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.
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.
Each year I am moved by All Saints Sunday, which for many Protestants is celebrated on the first Sunday of November. Names are read, candles lit and we remember. This year at First United Methodist Church we lit thirty three candles for each member that had died since November 1, 2016. Thirty three….members, that does not include all the family members and friends and others that have died and affected our congregation. We light a thirty fourth candles to include all those others, plus those who have suffered pregnancy losses.
Here is the link to today’s worship service. The music was wonderful, the candles beautiful, just being together to remember powerful.
Every year as I light candles I remember ALL those saints who have gone before, those family members and friends whom I still miss. I will continue to pray for those currently walking the fresh valley of grief, those who are transitioning from this life to next. Life is good, but sometimes it is hard and filled with ups and downs.
On this day, I grateful for all the saints, for that great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us, and the comfort and grace of God that goes with us on journey.
The first Sunday of October is traditionally for mainline churches World Communion Sunday. Begun in the 1930’s in the Presbyterian church, it is a time to remember that each church is not alone, we are part of something much bigger. Christians and churches are connected, not by denomination but by our love of Christ Jesus. Denominationally we don’t often agree, we have “issues” but Jesus prayed that we might be one and invited his followers to eat together regularly and remember him.
At First UMC we were honored to have the Episcopal Leader of the Great Plains Conference Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr. preaching and presiding at the table for Holy Communion.
The service is shared in this link and was for me a blessing to have Bishop Saenz preach and share with us today of all days. The United Methodist Church is a global/worldwide church and our bishops are “general” superintendents which mean they are not only assigned to a particular area, but are part of the leadership for the whole church.
Also, today was the CROP Walk. For around fifty years, Church World Service have hosted these walks to help raise awareness and money to combat hunger internationally and nationally. Twenty five percent of the money raised in Wichita stays local. The First UMC youth, CORE Student Ministries participated raised over $400. I think that is great for the first time! It has been a day worth celebrating! God is good and calls me and all of us to be about the work of love and grace.
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!
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.
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
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.