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Saying yes and following

Yesterday’s worship service was packed in terms of celebrations and liturgy. We brought in three new members, two by profession of faith. In the United Methodist Church, that means, in this case, they had been baptized but never had formally joined a church. I find it special when I can offer people the opportunity to publicly say “Yes” and follow Christ in a life of love and grace.

We also celebrated missions and after worship announced the 2018 work teams. There are several more yet to go in 2017, but what a joy it is to celebrate hands on ministry both here in the City of Wichita and throughout the nation and world.

Here is the link to Sunday’s worship service “Back to the Basics, Saying Yes and Following.”

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A wee little man

As a kid, I grew up singing the song “Zacchaeus” in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I taught the song to my children and to children through the years as a pastor. The song itself is not offensive in any way, and it tells the basic story of Zacchaeus up in tree wanting to see Jesus and Jesus inviting himself over to Zacchaeus house.

What the song doesn’t do, it share the layers up layers of meaning. Zacchaeus or Jesus might have been short, but Zacchaeus and his profession come with a great deal of baggage. It’s no wonder the people “grumble” when Jesus chooses to spend time with a rascal like Zacchaeus.

For my “out” Sunday (which is a previously recorded video statement for the television and online congregation) I actually got up in a sycamore tree. Now I don’t like heights, so this was something to behold!

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It got me thinking about being “treed” and how often  I tree others or am treed myself and need so much for God in Christ to get me out of the tree or the corner and open my heart and spirit. Worship on Sunday focused on that encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus and the transformation that occurred for Zacchaeus and is possible for me as well.

The full worship service is available through this link and the sermon begins around 42: 45.

 

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Flood Bucket Celebration

Sunday, September 10th, many people from all over Wichita gathered to put together flood/cleaning buckets for United Methodist Committee on Relief to take to hurricane victims. People came with individual items, with full and partial buckets and with helping hands. By Wednesday morning 165 buckets were completed. You can read the full story in the FUMC Wichita Missions Blog.

Next month there will be another opportunity for the community to gather and to fill  more buckets. Thousands will be needed. The mission director and I created a thank you video to send our gratitude out to all those who put their heart and hands and spirits into making a difference for those so devastated by the storms.

I believe that “when the storms of life are raging” God is with us, but what we do for each other, makes God’s presence real. For all who brought items, sent money, gave of time and energy and those who surrounded this project with prayer. Thank you!

 

Yesterday we loaded 165 flood buckets into the church van, trailer and a SUV and took them to the Conference Offices in Wichita where they joined 1000 other flood buckets that will be heading to UMCOR! It could not have been done without your help! Sunday approximately 100 people came to the Wilke Family Life […]

via THANK YOU!!! — FUMC Wichita Missions

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Helping people devastated by Hurricanes

A couple of weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey did horrific damage to Houston and other communities in Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Irma has already done catastrophic damage in the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, and currently Cuba with Florida in it’s path by tomorrow (Sunday, September 10.) The United Methodist Committee on Relief had already issued a call for “flood/cleaning” buckets prior to Irma for those affected by Harvey.

In response to that call, Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr, the bishop of the Great Plains conference issued a challenge for 5000 buckets to be brought to the conference to be sent out later next week. First United Methodist Church has created a Flood Bucket Assembly Event for tomorrow, Sunday, September 10 from 2:00-5:00 p.m. This event is a practical hands on way to respond to the great needs currently in Texas and Louisiana. This event will be only the first of several we intend to host. The Bishop’s challenge of 5000 is only a “drop” in the bucket of needs that will be arising over the next few weeks and months.

I encourage people to send money, particularly to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, as this independent ministry of the church has received an A+ rating from Charity Watch and a four start rating from Charity Navigator. There will be time for teams to go down and help in the future, but right now, money and flood/cleaning buckets are the first things we can do other than pray for those who are in the midst responding to all the people affected.

If you would like to know exactly how to create a bucket, this video that Annette Schmidt and I created shows how to fit everything in the bucket. There are been questions asked as to why certain items are not included and as to why only certain sizes are needed, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is very specific because this is what works and what fits into a five gallons bucket with a lid.

UMCOR and the Great Plains Conference will not accept partial flood/cleaning buckets, but we will. Tomorrow you are invited to come and help fill as many buckets as possible. If we run out of buckets, we will put things in trash bags to place in the buckets once we receive them (our plan is to finish completing buckets before Tuesday that are not completed tomorrow.) People are invited to bring individual items off the list, to bring full or partial buckets or money to buy items to complete the buckets. We have already received funds and used them for this event. In October there will be another event to fill more buckets.

Here is a complete list of what is needed for each bucket. I hope and pray that you can help us with this important ministry.

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Standing up, Speaking Out, Praying for Peace

Yesterday afternoon I posted this on Facebook:

I have no profound words in response to the violence and bigotry in Charlottesville. There can be no justification for hatred, for waving nazi flags and giving nazi salutes. No justification for punches thrown, kicks and pepper spray and a car used as a weapon. White nationalism is not Christian. I am stunned to have to write those words in 2017. I am horrified, saddened and I know that God weeps at bigotry and hatred and this kind of violence. Praying for peace and hope and equality for all.

Then I began the long and hard work of re-writing my sermon for today. Many people might be surprised to know I don’t like controversy. I don’t really want hate mail or texts or messages. The events of the last week have rattled me in so many ways. I am stunned and shocked and saddened by the rhetoric around the possibility of war with North Korea. I wrote about that on Friday.

Then Friday evening I stayed away from the news. On Saturday the pictures of the white men and torches in Charlottesville, Virginia began to fill my news feed. By afternoon the protesters and counter protesters begin to engage in a war of words, of actions and finally a state of emergency was declared. People died when a car…a CAR was driven into the counter protesters and many more were injured.

I continue to just be stunned by the actions of yesterday. I am shocked by Nazi flags and salutes and signs of hatred again my Jewish brothers and sisters and my brothers and sisters of color and so many others. So my sermon needed to be re-written to reflect on the need of a Christian voice, my voice to be raised against such hatred and bigotry.

So I preached. I preached against the powers of hatred and evil. I preached God’s call to justice. I know my words are inadequate to the task, but I believe God’s me to be a voice of reason, of hope, of faith, of equality and of grace for ALL people. As far as I am able, I will stand up and speak out against such atrocities.

Here is this morning’s worship service….if you want to skip the music (which is lovely)  and prayers (which Pastor Rebecca Goltry Mohr said so beautifully) the sermon begins at 34:15.

God in your mercy, hear my prayer for peace, for justice, for equality. Hear my prayer especially for your love and grace to shower your world with Shalom.

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Anxiety, Fear and the Rumors of War

Today is my day “off.” I attempt to not check my e-mails or respond to e-mails. The day is often filled with all kinds of other “to-do” lists and sometimes with hobbies or projects I really enjoy.

Today I am struggling to stay away from the news. The rhetoric racheting up  between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and our president Donald Trump is enough to cause anxiety in the calmest of people. I don’t spend time wondering about scenarios that are silly or practically non-existent. I am not losing sleep over the possibility of a meteor hitting the earth or some other great natural catastrophe.  I am not a conspiracy nut or an end times prepper.

And yet….and yet. I can not help but be concerned when grown men are hurling insults like they are on a play ground. The “mom” in me wants to grab each of them and put them in a corner until they cool off. Angry words and quickly spoken insults often results in fists being used and a fight ensuing on the playground. I watch in disbelief as one threatens the other, Kim by saying North Korea will launch missiles at Guam and President Trump using phrases such as “fire and fury” and “locked and loaded.”

Harry J. Kazianis wrote this opinion piece on the Fox News website. His insight on the hell that war with North Korea would bring is worth reading. The devastation on the ground even without nuclear or chemical warfare, the deaths, the destruction, the starvation is unconscionable in any stretch of the imagination.

As a child, I remember the body counts of the Vietnam war and how the war was brought into our living rooms every night. That doesn’t even begin to acknowledge every horrible skirmish and war since and currently on-going. There have been terror attacks, two Gulf Wars and other wars across the world that are often hidden in our news cycles. I am saddened and sickened by the possibility that missiles and bombs and tanks and troops could kill and destroy many people on the Korean peninsula, Guam and Japan.

Today the United Methodist General Board of the Church and Society posted this call to prayer:

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On my own facebook page I posted: I am praying for the cooling winds of discernment to dampen rhetoric of war and of hate and of violence. I am praying for the thousands if not millions of people that are being targeted. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

I have no power to influence the powers that be, I do have the power to pray and to pray for peace. As a follower of Jesus, I take seriously his challenge out of the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7, that “peacemakers” are blessed and called children of God, that we are turn the other cheek and not repay violence with violence. This challenge is one of the most difficult for Christians to follow, but that does not mean we should not attempt to live as a people of peace.

So, today, I have been doing mundane tasks. I have swept and mopped the kitchen floor, canned 7 pints of diced tomatoes, made gazpacho for dinner, done the dishes, a load a laundry and will soon do other household tasks. I am praying for peace, I am connecting with the Prince of Peace, that my heart and spirit might be free from fear and anxiety. I know there has always been war and violence and the rumors of war. I attempt to do my part, not to participate in the hateful rhetoric or be driven by fear. I will choose to be a peacemaker and a child of God and a follower Christ. May my words and my actions be a witness to a God who calls us to lives of peace.

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Lost and Found, Part II

This week’s parables come from Luke rather than Matthew. The fifteenth chapter is a trilogy of stories about “lost and found.” The refrain after each story is that “there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repent than those who need no repentance.” That is until the story that is usually none as the “prodigal son.”

In that story there is no refrain, it ends with a father pleading for his son to come and  join the party “because his brother was lost and is found.” This story is often difficult to accept by those who play by the rules, do what is right,, are dutiful and for lack of a better term, “good.” This story is hard for respectable people and for many church people.

One of the things that Amy-Jill Levine noted in her book Short Stories by Jesus, is that somehow the elder brother was lost too. This wasn’t news to me, but her point about how Jesus’ listeners would have been cheering for the younger and stunned by his behavior caught me by surprise. I spent some time in my sermon  noting how often the “younger” sons come up as heroes in the Hebrew scriptures.

What was more unsettling to me, was when I really delved into the fact that the older son/brother was absolutely ignored in the party planning. I read into the story for the first the hurt, bewilderment and pain the brother must have felt at being forgotten and ignored.

This story by Jesus could be preached and experienced on many levels. Having preached this sermon many times, my sermon from August 6, 2017 is just one small slice of the depth of this story. You can find the worship service from First United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kansas here.

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