|Dear Trinity Church Family,
It is with great joy and anticipation that I greet you today. There is so much I want to say and a lot you will want to know, but I’m going to keep this brief and simply say I am honored and humbled to be appointed to serve as the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church.
My wife Anne and I look forward to getting to know you and sharing ministry with you in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. As we move into the parsonage and get settled, I want to thank everyone who has welcomed us and helped make this transition possible. I especially want to thank Jim and Molly Sprouse, not only for their 23 years of service to this church and community, but for the many ways they have welcomed and helped us over the past several months. I know you join me in praying for them as they transition to the next set of adventures in their lives. I also want to thank my colleagues in ministry, Keith Lee and Eileen Gilmer, the rest of the Trinity staff — along with the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, the Trustees, and the Parsonage Committee for their countless hours of service helping us move and welcoming us to the church and community.
We wish that we could be gathering in the sanctuary on Sunday morning for worship and fellowship. (We will. Eventually. But not until it is safe to do so.) In the meantime, we are going to find other ways to get to know one another. To start with, I hope you’ll plan to join us for worship online on Sunday morning and then sign on to Zoom for a virtual fellowship hour after the service. You’ll find details in the E-News and in the worship bulletin. There will be additional opportunities in the coming weeks. We look forward to meeting all of you!
Finally, I hope you have a safe, healthy, and happy Independence Day weekend. I look forward to seeing you in worship and on Zoom on Sunday.
By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
Lent is probably the most widely observed season in the Christian year. Remember that Easter Day was originally the only day in the Christian year! The early Christians met weekly on the first day of the week to pray, break bread, and share in the apostles’ reminiscences of Jesus’ earthly ministry (Acts 2:42). Their meetings were characterized by an expectation of their Lord’s immediate, sudden return. In this ecstatic atmosphere, one did not do long-range planning and goal setting. Within the pages of the New Testament, we have indications that time was fast becoming a threat to Christian faith. Time, if it were not to be an enemy, had to be made a friend. It was through this domestication of time that the Christian year evolved.
Although the precise details of the evolution are impossible to know, the general outline is rather easy to discern. First, there was the weekly celebration of the Resurrection. This celebration was of the entire Paschal mystery: the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and Ascension, the gift of the Spirit, and the promise of the Lord’s return. There next emerged a special emphasis in the spring on the celebration of the Paschal feast in relation to the actual time of the historical event. This celebration extended itself back through the Crucifixion on Friday and the Last Supper on Thursday, thus creating the Paschal Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. We know that in Jerusalem the custom began having the bishop ride a donkey into the city on the Sunday before the Passion and so inaugurate that period of observance that we call Holy Week.
Penitential discipline came to be attached to Lent as the Church increasingly understood itself as the field where the wheat and the weeds grew together. A major disagreement in the second century had to do with how to deal with those who denied or betrayed the faith. Those who had sinned were expected to perform appropriate penance. It soon became customary for all Christians to use the Lenten period as a time for repentance of past sins and self-denial (hence, “giving things up” for Lent), even if their sins had not been of a major or notorious kind.
Lent, then, is not a prolonged meditation upon the Passion and death of Christ, a pre-extended Good Friday. The clue to the meaning of Lent can be found by looking at the two days that frame it, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On Ash Wednesday, it is customary in many congregations for persons to have ashes placed upon their heads while they are being told, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” In other words, we are confronted by the fact of our mortality in a vivid physical encounter. On Good Friday, we witness the death of another human being, and we are told that in this death we all have died. Lent is intended to end at the cross, but it begins with the human condition that we all share, and it takes on the character of a pilgrimage. We’re on a pilgrimage. Keep an account of what you observe along the way.
Spring is almost here. It’s on Sunday, March 19. I can’t wait. I love spring and everything that it brings: flowers, more hours of daylight, and warmer weather (although I can’t complain about this winter). But mostly, I love knowing with spring comes Easter. Easter reminds us about renewal and life. We celebrate the God-come-to-earth in Jesus. We reflect on his self-sacrificing love, and we rejoice in our opportunity to live our lives reflecting his time on earth.
This is also a perfect time for spring cleaning. It’s not just about sorting through an out of control sock drawer or clearing out a hall closet. (Although getting rid of extra stuff in our lives can be a form of service if we donate useful items to those in need.) The spring cleaning I’m talking about is more spiritual in nature. It involves searching out the things that are holding us back from, or getting in the way of, our connection to God.
What is getting in the way of your spiritual life? What are the things that you need to pack up and deal with for once and for all? Maybe it’s guilt, envy or shame. Maybe it’s the need to forgive or to be forgiven by someone. Whatever it is, know that God is with you in your struggle. Your church family at Trinity is also here with prayer and support. Please know that Jim, Keith and I are always here to listen and pray with you if you need us.
I invite you to take stock of what’s important in your life and then act on it. I’ll see you Sunday.
By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor
VBS Aug 3-7
The dates for VBS 2020 will be Aug 3-7. The theme is Knights of the North Castle and according to its publisher, Cokesbury, the curriculum aims to “Go on a quest learning to grow strong in the strength of God’s power by exploring how we put on the armor of God.”
As always, we are recruiting volunteers. We already have a solid core but the excellence we have maintained over the years depends on a high number of volunteers. Also, youth volunteers play a vital role in keeping VBS fun, energetic and vibrant. The VBS prep team consists of Jen Fuqua-Calsyn, Andrea Hager, Melissa Harris, Harriet Latta, Marci Thomas, Melissa Witt and me. We will be meeting continuously leading up to August, so please keep us in prayer. To volunteer, please contact one of us for more information, and we will get you connected!
Youth Update-Introducing Ed & Will
I’m proud to announce Ed Booth and Will Todd will join the youth group as young adult volunteers. Ed was entering and Will was already in college when I came to Trinity five years ago. They always attended church when they were in town and kept in touch over the years. Both graduated this winter and have settled back in McLean. They expressed their desire to help with the youth group because they felt blessed by it when they were growing up and want to contribute to its growth and vitality. We are blessed and honored to have them as volunteers. Ed wants to help anyway possible, and Will wants to make the youth group as memorable and relevant as it was when he was growing up. Please thank and welcome them in this new role. Thanks Ed and Will!!
The confirmation class has been meeting faithfully. All the confirmands are a joy to be around and have been fantastic participants in this year-long journey. One of the goals of confirmation is integrating them into Trinity because once they are confirmed, they will be full members of Trinity with all the duties and rights. Please keep them in prayer because the class is heading to its conclusion with Confirmation Sunday and Banquet on June 14. They will make a presentation during worship and will read their faith statements during the banquet. Writing faith statements has been a great challenge in the past so please keep that as a prayer topic. The confirmands are Olivia Burgeson, Lily Calsyn, Catherine Dunn, Fiona Keough, Madison Turk, and Zach Yellen. If you see them in service, please welcome and encourage them as they journey on in the confirmation process.
By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 26. This means Easter is celebrated on April 12 this year. In order to get to Easter we must pass through the season of Lent which addresses our need for spiritual discipline.
The discipline involved in Christian spiritual formation begins by looking outside, not inside, ourselves. A long tradition that began in classical Roman Catholicism and has continued to be popular with many Protestants assumes that spiritual renewal begins by looking deep within our own souls and our private religious experience. Behind this assumption is the belief of the ancient Greeks that the human soul is a “little piece of divinity” in us, in hopes of encouraging us to get in touch with ourselves at the deepest level. If we want to recognize and experience God’s presence of God’s life-renewing Spirit in us, we must be willing first to look away from ourselves, outside ourselves, beyond our personal experiences.
This Lenten season I invite you to join me and others on a spiritual journey that will change the way you look at Jesus. For 6 weeks following Ash Wednesday we’ll look at the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life. The journey is called 24 Hours That Changed the World, by Adam Hamilton. Jesus is believed to have died between the age of 35-40. Most of the Gospel writers focus on the last three years of his life. Our primary interest in this Bible study will be on his last 24 hours. Our study will examine what happened on Thursday evening after sunset and end at the close of his life on Friday afternoon. During that time we’ll see Jesus eat the Last Supper with his disciples; pray in the garden of Gethsemane; be betrayed and deserted by his friends; be convicted of religious blasphemy; be tried and sentenced for insurrection by Pontius Pilate; be tortured by Roman soldiers; and finally, focus on his crucifixion, death and burial.
The aim of this study is to help you better understand the events that occurred during the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life, see more clearly the theological significance of Christ’s suffering and death, and reflect on the meaning of those events on your life. To do this we will look at the geographical and historical settings of the events; we’ll reflect theologically on the meaning of these events and Jesus’ death; and finally we’ll examine ourselves in light of the story, considering how we’re like Pilate, Peter, Judas, John, Mary and Martha.
Our class will meet Sundays at 9:30 a.m., Mondays at 10 a.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. The study DVD is provided by Adam Hamilton and study books are available in paperback ($10) and Kindle (<$8). Simply ask me for your print copy. Remember, the Spirit is the Spirit of God that cares about each of us. This Spirit has the power to renew your faith and deepen your understanding of God’s work through salvation. This Lenten study will help us focus outside ourselves, give up our self-centered preoccupation, and soften toward the world, and others, who are also on a spiritual journey, whether they acknowledge it or not.
Let’s begin together our journey through the last 24 hours of Jesus life. See you at any of our three class offerings, as we take the first step.
Grace and Peace during this Lenten season of preparation.
By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor
Is your inbox in need of a good purge? I have hundreds of emails telling me I need new shoes/clothes/dog treats/medications from Canada to help me have a rich and fulfilling 2020. There are ads from so many businesses, stores and services, all trying to get me to buy from them. No need to worry; Angie still has her List and Victoria still has her Secret. It was refreshing to see an email from United Methodist Communications. They aren’t selling anything.
One of their articles caught my eye. It’s entitled Spiritual decluttering: A fresh start for a new year. We often use the new year as an opportunity to clean out the hall closet or sort through the kitchen junk drawer. As United Methodists, as blessed children of a loving God, we might want to take this time to declutter our lives, as well. First, let’s start by looking at the things we can set aside.
First, the church pew. Most people sit in approximately the same place each week. In fact, Jim, Keith and I can usually tell you which pew you frequent. Next Sunday, why not view the service from a new perspective in a different seat? Try sitting near someone you’ve never met. Introduce yourself to a person sitting alone.
Next on the list of things to go: time-wasters. In other words, get rid of the things that don’t matter and use your time in service to others. Ask about volunteering at Christ House, delivering snack bags to Martha’s Table, joining a church committee or Bible study.
Here’s another thing to give the boot: negativity. We have many triggers for negativity in our culture: political rhetoric; the Beltway; or an overload of cell phones, emails and conference calls. It may seem easier said than done, but this can actually be turned into a spiritual practice. Whenever you feel stressed, stop. Read a devotion for a quick pick-me-up (we have Upper Room devotion booklets in the Fellowship Building). Another tactic: think about something that you are grateful for in your life. Or, pray for God’s good grace to surround you as you forge ahead past the negative noise.
I’m glad I got that email about decluttering from UM Communications. And, I’m grateful to have you as a part of Trinity’s family.
By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor
Last month, our group made plans for the year. We decided to have two categories. One was for fellowship/fun events. The other was for outreach and service projects. Fellowship outings are important in maintaining and building relationships. These outings provide opportunities to form memories and experiences that will shape students’ faith journeys. The other important category was outreach and service projects. Our group felt that this was an important area and had many ideas. Also, some parents expressed the desire to increase opportunities for service projects. We listed some options and discussed their merits. We narrowed the list to the following below. We welcome greater participation by Trinity’s youth community at these events. Please take a look and join us soon!
April 5 Ice Skating
Skating might not be inviting when it’s cold outside. But when the weather warms up, and we miss the chill in the air, then skating should be fun.
May 17 Laser Tag
We had a great time with laser tag last time so we’re going again!
June 7 Bible Museum
July 13-26 King’s Dominion
The date is still up in the air depending on students’ availability and schedule.
If there is a fantastic game conference held in the area, we will consider it and announce the date. We’re waiting for more info from our game master before we decide.
We went to Whitetail this January and had more than twenty participants. We’ll go again next year so look for announcements.
You know this will be in the list. Last year we sold all the trees in three weeks. We hope to do the same. Please plan on helping out starting Thanksgiving weekend!
Christ House Lunch Service Project
Christ House is a medical care facility for those who are homeless. It’s located in DC, and every third Saturday of the month a team from Trinity makes lunch and serves residents. Connie Jeremiah said that she would love to take a team from the youth group. Let me know if you’re interested in this service project.
Vacation Bible School
VBS is a vital ministry of Trinity that serves the greater McLean community. It’s not just a program but a great way to minister to 100+ children and their families. The end of July or first week of August are possible dates.
This is still in planning stage but most likely the trip will be for one week right after the end of the school year on June 12. Look for more info.
Youth-Based Food Drive for SHARE
Trinity collects food for many organizations, and SHARE is one of them. We thought that we could sponsor one. Most likely, we’ll have one in September.
College Care Packages
The youth group has always helped send out college care packages. Our next shipment will be in February. Donations for food and postage costs will be appreciated.
By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
Let me tell you a story about what the state of Virginia looked like 110 years ago. The year is 1911. The population was 2,061,612 – Richmond (127,628), Norfolk (67,472), Roanoke (34,874), Danville (19,020), Alexandria (15,329), and my little hometown of Charlottesville (6,765) – Staunton was larger with 10,604. Total protestant church membership was 793,546 – 415,987 were Baptists, 200,771 Methodists, 28,487 Episcopalians, and the rest divided among the other denominations. The total indebtedness among all the churches in Virginia was $966,367. At my alma mater, the University of Virginia, there were 96 professors, 24 officials, and 784 students. The population of the world was 1.6 billion.
At the birth of Jesus of Nazareth the population of the world was 200 million. At the close of 2019 it was 7.7 billion. So, let me tell you a story about what life looks like in the rest of the world in this year. If we could shrink the earth population to a village of exactly 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the world would look like this: 61 Asians, 13 Africans, 12 Europeans, 13 from the Americas and 1 from Oceana; 50 would be female and 50 male; 70 would be non-white and 30 would be white; 33 would be Christian, 21 Moslems, 13 Hindus, 6 Buddhists, 11 other religions, and 14 without religion or atheist. 70 will be malnourished or undernourished, 15 overweight – 6 people will own 59% of the world’s wealth (all from the U.S.); 73 will own 39%, 20 own all the remaining wealth 2%; 20 have no clean drinking water, 15 are illiterate, 1 has a college degree, and 7 have computers. Across the world in one year for every person who dies, two babies are born.
Now, let me tell you one more story. You, I and all who worship God are on a grand adventure together with Jesus Christ. Jesus knows how badly things in His world are out of balance. And He expects His church to address human needs and conditions on a global scale. Only God knows what wonderful challenges and adventures lay ahead for us in year 2020; what new faces will join our happy throng; what familiar faces will disappear from our earthly fellowship. Let us remember those who in 2019 passed from time-bound life to life eternal: Bruce Benson, Al Conlon, Len Holmberg, Gene Larkin, Karen Loss, Fred Martin, Shirley Paul, and Kathleen Race. We are all just passing through time. Each of us has only a limited time in which to address the world’s needs we have inherited from our previous generations. We can see the incredible changes that occurred in our state over the last 100 years. What if the entire world could experience such dramatic, life altering change? With full confidence that God knows where our journeys meet, let’s embrace one another and the global community with an esprit de corp and enthusiasm for mission and ministry together with Christ that continues proclaiming the greatest story being told.
Shalom / Jim
By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor
I am a fan of L.R. Knost. Her website describes her as (among other things) an award-winning author, Jesus lover, feminist, social justice advocate, mom of six, and founder of a children’s rights advocacy group. She’s also a fierce fighter. Knost has been fighting a rare, incurable cancer for years. But in her words, “I’m still here!”
Maybe it’s because she’s a gifted writer. Maybe it’s because she’s confronted—and staved off—death for years. Whatever the reason, Knost consistently comes up with wording that leaves me thinking I wish I’d written it. As we kick off a new year and jump/tumble/are pushed toward a new decade, I share this gem.
“You can hate it.
You can love it.
You can hide from it.
You can embrace it.
You can analyze it.
You can idealize it.
You can romanticize it.
You can rage at it.
But you can’t ignore it.
It is in your bones.
It is in your lungs.
It fires through your brain.
It is wrapped around you
as intimately as your skin.
It flows through your veins.
It is woven into your DNA.
It is life.
It is life.
It is life.
What will you do with it, love?
What will you do with it?”
By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor
For some of us, 2019 was not memorable, and we wish we could have some moments over again. If that’s the case, then the story of Korah’s children should remind us of God’s restoration and redemption. There are eleven songs ascribed to “Sons of Korah” in the book of Psalms. This is surprising since Korah was a reviled character in the wilderness stories (Exodus-Numbers). Three main theories account for their existence: One, these psalms point to nefarious elements in the Bible; two, they are coincidental because they are not related to Korah in the Exodus-Numbers account; three, they witness to God’s redemptive act on the vilest elements in society. The strongest scholarly and rabbinic arguments favor theory number three.
Numbers 16 recounts the tale of Korah’s rebellion against Moses’ authority. The cause of the rebellion is not clear but Korah challenged Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership with support from 250 leaders. His claim was that Moses and Aaron should not be esteemed because all of God’s assembly is deemed holy. Moses replied that God will decide. The next day, the ground opened and swallowed up Korah, his family and his conspirators. Additionally, a plague broke out killing 14,700 people. Needless to say, this incident is one of the harshest stories in the wilderness narrative.
Rabbinic literature is unanimous that sons of Korah were saved. The most common view is that when the ground opened up, they were caught up in the air. Some say they were given a special place in the underworld to compose these psalms and other praises. As for scholarly sources I cite David Mitchell’s article on the topic. He points out various places in the Bible where the theme of Korah’s descendants are mentioned. The most famous one is Hannah because of her marriage to Elkanah (a name associated with the Korah clan). Mitchell claims the prevalent theme in Korahite psalms is the phrase “God will redeem my soul from Sheol.” This fits the idea that God restores those who were punished for their misdeeds and mistakes.
The redemption of the sons of Korah is not explicit in the Hebrew Bible. A careful and distinct thread is woven through different parts, and an attentive eye could uncover this truth; no matter how bad one messes up, God works diligently to turn that around. If you had an unpleasant 2019, for the start of the new year I want to remind you that God restores us from the pit of the most dreadful mistakes, circumstances and problems, and we have a future to look forward to. Psalm 85, one of the Korahite psalms, declares:
Restore us, O God of our salvation,
And cause Your indignation toward us to cease.
Will You be angry with us forever?
Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?…
Show us Your loving kindness, O Lord,
And grant us Your salvation.