Yesterday, as I looked out of the back window of our home, I saw one of the most beautiful sights of spring: the first bluebird. Coming on a rainy, overcast day, the vibrant blue of its back as it sat upon the clothesline pole was like a promise of brighter days to come. I cannot see bluebirds without thinking of the days spent as a child with my father getting birdhouses ready for their spring arrival. It was almost a ritual going out on a late winter day to clean out the last year's nest and check the boxes to make sure they were still sturdy and didn't need any repairs before their new tenants moved in for the summer. As the spring brought the birds back to us, we would occasionally check them to see how their new family was coming along.
I think that my first woodworking project was to help my father build a birdhouse. I was of an age that "Why?" was probably my favorite or at least my most used word. Why do we build it that way? So we can open it up to clean it out. Why the holes in the bottom? To let the rain drain out. Why such a small door hole? To let the bluebirds in and keep the birds that would eat their eggs out. Building that birdhouse was about making a home for these beautiful birds. Every detail was to make it just right for the bluebirds - a place where they belonged.
God goes to great length to make a place where we too belong - a place that is our home. It may not always look perfect, because God's children had a hand in making in it and are still learning. Yet God has made the church - not just the building but the family of people - to be a place where we are safe, nurtured, and cared for. It is a place that we can come home to after the long winter. It is a place where we can be family. It is a place where we can belong.
Blessings on the journey, Jim
Sunday's Sermon Snippet
Character: The Strength of Joy
(Nehemiah 8:2-10; Habakkuk 3:17-19)
Last week, we talked about how God's love for us is the root of our discipleship that helps us stand tall in the midst of the storms of life. This, however, is not the only root that holds in place. Our second root of discipleship is joy. When the people of God had suffered great oppression having been taken into exile in Babylon for generations and then spending nearly a hundred years rebuilding Jerusalem - their homes, the Temple, and finally the city walls - they concluded the work by gathering to hear the reading of God's Law. As they heard God's word, they began to cry. Perhaps of the weight of all that had happened. Perhaps it was remembering how their ancestors had turned away from the Law. Perhaps it was conviction of how they were themselves turning away from God. Whatever it was, they were saddened and mourned. Then the leaders offered this word: "Do not mourn, for the joy from the Lord is your strength."
Joy is what allows us to persevere in times of grief and sadness. It is different from happiness in that happiness depends on what has happened (they even share the same root word "hap"). Joy is something that comes from within - from who we are - rather than from the things that are happening on the outside. For us, our joy comes from knowing that we are God's beloved, God's redeemed. There is, of course, a fine line between living out of joy and simply pretending bad things aren't happening. Joy does not ignore the bad that is going on but chooses to press on despite it because there is something more important going on - God's love.
The prophet Habakkuk echoes this message about joy at the close of his book. Habakkuk was writing at a time of trial and questioned how long God would let the people suffer before intervening. Habakkuk concludes that no matter how bad things get he will rejoice and take strength from the Lord. For, as he puts it, the Lord makes his feet like those of a deer that can climb the heights. This odd image is also an amazing one, as it makes us think of the animals that can scale cliff faces that would intimidate the best rock climbers. These deer have been gifted by God with the ability to remain steady in search of refuge and food in a world full of predators. God likewise gives us the joy we need to overcome the unscaleable and find protection in times of danger. That is the strength of joy. A disciple stands strong because they are rooted in joy from the Lord!
Living in Community
Thanks to everyone on Team "Port Rinds"
for representing our church at the AVA Care Move 4 Life:
Kelly, Kelsey, Brad, Becca, Jason, Tina, Henry, Katie, Charlotte, Mark, Susie, Landon, Lauren, Jason, London, Benton, Gretchen, Keith, Tyler, Dinah, Chris, Chandler
Thanks to the folks who came out to cheer the team on:
Mary, Amie, Baylor, Laurel, Dalton, Ralph
Thank you to everyone who financially supported our team
and who collected Change 4 Life!
Overall, we raised nearly $1,600 for AVA Care's ministry!
Please be in prayer for our new district superintendent Rev. Victor Gomez, his wife Heather, and their family who will be joining the Harrisonburg District in July!
Also pray for our current district superintendent, Rev. Tommy Herndon, and his wife Carolyn as they prepare for his retirement in July.
This Week at Port Church
Wednesday, April 25
9:00 - 11:45 am - Office Hours
Thursday, April 26
9:00 - 11:45 am - Office Hours
Friday, April 27
6:00 - 9:00 pm - Paint Night
Sunday, April 29
9:30 am - Worship: "Character: The Roots of a Disciple"
11:00 am - Sunday School
VBS Training - May 20, 12 noon
VBS tentatively scheduled for June 25-29
News and Updates
Find out what is going on at Port Republic UMC this week and in weeks to come!
8525 Water Street
PO Box 116
Port Republic, VA 24471