Thursday, June 4, 2020 || Praise & Prayer

Join us for a service of praise and prayer tonight at 7:30 pm ET. This is an opportunity for us to gather (virtually) together, offer our thanks to God, pray with and for one another, and check in (asking: how is it with you today?). You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (https://meet.google.com/txp-ndfa-ivu) or by calling 1-440-467-1448, the PIN is 220 679 745#.

All are welcome. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

You can view the outline (order of service) for our gathering below. You can download the bulletin (which includes the order of service) using the button below.

Stories of the Faith (NEW SERIES)

The Christian tradition has, from the beginning, relied upon story to both share the faith and guide people in their faith.

Using a children’s story bible, The Beginner’s Bible (Zondervan, 2005), we will spend the summer reading stories of the faith.  Use the chart below for your own study and devotions.  We hope you will join us in discussion about these stories of faith on Sundays at 10 am.  All are welcome.

Devotional || Psalm 104:24-34

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

24 Lord, you have done so many things!
    You made them all so wisely!
The earth is full of your creations!
25 And then there’s the sea, wide and deep,
    with its countless creatures—
    living things both small and large.
26 There go the ships on it,
    and Leviathan, which you made, plays in it!
27 All your creations wait for you
    to give them their food on time.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled completely full!
29 But when you hide your face, they are terrified;
    when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to dust.
30 When you let loose your breath, they are created,
    and you make the surface of the ground brand-new again.

31 Let the Lord’s glory last forever!
    Let the Lord rejoice in all he has made!
32 He has only to look at the earth, and it shakes.
    God just touches the mountains, and they erupt in smoke.

33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I’m still alive.
34 Let my praise be pleasing to him;
    I’m rejoicing in the Lord!

Psalm 104:24-34, Common English Bible

This is a beautiful Psalm of praise to God for all of creation. The earlier verses, not included in the reading for today, detailed the wonders of creation, and how the ecology of creation cares for itself, providing food for all God’s creatures. Verse 24 speaks to the wisdom of God’s creation.

We are to care for creation, because God gave us that instruction in Genesis 1. We are to care for creation because the Lord God made it all. We have seen the effects of what happens to the earth when we abuse it as we see the effects of climate change. We see areas with droughts as grass requiring water is planted in deserts, floods as fossil fuels raise the temperature of the earth and melt the glaciers. We have seen polluted water where fish cannot survive. We have seen decreases in pollinating insects, especially bees, which will decrease the food we have to eat. Populations of the smallest creatures are decreasing as we try to keep them out of our environment.

And yet, as the pandemic continues and we sit at home, rather than in our cars, we are watching the earth come back to life, polluted waters clear, animals come back to the streets. God had great wisdom in creating the earth, and God made it so that it could recover. As anyone who has plowed a field, then left it fallow for a year has seen, the wildness will quickly return. My parents visited Mount St. Helens 2 years after the volcano erupted. They expected a black mass of lava, but were amazed to see how much plant life had already recovered and was growing and healthy.

God is good. We need to care for God’s good earth because we love God and love all that God has created. Bless the Lord, Oh my soul! Praise the Lord!

The Phased Reopening of our Facility and In-Person Worship

Dear members and friends of Franklin United Methodist Church,

On March 13, in response to the growing concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, I made the difficult decision to cancel in-person worship.  The following Sunday, a Church Council meeting was called, and the decision was made to follow the mandates coming from the Governor’s Office and the response of the Franklin Public Schools.  If the public schools were closed, the Council decided, we would not hold in-person worship and our facility would be closed (with limited exceptions).

For the last 12 weeks, we have participated in virtual gatherings in place of in-person worship and meetings in our facility.  The leaders and staff of the church have done their best to adapt quickly to new ways of being the church.  Meetings are being held virtually.  Our website has been updated.  We have added an online giving option.  Our Tuesday and Thursday evening services of prayer, praise, and checking-in have provided regular opportunities for us to connect briefly in an informal but structured way during the week.  Our Sunday morning services have provided opportunities for us to share our faith with one another, allowing us to reflect upon our current situation and consider what a “new normal” might look like after the pandemic.  While these services do not replace the in-person relationships we so desperately yearn for (and need), they have enabled us to continue nurturing our relationships with God and one another through this time of physical distancing and quarantine.

In the middle of May, the Governor’s Office released a four-phased approach to re-opening the state of Massachusetts.  On Sunday, May 31, the leadership of the church gathered virtually to develop a plan for reopening the facility and resuming in-person ministry and worship.

Franklin United Methodist Church has a responsibility to you and our community to reopen in a way that is faithful, transparent, and mindful of evolving best practices.  Using the framework of the Governor’s plan for reopening the state and building off recommendations from the New England Annual Conference, public health officials, and gleanings from the experiences of other congregations around the country, the leadership has developed a systematic plan for reopening our facility and resuming in-person worship and ministry.  The summary plan for reopening the Franklin United Methodist Church facility and resuming in-person worship and ministry can be found below.

I hope that this plan will help guide us all into a new normal and help us understand what to expect as we move through the various stages of reopening.  If you have any questions about this plan (or just want to talk), feel free to call, text, email, or set up a time for us to meet virtually.  I look forward to seeing you (virtually) in worship on Sunday and/or at one of our praise, prayer, and checking-in services on Tuesday and Thursday.  Remember, details for how to join our virtual gatherings can be found on the church website (franklinumc.org).  You can also subscribe to the website to stay up-to-date on all that is going on and how to join our virtual gatherings.

Peace.
Pastor Jacob

jacob@franklinumc.org

508-528-1092 (o)
860-861-3141 (c)

Sunday, May 31, 2020 || Worshipful Conversation & Fellowship

Join us for a time of Worshipful Conversation and Fellowship on Sunday, May 31, at 10 am ET. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (http://meet.google.com/ens-kcoq-bgg) or by calling 1-262-885-7027, the PIN is 172 874 072#.

You can view and download the bulletin for this service below. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

In order to best participate in this service, you will need access to a bible (bound or electronic), and some sort of food/snack and drink.  The Bible is for the discussion.  The food is for the love feast during which you will be invited to share some aspect of your hope, joy, or faith before you eat what you have with you. Prompts for our time of sharing are provided in the bulletin.

All are welcome.

Devotional || Psalm 33:12-22

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

12 The nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom God has chosen as his possession,
    is truly happy!
13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees every human being.
14 From his dwelling place God observes
    all who live on earth.
15 God is the one who made all their hearts,
    the one who knows everything they do.

16 Kings aren’t saved by the strength of their armies;
    warriors aren’t rescued by how much power they have.
17 A warhorse is a bad bet for victory;
    it can’t save despite its great strength.
18 But look here: the Lord’s eyes watch all who honor him,
    all who wait for his faithful love,
19     to deliver their lives[a] from death
    and keep them alive during a famine.

20 We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.
21 Our heart rejoices in God
    because we trust his holy name.
22 Lord, let your faithful love surround us
    because we wait for you.

Psalm 33:12-22, Common English Bible

This Psalm reminds us that God is Lord of all. God has given each of us gifts to use, but we did not choose what gift we would receive. God has provided for each of us according to God’s plan. Our strength, our intelligence, our musical abilities, our sports prowess  are all gifts from God. Yes, we are called to use the gifts we have received, and we are to develop and improve them, but we have received our gifts from above.

Our strength comes from God, we are not in charge. All the power of world leaders comes from God. Our armies and navies have power from God. As we recognize this and look to God for strength, inspiration and creativity, we receive more bountiful gifts. We are fearful in this time of the pandemic, but God loves us and is watching over us. If we can put our trust in God, he will help us with fear and loneliness. If our leaders look to God for guidance, we will get through this.

When we think we are in charge, we ignore God and are filled with pride at our own accomplishments. We believe that because we can determine the human genome, or the genome of the Coronavirus, that science is in charge, and we forget that God created all, God gave us the intelligence to understand it scientifically.

As religion and belief in God become less important in our modern society, we lose something. We don’t see humility as a strength. Jesus’s power was most evident when the world saw him as weak, as he hung on the cross. Leave your pride behind, and open yourself to God’s power and love.

God’s steadfast love is there for us each and every day. We find our joy in trusting in God’s steadfast love.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Nancy C. Townley (selected by Willaim V. Burnside II, Conference Treasurer)

Lord God, you know us too well. You know that we would be like the disciples following the crucifixion and even the resurrection. We would rather hide and mutter and weep, than proclaim the power of your love. 

The world is a difficult place. We fear so much. We want people to like us, and so we hold back on our proclamation of our faith. We don’t want to offend anyone. But your love and presence are not offensive. They are empowering and healing. 

Bring your holy fire upon us this day to ignite a spark of joy in our hearts and our voices. Bring the power of your rushing wind through our spirits that we may be turned in new directions for service and witness. 

We pray this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Thursday, May 28, 2020 || Praise & Prayer

Join us for a service of praise and prayer tonight at 7:30 pm ET. This is an opportunity for us to gather (virtually) together, offer our thanks to God, pray with and for one another, and check in (asking: how is it with you today?). You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (https://meet.google.com/txp-ndfa-ivu) or by calling 1-440-467-1448, the PIN is 220 679 745#.

All are welcome. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

You can view the outline (order of service) for our gathering below. You can download the bulletin (which includes the order of service) using the button below.

Devotional || Psalm 99

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

The Lord rules—
    the nations shake!
    He sits enthroned on the winged heavenly creatures—
    the earth quakes!
The Lord is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them thank your great and awesome name.
    He is holy!

Strong king[a] who loves justice,
    you are the one who established what is fair.
    You worked justice and righteousness in Jacob.
Magnify the Lord, our God!
    Bow low at his footstool!
    He is holy!
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel too among those who called on his name.
They cried out to the Lord, and he himself answered them—
    he spoke to them from a pillar of cloud.
They kept the laws and the rules God gave to them.
Lord our God, you answered them.
    To them you were a God who forgives
    but also the one who avenged their wrong deeds.
Magnify the Lord our God!
    Bow low at his holy mountain
    because the Lord our God is holy!

Psalm 99, Common English Bible

God is Holy, God rules. God has been with us from the beginning of human existence. God was with Moses and Aaron before there was a temple, even before the Ten Commandments had been handed down. God ruled over the Israelites and over all the nations, and God still rules today.

When Jesus was born as a human baby, and grew to be the Messiah, when he gave his life for our sins, and was resurrected to bring us salvation, he showed us a better way to live.  Jesus taught us to bring his kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. Jesus loves justice as God does. Jesus showed us the way to care for the poor and needy, to love our enemies and  to love our neighbors as ourselves. He taught us who our neighbors are.

In this Psalm, God loves justice, God forgives our sins, but also punishes them. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross does not give us carte blanche to do whatever we want, Jesus expects us to repent and become like him, recognizing that as humans we will all have our bad moments.

In this time of pandemic COVID-19, we are seeing where healthcare disparities exist, as we see the socio-economic differences in who dies from the virus, not just the aged, but those with diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Nearly ¾ of those who have died have been African-American or Hispanic. As people become unemployed, they are losing their employer based health insurance. COBRA is expensive and how do you pay it when you’re unemployed? We are called to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

Where are we called to be advocates and make a real difference in the lives of others? Remember, God is holy;God calls us to justice; and, God loves us and all the nations; God loves the poor and doesn’t care about the color of your skin.

Bow low before God’s majesty, because the Lord our God is Holy.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Dr. David V. Calhoun, Superintendent of the Connecticut/Western Massachusetts District (based on John 17:1-11 & Acts 1:6-14)

O God, we open our collective souls to your presence, and we bow before the mystery of your creative power. We lift our hearts to you as the source of our creation, and our help in every time of need. As we find ourselves at the dawning of a new day, we ask for your continued strength as we reach for greater knowledge. Impart upon us the spiritual gifts that we need for this day; and for all of our tomorrows. 

Though we encounter the trials of life, you, O God, remain our constant companion. Be with those undergoing difficulties in coping with the challenges of life today. You know our fears when life seems unfair and when we feel faint of heart. You know the angst that obstructs us, the temptations we resist, and the limitations we must overcome. Help us to release our resentments, and fill us with your peace.

We live in the assurance that you free us from that which is destructive. Preserve our lives according to your will, and for the sake of your realm. Help us to seek your good for the world, and to serve one another in the fellowship of our Christ like spirits. Give us courage in the midst of this pandemic, and grant us peace as we are walk through uncharted valleys. Make us valiant in our service to you and the world. Grant us with a sense of your presence, and fill us with courage as we come again to a greater certainty. 

We thank you for the qualities of goodness, mercy, wisdom and love that you have blessed us with; and may we be a witness to these things.   Amen and Amen

Sorry for the Inconvenience

We are sorry for the inconvenience. We are experiencing significant website issues today. Our praise and prayer service will still happen. Please see last Tuesday or Thursday’s post to enter the room. A link for the bulletin will be provided in the chat of our Google Meet session.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 || Praise & Prayer

Join us for a service of praise and prayer tonight at 7:30 pm ET. This is an opportunity for us to gather (virtually) together, offer our thanks to God, pray with and for one another, and check in (asking: how is it with you today?). You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (https://meet.google.com/txp-ndfa-ivu) or by calling 1-440-467-1448, the PIN is 220 679 745#.

All are welcome. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

You can view the outline (order of service) for our gathering below. You can download the bulletin (which includes the order of service and the prayer list) using the button below.