Dr. Mosser's Blog

  • July 30, 2021 - "We are Debtors"

     “So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors” (Romans 8:12).

     

    A bumper sticker puts it like this, “I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go.” The life of debt is a common fact for many modern people. Between house and car payments and the like, almost all people exist under debt’s cloud. For this reason, Paul’s employment of “opheiletes,” (“debtor”) becomes a transitional key for the above Romans’ verse. This phrase closes Paul’s discussion about how God’s spirit enables believers to live in the spirit and reject life in the flesh. Thus, Paul helps believers/stewards appreciate that they are no longer debtors to the flesh; rather our debt to the spirit frees us to remember that “we are children of God.”

     

    For modern people “to be in debt” is a concept that needs little explanation. So, as a theological notion, “indebtedness” resonates with us. We, of course, commonly understand debt in its monetary versions, but there is a sense in which owing something to someone makes sense. Whether we owe a debt to a teacher, coach, parent, or pastor, believers who honestly look at their lives conclude quickly that our gain is a result of another person’s interest in us—and help. Few piano players learned to play the piano on their own—although it sometimes happens. Most of our better triumphs we accomplish because someone guided us.

     

    Clearly Paul’s use of the idea of debt goes well beyond our learning an art. But the principle is comparable. Paul wants believers to recognize that we have a clear choice, because we will always be indebted to someone for something. For Paul the choice is between life in the flesh and life in the spirit. Life in the flesh implies that our passions control us. Yet, life in the spirit suggests that God’s spirit controls our actions. Life in the flesh leads to death; life in the spirit leads to life.

               

    This Roman’s text (beginning at 8:5) is unusual in that it offers ethical teaching in a part of Romans that chiefly focuses on theology. Paul seldom inserts moral exhortations in the first eleven chapters. Yet, this is one example: those who live by the spirit will live in certain ways.

     

    Being in debt means that one is under an obligation to repay. Good stewards are faithful managers; whether this means managing our talents or our money. But the question arises: “How does one repay a debt to God?” Paul might answer this question by telling us that the most faithful way to put our account straight with God is by passing along to others what God has already given us as a gift. Thus, for good stewards the gifts of mercy, forgiveness, and the love of Christ become methods of repayment. Stewards can only manage what God has first given to them. Vis-à-vis the debt of love, 1 John 4:19 puts it nicely: “We love because he first loved us.”

     

    Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser

     

    Come—Worship

    Stay—Learn

    Go—Serve!

  • July 23, 2021 - "Biblical Family Values"

    I find it slightly amusing that the people who use the term “family values” use the term as if it were scriptural. Yet, even a hasty Bible reading suggests that biblical family values are not a solution to contemporary family problems. Indeed, we may already have biblical family values—and this may be part of our society’s problem. If we were to mine the whole Bible for what we might construe models of “good family” values we would soon face irony. Adam and Eve blame each other for the original garden imprudence against God. Cain kills his brother Abel. Abraham sends a wife and son into the wilderness to die to please his “other” wife. Joseph’s brothers first plot to murder him, then change their minds and sell him into slavery instead. Aaron disobeys his brother’s (and God’s) prohibition to create idols. David’s son kills another son after raping their sister. The prophet Hosea’s spouse is less than faithful. On and on it goes. Dysfunctional families dot the Bible’s pages. Truly, with the possible sole exception of Jesus’ own family, few if any biblical families display behavior intended by the phrase “biblical family values.”

     

    Likewise, we note that the church is a family. It is the family of faith, and as such, the church comes in units, however unconventional, that function more like households than families in our typical understanding. Every church has single-parent households, sister and sister households, single person households, and the like. While most Americans see the “two-parent with children” as the model family, the 2021 reality is that fewer and fewer of these typical family constellations exist.

     

    An obedient church recognizes the shifting nature of culture. We reach out to it with the gospel. To do otherwise either denies the power of the gospel to change lives or worse, it denies the reality in which we find ourselves. A bold and cooperative point of view addressing the changing nature of modern families encourages a creative ministry. This ministry is one that meets the needs of people. But we try to meet their needs without artificially calling them to be something they cannot or will not become.

     

    Clearly, I encourage family values, but more than that, I think the kind of love and concern that nuclear families take for granted are those qualities that the household of faith best exemplifies. Authentic family values in the house of God take a note from Paul when Paul writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:15-16).

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

     

    Come—Worship

    Stay—Learn

    Go—Serve!

  • July 16, 2021 - "Please, Stop Stealing, Please!"

    Recently I went to Ace Hardware in Salado and then on to Belton to get an office key made. While talking to a clerk, he asked what I did. I replied that I was a preacher. His reply startled me: “You need to preach about stealing because it is this store’s number one problem.” I thought to myself, “It is interesting what people think the church is for.” It is hard to imagine getting up and telling our congregation: “Don’t steal.” Yet, the question is plainly on the mind of some today—Why go to church?

     

    One reason believers attend church and worship is because that is what Jesus and his ancestors did. Hebrews 10:23-25 reminds us: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope . . . and let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together.” When we gather together, we are both obedient to our confession of faith and also profit from learning faith in singing hymns and in scripture study.

     

    In addition, our faith teaches us counter-cultural survival skills we need—praying, tithing, and fasting. Many Americans cannot help us with this spiritual course of study, as they have no idea what praying, tithing, or fasting means in a spiritually disciplined life.

     

    Why go to church? We go to church because in a world of bad news, we need to hear good news. We need to notice and celebrate God’s love. We need to become part of a larger story than ourselves. And last—we are more likely to find people we can count on at church than anywhere else. Routinely, people who attend worship and go to Sunday school are people who want healthier spiritual and physical lives by connecting with God and others. And, as a reminder: “Please, don’t steal, please!”

      

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

     

    Come—Worship

    Stay—Learn

    Go—Serve!

  • July 9, 2021 - "Do I Fit the Mold?"

    Several years ago, my old pharmacist friend, Bodie Weaver, shared a self-perceived problem. In his community many were being “born again” and they suggested he better get on the band wagon or God will leave him behind. Bodie summed up his problem:


         I have rarely, if ever, felt far from God. My parents brought me to church when I was still in three- 

         cornered britches. As a forty-something year old man, there are only a hand-full of Sundays that I

         did not attend church and Sunday school when I could have. I have taught the Junior High

         Sunday school class for ten years. Now other people are making me feel as if my faith is second-

         rate because I have not had some kind of a ‘burning bush’ experience.


    Do you know what this pharmacist means? I have heard many others say similar things.  They do not seem to fit into the three-step evangelical mode of preaching that goes:

              

         1. You are a rotten sinner and you have a problem with God!

         2. Christ is the answer to your misery!

         3. Repent and let Jesus save you!

     

    The New Testament has plenty of sinners and tax-collectors. In our day there is plenty of sin and evil as well. We all know people ready to partake of sin and evil. Sin chiefly means “separation from God.” Today, as twenty centuries ago, sin explains a lot of what passes for human misery.

     

    Yet, not all of us feel like the broken-down sinners about which “the born-agains” speak. Many Christians feel like the so-called Rich Young Ruler who asked: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replies: “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’ ” His answer: “I have kept all these since my youth” (Luke 18:18-21).

     

    Regularly we meet people whose resumes do not include adultery, murder, theft, false witness, or even the disrespect of parents. Your resume probably does not and neither does mine. What would Jesus say to such a person as ourselves? Sure, we are guilty of sin, but for the most part we are pretty decent folks. So then, what do we do? We do what all Christian people must eventually do: We throw ourselves on the mercy of God in Jesus Christ.

      

    Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser

     

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

     

  • July 1, 2021 - "4 July 1826 and 2021: Independence Day"

       David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, wrote a perceptive biography, John Adams (2004, Simon & Schuster), a few years ago. It was a New York Times best-seller. In the account to follow, McCullough outlines a peculiar story at the end of his exceedingly readable book.

     

    John Adams, statesman and second president of the United States, was determined to live until the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence—July 4, 1826. At dawn on that day, his servant woke him and asked if he knew what day it was. He replied: “Oh yes, it is the glorious Fourth of July. God bless it. God bless you all.” Adams then slipped into a coma. In the afternoon, he recovered consciousness briefly to murmur, “Thomas Jefferson lives.” These were Adams’ last words. Unbeknownst to him, Thomas Jefferson died earlier that same day.

     

    People report that on the evening of July 3rd, Thomas Jefferson was in bed and his life ebbing rapidly. He whispered to a young friend who was watching by his bedside: “Is this the fourth?” The man could not bring himself to say that it was not yet, so kept silent. Jefferson repeated the question and this time the friend nodded. A look of deep satisfaction came over Jefferson’s face, he sighed deeply, lay back, sank into a deep sleep, and died shortly after noon on the fourth.

     

    It is remarkable that these two brilliant statesmen, whose resolve had so much to do with laying the foundation of our republic, were able to keep Charon’s boat waiting on the banks of the River Styx until they could celebrate that date so precious to them both. If you are a student of the philosophy of “life after life,” and/or if you use your imagination to put some content into your Christian understanding of life after death, or if you have some be-wonderment about what happens and who we see when we die, then perhaps you will enjoy thinking about John Adams’ comment, “Thomas Jefferson lives” as he left this world. Jefferson had preceded Adams in death by a few hours. Did these two meet up as they left on the “long journey?” You never know!!!

     

    As we celebrated the 4th of July this year, maybe we might remember greats such as Adams and Jefferson and say a prayer of thanksgiving for them and others who made our nation what it is.

     

    Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser

     

                                                                                     Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

                                                                                              Go, Serve

  • June 25, 2021 - "Sharing Your Faith with Others"

    In the world in which we now live, it seems as if society requires people to step out of their “comfort zones.” Because this is so, I want to explore an idea from NASCAR about which I know close to nothing. I would like to try and suggest how a NASCAR racing strategy can help believers reach out to others in faith and for faith. At the website called “How Stuff Works,” I read about the NASCAR technique called “drafting,” which some ordinary drivers like us might dangerously practice behind “eighteen-wheelers” on major interstate highways—like on 1-35. If you want to read the entire article about NASCAR “drafting,” then go to: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-racing/nascar/nascar-basics/nascar-drafting.htm.

     

    If you think you can pilot a NASCAR race car around Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway at 180 miles per hour (290 kilometers per hour) with more than 40 of your closest friends and enemies hot on your tail, you’d better think again. It takes more than a lead foot and nerves of steel. It’s all about guts and brains and ability—and one of the most critical abilities is understanding the draft, or as many drivers put it, “seeing the air.”

     

    This quasi-mystic talent is a mixture of hard science and cold mathematical formulas, of tough driver training and the blood-and-bone borne art of becoming one with a car and seeing a race as more than just machines and macadam. Drafting is a game of small numbers and risky strategy playing out in a larger drama. Good drafting can turn a humdrum race into a real humdinger and a bumper-to-bumper slugfest into high-speed chess and produce the kinds of races that are talked about for years afterward.

     

    Like the old adage “it takes two to tango,” drafting can only be accomplished with two or more cars. When the lead car rockets down the track it pushes through the air leaving a disturbed, or “dirty,” wake behind it. The second car can slip into that disturbed air stream and reap the benefits—that is, if the driver is talented.

     

    28 June 1703 was John Wesley’s birthday. So, what do you think John Wesley would think of NASCAR? I think that as good Methodists who “think and let think” as John Wesley famously quipped, our example for faith sharing may be more winsome and honest than pure argumentation. We rarely debate or browbeat a person into a belief or a conviction. Rather, we persuade others by who we are and what we do. The best way for a Christian to share his or her faith is to be faithful. Thus, Sunday school, worship, regular giving, and service—these are the great persuaders in our world today. Maybe others will “draft” behind our example.

     

    So, if you want to share your faith with others, then live it with others. God will do the rest.

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

     

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • June 17, 2021 - "Thieving their way to Death"

    When I was a little kid, I thought ants were spellbinding.

     

         Deborah Gordon studies ants and the way they form networks to get things done. Like

         nodes on the internet, individual ants organize into large, complex systems by passing

         simple signals back and forth. We’re encouraged to call this the “Anternet,” and Gordon

         and her collaborators are thinking in terms of network theory—studying how ants

         create resilient, productive networks that recover quickly from blockages and failures, 

         without a central guiding intelligence telling them what to do at every moment

         (https://ideas.ted.com/theres-no-upside-down-in-space).

     

    An individual laid a small circle of poison around a hill of stinging ants. Thinking the tiny granules of poison were food, the ants began to pick them up and carry them throughout the colony. The individual returned later to see how well the poison was working. Hundreds of the stinging ants were carrying the poison down into their hill. Then he noticed a hole in the circle of poison. Some of the poison was moving the opposite way—away from the hill.

     

    Some smaller, non-stinging ants had found this “food” and were stealing it from their ant neighbors. Thinking they were getting the other ants’ treasure, they unwittingly poisoned themselves. When we see someone with more than we have, we want to beware. The hunger to beg, borrow, or steal our way into what is someone else’s may poison us spiritually.

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

      

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • June 11, 2021 - "Is Ignorance Bliss"

    Coming soon : Vacation Bible School—July 5-8. It will be in the mornings, 8:00-10:30 a.m., outside at the Salado United Methodist Church.

      

    It happens sometimes—and sometimes frequently. Messages or letters cross my desk, or perhaps come in an e-mail. These notes ask me to support one cause or another. I ponder: “Who are these people and what do they represent?” Individuals who ask for my support concerning religious or political causes do not really want to enlist me, but rather our entire congregation.

     

    However, one day a couple of years ago, I was delighted to receive a “thank you note.” I did not know what exactly the thanks was about, nor from whom it came. Yet, evidently, from the notes’ context, our church at one time had helped another church with Vacation Bible School (VBS) literature. I did not do a thing, but someone thanked us by thanking me. I am so pleased to be the pastor of a church that does so many ministries that I can’t keep up with you.

     

    When I read that thank you note, I couldn’t help thinking how you as a congregation were plainly living up to Jesus’ mandate: “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3).

     

    So: THANK YOU!

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

     

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • June 4, 2021 - "Were you there? No and Yes!"

    One of the truly great twentieth century America preachers was the late professor Fred B. Craddock. He taught at the United Methodist Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia although he was a Disciple of Christ minister.

     

    Once Dr. Craddock told a story about being far from a situation and yet drawn into the circumstance as if he had been there. This is what Dr. Craddock said:

     

         I remember a few years ago sitting beside a man from West Germany     

         overhearing a Jew from England tell the story of a Jewish community in Poland. 

         When the story ended the German and I turned to each other, paused in silence, 

         and moved out separately. The story engaged both of us. The story addressed, 

         confronted, encountered, and called us into question. Yet, the story, from the

         Jewish man, immensely assured each of us in our hope.

     

    Distance? Yes; long ago and far away, about Jews, in Poland.

    Participation: Yes, we were there. 

     

    Craddock’s story reminds us all of the importance of the things we participate in. What is important to you today?

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

                                                                  Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

     

     

  • May 27, 2021 - "Good Enemies?"

    I remember as an exceedingly young pastor, going to the FUMC of Midlothian, Texas, and preaching as a guest for my old friend, Charles Walton. After worship, at the obligatory covered dish lunch they had to celebrate missions, I commented on how forward-looking this congregation was to have two worship services, although they had enough room to all worship together. I remember remarking, “In studies of growing churches, two services often help congregations grow faster.”

     

    My host, the lay leader, said, “Thank you for the compliment, but there is a darker truth. A few years ago, two of our main families had a big fight that had nothing to do with the church, but after the fight they refused to worship together. So, we added another worship service.” He laughed and said, “We lovingly call the early service ‘the Hatfield service’ and late services ‘the McCoy service.’ ”

     

    Alert! Here now is the pivot! Despite the fact that people do better if they can forgive, there is a sense that if you have some enemies, we congratulate you! For no one ever amounted to much without arousing jealousies and creating enemies. The enemies we keep may be valuable assets, as long as we refrain from striking back at them. Enemies are our assets because they keep us on the alert when we might become lazy.

     

    A wise person once told me, “Be thankful for the enemies you have because having the right enemies may be as important as having the right friends.”

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

     

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • May 20, 2021 - "Too Busy?"

    We all have too many days that seem so busy that there is hardly time to catch a breath. How about you? Do you stop at night and realize you can’t even remember what you’ve been doing all day? A verse from the Psalms helps put things in perspective. 

     

    “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

     

    When I slow down and try to quiet my racing mind and spirit, I remember God’s presence in my life. This quiet time settles me down. It also gets me thinking about my faith. I ask myself—where was the Lord in all the hustle and bustle of my active day? Then, usually everything begins to fall into place. I can recall my day and measure it. I can make decisions—Yes, this was worth doing—No, I don’t want to do that again.

     

    When you’re exhausted and anxious after your busy day, cease your anxious mind and body for a moment with God. It’s more than just quiet time—it’s faith time. Perhaps, it can help you put your day in perspective and get you ready for a busy tomorrow.

     

     Sincerely, your friend,

     David Mosser

      

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • May 14, 2021 - "Random Acts of Kindness"

    A friend recently informed me that I missed this year’s “Random Acts of Kindness Week,” which was 15th-21st February 2021. As you may remember, that was the week of our church freeze and water incident. I think you might understand why we missed it—although we did provide a warming station in our Youth Activities Center (YAC) for the village people who lost their electricity.

     

    Have you ever seen a flower pushing its way up through a concrete sidewalk? That’s not, of course, where we expect flowers to grow. But every once and a while, you can see a crack in the concrete. And the growing things take the opportunity to break through the hard earth and open themselves to the sun and the rain. Life is like that sometimes, isn’t it? Hard as concrete. These kinds of moments occur when the kids or the job or the bills put us between a rock and a hard place.

     

    But if life is hard, then life is also unpredictable. In the midst of hard times, we can be surprised by new life in unexpected places. A kind act, a new insight, a forgiving word is like a flower pushing its way through a crack in life’s concrete. It was God’s son who faced the cross—who faced death so you and I could share eternal life.

     

    No matter what life gives you, new life can be yours—even in unexpected places! Maybe you could start the ball rolling by being “the surprise person” in your neighborhood as you begin acting in a randomly kind way to another person. It is worth the surprise if nothing else.

     

    Sincerely, your [random] friend,

    David Mosser

     

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • May 7, 2021 - "On Knowing God's Will"

    An alert reader once brought me a copy of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. One of the newspaper articles was by Jim Jones entitled “To Know God’s Will is No Easy Thing.” Jones discussed Chuck Swindoll’s book, The Mystery of God’s Will. After writing more that twenty-five books, many of them best sellers, Swindoll is a respected and trusted preacher. He is currently senior pastor at Stonebriar Community Church, in Frisco, Texas and also has a wide following through his nationally syndicated radio program Insights for Living. Clearly, Swindoll is a pastor listened to and highly regarded by many Christians.

     

    I appreciated what Jones wrote about Swindoll’s book. In it Swindoll cautioned against what he termed “voodoo theology.” Jones wrote of Swindoll, “While he [Swindoll] doesn’t know all the answers, Swindoll says that God’s will is mainly revealed in searching the Bible and following God’s wisdom.” Swindoll goes on to say that, “Finding God’s will is a complex, mysterious endeavor. It requires wisdom, clear thinking, and old-fashioned common sense.”

     

    It occurs to me that if faith is a lifelong proposition, then shouldn’t we have a God that takes AT LEAST a lifetime to explore and discover. Those who have a “blinding light” experience of God and then know all of God’s mysteries leave me cold. I am happy that they believe they have all knowledge of God cornered. But as for me, I feel fortunate that I learn a little about God and other people each day. I suppose it gives me something to look forward to next week as God and I continue to get to know each other better and better. I hope this trend continues for many years to come. After all, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

     

    Perhaps there is a great deal about love and God we can still understand—and then practice.

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

  • April 30, 2021 - "Are You Bowling Alone?"

    Have you ever read or heard of a book titled Bowling Alone? It is an important book by which we can understand a bit about our American culture’s shift over the last fifty years or so.

     

    Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology at the University of Arizona, wrote a book review article on Robert D. Putnam’s book, which carries as its full title: Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. What Chaves wrote affects everyone who loves the PTA or service clubs or the church. He wrote:

     

         The phrase “bowling alone”—the title of an article Robert Putnam published in 1995 in a relatively obscure

         academic journal—quickly became shorthand for the arresting claim that civic engagement is in decline. 

         Putnam’s point was that though we may be bowling as much as we used to, we are much less likely to be

         doing it in organized leagues. The article did not, of course, rest mainly on bowling statistics. It pointed to

         evidence of declining participation in a variety of civic arenas—politics, churches, labor unions, parent-

         teacher organizations, and fraternal organizations. 

     

         As civic participation in these arenas declined, Putnam claimed, so did America’s stock of social capital—the

         connections between people that foster cooperation and trust. To be sure, social capital can be used malevolently—to

         restrict employment opportunities for those outside one’s own group, for example, or to battle real or imagined     

         enemies. But because it also serves as a resource for many benevolent activities, we should be concerned about its

         decline (The Christian Century, July 19-26, 2000, p. 754).

     

    I find Chaves’ analysis helpful because too often we in the church beat ourselves up because fewer and fewer people join in church activities. This is not just our problem. It is every organization’s problem. The only way to offset the general drift away from community is for community folks to help people find a way to participate.

     

    Invite a friend to church. Include someone into your Sunday school class. Bring your schoolmates to UMYF. Invite people to become a part of your significant group—youth, choir, Bible study, whatever. This issue of social drift is one that we can only solve with the help of EVERYONE—and of course—God!

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • April 22, 2021 - "Easter: Is it Worth the Climb?"

    As many of you know, Easter is both a day and a season of the Christian year. Here in Salado, we had a superb Easter Sunday. We now are thriving in the Easter season. In a sense, our whole Christian year aims toward Easter. It seems like a long and grueling journey for only one day that morphs into an entire liturgical/worship season. Yet, as mountain climbers respond when someone asks, “Why do you climb a mountain anyway?” They answer simply: “Because it is there!”

     

    A little over a year ago, I heard a woman lecture on our ship about climbing Mount Everest. Rebecca Stephens, a British author, journalist, and motivational speaker, is known for being the first British Woman to climb the Seven Summits. She is also the first British woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. What struck me most as she spoke of the fascinating experience was that her expeditions to the top of the world’s tallest peaks had a lot in common with people like us trying to help build God’s realm through the church’s ministries—whether we do it slowly or quickly!

     

    In church pursuits like these, missions and other quests, leaders make mistakes and followers get fatigued and disheartened. Yet, the result of successful missions is worth the price. We play a part in the Kingdom/Realm of God because that is why God created us.

     

    As we continue to observe Easter, which is both a day and a liturgical season, may we get a gist of just how counter-cultural our faith community is!

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

     

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • April 16, 2021 -  "Easter is for All Seasons"

    My late friend, Rev. Tom Butts, was the Pastor Emeritus at FUMC, Monroeville AL until he recently passed away. Once, Tom sent me his following article. Tom was a gifted thinker, writer, and pastor. I share with you his wise words:

     

         Religion developed around those areas and aspects of life we do not understand,     

         not around aspects we do understand, or think we understand. When our world is     

         manageable,  we may tip our hats toward some sort of higher power in a

         conventional fashion. Some people do not feel they need anything religious to help

         negotiate life when they are doing all right on their own. But, when life breaks open

         at the seams and we are standing before some mystery that is larger than life and

         beyond comprehension, we begin to look at and think of life in a different way.


         It is no accident that when we are looking for spiritual insight and power, we walk

         up a hill outside Jerusalem and stand as close as we dare to the tragic scene of a

         crucifixion, where a gaunt figure hangs between heaven and earth and between life

         and death, and we hang on to every word we hear. “Father forgive them, for they

         know not what they do”—“This day thou shalt be with me in paradise”—“Father, into

         your hands I place my spirit.” What tragedy! What mystery! But we are drawn to it

         like a magnet.

     

         When our souls are empty and our hearts ache and we do not understand life, we

         walk on out to a graveyard, to a tomb, that is open and empty. In the presence of that

          tremendous mystery, which nobody can begin to explain, where by some divine

         alchemy, death and tragedy get transformed into light and life, we find hope, 

         encouragement, and the will to go on.


         Every now and then, just when we think we cannot go on, something strange, 

         sometimes simple, happens and we get a quick glimpse into the heart of God’s

         eternal mysteries. A stranger says or does something and then disappears forever. A

         tragedy turns into a triumph; a miracle happens before our eyes; a child is born or

         dies or says or does something; and our eyes are opened, our hearts are melted with

         love and for a few seconds the mysteries of the universe are laid bare before our very

         eyes.


         Sometimes Easter happens on a dark Tuesday afternoon in December, and for a

         moment we feel "in touch" with someone or something important with which we

         have been “out of  touch" for a long time. Sometimes an angel touches your life in

         mid-summer and suddenly you see and understand things gloriously different. You

         stop being afraid of old ghosts that have haunted you ever since you can remember. 

         You quit caring about all the wrong things and learn how to empty your life of junk. 

         After all, Easter is a day of miracles for the dead, and all of us are or have been or will

         be dead. Whenever that happens, we need an Easter happening.

     

    Thank you, Tom, wherever you are!

      

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

     

  • April 9, 2021 - "Time Wasted?"

    How would you like to spend two years making telephone calls to people who aren’t home? Sound ridiculous? According to one time management study, that’s how much time the average American spends trying to return calls to people who never seem to be in. Not only that, we spend six months waiting for the traffic lights to turn green (not in Salado—I’ve not spent a second on that!), and another eight months reading junk mail. These unusual statistics should cause us to do time-use evaluation. Once we recognize that simple “life maintenance” can chip away at our time in huge blocks, we will see how vital it is that we don’t busy ourselves “in vain” (Ps 39:6).

     

    Psalm 39 gives us some perspective. In David’s complaint to God, he writes, “You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before you” (v. 5). David meant that to an eternal God our time on earth is brief. God doesn’t want us to waste it. When we do, we discard one of the most precious commodities God gives us. Each minute is an irretrievable gift—an unredeemable slice of eternity.

     

    Sure, we have to make the phone calls, and we must wait at the traffic lights. But what about the rest of our time? Are we using it to advance the cause of Christ? It is but a question.

     

    Sincerely, your friend, David N. Mosser

     

                                                                          Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • March 26, 2021 - "Come-Take a Journey"

    I once heard that “the longest trip any human being takes is the eighteen inches from the head to the heart.” A variation of that truth comes from the late Professor Fred Craddock: “From the head to the heart is often the longest journey we will ever make.” Some people make the journey quickly—others may take longer.

     

    Our church observes and celebrates the liturgical or worship seasons of the Christian Year. In order, these seasons are: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Some folks who have come from differing faith backgrounds, or those who have little faith upbringing, may ask: “What is Passion Week/Holy Week?” 

     

    We could define Holy Week as the days from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. A number of folks also identify this identical time period as Passion Week because it tells the story of how Jesus got from a parade at week’s beginning to the cross at week’s end. But, in another way, Passion Week/Holy Week is a week that people move from head to heart in deciding whether or not to follow wherever Jesus leads. 

     

    Maundy Thursday services at Salado UMC will be at 6:30 pm on April 1 (no joke). On April 2 we will celebrate our Good Friday Service, also at 6:30. Both of these services will be outdoors on our church property—just north of our historic chapel.

     

    We invite you to take the long eighteen-inch journey with us this Holy Week

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David N. Mosser

      

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • March 19, 2020 - "What does Charles Kuralt have to do with Lent?"

    People sometimes ask me about what they as United Methodists can or should do for spiritual practices during the season of Lent. Charles Kuralt (Sep 10, 1934 - Jul 04, 1997) offers us a secular perspective on an ancient religious practice.

     

    Mr. Kuralt spent his adult life on the back roads and small towns of America. He always ended his award winning “Sunday Morning” show with three minutes in which no one said anything.

     

    Instead, there were images from nature designed to touch people’s hearts and calm their souls: an Adirondack stream making its way down white birch-guarded mountain slopes, undulating wheat on the Kansas’ plains, a small rural pond where some youngsters stood with fishing poles, or a playground scene where school children skipped rope and played games . . . and so forth.

     

    Our spirits need down-time and intermission, as do the spirits of all human beings. For the remainder of Lent, be sure and take some time to practice the spiritual disciplines of our Christian faith. A few examples of spiritual disciplines include scripture study, meditation, confession, fellowship, service to others, and witness. As Lent winds down, slow your pace a bit and enjoy the life God gives us to celebrate.

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

     David N. Mosser

     

    Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • March 12, 2020 - "Daylight Savings Time"

    By now, we all know that daylight savings time starts this next Sunday. I like what a 4th grade teacher did with his class when he collected several well-known proverbs. He gave each child in the class the first half of the proverb, and asked them to come up with the rest. Here is what one pupil came up with respect to daylight savings time:

     

    “It’s always darkest . . . before daylight savings time!”

     

    Dave Barry chimes in by writing about daylight savings time in his list of 19 THINGS THAT IT TOOK ME 50 YEARS TO LEARN. Barry writes: “You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time.” Perhaps there are many items like this opinion on daylight savings time on your list.

     

    What I do know for certain is that we have had some great things happening in our church recently. These great things include doing ministry in Jesus’ name despite COVID-19 and our flood in 2 of our church buildings. Even in the midst of a flood, Rolly opened our church’s YAC to families in Salado who had no power and/or electricity. Dr. Bird also made a call on an infirmed resident who could not get to her doctor because of the ice. We as a church always find ways to help others.

     

    In my own minor informal survey, I would ask you to give me a “thumbs up” if you read this e-mail blast when you see me Sunday—even if from afar. We are continuing our in-person church meetings again at Thomas Arnold Elementary cafeteria. Also, if you have other kinds of communication feedback, then I would welcome a chance to hear what you have on your mind.

     

    I pray for this church every day as we move toward Easter and I ask for your prayers as well.

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

                                               Come, Worship

    Stay, Learn

    Go, Serve

  • March 5, 2020 - "World Day of Prayer"

    One of my Alabama preacher buddies sent me this story which I think provokes theological thinking about today’s World Day of Prayer.

     

    In a small Texas town, a businessman began constructing a building to open up a new bar/tavern. A local church started a campaign of petitions and prayer meetings to block the bar from opening. Yet, work progressed on the building right up until a week before the opening when the bar was stuck by lightning and burned to the ground.

     

    The church folks were rather self-satisfied after the lightning bolt struck the bar, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means. In their reply to the lawsuit the church vehemently denied all responsibility or connection with the destruction of the building.

     

    When the case came up on the docket, the presiding judge looked at the pleadings and commented, “I don't know how I am going to rule on this, but it appears from the paperwork that what we have here is a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that doesn’t.”

     

    The lesson in this amusing legal case is that prayer does not always make your troubles go away. Rather, prayer can sometimes make your life more difficult. Many Christians routinely pray: “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Yet, a positive answer to that supplication would radically rearrange the life of the supplicant and the supplicant’s world. Are we ready for that?

     

    Prayer can be dangerous! Be careful what you say when you pray. God may think you are serious in what you ask.

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

     

  • February 26, 2021 - "You Cannot Go Back!"

     

    I shared a golf story last week in this blog (with a point). Now it is equal time for baseball—also with a point! In theory, (but with Covid-19 all is usually up in the air as well as the Texas weather which we all experienced last week), Spring Training begins tomorrow.

     

    Baseball fever is among us these days, thanks to the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros—even as Texans continually ache for football season. In my friend Dan Flanagan’s sermon of August 18, 1996, he told the following story:

     

         “Germany” Schaefer was one of the characters of baseball. One of his teammates, Davey Jones,    

         claimed he was the funniest man he’d ever seen, and that included Charlie Chaplin. On 4  

         September 1908, Schaefer did something no other major league baseball player has ever done—he

         stole first base. The Tigers were playing the Cleveland Indians that day. Schaefer stood on first base

         with his Detroit teammate, Davey Jones, on third. The sign was for a double steal. Schaefer took off

         with the pitch, but Cleveland catcher, Nig Clarke, held on to the ball, and Jones stood on third.

     

         Schaefer yelled to Jones, “Let’s try it again.” So, the very next pitch, Schaefer scampered back to

         first base. The catcher, so stunned he didn’t even throw the ball. It confused the umpires, too, who, 

         after a lengthy discussion, allowed Schaefer to remain at first base. But on the next pitch, Schaefer

         gave out a yell and took off to second base again. This time, the catcher threw the ball, but  

         Schaefer was safe sliding into second, and Jones scored from third. Because of Schaefer’s stunt, 

         the rules changed. Anyone else trying to return to a base would oblige the umpires to eject them

         from the game.

     

    In this case, baseball reflects life. In life, we do want to steal first base. We are always grasping for what is past, but we can’t go back. Part of the life of faith is to look forward to what God wants us to do. Sometimes we can only look back to the way things were. Yet, backward looking is only good in seeing that God has taken care of us in the past. Perhaps now God wants us to venture into the future with faith. Take God’s track record with us as a sign of blessed things to come.

     

    Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser

     

                                                           Come—Worship

    Stay—Learn

    Go—Serve

     

  • February 19 *- Golf and the Kingdom of God

    Several years before my Dad died in California, he sent me the following news article that amused him. It was from his local newspaper, the Bakersfield Californian:

     

    Golfers deserve the stories told about them. Two days ago, a Rio Bravo Country Club golfer set fire to the dry grass in the rough from the exhaust on his gas golf cart (an electric cart won't pull that steep course). The flames roared and the smoke was great; the golfers called the fire department and then went right back to playing golf. The evening news television pictures showed them golfing with flames and smoke in the background.

     

    Now you have to admit, that kind of focus and concentration on the task at hand is, no doubt, both admirable and laughable. Yet, for people who profess the love of something, that kind of focus is praiseworthy. Ask yourself, “Have I ever done anything silly for my family?” We all know the answer to that one!

     

    For people who love Jesus Christ, their actions may look silly or downright comical to many in our world. Yet, as those who believe that in Jesus God gave us the power to conquer sin and death, nothing is out of the realm of possibility for us. For it is the love of God pulsing through us that guides our lives and actions.

     

    Go! Be fools for Christ (1 Corinthians 4:10)—and God will bless us.

     

    Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser


    *This post was written prior to the winter storm and events of this past week. 

  • February 12, 2021 - "Scout Sabbath"

    Each year in the first week of February, the Boy Scouts of America celebrates its birthday. It’s a date officially known as Scouting Anniversary Day. When I was a kid, scouting meant a lot to me.

     

    But this anniversary is more than an excuse to eat an extra s’more and commemorate another year of Scouting adventures. It’s also when packs, troops, crews and ships honor a Scout’s “duty to God.”

     

    Through a trio of faith-based celebrations known as Scout Sunday, Scout Sabbath, and Scout Jumuah, young people give back to the chartered organizations that give them so much.

     

    The exact dates vary, for example the United Methodist Church observes 14 February 2021 as Scout Sunday this year, but whenever we observe the day, it is an opportunity for Scouts to publicly demonstrate the 12th point of the Scout Law: “A Scout is Reverent.”

     

    That might mean an act as simple as wearing the full field uniform to worship services (if we were able to meet face to face). It might mean participating in services by doing a reading, singing a song, or presenting religious emblems and awards to Scouts and Scouters. It might mean the scouts help with “drive by” communion. Or it might be something as grand as a service project to benefit our church or the community.

     

    However, we choose to celebrate, it’s essential this year to do so safely. And so, in addition to sharing dates and information about Scout Sunday, Scout Sabbath and Scout Jumuah, I ask that we continue to pray for the many ways our church can reach young people for Christ. We are already in earnest prayer for our nation and world!!

     

     Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

     

  • February 5, 2021 - "Bird Lover Sues Vet for Ruining Parrot"

    [USA Today: 24 August 1996]

     

    My dog and I love our veterinarian, Dr. Jon Kendall. So, when I ran across this item in my files, I thought this story was really great—in a bizarre sort of way! I hope Dr. Kendall never faces a patient like the one written about below. Also, a year ago, my son and I were in Australia and the story gave me pause—Sydney is one of the great cities of the world.

     

    My brother in addition constantly reminds me that we are a nation of victims. Consequently, I was quite pleased to read that persons of other nations also see themselves as victims.

     

    SYDNEY, Australia: A bird lover has filed a lawsuit against a veterinarian for ruining the sex life of his favorite parrot. Roger Schlup told the New South Wales District Court that he took his blue and gold South American macaw named Nelson to veterinarian Ross Perry with a broken right leg in 1994. He alleges that Perry somehow broke the bird's other leg during treatment and then failed to fix either properly. Schlup claims strong legs are essential for the macaws’ intricate mating ritual. Schlup said he now has no chance to breed the willing but unable Nelson and sell his offspring, and asked for $192,000 in damages.

     

    In many people’s lives the easiest thing to do when something bad happens is to look around and find a scapegoat (see Leviticus 16:20, 22). We can easily blame our parents, the schools, the government, your unrighteous next-door neighbor, your fifth-grade teacher, the stock market, Mrs. Baird’s bread, the gene pool, etc. . . . (you get the idea!). In blaming so, we thereby escape personal responsibility for the life God has given you. This life is one God gives us to steward as part of the Divine’s tender mercies (Luke 1:78). 

     

    This “blame game” is not a Christian way of living. As we near the season of Lent, it is a perfect liturgical time to take stock of our lives. This means that we confess our sins and transgressions. We take responsibility for our actions and the actions of our community. This is why the prayers of confession, both individual and corporate, are at the heart of our worship. In order to receive God’s grace, we must first confess the need, then we receive grace as a gift from God—not something we either earn or deserve. This recognition is the beginning of a mature faith.

     

     Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser

  • January 29, 2021 - "Beginning Anew"

    Doris Mortman once wrote, “Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.” I can’t say as I have ever heard of Doris, but I think I would enjoy visiting with her. When Paul wrote out of deep gratitude to the church at Philippi, here is one of the things he wrote:

     

         “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In      

             any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in           need. I  can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress”  

             (Philippians 4:11-14). 

     

    It takes a great deal of integrity to finally be able to acknowledge who we are. Of course, that does not mean we stop trying to grow or do what Wesley urged when he wrote and spoke of “going on to perfection”—that is “being made perfect in love in this life.” The integrity comes by finally and simply making a stake in life that says “I stand for these things.”

     

    In this vein, as we have dipped our toes into a new year and strive to be what God created us to be, Socrates’ words have a ring of helpful truth about them: “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”

     

     Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

     

  • January 22, 2021 - "On Being Famous Enough*"

    Not long ago one of my colleagues telephoned with a question. She called because she knows that I know probably too many preachers. She wanted to know someone who could preach a first-rate set of sermons for a clergy gathering. After tossing out six or seven names of those whom I considered to be top-quality preachers, both men and women, she rapidly dismissed each one. She exasperated me. So, out of annoyance, I asked, “What is wrong with these names?”

     

    Then she came clean. “I’m sorry,” she said, “none of these names is famous enough.” It struck me as odd. Can you imagine that Paul or John Chrysostom or Peter Cartwright or Charles Haddon Spurgeon or John Wesley, or Martin Niemöller would have not had enough of a reputation to elicit a preaching invitation? In our twenty-first century sometimes, what is most essential is the status of the presenter rather than the competency or faithfulness. Perhaps, it is really all about celebrity.

     

    For this reason, we should appreciate the scores of preachers who labor under relative anonymity and produce faithful sermons to feed their congregations each week. To them I say a grateful word of thanks. I find it a comfort to know that some of the best preachers in our country today are those persons of whom we have never heard—and likely never will. Yet the preaching task remains central regardless of notoriety or its absence.

     

    Each pastor and each congregation have an exacting and sacred association that no others can imitate. I know that in fact, many pastors do everything else that they do (administration, pastoral care, fund raising, counseling, and so on) in order to preach God’s word.

     

    Consequently, we trust that no authentic preacher will be so lifeless or lacking in zest as to let enticement for shortcuts weaken preaching's effectiveness. At the same time, the preaching task is so difficult we can never do it by ourselves.

     

    Sincerely, your friend,

    David Mosser

      

    * Excerpted in part from: The Abingdon Preaching Annual 2013, edited by David N. Mosser ©2012 Abingdon Press. 

  • January 15, 2021 - "Dr. King, Jr. Day"

    My old friend/mentor, Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Jr., from Monroeville, Alabama had much contact with the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Tom’s stories and insights are both memorable and notable. He regularly helps others learn about racism and offers means by which Christians may conquer it. Below, Tom writes about children and prejudice. For MLK, Jr. Day, I hope this speaks to you.

     

        Ah, there is where it begins, my friends. I do not believe that children are by      nature racist. They have to be taught. Oscar Hammerstein wrote a song in     

        1949 for the musical South Pacific entitled: “You’ve Got to Be Carefully      

        Taught:”

     

         You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

         Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

         Of people whose skin is a different shade.

         You’ve got to be carefully taught.

         You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

         Before you are six or seven or eight,

         To hate all the people your relatives hate.

         You’ve got to be carefully taught.

     

         And we were!! At our house we got up early each morning, did our chores,     

         ate breakfast, and sat on the front porch and waited for the little yellow     

         school bus to come and take us to our nice brick school house in Repton,    

         Alabama. Each morning as we waited for the bus, a little group of African-  

         American children would walk past our house on the way to a ram-shackled

         wooden school house some 3 miles past our house at Nichburg. We knew

         that when they passed our house, they had already been walking for an

         hour, and we knew that when we arrived at our nice school house eight

         miles away, those children were still walking. They had little time to study

         before starting the long trek back home.

     

         My little sister, Janice, who was in the first grade, would say: "Why can’t      

         they  ride with us to our school?" I never did hear anybody give her an     

         answer, anymore than saying: "You will understand when you grow up." 

         Her question haunted me. Children are not by nature prejudiced. They have

         to be carefully taught. I grew up in a tightly segregated society where    

         racism was the norm—tlb.

     

    I’ve always appreciated Tom Butts and all he has done for me. I pass his wisdom along to you because he has a lot to share.

     

    Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser

     

  • January 8, 2021 - "Yes, You Do Need God"

    About ten years ago Indiana Bishop Coyner wrote about some billboards in Indianapolis which suggested that “You don't need God.” I thought this spending of money for billboards wasted effort, as our culture already, for the most part, neglects God anyway. Yet, I thought Bishop Coyner’s response was helpful for those who have experienced life, love, peace, and compassion through our God-experience. Frankly, I don't know how people can go through times of illness like we are going through now without the loving prayer-filled support of a faith household. Here is the Bishop’s (not ours) response:

     

    Yes, You Do Need God

     

    Some folks launched a new billboard campaign in central Indiana. Carrying out this project is a group who wants to promote a secular view of life. They placed several large billboards around Indianapolis proclaiming, “You don’t need God to hope, to care, to love, to live.” One of the persons responsible for this campaign is quoted as saying, “People can live without God. Millions of us do so already. We need to discard once and for all the myth that one needs God in one’s life to be a caring, loving person.”

     

    Really? Is that true? Do you believe that people can be loving and caring without some kind of religious foundation? Read more ...

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