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Time Capsules

The other day Chuck Marshall, one of PUMC's co-Chairs of Trustees, walked into my office with a box of stuff.  He had just been to the bank to drill out our safety deposit box (keys long lost).  He handed me a book that looked 100 years old-- it was.  It was a roll call of membership from Elm Ridge UMC, located in East Denton County.  While we are making plans to celebrate our 110th anniversary next March, Elm Ridge is in their 137th year.  Why we have some of their historical records I know not.  I need to get them to ER's pastor, Jon Kendzie.  In the book were names of folks from 1887 or 1886 or 1891 who were baptized or accepted as members.  Prosper UMC stuff included minutes of leadership meetings, surveys of property, and more.  It was like opening a time capsule.

This Sunday we'll end our Lenten sermon series on the book and life of Jeremiah, one of the great Hebrew prophets.  The last two Sundays we have talked about the need to repent of our sin (individual and collective; sins of commission-- things we have done against God and others and omission-- things we have left undone that cause just as much harm) and how sharing with God our cries of lament during times of great distress or even despair can allow God's healing power to restore us.  The overarching theme of the series has been: sin has real consequences.  When God is pushed to the side to make room for anything else we will experience the same sort of destruction the people of Judah and Jerusalem experienced in the year 587 BCE, when they saw the city destroyed and the Temple of Solomon ruined, finding themselves in exile in a foreign land as slaves.

Yet even in times of great turmoil there was hope.  Ezekiel, another great Hebrew prophet, sent messages of hope to the exiles in Babylon; so did Jeremiah.  We often read Isaiah 40:28-31 at funerals:
Do you not know?
   Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
   and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
   and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
   and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
   will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
   they will run and not grow weary,
   they will walk and not be faint.

The thing is: as comforting as these words are, making them very appropriate to read at times of profound grief, it is not a funeral text-- it is a text of hope.  A future.  In the midst of losing everything they held dear, the Israelites affirmed God's presence with them.  Despair would not be the last word.

As Chuck and I looked through those old documents and memories, we glimpsed into the past of two great, historic congregations, both of which have been through their own times of exile, recovery, and renewal.  Each one of us can probably relate to that-- we've been through difficult times: the loss of a loved one, a fearful diagnosis, a broken relationship, a job loss, wondering if things will ever improve for us.  I've said it many times, and I'll probably repeat it often over the coming years: every time I walk into our Sanctuary I marvel.  Not just at its beauty, but the vision of those who built it in 1925ish.  They could not have imagined the activity we have going on nearly a century later, but they built big enough in case there was need.

God is faithful.  Always.  In the midst of joy and peace, in the midst of pain and despair.  God is faithful.

On Sunday we have some special activities planned: the Children's choir will sing at 11:00 worship, and after the service we'll enjoy delicious food and great fellowship at our BBQ lunch (tickets still on sale Sunday!).  As you are waiting in line, glimpse into the beautiful display cases our United Methodist Women purchased a couple of years ago.  There are documents, pictures, and memories of PUMC throughout the years.  Appreciate the history, celebrate the present, dream of the future.  God is faithful!

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