Father’s Day: Sparring with the Spirits

DemoniacOn Father’s Day I was challenged and honored to preach on Jesus’ encounter with the Demoniac.  A man oppressed by a legion of evil spirits.  Jesus came off a boat into the area of the Geresenes, and immediately the encounter brought new life to the man.  The power of our Heavenly Father, God Almighty was made manifest through Jesus Christ.  In this sermon, I explore what that means for us today.

Click to Hear Rev. Griswold’s Sermon: “Sparring with Spirits”

Scripture: Matthew 5:1-19

The Gerasene Demoniac

They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “[a]What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding [b]nearby on the mountain. 12 The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They *came to Jesus and *observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened. 16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. 17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region. 18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might [c]accompany Him.19 And He did not let him, but He *said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them [d]what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”

Awesome Easter and the Resurrection

Easter Watercolor

If you’re like me, you’re physically tired after Easter.  The lenten journey can be a bit overwhelming and exhausting, but also spiritually invigorating.  This has been my first year being the pastor of three wonderful churches, and so this has been the first year I’ve been personally responsible for the season of Lent and all the worship experiences that point us to Jesus Christ.

We began as many churches do with Shrove Tuesday and we enjoyed fellowship and pancakes made by the Men’s Club at Trinity in Givhans.  We began with smiles, full stomachs, and a desire to be close to one another.

Next we journeyed to Ash Wednesday, and we remembered our mortality and our need for repentance.  The ashes were imparted and we began to evaluate our lives and began to ask ourselves, “What acts will prepare me for this season, and how can I walk more closely in the footsteps of Jesus.”  It was powerful, and we left with the heaviness of our sin but the expectation in our need for forgiveness and a new orientation.

Then our Sunday night Lenten Services began and we began to worship together ecumenically with many sister churches in our area.  We joined with various cultures and learned new ways to experience the Word of God.  I grew as a preacher as I sensed the Holy Spirit moving in the congregations and the ministers who presented as God lead them.  The songs, especially “Are Ye Able,” are still running through my heart and mind.  We experienced 6 Sunday nights on the journey together.

In the midst of the season, our charge held a “Healing and Wholeness” service, and we anointed those seeking healing for themselves and others, with oil as the scriptures call us to.  We placed hands on one another’s shoulders and tears and hugs brought us together as we lifted our pain and suffering before our Lord, who also experienced great suffering for us.

The “Revival” Bible Study also met on Thursdays (and one Friday), as we examined “Faith as John Wesley lived it,” giving special attention to what can happen when hearts are “strangely warmed” and people ignite and serve God with all that they have.  We learned that we don’t need to be perfect to be useful in service to Jesus Christ.  We really just need to be willing to place our whole being into His hands and seek what He’s calling us to do for the Kingdom.  We sang together, spent time with the three churches in community, and we felt the Lord calling us to new “Hard” things to do in His name.  We began to feel the revival that Wesley ignited so long ago.

Then came Holy Week, and we celebrated the joyful moments before the storm, when Christ entered Jerusalem and the crowd cried out “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  We marched onward to Good Friday, when Christ, having had the Last Supper with his disciples, was then betrayed and placed before the Sanhedrin and Pilate – to be put before the crowd and then sentenced to death.  We walked the Stations of the Cross together, and experienced a deep connection with our suffering servant, who went before the powers of our world and evil itself and did not back down.  From the Garden to the Cross, we felt Jesus’ pain and suffering which was taken upon himself to show his love for all people and his dedication to our salvation.

In a small reprieve from darkness, we experienced an Easter Egg hunt for the children at the campground, and the rains stopped just long enough for us to send the children out to cover themselves in mud and to jump in puddles to receive delight and plenty of sugar filled colored eggs.  Families came together, and we enjoyed some sweet fellowship huddled away from the rains that came and went.

Then, Easter morning came and we experienced a wonderful Sunrise service together.  We sang, “Were You There” and began to consider what Resurrection means for our own lives. At each service, we began to realize more and more that Christ is Risen!  And we cried, “He is Risen, indeed!”  Families and friends came together and the rains stayed away just long enough for us to take pictures together.

The Easter Season continues this Sunday, and truly, I am personally thankful to all of our churches and our congregations who have given so much to make this season one of true discipleship and a deep walk with Jesus.  This Sunday, we come back together for Communion, and we will consider Life after the Resurrection in the Spirit which Jesus promised to us for the mission that would follow.  I’m personally excited about what God is about to do with us and through us, and I ask each person to search deeply within themselves, and ask the big question, “Where is God in all this?”  He’s there, do not fear, and prepare yourself for big things.  God is laying a foundation for some mighty and wonderful works.  Let’s get ready!


“The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Meeting the Need – Health Kits and Love Offerings

Health Kits UMC IMG_6947

After the rains came, and everything started to settle, it became pretty clear that things were going to be alright in much of Ridgeville, Givhans and the Lebanon Communities, but there are many places still dealing with water slowly leaving the state.  Churches and homes still getting rid of water, assessing damage, and beginning the slow process of putting life back together.

Yesterday I drove through Columbia, and it is clear with the bridges still out, and the road closures (and the water systems just coming back into full operation) that this has and will be a longer road than usual.  I’d like to say a few thanks to some of the amazing people I’ve seen helping.

(1) I’d like to thank the South Carolina UMC Conference, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, and the Emergency Relief Teams already engaged and working across the state.  We’re blessed to have so many people from so many places putting brotherly/sisterly love into action.  (By the way there is a training tomorrow if you’d like to join those teams).  Also, thanks to the Conference and our Bishop for immediately posting information on how to get things done.

(2) I’d like to thank the churches of the Ridgeville Charge.  We’ve already made up 60 Health Kits, which were brought to the Conference Office yesterday.  (See pictures above).  I talked with the ladies there, and they said that they are shipping them out to communities fast, and these health kits are in great need.  We should continue to send them if we can, and I’ll make sure that somehow they keep getting to the Conference Office as fast as possible (drop off in the Vestibule’s of any of our Ridgeville Charge Churches.  Also – thank you for already giving so much to the Canaan UMC church on Route 61.  There are ERT teams working there, and they are worshipping at their sister church Sand Hill UMC until the church is ready to use again.  Continue to be in prayers for them, and maybe check in with anyone you know in that area and see if anyone needs anything specific.  We’ll be giving their emergency fund a love offering after this Sunday.  Make sure to invite folks back out to church for worship, and to maximize how much we can send in aid.  I’ve seen SC people coming together in the name of God, and my hope and prayer is that this will continue.  God is good!

(3) To those areas outside the affected zone, and those places out of state who have come to help and have sent bottled water.  Thank you for your prayers and generosity.  God is doing amazing things here, and I believe by prayer you are doing the best thing possible.  God is giving us all we need, and the people of SC are strong.  Pray for those without homes, send funds if you can to relief organizations (see my previous blog for more information about giving and making health kits), and keep telling us you’re thinking about us as the work continues in our hardest hit areas.

My favorite scripture verse is: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for theLord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

We have seen His mighty power, we have seen Him work through the love of so many, and our faith is putting our hands to work for our neighbors!  Blessed be the name of the Lord our God!

South Carolina Flood Response


canann umc flood

Flood Response


From Pastor Dan:  I’ve visited our three churches, and for the most part, our churches fared pretty well through the incredible storms this past weekend.  I’ve met with some of our folks and I haven’t received any requests for dire need so far.   However, we encourage you to check in on your neighbors and simply ask how they are doing after the storm.  Perhaps we can provide for some in a time of need.  There are others in our immediate area who are not as fortunate, and are in need of help.  I’ve talked with our Emergency Relief Coordinator, Toni Janis, about Canaan UMC on Rt. 61, and they are in dire need in many ways – not just the church but also members whose homes are under water.  
How can we help?  Here are four ways:
(1) Pray! first and foremost, for those who are in need across our entire state and those currently responding to all forms of need.
(2) You can donate funds to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), and we may take up a “Love Offering” Sunday in order to send some financial help directly to our neighbors on 61.    General donations to help in the aftermath of the South Carolina flooding should go to Advance #901670, U.S. Disaster, said Gregory A. Forrester, assistant general secretary, UMCOR  Disaster Response. You can go directly to the UMCOR website to give on-line: http://www.UMCOR.org 
(3) Volunteer: If you would like to volunteer to assist in the relief efforts following the historic flooding all around South Carolina, you must be training.
Please join ERT and help people recover from the flooding disaster in SC.
Training is Saturday Oct. 10 from 9am-5pm
Sharon UMC
3001 Shannon St. Sharon, SC
$35 (Lunch Provided)
(4) Health Kits: The NEW items needed for each kit include:
• 1 hand towel
• 15 x 25 inches to 17 x 27 inches;
• Kitchen, cleaning, and microfiber towels not acceptable.
• 1 washcloth
• 1 comb
• Comb needs to be sturdy and longer than 6 inches long;
• No pocket combs or picks please;
• Rattail combs and combs without handles are acceptable with a minimum of 6 inches of teeth.
• 1 metal nail file or nail clippers
• No emery boards, please.
• 1 bath-size soap
• 3 oz. and larger sizes only;
• No Ivory or Jergens soap due to moisture content;
• Do not remove from original packaging.
• 1 toothbrush
• Adult size only;
• Do not remove from original packaging.
• 6 adhesive bandages
• ¾ inch to 1 inch-size;
• Common household Band-Aids.
• 1 plastic bag
• One-gallon size sealable bag only.
• $1.00 to purchase toothpaste (UMCOR purchases toothpaste in bulk and monitors expiration dates)
Assembly Directions: Set the $1.00 for toothpaste aside to be included in a separate envelope. Lay out the hand towel flat on a table. Lay the washcloth flat in the center of the hand towel. Place all remaining items on top of the washcloth. Fold over the sides of the hand towel to cover all of the items. Fold over one end of the hand towel so that it covers all of the items. Grasp the bundle of items tightly and roll over the remainder of the hand towel tightly. Place the tightly rolled bundle in the plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible and seal the bag.  See website for more information: https://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies/Relief-Supply-Kits/Health   (You can drop off Health Kits at all three of our churches in the Welcome Area (vestibule), and we will make sure they get to UMCOR for distribution).
As we seek to respond in a way that honors our Connection to others as followers of Jesus Christ, let us petition our Heavenly Father for all the needs of those who are affected.  He is with us, and cares deeply for us all, and He calls us to be hands and feet, and to be those who bring the Good News by our actions and by sharing His great eternal Love.
“We are a connectional church, and we are not alone as we seek to respond faithfully to communities in crisis,” said SC UMC Conference Bishop Jonathan Holston.

Daniel Griswold
Pastor, Ridgeville Charge, UMC
Trinity, Mt. Tabor, Cypress

OFFICE: 843-871-1287

A Bit of Sadness and a Prayer in Trust: Wesley’s Prayer and Committment

woman and candles

Today, I worshipped quietly at a funeral service for a well loved member of our community.  The music was beautiful, and I was glad to see so many wonderful people there to remember her presence and impact among so many.  I was reminded that we’re born, we live our lives with family, our friends and our communities, and live out our faith in a world where we are interconnected – often in a  winding and confusing but ultimately good way.  We are fragile though, and we age and see and experience the lives of those who’ve entered the world after us who bring change and renewal.  Then, inevitably (unless you’re like the prophet Elijah) we exit to return to our Creator, God, and those who remain feel the deep sadness of loss, but also the bittersweet memories that can be full of goodness and great joy.  I still feel the pain of losing my Grandmother Nancy Sampson, and my Great-Grandmother Alice  more recently as well.  The electric grip of loss still affects me years after these losses.  A few years ago, my wife remembered the life of her sister, who passed much too young, but left a deep and lasting impression on us all.   Also very confusing, but essentially part of being human.

When I returned to the office at Trinity today, I prayed for many people and made a few calls to visit with folks from our churches in the next week, but when I sat down at my computer, some immediate news hit me pretty hard.  I think that news, with the aid of technology always on, has begun to pang life with a constant stream of grief as we become reminded of the evils our world continues to face.  We haven’t made it yet.  This particular story, of at reporter and her camera man, being shot live on air hit me deep in the spirit as many stories lately have, and I walked out to the alter and stood in front of the cross, felt a shiver go down my body and soul, and I spent a moment without words sharing my deep sorrow with God.

In that moment, I knew God felt the same, but more so than I did, and it heightened my mourning over our inability to love one another.  It confirmed for me that God is deeply invested in us and that our work to make “Thy Kingdom Come, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” is a mission worthy of continual and constant emphasis – and that the Good News – “euangelion” – The Gospel, needs fresh testimony among all people who are being pinged by the same reminders of evil in the world that we are.  By actively promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and proclaiming a Kingdom where peace is possible inwardly, through right relationship with God, and through that inner spiritual transformation in the Holy Spirit, we bond together to form this amazing Kingdom without any geographical center, initiated by baptism in water, and through discipleship we’re slowly made whole.  This is the mega-polis where Justice and Peace are practiced (rather than merely preached, or politicized), and we are reminded that the depths of our selfishness and ability to self-destruct are temporary, and through grace and self-sacrifice, God will cap this age with the re-arrival of perfection in our affairs.  God will destroy evil once and for all.

All that and more. I surrender to this future reality, and I pledge to work towards it in my own life and to be more and more like Christ in His ultimate self-sacrifice on the cross.  So at the altar, now, I recommit myself, and I will pray Wesley’s Covenant Prayer because I can’t think of a better one for these times.  If you’d like to pray this with me, I would be honored and humbled:

“I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

In all this, in God’s plan, I will not be afraid.  I will continue to celebrate what is good, I’ll mourn and feel these losses knowing that it is temporary, and I’ll actively seek to represent God’s joy and goodness when some desire to bring evil to us all.  Strengthen your people, Lord. Remind us of Your Presence.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.  Amen, and Amen, and Amen.


Some Questions I Ask Myself When I’m Preparing to Preach

Preaching is a huge responsibility and takes some good time and effort each week seeking to properly proclaim God’s word. Personally, I’ve been falling deeper and deeper in love with Jesus Christ and His ministry as we’ve been following the Gospel texts of the liturgical calendar. Yesterday, celebrating Communion after ruminating over Jesus’ words, “I am the bread of life,” really heightened and reminded us of the prominence of the Lord’s Table and the spiritual significance of “The Bread” sent from heaven to us. 

As part of my process I’ve been asking lots of questions of God, myself and others, so I thought I’d write some of them down in journal fashion. This is not comprehensive, but is more of what is on my heart and mind right now. Some are groupings of questions related so I bunched them:

(1) What does the scripture say? How do I get beyond my own personal interpretation?  Have I asked God to open my spiritual eyesight? 

(2) What does all of scripture bear on this passage? Is it something new, or is it emphasizing and continuing what God has done before? 

(3) Who is the author and what is the theological and practical thrust of the book, letter, prophecy, etc.? Where does this fit in this movement of the writer/speaker?

(4) What does the church and other reliable preaching and exegesis bear on this text?  Church Fathers? Doctors and Contemporary Preaching and exposition? Commentaries?

(5) Who is the word being spoken to, and what is this scripture saying to them today? Know the crowd and seek to give God’s word to them, stand as a messenger bringing Good News. Can it be communicated in a creative and interesting way that can be heard and integrated without distraction? 

(6) How is the Holy Spirit working today and giving us hope that this passage can challenge us today? How can we live out this challenge? Are we capable of disequilibrium and will this inspiration become action? 

(7) After the sermon is given: Was I faithful? Did I guard against accidental heresy? Will there be questions because I didn’t explain well enough or didn’t chew enough to understand it myself? Was the gospel preached and Jesus Christ proclaimed? Was God glorified and the Holy Spirit revered? Lastly, What is the movement of the Spirit as we prepare for a week of action and return as the church to preach once again. 

What questions do you ask when you stand to preach?

Image Source: (http://www.credomag.com/2013/01/03/how-to-preach-the-gospel-from-every-part-of-the-bible/)

Exciting Times in the Ridgeville Charge – Thanks to Trinity, Mt. Tabor, and Cypress UMC

Moving In

It has now been over a month since Amanda, Ransom, Bella and I moved from the hot suburbs of Bluffton and Hilton Head and packed our things for Ridgeville, Givhans, and the Lebanon community.

First things first, we have so many people to thank on so many different fronts that it would be impossible to name you all.  At Saint Andrew, our parting was bittersweet, but it was clear that we would remain in touch through the connection of the Methodist church, and we are so grateful for the encouragement as we entered transition.

When we arrived, the people of our three churches met us at our new parsonage and have been an incredibly welcoming presence.  If all visitors to our churches are welcomed with arms as open as we have been welcomed, we have a bright future ahead as the Ridgeville charge makes disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world!  The parsonage was completely remodeled from the time we visited months prior, and it was like a new home.  Folks from all three churches were there to help us get our luggage in and visited with us as we determined where all our “stuff” needed to go.  Afterwards, as we began opening boxes, the food and sweet tea brought to us by congregants helped us continue the charge, even as our first Sunday of worship was about to arrive and we would be traveling to all three churches and experiencing the Holy Spirit move in each.

We are now getting our bearings, and have visited Summerville, SC almost every third day.  That’s where Target and Walmart and Harris Teeter (and Thrift Stores) are located…so we’ve done a lot of that.   We found a coffee shop that we like thanks to some good folks that work nearby who suggested it to us.  It is Coastal Coffee Roasters, which reminds me a lot of The Corner Perk in Bluffton.  Coffee is roasted there on the spot, they have great drinks, and even use nitrous to spice of their cold brew iced coffees (which have an incredibly high caffeine content)  – Good stuff.

And back to Ridgeville and Givhans, we’re not too far from Vaughn’s General Store, and there is a great pizza place in town called Christina’s.  We actually got the internet for the first time at the parsonage, so our cellular data use has plummeted, and we were recommended to (and did) move from AT&T to Verizon (an ongoing process) because the signal out here in the country wasn’t strong enough…oh, and we got a home phone…never thought I’d do that again.

The only challenge we have come up against is that our house, which had originally been ready to sign and sell, is now back on the market due to a mortgage lender error in our first deal.  If you know anyone searching for a house in the Bluffton area, we have a 4 bedroom home that needs a good owner.  That link sends you to a tropical music 3D tour – so exciting.  We loved that home but need to sell it as soon as folks need it.  All in God’s hands and timing.

So here we are, getting to know some of the greatest people in the world, preparing for God’s will as we serve and love the people of this new area, and experiencing a new and exciting way of life.  I’ve included a few photos, including my biscotti pic from the amazing Ice Cream Social that all three churches participated in (and home made ice cream floweth…ed.”   It was amazing.  God is good.  This adventure suits us, as hard as it was to move, even with the little bits of stress, we are being blessed and hopefully will be a blessing to others.  Pray for us as we discover God’s will and act out the mission He has for us!

To you all, blessings and peace,

Dan, Amanda, Ransom and Bella

Extra Pics: 

Worship and Office Trinity UMC Ransom in a Chair Ransom and Bella Cokes on the chairs Coffee at Coastal Boxes and Baby Biscotti for the Charge Social Bella in the Yard Moving In