January 25, 2021 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was the 3rd Sunday of the Epiphany. In many churches, Sunday was a celebration of our American diversity and the freedom we have to worship as we wish. I feel strongly that the various faiths are a wonderful thing and that all these voices worshiping are pleasing to God.

Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship; we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. Scientists and medical professionals say that we can do three simple things before the vaccines are generally available: To curtail the spread of Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly, stay at least 6 feet apart—social distancing, and yes, wear a mask. Things are so dire that mask-wearing is the patriotic thing to do. It is also the Christian thing to do, loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Also, as soon as you can, get vaccinated against this scourge—twice.

Our Sunday School lesson was based on Romans 8: 31-39, which are some of the most reassuring and comforting words found in the Early Christian Testament. Paul tells us that “there is no power that can keep that love—God’s love—from us.” Yes, nothing can ever separate us from God’s love seen in Jesus the Christ. We were all puzzled over where the writer seemed to go from there. After we receive such complete assurances, we are reminded that it is difficult to feel that love; in addition, we must continue to ask God to “increase [my] faith.” But as he wrapped up, he spoke of the hope that must be the cornerstone of our faith.

We want to be as safe as we can. Since we resumed in-person worship, our music has been on CD. We can hum the song under our masks but no vigorous singing! Our first song was the lively hymn, “Lord of the Dance,” sung by Donovan. It tells Jesus’ story, set to the Shaker music for “’Tis a Gift to be Simple.” The second hymn was the inspiring “Here I Am Lord,” sung by a group from Highland Park UMC in Dallas.

The Old Testament lesson for the 3rd Sunday of the Epiphany is about Jonah. He is lumped in with the Prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures—but if Jonah is a prophet, he is certainly the most reluctant prophet there ever was! This is in stark contrast to Jesus’ call to Simon, Andrew, James, and John. These four disciples of John the Baptizer were invited by Jesus to travel with him: With little fanfare or any second guessing, they followed. Jonah ran; the four fishermen followed. At times, we humans are Jonah, and other times we are like those brothers.

Plenty has changed in 2021, but unfortunately, too much sorrow and sadness from 2020 has continued into the New Year. Predictions are that by the end of February 500,000 of our fellow Americans will have died from this awful pandemic. In our weakest moments we wonder if it will ever end, but in our most hopeful of moments we dream of things being better. Please continue to take precautions—for yourself and for others!

Community Christian Services has continued its mission work all through the pandemic with grace and compassion. Those needing a hand don’t get out of their cars as volunteers load them up with care packages of food. We at Paxton try to do our little part by collecting goods and giving checks each month. This month we are donating cans of tuna. In February, we will collect soap and shampoo.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com.

If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

January 21, 2021 - Among the many fables given to us by Aesop is the one of “The North Wind and The Sun.” It seems a dispute arose between the north wind and the sun, each claiming that he was stronger than the other. At last they agreed to try their powers upon a traveler, to see which could soonest strip him of his cloak. The north wind had the first try; and gathering up all his force for the attack, he came whirling furiously down upon the man, and caught up his cloak as though he would wrest it from him by one single effort. But the harder he blew, the more closely the man wrapped it round himself. Then came the turn of the sun. At first, he beamed gently upon the traveler, who soon unclasped his cloak and walked on with it hanging loosely about his shoulders. Then he shone forth in his full strength, and the man, before he had gone many steps, was glad to throw his cloak right off and complete his journey more lightly clad.

You see, it is better to persuade than to coerce. We need to realize that God does not force obedience from mankind. God gently warms our hearts with His love. It was the warmth of God’s love that sent Jesus to this earth to live among men. It was the warmth of the love of Jesus that caused Him to go to the cross to die for our sins. God wants us to respond to the warmth of his love by living His kind of life, His way, in loving obedience. How can men and women turn their back on the kind of love that God has so graciously shown us?

It’s something to think about … tbp
 
Center Church of Christ
110 Hurst Street
Center, Texas

January 17, 2021 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was the 2nd Sunday of the Epiphany. As Christians during this special time of the year, we are to be aware of God working in our world and to feel his essence in everything. We went from snow on Sunday and Monday to temperatures in the 60s on Thursday. As I have started this article, it is Friday afternoon and it sure is windy outside.

Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship; we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. Scientists and medical professionals say that we can do three simple things before the vaccines are generally available: To curtail the spread of Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly, stay at least 6 feet apart—social distancing, and yes, wear a mask. Things are so dire that mask-wearing is the patriotic thing to do. It is also the Christian thing to do, loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Also, as soon as you can, get vaccinated against this scourge—twice.

The scripture for our Sunday School lesson came from 1 Thessalonians 1: 2-10, 4: 12-18. This book is the oldest in the New Testament. Paul tells the Thessalonians that their good work comes from their faith, and it shows. For them loving had become a habit, and love is always looking for new opportunities. As Paul says, “Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.” Our author says that until Christ’s return we can persevere in our faith with the hope of seeing Jesus in everyone that we serve.

We want to be as safe as we can. Since we resumed in-person worship, our music has been on CD. We can hum the song under our masks but no vigorous singing! Our first hymn this morning was by Elvis, a stirring rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” “Jesus Loves Me,” our second hymn—though simple and familiar—was beautifully sung by Christy Lane.

Sue read parts of the Old Testament Lesson: 1 Samuel 3: 7-8 and the Gospel lesson: John 1: 46-50. In the Old Testament, young Samuel is called by God throughout the night, but the writer says he wasn’t really ready to understand what was going on. Finally his mentor Eli did. In the John Gospel, two of John the Baptizer’s disciples meet Jesus and are convinced of his authenticity. Phillip is so excited he runs to Nathanael who just rolls his eyes and says, “What good ever comes out of Nazareth?” But within just a few minutes after meeting Jesus, he too is convinced.

Gene presented a treasurer’s report this morning: We certainly appreciate his thoroughness. Our regular district and conference church apportionments are paid in January, with some budget items further down the calendar year—for example, when it’s time for Children’s Christmas giveaway. This month our Community Christian Services donation is cans of tuna.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

January 14, 2021 - Paul’s second letter to Timothy is the last of his letters that has been preserved for us. In chapter 1 and verse 12 he writes, “I know whom I have believed.” Dr. Moffatt’s translation reads: “I know whom I have trusted.”

Notice what Paul says. He does not say he knows what he believes. He says he knows the one he has trusted. It was personal with Paul. His trust was in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Paul trusted Jesus completely. No reservations. No hedging or contingency plans. No hesitation. He had placed his faith in a person, not merely a message.

A little later in this letter, chapter 4, he tells young Timothy that the time of his departure is at hand. However, he tells him that a crown of righteousness is waiting for him.

The faith that sustained Paul in his final imprisonment and execution is available to us. Paul had made Jesus Christ the Lord and Master of his life when he was obedient to the things Ananias told him to do. When we make Jesus the Lord and Master of our lives by our obedience and putting Him on in baptism and living obedient to His will, like Paul we can know whom we have believed, we can know whom we have trusted and we can face the end of life with the same confidence Paul had that a crown of righteousness is waiting for us.

It’s something to think about… tbp

Center Church of Christ, 110 Hurst Street, Center, Texas or online at www.centerchurchofchrist.com.

Like a dog going back to the food which he has not been able to keep down, is the foolish man doing his foolish acts over again.” Proverbs 26:11

January 11, 2021 - After working in the garden and piddling in my gun shop today, I came in to check my email. As I was reading it, I noticed a fly had flown into my half-filled glass of water. He was one of the bad ones (the green ones)… the kind that hang around carcasses and filth.

My first thought was to let him drown and periodically checked to see if he had. He incessantly buzzed the glass’s periphery and was a real fighter. When he finally quit moving, I felt guilty for letting him die. As a penitent gesture, I lowered a ball point pen down to him and when the seemingly dead fly crawled up on it, I lifted him to safety. After testing his wet wings for a moment, he took flight again and began terrorizing me with erratic bump-and-fly tactics.

My son Mark called about that time and as I was telling him about the dive-bombing insect, he landed again in the same glass of water (!) and resumed his “gasping for breath” routine. I opened a window and poured the water and the fly outside to fend for itself.

That fly reminds me of people who promise God everything if He will just save them. Then when the danger is over and their wings dry, they fly right back in. They can’t blame God for being back in their predicament. Rescuing us from the water is God’s part…

… but staying out of it is ours.

January 10, 2021 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was Baptism of Our Lord Sunday on the Christian calendar, the day to celebrate the baptism of Jesus by John. We have officially ended the Christmas season with the Epiphany—the 12th Night. I waited until the end of the twelve days of Christmas to take down the tree and the decorations; now our living room is back to normal. We at Paxton Methodist wish everyone a great New Year.

We certainly have had plenty of rain this past week. Snow is predicted for Sunday and early Monday morning. With the cold fronts that moved through along with the dampness from the rains, it feels really cold. But that doesn’t stop Gunter, Sam, and me from heading to the City Park each morning. I go to walk two miles. They go to sniff, run, and chase each other. It has become a routine, a good thing because I can so often talk myself out of doing what is good for me. My daughter gave me her old Fitbit, so I now monitor my steps trying to get in 10,000 steps each day. I have felt satisfaction reaching my goal daily.

Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship; we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. Scientists and medical professionals say that we can do three simple things before the vaccines are generally available: To curtail the spread of Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly, stay at least 6 feet apart—social distancing, and yes, wear a mask. Things are so dire that mask-wearing is the patriotic thing to do. It is also the Christian thing to do, loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Also, as soon as you can, get vaccinated against this scourge—twice.

We want to be as safe as we can. Since we resumed in-person worship, our music has been on CD. We can hum the song under our masks but no vigorous singing! Our hymn this morning was Alan Jackson’s “When We All Get to Heaven.” To accompany our study of the Creation, we had “What a Wonderful World” by Louie Armstrong.

With help from Gene, our church treasurer, I submitted our End-of-Year Reports to the District and Conference. I mailed the signature page to the District, and now we can start looking toward this new year’s missions and projects. During the month of January, Paxton Methodist will be collecting cans of tuna for Community Christian Services.

Pastors and churches in the Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church received a letter from Bishop Jones, addressing the attack on the Capitol building this past week and the accompanying violence and death. I will print his letter in the weekly Paxton newsletter.

Our Sunday School lesson used Luke 7: 11-18 as its scripture. John the Baptizer sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask him if he was the one people had been waiting for. Jesus didn’t give them a straight answer but told them to follow him, see what he did, and then report back to John. The author of our lesson reminded us to allow the Kingdom of God to break into the world. He goes on to say that we experience the Kingdom through life changes and through our relationships with others. The arc of justice certainly is long, but in time the world will see the truth behind the teachings of our Lord.

My wife Sue serves as the liturgist for the church: She read the Old Testament lesson for Sunday from Genesis 1: 1-5. This is one of the two creation stories found in the early chapters of the first book. The Scripture is so beautiful, reminding us not to take for granted the amazing world that God began and is still creating. The Gospel lesson was Mark 4: 1-11. All four Gospels speak of John baptizing Jesus, but the Mark version is the oldest of the four. With our own baptism we are invited to be part of God’s creative process as God is still speaking, still creating, still healing, and still loving.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

January 7, 2021 - In the “Sermon On The Mount”, Jesus tells us to “let our light shine before men” and he also tells us that we are “the salt of the earth”. What He means, of course, is that we are to live our lives in such a way that we bring honor and glory to Him and honor and glory to the church. Yet, I often wonder how well we are doing at that.

When we lose our temper in the store and “explode” on some clerk or manager, does that reflect well on Jesus and the church? Those times when we are engaging in idle gossip, whether listening to it or repeating it, does that bring honor and glory to Jesus and the church? Obviously, there are many things we can do that bring shame to Jesus and the church.

Well, the, we can hand out more tracts, we can set up more Bible Studies, we can invite more people to church, that will honor Jesus. Wait, I know, we can take meals to shut-ins and sick people. To be sure, there are numerous good works we can be involved in that will reflect well on the church and bring honor to Jesus.

However, when all is said and done, Jesus gave us the supreme way we can bring honor and glory to Him and to the church. In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” There it is, short, sweet and simple. If we want to bring honor and glory to Jesus and the Church, we are to love one another. We are to love as Jesus loved. How are we doing with that?

It’s something to think about… tbp

Center Church of Christ, 110 Hurst Street, Center, Texas or online at www.centerchurchofchrist.com.

January 4, 2021 - "My cup runneth over…." Psalms 23:5  

"Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." 1 Peter 1:8

 When I was five years old, we moved to a house on the Henrietta Road north of Center, Texas. My memories about it are few:  bitter weeds, bitter cow milk…. roasting hickory nuts in the fireplace…. our dog "Nellie"… and the yellow jackets that covered my brother Bill and me with stings.

While playing in the woods one day, we spotted a "church house" not far from our house. It was small, white, and had a cross on the top.  We asked Mother to let us go to church there and the next Sunday we attended our first church service. I don't know its denomination…can't remember what the preacher or members looked like…but one thing I remember well.   The Preacher repeated it over and over again:  It was from the 23rd Psalm: "My cup runneth over". 

Ten years later I attended a tent revival service just off the Center, Texas Square and learned what the preacher had meant. I trusted Christ as my Savior that night and raced home to tell Mother that I'd been saved. The whole world looked different the next day… old things had passed away and all things had become new. The Lord gave me "joy unspeakable and full of glory"….and because of Him… 

”…my cup runneth over."

January 3, 2021 - Grace and peace from our brother Jesus, Amen. Sunday was the Second Sunday after Christmas. Happy New Year! I know we are hoping that 2021 will be a better year than 2020. A year ago at this time, I don’t think anyone imagined what the new year was going to be like. Also, Happy Day of Epiphany! On the Christian calendar, Wednesday, January 6th is the Day of the Epiphany, when we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to Bethlehem searching out Jesus. On Sunday I selected the scriptures for Epiphany; the gospel, liturgy, and sermon spoke about the wise men, the New Year, and how the Christian faith is about new beginnings and new possibilities.

Paxton Methodist is having in-person worship; we respect each other by wearing masks and keeping socially distant. Scientists and medical professionals say that we can do three simple things before the vaccines are generally available: To curtail the spread of Covid-19, we should wash our hands regularly, stay at least 6 feet apart—social distancing, and yes, wear a mask. Things are so dire that mask-wearing is the patriotic thing to do. It is also the Christian thing to do, loving your neighbor as you love yourself.

We want to be as safe as we can. Since we resumed in-person worship, our music has been on CD. We can hum the song under our masks but no vigorous singing! Our first song was “Auld Lang Syne,” a Scots language poem by Robert Burns. The second was the hymn, “We Three Kings,” sung by Leontyne Price. The 12 Days of Christmas are officially over on Wednesday, but I might still sneak in some Christmas songs.

The Day of the Epiphany is also Report Day for United Methodist Churches. All the Year-End Reports must be entered and sent to the district and conference. Our treasurer, Gene Hutto, really helped out by keeping and tabulating all the financial numbers and reports that needed to be entered.

During the month of January, Paxton Methodist will be collecting cans of tuna for Community Christian Services. I was able to deliver three checks and many, many cans of soup last Wednesday to CCS. The volunteers there always do a superb job but have really increased their output during the pandemic. Last Wednesday, they were busily handing out boxes of food. Thanks so much to these caring folks!

We had an extra good Sunday School lesson today. Gene read the scripture, Luke 3: 1-8, which talks about John the Baptizer and his ministry along the Jordan River. Our author spent some time on opportunities for a New Year and new beginnings. One thing he said was, “With God’s help, we can live into the new reality of the Kingdom of God.” Amen to that. I always thought of John the Baptist as a bit extreme—the way he dressed, what he ate, and how he seemed to cry and scream his message. But the lesson writer pointed out that what John was calling people to do wasn’t extreme at all—it was very mainstream in Jewish and Christian thought. John says we are to share with those less fortunate, to be fair in our dealings with everyone, and to be merciful in how we treat others. John surely sounds a lot like Jesus!

The Gospel lesson for Sunday was Matthew 2: 1-12 about the Magi coming to Bethlehem looking for Jesus. I also used several images of new beginnings since it was the first Sunday of the New Year. In fact, my sermon title, “The Land of Beginning Again” was stolen from a poem by the same name. The scholars (kings, magi, wise men) coming to Bethlehem is really less abut the moment they discover Jesus and more about humanity’s life-long journey to find God and to live in God. The Epiphany speaks of the Divine shining light on our path as we journey through a sometimes dark world.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here. Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist, you can send your email address to the Paxton email address, and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

December 31, 2020 - Have you ever thought about the role that scales play in all of our lives? Remember those scales outside stores years ago? The ones you put a penny in for your weight or a nickel and you got your weight and your horoscope. I remember getting on some talking scales one time, put in my money and the scales said “one at a time please!”

We also make use of scales to purchase things by weight, especially in the meat market. Yet, we also purchase things like flour, sugar, meal, dried beans and other items by their weight. I remember as a boy, going in to the 5 and 10 cent store to buy candy by weight.

At the candy counter, they had those old fashioned balance scales. The clerk put a weight on one side of the scale and candy in the hopper on the other side of the scale. They kept adding candy to the hopper and when they “balanced” or “equaled” you had the desired amount of candy.

Someday, God is going to put us on the “balance scales.” For this coming year, let’s resolve that we are going to live God’s kind of life and live it God’s way. We don’t want to come to the end of our journey and have it said of us as it was Belshazzar, “thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” (Daniel 5:27)

It’s something to think about… tbp

Come join us for Worship, in person this coming Lord’s day at Center Church of Christ, 110 Hurst Street, Center, Texas or online at www.centerchurchofchrist.com

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