The Sweet Spirit


         Olive Branch United Methodist Church                                               


April, 2013



Cross and...



Just a thought

The Surprise Ending of Resurrection


In some stories, hope is wrapped up in the obvious and tangible elements of the plot, but other times hope is revealed through a surprise ending or a twist — giving new life to the story in foreshadowed glory. The Easter story is a vivid example that things aren't always as they seem. In a way, Easter is a celebration of the greatest story twist in history, one that's so subversive it changes everything for all time.

It's easy to gloss over the Easter story — we've heard it so many times — and forget the surprise and shock of the resurrection.  It’s easy to read through the Gospels without that “aha” moment it really delivers.  We have the privilege of reading the resurrection into the teachings of Jesus — we know how the story ends — but for the disciples, the moments before the resurrection were steeped in fear, darkness and confusion.  For the disciples, the resurrection provided an incredible twist — in Sixth Sense fashion — that made the story come alive in a new way … past experiences began to make clarion sense.  It changed everything.  Eugene Peterson explains it like this in his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: “The Christian life begins as a community that is gathered at the place of impossibility, the tomb.”

The scandalous plan of God, revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, reveals to us that what we see is not all there is.  Easter tells us that a man convicted is not really guilty, that a cruel instrument of torture and death is really a symbol of remarkable hope and grace; it also tells us that an empty tomb is what we should have expected all along.  On the surface, the story of Easter reveals a plot by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day to take down a rebel once and for all. As Jesus is handed over to the authorities, the picture that's painted is that Caesar is king, his kingdom rules and the Roman cross would have the last say.  Even homeless peasants with an unusually impressive following and a supernatural track record would be trumped by the empire for rebelling. 

The path to the cross was a willing conviction accepted by God in the most subversive act on Earth — a conspiracy to take on the sin of the world and launch a counter-kingdom that would overthrow every worldly empire.  Not by violence or brute force, but by love and sacrifice — through Christ.  Colossians tells us that with each step Jesus was making a public spectacle out of the pseudo powers and authorities and that, with the cross, he was triumphant.

What looked like defeat was actually ultimate victory. 

Easter reminds us that even though injustice may run rampant at present — even though it appears that darkness is pervasive and final — we know God is working, that his love is greater and that resurrection is real. As the morning came on the third day, a sun-cast freshness burst on the scene to reveal a subversive hope that thrusts us into a new story, one that rests on the work of Christ — a grassroots grace that upends every injustice.  Through the brilliant light of the resurrection we can walk in newness of life.

At a time when the Caesars of our day still claim to rule and injustice seems commonplace, the revolutionary hope of new life springs up in our hearts as we embrace the promise of Christ and experience the call of an extreme God to believe.

This new way, this subversive hope, is a call to live counter to the mainstream tendencies of darkness and selfishness and to embrace the resurrection life.  In this, we not only celebrate the story of Easter, but we join it as ones who have received an unspeakable gift.  As Miraslov Volf says in his book Free of Charge

"When Christ died on the tree of shame outside the gates of Jerusalem, God bore our sin, and we were both condemned as sinners and separated from our sin, and in our lives, God lives somewhere unfathomably deep within us — behind our faculties of knowing and willing — and swallows up our sin and transforms our lives."

This transformation through Christ is our twist in the story — our aha moment. Through Christ, we continue to live out the resurrection life in our own generation — continuing the subversive plot that God initiated in Christ.

I hope this Easter that you relived the surprise ending; relived the story with a fresh passion for the genuine hope that we embrace.  Relived the reality of a risen Lord and new life.

Let this hope continue to paint our future in every possible way.



Easter Services


Early on Easter morning, many members of our church and visitors, gathered at the banks of Lake Gaston to celebrate the risen Christ.  It was chilly and raining but it could not suppress the joy we all shared in knowing that Christ is Risen indeed!  Rev. Jeff brought a short message, a hymn was sung and them we continued our celebration over breakfast in the fellowship hall at Church.  Many thanks to the UMM for the great food that was provided.


At 11:15 AM we again came together to celebrate the risen Christ.  It was a joyful service attended by many in our congregation and many visitors. We had about 50 people participate.  Rev. Jeff brought the message of Mary being the first to preach the news that Jesus was risen. The church was decorated with Easter Lilies given in honor or memory of loved ones in our church.



Second Sunday Luncheon


Sunday April 14th will be the date for our Second Sunday Luncheon. This has been a tradition in OBUMC for many years. Everybody is invited and asked bring a dish to share. We will start right after services.



Lenten Luncheon


Our church was the location of a community Lenten Luncheon on March 26th.  The Rev. Thomas Childress of James Square Baptist brought the word.  After the services, the ladies of our church provided a luncheon that consisted of soup and sandwiches.  This was the second of the series of five luncheons and services.  About 50 people joined together to hear the Lord’s word and enjoy the camaraderie of our sister churches in the telling of Jesus’ last week before his death and resurrection.  Thanks go out to our ladies for setting up and providing a great lunch.





Service of Tennebrae, Good Friday


On Good Friday evening our church held a service of Tennebrae.  Tennebrae is a service of darkness as we hear the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross.  Often told by different readings from the Gospels, it is done in the solemnity of the moment.  There is no light in the church but the light of the fifteen candles on the altar. As each portion of the story is read a candle is doused until the only one is left.  It is the Christ candle.  As the reader reads the final minutes of his earthly life the candle is snuffed out just as his life was.  This year Rev. Jeff and Ed and Jane DiStefano were our readers. I t was a poignant end and beginning to the Easter story.  When the readings were done and with the church in darkness, everyone left in silence in remeberance of what Jesus had done for us that day.




Outreach Committee to Meet on April 9th at 6:00


Just a little reminder about our Church Family's “Coins for God's Ministry” calling us to be “Fishers of Men.”  Please pray that God will show us an Outreach Project to distribute our coins to after they are Blessed on Sunday, May 19th, the Sunday before Memorial Weekend.  We already have around $40.00!!


So come on everyone let's hear the coins jingling “Big Time”!  I'm really excited about this project & would like for all of our church family to be excited also :) :)


Please don't forget our Church pantry!! If anyone would care to volunteer to help with delivery of food items, etc. please come to the meeting on Tuesday, April 9th. at 6:00 p.m. or contact Bev Noland: 252-537-5956, Ed DiStefano: 252-537-5705, or Catherine Minks: 434-577-3062. Outreach needs all the HELP it can get!!


Administrative Council to Meet


Our Administrative Council will meet this month on the 9th at 7:00pm.  Remember this is our church and we each have a stake in it.  These meetings are open to all church members.  This month we have many items to discuss. Besides the reports from the Church’s organizations we will have updates on the projector/screen project, the UMM stew fundraiser and the status of the cemetery. Everyone is needed to help us grow.  If you have an idea of how we can make OBUMC better, bring your ideas to the council and let’s talk about them. We can only be as good as our participation in the way we do things! Council meetings are for each member of our church to be heard.   



Rev. Jeff’s Bible Study


Rev Jeff is conducting an in depth study of the Bible continuing in Genesis and looking toward Exodus on Thursdays at 7:00pm. For those who arrive early, refreshments (cookies and coffee) will be available.  We will be meeting in the fellowship hall at OBUMC.  If you think you want to learn more about the Bible join us and grow with us as we look at different interpretations of God’s word.



United Methodist Women


The UMW will meet on Tuesday, the 10th of April for their business meeting which convenes at 2:00 pm.  If you would like to help in their different mission programs please join them in the fellowship hall at 2:00 PM.




United Methodist Men


 The United Methodist Men will not meet on April 20th.  Instead we will gather Friday and Saturday, April 19 and 20th, to make a stew.  The stew will be available at 11am at a cost of $6.00 per quart.  We will resume our regular meetings in May.  Breakfast will be provided for all by our own A.B. Clary/ Billy Tatum and Jim Noland.


After our last meeting, members came together to clean up the flower beds, trim the plants and spread mulch to bring a spring feeling to our church.  Thanks go out to those who helped in the clean up project.  See you on the 20th when you pick up your stew orders.



Sunday School  


Sunday School is available each Sunday morning.  The importance of Sunday School is that, though you may think hearing the word during the worship service will suffice for you, you really need to be in attendance at Sunday School to gather all the information that you can in an open discussion classroom.  Jesus’ word cannot be totally understood just by listening to a sermon.  You have to interact with it and with other Christians to learn what He was saying to us.  This is a life long study and you should take part.  Please plan on joining us to learn more about our Lord, Jesus Christ and the Word.  The class is assessing what they would like to study over the next few weeks. Watch for our announcement in the bulletin on where we are going in our study of the Word and the Church.  Sunday School begins at 10:00 AM






Celebrating birthdays this month:


Sara Wright                  Mabel King

Linda Wright


Happy Birthday from your church family.









This is our newsletter. It is meant to be a way to communicate what your church is doing and what all the organizations are doing both in the congregation and the community.  I will be sending this electronically via email.  If you know someone who needs a printed copy, they are being made available. 


There are many organizations within our church and I hope they would like to have their achievements, plans, and meetings made known to the entire church. It is my hope that they will ask one of their members to drop a short note as to what they doing each month. The line of communication in the church needs to be open and full of what we are doing at Olive Branch to make disciples in our area.


If you would like to send us something, please bring it to church or send me an email ( and we will see that it gets published.  Please, let’s keep our church informed on what we are doing. See you at church and God bless.

Ed DiStefano