Hello Methodists of Park County and beyond,
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in God, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 NIV
This is a jam-packed blessing! I have been thinking about what “hope” looks like in these tumultuous days. There is so much going on in our world, so many layers to be navigating. Not to mention the significant things in our personal lives. It can be overwhelming and discouraging. This short powerful verse says hope begins with trust. Trust in God. I think this trust is a verb, an action word. It requires effort and intentionality on our part. It is more than mental ascent or allegiance to God. It translates to action. Living by the teachings and example of Jesus, even when the world calls us in another direction. Somedays it is easier than others to trust God. But, deep down in my soul, I believe that God is trustworthy. That doesn’t mean everything will work out the way I want. It doesn’t mean there will be a happy ending to everything. It does mean through the valleys and mountain tops, God is loving us and giving us what we need to continue on. Hope. As we trust in God, we are filled with hope, joy, and peace. Those are the gifts God bestows upon us as we trust in God. May it be so!
Dear Family of Faith,
On Monday I started a letter to you with this quote from LR Knost. It still feels relevant.
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And in-between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”
Dear Family of Faith,
One of my favorite authors is Henri Nouwen. His writings have inspired me and sustained my spirit across several decades. His wisdom is enduring. This advent season as we seek to embrace and see the beauty in darkness, this writing spoke to me and I hope it does you as well.
“It is easy to put the bad memories under the rug of my life and to think only about the good things that please me. By doing so I prevent myself from discovering the joy beneath my sorrow, the peace hidden in the midst of my conflicts, and the strength that becomes visible in the midst of my weaknesses.” (Weavings, November/December 1992, p. 39-40)
As we enter the darkest days of the year, my prayer for all of us is that we discover God’s gifts for us in the darkness. The peace that passes all understanding. The joy that shines through in unexpected ways. The love that encompasses all of life.
Christmas Eve will be different this year. We will gather digitally on Zoom at 7pm. Rumor has it God and 3 angels will come to visit us as we enjoy Stories and Songs in front of the Christmas Tree! I encourage you to join us! Pajamas welcome! Go to www.zoom.us. Click on “Join meeting.” Then enter the meeting ID# 883 3388 9515. Call for the passcode! Then enable your video and audio. You will be able to see everyone on your screen, whether it is a cell phone, tablet, or computer. Bring a candle and we will light those together.
We are continuing to worship Sunday mornings on Zoom at 9 am (call the office for the password) and in-person at 11:00 am at Holbrook. All are welcome. We do wear masks and socially distance to minimize the risk.
Thank yous continue to come in from Livingston Health Care and Park County Public Health. Our act of generosity and kindness is having a rippling impact of encouragement and hope!
You are all in my prayers as we journey through this unusual season. Stay safe and take care.
May the Lord bless you and keep you,
Dear Methodists on the Yellowstone and beyond!
This week it was a joy to join in the effort to appreciate the healthcare workers and first responders in Livingston. In this dark year, as our days get shorter, we can increase our joy by sharing joy with others. This week we spread joy through flowers, candy, words of appreciation and smiles. This was a group effort. There’s still a way you can participate. We raised $500 but the project cost $700. If you would like to contribute, please make a check out to “Park County United Methodist Ministries” and send to Grace at 302 9th Street Livingston, MT 59047. Thank you to everyone!
In this season when joy is hard to come by, we must be more intentional about finding ways to spread joy. I think joy is like the stars shining in the night sky. Join us Sunday morning, or listen to the sermon on our website, as we explore more fully finding joy in the darkness.
Christmas Eve we will celebrate via Zoom worship at 7 pm. We will have stories and songs for all ages. Feel free to join in your pajamas. I’ll be wearing mine and join you from in front of my Christmas tree. Invite your friends and family! One blessing of this year is that people can join us from any location. So, share this information! (Note it is different than our weekly Sunday morning worship.)
Meeting ID# 883 3388 9515
Call the church office for the password!
I’ve attached my sermon from last Sunday which goes deeper into the idea of embracing the darkness and finding the gifts of God there. Or you can listen to it here: https://www.methodistsontheyellowstone.org/worship/embracing-the-darkness-consider
God is on the mountain top. God is in the valley. God is in the light. And God is in the darkness.
Thursday Hymns and Prayers This Thursday at 7 pm bring your favorite nativity or Christmas decoration to share. We will connect with one another, sing carols, and lift up our prayers. We have a great time together. All are welcome! Zoom ID# 522 462 362 call the church office for the password!
May the Lord bless you and keep you!
Austin Channing Brown recently wrote, “Sometimes hope isn’t what we feel, it’s what we do.” As we reflect this advent season on the role of darkness in our lives this quote caught my attention. Hope isn’t always feeling optimistic about life and the future. As I mentioned in my sermon last Sunday (attached to this email and a video version here https://www.methodistsontheyellowstone.org/worship/embracing-the-darkness ) hope begins in darkness. Hope starts when we are unsatisfied with the way things are. When we are in pain, feel frustration, experience injustice, are filled with anger, or sick and in need of healing. It is in these places that we need hope to help us cope, persevere, and move forward in a way that leads to healing, redemption, new possibilities, thriving, and even new life. Hope is trusting God will be with you in that process. Some days hope is having an optimistic mindset and believing it will be better one day. Some days hope is acting to bring about your preferred future. What can you do today to move yourself, your family, your community toward healing, wholeness, redemption or flourishing? You are not alone in that work; God is with you. Hold on to hope. Hope lives
“Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is how God wants you to live in Christ Jesus.” -I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Paul here is teaching the young believers in Thessalonica about the life of faith following Jesus. I think it is important to notice that Paul writes, “give thanks IN all circumstances.” We don’t have to give thanks FOR everything, but we need to learn how to give thanks IN everything. I looked up my grandpa’s notes on this verse. He writes, “Joy dies when communion with God ceases and complaining replaces thankfulness.” We have a lot to complain about these days! But that complaining will only rob us of our joy. When we find ourselves complaining we would do well to notice it and name the things we are not happy about. But then to keep with that thread and look for things we can be thankful for IN the difficult circumstances. May you find joy in your thanksgiving this week, even amidst all the difficulty of these days.
Dear Family of Faith,
I have been procrastinating writing to you all this week. I haven’t known what to say. As the week progressed, the phrase “common ground” kept popping up for me in several contexts. One thing is clear and that is our country is painfully divided. No matter who wins this election, we all need to seek to find our way to kindness, respect, and harmony. We can’t depend on our elected leaders to get us there. That is work we each must do. And I would contend that living in the way of Jesus will get us to a place of peace and harmony. Our timely beatitude this week is “Blessed are the peacemakers.” What does is look like for us to make peace in these days? The path to peace includes finding common ground because I truly believe we all have more in common than that which divides us. And we need to do the hard work of loving one another; our friends and family, our neighbors, and even our enemies. Let us all continue to pray and work for peace. I hope to see you Sunday ☺
Today we read from Matthew 5:8-9. Our guest preacher is Rev. Dr. Chris Haughee of Intermountain Children's Home "We ask What ancestors are walking with you and cheering you on?" today.
As our election process continues and election day arrives next week, we are weary. We are afraid. We are hopeful. We are angry. We are hurt. Such a mixed array of feelings. And, as God would have it, my sermon the Sunday after the election is on the beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I look forward to thinking through what that means for us in these contentious days. Meanwhile, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote these words in his journal on October 6, 1774:
Dear Church Family,
Last week I participated in our Conference Clergy Retreat via Zoom on Wednesday and Thursday. It was good to be encouraged and inspired by our clergy on more than 170 screens which represented over 200 people. In our closing communion, we read a liturgy which began by lamenting the things the pandemic, racial reckoning, election cycle, fires and hurricanes have taken from us. Then it continued with these words:
Park County United Methodist Ministries
Just a place for some easy messaging. Feel free to comment!