Welcome to Rev Mary's Blog and YouTube Channel

Check out my weekly sermon!

Check out Rev Mary’s weekly sermon along with some of our special services.

Trials and Perseverance

Trials and Perseverance

James 1:2-8 If you’ve ever gone through a hard time (and who hasn’t), then you’ve probably heard one or more of the following: “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” “Rain on your wedding day is good luck.” “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “When one door closes, another opens.” “Every cloud has a silver lining.” “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” We have dozens of sayings like this, all designed to find the positive in a negative situation.  Some of them are silly (Why would a rainy wedding be good luck?).  Some of them are inspiring (Keep running, team – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!).  A few are built on shaky theology (If everything happens for a reason, does that imply that God is responsible for evil?  And if God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, well, it seems I can handle a whole lot more than I want to). These expressions have their place.  It helps to have a good pep talk when we’re down.  But when a really serious challenge comes up, these same phrases can turn to bitter medicine.  When my “cloud” is a category five hurricane, it doesn’t help to know that there’s a silver lining out there somewhere.  When I’m buried under a crushing pile of “lemons,” don’t talk to me about lemonade. For that reason, I have mixed feelings about these expressions.  They’re nice and all… but when things are really bad, I need something more. I need James 1:2-3. James 1:2-3 has long been one of my...
Back to School Clothes

Back to School Clothes

Ephesians 6:10-20 Today the kids go back to school – my two, and all the kids here in Cherokee County, NC.  All over social media you can find pictures of fresh-faced students in their back-to-school clothes. Ah – that first outfit.  On it will rest the hopes and fears of all the [school] year.  Or was that just me? The back-to-school outfit was so important to me, I can clearly remember a couple of them.  Like the stonewashed pair of Guess jeans that were so tight, they had zippers at the ankles to get them over my feet and I had to lay down on my bed to button them up.  At the other end of the spectrum were the wide-legged JNCO pants that I bought with my own money – because my mother would never have financed that foolish endeavor. My style changed from year to year… but my hope to put my best foot forward remained the same.  My secret dream was that the campus came might come to a state of hushed awe when I stepped out of the car.  “Wow, Mary really changed over the summer!”  “She looks great!”  “Maybe I should ask her to go to homecoming!”  “Maybe we should make her the homecoming queen!” Of course, that fantasy is only for the world of teeny-bop coming-of-age movies.  But it does make a difference to have the right outfit, does it not?  A little extra confidence and a good first impression can go a long way. That’s what draws me to Ephesians 6:  this idea of putting on the right things.  Not clothes –...
How (and how not) to be angry

How (and how not) to be angry

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). How can we be angry, but not sin? That’s the goal that Ephesians puts in front of us.  Not to not be angry – but when we get angry, to do it without sinning. All week long I’ve been trying to figure out just how to do that.  Anger is a powerful but dangerous emotion, one that can easily get away from us.  If we’re not careful… While I’m sure you’ve never grown muscles and turned green in your anger… I bet you’ve had your anger turn you into something you’re not (or don’t want to be).  How can we be angry, without those kinds of things happening? For starters – I think we want to be angry like God is angry.  Six times Scripture describes God as “slow to anger” (Exod 34:6, Num 14:18, Neh 9:17, and Pss 86:15, 103:8, 145:8).  The Psalms match this description with “merciful and gracious” in each instance.  I’ll back that up with personal testimony, as this has been my own experience of God:  full of mercy and grace, slow to be angry. But let’s not confuse that with never getting angry. If you’ve read the Old Testament, you are well aware of God’s anger.  God gets angry so often we might question the “slowness” of it:  when people do what is evil (Deut 4:25), break his covenant (Josh 23:16), or worship other gods (Deut 6:15, Judg 2:12).  God gets angry when the Israelites touch things they’re not...
I Love to Tell the Story

I Love to Tell the Story

John 9:1-11 My family went to church almost every Sunday growing up.  Hundreds of times we emerged from the captivity of the air-conditioned worship service into the warm freedom of Sunday afternoon.  The memories from those drives home are strong; when I think of them, I can almost feel the baked heat of the parked car… I can almost smell the Church’s fried chicken we’d pick up for lunch… and I can almost hear the last hymn that got stuck in our heads. And the hymn I most remember us singing was this one: I love to tell the story, Twill be my theme in glory, To tell the old, old story Of Jesus and his love. It’s the first hymn I remember liking – the first one I remember getting excited about when it came up in rotation.  I liked it because of its tune (mercifully low for us altos).  I think I liked it, also, because even a child could understand it.  Where other hymns include terms like “Ebenezer,” this one was blissfully simple: I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true; it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do. So… wonderfully… simple.  I love to tell the story! And yet – not simple at all. Have you ever tried to tell someone the story of God’s love?  If someone asks, “Why do you go to church?” or “Why are you a Christian?” is it simple to tell the story?  Or do you...
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

John 14:1-14 This is my favorite hymn.  Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love. This is my favorite hymn… because it’s about wandering. And oh – do I like to wander.  My soul finds peace when my body is in motion, whether it’s hiking miles down the trail or jogging loops around town.  Andrews UMC has an indoor walking track; when I take my prayer time off my seat and and a’ wandering up there, I pray for three – five – ten times as long. “Come Thou Fount” isn’t about that kind of wandering, though. It’s the story of a man named Robert Robinson (1735-1790) – but it starts when he was just a boy.  His dad died when he was young and his mother couldn’t control his wildness.  She sent him off to London with hopes he’d learn the trade of barbering and make a decent life for himself.  Instead, Robinson wandered off that intended path to learn the trades of heavy drinking and gang life. One day when he was 17 (or so the story goes) Robinson and his buddies were drunk and silly and decided to have fun seeing a fortune teller.  Things turned serious for Robinson, though.  Something about the encounter seriously bothered him.  It seems to be this moment when he first suspects that he had wandered far astray, in a bad direction. This...
O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

Psalm 145 Can you name the first hymn in our United Methodist hymnal? It’s not placed there by chance.  “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” sits right at the front because it’s an important part of our Methodist story.  Its lyrics are a beautiful expression of gratitude for all God has done for us through Christ. But when you look carefully at this hymn… it doesn’t really make sense.  And that’s part of what makes it so powerful. It all started on May 21, 1738.  Charles Wesley – brother to John and writer of over 6,000 hymns – was sick and stuck in bed.  Such moments of forced rest provide good time for deep reflection, and before long Charles began to feel a “strange palpitation of heart.”  It wasn’t a symptom of his physical illness – it was a sign of his spiritual healing!  “I believe!  I believe!” he declared.  Charles had found peace with God! Just three days later brother John had a similar experience.  He was at a meeting on Aldersgate Street and listening to Martin Luther’s “Preface to the Epistle of the Romans” being read aloud (also a period of forced rest? Sorry, Lutheran friends – that’s no page-turner).  Lo and behold, John Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed.”  He knew, at last, that he did trust in Christ alone for salvation! These were big-time powerful moments!  They were write-a-song-about it powerful:  Charles would craft “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” to mark the one-year anniversary of his conversion experience.  They were also gotta-tell-my-mom-about-this powerful:  the Wesley brothers wrote home to share the great...