Category Archives: Pastor Barry

Noah, Spirits in Prison, Angels, and Temptation

Lent has begun. A journey of Forty Days heading toward Good Friday and Easter. We all know the End of the Lenten Season is Good News. It’s the getting there that can be a bit rough, a bit less-than-good. No sooner than I was marked by the ashen cross on my forehead last Ash Wednesday service, I was ready to wash it off! No more reminders of how bad I can be! Or what I am made of and where I will wind up~~

But it’s not just about me! It’s about the whole sweep of the Bible story that includes old man Noah, Angels, Spirits in prison, Water rescue, and being tempted. Christian or not, all people, if they are honest, know they are tempted! Tempted to the bad in life. Tempted to give in, give up in all the rough spots in the Journey before they get to the safety of Easter Home.

So, Lent’s 40 Days is a miniature of each and everyone’s life: ashes to ashes, dust to dust, but Good News in spite of being marked by a ashen cross on your forehead! Who hasn’t thought “it’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.” Actually it’s more like “it’s Monday…can’t wait til it’s Friday! Weekend is coming!”

However we count the days it’s a spiritual journey from the point of view of the Bible. And that point of view is ultimately full of Light not all of Darkness. It’s a struggle as our texts show us; but whether from The Genesis or Mark or Peter text the message is Good News: God IS at work to bring us through!

There are a lot of “players” in the journey. Let’s get to know more about some of them this Sunday in worship! Don’t be “tempted” to skip out just because it’s supposed to rain(!). Remember, Noah got through a whole lot more water than we’ve had lately! Jesus made it through temptation! Peter’s fellow Christians made it through their trials. So, if the “creek don’t rise”…..see you soon!

Pray for each other~†

Pastor Barry

Mountain Top View

Most everyone has a mountain top story or memory. Many recall their first visit to The Smokies and a vigorous hike up Mt. Leconte. Some of us tell stories of being up on one of the many 14,000 ft. mountain peaks in Colorado. Other mountains? What sights one can see high up on a mountain!

Two of our texts for this Sunday are about high places! Mark recounts Jesus on Mt Tabor (?) in lower Galilee with Elijah and Moses appearing! The 2 Kings text describes the prophet Elijah going upward to heaven in a whirlwind as a chariot and horses of fire appear! Paul in 2 Corinthians speaks of the glory of Christ, the light of the gospel, but that is often hidden by “the god of this age.” People look but do not see because they are looking in the wrong places quite often. They never look up! They never look for the Holy One!

Whenever we do encounter God in high (or low) places, in worship or in nature or… name it (!), it leaves an impression. We remember the experience and it becomes one of many foundations for our ongoing life of faith.

The key is faith! Trust! In spite of never perhaps having another mountain top experience in the Lord! Faith walking is sometimes more like being on a highway that is flat, routine….sort of like driving from Nashville to Memphis (!). Okay, I suppose, but not very exciting. Both mountain and flat stretch are part and parcel of the Christian life. Sometimes a great view with great company (Elijah and Moses), sometimes with not much to see and in the company of some people and some situations blocking the view!

Mountains, valleys, exciting moments, shadowy times….they come to each and all. What stays with us? Memories of the great moments….and hopes for that which is even greater. We live out of the past gifts of God to us, and also that which is yet to be given. We are people of faith, experience, tradition, and the community of the saints. We celebrate these different gifts in worship.

Invite someone to worship this Sunday…someone who may need to stir a memory, or someone who needs to have hope for something greater than what they are going through now! Past, present, and future….they are all there in worship, in church life, in the community of faith. Be a part of it!


Pastor Barry

Paul Says ‘Play Ball’….?

Really? Have we had 51 Super Bowls and now onto 52?! That’s most of MY life! I suppose many could say the same thing about having television shows, movies, and various fashions and trends of the era. We live in our 21st century American culture and that is considerably different from the American life of our great grandparents. Different from other nations and ages.

Our Bible texts take us to an age that knew nothing of our culture, inventions, and fashions. But if we read Paul closely he is dealing with the cultures he is ministering in! He shares what and how he will adapt. For the sake of the Gospel! Jesus ministers in first century Capernaum on a busy Sabbath including a family members illness, healing, meal time, and a demon! Then he moves on to the next town or community. Some things the same then as today! But also different as we look back although we hope to receive a Bible message still relevant now.

So, people wake up and think about how the Sunday will unfold, how will we worship and then move in and around a major cultural event whether the interest is in the actual game or more so in the new commercials or the half time spectacle! Or the food or the company we keep?!

We do this all the time and we model for our children and grandchildren, our neighbors and the unchurched, the outcast and those whose lot in life rules out any interest in a Super Bowl because of numerous personal, health, or work circumstances.

Well, my intentions are to watch and enjoy the Super Bowl but also keep in mind how Christ and culture meet and what will you and I do with both! A tough question at times, but that’s one reason to go to worship, read the Bible, look how others lived in the past, and maybe get some current help in that matter! If Paul can adapt to his culture for the sake of ministering the Gospel and bearing witness to the good gifts from God, so can we!! Each may “draw the line” somewhere in our wide ranging cultural life but we need each other’s help in doing so!

See you Sunday morning if I don’t see you later at kickoff time!

Pastor Barry

Conflicts Going To Happen- Help!

Well, read these three texts (Deuteronomy 18:15-20, Revelation 12:1-6 and Mark 1:21-28) and you will find one of two things: why people attend worship and why people don’t! These are wild and difficult scriptures but SO dramatic and so full of images. Prophets, demons, dragons! And Jesus! Some people are fascinated and respond in faith while others are repelled or afraid and stay away.

Personally I am drawn to this sort of stuff but I am also the preacher and am responsible to some extent to deal with this responsibly and faithfully. I imagine if you really like to read books, watch TV or go to movies, or just like a good story, you TOO are interested in such wild difficult scriptural stories. Plus, we hold forth that there is God’s Truth being revealed and proclaimed in scripture! I think these stories of Truth are more helpful and demanding of us than, say, some general rules and guidelines for good behavior!

Truth comes to us personally in Story. You are more likely to respond and act when you find YOURSELF in the Bible stories rather than when someone just lays out laws and rules to be obeyed. We need both but one is a more positive appeal where the other is more like a perpetual threat since, sure enough, we are “rule breakers!”

Tell me the stories of Jesus and THEN I will better understand why we need to contend against evil that inhabits people and why the universal True Story is so cosmic in nature that we hear about dragons and women and childbirth on a scale beyond our mere earthly existence!

There…..hope that gets your attention! Now go and read these texts for this Sunday’s worship and Word proclaimed. You might just turn your TV off for a while as you read the Bible dramas!

Blessings in reading and hearing God’s Word in community with your brothers and sisters this Sunday!

Pastor Barry

Urgency! Patience! Both?

The snow and cold are coming! Urgent preparation! Patience when they arrive lest your foot slip on snow, lest you brake on black ice!
Patience in the NFL Playoffs as you run your game plan; but urgent in 4th quarter if you are down by double digits! Urgent demand to lose those Winter pounds….but patience to lose it a pound a week to make it last!

Jesus calls to first century fishermen: “Follow me!” The same call today to us in 2018? Urgency of the eternal moment upon us?! Live as if this world is passing away, says Paul in I Cor 7:24-31. Yet, the Psalmist counsels “waiting.” Waiting in silence my soul is to seek God alone. Psalm 62:5.

Urgency and patience. They are not contradictory but rather can come each day, each season, and flow forth from each life. Wisdom is in knowing when each one is required. The Christian hears Jesus call us by name each day to “follow.” We take Paul at his word that we should consider living “as if” this world, this age and its earthly demands are “passing away.” We believe the Psalmist when we are counseled to “wait in silence for God alone.” Yes, when the call comes we can respond with steadfast urgency or….we know we can “wait upon the Lord.”

What is the Word for us, for you, for our congregation this Sunday…for the week that follows? Trust and obey for there is no other way~~~+

Blessings in 2018 as it continues to unfold before us in both snow and in sunshine!

Pastor Barry

Phillip Morris, MLK, Jr., and You!

You have to be a certain age to know what “Call for Phillip Morris” means. And to some still young, the name MLK, Jr. is only vaguely familiar in our U.S. history (his birthday is remembered January 15). His voice shaped a nation in transition toward civil rights for all. He called for justice and for true freedom. But, to EVERYONE their own name is impressed upon them early on and frequently and most turn their head toward any call of their name.

We are called for numerous reasons throughout life. Roll call, dinner call, call to go to work, call to attention. We hear our name and we respond. Sometimes we resist in hearing as well! “No, that call must be for someone else….thanks tho for trying!”

God calls too…..we are known by God from cradle to the grave…and beyond. God wants to get our attention, but the call is not always clear to every ear. Or it is clear and we decide to not “hear.” And day in and day out the call is very much embedded in all the necessities and cares of our earthly toil and glad joys!

God calls to individuals even if we are in a ten thousand seat stadium. Samuel heard the call but it took repeating. Nathaniel was called by Phillip and then by Jesus. The call is important. It leads to the fullest, most meaningful life even if shortened, stunted, or only dimly understood! And it can be sent to you strongly once, twice, thrice, but most assuredly throughout life even as a “still small voice.”

What are you hearing from God when you read these Bible passages? Rest assured, it is not just to the people in the past e.g., young Samuel, Nathaniel, or Phillip, or those in Temple or synagogue who sung Psalm 139. It is meant for YOU and for all. Today.

This Sunday’s worship will be a call to listen to God in your own unique way, your own remarkable life, and your own unfolding spiritual path. But, we will be together and always walking side by side as the church. In that togetherness we will more fully understand our own personal call. Jesus’ work of calling was always with his rag tag group of disciples as they became “one in Christ Jesus.”

Hey! Listen up everyone! Your name is being called! “Call for…….!”

Blessings in this New Year~!

Pastor Barry

Bases Loaded or Third Down and Goal

This Sunday is a preacher’s trifecta! The pastor’s three-in-a-row. The Sunday that loads the bases! I exaggerate a little but not by much.  It is also something of a challenge to do justice to a worship service which speaks to Epiphany/Visitation of the Magi (Jan 6), first Sunday Holy Communion, AND Baptismal Renewal Sunday. They really all do come together this weekend. Any time you bring The Three Magi in for our two Sacraments you have a full, full hour of Christian worship!

The texts are wonderful and span so much Bible history and revelation. Isaiah can hardly restrain himself in praise for what is to come, the visitors from the East are like so many today, seeking Truth, and Paul in Ephesus gets to clear up the matter of Baptism with some local disciples. The results in all these texts are impressive. Might we have results of discipleship and commitment and thanksgiving as we in turn receive from the Lord in our own time!

Hear the Word, Remember your Baptism, and partake of The Lord’s Supper. Can it get any better?!

Blessings as we enter 2018!

Pastor Barry

Being Human in the Year of the Lord

So….as we count time, another year comes to a close. We actually have Sunday worship on the last day of 2017. New Year’s Eve! As much “new” as we might hope for, there will be plenty of the “old” to take with us into 2018! Some good, some not so good. Some a blessing, some more like a burden to bear (and both to be shared by the brothers and sisters in the faith). However, to God, who is eternal, the message(s) will be both the same yet ever fresh full of hope! God’s word is for all times in all places for all peoples.

In my absence, Bro Rob Dunbar will bring the message at Kedron and Carol Reynolds, Lay Speaker from Wartrace UMC, will speak at Locks. Our “connectional” churches and life together in the Stones River District make this collegial mutual support possible.

Pray for one another as we enter the opportunities and challenges and surprises of a New Year. May God be in all your “making plans and doing ministry!” Isaiah the prophet calls out for a “year of the Lord’s favor!” May it be so!

Pastor Barry

Tent, Temple, Total Body Workout

2 Samuel 7:1-16, Romans 16:25-27 and Luke 1:26-38.

These Bible verses are all about the mystery of God, immortal, invisible, infinite, wholly Other, Holy.  Yet, this God shows up! With us! In a really nice Garden, wilderness burning bushes, pillars of fire by night, tents, temples, and a young woman Mary!

We know that! I know that! I have prayed to this God in hundreds of common earthly places from mountain to plains, in cars and planes, in hospitals and wedding chapels, in clearest of days and darkest of nights. God is a circle whose circumference is everywhere! God is That which is greater than whatever we can conceive!

Advent and Christmas, in spite of all the visible flash and stir of shops and meals, giving and receiving, is about the Mystery showing up in our regular and irregular lives. A Mystery NOT to be solved like a good murder mystery novel but to exalt in and to enjoy! To be comforted by and to be saved from Sin and Death by.

The Mystery is often celebrated best by seeing and listening and not explaining. There is a place for explaining and teaching but we often learn over a lifetime by just looking around and listening to the sights and sounds of Creation and creatures.

Enjoy the Season of sights and sounds which point toward God the great loving Mystery! God is indeed Everywhere!
Blessings of Christmas to all!

Pastor Barry

Preparation Anyone?

John the Baptizer called the Jews of his day back to the wilderness, the place where God traditionally informed and shaped His people. There, in the wild, a way was to be prepared for the Coming One, the Messiah. John the camel hair dressed prophet, eating locusts and wild honey, baptized synagogue attending Jews! It was close to someone telling the regular “church goer” to Get Right With God. Who, ”ME?”

Since we are all in an unexpected “wilderness” at some points in our life perhaps we should listen in! And what better time than the Advent time of waiting for Christmas joy and peace and hope. Advent is really more than cards, parades, parties, and shopping! Any of the latter can express The Reason For The Season but can also “hide” the great need for spiritual introspection, preparation, and personally meeting God again and again throughout our life’s journey. God always accepts us where we are but doesn’t want to leave us as we are!

John the Baptizer is a good one to listen to but because he is pointing to the One to come. Jesus brings the Spirit to our wildernesses, our finding our way forward, and all our relationships both in family, community, and nation. Prepare a way for the Lord (Isaiah 40:3)! Make this 2nd Sunday in Advent a time of preparation for your spiritual renewal with God in Christ!

Pastor Barry