notes from Pastor Jimmy

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Faith

Faith

Well it is that time again. It is time for a January newsletter. Usually, I focus these little messages on resolutions and how, if we want real change, we need to seek transformation from God and not from our own will power. I still believe this to be true, but I also know this is a time of change for me personally and for our church. After January, I will be serving another congregation and my brother in Christ Rev. Jeremy Squires will be serving Nolensville First UMC. I am a big believer in change and I am constantly praying for God to bring about change in me and in the world. I am constantly praying that God will use me to be part of that plan. I would be a liar if I said I saw this change coming and I would be a hypocrite if I did not accept it with faith.

So today, I still look upon this corner of the world that we call home with hope and anticipation. I am still praying that God will bring about change in me and the world. I am also still praying that God will use me to be part of the plan where I serve next. I am excited and anxious. I am mourning a change and looking with anticipation on what can be. I hope that I am being faithful. I also have faith that Nolensville First will be in ministry to this community in profound ways bringing about the same change for which I have prayed. I look with anticipation on hearing about this place and knowing that, for a time, I got to be part of what God is doing here. 

So, as my last Newsletter to Nolensville First UMC, I want to encourage your faithfulness. I have seen it over the years and especially during the last two difficult years. I have seen hope, love, joy and peace in action.  I have seen forgiveness, peacemaking, and service all lived out in our community. I know it is easier to be faithful when all is predictable and seems in our control, but that seldom leads to real transformation.  Given the choice, most of us choose safety and comfort over the transformative power of the Gospel. So let’s choose faith this year right in the midst of change. Let’s choose faith because we still believe that God is at work bringing about a new day and that we are all called to be part of that plan.

I will not say goodbye because how could it be a goodbye when we will all continue the same mission I joined you in over four years ago. God was, is, and always will be faithful. The question is will we? I still believe in the mission handed down to us from Jesus himself and carried forth by faithful church people throughout the generations. I also still believe in the people of Nolensville First United Methodist Church. I have a lot more grey hair and I have added a few more pounds stress eating, but I would not change the journey for anything. God is not done with us and there is much left to be done. I feel blessed to have served with you and even during this time of transition I would sum up my feelings and hopes for this community with my favorite word: love. So let us continue the mission and begin a new journey with faith!

Your friend and fellow servant in Christ, 

pastor jimmy@nolensvilleumc.org

Advent

Advent

We are in the season of Advent now, preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord, the coming of the Savior, and the Incarnation of Christ. Advent is about preparation. This time of year even feels like preparation. It is cold and the days give way to night earlier and earlier. I often feel as if we are already preparing and anticipating spring by this point. Our secular culture definitely makes this time of year about preparation. We are preparing for Christmas. Perhaps we have got the idea of preparation correct, but are we preparing for the wrong things?

Our culture tells us to prepare for Christmas by shopping and filling our calendars with times of gathering. We spend countless hours shopping and planning for celebrations. When the celebrations finally arrive, they far too often fly by without ever fulfilling our desire for deeper relationship or real celebration. Advent on the other hand is not about our planning or shopping. Advent is about Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, but the holiday season often leaves me feeling stressed, tired, grumpy, and sad. 

The season of Advent is not about something we do, but instead it is about something God did and will do.  Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace are what we crave. Only God can truly provide these. Advent is about preparing to remember, anticipate, and celebrate the coming of our Lord. God has done and is doing everything that is required. Our only goal is to prepare ourselves for God’s grace. Advent is not just about anticipating a gift. it is about preparing ourselves to receive the gift that has already been offered and continues to be offered.

You see, to prepare ourselves for God’s never-ending gift of grace we need only accept that we are not in control and be willing to allow God to lead us. This sounds simple on paper, but in reality the sins of pride and self-righteousness keep us from really preparing. We are sort of willing to accept grace or as John Wesley described us, “Almost Christian.” The good news is that God does not take the gift and go home. Instead God keeps offering, keeps calling, and keeps providing. It is never too late to go deeper in our love of God and neighbor and we can never go deep enough.

This year during Advent at Nolensville First UMC, worship is going to be about going deeper in our faith by making ourselves ready and willing to receive God’s grace. By opening ourselves to the grace of God by being willing to let God have control, we truly can experience Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace as God intended: as an all-encompassing way of life that not only makes us a new creation, but changes the world around us. My prayer is that you would join me in making the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship, service, and the sacraments priorities in our lives. 

May the God of grace fill us, as we are willing, to the fullness of God’s love and empower us by the gift of the Holy Spirit to share that love.  Amen.

Your, almost but still hoping to go deeper, brother in Christ, 

pastorjimmy@nolensvilleumc.org

Party Time is Coming!

I can hardly believe that it is November again. The weather is changing and you can feel the crispness in the air. November is full of lots of running around at our house. We have Thanksgiving to plan and Christmas is quickly approaching. Shopping has to start and planning for celebrating our Lord’s birth has begun. November always feels like a blur to me. It is like the time before the party when the preparations are made and RSPVs are turned in. Advent and Christmas will be here before we know it. This realization has got me thinking:

Have you ever thought about the idea that Jesus’ first public miracle was at a party? There was a wedding and Jesus was in attendance. Jesus’ mother Mary calls on Him to save the wedding when the wine runs out early. Jesus turns water into wine. It is only the disciples, Mary, and the servants who really know what happens, but Jesus saves the party. The wine that Jesus created was better than the wine that had run out. The people at the party are stunned because it is customary to serve cheaper, less-enjoyable wine later in the party, but it appears that the hosts have saved the best for last.

I think Jesus was honoring His mother’s request with this miracle, but He was also telling us something about God and God’s plan for the world. God is saving the best for last. The coming Kingdom of God is like a party that is only going to get better. As we grow in our discipleship by accepting the gift of faith and putting it to work in our lives, we become part of God's plan. I like to think of heaven and the fullness of God’s Kingdom to come as the ultimate party to which all are invited. Some will choose not to come. Some will refuse to get ready. Some will not take it seriously, but the invitations have been offered in faith to all. And, like the wine Jesus made, the best is yet to come.

If, like me, you find yourself overwhelmed this time of year or perhaps the pain of the pandemic has you worn out, let’s remember that the best is yet to come. When the wine ran out, Jesus made better wine. When the world needed a savior, Jesus offered Himself. When death on a cross appeared to have ended all hope, God showed us resurrection. God is not done with us and what God has planned will be so much better than what we can imagine now. So as we give thanks this month and start preparing for next, let’s take the time to rest in God’s promises and to trust that God will continue to lead us as long as we continue to follow.

So, my friends, take heart. The party is not over. In fact, it really has not yet kicked into high gear. The one true God is calling us to put our faith into practice and be part of the movement that seeks to prepare all to live in a Kingdom based in God’s love. Now that is a party I am willing to get tired preparing for!

Hopeful and grateful to God,

Pastor Jimmy Hendricks
 pastorjimmy@nolensvilleumc.org

Baking Something Amazing!

I am not a good cook, but I am an excellent eater. I can cook simple things like spaghetti or tacos. I can also grill, as in I can grill a slab of meat, but I am no chef. I am certainly not a baker. My daughter and wife can bake and my sister is an exceptional baker, but I fail every time. Luckily, where I live there are lots of places to purchase baked goods and there are lots of people at the church who can bake really well. I tried my hand at a cake once, but I was missing an ingredient and may have compensated by adding more of others. This resulted in a lumpy semiliquid mess that even I would not eat.  

Our discipleship is similar to a cake in a lot of ways. Discipleship as faith lived out under the power of the Holy Spirit has a lot of ingredients. Among the ingredients are worship, prayer, and service. These ingredients used under the power of the Holy Spirit bake up something beautiful. When we try to substitute, however, we get something different than what we desire. Without worship we become selfish. Without prayer we become lost and confused. Without service we lose community and  forget love. In other words, without the ingredients of discipleship we bake up something other than what God intends.

I have found this last year and a half really difficult.  All the changes we have experienced have thrown my ingredients list off at times. Perhaps it has for you. It can be hard to worship today. We have multiple ways to worship, but none of them are perfect. It can be overwhelming to pray today. There is so much need that we can get lost. It can also be hard to serve, because of the amount of need and the desire to stay healthy. All of this is true, and yet God is still providing us with opportunities. Maybe we have to worship in a new way, but I have seen that the Spirit still moves and God still gets honored. Maybe prayer can feel overwhelming, but I promise God knows what is on our hearts even if it comes out in moans. Maybe we have to serve in smaller ways, but calling others to check on them and let them know they are loved is service. If we look for ways to serve, God will show us. 

In short, we just need to choose to use the ingredients God has made available to us. Are we choosing to follow the ancient recipe of worship, prayer, and service or are we choosing to make substitutions? Faith is a gift from God. Let us put it to use so God can bake up something amazing. 

Still trying to get it right and thankful God is not done with us,



Rev. Jimmy Hendricks
pastorjimmy@nolensvilleumc.org

Anew

A good friend of mine pointed out to me that in my preaching and praying in public I often use the word “anew.” At first I disagreed but then I thought about it and realized I really do. I use it all the time. I use it in prayers and in sermons. I am using it now in a newsletter. In short, I realized that I had become so accustomed to that word that it became my go-to phrase when praying or preaching extemporaneously (another good word). Perhaps it has become stale and repetitive. Perhaps I should move away from it, but although it might be stale, I cannot think of a better word to convey an important idea.

The definition of “anew” is as follows: in a new or different and typically more positive way. I believe this little word sums up the life of a disciple. God’s plan of salvation for the world is that human beings respond to the call God, accepting both the grace for forgiveness and the grace for becoming something better. I love this word, “anew.” It reminds me of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and promised return. It also reminds me of the presence of the Holy Spirit right here and now convicting, comforting, and transforming us. So much of the love of God is wrapped up in that little word and let us be honest, it makes prayers sound fancy!

On a serious note, we are living in a lot of difficulty today. For many the last year and a half has been extremely difficult, but I believe God will bring something anew out of this time. Nolensville First UMC has adapted to make worship more accessible and we are preparing for the future. We could hunker down and hold tight hoping to ride out this strange time, but instead we are prayerfully adapting and moving forward. We are trying new things and finding that even during these difficult times God’s grace keeps showing up. For me, personally, I have struggled to find ways to share the hope and love of God while also minimizing risks to others. I have spent more time in prayer than any time in my life previously. I have lamented. I have cried. I have worshipped and I have done my best to let God use me. This time has made me more sure about some very important things I would like to share with you: you see, God is always making things anew. God is not done with us. God is not done with you. So I have two questions I would like you to ponder with me this month:

Are you ready to let God make you anew?

Do you know of a better word than “anew” I can use to convey this idea to freshen up my prayers? 

If so, feel free to let me know, LOL.

By God’s grace doing my best to love God and neighbor now,

Rev. Jimmy Hendricks
pastorjimmy@nolensvilleumc.org

Taking the Tour

Summer break is almost over. Time to head back to school for many and the end of summer vacations for most. I have always loved summer vacation, but my favorite kind involves a tour. I have been on all kinds of tours. I have found that, regardless of the subject, the tour guide makes all the difference. In my estimation, there are two types of tour guides. Some may be more gifted than others, but all fall into two categories.

The first kind of tour guide focuses on convincing you that what they are showing you matters. I will call them the convincer. They like to sell the exhibit. They like to convince us that what they are tasked with showing is relevant. They may even make a few jokes along the way. They know the facts but they recite them for the purpose of building toward an “ah-ha” moment in which we reflect on how what we are seeing matters to us. These tour guides seem knowledgeable and amusing, but their focus is on convincing us that we are gaining knowledge and having fun. These tour guides are fine and they can be enjoyable if I am swayed by their presentation. However, there is another kind of tour guide that I prefer.

The second kind of tour guide does all the things the first does, but they present to us in the form of a story. They also genuinely appear to care about the story. I will call them the story tellers. It is not that they are tasked with making us care, but that they assume anyone learning this story will care. Like the first tour guide, they are knowledgeable and amusing. The difference is that they are deeply wrapped up in the story of the things they are sharing.

Sometimes, as a Christian, I feel like a tour guide. We are called to share God with others. We have a fancy and scary name for this work. We call it evangelism. Maybe evangelism is scary for many of us because we think we are to function like a convincer, but I do not think that is what God has in mind for us. Instead we should be story tellers. We should share our experience of God. Instead of telling people about all the cool stuff at church, why not just tell people why church matters to us? Instead of telling them doctrines, why not tell them how God is at work in our lives?

All tour guides are awesome in my book, but the ones that invite me into a story leave me feeling part of the story. So the next time you cringe when you think of evangelism, just tell your story and invite the other to join in. This is, after all, what Jesus did. He shared God’s story and said, “Follow Me.”

Loving the tour,

pastorjimmy@nolensvilleumc.org

Evange...what?

Have you ever been invited to church? I have been and it happened again recently. I I met very nice gentleman while waiting in line at the  grocery store and we were having a friendly conversation about the weather. We laughed about not minding the wait as it was cool in the store. Others were visibly upset about the wait and the employees were rushing about to make things move more quickly. I guess we struck up a conversation because we realized that neither of us was in a hurry. As we progressed in line and chit chatted, he asked how long I had lived in Nolensville. I told him I had been here four years. Then he asked if I would like to visit his church!

I chuckled a little and told him it would be difficult as I would probably be preaching at another church while he was worshipping at his church. That of course led to church talk and a few laughs. I asked him about his church and that opened a door for me to ask him about his experience of God. He shared his story with me and I shared mine. We were long done with the line when we wished each other well and left the grocery. Right there in the hubbub of people, rushing to do the things we rank as important in life, we were talking about God. Several things struck me about that short time together. First, why didn’t I invite him first? Was I even thinking about that before he brought it up? Aren’t I supposed to be an evangelist?! Then I started to wonder why he invited me. Perhaps he just saw an opportunity or perhaps he is blessed with a gift for evangelism. Maybe it was a reminder from God through a fellow Christian that our duty is to welcome others into a relationship with the God who still transforms lives. 

This past month in worship, instead of sharing our God sightings as announcements, I have asked us to share our God sightings with others around you. I have done this because I wanted us to practice talking about God with other people. I also wanted us to hear how God is moving in the lives of other people. Inviting people to church is a great start, but feeling comfortable and ready to listen and share about God is a deeper and more meaningful follow up. I think that is what all people are really hungering after. Today we are all in such a stressful hurry that it might only be when we are alone that we think about the deeper things of life, but that has never been God’s intent. When I invite people to church they ask all kinds of questions. The most popular question is what do people at your church wear? Then there are questions about music, things for kids, times of worship, and how accepting the congregation is to new people. All of these questions matter because in our harried lives they seem practical, but here is what people really want to know: Does it matter?

People want to know if getting involved with church will help me, my neighborhood, or the world. The only way to answer this question is to share what God is doing and has done in your life. How have you been transformed? How have you served? In short, people really still want to know about the living God. Sometimes, we are in such a hurry that it feels uncomfortable to hear about such deep matters, but — make no mistake — this is what really matters in our lives. Let us not wait until the lonely hours to think on deeper things, but let us create the space wherever we are, so that all people can see and experience the hope of the Lord. My grocery store evangelist inspired me and filled me with hope because he was willing and able to slow down and offer a simple invitation. I want to invite you to offer that invitation and to be willing to both listen and share why it still matters. 

So this month I invite you to create the time and space to both listen and share about God with others. Be invitational. Be welcoming. In short, let’s be disciples. 

Praying for opportunity and being more intentional about evangelism, 

pastorjimmy@nolensvilleumc.org

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