Weekly Devotion April 26, 2024


For our Prime Timers Senior Adult Ministry lunch yesterday, I dragged out some of my model railroading collection. Yes, I’m a train collector of HO, O, and G scale models. Displaying my collection was difficult because I couldn’t unpack dozens of boxes and show off everything I have. I found it hard to pick just a few things that represent the entire collection. It’s like choosing your favorite child! I couldn’t do it! Somehow, I managed to control myself and filled a show-and-tell table with a few locomotives, some rolling stock, and maps and pictures of full-sized trains. It was fun playing show-and-tell with the Prime Timers.

I’ve spent many hours in my life modeling trains and playing with them. Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3) Seems like Jesus is on the side of adults who like to be childlike from time to time. My wife seems to agree as she approved my renovating an attic storage room into a train room. I can’t wait to have an open house for church members to come play trains with me.

Many people have an instinct to collect things. What do you collect—toys, dollhouses, dishes, or porcelain figurines? Maybe you thought if you collected stamps, coins, or beanie babies you were “investing” in stuff that would make a big payoff in the future. Many a collector has been down the road of thinking their stuff was worth more than it really is.

The old joke is true, “Do you know how to make a million dollars with a collection of _________?   . . . . Start with two million dollars.

Occasionally there will be an anecdotal story about some art or toy collection that fetches a high price at auction. These stories are the exception to the rule. Collections are only worth something to the collector. No one else cares very much.

The instinct to collect things might be one of those things God planted in us. If we are made in the image of God, then at some level God must be a collector. God is not into trains, planes, automobiles or beanie babies, Hummels, or dishes. God is very interested in us, his children. I think God collects all the memories of you he can. God celebrates our successes and roots for us to do better when we fail. At the end of our lives, God, the Great Collector, gathers us up into his presence for eternity. The collection of his children in heaven is diverse and astonishing. I imagine we are all the favorites when show-and-tell time comes.

Collections are only worth something to the collector, and you are infinitely valuable to him.



SPRC News!

Dear Church friends,
We are happy to report that we have hired Dr. Alexandra Dunbar as our new Organist. Dr. Dunbar most recently served the congregation at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Athens for the past four years. She comes from a very musical family and studied at the Manhattan School of Music (BM), and the Juilliard School (MM, DMA). She plays violin, piano, and organ. Her postgraduate degrees are in harpsichord and piano. Dr. Dunbar performs often at solo and chamber recitals and has soloed with orchestras in venues from New York City, Italy and Prague. She has six musical siblings as well and has performed in Carnegie Hall with her sister, Maggie Snyder, as a sister duo called Allemagnetti. Please welcome Dr. Dunbar at our 11:00 traditional worship services.
Dan Zant and the Staff Parish Relations Committee


Summer Softball League

The Good News | Weekly Devotion

How Long O Lord?

About this time every year, our Bishop publishes the official list of United Methodist pastors who are staying at current churches and those who are moving to new churches. This past Sunday,  Dr. Dan Zant, our SPRC Chairperson, announced that I was reappointed to Madison First UMC this year. Rev. Leigh Martin, my wife, will continue in her appointment as the Program Coordinator for the North Georgia Conference’s Center for Clergy Excellence. She will move from part-time status to full-time. Our one-year anniversary here will be this Summer on July 3rd.

Among our 433 UMC North Georgia congregations, there will always be a percentage who are moving. Sometimes pastors move for personal reasons. Sometimes congregations need a new pastor based on the changing needs of the community. Other reasons include pastors losing their credentials, retiring, going on medical leave, or passing away. Our appointment process quickly supplies a pastor with the right gifts and talents to our churches. Personally, I think we get it right more than we get it wrong with our system.

Many times, the defining impression non-UMC people have of UMC pastors is that we move a lot. Madison First UMC is my 7th church appointment in 28 years. My longest tenure was 5.5 years and shortest was 2 years. I never checked the move box on the annual move/stay form. I’ve gone where I was sent to serve, where I’ve been needed.

My pastoral appointments average out to just over 4 years per church. Interestingly, according to the latest data of the bureau of Labor Statistics, the average time a person stays with a company is 4.1 years. However, my last couple of churches were longer appointments than my first couple. I’m still with the same “company” with its many “branch offices”. I don’t think that’s unusual among other denominations. United Methodists are just more public about it.

How long, O Lord, will I be here? Only God knows. I love this church and community and plan on being here as long as I am needed and fruitful. I hope I’m needed a long time!

I often say to new members, “we join a congregation, not a pastor.” Joining a pastor is like joining a cult of personality. Paul said it well, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.” (1 Corinthians 1:13-15). It’s not about the messenger. It’s about the message.

Let me ask you, “How long O Lord will you be here?” I hope that it is a long time! I hope that you are fruitful and grow in your faith.

Please be in prayer for all the churches experiencing this season of transition as pastors leave and pastors are received. Our prayers are with all the congregations of North Georgia as they consider their next steps in ministry that makes disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the World.




Confirmation Sunday

Please save the date for Confirmation Sunday, Mother’s Day, May 12th. Our confirmands have been growing in their faith and learning more about becoming members of our church throughout the past year. We will recognize this commitment to their faith during both services. Be sure to congratulate these young members and their families!

Marriage Enrichment Group

“Name Those Feelings”

April 21, 2024

Asbury Gathering Room

Childcare is provided by First Kids or Youth with nursery available for children under 3 years old.
Join The Revs. Leigh and Zack Martin for a light dinner and casual discussion with your spouse!

MEG is a monthly gathering of couples who care about their marriage and participate in short, meaningful couple activities. It’s preventive marriage maintenance, not therapy!

Weekly Devotion | April 11, 2024

Is Easter Over?

There was a marvelous event in the skies this week – a total solar eclipse that made its way across our continent. There was great anticipation and excitement as large crowds travelled to the cities where there would be totality and the best visibility of the eclipse. News channels covered the event for days, with reporters spread all along the path. Here in Madison, we experienced about 80% totality, and for a short time, it was magnificent. For a just a few moments, most of our country came together, putting our differences aside. In unison, we looked up and saw an event in the heavens that no human could have set in motion. We saw something bigger than all of us. But now, the eclipse is over. We are all just back to business. The news has moved on to other topics. All that excitement has passed, and our attention has naturally moved on to other things.

But what about Easter? Is it over too? Easter Sunday, in all its glory, beckons us to live like Easter people. But sometimes, we treat Easter a bit like that eclipse, don’t we? During the 40 days of Lent, we prayed, and we reflected on the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus. We grappled with the reality that He paid the price for our sin and we wondered if we were worthy of that kind of love. In the darkness of Good Friday, we remembered with hope that Sunday was coming. And so it did! On Easter we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord with great joy! We ran to the tomb and we saw for ourselves that it was, in fact, empty. We sang our Hallelujahs and we rejoiced with peace and love in our hearts. We all looked up together. It was magnificent. But now, a week or two later, are we still acting like Easter people? Are we living our days as if the tomb really is empty? Or, after all the excitement and the celebration, have we found ourselves edging back into the routine of daily life – back into the tombs of our own making? Oh, they come with many different signs above the door: Stress, Fear, Anger, Hurt, Worry, Pride, Doubt, Resentment, Hopelessness, Grief, Regret, even Unforgiveness. All the things. Whatever we call them, those tombs can hold us captive.

We know Jesus came out of the tomb. We believe it with all that we are. But do we know that means we can come out of ours too? We struggle so mightily to get out of our tombs by our own strength. We push that stone with everything we have. Or we pretend it isn’t there. Or maybe we just settle in and dress it up, trying to make ourselves think we like it there. But here’s the thing: We don’t have to move the stone. It is already done. When Jesus died on that cross, we were set free. We are no longer captives. We just have to be willing to walk out of the tomb and into the Light.

Living as Easter People doesn’t mean life won’t be hard. It doesn’t mean we won’t experience difficult circumstances. But those feelings and circumstances don’t have to define us. They don’t have to hold us in bondage. Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, defines us. He holds us in the very palm of his hand and He bids us to come out of our tombs. Jesus said to the disciples in the upper room, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” As Easter People, it is our time to heed the SENDING. He calls us to go, right now, and build His Kingdom, be His Church, and serve his people with love and humility. Jesus’ death on the cross brought healing and hope to THIS side of heaven. We don’t have to wait until we get there. Let that tomb crumble. Let that stone roll away. Christ has risen from the dead and our sins are forgiven. We are free and Easter has only just begun. Let’s go tell somebody.

Guest Writer: Ruth Bearden, beardenrmb@gmail.com

Weekly Devotion | April 4, 2024

This reflection is from a friend of mine, and I must share it:

I made a stop at Publix on my way to work this morning. On my way out the door, an employee walked up to me with a potted lily in hand and asked if I wanted it. I asked, “Why would you give me a lily?” She replied, “We’re getting rid of the lilies. Easter’s over.”

Easter’s over? Those two words have haunted me all day. I guess Easter is technically over if you’re in it for the pretty flowers, bunnies, candy, egg hunts and commercial aspects of the day. But for Christians like me, Easter is far from over! Easter is the hope of, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” I left the store with a free, beautiful lily and a renewed purpose in living out the hope and promise of what’s to come through our risen savior, Jesus Christ. Easter is far from over; it’s just the beginning.

This thought comes over me every time Christmas is over, or Easter is over, or Pentecost is over, or, heck, anytime Sunday worship services are over. We are meant for something more because of the message of all these experiences. Friends, don’t just leave your spiritual life at the Easter tomb, the Christmas manger, or the benediction of a Sunday morning service. Reflect the hope and joy you have in Christ because of what those experiences teach you. Friends, Easter is far from over…It’s just the beginning.


SPRC News!

We are happy to report that we have hired Dr. Lenae Rose as Choir Director, Head of Traditional Music. Dr. Rose began teaching in Rockdale County Public Schools in 2001 and is the choral and theatre director for Morgan County High School since July 2018. She earned a bachelors and master’s degree in music education from The University of Georgia. Her Doctorate in Educational Leadership is from Liberty University. Lenae has taught chorus, musical theatre, drama, show choir, and AP music theory over many years. She is currently the Program Director and Co-Artistic Director for the Oxford Singers through the Newton County Arts Association. Lenae is very active in the arts community in Georgia and lives in Madison with her husband, Brandon, and two children, Sora and Stuart. Please welcome her to this new position this Sunday April 7th .