We are in week three of our sermon series “Better Together.” This week’s focus was not on our “work” or on “intergenerational” relationships. This week we looked at those relationships that are “outside’ of our usual experiences.
Jesus has an encounter with a Syro-Phoenician woman which is unsettling. He is attempting to get some time alone and this woman comes and throws herself at his feet. He treats her badly. And yet she does not back down from what she wants from her daughter.
In my opinion this is one of those “human” moments when we see Jesus’ humanity rather than his divinity. His divinity comes through when he is confronted not by overly religious leaders, but by an outsider willing to beg if necessary for the life and health of her daughter.
It wasn’t the easiest sermon to preach. I find the text challenging and I don’t mind encouraging others to find it challenging as well. You can find the entire worship service for Downtown Alive here.
If you want to see the study guide that is used each week to keep us in the Word, you can find it here.
We continued our sermon series “Better Together.” The second Sunday of September is “Grandparents Day.” A “hallmark” holiday, but offers people of faith an opportunity to consider how faith is shared generation to generation. This day is also a challenge to acknowledge we are better together young and old.
The young come with their energy and passion and understanding of all the changes that occur so rapidly in our world. Those who are older come with wisdom and discernment and sometimes strategy to help move change. Of course there are shadow sides to these gifts, but the sentiment is the same, we are truly better together.
The church created bags with activities that could be done in person or virtually. You can find the whole service or the sermon only here.
We started a new sermon series on Labor Day Weekend. While Labor Day is not a “sacred” holiday it is one that I embraced years ago. I believe we do not take enough time to honor and lift up our “work” or “labor” as beloved children of God. We are called and consecrated in whatever we put our hearts and minds and lives to doing.
So often we think of “called and consecrated” as those who work for the church or a ministry or a non profit or a mission I think scripture is clear that all we do and say witnesses to our faith in Christ and our believe in God. Covid 19 meant we were not able to invite people forward to be anointed and prayed for as they rededicated their lives and work, paid or unpaid, to the glory of God, but we did do a prayer of blessing.
The people of God who are the church made visible in world, must convince the world of the reality of the gospel or leave it unconvinced… This comes from the United Methodist Discipline, and rings true for me deep in my soul. We are the church made visible.
Sometimes there are sermon series that catch your attention, this was one of those for me. Creating a Study Guide each week for the Bible Reading challenge required to me to read vast amounts of scripture in order to figure out each days readings. Doing an overview of the Bible over five weeks was challenging in every way. Even with five weeks, there was no good way to cover it all.
I am pretty sure no one noticed, but my director of communications and I used the initials from the series to create the sermon titles each week. They were not entirely accurate to what I may have preached, but it was to do.
Week One was the Big Picture, the Overview. Week Two was Interpretation and Insight, the laws and the prophets. Week Three was Beautiful Blessing, the writings. Week Four was Living in Love, Jesus and the Early Church and finally we had Epistles, Letters for Everyone.
The Bible reading challenge was broken into three parts. Each week participants were encourage to read the Bible six days. The Bronze level was ten minutes a day, the Silver was thirty minutes a day and the Gold was forty five minutes a day. In partnership with a business owner who owned three Dairy Queens we had ice treat prizes: for the Bronze a coupon for a cone, for Silver a coupon for a blizzard and for the Gold three coupons for blizzards.
My hope and prayer of course is that people would read. The bible can overwhelming at best, but it is a gift. My point in my sermon Sunday is that for Christians the Bible isn’t about the words that are written, but about The WORD, that became flesh and dwelt among us and from this One we receive grace upon grace.
This week, instead of a quick overview of the WHOLE Bible we settled in on the Law and the Prophets. That includes the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures and a big chunk of the books that end the Hebrew Scriptures. Still, that is a great deal of material to cover.
I spent so much time last week reading all the minor prophets and took big bites out of the major prophets. Scanned the Numbers and Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The law in particular gets tedious fast! Still, I had to remind myself that like other kind of document, people add to whatever rules they might have when confronted with new situations. The Torah or the law is no different.
So many of the laws are not relevant because of changing times and rituals. There is no more temple in Jerusalem so the laws around sacrafice or the building of the temple are not used. Other’s however, are a reminder of a better way to live: the slaughter of animals for example, adds a respect for the life offered in order to eat. How one treats a stranger or immigrant is just as important today as it was 3000 years ago.
The ten commandments are the basis of our faith. Put God first and foremost and respect and care for other humans beings. As Jesus summed up: “Love God with all your heart, and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself.” You can find the worship service or just the sermon here.
Our B.I.B.L.E. reading challenge continues. This weeks study guide offers readings from Exodus and Deuteronomy on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday through Saturday gives an opportunity to sample from many of the prophets.
The prophets challenged and invited the people of God to remember that showing love for God was best seen in love for neighbor. I am praying my words and actions this week offer that witness to all.
I knew it had been a long time since I had written but over two months really is a LONG time. Life has felt like I was on a roller coaster. Covid numbers were down, we took a vacation and saw family. We hiked in some beautiful places.
I came back from vacation and had five memorial services in four weeks. Two were already planned from last year when we couldn’t have services. Now the Covid numbers have begun to rise rapidly with the onslaught of the delta variant. I can’t even begin to sort through my feelings.
I did begin a new sermon series on Sunday. I have in the past done a week or two on the “bible” as preparation for giving third graders Bibles. In conversation with our worship team, we felt like it would be a good idea to do a sermon series all through August on the Bible. With school starting mid month we could pair it with a blessing for school workers one Sunday, blessing of backpacks the next, third grade bibles, commissioning our Sunday School teachers and small group leaders and end with blessing our personal Bibles for study and reading through the year.
We added a Bible reading challenge. Over the next four weeks people are challenged to read the Bible certain amount of time each day (10, 30 or 45 minutes) six days a week. On August 31 they bring back their filled in card and receive a coupon for a free ice cream treat. The link shares all the particulars. If there is someone that is not old enough to read a parent can read to them. The study guide each week will offer a host of reading each day. This Sunday’s was an overview of the whole Bible.
This sermon series has me digging deep. The Bible is such a gift and a challenge. So much of it is hard to read and understand particularly some of the violence. Yet, it challenges me to understand how God can still speak through these ancient words.
In Sunday’s sermon, I do an over view of the entire Bible in 15 minutes. It went fast and we had interference with our microphones outside of the building, but we did worship! You can find the sermon and/or the whole worship service here.
“Holy Spirit you are welcome here,” begins the chorus to Bryan and Katie Torwalt’s song. “Holy Spirit you are welcome here.” After this year, I can not think of a better phrase. “Your glory, God is what our hearts wait for…” And I would say ache for and long for in our lives and communities.
A year ago we celebrated Pentecost remotely, and asked for God’s Spirit to unite us through airwaves and the interwebs and through the mystery of God’s presence in all places and among all people. Today, we waved red, orange and yellow pom poms and wore the colors of flame. Shoes, toes and outfit was ready for this morning’s worship
Today’s scriptures included the Ezekiels vision of the dry bones and Pauls reminder that we are beloved children of God and the whole creation is groaning and waiting for the children of God to live into the new beloved community. After a year of pandemic, I am trying to pay attention to what new ways the Spirit is leading us post pandemic.
When the people of God were in exile, they didn’t know what would come next. They were tired, afraid and overwhelmed. The church at Rome had questions and wondered where was God? How could they live into this new reality of being brothers and sisters, siblings through Christ. Finding new ways to connect to people with different paths, different understandings and backgrounds.
We, too, are living into a new reality. “Come Holy Spirit, you are welcome here!” I don’t know what comes next, what I do know is that God is there and leading me and all of us in new and wonderous ways as a community of faith.
The celebration of Easter is such a joy following Lent, perhaps this year as much as any other. Last year, we were sheltering in place and so Easter Sunday had not choir, no congregation in the pews and people were worshipping live through television and the internet.
What a difference a year makes! We are still living in the midst of a pandemic, but at least the vaccines are being administered. There is a glimpse of a time when Covid-19 will truly lose it grip on us all. This year, we did have in person worship safely by requiring masks and having the pews marked for social distancing.
However, for me, the power of this Easter was part and parcel of walking through the last words of Jesus and an incredibly moving Good Friday Service. The music was new to the service as was a change from the passion reading from John. Instead, we re-read those last words of Jesus from the Cross. The music spoke to my heart and spirit.
Today, we heard the resurrection story from Mark which is abrupt and ends in silence. Later in the service we heard a later ending, but that story, I think, speaks to our life in the past year. A vocal quintet and a brass quintet along with the organ made the service glorious. While we could not have the choir sing yet, or have people come forward to sing, the “Hallelujah Chorus” is for me, what Easter is all about.
I am living hope right and grateful for the new possiblities that will be available as the vaccinations continue. If you would like to hear and see and worship both the Tenebrae Service on Good Friday and the Easter service, you can find them here.
Holy Week begins. It was a beautiful cool spring morning and the sun was shining. All six candles and the Christ candle were lit for this morning’s service.
We began having in person worship, masks required and social distanced the first Sunday in March. It was wonderful. This Sunday, we opened our toddler and infant nurseries and had a palm procession with children. With the exception of the littlest ones they all wore their masks and waved their palms. Throughout the sanctuary the adults waved their palms.
I admit, I cried. I have not cried once during this entire pandemic. The site of children and adults waving palms along with the hymn “All Glory Laud and Honor,” did me in. With a powerful handbell piece and “Ride on King Jesus” it was as normal a Sunday as we can expect for the time being. The sanctuary felt full even though it wasn’t. The joy in the room radiated through out the sanctuary.
The sixth word of Jesus is Acceptance as he cries “It is finished.” Seems like we have had a lot of things we have had to accept through this difficult season of Covid-19. Last year, there was so much fear and so much we didn’t know about this disease. Now, it feels like we can begin to see a time when Covid’s grip might be loosened.
This week is all about the finishing, the end. Beginning with a parade and joy, this week ends in horror and violence. However it feels important to not jump from the Hosanna’s to Easter. To stop at the foot of the cross is some of the most difficult work we will do, but work that can open us up to the glory that is to come.
If you would like to see Palm Procession, or watch the service in its entirety or just the sermon you can find the links here.
I am praying for a most holy and sacred week during these waning days of Lent.
I am not sure what happened last week. The fourth word from the cross was Abandonment. I guess I “abandoned” my blog for the week.
On the things I have been pondering during this particular sermon series is how it gets darker and darker as we approach Holy Week. The first words, or sayings of Jesus from the cross were outwardly focused. Jesus offered forgivness and grace and a new community to those who didn’t even ask for them.
This love and mercy is astounding when contemplating Jesus’ pain and agony as he is being crucified. The fourth word becomes a window into Jesus’ internal workings. His cry of abandonment from the cross is heart wrenching and deep. “Why have you abandoned me???’ The fifth shows how the crucifixion was causing him great suffering, “I thirst.”
Jesus the one who offered living water, the one who changed water into the wine, the one who fed the 5000 was thirsty and alone. These words, at least for me, remind me of the grace that is offered through Emmanuel: God with us in Christ. Jesus understands it all, betrayal, suffering, pain, abandonment and still, how he loves us.
You can find last Sunday’s and this Sunday’s worship services and sermons here.