April 8, 2017

Good Morning.
A while back I heard a quote: "What's the difference between Christians and disciples? Christians go to church, disciples follow Jesus."

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. We recognize Jesus' triumphal entrance in to Jerusalem to begin what we recognize as Holy Week. As we know, he rode in on a foal of a donkey. He came in the most peaceful way, not as a warrior king.
What stands out to me, though, is throughout his final week of life, his only acts of aggression ...were toward the Temple and the religious leaders. He called off his disciples when they tried to defend him from being arrested. He called for forgiveness for his executioners.
But when he entered the Temple, he overturned the tables of money-changers because they had brought worldly aspirations into the House of God.

This week will be full of pageantry and extravagance in many of our churches. But I wonder if Jesus were to ride up on a colt, would he join in or overturn the tables? This week, and every week, we need to be looking at our churches and asking if we are being the church that Christ established in this world. Or are we building temples to ourselves and filling budgets to sustain our own desires? I feel convicted when I walk into a church with a $20 million facility but know there are millions around the world hungry and hurting.

I hope this week we can reflect on Jesus' final week and ask ourselves if we are being Christians or are we disciples? Personally, I know I need to work on being more of a disciple than I have been.

Have a great weekend.

Cornerstone United Methodist Church

Published by Ryan Sanford · · August 18 at 7:07pm ·

Next month marks 18 years since I fell in love with the most amazing and fascinating species on the face of the Earth...a Southern woman. 11 years ago she brought me to Tennessee and I love living in the South. I love the food, the people, the culture, and the weather. This week, however, we found out something that made the Sanford household remove one of the staples of the Southern home. Bacon.

I found out on Tuesday that I am allergic to mammalian meat. No beef. No p...ork. No venison. Tuesday evening we happened to have breakfast for dinner and we had eggs, biscuits, and TURKEY bacon. Owen quickly pointed out "this tastes funny!" Lee Anne's immediate response was "I love it...it won't hurt Daddy."

It reminded me of Paul's passage in 1 Corinthians 8- "if what I eat causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again..."
Lee Anne was more than willing to remove bacon from our kitchen because she loves me more than any food.

The events in Charlottesville last weekend were disturbing and sad. It pains and angers me that people can hate other people while claiming to be followers of Christ. Granted, I'm sure I mess up scriptural interpretations, but this one seems pretty clear.

What has been equally disturbing this week has been the division that has been created by last weekend's events. I see people defending hate all because of statues and who had a permit. Maybe it's because I grew up in the North and American History classes were taught differently than down here. But as a Christ follower, I keep coming back to that scripture in Corinthians and Lee Anne getting rid of bacon. I cannot set aside the fact that some things that may seem honorable or at least harmless to some people, are symbols of great pain others. And for that, I choose love of those hurting over some piece of rock. We have to be careful that our political views never trump our spiritual beliefs. I'll give you an example.

I had a neighbor that loves his Southern heritage. He was a regular churchgoer and active in his small group. He did not see the Stars and Bars as a symbol of racism. A couple years ago we had a new family move in next door to him. They were black. My neighbor flew his confederate flag on his front porch when they moved in. His love of Southern heritage completely blinded him to the fact that his flying the flag was possibly the most hurtful thing he could have done to that family trying to adjust to a new neighborhood. I really don't think this was the act of a follower of Christ.

My prayer for our church is that we always choose love of God and love of others over any political, social, or cultural issue. I firmly believe that is what we're called to do. I believe that's what Christ did for us.

Hope this weekend is better than last.

Cornerstone United Methodist Church

March 4 at 7:58am

Good Morning.
Last weekend, I went home to Ohio to attend my grandmother's funeral. I grew up in a really small town in Ohio. More of a cluster of houses in the road, actually. My grandma's house was across the yard from ours, with my Aunt and Uncle next to her. A pretty amazing place to grow us as a kid.

Just up the street was St. Agatha Catholic Church. This is where my grandparents went to church. A tiny little church up on a hill. The whole building consists of o...ne sanctuary room. If you need to use the bathroom, you go outside and around to the basement. A friend of mine in high school that went there came walking into my house one Sunday morning because he told his mom during the service that he needed to go to the bathroom, so he just came to my house. I don't think she was pleased.

I remember, before my grandfather died, him going up to that church on Sunday morning and ringing the bell in the steeple before service. The rope for the bell hung down into the back of the sanctuary. Every Sunday afternoon, my grandma would go to the church and gather up all the trash from the morning and bring it home to put out. Throughout the week, she would be washing the altar cloths and ironing them for the following Sunday. The people of the church, many of them would simply walk to church, mowed the grass, painted the outside, fixed anything that was broken, did all the cleaning...you name it, it was done by those people in the church. And I can't even begin to name all the many ways that church impacted the small community I grew up in.

The diocese has since basically closed the church. Well, they still maintain it and have Wednesday night services, but no Sunday morning. For grandma's funeral, all those people of St. Agatha were still there- playing the organ for the service, feeding us lunch after, and crying as they were serving because of the loss of my grandma.

That little catholic church of several dozen people formed the foundation of what I understand and appreciate of church. I am the pastor of a little church in Smyrna, Tennessee because of the impact St. Agatha had on me as a child. The catholic church went through some struggles in the last several years, to say the least, but if you ever want to see what being a church that truly loves God and loves its neighbors looks like, you should have seen St. Agatha.

I fully understand that churches must be continually growing. That's what we're called to do. But don't underestimate the impact the little churches are making on the Kingdom of God. They are "doing church" in ways big churches never could. I see it every week at Cornerstone and am so underserving to be the pastor there, and I think my grandma would have liked our little church.

Have a great weekend.

Cornerstone United Methodist Church

February 11 at 9:09am ·

Good Morning.
This week, good friends of ours had a baby. She delivered a 10lb 3oz whopper of a boy. They did not find out the gender of the baby beforehand, so it was a surprise to everyone.

It's always a blessing to celebrate new life. Not only are we celebrating the baby, but the potential of what this child will do in the world over the next several decades. This world will be changed for the better because he is in it.

My friends already have a beautiful little girl in their family. They have an amazing 3-year-old that got to meet her new baby brother for the first time. Her reaction was priceless..."But I wanted a sister."

Her little mind could not possibly wrap around the blessing it would be for her and her family that she now had a little brother. I see this everyday with my own kids. Owen is Ashley's biggest fan and cheerleader. He adores her, and she him...most days.

I don't think I can count how many times in my life I've reacted to some situation in my life the same way the big sister did. I would pray for something, but the outcome would be much different than I had wanted in my mind. "But I wanted...."

My feeble mind cannot fully comprehend the will of God. I cannot see the potential of what He places in my life now that can have impacts 10, 20, 50 years in the future. I can only see that it didn't turn out as I planned in my head.

I think we can all say we've experienced times, however, where we look back and see where our prayers were answered differently than we expected and what a blessing that has been. Those moments of realization merely scratch the surface of the grand wonders of a God that knows our every footstep before we take it.

God is good...all the time. Even when our little minds can't understand it. I hope we can celebrate every day as a day of new potential, like new life, to see where God is leading us. I assure you, the world will be changed for the better because you are in it.

Have a great weekend.

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Cornerstone UMC