“Looking Backward, Looking Forward”

slide1“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ says the White Queen to Alice.” Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my Gospel.” Apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 2:8

It’s nearly the start of a new year, which means it’s time for taking stock. The newsfeed on my cellphone is full of the kinds of articles you’d expect to read this time of year. There are lists of the years best and worst in sports, entertainment, world politics, food and more. As I write these words, one article from the Wall Street Journal in my newsfeed is titled: “Best and Worst Ads of 2016: The Things We Can’t Unsee.” How true.

Every year is full of things that happen in the life of the church. Most are good things as we proclaim the life-renewing message of Jesus the Christ in a community, and for a world, that is broken and hurting and desperately in need of Good News. Some things we might like to forget. But like the news article about the advertisements, we cannot “unsee” what has happened in the last year. We can, however, redeem what has passed for the future—for God’s future. “I once was lost,” go the words of one of the greatest hymns ever, “but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”

So at the risk of overloading you with another list for 2016, here are some of the ways Weller UMC contributed to God’s mission of redeeming what has passed for the God’s future:

  • Missions: We had several trips to Mission Central where volunteers helped sort and organize in their warehouse; donated to local charities; supported Food Bank; Angel Tree for 25 children; Operation Christmas child collected 112 shoeboxes for children.
  • For children: Sunday School classes led by dedicated teachers and the great fun of VBS in June; dedicated a playground behind the Weller House.
  • For Youth: In addition to Youth Group meetings in the spring and fall, several youth and adults went on a mission trip in August; also took part in a retreat at Camp Manidokan in November with Good Shepherd UMC.
  • Puppet Ministry: The Potter’s Hands gave inspiring messages during worship and held a community show at the church in March.
  • For Adults: Three adult Sunday School classes met during the year; several short term Bible studies during the year.
  • SES: Our partnership with Sabillasville Elementary School continues with a lunch for teachers hosted by Deerfield UMC, several volunteers working with children, and our May-June book drive that collected books for all the children to take home over the summer.
  • Renovation: We painted the halls, Fellowship room, stairwell, office, library, and nursery, and we re-carpeted the Education Wing hallway; replaced bad concrete at the church and parsonage; sponsored an Eagle Scout project for the Weller House.
  • Music: Two beautiful cantatas at Easter and Christmas by the gifted voice and handbell choirs.
  • Fellowship: Several events included the ever-fun Talent Show and the delicious Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
  • Apportionments: We met our goal for 2016 by paying $15,000 of a nearly $21,000 apportionment that connects us with the global mission of the church. That’s up from paying $6,000 on a $21,500 apportionment in 2013. What great progress!

I’m sure I missed some things but these were a few of the memorable events in the life of the people called Weller UMC in 2016. I give thanks to God for each of you and for all of us together because together, we do so much for the Lord to bring hope, healing and wholeness to our community.

We also need to look ahead to a future full of hope and promise because of what the Lord has done for us. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the Dead,” wrote the Apostle Paul. When we remember Jesus, we are—in that odd phrase—remembering the future. We remember Jesus is God’s future brought into our present. Jesus shows us what it means to live the life God intended for us from the beginning; a life full of love, peace, mercy and grace; a new life that is ours now and for eternity.

As 2017 dawns, I look forward to sharing another year of beautiful ministry together. I believe God has a lot in store for the people known as Weller UMC in the coming year. Pray for the year to come. Pray in the name of Jesus. Pray without ceasing.

Be blessed,

Pastor Bob



“A Christmas Physics Lesson”

After reading Luke’s account of the nativity once again, I was struck by the amount of motion that takes place in the story.  People and events are moving fast as the birth of the Christ child approaches.  And so is God.

For instance, Luke begins his telling of Christ’s birth with a word going out from the Roman emperor: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1).  That command set people in motion—they must go to their appointed towns and villages to be registered.  We always focus on Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, but we seldom stop to think they were not alone.  Many others must have been on the move in those days trying to get to their hometowns.  People in motion.  That was a lyric from a 60s song: ¹“All across the nation/ Such a strange vibration/ People in motion.” A word goes out; people in motion; and they come home.

Then there’s the part about the angels and the shepherds.  The angels go out to the shepherds in the fields.  They have a word too—a word from God: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).  The shepherds respond by going “with haste” to find the baby lying in a manger, just as the angels foretold.  The word goes out; shepherds in motion; they come home to the love of God in the Christ child.

Each of the actions in the story has a response.  It’s almost like Matthew is rewriting one of the laws of physics—“for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”—to fit the nativity story as God’s law of love: “for every action of God’s love, there is a human reaction.”

What reaction?

“When [the shepherds] saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them” (Luke 2:17).

“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:18).

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen…” (Luke 2:19).

Amazed.  Treasured.  Pondered.  Glorify.  Praise.  How else to respond to such great Good News?  Christ is born in Bethlehem.  Emmanuel!  Now God is with us.

image001As we approach Christmas this year, I’ll be thinking about all the motions we go through to get ready for the big event: the shopping, the cooking, and the traveling (for some).  But I’ll also be thinking about the God who set in motion the greatest love story of any and all time.  The Word from God goes out into the world: “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”  And once again, I will be amazed.  I’ll treasure this word and ponder it in my heart.  I’ll give glory to God and praise my maker for this exceptional act of love and grace.

And I’ll sing a new song: “All across Creation/ there’s a new vibration/ God in motion.”  And I’ll come home to the love of God in Christ Jesus.

How about you?  God is moving in your life.  Are you ready to come home?

Pastor Bob

¹Scott McKenzie, “San Francisco,” 1967, Metro Lyrics, article on internet, http://www.metrolyrics.com/san-francisco-lyrics-scott-mc-kenzie.html





Chances are most of us have not had to stand a watch; that is, a shift were you were on guard or responsible for something. Those who’ve been in the military or worked as a first responder (police, fire, EMT), however, probably have had plenty of experience on watch.

Standing watch was very common in the ancient world. People on watch worked through the night to make sure an enemy would not sneak up on their town as people slept. Watchtowers were employed to guard important locations or to keep an eye out for approaching enemy forces. Those who stood the watch were given words to use as passwords—anyone with the right word could “pass” or enter the town. Those without the right word, well…good luck.

Over time, watchwords became more like guiding principles for people to follow, kind of like a motto or guiding principle. For someone standing a night watch, “vigilance” might be a good watchword to encourage them to stay awake (although “Caffeine” might be a more appropriate choice). Colleges and universities have their own form of watchwords in their school motto. Mine was a French word, “Essayons,” which means, “I will try.” Maybe that sounds better in French. My class motto is a good one: “By Courage and Strength.”

Watchwords are meant to tell us something about what we value, about what is (or should be) guiding principles for us. They are sometimes handed down by those with a track record of wisdom and experience.

In the letters to Timothy, the Apostle Paul provides some sage advice to his younger protégé about how to be an effective pastor. Paul likely was in prison in Rome, having suffered much for the sake of the Gospel for many years. Before he departed this life, Paul wanted to pass on worthwhile advice to Timothy and to encourage him to stand firm in the faith.

The Second Letter to Timothy contains several passages with guiding principles for Christian life and ministry. Three of those passages are the subject of October’s sermon series entitled “Watchwords.” Watchwords for the faith we can discern from these passages are:

  • Unashamed, 2 Timothy 1:1-14. “But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him” (2 Tim 1:12).
  • Remember, 2 Timothy 2:8-15. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained” (2 Tim 2:8-9).
  • Breathe, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:15).

We will explore these watchwords for the faith, what they meant to the first generations of Christians, and how they can inspire and strengthen us today.

Beloved, may you always remain in the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.


Pastor Bob


“The Prophets According to Pokemon”

We just finished a sermon series on some of the Old Testament prophets: Elisha, Amos and Hosea. These men, and others like them, were much sought after in ancient Israel. People listened to them because they wanted to know, “Is there a word from the Lord?” Folks then believed the prophets had special insights into the heavenly realms—God’s space—that others did not. The words of the prophets pulled back the veil separating the two worlds: the earth below and the heaven above. Through the prophets, God revealed another reality—God’s preferred future for God’s people.

pokemon-go-device-3-1280x2194png-c754e0_640wBy now, most everyone has heard of the wildly popular cell phone-based game Pokemon-Go. The game requires players to go to different sites on a map where they find Pokemon (imaginative cartoon creatures), and capture them using their cellphone cameras. This type of game is known as “augmented reality” because it enables people to operate in two worlds: the virtual world of the game and the real world. With Pokemon-Go, you get to see into another reality.

The wild popularity of “augmented reality” in Pokemon-Go reminded me of one of the stories involving the prophet Elisha. Israel was at war with its neighbor, the Kingdom of Aram. Elisha had been warning the King of Israel about the movements of the Aramean army, so the King of Aram sent troops to capture the prophet in the town of Dothan.

When Elisha’s servant awoke one morning and saw the enemy’s horses and chariots encompassing the town, he cried out to Elisha, “Oh no, my Lord! What shall we do?” Elisha answered: “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.” Elisha prayed for God to open the eyes of his servant and then he saw the hills were filled with horses and chariots of fire all around. In the end, God enabled Elisha and his servant to walk through the enemy lines to freedom.

Elijah 6.18-20_Elisha’s story reminds us that there is another reality at work in our world. It’s the spiritual realm, the Kingdom of God that has come near in Jesus Christ. Like the Pokemon-Go game, we cannot see the “augmented reality” of God’s world all the time. But through Jesus, the veil is drawn back, the reality of God’s mercy and grace are revealed, and we can glimpse the glory of the living God.

“Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see,” the prophet Elisha prayed for his servant. Jesus opened the eyes of the blind—the eyes of those who were physically as well as spiritually blind. And they saw the glory of the Lord. May we live with eyes that are open to the reality of the living God in our lives.

Remember, too, that no matter what struggles you are going through in life, “there are more with us than there are with them.”

You can read the story about Elisha in the Bible, 2 Kings 6:11-23.

“There’s Still Good News Out There”

120px-Cherry_chocolate_cupcakesAre you getting tired of all the bad news stories? For several weeks now, the media has bombarded us with bad news stories from around the world. Everywhere we turn, there’s yet another event involving death and destruction of some sort on a scale that breaks the heart. Whether it’s Dallas or Baton Rouge, Orlando or Nice, France, anyone reading these stories could be forgiven for feeling depressed about the violence in our world.

Sadly, this is part and parcel of our world. Human nature, with its “bent toward sinning,” has been violent ever since Cain killed Abel (see Genesis 4).  And we have a lot of work to do as the Church to promote God’s peace in a broken world.

But this is not the end of the story. The Good News is we can break free from the cycle of violence through the love of God that is given to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus bore our sins and suffered the violence of the world to save us from ourselves. This Good News means we no longer have to be slaves to our sin-nature; instead, we are adopted children of God, called to share in God’s redeeming work in the world.

If bad news stories have been getting you down, let me highlight for you a couple of good news stories that were in the news recently. Both stories appeared in the 25 July edition of the Frederick News Post:

  • Family Christian Bookstores has a new product line called “Cupcakes and Jesus,” designed to cultivate a more positive image for young girls. Items under this label contain positive messages like: “shine bright,” “be bold,” and “show love.” Some items include Bible verses. While “Cupcakes and Jesus” is meant to be fun, it also provides an alternative to some of the other messages girls in the “tween” years (7 to 15) receive from our culture—messages that can be demeaning, not uplifting. And the positive message for tweens is that Jesus empowers them to live a godly life.[1]
  • Gabrielle Williams is a Prince Georges County 12 year-old on a mission to build her own baking company. She’s been baking since third grade and has designed her own tasty confections like a frosting called “Guava Lava,” espresso bean brownies and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Gabrielle transferred from a Christian school to a public school, where she was picked on for saying grace at lunchtime. But her hobby gave her a sense of purpose. As the news article described it: “Gabrielle startled Prince Georges County economic development officials when she showed up at a local church for a business seminar earlier this year, business card in tow, the only child in a room full of dozens of adults.” The County is now planning a “KidPreneur Day” so Gabrielle and other young people can learn about business. Gabrielle knows she has something special going. As she put it: “There aren’t many kids who do what I do.”[2]

What both these stories have in common—other than cupcakes—is a positive, empowering message for young people, a message that is just as applicable for anyone of any age. God created each and every one of us to “shine bright” and to “show love” to others. God gave each one of us a unique set of gifts to love others the way God loves us, and to build up the body of Christ, the church. Compare that to the forces in our world that tear down and destroy and you have to admit, “There aren’t may people who do what we do.”

And that is a Good News story that makes for great summertime reading, or any other time, for that matter. You can read it for yourself—in the Bible.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Bob




[1] Lindsay Powers, “Faith, with a hint of frosting, Cupcakes and Jesus aims to empower girls,” The Frederick News-Post, July 25, 2016, page M6, article online.

[2] Arelis R. Hernandez, “The flour of youth, Young Maryland businesswoman turns hobby into baking company,” Frederick News Post, July 25, 2016, page M15, article online.

“Centering On God”

I have a love/hate relationship with the pictures hanging on the walls of my home. I love to look at them, especially the more colorful ones that brighten up the house. I really like the family photos and the oil painting done by my Mom and my grandmothers. They’re not professional by any stretch of the imagination, but they have a certain quality about them—like a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, they were done with TLC (Tender Loving Care).

I love the pictures all right, but I hate to hang them. That’s because I can’t line them up without something turning out crooked. Try as I might, I can’t center the frames so they are straight and neat. If you could see the last set of pictures I put up in the living room, you’d notice they have a distinct “list to starboard”; that is, they tilt to the right.

AlignCentering pictures is hard for me to do alone. To make sure they’re straight, I need someone to help me out. Aligning the pictures on the wall takes another set of eyes, someone to direct the placement of the picture and a steady hand to make the final adjustments.

I’m going to venture more than just a guess that our spiritual lives wind up being a lot like trying to hang a picture on our own. We can try to get everything in place, strive to make ourselves right with God—loving God with our whole beings, and our neighbors as ourselves. But on our own, the result is always a life lived askew. On our own, we are out of alignment with God.

Fortunately, God gives us the way to center our lives in God in the person of Jesus Christ. When we put our faith in Christ, we are set right with God. When we allow the Spirit of Jesus to shape our lives, we gain a good set of eyes to detect where we are out of line with God’s will; a guide who can lead us into proper alignment with God’s love; and, the steady hand to adjust the course of our lives along the path God would have us go.

Centering our lives in the life of God is no easy task. It takes a lot of work, each and every day. Daily prayer is one practice that can help align us with God by centering us on God’s love for us and focusing us on God’s priorities. Adam Hamilton, the senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, recommends a centering prayer at the start of each day. This kind of prayer helps to focus the mind and our spirit on God. Here’s a prayer by Adam that helps me, and I hope it will help you:

“Lord, help me to be the person you want me to be today. Take away the desires that shouldn’t be there, and help me be single-minded in my focus and my pursuit of you.”

Pray in this way and you can center your life in the life of the One who is remaking the world. You may even want to hang a few pictures. 🙂


Pastor Bob

“Christmas, Old and New”



“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.”

                                                                                 Luke 2:6

Bethlehem in Judea is a very old place. To Jews it was known as the home of Ruth and the birthplace of David, Israel’s greatest king. By the time Mary and Joseph arrived there, Bethlehem had been inhabited for at least 1,300 years, and probably longer. The old town had witnessed many births over those years, but nothing like the one it hosted that night. The Messiah, God’s anointed one, came into this very old place embodying something new: new life.

God is very good at that sort of thing. God takes what seems old and surprises us with something new. New wine gets new wineskins. The old is made new again—renewed. The prophet Isaiah spoke about God’s renewal project with these words:

I am about to do a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)

Rivers in the desert, bringing new life to what is lifeless.

These words bring us comfort because they are attached to the Christmas story. They are well known to us at this time of year. Like a favorite sweater that wraps us in its warmth, the familiar contours of the Christmas story warms our hearts once again. We’ve been down this road before. But there are still new sights to see.

There is always more with God. Even in the old, old stories, God brings us new experiences of the holy. And so it was, long ago, as a star hung over old Bethlehem that night, God entered the world in a new and thoroughly unexpected way.

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

God became flesh so that we who are flesh might have the gift of new life. A river of living water in the desert of our lives, brining life to the lifeless. For love, God’s love, came down at Christmas. And it is still with us.

As we approach Christmas this year, let us make room in our hearts for the love of God that comes into the world and is in the world. This gift is old as time itself, yet it comes to us new every year.

Watch for the ways God comes to renew your spirit this Christmas. Take time to listen. Take time to pray. Take time to open your heart to the wonders God has in store for you. You won’t be disappointed.


Pastor Bob