First Presbyterian Church  |  701 Florida Avenue  |  Bristol, TN 37620  |  423-764-7176  |

In This Issue
Deadline & Subscriptions
Word from the Pastor: Our Good
Open (and Close), Sesame!
Join the Apostles' Creed Study
Take a Handbell. Take Two, They're Small
Violinist Maurice Sklar Performs Sunday
Let's Get Teddy to School
Don't Miss Ethiopia Report Wednesday Night
Sharing Sharretts' Mission
Wednesday Morning Group Reads "Desiring God"
Come On Down for Hillbilly Night at Student Fellowship
Trunk or Treat at Fairmount School
Evangelism, Outreach, and Yes, Even Music
Gifts to the Church
Music Notes
Pray for One Another
Church Calendar
Our Church Officers
September 22
15th Sunday after Pentecost
Ezekiel 1:26-28
Colossians 1:15-20
Jesus Christ, Son and Lord
Sam Weddington
Last Sunday's Attendance
9:00: 186; 11:00: 110
Click here to livestream our contemporary service. You can also access past sermons and ministry videos on our YouTube account, "FPC Bristol."
Deadline & Subscriptions
Deadline for contributions is the Monday of the week of publication. To subscribe to our free e-newsletter, send an email with your name and preferred email address to


on First Presbyterian Church

September 19 , 2019
Word from the Pastor: Our Good

Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.
Genesis 50:20 NRSV
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:19-20 NRSV
This past Sunday, and amidst all the weighty talk of time, eternity, and the will of God as Creator (yes, I know, not everyone gets as excited about this topic as I do), someone asked me a simple, yet profound, question: "If God saw all the bad stuff but made it anyway just to save it, how do we make sense of the evil that happens to us and that we do to others?"
The question is profound because, from a certain point of view, it means that if we say God is the Creator who is completely in control, there could be some negative views of God and ourselves. It might suggest that God went forward with creation willing to sacrifice the Son for us but also willing to sacrifice us and the pain we experience along the way, to make it all "work." This read suggests we are nothing more than puppets in God's play, and the play hurts. Couldn't God have done a better job of designing the system? Couldn't God have made us perfect, without the possibility of sin? Alternatively, this point of view could suggest that we don't really have to worry about our choices, because God is just going to fix it no matter what we do. In other words, our choices don't really matter.
I tried to cover this briefly in the sermon. I wrote, "He saw all the pain, all the wars, all the inhumanity we would visit on one another with the freedom God would give us, and God loved us anyway. God saw you, saw you in your brokenness, in your falling short, in your heartache and loneliness, and in that same instant of seeing you, God spoke you into being and willed to redeem you at the infinite cost of the Son, our Lord Jesus."
Let me summarize: I believe that God as Creator means that God knew and has always known everything that will be, including our choices (God is timeless and has perfect knowledge). God knew that as fully free creatures able to love and have fellowship with God, we could and would abuse our free will. God saw that our hearts, given freedom, would choose to love lesser things than God, and it would break us. In no way do I ever want to suggest that we don't have freedom. I think that is part of what it means to be made in the image of God.
So God knew it all. God knew how we would use our freedom. Yet, in that instant of knowing, and in that instant of omnipotent power when he spoke the world into existence, God simultaneously loved us. And God loved us because God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Creator is also God the Redeemer is also God the Comforter. God cannot create without also redeeming and comforting, because God cannot and does not act differently from who God is (God's being in act; see Karl Barth).
What this idea suggests is that God didn't create willy-nilly, knowing we would be broken by our sin, just to prove the point that he loves us, or to make it "work." No. God did it so that we might have divine fellowship with God. God did it in order to prepare us for the glory that is to come in the new heaven and new earth where we are perfected and unable to sin ( non posse peccare is the Latin phrase). We will have a capacity even Adam lacked who could choose either good or evil. When we are glorified in Christ, we will be unable to sin, because our wills will be perfectly and wholeheartedly united to our love of God.
St. Augustine put it like this: "[H]e [God] dealt with us in such a way that we could progress rather in his strength; he arranged it so that the power of charity would be brought to perfection in the weakness of humility.... We were absolutely incapable of such participation [in the life of God] and quite unfit for it.... So he applied to us the similarity of his humanity to take away the dissimilarity of our iniquity, and becoming a partaker of our mortality he made us partakers of his divinity" ( De Trinitas, Book IV, chs. 2,4). In other words, God created while also willing to redeem and comfort in order to prepare us for full humanity and full communion with God. The only way we will ever be ready for such a thing is to be both fully free, and fully in love with God.
If you are tracking what I'm laying down, that means a couple of things. Yes, life hurts, but it isn't a play. Our choices matter. But that pain (resulting from our own sin and the sin others do to us) holds hope for a future of God's making when we will "be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life" (2 Corinthians 5:4), and "we will be like him, for we will see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). Yet there is only one path to that future, and it runs straight through the Redeemer, Jesus the Christ.
And that means our choices really do matter. We can align ourselves with that future hope by God's grace and in love with God's mercy in Jesus, or we can continue in rebellion, trying to hoist the future onto our own shoulders and make a way that, in fact, leads to death.
And that leaves you with a final question: who are you going to trust? Yourself? Or will you trust the One who breathed life into you and did so knowing full well it would cost him the Son?
I like Joseph's perspective. I can look at my life and see all the bad. I can see the places where I've fallen short, and others have harmed me. I can even see the places where I have big question marks for God. But in the end, I'm going to trust the One who, despite the fact that we intend things for evil, will use all things for our good. And I believe this because we can trust the One who, through the Son, was pleased to reconcile all things so that we might have communion and life with him.
In Christ,
Pastor Sam
Open (and Close), Sesame!

We have fine-tuned the schedule for locking and unlocking the church doors on Sunday mornings:
8:00:       Doors unlock as the church gathers
9:10:       Doors lock 10 minutes after the start of worship
9:55:       Doors unlock a few minutes before worship ends
11:10:     Doors lock 10 minutes after the start of worship
11:55:     Doors unlock a few minutes before worship ends
If you or your group need to enter the building while the doors are locked, you must make prior arrangements to do so. If you need help with this, please let Pastor Sam and Larry Connolly know.
Join the Apostles' Creed Study

All adults are invited to study the Apostles' Creed in tandem with Pastor Sam's new sermon series. This short-term class uses video and discussion to explore what an ancient statement can say to us now about the Good News of Jesus Christ. We will meet in the chapel at 10:10 throughout the series. For more information, see Pastor Sam or Dave Welch.
Take a Handbell. Take Two, They're Small.
The Sanctuary Handbell Choir is looking high and low for new members, both regulars and substitutes. Just three more regulars would greatly expand our options for new repertoire. We practice from 6:15 to 7:15 on Wednesday evenings in room 212 upstairs, and play for the late worship service about once a month. Join now and get in plenty of practice before our next appearance! Please contact Bob Greene at or 276-696-9091 to talk about joining this fun-loving group.
Violinist Maurice Sklar Performs Sunday
After playing the prelude and offertory in the late service Sunday morning, Maurice Sklar will be back to give an afternoon concert at 4:00. Both opportunities to hear the internationally acclaimed concert violinist will be on September 22 in our sanctuary. This concert is hosted by For Zion's Sake Ministries. For more information, contact Chris Bingham at 423-764-7176 or
Let's Get Teddy to School
We are collecting Teddy Grahams for the students of Fairmount School, and we do not have enough for all who need them. About 80% of the children get help with lunch, and their families can't afford snacks for them. With at least two children in each of 16 classrooms needing assistance, the snacks go quickly. We take the boxes to the school, and the teachers divide the contents into child-size portions. We need to provide 20 portions per child per month. Please remember our Fairmount children the next time you shop, and bring your donations to the Little Red House in the Fellowship Hallway. Thank you!
Don't Miss Ethiopia Report Wednesday Night
In Ethiopia last April.

Be sure to join us in the Fellowship Hall next Wednesday, September 25, from 6:15 to 6:55 p.m., for a special presentation from our Ethiopia mission team: Peggy Hill, Grace Kim, Geneva King, Han Ong, Laura Ong, and Pastor Sam. They will tell us what to expect from the trip planned for November.
Pastor Sam is preparing an introductory video, and Peggy and Grace will share insights from their work in Ethiopia. Team members will share the personal impact the previous trip had on them, as they speak of the richness of the connection and the importance of this work to our church. We will learn how the upcoming trip for the 100th anniversary celebration of Presbyterian mission in Dembi Dollo can deepen our relationship. As Pastor Sam said after last year's visit, "You sent us to Ethiopia; God sent us to church."
Sharing Sharretts' Mission
The Sharretts load their car before leaving Sofia for Athens.
We wanted to share some information we received last Thursday from Lawrence Sharrett about his and Courtney's new mission in Southeastern Europe. On September 1, their family moved from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, to begin this new phase of their life and work.
Larry reports that Courtney began classes last Friday at The American College of Greece, where she plans to complete her BA in psychology, and that Julianna is happy in her new school, the American Community School of Athens. Larry will have begun work for his MS in counseling and psychotherapy by the time you read this.

Julianna at her new school.

He tells us: "I am eager to step into the field of counseling psychology more professionally, as training for ordination has helped whet my appetite for serving people holistically, whether inside or outside the church. Someone recently told me that I can counsel people until I am blue in the face, but that will not save their souls from hell. I believe those of us who profess Christ as our Lord and Savior believe Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; however, when I think of how to serve people who desire to be served, I don't begin with an objective judgment call on whether the person's soul is destined for heaven or hell. I try to care for people where they are and support their interests, questions, need for belonging and love, and prayerfully seek to respond to the leading of God's Spirit in verbally or nonverbally living the love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ alongside them. This is the authentic expression of Christianity that Christ has grown in me. Both Courtney and I are saddened by all the pain caused by and to the Church of Jesus Christ stemming from sincere people who believe they need to have just the right doctrine or adhere to just the right methods of sharing and reporting about Christian work."

Rhonda and Bethany Gregory (left) are lifelong friends of Courtney's who were in Athens in September.

Pray for the Sharretts and Their Work
While in Athens, Larry and Courtney will be deeply involved in professional training in the field of counseling psychology, in development and initiative for the vision of the new worshiping community in Sofia, and in learning from more-experienced church planters in Athens.
"God is surely working in and through us alongside your prayers," Larry says. He asks us to pray for God's strength and provision for them to be and do their work with great wisdom, and for God's continued guidance with their steps, lives, and needs.
Scholarships and grants will fund 90% of Larry's and 50% of Courtney's expenses. If you are moved to help them financially as well as spiritually, you can help defray their costs by writing a check or giving online.
How to Contribute
If you choose to donate by check, please make it out to Cyclical Inc. and on the memo line write: Lawrence Sharrett - Cyclical Southeastern Europe. The correct mailing address is:
65 N. Raymond Ave., Ste. 240
Pasadena, CA 91103
If you choose to give online, please visit  Cyclical Southeastern Europe Online Giving and follow these directions:
  1. Click on Donate under One Time Partnership.
  2. Designate amount (note monthly option if preferred) and select method of payment (PayPal or Debit/Credit Card).
  3. Designate in memo/comments box: Lawrence Sharrett: Cyclical Southeastern Europe.
  4. Complete payment information.
Wednesday Morning Group Reads Desiring God
The women's Wednesday Bible Study is back! We're studying Desiring God by John Piper. New folks are always welcome to join us. We meet at 9:30 a.m. in Room 117 for about an hour and a half for study, discussion, and prayer. If you'd like to join, and need a copy of the book, please contact Dottie Havlik at 423-956-6747 or
Come On Down for Hillbilly Night at Student Fellowship
This Sunday, Student Fellowship is gonna go heehaw wild! Hone your best hillbilly, and let's have a knee-slappin' good time! We will finish up our Rhythm series and focus on how we worship God with our talents. From 6:00 to 8:00, we'll have dinner, games, worship, and fellowship! Yeeee-HAW!
Trunk or Treat at Fairmount School
We're gearing up for the Fairmount Neighborhood Trunk or Treat to be held at Fairmount Elementary School on Thursday, October 24, at 5:00 p.m. We have a fun five weeks to plan just how to dress up car trunk, self, and others this year. If you would like to contribute candy while you're waiting, please bring your donations to the dedicated bin outside the Fellowship Hall or to the front office. Thanks!
Evangelism, Outreach, and Yes, Even Music
FPC Picture
A look at the remaining two Sundays of the month on the PCUSA planning calendar shows that when Larry Connolly (September 18 -21) mows this week, it will be for the day that the greater church has designated Evangelism Sunday, September 22. Meanwhile, on Florida Avenue, a visiting violinist will be welcomed this Sunday by a well-groomed lawn as well as an appreciative audience. The following Sunday is denominated Gifts of New Immigrants, for which JB Madison (September 25 -28) will make us presentable.
Gifts to the Church
Memorials and honoraria are published in the newsletter only after the family has been personally notified by our business office. Today we gratefully acknowledge gifts in memory of:
Chuck Thompson: to the Brazil Mission Fund from Dot Mattison, from Frances Rowell; to the Student Ministries Fund from Adam & Susan Abel, from Chris & Jennifer Kennedy, from Daniel Lamsey, from Jay & Dawn Regan
Music Notes
Listen to the USC Choir sing Rossi's "Barechu" here.

Sunday's music: Our anthem this week is " Barechu" by the Jewish Italian Renaissance composer Salomone Rossi (c.1570 - c.1628). Rossi is somewhat of an anomaly in the history of Western music. He lived in Mantua at a time of intermittent tolerance of the small, yet developed, local Jewish population. This allowed him to maintain his distinct cultural identity and develop his musical gifts with relative freedom. Rossi is best known for his work in the development of the trio sonata, a form that lends itself to tunefulness and independence of musical line (polyphony). He was a virtuosic violinist, and his violin compositions are early examples of highly idiomatic works (compositions for a specific instrument). His choral output may be the only extant example of Renaissance polyphony in the Hebrew language. Rossi lived during a brief period when the synagogue of northern Italy allowed choral works to be performed during service, an exceedingly rare practice. He took advantage of this freedom and wrote many beautiful sacred pieces.
"Barechu" is a piece that would traditionally be used as a call to worship. It has two distinct sections: one polyphonic (two or more independent, simultaneous musical lines) and the other homophonic (two or more simultaneous musical lines that use the same rhythm). As was customary at the time, Rossi employed a compositional technique called madrigalism, or word-painting, to portray the meaning of a text. At the end of "Barechu," the lyric le'olam va'ed ("for all eternity") is declaimed three times, thus extending the lyric and illustrating the notion of eternity.

Listen to the Westminster Chancel Choir sing "Create in me a clean heart, O God" here.

Organist's footnotes: After studying with C. G. Stranger, Wilhelm Middelschulte, Clarence Eddy, and Clarence Dickinson, Carl Frank Mueller (1892 - 1982) focused on a career as an organ recitalist. In 1915 he became the Director of Music at Grand Avenue Congregational Church in Milwaukee. In 1927, he moved to New Jersey, where he met John Finley Williamson, founder of Westminster Choir College. Mueller attended Williamson's Summer Schools for church musicians, which greatly enhanced his understanding and interest in choral music, and began to compose and arrange for choirs. In 1937 he obtained the Westminster Fellowship, which recognized church musicians who endorsed the ideals and goals of the Westminster Choir School. Mueller was organist and choir director at Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair (1927 - 53) and First Presbyterian Church in Red Bank (1953 - 62). He taught at Montclair State College (1928 - 54) and also at Union Theological Seminary's School of Sacred Music. In 1931, he founded the Montclair A Cappella Choir, a community choir. He became an ASCAP member in 1940. His choral compositions were widely used; "Create in me a clean heart, O God" sold nearly two million copies. Mueller received an honorary doctorate from the Strassberger Conservatory of Music in St. Louis.
Pray for One Another

In Our Prayers
Please also include in your prayers members of our community who wish to remain anonymous.
Wayne Ausmus
Beth & Brian
Karen Boone
Durward Buck
Christians in Nigeria/ECWA
Mark Comer
Randy Cook
Dorothy Dollar
Ethiopian brothers & sisters
DeeDee Galliher
Diane Glymph
Ron Grubbs
Hurricane Dorian victims
Kristi Johnson
Marty Keys & family
Nancy King
Leanne Madison
Dot Mattison
Roger McCracken
Christine Mitten & family
Alice Moore
Donald Page
Pendley family
Don Preston
Larry Roberts (Greg's brother)
Virginia Rutherford
Joan Sams
Stigers family
Katie Taylor
Patty Thomas
Ashley Thomasson
Karen White
Jim White
Bill Woods
Birthday Prayer Fellowship
Sept. 22      Elizabeth Blankenship, Ann Holler, Jason Mumpower, Amy Webb
Sept. 23      Bill Longnecker, Martha North, Sammy Weddington, Stephen Welch
Sept. 24      Andrew Beck, Mindy Carter
Sept. 25      Matt Richardson
Sept. 26      Henry Linderman, John Reardon
Sept. 27      Jessica Rogers, Winston Taylor
Sept. 28      Kelley Mayden
Church Calendar
Sunday, September 22
9:00 a.m.       Worship, Fellowship Hall
10:10 a.m.     Sunday School
10:30 a.m.     Sanctuary Choir, Room 202
11:00 a.m.     Worship, Sanctuary
4:00 p.m.       Maurice Sklar Concert, Sanctuary
6:00 p.m.       Student Fellowship, Fellowship Hall
Monday, September 23
7:00 p.m.       Session of Elders, Room 123
Tuesday, September 24
10:00 a.m.     Morning Prayer Group, Conf. Room
10:00 a.m.     Staff Meeting, Room 117
7:00 p.m.       Boy Scout Troop 3, Scout Wing
7:30 p.m.       Eagle Court of Honor, Chapel
Wednesday, September 25
9:30 a.m.       Women's Bible Study, Room 117
5:15 p.m.       Baby & Toddler Care, Rooms 34 - 37
5:30 p.m.       Fellowship Dinner, Fellowship Hall
6:00 p.m.       Wednesday Night Kids
6:00 p.m.       Middle School Gathering
6:00 p.m.       High School Small Groups
6:15 p.m.       Ethiopia Team Presentation, Fellowship Hall
6:15 p.m.       Handbell Practice, Room 212
7:15 p.m.       Sanctuary Choir, Room 202
Thursday, September 26
7:00 a.m.       Men's Bible Study, Parlor
12:00 p.m.     Noon Bible Study, Room 117
Saturday, September 28
11:00 a.m.     Eagle Court of Honor, Chapel
Our Church Officers
Church Officers
Class of 2019
Class of 2020
Class of 2021
Anna Booher
Nancy Allerton
Ann Abel
Lee Galliher
Rebecca Beck
Randy Cook
Pete Holler
David Hyde
John Graham
Han Ong
Jordan Pennington
Katie McInnis
Pete Stigers
Jerry Poteat
John Vann
Sujean Bradley
Blake Bassett
Fred Harkleroad
George Linke
Rhonda Comer
Matt Kingsley
Greg Roberts
Ron Fox
Lisa McClain
Nate Sproles
Brenda Lawson
Drew Rice
Bill Whisnant
Barbara Thompson
Joyce Samuel
Nancy Cook
Peggy Hill
Jack Butterworth