Tag Archives: Holy communion

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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Fourth Sunday of Easter

Yesterday, we celebrated the fourth Sunday of Easter. I know, I know, most people are done after the first Sunday, but I am one that loves celebrations and I just think it is sad we get all dressed up and excited over new life for one day.

The Gospels only share six or seven post Easter encounters. Yesterday, I focused on the appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. In the lectionary, it was read the Third Sunday of Easter, but I wanted it to pair up with the sacrament and celebration of communion, so I moved it. I am liturgically “flexible” that way!

I am grateful that I don’t have to go somewhere special, or go through some sort of spiritual gymnastics for Jesus to appear on the road. Yesterday’s service was on Life Lessons: Ticket to Ride, Seeing Jesus along the way.

You can watch the service in it’s entirety here:  Life Lessons from the Games we Play

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Maundy Thursday

Today begins the Holy Triduum (three days of prayer beginning with Thursday evening services). Maundy Thursday begins this holy and sacred time. “Maundy” comes from the latin word mandatum from which the English “mandate” is derived. In John 13: 13, Jesus gives his disciples a mandate or new commandment, which is “to love another.” Jesus has washed their feet as a sign of what is often called servant leadership.

The day in most churches is used to remember how Jesus gathered his disciples around a table and asked them to remember him every time they gathered to eat or drink. Many churches hold services of Holy Communion on this night.

Following communion, Jesus goes out and prays and from there he is betrayed by Judas and all the other disciples.

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Arrested, and paraded from place to place, Jesus ends up with a death sentence. This hours and days are invitation to ponder Jesus’ life and death, but also to pay attention to our own acts of betrayal, or unfaithfulness and unwillingness to stand against injustice and evil.

In a fun devotion I do during the season of Lent, Lent Madness, playing off of the “March Madness” model, this devotion has “saints” set in competition for the “Golden Halo.” Their stories are shared, and the saints are both biblical, literal saints of the church and some people that could be saints. All have been faithful in different ways. Yesterday the final two saints came down to Florence Nightingale and Franz Jägerstätter. I found Franz’s story compelling, particularly as the end of Holy Week approached.

He was an Austrian who stood up to the Nazi’s. He was the only no vote in his village to the Nazi annexation (and in all of Austria, the annexation was approved by 99.7%.)He was encouraged to take the military oath and serve in the German Army. He refused and was thrown in prison. His village priest came and tried to convince him to change his mind. He refused and was abandoned by his friends, the church turned its back on him. Only his wife stayed by his side until he was beheaded by the Nazis.

Franz was a farmer, not anyone of any power or influence. Yet his faith convinced him that the evil of the Nazis had to be named. He chose a most difficult path. He wrote these words that I find perfect for this Holy, Maundy Thursday:

“God’s love for us human beings is so great that we can never comprehend it with our human understanding. Although we often offend him and even seriously offend him, God still persistently loves us. Otherwise, God would not time and again forgive us. Could you imagine a greater love? … Therefore, love of our neighbors is the greatest act of gratitude that we can show God for his love.”

I pray that I might find the same kind of courage and faith that Franz had. God’s love for us is so great….therefore love of our neighbor is an act of faith and love and grace and courage.

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Holy Thursday

On this night begins what is called in some circles the “Triduum.”  Basically the word means “three days,” and this particular three days begins the evening of Maundy or Holy Thursday.  Another churchy word, “maundy” comes from a latin word meaning commandment.  According to the Gospel of John, on this night Jesus washes his disciples feet like a servant and commands them to “love one another.”  

In all traditions, this is the night that Jesus gave us the “last supper” the “sacrament of Holy Communion” or the “eucharist.”  This last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples, he ended it with new meaning given the bread and cup.  His followers are called to “remember him” when they eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

These three days cover Thursday evening, usually Christians gather to remember that last supper, continues into Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus’ arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion and burial.  Then Holy Saturday is a day of waiting as Jesus laid in tomb.  The final day is Easter Sunday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and new life and hope.

Today, I leave you with a holy communion song, a bit dated, but a reminder that Crhisti

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV_kFlsKrQU

I am graced to serve.

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