It seems to me that the world needs A Blessing.
God Bless You friends.
And keep reading.
For the world is in a state of disarray. Pandemic, social and cultural division, world wide migration of families seeking a better life, border issues, and the list goes on...
As a pastor without answers, I often rely on God's Holy Spirit to speak divine words of promise in the midst of my own human frailty. I pray daily for guidance in the words to verbalize in a world experiencing disarray. I need words to share with you today about how we are to love God and our neighbor in these days.
Mark 12:28-34 is a standard scripture that I can point to for clarity. When Jesus is questioned by the religious leaders and those responsible for interpreting the Torah, he is asked, "What is the Greatest Commandment?" Jesus responds with familiar words in the Hebrew culture. Basically to love God above all else and to practice life-living with God's love in mind. Jesus adds the other part of his answer with a question: to emphasize that loving God is most often practiced by loving one's neighbor. And if you search the scriptures for a definition of neighbor, you find that in the Judea-Christian teaching A NEIGHBOR OFTEN INCLUDES A STRANGER.
Loving God, Following Jesus, and Building Community is a phrase I often use with my parishioners to simply express my faith and my understanding of my call to discipleship. And to further explain that simple statement in times such as these, I turn toward the act of giving blessings. When I say this I am speaking about a verbal blessing with words of encouragement, direction, affirmation, power, and so on. In Christian terms, I mean speaking in the life-affirming ways of Jesus.
In the book, "The Power of Spoken Blessings" by Bill Gothard, the author defines his understanding of a Spoken Blessing. He says that it should be modeled in the way that YHWH blessed Abram saying, "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:2-3)
"The Lord bless thee..."
Gothard explains that four distinct aspects make up the blessing.
First, the divine blessing comes when the human recipient bends the knee in prayer. Kneeling to be blessed comes from the Hebrew word barak meaning to kneel, to praise, to pray to, to greet, to bless, or be blessed. In the letter of James, chapter 4, verse 6, we hear "God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble." A divine blessing begins when humans submit to God and ask in humility for a blessing.
Second, Gothard uses the old Germanic root of the word bless in the word blood. "To consecrate with blood, sprinkle with blood" is the action related to this meaning. Redemption is the gift of grace we Christians know in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The blessing I speak of today involves God's gift of grace and mercy. It shares the notion that God has redeemed and is redeeming humankind with the blood of Jesus, the Son of God.
Third, a blessing involves a covenant, a promise. From the Hebrew word beriyth meaning to cut covenant, blessing involves the promise of God in the life of a human recipient or group when that person or group of persons experiences the promise of God in their daily love of God and neighbor. In other words, to be blessed with a divine promise is a gift and that gift is best expressed in humanity through mutual sacrifice and love for one another. To be blessed involves blessing others.
Fourth, the Greek word for bless is eulogeo. It means to speak well of another. Together its parts mean good or well and word. Good Word. This root of this same word addresses how good words are shared in the Good News of Jesus, in the proclamation of the gospel. SO to receive a divine blessing is to share a human blessing in the promise of divine love - the Good News of Jesus.
There is much more of this explanation of BLESSING and I recommend the Gothard book as a resource. I also find John O'Donohue's writing of blessings to be very helpful. Look for "Bendictus: A Book of Blessings."
I think the world is in need of a blessing. I invite you to join me today in kneeling before God, asking for words to share, words of healing and grace. And I hope to see you Sunday October 3 for World Communion Sunday. We will be wrapping up our sermon series in the Letter of James with a conversation about Healing Prayer (James 5:13-20).
May you receive the blessing of grace and peace this day.
Pastor Paul Harris
Along the Way
SAVE THE DATE - November 7th
You are Invited! We have so much to celebrate! Come and join us!
During the pandemic last year we missed our church's 75th anniversary, so THIS YEAR we will celebrate on November 7, 2021. A team is planning a grand celebration chocked full of Re-Connecting Memories in the form of digital images, table displays, and Live speakers giving a brief talk each Sunday beginning September 12th.
The plan includes having two worship services on November 7th. At 8:15 am and 11:15 am that day we will celebrate All Saints Sunday and remember all those who have gone before in the birth and life of this congregation. In between, we will have a community meal and celebration of our church anniversary in the Fellowship Hall.
We look forward to hearing from our own church members Re-Tell the Story of Hunt United Methodist Church. In worship at both services, speakers will be sharing segments of the church's growth and life in this community. It begins on September 12th as Geoff Gannaway plays the role of first pastor Clem Lewis.
Stay tuned for more information...
Blessings of grace and peace,
Pastor Paul Harris
Students, teachers, and administrators are going Back to School across the Land. In our area, Hunt ISD and Ingram ISD soon resume their in-person school activities. I ask you to join me in prayer for families in our area with school-aged children, for teachers and their families, and for school administrators and their families.
Back to School blessings are being shared at Hunt United Methodist Church this Sunday, August 15th. Teachers and Administrators begin their In-Service preparation week on the 16th. Our Tuesday Women's Bible Study group is sponsoring a meal at noon that day for our friends at Hunt ISD. All in the natural rhythm of things around here.
And then we add in the continuing pandemic, Delta variant surge in cases and hospitalizations, wearing or not wearing a mask, vaccinations and whether or not children will be eligible... Whew! That's a bunch. Let us now commit to pray for our school systems and the relationships we share in our communities.
May God Bless our Schools and may learning continue!
With grace and peace,
Pastor Paul Harris
Little Pigeon River, Great Smokey Mountains NP
This photo always reminds me of something new. While on a hike along the Little Pigeon River in the Great Smokey Mountains, Laura and I stopped here for a rest break. The panoramic setting on the I-phone of that era captured a light ray shining down through the trees into the river. Greenery along side and tumbling rocks moved over time reminded us of something continuous about the natural world. It was a great hike. Almost timeless.
I look at this photo now and dive into it once again with memory and anticipation. It was a great trip with family. WOW! I can't wait for a trip like this again. It has been a year since COVID-19 shut down travel, and so many other things. But sooner than later, gatherings with extended family and outings such as this requiring interstate travel will be possible.
Just a bit longer. After the rest break, we headed upstream and followed the trail uphill about 1700 feet. Working muscles and gathering breath, we traversed the river multiple times as it became smaller and smaller. Water cascades, little pools, streams coalescing, and finally a spring. New! Water! Life! The hike now sets in mind the walk we have made this past year during pandemic. Just a bit further now to the newness that awaits us.
This Spring Break we will once again be riverside. With a couple of the closest friends possible. Rest! Newness! Once again the stories from Along the Way shall be shared. And we will look forward to so much more.
Along the Way
Celebration of All Saints Sunday
This Sunday we observe All Saints Sunday at Hunt United Methodist Church. It is a holy celebration of remembrance. We worship on the morrow of thin space in which the memory of dear ones fills the present. We give thanks for the mentors and friends who taught us of Jesus and guided us toward a greater love of God and neighbor.
Join us at 8:30 or 11:00 am this Sunday, November 1st for in-person or online worship. We continue to have safe distance seating in our sanctuary with an online presence via Facebook Livestream. See our church website for more information - www.huntumc.org
Along the Way
Laura Ogle Harris and I appreciate you for travel prayers, for anniversary and birthday wishes, and for making the road trip with us as we logged many a mile in the last 14 days.
As we work from the car today on the final miles back to Hunt, TX, we realize that so much is going on with you as well. Some of you are hospitalized, or have family facing surgery today. Some of you have lost loved ones during these days of pandemic. Many of you, like us, wonder about our nation and this election cycle. Many of you continue to work essentially in an effort to continue life and family economies.
Know this: Laura and I and our family gives thanks for each of you and your families. We love you! We are honored to call you friend. We pray for you and wish for you the abundance of Grace and peace we know in Christ Jesus.
For schools, students, teachers, administrators- in person or remote - blessings to you today.
For the journey, and for today, we pray.
Pastor Paul and Laura Harris
Back in March, as we began the Stay-at-Home campaign to “flatten the curve” and reduce the rate of coronavirus spread, I asked myself ‘How Long?’ Well, it’s early July and we are in a more severe condition of viral spread and increased hospitalizations.
It seems now that question is not the correct question for our situation. Maybe instead, I should be asking another question. The problem is I do not have a clue what question to ask.
I am in uncharted territory as you are friends. Maybe for today, we can agree that this thing called pandemic is here for longer than any of us would choose. And maybe we can agree that grace and peace are most cherished blessings to receive.
Pastor Paul Harris
As I sit today in the church office provided for your pastor, I pray for each family of our congregation by name and ask for a blessing of faith, hope, and love for each. I include your connections in the community by which we extend our reach into the world. I also pray for the numerous persons who have joined our ONLINE WORSHIP community in the last two months.
We have experienced a very different springtime here in our hill country hamlet. On March 19th, we made the decision to close our church facilities to IN-PERSON Worship and Fellowship pending the growing pandemic, a potential of community spread of the coronavirus, and the impact of COVID-19 to the more vulnerable among us. Two months have passed.
I have learned so much about the Church. For one thing, we can adapt. We do have the capacity for change in our lives whether it is comfortable or not. I have witnessed so many of you being willing and patient in the process of adaptation, Thank you! For another thing, we can care for one another. When the hospitals closed to visitors and families except in dire situations, pastors and care visitors found themselves unable to visit those in the hospital. That was tough on this pastor. My own Dad spent some time by himself at Peterson RMC during this time. And so many of you offered care to one another in a variety of ways during this time: writing cards and letters, making telephone calls, sending text messages, and using email effectively to share information. Some of you volunteered to coordinate a new Local Food Pantry ministry for those in our community needing support in difficult times.
WE CAN ADAPT AND WE CAN CARE! This proves to me that this local church congregation has what it takes to survive what comes next. What comes next? Your guess is as good as mine. No, really; no matter how much we desire our daily routines to return to what they were, I believe that our future is one that will require us to utilize our best skills of adaptation and care.
Your pastor and your worship music leaders and teams are planning a summertime worship experience at both 8:30 am and 11:00 am which is tailored for ONLINE WORSHIP AND LIMITED INSIDE SEATING. We begin that experiment JUNE 7th.
I buried the lead, but if you read this far you found a nugget of information. More importantly, I hope you know how much this pastor and family love you and miss seeing you regularly. May the blessings of adaptation and care guide us all in the days to come.
Along the Way
Rev Paul Harris
Hunt United Methodist Church
This year Mothers’ Day celebration will be different. But then, there are so many things different about our current situation. I am sure there is a season of grace in how we ritualize the day.
I will not be able to bring my mother flowers on May 10th. We won’t be dining together. My card will be mailed instead of delivered in person. Well all that is okay because so many have had to deal with this many times before. Celebration from a distance. What I will be doing is sitting on my truck tailgate curbside while Mom sits on her apartment balcony. We have to speak rather loudly. It’s a workable solution to be present with each other for a little while.
That’s the thing about a celebration of Mothers’ Day - we remember the presence of someone special in our lives that has provided mothering love to us. Holy and sacred is the celebration of God’s presence with us. Not far from that is the relationship many of us have been blessed to experience in a MOM.
Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mothers, and to all those who have graciously served in that role!
Hugs on the horizon,
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend