September 3, 2014

Dear Friends,

In recent weeks, I have been writing about renewing our baptismal vows. The attachment this week sets forth the vows made in your behalf (if you were an infant) or that children, teenagers and adults make for themselves should baptism come later than infancy. Take a look at these and reflect on how you are doing with them. Some you will find second nature at this point in your life and others might require some real soul searching to incorporate into the way you are living now. But that’s the nature of a vow; it calls you back to what is fundamental in your relationship with a holy God.

Just a few notes for those preparing for confirmation:

We begin our youth confirmation classes on Sunday, September 14th during the Sunday School hour. The purpose of Confirmation is for the young persons to “confirm” for themselves the faith their parents exercised when they were brought for baptism as infants. It follows a period of instruction meant to prepare the “confirmands” for adult membership in the church. Students will review the primary teachings of the church, learn about the Anglican Church and be challenged to seek a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Adults who wish to be confirmed or received as new members are invited to four Monday evenings at All Saints beginning on Thursday, September 15th at 6:00pm.

A reminder to the men: Men’s lunch at the Jubilee Center (3311 Andrews Highway) is this coming Tuesday at 11:45 pm. The food is always excellent and the company isn’t bad either :-).

Scripture of the week: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2nd Timothy 2:15

As always, if you are in need of pastoral care, please do feel free to call me at 432-853-2751.

Your fellow servant,

Fr. Tom

August 29, 2014

Dear Friends,

One colorful way to dismiss something you deem impossible is to respond “Yea, when pigs fly.” With a chuckle, the dreamer is put in his place and all can return to reality. Jesus also dismissed impossibilities and just as colorfully:

“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24).

Not surprisingly, his disciples were crushed when they heard it because they knew they were really no better than a “rich man” or anyone else for that matter. And so they replied:

“Who then can be saved?”

Often matters of possibility and impossiblility come down to a question of focus. Either we focus on the reasons why something can never work or we lift our gaze instead on the infinite power of the one we serve. Jesus’ response does much to bring that faith filled perspective.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

I bring all this up to acknowledge that God is the all sufficient one who can “do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” This was the subject of Brad Watson’s excellent sermon on the 10th of August and it is an important antidote to the defeatism that is so easy to adopt. God has called all of us to an impossible task—that is, to plant and grow a new outpost for his Kingdom. I have come to believe that church planting is impossible for us alone—no matter how skilled or strategic or earnest we are. But, with God, all things are possible. Let’s trust him to lead our efforts and to bring about the growth (spiritually and numerically) that he desires.

A comic once quipped “With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine.” We may be daily facing impossibilities, but the power of God overcomes all obstacles, even our weakened faith if we let him. In him is all the thrust we need J. If you would like to hear Brad’s sermon, look in the sermon archive section of the All Saints website www.midlandanglican.org. You can also find Bishop Mark Zimmerman’s message from last Sunday there. He takes up the same theme but from a different direction.

If you missed reading the newsletter last week:

A word about renewing your baptismal vows. When a child or adult is baptized, a series of vows are taken either by the parents or the person being baptized. Among these are promises to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior and to maintain a healthy and true Christian faith (based on the teachings of the Scriptures and the Nicene Creed). We also promise to be concerned for those who do not know Christ and for the less fortunate. Renewing your vows begins by renewing your relationship with Christ and by developing or returning to habits that keep you in touch with Him. On Sunday, December 14th, you will have the opportunity to publically renew your vows with a blessing from the Bishop and the support of the congregation. Of course, you will not be “required” to renew your vows, but I think you will experience a blessing if you do so. Rather than holding a “renewal of vows class,” I think it would be better to help you develop your own renewal plan in keeping with your spiritual temperament, available time and interests. Drop me an email or text to let me know of your interest and we’ll set a time to meet.

Our Wednesday Night Bible Study resumes with “The Patriarchs”. This new series considers some of the most entertaining and thought provoking people in the Bible. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob, Rachel and Leah (along with a colorful cast of servants) have a wonderful way of exposing human frailties while also teaching much about the meaning of living by faith. The story of Abraham begins in Genesis 12. The Wednesday night group meets at the home of Gary and Nadine Oknefski, 2201 Hereford Boulevard and is open to all. We begin at 6:30 pm.

Scripture of the week: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

As always, if you are in need of pastoral care, please do feel free to call me at 432-853-2751.

Your fellow servant,

Fr. Tom

August 19, 2014

Dear Friends,

A long drive across the country has done some good for the Finnie family. In classic vacation form, we let our daily concerns fade to the background and just spent time together. We also found time to be tourists along the way and to visit family and friends from Missouri to Pennsylvania. Marianne and I will return to Midland late Thursday evening.

I heard good things about our preachers (Brad Watson and Pastor Keith Gibbons) and am grateful for them and for all who lent a hand to make our worship and hospitality go well in my absence.

This coming Sunday (the 24th), we welcome Bishop Mark Zimmerman as our preacher and celebrant. This visit is an opportunity to get to know him better and to hear about his vision for our new diocese in West Texas, New Mexico and beyond. Apart from the worship service itself, we will have opportunity before and after to spend time with him:

9:15 Bishop’s Forum in Room 101. This is in the education wing by the Cuthbert Street lot. If you are considering confirmation, reception into full membership or renewal of your commitment to Christ (called “renewal of baptismal vows”), please do make every effort to attend. If you would just like to know a bit more about Bishop Mark and the Diocese, please do attend as well.

11:45 Lunch After Service. Bring a side dish or salad and share lunch with your church family. Main course, dessert and drinks are provided.

A word about renewing your baptismal vows. When a child or adult is baptized, a series of vows are taken either by the parents or the person being baptized. Among these are promises to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior and to maintain a healthy and true Christian faith (based on the teachings of the Scriptures and the Nicene Creed). We also promise to be concerned for those who do not know Christ and for the less fortunate. Renewing your vows begins by renewing your relationship with Christ and by developing or returning to habits that keep you in touch with Him. On Sunday, December 14th, you will have the opportunity to publically renew your vows with a blessing from the Bishop and the support of the congregation. Of course, you will not be “required” to renew your vows, but I think you will experience a blessing if you do so. Rather than holding a “renewal of vows class,” I think it would be better to help you develop your own renewal plan in keeping with your spiritual temperament, available time and interests. Drop me an email or text to let me know of your interest and we’ll set a time to meet.

Our Wednesday Night Bible Study resumes with “The Patriarchs” on the 27.th This new series considers some of the most entertaining and thought provoking people in the Bible. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob, Rachel and Leah (along with a colorful cast of servants) have a wonderful way of exposing human frailties while also teaching much about the meaning of living by faith. The story of Abraham begins in Genesis 12. The Wednesday night group meets at the home of Gary and Nadine Oknefski, 2201 Hereford Boulevard and is open to all. We begin at 6:30 pm.

Archbishop’s Plea for Persecuted Christians. Archbishop Beach invites us to support Christians in Iraq and Syria who have lost loved ones, homes and churches to the so called “Islamic State” terrorist movement. See his comments at http://www.anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/866.

Scripture of the week: Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

As always, if you are in need of pastoral care, please do feel free to call me at 432-853-2751.

Your fellow servant,

Fr. Tom

August 4, 2014

Dear Friends,

It seems that more Men can attend the retreat at Davis Mountain State Park on the 3rd through 5th of October than the September date published earlier so we’ll go with it. If you are thinking of coming and staying at Indian Lodge in the park (rather than in a tent or RV), it would be good to get that information to Greg Clark who is coordinating our plans. More information can also be found in the packets on the table as you enter church. This is a wonderful opportunity to invite friends who would enjoy a relaxing weekend away and the opportunity to be encouraged in their faith.

You are also cordially invited to a Men’s Luncheon tomorrow (Tuesday at 11:45am) at the Jubilee Center. The twice monthly lunches are attended by several of the men from All Saints as well as men from other congregations around Midland. The purpose is to build friendships and enjoy some great West Texas cooking. The menu includes fajitas (beef-pork-chicken) with all the fixin’s, homemade beans and dessert.   Jubilee Center is located at 3311 Andrews Highway, just west of the church.

Talk has also begun concerning a women’s retreat in January or February. See Melissa McCarty, Teresa Sheppard or Marianne Finnie to join in the planning.

Scripture of the Week: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that ourjoy may be complete.” 1st John 1:1-4

As always, if you are in need of pastoral care, please do feel free to call me at 432-853-2751.

Your fellow servant,

Fr. Tom

June 18, 2014

Dear Friends,

A stray kitten wandered into our lives last week. Or, more precisely, a stray kitten wandered onto church property last week and Sarah, always a softie for anything with pointy ears and a long tail, scooped her up and brought her home. Given her size and the earnestness of her meow, I am certain that she is not much more than six weeks old. And, in spite of our temptation to add a fourth cat to the mix, we’re going to give her away. Already have someone interested, but we will keep you in mind if it falls through :-).

You can learn a lot from the strays that cross your path. They come expecting little and are abundantly grateful to be included in your life. That goes for people too. I have become more and more convinced that people (most people anyway) choose friends and churches based on who shows the most interest. A person (or stray kitten) who has become accustomed to being ignored lights up when someone else takes notice. We might like to think that great music, engaging preachers and clean, safe nurseries are what draws people to churches. But I think that it very often really comes down to relationships. If you just show some interest, some genuine interest, the strays who come through the church door will adopt us. And it is always a two way street. We start out by sharing a bit of ourselves with them and soon find that this newcomer is a wonderful blessing to us.

Always be ready to welcome someone new into your life—especially if it is a “chance” encounter. The Master’s plan is always to bring people together in loving and faith filled friendships. The Body of Christ grows whenever our hearts and arms are open to the “strays” who wander into our lives.

One liner of the week: “I used to think of myself as indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.” Unknown

As always, if you are in need of pastoral care, please do feel free to call me at 432-853-2751.

Your fellow servant,

Fr. Tom

June 11, 2014

Dear Friends,

What is it about summer that makes everything feel so different? Most of us work most of the summer but there is that wonderful anticipation of a little time away. Away from regular routines, away from the intense heat and, mostly, away from RESPONSIBILITY. Who would have thought that when we grew up there would be so much expected of us and so little time to do it? And yet, being responsible feels good too. It means we are needed, valued and trusted. It means that our actions count in this world and that others depend on us.

But we don’t always live up to our responsibilities, do we? Worse than that, sometimes we even rebel against the expected and revel, if just for a moment, in the thought that everyone else can be responsible while we take a siesta. And sometimes the consequences of just letting it all go can follow us for a long time afterward.

Jesus stepped into this world of responsibility to take ultimate responsibility for our sin. As Romans 5:8 says: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knows our frailties, heals our infirmities and dies for our iniquities. As we shed a bit of responsibility this Summer, know that Jesus is always at the Father’s right hand interceding for us and, through the Holy Spirit, making himself available to us in prayer. Often responsibility and privilege go hand in hand. Consider this: Jesus took ultimate responsibility for your sins so that you might enjoy the privilege of knowing his Father. Contemplate that on the beach or in the mountains or wherever you escape to this summer. Nothing is more refreshing to the heart than spending a little extra time with God.

One liner of the week: “When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.” Unknown

As always, if you are in need of pastoral care, please do feel free to call me at 432-853-2751.

Your fellow servant,

Fr. Tom

June 4, 2014

Dear Friends,

After the luncheon and parish meeting on Sunday, I had the privilege of visiting with one of our members about the reason he comes to church each week. He said “I go to church because it brings me peace inside and because it makes me a better person.” After I thought about it for awhile, I found myself agreeing with him entirely. Sure, we could add a lot of theology to that answer—things like “God deserves to be worshipped for who he is and what he has done in Christ” or “the gathered church is the chief sign of God’s kingdom in the world”—but, in the end, it’s really all about peace. Romans 5:1 says “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” You can feel that peace as you kneel in prayer or hear God’s word or sing one of the great hymns. The peace we feel in church is, in fact, the Peace of God. And who would doubt that God’s word challenges us to lead better lives? We all have a long way to go in the perfection department but you can be confident that you are a better person for having been in fellowship than if you had not been. Come to church seeking peace and to become a better person. The Lord can do a lot with a willing heart!

This week’s item for Jubilee Center is MACARONI AND CHEESE. A favorite of the clients and very filling. Try getting creative. You can always find animal shapes, organic grains and a variety of brands. Bring a box or bring a case. Let’s be part of God’s kindness to the poor.

Consider coming to the Pastor’s Roundtable this Sunday evening. Our topic is “The Meaning of the Eucharist (Holy Communion)” through the eyes of the Anglican Reformers. We’ll discuss why the meaning of communion was such a big deal to them that they were willing to break communion with Rome (sounds kind of backwards, doesn’t it?). See the sign up sheet at the back of the church Sunday.

Our mid week Bible Study at the Oknefski’s takes up the Old Testament prophet Habbakuk this evening. Never heard of him? No worries, most of the Wednesday regulars haven’t either. Come and we’ll explore his message together!

As always, if you are in need of pastoral care, please do feel free to call me at 432-853-2751.

Your fellow servant,

Fr. Tom

May 27, 2014

Dear Friends,

Thanks to all who were able to attend our congregational meeting on Sunday. Conversation was thoughtful and focused on God’s future for us as a Christian family. Since so many were travelling this past weekend, we will be holding another congregational meeting this coming Sunday. Bishop Mark Zimmerman will be with us and we will also share a light lunch before the meeting itself begins.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the role of forgiveness among Christians. Genuine forgiveness is a scary concept for many of us because it begins with judgment. In order to forgive another, you must first conclude that the other has sinned against you. And, quite often, your own sin in mixed in with the sin of the other and the whole thing just gets a bit overwhelming. So instead of forgiving, we might look for others who will be offended for us so that we can be affirmed in our feelings. Believe me, I’ve been there before. Maybe you have too.

But what does it mean to really forgive? True forgiveness involves releasing the other person from the obligation to heal the wound the he or she has caused in you. It is always easier to forgive when we hear the other say “I’m sorry” but we don’t often get that opportunity. Most of our forgiving happens whether or not the other acknowledges fault or responds by forgiving us. Like Jesus when he prayed “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing,” we choose to release others from paying for their sins simply for love’s sake. At first, it can feel pretty unsatisfying to forgive someone who doesn’t “deserve it,” but, in the long run, it sets us free to enjoy our Christian relationships and grow even deeper in fellowship.

This past fall, the Vestry discussed once again the meaning of Matthew 18:15-17. While the kind of genuine forgiveness just described will bring healing to most of the daily wounds we receive at the hands of others, sometimes a more direct accountability will necessary if the relationship is to be preserved or the sinner helped. This is the purpose Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18. I have attached a copy of a brief paper about this prepared for last October’s Vestry meeting. You may find it to be a helpful guide if simply forgiving without engaging the other is not a reasonable option for you.

Please note that the Pastor’s Roundtable has been moved to Sunday, June 8th at 6:30pm.

As always, if you are in need of pastoral care, please do feel free to call me at 432-853-2751.

Your fellow servant,

Fr. Tom

May 20, 2014

Dear Friends,

Often we wonder what effect the church is having on our kids. When they fidget in the pews or ask to go to the bathroom for the second time, it does cause us to ask “Is anything getting through?” What a joy it is, then, to receive feedback from our younger members about something said in the pulpit or prayed at the altar. This past Sunday, Michael Brenner presented me with the sum of his reflections on my message in doodle form (see attachment!).   He heard me talking about the journey to “find” ourselves so he envisioned a boat on the sea with a great wave crashing against it. While I spoke of us as “living stones” being built into a spiritual house (1st Peter 2:5), Michael drew a great stone castle with each of us as an integral part. He is a promising young artist but, more than that, he has the eyes of faith and a heart that is teachable. May God bless him and all of our young people as they grow in grace and maturity among us.

Many thanks to everyone who made our luncheon in honor of Savannah Cantwell so beautiful and delicious. What a glorious occasion! This is us at our best when we support one of our own ready to step into the wider world. So many willing hands were involved and so much love was shared.

One liner of the week: “Did you know that dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the edge of the pool and throw fish?”

As always, if you are in need of pastoral care, please do feel free to call me at 432-853-2751.

Your fellow servant,

Fr. Tom

 

May 13, 2014

Dear Friends,

This coming Sunday we will enjoy a wonderful outdoor luncheon in the walled courtyard down the hallway to the left as you enter the front doors.  The occasion is the graduation of Savannah Cantwell, daughter of Robin and Kasey Vasicek.  Preparations are well underway and the whole church is invited to enjoy one another after church.Congratulations to Savannah and many thanks to all who have a hand in preparing for Sunday.

Jubilee Center is having its annual fundraiser golf tournament this coming Friday at Hogan Park Golf Course.  It’s not too late to sign up to play or to volunteer to serve behind the scenes.  Two table have also been reserved for the barbecue, music and auction beginning around 6:00pm.  There is even a petting zoo for the animal lovers among us! You need not volunteer or golf to take part.Contact Greg Clark, Director of Jubilee, for more information: 432-251-9000.

If you have a little time this week (6:00pm this evening or 4:00pm tomorrow), consider helping Marianne Finnie create the centerpieces for the tables at the dinner and auction.She works as a floral designer so you might even pick up a few tips for your own creative arrangements.Please do bring a glue gun and wire cutters if you have them.

One liner of the week: “The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”

As always, if you are in need of pastoral care, please do feel free to call me at 432-853-2751.

Your fellow servant,

Fr. Tom