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From the Pastor's Pen — 2013 Archive
 




Bob

 Bob Kerr

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January 2013: "On the Threshold of an Exciting New Year"

Dear Friends in Christ,

What a wonderful celebration of Christmas we've had together. Our journey through Advent prepared us for that celebration, and we were all blessed by our White Gifts and Christmas Eve services as well. We had a special blessing at our house as my mother, Lucille, had decided she'd like to spend Christmas with us and she was delighted to meet many of you while she was here. Thank you for the warm and loving reception you gave her.

This past year held some real challenges for all of us and for us as a nation. In our personal lives some of our number experienced heartbreaking losses, others experienced challenges to their health and well-being. And through it all, our people felt the love and prayers of their brothers and sisters in Christ undergirding, comforting, and sustaining them. And now we stand on the threshold of a new year. None of us knows exactly what this new year will hold, but one thing we know for certain: God is with us, and we will be there for each other.

I'm excited, as always, about new beginnings. I recently heard some of the latest statistics about people in our country and what they believe. I was heartened that the vast majority of people believe there is a God, though not all describe their relationship with God as personal, and they believe that the God in all religions is the same God. I was heartened by the fact that among people who haven't attended a worship service in six months — in a church, synagogue, or mosque — even the majority of them believe there is a God. They are also open to talking about God with others. It was exciting to hear that among 18- to 29-year-olds, a large majority believe that Jesus died and came back to life again! They describe themselves as spiritual and look for opportunities to discuss the faith and the Bible. Many of them "stumbled over the church," having had experiences that led them to believe the church is full of hypocrites. But of that large number of unchurched folks, most of them said they had a close personal friend who is a Christian. That's an important thing to note.

Well, you put all that together and you get a picture of some wonderful opportunities for us. How to deal with the "hypocrite" thing? I think for most of these folks who have had a bad experience in a church setting, they simply need to get to know some other Christians better, be involved in a positive relationship with small groups of believers. The best starting place for that is "on the elbow" of that Christian friend most of them said they have. When Jesus sent his disciples into the world, he said, "You shall be my witness in all the world." In other words, who we are matters more than what we say. It is we ourselves, living lives of love and compassion toward others, lives that are true to the gospel, that is the most powerful witness for Christ in the world. I love the fact that it has been our focus over the year past as we developed opportunities for "hands on" missions of love and compassion, meeting people at the point of their need. In this new year, we must do more of the same. Who knows what wondrous things God might accomplish!

Linda and I would like to express our warmest wishes for a Happy New Year to each of you. May God bless you abundantly, that you might be a blessing to others.

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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February 2013: "A Vital Congregation at Work and Play!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

January Activities

The new year has taken off at nearly breakneck speed for us here at Rehobeth! January held a variety of events and opportunities for our folks and people in the community. In worship, we celebrated our service of Baptismal Covenant Renewal, the choir sang a beautiful rendition of the Christmas Cantata for the Abernethy Laurels community, Kingdom Kids got off to a great start, and our Youth group continues to thrive under the capable leadership of our Children and Youth Director, Natalie Gray. Of course, all of these things are made possible because of the faith and prayerful support of so many of our people.

January Statistics

Rosie was her usual busy self in January, coordinating the gathering of all the information we need for our annual statistical report. You'll be pleased to know that in 2012 we received 11 members by profession of faith and 7 by transfer from other churches, for a total of 18. And due to the faithful giving of our people, we ended up financially in the black at the end of the year. Finally, she calculated that our attendance average increased over the previous year.

February Takes Off

It looks like February is going to be a great month for us as well, opportunities for work, worship, and play for a vital congregation. The new Adventurers group has a snow tubing trip planned for the first weekend, the youth are going skiing and are sponsoring a "Newlywed" Game at dinner for our Valentine's Day celebration, our mission team will be planning mission opportunities for our people in the community, I'll be starting a new Pastor's Sunday School class, and of course, we'll gather for our Ash Wednesday worship service on the 13th as the season of Lent begins. A new Bible study will also begin in February.

Our Mission Statement for the New Year

At the heart of all of this is our mission statement: "Worshiping our Lord by developing and sharing our Christian faith and love." That statement reflects our commitment to the fact that the best way we can worship and honor God, the best way we can be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, is to roll up our shirt sleeves and share the love of Christ as we have come to experience it in our own lives with every person we encounter. Transforming the world one person at a time means we cherish every living soul God brings our way — feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, helping clothe those in need, and visiting among the sick and imprisoned.

I've tightened my seat belt and am excited about the ride! God is good and God is doing good things among and through the people at Rehobeth. Let us be constant in our prayers, our presence, our gifts, service, and witness, that Christ may continue to be glorified in all we do.

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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March 2013: "Easter — A New Perspective"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Someone once said that like much of what we routinely share in our faith and in our worship experiences, the Easter Story has become so familiar that it may have lost some of its transforming power in our lives. Sort of like praying the Lord's Prayer without having to think about what we're saying, we're so familiar with it. I thought about it and I'm not sure I agree. I've heard the Easter story literally all my life, and rather than becoming dull or familiar, every year I discover something within the telling of that marvelous story that teaches me in new and different ways. Of course, for most of those years, I'm the one telling the story from one pulpit or another. But every now and then I come across something that opens up a deeper understanding of what the passion of Christ meant, and continues to mean for our world.

Henri Nouwen, in his book "the Wounded Healer," tells a story familiar to the Hebrews:

A Rabbi came to the prophet Elijah and asked, "Tell me, when will the Messiah come?" The reply, "Go ask him yourself," surprised the Rabbi. "Where is he?" he asked. "He's sitting at the gates of the city," Elijah said. "But how will I know which one he is?" the Rabbi inquired. "He is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The others unbind all of their wounds all at one time and then bind them up again; but he unbinds his wounds one at a time and then binds that wound up again. He says to himself, 'Perhaps I shall be needed and I must always be ready.'"

Throughout this sacred season of Lent, we're watching Jesus draw ever closer to Jerusalem, knowing well what awaits him there. He is resolved to fulfill the purpose for which he has come to live among us. On that journey, he stops by the roadside to heal a man born blind; he touches a leper to heal him of his dreaded disease; he raises to life again a widow's child who had died; he heals a man with a withered hand; he cures a young man of epilepsy; he restores the ability to walk to a paralyzed man by forgiving his sins; he gives hope to those who are despairing, joy to those who are burdened with cares and sorrows. He even says it in a beautiful way: "Come unto me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

The story of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection is essentially a story about the healing power of love. Jesus comes, knowing what horrific wounds he will sustain as he suffers crucifixion and experiences death. But he also knows what heavy burdens and deep wounds we bear in life as well. But he willingly takes on not only his own wounds, but ours as well. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah said he would: "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows … he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed."

Have you ever thought of Easter in that way? He comes not just to forgive us our sins and not just to grant life everlasting to those who believe. He comes to share life's burdens with us, to take upon himself our wounds, and hurts, and disappointments, fears, sorrows; he comes to yoke himself to us and share the weight of the loads we carry. And in dying for our sins, he heals the relationship between us and God.

It is my fervent prayer that as you journey through Lent, Holy week, and then celebrate the resurrection on Easter, that you will gain a renewed sense of his loving presence journeying with you every step of your way.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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April 2013: "A Wondrous, Powerful Mystery"

Dear Friends in Christ,

A Hearty Thank You to All

Our celebrations from Palm Sunday through Easter were wonderful and a real blessing to all who were able to attend! A sincere "Thank you" is certainly in order for all of those whose hard work made our worship experiences so memorable. Our choir and praise team did a marvelous job with their music as did the Rehobeth Ringers, and our new Drama Group added a new dimension to our worship experiences, too. Thanks to Carol Graham and Natalie Gray especially for their leadership, and for all the singers, players, worship leaders, acolytes, ushers, and greeters who made everyone feel welcome and inspired! It's great to be at Rehobeth!

A Wondrous, Powerful Mystery

Have you ever wondered what the disciples did in the days immediately following the resurrection? Certainly it must have been an emotional roller coaster for them to have experienced such overwhelming sorrow at Jesus' death and then just two days later to hear reports that he was alive! There was confusion among them as the reports came in, and even a reluctance to believe. Who had they ever known to survive or return to life once having been crucified? There had been absolutely no question that Jesus was dead. No one could have survived what was done to him. So there was a wondrous, powerful mystery at work in all this. They had seen him perform miracles of all sorts and never believed that anyone would be able to kill him. But they did. And they still saw death as an absolutely final event in a person's life. So when Jesus died, they thought that was it. It was all over.

"The Upper Room"

The upper room appearance changed it all. In the evening of that first Easter Day, Jesus appeared to the disciples even though they were behind locked doors, and showed himself to them so that they would know and believe the reports were true. All I can do is imagine the depths of their joy and the flood of questions that came to their minds about him and what wondrous, mysterious power had made his resurrection possible. But do you know what one thing stands out in those resurrection experiences more than anything else for me? There are two occasions when Jesus does something that should be a source of great joy for all of us today. The first was when the angel at the tomb told the women to run and tell the disciples, and Peter, that he was alive and would come to them;the second was when Jesus made a return trip to the upper room just for Thomas. You see, Thomas hadn't been there when he came the first time to show himself alive to the disciples. And when they told him about it, so deep was his grief, he refused to believe. "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe," he told them. So when Jesus came back, just for him, he told him to do just that, and Thomas believed.

Jesus Blesses You and Me

Did you know that right then, Jesus blessed you and me? He said to Thomas, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." That's you and me! The thing I love about the story of Peter and Thomas is that Jesus cared enough for each of them that he came back just for them. And in His infinite love for you, he comes to you, just so that you can know his love, grace, and forgiveness! That's a Wondrous, Power Mystery that can only be explained by affirming that God's steadfast love for each of us endures forever. It's my fervent prayer that now that our celebration of Easter is over, you might have that same sense that Jesus came and died and was raised to life again because of His great love for you.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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May 2013: "Upon This Rock — 224 Years Later!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Homecoming — May 5

On Sunday, May 5, we will have a truly special Homecoming Celebration. Our Chancel Choir will present a Homecoming Cantata entitled Upon This Rock and instead of having a keynote speaker, we will have a keynote Cantata!

"The Rock" in Rehobeth History

When Daniel Asbury as a young man aged sixteen became a prisoner of the Shoshone and then the British, his life would often hang in the balance. When he was finally able to escape and head home to Virginia, his own family didn't recognize him at first. Continuing to live a rough life, he came under the influence of Methodist Circuit Riders and eventually gave his life to Christ, joined the Virginia Conference, and became a Circuit Rider himself. Sent to the Carolinas, he came to our area, found a spot where there was a large flat-surfaced boulder, and there he began to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who would listen. It was there that the Grassy Branch Methodist Society was formed in 1787 and Rehobeth Church, originally named Grassy Branch, was officially formed in 1789 — the year they were inaugurating George Washington in New York as the first President of the United States.

Ministry in Four Centuries

What a remarkable thing it is to be able to say that in the 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, and now in the 21st century, Rehobeth has been bearing witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and has been engaged in missions and ministries that have made the love of God in Christ Jesus apparent to others.

A Sacred Legacy

You and I are heirs of this spiritual legacy and that great cloud of witnesses the New Testament talks about surrounds us all the time. When I walk out through the cemetery, I find myself wondering about some of those names I'm not familiar with; I see the gravesites of small children and wonder what took their lives at so young an age, and then look around and see evidence of the family in Christ who would have comforted that child's parents in the midst of their overwhelming grief at that time. Generation after generation has been laid to rest in that sacred space, a continuing testimony to their devotion to Christ and the Church. Like Elijah passing his mantle of prophecy onto Elisha's shoulders, so the responsibility has been passed to you and me to continue this steady line of witness leading into the future.

The Present Century

We are faced with extraordinary challenges as men and women of faith in today's world. Our world is a far more dangerous place than ever before in its history. But we are not a people without hope. Just as our predecessors have done, we will continue to affirm that the final victory has already been won by Christ our Lord, and that we are and will be joint heirs with him in His eternal kingdom! We worship, praise, sing, and serve as men and women of Christian faith have done for over two thousand years, and if Jesus doesn't come in the morning, we'll sing for a hundred years more! See you on May 5th!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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June 2013: "Annual Conference and a Vital Congregation"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Memorial Day Sunday Services a Blessing!

What a blessing it was to have Major Kimberly Graham, daughter-in-law of Mike and Kay Graham, as our Memorial Day weekend speaker at both of our worship services! Recently returned from deployment in Kuwait, she was the highlight of our remembrance of those men and women who have given the last full measure of devotion to keeping us safe from those who would harm us and to safeguard out constitutional freedoms. We will continue to honor and pray for the men and women who have chosen to wear the uniforms of our nation's military branches, even as we continue to pray for the day of peace among nations.

June Is Here and that Means Annual Conference!

Every June, delegates from every church, clergy and lay people in equal numbers, gather together at the Lake Junaluska Assembly in the mountains for worship, Bible study, prayer, and conducting the business of the Annual Conference. Our delegate this year once again is Mike Bostic, and I will also be attending. It's a great time of Christian fellowship, provides an opportunity to see old friends, and is a wonderful and joyful reminder that we are all connected as God's people. Do pray for the conference during its sessions from June 19-23, that God's Holy Spirit will guide the Conference in such a way as to encourage and renew our people all across Western North Carolina to "Follow Jesus, Make Disciples, and Transform the World!"

Vacation Bible School

Immediately following Annual Conference, we'll jump right into Vacation Bible School, June 23-28, under the capable leadership of our Youth and Children's Ministries Director, Natalie Gray. Natalie has been such a wonderful blessing to the ministries of our church, assisted by her faithful side-kick, Brian (her husband)! The theme for the week is "Kingdom Rock, Where Kids Stand Strong for God" and every evening supper is being provided by different church groups and individuals. The wonderful thing about VBS is that it's open to kids from anywhere and everywhere! So if your kids or grandkids have friends who would love to be part of a really fun week, call the church and sign them up.

Our Garden Grows!

Our Missions Committee has been active in getting our Gleaning Garden project moving along. Next door to the parsonage they have created a garden about 100 feet by 60 feet and have already planted about a third of it. Green leaves are sprouting everywhere! Thanks to all the folks from the church who have had a hand in this mission project. All the produce harvested from the garden will go to help feed the hungry through ECCCM and other food banks. Another testimony to the great and compassionate hearts of the Rehobeth people—you make me proud to be your pastor!

Our Graduates

On the first Sunday of the month of June, we will honor our graduates during our morning worship services. Pray for them as they reach this time of transition in their lives, and remember that many of our young people will be traveling, going on senior trips and family vacations. Let's keep them all in our prayers that God will keep them healthy, happy, and safe!

So enjoy this, the beginning of summer. And I'll look forward to seeing you Sunday when we gather for worship, praise, and fellowship with one another in the vital congregation called "Rehobeth!"

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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July 2013: "July and Our Founding Declaration"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Annual Conference

Annual Conference is always an exciting time for me, and last month was no different. It gives me the opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues from across Western North Carolina. Each of the over 1100 churches in our conference had a lay delegate and a clergy delegate in attendance to engage in "holy conferencing" as we conducted the business of the church, and the worship services were inspiring and uplifting. I came back, as always, with a sense of new beginnings. And of course, Linda and I are delighted to be coming back to serve the Rehobeth congregation for an eighth year!

Spiritual Dynamics in Our Foundation as a Nation

Right out of the starting gate for July we find ourselves celebrating the Fourth of July and the Declaration of Independence. There is a great discussion going on in our country about the degree to which the Judeo-Christian faith was part of the framing of the original documents that birthed our nation. History and the documents themselves leave little doubt that the framers of such documents as The Bill of Rights, The Declaration of Independence, The Preamble to our Constitution and the rights of citizens safeguarded by them, all point to The Creator, the Almighty, the Sovereign Lord of all. The rights afforded human beings are clearly described as having their origins in the will of God for people, and the entire purpose of government is seen as preserving those rights and freedoms, and protecting the dignity and value of every individual person. Many of the concerns being explored today in the public square by serious minded persons on both sides of the aisle hinge upon whether or not those inalienable rights are being encroached upon by government. Also, for a nation to have spiritual foundations grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition does not exclude the free exercise of other religious people in America, and today's American culture is saturated with many men and women of different faiths, the practice of whose religion is also safeguarded by our Constitution.

"Freedom Secured in Sacrifice"

We are all deeply aware that the preservation of such a concept of freedom and such a unique structure of government comes at a great cost. Though many of us remember the military draft during WWII, the Korea and the Vietnam wars, today's military is populated by volunteers. Men and women who choose to put on the uniform and place themselves at great risk of losing their lives to protect us and the freedoms and rights these original documents enshrine. Their sacrifice is something we rightly honor on days like Memorial Day and Veterans Day. On Independence Day, July 4th, our focus is on the founding document—and the truths it declares.

The Spiritual Truths in The Declaration

In the opening paragraph of the Declaration, the document mentions "the laws of Nature and Nature's God" and continues to state that all persons are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are" life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It also declares that government derives its power from "the consent of the people." The document concludes with the statement "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Let us always pray fervently that this lofty, God-inspired vision of a new nation will never be lost to us! Please be careful during your holiday celebrations, and I'll look forward to seeing you in worship soon!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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August 2013: "A Story to Tell"

Dear Friends in Christ,

The Power of Story

In the Jonathan Lear book, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation. there is an account of what happened to the Crow tribe of Native Americans. Their last great chief, Plenty Coups helped his people survive the devastation of their culture when they were forced to move from the ancient tribal lands to live on a reservation created as a result of the wave of new white settlers hungry for their land. With that move, Plenty Coups explained that the Crow no longer had a story to tell, to pass on to subsequent generations that would sustain their culture. Plenty Coups said:

You saw what happened to us when the buffalo went away…The hearts of my people fell to the ground and they could not lift them up again. After this, nothing happened. There was little singing anywhere.

You see, Plenty Coups was saying that their history had come to an end. There was no singing anywhere because story telling was over. The singing stopped because the Crow lost their way of life, and with that loss, life lost its meaning. As another Crow said, a woman named Pretty Shield, "I am trying to live a life I do not understand."

Tell Me the Stories of Jesus…

Telling the Stories of Jesus is just as critical to life's meaning for Christians in a culture experience radical transformations as their stories were to the Crow. Life is so complex and is at times so difficult to understand, that that story keeps us connected to God. We cannot explain everything that happens in our world, try though we may, but we can tell the stories of how God has interacted with the world in Jesus. And in the telling of those stories, in the viewing of how God connects with the world we live in, and the circumstances that beset us, our hearts are lifted up, and we discover we can sing!

Camp Meeting

Camp Meeting at Rock Springs and Balls Creek are settings in which the stories we share in the preaching and singing of the Word reconnect us to our history and give us a direction into the future. Our celebrations of the stories of God's interaction with Creation—and especially with us—lift hearts that have sometimes been cast to the ground and have been made to feel as though there is no meaning in life. Though we do not pretend to have all the answers to life's mysteries, we do have stories! Stories about a God who loved all creation so much that the only begotten Son robed himself in our flesh and came to dwell among us. And what wondrous stories we read and proclaim about his journey from Bethlehem to Resurrection!

You see, at Camp Meeting, and at worship in the sanctuary, we don't try to give hollow answers or engage in the kind of reasoning that is suspect by a knowledgeable world. We simply celebrate the story and talk about how that story connects with the world we live in. That's what gives life meaning…the stories tell us of God's love for us in the midst of changes and transformation; something unchanging that we can always count on. A perfect love that enabled the songwriter to pen these lines; "I love to tell the story, for those who know it best / seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest!"

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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September 2013: "September and New Beginnings"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Camp Meeting

Well, we all enjoyed Camp Meeting this year. On August 21, we could well say it was "Rehobeth Day" at Balls Creek as I preached at the morning Clergy Appreciation and Senior Citizen Service and our Direct of Children and Youth Ministries, Natalie Gray, spoke at the evening service. We had the Camp Meeting crowd surrounded! Now, September is here and the folks who've been at Camp Meeting will be back among us during morning worship, and we missed them! All in all, God continues to be good, gracious, and abundant in the blessings we've received from him.

Back to School

Of course, with the coming of September, our students are back in school beginning a new academic year and we wish them well! We have been so blessed with great young people here at Rehobeth and we know that with our prayerful support and encouragement, it will be a good year for them. Many of them will be making new friends and reconnecting with friends they haven't seen over the summer. Some of the subjects they'll be studying will be new and challenging, but we're confident they're up to the challenge!

Charge Conference Preparations

Of course, this time of the year also brings preparation for Charge Conference, where we set things in motion for 2014. Our Nominating committee is already receiving "Interest Inventory" forms from members of the congregation, letting us know where our folks would like to render service to Christ and the Church, and these forms will be included in the bulletin for the next couple of Sundays so everyone has an opportunity to fill one out. So please pray for this process as the leadership of the church prayerfully sets the agenda for the new year, seeking to discern the leadership of the Spirit as they do.

Some Exciting Possibilities

At the same time we're preparing for Charge Conference, our Family Life Center committee is moving even closer to making a recommendation to the congregation regarding the building of a new Family Life Center to replace our existing fellowship hall and to equip the church for the next 100 years of service and witness! (That's ambitious, isn't it?) The committee has interviewed one design/build and three architectural firms over the last few weeks, and will no doubt be deciding on their recommendations this month. So pray for them as they deliberate and also pray about the feasibility of this project for our congregation at this time. It's exciting to have this consideration on the table.

My Own Amazement

As always, I continue to be amazed at the wonderful unity of the Spirit and the Love we share in the Body of Christ here at Rehobeth. You continue to amaze me with your willingness to reach out in love and compassion to others, even to the stranger at the door and the sojourner in our midst. You continue to amaze me at your eagerness to grown in your knowledge and understanding of the Word and in finding effective ways to share the Word with others. I have no doubt as we move further this month, that God has abundant blessings in store for the people of Rehobeth as we continue to embrace new ways to be faithful to our high calling in Christ to be children of God. Now, after having started our eighth year here, my wife Linda and I still consider it to be a blessing to be among you, sharing in the ministry to which God has called us all! I hope to see you Sunday!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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October 2013: "October and the Blessings of Autumn"

Dear Friends in Christ,

It's already started … as I walked up Marvin and Edna Epperson's sidewalk toward the front door the other day, I noticed some colored leaves on the ground on each side of the walk. I looked up, and all around me I could see the autumn colors beginning to emerge, like a slowly rising sun in the early morning. When I left, I began to notice that lots of other trees were beginning to bear witness to the changing season. Here in North Carolina, of course, October is the month when people from all over the eastern seaboard make their way to our State to observe the splendor of God's creation, especially in our foothills and mountains.

One of the reasons I decided to stay in North Carolina when I finished seminary at Duke was the changing of seasons. Having grown up in Miami, Florida, I had never really seen seasons change much. It was mostly tropical year-round in Miami, and my first year in North Carolina was the first time I had seen snow! So, from the cold and snow of winter, to the rebirth of life exploding all around us in the spring, to the warmth of summer's sun and finally to the glorious golden-red colors of autumn, I could celebrate the variety of beauty in God's creation, and also see a wonderful metaphor for life as well.

The Cycle of Life that marks each of our lives is much like the changing of seasons, one flowing into the other like waves gently rolling into each other as they move toward the shore. Spring speaks to the excitement and seemingly unlimited possibilities that vigorous growth seems to dictate; summer finds us in the middle of life, having raised our children and established ourselves in whatever we have chosen as our life's work; autumn comes and with it a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment as our kids have settled i to their life's work and have provided us with grandkids. For those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, autumn is a time for reflection and gratitude, celebrating family and preparing for the coming winter. As the warmth of a glowing fire and the loving presence of our spouse become even more important, we are also comforted by a deepening relationship with God and the encouragement of friends in Christ.

So in the autumn of the year, let me encourage you to reflect on the blessings God has given you, celebrate the beauty of God's creation, and celebrate the beauty of God's love surrounding you as well. In whatever season you find yourself, may God enable you to see its beauty.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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November 2013: "The World Renowned Rehobeth Bar-B-Que"

Dear Friends in Christ,

The Annual Church Bar-B-Que

Okay, so maybe not renowned in the whole world, but certainly in the world that surrounds us! Every year, I really look forward to the Annual Bar-B-Que event here at Rehobeth on the second weekend in November. Yes, the Bar-B-Que is delicious, the sweet potatoes have a great reputation of their own, the cole slow served straight from plastic garbage cans (a scene that caught me quite off guard my first year here), delicious desserts … all of that is wonderful. But what I enjoy most about the Bar-B-Que is how so many people from our congregation join hands to work to make the event a success, and every year—it is!

Nothing Is Impossible for Those Who Love the Lord!

If anyone were to consider taking on such an enterprise as a new source of income for the church, I suspect that many congregations would conclude they couldn't possibly handle servicing nearly 1,500 people in a single day—especially in a fellowship hall our size, with a kitchen our size! But year after year, our folks come together and do a remarkable job both in providing a delicious meal and an atmosphere of friendly hospitality to those who are our guests that day.

Lifting One Another Up

As I observe everyone at work during the days of preparation and on the day we serve, I am amazed at how every person on the team, in every shift, not only does his or her own work diligently, but is also constantly taking notice of how everyone else is doing. And when it appears someone on the team during that shift is getting really tired, why, someone else steps right over, invites them to take a break, and covers for them while they rest. When I see that, I am reminded what the New Testament says when it instructs that we are to bear one another's burden and lift one another up; we are to be strong when others grow weak. I see that Biblical truth lived out in this simple way every year.

Cross-Generational Experience!

We've talked a lot in church planning groups about the importance of cross-generational events, opportunities that link young people to older members, and the Bar-B-Que is a great cross-generational event for us. Our young people work shoulder-to-shoulder with our older adults all through the day and each is blessed as a result. We get to know and appreciate each other as the day wears on and sometimes new connections are made that I see reflected on the following Sunday mornings as our young people and adults visit with one another, having gotten to know one another better at the Bar-B-Que.

Thanksgiving

When the Bar-B-Que is over, we're all thankful it's over! It's been a lot of work, but it's always paid off. Closer bonds with one another have been fashioned, the financial resources of the church for the work of the Kingdom have been supplemented, and we get to rest! So it's appropriate that we have it during the same month as Thanksgiving. Plan to join us for this year's Bar-B-Que and for our Thanksgiving worship services on Sunday, November 24, where together in gratitude to God for our many blessings, we will celebrate being the Body of Christ for whom nothing is impossible!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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December 2013: "The Christmas Witch"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Boy, that seems like an odd title for a pastor's Christmas newsletter article, doesn't it? But hang in there with me a few minutes and it will all come together—I promise! Around the world this month, Christians will be celebrating the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. For many believers in other countries, the actual Celebration of Christmas is much longer than here in the United States. As I reviewed some of the custom ers in other countries, I was particularly intrigued with the Christmas celebrations they have in Italy. And that's where the "Christmas Witch" appears.

Eight Days Before Christmas

Eight days before Christmas, the celebration begins. Musical salutes are played at the homes of carpenters during that time (recall that Joseph, Jesus' earthly father, was a carpenter); a series of worship celebrations called Novenas take place until right up to Christmas Day. Two days before Christmas, children dress up as shepherds and they go from house to house playing pipes, singing songs, and reciting parts of the Christmas story. In Rome, actual real-life shepherds do this as well.

A Strict Fast, and then a Feast!

The 24 hours before Christmas, believers fast and then that fast is observed, followed by a traditional Christmas meal but with no meat. A Yule log is burned in the fireplace and there is a large container called the Urn of Fate, that is filled with gifts. The family gathers around it and each family member selects a gift from the Urn until all have received one.

The Manger Is Central

The focal point of all celebrations is the manger. People kneel before it and offer prayers of thanksgiving and praise, and songs are sung before it as well. In homes, this manger scene is often framed in a triangle with a star at the top, with small shelves above the manger with gifts of candy and treats.

The Celebration Continues into January! And Here Comes the Christmas Witch!

On January 6th, children hang up their stockings for the Feast of Epiphany, celebrating the coming of the Three Wise Men, or Magi, who searched for the newborn King. Instead of Santa Claus, they are awaiting the arrival of Befana, the Christmas Witch! The legend says that when the three wise men were searching for the baby Jesus, they stopped at Befana's hut to ask directions and to ask her to join them. "No," she said, she was too busy. Later a shepherd asked her to come with him to worship the baby Jesus. Again, she said "no." Later, she looked into the sky and saw the great star, and realized she had made a mistake. So she quickly gathered up some toys, rode her broom to Bethlehem, but couldn't find the child. She is still searching and, not finding him, leaves her gifts for the children of the world instead. So, Italian children are waiting for Befana to come and leave Christmas gifts, rather than Santa.

Wonder How Many Miss the Birth Today …

Well, know you now about the Christmas Witch … and it leads us to wonder how many people miss the wonderful opportunity to celebrate the birth of the Savior, simply because they are too busy. This Christmas, may the birth of the Savior, God's great gift of love to all the world, be at the heart of your family traditions. Plan to join us for the Christmas Cantata on December 8th, the White Gifts Service on December 15th, the Christmas Sunday worship services on December 22nd, and of course the Candlelight Communion service on Christmas Eve at 4:30 PM. May God deliver us from being "too busy" to worship the newborn King!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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Rehobeth United Methodist Church • 9297 Sherrills Ford Road • P.O. Box 356 • Terrell, NC 28682
Copyright © 2013 Robert L. Kerr, D.Min
Used by permission