October 10

Have you ever looked up to the heavens and yelled at God? You may have had a tragic event happen in your family, or you may have lost your job, or the events of these past few weeks have caused you to question where God might be in the churning turmoil. Maybe there was a time when you had just had enough and all you could think to do was yell at God, question God over why certain events had happened, asked God over and over – where are you? Have you disappeared? I am so mad at you!!!

You may hear these words, these questions and think that we should never question God, never ask why, never get mad. But we find in scripture that even Jesus asked why? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In other words, God where are you when I need you? These words of Jesus as he was dying on the cross, asked the question that we all ask at one time or another. Those words originally came from the mouth of David in Psalm 22, our Psalm for this week. We don’t know for sure the situation – it could have been as Saul was chasing David to kill him, or it could have been as he was making an important decision as king. Whatever the situation, David felt abandoned by God and so he cries out – where are you God? Why have you left me alone?

This Sunday, we will be exploring this question as we continue in our study of the Psalms. I hope to see you then.

-Pastor Jane

October 3

A month ago, I began sharing with you some insights from a book the Elders are reading together entitled Sailboat Church: Helping Your Church Rethink Its Mission and Practice, by Joan S. Gray. You may remember that the author is exploring the concept that churches fall in one of two categories – Rowboat and Sailboat. Last month I gave an overview description of these two types of churches. This month, I would like to explore more fully a Sailboat Church.

What is a good description of a Sailboat Church? The author offers several attitudes and practices that she feels are markers for this type of church.

She says, Sailboat Churches....

  • experience church as a divine-human partnership

  • make nurturing relationship with Jesus Christ a top priority

  • are Holy Spirit powered

  • live by prayer

  • are shaped and guided by interaction with scripture

  • require spiritual leaders

  • take spiritual realities and resources seriously

  • live to sail

  • are places of transformation

  • teach and practice discernment

In looking over these practices, do you see any areas where we are strong as a church? Are there weaknesses that we need to address? Let’s talk, as we work together toward being God’s church in Oconee County.

-Pastor Jane

October 1

Last month, my article contained some initial information about the possibility of a church-wide Mission Trip this summer. This month I’d like to follow up with some additional information to help answer some questions that you might have.

What are the dates?
June 1-7, 2019 Saturday-Saturday

Where would we be going?
Puerto Rico

What is the mission sending group?
Praying Pelican Missions. You can read about them and their work around the world at www.prayingpelicanmissions.org. Hear these words about their mission philosophy – “We believe in the local Church. This is our mission base. Each of our teams are partnered alongside local ministries to encourage and assist them in serving their communities during their mission trip.”

What would we be doing?
We have options of Construction, Children’s Ministry, Sports Ministry, Prayer Ministry, etc. We are able to customize the trip based on our gifts and experience.

What are the ages?
This would be a church-wide, intergenerational trip. In other words, people of all ages can be a participant. This is an especially good trip for families.

Where would we stay?
We would be housed in a bunk house and each person would have their own bed.

I hope this has given you some idea of what a trip like this would entail. Soon, we will be
having an interest meeting to answer more of your questions. Let’s all begin praying
together as we approach this wonderful opportunity, praying especially for the people we
will be serving.

September 26

I missed you last Sunday but thank you for the opportunity to go back to our former church for the weekend. It was a great celebration and fun for me to sit in the pew once again. I am so grateful to Stacy Pardue for preaching in my absence.
 
This Sunday, we will begin a new sermon series from the Psalms. As we think about the Psalms there are several interesting observations that come to the surface. It is the longest book in the Bible and also the most frequently quoted book in the New Testament. Why is that? This book was the hymnal of the Jewish people, with the poems being sung both in their worship and in their daily life. They knew the Psalms and they knew the God of the Psalms.
 
This week we will be learning from Psalm 19, a psalm of promise. In his book, Reflections on the Psalms, author C. S. Lewis said of Psalm 19: "I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” I encourage you to spend some time reading this psalm several times before Sunday, looking specifically for words that can be used to describe God and God’s word. This will be our focus on Sunday as we learn from the words of David. I look forward to seeing you then.

 -Pastor Jane

September 19

This Sunday, I will be away celebrating an important milestone. First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee is the church David and I served from November 1993-October 2002 and is where our children grew up. We moved there in 1993 as the church was nearing the conclusion of celebrating their 150th year. And now, 25 years later, they are spending this year commemorating 175 years of faithful ministry on West Main Street. As a part of this year-long celebration, they have invited former pastors to return and preach during a Sunday morning worship service and this coming Sunday is the day David will be preaching. We are both thrilled to be going back, having the opportunity to see old friends, and remembering a season of ministry in our lives.

In my absence, Stacy Pardue will be preaching this Sunday. She is the Assistant Director of Interfaith Hospitality Network, and I think it is only appropriate that she preaches on the Sunday we begin our third week of hosting Interfaith families in our building. I know you will make Stacy welcome and hear her joyfully.

-Pastor Jane

September 12

This church year, the Elders are reading a book together entitled Sailboat Church: Helping Your Church Rethink Its Mission and Practice, by Joan S. Gray. If you would be interested in reading along with us, you can order it through Amazon.

The unique presentation in this book metaphorically divides churches into two types, Rowboat churches and Sailboat churches. The author offers this description of a Rowboat church: “Rowboat churches do what they can with the resources – money, wisdom, energy, people, facilities – they have. In a time when church was a respected fixture of our culture and a major center of community life, this approach often took the church a long way.” A Sailboat church is described this way: “The image of the church as a sailboat pictures its sails spread wide, allowing the wind of the Spirit to move the church where God wants it to go. It is God-powered.”

After reading these two descriptions, how would you describe our church? Are we one or the other, or do we have characteristics of both? Over the next few months, I will be exploring these questions periodically in my Midweek articles. I would love to dialogue with you about this, as we dream together about Union’s mission and practice in the years ahead.

-Pastor Jane

September 5

We love sharing our building!! I’ve written about this before, but wanted to revisit the great gift our facilities are to the community. This Thursday, a new group will begin using our building on a regular basis. Oconee Suzuki Strings is a group of children and teenagers who are learning violin using the Suzuki method. These children and their instructor will be meeting twice a month on Thursday afternoons in the basement youth space, beginning this Thursday. If you are around while they are here, please give them a warm welcome. I have already invited them to play in a worship service later this fall, so you will have the opportunity to hear them and offer your support.
 
Also this month we will host the Big Spring Quilters, Woodmen of the World, and Interfaith Hospitality Network, in addition to our own church meetings. It’s a busy place around Union, and that’s how it should be – sharing the love of God with each other and with our community.

-Pastor Jane

September 1

Have you ever had a desire to go on a mission trip? Would you like to serve side-by-side with those who might be younger or older than you, in a culture that might be different from our own? If your answer is yes, or even maybe, then keep reading. You may remember that one of the provisions of our Permanent Fund was the use of a portion of the yearly earnings to go solely for missions. Last year we were able to give monetary grants to three of our partners – ACTS, The Sparrows Nest, and Interfaith Hospitality Network. This year, there has been a suggestion that we look at the possibility of a church-wide, intergenerational mission trip. I am personally very excited about this because some of my fondest memories and times when I have experienced God’s presence have been on mission trips.

In August, this idea was presented to Council, and as a group we are continuing to talk about it. The initial thought would involve going to Puerto Rico in early June, 2019.  This type of trip would not require a passport. We are exploring partnering with an organization called Praying Pelican Missions. You can check out their website at prayingpelicanmissions.org. There are many different details to work out and a lot of discussion ahead, but for right now, would you begin praying about it. We are at the point of exploring the interest in such a trip, so if you would like to talk further about it, please let me know. We are blessed as a church that part of our funding can come from the Permanent Fund.

I look forward to many conversations in the coming days.

-Pastor Jane

August 29

When we gather together on Sunday, it will be September. The calendar has ever so quietly rolled over into fall, and the last holiday weekend of the summer is upon us. With this movement toward a change in seasons, our summer sermon series based on the book of Ephesians will come to its conclusion. In this final sermon, we will be exploring expectations for those who are living in or filled with, the Spirit. Without peeking at our text for the week, what four things would you name? If we are truly filled with the Spirit, how should we be living?
 
On second thought, do peek at the text – Ephesians 5:18b-21 and see if you can identify the four markers of someone who is filled with the Spirit and come prepared to learn more as we meet for worship this Sunday.
 
Happy fall (almost)!

-Pastor Jane

August 22

Some important things to share with you this week:

  • This week 33 women began a new fall Bible study. Think about that for a minute. What an unbelievable number for our church! And here is the most interesting thing about the number – 20% of the women do not attend Union, but are friends that our members have invited. This is a beautiful picture of the church – sharing the Good News with everyone.  
  • Men, would you like a Bible study, also? If so, please let me know.
  • Thank you to Hal and Sharon Tatum for a wonderful afternoon at their lake home. We had almost 50 make the trek to Lake Oconee for a fun day of fellowship.  
  • Youth and Cool Kids begin this Sunday. Please be in prayer for our children as they begin a new time of study and learning.

 The new year has begun. Come and join us!

-Pastor Jane

August 15

I am spending part of this week in North Carolina, staying with grandson Liam as he recovers from having his tonsils and adenoids removed. Today it has been a week since his surgery and I must admit, I thought he would be doing great by now. After all, it has been a full week. But, he’s not. We have spent the days very quietly – coloring, watching movies, reading Harry Potter together, and having a very short visit with my mother. As we’ve awakened this morning, he has yet to eat and has gone back to sleep on the sofa in the family room.
 
Moving slowly – some small steps forward, larger steps backward. I know he is recovering, but the process seems so slow. This has made me think of our Christian faith. Oftentimes, we can find ourselves ready to be fully formed in our faith, but, like Liam, it is a slow process. Being fully formed takes time, slow growth, and some backward movement. But, in all this. if we keep slowly and deliberately honoring the things that strengthen our faith – prayer, Bible study, support of fellow Christians, worship – we will, like Liam, continue to move into a stronger and fuller faith. It takes time and it takes consistent work, but God is faithful.
 
So, as Liam rests, takes his medicine, and drinks a lot of liquids, I know that he will return to his former, rambunctious self. Let us all do the same as we move toward maturity in our faith, following the prescription of our Great Physician each and every day.  

-Pastor Jane

August 8

How would you define the love of God? When we think about it, many of us might use the word “indescribable,” meaning God’s love is so large that there aren’t words to describe it. That is the question we will explore this Sunday, using John 3:16 and Ephesians 3:16-19 as our texts for the day.
 
In 1955, my father-in-law, preached a Sunday night sermon in his small Kentucky church exploring this same question. This sermon and its variations quickly became one of the most requested and most beloved of his teachings. During his lifetime, he preached  “Love In Four Dimensions” over 150 times and in 1982 he published one of his first books under this same title.
 
This Sunday, my sermon title is the same, as we will dig digger into the question, how do we define God’s love? I hope you will join us as we explore the full meaning of God’s great love for us. And...there will be copies of my father-in-law’s book available for each family as a gift from our family.

-Pastor Jane

August 1

In 1904, J. M. Barrie, wrote a play that would become an instant classic – Peter Pan, or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Premiering in 1904 in London, it soon became a novel and over the years a variety of adaptations caused it to be considered a classic piece of literature. Almost 50 years later, Walt Disney released an animated version that has become well-loved and shared with generations of children.

What is it about this play, novel, film that caught the fancy of so many children and adults throughout the years? The story centers around the young boy Peter, who, as the story goes, ran away from home the day he was born because he heard his parents talking about all the things he would do when he was a man. Not wanting to live as an adult, he went to live with the fairies so that he would never have to grow up. Peter is a classic character who does something we’ve all thought about – he chooses to never grow up; to remain a child for his entire life.

It is tempting to remain a child. Life is easy – people care for you – feed you, clothe you, pay for your needs and wants. There are no worries, no expectations, and life is simple. While the thought of living that way permanently is appealing, we all know that, in reality, we have to grow up and live in the world as an adult. We understand the need to grow up, get our education, have a job, perhaps raise a family. But, do we also understand the need to grow up spiritually?

This month, during worship, we will be exploring that topic – Growing Up In Christ.  Sometimes we can be like Peter Pan, wanting to stay a child in our faith. It is easy – there are no expectations. But, is that really what we want? If we are truly to follow Christ, to grow up in him, we need to understand what that means. Is there some guidance that leads us to Christian maturity? We will be looking at Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus to guide us on this journey this month. I hope you will join me each Sunday as we learn together.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
E.E. Cummings

 

July 25

I am glad to be back from a wonderful time away with extended family. Thank you to everyone who stepped up during my time away.
 
This week, in spite of temperatures and a calendar that would suggest otherwise, we are in a time of transition – from summer to fall. School begins today for many teachers and next week for many students. At church, we will be transitioning back into our fall activities and over the next few weeks, there will be several emphases that call us to new beginnings.

This Sunday, July 29, we will collect our 5th Sunday Benevolence Offering. Over the past two weeks, we have had an influx of requests for help. Your generous giving enables Union to minister to those in need.

Sunday, August 5, is our annual Homecoming worship and meal. This year we will be recognizing Union’s 166th year in Oconee County and all of those saints who have had a vital part in the many ministries that have emanated from this place.

Sunday, August 12, will be our annual Blessing of the Backpacks. All teachers, students, and those who serve in education in any capacity are encouraged to bring their bags to worship and we will offer words of blessing and prayer for a good school year. This year’s tags are from Illustrated Children’s Ministry, the organization that has developed our Advent coloring posters the past few years and the Sunday School curriculum used by our Children and Youth. One side of the tag will say, “Blessed To Be A Blessing,” an acknowledgement of God’s blessing to us, and a call for each of us to be a blessing to others.

Sunday, August 19, will be our All-Church Fall Kickoff Party at Hal and Sharon Tatum’s lake home. More details will be coming. Put the date on your calendar for a wonderful afternoon of good food, good fun, and good friends.

This Sunday I will begin a new sermon series from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, entitled Growing Up In Christ. Living in an agricultural county, we are surrounded by fields of beautiful crops that have been lovingly tended and cared for. A strong Christian life needs the same care as the crops. What do we need to do to “tend” our own lives, so that strong and healthy growth is the result? Let’s explore this question together. I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we begin with Ephesians 1:-3-14, God’s Verbs.

July 18

I often speak of the Union Family when referring to our church. Never was that phrase truer than these past few days. You lived as family as you prayed, hugged, cried, visited, and brought food to the Elsner family even as your own hearts were breaking over the loss of their beloved Sam. On Sunday, those leading in worship stepped into difficult roles and led the service with grace. I am especially grateful to Alan Mace who preached in my absence, offering a much need word of comfort.
 
What a blessing to be a part of the Union Family.

July 1

Although I was not here at the time, one of the more beautiful stories I have heard about those days leading up to groundbreaking on the new building, has to do with discussions on the purpose of what was to be built. Why are we doing this? Clearly, there was a need for a better and more accessible Fellowship Hall and Gathering/Meeting Space. But over and over, I heard the refrain, “We want to be a church that offers our building to community groups.”

What a beautiful vision that was and continues to be. Did you know that every month our building is being used by more and more community groups? I would like to share some of them with you. The month of June is a wonderful example. The first week, we hosted Union’s Vacation Bible School. The second week, we hosted an annual Girl Scout Day Camp, with around 40 girls, complete with an overnight in our building by a smaller group. The third week, it was our time to again be the Host Congregation for Interfaith Hospitality Network, as we welcomed three families to our facility, providing them a safe and loving place to live.

Interspersed among these larger events, we are hosting a new group, a local Quilters Guild that will be meeting every first Saturday morning of each month. We also welcome the monthly meeting of Woodmen of the World, as well as periodic Lion’s Club events, and community luncheons. All of this is in addition to the many ministry events that are a part of our own church life. Our building is a busy place, and this is how it should be.

It is such a joy to share ministry with you as we continue to support the greater community. Union is truly living out Jesus’ commandment from John 13:34: I’m giving you a new commandment…to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

June 27

A study released on October 8, 2013, confirms the importance of human touch to healthy brain development. Researchers in the UK found that loving touch, characterized by a slow caress or gentle stroking plays a big part in creating and sustaining a healthy sense of self. Much like the instinct to lovingly pet an animal, gently touching another person is a reflexive gesture that happens automatically in healthy, loving relationships between a parent and a child, romantic partners, and affectionate close friends. We all know from first-hand experience that being touched makes us feel safe and comfortable in our environment.

This Sunday, we will explore the importance of touch through two incidents in the life and ministry of Jesus. In Mark 5:21-43, we will hear the stories of how Jesus healed two women through touch – the daughter of Jairus, and a woman who is known simply as the woman with the flow of blood. I hope to see you as we learn from The Story of Two Touches.
 

-Pastor Jane

June 20

This week’s Midweek offers me a chance to comment on several things.

I am grateful to all of you and your comments about last Sunday’s sermon. If you missed it, you can access it at www.unionchristianchurch.net/sermons. Look for the title: Reading ALL of God’s Word, Romans 13. As I have heard from several of you this week, you have expressed a desire to learn more about how to read the Bible and what supplementary materials might be helpful as you learn from God’s word. Over the next few weeks and months we will be talking further about this.

Have you noticed the new quilt on the sofa in the Gathering Space? This is a gift from the Big Springs Quilt Guild – a local group who has begun meeting in our Fellowship Hall once a month. The quilt was constructed by them and is a beautiful addition to our space. Did you know that we host other community groups in our building – Woodmen of the World, Girl Scout Day Camp, Interfaith Hospitality Network families, and various birthday parties and showers. I am thankful for your investment in our community through our building.

This Sunday will be a very special day at Union. It is the last Sunday of the 2017-2018 church year. During worship we will recognize and give thanks for those who have been church leaders this past year and will install new Elders, Deacons, and Church Council leadership for 2018-2019. Following worship, we will move into the Fellowship Hall for our Annual Church Family Meeting. We will begin by sharing a covered dish meal together, followed by a time where different leadership groups will report on their work this year. We will also share the good news of our various ministries and ministry partners. God has truly been working through the people of Union and we will celebrate all of God’s goodness together. I hope you will join us.
-Pastor Jane

June 13

This Sunday, as we continue in the sermon series based on Vacation Bible School themes from this summer, we find ourselves in an unusual place. Using scripture that is most often used during Holy Week, we will explore Luke 23:32-43, a story of Jesus speaking to the two men who were crucified with him. One of the men acknowledges that the punishment he is enduring fits the crimes he has committed. He understands the penalty for his sin and then says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” When You Do Wrong…Jesus Rescues. Jesus’ response – “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” No matter what the man has done, Jesus is there to rescue.

It is the same for each of us. We all do wrong. We all sin. But sin doesn’t have to defeat us. Sin doesn’t have to get us down and hold us there, because we have this promise that Jesus is there to pull us out of our wrongdoing, out of our sin. All we have to do is ask him to help us, just like the man on the cross did. Will you hold on to this truth this week? It is the most important one. When You Do Wrong…Jesus Rescues.
-Pastor Jane

June 6

We are in the midst of a wonderful week of Vacation Bible School. I am so grateful to everyone who has been involved – from those who worked ahead of time getting our decorations and set ready for the week; to those teachers and volunteers who are here every night, showing Jesus’ love to all the children; to the college students who are volunteering their evenings to help; to every Union member who has prayed for this week. Thank you!!

This Sunday, we will continue with the third of our Vacation Bible School theme sermons, as we dig into a story from Acts 27. The Apostle Paul is on a ship when a tremendous storm arrives. For days the crew battles the storm, losing all their cargo, and living each day in fear. Using this story as our backdrop, this Sunday we will explore the promise, When You Struggle…Jesus Rescues. 

-Pastor Jane