JOIN US FOR WORSHIP
THIS SUNDAY, SEPT 25TH
8:45 A.M. TRADITIONAL WORSHIP IN THE SANCTUARY
(traditional worship with a more intimate atmosphere, includes special music and sermon)
10:00 A.M. TRADITIONAL WORSHIP IN THE SANCTUARY
(traditional worship with special music and preaching, including a children’s moment)
11:15 A.M. THE OPEN DOOR AT BUSKIRK-CHUMLEY THEATER
(contemporary, informal worship with preaching and children’s moment)
SOMETIMES ALL YOU HAVE IS LOVE
Like you, I am privileged to share moments of nearly inexpressible joy with others. And, like you, I sit with people who invite me into their valley moments.
What do we do when someone we love is hurting because of their first-hand experience of suffering and loss?
DON’T RUN AWAY
Too often we feel we need to fix things or say something so perfect it will take away the pain. But often no one can fix what is wrong, and there are no perfect words to take away the pain. So, what we do is run away. We avoid the person who is hurting, who has gotten the bad news, because we can’t fix things and we are worried we may not say the right thing.
In Psalm 38, the psalmist writes: My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction, and my neighbors stand far off.
Don’t run away. Keep sitting with your friend in church. Keep meeting them at The Irish Lion every other Thursday for fish and chips like you have for the last seven years. If they feel like it, keep your fishing dates. Keep talking about the things you’ve always enjoyed talking about.
If you are worried about saying the perfect thing, you might learn a lesson about what not to do from Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite (see Job 2).
DON’T TRY AND EXPLAIN IT
The book of Job is a Hebrew attempt to address the problem of suffering. The writer uses a contest between God and the Devil (”The Adversary”) Job as a literary device to help us see how the faithful may respond to suffering. Job suffers a series of devastating losses.
His friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to comfort him. Which is a beautiful thing! They go to their friend to see if they can “console and comfort him.” The Bible says when they saw their friend they wept and tore their clothes in grief. Then, they sat on the ground with Job for seven days without speaking a word to him because they could see he was “in excruciating pain.”
All this is so good: going to our friends when they hurt, crying with them, sharing their grief, and offering the gift of just being together in silence. Then, the three friends make the mistake of opening their mouths and trying to explain the suffering. They say Job must have done something wrong. They say God is teaching Job life lessons using the instrument of suffering.
Don’t try to explain the pain, don’t try to offer trite theological answers (“God thought you were strong enough to bear this terrible thing…God will grow you through this…”), don’t tell stories about how you have gone through similar tough times, etc. Don’t try to explain how there is always a reason for suffering: sometimes bad stuff just happens! (And often to very good people…)
When people are hurting, it is often best to say less rather than more.
LOVE IS ENOUGH
I once felt a sense of panic when I was with hurting people. I felt pressure to say the right thing. I felt the need to explain what was happening, digging into the Christian understanding of suffering in a world presided over by a loving God. I felt a desperate urge to fix things. (I’m a fixer!).
At some level, I suppose, the suffering of the people I knew and loved scared me. Their situation raised all sorts of questions for me, and reminded me how vulnerable we are all. This could be me. How would I react? A part of me wanted to run away from the ground zero of my friend’s suffering.
But I have learned something.
God takes the things we bring to those moments when a friend is suffering, and with God they are enough.
When we love someone enough to show up, God uses our very presence to bless. Showing up counts for something. I tell people that I have learned love shows up. Proverbs 18:24 says, Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. You may wish you had something better to give, but just showing up and sitting with your friend is a big deal.
I never feel like it is enough. But somehow, being there is used by God in a big way.
I’M SORRY & I LOVE YOU
When people are hurting, they don’t need theological explanations. They don’t need our desperate attempts to look on the positive side of things. They don’t need to hear how our cousin or a co-worker went through the same thing.
Do you know what people need to hear? They need to hear us say, “I’m sorry.” A brilliant friend and very good therapist says that the words, “I’m so sorry” are more powerful than we can imagine. People need to know we see their pain, we get it, we recognize it, and we know it is real.
People need to know we love them. They matter to us. They are treasured and infinitely valuable.
I’m always surprised that somehow kissing a child’s scrapped knee or elbow seems to lessen the pain. It makes no sense at one level, but when you think of that kiss as an “I love you” then we understand how love helps us deal with pain.
No big explanations. No long words. Just, “I’m sorry” and “I love you.”
We may feel inadequate but God takes our presence, our “I’m sorry” and “I love you,” and God makes them enough. I’m often amazed, all over again, how God takes these simple things and does great good with them in the lives of those who hurt. It always reminds me of the young person in John 6 who shares his lunch and it is used to feed thousands. It’s more than enough, as Bishop Trimble recently said in a sermon.
A GREATER LOVE
There is something more, though–we don’t go to our hurting friends empty-handed, we go with the faith that there is a greater love loose in the universe. As members of the Jesus community, we go to hurting people knowing the story of the empty tomb.
That doesn’t give us an excuse to be “preachy” with those who are hurting. Instead, we go to our friends quietly, lovingly, and graciously. We go filled with the conviction that God’s love is at the center of the universe. Over time, as we sit with our friend who is hurting, we give small hints about this love… and about the faith that gives us a peace that defies easy explanation. They may want to hear more. Or not.
Paul, in Ephesians 3:18-19, says a beautiful thing to those early Christians: I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth…I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.
Right now, it seems, a lot of people I care very much about are hurting. There is joy all around, there are all sorts of reasons to sing hymns of praise and thanksgiving (in a few weeks we will be baptizing five people on one Sunday morning!), but there are some people with broken hearts. Walking through deep valleys. What can we do?
We can be there.
We can say “I’m sorry.”
We can say “I love you.”
And we can… gently… at the right time… say…
“There is a love… that has you… and will never let you go.”
It will be enough. Trust me.
You may be tempted to run away, but what you have will be enough for your friends.
See you in worship this Sunday as we complete our three-week sermon series on Prayer – Keeping It Simple. This week we look at the prayer “WOW!”
On October 2nd we begin Defying Gravity. How can we be free in a world that keeps trying to pull us down?
Thank you for prayers for Pastor Stacee, Jeff, and the girls. Thank you, also, for being patient with us as your church staff during these challenging days.
There are a few more notes below. I encourage you to read on and participate in our beautiful community that is transforming our world.
See you Sunday!
Grace and peace,
ADMINISTRATIVE LEADERSHIP CHANGES AT FIRST METHODIST
As the Chairperson of our Staff Parish Relations Committee at First Methodist, I want to inform you of major changes in our administrative leadership The Reverend Marie Lang, who has recently relocated back to Greenwood with her husband, Steve, will be seeking a position in the Indianapolis area closer to home. Her intention is to begin reducing her hours at First and to end her time with us by December 1st.
We are thankful for Marie’s leadership and ministry, and our congregation will be invited to celebrate her ministry as her time here ends.
Our SPRC, along with our Lead Pastor, Mark Fenstermacher, is very pleased to announce that Ms. Cath Foreman will be stepping into the new position of Director of Office Operations. She will be supervising secretarial and administrative support staff, coordinating office volunteers, and continuing to assist the pastors.
Cath has been on our staff and done an outstanding job as our full-time Pastoral Administrative Assistant (bulletin preparation, meeting coordination, wedding and funeral arrangements, coordination of major events, working with communication efforts and ministry planning, etc.). Cath was a key organizer of the recent picnic, and works closely with the greeting and ushering ministries at First Methodist.
A native of Gary, Indiana, Cath lived in Indy for 15 years and Danville for 10. She says the move to Bloomington was the best move she has ever made! Cath is a single mom with two girls, Melanie (20 and a student at Rose-Hulman) and Sydney (17 and a student at Bloomington HS North).
Cath brings extensive experience in graphic arts, photography, and restaurant management to her work with us. Her previous position at Sycamore Services in Danville involved managing their printing business. She also served on the board of The Downtown Danville Partnership as design and print consultant.
At Bartlett Chapel UMC in Avon for 12 years, Cath was fellowship coordinator, involved in children’s ministries, and directed the drama ministry. She loves to create art, mixed medium sewing, and going to the opera and ballet. She loves to get to the shores of Lake Michigan and believes laughing is a good thing.
As we welcome Cath to the position of Director of Office Operations, we also welcome Ms. Shari Sprinkle to the new position of Director of Financial Operations.
Thank you for continuing to pray and encourage our fine team at First Methodist!
Staff Parish Relations – Chairperson
Financial Wellness Begins This Sunday Evening!
If we are a church that loves people and wants people to be well (just as Jesus wanted the rich man to be well…to be free…to be happy!), then we need to offer resources. So, a team of great volunteers, led by Jonathan Purvis, are working with me to offer a very simple 4-week series of classes about money we are calling Financial Wellness.
Financial Wellness will be offered on four consecutive Sunday evenings from 5:30-6:30, beginning on September 25th, here at First Methodist. Sessions will be straight-forward, easily understandable for non-money types (like me!), and last only one hour. Presenters will be people from inside our church, people you probably know, people you can trust. They will be sharing what they know… helpful insights from their experiences. Each evening will also include a time for questions!
There is no cost for the course. Childcare will be provided (we would like to know if you will be using our childcare) and refreshments will be served.
The topics for Financial Wellness will be:
- 9/25 – Financial Health & Getting Out of Debt.
- 10/2 – Beginning & Building a Budget.
- 10/9 – Handling College & Getting Ready for Retirement.
- 10/16 – Having a Lasting Impact.
Showing Generous Love to Mission Guatemala
We are a community living out the generous love of Christ. The good we do transforms us, transforms Bloomington and transforms the world. The following note was received in response to our support of Mission Guatemala.
“Thank you! Mission Guatemala thanks you for your generous gift of $4229.25 made through the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. Through the generosity of people like you, we will see an expansion of the medical clinic, a new eye clinic, continuing support of students in schools, implementation of feeding programs in eleven schools, and more improvements to the communities in the San Andres area of Guatemala. According to the UN world food program, Guatemala is the worst country in the Western Hemisphere for chronic child malnutrition. Your gift directly supports nutrition and well-being through more than 45,000 meals served to school age children each year.
Thank you for helping to improve the quality of life for the Guatemalan people struggling to overcome extreme poverty. Your support and continued prayers are appreciated!”
Getting Into First Methodist on Sunday Morning
The alley doors have been locked these past few Sundays in answer to safety issues, but this has made some members of our congregation unhappy. So, we will have the Northwest alley door unlocked on Sunday mornings with someone there to greet and assist you.
The wooden doors on 4th street should be used an emergency exit only. Remember, you can always use the Sanctuary entrance by Thurston Parlor to help eliminate traffic congestion at the Southeast door.
The Ushers will be leaving the Sanctuary doors open until after the children’s moment, giving parents enough time to re-enter the Sanctuary without the doors clanking after each person enters. We realize that having the doors open may make it difficult for some to hear, but perhaps changing your seat to the center may help. Leaving the doors open will also make late comers less of a distraction.
TRIP TO HOLY LAND SET FOR FEBRUARY 2017: JOIN US!
View details online, contact the church office and/or pick up a brochure for the Holy Land Trip in February of 2017. Led by Pastor Mark Fenstermacher, the trip is with experienced tour operator EO (Educational Opportunities Inc.). At this point it appears we may have approximately 20 persons making this life-changing journey. The cost is just over $3,000 per person (including airfare, hotel accommodations, tour guide, motor coach transportation in Israel, morning and evening meals, etc.) for those who did not register by July 11th. Contact Ms. Cath Foreman if you have questions. Click here to view the trip website
This Sunday we complete our sermon series titled “Prayer: Keeping It Simple.” Whether you’ve prayed a thousand times or never before, these messages will guide you to consider three essential prayers: “Help! Thanks! Wow!”