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Crown the Year with Bounty

Just these lines, my friends …

… to say that this past Sunday (Sunday after Christmas) is traditionally known as “low” Sunday. It is one of those Sundays of year when every pastor fears no one will show up. But show up you did … and I was delighted. Here is how I closed my sermon: “Life truly is what you/we make it. And it’s a matter of focus. Do we concentrate on good or evil – kindness or bitterness – glass half full or half empty? As the old saying goes: “Life is ten percent circumstance and ninety percent perspective.” The only way, I think, to find the right perspective – and thus to make life purposeful and meaningful in 2018 – is to follow the guidance of the Apostle Paul. It may be the most important counsel he ever offered: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) You can watch the entirety of my message here.

Watch Night Service
How was your New Year’s Eve? Karen and I, for the second year in a row, shared it with our friends from the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in their Watch Night Service.

Watch Night Service in the Black Church in America symbolizes the historical fact that during the Civil War on the night of Dec. 31, 1862, free and freed blacks living in the Union States gathered at churches and/or other safe spaces, while thousands of their enslaved black sisters and brothers stood, knelt and prayed on plantations and other slave holding sites in America — waiting for President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation into law. The Emancipation Proclamation legally recognized that the Civil War was fought for slavery.

One hundred and fifty-five years later, African American Christians continue the faith tradition of their enslaved ancestors and gather at a designated meeting space to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. They are the survivors of a people who were defined in the U.S. Constitution as three-fifths human, shackled in chains and denied the right to vote. It is a tradition in the Black Church in America that five minutes before midnight, men, women and children will kneel, hold hands and pray to God from the present year into the New Year.

I thank God for our deep and abiding partnership with our friends from Mt. Moriah. You might even want to join us next year for New Year’s Eve.

An Image from the Psalms
I came across a beautiful image in the Psalms which I have never noticed before. (The Bible always has something new and fresh to say to us.) It’s in Psalm 65, and it seems perfect for the turning of the year. The Psalmist praises the God and says, “You make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy. You crown the year with your bounty and your wagon tracks overflow with richness.” (Psalm 65:8, 11) I love the imagery of the “gateways of the morning and evening” and “wagon tracks overflowing with richness.”

Here we are closing out one year and beginning a new one. Here we are, looking back over a year which has been filled with so much tragedy, disillusionment and deceit…and we wonder if there is any hope for a happy new year.

And yet, if you look back, you can also see the wagon tracks where signs of God’s richness can be found. If you look closely you can find the evidence of God’s faithfulness in spite of our failure. If you believe in a God who transcends the angry rhetoric of hate, divisive politics and the trauma of conflict and suffering in our world, you can still find the places where God has crowned the year with bounty. To believe in that kind of God gives confidence for the future and hope for the New Year.

In this New Year 2018, may the gateways of the morning and evening shout for joy, may your wagon tracks overflow with richness and may God crown your year with bounty.

Financial Peace University
I’m thinking Financial Peace University (FPU) could be “a gateway of the morning and evening shout for joy” in 2018 for you. It all starts on January 10, 6:30 pm, and it is as easy as registering here. The class will also be offered at Wesley United Methodist Church. Click here to register for the Wesley UMC class beginning on January 16, 7 pm. Learn more about FPU by watching this short film.

Important Dates for 2018
The New Year brings some exciting, enriching and challenging experiences for us at Matthews United Methodist. I hope you will participate in these deepening opportunities for you and yours. Please be sure to check the dates below and put an “X” on the calendar:

  • January 14-15: The Martin Luther King Weekend will feature a peaceful march from the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church to the steps of our Matthews Town Hall. We will gather on Sunday afternoon, January 14, 2 pm at the Mt. Moriah Church. Then on Monday, January 15, at the Mt. Moriah Church, we will share in a fellowship breakfast (8:30 am to 9:45 am) along with a commemorative worship service (10 am). I have the great privilege of preaching that morning.
  • January 27: The Leadership Connection is our annual time for Matthews United Methodist leaders to reset for the New Year. We’ll gather from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.
  • January 28: Global Impact with Jena Lee Nardella. I hope you will have read her book One Thousands Wells by the time she arrives. It is a great read about a remarkable young woman. She is helping to kick off our annual Global Impact Celebration (January 28, February 4, February 11).
  • February 12, 7 pm, The Sanctuary: We continue our “Healthy Conversations” about The United Methodist Church and “A Way Forward.” This night of conversation will include a bit of a debate format on “LGBTQ+ Matters and The United Methodist Church” between two outstanding United Methodist pastors, Jeff Patterson and Rev. Paul Butler.
  • February 14: Ash Wednesday/First Day of Lent with Daniel Corpening, Director of Field Education at Duke Divinity School and a child of Matthews United Methodist. We will gather in the Sanctuary at 7 pm for this moving service of worship that will include the Imposition of Ashes.
  • February 18: High Point University Chamber Choir, 11 am Service – This outstanding ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Marc Foster, will sing several selections in the 11 am worship hour on this first Sunday of Lent.
  • February 20: Right here at Matthews United Methodist, 7 pm in The Commons will be our 4th Community Forum on Racial Bridge Building featuring a number of our newly elected community leaders.

I’m looking forward to seeing you on Sunday. In our Centro Cristiano Hosanna (CCH), Pastor Roldan will be preaching from Joshua 3 and his theme will be Following a Single Direction. We will also have eight new members joining. Pastor Corey will begin to give direction to 801South and Pastor Paul will preach for us in the Sanctuary.

Do you know how grateful I am to be your pastor?

With profound gratitude,

Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II
Chuck@MatthewsUMC.org

Did you know that Jeanette Winslow, former Preschool Director for University City UMC Preschool, shared a motivational devotion for our MUMC Weekday Preschool teachers during their spring semester kick-off event?

Did you know that our 4 pm Christmas Eve Worship was streamed live on YouTube? We had 29 views on the live video feed. Thanks to Shane Hall, our Worship Production Director, for making this possible.

Did you know that Matthews UMC provided warmth and shelter for 14 homeless men through Room In The Inn this past Sunday evening? Visit Serve Now on the newly updated GlobalImpactMUMC.org to volunteer or link to a list of items needed for donation.

Did you know JJ Twer’s Annual Scarf Project served the Uptown Men’s Shelter and the Salvation Army Center of Hope Women’s and Children’s shelter this Christmas Eve? 63 volunteers distributed: 1,600+ scarves, hats, gloves, and coats; 350 $5-McDonald’s gift cards; 100 hand warmers; and 5 gallons of coffee and chocolate milk! Global Impact, Stephen Ministry, Sunday School Classes and many families from the congregation all supported the efforts.