Tag Archives: First United Methodist Church

Back to blogging

It’s been a month since my last blog about the Great Plains  Annual Conference. Following conference I took a week for sermon planning and a week for vacation. Seemed fairly straight forward and well planned.

You know the saying, “the best laid plans….” It was a good two weeks, but as the week of my sermon planning time began, a neighbor and a friend died. It was unexpected in many ways, I had seen him the week before and I would never guessed I would be planning service within 10 days.

In my neighborhood, I am not the “pastor” particularly. Some of my neighbors attend church in other denominations than mine. Some of my neighbors do not. To be a “neighbor” is a wonderful thing as opposed to being whatever my “vocation” might be. Yet, it was a privilege and honor to be asked to preside at this man’s funeral. It was his request and so I sat with his daughters and we found a way to honor his life and spirit.

He had many  talents,  not the least  of which was gardening. He was meticulous in pulling weeds and keeping his flowers and his lawn beautiful. He was smart and funny. I will miss him.

During the time I was so blessed to become acquainted with his daughters, brilliant and funny and accomplished each in their own jobs and professions. I now have in my home, a few things in which to remember this wonderful and thoughtful human being. These past few weeks have reminded me again how precious life is and how each person plays a part and makes a difference in the lives of others.

As I begin my second year at First UMC, I am so grateful for those people who created this place for people all over Wichita to encounter the living spirit of God. I am blessed to continue in ministry with the gifted people in this community of faith. Life is precious and the call of Christ is to be a neighbor to every person we meet and to make a difference in lives of others. I am thankful my friend’s life and death and memory reminds me of this reality and call. I am graced to serve in this city and in this place and in this neighborhood. Life. Downtown.

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Some Reflections on the the Great Plains Annual Conference

For United Methodists, Annual Conference rolls around every year. It is “non-negotiable” if you are clergy you are required to show up. If you are a lay member, it is expected you show up, but not required. Annual Conference in the best of all worlds part revival, part business session and part family reunion. I both love it and dislike it (the loathe and hate words being too strong.)

I’m an extrovert, so having a chance to catch up with folks I only see once a year it wonderful and exciting. Mostly I enjoy the worship if done well, some of the business and the visiting. I do dislike, no I actually loathe the horrible chairs that are uncomfortable and actually are a pain in the “back” and backside!

Four years ago, three annual conferences (Nebraska, Kansas East and Kansas West) became one conference. I won’t go into the myriad of reasons, but suddenly finding venues large enough to hold that many clergy and laity became more difficult. No longer can we have chairs around tables, which makes it easier to do the work of the conference, now we are in long rows with uncomfortable chairs hooked together. We juggle our laptops or tablets or workbooks on our laps and heaven help anyone who needs to get to a microphone quickly or let alone the bathroom!

The sessions planning committee works hard in those large arenas to make the stage worshipfull and beautiful for our various services. There is nothing easy about trying to get that many people together and have all the various functions go smoothly. I miss the smaller conferences partly because of the ease of knowing most everyone and for the ability to make space more intimate. I, also, was one who voted for the one conference, because I had served a three point charge and I am well aware of the toll on the leader trying to do three of everything. That is not good use of resources, not of time, not of finances and certainly not of human beings.

This year’s conference was our new bishop, Ruben Saenz, Jr.’s first with us. I have been a pastor a long time, but had few bishops. Bishop Scott Jones was my bishop for twelve years, Bishop Fritz Mutti was my bishop for twelve years before that, Bishop Ken Hicks was my bishop for eights years before that and I begin my ministry under the leadership of Bishop Ben Oliphint. Each bishop brings their unique and unrepeatable spirit and their gifts to the area in which they serve. 

Bishop Saenz led with humor, humility, honesty and  a good deal of laughter. He noted again and again that the United Methodist Church is in a time of discernment, and honestly a time of difficulty. There is much about the future that is uncertain, but what is certain, Bishop Saenz stated again and again, is that “Jesus is the foundation and it will be alright.” 

When things got tense, or there were strong feelings running deep, Bishop Saenz’s would stop and lead us in prayer. To some that might some manipulative or shallow, but for me it never felt that way. The times of prayers felt genuine and deep. The prayers were not directed to one viewpoint or another, just that we might discern God’s path for us and to love one another.

Anyone can go to the conference website to see the pictures and videos and updates. My take away said are pretty basic, we are in changing times. Pastor’s and lay leaders need ot be discerning where God is leading using Jesus’ prayer, “not will by thine” and “let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The people of God need each other. 

Personally, I am delighted to return as senior pastor at First UMC, downtown Wichita and to begin work with my new associate Rebecca Goltry Mohr. As part of the Transition into Ministry program, I am honored that First will be a teaching/mentoring congregation and that I have the honor to be a mentoring senior pastor. 

During the opening worship service, we were given small silk flowers to remember those members of the annual conference, both lay and clergy who had died in the prior year. During holy communion we were invited to drop those flowers into a bowl in honor and rememberance. Then someone created this with those flowers:


Stunningly beautiful, during ordination we were reminded we are surround by such a great cloud of witnesses. We were commissioning and ordaining our new leaders and being blessed and reminded to continue to run the race set before us. Pastor Rebecca’s was commissioned as a provisional elder during that service.


The theme for this years conference is a good one: Know God, Proclaim Christ, Serve Others, Seek Justice. May it be so. 

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Pentecost Thoughts, Part 2

Pentecost is one of my “favorite” church holidays or feasts that really is not a holiday. There are no chocolates, or special paper dinnerware, or cards or presents or anything else that usually lets everyone know it is holiday time! Perhaps it is because it is always fifty days after Easter and the date changes. Perhaps it’s because there is no way to commercialize this church event.

“Churchy” people often call it the birthday of the Church and that is true to an extent.  It was the day the Spirit was given in a new way to those who were waiting for the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of an Advocate, a Counselor, a Comforter, God’s very real Presence in their lives. The author of Luke/Acts describes this event in Acts 2.

Every year I want to do something fun, crazy and memorable. Some years, I get something done, this year, I didn’t. I don’t want to trivialize Pentecost and yet, for my faith journey and I believe for the life of the church Pentecost is important. This year there were no cupcakes or balloons, but there was a pair of red shoes

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I wrote a blog post in response to another blog stating why I thought the church and particularly the United Methodist Church needed Pentecost. I think that we are not perfect, but I am grateful that God has a Spirit that makes all things possible.

Debra Dean Murphy at Ekklesia Project: “In truth, Pentecost is not the complete reversal of Babel. We still can’t understand each other; we routinely miscommunicate; we gather and we gripe, betraying the unity Christ has called us to as his Body. But the good news of the Acts 2 story, the good news of all our gathering “together in one place,” is not that the Church has a mission, but that God’s mission has a Church.”

My sermon yesterday pointed to that understanding. Pentecost is not about individuals, it is about God and God’s love and grace as a community. I continue to believe that God is at work and will work and will challenge the community of faith to stand strong in the face of evil, of bigotry, of hatred. I believe we still need Pentecost, but more importantly we need the fresh wind of God’s Spirit.

You can watch yesterday’s worship service at First UMC through our Sunday streams link. It was a morning filled with joy: a baptism, a mission team commissioning and Holy Communion. Come Holy Spirit, Come Holy Spirit!

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Sunday’s Service, Festival of the Christian Home

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the United States. I know that it is a complicated holiday and not the least of which has to do with the sometimes chessy card and commercials that encourage people to honor their mothers. Yesterday in worship, I preached about how this holiday filled with both joy and sorrow. In the United Methodist tradition it is called the Festival of the Christian Home which allows the focus to be on home, rather than on whether or our mothers were amazing or a mess. In my own life, I heard from my kids, on Facebook my son said I was wonderful and my daughter posted this wonderful Story People card: (on if it is on Facebook it must be true, right?!?!)


How I would like that to be true….I certainly write often enough that I long to love that was God loves and they way I see God loving and gracing the world in Jesus. In the end I do trust that the Divine Spirit is making their Home with us, in fact I am clinging to it.  Here is the service from yesterday:

http://sundaystreams.com/go/firstwichita

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Third Sunday of Easter

I have told myself off and on that I would post every Monday on my blog. Over the years, it has been sporadic at best. When I began at First nine months ago, I thought, wow, I could just post the link to our worship service each week. I have done that once or twice!

So, today, I attempt again to post my worship video link on Monday. I love the season of Easter. Fifty days to celebrate and ponder that moment, that experience that event is so much fun. Yet, the truth is that mostly once that first Sunday is done, the baskets are put up, we gobble up too much chocolate and go back to the mundane. Or at least I tend to.

I got asked yesterday, “Why are there 50 days in Easter? It was brought up in our Sunday School class and everything else is 40: 40 days and nights in the ark, 40 years wandering in the wilderness, 40 days of Jesus’ temptation, 40 days of Lent.” I said, “Well, it’s actually 40 plus 10. Forty days from the first Easter morning that Jesus walked and talked and shared with his disciples. On the 40th day he ascended into heaven and then there were 10 days that the disciples waited until the day of Pentecost.” Those who know me, know I love this stuff! There are reasons behind the traditions of the church that get lost in the need to have something new and interesting. The traditions of the church were used as teaching tools for the faith, ways in which each person could learn and deepen and grow.

I like to say, “isn’t it interested that we go all in for the forty days of Lent, but after one day of Easter, we are over it.” Perhaps, it is that our world is far more like Good Friday than Easter. That being said, I do, enjoy the celebration of Easter. This year I am doing a sermon series on “Life Lessons From the Games we Play.” Yesterday’s game was Apples to Apples, which my family loves! I didn’t say it well yesterday (in the preaching moment, sometimes things get dropped!), but what I wanted to really point out is, if the green card in the game said “believer” what red cards would be played? Would they include everyone? Women, Men, Old, Young, Straight, Gay, black, white? I continue to pray our community of faith would include all!

Here’s the link to the worship service yesterday:  Life Lessons: If this, then that

 

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Good Friday

Good Friday is always a day of pondering for me.  I have a few rituals that I engage in each year during the final week of Lent, called Holy Week.  I ALWAYS listen to Jesus Christ Superstar ( the original cast) and Godspell ( the original cast recording) and then add some other music that seems appropriate for these last days of Lent, this year that included the soundtrack from Joseph and the Technical Coat and the soundtrack from Leap of Faith.

Tonight, I will participate in the  Tenebrae service at First United Methodist Church. This will be the first time since I was in high school I have remembered (celebrate seems the wrong word for this service) the last day of Jesus’ life at this church. Following the service tonight, I have another tradition.  I watch the movie Jesus Christ Superstar.  I know it is SOOO 1970’s, but it has been my tradition for many years.  When it first came out, it was shown at the midnight movie each year on Good Friday.  After that, I searched for it in video stores and finally purchased my own copy. My poor children were, of course, subject to this every year.  I am happy to say my daughter continues the tradition of listening to this “holy week” music.  It is not Good Friday, until I watched this movie. Then the holy waiting begins.

This is another piece of music, however, that has become very profound for me..  It is from the Psalm Project.  It is a new version of Psalm 22 put to music.  That psalm is difficult at best to read, but this musical rendition is hauntingly beautiful.  It is a sign of hope for me that Jesus knew what it felt like to feel abandoned, betrayed and all alone.  On this Good Friday, I share this piece music with faith for presence, peace and new life promised in Easter.

Psalm 22

On this Good Friday, I am graced to serve.

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Sunday musings

Yesterday I preached on John 4: 4-42. This encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman has been preached hundreds of times by hundreds of different preachers. I could probably preach on it several Sundays in a row and not scratch the surface of this amazing encounter.

Casting Crowns produced a song several years ago that has become one of my favorites, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.” There are so many phrases in the song that catch me, deeply in my heart and spirit. “the world is on their way to you, but they are tripping over me, always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded.”

My youth director and his spouse Caleb and Mandy Fouse sang it in worship It comes in at 36:10 in the worship video from yesterday’s service First United Methodist Church  My sermon comes a little bit after that.

In this text I find it compelling how much I add to what is not there and do not take away what is life changing. I want live authentically and deeply, allowing God to change my heart and change my ways. In the middle of Lent, it is a good reminder for me.

 

 

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