The first Sunday of July I began a sermon series, “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.” This sermon series has been very “fun” for me as I have wrestled with the very well known parables of Jesus. Amy-Jill Levin’s book Short Stories by Jesus, the Engmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi, has given me a very different insight into those stories. Dr. Levine’s scholarship has broadened my biblical understanding as well as opened my imagination.
Sunday, I preached on the parable of the woman and the flour and the yeast from Matthew 13: 33. What stunned my mind and spirit was how often I have preached on this parable and not understood the amount of flour that was used. This blog post from Fr. Dominic Garramone was very helpful and I referenced it during my sermon.
The parables of Jesus are always new for me and surprising. Who knew, well I didn’t know, that the amount of flour was enough to feed a village. Jesus’ ability to challenge the status quo and to invite people into generosity and faith is truly amazing.
The worship services are posted each week through the website of First United Methodist Church. You can watch it here.
It’s been a month since my last blog about the Great Plains Annual Conference. Following conference I took a week for sermon planning and a week for vacation. Seemed fairly straight forward and well planned.
You know the saying, “the best laid plans….” It was a good two weeks, but as the week of my sermon planning time began, a neighbor and a friend died. It was unexpected in many ways, I had seen him the week before and I would never guessed I would be planning service within 10 days.
In my neighborhood, I am not the “pastor” particularly. Some of my neighbors attend church in other denominations than mine. Some of my neighbors do not. To be a “neighbor” is a wonderful thing as opposed to being whatever my “vocation” might be. Yet, it was a privilege and honor to be asked to preside at this man’s funeral. It was his request and so I sat with his daughters and we found a way to honor his life and spirit.
He had many talents, not the least of which was gardening. He was meticulous in pulling weeds and keeping his flowers and his lawn beautiful. He was smart and funny. I will miss him.
During the time I was so blessed to become acquainted with his daughters, brilliant and funny and accomplished each in their own jobs and professions. I now have in my home, a few things in which to remember this wonderful and thoughtful human being. These past few weeks have reminded me again how precious life is and how each person plays a part and makes a difference in the lives of others.
As I begin my second year at First UMC, I am so grateful for those people who created this place for people all over Wichita to encounter the living spirit of God. I am blessed to continue in ministry with the gifted people in this community of faith. Life is precious and the call of Christ is to be a neighbor to every person we meet and to make a difference in lives of others. I am thankful my friend’s life and death and memory reminds me of this reality and call. I am graced to serve in this city and in this place and in this neighborhood. Life. Downtown.