Tag Archives: faith

Year of Gratitude, October Week 2

Our year of gratitude is pairing well with our stewardship sermon series, “Lifecycle of Giving.” The image we are using is from seed to sapling to flowering and fruit bearing tree to the next generation of seeds from the tree. The fall is the time of the final harvest of the year and for some crops, planting for the spring.

In the first verse of Natalie Sleeth’s song, Hymn of Promise, it states,

“In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree, in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterlies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”

This hymn became popular across denomination lines after it was penned in the mid 1980’s. Sung often during Easter time and at funerals, Ms. Sleeth points to the deep mystery around life and the life hidden in seeds and bulbs and other places where we least expect it.

Gratitude seeds itself in our hearts, minds and spirits. This seed is nurtured by faith, and love and grace and is made real in who we are and how we express ourselves. Gratitude and thankfulness when allowed to sprout, can bring deep meaning to our words, our actions our lives.

Natalie Sleeth’s second verse says, “there’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody; there’s dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.” Gratitude helps me and maybe you see past the darkness, to listen deeply into the silence and know that  we are not alone when the world seems to be cold and alien and uncaring. God is not outside of the darkness or the silence, gratitude helps me cling to to my faith that God will  not desert me or let me flounder in the depth of my fear or uncertainty.

 

Hymn of Promise, like many songsof the faith can provide the sound track to a life of gratitude. The words and melody sung to the tune of gratitude, allows us to participate in the mystery of God at work in the world. In this particular season of autumn, the shorter days and longer nights, the leaves turning colors and falling the ground reminds us that gratitude sown, nurtured and harvested brings hope and faith into the world.

During this month of gratitude, is there someone you can thank for the nurture and care you have received? In you moments of silence and darkness who was there for you? Who listened, who cared, who helped you find ways to be grateful? Write them a note, visit them or find a way to say thank you.

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Setting the Table: Hospitality

We started a new sermon series today “Setting the Table.” For those who know me, I love to cook and share dinner with others. This sermon series is drawn loosely from Margaret Feinberg’s book Taste and See, Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers. We will focus later in the sermon series on 4 of the biblical foods she uses in her book.

While they may not “abound” there are many books on food and spirituality. After all the “table” is central to the Christian faith. Before his arrest and crucifixion, the last act of Jesus is ask his disciples to “remember me” every time they eat and drink. In many many Christian traditions the meal of Jesus is shared every week.

In her book, Margaret Feinberg writes,” When we gather to eat, God want to nourish more than our bodies: he want to nourish our souls with transcendent joy and supernatural community and divine presence. When we feed our physical appetites in community, we open our hearts for God to feed something deeper as well.”

In today’s worship service we focused on Abraham feeding the divine messengers and on the call of Simon Peter and James and John. A traditional grace in many homes states: Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blest. In Abraham’s case, The Divine shows up and is literally his guest. The same is true for Simon.

And Sarah and Simon are afraid. They have offered what they have and it is received with grace. The call for Sarah to trust the promise of God and for Simon to follow comes out of blessing. They are blessed to be a blessing and we are too. We are called to set the Table of Grace and Love.

Incorporating the theme of Vacation Bible School: “God is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine by the power of his work within us” was a perfect frame for what God CAN and WILL do in God’s people. You can find the whole worship service here.

If you want to experience some of the VBS music you can find the theme song here. And the kids favorite song “Even When the Lions Roar” here.

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Jesus on the Move, from Doubt to Faith

Easter continues! On the second Sunday of Easter, if one belongs to a lectionary church, the gospel is always John 20: 19-31. This resurrection story moves from that first Easter evening to the next week. The author of the gospel recounts the story of the disciples experiencing Jesus raised from the dead. Thomas was not there and did not see the risen Christ. Thomas also said he wouldn’t believe unless he saw the wounds themselves.

I love Thomas and Thomas’ courage and conviction to not believe or just to go with the crowd and pretend to believe. Thomas was determined to find faith and have faith on his terms. In the television show, “Lost” Ben shares with Jack a thought about Thomas the Apostle. You can watch it here.

My sermon takes longer than the one minute of the video to witness to Thomas’ faith and loyalty and integrity. I am grateful every year I have a chance to unpack and proclaim this wonderful Easter story.

Today’s worship was simply wonderful. Our choir director Diane Fast is retiring, but not leaving. She is moving from being our choir director to our choir director emeritus and will be overseeing our choir scholarship fund which gives scholarships for students to be part of our choir. The music each Sunday is always wonderful and amazing, today it was outstanding.

I am grateful to be serving such an amazing community of faith and continuing to be on the move with Jesus.

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Praying Always

“Most high and glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord, give me insight and wisdom so I might always discern Your holy and true will.” – St. Francis of Assisi

A few weeks ago in worship I shared how this prayer has guided and directed me for almost all my ministry. Not just the words, but the song. John Michael Talbot recorded it on his album Troubadour of the King. Here is the version I sing every morning and every evening.

I sing it as I wake and when I go to sleep, when I wake up in the middle of the night wearied with all kinds of inconsequential things or by major happenings in the world. When I need to pause in the middle of the day and discern what I will say or what I will do.

“Most high and glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord, give me insight and wisdom so I might always discern Your holy and true will.”

I learned these words quickly, music does that for my heart and soul. I carry this prayer with me in my comings and goings, in my solitude and in my community. This prayer, these words of St. Francis has sustained me in life’s highs and lows.

The deepest desire of my heart and spirit is to have “right faith, certain hope and perfect charity.” When I pray those words, I am not aiming to be perfect in terms of making no mistakes. “Right faith” isn’t about an arrogance that I know it all or understand it all or an am expert. For me, right faith is tied to the hope, a certain hope that God is always with me and that God’s perfect love (charity) will guide and direct me.

Faith gives me courage to live out the will and grace of God. Hope sustains and undergirds the belief that Emmanuel, God is with me. Perfect charity becomes God’s spirit at work in my spirit, that I might love as God loves and learn to love in a deeper and more holy and grace filled way.

God knows how much I long to discern God’s will and way for my life. Asking God to bring light to the darkness of my heart  is not so much about being depressed as to acknowledge how many things cloud my heart and soul and mind. There are so many things that get in the way of my being a conduit for God’s grace and love.

So on this day, when I have a brief pause in a schedule that has been way too busy these last few weeks, I pray this prayer and I share it with you.

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Confirmation Sunday, 2017

In a world that seems to have gone mad, we, I look for hope. After last week’s mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, I was grief stricken, devastated. I felt like I should write something, but I had no words. I guess, I just weary of one more horrific, violent act and they seem to come faster and faster and faster.

Sunday, November 12 as confirmation Sunday at First United Methodist Church had been on the calendar since mid-summer. There was no way I could or would change what our six confirmands had been praying, studying and preparing for all these weeks. And yet, I did have concern that we were not addressing what was happening in the world. But then again, I was not going to hijack this service.

I have pretty much done confirmation Sunday the same way most of my ministry. Those who are being confirmed, choose the hymns/choruses/music and write their own statement of belief (which becomes the proclamation of the word.) They lead worship and are baptized if they have not been, anointed and brought into full membership. Each class is asked if they would like the sacrament of Holy Communion as part of the service and in all my years, not one class has said no. They then serve the congregation as their first act of ministry as full members.

You can view the entire service through this link. I believe if you watch it, you will be blessed by this wonderful group of youth. Their ages range from eighth grade through eleventh grade. They have wonderful minds, deep spirits and a love of God and neighbor. I was deeply blessed to work with them with my associate Pastor Rebecca Goltry Mohr, our interim youth director Joe Mohr, our children’s ministry director Patricia Tristan, El Mesias pastor Pastor Sergio Tristan and their mentors Corey Godbey, Nancy McKellar and Nancy Herrin.

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The willingness of these young people to place their faith in God, to become members of a church and to offer their gifts is a testament to hope and I believe a sign that God is at work transforming the world. It doesn’t take away from the pain or grief or horror that is often made manifest in the world, but yesterday reminded me that there are more good people doing loving than things, than bad people doing evil. I will hold on to that faith That God is at work and that love will triumph over hate. These confirmands renewed that faith and that hope. I am blessed by their witness.

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All Souls Day

Part of this post was written three years ago. Our culture doesn’t know much about Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Some of what is shared in the next three paragraphs are from that blog, but I end with some new thoughts about this early church tradition.

Today, in Western Christian tradition is All Souls Day.  It is the third day of the “triduum of Hallowmass.”  Who knew that Halloween was a holy day?  The first day of the three, All Hallows Eve, October 31, was a day when early Christians believed that some how the space between this life and the next life was thinner.  They would don “masks” to keep former souls from recognizing them.  Of course in North America this became “trick or treating” through costumes and pranks and the offering of treats.

The second day was All Saints Day, November 1, which remembers all martyrs and official saints of the church both known and unknown.  The third day, All Souls Day, November 2, remembers “all the faithful departed.”  In most protestant traditions, these days are lumped together and often celebrated on the first Sunday of November.  A google search will give multiple hits on these traditions.

I, being who I am, love this history and the layers that surround these practices both from the Christian tradition and other traditions.  What I love most, is the remembering and the giving thanks.  Often in the U.S.A. graves are visited on the last weekend in May.  I always tried to avoid focusing All Saints on that weekend, because it is also the first three day weekend of the summer and consequently loses some of the religious significance that the first Sunday of November can offer.

Remembering those who have gone before is holy, sacred and spiritual work.  The act of remembering is a blessing on those who take the time to laugh, to cry and to tell the story of those who have made a difference in their lives.  After thirty plus years of ministry, the list gets longer each year for me.  The spaces around those memories grow more tender as I remember, as I grieve and as I smile through tears and give thanks that I have been so blessed by so many.

The holiness of these moments become more sacred in the midst of a time of great anxiety and fear. Next week, will be an election which has been filled with bigotry, hatred, lies and ugliness from both sides. The fear mongering has been almost overwhelming. Many, myself included, will be glad when the election is over.

Add to that another horrible shooting in Des Moines where two police officers were ambushed, another black church is vandalized,  and where the deaths in Syria mount, is it any wonder that many are just tired and afraid. It is important in times like these, to remember the saints and souls and spirits who went before us. We are NOT living in the first period of time fraught with fear and anxiety.

Those who went before us lived through wars and rumors of war, violence, hatred and natural disasters. The early Christians were persecuted and wondered if the end of the world was coming. In these days, we are hearing the same from both parties. Neither is speaking the whole truth. These elections and difficulties are part and parcel of being part of this world. The saints that have gone on before us, understood that whatever occurs day in and day out is not the kingdom of God. The reign God continues to challenge all of us “saints” to live lives of faith, of hope, of love and justice.

We keep eyes and hearts and spirits focused on the promise that the time is coming when we will experience something new and wonderous. In the meantime, we lean into each other for strength, and trust God’s Spirit to help us believe and God will make all things new in God’s own time.

And so, remembering I am “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) , these saints and souls of God, I am graced to serve.

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To Boldly Go on Faith

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first episode airing of Star Trek. I was a little girl, but was so enamored of this television show. I loved studying the stars and watching Apollo missions and reading everything I could find on the “world” out there.

When this show launched, I was immediately transported to “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its 5-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”   I wanted to be an astronaut, but was told again and again “girls were not allowed.” Supposedly we were not strong enough or smart enough to do space flight. Newer series and movies change the quote to boldly go where no one has gone before, but the original is important because it was made pretty clear to me as a child that women mostly were allowed to boldly go nowhere.

Yet, Star Trek challenged that assumption. Granted, the original series mostly kept men in the “important” jobs, still there were women on the bridge and in space! Subsequent series had women as doctors, engineers and certainly captains and admirals. I eagerly waited each week for the next episode to see what wonderful adventures there were beyond the solar system. For years after that I watched every space launch and a man walk on the moon. Now I read and look at the pictures sent back from all the satellites as we continue to explore beyond this planet earth.

So many of Star Trek’s made up technology is now standard. The flip phone, reminiscent of the communicator, automatic doors, voiced computers (Siri anyone?), tablet computers and visual communications all have come to life since that amazing television show. The ideas of respect for different cultures and ethnic groups and religion and species was a hallmark of the show as well as an ideal of peace between peoples.

For me, the opening lines of the show speak to a different place inside of me than when I was a little girl. There are strange new worlds and new life and civilizations all around me. I don’t need to fly “light years” away. Faith itself is its own frontier. Attempting to live a life of love, of grace and of acceptance is boldly going where many do not want to go.

Right now, in the middle of a political season that is proving to be mean, ugly and hateful, I long for a place to go where there might be a new worlds of peace and justice, love and grace. Yet, wherever I go, there I am. If I am not living out a new life and a new civilization in my heart and spirit and mind, it doesn’t matter where I go.  It is more than a five year mission, it is a lifetime. of seeking out a new world of love, light and grace.

Perhaps, as it has always been, the final frontier is faith. Faith that challenges me to trust that when Jesus says to love one another, this is a new world and a new civilization. When Jesus says that the only way to truly know God is to serve one another and to turn the other cheek and to believe that good will overcome evil. This frontier is one that asks me to follow the path of righteousness and peace, regardless of what others say. This frontier reminds me that those who who walk the path of peace and love are children of God.

So today, I celebrate the 50th anniversary of this show that set my young heart and spirit on fire. I celebrate with my favorite Mr. Spock saying in my profile picture from Facebook

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May this final frontier bring peace, bring justice and love to this strange world. May you live long and prosper!

I am graced to Serve

 

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