Tag Archives: Fifty Days of Easter

Forward in Faith: Ascension

Today we honored our graduates and scholarship recipients. We were not “together” in person, but we heard from each one. What an honor it is to provide money for education. These young people are amazing and smart and I am proud of each one of them. Everyone participates in the life of the church in one way or another sharing their gifts with us all.

In the “real” liturgical timeline, Ascension is next Sunday. However next Sunday is also Aldersgate Sunday in the Methodist tradition. On May 24, 1738 John Wesley had his “heart strangely warmed” and it seem a wonderful focus for us on what will also be Memorial Day weekend in the United States.

That first Easter season, things were so uncertain and the disicples were looking and seeking hope and faith in uneasy and difficult times. We are too. We continue to go forward in faith with hope. You can find today’s service or the sermon only here

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Forward in Faith: Emmaus Road

Today, our focus was on the road to Emmaus with those disciples who for whatever reason had to get out of town! Maybe they had to go back to work, maybe they were tired and frightened, maybe they had family waiting for them, whatever the reason, on that first Easter Day, they headed out to Emmaus.

This was a work day, the first day of the week and following passover. As we know the story, Jesus went with them. They didn’t recognize Christ but he was there. I have pondered this a great deal. How often am I, are you, on the road we call life and Jesus walks with us and somehow we don’t know it.

In this time of pandemic, I have been more intentional to open my heart and my eyes and my spirit to see where God is at work in the world. In worship, I shared a love feast liturgy. On that Easter evening, at that table Jesus was seen and recognized not in a “sacrament” but in a hastily put together dinner.

I think it is important for us to find those sacramental moments when we are at breakfast or lunch or dinner and invite Jesus to part of our gathering at the table. During the sermon I referenced a Carrie Newcomer song Holy as the Day a spent” that speaks to these holy and sacred ordinary moments. “Unknowingly we slow our pace in the shade of unexpected grace. And with grateful smiles and sad lament as holy as a day is spent.”

This pandemic has slowed our pace and if we look we can see and experience unexpected grace with both smiles and lament. Our days are holy, ever moment when  we open to resurrected Christ in our midst.

The reason I wanted to have people participate in a Love Feast is because it is ordinary. The Love Feast does not require special elements or a pastor or a church space or anything other than a willingness to ask Jesus to be present. This meal can slow our pace and we can experience that unexpected and amazing grace.

I invited the congregation and I invite you to connect with someone over a meal: through FaceTime or Zoom or Skype or even a phone call if there is no one in your home right now. Following the link where you can find todays full service and/or just the sermon, I will post the entire liturgy.

My prayer is that we find new and wondrous ways to recognize the risen Christ in our midst! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed! You can find today’s worship service  here.

Invitation to the Love Feast

 

In the earliest days of the Church, Christians gathered to share meals, putting together their resources so that all might feast at the table and share Communion together. Over time, the celebration of Communion became the community meal. In the 16th century, a group of Christians called Moravians resurrected the practice of sharing food together in worship, sharing a simple meal together with songs and prayers as a reminder of God’s goodness and their fellowship.

 

Today we gather for a virtual/online love feast, which is a way of expressing the sharing, belonging and fellowship we have together as followers of Jesus.

A key part of it is to share testimony – how your story is part of God’s story. Following the end of our televised/online service, I will invite to continue to share your testimony with whoever may be at table with you.or If you are alone, I invite you to pick up the phone or facetime or skype or call your bestie, your prayer partner, a family member, someone who would share this time with you. Here are some of the questions you can reflect on in your table time together:

My life is different because I believe God has…

My Life is different because God has challenged my….

This week I have seen God at work…

Today I am thankful for…

I have seen the risen Christ…

Or you can something that happened in worship today that moved you, or that made you pause, or that you are pondering and contemplating. It is where you are. It is who you are. No need to pretend. It is your testimony. A second key part is to share food and drink – bread, crackers, cheese, fruit, a sandwich, and water or juice or tea or coffee or soda. As you share, you also eat together. You can begin the sharing of food and drink with one of these prayers:

Holy God, we thank you that wherever we are you are with us. We praise you that in Christ we have new life. Unite us in this worship by your Holy Spirit that we may each know your blessing. Amen.

Be present at our table, Lord; be here and everywhere adored; Thy creatures bless, and grant that we may feast in paradise with Thee. Amen.

Father of earth and heaven, Thy hungry children feed, Thy grace be to our spirits given, that true immortal bread. Grant us and all our race in Jesus Christ to prove the sweetness of thy pardoning grace, the manna of thy love. (this prayer was written by Charles Wesley specifically for use at a love feast. Both Charles and John Wesley encouraged this prayer to be said or sung to the tune in United Methodist Hymnal 144 at every love feast)

Pray for the needs of people who are on your mind and heart. Thank God for being with everyone who shares in this love feast. Consider making a practical response to God’s love for example by donating to your local church, a food bank or any other outreach ministry that is near and dear to your heart.

You may use anytime you want to gather with people you love in person or online. Giving thanks and gathering is a gift to one another and a way to share faith.

The modern history of the Love Feast began when Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians in Germany introduced a service of sharing food, prayer, religious conversation, and hymns in 1727. John Wesley first experienced it among the Moravians in Savannah, Georgia, ten years later. His diary notes: “After evening prayers, we joined with the Germans in one of their love–feasts. It was begun and ended with thanksgiving and prayer and celebrated in so decent and solemn a manner as a Christian of the apostolic age would have allowed to be worthy of Christ.”

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Copyright: “The Love Feast” Copyright © 1992 UMPH.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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God on the Move, EASTER!!!!

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed! I love Easter, the flowers, the white and gold paraments, the music including Charles Wesley’s hymn Christ the Lord is Risen Today and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. I am aware that not every Easter service includes these musical selections, but when I am pastoring a particular congregation, these two pieces must be done! I am particular that way. Some might say rigid!

For  me, it just isn’t Easter without it. After the long, lean days of Lent, what a joy it is to sing and proclaim the new life given through resurrection. This Sunday at First United Methodist Church, the anthems were particularly lovely. The day is itself, dawned bright and beautiful. I was able to take this picture before the sunrise service.

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I have celebrated Easter in the midst of rain, snow, cold winds and cloudy days. Today’s sky was spectacular! There is one more service today at the Gathering, but I remind us that Easter is not just a day, or a season, it is a life changing experience. You can find today’s worship service here.

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed!

 

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Sent as Witnesses

We hit the final Sunday of Easter after a very interesting week, in the United Methodist denomination as a whole and as a local church. I addressed the failure of two constitutional amendments in two separate blogs Not Stopping me! And Not Stopping me! Part II  The news of Mead’s Corner, our coffee shop closing was icing on the cake.

So we come to the last Sunday of Easter, Ascension Sunday AND Mother’s Day. It can be a challenge to figure out how to fit it all in as a worshipping community. For me, the importance was to give voice to the challenge and command of Jesus that we are witnesses and to acknowledge that it is not always easy. Stuff happens, but fortunately God is there in the midst.

You can find the entire worship service here. The Chancel Choir was amazing with their anthem Who Will Be a Witness and Chris Kliewer sang It is Well with My Soul. And it is well with my soul! I am sure that what seems to be a movement to deny equality is but a bump in the road in the whole scheme of things. I remind myself that things change ever so slowly and everytime it seems that the move for justice has stopped, it is just a roadblock that must be dismantled or gone around. In the words of Julian of Norwich, “All will be well and all manner of things will be well.”

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Easter! The Jesus Who Surprises Us All

The forty days of Lent are over and the fifty days of Easter have begun! Today was Easter AND April Fools Day. Some choose to ignore the latter while celebrating the former. I can appreciate that. April Fools Day can be uncomfortable, awkward and downright mean and cruel.

I read a devotion in one of Edward Hay’s books years ago that said April Fools Day began in the middle ages when the calendar changed. At one point, March 25 was the beginning of the new year and ending on April 1 after a week long celebration. When New Year’s Day was moved to January 1, those who refused to change were called “April Fools.”

Regardless, there is something interesting about Lent beginning on Valentine’s Day and Easter being April Fools Day. In a sense, the resurrection of Jesus is a cosmic joke and trick. On Friday, many thought they had won, Jesus was dead, his coming kingdom was buried. On Sunday, the women, the disciples and the world are surprise by an empty tomb. Grace wins, Love wins, good overcomes evil and love defeats hate.

You can watch the Easter Worship service here.   Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed!!!

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