A Message from Pastor Craig

Did you know that bears eat oranges? I didn’t until Janice looked it up on her phone on our last venture across State Rd. 70. Have you driven that way across the state? It’s an odyssey in Floricana (the spell checker didn’t like that word – you know what I mean: the Florida version of Americana).

You go through Indiantown (I know, it’s not on 70, but from here you have to go by it), and Okeechobee and Arcadia, which are all throwback towns of a more rural and simple life. They also express the modern realities of our country with the realities of farmworkers in our state, immigration issues and the like. They speak to the Florida of yesterday and today.

And then there’s just the vastness of the, I don’t know, prairie? The miles of open area are reminiscent of the Everglades, but it’s dry (for the most part, after all it is north of the lake). Driving amongst those pastures, and acres upon acres of sod farms and orange groves, Janice noticed this last time (we’ve been back and forth a lot over the last two months) a warning sign for bears. Bears?

I’ve seen bears in western New York. Walking on Janice’s family hunting grounds, I’ve come too close to them.  Driving around that area I’ve seen them on the road too. You stop for bears in the woods and on the highway. But in Florida?! Hence Janice’s google search. And yup, they eat oranges. And they’ve got just a couple of oranges out there on Rt. 70!

If the bears made me cringe a little, the cows made me laugh. Brahma bulls, brown cows (not the drink), and black cows dot many of the fields out there. I found many of them lying on the ground. I suppose if I had to be out in that heat, I would lie down too. The most settled ones lay in the ponds.  That’s what made me laugh.

If I had to drink from that water, I would not be happy that Bessy sat herself down in the “water bowl.” Think yellow water at the water park. The farmers have these huge blue pool-like containers to water their herds. I would drink from those things
exclusively once I saw one of my own in the pond!

As humans we know (save that one obnoxious kid in grade school) that it’s inconsiderate to just plop yourself down (so to speak) in the water like that. We know that water needs to be untroubled to be potable, and we know not to impose our
comfort on the needs of others. But it’s tempting sometimes, right? Sometimes our opinions, our will, our wants can crowd into the life of other people, and we have to choose what to do. As humans, we know not only what we can do, but what we ought to do. Sometimes those are two very different things. OK, maybe it’s not just sometimes. The apostle Paul flat out said in Romans 7:15 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” We know we ought not to do something, but we do it anyway.  We know we should do some things, and we don’t. Paul is kind to himself (and us) when he says he “doesn’t understand” his attitude. I’m afraid I do understand my own. My preference, my wants, too often trump what I know is right. Think of that big chocolate cookie sitting in the fridge – you know you shouldn’t add all that sugar to your body, but…

In that Romans text Paul talks about sin. When he wrote to his friend Titus, he encouraged everyone “to malign no one, and to be peaceable and gentle, showing full consideration to everyone” (Titus 3:2).  I think we can be completely counter-cultural if we were to show “full consideration to everyone.”  This is not what we see in American culture today.  And God has shown us a better way. Let’s try it. Let’s sit BY the pool, not IN the pool.

Flying along in my U-Haul,

Craig

 Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king as a friend. Proverbs 22:11 (NLT)

A Message from Pastor Craig

Boxes.  Boxes.  Boxes.  Boxes still in my office, boxes still at home—we decided we needed to get a change of scenery so Janice and I went for a drive. I decided to take Janice to a world famous and historically established cultural icon in South Florida. I am speaking, of course, of the Swap Shop.  Have you been to the Swap Shop?  Half County Fair, half Flea Market, half car museum (that’s why I go) and half Drive-in movie theater, the Swap Shop is a microcosm of South Florida’s cultural realities. For those of you working on my math, I will simply tell you that I majored in letters, not numbers. And I don’t do that well with letters!

I’ve been to the Swap Shop before, back when it was half circus too. That circus was free—my price—and we went when our boys were younger.  They marveled at the elephants and the Ferraris, and our younger son spent all his money on the only driving simulator that I’ve seen with a clutch pedal. He LOVED that thing. And was good at it.

This time that arcade game sat torn apart in a graveyard of video games off to one corner. This time the go-fast cars were still there (the circus was long gone), but many of the shops inside were shuttered and outside not a third of the vendors have returned. I still managed to buy an HDMI cable for $3 (I am, after all, the last of the big spenders!).  And we ignored the carnival rides this time just as we have in the past.

As we went from one place to another in Broward, we found that masks were required in some places, and in others not. It was different than Palm Beach County. Different areas deal with COVID in different ways, I suppose. 

And, different aspects of our own lives emerge from the pandemic in different ways too. We may be freer to go to the grocery store, not so much to the movie theater. We might go to school before we went back to church.
Eating out may have to do with how many employees they have, I don’t know. What I do know is that our spiritual lives cannot be neglected like some other areas of our lives have been. Our Bibles cannot look like the abandoned video arcade at the Swap Shop that my son loved so much. For many people, the most sold book in history lies carefully placed on a shelf, covered with the dust that belies its importance.

How we live out our faith is something that demanded a decision from us every day before the pandemic and continued during it. As we emerge from whatever the craziness has been for each one of us for the last 16 months or so, how we are going to nurture our souls is something that we all have to figure out.

Personally, I have had the privilege of never stopping being in the Sanctuary. For many, staying out of the building remains an issue. But our faith is not based on the building. It’s based on who Jesus is in our lives. And that part of us, that deepest part of us, that is our spiritual beings, has to be nourished, has to be dusted off. And I believe that gathering with brothers and sisters matters in that.

God wants to speak into every aspect of our lives. Let’s make sure we are making ourselves available to that Voice.  The Word of God is alive, active, and personal.  Let’s listen for it.

Back in church,

Craig

 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   Matthew 4:4

A Message from Pastor Craig

Earlier this summer Janice and I were in Western New York, and I took some time to visit our alma mater, Houghton College.  Nestled amidst the corn fields of dairy farm after dairy farm, the steep hills of the campus made for unusable farmland, but a delightful setting for a college campus (as long as “seclusion” and “delightful” fit into the same sentence for a young co-ed).

Parking the car on the outside of the traditional quad, I was surprised that nobody was there.  I mean not a soul.  The ghosts of my college past sauntered in my mind unmolested by any living soul.  Memories of the
students I learned with elicited smile after smile as I walked past the Student Center and the Science Building, the big central Chapel, then up to the dorm that I both served as an RA and then Assistant Dorm Director in.  Not a soul there either, just the memories of a room on the backside of the basement filling the hazy window I peered through.

Then I walked towards the ski hill.  Yes, a ski hill.  There, a kid from a tropical country learned to snow ski – took it for credit as a matter of fact!  What a school!  Have you heard of a bunny hill?  Well, this was a little bunny hill.  A place to learn downhill skiing in the safety of a hill that cross country skiers didn’t fear.

From there I walked into the woods to find the Ropes Course.  I took that for credit, too!  I’m telling you, it was a great school!  The ropes course elements have changed over the years (I was there when the world was in black and white) or at least the locations have.  But the challenges remained:  walking between one tree and another two stories up along one sole cable;  a solid wall that the whole group has to climb unaided by tools; a zip line to test vocal chords; and a platform where I first did the trust fall.  They design these elements to look impossible, but conquerable if you try.  And safe when accompanied by proper gear and good friends. 

As I walked away from the Ropes Course, down a path steeper than the bunny hill, I realized what that college meant to me.  It was a safe place for me to try new things, sometimes scary and unimaginable, but when conquered, life lessons that serve me even to this day.

I think that’s what the church is for.  I want First United Methodist Church of Boca Raton to be a place where you can learn to be like Jesus.  Where you can attempt a life of holiness, and when you or I fall, well, the incline wasn’t that great, and there were a bunch of friends there to catch us.

The church, like that school, is a training ground for life.  The training isn’t just for kids.  It’s for anybody who doesn’t want to just try to be like Jesus, but wants to train to be like Jesus.

Choose the element on the spiritual ropes course.  I look forward to stretching and growing with you.

On belay!

Craig

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.   Colossians 1:9,10

Updated Campus COVID-19 Policy

The CDC’s updated COVID-19 guidelines for fully vaccinated people have changed, and following guidance from the Florida Conference, we are adapting our campus policies accordingly. Those who are fully vaccinated will now have the option of not wearing masks or maintaining physical distancing in most outdoor and indoor settings, including Bible studies, small groups, and attending worship. There will be no temperature checks and registrations for worship will no longer be required.

The church will not ask for proof of vaccination, but will expect that individuals will be responsible for understanding what fully vaccinated means and take precautions if they are not fully vaccinated.

People who are unvaccinated should continue to wear face masks. There are many in our congregation who will also wear masks – immunocompromised people, children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and other people who choose to wear a face mask regardless of vaccination status.   One of our core values at FUMC is welcoming all. We will maintain our long-standing tradition of doing no harm and honoring those who choose or need to wear masks.

Remember that we all have different levels of comfort after a year of pandemic living. Even the most enthusiastic fans of hugging pre-pandemic may have discovered they aren’t ready yet! Please wait to be invited into each other’s personal space, even as we are able to gather with fewer restrictions.  

Things to Remember:

  • If you believe you or a household member may have been exposed to the virus, we ask you not to attend worship services and instead worship with us via the live stream.
  • Masks should be worn by all unvaccinated adults and children age 5 and over.
  • Seating will be self-selected, but please respect distance from other parties already seated.
  • We will not be using offering plates.
  • We will not serve coffee and other food until further notice.

Vision Prayer Focus #7 from Pastor Tom

You are invited to pray this week for our congregation as we gather on Sunday afternoon (September 27) for a Town Hall meeting to receive and respond to a report from the Vision Team about the purpose and vision and core values and strategic initiatives of FUMC-BR over the next several years.  Pray for a significant turnout from all sectors of our church family.  Pray for Pastor Marcus as he presents the report.  Pray for enthusiastic involvement of all in attendance and for guidance from the Holy Spirit as we dream together big dreams about how God would have us go about the work of the kingdom.  Pray a hopeful prayer that several years from now we will be able to look back on this very week as a milestone time in the life of our church and community.

Great and almighty God, save us from small dreams and little prayers.  By the power of your Holy Spirit inspire us as we meet this week to seek your will boldly and without fear.  Bless us with passionate involvement in a spirit of mutual trust.  Fill us with hope for the future.  If what we want for our church is not what you want for your Kingdom, make us aware of that and guide us in the way you would have us go. Challenge us and assure us.  Reveal to us your Kingdom call.  Speak into our hearts and lives.  We are listening.  Amen.