Tag Archives: First United Methodist Church

Courageous Faith: Baptism of Jesus

We began a new sermon series focusing on the Lord’s Prayer. Sunday School Classes and small groups will be reading and studying Adam Hamilitons Unafraid, Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain TimesOver the next few weeks we will be looking at the Lord’s Prayer as a statement and prayer of confidence, courage and faith for us to utilize in the midst of a changing and uncertain world.

Today in worship we focused on baptism as well as the Lord’s Prayer. At the Heritage service in our chapel, Pastor Rebecca had a wonderful sermon on baptism and the power of water and being unfraid. I didn’t get a picture of the chapel that she had so beautifully decorated with the colors of greens and blues. At the renewal of our baptismal vows, one person came up and asked to be baptized. She had never been baptized and after everyone was finished with their renewals, we had a baptism. The moment was beautiful, sacred and holy.

In the sanctuary the altar was decorated to look like flowing water with pitchers of water which were used for the renewal of our baptismal vows. The sanctuary looked like this:

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Every year I am grateful for this service. In baptism each one of us is claimed and named as beloved children. Renewing our baptismal vows is a reminder of the One to whom we belong. You can find the whole service here.

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Year of Gratitude, January: Week 2

At the end last week, I wrote a slew of Thank you Notes for Christmas gifts received. I have 3 left to write.

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How about you? How are you doing writing thank you notes?

I am attending an annual meeting of “Large Church Pastors.” It began forty years ago among pastors in the United Methodist Church who served traditionally “big” pulpits. By big, I mean those pulpits that people grew to believe and know would be filled by the best of the best. Traditionally they were downtown churches and often named First but not always. The list of people who have attended this 24 hour meeting are filled with legends in terms of preaching and leadership in the United Methodist Church: James Moore, Charles Allen, Mouzan Biggs, Gene Craig, Bill Hinson, Dick Wilke, Kent Millard, to name just a few.

Currently the preachers in this group include many who I have known “about” for years because of their leadership and who they are in the United Methodist Church. First UMC of Wichita has never ever been as large in membership as some the churches represented. I jokingly call myself the little yappy dog in the midst of the big dogs.

The meeting moves around and includes churches from several states and jurisdictions. Mostly in what we would call the midwest. This time we met in Oklahoma City and I was able to see the sanctuary that was used as the model for the church I currently serve in downtown Wichita. St. Luke’s was built in 1957 and the same turquoise blue that is seen around First Church and domed ceiling in the sanctuary can be seen at St. Lukes.

When I peeked in the sanctuary I thought this looks familiar. What a gift it was to walk in and see the sanctuary and the upgrades they have done over the years. I took some pictures, but these from the internet are much better:

 

The black and white picture is the sanctuary as it was originally, it hasn’t changed too much but the fish netting has come down and that opens up the chancel.

Fifty plus years ago, people from First in downtown Wichita came to St Luke’s and other sanctuaries in Oklahoma to design a new sanctuary. They had vision and purpose and wanted to created a space for people to encounter a living and love God. Every Sunday I am grateful for that vision and faithfulness, commitment and determination to see that vision through. Each Sunday and almost every day I am in the building I see this window and am grateful to be one among the many who have been pastors at First.

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I don’t deserve it, but I am so deeply grateful. I am thankful to be at the table this week, among such amazing leaders and preachers. I don’t really belong, but I am glad to have a seat there anyway. It is good for my soul to be among these good and faithful servants. I will be writing at least “one” thank you for hospitality given and space for sharing.

This week, whose vision and faith has touched your life and made it possible for you to be part of the community of faith. Might you write them a thank you note and add that to your prayers of gratitude?

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Feast of Epiphany

Christmas if officially over. Yesterday was the twelfth day of Christmas which means today is Epiphany. We celebrate the visitation of the magi or wise men from the East. I have several nativity sets and not all of them have the magi, but many do. Traditionally they wouldn’t appear in the nativity until today, but I always put them in early because I am afraid I would forget other wise.

Often, Epiphany, January 6, does not actually fall on Sunday. We celebrate Epiphany the first Sunday in January regardless of when the actual day falls in the week. It is a joy to actually be able to celebrate on the actual day. The story of Jesus’ birth from Matthew is quite different from Luke. Instead of angels we have a star and instead of shepherds we have travelers, outsiders, foreigners from the East seeking the Christ Child.

Matthew allows us a peek into a more violent world than Luke’s. Herod and his vengeful leadership is an intregal part of the story. After today, the stars come down, the nativity put up for another and all the trees and garlands and lights are turned off. I am always a little bit sad when that happens. I will miss the lights particularly. I also know that we are called to be the light and to share that light with others. Epiphany is the sharing of that light with everyone.

In worship, we reclaimed an old tradition to announce the high holy days of the Christian year in worship. Seeking Christ means to be intentional about committing to worship and each other as Christians. You can find the whole worship service here.

As Christmas ends and Epiphany begins, I am reminded of Howard Thurman’s poem, When the Song of Angels is Stilled:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

May it be so in all of our lives.

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2019, New Year, New Possibilities

Today is January 1, 2019. Each year on the first of January, thousands of people make New Year’s Resolutions. Some people are very intentional and there are all kinds of online helps and prompts to support those who want to make changes: dietary, lifestyle, overcoming bad habits, new or increased exercise, read more, do more, do less, practice a deeper spirituality, reduce stress or whatever a person wants to make a difference in his or her life. Others mock the whole “New Year’s Resolution” as an exercise in futility.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to do better, be better or change things about one’s life that are unhealthy or unhelpful. I will never mock or put down any one who is trying to live a better or more healthy life. So what if some one doesn’t get it “right” the first time or tenth time. Choosing to be intentional about life, is a spiritual practice. For me, it means to not sleep walk through my days and nights, but to open our eyes, my heart, my mind and my spirit to the newness each day bring, let along alone each year.

At the end of November, I challenged my congregation at First United Methodist Church  to a Year of Gratitude. This is not my own unique idea, I had seen it posted in blogs and through churches over the last few years. We began in December, because in the life of the church Advent is the beginning of the new year. My challenge was a personal challenge for me as well. I want to live my life as one continual thanksgiving to the God who creates and loves and calls us all. The challenge includes writing one thank you note each week. Here is this months focus:

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Good things: This is a month often used for “new life.” Resolutions, life changes. Find a jar and each week write down one good thing that happened. At the end of this year you will be able to empty the jar and read about the amazing year you have had.

So today my hope is that you will find a jar, a basket, a container of some sort of another to begin writing down one good thing that happens each week. Here is what mine looks like: it’s not particularly pretty or well done, but it will be the place where I will be putting my good things that are happening each week.

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So a new year in the western culture has begun. A clean slate is available for you and I to begin anew. I plan to be intentionally thankful. Today, I will be writing thank you notes for the gifts received this Christmas. What thank you note or thank you notes will you be writing this week? Then I will be looking for that one good thing to write down and put in my jar so that by December 31st, I will have a jar full of good things to be grateful for and remember.

I saw this quote on a friends Facebook page this morning:

“Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.” John Henry Jowett (1864–1923) PRESBYTERIAN PREACHER AND WRITER

I believe gratitude and being thankful is all of those things and more. I am grateful for another day and new year. Happy New Year!

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Christmas Eve: Calm and Bright

Merry Christmas! Last night on Christmas Eve, the services were beautiful and touching and helped me to experience “Emmanuel” God-with us in a real way. Our 5:30 p.m. service at First United Methodist Church is a bilingual family service.

Technology can often be glitchy and it certainly was last night. At the last night, we thought we would be going old school, and went to get  hymnals. By the time we returned with the hymnals the problems with the computer program was ironed out.

The service had the usual elements with singing, a children’s time and the reading of the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke. We had two people share what the birth of Christ meant for them. One was a girl, around 8, and she spoke of Jesus’ birthday and being able celebrate such a gift from God. The other was an older man, from Hondurous who speaks little English and his witness was translated to English from the Spanish.

What struck me the most, was when he said, “In my culture, Christmas is the time to reconcile with family and friends. If you have fought and disagreed, then this is the season to make amends.” I ponder how little that is done in the Anglo culture, at least in my experience. Yet the carols certainly speak of the restoration and reconciliation of God and human kind. Very little is spoken about the challenge of reconciling as people, brother to brother, sister to sister, friend to friend.

Our late service continued the use of Marcia McFee and the Worship Design Studios “Calm and Bright” series. Two hundred years ago the carol “Silent Night, Holy Night” debuted. How I and many have been blessed by that lovely song. We sang and broke bread, and lit candles and were once again reminded of the mystery and beauty of Emmanuel, God with us always. You can find the entire service as it was broadcast here. 

Now, on this first day of Christmas I begin to celebrate and truly enjoy the gift of family and friends. Today is quiet, but tomorrow the house will be filled with friends and tomorrow night the first group of family will be here. I am so grateful to have the privilege of preaching the Good News of God with us, now and always. Merry Christmas!

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Advent 4: Hope in the midst of Fear

Christmas is literally almost here! Tomorrow is Christmas eve and then “It’s Only One More Sleep” until the first Day of Christmas (better known as Christmas Day!) As we continue our sermon series, “Calm and Bright” today we lit the fourth candle, the candle of hope.

The world hasn’t seemed very hopeful in the last few days. The stock market plummeting, a partial government shutdown, new worries over global issues and then a tsunami hitting Indonesia without warning. I, need a reminder, that the lack of hope is not new in the 21st century. Time after time, there have been wars and rumors of wars, governments that rise and fall, and injustice.

That is why we cry out for “Emmanuel” God-with-us, now as we did long ago. The promise of Advent:  of Peace, of Joy, of Love and of Hope is the promise of our God who will restore us to the joy of salvation and to the ways of justice and righteousness.

Silent Night, Holy Night is one of the ways we give voice to that hope and faith and trust that God is with us, really with us. Today’s worship service in it’s entirety can be found here.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. There are 2 services, one at 5:30 which is a Bilingual Family Candle Light service, the second is at 11:00 and is the traditional candlelight communion service. Silent Night will sung and the candles will be lit as a sign of our faith in Emmanuel, God with us. The 11:00 service will be televised live on KAKE TV and also will be live streamed at the link above. Merry Christmas!

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Year of Gratitude, December: Week 3

DECEMBER

Just a few days from Christmas we continue with week 3 of our Year of Gratitude. Week one I invited us to write thank you notes to those who talents had blessed us and to share our talents with others. Week two we were thankful for the gift of time.

It was a real joy for me to write some thank you notes to people who had given the gift of time. Honoring their commitment and savoring the gift was a blessing to me. Giving of my time was another way to celebrate the joy and love and yes peace of the season. Giving time not out of obligation, but out of a sense of love and faith was joyous!

This week the challenge is to write a thank you note focusing on treasure. The first definition of treasure from Merriam-Webster focuses on money and wealth. It is the second definition that speaks of something or someone of great value. That can be, but isn’t necessarily based on monetary value.

Jesus once said, “that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Perhaps it begs the question, but what do you treasure? What do I treasure? What do I find most precious in my life? What do you find most precious in your life? What do we treasure above all else?

This week the challenge is to write a thank you note that honors what we treasure most. That thank you note might honor a relationship we might have, it might be to an organization that we are so grateful to be able to assist through our time and our donations. Honor what you treasure most with a thank note and through the gift of you: your time, your presence or a donation.

May what we treasure help us focus our faith this week as we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God-with-us.

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