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From the Pastor's Pen — 2015 Archive
 




Bob

 Bob Kerr

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January 2015: "A Time for Embracing New Opportunities"

Dear Friends in Christ,

What a marvelous celebration of the birth of Jesus we shared during the month of December! Everyone—the choir, the hand bells, the White Gifts Service participants, all the gifts brought for others, the West Virginia trip to deliver nearly 300 shoe boxes of gifts for impoverished kids, and the always-meaningful Candlelight Communion service on Christmas Eve—all were real blessings to so many. Thanks to everyone who made every aspect of our celebration so meaningful!

A Celebration Mixed with Sorrow, A Future Held in God's Hands

This Christmas season also contained some sadness for our church family as loved ones were called home to heaven and families dealt with grief. Yet the very celebration we embraced reminded us that "we are not like those who have no hope," for because of the birth of the Christ Child, we have a sure and certain hope of life everlasting and the certainty of a day of glad reunion with those loved ones.

Now we embark on a journey into the New Year, a journey held in God's hands. There are exciting things to consider on the horizon for us. They begin early in the month with the very meaningful service of Baptismal Covenant Renewal, when we have the opportunity to reflect on what God has done for us and renew our covenant with God going into the New Year. It is a meaningful time for remembrance and new beginnings. Then we will begin our mission and ministry committee meetings to prayerfully chart the course God has in mind for us for 2015.

A Family Life Center Consideration

Your Family Life Center team has been working diligently with an architectural firm to draw up projected plans for a new Family Life Center and they are hoping to bring that to the congregation for consideration early in the New Year as well. There is excitement about the possibility of equipping the Church for greater outreach, mission, and ministry with this new facility, which would replace the existing fellowship hall. So expect to hear more about this soon, and be assured this will be a decision the entire congregation will prayerfully make.

Opportunities for Bible Study and Small Group Participation

Our evangelism team has already planned for an opportunity for folks who would like to become more at ease with sharing their faith with others to have an experience that will help equip them for that, and I'm looking forward to leading a series that addresses concerns like, "Why do the innocent suffer? Why does it seem my prayers go unanswered? Why can't I see God's Will for my life? Why can I be confident that God's Love will prevail?" We, of course, will offer additional Bible studies and opportunities for participation in small group discussions. There has been interest expressed in beginning a "reading group" in the new year as well, much like we did with the Shack a few years back. So, roll up your shirt sleeves, fasten your seat belts—God will accomplish great things at Rehobeth this year as God's family embraces the new opportunities the New Year will bring.

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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February 2015: "When Days Are Dreary, the Long Nights Weary…"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Does God love me? The question is very real for people as they struggle with some of life's most difficult situations. And Jesus responds with the following words:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29)

One of the most beautiful songs I've come across in a long time is Buddy Greene's version of this text. On occasion, when I am spending some quiet time in reflection, I'll pick up the guitar and play and sing Buddy's song "Come to Me" and it speaks reassurance to my own soul in times when I feel weary. And isn't it remarkable that the very agent of Creation wants to be "yoked together" with us in times when our own strength may be failing, when a loved one is terminally ill or critically injured, when we're filled with anxiety about what tomorrow may hold? To be "yoked together" with someone means that the one who stands beside you is sharing the weight of your burdens or sorrows and will continue to be with you until you reach the journey's end—and beyond. We are instructed in the Church to bear one another's burdens, to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. This is part of what it means to be "yoked together." So, why would God want to be "yoked together" with you? There is only one plausible answer—love.

God's Compassionate Love

The Apostle John got it absolutely right when he summarized the Good News with the statement, "For God so loved the world, he gave his only son, that whoever believed in him should not perish but have everlasting life." The emphasis here is on "whoever." Whatever our circumstances in life, that same freely given offer of Grace and Love is certain. Read the accounts of Jesus' interactions with the common, ordinary folk of his day. Were they not filled with compassionate love? Whether it was Mary's and Martha's grief, Peter's shame over denying him, a widow's grief in the loss of her child, a leper's suffering and isolation, a blind beggar's daily hardships, a hungry crowd on a hill, a woman about to be stoned to death—Jesus intervened with compassionate love, and thereby was "yoked together" with them in the midst of their deepest needs. And he does the same thing for each of us.

The Cokesbury Legacy

I was blessed to be a member of a really active Methodist Youth Fellowship growing up and every Sunday evening we would sing those wonderful songs out of the little brown Cokesbury Hymnal. "It was love that took my place on the cross of Calvary" was a line I've never forgotten, and in those young teenage years, they became the foundation of everything I would come to believe about God's love and God's presence with us all through the hard times as well as the good times. So whatever struggles you might be having right now, know that in his love for you, he knows the deepest of your needs and is sharing your journey step-by-step. After all, he is "yoked together" with you!

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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March 2015: "Observing a Holy Lent…"

Dear Friends in Christ,

It is an ancient observance, the 40 days preceding Easter. It's called "Lent," and is a time of reflection and renewal as we prepare our hearts to observe the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his death by Holy Week's end, and then the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on that first Easter morning.

Mission Opportunities for "Random Acts of Kindness"

During the weeks of Lent we have arranged several hands-on mission opportunities for our people to reach out and embrace others with random acts of kindness. It's a wonderful way to "observe a holy Lent." Participation in one of these will enable you to put "faith into action" in a tangible way. These opportunities include visits to the UMAR homes for pizza, bingo, games, and music; to the Dove House, an advocacy ministry to sexually abused children; a chance to work as a volunteer at the Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry in Newton; a work day at the Mission Response Center in Terrell; taking appreciation meals to the local Fire Department members on Mondays and Fridays during Lent; providing school supplies for children in overseas missions; providing seasonal and birthday cards for local prisoners to be able to send to their children; making little dresses from pillow cases for children in Africa, and more!

Come Celebrate Palm Sunday on the Last Sunday of this Month

As Palm Sunday draws Lent to a close, I thought I'd share with you the words to a song I wrote some years ago celebrating that moment in Jesus' Ministry:

Watch him ride on through the gates of Jerusalem;
See the palm fronds waving in their hands;
Hear them cry "hosanna!" to the Kind of Israel—
Riding through the gates of Jerusalem.

See the people gathered all around;
See them spread their garments on the ground;
See the poor and broken feel a hope they've never known—
Riding through the gates of Jerusalem.

See him spread his arms out o'er them all;
See the cross's shadow on the wall;
Little did they know that day when Jesus rode on by—
The king of kings would die in Jerusalem.

Sing "Hosanna!" to the King of Israel,
Riding on for all the world to see;
Wave those branches high above your head and call his name—
Jesus, riding on for you and me.

I'll look forward to seeing you in Sunday Morning Worship this month as we celebrate the great gift of God's love and grace we know as "Jesus!"

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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April 2015: "I Am the Resurrection and the Life"

Dear Friends in Christ,

It was a remarkable event in the life and ministry of Jesus. His dear friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus from Bethany just outside of Jerusalem, had often extended the hospitality of their home to Jesus and his disciples. One day, Lazarus grew deathly ill. His sisters sent word to Jesus to come, because they had seen him heal the sick on previous occasions and believed he had the power to heal their brother.

But Jesus waived. When Lazarus had been dead for four days, he and his disciples arrived in Bethany, and not surprisingly encountered questions from both sisters about why he had not come immediately - in time to save the life of their brother. When Jesus replies that Lazarus would live again, both sisters bear witness to their belief in the general resurrection at the Last Day. But Jesus tells them something entirely different when he declares, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he that lives and believes in me shall never die."

Note that Jesus begins this statement with a critically important two words: "I AM." It is no mere coincidence that this is the ancient name of God. Jesus wants Mary and Martha to understand that connection. No longer will resurrection be a future event that one waits to have happen at the end of days. No, when one comes to believe in Jesus, eternal life has already started. This is precisely what Jesus means when he says, "He that believes in me shall never die." We lay these physical bodies down one day, but we go on to be with the Lord - forever.

We journeyed through the passion of Christ during Lent and Holy Week, and the first day of the week, the Day of Resurrection, we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord from the grave. His death on the cross accomplished the forgiveness of sins for his; his Resurrection that first Easter was God's sealing the promise of life everlasting.

How overwhelmed were those first witnesses on Easter morning with the majesty of it all. The impossible had become possible - death does not have the final word; God does, and God's final word is Eternal Life in Christ for all who believe. For those of you especially who have lost loved ones since last year at this time, take heart and be of good courage. The resurrection of our Lord accomplished a victory over the finality of death. And one day, when God calls us home, we will be reunited with those loved ones as we come into the eternal presence of The Great I AM!

I pray this Easter will be especially meaningful for each of you as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Christ Jesus.

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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May 2015: "Homecoming, Mother's Day, Pentecost, and Graduation!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Just when I thought the busy Easter Season had passed, the "Garage Give Away" was over, and we could catch our breath…here comes May! And there are some wonderful things happening during this busy month.

Homecoming

We begin the month by celebrating Homecoming on the first Sunday. The Revered Dr. Phil DeBerry will be with us as our guest speaker at both services. He served as the pastor of Rehobeth from 1989 until 1998 and is a wonderful speaker. He participated in a recent "Celebration of Life" service not long ago, and I was very impressed with the wonderful way he turns a phrase and delivers a message. He will be a blessing to us all, including me! We will, of course, follow the late service with a fellowship meal where you can visit with Phil and his lovely wife Nancy. I always delight in sharing with colleagues that our Church was founded in 1789, the year George Washington was inaugurated the first President of these United States. What a wonderful legacy of service to Christ and the Kingdom! Spread the word and invite Friends, Acquaintances, Associates, and Neighbors to join us that day.

Mother's Day

Following right on the heels of Homecoming is Mother's Day, and what a wonderful thing it would be to invite your mother to join us for the service, if she is local and able to attend. It is always a blessing to celebrate the role mothers play in our lives. I'm glad I have one…and if your other has already been called home to heaven, the Mother's Day service is a wonderful time to lovingly remember her.

Memorial Day Weekend

This is a special celebration as we remember those men and women who have given the "last full measure of devotion" in protecting us and our country from enemies. Over the past eight years, we have had some remarkable guest speakers for this service, but this year I will bring our Memorial Day message to honor our fallen military men and women.

Pentecost and the Birth of the Church

Pentecost Sunday is actually the same Sunday as Memorial Day weekend, so we moved our Pentecost celebration to the last Sunday in May. The church will be adorned with those wonderful Pentecost Banners we have used in the past, and the theme will be celebratory.

Graduation—Last but not Least!

During our Pentecost Celebration, we will recognize and honor our graduates from high school and college. We have been so blessed that our young men and women are so well-grounded in the faith and so well equipped for the next phase of their lives. Be sure to be with us as we honor them and send them forth!

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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June 2015: "A Busy June!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Praying for Our Graduates

How wonderful it was during worship the last Sunday in May to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates! We have been so blessed to have the wonderful young people we have here at Rehobeth. Their parents and the church family are to be commended for the wonderful nurturing they have given to these remarkable young men and women. We will keep them in our prayers as they move forward into the next phase of their life journeys.

The First Sunday in June

I'll begin the month of June by attending the Gloria Gaither Songwriters Intensive Workshop in Indiana. She and Bill are truly remarkable and inspirational people and I have appreciated our Staff Parish Relations committee's encouragement to attend (that may mean they think I really need help when it comes to writing a song!) As this is my fifth year with them, Linda tells me that it just takes some people longer to learn than others… But thanks so much for the time off to participate in this. It has become my personal annual spiritual renewal event. While I'm gone that first Sunday in June, Certified Lay Servant Cheryl Hamby will bring the morning message at both the 8:45 and 10:45 services. Pray for her as she makes preparations to do that, and I think you're in for a blessing!

Annual Conference

As you know, June always bring the gathering of God's people called Methodist to Lake Junaluska for Annual Conference! Delegates and clergy from each of our churches in the Western North Carolina Conference gather to worship and praise God, to celebrate what God is doing in our midst, and to conduct the necessary business of the Church. Mike Bostic will be representing us, and Paula Bostic will be a District Delegate this year as well! So pray for the three of us that we might represent you well at Annual Conference. Of course, the Conference concludes with the official appointment of clergy to the churches they will serve, and Linda and I are pleased to be returning to Rehobeth for yet another year. We couldn't be at a better place!

Youth Sunday

While Mike, Paula, and I are away at Annual Conference, our youth, under the remarkable leadership of Natalie Gray, will lead the worship services. They've been working hard preparing themselves and I have no doubt everyone is in for a blessing that day! Pray for them as they make final preparations for the third weekend in June. It will be a wonderful kick-off for Vacation Bible School, which starts that evening!

Holy Communion

How fitting that after a busy month, we will have The Lord's Supper on June 28—a reminder that the gift of salvation we hold so dear was made possible by the sacrifice of love Jesus made for each of us.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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July 2015: "Freedom and the Fourth of July"

Dear Friends in Christ,

What a heartbreaking tragedy struck our brothers and sisters in Christ in Charleston, South Carolina last month as nine devoted disciples of Jesus Christ were murdered at a Bible Study session by a young man they had warmly welcomed into their circle. What a powerful testimony the members of the Church and the Charleston community have given in their reaction to this horrific event, by coming together in mutual support of one another, across denominational, ethnic, and racial lines to speak with one voice about the mercy and grace of God in Christ Jesus. Their testimony is authentic and their faith in a God who sustains them—no matter what—is genuine. May the God who comforts and heals bring comfort and healing to the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Charleston community as they recover from this senseless, hate-filled crime.

The Fourth of July—and What Thomas Jefferson Really Believed…

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at what Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of our Declaration of Independence, really believed. Though some have asserted he was not a Christian, in my reading of many of the letters and documents he penned, it is difficult for me not to conclude that he was a devout believer. In a letter penned to a friend in 1803, Jefferson refers to the "anti-Christian" descriptions that others have assigned to him, though they know nothing of his actual beliefs. He then clarifies his beliefs, which he says have come from a life of inquiry and reflection.

To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense that he wanted any one to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others. ——Letter to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803

Could it not be that this "life-long inquiry and reflection" on Jesus was the very foundation of what he believed about human freedom? In the Declaration of Independence, he includes the phrase:

We hold these truths to be self-evidence, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Jefferson asserts in this document so vital to the establishment of our newly emerging nation that the freedoms to which we have a right are of divine origin. He was, by the way, a regular worshipper at the Episcopal church, had been baptized, and all of his family members, including himself, were married and buried according to the rites of the Church.

There are no earthly freedoms more to be cherished than the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech and expression. When these freedoms are abridged, the tyranny of the state always follows closely behind. And of course, the freedom that is eternal comes to us only by faith in Jesus, who said, "when the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed!" Enjoy a happy and safe 4th of July!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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August 2015: "Settling for Less than the Best"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Every now and then when you're reading your Bible, don't you come across a passage you've read a hundred times before and something dawns on you that you've never seen in the story before? Happens to me fairly frequently. When I sit down to read the Bible, I'm sometimes prayerfully looking for a topic for the next Sunday's sermon that will speak to the needs and hearts of our people, but sometimes I'm reading for personal guidance. For example, during the message Sunday morning, July 19, I asked the question in closing, "Is the Bible authoritative for faith and practice or not?" I believe it is. Not just for other people, but for me as well. (Jesus did ask why we are so concerned with the speck in our brother's eye, when there's a log in our own.) I read for personal guidance so that I can measure my words and actions wisely and in accord with what it means to "have the mind of Christ"——to be sure there's not a log in my own eye! The Bible tells us that it is out of one's heart the mouth speaks. So I read to be certain my heart's right and in tune with God. I hope that's how you read the Word as well. So, back to the new discovery!

When the Word Offers You a Choice

In John's Gospel, the story is told about the day Jesus fed 5,000 people on a hillside. Afterward, when everyone had their fill and they recognized a miracle had taken place, they wanted to make Jesus their king. Verse 15 says, "Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself." It's that phrase that they intended "to make him king by force" that jumped off the page. They wanted Jesus to settled for less than what he was! An earthly kingship? What was that when compared to the "eternal weight of glory" that was his as the Son of the Living God and the Creator of all that is??

Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians about the glory of Jesus when he says:

Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth, and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord

So to settle for the way of the world would have been to settle for less than the best! And it occurred to me that, sometimes, we allow the voice of others to persuade us to settle for less than who we are called to be as the children of God, in the things we say and do, in our attitudes and our relationships with others.

Paul Encourages the Ephesians——and Us——to Embrace a Better Way!

Paul writes about this "old life" versus the "new life" when he says in Ephesians that "we are to no longer live in the darkness, in the futility of our minds," but that we are to make "every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." We have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism"; we are one body in Christ——the body of Christ in the world. Ever hit your thumb with a hammer? I have, and my whole body feels the pain when I do! Paul says that's the close relationship we are to have with each other in the Church. It wouldn't do me much good to keep hammering away on my thumb, would it? And why not? Because I am only hurting myself in the process. Instead, we are called to lift one another up and pray for one another, to "love one another as Christ loved us and gave himself for us." Anything else, and we are settling for less than what the Lord intends for us as the children of God——less than what the Bible says we should be.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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September 2015: "Kidnapped Hearts"

Dear Friends in Christ,

My wife, Linda, was driving to Asheville the other day and was listening to Gloria Gaither's "Something Beautiful" CD, on which she shares some of the background story of the songs that she and her husband Bill have written over the years. The music is beautiful, of course, but the comments she makes are incredibly insightful as well.

At one point she talks about how Christians are called by God to do good works as an expression of their relationship with the Lord and Christ's love for others, but then cautions that even good works can "kidnap our hearts," and become an idolatrous thing for us. Church folks can become "addicted" to good works quite easily as they make us feel good about ourselves. That "addiction" then leads to boasting about our good works, something that Paul cautions us against in his letter to the Ephesians.

You see, for Paul, everything a believer does should bring glory not to the believer, but to the Lord. We may love the feeling that good works generates within us, but it should never overshadow our most passionate love for Christ and our desire that he is the one who is to be seen and not us in the works that we do. Now, before you tune this message out as just someone's opinion, check out the Book of Revelation, chapter two, where the angle of the Lord has John write to the Ephesian church:

I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance... you have persevered and endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

It is easy for us to see good works as an end in themselves, pat ourselves on the back, and when we do — especially if we are neglecting our own spiritual growth — those works become an idol for us.

Other Things — and Our First Love

Of course, there are lots of other things that can kidnap our hearts and replace our first, passionate love for Jesus as well. The point is simply this: Jesus said anyone who loves anyone or anything more than he or she loves him cannot be his disciple! We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength first — and then to love the neighbor as we love ourselves.

Reflections in What We Say or Do

Ever look at yourself in a storefront window as you pass by? Come on, 'fess up. Of course we do! We see our reflection there beside us. Perhaps we see something in our clothing we want to adjust before we go into the store, or maybe we forgot to remove that little yellow tag the cleaners attached when we picked up that pair of pants or that outfit. In just the same way, whether or not God is our first love is reflected in our daily lives, in everything that we say and do. Which is why the New Testament talks so much about becoming more and more Christ-like in our spiritual journey. Others see what is reflected in our speech and in our conduct. They make a judgment about whether or not Jesus is our first love by the things they hear us say and the things we do. May we always take care that the reflection others see in us is a reflection of the one who died for us.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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October 2015: "All Creation Praises God"

Dear Friends in Christ,

October brings its own unique beauty, doesn't it? I've noticed in our backyard that some of the leaves on trees are already changing to yellow and brown and are falling onto the grass, busily beginning the process of piling up for the day when they will have to be raked up and hauled away.

In driving around the countryside, I've started to notice that there are whole swaths of hillsides that are just beginning to show autumn color, and before long, it will appear as though some wondrous artist had dabbed color after color onto a hillside canvas, and what a marvelous gallery we get to visit every time we go out of doors!

Back in the 1980s, as Linda and I were driving back into Virginia from a trip to Drew University in New Jersey, I grew really tired. We had hoped to make it back to North Carolina without stopping. We decided to find a room for the night. We found that every motel in Virginia and North Carolina was booked solid—"No Vacancy" signs everywhere. Why? Folks were flocking to the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina just to see God's autumn beauty!

It's always been hard for me to comprehend how anyone can look at the changing of the seasons and not conclude there is a creator God whose beauty is so incomprehensible we can only catch glimpses of it in nature, and hear it in music. I had a friend years ago who was totally blind from birth. Joe was a devout believer, and he played the organ with such feeling that listening to him was nothing short of spellbinding. One day, when we were standing outside late in the afternoon, just as the sun was setting, he described the beauty of a sunset, though he had never "seen" one. It was clear, however, the beauty of his creator God flooded his heart every day, and it was from this beauty he could imagine what a sunset must look like. He further testified to God's glory when he played those wonderful pieces on the organ.

Isn't that sort of like our attempts to describe heaven? We know it's a place of exquisite beauty because God dwells there, the creator of all that is, though we've never seen it. So, maybe as we look at the autumn leaves, God is giving us just a bit of a glimpse of what heaven's beauty will be like. And don't resent the eventual need to rake them all up. After all, washing dishes after a meal doesn't rob us of our enjoyment of the food we just ate, does it? Like his love, God's beauty surrounds us every single day. Breathe it in, enjoy those moments when God lets you catch a glimpse of it; and when some dark clouds pass over from time to time, be patient and wait on the Lord. His goodness and grace are like the sun that always still shines behind the clouds; it will appear again and illuminate hillsides resplendent with color! And even after a long, bleak winter, we know the spring will come with its lush green meadows and fresh leaves, and new life will blossom forth again!

I'll look forward to seeing you this Sunday at worship!

Bob

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November 2015: "Gratitude"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Wasn't there a multitude of blessings to experience this past month?

The burst of color from leaves changing in the fall; the laughter of children as they crept through the neighborhood, adorned as goblins, monsters, cowboys, and more, candy baskets in hand; a harvest celebration painted in pumpkin orange in church yards and roadside stands' music from our choir and praise team that drew us into the nearer presence of God; dancing with a loved one in the beauty of a transformed gym, recalling a budding romance years ago; and those whispers of encouragement from loving friends as they sat beside us in the challenging times of sorrow and grief.

Being able to live life with gratitude is a real blessing, isn't it? What better way to begin the month of November and prepare our hearts for our Thanksgiving celebrations than to remind ourselves how blessed we are.

For Safety and Security

One of the things that I am particularly grateful for is the hard work our men and women in the military, law enforcement, and intelligence services do to keep us safe and secure here at home. We know that perfect safety and security is never possible, but how grateful I am not to be a Syrian refugee risking the perils of sea trying to get away from the evil spreading across the Middle East today. Families are trying desperately to ge their loved ones to some place where they will not suffer starvation, misery, and horrific persecution and death, where they might be able to enjoy just a little of the safety and security we take for granted each day.

For the Blessings of Family and Faith

Of course, high on my list of what I am grateful for is my family. A loving wife, children in whom I take a parent's pride, and grandchildren! I love seeing the delight on the faces of grandparents like Cathy Herbert, and Linda and Alan Hale, and Jack and Rosie Sailstad when that new little one is born to their children. And where would we be without the support and encouragement of each other in the faith? Knowing that in times of rejoicing and success, our brothers and sisters in the faith will be right there rejoicing with us, happy for our blessings. And when life takes difficult turns for us and our loved ones, what substitute could there ever be for those same brothers and sisters lifting us up in prayer and sitting beside us, sometimes in silence, as we deal with grief and loss?

But most of all…

Most of all, I am grateful for the knowledge that God loved me so much, he gave his only son for my sins, so that in knowing his forgiveness, I might become a child of God, an heir to the eternal kingdom Jesus came to offer me. I am grateful that I was blessed with Christian parents who lived a life before me that made believing in God's love and grace an easy and natural thing to do. I pray that each of our parents and grandparents are so living before their children (who see them at the best and their worst) that they too will find it easy to believe in God's love and grace.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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December 2015: "Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Who among us can ever forget "The Christmas Carol" with Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim? And of course, the frightening ghost of Jacob Marley? But did you know much about its creator, the remarkably gifted Charles Dickens?

England in 1824 had streets filled with half-starved, illiterate children, many of who worked in factories and mines in appalling conditions. While Charles could read and enjoyed writing even as a child, he found himself crushed and despairing when his father was imprisoned for three months and Charles had to find a place nearby to live, had to sell all his book collection, and began to work in a blacking factory, all at age 12! The job was not pleasant for him, combining animal fat tallow and lamp black mixtures for blackening boots and shoes. And of course, there were no child labor laws to keep children from being exploited at the time, either. The difficulties of his own childhood enabled him to sympathize with the plight of the poor, and indispensable requirement for the remarkable books he was to write later.

In "The Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchit works for Scrooge, who is a harsh and unyielding task master. But Bob and his family nevertheless try to stay positive about him and hope for a change of heart in him. Cratchit doesn't have enough money to bless his family in the way he would like to for Christmas, but they are grateful for what they have, and the love one another. However, there is the heartbreaking concern about Tiny Tim, who, without the money to get the medical help he needs, may not make it to the next Christmas.

The plot in the story thickens when Ebenezer Scrooge turns in for the night on Christmas Eve. He's visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley, bound in chains because of his greed in life, and he's come to warn Ebenezer to change his ways before it's too late and he ends up in Marley's pitiful circumstance. He tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits: the Spirit of Christmas Past, the Spirit of Christmas Present, and the Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come. Through it all, Scrooge finally begins to see the opportunities missed, the hurt he's caused others, and the possibilities in his future—frightening, sobering—and finally he experiences a change of heart! His callous exterior crumbles and a warm and caring man emerges. He purchases a Christmas goose for the Cratchit family, makes up with his own, and of course Tiny Tim is the beneficiary of his generosity going forward as well. It is Tiny Tim who declares at the end: "God bless us, every one!"

The story has universal themes—the struggles of the poor to survive, the sometimes callous attitudes of others toward them, and the values that finally emerge as universal among all people—family, love, hope, and joy—all made possible as the birth of the Prince of Peace is celebrated.

This Christmas may be difficult for many of our folks who've lost loved ones this past year. It is our fervent prayer that the remembrances of Christmases past will warm their hearts in the present, and light their way to the joy of Christmases yet to come.

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 © 2015 Robert L. Kerr, D.Min
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