meeting.
  • Sunday, November 20th 2016 Community Thanksgiving Service:  place and time is being determined. Our charity this year will be Lumberton.  They are still trying to get back to normal after the hurricane.
  • Sunday, December 11th, 2016 3:00pm Christmas Tea
    If you have a song to sing, or a talent to share please contact Steve Carson.

Worship Notes:

This past Sunday we passed through the shadow of death (no I’m not talking about the election… that was the sermon.)  This Sunday we will be seeing what the scriptures say about heaven.  The next two Sundays following we will be looking into what the scriptures say about hell and then about resurrection.  For our advent David will be delivering a sermon series focusing on the Magi.

A Note from Amy Conard:

Stephen had his physical therapy evaluation Thursday and he did very well. He has essentially graduated from the physical therapy program. The next step is a visit to UPS on Tuesday during work hours to see how he handles the noise and stress. If he handles that well, he will start working 1 hour a day, and work his way up to the normal 4 hours. So good things are happening! He is also driving a little now. Also, thank you for all of the work and support regarding the fundraiser. We feel so blessed to have friends and family that would do this for us. I do not have the email address for your pastor or all of the men’s and women’s group members, so please feel free to pass this along to all of them, and to anybody else that I missed.




“It is no fault in others that the Methodist Church sends more soldiers to the field, more nurses to the hospitals, and more prayers to Heaven than any. God bless the Methodist Church. Bless all the churches and blessed be God, who in this our trial, giveth us the churches.” —Abraham Lincoln (shortly before his death in 1864)

Posted in Barnardsville Men, Events, Updates | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Update for the Week of October 26th, 2016


  • Last Saturday’s BBQ to benefit Steve Conard and his family raised $2,200.00  Thanks to the Barnardsville Men who planned and coordinated the event and thanks to all who shopped, cooked, served and attended the event. This is why we live in community. This is what Christian community is all about, caring for one another.  This is Church!!
  • Water to Lumberton really took on a life of its own (I was thinking of all kinds of water metaphors here…yes, you are welcome.) To date there have been 2 trucks full of bottled water that have been transported to the fire station in Lumberton for distribution.


    David tells us that Barnardsville has contributed something approaching 25% of the water.  Considering it is 100 times smaller than Central, that’s saying something.  Job well done!!  Joe Merrill at Antioch has involved the Rhododendron Society and they have contributed yet another pickup truck and trailer of bottled water that will be driven down to Lumberton this week. I am really pleased and proud that our community has put forth such an effort.


October 2016

  • Thursday, October 27th, 2016, 7:05 am Barnardsville Elementary School Teacher Appreciation Breakfast. Those who signed up for the event will meet in the parking lot at 7:05 am and take their food donations up to the teacher’s lounge. If you signed up and can’t make it that early please let Mary Johnson know and we will make arrangements to get your food donation.
  • October 28th & 29th, 2016. The scouts will be at the Haunted Trail at the Community Center this Friday and Saturday nights.  Come on out if you feel like getting scared silly and want to support the community center.
  • Sunday, October 30th, 2016 Service at all three churches: FIFTH SUNDAY!!  Bring some food to share and David will lead us in a congregational Sunday School lesson!

November 2016


  • Saturday,November 12th, 2016, 5:30 PM. Veteran’s Dinner at The Big Ivy Community Center. In appreciation of our veterans, the Community Center is hosting a dinner in their honor. Doors will open at the Big Ivy Community Center at 5:30 PM.  ALL veterans and their family are welcome.  RSVP to Lynn @ 626-3438.
  • Sunday, November 13th, 2016, 1:30 pm Annual Charge Conference at Barnardsville UMC.
  • November 20th, 2016, 8:45 Barnardsville Men Breakfast at Barnardsville UMC


  • Community Thanksgiving Service is in the works. David will let us know more soon.
  • Continuing Sermon Series on “What Happens When You Die?”  Don’t wait for it, come and find out now!!
  • Sermon Series at Advent will focus on the Magi.

For Your Consideration: Here is a good article on Repentance.  It is a word and perhaps a practice that has fallen into disuse and even disrepute.  Perhaps because many times we, as Christians, have beaten folks over the head with the concept.  Regardless, it remains the truest of Christian practices, the act of turning from our mistakes and turning towards Jesus.

Prayer Exercise: Try this Spiritual Types test. (I rather doubt it is particularly scientific,) but do it for fun and then check out ways to pray for your particular type.  I would say any of the methods for any “spiritual type” is a generally fine way to pray, and any could breathe a little more life into your prayer time. As you have time please check out the Upper Room’s Living Prayer Center for other modes of prayer and other ways to make your prayer time more meaningful this holiday season!


Have a great rest of your week! We look forward to seeing you all on Sunday!!



Posted in Barnardsville Men, Events, Schools, Scouting, Updates | Leave a comment

Weekly Update for the Week of October 14, 2016

Greetings to all in the name of the risen Savior!

This Sunday the Barnardsville Men will host the men’s breakfast at Antioch Baptist Church at 8:45 am.

Saturday October 22, the Barnardsville Men will be hosting a Benefit BBQ doe Steve Conard and family from 3-6pm at Antioch Baptist Church.  Please help us help Steve and his family!



BRING BOTTLED WATER to church this Sunday!!!  This Sunday we have a rare opportunity to help our neighbors in Lumberton, NC.  I’m sure everyone is aware that the folks down east are having an awful time. Federal and State monies are slow in coming.  Millions of farm animals have been lost.  Many folks are homeless this week.  A couple of guys rented a truck and have asked churches in the Asheville area to fill it up with bottled water, jugs, bottles, whatever you like.  Central UMC is going to be the collection point and David Peeler and I will make sure it gets there (unless you bring a truck-full and then you should just let Central know).  Bring your bottled water to the service on Sunday and we will collect it.  The truck will leave Sunday afternoon so we will run it all to Central after the service.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Weekly Update for the Week of the 4th of July 2016

  • July 10: Mary Magdalene will be the focus of the sermon this week.
  • Title “Mary Magdalene, Woman of Mystery.”
  • Scripture passage: John 20:1­-18.
  • Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; 5 and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo′ni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” 18 Mary Mag′dalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ ~~Matthew 25:23


  • Saturday, July 9, 2016 11:00 am-2:00 pm: Doug Garrison , pastor of Jupiter Baptist       writes to let us know that they are selling BBQ, hamburgers and hot dogs. Proceeds to benefit the orphanage in Honduras, built and sponsored by The Carpenter’s Heart.
  • Sunday, July 17, 8:45 am. Barnardsville Men meet at Antioch Baptist Church.
  • Saturday, August 6 Helping Hands will be at the Rummage Sale at Big Ivy Community Center
  • Sunday, August 21, 8:45 am Barnardsville Men meet at BUMC.
  • Sunday, August 31, Fifth Sunday Celebration at all churches on the charge.

The Love offering last week to help Lewisburg UMC respond to the flooding in their town was $210.00!  Thanks to all who were able to give to such a worthy cause!

For those who would like to send in a contribution by mail directly to Lewisburg UMC please send it here:

memo: flood relief
make check out to Lewisburg United Methodist church
Lewisburg United Methodist church
1133 Washington St., East
Lewisburg, WVA 24901

It looks like everyone had fun on the float on the 4th!!

Garrison Keillor on Methodists:

July 4 Parade 6 Compressed

“they’d smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down the road!”

“We make fun of Methodists for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed, and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and  cheese. But nobody sings like them….If you were to ask an audience in New York City, a relatively Methodistless place, to sing along on the chorus of ‘Michael row your boat ashore’ they would look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this with Methodists, they’d smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down the road!”

“Many Methodists are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage. Its natural for Methodists to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you are singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords,all two hundred of you, its an emotionally fulfilling moment. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.”

July 4 Parade 5 Compressed“I do believe this: People, these Methodists, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people you could call up when you’re in deep distress. If you are dying, they will comfort you. If you are lonely, they will talk to you. And if you are hungry, they will give you tuna salad!”

‘Methodists believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud. “Methodists will usually follow the official liturgy, and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins. You know you are a Methodist if when you watch Star Wars and they say ‘May the Force be with you,’ you instinctively respond ‘And also with you.’”

“Methodists think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while passing the peace. “

“Methodists believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.”

“Methodists believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don’t notify them that they are there!”

“Methodists are willing to pay up to a dollar for a meal at church….They drink coffee as if it were the third Sacrament.”

“You will know you are a Methodist when its 100 degrees outside with 90% humidity and you still serve coffee after the service.”

“Methodists still serve jello in the proper liturgical color of the season and think that peas in a tuna casserole adds too much color.”

“Methodists feel guilty if they don’t stay to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.”

“You know you are a Methodist when doughnuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee.”

“You know you are a Methodist when it takes at least ten minutes to say goodbye!”

You Might Be A Methodist If..

  • You think John Wesley was the 13th Apostle.
  • You think God’s presence is strongest on the back three pews.
  • You think “Amazing Grace” is the national anthem.
  • Your definition of fellowship has something to do with food.
  • You honestly believe that the Apostle Paul spoke King James English.
  • You think worship music has to be loud.
  • You think Jesus actually used Welch’s grape juice and saltine crackers.
  • You judge the quality of a service by its length.
  • You ever wake up in the middle of the night craving fried chicken and interpret that feeling as a call to preach.
  • You believe that you are supposed to take a covered dish to heaven.
  • You have never sung the third verse of any hymn.
  • You have ever put an IOU in the offering plate.
  • You think someone who says “Amen” while the preacher is preaching might be a Charismatic.
  • You complain that the pastor only works one day and then he works too long.
  • You clapped in church and felt guilty about it all week.
  • You are old enough to get a senior discount at the pharmacy, but not old enough to promote to the Senior Adult Sunday School; you think the only promotion after that is the cemetery.
  • You are upset that Joshua brought down the wall of Jericho and think that the Board of Trustees should recommend that the church pay for it to prevent a general ruckus.
  • You are upset that the last hymn in the new hymnal is numbered “666.
  • You sit while singing “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”
  • You don’t take Rolaids when your heart is strangely warmed
  • You know that a circuit rider is not an electrical device
  • “The Upper Room” is as essential to your bathroom as the toilet paper
  • You’ve ever owned a pair of cross and flame boxer shorts
  • You’ve ever sung a gender-inclusive hymn
  • Tithing is encouraged but widely ignored
  • Half the people sitting in your pew lip-sync the words to the hymns
  • The word apportionment sends a chill down your spine
  • You realize pluralism isn’t a communicable disease
  • Names like Aldersgate, Asbury and Epworth are familiar
  • You consider the monthly potluck a sacrament
  • The only church camp song you know by heart is “Kum ba yah”
  • You’ve ever attended an Annual Conference and actually enjoyed it
  • You have an unexplained yearning to visit Wesley’s chapel in London
  • Your church is named for a geographical location rather than for a saint
  • You’ve never heard a sermon on Hell and don’t feel you’re missing out
  • You realize that VBS isn’t a sexually transmitted disease
  • Your pastor moves every four or five years and you like it that way
  • Your pastor responses to you with, “I hear you saying…”
  • There’s at least one person in every church meeting who says, “But we’ve never done it that way before”
  • Your congregation’s Christmas pageant include both boy and girl wise men
  • You accept the fact that the hymn, “O For a thousand tongues to sing” has almost as many stanzas as tongues
  • You know that the Wesleyan Quadrilateral isn’t a trick football play involving four lateral passes
  • You realize that the Book of Discipline is not a guide to getting you child to behave
  • You understand that an “appointment” has nothing to do with keeping a lunch date
  • You know “UMW” stands for United Methodist Women rather than the United Mine Workers
  • You know the difference between a “diagonal” minister and a “Diaconal” minister
  • “Good morning” has the status of a liturgical greeting in the worship service
  • You feel a twinge of guilt when you sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” with gusto
  • You say “trespasses” instead of “debts” in the Lord’s Prayer and have no idea why
  • Your annual conference spends most of its time debating resolutions that nobody reads
  • You’d rather be branded with a hot iron than serve on the Nominating Committee (or PPR, Trustees, Finance, etc)
  • You’ve ever sipped Welch’s grape juice out of a plastic shot glass during Communion
  • The members of the Friendship class are always fighting among themselves
  • You realize that sprinkling, pouring and immersing are not ways of seasoning food
  • You’re asked to donate money to a “special offering” every other Sunday
  • You pour over the Conference Journal with the same intensity you would read a John Grisham novel
  • You have to fight through a cadre of “designated greeters” to get into the sanctuary
  • When the worship service lasts for more than one hour the beeping of watch alarms drowns out the final hymn.”  ~Jeff Foxworthy







Posted in Events, Photos, Updates | Leave a comment

Updates for the Week of June 28th 2016

I hope this weekly update finds you all well and centered in Christ!

July 3: The sermon this week will look at the lives of Saint Peter and Paul with a focus on one particular question: “Why do these two pillars of the church share a single Saints Day?” Sermon Title: “Cameron or the Dean Dome?”

For those that know Steve Conard , the former pastor of Antioch Baptist, I had occasion to meet with him this week.  He seems much improved, but the doctor still has him on restrictions.  He cannot work yet, or drive or even bend over.  Please keep him and his family in your prayers.  He is still writing his blog, Stirrings of the Soul. There is an ongoing series entitled “Lies Christians Tell.” It is well worth reading.

In From the Still Point, my old friend Rev. Murray Richmond addresses the problem of the Legion of Demons that Plague Us.  Both blogs are good reading and food for thought.

  • July 3, 2016 – This Sunday we will have an additional Love Offering for the folks in and around Lewisburg, West Virginia.  We are partnering with Lewisburg UMC in providing flood relief to the folks in the area. This is the church and community that Bev Columbo serves. I spoke with the secretary at the church and she said that the folks at the west-virginia-floodingchurch did not wait for folks to come to them to be rescued and helped.  “They put on their boots and waded out into the flood and rescued and helped all the folks they could.”  She said the central area where the church is located has a lot of water but it is mainly in basements and a few low lying streets, the areas around Lewisburg, smaller towns are devastated.  “Driving around is hard, so many areas are under water.  The pictures you see on TV don’t do it justice,” she said. 

    The Lincolns

    The Lincolns July 4th

  • July 3, 2016 1:30 pm – We will be working on the 4th of July float here in the barn. Need all hands on deck.  65 Dillingham Rd. Will everyone please bring red white and blue decorations and bags of candy to toss for kids.
  • July 4, 2016 12:30 – Everyone who wants to ride the float should arrive at this time or before.
  • July 4, 2016 1:00 pm – The parade will start at Barnardsville Elementary school.



bev christening2For those of you who remember Bev Columbo, I found some sermons she delivered out on YouTube.  I thought some of you might enjoy hearing her again!
Bev’s Sermons 2015-2016:



“Living Sacrifice”
“Mind Your Own Beeswax”
Gone Fishin”
“Am I Spiritually Depressed??”
“Imitator of God”
“The Garden Sermon”
“Prepare Through Praise”
“A New Creation”
“God’s Will”
“Prayer is Hope”
“Welcome, Spirit”


Posted in Events, Ministries, Updates | Leave a comment

Encouragement from the Journal of John Wesley

For those times when you just want to give up:

Wesley Preaching in Ireland

Wesley Preaching in Ireland

A single page from the journal of John Wesley:

  • Sunday a.m., May 5 – Preached in St. Anne’s; was asked not to come back anymore.
  • Sunday p.m., May 5 – Preached at St. John’s; deacon’s said, “Get out and stay out.”
  • Sunday a.m., May 12 – Preached at St. Jude’s; can’t go back there either.
  • Sunday p.m., May 12 – Preached at St. George’s; kicked out again.
  • Sunday a.m., May 19 – Preached at St. Somebody Else’s; deacons called a special meeting and said I couldn’t return.
  • Sunday p.m., May 19 – Preached on the street; kicked off the street.
  • Sunday a.m., May 26 – Preached out in a meadow; chased out of the meadow when a bull was turned loose during the service.
  • Sunday a.m., June 2 – Preached out at the edge of town; kicked off the highway

I stole this from http://ac2016.org/thursday-evening-worship-bryan-collier/ He appropriated this from John Wesley…I think we’re good. Thanks Dr. Bryan Collier and John Wesley for this.

Well I suppose we should finish this right:

  • Sunday a.m., June 2 – Preached out at the edge of town; kicked off the highway
  • Sunday p.m. June 2 – Afternoon service, preached in a pasture; 10,000 people came.

How many times does God push us onward through difficulty after difficulty, failure after failure, but at some point the harvest comes and the fruit is revealed!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Website Updates and Annual Conference Happenings

Its been a busy first half of the year for me and I haven’t kept up with the webpages as I should have, however, I am making some strides this week to rectify this oversight.  I have put in a page that was long overdue under the service header for the Barnardsville Men, and have created but not expanded on one for Helping Hands.  I will work more on these this week and should have some updated stuff later.  These are really barebones, but they help me to create the structure.


  • June 25th, 1:00 pm Helping Hands will meet at Barnardsville UMC.
  • July 3, sometime in the afternoon we will meet for Fourth of July Float Preparation.  More updates on this later.
  • July 17, 8:45 am Barnardsville Men meet at Antioch Baptist Church.


Annual Conference was last week.  I could write about all of this but hey, they have already put everything in order out there so here are the salient links for you to peruse:

Opening Business: Thursday

Friday Afternoon Recap (including saying goodbye to Bishop Goodpastor)

Some wonderful messages were delivered:

Opening Worship – Dr. William McClain Professor of Preaching and Worship, Emeritus
Wesley Theological Seminary

The Ordination Sermon  – Bishop Cynthia Harvey

There was a decision to shorten Annual Conference, making it more efficient, and much easier to attend if you are part of the workforce. The Western North Carolina Conference has scheduled the 2017 Annual Conference for Friday, June 23 (noon)- Sunday, June 25 (noon), 2017 [Clergy Session will be Thursday evening, June 22nd] at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center (this is already posted on the calendar for next year)

Just in case you missed it:


Posted in Updates, Webpage | Leave a comment

Those Who Walk in Darkness: June 19th sermon by Tim Buckner, BUMC Lay Servant.

Those Who Walk in Darkness

You guys know I have been walking through a lot…I have been in some pretty dark places lately,

One of the temptations when you are walking in those dark times is to give in to the idea that no one cares, that perhaps God doesn’t care. This is because you feel lost, alone and injured. The darkness is too dark, the night is too long, and you spin your wheels wondering why this has happened to you. It feels that way sometimes but perhaps God is using these dark times to show us what we need to see. Training us to understand folks when they are walking in crisis and pain.

We as Christians are actually called to walk into the darkness. We are called by God to walk into the darkness of this world bringing the light of the good news with us. The good news that we do not walk alone. The good news that our Father God loves us, and not just us but everybody. Everybody you know and the billions you don’t, the folks you like and the folks you don’t like,your friends and your enemies, Jews, Gentiles, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Black, White, whether you are traditional in your beliefs or progressive, whether you are gay or straight, whether you like State or Carolina. God loves us all and that relationship that he invites us to have with Him through His son’s life and death is the light we bear. We walk in the darkness because we carry a great light. A light that cannot be extinguished, a light that cannot be ignored, a light we must never allow to be hidden.

John 1:1-4 tells us: “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through Him all things were made,and without Him nothing was made that has been made. 4In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

It cannot overcome it. It is a physical and spiritual impossibility. For when the darkness has swallowed all the light it can, the light bursts forth and darkness is vanquished.

Last week David Peeler texted me and asked “What do you know about saints.” I thought “You’re asking me?” So I had to be a wise guy “Well I know they like marching and they make a great cloud formation. In fact they kinda invented the cloud from my understanding.” Well we laughed but we went on to talk about the importance of the saints, the famous ones and the ones that are homegrown, the ones who come to you when you need them, the folks with whom you participate in community, the grandmother that never stops praying for you. In fact when I told my grandmother “Granny you don’t need to pray so much for me I’m OK, life’s OK, I grew up, It’s OK” My Grandmother would say “How do you think you got this far? Do you have any idea how often you are in my prayers” We have such a great cloud of witnesses.

Hebrews 12:1 “1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. ”

So what do saints do? I mean they aren’t just up here doing cloud formations

Well we know they share the banquet of communion with us. Every time all the time they share the sacrament with us. They intercede for us, they pray for us, they witness our trials and can encourage us most importantly they are a light for us. They are those beacons of Christ that have run the race. When they finished the torch run they did not throw them down, they held them high and they hold them still, lighting our way home.

They have finished the race. Their reflected light brings clarity to our paths, they are the open door where light shines into the darkness allowing us to see our way into thedarkened world even better. You know few people go into a darkened room and simply shut the door behind them if they want to see, no…they leave that door open for by itslight you can find your footing. The saints, great and small, known and unknown are those open doors that light our way into the darkness of this world, and with each door that is opened the world becomes a bit brighter.

We need their example. After a week like last week…we need the stories of their lives. We need stories, like those of the apostles…testimonies of men that walked into the darkness of the world bearing the light. Men who were not afraid to suffer and die, not for what they believed, but they suffered and died telling the story of Jesus. A story that many craved to hear, a story that some despised. It wasn’t simple belief that carried them there. Theology didn’t take Peter and Paul into Rome to die in the persecutions of Nero…the light did, that light that cannot be extinguished. Andrew was killed in Greece, Thomas perhaps in India or Persia.

These men knew the light, they knew the light when He walked with us. This wasn’t religion in the usual way, this was experience, this was real to them…they saw the resurrection, they experienced Jesus and nothing was ever the same again….nothing, not ever. Had it all been a fantasy, they would have slipped away quietly. Think about it, are you going to go into the darkness of the world for something that isn’t real? Are you? They weren’t either. Peter, Andrew, James and John had good jobs and were likely skilled fishermen. Hey its an honest living and it beats dying in the arena as a lions meal. Unless its true, unless Jesus really did walk with them, eat with them, die for them and was raised by His Father on that third day. Now that’s a story to die for…because it is all true.

Since I got to pick my own saints, I picked the two with whom I had the greatest affinity . Saint Francis and Mother Teresa.

I wanted to talk about St. Francis…we all know and love St. Francis. Even Protestants love him. He has a place in our hearts. His “job” has almost outpaced who he really was. He is the patron saint of animals. Surely Francis loved animals but his business, like Jesus, was people

I could tell you the life of Francis of Assisi, but you can read that. I want instead to tell you those things I find remarkable in his character. Francis was humble. His greatest aim was to live like Christ. To minister to the poor, the lepers, those forgotten by the mercantile and feudalistic societies of the day. It has been said that no one else in history was as dedicated as Francis to imitate the life, and carry out the work of Christ, in Christ’s own way. He believed that nature itself was the mirror of God. He called all creatures his “brothers” and “sisters,” and even preached to the birds. His deep sense of brotherhood under God embraced others, and he declared that “he considered himself no friend of Christ if he did not cherish those for whom Christ died.” He set up the first known live manger scene, and near the end of his life he had the first documented case of stigmata. The humility of Francis had far reaching effects as he was able to talk to the Sultans in the Muslim world and long after his death the Franciscans, of all Catholics, were allowed to stay on in the Holy Land and be recognized as “Custodians of the Holy Land.”

There are saints today. Mother Teresa said “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

“She began her missionary work with the poor in 1948, replacing her traditional Loreto habit with a simple white cotton sari decorated with a blue border. Mother Teresa adopted Indian citizenship, spent a few months in Patna to receive a basic medical training in the Holy Family Hospital and then ventured out into the slums.[44][45]

Teresa wrote in her diary that her first year was fraught with difficulties. She had no income and had to resort to begging for food and supplies. Teresa experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life during these early months. She wrote in her diary:

“Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. Today, I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then, the comfort of Loreto [her former congregation] came to tempt me. ‘You have only to say the word and all that will be yours again,’ the Tempter kept on saying … Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard. I did not let a single tear come.”[48]

Teresa founded the congregation that would become the Missionaries of Charity in 1950.[49] Its mission was to care for, in her own words, “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

It began as a small congregation with 13 members in Calcutta; by 1997 it had grown to more than 4,000 sisters running orphanages, AIDS hospices and charity centers worldwide, and caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless, and victims of floods, epidemics, and famine.[50]

By 2007 the Missionaries of Charity numbered approximately 450 brothers and 5,000 sisters worldwide, operating 600 missions, schools and shelters in 120 countries.[60]

In 1982, at the height of the Siege of Beirut, Mother Teresa rescued 37 children trapped in a front line hospital by brokering a temporary cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian guerrillas. Mother Teresa traveled to assist and minister to the hungry in Ethiopia, radiation victims at Chernobyl, and earthquake victims in Armenia.”*1

Both Francis and Mother Teresa were humble, their ministries were to the poor. They lived with them and served them. They walked the road with Jesus, their success came from their humble hard work and their devotion to Jesus They were tireless in their work and their vision and amazing things happened, but they too were challenged, they too spent some time searching in the darkness, they too asked God if He was still there as they walked through their dark times. So when things look dark to you, when it seems like God is far, when you wonder if anyone cares, be assured that just as God loves and directs His saints, he loves you and is with you in the dark times even when He seems far away. He is using those moments, not causing those moments, but using them to make it possible for you to walk in the darkness and not stumble, for you to walk in His light when others see no light, to be the light for others.

You are the light walking into the darkness of the world. I want to make sure you hear that: YOU ARE THE LIGHT WALKING INTO THE DARKNESS THAT IS THE WORLD!!

The one thing that the power of darkness hates is those that bring light into the world. While I don’t think, at least here, we are likely to be persecuted at this time, our brand as Christians has suffered to put it into modern day jargon. Things have changed. Once those that didn’t share our faith, respected our faith, no more…but perhaps that is because we have disrespected our faith before them. They hear our hard words, They see our hypocrisy instead of our struggles, they see our self-righteousness instead of our searching for the will of God. They see our infighting, they see us being judgmental, they see us as using one measure for ourselves and another for others. Jesus told us that in judging we would be judged by the same measure that we ourselves used on others. If we judge others harshly, if we judge others with dogmatism and legalism, we too will be judged by the same standard. They see us making the same mistakes over and over and they wonder if we are getting anywhere. I wonder that too sometimes.

But we have an amazing God, who can redeem all our shortcomings, He can make blind men see and the lame walk, he made the scales fall from Paul’s eyes and redeemed the denial of Peter. He softened even the heart of Nicodemus the Pharisee…He is certainly able to redeem us and remind us that people will know we are truly followers of Christ by our love, not by our legalism, they will know we are true in our faith by our open hearts and our acts of selfless service. What do saints do? They stand boldly urging us on, they have walked in the darkness, they have walked when they could not sense God, when God seemed far away and they are there to show us that it can be done, that eventually we sense Him again, that the path will lighten up. He has given us so many signposts, Mother Teresa, Saint Francis, the Apostles, all part of the great cloud of witnesses that surround us always.

*1: DATA DISCLOSURE: Time-lines, dates, quotes and facts for St. Teresa and for St. Francis are from Wikipedia…some are footnoted, some are not.

Posted in Meditations | Leave a comment