Monday, December 26, 2016


"Thank you Lord for the gifts you place in my life.  The gift of family that has blessed me during this Christmas season with beautiful chaos, beautifully intense interactions and beautiful chances to share life.  The gift of a Church family that cares and shares love, life, resources and makes sure that the pastor and staff know that they are appreciated.  The gift of music that allows my soul to sing and praise God like Mary did in her beautiful song from Luke 1.  The gift of the friends (and there are many) who share the joy of ministry doing little and big things for the Kingdom of God.  The gift of struggles that God's grace has led me through and past.  The gift of those who have lived and died leaving their reflections in the mirror of my memory so I can recall and laugh and cry as I appreciate the brief time spent here and anticipate the promised eternity in heaven.  The ministries that God has given Abbeville United Methodist so we can tell our community and the world that Jesus is Lord, God never fails and salvation through the Christ child is the greatest gift ever given.  The pastors who have shared the Word of Life in this community and in the world ... often at great struggle and inconvienience.  Of all these gifts, Lord I thank you ... and I ask your blessing on each person that reads this message.  I know and You know that Longfellow was right when he wrote ... "The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth and good will toward men."  He, You and I know that this hope and truth starts with me (and those reading this) where you have placed them to reflect the light of Jesus to a world needing light.  Empower us to do this by leading us to follow you.  Thank you Lord ... for letting us be part of the beauty and mystery of faithfully following you to wher3ever you lead.  It is the blessing of living life in You!"  Randy

Monday, December 19, 2016

All of These

Adele sings a song called "We Could Have Had it All."  It is an expression of missing the mark in a relationship that didn't go as expected or desired. We can all connect with that since all of our human relationships have not gone perfectly.  The same could be said about our relationship with God.  All of us can attest to the many times we missed the mark when trying to reach the standard God has set for us.  With human effort it is impossible ... but with God all things are possible.  For with God, we can have "all of these."

During Advent we have practiced a tradition that has been around since the 16th Century.  German Lutherans developed the idea of the Advent Wreath but the tradition didn't take current form until the 1800's when Rev. Johan Wichern, a pastor serving the poor in Germany, refined the idea.  Following the old pattern we light four candles in expectation of the birth of Jesus.  These candles represent love, joy, hope and peace, and they are all part of the light of the Christmas season.  The last candle, lit on Christmas Eve, is the Christ candle, lit to celebrate the birth of Jesus ... in John's words, True God and True Light come into the world.

On Christmas Eve we will light the Christ candle and we will relight all of the candles on Christmas morning.  We will (I hope and pray) be recognizing God's offer of "all of these things" (hope, love, joy, peace and Christ) in a world where these things are scarce.  While we have missed the mark in accepting and appropriating all of these gifts into our lives and spreading them into the world, Jesus did not miss His mark.  He has brought us all of these in Himself as the greatest gift of Christmas.  This Saturday night at 7pm and this Sunday morning at 10am we will embrace each other ... embrace these gifts ... embrace Jesus as we sing about joy, peace, love, hope and Christ.  The gifts of this world say we could have had it all, but that is one of the world's lies.  In Christ we truly can have all of these.  Thanks be to God!  Randy

Monday, December 12, 2016


Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.” (Luke 1:46-55 NLT)

Do you ever wonder if God is listening, watching and attentive to what is happening around our world?  Do you cry (as David did) "How long will you hide your face from me?" (Psalm 13:1 NLT).  Mary's answer is clear, confident, filled with joy and glowing with gratitude. Mary doesn't just sing ... she shouts ... God Remembers!

I love this passage from Luke for many reasons, but maybe the most vivid reason is how this passage expresses the nature of God's love.  We use the word love lightly.  We love ice cream ... football ... hunting ... cars ... TV programs ... hot coffee.  God loves with passion, without boundaries and in a way that doesn't just tell us He is listening ... God shows us by His actions.  

Mary says "He took notice of His lowly servant girl!"  God sees us where we are and who we are and loves us anyway.  Mary was amazed and grateful.

Mary says, "He has done great things for me!"  I marvel at this verse as I see both the blessing of being chosen by God and the great burden of raising the Christ child into manhood, all the way to His death on a cross.  Mary was able to see past future burdens in the strength of her faith in God.

Mary says, "God has leveled the playing field ... HE is the great equalizer."  Mary sees God's action as the only total equality we will ever see as God does what Isaiah said when he prophesied ... "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain" (Isaiah 40:4 NIV).  Mary saw God's justice and mercy in her mind's eye.

In her world of turmoil, pending persecution, uncertainty, political upheaval, real danger, economic difficulty and family problems, Mary sees all the way to God's glory, grace and provision.  Maybe we should too!  Randy

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pollution or Solution

In the dictionary the definition of pollution is "the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects."  I see it often both at Christmas or at other times of the year.  The person who watches children singing their hearts out to God and finds something wrong to complain about. The always-negative approach to life that doesn't just see the glass half empty ...because the polluter wants to empty everyone's glass along with their glass.  Haggai said that the Israel of his time was like this as they were never satisfied because they had pockets full of holes.  But Isaiah had something positive to say in the midst of some dire prophecies.

Isaiah reminds the people of Israel that in the midst of the world's pollution there is a God who is working, creating, making new things ... and one of those things is us.  "Be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating, for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy and its people as a delight (Isaiah 65:18)." 

Let me "what if" for a moment.  What if God is honored when, in the midst of the darkness of this world, His people become the light of the world?  What if God meant what He said when He, through Paul's writing, said, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, patience, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-25)?"  What if God's creating is a process that transcends the pollution of this world to show us the light of Christ?  What if God's people chose to never become pollution (that thing that has harmful or poisonous effects on our environment)?  What if we embrace and really mean those Christmas songs we will be singing when we say things like "all is calm, all is bright," "in the darkness shineth an everlasting light" or "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!"  What if?  Randy