“It’s a Good Feeling”

Sometimes I just have fun with a sermon series. This is one of those times. Each week I have the privilege of immersing myself in old Mr. Roger’s videos and the scriptures to see what each might say to me. The lectionary texts which I use “loosely” help me to invest myself in what it means to be a neighbor.

The Neighboring Movement is a non profit organization that begin in the SoCe (south central) area of Wichita, Kansas. Full disclosure: I am currently serving on the board of directors. I am doing so because I believe in what this group of people are doing. They are seeing abundance in an area of Wichita many would just write off as not a good place to be. Their understanding of abundance is life changing. Everyone has gifts, everyone. How we learn to recognize and honor and share those gifts is all part of the movement.

Obviously this fits in well with Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. As I have watched old videos, I find myself “missing” Mister Rogers. I miss his simple way of looking out and saying “I like you just the way you are.” Today’s sermon included a video from the neighborhood. If you do not have time to watch the whole service, this video is a delight.

I am grateful to be part of Life. Downtown in Wichita. I am grateful to part of First United Methodist Church. It is always an honor to leader worship in this wonderful place. I invite to worship through this video link.

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Franklin turns 50

Maybe, like me, you are a long time Peanuts fan. From the daily and Sunday comic strips to the television specials, Charles Schultz brought this gang of children into homes for decades. Even though Charles Schultz has been gone almost two decades, his legacy continues.

The last few days, there have been several news articles about his character Franklin. Introduced fifty years ago, Charles Schultz broke through all kinds of barriers with no fanfare at all. Here is how an NPR article describes this anniversary.

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More importantly, for me, was this story from the Jon S. Randal Peace Page on Facebook. I did some research and this does not appear to be an urban legend or myth. According to Mr. Randal, it was a school teacher by the name of Harriet Glickman who reached out after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to ask him to add an African-American character. After several letters back and forth, Franklin appears.

If you have access to Facebook, please read this story. Mr. Randal is a better author than I  and shares how this small gesture was so HUGE in the life of many. In the late 1960’s, having a black and white child play together at a beach and go to school together was a major event. Not everyone approved. And yet, a simple comic strip began to paint a picture of a different world, a world where children belong together: playing, going to school and visiting each other’s homes.

Fifty years later, it is a vision and a picture we still need. I am saddened and grieved by how many children in this country still go to bed hungry, are in need of basic medical care and are overlooked and ignored because of the color of their skin or their country of origin. I, guess I am idealistic, because I never thought I would live to the year 2018 and see bigotry and hatred raise its ugly head and be considered acceptable.

Still, I am a person of hope. I continue to believe that we as people can be more accepting, more loving, more kind and more neighborly. We may not always get it right, but we don’t always have to get it wrong either. I am deeply indebted to those who, like Charles Schultz, took a risk and took stand. On Franklin’s birthday, may we normalize acceptance of others no matter the color of their skin, their religious tradition or country of origin.

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Won’t YOU be my Neighbor?

We began a new sermon series today, complete with Mister Roger’s song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Over the next six weeks we will focus on what being a neighbor means using SoCe Life‘s curriculum “The Good Neighbor Experiment.” Sunday School classes will be delving in more deeply into that experiment, in worship we are focusing on the three key ingredients: Abundance, Relationship and Joy.

We are also kicking off a film series next Friday with our downtown partners: Tallgrass Film Association, Harvester Arts, The Forum Theatre Company, and the above mentioned SoCe Life. These are free events in our Wilke Family Life Center where we can laugh a little, meet new neighbors and have a conversation around what it means to be community and neighbors.

Jesus pointed out on numerous occasions that our faith challenges us to love God first and foremost and our neighbor as ourselves. That has never been easy and in worship we pondered Jesus having to open up his ministry to the outsider and it was a game changer. You can view the worship service in it’s entirety here.

Today was also a celebration for Mead’s Corner which is closing it’s door after 10 years in business and in ministry. Doug Hye, “Mr. Mead’s Corner” created this video remembrance.  It was a bittersweet afternoon. Saying goodbye to a place is always hard and finding the grace to be open to the new possibilities and ministries is tricky at best. I believe that out of the past comes the future, as in the word’s of Paul, “Christ is our peace.” Christ breaks down the walls and barriers that we erect and makes a new people. My hope and prayer is that out of all the hours, the prayers and the opportunities that Mead’s Corner provided, a new day is coming and new ministry will arise. I am grateful for the transformation of the corner of Emporia and Douglas, grateful for it’s ministry in that neighborhood.

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Vacation for the Soul: Celebration

We finished up our sermon series, “Vacation for the Soul,” yesterday. For me, it has been good to focus on classic or traditional spiritual traditions or prayer practices. Some I have engaged in more fully than others, some have been a stretch for me, but all have deepened my spiritual life.

In worship yesterday, we focused on the final spiritual discipline in Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline. “Celebration” is the last practice or discipline he writes about, and it is fitting because he says, “is an act of will and is at the heart of the way of Christ.”

In a nutshell, what he means is that celebration is not just about a party for some high point in our lives. Celebration is finding joy in our path with Christ and that joy remains with us no matter what occurs in our life. In the words of one of our Vacation Bible School songs: “in a world ever changing, there are times we when feel alone. But in this world God is with us, He’s in our lives wherever we go.” Celebration has that understanding at the root of our spiritual lives.

In worship we showed a short video from VBS and had some wonderful music. You can find the whole worship service here.  Beginning next week I start a new sermon series, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” I am really looking forward to that.

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Vacation for the Soul: Into the Fire

What a great morning. After being on vacation for my wedding anniversary last week, it was a joy to return to worship at First United Methodist Church. The service was filled with terrific music, as usual we had our Downtown Alive Choir, a beautiful solo by Rebecca Beard AND the Treitsch Memorial United Methodist Church Youth Choir. We were their first stop on their tour this week sharing music and mission.

In our time with children, Mr. Phil Davis shared with us “tools of the trade,” including a plumb line. Many adults as well as the children had never seen one nor understood how they worked. It was a great visual for our Amos reading.

Today’s lectionary readings were hard. I do not think any one would choose both Amos and the death of John the Baptist for fun. Our Vacation Bible School theme is “Daniel, Courage in Captivity.” That theme pairs well with the spiritual discipline of study. In our tense and anxious time, how we experience God’s presence as we live out our faith is important to study. The prophets knew it was never easy and yet they stood firm in their speaking the truth when no one wanted to hear it. You can find the entire worship service with all the music at this link. The study guide this week has us reading the entire book of Amos. Each week, the study guide is uploaded on the church’s website. You can find it in several places but here is this week’s study guide.

For those who watch through television, I didn’t quite get all of my sermon on air. I will publish the manuscript tomorrow. May the prayer/spiritual practice of study this week, help us find our voice in these tense and anxious times.

 

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Vacation for the Soul, Guidance

This week’s Spiritual Practice or Discipline is Guidance. That doesn’t tend to make the top five list of things that are “spiritual.” Guidance doesn’t seem to fall in the same sphere as prayer or meditation or sabbath or worship. Yet, guidance has a long tradition of being important for deepening the spiritual life.

I didn’t mention it in worship, but many people have spiritual directors that help guide them in their Christian walk. Small groups or Sunday School classes can be part of the spiritual practice of guidance.

Today in worship, instead, I focused on being guided by love. Using Paul’s imagery in Colossians and pairing it with the lectionary gospel in Mark, I pondered how being clothed in Christ and in love guides us as it guided Christ.

I mentioned Lauren Winner’s book Wearing God, which is a marvelous book on how we experience and meet God in different ways: through clothing and laughter and fire to name a few. As followers of Jesus we are “fashioned” in the old sense of the word by Christ and by love. We are shaped, molded into the image and likeness of Christ.

It was a good day to being year three at First United Methodist Church. If you would like to watch the service in its entirety you will find the video here.

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Oklahoma Disaster Relief, Day Three

Today was our final day and we wanted to get as much done as possible. So after breakfast once again at Tiffany’s Restaurant we got to the work site an hour earlier than yesterday. We had already packed up everything at the Noble United Methodist Church with a plan to return and shower and then load up.

It was hot, but fortunately we had a wonderful breeze coming in and good fans. We were back at insulation and sheet rock. My job would be finishing mudding one room and do as much taping and mudding in the small bathroom and the room Rusty, Andrew and Dave were finishing up.

Rusty, Dave and Andrew went immediately to work on the room that had been started yesterday. They had to finish insulating the ceiling and then sheet rock the ceiling and the rest of the walls.

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And occasionally they had to use their heads!

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Rusty kept plugging away in tight places!

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Pat began working cleaning up some of the debris! Vacuuming and sweeping.

And me? Well, I am your “mudder”

Around 10:30 Hal came in and said to me, the heat index will hit 110, we are done at noon. I am getting those kids off the roof and you are done as well. So we worked at finishing what we could. All the sheet rock got in (except for the lower pieces in the small bathroom which was still drying. Here is the final piece going in

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I finished the ceiling off the garage, taped some and then mudded in the bathroom, mudded what I could reach where the guys were working. We were finished with what we could do by 11:30. Here is what we finished:

Tired and hot we were toast! We said good bye to Hal, and he invited us back. While there may not be a lot of these projects left, wildfires have hit western Oklahoma and there may be work there. Of course, there may be plenty to do in Eureka as well.

The AmeriCorps workers were there an hour before we were. They have been roofing in Noble for several days and have a lost a day due to rain. Their plan is to finish the roof before they have to leave on July 4. They were good about taking breaks down off the roof and drinking plenty of water. This young man had dumped a load of material that had come down form the roof and took a quick break in the wheel barrel. It was much cooler in the shade!!!

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The roof has been covered with FEMA blue tarps for a very long time. Remember that this is work still being done comes from the storms of 2015. Once they are done, another crew in coming in this weekend to finish up what we did not AND to sheet rock inside the house all the ceilings that have been water damaged. I still can not get my mind around being in a home for three years and because of lack of resources, waiting and waiting for help in recovery from devastating storms. One of the many reasons I support United Methodist Committee on Relief is because they remain after others leave. As Hal’s shirt points out:

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We obviously are not staying until it is “complete” but what a blessing to be part of the recovery and the movement toward completion. This is my second time working with the UM Disaster Response from Oklahoma. I think EVERY annual conference should come and learn from them. Their web site is filled with projects all the the volunteers and supervisors are caring, helpful and make people like me who are not all THAT handy feel like we have something to offer. Their system works and what a gift it would be to the United Methodist Church everywhere if they could learn from these people. A big shout out and thanks to Hal Wright, I would work with him any day of the week, all week long.

I won’t bore you with pictures from our lunch although I will say Kendall’s was excellent! A short three hour drive back to Wichita and we are now all at home. I can not say enough about Dave Glover’s leadership. He made the trip flow smoothly and he always reminded us “patience and flexibility!!!” I am grateful to have spent time with Rusty and Pat Allensworth. As always, I am in awe of Andrew Stover and not just because I am married to him. I am amazed by his knowledge, his ability to problem solve and work with what is at hand and build and repair and fix and measure and cut and work hand in hand with others.

What a blessing it is to be part of such a great team. Tonight, I am sore, tired and happy. God is at work in the world in marvelous and wonderful ways.

 

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