Soon on the Guadalupe River, we shall again observe the bronzing of the cypress trees. The summer heat of August is beginning to flinch and the cooler mornings of September slip into our presence. And then its October and the leaves of this area begin their own transformation. If it is anything like what we experienced last year, it will be a grand show. And in one paragraph, my mind has jumped through three months.
So it is in the Hill Country of Texas, in a cozy part of West Kerr County, where most folks are in their retirement years. And yet where does the time go? Most in my congregation are ready to admit that they are busier now than ever.
So it is... for this working pastor who sometimes forgets the importance of this very moment in life. Don't get me wrong, I do not claim to be too busy. I do have a full schedule and I like it that way. But I hope that I have learned Along the Way the value of time and the benefit of a calling in vocational ministry "to be with" each experience in each moment of my day.
I want to speak a word of truth here to all who read: The present moment and what we make of it can bring glory to God. In our labor, we each have the choice to make in faith of what our responses will be to the stimulus around us.
This month at Hunt UMC we are making Choices in Faith as we Walk with Elijah the Prophet. In five sermons, we are examining the stories of Elijah from 1 Kings, chapters 16-21, and 2 Kings, chapters 1 & 2. We are stepping into the challenges of living obediently and faithfully.
Sept 1 - Walking with Elijah: The Voice of the Prophet
Sept 8 - Walking with Elijah: Calling Down Fire
Sept 15 - Walking with Elijah: A Prayer for Perseverance
Sept 22 - Walking with Elijah: Defeating Discouragement
Sept 29 - Walking with Elijah: Life in the Whirlwind
Join us on Sundays at either 8:30 or 11:00 worship. Be our guest! COme along for the walk and see what truths the scripture speaks for you.
Along the Way
In a quick visit to Rockport-Fulton this week, I noticed a new construction project. Among the recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey over the last two years, I imagine the folks living here have seen some things rebuilt and others not. For this pastor who went to high school here and then moved away, this construction project has special meaning.
The old Paws and Taws community building was used for meetings, Gatherings, dances, prom nights, and so much more. Our graduating class of 1978 had danced here. Laura and I went to prom here. I think I wore a lime green leisure suit. Lots of memories!
To see something new being constructed in the same location - well, it’s just very good to see! Congratulations to this community for the progress made in two years. And to all who have lived daily in the storm’s aftermath, your perseverance is showing!
Along the Way
I often pray for family, community, church, and neighbor. And by neighbor I mean anyone and everyone to whom the Lord calls me to serve. In praying for Neighbor today, an overwhelming sense of urgency came upon me. It was not peaceful. It felt the opposite of what I have come to know as peace.
I was visiting with my parents yesterday and my 94 year old Dad told me about an article he just read in National Geographic about world migration. He said, son the world is on the move. Did you know about this? I replied, well yes Dad. Are you speaking of the migration on our continent? He said, not just that son - all over the world! God’s people are moving!
My Dad may have said something profound. He has been known to do that from time to time. The article sure impressed upon him a sense of urgency as to the plight of so many.
Here’s the deal... those migrating are someone’s neighbor. Are they mine or yours to care for? That seems to be one of the primary questions of our day. And what does it mean to care, to offer hospitality, to provide safety, to welcome, to make a way? Countries across the globe are struggling with these questions. Our country is divided on the matter.
Neighbors, whether those with sameness or those with otherness, are all created in the image of God. Neighbors are people with families and dreams and lives filled with wonder and questions. Who am I to discard a neighbor, to turn a blind eye, to walk by, to actively engage with hostility? So many questions. One answer.
Matthew 25 is a place to seek counsel.
The urgency I feel this morning is not going away anytime soon. The world is on the move.
Along the Way
For the second time, Laura and I were invited to Grand Camp with my brother and sister-n-law and five of their grandchildren. As it was the second time, several things can be said. We passed the first year test! And we love our great nieces and great nephew and the precious time shared during a week "at camp."
I place those words in quotations because they can mean different things. Camping can be used loosely to describe this year's outing. It was in a cabin in the woods near a lake with a dam and a cold river stream. However, the cabin was a very nice three bedroom rental house with a fully furnished kitchen. No tents. No cooking over an open fire, with the exception of the camp fire night. Dutch oven cobbler. Steaks and taters. Home made ice cream.
We ate. We played. We laughed. We hiked. We went swimming - numerous times. It was hot! Did I say, we ate! I hope to be invited to Grand Camp next year. It was fun. And it was with family. It is an exhausting week. And it is Sabbath rest!
Blessings to you all my friends as you take your Sabbath rest this summer. May the peace of Christ guide every step.
Along the Way
Rio Texas Annual Conference 2019
With Pastor Paul Harris
Every year, lay and clergy delegates from the churches of the Rio Texas Annual Conference gather for worship, learning, and business in a 3-1/2 day conference. This year the conference was held in Corpus Christi, Tx from June 5-8. Joyce Schupp served as Lay Delegate from Hunt UMC.
The conference is an event and a conversation. Conferencing is a practice started by John Wesley in England to provide annual conversation and evaluation of ministry among the pastors of the people called Methodists. Conferencing continues today as delegates gather to enter into conversation with the resident Bishop and each other in setting priorities and budgets for shared ministries.
The conference is the connection of United Methodist churches and the ministries they share together in the south and central Texas areas. The conference includes clergy persons Methodists call ordained Elders and Deacons (servings as local church pastors and church staff specialists), Licensed Local Pastors, clergy serving in Extension Ministries, and retired persons from each of these clergy groups.
This year’s Conference Highlights included the election of Lay and clergy delegates from the Rio Texas Annual Conference to serve at the General Conference 2020 (global church conference) and at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference 2020 (regional conference which establishes conference boundaries and elects bishops to be assigned in the jurisdiction).
We also experienced several very meaningful and spirit-filled worship services opening the conference, honoring in memorial pastors and family members who passed since the last conference, a celebration of retirement for pastors and spouses who elected to retire this year, and the commissioning and ordination of new clergy into the Annual Conference.
For the most part, this conference was very similar to other Annual Conferences I have attended in 19 years as a pastor and 15 years as a Lay Delegate. But there was also something very different about this Conference.
We celebrated our “connection - the shared ministry of disaster recovery, border ministry, transforming communities, new church starts and revitalized churches, fresh expressions of ministries, a new non-profit lease of Mt Wesley, and much more. New items but similar successes in the connection.
And then there was an undercurrent of change and the evidence of new construction within the leadership of the Annual Conference. A much younger delegate group was elected to serve at the 2020 general and jurisdiction conferences. And leadership expressing moderation and inclusion.
I am encouraged in the outcome of the Annual Conference. And I give thanks for the opportunity to serve under appointment for another year in West Kerr County and as pastor of Hunt UMC.
Along the Way
It is summer time in the Texas Hill Country. And some folks are bringing their children to camps along the North Fork or South Fork of the Guadalupe River near us in Hunt, Texas. As schools conclude and graduates make their way across stages, families gather to celebrate family and rites of passage. In all the travel, coming and going, I ask for safe travel mercies and blessings Along the Way.
This week I will travel to Corpus Christi for the Annual Conference of the Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. With pastor colleagues and lay delegates from churches across our geographical area of South and Central Texas, we shall arrive in Corpus Christi Wednesday and stay through Saturday (and some longer). I enjoy the time in Conference with colleagues and friends and the week always goes by too quickly.
This year, I ask for each of you to join me in prayer for our Annual Conference. We may still be a year away from a potential fracturing of the United Methodist Church, but this year I expect we will be on edge in our words and actions with one another. We all are going to feel the emotion of outcomes from the 2019 General Conference and the subsequent association gatherings.
The Wesley Covenant Association, UM Next, UM Forward - all tribal groups within our UMC connection continue to fine tune next steps on how to either split up or stay together in some fashion. Some expect that Annual Conferences may soon have the option on where to align if some new connectional system is adopted in 2020.
Lots of questions remain. And so we go to Conference with one another. Conference is indeed an event, but more importantly, it is a conversation. I pray that the conversations we hold together will find blessing in the sight of our Lord. I pray that our conversations will yield some form of unity in the midst of separation.
And I hope and pray that whatever the UMC becomes in the future, it will be more about living a life with Christ in which all are included than about arguing over exclusive rules and penalties for not following those rules.
In need of your prayer,
Along the Way
The day after Easter is always a day off for me when I give thanks for the laity of the church. Many persons giving their time and talent to enhance the community experience. Here it goes:
For Deblynne who prepared and published the worship bulletins and received and placed the flowers. For Ettie Mae and Rhonda cleaning and helping Eugene fold bulletins. For Judy C and Laura H who prepared the altar. For Barbara and Jim who prepared the communion elements. For Sonny and Sue Dale and Barbara and Dave who served at communion. For Larry and Glenn who ushered. For Connie and Missy who prepared and led our choral music. For Cheryl and her Lay Leadership in worship.
For Pete who set up and stayed over at the Pavilion Saturday. For the Praise Team who got up very early to lead our Easter sunrise music: Chris, Dan, Bill, Ron & Judy C, Becky, Laura, Jere, Phil, Geoff, and Dave. For Ross reading scripture and Brother John preaching at sunrise. For Judy T and Ross who helped serve communion at sunrise. For Larry greeting and handing out bulletins.
For the Egg Hunt and Kite Flying Team: Tuesday Evening Women’s Bible Study for loading the eggs; for Emily, Molly, Laura, Judy T, Susi and Ron, Cindy G and Cindy F, Jerry, and Adams grandkids for hosting a great gathering of children on Saturday.
For the guys cooking and serving Sunday breakfast: Patrick, Sam, Doug, Ron, and Bill. For others who prepared food: Geoff and Pete.
For Judy C who wrote our liturgy for Good Friday. And to all who participated in the readings: Cheryl, Patrick, Laura, Larry, and Joyce.
Our ushers informed me that 156 attended Easter Sunrise and 112 were in worship at the 11 am Sanctuary Resurrection Service. Estimated 65 for Sunday breakfast and 33 at Good Friday worship.
I also give thanks for all of the visiting families who make their way to Hunt and the home away from home for Easter. It was great to see so many with us bringing generations back to church at their Hill Country church home.
And to give thanks now for the opportunity to be your pastor and friend.
Along the Way
The Headlines tear us in different directions. The news of the day seems to provide a constant barrage of information which tends to divide us as a people. Choose one side or the other. Join our way because it is the "right" way.
I can say that this season of Lent has been a long and tiresome journey. I do not want to feel this way. And yet I do. And so what is next?
Hold on friends! Sunday is coming! And it is Easter Sunday! May the next three days be a season in itself for us as we make the final steps with Jesus along the Way. Soon we will feast at the Table. Soon we will lament the actions of the mob (and our own actions of disobedience). Soon we will wait in the Sabbath. And then... then, we shall experience resurrection as we hear the words of the first witness Mary when she recognizes the risen Lord (John 20:1-18).
If you are wondering about your own capacity to follow Jesus or wonder about our collective will as a people to follow Jesus, then I invite you to continue reading. Take a look at the scripture reading below. Listen to the sermon provided from the Wednesday service www.pauleharris2017.com/sermons and pray for the strength to continue in the journey of faith.
At last night's Wednesday evening Lent service of worship, the last of this season, we examined our discipleship and our willingness to follow Jesus. We shared the reading from the gospel of Luke 9:57-62:
Would-Be Followers of Jesus57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus[m] said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In all three of these encounters, would-be followers of Jesus preface their response to follow with question or need to prioritize something ahead of Jesus: location, position, and family. Jesus tells each - follow me to the kingdom. Do they follow?
The text does not specify the final response. We do not know if each chooses to follow. We know that Jesus had set his face to Jerusalem and was steadily walking ahead into the kingdom work he came to share on earth. Jesus was resolute in his direction. He was obedient to the Father, the Lord God Almighty.
I give thanks today for each of you who reads this note. I ask that Jesus would grant in the grace of God a means by which we can follow the Way of the Lord. I hope that each of us will make a decision to continue the discipleship path. And I long for Sunday.
Hold on friends, Sunday is coming. And it is Easter!
Along the Way
As new life springs forth in the Texas Hill Country, the signs of Easter are near. A recent road trip to Boerne and Fredericksburg included a side trip on the Willow City Loop. This is a great place to drive an old country road with an up close and very personal view of Texas bluebonnets.
The best part of the day was turning over my shoulder to see my mother leaning out of the backseat with her head and shoulder fully outside of the car. She was "experiencing" God's creative beauty and soaking in it all.
I wonder if that image will ever leave my conscious memory? I hope not. Because as these special days with my aging parents will not last forever, I have a hope that this kind of memory will last forever.
It seemed as if a slice of heaven had been transported to that drive and that view of the bluebonnets. A resurrection moment to say the least.
Thank you Lord, for special days in your creative beauty.
Along the Way
The Source of Promise
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:17 – 4:1
“Humans are meant for stargazing.” Now that is a statement that I can agree with. When Todd and Jennifer Pick introduce this week’s scripture readings in our UMC Discipleship series “With All Your Heart,” they invite us all to gaze upward and outward into the majestic creation of a very generous God.
The Picks suggest that while looking upward, we aspire to be the people God created us to be. Looking upward we long to know the source of our promise and to find that guiding star along the way of our faith journey.
Now I am not an expert stargazer. Some of you are certainly much more qualified to name the constellations and to recognize the ancient patterns in the sky. But this I know, when I look up into the brilliance of our galaxy – I see God.
This summer, Laura and I will join my brother and sister-n-law in a week-long Harris Grands Camp as adult chaperones and guides for Sydney, Landon, Luna, Hannah, Layla, and Nathan. Our great-nieces and nephews are a lot of fun when they are gathered together. And for a week without their parents, my brother, their grand-daddy, encourages them to be adventurous.
My camp assignment among others for this summer is to bring them closer to the stars in the sky. I believe that is my brother’s code for ‘do your preacher thing in a way that brings them to know more of God.’ So, I began to think about an adventurous experience with God for six children under the age of nine. And of course, utilizing a large blanket, a dark sky, and some stories of promise from old uncle Pop.
That is my context in approaching today’s scripture readings. What does our family have to say about God? And more to the point, what do we have to say about the promise of God in our children and grandchildren?
So join me in the preparation as we examine the readings for today. And join us Sunday in worship at Hunt United Methodist Church.
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend