Sunday we had the opportunity to see how our church’s core values intersect with scripture and with our individual choices. As I pondered that experience in my morning prayer time I thought of the temptations Jesus encountered during his 40 days in the wilderness.

Like those 40 days and numerous times afterwards, Jesus made choices. And isn’t that what temptations are for us — choices?

Today you and I are free to choose gossip and harsh judgment of others. We are free to choose selfishness and self-serving motives. We are free to choose complaining and neglecting others. We also have the freedom to choose to resist the aforementioned options that do nothing to prove our love for Jesus or Jesus’ love for us.

This day offers us the opportunity to choose honor, faith, compassion, unity, and engagement. It is important to know that each choice we make will be a testimony to God and to one another what is truly important to us in the moment.

The choices sound simple enough, yet I am also reminded of Paul who confesses that at times he choses to do things he doesn’t want to do and ignores the things he wants to do. Saint Paul was a follower of Jesus who wanted nothing more than to bring God glory… and yet — even St. Paul struggled with choices. Paul also chose not to lean into excuses but to learn and grow in God’s love.

What will we do with our day full of choices?

Pastor Jo

September 12, 2022

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In his book, Humbler Faith, Bigger God, Samuel Wells writes, “There are plenty of reasons not to be a Christian, and yet I am one.” As Gretna UMC continues to explore what it means to truly live our church’s core values of honor, compassion, faith, engagement, and unity, we might also confess that there are plenty of reasons to ignore these values — especially when we feel challenged, or questioned, or ignored.

Yet, as Christians who strive to follow the life and teachings of Jesus, we find his path was constantly filled with challenges, questions, and reasons why he should be ignored and/or dismissed. Think about it: even for those of us who claim to be Christian, there are so many great reasons not to go to church, or not to follow Jesus’ example of honor, compassion, faith, engagement, or unity.

So, how are we to counter these reasons? Wells goes on to suggest that we are not to ignore or dismiss the reasons but to work our way through them until we are able to claim our own convictions, get honest about where we’ve gotten it wrong, and seek

“a renewed, gentler, yet even more dynamic faith.”

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you

to give the reason for the hope that you have.

But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience…"

--1 Peter 3:15-16

That sounds reasonable.

Pastor Jo

August 23, 2022

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This morning during my prayer time I reflected on past sessions I have led as a Spiritual Director. More times than not there is always a time for the person to “settle in” and focus on nothing more than God’s Peace. It is a powerful moment.

This morning I found myself wanting to focus on nothing but God’s Peace, but was distracted with the week’s to-do list. As I talked to the Lord about this I sensed a reassurance that the God’s Peace was truly part of my foundation and that even though I may not be able to put down the to-do list I could certainly live and respond out of God’s Peace.

My prayer became, “I will lead from God’s Peace, I will share from God’s Peace. I will respond from God’s Peace. I will run from…”

Wait. That isn’t quite what I had in mind!

I felt a shift in my mindset and in my prayer. “I will lead with God’s Peace. I will share with God’s Peace. I will respond with God’s Peace. I will run with God’s Peace.”

In worship we considered what it means to truly live in the compassion that is ours as followers of Jesus. For us to truly embrace our core values - one being compassion - we must truly embrace the promise of Jesus:

“Surely, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20

May all that we do this day flow from that promise!

Pastor Jo

August 15, 2022

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