Shaped by the Future

By Fred Leist, Lead Pastor

One morning in 1888 Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, awoke to read his own obituary. The obituary was printed as a result of a simple journalistic error. You see, it was Alfred’s brother that had died, and the reporter carelessly reported the death of the wrong brother.

Anyone would be disturbed under the circumstances, but to Alfred the shock was overwhelming because he saw himself as the world saw him. The “Dynamite King,” the great industrialist who had made an immense fortune from explosives. This, as far as the public was concerned, was the defining purpose of Alfred’s life.

None of his true intentions to break down the barriers that separated people into opposing factions, none of his ideas for working towards peace were recognized or given serious consideration. He was simply a merchant of destruction and death. And for that alone he would be remembered.

As he read the obituary with horror, he resolved to make clear to the world the true meaning and passion of his life. He was determined that his future obituary would reflect a more noble purpose. This would be done through the final disposition of his fortune. His last will and testament – an endowment of five annual prizes for outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace (the sixth category of economics was added later) – would be the expression of his life’s ideals and ultimately would be why we would remember him. The result was the most valuable of prizes given to those who had done the most for the cause of world peace. Today it’s called the “Nobel Peace Prize.” Alfred Nobel’s life work and contributions were shaped by the future he desired.

This Sunday we continue our FREQUENCY: Tune In – Hear GodSummer message series. The message, titled Facing Death Without Fear, is grounded in the Risen Christ’s letter to the church at Philadelphia, and deals with how we face the ultimate reality of death with the hope of the resurrection. The basic thrust and theme of the message is that the New Testament promise of heaven is not about escapism, but rather, about orientation. Seeing glimpses of what life can and will be like, becomes the direction in which we are going. It is the hope of the future that shapes and empowers us for life in the present.

I hope to see you in worship this weekend at the place where the hope of our resurrection faith empowers us to be faithful servants today. ay from Marty Oetting and the Good Turn Daily Bluegrass Band.

Smart Mirrors

By Fred Leist, Lead Pastor

You no longer have to try on that jacket to see if it’s a perfect fit. Technology wizards have developed a kind of “smart mirror” to help shoppers decide what to buy. As you stand in front of the mirror, computer images will automatically “dress us” in clothes hanging on nearby racks. 

It occurs to me that you could think of Revelation, chapters 2 & 3 as God’s “smart mirror” for the church. These chapters contain seven mini-epistles to seven different congregations in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). While the letters address specific issues related to each congregation in their unique context, the messages are perennial to the church. And in every congregation, there are Christians who resemble the ones in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia or Laodicea. 

I find it both convicting and comforting to read the mail the Risen Christ sent to these congregations; and try to do so, as if looking in a mirror. All summed up, the letters challenge us to be fully devoted followers of the one we call “Savior” and “Lord”. Each letter offers something that is deeply instructive to us today. 

This Sunday we will look at the letter to the church in Sardis. The message from the Risen Christ to them is about overcoming mediocrity and apathy in our spiritual lives. I hope to see you Sunday as we look into the smart mirror of God’s word. 

P.S. We will be blessed with uplifting special music this Sunday from Marty Oetting and the Good Turn Daily Bluegrass Band.

Integrity

By Fred Leist, Lead Pastor

In the 1930’s a spark ignited a cloud of natural gas in the basement of a Texas school. The resulting blast tragically killed 293 people, most of them children. The explosion happened because the local school board wanted to cut heating costs. They secretly bled natural gas from a neighboring oil company’s pipeline, and somewhere in the process of doing so, a significant leak occurred. As a result of the catastrophe, the government required companies to add a distinct odor to natural gas. Now, the smell of gas is so familiar that we recognize the danger of a leak immediately. 

We human beings have an immediate way to recognize danger. It’s called the conscience. Like the smell of natural gas, a compromised conscience is uncomfortable and bothersome. But, when we attend to it, cutting off moral and ethical compromise when it leaks into our lives, we maintain the integrity of our souls. I can’t think of a more significant way for the church to be a beacon of light and hope for the world than modeling true integrity. What we say must match the manner in which we conduct our lives. 

Alexander the Great was once called upon to judge several of his soldiers who had committed acts of misconduct. “What is your name?” he asked one man. “Alexander, Sir” the young soldier replied. The great general and king said sternly, “Young man, either you change your name or change your character!” 

As Christians, we bear Christ’s name. Our highest calling is to maintain our integrity by reflecting what we see in the life and ministry of Jesus out into the world through our attitudes and our actions. We must embody, as Jesus did, the love and grace of God, extended to all. 

This Sunday we continue our FREQUENCY: Tune In – Hear God message series. The message, How to Live Clean in a Dirty World is based on the letters to the congregations in Pergamum and Thyatira, and the basic theme is Christ’s call for us to be people of holy integrity. 

By the way, you’re in for a treat this weekend! At 8am (Chapel Worship) and at 9:15am and 10:45am (Sanctuary Worship), Sarah Merrifield, a truly gifted vocalist, will be sharing her musical talents as an offering to God in worship. You will be blessed. I hope to see you Sunday.

Listening and Loving

By Fred Leist, Lead Pastor

This past Sunday we began our Frequency: Tune in. Hear God. message series focused on the letters from Christ to the seven congregations in Asia Minor (Revelation, chapters 2 & 3). Each of those struggling, persecuted churches heard the risen Christ say, “Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” In the weeks that are before us we’re going to be listening for what the Spirit might be saying to us as a congregation seeking to be faithful followers of Jesus. 

 

This morning I was reading a devotional that suggested we adopt a prayer style called “The Listening Prayer.” The author offered the following: 

 

How do you feel when you talk with someone who isn’t listening to you? It can happen with a friend who has his/her own agenda for how a conversation should proceed. Or it can happen when the other person simply doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. 

 

Now, think about this as it relates to our prayer life. Could it be that the way we talk with God is a one-way conversation dominated by us? Notice the observation of William Barclay in The Plain Man’s Book of Prayers: “Prayer is not a way of making use of God; prayer is a way of making ourselves available to God. It may be that one of our greatest failings in prayer is that we talk too much and listen to little. When prayer is at its highest, we wait in silence for God’s voice to us. Are we talking so much that we can’t hear what God might be saying?”

 

This Sunday we will look at the letter to the church at Ephesus. They got so busy with Christian work and so proud of their efforts and accomplishments that they failed to listen to God’s voice. As a result, they forgot their primary mission and lost their love and passion for Christ. 

 

I hope to see you this weekend at the place where we keep love alive by hearing and heeding the tender voice of God in our midst.

Positive Commandments

Dr. W.E. Sangster was one of the great leaders of British Methodism in the twentieth century. A renowned preacher, writer and teacher, he was one of the most important voices of Christian hope during the darkest days of England in World War II. He knew personal suffering, and in the last years of his life, lost his voice to an incurable neurological disease. Nevertheless, Sangster was a buoyant spirit and a man of faith who looked for evidences of God’s grace in every place.

Recently, I came across a list of “Ten Positive Commandments” written by Dr. Sangster. In a world dominated by news of war and conflict, political division and toxicity, violence and terror, these positive “thou shalts” are helpful reminders to look for the beauties of each day.

As we enter into the Summer vacation season, I suggest we reflect on these positive commandments as a way of opening our hearts to the beauty all around us.

Thou shalt enjoy this lovely world which God has made; sun, moon and stars; field, flower and trees; wind, warmth and rain.

Thou shalt enjoy the gift of love, from parent, sweethearts, spouse…the love that goes on loving when you are most unlovely.

Thou shalt enjoy the trustfulness of children and their adoring belief that there is nothing you do not know and nothing you cannot do.

Thou shalt enjoy friends, their loyalty and fellowship, their constancy in sorrow and their un-protesting acceptance of your timely help.

Thou shalt enjoy wholesome laughter, the ludicrous incident, and the side-splitting joke.

Thou shalt enjoy art, music, the cinema, literature, eloquence, singing, rhythm, games and animals.

Thou shalt enjoy the privilege of helping others…the poor, the lonely, the aged.

Thou shalt enjoy peace, a peace that is not attached to your circumstances; it shall abide in your heart.

Thou shalt enjoy God…the knowledge that God is there, and that God cares for all.

This Sunday, while we’re away at the Missouri Annual Conference, Randy Perry, a retired United Methodist minister who now resides in Columbia, will be our guest preacher at our 8am Chapel Service and our two Sanctuary Services (9:15 & 10:45). You might remember Randy. He baptized his granddaughter, Lucy, in worship a few months back. Randy has become a valued friend and trusted colleague to me, and I know he will bring an uplifting and inspiring message this Sunday.

A final note. On June 16 we will begin a new Summer message series. The series is titled “FREQUENCY: Tune In. Hear God.” We’ll spend the bulk of the Sundays this Summer exploring the letters to the seven churches in the biblical book of Revelation. We’ll focus on how we “tune in” to God’s voice in our midst, as a congregation and as individual followers of Jesus.

So, as we enter into the season of Summer together, let us tune in, hear God, experience the beauty and share the joy of life with others.

Unseen Resources

Come with me into West Texas during the Depression. Mr. Ira Yates was like many other ranchers and farmers. He had a lot of land, and a lot of debt. Mr. Yates wasn’t able to make enough on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for clothes, food and other basic necessities, his family, like many others, had to live on a government subsidy. 

Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling West Texas hills, he was greatly troubled about how he would pay his bills. Then a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told him there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract. 

At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many subsequent wells were more than twice as large. In fact, 30 years after the discovery, a government test of one of the wells showed it still had the potential flow of 125,000 barrels of oil a day! 

And Mr. Yates owned it all. The day he purchased the land he had received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he’d been living on relief. A multi-millionaire living in poverty. The problem? He didn’t know the oil was there, even though he owned it. 

I think it’s fair to say that, at times, you and I are a lot like Mr. Yates. We are heirs to a vast treasure of unseen spiritual resources, and yet we often settle for spiritual poverty. We are entitled to the energizing power, presence and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and yet we are often unaware of our birthright and our blessings. 

This Sunday (a week earlier than it actually appears on the liturgical calendar) we will focus on the message of Pentecost. Charity and I will be representing MUMC at the Missouri Annual Conference on Pentecost weekend. The message, titled “The Invisible 12th” will focus on the unseen, but very tangible influence, energy and support available to us through the Holy Spirit. 

I hope you’ll be present in worship as we focus on the Spirit’s power and remember just how rich we are. 

The Gospel According to Forrest Gump

This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend. In worship we are going to explore how to embrace an “…and then some” attitude with regards to life and faith. The message, grounded in Jesus’ teaching on going the “extra mile” in Luke 6:27-38, will make the case that we are called, as followers of Jesus to go beyond the expected, beyond the mere minimal, beyond normal human inclination in our commitments and in our relationships. 

 

We are called to love people unconditionally (illustrated by Forrest’s life-long relationship with Jenny), live life generously (illustrated by Forrest’s unselfish relationship with Bubba Brown), and trust God unreservedly (illustrated by Forrest’s relationship with Lt. Dan). Those of you who are Forrest Gump fans are probably already rehearsing in your minds memorable scenes from this iconic movie. And we’re going to show several of them as a way of highlighting the main message points. 

 

There will be an obvious Memorial Day tie-in that will be lifted up during our time together as well. It will be a great day in worship. To quote Forrest Gump: “Some people don’t think miracles happen…well, they do.” So, if you’re in town on Memorial Day weekend, I hope to see you this Sunday. Maybe we’ll see a miracle or two as we worship together in the presence of God.