God Used It

Jim and I want to give a big "thank you" to Leah Ostwald for giving the sermon in worship last Sunday, while we were away on vacation, and to John Smoke for leading the service along with Leah. We have heard reports since we've been home of what a meaningful service it was - as we were sure it would be. Thanks!

Our vacation gave us lots of time to do some of our favorite activities:  relax, read, swim - and eat! On Sunday, we had the opportunity to worship at a United Methodist Church in Madison, and enjoyed being a part of the service from a different perspective -- a pew near the back of the sanctuary! The music, the message, and the welcoming fellowship made us feel right at home.

Speaking of feeling "at home" in worship, many of you have remarked how valuable you found the first "Worship Café" last month to be, with the opportunity to hear one another share what makes worship especially meaningful for you. This Sunday, you'll have another chance to experience a "Café," but with different questions to reflect on and share. Be sure to come down to the gym after the shortened 8:30 and 10:00 services this Sunday, and join in the fellowship and enriching small-group conversations. 

The scripture focus of our abbreviated worship services this Sunday at 8:30 and 10:00 will come from the last chapter of the book of Genesis. In Genesis 50: 15-21, Joseph points to the power of God to reveal the truth, move people toward reconciliation, and open a way of life for the future, a power Joseph experienced in spite of wrongs committed against him. Through hurt and heartbreak, hope and new beginnings, Joseph discovered that "God Used It."

Though we were away, we ached along with you, and the whole nation, at the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, and the necessity to reaffirm our true identity and values as a nation. And we all pray with the world for all the victims of violence on Thursday in Barcelona, Spain. Our Bishop, Sally Dyck, shares this letter as we grapple with how to walk faithfully in these times.

Last Saturday a national tragedy occurred (again) when supremacist and neo-Nazi groups went to Charlottesville, VA and gave rise to violence, destruction, and death. We are grieving for the individuals involved but even more so, what these acts of racism and violence say about us as a people.

I'm asking that we continue to reflect on this tragedy and have prayer about racial justice. It's reported that there are more scheduled rallies by these hate groups in the coming weeks. We need to pray for those communities of faith that will, like in Charlottesville, seek to literally link arms and walk for justice.

Racial justice isn't just a social concern; it is a gospel teaching. As followers of Jesus, we need to counter those messages of hate and racism with the teachings of Jesus.

But my heart is heavy for other places in our world, too. Please continue to pray for peace with North Korea. Also, remember the people of Sierra Leone. United Methodists - including entire families - are among the hundreds killed after torrential rains caused deadly mudslides and flooding near Freetown.

If a stranger to Christianity walked into your church or listened to your private prayers, would the stranger be able to tell that our Christian, specifically United Methodist, faith loves the world as God does? Thank you for your faith, witness, and courage!

~Bishop Sally Dyck

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