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The posts below were submitted and curated by members of our congregation as part of the Lenten Devotional 2022. This year, our Lenten devotionals feature written, visual and digital submissions from members of the St. Thomas community about their varied experiences, and struggles, with the seven deadly sins and their corresponding virtues. Our...

The posts below were submitted and curated by members of our congregation as part of the Lenten Devotional 2022. This year, our Lenten devotionals feature written, visual and digital submissions from members of the St. Thomas community about their varied experiences, and struggles, with the seven deadly sins and their corresponding virtues. Our hope is that by sharing our experiences we will encourage one another to draw closer to Christ.

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Seeking a More Virtuous Life

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
– James 4:8

As I was growing up, I was taught that we are all sinners and that choosing sinful behaviors are bad choices. No argument there. However, there was rarely a discussion about the long-term impacts of those sinful choices being bad for us. The focus was that I was wrong because I chose to do bad things, not that those things were bad for me. Mincing words? Perhaps, but it downplayed the positive results from virtuous choices. If we could truly believe in the goodness in our lives that would result from virtuous choices, why would we choose otherwise? Is it simply a desire for short term gratification? Our impulses or short-term outlook might be a component of choices for some of the deadly sins. Think wrath. However, that is too simplistic as there is a long-term component to all of these harmful behaviors. Are pride and greed always spontaneous behaviors? Sloth and envy seem to thrive on a long time frame. While we may choose these behaviors in moments of weakness, their staying power cannot simply be written off as results of impulsive or spontaneous choices.

One personally relatable explanation I’ve found for continuing to choose sinful behavior is James 4:8. The verse is not simply a command - “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts,...” James provides an explanation as to why I continue to choose sin, “…you double-minded”, defined as sometimes choosing to live according to worldly wisdom and at other times trying to live according to God’s wisdom. We see plenty of messaging that provides us justification, rationalization and/or encouragement to pursue worldly wisdom. Worldly wisdom also seems to trend toward accepting and enabling harmful or destructive behaviors rather than helping and encouraging us to avoid, resist, or overcome. As a result, making virtuous choices can be difficult, but God’s wisdom is always there to help us if we choose to listen. James even starts verse 8 with that encouragement. “Come near God and he will come near to you.” That is good for us. Apparently, I need to get moving.

About Dave Rea
Dave and Kathy started attending St Thomas at the Westmoreland campus. Dave is currently leading the Building and Grounds committee and prefers using tools over attending meetings.

Greed

“Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’” — Hebrews 13:5

Please read: Matthew 26:15; 1 Timothy 6:9-10; Luke 22:35; Luke 18:18-29; Matthew 19:21-24; Luke 12:15; 2 Corinthians 9:7

In the book Sinning Like A Christian, the author, William H. Willimon, writes that Biblical scholars have attempted to identify the motive for Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. Was Judas, “desperate to court the favor of temple authorities.” Was he a “revolutionary?” The author states that it was not “some high-flown theological principle. It was the money” (pages 95/96). Judas ... went to the authorities, and handed over his best friend to death” (page 110). For this act, Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver.

Was Judas motivated by money? We may never know. We do know he took the money and betrayed Jesus. We certainly could never imagine possibly betraying Jesus. As people committed to Christ, we are devoted to Him. However, this is a powerful Bible story that speaks to one of the 7 Deadly Sins, Greed.

Greed can be described as a selfish and excessive desire for more of something such as money, possessions or power. How do we measure up? Are we consumed with Greed? Do we seek more of everything?

Lent is a time for reflection and preparation. Therefore, this may be a good moment to consider what Jesus taught us about Greed. The Bible has a number of passages about Greed. For example, Luke 12:15 – Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Perhaps this Lenten Season is a good moment to pause and take a Greed check. How do our needs compare to our desires or wants? We don’t know about you but in our household we have too much stuff. There are multiple storage bins that fill the garage and closets. It’s a lot. Quite frankly we have more stuff than we will ever need or use. During our current sermon series, Pastor Abi has been talking with us about the 7 Deadly Sins and being virtuous. The virtue for Greed is Generosity. How can we as Christians do better balancing our needs and our wants to get to Generosity? See 2 Corinthians 9:7.

What can we do to be more generous with our time, talents, money and other resources? All are encouraged to consider this. We suggest it starts with prayer.

Prayer: Our Father, we take this time, to ask for your guidance on all things life. We know that Jesus is here with us. We pray that we can have the strength to do the right thing and lean toward Generosity and away from Greed. It is not easy. We ask that Greed not get in the way of our faith journey. We seek Generosity and ask that you take us down this path. In Christ name. Amen.

About Barry Barnard
Barry and Debbie Barnard are long-time members of St. Thomas UMC.

Generosity and a Grudging Heart

“Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” – Deuteronomy 15:10,NIV

When I was a volunteer at the food pantry, I remember there was a person that would come to get food; she was always one of the last to go through, and she always asked if she could take more than what was being offered. Anything and everything that was “extra” she wanted. I remember getting annoyed that she always wanted more.

When COVID forced us to move to a drive-thru distribution, we had to change many of our old practices. We could no longer allow people to come up and go through the extra boxes of produce so I thought, “at least we won’t have that problem anymore.”

We were at the end of distribution, 11:30 came around and I walked out to set a cone at the end of the line. At the end of the day, you have to walk that cone because the line continues to move. This particular day, she was the last car in line and I admit I dreaded having to be there because I just knew that she was going to ask me for more and I felt that I had a “grudging heart.”

As I walked the line, she and I chatted and she started to tell me her story. The fact that she came as a refugee, that she has children with disabilities, that she has a PhD, that she ran an orphanage, that she goes into homeless camps and feeds as many people as she can, and so much more.

Listening to her, to all the hardship she has lived through, I could not help but notice that our stories have many similarities. Through it all, we focus on the fact that God has blessed us in so many ways and that he has made it possible for us to bless others. I thank God every day that I am at a church that gives generously -- that I was led to this church as a volunteer and that I found a church family that supports me and helps me reach, nourish, and serve the community.

About Jhenny Michalek
Jhenny is the Director of our Food Pantry and sings in the Praise Band. She is a first-generation immigrant from El Salvador and is happily married to Frank, and they have four (almost adult) children.

I Like Giving

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
– 1 Timothy 6:17-18

Some people measure greatness by the money they take home and some people put their hope in wealth. However, I am hoping to live my life valuing many things above money. Riches themselves are not necessarily evil, but the value we place on them can lead to our undoing. We need to learn to put our hope in God instead.

To counteract greed, we need to learn to become generous. I read a book a few years ago called I Like Giving by Brad Formsma. I always thought of myself as a decent giver, but reading this book showed me a lot of ways that I could improve my giving and gave me some unique ideas I had not thought of before. The book provides several stories of when someone gave something to someone monetarily or through their time. It also includes some studies about happiness and explains that people were generally happy when they gave, even if it was a small amount rather than kept for themselves. One of my favorite lines in the book is "When you give to others and they seem to waste it, it's discouraging, but loving someone else never goes to waste. Of course, if you feel your generosity is being abused or wasted, then it is good and right to reevaluate. If it is a stranger, then continue on your way. If it is a family member or someone in your community, give the gift of forgiveness, and allow it to inform your wisdom for future giving, but don't stop giving. Don't let one or two bad experiences rob you of the joy." I think that I am reluctant to give sometimes because I am worried someone will spend money on something that I would not necessarily spend money on. This book helped realize that the act of giving is a form of love and no matter what happens I should continue to give. If you are looking for something new to try when it comes to giving, check this book out from the library.

Prayer: Dear God, Continue to show us in our daily life how to be more generous with others and to put our hope in you rather than material things. Amen.

About Melissa Hall
Melissa became a member of St. Thomas UMC four years ago. She is married to Nathan and they have a four-year-old daughter named Everly.

GREED – Chapter 6 “Sinning Like A Christian”

Over the years, Biblical scholars have offered a variety of motives for Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, but was it anything more than Greed? Was it Judas who was in charge of the finances and was it Judas who rebuked the use of the valuable oil that anointed Jesus when it could have been sold? Greed keeps us wanting more and more whether it’s money or some other desire.

Bishop Willimon says, “Considered along with some of the other Seven Deadly Sins, Greed is one of those self-evidently bad sins.” He uses Charles Dickens’s character Scrooge to show “the solitary, self-centered nature of Greed.” Like Scrooge Greed causes us to be in competition with others and ultimately leads us to that solitary existence. When is enough, well, enough? How do we judge when we have enough money or enough things? How much “stuff” do we need to be happy?

As with the other sins we’ve looked at, Greed is linked to idolatry. It becomes the false god that claims our wrong worship. In this chapter, James Ogilvy is quoted as saying, “Greed turns love into lust, leisure into sloth, hunger into gluttony, honor into pride, righteous indignation into anger, and admiration into envy. If it weren’t for greed, we would suffer fewer of the other devices.” It can be an easy slide from a good level of desire to a consuming state of need.

This is difficult in our world where status is constantly thrown at us through those enticing ads that tell us we need these clothes or that car or that job, etc. Willimon tells us that we need to learn “how to want the right things in the right way and the right proportions.” We need to recognize when enough is enough.

On page 112 we find these words: “What good does all of this reflection on sin do us? Not much, unless we have some sense of the possibility of sanctification, some sense that it might be possible, in knowing ourselves better, with God’s help, to be better.”

Submitted by Lay Leaders

Wrath & Mercy

“There is no one righteous, not even one;there is no one who understands."
— Romans 3:10-11

“The law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.”
— Romans 4:15

God’s wrath is righteous. We are exhorted to be slow to anger because our wrath is not righteous. But we need to be careful, and look to Christ as the example. We are not to hold anything against anyone but forgive as the Lord has forgiven us. We can start by praying daily for those who have wronged us. Our heart softens and we can love even the unlovable. They truly need Jesus, too.

If we harbor hate in our hearts, we are no better than a killer is. We are to love, as Christ loved and forgave us from the cross. We must also stand up for the Word of God. We can hate the sin without hating the sinner. When we became members of the church, we stated that we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We cannot pick and choose which parts to live by. We are to be a Christly example to the world so the Lord will continue to bless us, His church.

Sin can snowball as with King David and Bathsheba. David looked with lust, that led to adultery which, when exposed, then led to murder. After deep repentance God restored him but not without consequences. We struggle with anger and need to forgive others and ourselves. Like King David, we cry out for mercy to the only one who can heal, forgive and restore us. And God gives us every chance to turn back to Him and away from our sinning.

Jesus was the ultimate portrayal of God’s mercy. He satisfied the obligation of the law as the sinless sacrifice on the cross. John 3:16 tells us that by sending us his son, God revealed the perfect act of mercy for those who believe.

How can we serve God showing mercy and compassion? He wants us to honor Him with good service. There are many ways: feeding the hungry, offering clothing, shoes, ministering to the homeless, assistance for the needy, prayers, phone calls and sharing our faith. Faith without works is dead. Let us be the hands and feet of Christ, and progress from people of wrath to people of service. Love as He first loved us.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we have unrighteous anger and hold resentment: heal us from this. Help us to love and serve in this world showing the love of Jesus as we go. Thank you for being our advocate and intercessor – for your divine mercy and forgiveness. In Jesus’ name. Amen

About Mary Petrilla
Mary Petrilla is a faithful member of the Chancel Choir

Lord, Receive My Anger

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
– James 1:19-20

In reading the chapter entitled "Anger" in Bishop William H. Willimon's "Sinning Like a Christian," one part really hit home for me.

He writes about how anger "is a natural, necessary response in the face of injustice." That anger, he says, "should be expressed, preferably in church, in prayer, in conversation with God."

As hard as I try to stay-mild mannered, I'm tempted to get angry on a near-daily basis about issues big and small. I know I don't want to keep things bottled up or to let injustices go unchecked, but I also don't want to match anger with anger.

In hopes of expressing my anger in a constructive way, I looked for a prayer that might help. Any number of prayers are out there on the subject, but this is one I'll be using this Lenten season.

Prayer – Dear Lord, help me to be more like You at all times. Your Word states that every man should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath. Father help me to be patient instead of short-tempered; help me to not give in to anger because anger does not produce Your righteousness. I pray that I not only hear Your Word, but also do it so that I can be blessed in all that I do, Amen

About Lacy Lusk
Lacy is the husband of senior pastor Abi Foerster and father of 16-year-old Levi. He serves on the communications committee. Their family loves attending sporting events, movies, concerts and plays.

Wrath and Mercy

“Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated- it can only bring harm.” Psalms 37:8 (CSB) - Psalms 37:8

I am a fiery person. I usually blame it on the fact that I am part Italian or that I am short and need to be louder than the next person. Either way, my anger comes out from time to time, and it seems as if the smog consumes me when it does.

Throughout life, I have found myself in many situations where I have been fueled by anger. It would change my mood, my demeanor, my outlook of the day. Every time I would get angry, I would stay angry almost all day. What was the point of wasting a day because I was angry? Was it worth it? Not really. In Psalms 37:8, it says “it can only bring harm.” Staying angry all day helped nothing. I only hurt myself because instead of enjoying my day and who I was with or the area I was in, I was just angry. I dwelled on whatever made me angry, like it would actually help me not be angry.

Anger does not help anger. If you are angry all the time, the only person you end up hurting is yourself. It is you who can choose to be angry, or you can show mercy in whatever the situation is; only you can make your situation better. Mercy will always shine a brighter light than wrath. In Philippians 4:6-7 it says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I believe the same can be done when you are angry. Give your troubles to God, let go, and experience mercy.

About Teresa Johnson
She has been part of St. Thomas for three years. She is the assistant director of the food pantry. She's married with two beautiful boys.

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42 NIV

The familiar story of Martha and Mary has taken me many places over the years. Today, I am examining through the lens of Wrath and Mercy. On occasion, I enjoy hosting friends and family in our home. As a wife and mother who has always worked outside the home, it is often a struggle to get things “just right” before everyone arrives. I also struggle with perfectionism, so I’m often exhausted and frazzled before the guests come through my front door. I want to be a gracious hostess and make everyone feel comfortable and welcome; however, after so much time in the kitchen, I often don’t have much appetite for the food I prepared, nor do I have any energy left to enjoy myself.

Of the two women mentioned in this story, it is not surprising that I relate to Martha. She was the eldest of the two sisters and likely the manager of the household. In biblical times, it was unusual for a woman to manage her own affairs as the head of the household and likely even more uncommon for a woman to invite a man into her home. Hosting Jesus was the fullest form of hospitality and involved substantial generosity. I can’t even imagine the preparations that had to be made, all the shopping lists and details that had to be organized leading up to such an event.

Martha was most certainly feeling exhausted from all the preparations. I totally understand her exasperation, anger, and maybe even some mild “wrath” towards Mary for not jumping up to help. Martha’s plea to Jesus to have him make Mary help her was likely accompanied by feelings of not being recognized by Jesus for all the work and details that went into planning for his arrival. Meanwhile, there goes Mary sitting there at the feet of their honored guest relaxing and fully taking in the discussion while Martha was running around like a chicken with her head cut off trying her hardest to make everything “just right.”

The traditional roles for women in those times would have been the domestic duties of cooking, cleaning, and keeping the house. It certainly would not have been common as a woman to sit at the feet of a rabbi and learn from him. In Martha’s desire to be the perfect hostess, she experienced very high anxiety, hard feelings toward her sister and even an outburst towards Jesus! Had Martha calmly gone to Jesus as Mary sat at his feet, he likely would have advised her and helped her work things out with her sister instead of rebuking her.

In the end, we know that Mary got it right. She correctly prioritized the importance of sitting at the feet of Christ. Mary was not being lazy; she was merely making the right decision at that particular time. From this perspective, Christ would rather have me sitting at his feet learning to live as a true disciple (Mary) before I go out into the world performing acts of service in his name (Martha).

The daily work that I do for the Lord is good and important. Scripture states that God has prepared good works for me to do (Ephesians 2:10), and I will one day be rewarded for them. However, my work and witness for Him must be balanced with having a deeply personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. Knowing Jesus as my savior means that I have been forgiven by him and that he will have mercy on me, a sinner.

Prayer:
Lord, when I am upset, please help me control my emotions and never let my anger turn into wrath even when the house is a mess, homework isn’t done, and no one has a clue what’s for dinner. Help me to have patience with others even when I am tired or frustrated. Guide me in my spiritual walk so that I might sit at the feet of Christ immersing myself in His presence and ignoring all the other distractions. Help me to see that soaking in Your presence is indeed the "only one thing that is needed." Let me give the gift of mercy to others as Christ has given it unto me.

About Lora Ometz
Lora Ometz and her husband, David, have been members of St. Thomas since 2000. Lora currently serves as a Liturgist at the 11 a.m. service but has served in many roles throughout the church since becoming a member. She enjoys family time, long walks, audiobooks, and all types of music. She is a pharmacist at Kaiser Permanente, but her favorite job is being a mother to Rachel and Daniel.

Musical Meditation on Grace

Today, Dominick Izzo shares Hebrews 4:16 and offers the gift of music while we take just a few minutes to meditate on God's word.

Submitted by Dominick Izzo

ANGER – Chapter 4 “Sinning Like A Christian”

“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” — Psalms 37:8

Much of the bad that happens in the Bible occurs as a byproduct of Anger. Anger can be directed at others or other situations, or it can also be directed inward. Willimon considers Anger one of the most self-delusional and destructive, usually self-destructive and potentially violent, of the Seven Sins (p. 70).

But not all anger is bad. Willimon states that much of the greatest good work in the world is through Anger, and that can’t be said about any of the other Seven Sins. Anger is a natural, necessary response in the face of injustice. It is an acknowledgment that this is not the world as it is meant to be, not the world as God intended. (pp. 62 & 66).

So, what distinguishes “good” anger from “bad” anger? If the response to anger is to work to change an injustice or improve a situation without dispensing punishment, then that anger can be “good”.

When anger is coupled with punishment or vengeance, then the anger is “bad”. This form of Anger is often referred to as Wrath. Anger/Wrath can cause us to want to avenge a wrong. But God says in Deuteronomy 32:35 that “Vengeance is mine” and in Romans 12:17 Paul says “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to God…”. Anger can make us feel that we need to punish the perpetrator of the injustice or situation. When we retaliate, especially violently, we step in as God; we decide we know best how to handle the situation. We make ourselves God. This is what makes Anger a sin.

Willimon reminds us that Anger should be expressed, preferably in church, in prayer, in conversation with God (p. 66).

Prayer: Lord, bring peace to my mind and my heart whenever I feel angry about a situation. Help me remember your promise that you will never leave me nor forsake me. When you are with me I will trust you to fight my battles, I do not need to allow anger to take control. Give me your peace Father, may it rule over my life. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Submitted by Lay Leaders

We Are Strong Enough to Use Our Gifts

We Are Strong Enough to Use Our Gifts

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. — Matthew 5:14-16

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching us many things about living in the Kingdom of God. These particular verses remind us that once we accept the word of God, we show our love and gratitude by living that word and sharing it with others to glorify the Father.

When we come to Christ, or when we have had one of those ‘mountain top’ experiences, we seek every opportunity to share our wonder and awe at the power and grace of God. We join Bible studies, we serve in the ministries of the church, and we practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer and worship.

But life happens. Work, family obligations, and busy schedules can creep up on us and get in the way of our devotional time. Our acts of service never seem to be enough to make a real difference. Our witness seems to go unheard. Nothing ever seems to be enough; we can’t solve ‘everything’ so we lose interest, overwhelmed with the work. We stop using our gifts to glorify God.

This is the sin of sloth – failing to do what we should do; either neglecting acts of service or an absence of interest in our spiritual disciplines. The sin takes root when we think it all depends on our own inadequate strength – forgetting to turn to God who is our strength. Like Peter, we only start to sink when we take our focus off of Christ.

However, if we renew our focus, when we are diligent in practicing the spiritual disciplines, then we find a new sense of wonder and we increase our dependence on the Spirit. This is when the Spirit can really work within us and with us to produce good fruit for the glory of God.

Prayer: Lord, remind me daily to keep my focus on you. Remind me that I am your hands and feet, but the work and the glory are yours. Amen.

About Pat Dodson
Pat Dodson continues to be a work in progress while facilitating a Sunday Bible study, leading the United Methodist Women and volunteering on Mondays in the church office.

Life's Battles

What, then, shall we say of these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? — Romans 8:31

Thomas Aquinas said, "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary; to one without faith, no explanation is possible."

We've all been through a lot in the last two years. Some of us have only dealt with minor inconveniences, some of us have faced horrendous challenges, some of us have suffered heart-wrenching losses. How has your faith been affected by what you have been through?

I recently heard: "God doesn't give the hardest battles to the toughest soldiers; He creates the toughest soldiers through life's hardest battles." Don't allow your relationship with God to be negatively impacted. Turn to Him, be strong in the Lord, and turn to His Word. Read the book of Psalms. You'll find David experienced tremendous heartache, but always turned to God. You can vent your anger, sorrow, frustrations. You can yell at God. It's okay. He's God. He can handle it. Just don' t run away from His immense love for you, the healing and comfort only He can give.

I pray your faith will become a source of strength that will never falter, that what you have endured through life's experiences will prepare you for anything and everything the future may hold. All of us face uncertain futures. We have no idea what may lie in store tomorrow. Whatever it may be, you can face it because you've become stronger in your faith because of what you have faced in the past, whether because of Covid or because of other trials and struggles in your life. Whatever you do, please don't ever turn away from God. That's the absolute worst thing you could do because He is the source of your strength. God is using those things to turn you into a tough soldier to face all that the future holds. Be strong in the Lord.

Prayer: Holy God, Loving Father - You know the struggles we face each day. May the strength of our faith encourage others to be strong in You. In Jesus' holy name. Amen

About Jane Amstutz
Jane sings in the chancel choir and is St. Thomas’ prayer chain facilitator, among many other things..

Peach Pie

The Kids Care 2 tweens group shares a dramatic interpretation of the story of Mary and Martha.

Transcript

Athenae: Through the following dramatic performance, the members of the Kids Care 2 Tweens Group will discuss fortitude and sloth from a modern perspective related to the story of Mary and Martha. Hard work is important, and God wants us to persevere. He also wants us to rest and enjoy the company of each other.

Teddy: And whatever you do, whether in the world or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God and the Father through him.

Robbie: Hi, I'm Robbie and today I have a really great...

Narfie: Robbie! Robbie! You are not going to believe this!

Robbie: Calm down Narfie.

Tell me, what's the matter.

Narfie: I am calm! You should have seen me when I was really upset!

Robbie: What's wrong?

Narfie: I'm trying to tell you if you would listen and stop interrupting.

Robbie: Sorry.

Narfie: It's my sister, Marfie! She is impossible! Im-possible I tell you! I've never seen anyone like her!

Robbie: Your sister's name is Marfie?

Narfie: Yes! Now what does that have to do with anything?

Robbie: Nothing, just that Narfie and Marfie... it's kind of cute.

Narfie: Don't you care that I am so upset now listen to what she did.

Robbie: Ok, Sorry, Narfie.

Marfie: Now, our great grandma came to visit. She is 87 years old and she has lots of great stories and she always gives us great big hugs.

Carly: Wow. She sounds like a great grandmother.

Marfie: I just said she IS my great grandmother.

Carly: No, I mean she sounds like a GREAT grandmother! Like, you know, she's a lot of fun to be with.

Narfie: She is. I love it when she comes to town. And I always work very hard to make her favorite dessert, peach pie with extra pecans. She loves it!

Robbie: Mmmm... Sounds good!

Narfie: It is! That's why I'm so upset.

Carly: Why? You wanted it to be gross instead of tasty? I think you need to back up a little.

Is that better?

Robbie: No, Narfie. I mean back up to the beginning of your story about the peach pie and your Great Grandma.

Marfie: Great Grandma and I were sitting at the table and Grandma was telling one of her best stories and it was one we had never heard but Narfie didn't get to hear much of it!

Narfie: Because I was too busy, slaving away making a wonderful peach pie with extra pecans for Great Grandma and us. I started getting really, really mad because Marfie was doing nothing but just sitting and listening to Grandma! The last straw was when Marfie was laughing so hard at Grandma's story she almost fell out of her chair.

Robbie: The last straw? What did you do?

Narfie: I walked over to grandma and said, "Listen! I've been working all morning on this pie! All Marfie does is sit and listen to you and laugh! I have HAD IT! Grandma will you please tell her to quit being so lazy and help me with the pie!"

Robbie: What did she say?

Great Grandma: I said,"Narfie, Narfie, Narfie. Why do you always have to be so busy. I don't visit all that often and when I do, Marfie always sits down and listens to my stories. Meanwhile you are always running here and there trying to make everything just perfect for me. I would rather not have a pie to eat and get to spend more time with you. I won't always be here, after all.

Robbie: Wow. How did you feel after she said that?

Marfie: She didn't have time to feel anything. She ran over here to tell you about it. What does it all mean?

Robbie: Well it just means that she would rather have you than the pie. She wants to spend time with you instead of you doing things for her and getting all upset and worried about them turning out just perfect. This reminds me of Mary and Martha in the Bible!

Carly: What happened to them? Did it involve pie?

Marfie: I know that one. Mary and Martha were sisters. Jesus came to visit them around dinner time. While Martha was running around trying to make a perfect dinner, Mary sat on the floor and listened to Jesus teach. Martha complained to Jesus and Jesus told her that Mary had the right idea and that she was enjoying His company instead of trying to work to please Him with a fancy dinner.

Narfie: That sounds familiar. I think I need to go home and sit and talk with Marfie and my Great Grandma. She is going home tomorrow.

Robbie: Sounds like a good idea. Then tonight, before you go to sleep, you can spend a little time talking with Jesus. You can pray to Him.

Narfie: That sounds great! But does Jesus like Peach pie?

Teddy: Let us pray.

Ryan: Dear God, thank you for giving us Jesus to show us how to live the way you want us to. Guide us to work hard in service of you, but also to take time to love and spend time with those around us. Let us all work in your name, but also let us enjoy and relax in your name. In your whole name we pray, Amen.

Disciple Who Did What She Could

3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Mark 14:3-9

(Mark 14:3-9) Jesus said, 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.

Arising out of self-pity, Sloth is indifference to God’s call to love and serve Him and others.

On the other hand, Fortitude is strength of character and spirit that empowers one to endure adversity with God-given courage and purpose.

On October 26, 2020, in the midst of COVID and civil unrest in our nation, city officials unveiled a beautiful bronze statue of Jennie Dean on the grounds of the former Manassas Industrial School. The former slave, visionary and educator leans forward, offering her hand.

Like Mary, whose daring fortitude the Lord Jesus commended, Jennie is one who did what she could. After the civil war, she became a domestic laborer in D.C. God instilled in Jennie the fortitude to do her part to oppose poverty and other social ills of the day. She helped form faith in many children, starting Sunday schools and helping plant churches in the Manassas area.

But there was more. God gave Jennie the vision to found a residential school. The Manassas Industrial School would offer not only liberal arts and job skills, but would build core values of faith, discipline, hard work, and proven character.

Through many challenges, God connected Jennie with other people seeking to make a difference: those in the women’s suffrage movement, prominent publishers, visionaries and philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie. By faith, Jennie did what she could.

What can we do when slothful sins of indifference, self-pity and disobedience tempt us to shirk God’s call? Remember Mary, who dared to offer a costly sacrifice. Call to mind Jennie Dean. Ask for renewed fortitude, for strength of character and courage from God to do our part to oppose evil, injustice and oppression for the greater good.

Look with faith to the Lord Jesus, Who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. … (Hebrews12:1-3) Call on Jesus, our fortitude. He will empower us to live out our calling —-to do what we can.

About Pat B. Tony
Retired United Methodist pastor Pat B. Tony is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ whose heart’s desire is to influence others to trust and follow Him in discipleship. Pat and her husband Dean enjoy one granddaughter Natalie (6-year-old daughter of Julie and her husband Chris). They also appreciate working with international students, trail walking and serving wherever the Lord leads.

Perseverance

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. — James 1:12

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. — Romans 5:3-4

NASA selected the name of its latest Mars rover, Perseverance, in March of 2020, just before the closure of NASA facilities due to Covid-19. The selection was from a student essay contest. The contest winner, seventh-grade Alex Mather from Springfield, Virginia, wrote in part: “But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing. Perseverance. We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.”

Alex could not know how prescient his words were to be. Due to the closure of public facilities, NASA had to adapt to remote work. Lab technicians were only allowed to work on the vehicle one at a time. But, through a lot of creativity and extra effort, and most of all, perseverance, NASA met the launch date for Perseverance of July 30, 2020. There is only a very narrow window of time that a launch to Mars can occur; if we had missed that window, we would have had to wait another 18 months. At the launch, then NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine quoted Romans 5:3-4 after reading Alex’s essay.

July of 2020 was also a time of great upheaval in my spiritual life.. Earlier in the month, I had performed my final service to my previous Church, providing tech support for the funeral of a dear friend, our former head of trustees, after his long battle with throat cancer. I had felt increasingly out of communion with the new trustees and had made the painful decision to separate from that Church. Covid afforded little opportunity to find a new faith community, but I continued to read the Bible, focusing on the passages about Perseverance, and taking heart in the incredible character of my co-workers.

The “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would have said, you all know. My youngest son asked that we start attending church services in June of 2021, and we were welcomed with open arms by the St. Thomas congregation.

Prayer: Father, help us to persevere through those times of personal and spiritual challenges. Help us to know that these trials offer opportunities to build our character, and help us understand the hope offered through the death and resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ.

About Karl Becker
Karl and his youngest son Daniel are new members at St. Thomas. Karl has worked at NASA as a contractor employee for 12 years.

Spiritual Laziness

The sin of sloth does not refer to physical tiredness, fatigue or aversion to work, but rather to "spiritual laziness," a carelessness or lack of enthusiasm about the life of our soul, the love of God and the mission he has given us. It is a weariness or boredom of the soul that leads to despair.

Jesus summed up man's duties toward God in this saying: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind., and love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27)

When I reflect on this verse and I recount the course of my days and I see there are many times when distractions serve to steer my heart and my mind and my soul away from a God that loves me infinitely. There are moments when I allow sin to push me away from a God that only desires to share his divine life with me.

It is in these moments of reflection that I try to remember that faith is an action. It requires my attention and my effort. God does all the heavy lifting, but He does ask that I at least take a moment to choose Him over each of life's daily temptations. Without fail, every time I fill a void with an intentional act of faith rather than just letting life happen to me, He responds with an overwhelming spirit of love and a desire to share His good news with the world around me.

Holy Father, I pray that every part of me would reflect my desire to know you and to love you. Grant me the courage and the spiritual energy to actively choose you every moment of every day.

About William Coppa
William Coppa has attended St. Thomas since 1998. He is married to Debra Coppa and currently serves as one of the Lay Leaders.

Defeated by Lust // Defeating Lust

The most obvious story of lust in the Bible is that of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). David sees the very beautiful Bathsheba and decides that he wants her. Bathsheba becomes pregnant as a result of being with David. Upon learning of this, David calls for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, and his plans to make it seem that the baby is Uriah’s child. David sends him out to the battlefront into a position that leads to Uriah’s death. After Bathsheba’s time of mourning was over David had her moved into his house and married her.

2 Samuel 11:27b says “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.” In chapter 12, Nathan the prophet exposes David’s actions. The question asked in verse 9 is “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?” As a consequence of David’s actions, God brought illness and subsequently death to the child.

David’s household experienced hardships later on including the deaths of four other sons. We know that David repented and recovered favor with God. It’s interesting that in the New Testament David is mentioned but never concerning his relationship with Bathsheba. Even in a sinful situation such as David’s, God has a plan and in this one it is David and Bathsheba’s son, Solomon who becomes the heir to the throne.

We know that we will always face temptation so how do we defeat Lust? We have to make sure that our desires never become greater than the desire to submit to the way God says we must live. If unchecked, our desires lead us to serving ourselves at the expense of obeying God. Bishop William Willimon in his book “Sinning Like A Christian” (which some of us have been studying) says “The most important step in resisting Lust is thus the very first, that first baptismal step when we say, ‘God has created me for more. I say no!’”

Prayer: My God, give me strength to say “NO” when my worldly desires are greater than my desire to be close to You.

About the St. Thomas Lay Leaders
We’d like to thank our Lay Leaders for their dedication and care of our congregation

A Chaste Young Woman

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’

‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’

‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’” — Luke 1: 26-38

Mary is described as being chosen and favored to become the mother of the Son of God. She was confused as to how this would happen since she was a virgin, but she was grounded in her faith and knew that nothing is impossible for God. Unlike Zechariah, who doubted that his wife would become pregnant, Mary didn’t want any proof of what was to happen, she only asked how this would happen so that she could be obedient to God’s purpose for her. What an example of faith – to simply accept a message from God as truth!

About the St. Thomas Lay Leaders
We’d like to thank our Lay Leaders for their dedication and care of our congregation

God is Love

You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. — 1 Corinthians 6:13

The two years after my bride lost her battle with cancer are a total blur. Losing a loved one is never easy, but I was in no way prepared for this. I was 23 years old and had just been baptized and joined STUMC the previous year. In other words, I was in the infancy of my faith walk.

My heart was shattered by Lucy’s death. I looked for comfort but was left wanting. Don’t get me wrong: Some tried. Two of my VT friends took turns staying with me to ensure I was not alone the first few months.

My heart cried out to be loved. I had experienced a tremendous love with Lucy, which led me to feel not only her love but God’s love as well. Lucy’s love was stolen from me and I thought God’s love was taken too.

I spent those two years mistakenly trying to regain that feeling of love through physical relationships. This drove me further and further from any type of love especially God’s love. I felt empty during this period and nothing I did could satisfy my need to be loved until thankfully God put this wonderful Czech young lady in my path.

Lust, by definition, is an intense desire. The deadly sin we mainly talk about is sexual desire. The desire for sexual intimacy is not wrong in itself. God created us and gave us this desire. God gave us this desire to be used in marriage.

But lust took my mind and actions outside the boundaries God intended (i.e. marriage) after Lucy passed. Lust turned me away from the very thing I needed and desired most. The more I turned from love to lust, the more I turned away from God.

I was blessed that God placed Zuzana in my path to have us pursue our faith walks and life together. Through our love for each other, we intentionally pursued our relationship with God. In other words, God put these two flawed beings together to stumble down a jagged path to love for Him. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but together our love for each other and God continues to grow.

About Joe Steen
Joe is currently the Church Council Chair and a member of IGNITE. He is married to the lovely Mrs. Kalandrova-Steen. They have two awesome sons, Pavel and Milan.

Worship

We offer both in-person and livestream services on Sundays at 9 am (Traditional) and 11 am (Contemporary)  Please join livestream worship here: Worship Livestream Event 

Contact

St. Thomas UMC
8899 Sudley Road
Manassas, VA 20110
703-368-5161
info@stthomasumc.org 

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