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Lent Leads to Easter Message!

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What a great Lent and Holy Week we are having at Shalimar United Methodist Church! On Palm Sunday, our chancel choir, orchestra, and worship and technical arts team did an amazing job with Two Crowns. A special thanks to Dr. Brad Bradford and his uncanny ability to always prepare the right message and musical for our special season of worship together! There were as many people in the chancel area participating in Two Crowns as I ever remember! We had good attendance in spite of the day’s early stormy weather.

Lent has been most special for those reading through the Gospel of Mark each day! Our forty days of Bible Study Through the Eyes of Mark concludes this week focusing on the Holy Week passages. What a journey this has been since Ash Wednesday over six weeks ago. We will have been in the sanctuary beginning each day for 47 straight days on Easter Sunday! I want to thank Henry Jablonski, Heather Lang, Moe Melanson, Terri Wilkins, Suzy Chapman, Les Morrill, Ed Keller, Heyward McKenzie, David Dale, and Joe Kocanowski for such strong support in preparing each one of the 40 days of Lent. What an experience to begin each day preparing to hear God through His word! The message of the Gospel of Mark is riveting and we have been inspired and transformed by these words.

Our Easter Fest was great last Saturday. Children, booths, rides, and fun were in abundance on our campus. We thank Jennifer Guidoni and her army of volunteers for such a great Saturday for the children! The Sunday prior, we received twelve (that’s a good biblical number) confirmands who were instructed by Rev. David Garvin. We celebrate the impact both Jennifer and David have made on children and students during their first year serving on staff at Shalimar UMC! What a difference they’ve made!

We conclude Lent with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday worship! Sunday, of course, is Easter. Easter is a once a year day but a daily message for us all year. Seven words from the Gospel of Mark changed the world. “He is not here, He is risen!” The Easter message is one of victory! In Jesus we are victors over sin, evil, death, and eternal life! Friends, there is no greater message! Have a blessed and happy Easter!

Shalom, 
Philip

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The Farmer Said It’s Always Cold Just Before Easter

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Over thirty years ago, I lived in a parsonage on a dairy farm where the cows would wake me with their mooing most every day. The farmers taught me a lot about life on a dairy farm and I learned at least two lessons while living there.

One day, I saw a fence was down and I went out frantically searching for Farmer Earnest to let him know so his cows would not escape. I finally found him and he thanked me. Several days later, I saw the fence still on the ground unrepaired. I worried even more that the cows would find the opening and escape so I asked Earnest at church the next Sunday “are you not worried about your cows getting out?” “NO,” he responded. I asked why not and he said “I feed them and they know I will feed them!” The lesson from a farmer is feed your cows! Does this have application in the church? Absolutely! Preach the good news about Jesus! We need to feed our sheep with the teachings of Jesus! This was lesson one.

While serving this farm community, I attended Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. I learned the date of Easter was set by the first full moon after the beginning of spring. This means the date of Easter varies each year. It can be as early as March 22 or as late as April 25. Sometime later, a farmer told me it always gets cold just before Easter. In an effort to dazzle him, I said not necessarily as it all depends on whether Easter falls earlier or later in spring. The farmer was unimpressed with my knowledge repeating, “It always get cold before Easter!”

Well, about thirty years have come and gone since that conversation and I must admit no matter when it falls on the calendar, it does always seem to get cold just before Easter. The farmer was right. What did I know? Lesson two was that it always gets cold just before Easter.

What is the spiritual message of it always getting cold before Easter? Well, each year, our faith can get cold. Life circumstances can drag us down into the chilly winds of despair. What do we need to take off the chill from our soul? We need the warm message of resurrection, victory, and hope!

According to the farmer “It is always cold just before Easter.” If our soul has grown cold, there is good news. There is a radiant warm front coming soon! I look forward to warming our souls together as we move through Holy Week and Easter!

Shalom, 
Philip

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Four Teachings From Mark

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As most of you know, I am an Auburn fan. My dad graduated years ago when it was known as Alabama Polytechnical Institute. Karen and I have three daughters who also graduated from there, so it’s fair to say we have pretty strong ties to Alabama. Needless to say we were quite excited when they won all their tournament games and made it to the Final Four! Auburn’s basketball team has not played very well in years past, so it’s exciting to behold this year’s success. We hope they win two more games and take the National Championship!

As I was thinking about the Final Four, I wondered what would be the critical four teachings from the Gospel of Mark that we have studied during these 40 days of Lent.

“The time has come, the Kingdom is near, repent and believe the Good news!” (Mark 1:15) This verse compels me not to wait but to act now.

“Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?” (Mark 40b) Jesus rebuked the wind and waves and taught his disciples about faith. I have especially heard this teaching anew as we have weathered many storms over the past year with the hurricane, tornadoes, flooding events, and personal storms. The words of Jesus have helped me to answer questions about my own faith and fears.

“How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6:38) The disciples thought it would be impossible to feed 5,000 people but Jesus simply asked “How many loaves do you have?” I hear this passage calling me to offer to the Lord all I have and to grow in my faith so that I may participate in His King- dom work. I’m reminded not to make excuses of what I lack but rather offer what I can to God fully each day.

“Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” (Mark 8:15) Yeast in bread is like a person’s character which influences and is hidden. This influence can be used to work for Kingdom purposes or to undo them. As I read this, I question how I’m using my own Kingdom influence. Be aware of the often subtle presence of evil beneath the surface that is seeking to undo the higher Kingdom purposes.

My hope is that the Gospel of Mark means as much to you as it does to me. What verses have caught your attention? I look forward to the conclusion of this study! And now we head toward Palm Sunday and Holy Week to include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the Resurrection!

Shalom, 
Philip

 

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