e-letter 6/14/19

I love road trips. Perhaps it’s because I love vacation and road trips usually mean vacation. When our children were young, we took a vacation every summer without fail and those vacations usually involved some type of road trip. After weeks of running around at work to get everything squared away so that I could leave, after days of packing everything imaginable for a family of 5 for whatever adventure we were heading out for, I loved the feeling of hopping in the car and driving away. We were leaving behind all the pressures of our everyday routine for something new; a new place, a new pace, new scenery, and what would become new memories.

 
 

Scott always drove the first leg, (and sometimes all the legs) of the journey. He likes to drive more than ride. And within 30 minutes of hitting the road, I would always fall asleep! That is what female pastors who are wives and mothers of 3 young boys do when they sit still. They fall asleep! It was wonderful.

 
 

The only problem was that I was always the co-pilot. Keep in mind, this was before the days of GSP, Garmin, Google Maps, etc. Scott has a pretty good sense of direction, but he can easily get turned around and I liked pouring over the maps, especially when we were in a new place. So, usually we were a good team. Except when I wasn’t awake!

 
 

One time, we left home and as usual, I feel asleep. I wasn’t worried, as we weren’t going someplace totally new and Scott seemed to be clear on the route we were taking. While I was sleeping, he stopped for gas. I was vaguely aware that we had stopped but ignored it and went back to sleep.

 
 

I woke up about an hour later and as I looked outside the window, I saw a water tower with the name “Valdosta” on it. I said, “Scott, why are we near Valdosta?” He was like, “What do you mean?” I replied, “It says Valdosta on the water tower. Why would we be near Valdosta? Valdosta is no where near where we are headed!”

 
 

Sure enough, we were on the outskirts of Valdosta Ga. We were supposed to be headed to the Smokey Mountains from Jacksonville. Valdosta was not on our itinerary. Neither was the hotel outside Atlanta that we ended up staying in because we had mistakenly gone so far off course in the wrong direction. He had gone in the wrong direction when he left the gas station and he had no Siri blasting in his ear, “make a U- turn!”

 
 

But isn’t that just like life? You travel the highway of life with a general sense of where you are planning to go and how you are going to get there. Then one day you wake up and discover you have somehow veered off course. Or you hit a roadblock or a dead end and must take a detour. The journey of life is never a simple matter of going from point “a” to point “b”. It is a constant series of unexpected events and curve balls that necessitate constant course corrections. We are often called to the business of “recalculating”; reimagining our hopes and dreams and goals in life.

 
 

The good news is that we don’t have to make those course corrections alone. God is always with us. God works in all kinds of ways to help us in finding our way through the detours, the dead ends, and the traffic jams of our lives.

 
 

This summer in worship, we be exploring the lessons we can learn from some Old Testament characters about how to allow God to function as our “spiritual GPS” when we encounter the unexpected and unplanned in life. In our “Recalculating” message series, we will look at Elijah, Ruth and Naomi, Gideon, Rahab, Samuel and Hannah to explore the ways that God led them in responding to unexpected events or took them in unexpected directions. Along the way, we might just discover that sometimes, the greatest adventures in our lives occur when we embrace moving off our maps and simply trust our journey to our God who is with us in all the twists and turns of life.

 
 

This Sunday we begin with one of the stories of Elijah which is found in I Kings 19. You might want to read both I Kings 18 and 19 to get a fuller picture of where Elijah is in his journey in chapter 19. As we encounter Elijah, we will explore the importance of taking advantage of a “Rest Area” along the way.

 
 

I look forward to seeing you in worship this week and diving into this message series. I also hope that during these longer days of summer, you might take advantage of the opportunities to connect or re-connect with your neighbors, friends and family. Summer is a great time to recharge your batteries and your relationships with one another. And maybe invite a friend to worship, or Sunday School, or a neighbor child to VBS or a youth to BMW. Remember, the number one reason folks visit a church, at any time of year, is because someone invited them!

 
 
Grace and Peace,
 

Annette



e-letter 6/07/19

Summer is upon us, and that gives us the opportunity to reflect on the past school year! As a part of my own reflection, I realized that we haven’t had much further conversation about what’s been happening in the United Methodist Church at large. That is because, well… there hasn’t been much to report. Groups continue to organize, discuss, lament, and celebrate together on their own, and anxiously have been waiting for Annual Conferences and General Conference 2020. Any news outside of both of these gatherings has not spoken for the whole of the denomination or even our conference. Your pastors are keeping up and are, of course, willing to answer any of your questions, but there isn’t much “new news.”
 

 

In that way, this week, Pastor Annette, Pastor Augie, and I are all in Lakeland for Florida’s Annual Conference meeting. This happens yearly in the first week of June and is when our conference of Florida Methodists gets together, works on some business of our connection, and celebrates retirements, ordinations, and changes in appointment. As the connection of the Annual Conference is the basic body of the United Methodist Church, this is “the room where it happens,” especially for our Florida connection. (Cue Hamilton soundtrack!) This year, we have more to think and vote about in the wake of General Conference 2019 and preparing for General Conference 2020.
 

 

With all of that in mind, of course there was a sense of anxiety among some of our colleagues as we headed into Annual Conference. What is the state of the church? What would it be like, after the decision of the Special Called General Conference? Would we be able to sit in the same room together, eat meals together, be for each other in mission? Our Conference planning team and our Bishop said pre-emptively, yes! We will. And the theme for this year has been “On Mission Together,” celebrating the innovative ways we join together in Florida and across the globe as United Methodists. It has been such joy to be a part of those celebrations alongside hard, good, and important conversations in our connection.
 

 

It is also appropriate because this weekend in worship we celebrate Pentecost. This is often referred to as the birthday of the church, because this is when the disciples received the Holy Spirit and began to preach the Gospel to many people who spoke many different languages. This was a shock to them, but no shock to God, as in Jesus, God promised to send this very Spirit! And we, too, are recipients of this grace-filled Spirit of God, urging us on in our own mission and our own connections to our wor
 

 

When we think about the Spirit in our work here at Suntree, we also think about how God has continued to move us forward in our 4D Vision as a church. The way we see it, the state of our church is beautiful, Spirit-filled, and growing! We will celebrate that in worship this week. We can think about our youth students on mission this week, our children’s MADD Camp, VBS, and programming throughout the year, our efforts to have conversation around mental health in our community, our Faith Based Partner of the Year award from Brevard County Schools, and all of our continued ministry that only grows and flourishes through the Holy Spirit. While we celebrate the church’s birthday, we’ll also remind ourselves of how much we have accomplished here at Suntree and how much more God promises us in Pentecost.
 

 

Even alongside great anxiety in our world and denomination, you are markers to me of the Spirit’s continued work. You help me know that there is hope for our church — because you are examples of being on mission together, being in conversation together, and living out the fruits of the Spirit together. I am so grateful to be your pastor and to celebrate your hard work this weekend!
 
 
 
See you Sunday,

Pastor Allee



e-letter 5/31/19

There has been a great deal of activity going on in the church offices this week as our student ministry prepares to leave on their mission trips on Saturday. We are so very blessed with amazing students, parents and adult counselors who make these incredibly important experiences happen each year. A great deal of planning goes into every detail to make these experiences successful for the students and for those they serve.

 
 

During all that activity I was reminded of a youth mission trip that I led many, many years ago. It was a very small group, just 8 students, me and one other counselor and we went to a small UM Children’s Home in Thomasville, GA to do whatever they needed in terms of small repairs on the facilities. About a week before the trip I learned that each group that was coming to the Home that summer would be laying a small section of concrete with the hopes of having a whole new parking lot by the end of the summer. I’d never laid concrete. But in consulting with my husband and my dad who both had experience with this kind of work, I went away confident that despite our number, we could manage the job.

 
 

When we arrived at the Home, we were greeted by the gentleman with whom I’d made all the arrangements for the trip. As we talked, he looked at our small group and I could see a change of expression on his face. He looked concerned. He asked, “Is this your whole group?” I replied, “Yes, this is it, but I warned you we were small. It might take us a little longer to get it done but I think we can handle it.”

 
 

He looked again. And still he was clearly skeptical. Then he said, “You have only one guy in this group.” I replied, “Yep, it looks that way.” And I knew in that moment, he had no faith that we could do the task before us. He saw a small collection of mostly young girls, one teenage boy and two female counselors and assumed there was no way we could get the job done.    

To be honest, his attitude made us even more determined to not only do the job, but to do it well. And that is exactly what we did. Not only did we lay that concrete, but it was the smoothest section of concrete that had been laid. And on the last night we were there, as we watched the rain drain off the concrete from the slight slope we had planned, we knew we had done an awesome job.
 
 

While the man we worked with never said it, I’m guessing that the end product was to him, something of a miracle. He clearly never expected us to be able to do the job. We just didn’t look like the kind of group that you would go out and hire to lay a parking lot. But perhaps he had forgotten that God often works in ways and through people that you might never expect nor dream of.

 
 

I admit, I was a little worried too. I knew it was going to be hard. And I wished we’d had a bigger, more experienced group. But I also knew we had something to offer and so I figured it was worth giving it a try. So, we came, and we did what we what we could, and lo and behold, a miracle happened. Another section of parking lot was laid.

 
 

This week in worship we will conclude our “Jesus Is…” message series, thinking together about the power of Jesus to satisfy and provide as we reflect on the story of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5000 as it is found in Mark 6:30-44. This story invites us to consider the ways that Jesus invites us to share whatever it is that we have, whatever is at our disposal, in response to some need, trusting in the power of God’s grace to bless it, multiply it and use it in sometimes miraculous ways. When the disciples are concerned about the crowd and urge Jesus to send them away so that they can get food for themselves, Jesus says to them, “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37) But they are skeptical. Their concern: There is no way we have enough for all these people! And they don’t. At least, not by themselves. But they have something. And that is the point. Jesus basically says, “Use what you have, and leave the rest to me.”

 
 

This next week, our youth and adults will be challenged to use whatever gifts they have to meet the needs of those they will be serving. It may not seem like much on the surface, to the casual observer. But they are on a Kingdom mission, working for Christ, in the name of Christ. And I have no doubt, that in the end, with a little Holy Spirit intervention, they will find that they have more than enough to make a difference in the lives of the folks they will serve.

 
 

How about you? What are the ways that Jesus is saying to you, “Use what you have, and leave the rest to me?” What are the ways that Jesus is inviting you to trust in his power to satisfy and provide even when we think, there is no way I can do this? I invite you to start thinking about those questions as we prepare for worship this week.

 
 

Also, remember to be in prayer of our students and adult on Mission this coming week. I’m so grateful to be a part of a church that makes mission such a central piece of our student ministry.

 

See you in worship on Sunday.

 
 
Grace and Peace,
 
Annette    


e-letter 5/24/19

I don’t know about you, but I have so enjoyed our “Jesus Is…” sermon series! After Easter, it has been such a delightful and convicting reminder of the character of our God in Jesus. Jesus is not one dimensional — he is loving, fierce, powerful, and gentle. Our God chases after us, is the Lord of our lives, and also disturbs our peace, sending us out into the world.
 

This week, we talk about “Jesus is… The Sender of the Laborers.” We are those laborers! Jesus says in Matthew 9 that “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” How convicting! As Christians, we are not just invited to stay in our bubbles or in our comfortable lives, but to go out, to be a part of the Kingdom harvest that God is bringing about. That call can disturb our peace, but it is also an invitation into a full and abundant life. When we are sent, our lives have purpose, and we encounter the beauty of God’s presence in other places and other people.

 
 
The Cuba Mission team is a story of laborers sent into the harvest. When it was initiated in 2002 by Nat and Mary Lou Natto, the team consisted of just the two of them. Stirred with compassion by the conference’s initiatives in Cuba, Nat and Mary Lou began a journey and a partnership that so many of you are familiar with. Beginning with just one church, El Redentor, that needed a lot of structural help, the Cuba Mission has grown to three churches, countless missions, and many lives changed because of the faithfulness of those first laborers.
 

The work continues in Cuba. As many of you know, geopolitical events in Venezuela and Brazil have caused a food shortage in Cuba. Not only that, the food that they can have is now much more expensive than it was before this crisis. Our Cuban brothers and sisters rely upon their strong faith, but also need good food, clean water, and safe housing. Your support of the Cuba Mission Team’s partnership with our sister church allows for these things to become a reality for the communities they serve in. By giving to our special offering this Sunday, you will be a part of sending laborers into God’s abundant kingdom. You will also be a part of meeting the real, physical needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is purposeful, important work.

 
 

Alongside our celebration of the testimonies from our Cuba Mission this Sunday, we will also celebrate other laborers. We will pray for our youth missionaries as they leave for their trips to Key West and the Panhandle. On Memorial Day, we will remember those in our armed forces who gave their lives for this country. 

 
 

In all these ways, we can see that God is sending us out to be bringers of peace, love, joy, and the Kingdom into the world. If you do not feel connected to this mission, I encourage you to get involved! Hear the testimonies this weekend and sign up to become a co-laborer for the Kingdom. The harvest is plentiful, and we are invited.

 
 
See you there,
 

Pastor Allee



e-letter 5/17/19

May is the season of celebrations and transitions. Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking with parents of young children who are trying to survive what a recent, silly Facebook video calls “Maycember” meaning all the crazy busyness of December without the pretty Christmas lights! There are end-of-school parties, concerts and award ceremonies. There are sports banquets and music recitals. There were Mother’s Day Teas and end-of-year field trips. It’s enough to make parents dizzy and exhausted. It’s fun and good but it’s “A LOT”. I remember those days well.

 
 

It’s also graduation season. Preschoolers graduate to elementary school. High schoolers graduate and either head off to college or out into the world of work. College students graduate. Last Saturday I attended my niece’s college graduation. Like her parents, I was so filled with joy and pride for her that I wept as she walked across the stage.

 
 

Many of these celebrations represent transitions; an end of one thing and the beginning of something new. Transitions are exciting and filled with opportunity. But they are also scary and hard. It’s the ending part that brings tears to our eyes as we watch our children or loved ones leave one stage of life in order to move into another stage. It’s the ending that invites us to reflect on the past and all it has meant, to want to savor the last moments of the current stage. It’s the ending that makes us want to freeze frame the moment and hold it forever in our memories.

 
 

But it’s the “something new” that calls us to let go and move on, even when the letting go involves our children. Life wouldn’t be life, rich and full and wonderful if there wasn’t always a “something new” to be experienced, discovered, enjoyed, navigated. No matter where we are in the journey, God is always presenting opportunities to discover, to move on, to enjoy something new. Sometimes the something can involve a hard decision. The key is being willing to be open to the new things that God is calling us to in every season of our lives, even when it means shedding a few tears over an ending first.

 
 

This weekend we have the opportunity to celebrate the “something new” that is unfolding for two beloved, former pastors of Suntree UMC. Tonight at 6:30pm in the Dining Room, Rev. John Hill will join us for dessert, fellowship and sharing. John will retire, after 39 years, from full-time ministry in the Florida Conference this June at Annual Conference. John has had an amazing ministry in churches throughout Florida. Of course, you know him best from his amazing and fruitful 12 years of ministry as Co-Senior Pastor with his wife Terri here at Suntree. We are so excited to be able to spend some time with John to celebrate his ministry and to hear him share some of his reflections as he moves into this new season of life.

 
 

Then Sunday morning, we will welcome Rev. Gary Spencer back to the pulpit in all three Traditional services. Gary served Suntree UMC for 10 years (right before John and Terri), and was instrumental in moving Suntree onto this property and overseeing the building of many of the buildings on this property. Gary too is retiring at Annual Conference in June after 43 years of faithful and fruitful service throughout the conference. There will be a reception honoring Gary’s retirement from 10:30-11am in the Dining Room.

 
 

Both men have left an indelible mark on this church and on more people than can be counted in churches all over Florida. I’m personally grateful for their ministries and their friendship since the mid 1990’s. Knowing both of them, while their “retirements” are endings of sorts, they also represent the beginning of a new chapter where God will no doubt continue to use them in ways that continue to bless others.

 
 

So, join us if you can as we celebrate John and Gary. If you can’t come Friday or Sunday but want to express your best wishes to them, you can drop a card off in the Church Office and we will pass it on to them. 

 
 

Gary (in Traditional) and I (in the Gathering) will continue in our message series with “Jesus Is…Disturber of the Peace” which will focus on Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34-39. It’s a fitting topic as we continue through this season of transitions and celebrations because there is nothing like a little transition to disturb our peace and upset our applecart. Together, we will think about what it means to embrace Jesus as a “disrupter” in our lives and in our world.

 

And one last word to all you parents with young children: “Hang in there. Maycember doesn’t last forever!”

 
Grace and Peace,
 
Annette


e-letter 5/10/19

One of my favorite artists that I follow online is Mari Andrew. She has written an illustrated book and a guided journal, but regularly posts “doodles” or watercolor drawings about life. I enjoy her work because it is relatable — it always feels like she has picked her thoughts right out of my brain.

 

One of the things she does is draw her heart, divided into many different boxes for each month. January’s month had a big slice for “hope for New Year’s resolutions.” August’s heart has a big spot for “very warm sunsets.” For the month of May, the heart had a big slice for “nostalgia.”
 

To be honest, friends, I think my whole heart could be nostalgia in Mari’s formula for May.

 

As college students graduate, my peers announce their new churches, and high school students go to prom, the nostalgia reminds me of so many wonderful memories of those times in my own life. I remember just a year ago when I got to announce my projected appointment to Suntree and to visit Melbourne for the first time. I remember my own college graduation, my own high school prom, my own anxiety about transition and my own fears and joys at each of those steps.

 

The nostalgia also reminds me of the precious place that summer holds in my heart. So many wonderful things happen in churches and in our lives during summer! We have so much ahead for our children, youth, and outreach departments. We have so much fun to look forward to — keep your eyes peeled for information on that.

 

In my summer nostalgia, I remembered that our scripture for this week, Luke 15, was the text for one of the first sermons I ever preached in a “big” church. In my first pastoral internship, I stood up, knees shaking in the pulpit and got to tell about our God who pursues us even when we are the only one lost. How appropriate! This is the very first thing I learned about our God, too — that God would stop at nothing to know me, to know all of the watercolor boxes in my heart, and to be in intimate relationship with me. I am that wandering sheep, I remember. I once was lost, but now I am found.

 

This is the other reminder from this passage: God, the loving parent, seeks, welcomes, and wants ALL people. If we are the one, so is everyone else! Thank goodness! As we celebrate all of the mother-figures in our lives, all of the graduations and transitions, I hope that you’ll remember that as we wander through this life, God seeks and desires us wholeheartedly. We can feel grateful in the nostalgia, and motivated to celebrate, to welcome, to include, and to participate in that reality, too.

 

I’m so grateful for the reminder of all that has come before, and the promise of all that our God seeks to do in our congregation now.

 
I’ll see you Sunday,

Pastor Allee  



e-letter 5/3/19

Last Sunday was officially “announcement Sunday” here in the Florida Conference, the day when pastors who are being moved and churches whose pastors are moving can officially announce where they are going and churches can officially announce through the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, who their new pastor will be. That said, I’m so very pleased to announce that I, along with Pastor Allee, and Pastor Augie, have been reappointed for another year of ministry here at Suntree UMC. In other words, we aren’t going anywhere, and all three of us are all incredibly grateful to share that!

 

I remember having to share the news last year that Pastor Rob would be leaving and that Pastor Allee would be joining us as our new associate pastor. It is always hard to say goodbye to pastors who are loved and that have been with us in the ups and downs of life and with whom we have shared so much. Pastoral transitions are also always a time of anxiety, as you wonder how things will go with the new pastor. Will you connect with them? Will they bring the gifts that are needed for our ministry? Will they be a good fit for the church? I know those questions were swirling around here back in 2015 as you were saying goodbye to Revs. John and Terri Hill and the questions were back last spring as Rob began to say his goodbyes. They are very understandable, real human questions. And it’s not just the congregation who has these questions. We pastors have similar questions as well as we move into new places of ministry.

 

But God is so amazingly good. How blessed we are that Bishop Carter and the cabinet appointed Allee Willcox to Suntree UMC. What amazing gifts of joy, passion for ministry, insight and leadership she has brought to Suntree and to numerous ministries. She is an absolute blessing to the ministry of Suntree. And then in the Fall, we were blessed to be able to welcome Augie Allen as an appointed, licensed Local Pastor, further expanding some of his responsibilities. We are excited to celebrate with Augie as he graduates from Asbury Seminar with his Master of Divinity degree on May 11. Soon he will begin the paperwork to move forward for commissioning towards eventual ordination in the Florida Conference UMC. Augie has been a tremendous champion in leading the outreach ministries through which Suntree UMC is making a kingdom difference in this community.  

Of course, last summer brought more transitions as we sent Will Kendust off to seminary, (by the way, Will is doing awesome there!), Michelle Garrett joined our youth ministry staff, Ulrike Gonzalez joined us as our part time Coordinator of Welcome and Lay Ministry, and Mike Mayes joined us as Director of Worship Arts. In each of these transitions we have been blessed as God has provided Christ centered, kingdom minded folks to serve in the ministry of Christ here at Suntree.
 

Again, God is so good! And the ministry of Christ in this place is growing every day, as our amazing staff partners with you, the amazing, gifted and committed laity of Suntree, to do God’s work of sharing the love and grace of Jesus with this community and beyond. I’m so excited about the work that is going on right now in our new “Grow” team, which is discerning our next steps to provide ongoing faith formation and discipleship for every stage of life. I’m excited about the work that is going on in our mental health task force, which is developing our next steps in seeking to break the stigma of mental illness in the church and community. During the Fall, a new visual arts team was created that is now assisting with visuals in the worship center and sanctuary for worship. In June we will be hosting a Fresh Expressions Spark Day which will help us to begin to dream about new and exciting ways to connect with unchurched or de-churched folks in the community for spiritual conversation and connection. All these new initiatives are the result of our 4D Vision Plan and are happening because of the growing number of Suntree servants who are finding new and exciting ways to plug into ministry and use their gifts in ministry for the Kingdom.

 

All this is to say that I’m so incredibly blessed and grateful to continue to serve alongside all of you and this amazing staff team in mission and ministry in this place, at this time. God is so good. And God is doing great things in and through this church. All of you, combined with a power of the Holy Spirit, make all this possible. I thank you and I thank God for the amazing joy and privilege of serving Christ in this community.

 

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday in worship as we continue in our “Jesus Is…” message series. In this series we are reflecting on the different lens through which we see and experience the power of Jesus in our lives. This week we will be looking at the story of Jesus calming the storm as it is found in Mark 4:35-41 and thinking about the power of Jesus to calm the inevitable storms in our own lives. We will also be sharing in the sacrament of holy communion. So come, be refreshed and be renewed in the presence of the living Christ as we gather in worship and around the table of grace. God is so good!

 

Grace and Peace,

Annette

       



e-letter 04/26/19

This past Sunday marked my first Easter at Suntree, and wow was I blown away! It was a day filled with joy and excitement as the Church gathered to celebrate the risen Christ. Personally, there was extra excitement in my house because my wife and I were able to celebrate my daughter’s first Easter (she’s 8 months old). But if you were anything like me, later in the day you started to finally wind down. All the eggs had been hunted, all the food was eaten, all the good-byes had been said. I felt myself thinking “now what?”. We had just had this incredible celebration in honor of the resurrected Christ, but that is all said and done…now what?
 
Now the work begins. Just as Jesus was raised for the grave, we are too! We are a resurrected people, an Easter people. So now that Easter Sunday is over, we enter the Easter season. Did you know Easter is a season? Just like “Season of Lent”, which we just finished, we are now in the “Easter Season”. This season starts Easter Sunday, and goes all the way until Pentecost, 50 days later. That’s right, the Easter Season is 50 days! 
 
As a part of this Easter Season, we are starting a new sermon series this Sunday: Jesus Is. The idea behind this series is that we all identify differently with who “Jesus is” based on our faith journey or life experiences. As a part of this series we will be discussing some of the characteristics and attributes of Jesus. Each week we will be diving into a different gospel as we discover what scripture has to say about who Jesus is. This Sunday, Pastor Augie Allen and I will discuss Jesus as Messiah. We will get to unpack what “Messiah” really means, and how it is more than just a title for Jesus.
 
Speaking of Diving Deeper! I would highly encourage all of you to come to the “Diving Deeper” study that happens every Wednesday at 6:30pm in the Dining Room during this sermon series. This study is unique because you will be able to get to see some of the “behind the scenes” of how these sermons are coming together. During these studies we take a deep dive into scripture and go over the little nuances and background that might not get discussed on a Sunday morning. This is a time to ask questions and work through some of the more difficult concepts of scripture together!
 
This series invites us to discover who Jesus is, not only in a scriptural or historical sense, but in a personal sense. Who is this resurrected Jesus to you? How does this affect the way you live your everyday life? How are you changed because of this? Now that we are post-Easter Sunday, these are important question to ask! Keep these questions in mind as we continue to dive into to this sermon series and discover who “Jesus Is”.  
 
See you in worship!
Mike Mayes
Director of Worship Arts  


e-letter 4/19/19

As I read to prepare for this week’s multitude of services, I stumbled across this statement, “[Holy Week] is a week where the part can get lost in the whole.” In the grand sweep of Palm Sunday, Easter Egg hunts, multiple worship opportunities, you, like me, might be lost in the grandeur of the most important week in the Christian calendar. It might feel like religious emotion on steroids — the triumph of Palm Sunday followed directly by the somber longing of Maundy Thursday and the devastation of Good Friday, only to return to joy in Easter. It is so easy to get lost in this sweep and not pause for each moment.

 
 

Yet there are many important parts to this — each important to remember, acknowledge, and live. We have been taking careful steps along this journey of Holy Week, noticing the grace that God offers us each day and in each emotion.

 
 

Today is Good Friday. We are close to Easter — but not there just yet. We are in the midst of the somber remembrance of the lonely, painful devastation of Christ’s death. This remembrance might feel too familiar to those of us who walk in dark, devastating news in our real lives: cancer, financial distress, loss, and grief. I think of so many of you for whom Good Friday just feels like a regular Friday — for whom the suffering somberness of this day is the norm for your life. We can get lost in this part, then, too. Where is the hope of Easter when we suffer?

 
 

The good news, giving Good Friday its name, cannot get lost in the whole of Holy Week, in the busy-ness of this Easter season. Good Friday is a reminder that God is here. Good Friday reminds us that even when we feel alone, abandoned, rejected, and scorned, God is right with us. This is an ultimate sign of God’s love for all of humanity. The God of the Universe has suffered the furthest extent of violence, oppression, and rejection, just so that same God could be present with us as we suffer this reality, too.

 
 

Sunday is just two days away. The most important day of the Christian calendar is Easter, because it is the very good news. The victory of Sunday reminds us that the somber suffering of Good Friday in each of our lives does not have the last word. Death, cancer, loss, violence does not have the last word. We are restored, made new, redeemed. He will be risen, indeed!

 
 

In the midst of your Easter hams, beautiful baskets, and family photos, I hope you’ll join us for our Good Friday service tonight at 6:30pm in the Sanctuary, and one of our Sunday worship opportunities. Both are opportunities to bring a friend or neighbor, and to witness to the Good News that God offers in each of our lives. Tonight, we’ll remember Jesus’s suffering and prepare our hearts to receive the joy of Easter. Then, Sunday, we’ll celebrate that joy and the triumph of Easter. Death does not have the last word — bask in that promise this day, and invite a friend to know this truth, too.

 
 

Don’t get lost in the whole — God is with us. Death will be defeated. We are not alone.

 
 
See you soon,
 

Pastor Allee



e-letter 4/12/19

This Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the most sacred week in the church calendar. We will celebrate the arrival of Jesus in music and song, with praise and thanksgiving, just as on that day long ago when people celebrated his arrival in Jerusalem by waving palm branches and shouting, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” It was a joyous day then, and it will be a joyous day this Sunday as our Chancel Choir leads us in worship in the Sanctuary at 9:30 and 11 (no 8am service this week) and our children’s ministry leads us in worship at the 9:30 Gathering in the Worship Center.

 

As we worship, we will celebrate the promise and power of Jesus to restore and renew us and this world. But we will also remember that the price of that restoration was not fully understood in the midst of the “hosannas” and palm waving. Beyond the shouts of “hosanna” there would be the cry of “crucify him”. Beyond the festal parade into Jerusalem there would be the parade of a cross that would lead to Calvary.

 

In order to truly understand and experience the power of Jesus as Savior and Messiah, we must be willing to attend to the other holy and mysterious moments that occur between Palm Sunday and Easter. We need to sit with Jesus at the table where he washed the disciple’s feet and shared the last Supper. We need to go with him to the Garden and hear him pray. We need listen as Peter denies even knowing his Lord. We need to stand with the other onlookers at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. We need to feel the weight and desolation that is Holy Saturday. We need to watch, listen, kneel and worship before the mystery of how God in Christ reaches into the mess of our lives and the world and accomplishes our restoration in order to fully appreciate the gift of Easter.

 

To that end, we invite you to join us for a variety of worship and prayer experiences designed to enable us to walk with Jesus through the journey of Holy Week:
Prayer Labyrinth: (New this year) The Labyrinth is a guided prayer experience that will focus on the power of God at work in us for restoration and renewal through scripture, prayer and multi-sensory experiences. The Labyrinth will be open from 7:30am–8pm Monday through Friday, April 15-19, in the Dining Room. Come any time for a quiet, contemplative space for prayer and reflection.
Holy Thursday Worship – 6:30 pm in the Worship Center. This service will include music,
prayer, drama and stations for holy communion, prayer and hand washing. (nursery available)
            Good Friday Prayer Walk – An ecumenical prayer gathering in downtown Melbourne beginning at 9 am at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. The route is 1.5 miles and includes stations for prayer over those in need in our city; including the homeless, veterans, children, our leaders, etc. Read more about this in the announcement below.
            Good Friday Worship – 6:30 pm in the Sanctuary. This service will focus on the passion of Christ, telling the story in scripture, song and dramatic symbolism as we strip the sanctuary in recognition of the darkness and desolation of the crucifixion. (nursery available)

            Easter Sunday Worship – 7:00 am Sunrise Worship at the Cross-Tower Memorial Garden      8:00, 9:30 and 11 am Traditional Worship in the Sanctuary.

     9:30 and 11:00 Contemporary Worship in the Worship Center.

  We hope you will make it a point to participate in as many of these experiences for worship and prayer as possible. In doing so, we trust that Jesus will be present to continue his restorative work of healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and new birth in each of us so that we might be agents of that restorative power in this community and the world.  

Our Lenten journey towards restoration continues. Easter is coming! Thanks be to God for God’s amazing grace that accompanies us along the way.

 

With grace for the journey, 

Annette