May 19, 2020
As we continue the journey to the gradual reopening of our church doors, I want to share these words shared with me (and Uwharrie District clergy) from Rev. Laura Auten, Uwharrie District Superintendent:
...as you and your congregation continue to faithfully respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stay Focused on the Mission
The Church Has No Walls
Patience is a Virtue
Think Less of Self and More of Others
Keep in Mind the Most Vulnerable Among Us
Sometimes Less Is More
Food for thought this week as we prayerfully and faithfully continue our mission and this journey.
Blessings to you!
May 12, 2020
It’s Saturday morning. It’s May, and we have cold weather. Go figure. Yet, I want to catch these emerging thoughts before I forget them. It’s one day since phase one has been implemented. I have not been bold enough to venture out yet, but the two thoughts that popped into my mind this morning was, “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” but “we are not there yet.”
Phase two is predicted to happen 2-3 weeks from now, which means, churches can reopen. Some churches will be hosting outside, “lawn services” this week. Even at 65 degrees, not sure if I am willing to seat outside? Then there are all the logistical questions involved: sound system, bulletins, social distancing, masks, etc. These are some of the same issues reopening inside, except there are more questions, more to be considered.
When and how we open is still yet to be determined, but we need to prepare. There is a lot to consider when we think about reopening church, our church. At the top of our list is: keeping people safe. We gathered a small group and meet this past Thursday to discuss some of those issues. At the top of the list is, “How do we safely reopen?” What do we need to put into place, what boundaries, what measures, what guidelines do we implement where we can safely gather for in-person worship again?
Maybe you are like me, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not there yet. Which means, you have been thinking…what does that look like? Beside not seeing everyone, perhaps what I have really missed during this time, is wondering what people are thinking? How are you doing? What have you been up to beside looking at your four walls?
I learned from Thursday’s meeting that there are only 20 congregation member households who do not have computer access. Those 20 households are important and they receive a printed mailer with the Thought of the Week and the Weekly Message along with informative communications each week. We have learned that posting services on our website and Facebook page have drawn attention from others looking to connect. The Sunday school Zoom meeting has been a learning experience that continues to go well; plus, we get to see one another. There is light at the end of the tunnel coming, but it comes with a question.
What would make you feel safe to come back to church? All of our situations are different. Some will return to the church quickly, others more slowly. That’s okay. We are all learning together.
If you choose to wait, how can we continue to communicate with you?
We are not there yet, but your input is important to us. Take time today, ponder these questions and drop us a note, make a phone call, text or email, so we can get there together.
May 5, 2020
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (New International Version)
I am excited for First United Methodist Church as you receive your new pastors, Kirk and Cheryl. In only a few short weeks, Methodist ministers will face a new time of transition. We will all become like John the Baptist helping to “prepare the way” for the next minister who will follow. As churches and pastors, we will go through similar experiences of letting go, saying goodbye, and anticipating a new future. Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65) a Roman Stoic philosopher once said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.” I am grateful for the ministry I have had at First United Methodist and will begin to pray for your new pastors. Let us celebrate the blessings of the past and move into a new beginning.
Henri Nouwen has an essay titled “Waiting on God.” In it he says,
"Waiting is not a very popular attitude. Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy. In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time. Maybe because we live in a culture that says, "Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don't just sit there and wait!" For many people waiting is an awful and awkward desert between where they are and where they want to go. People do not like such a place, myself included. They want to get out of it by doing something."
Yet, God calls his people to trust in Him: for our salvation, for our direction, for our sense of purpose. In realizing God’s sovereignty, it becomes clear we must depend upon God. Scripture calls us to place our trust in God and wait upon Him. Yet, God calls us to walk by faith, to be proactive in our faith and live an active Christian life sharing our gifts, talents, witness, and service within and outside the church. It is an interesting balance: waiting for God to act while we faithfully wait to discern God’s will.
As we begin to live into this in between time of a new ministry at First UMC, let us use this time to seek God’s will as we worship and work together. As we do, we will grow in the Lord, in fellowship with one another, discovering our unique gifts, ministries, and missions, and celebrate a new beginning grounded in the past.
May the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ be upon you,
Rev. Dr. “Roger” Weisner
April 28, 2020
A sermon is never done. I was caught by the words of this scripture this week. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 English Standard Version (ESV) This will be the foundation of Sunday’s homily.
As I ponder this week, I am thinking about the art of being. And, I begin to wonder, how we find our own voice in order to hear God’s voice.
Stephen R. Covey summarizes what I am trying to get at: “One word expresses the pathway to greatness: voice. Those on this path find their voice and inspire others to find theirs. The rest never do.” (The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness)
As I reflect on John’s words, in order to hear God’s voice, we need also to know and use our own voice as well. Knowing yourself, much less to know God, is no easy matter but it should not keep us from taking this journey.
So, how do we get to know our own voice? Or maybe, how do you rediscover you own voice? This is the art of being and this journey has endless possibilities.
Knowing that there are many ways in which to discover your voice, my first impression is to ask the right questions. It is the same process of how to discover your spiritual gifts which are an extension of your own voice: heart, mind, soul and spirit.
1. What do you love doing?
2. What are you good at doing?
3. What gives your life meaning and purpose?
4. Where can you serve?
Asking these simple questions helps you begin to listen for your own voice given to you by God. It is a unique and special voice. And the more you begin to listen to that inner voice, the more you will begin to hear God’s voice. Trusting, following, and hearing your voice is a life long journey. But once you begin, you’ll realize that God speaks in you, through you, and to others by using you and you will be more willing to follow Him.
April 21, 2020
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10 King James Version (KJV)
I have always loved this bible verse, especially when I was in the Air Force. The career paths I choose were always stressful. My most stressful career was as a Weapons Controller assigned to the Air Force AWACS (airborne warning and control system).
My job was controlling fighter aircraft using radar to vector them onto a ground or airborne target. Controlling one plane was a breeze. The stress came when you had thirty planes in a 30 square mile control airspace flying at 400 mph. My mission was to keep track everyone and keep them safe.
I still remember coming off of my 5 to 8-hour training flight with a soaking wet flight suit. It was stressful to say the least. As I gained confident and increased my skill set, I learned what this scripture was trying to teach me. Be still and know who really is in control.
We need to remember while this may be a stressful period in our life, we need to pause and remember who is in control. Each day, as you wake up, be presence in the moment, be still, look around, and be thankful for the simple things in life. Know that in the uncertainties of the moment, God is still in control.
April 14, 2020
This pandemic virus and the unexpected tornadoes, thunderstorms, personal apprehensions stressing our nerves has created an unexpected word to surface. Amid the Zoom meetings, social distancing, the constant daily briefings and uncertainty, a word keeps surfacing that cannot be ignored—empty.
Empty bellies, empty lives, empty dreams and empty motivation are some of the symptoms of a longing spirit. Emptiness is a wake-up call to go to God, who is the only One who can turn emptiness into fullness and blessing.
In one sense, empty speaks of scarcity, on the other end of the spectrum fullness. The day after Easter, we think of the stone rolled away, an empty tomb and the words, He is Risen. We know the disciples were hiding perhaps feeling empty inside and filled with questions. In that moment of emptiness, Jesus appears. There is an old saying “you never know what you got until it’s gone.” Emptiness creates within us a longing for God’s presence. Emptiness creates a yearning to have friendship with one another.
Emptiness cries out that my life is empty, my motivation is empty, my spirit is empty and I have depleting resources. Emptiness by its nature desires to be filled. As the old saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum. Emptiness does not go away until it is filled. In the days ahead, Jesus promised his disciples and us we will be filled with His power.
Emptiness is a gift. It drives us to face reality. It makes us begin to evaluate our lives and situations. How did this emptiness arrive? What changed? How did we go from fullness to emptiness, and so very quickly? What is causing our very life forces to flow away? Where are the holes through which our life and resources are being sapped out and leaving us empty?
The tension and stress of emptiness can be a wake-up call motivating you to seek God and the fullness of life. For those who seek Him will find Him. Our lives change from emptiness to fullness when we entrust them to Jesus.
Your current emptiness might just be what turns you to God, and to the fullness of life that exists only in an ongoing relationship. From hope to faith, from faith to love is the journey from emptiness to fullness.
April 7, 2020
It’s Holy Week a tough journey for Jesus and his disciples. The Center of Disease Control and Surgeon General warns it might be our toughest week yet with the coronavirus. Stay at Home.
It’s a common feeling. Designed to protect us. It makes you jump back, freezes you in place, makes you run for your life. I remember walking home with my older brother and mom from the tobacco field on a path. We crossed the creek, climbed a little hill, almost home when, Mom screamed. The type of scream that makes you stop in place. Three feet in front of me was a copper head snake sunning itself. My brother had just step over it. I didn’t see what my mother saw. She wanted to get my attention. She screamed. It made me stop.
Fear is a healthy emotion. I am not afraid or fearful in this situation we find ourselves. Heathy fear says, be aware, protect yourself, even endure isolation practices like social distancing or not seeing your grandchildren. Don’t touch your face, and yes wear a mask. Don’t leave home unless it is extremely necessary. What is the reason? To help others. This fear is grounded in love. This is a proactive fear guiding your daily walk.
Every feeling given to us by God is for a reason. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reminds us to rejoice always pray without ceasing. So, today, embrace your fears and let it guide your prayers. Let’s prayer for our first responders and all those who are being affected during this Holy Week. Prayer can shorten this journey. Prayer can bring forth our faith, hope and love. Pray without ceasing, and rejoice in the Lord and God will see you through the storm.
March 31, 2020
It’s early. Time unknown. I look into the darkness. It’s looks like any other night. Yet, I am sleepless, restless, while an unseen killer is roaming. If I only knew how long, it would at least be comforting. Knowing, there’s an end, a solution. Even with the resources and power I can muster, the grim reaper marches on. Death keeps score. Yet, they persist. I have lost thousand, perhaps tens of thousands, but they persist. There little wings will soon feel the warmth of the morning sun. They will launch and do what their ancestors and their ancestors before them did. They persist. They are driven by an unseen force greater than themselves. They moved forward. I marvel. Out of sense of hopelessness, comes hope. God’s creatures, a reminder that I am not in control. They live for 60 days, the honeybee. In their short span of life. They persist. They are my teachers. They are my teachers.
I, we have never traveled down this road before. Our normal has been shaken to its core. As I try to master a new skill set, grasping to regain stability, I know it is a false illusion. Frustration surfaces. The voices grow louder. In the midst of impending doom, I must face my enemy. This demon who demands to be heard…control… with its minions of diverse fears. I pause, then realize, I have traveled this road before. We have all travel this road before like our ancestors. The situations may have been different but the enemy, the same. It’s an old story. Let us build a tower so we can reach God they said. They focused all their efforts to build the tower of Babel. In the end, the tower came tumbling down. Our false worlds we build for ourselves will one day crumble. As they should. For it is a reminder to us all that God is ultimately in control. It is then we realize that we have the opportunity to journey as Jesus Christ traveled. To find life, we must die. It is a cycle that we see every day, but deny. It is the story that begins on Palm Sunday and ends on the cross. It is then we can hear his words. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, but as my Father in heaven gives. My peace, I leave with you. A peace that will overcome all our thoughts and concerns. A marvelous, mysterious peace brought to us by the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 6:10-12 The Message
God is strong, and he wants you strong. So, take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.
It may sound crazy but make friends with the darkness you are facing. If you persist, you will find hope in the darkness. In them you will find the peace you seek. It’s dark, but the light has come. All we need to do is reach out, feel God presence of peace. Take time today, to pause, and stand in His presence. Be still, and know God is with you.
March 24, 2020
My thoughts are racing like Grand Central Station. It is amazing how a crisis can change your perspective. I became aware of a word this week that is being used. Upended. It means the same as “our world has been turned upside down.” Touching replaced with social distancing; gatherings limited to less than ten. Date night turns from dine-out to drive-through. Forget the movies. Not sure if fist bumps and touching elbows violate social distance policy. A new traveling companion--a canister of wipes to clean my hands. Limiting contact by staying and working at home. If not for the fact I can get fresh air on the farm, my home could feel like solitary confinement. I am kindly aware of the emerging sense of loneliness. Of missing, of being around people who I long to see. I call, I pray, I text, email, and have brief encounters. It’s not adequate.
Then sometime surfaces, a question, why am I doing this? The answer surprises me: because I care. Because we care for one another, we are doing these things to help one another. Separation is helping contain the spread of this virus, not just for you and me, but our community, our state, our nation, our world to save lives.
We are working together, focusing on what we can do individually to help protect our hospital workers, leaders, each other, and people we don’t even know. We are coming together. We all long for this to end, timing unknown. What to do? Let’s practice the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Let us model God’s love by our actions. It will be challenging. I am starting to recognize in the simplest of ways, its hard to wash your hands, not touch your face with your hands and keep six to ten feet of separation. Thank God for the inside of the elbow’s valley, at least I can scratch my nose. Oops, just scratched my nose with my fingers. Off to the sink.
March 17, 2020
If you haven’t thought of the question yet, I will ask it…how long?
I am sure it was a question Job asked.
Job 7:3 says, "So I have been allotted months of futility, and wearisome nights have been appointed to me." We don’t know how long Job had to suffer, but we do know that it was a time of learning and Job trusting in God. Later Job would say “Oh, that I were as in months past, as in the days when God watched over me (Job 23:2).
As I listen to the CDC reports, I have asked the question: How long will it be before we can gather again to worship and fellowship. I would love a definite answer, but I know it would be speculation. Yet, most people don’t like living in the unknown or in the realm of uncertainty. As your pastor, I want to be realistic. My current feeling is if we get to gather in early May, we will be blessed. Yes, it sounds like a long time to go without seeing the people we enjoy being around. In truth, I am already missing you all. How long? We don’t know, but I am learning it is creating in me a sense of expectation or I can wait to see you again. It’s true: loneliness makes the heart grow fonder.
Job teaches us an important lesson; we know that God is watching over us. Because of this thought, you and I can rest in God’s peace. He will never leave you and will always watch over you.
Prayer: Lord, may I rest in your peace and presence. Let my thoughts turn to people I miss and love. I long to see them again in your time. Until that moment, help me to know you are watching over me even as I ask the question, How Long? I will pray that those days will be lessen as a prayer for the healing of our nation. Amen.