Goodbye, farewell and amen

Ring a bell?

If not, two things are certain: 

  • you’re young 
  • you need to find and watch the final episode of the TV series M*A*S*H

First aired on February 28, 1983, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” chronicles the final days of the fictitious 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital as the Korean War comes to an end.

It remains one of the most-watched series episodes in TV history. 

As my wife Marcy and I enjoyed watching it again a few nights ago on MeTV, I was struck by the significance of the title.

Not just to an all-time great TV show, but also to the troubled times in which we live. 

Goodbye, farewell and amen. 

More than eight months into a global pandemic with no end in sight, it’s time to say goodbye to our lives, indeed our world, as we know them. 

There will be a new normal. We are becoming a new church

“Behold, I am doing a new thing …” – Isaiah 43:19 (ESV) 

We will, for example, worship in our Sanctuary again. 

But we will also continue to worship and study and teach in cyberspace. 

Answering God’s call beyond our walls in a manner we never previously imagined.

Goodbye, farewell and amen.

It’s time to bid farewell to partisan politics and racial divisiveness. 

To set aside our differences and love one another as brothers and sisters. 

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.– 1 John 4:7 (NRSV) 

Republicans and Democrats.

Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists.

Doesn’t matter. We’re all human.

We’re all children of God. Loved by God.

Worthy of God’s love, are we not also worthy of love from one another?

Regardless of our differences? 

Goodbye, farewell and amen.

Last but certainly not least, it’s time to say amen.

To assert our faith. To pray. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.– 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NRSV) 

 Pray for our church.

Pray for our families.

Pray for our brothers and sisters.

Pray for our world.

Pray. 

Goodbye, farewell and amen.

Mixing politics and religion

I hate politics.

OK, maybe hate is a bit strong.

Particularly in a world where there’s way too much hate right now.

Let me rephrase.

I am dismayed and disheartened by the extremely polarized state of politics in America today. 

If you’re a Republican, Democrats are wrong.

Liberal. Socialist. Unchristian.

If you’re a Democrat (full disclosure, I am), Republicans are wrong.

Capitalist. Nationalist. Racist.

Oh, and unchristian, too.

You’re red or you’re blue. White or black. Good or evil. 

There’s no middle ground. No gray area. No room for compromise.

“As a species, we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?”

– Stephen King

OK, I take it back. I do hate it. It’s just plain wrong.

Yet some would argue this is not the place to talk about it.

I am, after all, representing a church.

And there’s a widely though not universally held belief that politics and religion don’t mix.

“Mixing religion and politics is like mixing ice cream and manure. It doesn’t do much to the manure, but it sure ruins the ice cream.”

– Tony Campolo

But the Bible does have something to say about politics:* 

And nowhere can I find evidence this guidance is meant only for one political party or another.

It’s meant for all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Imperfect human beings all. Sometimes right. Sometimes wrong.

All of us – all Republicans, all Democrats – are children of God.

All worthy to be loved, just as God loves us all (John 15:12). 

I pray each of us keep our spiritual duty in mind as we exercise our civic duty to vote. 

What the Bible Really Says About Politics, Jesse Carey, RELEVANT, February 25, 2016

Hope for the future

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 

– Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV) 


My life is not my own.

I was reminded of this on Friday as another hectic week came to a close, this one with a surprise, socially-distanced 86th birthday lunch for my mother.

Between care giving for her, a wife recovering from rotator cuff surgery, a pinched nerve in my back, two dogs, a cat and a job, that realization once again became top-of-mind for me.

So much so that I was tempted to feel sorry for myself.

When did I lose control?

It was then that I remembered two very important things …

  • I am extremely fortunate and extremely blessed. Not rich, but certainly not poor. A roof over my head. Food on the table. A fulfilling job. A family I love and that loves me. And no COVID-19. 
  • I serve a loving God, who has plans for me. My life is not my own. Never was. It belongs to the one who created me. Who put me on this earth to serve others, after the example of Jesus’ service to others.

God is in control, not me.

And in these trying times, that gives me hope for the future.

Servant leaders

With all due respect and affection for John Cravens, Randy Adair and Josh Medlock, the best youth director I’ve ever worked with was my wife Marcy Buford.

I met Marcy about 38 years ago when she was the youth director at Satellite Beach United Methodist Church in Florida.

We were married at that same church 37 years ago – on July 1, 1983.

As one of her volunteer youth counselors, I learned about something called ‘servant leadership’ – a philosophy where a leader’s goal is not to ‘lead,’ per se, but rather to serve.

She ingrained this philosophy in everything we did with the youth at Satellite Beach, and later at Custer Road and St. Andrew United Methodist in Plano, Brentwood United Methodist in Tennessee, and White’s Chapel United Methodist in Southlake.

And I’d like to think it stayed with me as I transitioned from corporate America to my own ministry career nearly 10 years ago.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of history’s most renowned servant leaders, once said:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?'”

Never has this question been more urgent than now, when so many are suffering from the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual effects of COVID-19.

Let alone problems that have gone almost forgotten in its wake – like hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, and immigrants seeking better and safer lives.

Or systemic racism, the issue against which Dr. King advocated and which ultimately claimed his life. 

Now more than ever, we need servant leaders.

People willing to put the needs of others first, and trust that someone else has their back. 

Jesus, of course, was the ultimate servant leader.

And he not only exhibited servant leadership, but commanded his disciples – and ultimately us – to do the same. 

The Bible cites numerous examples of this, including the scripture I’ll be reading as part of our Virtual Worship service this coming Sunday morning:

“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.” 

– John 13:14-15

Washing one another’s feet – doing for others – is ingrained in our church mission statement:

Cultivating Christian Community:
Loving God, Living Faith, Serving Others, Inspiring Hope


It’s why we are the church.

It’s why we continue to give and worship and serve, even as our church building remains closed.

It’s why we are called to prioritize the needs of others, even in the face of our own seemingly insurmountable challenges. 

Many of us – myself included – wonder if we’re equipped to handle our own problems, let alone someone else’s.

And though I’m not advocating for ignoring our own situations in favor of others, it’s important to remember as Christians that God ‘has our back.’

So the question I’m asking myself each morning – the one Dr. King asked – is also the one I challenge you to ask as well:

What are you doing for others?

No longer good enough

The way it always was
is no longer good enough

Funny how inspiration strikes when you least expect it. 

How when you’re not looking for it, or don’t know exactly where to look, ‘BOOM,’ it’s there. 

I’ve often heard our Senior Pastor Valarie Englert and others speak of flipping the Bible open to a random page and finding just the right word or phrase in scripture to illustrate a point or a message or a devotional.

Well, that’s sorta what happened to me.

Except it wasn’t the Bible. It was a song.

Brave by Nicole Nordeman.

(I once sang harmony on the chorus of this song with a young lady who was a far more gifted vocalist than I.) 

An accomplished contemporary Christian music artist, Nordeman was inspired to write Brave as she was overcoming doubts about being a good parent to her first child.

The title comes from the bravery God gave her to stand up and assert herself.

Amazingly, the chorus could have been written for the challenge we now face, best summed up I think by author and poet Sonya Renee Taylor: 

Normal no longer exists.

But we are being given a new opportunity.

One that takes courage.

One that takes bravery, backed by the knowledge that God is in our corner.

Or as Nordeman sings:

So long, status quo,
I think I just let go
You make me wanna be brave
The way it always was
is no longer good enough
You make we wanna be brave 

When it rains, it pours

It’s been a tough week in the Buford household, over here northwest of Dallas in Flower Mound.

Not that things aren’t tough all over. Obviously, they are.

And believe me when I tell you I know how blessed we are that things aren’t worse under these surreal COVID-19 circumstances.

But allow me wallow in self pity for a moment.

My 85-year-old mother Eudella moved in with Marcy and I about two weeks ago.

Mom and I drove from Florida in her car, a U-Haul trailer in tow and her dog Tiger in the back seat.

Of course, this was all happening as schools, businesses and churches began closing down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

That left us to deal with a displaced mother coming to grips with a new life and new circumstances, essentially without being able to leave the house.

Then there’s the dog. Or should I say dogs.

Tiger is actually very sweet and very well-behaved. It’s our dog Murphy who is the problem.

Murphy is not at all happy about sharing her house with this interloper.

We’re having to keep them separated while we desperately try to get them better acquainted – with the help of a trainer who, of course, can no longer come in the house.

One dog sleeps upstairs, the other downstairs. We feed them separately. We walk them separately.

It was on one of these walks when things really took a turn for the worse. We were coming back from walking Tiger on Thursday evening when Mom fell in the doorway and broke her hip.

She had surgery the next morning and remains in Medical City Lewisville, where of course we are not allowed to visit. She is moving to in-patient rehab today, and we expect her to remain there for a week to 10 days.

As one might expect, I texted the church staff with news about my mother’s fall when it happened.

I needed support and prayers, and the pastors and staff have been a rock of encouragement and support to me and my family from the day I began working at First United Methodist Garland.

My text began with “When it rains, it pours,” which brings me to the point of this long-winded tale.

One of the first responses, and one I will remember for the rest of my life, came from Pastor Caroline Noll, our Associate and Pastor for Children and Families.

I didn’t keep the exact words (should have), but the gist of it was this:

“I’ll be praying for an umbrella for you and your family.”

Never has a prayer touched me more deeply.

Pastor Caroline is a gifted servant of God, one I’m blessed to know and to work with in ministry.

And on this particular day, I believe her comforting words were a gift from God, delivered through her.

God speaks to all of us in many different ways. He asks only that we listen.

Especially in this time when the rain is falling, and we all need an umbrella.

Honoring my mother

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

– Exodus 20:12


Indulge me, if you will, in a bit of selfish and personal reflection.

God has given me much for which to be thankful in my nearly 66 years on this earth. Nothing more so than my beautiful mother.

Mary Eudella Remscheid. She goes by Eudella, or Grandma Della to the grandkids.

A mere 20-years old when I was born, she was the oldest of three sisters. So my grandfather threatened to throw me out the window if I was a girl. Mom responded by having three boys!

Not quite 11 years after I was born, my dad was killed in an auto accident on an icy road one winter morning on the way to work, leaving my brave mother to raise three boys on her own.

And she did so fearlessly.

After Dad died, we moved from Haysville (a Wichita, Kansas suburb) to Pittsburg, Kansas to be near our grandparents and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

It wasn’t long after that when Mom, not wanting us to miss out on anything for lack of a father, did what most of our relatives told her was unthinkable. She embarked with her three boys on a road trip vacation to California and Disneyland.

We didn’t miss out. Then or any other time as we were growing up, thanks largely to the love and unselfishness of my mom. 

Now 85, Mom is preparing for another long road trip with me. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be flying to Florida and driving back with her as she comes to live with my wife Marcy and me.

Mom’s not quite as fearless or independent as she used to be. And she needs more help these days than she would ever care to admit.

As many who have been through the experience of caring for an older relative can no doubt attest, it will not be easy introducing another person – even a loved one – into our daily lives.

And she has a dog!

Tiger will be joining the Buford menagerie, which already features a dog and a cat. (I fear Murphy and Sophie will not be pleased.)

But Mom set a wonderful example of love and courage in addressing head on the challenge of raising three boys on her own. Can I do less in return in her time of need? 

Can I love and honor my mother as she loved and honored me? 

Marcy has certainly stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge, which is significant since she’ll be the one spending the most time with Mom while I’m at work during the week. Her example of courage and love is no less great than Mom’s in raising my brothers and me.

I pray that I’m up to the task. That I can live up to their example.

And that God will bestow upon me courage and strength. The same courage and the strength he gave Mom 56 years ago. 

Remember your baptism

I was baptized in the Assembly of God Church. Don’t remember exactly when. Sometime in the mid ’60s.

It was a full immersion. At that age, probably 12 or 13, I’d never seen it done any other way.

The baptistry – or dunk tank as I suspect I called it at the time – was located behind the chancel. Two sliding doors opened to allow the congregation to witness the event.

I and maybe four of five others were dressed in t-shirts and bathing suits. We met with the minister in a room behind the chancel before the service.

At the appointed time we were ushered into the tank one at a time. I remember the water was cold, though not uncomfortably so.

I knelt. The minister held the back of my head and the small of my back as he lowered me backwards, dunking me under the water and quickly bringing me back up.

As he did so, he uttered words something like “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

That was it. Then we had lunch, I think.

The whole thing didn’t mean that much to me at the time. It was something I was supposed to do. I did it. And everyone seemed quite happy about it.

By Giotto di Bondone - Giotto di Bondone, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94619

It has taken on new meaning for me over the years. A meaning that comes into sharper focus tomorrow on Baptism of the Lord Sunday.

On this special Sunday, we commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

We do so by remembering our own baptism. Not so much the mechanics of it, but rather the meaning.

It symbolizes purification and renewal. The surrender of a sinful life in favor of a new life where those sins are forgiven.

It symbolizes Jesus’ death and resurrection. And our belief that we, too, are promised an everlasting life after death.

This is probably what qualifies as the greatly simplified view. Scholars and theologians more studied and well versed than I can spend hours on the subject.

But to me, it boils down to this.

It is a recognition and an acknowledgement that God loves me for who I am. Unconditionally. Despite who I am. Regardless of my warts. Regardless of my faults.

And all this, says the Introduction to the Baptismal Covenant of The United Methodist Church, “is God’s gift, offered to us without price.”

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Forever thankful

Give thanks to the Lord, our God and King, his love endures forever. 

This is the opening lyric of Michael W. Smith’s Forever, one of our ‘go to’ songs back when I sang with the praise band at St. Nicholas Episcopal in Flower Mound.

I sang the lead. The Michael W. Smith part. Not that I was ever mistaken for him, but that didn’t matter.

The band loved it. The congregation loved it. It’s upbeat. It has lots of energy. We sang it with passion. And the message – from Psalm 118 and 1 Chronicles 16:34 – is wonderful.

I’m reminded of this as I give thanks for the many blessings I enjoy. 

I’m thankful for another year of health and happiness. 

I’m thankful for my family. Especially for Marcy, my wife of 36 years.

And for my 85-years young mother Eudella, who with any luck will bless us with her world’s-best banana pudding when she visits this Christmas. 

I’m thankful for my church family at First United Methodist Garland. 

I’m thankful to be in ministry with Senior Pastor Valarie Englert and a dedicated, professional, passionate and spirit-filled church staff. 

And I’m especially thankful for a vocation that allows me to provide for my family while serving God’s kingdom. 

I’m thankful to live in a country where I’m free to worship as the Spirit moves me. To disagree with my friends and neighbors and still love them. And be loved by them.

I’m thankful for those working tirelessly on behalf of the less fortunate. In our city. In our country. On our borders. And around the world.

Most of all, I’m thankful for a God who loves me for who I am. And in spite of my faults.

Thankfully yours … 

Of memories and psalteries

I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. Psalm 144:9 (KJV) 

It’s been old home week for me of late. Old home weeks, actually.

It began on a somber note. A bittersweet weekend with aunts, cousins and old friends at my dear Aunt Gerry’s funeral July 27 in Pittsburg, Kansas.

A much happier occasion followed. Off I flew to Chiefland, Florida for a few day’s vacation and my mother’s 85th birthday celebration on August 21. 

Last weekend, it was a much shorter trip. An hour’s drive north to Denison to see my brother Chris, his wife Linda and their new home.

Yesterday I had lunch with a few old friends I haven’t seen in years – co-workers from my 22 years with Nortel Networks.

On Wednesday, my cousin Steve and I met for lunch. And for the hand-off of a gift for my wife Marcy – a psaltery. 

At various times Marcy has played the guitar, the dulcimer, the French horn and the recorder. She even jumped in on a washtub bass one Christmas Eve at First United Methodist Garland. Her real gift is playing and teaching the piano.

And now the psaltery – or psaltry (also a correct spelling) – has been added. 

A psaltery is “an ancient and medieval musical instrument like a dulcimer but played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a plectrum (pick).” (lexico.com/en/definition/psaltery

The psaltery is mentioned 17 times in various translations of the Bible, understandably in reference to playing and singing praises to God. (By the way, our pew Bibles – the New Revised Standard Version or NRSV – do not reference the psaltery, but rather the lyre.) 

The psaltery is, of course, related to the word “psalter,” which refers to the Book of Psalms, or “a copy of the Psalms, especially for liturgical use.” (lexico.com/en/definition/psalter)

Those of you who attend our 8:30 Service of Morning Prayer and Communion on Sunday mornings are familiar with the psalters we sing and recite each week from The United Methodist Hymnal

Tomorrow morning’s service is particularly Psalm-heavy (Psalter 756, Psalm 25:1-10; Psalm 121 and Psalm 139:1-18) as Senior Pastor Valarie Englert closes our “Holy Rhythms” worship series with “Night.”

I find this particularly comforting.

In times of sadness as well as times of joy and fond memories, I often turn to music to lift or capture my spirits. What better way to do so than praising our Lord and Savior with the psalters and the psalms.

I don’t yet know what Marcy will choose to play on her psaltery. But whether it be psalters, classical music or classical rock, I’ll enjoy it. They’ll all be reminders of God’s blessings and God’s grace. 



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