e-letter 2/16/18

Living in central Florida means the first signs of spring usually come early and are far less dramatic than in most places, even north Florida. Still, the signs are there. One of my favorite signs of spring around here is the new “spring green” colored leaves that appear on the trees that lost their leaves in the “winter”. Another sign of spring appears in the beautiful pink blossoms on a few of the trees that run along St. Andrews Blvd. (in Suntree) and on the edges of the park on Interlachen Road.

I always find these signs of new life and rebirth a welcome respite about this time in the season of Lent. After about 4 weeks of the darker, more somber mood and tone of Lent, after weeks of making the journey with Jesus to the cross, I always get a little restless and ready to move on to the joy, the life, the “Glorias” and the “hallelujahs” of Easter. It is not an easy journey, but it is a necessary one that challenges us, changes us, prepares us to receive the gift of new life and love in the light of Easter morning.

But even in the season of Lent, there are always signs of the life to come along the way. As I reflect on that reality, I see the evidence of the life and love of Jesus popping up everywhere around Suntree UMC. I saw that life and love a couple of weeks ago at our very first “Blessing of the Animals” on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, where about 100 people and 75 or so pets came out to give thanks to God for the beauty of the created world and the blessing of cats and dogs and birds and bunnies and turtles in our lives. I see life and love in the way this church continues to grow and expand the ways it serves children and families in its partnership with Harbor City Elementary. I see life and love in the new ways we are seeking to serve foster families in our community. I see life and love in the amazing growth and expansion of our Blue Sky Community Garden (check out information about the upcoming Eco Fair and Farmers Market below). I see life and love in the new Pints and Parables fresh expression that meets at Pizza Gallery. I see life and love in the generosity of this congregation and the community in raising over $98,000 for the P.O.P.S. organ project. I see life and love expressed day after day in the amazing ministry of our Suntree School and the exceptional way the school staff loves and supports children and families in this community. I saw life and love at the Church Council meeting this past Tuesday as we adopted the bold, courageous, Kingdom-oriented, mission-stretching blueprint for mission and ministry found in the 4D Vision Plan. (pick up at copy in the sanctuary or Worship Center lobby if you haven’t done so already) I see life and love in the plans our children’s and youth ministries have for mission and ministry this summer. I see life and love every week during worship as this church brings much needed supplies for our mission partners to the foot of the cross as an expression of the bold love of Jesus. (This week’s items: men’s and women’s underwear, socks, shoes, (only new please) for Daily Bread)

In short, I see signs of life and bold, courageous, self-giving love all over this church. And each one of those signs point to the power of God as Father, Son and Spirit at work in this place. Yes, it is Lent. But the signs of new life and bold love are accompanying us every step of the journey. Sometimes we just need to stop, notice the life all around us, and give thanks to God for it.

This Sunday in worship we will hear Jesus’ words from John 12:20-33, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The call of Lent is the call of Jesus to let go, to die to self that we might bear the fruit of love and service for the Kingdom. It is not always an easy call. But the rewards of bearing the fruit of life and love for the world that God loves are without compare. Thanks for all you already do to bear the fruit of love in this community!

See you in worship Sunday where the signs of life will be all around.

Grace and Peace,