Tag Archives: Downtown Alive

From Doubt to Faith

We continue in our sermon series “Forward in Faith” and today we once again walked with Thomas through that first Easter and his eight day wait to see the risen Jesus. The music today was just wonderful. We have a quartet sing John Rutters “Look at the World,” and the Gathering band sang All Sons and Daughters, ” Oh How I Need You.”

We opened with a prayer from Reverend Ted Crass. It was read with three voices and I believe set up beautifully worship today as we continue to live into these hard times. I know and believe Christ is with us. As we were winding down on time I cut the last paragraph of my sermon, but I still would like to share it:

 In the words of the song earlier: Lord I find you in the seeking, Lord I find you in the doubt, and to know you is to love you  I need you, Oh how I need you….In this knowing and doubting and loving, we need Jesus. And others look to us to seek to know and to find that Jesus is real and that Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed. Does what we say point to Jesus crucified and risen? Do our actions point to Jesus, crucified and risen? Or is what we do and what we say meaningless. Do we love? Do we offer grace? Do we treat every person as a beloved child of God? This week my friends: know this, Believe this: we are restless until we find our rest in Jesus. We need God, oh how we need God. The God that raised Christ who raised him, not perfect but wounds intact, is with us in this time of pandemic, God is with us at home, at work, God is with us when we are overwhelmed and frustrated, God is with us.

You can find the whole worship service or just sermonhere.

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Forward in Faith

Today was to be the kickoff for a series of celebrations in honor of our 150th anniversary.  Postcards had been mailed to people all over the state who had once been a member of the staff or a Sunday School class or any other of the many groups that have been part of this community of faith. Several pastors had already made plans to come in from out of state. A huge lunch was envisioned with tables being decorated by the decades. Special music and skit had been written honoring our beginnings.

Like many other events, this has postponed. A new date has not been set. Yet today, it still seemed appropriate to honor this day and begin not only remembering our past but looking toward our future.

The texts from Jeremiah 29 and 1 Peter 1, were the basis of celebrating our “future with hope” as a gift from God and to believe we are “being birthed into a living hope.” Easter is fifty days and even in the midst of social isolation, celebrating the resurrection of Christ is an important witness to our faith.

I don’t know how long it will be before we worship in person again. I donot know what it will feel like or look like when we do. I do know that God is with us now, as God was 150 years ago and God will be with us in the days and weeks and months ahead. Today’s worship service or sermon only can be found on our website.

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Complex Questions: Palm Sunday

What a different Palm Sunday it was! The stay at home order continues and so there was no palm parade with children and youth, no congregation present, just the amazing Gathering Band, our interim organist, our director of music, a terrific soloist and myself. The technical crew did a terrific job.

Because this is one of the “lentiest lents” of course there would be equipment failure! Whatever it is that allows us to “live stream” as well as televise, died. No equipment to be had in Wichita, so it has been ordered and hopefully will be here tomorrow, since we plan on livestreaming Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. There were other equipment failures, so instead of having the worship service and the sermon up on the website by mid-afternoon, it didn’t get posted until almost 10:00 p.m.

I can not say enough good things about the director of media and production Patrick Myers. He stayed all afternoon and evening working around failing equipment to get the service uploaded. He is one of those people who can fix just about anything and maintains our older equipment in a way that keeps us going. I am deeply grateful.

The service yesterday focused more on Palms than on the Passion. Unusual for me, but I was challenged by a vlog by Dr. Leonard Sweet and it sent me off on hours of research. I am now part of a facebook group in which we are more engaged with Dr. Sweet and some fascinating ideas. You can find the whole service or the sermon only here.

Holy Week is here. So different than others I have known, but still it IS Holy Week. Nothing stops the march of time and the remembering of these last days of Jesus. I think, perhaps, the unsettling nature of this Holy Week might be more reminiscent of that first Holy Week. No one knew quite what was going on: the Palms, the cleansing of the Temple, the continued arguments with religious authorites. Must have been uncomfortable and the disciples and followers unsure of what would be coming next.

Living with complex questions seems more appropriate than I had thought when I titled this sermon series. I am living into those questions during this most sacred and holiest of weeks.

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Self Isolating

What new words have become part and parcel of our vocabulary in the last few days. “Self isolation, social distancing and pandemic.” Like many churches, the one I serve First United Methodist Church has all but shut down. Since Monday we have had no outside groups nor church groups meet in the building. We have santized and cleaned top to bottom.

First has had worship “online” before it was a thing. They began televising their 11:00 a.m. worship service 44 years ago. They added online streaming a few years ago as a complement to the medium of television. This service has been a gift to shut ins and others for decades. It is my great privilege to preach that service and to be people’s “other pastor” when they can not attend their own church. Last Sunday, with no congregation in the building, it truly was an  honor.

While worship will go live at 11:00 on KAKE TV (Channel 10 in Wichita or the ABC affliatate) or our online streaming, I will be not be there leading worship. I received an-email on Tuesday morning that I may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. The promise was made that as soon as the information was available, I would know whether or not that person had tested positive. As of this moment, I still do not know.

I feel fine, I am in great health, but I do not want to be a carrier to any one young or old. So until next Friday, March 27, or until I know one way or the other, I am in self isolation. I am walking outside for exercise, but not around anyone. I want to be careful of the vulnerable and those most susceptible to this disease.

Yes I am a little anxious, but also, I am leaning into the grace of God and the peace of Christ. I continue to practice all my spiritual disciplines and have added this prayer from Saint Teresa of Avila:

May today there be peace within me. May I trust that I am exactly where I am meant to be. May I not forget that infinite possibilities are born of faith in me and others. May I use the gifts that I have received, and pass on the love that has been given to me. May I be content with myself just the way I am. May I let this knowledge settle in my bones, and may I allow my soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love!

So tomorrow I will be home watching Pastor Rebecca Goltry Mohr preach and the Gathering Band sing and the others lead worship which they all have been called to do. This is my gift to them and to others as we continue to live into this time of pandemic and trust God’s grace and love.

 

 

 

 

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LifeCycle of Giving: Confirmation Sunday

This Sunday was Confirmation Sunday in Downtown Alive. These confirmands have been together for weeks, studying, questioning, visiting a synagogue and retreating together as they explored what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. On Wednesday in preparation for today’s service they wrote an affirmation of faith, their joint statement of  belief.

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The hymns were chosen by the confirmands and they wanted Patrick to sing, which he did. I am so proud of each one of them. I shared with them that I, too had been confirmed in that sanctuary. What I didn’t say was that it was 50 years ago on Palm Sunday in 1969!!! FIFTY! I  was glad they wanted and believed the church is a safe place for all. I know for me at their age and throughout high school it was for me. They are a wonderful group and bringing gifts that will make the church stronger and more faithful.

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We celebrated and honored them with a reception following.

You can find the whole worship service or just the sermon here.

 

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LifeCycling of Giving: Harvesting the Fruit

Today was “consecration” Sunday. Some churches call it “stewardship” Sunday but whatever it is called this Sunday invites us to think about our money and giving for the next year. “Let’s talk about money!” said no on EVER!!!

Still, we are stewards of what God has given us. Money is only part of it: our time, our talents and prayers are also part of what we have to offer. The truth is, the church needs money, it has bills to pay just like everyone else, but it is more than that. I believe deeply in the ministry of First church and I am grateful and excited for the year ahead.

We affirmed the UMC Next’s four commitments in October alongside the Great Plains Annual Conference of adoption of them last June. In my sermon I shared an abbreviated version, you can find the full text here

I am also excited about the welcoming statement we adopted. It is minimally adapted from one our youth wrote for themselves. When it was shared with church council there was some discussion about writing and then it was like a light bulb went off….why don’t we just adapt this one! So we did adn here it is:

First United Methodist Church will live out the love of Jesus Christ by including everyone, accepting others for who they are, treating others the way we would want to be treated, respect all, love all, and affirm the full participation of all regardless of nationality, race, class, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, and age.

I understand that there is some fear for the denomination and anxiety about what comes next. I have no fear about First Church. I absolutely believe we are continuing the ministry that was begun 149 years ago at 3rd and Broadway and I know God has plans for us.

If you would like to watch the service or the sermon only, you can find it here.

I continue to be grateful and humbled to be one of the pastors at this wonderful community of faith.

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Friday Fun?

As my husband likes to say, “Now that we have no children at home, we live in the largest house we have ever lived.” This is a true statement. Our home is called the “Roembach” house and is in the Park Place/Fairview historic district. Probably this house was built probably in 1908, although the old Wichita Directory has the Roembachs here as early as 1906. The family wasn’t one of the old “established” families in Wichita so there is not much information about our home.

It’s big. I often forget how big it is until someone new comes by and and their eyes get large and they remark on the house. Andrew estimates it is around 4000 square feet, which may or may not include the yucky basement. The bedrooms are on the second floor, but several decades ago someone opened up the attic to a third floor.

Our grandchildren call it “theirs.” We are going to “our” floor grandma! And honestly this is a great “grandma and grandpa house.” An Edwardian foursquare, it has beautiful stairs off the foyer and very narrow and steep servant stairs to the kitchen. When they were younger the grandkids would run circles from one stair case to the next.

The third floor really is “their” floor. I have neighbor who turned her attic into the cutest area with iron twin beds and antique quilts and antique toys and her grown grandchildren still want to visit.

A couple of years ago, Andrew built triple bunk beds into one of the dormers. It sure beat the mattresses laying on the floors that we had had for several years. We have created a reading nook and their is a large tv for watching movies and playing the Wii. Andrew and I use the space in the meantime to do yoga most every day of the week.

Today, I got up there and organized. Recently I have taken up several small boxes and baskets of craft supplies and stuff. It needed to be put away and straighten up. Now no one will be visiting until Christmas, so I did put up the Christmas decorations while I finished up all the Thanksgiving decorations downstairs. (That is for another blog)

Today, I made the bed with brand new quilts bought from the First United Methodist Church quilt auction. There are two different groups of quilters that make beautiful quilts each year and sell them to raise money for the Religious Nurture Center (which is a ministry for developmentally disabled adults) and for our Downtown Alive Television ministry.  I have wanted old fashioned quilts for those beds and I bought three, PLUS a Frozen quilt and pillow case. They look great!

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So the upstairs is all relatively organized and Christmas decorations are up.

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There are actually more, but I didn’t take any more pictures. It felt good to get that space ready, to clean it up, make the beds and think about when the family will be here and I will hear laughter and probably a little yelling from the third floor.

Fun, like many things is relative. I don’t really like to clean, but I like having this done and ready. I probably ought remind myself of how good it feels to get things done, particularly those things I dislike: putting up old things, re-organizing, cleaning. In the end it feels good and I am grateful

 

 

 

 

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LifeCycle of Giving, Celebrating the Fruits

This is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. There is something deeply sacred about naming name and lighting candles and remembering. At First, only people who are members are named, and while I struggle with that, if we opened it up, we would probably have a couple of hundred names or more. Lighting an extra candle allows all of us to name those persons in our lives who we have died this last year.

After all these years, I find myself coming to this Sunday with a tender heart. For ALL the saints, year after year, I remember and am grateful. I also acknowledge the loss. I firmly believe we are each unique and unrepeatable and when a person dies, no one can take their place.

It doesn’t mean we don’t love any more, or can not love again, but it is always different, not bad, just different. Each person we love adds to the wholeness of who we are. So there are spots, holes if you will, that linger in our hearts and spirits when loved ones are no longer there.

This Sunday we not only remembered those who have died, we also focused our attention on their “fruit” or the gifts their lives offered. Not only are they saints, we are too. We are called to carry on the love and grace we have been offered in Christ. As we are moving through our stewardship sermon series, remembering our saints is one way of honoring their gifts and their lives and spirits.

“I sing a song of the saints of God…and I mean to be one too.” (Lesbia Scott, 1929) Today in worship, we were invited to be a saint today. You can find todays worship service, or just the sermon here.

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Draw the Circle Wide: Ripples of New Beginnings

We have had a very full day at church! This weekend it started with a “bit” of water in our basement under the sanctuary. We had already planned a church wide Sunday school and mission lunch in Meredith Hall (underneath the sanctuary.) Fortunately it was found yesterday or cleanup and a fixing of the pumps could happen before today.

Today’s scripture is a difficult one because in the 21st century it is hard to figure out how best to deal with “demon possession.” The scientific and medical understanding today is far beyond what was understood 2000 years ago. Yet, I tend to be intrigued by how God in Jesus can be encountered in this stories which were recorded so long ago. The story of “Legion” paired with the scripture reading from Galatians is a powerful reminder that Christ draws a wide circle and a greater circle then we can imagine.

The General Board of Global Ministry (GBGM) along with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) called for today to be a day of solidarity for suffering children. You can find their full statement here. We included the prayer woven into the pastoral prayer this morning.

Today’s service included two beautiful musical numbers on call and a wonderful children’s time by Pastor Rebecca. You can find the whole service or just the sermon here.

I am continually challenged in my own life in how I can Draw the Circle Wide and be part of God’s reign in Christ.

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Draw the Circle Wide: Ripples of Faith

Today is a day filled with the secular and sacred. It’s Father’s Day in the United States and in the Western Church it is Trinity Sunday. Neither of which I dealt with in my sermon today.

I did offer a Happy Father’s Day to all the Fathers, Grandfathers, Uncles and men who have mentored. I was a fatherless child for a while and I am so grateful to those teachers and preaches and youth group leaders, my grandfather and my stepfather who mentored and supported me over the years. I do not underestimate the gift they gave with their time and love.

Trinity Sunday usually sneaks up on me as it is one of those “theological” Sundays which take a lot to unpack. One of my favorite videos is about St. Patrick and all the “heretical” understandings of the Trinity. You can find this silly and yet provoking theological education here.

You will find none of that in my sermon today. The service continued the sermon series “Draw the Circle Wide.” Today we have Jesus healing a centurion’s slave on his word alone. Jesus is amazed by the faith of this outsider who believed Jesus had the authority and power to heal on a word. You can find the whole service or the sermon only here.

 

 

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