Tag Archives: First United Methodist Church

Women of Advent: Bathsheba

How did we get to the fourth Sunday of Advent?!? I know, I know, there are four Sundays every year, but this year is a bit more compact. For the church I serve, First United Methodist Church, the last few days are filled with special and moving events.

Last night we held our Blue Christmas service. The last three years Leslie Coates who preaches at our evening service off site and works with our outside “art” connections has done an amazing job of creating a meaningful service. Along with the lighting of the four candles, he finds poems that speak to different kinds of loss and uses actors to memorize them.

We have a gospel group that sings powerful music, with a short sermon, then a variety of rituals: lighting of candles, holy communion and anointed prayer. Every year, I think it can’t get any better, but it does. The poems if interested were: “Ending With a Line from Lear” by Marvin Bell, “To My Future Caregiver” by C.W. Buckley, “To the Young Who want to Die”, by Gwendolyn Brooks, then Isaiah 40: 1-5, 28-31.

Today we celebrated the fourth Sunday of Advent and the candle of Love. Bathsheba’s story is in many ways harder than the others. In 2 Samuel, she is silent, passive almost. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth actively were part of their story even when they crossed all kinds of boundaries. Bathsheba is used and probably would have discarded had she not become pregnant. She ends up being the mother of a king, and honored and blessed.

In Matthew’s gospel, however, she is the only one not named by her name, but by the name of her first husband. David’s sin and abuse and outrageous behavior is noted and remembered. I paired that with Joseph’s story. I am grateful for Emmanuel “God with us” in this messy world. The full service or the sermon alone can be found here.

This Sunday was the last Sunday that Brett Valliant our director of music and organist would be with us. He is moving to Arizona to be one of the principal organists at Organ Stop Pizza. Brett is truly one of the most amazing musicians I have ever worked with. I have been so honored to work with him the last three and a half years. His videos show his great range. He is known all over the world. I am grateful for his music and am so happy for him.

Tomorrow night is Brett’s 20th annual Christmas concert. He started the concerts to pay off the debt on our great Schantz organ and has continued his concerts to build a maintenance fund for its upkeep. the concert will be live streamed.

And of course, Tuesday is Christmas Eve with two services.

Thes last few days of Advent have all the “feels.” Joy, sadness, gratitude, wonder, hope, love, and peace. Preparing for Emmanuel, for the birth of the Christ always seems like surprise. Like the first Christmas, I am never quite ready, never know quite what to expect.

What I do know, is that God comes whether I am ready or not. God enters the world, this world, messy, painful, exciting and joy filled when we are not looking. I know that Christ comes again and will bring light in our darkness and hope into our despair and love into the most hateful places. I lean into that faith and trust that Emmanuel is here and will bless us again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Women of Advent: Ruth

It was a chilly damp Third Sunday of Advent. The roads were fine, there was a light dusting of snow on the ground and a mist in the air. We lit the pink candle, the candle of joy.

Traditionally, when Advent was a season of penitence, the third Sunday was a break from the fasting and the somberness of the season. The pink candle and vestments if pastors or priests have them are a break from the dark purples and blues. Called “Gaudete” (Rejoice!) Sunday, the song of Mary is often read or sung.

On this Sunday we came to the third woman in the genealogy of Jesus, Ruth. One of two books named after women, the story of Ruth is beautiful. Ruth’s story is also one of redemption that is greater than just a quick read of the four chapters of the book would suggest.

After all my research, I still got part of the story wrong. Ruth is Moabite. Moabites according to Deuteronomy 23:3 are banned from the assembly of Israel to the tenth generation. I said that this people came from Noah and his eldest daughter. WRONG!! A parishioner came and let me know it was Lot. And I said, “are you sure? I researched it!” She said, “yes I am sure.” And she was right! I came right back to my research and it was Lot and his eldest daughter. I have no idea where I got Noah!

Any way, the story is still ugly and awful. After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughter’s had no prospects for husbands. So they took matters into their own hands and got their father drunk so they could have children. The eldest daughter’s son was Moab. Deuteronomy states that the Moabites did not give water or food to the people Israel when they were in the wilderness. There is a long history of bad blood between the Moabites and the Israelites.

The point is, that Moabites were hated and considered unworthy to be part of the Israel. Along comes Ruth, committed, faithful and willing to do what it took to care for her mother-in-law Naomi. A Moabite! It is a beautiful story, but also one of great depth and from Ruth and Boaz comes Obed, who is the father of Jesse who is the father of David.

The deep power of Mary’s song and Ruth’s story bring meaning to the pink candle of joy. Out of grief, out of uncertainty, God brings joy and comes to us as we are. God does not shrink from our human predicaments or prejudices but comes among us with grace and love.

The worship service or the sermon itself can be found at this link.

 

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LifeCycle of Giving: Confirmation Sunday

This Sunday was Confirmation Sunday in Downtown Alive. These confirmands have been together for weeks, studying, questioning, visiting a synagogue and retreating together as they explored what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. On Wednesday in preparation for today’s service they wrote an affirmation of faith, their joint statement of  belief.

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The hymns were chosen by the confirmands and they wanted Patrick to sing, which he did. I am so proud of each one of them. I shared with them that I, too had been confirmed in that sanctuary. What I didn’t say was that it was 50 years ago on Palm Sunday in 1969!!! FIFTY! I  was glad they wanted and believed the church is a safe place for all. I know for me at their age and throughout high school it was for me. They are a wonderful group and bringing gifts that will make the church stronger and more faithful.

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We celebrated and honored them with a reception following.

You can find the whole worship service or just the sermon here.

 

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Friday Fun?

As my husband likes to say, “Now that we have no children at home, we live in the largest house we have ever lived.” This is a true statement. Our home is called the “Roembach” house and is in the Park Place/Fairview historic district. Probably this house was built probably in 1908, although the old Wichita Directory has the Roembachs here as early as 1906. The family wasn’t one of the old “established” families in Wichita so there is not much information about our home.

It’s big. I often forget how big it is until someone new comes by and and their eyes get large and they remark on the house. Andrew estimates it is around 4000 square feet, which may or may not include the yucky basement. The bedrooms are on the second floor, but several decades ago someone opened up the attic to a third floor.

Our grandchildren call it “theirs.” We are going to “our” floor grandma! And honestly this is a great “grandma and grandpa house.” An Edwardian foursquare, it has beautiful stairs off the foyer and very narrow and steep servant stairs to the kitchen. When they were younger the grandkids would run circles from one stair case to the next.

The third floor really is “their” floor. I have neighbor who turned her attic into the cutest area with iron twin beds and antique quilts and antique toys and her grown grandchildren still want to visit.

A couple of years ago, Andrew built triple bunk beds into one of the dormers. It sure beat the mattresses laying on the floors that we had had for several years. We have created a reading nook and their is a large tv for watching movies and playing the Wii. Andrew and I use the space in the meantime to do yoga most every day of the week.

Today, I got up there and organized. Recently I have taken up several small boxes and baskets of craft supplies and stuff. It needed to be put away and straighten up. Now no one will be visiting until Christmas, so I did put up the Christmas decorations while I finished up all the Thanksgiving decorations downstairs. (That is for another blog)

Today, I made the bed with brand new quilts bought from the First United Methodist Church quilt auction. There are two different groups of quilters that make beautiful quilts each year and sell them to raise money for the Religious Nurture Center (which is a ministry for developmentally disabled adults) and for our Downtown Alive Television ministry.  I have wanted old fashioned quilts for those beds and I bought three, PLUS a Frozen quilt and pillow case. They look great!

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So the upstairs is all relatively organized and Christmas decorations are up.

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There are actually more, but I didn’t take any more pictures. It felt good to get that space ready, to clean it up, make the beds and think about when the family will be here and I will hear laughter and probably a little yelling from the third floor.

Fun, like many things is relative. I don’t really like to clean, but I like having this done and ready. I probably ought remind myself of how good it feels to get things done, particularly those things I dislike: putting up old things, re-organizing, cleaning. In the end it feels good and I am grateful

 

 

 

 

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Grateful for Family Promise

If left to my own devices, I tend to be an early morning person. When I have no set schedule, and can sleep until I am done, then my regular rhythm is to be awake early. at this point in my life that is not true. I tend to be up later and consequently am not that “early riser.”

On Monday night, First Church was hosting Family Promise. This great organization supports homeless families and helps them get into housing. Many, many congregrations enable this to happen by either “hosting” (which means having homeless families in their building for one week four times a year) or by supporting the hosting congregations.

Each family has their own room for a week, the evening meal is provided, as well as transportation from the day house to the church and back to the day house in the morning. The children then ride the bus to school, the SAME school everyday so they are not moved from school to school. The parent(s) either go to work or do some sort of schooling or apply for jobs.

Andrew and I were the overnight hosts.  Basically we spend the night and if there is an emergency, then someone who knows the church can help in what ever way possible. The families had to be in the van at 5:30 a.m. After Andrew drove them to the day house, we had a lot of morning left.

We went to the Y across from the church. This is our “normal” Y, but usually we are not there at 6:03 a.m. Who knew so many people were up working out and running at six??? The gym was very busy almost uncomfortably so on the track. We are not particulary fast, but we walk quickly. Many were “running” around us.

That morning, the views from the 3rd floor were stunning. To see the dawn slowly moving into morning with the crown from our steeple was lovely.

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Then just a few minutes later, the sunrise woke up the sky! Both First and St. John’s Episcopal were breathing taking.

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“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118: 24)

I am sure this is why sunrises were made! Tuesday was a long day. Sleeping at the church was not terribly restful, but the work of Family Promise is important, important enough to a lose a little sleep. What a gift it was to have that early morning to see the hope of a new day, to walk out the kinks from an uncomfortable bed and be reminded of the goodness of God and God’s constant invitation to be part of making a better world.

Today I am grateful for the ministry of Family Promise, for the opportunity to share a small part in that ministry and to be reminded of “joy comes in the morning” and each day is a day that God has made.

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LifeCycle of Giving, Celebrating the Fruits

This is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. There is something deeply sacred about naming name and lighting candles and remembering. At First, only people who are members are named, and while I struggle with that, if we opened it up, we would probably have a couple of hundred names or more. Lighting an extra candle allows all of us to name those persons in our lives who we have died this last year.

After all these years, I find myself coming to this Sunday with a tender heart. For ALL the saints, year after year, I remember and am grateful. I also acknowledge the loss. I firmly believe we are each unique and unrepeatable and when a person dies, no one can take their place.

It doesn’t mean we don’t love any more, or can not love again, but it is always different, not bad, just different. Each person we love adds to the wholeness of who we are. So there are spots, holes if you will, that linger in our hearts and spirits when loved ones are no longer there.

This Sunday we not only remembered those who have died, we also focused our attention on their “fruit” or the gifts their lives offered. Not only are they saints, we are too. We are called to carry on the love and grace we have been offered in Christ. As we are moving through our stewardship sermon series, remembering our saints is one way of honoring their gifts and their lives and spirits.

“I sing a song of the saints of God…and I mean to be one too.” (Lesbia Scott, 1929) Today in worship, we were invited to be a saint today. You can find todays worship service, or just the sermon here.

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Connect: At the Table

We finished our sermon series, “Connect: Building Our Life Together,” on World Communion Sunday. Christians have connected through since the early days when the earliest followers of Jesus followed his command to remember him at the table.

World Communion Sunday began in 1933 at Shadyside Presbyterian Church, pastored by Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr. It was adopted by the US Presbyterian Church in 1936 and then by the Federal Council of Churches (now the National Council of Churches) in 1940. And has been celebrated throughout ecumenical circles ever since.

In some ways, every time we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion is world communion Sunday. No church celebrates alone, every hour of every day the sacrament is being shared. It does connect us across ethnic, religious, denominational, age, gender and every other line one can imagine.

The color of our block this week was yellow, the color of hope, of new ideas and thoughts. Eighty years ago, World Communion Sunday was a new idea. The idea represents the hope and leans into the prayer of Jesus, “that they may all be one.”

The sermon itself focused on the lectionary passage from Luke 17 and the expectation of Jesus that we forgive and we do the work of faith every day. You can find the worship service or the sermon itself here.

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