Pastor's Note

December 1, 2021

Hello Church!
Can you believe it’s December? It feels like the year has FLOWN by. I would guess that part of the reason it feels that way for me is because my wife, Beth, and I have had our eyes glued to December for, well, nine months! We’re expecting our first child in just a couple of weeks, and that anticipation is making the season of Advent feel much more real this year. But while we associate Advent with anticipation for Christ’s birth (in the past) and Christ’s return (in the future), the real anticipation of Advent wasn’t really for a baby, but for the CHANGE that Christ will usher in.

Change?

Yes, change. Change because, if we’re honest, we live in a broken world. We need change because of hunger and thirst. We need change because of heartbreak and grief. We need change because of violence and war. We need change because of anxiety and depression. 

This is ultimately what the hope of Christmas is about—that Jesus changes things and that Jesus will change things. 

When we forget this aspect of Christmas, we simply just celebrate feeling good. But this season was meant to be a time of looking forward to how Christ will make things right.

That’s why I love that we give our entire Christmas Eve offering away. We find a problem in the world and try to make it better. We join God in making this world a better
place. For the last two years we’ve partnered with the Mozambique Initiative—a partnership between UMC churches in Missouri and Methodists in Mozambique. Last year we raised funds to support the purchase and operation of mobile health clinics to provide aid in remote areas of the country. And the year before that, we built a well/water tower/solar station to transform a village and provide them infrastructure that has saved lives.

This year Mozambique has faced not only the threat of COVID-19 and economic challenges, but waves of refugees fleeing conflict by escaping to northern Mozambique.

“The conflict has destroyed people’s jobs, lives and hopes for the future. Insurgents have ripped families apart, burning their homes, traumatizing children and killing people." - WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley in a recent visit to affected families in Cabo Delgado. “These innocent communities are now completely reliant on WFP and our partners to provide them with lifesaving food and help them get back on their feet. We must not fail them.”

The Mozambique Initiative, having seen the generosity of our church these previous years, has requested that we build a well in a village called “25th de Junho” that will
serve 10,000 people in need of clean drinking water, water pressure, and solar energy.

So this Christmas Eve, we’re not only going to celebrate the coming of Jesus, but we’re going to partner with God in bringing some relief to a world in need. We’re hoping to raise the entire amount of the project, totaling $34,275. We’ll be collecting this offering on Christmas Eve during our services, but also through mail and online giving
at bluespringsumc.org anytime through the end of the year.

Thank you for being a church that follows Christ’s invitation to care for those on the margins! I am so proud of our community and can’t wait to see how God uses your
generosity this year.

Pastor Chris

Posted by Chris Abel

Why I like going for walks.

I was talking to my counselor yesterday and made an interesting observation I thought I'd share with you...
 
A few mornings each week, I’ll go walk at Lake Remembrance near the local Target. (It’s so beautiful! One of my favorite parts of Blue Springs.) I go often enough that I recognize the regulars and we smile and share niceties. I was sharing with my counselor how much I enjoy these walks because of these surface-level pleasantries, when I realized that the reason I enjoy them is because I can interact with people without actually getting to KNOW them.
 
I can exchange a smile and wave, without knowing…
 
…if they are racist. 
…if they are hateful. 
…if they are gossips. 
…if they hold fundamentally different views about the world. 
…if they are prideful. 
…if they are selfish. 
 
My walk is peaceful because there is no depth to it. Only surface pleasantries
 
And it made me realize how when you get to know someone, you risk getting to know the ugly parts of them as well. 
 
Which is why a lot of us just save ourselves the trouble. We hold back, put up walls, keep an arm’s length… because we never know who might actually be disappointing, or even worse, hurtful and antagonistic. 
 
I think this is why people have fewer friends today than in the past and why social communities of all shapes and sizes are shrinking: Life is safer when we simply enjoy the company of a handful of people we actually trust. 
 
But Jesus didn’t live that way. He was compassionate and open to people… even people who were nailing him to the cross. 
 
So how does that translate to today? How do find and nurture authentic relationships when they involve… people? 
 
We’ll find out more this weekend in worship :) 
 
 
Pastor Chris
Posted by Chris Abel

August 3, 2021

A few days ago I was talking to an older, wiser, and very gifted pastor who was kind enough to spend an hour answering my naive questions about how to pastor well. (Whether you can tell or not, I actually ask a lot of people for advice!) At one point, I asked him something about leadership and the future of the church and he said something that really stuck with me:

“Well, do no harm.”

You might recognize this as one of the Wesleyan “3 Simple Rules.” I talk about them a decent amount, and I’ve heard them before. So it’s not the advice itself that stuck with me. It was the matter-of-fact way he said it—as if this could actually be a guide to making big decisions. “Well, do no harm” suddenly seemed less like an abstract nicety to believe in, and more of a real response to a broken world.

I’ve especially been thinking about it these last few days as hospitals fill up again and people consider the possibility of returning to a mask mandate. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been heartbroken seeing the anger, suspicion, and lack of compassion in our community. It became real for me last week when we had a funeral and the family requested that all guests wear a mask. One of our staff members shared with me how they had multiple people refuse to wear it until it was explained that we were simply honoring the family’s wishes. We had people make an issue out of masks … at a funeral.

I don’t know if our country has always been so selfish—so unwilling to give up some of our own comforts for the sake of others—or if this is a new phenomenon eating away at our communities. But either way, for me, the 3 Simple Rules feel like a life vest in the ocean. They give me something to focus on for my life—even if I don’t see other people living that way.

Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.

It reminds me of the grandfather who came to church recently with a mask even though he had been vaccinated. He said, “I’m wearing mine until my granddaughter can get her vaccine, too!” Not because he had to—but because he wanted to support someone vulnerable. So this week when the topic comes up again—masks, Delta variant, vaccines—just remember that no matter what forces are at play, ask yourself: "What does it look like for me to 'do no harm'?"

By the way, the director of the NIH who helped spearhead the development of the vaccine is an outspoken Christian doctor named Francis Collins. He’s also Dr. Anthony Fauci’s boss. Here’s a video (https://bit.ly/2021vacc) of him answering questions about the vaccine! I just so appreciate the work they’ve done to save lives … which is in line with the second of the Wesleyan 3 Simple Rules :)

Just some thoughts. Take 'em or leave 'em, but I’d just invite you to join me in praying for our church and our community as we figure out how to follow Jesus in the midst of everything else.

Pastor Chris

P.S. Just a reminder that the church is currently a mask-optional space for vaccinated individuals, but Jackson County has a mask mandate beginning Monday. We'll be
complying with this for all events in our facilities beginning Monday, August 9. Let's pray that lives are saved!

Posted by Chris Abel

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