3 Ways to Treat Others Equally

God never ceases to surprise me, especially in the way that Scripture seems to open our eyes to the world around us. For weeks, I prepared a sermon on the letter of James entitled “The Treatment Test.” The sermon revolves around the question of how we treat others, especially the poor and struggling, and what that says about our faith. Sometimes, our behavior reveals our beliefs, even when we’re unaware that our faith is being tested.  James tells us to avoid favoritism based on outward appearance and treat all people as beloved children of God. Listen to the May 20 sermon, “The Treatment Test.”

I usually try to keep my eyes open for opportunities to serve others. I feel like this practice goes beyond being a pastor and really is just a way of living out my Christian walk. The funny thing is, though, in the two weeks before I preached this sermon, I found myself in way more situations where I was able to help someone out or at least offer a word of kindness.

For example, in February our young adult group assembled “blessing bags” for all of our members to keep in the car to hand out to anyone we saw begging on the roadside. These bags contain some basic necessities (bottled water, snacks, hygiene items) and encourage giving when folks aren’t used to carrying cash. I started to get frustrated because after doing a significant amount of driving for two months, I had only given out a few bags. Then as I was preparing this sermon, I gave out my five remaining blessing bags in only a matter of days.

I have to wonder: was there really a lack of opportunities to help before? Or did my study of Scripture help me see more clearly the opportunities that were already there? That’s why it’s so important that we read the Bible regularly. God’s word helps us see with the eyes of Christ. And when we can see people as beloved children of God, we find opportunities to serve all around us. Christ is calling the church to heal a hurting world. The question is… how will we respond?

We must face the treatment test as individuals as well as parts of the greater whole, our society and our church.

Here are 3 ways you can treat others equally:

  1. Love mercy: Because we have received mercy from God, we are called to show mercy to everyone we meet. When we see our neighbor with the eyes of Christ, we are called to meet her physical, emotional and spiritual needs. If our neighbor is a Christian, then we accept him because Christ lives in him. If our neighbor is not a Christian, we can receive him because Christ died for him. James teaches us not to judge one another by our past but by our potential. Christ is the link of love in all our relationships and his mercy is the reason we work for the good of all people in all places.
  2. Work for justice: Justice means going beyond meeting the needs of our neighbors and then making sure they never have those needs again. Justice is a love that transforms people, and it’s available to all. When the church works for justice, the poor get a hand up instead of a handout, and the rich learn not to find value in their riches.James teaches us to love our neighbors by first being a neighbor. It’s not a question of geography but opportunity. So just as we welcome Christ into our presence on Sunday mornings, we recognize Christ’s presence out in the world among the least, the last and the lost. And I can’t contain my excitement about the justice work of our church. Through the mission work of programs like Care by Community and our Bike Ministry, we meet people’s needs but then also transform their lives in the powerful love of Christ.
  3. Walk humbly with God: We must remember that our faith is constantly tested, and so we will always have the opportunity to fall more deeply in love with God and to grow in loving service to our neighbors. We’re called to remain open to instruction, no matter how rich or poor, young or old, James is asking us to look past divisions and into the heart of God. I’m reminded of the first few times I came and witnessed the work our church does at Fresh Food Wednesdays. Many of the folks who serve were once guests who depended on the church’s generosity. So if you pause and take a step back, sometimes it’s hard to discern who are the servants and who is being served. This is what James is talking about when he says let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up and the rich in being brought low.

Pastor Matt Potter

Women’s Tea Luncheon

Although Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford and Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria, is often credited with starting the tradition of afternoon tea in the early 1840’s to overcome her “sinking feeling,” the mood of the folks attending the Tea Luncheon that we hosted recently is best described by participants as “uplifting.”

Many women, like Tracy Miller, made it a family affair. A 34-year-member of VBUMC, Tracy sat with her daughter and three granddaughters and described the lunch as a “fine afternoon, one which my granddaughters will always remember.”

A member of United Methodist Women (UMW) since 1981, Gene Rimer attended with her daughter and seven-year-old granddaughter.  She has fond memories of the mother-daughter banquets that the UMW used to host and was elated to be able to use the fine china tea cups “one last time.” No doubt the recent royal wedding between Prince Harry and American Meghan Markle may have had an influence on Gene’s granddaughter who is “already practicing how to hold a tea cup like the Queen.”

Likewise, Tonya Brown participated with her aunt and 11-year-old daughter. In addition to enjoying the tasty lunch, Tonya was happy to be able to “take home a part of the church’s history” since each attendee was encouraged to take home two cups. Tonya’s granddaughter now has six cups, so “she can host her own tea party.”

For Leanne Lowdermilk the tea luncheon was a great time to “hang out with friends without kids.” As the co-leader of a young parents’ life group, she enjoyed being able “to fellowship with the girls from her life group; being able to take home tea cups from the event made the day even more special.”

Tonya Brown summed up the event for all the participants: “Definitely a hit!” 

-Dee Swanson

Red Cross Blood Drive

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. On May 7, we held a Blood Drive to help supply blood for anyone in need. Several of our donors were not church members but folks from the community who found us online.

I have been a donor several times over my lifetime. The opportunity presented itself and it was so easy to give. I want to help others. – Barbara Marquette, oldest donor.

I was nervous at first, but soon discovered that by giving blood, I would be helping more people in this short time than I could normally help in a week or a month. I have a “bleeding heart” and want to help everyone I see! My Mom and I gave blood together.  – John White, 1st time donor


  • 48 people attempted to give
  • 5 were deferred and 1 unable to complete donation
  • 34 successfully donated one unit
  • 3 successfully donated power red (2 units of red blood cells)
  • 41 units were collected
  • 38 donors used the online Rapid Pass to save time checking in our final donor of the drive, Filomena Baer, from Shadowlawn, donated her one hundredth pint!

2 Ways to Control Your Tongue

The Epistle of James is one of the most practical and helpful sections of the Bible.  James deals with all kinds of issues, including how we use our words.   James reminds us that one way our faith is tested is through our word choice and tone of voice.  He acknowledges that when it comes to controlling our tongue, we all stumble sometimes.  But James also reminds us that we should work hard to keep a tight rein on our tongue. Listen to the May 13 sermon, The Tongue Test.

Here are 2 helpful ways to control our tongue:

  1. Regularly examine our heart.  Jesus reminds us that our words are simply a reflection of what is going on in our heart: our attitudes, desires, and values (Luke 6:45).  We often wish we could better control our mouth, but maybe the place to start is with the heart.  When our heart is right with God and others, when our attitude is one of kindness and care, when our desire is to be an instrument of love, then our words will naturally follow.
  2. Intentionally thank, compliment and encourage other people.  To be very intentional about blessing people with our words, not in a fake or phony way, but to be sincere in using words to build up other people and express gratitude to and for others.  Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that “life and death are in the power of the tongue.”  A good question to ask is this: am I using my words to bring life or death to the people around me?  Let us be known as a people who speak life, blessing, encouragement and gratitude into our lives, our relationships, and our circumstances.  It’s one of the best ways to practice “mouth management.

Pastor Mark Miller

Easter Egg-stravaganza

On March 31, The Children’s Ministry held our first Easter Egg-stravaganza at Redwing park. This was an Easter Egg Hunt and Potluck where parents could mingle and the kids could play and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ!


Thank you to all our volunteers! We had the most wonderful potluck food brought—including beautiful festive cakes! About 125 adults and children attended including 20 families from our Seaside School! Over 3,000 eggs were filled with sweet treats, faith based trinkets, and festive trinkets (like finger puppets). Special eggs had a prize to redeem that included Resurrection board books, stuffed ‘Prayer Bears,’ Easter footballs, and glow in the dark crosses. Although it was a little windy and chilly, the kids had fun on the playground, playing ‘Love God’ ring toss, drawing with chalk, and hunting for hidden eggs that reminded us of the surprise of Jesus and the tomb! A Catholic friend of ours from another church came with her son and her mother. She observed one of the kids come up to me and gave me a little Hershey Kiss, and she remarked, “Wow, you really are surrounded by a great group of people! These kids and families show so much love.” It made my heart so full. We had families with several generations come and that also made my heart so full for all of us to be making such great memories together!

– Crystal Colohan, Director of Children’s Ministries.


I attended the Easter celebration, which was a Christian mom’s dream come true on Holy Saturday to celebrate Jesus, the miracle of Easter and be surrounded by our church family. It was the best day full of hugs, games, and fellowship for our kids. The kids were so proud of their treasured crucifix necklaces they had in their eggs and the new discoveries they made. The day laid out an exciting and beautiful preparation for His coming and the miracle of the resurrection.

– Jenny Davis


I want to share God’s love with my children and making Jesus part of the celebration is the best way to model this.  I am thankful for our church because it builds a community of people willing to build these values.

– Dawn Adams