Tag Archives: First United Methodist Church

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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Year of Gratitude April: Week 3

The cold winter has created a beautiful spring. I have never seen the flowers in my yard or in my neighborhood more abundant or beautiful. Recently I have been “so over winter,” so it seems has the spring flowers.

On my walk this morning I was greeted by this very cheery woodpecker

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Can you see it? Right in the middle of the picture. The lilacs across the sidewalk were full and the smell was heavenly!

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In my own yard, my iris are so full of blooms and my wisteria as well.

So as I continue my year of gratitude and particularly this month of finding my growing edges, I am grateful for Holy Week. Today is the last day before the Triduum (the 3 Holy Days of Thursday, Friday and Saturday) before Easter.

Today is known as “Spy Wednesday.” So named, because traditionally this is the day we remember Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. Two years ago I blogged this reflection on this day.  In it, I quoted Leonard Sweet who had written, “there is a sliver of Judas in all of us.”

That phrase haunts me. Holy Week is a reminder to take stock of how how I betray Jesus in word and deed. As I look at the flowers from my walk this morning, I am reminded of the sweetness and beauty of the grace of God. The flowers shown don’t just pop up, but must be tended and watered and the season just right. Yet they are always there, whether they are blooming or not. God’s grace is like that, always there. Whether I turn away or don’t pay attention, God is still there.

So today I am grateful for the traditions of Holy Week. Tomorrow evening I will gather with the good people at First United Methodist Church, there will be prayer stations, foot washing, holy communion and a meal around tables. On Friday we will gather to hear remember those last hours of Jesus’ life and word and music. On Saturday, I will wait. As the people have waited generation upon generation. I will write a thank you note or several to all those people that make Lent a special time.

And I will rise early, Easter morning……for darkness can not stop the light, hatred can not stop love, evil can not stop God on the move. My betrayals and my failings can not keep Jesus in the tomb….After the long night…..morning will dawn….

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God on the Move: Palm/Passion Sunday

Last year I wrote these words in March:

Holy Week begins. This sacred time invites us into these days of exhilaration, intrigue, theological arguments, exhaustion, betrayal, injustice, trial and execution. That is a great deal of drama to pack in one short week. Yet, often life is like that, perhaps not the extreme ups and downs of being hailed the savior of the world on one day and being crucified and mocked on another, but we know those ups and downs.

Holy Week is a time filled with highs and lows and deep questions about justice and love and a longing for that reign of God that Jesus promised. For me, Holy Week is a reminder of how fast myself and many others can go from the high of exciting parade, to the rage of a violent mob. God moves through love, but sometimes that love is too much to take.

So I enter Holy Week acknowledging my complicity in the evil that often poses as neutrality and thoughtfulness in the world. I acknowledge the sin of my silence, when my voice would make a difference. My own Holy tradition is filled with music that reminds me of those last days and hours of Jesus’ life. Perhaps not “traditional” music, but it is good for my soul:

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At First UMC  are multiple opportunities to move with God through this sacred time. On our website all the special services are listed. Today’s worship service can be found here

In our Christ Memorial Chapel are windows depicting the life of Jesus. These amazing works of art filled with joy each week. In the center lower section is the scene that we remember on this day:

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I invite you to move with me this week through these hard and holy days that we may be ready to have the eyes to see and the ears to hear the Good News of Christ’s resurrection!

 

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Year of Gratitude April: Week 2

There is a lovely hymn with these words:

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Natalie Sleeth wrote these words as an anthem in 1985 and it became a hymn in 1986. Since then, Hymn of Promise has appeared in multiple hymnals and is used for both memorial services and Easter. This song has become deeply beloved as well.

Today in Wichita, after several days in the 70’s and 80’s a cold and bitter wind has swept down from the north. In some places blizzard warnings have occurred and certainly jackets and coats are back on instead of a light wrap or no wrap at all. The tender petals of the flowers are taking a beating and some plants may be hurt by the dramatic change in weather. I grew concerned, so I went and cut a few of the tulips and brought them indoors, so I could enjoy them if the wind battered them too much.

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They are beautiful on my table. These tulips remind me that I sometimes need space, away from the battering and blowing winds of life to just be. Holy Week, with all it’s added activities can be such a place. The services can allow me time to focus on what really matters in push to Easter.

This week my growing edge is more physical than spiritual. There is 5K on Saturday, and while I have been working hard to get ready for it, this week was filled with really long days. I stretched, but lost several days that I would have preferred to walk and do longer distances. No matter, I am giving thanks for the ability to walk a 5K, for the finances that allow me to pay the entry fee and in doing so help First’s school partnerships with Park and Washington Elementry Schools.

I wrote a thank note to someone who had given me a tulip plant. It is an orange and yellow tulip and it is lovely. I look forward to putting in the ground to enjoy in the years to come.

What are your growing edges physically this week? How are you finding  space to pay attention to those edges and to prepare for Holy Week next week: phyisically, emotionally and spiritually? How are you adapting to the cold winds that come unexpectedly in the season of spring and in this season of your life?

Beginning with Palm/Passion Sunday and through Holy Week, these words from Hymn of Promise help me to focus and center:

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

May Holy Week be a time of blessing and of promise. In the midst of the busyness, may you find some moments to give thanks to the God who offers hope and love.

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God moves us …. to empty ourselves

It has been a very long day. Most people know I never sleep well on Saturday night and last night was no different. Even with my restlessness before Sunday morning, it is always a joy for me to be in worship.

This week we were able to get all the way to Venice, Italy on our walk to Jerusalem. When we first started talking about the 6400 miles from Wichita to Jerusalem we wondered whether or not we could get enough people to track their miles to get there by Easter. Well, we are less than 800 miles away and we still have this week and next to log our miles! We may actually get to walk ALL the way around the sea of Galilee. I think a scenic route is now in order.

This Sunday the scripture was Jesus coming to Bethany and having dinner with Lazarus and Martha and Mary. Mary anoints Jesus and it occurred to me in a way it never had before that she was claiming her authority and place as a disciple of Jesus. She anointed him as Messiah and poured all her faith and passion at his feet. Judas and others would try and deny what was happening and indeed try to change the subject and distract everyone from what Mary was doing. Indeed, Judas would criticize her for it.

Not Jesus, not for a minute. He reminds everyone there of his need to be anointed for burial and for the difficult road ahead. We are just a week from Holy week, I needed to know that God is still on the move even when the world can seem bleak.

We hosted the Bishop’s Gathering for the Wichita area to debrief from General Conference. It was powerful to hear from folks truly affected by the decision and to have time around tables to talk with one another. It made for a long day, but I am grateful to see God on the move in my life and in the life of the church.

You can find today’s worship service here.

 

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God on the Move: Down the Road

It was a very chilly morning, but a wonderful day to gather on the fourth Sunday in Lent. This Sunday we took one of the six special offerings in the United Methodist Church, and my favorite our offering for the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Not one dime from United Methodist apportionments or mission and ministry shares support this amazing ministry. Since 1940 UMCOR has been at work in disasters all over the world. This offering underwrites the administrative costs so that 100% of every gift to disaster relief goes to that disaster.

Following the 11:00 service many of our members helped put together over 100 flood buckets.

Donations came in from our congregation adn others. They will be delivered tomorrow to Omaha, Nebraska where they will go help those who are cleaning up from the terrible flooding through out the state.

God is on the move, through the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, through First United Methodist Church, and through you and me. You can find this week’s worship service here.

 

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