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From the Pastor's Pen — 2018 Archive
 




Bob

 Bob Kerr

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January 2018: "The New Year and a New Covenant!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Baptismal Covenant Renewal Service

This year we will have our Baptismal covenant Renewal Service during worship on the 7th of January - the first Sunday of the New Year. At the close of the service, we will come forward and as water is poured over our hands, we will be invited to "Remember your baptism and give thanks to God." Being reminded that we are in a Covenant relationship with the Living God is a wonderful wy to begin a new year!

What Exactly Is a "Covenant?"

There are some who think a covenant is lie a contract, where two parties enter into the contract as equals, and are bound by law to keep each detail in the contract. The contract becomes null and void if any part of it is broken. But in the New Covenant, Jesus ushered in grace, not law, and grace is what describes our relationship with God. So the Covenant is a Promise offered by God through Christ, a promise we enter into by faith in response to God's grace.

Paul tells us in II Timothy chapter 2 that even if we are faithless, even if we stumble and fall, his grace and love, his compassion and mercy, remain, because God the Father cannot deny himself. It is this New Covenant in Christ that binds us to God and to each other. It defines who we are as the people of God.

Grace and the Covenant in Times of Transition

As you know, at the end of this church year in June, I will be retiring and Linda and I will be moving from this congregation we love to dearly. There is some anxiety about the new pastoral leadership Rehobeth might receive. I am confident that just as you have loved us, so you have the wonderful capacity to grow to love whoever your new pastoral family will be as well. Of that, I have no doubt. But the key to a successful transition is found in remembering whose you are.

You belong to Christ and you are a Covenant people. Your covenant is not with me, it is with Christ. You may have noticed how I always sign my newsletter correspondence. The Bishop will appoint a pastor who will also be a servant of Christ and the Church. So long as everyone remembers this - that Christ is the heart and center of all you are about at Rehobeth - and continue serving him by serving others, not only will you continue your faithful witness, you will thrive in the work of the kingdom i partnership with your new pastoral leader! So as we begin this new year, pray for Bishop Paul Leeland, for our District Superintendent Angela Pleasants, and the other members of the Cabinet as they begin prayerful deliberations about appointments. They take this task in had with all humility, faithfully seeing the leadership of the Spirit. But they also need your prayers, lifting them up and holding them before the throne of Grace. And of course, Linda and I will be holding you in our hearts and prayers, praying for a successful new chapter in the life and history of Rehobeth!

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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February 2018: "The Long Approach to Easter"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Ash Wednesday Service

For hundreds of years it has been a meaningful tradition in the life of the Christian Church, this gathering of believers around the world on Ash Wednesday (February 14, 7:00 PM) to remembe the suffering of Jesus, to repent of sin, and to begin the 40-day period of spiritual preparation for Holy Week and Easter we call "Lent."

For generations Christians have observed this sacred season by intentionally preparing themselves spiritually for the remembrance of the Lord's suffering--but also his resurrection! A time of reflection and repentance, it historically also has been a time for offering grace, redemption, and forgiveness toward others, punctuated with acts of kindness and mercy. It was also a time when those who had fallen away from the church could be joyfully and fully restored to the fellowship of believers. In this way the whole congregation was reminded of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of the need we all have to renew our faith.

The sign of the cross is imposed on the forehead with ashes made from the palm fronds of last year's Palm Sunday celebration, and throughout the day on Ash Wednesday it is not uncommon to see public figures (even politicians) going about their daily business with that sign of the cross still on their foreheads from an early-morning worship service. I've often thought, "What a powerful witness in the public square!"

Our Witness in the Public Square

As I think about those folks who wear that sign of the cross all day on Ash Wednesday, I am reminded that our Lord does expect some affirmation of faith in all of our daily lives as well. It may not be an ash cross imprinted on our foreheads or even a cross necklace visibly worn as jewelry. It can be those random acts of kindness and compassion Christians are known to make, not just for their own loved ones but to those they encounter in their life's journey each day. There is a lovely line in a song my wife Linda and I used to sing in concerts that says, "If just a cup of water I place within your hand, then just a cup of water is all that I demand." Compassion and kindness go a long way when it comes to the authenticity of one's relationship with God.

Lent Opportunities for Service and Outreach

Our observance of Lent beginning this month will again include a variety of mission and outreach opportunities in the community and beyond. We try to include something that every person can participate in. Making the love of God in Christ Jesus known to others may be as simple as that cup of water we mentioned, or a little dress sewn from a pillow case for a young child in Africa, or providing a meal for the local fire and rescue folks, or providing some school supplies for young children, flood buckets or hygiene its for disaster response, visiting a homebound member, or making some calls to cheer someone up, telling them God loves them. Whatever your preference, take the opportunity during Lent to share your Christian faith and love with someone else in an act of kindness, compassion, or appreciation. And then trust God to use that to bless that person's life.

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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March 2018: "In the Grip of Grace in Troubled Times"

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Linda (my wife) and i love to learn new songs. The one we've been working on most recently has been written and recorded by the Dove Award-winning gospel duet Jeff and Sheri Easter and is entitled "Jesus Loves You." The melody is beautiful, but the words are what captured our hearts, simply because they are so descriptive of what so many people experience in life.

When you feel forgotten, when you feel you're all alone,
when you feel like giving up;
when you feel discouraged and everything's uncertain,
when you feel you're just not good enough;
when it's slipping through your hand and you've done all you can,
and there's just so much more to do,
it's easy to forget in times like this: Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you,
and he cares about everything you're going through.
Your name is engraved on the palm of his hands,
that's a promise you can hold on to.
It's easy to forget in times like this,
Jesus loves you.

That describes what a great many people feel every day of their lives, and the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is summed up so
beautifully in the chorus: Jesus loves you! Even in the midst of life's greatest losses, when we bid farewell to a loved one in death and
we feel "broken and driven to our knees," the reassurance that Jesus loves us, and is present with us, is enough to get us through.

My wife sees things in her scripture reading that others don't always see - has her own way of making connections. When we sang through
that line that declares "your name is engraved on the palm of his hand," she immediately concluded that God was the recipient of the first
tattoo! But think about it…there your name is - permanently engraved on the palm of God's hand, something God the Father bears in his
own being, and has before him every moment of every day. You are always held in the grip of his Grace and Love.

When we journey through Holy Week the end of this month, we will share in Maundy Thursday Communion, calling to remembrance the
Last Supper; on Friday we will remember the crucifixion, and on Easter Sunday morning, April 1, we will celebrate the single most significant
event in human history - the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and the promise of eternal life. All this God does for us so that we will
know beyond any doubt that we are loved and held in his divine hand, no matter what life brings our way. I now of no better news for the
troubled and dangerous world we live in than that. May the forgiveness made available through the cross, and the joy that surrounds the
Resurrection, bring you a sense of peace that passes all understanding.

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

   

 
April 2018: "Facing the Future with Confidence"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Easter Past and Future

The story spread like wildfire … Jesus of Nazareth, who so many had seen suffer the most horrific form of execution in the Roman era, had been seen alive again! He had appeared to the disciples in the very room in which they had shared the Passover meal with him the evening before his death. He had appeared to Mary, and Peter and John had witnessed the empty tomb. And over the next forty days, he would appear to literally hundreds of other people as well. it would become the rallying cry and a source of encouragement and hope during times of persecution for generations to come: "Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!"

Though happening over 2,000 years ago, this event in the past draws us relentlessly to God's future. Its very purpose was to declare in a tangible, undeniable way that God had been and would be victorious over death. You and I are children of that promise, passed down from generation to generation of believers. When Jesus said, "I will be with you always," he was underscoring the declaration of God that God is "the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." From God we come and it is to God that we return. Our future is certain, and it is eternal. All because of what Christ did for us that first Holy week and Easter.

A God Who Is Making All things New

As you know, I attended for the first six years Gloria Gaither's new "Songwriting Workshop" in Indiana, and what a wonderful, spiritually uplifting experience it always has been for me. I missed last year due to hip surgery and will miss this year due to the move coming up, but I am eager to get back for the next one! During one of the sessions, the comment was made that God said, "Behold, I make all things new." That's quite different from "making all new things." God never gives up on us, but always yearns to redeem us, to renew us, to transform us into the image that was stamped upon us when we were born. God doesn't just toss us aside like a broken toy. He mends us, reshapes us—the phrase we like to use these days is "transforms us." You will continue to become all that God has in mind for you to be as you faithfully follow our resurrected Lord into God's future.

Trusting God with the Future

As we draw nearer to pastoral transition (my last Sunday in the pulpit will be July 1st), it is important to remember that we are being drawn forward into the future God has in mind for us. Its challenges, opportunities, and waiting blessings are all in God's hands. I have every confidence that if you continue to pray, to stay focused on the mission and ministry of the church, and follow faithfully the leadership of the Holy Spirit, you and your new pastor will begin to form an incredible ministry team early on. At the end of this month, we should all know who that person will be. God already knows. And God is already preparing that person's heart to be the kind of leader suited and gifted for the next chapter in Rehobeth's storied history. I believe that because I trust God with the future. It belongs to Him and he invites us to share it as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord!

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

   

 
May 2018: "The Courage to Love and the Busy Month of May"

Dear Friends in Christ,

What's Coming in May

We'll jump right into the month of may with Homecoming on the first Sunday, May the 6th, Mothers' Day on the 13th, and on May the 20th we'll celebrate The Day of Pentecost, when the church is born in the power of the Spirit. Then on the 27th we'll celebrate Memorial Day, when we call to remembrance those men and women in the military who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms and the freedom of others. We've asked Lieutenant Ashley Hine to be our speaker for that service. A child of the church here at Rehobeth, she worked hard for years to become a medical doctor, attended Officer Development School, and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Navy as a Doctor, and will be discharged from that duty this August. She will then be working for the Department of Defense in Norfolk in a medical capacity and will at the same time study nutrition under the GI Bill at NC State University. We welcome her home as this year's Memorial Day speaker. Every Sunday is special, and especially so in May!

The Arduous Task of Packing and Moving

Throughout the month of May, my wife Linda and I will continue packing our possessions in preparation for retirement. As many of you know from your own recent moves, that's an exhausting task, so keep us in your prayers! And pray for your new clergy family that will arrive in July.

The Courage to Love

I love the fact that Jesus tells us in Scripture that it is the love we have for one another that marks us as his disciples. It is a love that finds its origin in God's love for each of us, and finds expression in the acts of kindness, compassion, foregiveness, and mercy we extend to each other and to those who have yet to become part of the family of God. It is in God's love for us that we find the courage to love others. It's an easy thing to love only when it is easy to love. It's quite another thing to find the courage to love when all odds are against it. I recently read something Mother Theresa once said: "We have drugs for people with diseases like leprosy. But these drugs do not treat the main problem, the disease of being unwanted. That's what my sisters hope to provide. The sick and poor suffer even more from rejection than material want. Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."

There are people in every community who, though they may not have a disease like leprosy, also feel unwanted and rejected, who suffer emotional or spiritual hunger, loneliness, or shame over the sin in their lives, and who feel that even God couldn't possibly love them. They may look just like you or me, and their need may not be all that apparent. But on closer examination, they have a deep need to be loved, acknowledged, perhaps forgiven, most certainly embraced. Jesus tells us that it is we who are his family who are called to have the courage to love. When people fall on hard times of one kind or another, they expect rejection. How powerful it is when instead they find love, encouragement, mercy, and forgiveness. Continue to hold fast to the love of God for you - and through you for others - and the Body of Christ at Rehobeth will continue to thrive!

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

   
   
   
 
 
Rehobeth United Methodist Church • 9297 Sherrills Ford Road • P.O. Box 356 • Terrell, NC 28682
Copyright © 2018 Robert L. Kerr, D.Min
Used by permission