Advent Devotional: Dec. 11, 2020

by Allison Floyd

1 John 4:7, 12:
“Behold, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whomever loves has been born of God and knows God. … No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

This morning, I am baking ginger snaps for no other reason than that it gives me time to be grateful and contemplate the previous year – both the good and the bad. 

Today, though, the instructions to let the butter soften and sift the dry ingredients are bringing to mind a friend who died about 18 months ago. It’s as if she is here in the kitchen with me, dropping by to make the memories more vivid.

I knew Jean Welch from Young Harris UMC, where she sat next to me in the pew, greeted me with a warm hug every time we met and corralled me into volunteering to help other people.

Jean was Scottish. Though she had been in the United States since the 1970s, when her husband Roy brought her across the pond as a young bride, Jean spoke with such a thick brogue, most people couldn’t understand everything she said. She’d smile, explain that she was from Glasgow and ham up the accent a bit more to make the other person less self-conscious.

She drove a Toyota Highlander, had half a dozen huge hound dogs, wore practical shoes and made helping people a full-time job.

Superficially, Jean fed people. She organized the volunteers to feed the crowd at Our Daily Bread. She provided an evening meal at the Salvation Army homeless shelter. She brought supper to the families staying with Family Promise, which shelters families experiencing homelessness.

She made me pot roast with potatoes and parsnips for my birthday, at my request, and made the most ah-mazing shortbread cookies each year for Christmas.

The shortbread came on Christmas Eve in small decorated bags, and the people lucky enough to receive some rationed their cookies to make them last longer. Only a few dozen people received cookies each year, and Ms. Jean said jokingly (though she was serious) that she wouldn’t bake more; she would add another person to the list only when someone died.

Photo by Katherine Sousa on Unsplash

The secret to the cookies lay in a special kind of sugar, she said. Though she wasn’t proprietary about the recipe, she assured me that it is so laborious, I didn’t want to try it.

While Jean seemed perfectly at home in an apron, cooking was just an expression of her love for people. She volunteered thousands of hours at St. Mary’s Hospital to help people through the worst days of their lives and served with Stephen Ministry, where she basically listened to people work through their own brokenness.

She described her role as listener. We are most alone when we are lost in the wilderness of adultery or trapped in the net of addiction, she said. When we are too ashamed to talk to the pastor, we isolate ourselves even further. “How are you supposed to find repentance there?” she asked.

Jean died suddenly of a stroke in March 2019. Because she and Roy never had any children of their own, her only blood relatives were in Scotland so the funeral was delayed a few weeks while they made travel arrangements.

At the funeral, a nephew described their ancestral home, an outlying island with no trees and  mainly lobster and mutton for protein. (No wonder Jean knew how to make that pot roast so tender.) Her name actually was Barabul MacNeil and English was not her first language. I never knew she spoke Gaelic.

The nephew told us how Jean sent her nieces and nephews the hottest toys from America each year for Christmas and, when she learned that the delivery created a huge buzz with all the kids in town, she began to send gifts to each child in the village.

The story reminded me how she insisted I take ten $100 bills from her when a young friend came from Nicaragua to study in the U.S. “This is travel money for him. I have been an immigrant, and it is terribly lonely. This is only to travel. If you think he will spend it on anything more practical, you keep the money and buy plane tickets with it.”

At her funeral, dozens of strangers shared similar stories.

And the pastor told the congregation that he had a handful of Ms. Jean’s shortbread cookies left in his freezer. He jokingly urged us to practice our baking skills so that someone could fill her shoes. It was March, so we had nine months to find a successor.

But, he pointed out, the cookies were just a sweet reminder who Jean was. It is more important for us to study her recipe for love and service. The world needs that recipe today more than ever.

My kitchen is now full of sweet smells and rich memories. If anyone wants ginger snaps for Christmas, let me know. I’m still compiling my list.

Service: March 15, 2020

March 15, 2020 • Third Sunday of Lent

Invocation:
The journey to Good Friday is fraught with danger;
The road to Jerusalem is difficult indeed.
Be among us, as we enter this story together
Help us to faithfully follow the rugged path that takes us home.

Opening Hymn: Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy

Performed by Fernando Ortego featuring Amy Grant

Psalter: Psalm 68: 1-8

May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
    may his foes flee before him.
May you blow them away like smoke—
    as wax melts before the fire,
    may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad
    and rejoice before God;
    may they be happy and joyful.

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
    extol him who rides on the clouds[b];
    rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,[c]
    he leads out the prisoners with singing;
    but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

When you, God, went out before your people,
    when you marched through the wilderness,[d]
the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
    before God, the One of Sinai,
    before God, the God of Israel.

Presentation of the Gospel: Luke 13: 1-9

Presentation of the Gospel: Luke 13: 1-9

Sermon: “Dangerous Decision”

The Rev. Elaine Puckett

Choral Response: “Just as I Am”

Performed by Alan Jackson

Just as I am without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot.
To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many conflicts, many doubts,
Fighting fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am, poor wretched, blind,
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea all I need in thee I find,
O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come!

The Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy Name,
    thy kingdom come,
    thy will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive those
        who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
    and the power, and the glory,
    for ever and ever. Amen.

Closing Hymn: “They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love”

Performed by Carolyn Arends

Benediction (and homework):

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Sermon: Open Hearts, Open Minds, Locked Doors

“Peace be with you.”

Those were the first words Jesus said when he appeared to the disciples after his resurrection. Jesus could’ve gone anywhere after his resurrection. He could’ve gone to the Pharisees, showing them how wrong they were about him. He could’ve gone to Pontius Pilate and lectured him about true justice. Even if he went to the disciples, he could’ve expressed his disappointment at how they abandoned him.

But Jesus went to them and said, “Peace.”

Peace and forgiveness is important as we discern our own Christianity, in our personal lives and as a church. We must make sure our minds and hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of God in our decisions and interactions. Without Jesus, are actions are empty.

“Open Hearts, Open Minds, Locked Doors”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
John 20: 19-38
April 23, 2017 • Second Sunday of Easter

Sermon: Our work must be inspired by God

hands-1222866_960_720Although we may work for justice, our service needs to be inspired by something bigger or else we will falter. If you don’t have a vision of what God is doing in the world, you can’t wake up every morning and go work in the soup kitchen, because one day it will finally wear you out.

Jesus wants us not to just see the miracles he performed, but to understand the significance of them — the purpose of God to bring salvation, healing and restoration to the world. We must attune ourselves to the Holy Spirit to see what Jesus saw, and to hear what he heard.

Sermon

“Do You See What I See?”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 11:2-11
Dec. 11, 2016

Benefit Concert & Dinner Nov. 6!

Join us on Friday, Nov. 6 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. for a benefit concert and dinner, featuring music by Incatepec, an amazing local band playing traditional Latin music with a jazz flavor, and homemade Honduran fare.

Suggested donation is $12 per person; no family pays more than $25.

Proceeds benefit the OSUMC mission trip to Honduras to conduct locally-led public health work including building latrines, pouring concrete floors in homes, and installing chimneys, eco-stoves in kitchens, and water tanks and showers in homes. See http://www.HOI.org for more information about the work and its impact.

Download the flier here: OSUMC Honduras Mission Benefit