notes from Pastor Jimmy

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Time and the Things Left Undone

It is September already. I find that hard to believe. This year seems to be flying by in all its strangeness.  It seems like just yesterday that we were going along fine and then covid happened. Then at other times it seems like normal was a long time ago. I have always been fascinated by time. We are not great at relating to time. Things can feel longer or shorter than they really are. I have been sitting in my office for what feels like hours trying to think of something to write about this month. It has been twenty minutes.

As I glance around the room looking for inspiration, I am always struck by family pictures. There is one of my wife, Jennifer, and me at our wedding rehearsal dinner. I would really like to talk to that guy. He is afraid and excited all at the same time. Jennifer looks so happy in this photo. Every time I see the smile in this photo, I hope I can make her smile like that every day. When I look at this photo, I get sentimental. I think about all we have experienced together. It is a good feeling. Then I glance just a little bit to my left and there is a picture of our first child together, our beloved Boston Terrier, Riley. I remember all the stress he put us through training him. I remember how he slept in our bed because we could not handle his whining. I remember his great love for Jennifer and how he would wait for her to come home. I also remember losing him to old age and saying good bye for the last time. Just beside the dog picture is a picture of my human children, Abby and Wesley. The picture I have of them in my office is when they were in preschool/daycare together. Wesley is a baby and propped up against his big sister who is both posing nicely and keeping him from falling. This one makes me so nostalgic. They are so grown up now. A part of me will always remember them as they were in that photo and yet another part of me is so excited to see them growing.

Time is a strange thing. I can remember parts of my journey like they were yesterday and yet they seem so long ago. There is much in my life I look upon with gratitude and thanksgiving. There is also much I look upon with regret. This year has caused me to slow down and reassess things like I never have before. I am spending more quality time with my family and having to really think about my work and how to be effective in this time of social distancing. Perhaps, for me the hardest part has been the alone time. Before covid there was always something else that needed doing. I did not have much time for reflection, but now I do. Here is what I have learned and what I hope is helpful for you:

There is time right now. Your age does not matter. If you are reading this article, then there is time and that time is now. Now is the time to repent. Now is the time to ask forgiveness. Now is the time to forgive. Now is the time to love. Now is the time to do that thing that God has been calling you to do. Now is that time to read the Scriptures. Now is that time to really pray. Now is that time to accept that the one who knows you best also loves you most. Now is that time to really say “yes” to God. Now is the time to do what we have left undone. Now is the time.

Our God broke into time itself in the form of our Lord Jesus Christ interrupting what looked like the plan. The real plan is this, in God there is redemption, healing, hope, transformation, salvation, and eternal life. Let us not waste this moment, but instead embrace the grace of God available for all right now. 

Off to do some things left undone and grateful for the chance,

 Pastor Jimmy Hendricks, pastorjimmy@nolensvilleumc.org

Following Mom

I have struggled to come up with a newsletter article that felt appropriate for this time in our lives. We are experiencing – and indeed living – events that are new in our life time. A global pandemic, an election season that never seems to end, a powerful movement for justice and equality, a twenty-four-hour news cycle, and social media that makes everyone feel like they have to be an expert – all these combine to create today. I have thought a lot about what to write and trashed more versions than I care to remember. I decided to come to the office today to write. I was hoping that getting out of the house in a safe way would create an environment where appropriate words would come. On my way here, something happened.

I was running later than I had hoped. That cut into my time to write. I was one block from the church already thinking about how I still had nothing to say when a doe ran across the road. I was not speeding, but I did have to get on the breaks a bit. She was doing that awesome leaping thing deer do as they run. She reached tall grass on the other side and stopped. She turned to look back across the street. I had not moved because I suspected there would be more deer. Sure enough, two good sized deer were following her. Up from the grass they came, leaping and bounding across the street to the tall grass. They were too old to be called fawns, but they definitely seemed like her children.  She waited for them. She did not run off. She did not seem agitated. She showed them the way and they trusted her. I sat for a few more moments making sure there were no other critters coming before going on up the road to the church. I could not help but think of God in that moment. It was not so much the shock of deer in what is mostly a residential area. It was not even so much their natural beauty. I thought of God because of the way the doe led and the children followed.

In the midst of today, battling depression, anxiety, desire to help, and a sense of helplessness, I need someone to follow. So much of what we are encumbered by is others telling us how to follow and which way to go. We are also pressured to pretend or to actually convince ourselves that we know best which way to go and how to get there. As a follower of Jesus, I trust that only God knows the path I should follow. In this time of many questions and perhaps too many answers we should be more willing than ever to trust and follow. Like young deer following Mom sometimes we just have to follow with leaps and bounds trusting in Mom’s love. 

I believe it is clear that the overriding attribute of God is love. In the midst of a pandemic, let us love ourselves enough to take care of ourselves. Let us love others enough to take care of them considering their needs as important as ours. Let us answer God’s call to justice and equality. Let us not be blown around and stirred up by every comment of every politician or poster on social media. Instead let us follow God. Let us follow Jesus who went before us to prepare a way and who now looks back with encouragement and grace that we might follow. God even sent us the Holy Spirit that we would not have to follow alone but under the same power as Jesus. The way of love is dangerous. It is risky. Our Lord, who alone holds the keys of hell and death, knows that the real risk is not what might happen when we choose love, but what will happen if we do not.

I do not want to give the impression that I think this choice to follow God is easy. It is not. I know many of us are experiencing hardships like we have never known and I fully admit I am too. I hope that in reading this little article you might remember that God’s way may look risky, but that the yoke is easy and the burden is light. I can image Jesus out just ahead of the next daunting day, beckoning us forward in love. I can image the possibilities of love that abound today. How many people could we help? How much change could real love create in our society? I can also imagine – but I do not know – where crossing the road of fully following God will lead us. I am, however, wiling to trust that it will be a better place than were we are now. 

So let us join together this month in recommitting ourselves to following the way of love like young deer following Mom. Our God has shown time and time again that God is trustworthy, willing, and able to lead us to greener pastures and to transform this world with love. 

Let us follow leaping and bounding,

Pastor Jimmy Hendricks
pastorjimmy@nolensvilleumc.org 

Summer Heat Again

Summer Heat Again

It is hot today as I write this article. It is so hot that I am running both the air conditioning and a fan. It is just too hot and we have not even seen the real heat of summer yet. It is coming though and you may begin to see its familiar signs. People are a little more likely to blow their horns. Lines at the store are less cordial. Summer heat has a funny way of bringing out our divisions and our willingness to argue about them. When we are tired and hot we are irritable. 

The climate of our culture seems to have been experiencing summer heat for several years. People seem more willing to disagree, argue, and insult then we are to understand and forgive. The Church is no different. This, too, is nothing new. From the very beginning, the Apostles had disagreements and debates. However, what we find particularly in the Book of Acts was a willingness to seek understanding and find common ground on which to continue to serve together. 

John Wesley, who is largely responsible for the Methodist movement, lived his whole life experiencing these disagreements. He faced physical threats of death for his views and was banned from many pulpits in the beginning of his “Methodist” ministry. In fact, the word “Methodist” was meant as an insult against those Christians who sought to live holy lives, because they were said to believe they had a method of salvation. Today, John Wesley is celebrated not only in Methodism but also in the Church of England as a reformer. While Wesley certainly disagreed with many, he always believed in what he called the “catholic spirit.” 

Wesley was well aware that loving, caring people were capable of disagreement, but he believed that we could agree on the fundamentals of our Christian faith. Wesley used the word catholic in its original sense. He meant it as a universal unity. For Wesley, it was love that allowed people with disagreements to not just tolerate each other but to grow in understanding and love of each other and to work together for the kingdom of God. When it gets really hot and my irritability is up, I try to remember how love demands I care for the heat and irritability of my neighbor. In this way, I remain part of Christ’s Church, which is not yet perfect, but is perfectly capable of living out the Kingdom of God in diverse ways by the grace of God.

I hope this month you will join me in being aware of our heat and being aware of Christ command to love. This month we will have the opportunity to read the Book of Acts together. I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to read, study, and pray. 

May the God of love open our minds, cool our Spirits, and lead us down new paths of understanding and love. 

Cooling down, 

Pastor Jimmy Hendricks, pastorjimmy@nolensvilleumc.org

Hurting But Not Hopeless

Recently, my family and I went camping. We went to get out of the house. Camping was to let us stay out of crowds but still have some time to be away and rest. We have not camped in our camper since last year, but theoretically the trip was going to be easy. We just needed to pack, pick up the camper with my truck, drive to the campground, and try to enjoy nature. So here is what really happened: We got a late start with packing and driving, but we made it to the campground by late afternoon. In setting up the camper, we discovered that there was a terrible smell in the camper. It was one of those rotten egg smells. After some accusations, we discovered it was the hot water heater. While investigating that problem, I also discovered the sink was leaking heavily. We were not too deterred yet. We just cut off the water. I mean, it is camping after all. We ate dinner late and went to bed.

In the middle of the night, the power went out, which is not the end of the world but it was also storming. Everyone else had power in the campground, so I began to worry it was due to water reaching electricity. That is a big deal, so when morning finally came, I set about trying to find what was wrong. I had to venture out to get parts. During the first full day of our two day trip I repaired leaks, fixed a hot water heater, and solved the electrical problem. My wife and kids enjoyed their time swimming and painting river rocks. That night when I was done, my wife said she was so sorry I had spent the whole the day repairing things. I have thought a lot about that since. I was not sorry.

I think I was not sorry because there was a problem I was able to fix. I can fix a camper, but I cannot fix covid-19. I cannot simply get the right tool to make things better. I cannot get people back to work or heal all those who have suffered or died. I cannot fix racism or hate. I cannot bring back George Floyd or any of the other countless victims of hate. If this time of isolation has taught me anything, it has taught me that I can feel helpless. 

My only answer is God. By the grace of God, I can do my part to keep others safe from covid-19. By the grace of God, I can help those who are out of work. By the grace of God, I can walk with those who suffer. By the grace of God, I can work against systems of racism and hate that still exist. By the grace of God, I can repent for all the ways I have failed to live into God’s call upon my life. By the grace of God, I can work for and anticipate the fullness of God’s Kingdom where sickness, sadness, and death will be no more. I can anticipate and work for the Kingdom where all will be welcomed, but sin and death will have no power. 

I am trying. I am praying. I am crying out for God’s presence. And I am not giving up. God is not done with us either. There is more to be done. As I write today, I pray for every person who will read this little newsletter article. I pray that, if you feel helpless, you will remember God. I pray that during these difficult times, instead of wallowing in hopelessness or ignoring the pain of others, you will instead remember Christ who showed us that love can transform. I hope you will remember that God turned the death of Jesus into eternal life. I hope you will remember resurrection. I hope you will remember that God called us to carry the message of love and hope into the world. I believe that God can fix this world and that we are the tools. 

Praying God will use me, 

Pastor Jimmy Hendricks

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