Celebrating Presence

Celebrating Presence

Published March 11, 2020

3rd Sunday in Lent/March 11, 2020
Just these lines, my friends….

… to say that I’m delighted to share with you that the following persons joined our transforming church community this past Sunday: Don and Deborah Morrison, Mike and Molly Butts, Maureen Laurer, Colleen Puceta, John, Judy and Jimmy Desmedt, Byard Bost, Duayal and Nanda Jayaseelen (Madeleine Grace), Gayle Kiser (granddaughter, Olivia Busch), Jim and Charlene Knicely, Leslee Mabee, Jerry and Jan Moynihan, Brett and Ashley Villeneau (Linely), and Clarence and Judy Williford.

What a remarkable group of new households coming our way. We are so fortunate to have them in our midst.


Here are a couple of things from my sermon this past Sunday that I’d like to draw to your attention one more time:

  • What we have to come to see, if we are to get well, is that our sin is not the whole of our condition…it’s just half of the truth. The other half is that we have a Savior whose grace is sufficient for all of our needs. And he is not surprised by our failures or repulsed by our inability to get out of the mess on our own. Jesus did not come to earth in order to whip us into shape and then forgive us. He came to forgive us and then fill us with the gracious, loving Spirit of God that enables us to get up and start again.
  • It has been said that repentance is not so much looking at the past and saying, “I’m so sorry,” as it is looking at the future Jesus makes possible and saying: “WOW! Can this really be?” Yes, it can be.

You can watch the entirety of our 11 am worship service from this past Sunday here.

Celebrating Presence

Emily Dickinson opens up one of her poems: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – I keep it staying at home.” If you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of staying at home on Sundays in America these days. For the past couple of generations, researchers have noted that 40-45 percent of Americans claim regular weekly church attendance. These days, I’d judge the figure to be more realistically in the 10% range.

I have decided that making Sunday worship an integral part of one’s life is highly inconvenient. For those who stay away from Sunday worship because Sunday is the day to arrange personal leisure, take special care of oneself, or get the kids off to soccer, making time for church is just plain inconvenient. For those who make church a priority, Sunday worship is equally inconvenient, though in a different way. We sing songs we didn’t pick, hear scriptures we didn’t choose, commit to endeavors for which we must sacrifice, and – here’s the worst – sit next to people who aren’t even our closest friends.

Those who regularly avoid church often harbor misconceptions about religion and see it as an antiquated way of life. Plenty of cultural Christians I know seem indifferent to God and are convinced that the church’s priorities are out of line, but in our world of customized living – where a mobile device can effortlessly order up my preferences and bring most everything to my doorstep – church is simply inconvenient. Church pulls me away from my self-designed life and requires that I take some initiative in another world that has nothing in common with “doing whatever I please.”

Convenience often feels great, but it’s not an unalloyed good. If I exercise only when it’s convenient, or buy groceries only at the convenience store, or drink coffee only from paper cups, these choices do not make a good life. Inconveniences can hold their own deep value, especially when they ask us to experience a larger life than the one we typically design around our personal comfort.

We Christians love to talk about Jesus, and with good reason, but it’s impossible to have Jesus apart from the church. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s reading of the Apostle Paul led him to say that we cannot know Jesus apart from Christian community. As wonderful as it might be to have Jesus apart from the hypocrisies of distractions of other people who believe, Jesus is embedded in the church. Sounds foolish to say, but we are Jesus’ body. That inconvenient claim, that we are joined to other body parts that don’t necessarily think or look like we do, can seem ugly or beautiful. I find it beautiful.

That’s why I want to celebrate 14 people in the life of Matthews United Methodist. In 2019, these persons were in one of our Sunday morning Sanctuary worship services over 90% of the time. That means they attended at least 47 of the 52 weeks of the year. We know this because they signed our pew pads each of those weeks, or they clicked “Tell us you’re here” and filled out form at MatthewsUMC.org/Live during 11 am live service. You may not realize it, but we pay attention to your participation. If for some reason your name is not on the list and you know you were in attendance over 90% of the Sundays of 2019, please make sure you sign the pew folder, and then make sure you let me know to make a correction.

These faithful people are as follows: Charles Cromartie, Nancy Harris, Dot Smith, Hyacinth Clarke, Bob & Ann Haegele, Bob & Brenda Hudson, Margie Vanasek, Frank & Sandy Amann, Joan Woodin, and Dallas & Faye Hollingsworth (via live stream).

If you see any of these folks, be sure to congratulate them on their remarkable faithfulness in attendance.

Upcoming Dates & This Sunday (March 15) in Worship

Coming up:

This Sunday, we continue our Lenten worship emphasis entitled Questions We Hear Jesus Asking. These are a series of questions Jesus asks on His way to the Cross. This week’s question comes from Matthew 8:23-27 where Jesus asks, “Why Are You Afraid?” In addition, this Sunday in all of our morning Sanctuary services, we will have a special witness from Brianna Alford, our Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship recipient from the Crestdale Community here in Matthews. You do not want to miss this bright, charming, articulate, winsome, thoughtful young woman as she gives her witness.

This Sunday, as well, our CCH community and Pastor Roldan are in a series entitled More Than Numbers. He will be teaching from Philippians 2:16-20 with the title of his message: What Makes the Difference?

One final thought:

When King Ahaz of Judah was facing an imminent threat to the welfare of his people, Isaiah offered him this encouraging yet cautionary word: “Be careful and stay calm. Don’t fear, and don’t lose heart.” (Isaiah 7:4)

That is a helpful word for each of us as we live through another cold and flu season, but as concerns over the coronavirus rise both locally and around the world, it is important for us to “be careful and stay calm,” in all we do. You can read about our church response here.

As we move through this Lenten season, let us practice a balance between calm and caution, choosing not to fear or lose heart.

Following Jesus Together,

Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II

Did you know that the Delia Lemmond Circle stuffed around 800 envelopes for Joni and Friends last month? Joni and Friends works to share the love of Christ with those impacted by disability. Delia Lemmond Circle partners with Joni and Friends 4 times a year to help with mailings.

Did you know the Celebration of Hope Gala was held Saturday, March 7 at the Ballantyne Hotel with a Saturday Night Fever/disco theme.    The March Forth With Hope Foundation was inspired by the wishes of our own Hope Stout, daughter of Stuart & Shelby, and has helped over 350 families with over $1,000,000 in grants since its existence in 2004.

Did you know Chris Beeman shot his first hole-in-one at Ballantyne Golf Club this past weekend.  Chris has been a volunteer in our United Youth Ministry for over 20 years. Way to go, Chris!