Pastor’s Notes:
   While the weather continues to provide some challenges for us we continue to seek to be about the mission God entrusts to us. I am sorry for the confusion last Sunday morning, February 17. I do not usually turn on the television on Sunday morning. When I came in the house from clearing the driveway so I could go to the church I began to receive phone calls about our church being closed. Those first calls were from active people who know that we do not cancel worship services very often. I had announced in worship recently that if I could get to church we would have services for those who could safely get here. That way we would have our live radio broadcast for our regular listening audience and the additional people who did not venture out due to the weather. For reasons I do not yet know, KCCI listed Central United Methodist in Oskaloosa as closed. When I saw us listed I called KCCI and they removed us from the list, but the damage had already been done. Some of us came together for worship including a family gathering for a baptism.
   During this month of February, I have focused on the theme of love and want to share some excerpts from last Sunday’s message. My Scripture text was Matthew 5:43-6:4.
   A little girl was late coming home from school. Her mother was scolding her when she said, “But Mother, I was helping a friend who broke her doll.” “Did you help her fix it?” the mother asked. “No,” she said, “I sat down and cried with her!”
   Certainly this little girl was trying to show her love for her friend. Sometimes for you and me sitting down and crying with a friend may be the demonstration of love and compassion that is needed. Neil Anderson wrote, “For many people, loving others is a nebulous concept. Fortunately, agape love is very clearly defined in the Scriptures… Agape love is not dependent on the person being loved, but on the lover. You may like someone because of who he is; but you love him because of who you are. God loves us not because we are lovable but because God is love.”
   Years ago John Wesley wrote: “We should always remember that love is the highest gift of God. All of our revelations and gifts are little things compared to love. There is nothing higher in religion.”
   During the coming season of Lent we are suggesting that you try to do at least one secret act of love, of compassion, each week. Perhaps you may do some that cannot be done anonymously, too. You might also prayerfully seek a few recipients of your compassion who may not be walking with Christ. Such living of love may be a means of making Christ’s presence know to them.
   I came across a story from Carole Mayhall’s book, When God Whispers, that grabbed my heart.
   She wanted to help, and so, because she was a nurse, she joined eighteen other medically trained people and journeyed to a poverty-stricken third-world country to help alleviate suffering by treating sick and injured people.
   After working sixteen hours every day for two weeks, the clinic doors closed, and, utterly exhausted, she headed toward the bus for home. Glancing up, she saw hundreds upon hundreds of sick and injured people waiting outside the clinic for treatment they would now never receive. She began to weep.
   “Lord,” she cried,” we haven’t even made a dent in the need. What’s the use? Have we done any good at all?” As she turned to enter the bus, a hand tugged at her sleeve. There stood a man she scarcely recognized. Several days before his face had been distended and grotesque from a number of abscessed teeth, his feet so swollen with edema that he couldn’t get on his shoes. They’d given him antibiotics, later pulled the abscessed teeth, and now he stood before her—smiling, pain free, with shoes on his feet. He smiled widely, thrust a small bouquet of flowers into her hand, and said simply, “Thank you for saving my life.”
   On the bus, she glanced out at the now-dark harbor as a single light came on. Then another. And another. Until the other side of the harbor was ablaze with light. God whispered to her heart, “This is how you helped—by treating My little ones—one person at a time.”
   Have you ever pondered, “What will Jesus ask me when I see him face to face?” This passage suggests that there is really only one question that will be asked. In the end it’s being able to answer this question well: “Did you love?”                                   -Pastor Bruce