Palm Sunday One Combined Service & Children's Celebration March 25

Jesus and his friend Mr Donkey.jpg

There will be one combined worship service on March 25th at 10:30 am in the Main Sanctuary followed by our Palm Sunday Children's Celebration.

There are no scheduled Sunday School classes this day. Children are invited to attend worship with their family this morning. We will have nursery care for ages 6 weeks to 3 years (10:15 am - 11:45 am).

Join us for lunch in the Crossroads Center directly following the worship service. Please bring your favorite desert to share if you are able.

After the luncheon, all families are invited to stay and enjoy the bouncy houses, crafts, games and Easter Egg Hunt from 12:30 - 2 pm. Be sure to bring your basket to collect eggs and goodies!
Please contact April Hight ( for more information.

Easter Lily Orders March 18-25


Lilies can be ordered from Sunday, March 18- through Sunday, March 25. They are $15 each and will be used to decorate the worship spaces on Easter Sunday. A list of all who have been honored or memorialized with a lily will be in our Easter bulletins. Please fill out the envelope in your March 18 bulletin with whom you'd like to dedicate lilies to. After that, envelopes can be found at the entrance to each service and at the office. Lilies can be picked up after Easter services. Thank you for participating in this long standing FUMC tradition!

United Methodist Men Monday, March 12


United Methodist Men's Fellowship next meeting March 12th

Meeting Every 2nd Monday Night at 6:00 PM in the Fellowship Hall.


All men who attend First United Methodist Church are members and are urged to attend.  Marion McBride will present a program about our new  “Ministry to Armed Forces”.

We try to adjourn by about 7:30. No membership fees just a donation for the meal. (Please no more than $10.00). Donations go toward our many benevolent projects.  Our aim is to strengthen our men's involvement in First United Methodist Church and our community by serving others with small projects. Projects are done by our men according to time available, as most all are also employed and have families. Hope to see you here!

CommUNITY Dinner Wednesday, March 14


Serving will begin at 5:30PM.  The menu will be lemon pepper garlic chicken, mixed veggies, mashed potatoes, salad and rolls. Please plan to bring a dessert to share if you are able. A donation box will be set out to collect donations that will help offset the cost of the meal.
You’ll also have a chance to check out One Faithful Promise. Pastor Michael will be using it as study group material on Wednesday nights at 6:00PM beginning Wed, April 4. Our Sunday School classes will also be following along. We will have the One Faithful Promise materials available for our  congregation to purchase after each worship service on April 8th. Cost is $11 and includes a hardback book and participants guide. This will  help us lead up to Commitment Sunday.
No study groups or Children's choir are scheduled for this evening.
Youth will meet as usual.
Children ages 4 years - 5th grade are invited to a Movie Night, taking place during the scheduled Church Council Meeting. Check-in will begin at 6:15 pm in the Asbury Room of the Crossroads Center.
Nursery care will also be available for children ages 6 weeks to 3 years (Cry Room, Wesley Hall) beginning at 6:15 pm as well.


Holy Week & Easter Schedule March 25-April 1


Palm Sunday ~ March 25
There will be one combined worship service on March 25th at 10:30 am in the Main Sanctuary followed by our Palm Sunday Family Celebration. There are no scheduled Sunday School classes this day. Children are invited to attend worship with their family this morning, though we will have nursery care for ages 6 weeks to 3 years ONLY (10:15 am - 11:45 am).

Join us for a lunch of pork roast, veggies, salad, and rolls, in the Crossroads Center directly following the worship service. Please bring your favorite desert to share if you are able.
After the luncheon, all families are invited to stay and enjoy the bouncy houses, crafts, games and Easter Egg Hunt from 12:30 - 2 pm. Be sure to bring your basket to collect eggs and goodies!
Please contact April Hight ( for more information.

No evening activities scheduled for Wednesday, March 28

Maundy Thursday ~ March 29
Prayer Labyrinth will be open in The Crossroads Center from 6:00AM ~ 8:00PM.

Service of Darkness ~ Friday, March 30
6:30PM in the Main Sanctuary. Nursery available from 6 wks to age 3.

Easter ~ Sunday, April 1
8:30, 9:45 & 11:00AM services will be celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior! Sunday School for children or adults will not be offered Easter morning. Children's Chapel will not take place at the 11:00AM service. Nursery will be available from ages 6weeks to 3 yrs for all three services. Children ages 4 and up are invited to attend worship with their family.


Watchkeeping - Read or listen to Sunday's sermon here

 A sermon preached on February 25, 2018 at First United Methodist Church

A sermon preached on February 25, 2018 at First United Methodist Church

This week, I read about a high school English teacher who has to teach the novel *1984* to a class of seniors every year. *1984* was George Orwell’s imagination of life of what life under a technologically sophisticated dictatorship, and so rather than just read the book, every year this teacher turns her classroom into a dictatorship. She tells the students that their “senioritis” is interfering with the common good, and that she and the other teachers have researched the best possible solution. She hangs up propaganda posters about the dangers of senioritis; she and the other teachers create pointless rules just to test the students' willingness to obey, and then they hang up posters about the importance of making sure your fellow students comply. They bribe and buy off potential rebels in the student body. Almost every year, the majority of the students go along to get along, and then the rest of the students fall in line. Years of running this simulation have taught her that George Orwell might have made up *1984,* but the story he was telling about humanity was truer than many of the stories we tell ourselves about history, and about ourselves. 
It’s easy to hear a story - a novel, or one based on historical fact and say “Well, if I had been there, I would have…” but there is a great difference in telling a story, hearing a story, and being in one yourself. 
When we worship, we place ourselves in the middle of the story that God is telling. We want to know the heart and the love and the purpose of the God who is the author of everything, and since Jesus is the full revelation of all those things, we pattern our worship after the ministry of Jesus. Our worship year begins in Advent with Jesus’ birth, and then it takes us through his preaching ministry. And now we find ourselves in the season of Lent, which walks us through two different experiences of Jesus’ life. On the one hand, the forty days of Lent draw us into the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness. At the same time, the seven worship services -  six Sundays and Ash Wednesday - walk us through the final week of Jesus’ life. 
Last week, we read from Jesus’ wilderness and committed ourselves to knowing his presence and his goodness through various forms of fasting. For the remaining Sundays of Lent, we will look at a different form of fasting each week, and we will see the call to these fasts at work in the week that Jesus gave himself for our sins. 
This week’s fast is perhaps the most unfamiliar, and perhaps the one that seems the least like a fast to you. We are looking at the ancient Christian discipline of “watchkeeping,” or “fasting from sleep.”
Now, there’s someone here this morning who is about to cry at the thought that what they need is “less sleep.” Bear with me, there is good news coming. And we take it for granted that we live in an age that is at once desperate for rest and yet desperately inventing ways to keep ourselves from resting. A new shopping center went up here in town, and I wondered what shops might go in it. Someone said the safest bets were a vape shop or a mattress store — it seems we’ll never have enough of either. This year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the biggest technology companies of the world were giving live demos of the future as they do every year, but this year, the most popular products weren’t better TVs or faster phones. No, it seems that sleep is the next frontier of the modern home. Sleep tracking gadgets, personalized mattresses that can be delivered to your door, micro-stimulation eye masks and customizable pillows. The folks who think they shape the world are betting that there’s no limit to how far we’ll go to sleep better. 
And I have to admit that as I read about Peter, James, and John falling asleep as Jesus prays, I like to think I’d be better… but I’m not very confident. Put me in a quiet garden, on a dark night, with no chairs to sit on after I’ve had a big supper — that sounds like a recipe for some open mouth, drool-class sleeping right there. I like to think that the presence of Jesus would keep me awake… but I’ve seen enough eyelids on enough Sunday mornings to know it doesn’t always work that way. 
And yet, I’ve known other nights, too. I’ve known nights when no amount of fluffed pillows and no turned-down comforter could induce my eyes to close. You’ve known them too, I’m sure. The nights when your worries count the seconds, or your grief makes day and night collapse into a deep well of loss with no bottom. 
Jesus didn’t need a double espresso to keep him up that night. He didn’t need his friends to prod him awake. He asked the disciples to keep watch, not so that he wouldn’t fall asleep, but so that he wouldn’t be alone. 
And that, as far as I can tell, is the purpose of keeping watch for us today. Even in our world that is dying for more rest, we find people keeping watch together in times of crisis or need. My father is from southern Louisiana, and even though we are Protestants from way, way back - the influence of the Cajun Catholics is so pervasive that even the Methodists will hold a wake whenever there is a death. The grieving family gathers with loved ones who tell stories or sit in silence, all to make sure that no one waits alone. We see something similar in the candlelight vigils that follow tragedies. People may not stay the entire night, but they do wait until it is dark to light their candles and comfort each other that none are alone. 
By the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our prayers, we believe we can be present with the suffering of others, even when we are not able to be physically present with them. We are able to say “you are not alone.” 
The book of Acts, chapter 12, tells us that the Apostle Peter was once arrested for preaching the gospel, and at night he was asleep in his jail cell when an angel came to set him free. Peter ran to the home of the nearest believer, and when he got there he found that the church was still awake, praying for him. Peter had been asleep, but the church had him covered in prayer. It may even have been their prayers that lifted the burden off him so that he could sleep. 
In fact, we know that for as long as there has been a church, there have been some Christians within it who took responsibility at different times to serve as God’s night watch for the world. Luke 6 tells us of at least one time that Jesus pulled away from the crowds to spend a night in prayer, and we have references to the watch prayers of God’s people. In most monasteries and convents, the monks and nuns include a midnight prayer in their daily schedule - they will often go to bed early, and then wake up just long enough to pray. John Wesley wrote a worship service for the “Watch Night” - to be held on New Year’s Eve. While others used that night to indulge or drown their desperation, the early Methodists would commit themselves to praying for the world and for themselves. They were stoking their desire so that they could speak the words of Psalm 130 and have it be their true heart’s cry: “I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the dawn. Yes, more than the watchmen that wait for the dawn.”
I’m not going to suggest that anyone set their alarm midnight this week, and I want you to understand that if you are going to stay up all night, it really helps to wait until a day like New Year’s Eve when you’re likely to have the day free. 
No, I’m not here to recommend that we stay up all night in prayer this week - my experience is that when I find myself in such desperate need of prayer, the sleeplessness comes on its own. 
But we can keep a smaller watch with all those who have reason to lose sleep this week. 
This week, my prayer is that every single person here will commit themselves to praying before they go to sleep each night. Specifically, let’s have our entire church pray over the prayers that are going to be offered this very morning. 
In just a moment, when we take our offering, we are going to receive the grace notes covered in your prayers, and the prayers of your neighbors. And tomorrow afternoon, as she does every Monday, Cathrin Owens will send those prayers to our prayer list. If you don’t get our weekly prayer list, then I am asking you right now
If you don’t get our weekly prayer list, then I am asking you right now to add your email address to your grace note and tell us that you want to start getting that prayer list. If you don’t do email, then I am asking you to make a special trip by the office this week to get a printed copy of our prayers. And then, each night, at just the moment you’d like to fall into bed for the night, I’m going to ask you to take that prayer list from your bedside table and say aloud the names of each person on it. 
On that prayer list, we’ll also be sharing a prayer this week. And if you happen to wake up in the night, take it as a gift. Take it as an opportunity to join the God who never sleeps and never slumbers, the God who keeps watch over you. When something startles you awake at 1 in the morning, take a deep breath, and grab that prayer list, and pray these words that have become one of my most cherished prayers. 

"Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.”

When we walk into the desert, we discover that even there, Christ is with us. When we lay ourselves down to sleep, we are not alone. Even when we reach our final rest, we find that the loving hand of Jesus will not let go, but gently carries us to a new awakening. 

In a world that is desperate for rest, what a miracle it will be to have a church that is praying for it through the night. Who knows who might fall asleep and rest in the middle of their desperation - like Peter in that prison cell - because they have the gift that even Jesus asked for - to know that he was not alone. 


Vacations in the Desert - Read or listen to last Sunday's sermon here

 A sermon based on Matthew 4:1-4, preached on February 18, 2018 at First United Methodist Church.

A sermon based on Matthew 4:1-4, preached on February 18, 2018 at First United Methodist Church.

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There was once a hermit who said, ‘I would rather be defeated and humble than win and be proud.’”


This particular hermit was one of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, one of the 4th-century disciples who went to live in the desert after Emperor Constantine made Christianity an officially recognized religion of the Roman empire. The Desert Fathers were the original hipsters – terrified that Christianity had become too mainstream. Now that everyone wanted to be a Christian, they decided that getting away was the only way to make sure they were following Jesus for “the right reasons.” Better to be defeated and humble than to win and be proud.

The Desert Fathers and Mothers had all kinds of sayings. One of them, named John Cassian, said:

“It is a bigger miracle to eject a passion from your own body than it is to eject an evil spirit from another’s body. It is a bigger miracle to be patient and refrain from anger than it is to control the demons which fly through the air.”

Another of these radicals named Clement said a word that has been an incredible comfort to me, in the face of temptation:

“If you are not tempted, you have no hope; if you are not tempted, it is because you are sinning. The one who is sinning in his flesh has no trouble from temptation.”

Oh, and here’s one of my very favorites:

”Two hermits lived together for many years without a quarrel. One said to the other, ‘Let’s have a quarrel with each other, as other men do.’ The other answered, 'I don’t know how a quarrel happens.’ The first said, ‘Look here, I put a brick between us, and I say, “That’s mine.” Then you say, “No, it’s mine.” That is how you begin a quarrel.’ So they put a brick between them, and one of them said, ‘That’s mine.’ The other said, ‘No; it’s mine.’ He answered, ‘Yes, it’s yours. Take it away.’ They were unable to argue with each other.”

Now, there’s no getting around that the Desert Fathers and Mothers were pretty radical. That was their whole point. They didn’t want what Brian Zahnd likes to call an “easy, cheesy cotton-candy” kind of popular religion. They wanted to be part of something bold and radical. They wanted to be on the front-lines of the mission of God — and they understood that one of those battle lines was in their own heart. In fact, when asked why he went into the desert, where there was nothing to be done, one of the Desert Fathers said, “I went to do battle with the devil.”

Now, where would he have gotten an idea like that? Three out of our four gospels take particular time while telling the story of Jesus to let us know that Jesus’ ministry began with his baptism, and then Jesus immediately went into the wilderness to fast for forty days, during which he was tempted by Satan. Needless to say, Jesus never gave in to the temptations he faced, and when Jesus walked out of the desert undefeated by evil, it was like the Lexington and Concord of the Revolution of heaven.

You remember the battle of Lexington and Concord from your elementary school days. Paul Revere and the Minutemen prepared themselves for the British forces, and they gathered their power at the North Bridge and with “the shot heard round the world” they announced that there was a new power on the scene. They fought with muskets and hatchets, and in Jesus’ day, many of his countrymen were looking for a leader who would bring a revolution against Rome with spears and swords.

But Jesus launched his campaign in the stillness of the desert. It would culminate three years later in a victory parade, but rather than riding a war horse, Jesus came to conquer Jerusalem on a donkey. And his inauguration would not take place in an imperial palace. Instead, he would be crowned as king with crown of thorns, and he would hang from a cross with a sign above his head that said “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” It was meant to be a joke, but we know it was true. We know that the cross was Jesus’ final and decisive act of faithfulness; on the cross Jesus offered the perfect faithfulness that no other person could, and on the cross he showed us the perfect faithfulness of God that had been fighting for us all along.

It all began in the desert, where Jesus looked at the best things Satan had to offer and said to each of them “I know something better.”

And we are his disciples.

We are the ones who follow Jesus.

So sometimes, we follow him into the desert.

There is a particular beauty in the desert, a beauty that comes from the sharpness and the starkness of the landscape. I’m sure there are some of you here who know a lot more about the desert than I do. I’ve lived most of my life in the woods — even when I’ve lived in cities, those cities have been surrounded by the pines, oaks, and all the other trees of the American South. I didn’t think much of it growing up, but one of the unique qualities of the woods is that so much of it is hidden. The woods are a place where shadows get layered on top of other shadows. Turkeys and deer and bobcats and snakes can be right on top of you before you know they are there.

I’ll never forget being 15 years old and passing through the Badlands of South Dakota. It was an entirely alien landscape to me. There was no vegetation. You could see for miles. Cliffs and ridges stood out with sharp silhouettes, and nothing was going to sneak up on you. It’s a harsh place, a challenging place (it’s right there in the name, the Badlands). But I also remember thinking that it was an unforgettable place. You couldn’t forget what it looked like, because nothing about it blended in to anything else. To this day, everything about the Badlands stands out in my mind’s eye in stark relief.

It’s no wonder that Christian disciples have found deserts to be helpful places for learning to reject the evil that is in our hearts and resist the spiritual forces that haunt the world. Our sins can be very subtle, even sophisticated. Sin loves to hide, it loves to sew together leafy costumes to make itself presentable. For example, Sin loves it when we have the right opinion because we are rarely as proud, stubborn, and slow to listen as we are when we are right.

The practice of fasting is a kind of spiritual desert. It's the place where learn to see our own heart in stark relief rather than layers of shadow. It used to be that when I would think about maybe "giving up something for Lent," I would always try to give up something bad for me: sweets, TV, etc. But one year, I chose to fast for Lent the old-fashioned way. I fasted from food twice a week during Lent, and I used that time to pray.

And in my prayers, I discovered something that was really obvious, and that Christian disciples have known for years: food is good! It's so good. Food is on the very short list of things that make me happiest every day! Food, to paraphrase one of America's founding fathers, is a sign that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Food keeps me in a good mood! Food makes my brain work better! And in the process of re-learning how good food is, I also learned something about fasting. Fasting is not primarily about giving up bad things. It's about recalibrating our relationship to the good things of this world so that they can serve their highest and best purpose — giving glory to God. Fasting is about me realizing that I can't decide in advance to give up something bad, because it's only after I've spent time in the presence of God that I can distinguish what is good from what is not.

Or, as I like to say, our superpower as humans is that there is no gift, no matter how good, that we can't turn into an idol.

Over the next few weeks, all the way up until Jesus’ victory parade on Palm Sunday, I am going to invite you to follow Jesus into the desert. Each week, we are going to look at a different form of fasting - we are going to talk about silence and solitude; we are going to talk about keeping a night watch like we see in the book of acts and fasting with our money… and yes, we are going to talk about the most popular and newest kind of fast — one that doesn’t have an exact precedent in scripture. We are going to talk about fasting from social media.

In each of these fasts, we are not merely going looking for something “bad” in the things we are putting away; we are going to be looking for the good. We want to distinguish what is truly good from what only looks good. We don't just want to know God's good gifts; we want to know what they are good for. We want to know how we can open our hands to accept every amazing gift that God gives us without clinging to them as an idol.

But before we go deep into all these various deserts, I want to close by making my pitch on behalf of the original fast, the food fast. Throughout Christian history, it hasn’t only been Jesus who fasted, and it wasn’t only a few radicals in the fourth century. To this day Orthodox Christians fast from meat and alcohol every Wednesday and Friday, and John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement was so inspired by their example that he took to fasting from breakfast and lunch on those same days every week. The scriptures and the church are full of witnesses who have fasted from food as a sign of repentance, or of preparation and prayer before a big decision.

As for myself, I am an intermittent faster. One reason I am grateful for Lent is that it reminds me to do something I’d probably put low on my priority list otherwise. I’ll confess I’ve never had any ecstatic revelations or visions or even transcendent moments of peace in my fasting. But I can share two things I have gained from fasting, two things that stand out to me like the mesas and plateaus of the Badlands in stark beauty. These two things are enough to keep me going and looking for more.

The first plateau I remember seeing in the spiritual badlands is the need of other people. Right now in this country, the most economically developed in the history of the world, 34.8% of children in poverty will average two meals a day. You know how you feel when you skip lunch? That’s every day for them. Even with the benefit of school lunches and breakfasts, 5% of impoverished American children will average only 1 meal per day.

Globally, one out of every 10 men, women, and children lives on less than $2 a day.

When I reach the end of a day-long fast, and I think, “Man, it is hard to focus. How am I going to finish what I know I ought to be doing,” I have the faintest glimpse of some people’s daily reality.

The second plateau I’ve seen in my fasting is my own spiritual need. When I fast, I quickly discover how much of my “goodness” is just a full belly. I can be cranky, and quick to anger — and it won’t do to say “I’m just hungry.” I have to admit that those things that come out when I am fasting are a part of who I am; I’ve just managed to hide them for a while. This week, I want to encourage you to consider fasting — not for 40 days, maybe not even from all foods. I want you to consider fasting from one or two consecutive meals, and consider what the experience reveals to you. We’ll be posting some instructions and guidelines for fasting on our website, and it’s important that you recognize your medical needs as you consider where you might start.

The point is not to turn yourself into some hero or champion, the greatest faster ever. In fact, it might be best if your fast is a more humble one, one that you can't be proud of. After all, we’d rather be defeated and humble and than to win and be proud. That, also, is part what we are learning.

We find joy in discovering that we have no reason for sinful pride. We’ve discovered that if we walk with Christ, even a desert is a great place for a vacation.

Resume - Read or listen to last Sunday's sermon here


A few weeks ago, supper was done a little early, the homework was finished, the dishes were put away, the bills were paid, and, quite unaccountably, there was nothing that I had to be doing. So, when the girls asked if they could watch a little more of a particular episode of a favorite show before bedtime, I not only said, “Yes,” but I also sat down on the couch with them. 

Long ago, I’d seen the first episode or two of this particular kids show, enough to know it was not corrupting young minds, but I hadn’t paid much attention since. In fact, let’s be honest, as a parent, that’s one of the primary things I look for in children’s television. 

I place a supreme value on shows that I can safely ignore for thirty minutes (and I assume Jennifer feels the same way. If I’m not going to have a long conversation later today). In a month when it’s been so often cold and wet, a good, safe ignorable TV show is like a holiday for all of us. It’s my best hope of stealing time for the project in the garage, or calling a family member, or reading a book, or deep prayer, or, just getting some sleep. 

My point is, it is part of my plan not to be too caught up in the plot of children’s television. But on this particular night, It was a rare treat to be able to sit alongside my kids, and pull up their latest show on Netflix, and hit play. And of course, as soon as we did, a black screen popped up with two choices. Resume playing or start over from the beginning. 

Of course, my kids were halfway through whatever episode we had made them turn off for supper, or last night’s bedtime, or whatever. They know as well as I do that TV time is precious, and can’t be wasted on re-watching what they just saw. So, they chose “resume.” 

And wouldn’t you know, I suddenly understood why it is that kids ask so many questions. The show was going, and I recognized most of the characters, but all of them had grown up a bit, and their circumstances had changed, and I found myself asking Elsa, “Wait — how do those two know each other?” “Is she magical?” “What is he talking about?”

I became that friend who walks into a conversation and immediately asks everyone to repeat all the things they’ve been talking about for the last 10 minutes. 

This never happened with Dragnet or the Dick Van Dyke show. It used to be that the entire premise of a television show was that no matter what conflicts, problems, or shenanigans might come up, by the end of the episode, everything would be back to normal. Soap operas were the only shows you had to “catch up on.” But now, thanks to an on-demand world, it seems like most shows — even children’s programs — are soap operas. We never want to just start in the middle — we assume we have the right and the time to start from the beginning, and if we can’t, we feel lost.

That’s kind of how I understand Peter — feeling the same way, but magnified by a hundred times, when he thinks that he and James and John are headed off with Jesus for some special summit meeting.

Maybe they are going to strategize the next “missions blitz.” Maybe they are going to try and take this ministry thing to the next level. Except that when they reach the mountaintop, they find Jesus is utterly transformed, and Elijah and Moses are there.

I can almost hear Peter saying “Wait, didn’t Moses die in season 2, like 1000 years ago?” And I thought Elijah was “pursuing other opportunities in heaven.” There they are, the two of them talking with Jesus, and Jesus is shining like the sun, and the only thing Peter knows is that there is a lot more going on than he understands.

I love this commentary from Mark, explaining why Peter offered to build three shrines. I’ve heard some people say that Peter was trying to do this, or trying to do that, but I love Mark’s explanation: “Peter said this because he didn’t know how to respond.”

Dude, I have been there. Peter is just trying to fake it until he makes it. He is trying to be part of the conversation. He is stalling for time until he can think of something that makes sense. “Let’s hang out up here guys, and maybe I’ll be able to catch up to whatever it is y’all are talking about.”

And then comes the voice. “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him.” And suddenly . . . immediately . . . there is only Jesus. 

And then they are walking. Any understanding is going to have to come along the way. “Don’t talk about this ’til I’ve risen from the dead.” . . . Wait, what does that mean? “Never mind, you’ll know it when you see it.”

Oh, well, Jesus — Someone told us that Elijah would come first; is that what just happened?

No, no, Elijah came and went years ago. You missed that entirely. 

And they keep walking. The story doesn’t stop. It doesn’t go back to the beginning. Jesus keeps moving, and the disciples move with him. The voice they heard is not going to rehash everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen. They don’t need to understand what is going on, they need to understand who Jesus is. “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him.”

Since we started this series, we’ve been looking at all the reasons that we shouldn't wait on God. We talk about holy patience in the church, and there is a very valuable time and a place for that patience. But there are times when waiting is just not what we are called to do. 

We looked at the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 1 — Jesus is calling his disciples, and he calls Peter and Andrew and James and John and he tells them, “Come, follow me. I'll teach you how to fish for other people. And they just drop their nets — unmended and unstowed. They just leave them on the shore, and they follow. 

We can't afford to wait until we feel like it or until the time is convenient. We can't wait until the timing is right from our perspective — when Christ calls you, the time is right. In the next week, we looked at Jesus going into the synagogue, and when he shows up, the evil spirits that had been hiding in that place begin to shriek and yell, and they shake the body of the one they have possessed and they shake the spirits of the congregation. 

We cannot afford to wait until the moment that the word of God is not going to cause any trouble. When we say that Christ speaks with authority, we mean that Jesus names the things that have been hiding in our midst. He brings them out, and He casts them out. It shakes us and it shakes those around us because the world gets shaken when it gets turned right-side-up.

And last week we said that we can't wait until we've exhausted all the other options. We saw what happened when Jesus’ ministry got some momentum. He’s preaching and teaching . . . he is healing and casting out demons . . . and all of Capernaum is coming to the doorstep of the place where he is staying . . . and while everything is going really, really well — he steps out the back door to go pray and seek his Father's will. 

He does that before the momentum has run out. He doesn't wait until the crisis comes; he doesn‘t wait till he hits rock bottom, and he doesn’t wait till he has maximized all the good he can do. 

The first thing that he does is seek his Father's will, and when the disciples come and find him, Jesus says, “We have to go to the next town over because that's why I have come.”

We can't wait to we've exhausted all the other options, and we can't add the will of God on top of all the other good things. We have to seek it first if we want to see not only what is good but what we were made for. We can't wait until we’ve exhausted all the other options. 

Now we find we can't wait until we've got it all figured out. We can’t wait until we know exactly where this is taking us or what's gonna happen or what were all the steps that led up to this moment. The fundamental question is not about our past or our future, or even about us at all. The fundamental question is this: “Who is right before us, right now?”

I was talking with the somebody a few weeks ago, and we were saying in one sense the early Christians had it pretty simple when it came to figuring out who is really with Jesus and who was really paying attention to Jesus.

You see, Jesus wouldn’t stay still long enough for any false pretenses to stick. Jesus just stays on the move; he goes fast, and he goes hard, and he shares the gospel everywhere he goes and those who have not set their hearts on him eventually just fall away. 

Those who know that Jesus has the word of life just keep going. We see it again and again. Jesus gets a big crowd, and then he goes off and only a few of them make it to the next town over. 

He doesn’t have time to sketch out the map of everywhere he's going to go. He doesn't have time to tell folks where they’re going to be three years from now or even why he is doing what he is doing right now. He just says, “I am here, and the kingdom of God is here. That’s gonna have to be enough. . . .”

Which is to say, I’m sympathetic to Peter here. I have heard a lot of sermons on this passage, and in those sermons I have heard a lot of reasons Peter shouldn’t have spoken up. And it seems obvious that what he said wasn’t quite right — the moment he speaks, he seems to ruin everything, and this really beautiful, glorious scene — with Elijah and Moses and the sparkly lights — all goes away. 

But I think that ignores one fundamental truth: Peter did get a response. And the word he heard was the only word that any of us needs — “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.”

You have been dropped into the middle of the story.

God's been at work long before you came to be around God. And long after you're gone — hopefully to your rest in Christ — Jesus will still be at work. You’ve been dropped into the middle of this story, and you’ll never figure it all out, but all you need is to answer within your heart that one question. It’s not “Where is this going?” but “Who is this calling?” 

And when you can answer that, then perhaps you can realize that God has been at work in your life long before you ever recognized it. There was a moment that you thought was a lucky break, a moment that you thought was a close scrape. There was a moment that you thought was going to wound you forever. But now you look back, and you can see that God brought you through those moments just so you could be at this moment. 

This is the moment to hear what God is saying. Right now. Christ is in the middle of your story. 

He’s not just a good teacher. Jesus has more than good advice. He's not just an architect who put together a world and a plan that can keep you interested. The one who is calling you is the Lord, the Son of God. 

He is with you on mountaintop. He is with you in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death. He is with you in the middle-of-the-road. He is with you in the middle of the wilderness and the middle of the crowd and the middle of the loneliness. 

Jesus, Son of God, beloved one. 

Do not wait to say, “Yes. You are.”