Tag Archives: hope

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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Praying Always

“Most high and glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord, give me insight and wisdom so I might always discern Your holy and true will.” – St. Francis of Assisi

A few weeks ago in worship I shared how this prayer has guided and directed me for almost all my ministry. Not just the words, but the song. John Michael Talbot recorded it on his album Troubadour of the King. Here is the version I sing every morning and every evening.

I sing it as I wake and when I go to sleep, when I wake up in the middle of the night wearied with all kinds of inconsequential things or by major happenings in the world. When I need to pause in the middle of the day and discern what I will say or what I will do.

“Most high and glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord, give me insight and wisdom so I might always discern Your holy and true will.”

I learned these words quickly, music does that for my heart and soul. I carry this prayer with me in my comings and goings, in my solitude and in my community. This prayer, these words of St. Francis has sustained me in life’s highs and lows.

The deepest desire of my heart and spirit is to have “right faith, certain hope and perfect charity.” When I pray those words, I am not aiming to be perfect in terms of making no mistakes. “Right faith” isn’t about an arrogance that I know it all or understand it all or an am expert. For me, right faith is tied to the hope, a certain hope that God is always with me and that God’s perfect love (charity) will guide and direct me.

Faith gives me courage to live out the will and grace of God. Hope sustains and undergirds the belief that Emmanuel, God is with me. Perfect charity becomes God’s spirit at work in my spirit, that I might love as God loves and learn to love in a deeper and more holy and grace filled way.

God knows how much I long to discern God’s will and way for my life. Asking God to bring light to the darkness of my heart  is not so much about being depressed as to acknowledge how many things cloud my heart and soul and mind. There are so many things that get in the way of my being a conduit for God’s grace and love.

So on this day, when I have a brief pause in a schedule that has been way too busy these last few weeks, I pray this prayer and I share it with you.

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Confirmation Sunday, 2017

In a world that seems to have gone mad, we, I look for hope. After last week’s mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, I was grief stricken, devastated. I felt like I should write something, but I had no words. I guess, I just weary of one more horrific, violent act and they seem to come faster and faster and faster.

Sunday, November 12 as confirmation Sunday at First United Methodist Church had been on the calendar since mid-summer. There was no way I could or would change what our six confirmands had been praying, studying and preparing for all these weeks. And yet, I did have concern that we were not addressing what was happening in the world. But then again, I was not going to hijack this service.

I have pretty much done confirmation Sunday the same way most of my ministry. Those who are being confirmed, choose the hymns/choruses/music and write their own statement of belief (which becomes the proclamation of the word.) They lead worship and are baptized if they have not been, anointed and brought into full membership. Each class is asked if they would like the sacrament of Holy Communion as part of the service and in all my years, not one class has said no. They then serve the congregation as their first act of ministry as full members.

You can view the entire service through this link. I believe if you watch it, you will be blessed by this wonderful group of youth. Their ages range from eighth grade through eleventh grade. They have wonderful minds, deep spirits and a love of God and neighbor. I was deeply blessed to work with them with my associate Pastor Rebecca Goltry Mohr, our interim youth director Joe Mohr, our children’s ministry director Patricia Tristan, El Mesias pastor Pastor Sergio Tristan and their mentors Corey Godbey, Nancy McKellar and Nancy Herrin.

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The willingness of these young people to place their faith in God, to become members of a church and to offer their gifts is a testament to hope and I believe a sign that God is at work transforming the world. It doesn’t take away from the pain or grief or horror that is often made manifest in the world, but yesterday reminded me that there are more good people doing loving than things, than bad people doing evil. I will hold on to that faith That God is at work and that love will triumph over hate. These confirmands renewed that faith and that hope. I am blessed by their witness.

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Hope of the world

I had good intentions of writing a blog during the first week of Advent. We lit the candle of Peace for that first Sunday. Now, I know, that the candle of peace is usually week two. I take a little artistic license with the order of the candles, EXCEPT for Mary’s candle on the third Sunday (always pink, always joy) and the candle of love on the fourth Sunday, Joseph’s candle (which I will go into next week.)

Week one is often hope, or prophecy or preparation, which makes sense as Christians begin their new year. This year, though, peace seemed more important to focus on as the year begins. As it was, I didn’t have a very peaceful week. Nothing went wrong, it is just was a week filled with appointments and not very much time to breathe, to wait and to fill peace-full.

Yesterday, we lit the second candle of Advent, the candle of hope.

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I don’t know about you, but I need a little hope in my life. Advent, with the darkness descending and the days growing shorter, always seems encourage me to be more melancholy, more easily saddened. The world, certainly, doesn’t lack in things that would cause myself or anyone to feel hopeless. In some ways, the world seems both crueler and kinder. This election has divided our country, with an uptick in hateful attacks (particularly on persons of color, women and the LGBTQ community), AND an uptick on acts of kindness for people of the same communities.

Being a person of hope, is not about an attitude of optimism that has not acknowledgment of the pain, the violence, the war and the hatred in the world. Those things have always existed. People of hope and of faith and of peace are called to stand strong in the midst of those realities that do not point to the reign of peace, of love, of grace and of justice promised. As Christians, we understand that reign comes to us best through the incarnation, Emmanuel, God-with-us.

I was glad to remind myself of  that in worship on Sunday. It is what I really want for Christmas, to be a person of faith and hope.  Here is the link from worship yesterday, it is the service that has “Hope” in the title.

http://sundaystreams.com/go/firstwichita

May you know Hope this week as we continue the journey through Advent.

 

 

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All Souls Day

Part of this post was written three years ago. Our culture doesn’t know much about Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Some of what is shared in the next three paragraphs are from that blog, but I end with some new thoughts about this early church tradition.

Today, in Western Christian tradition is All Souls Day.  It is the third day of the “triduum of Hallowmass.”  Who knew that Halloween was a holy day?  The first day of the three, All Hallows Eve, October 31, was a day when early Christians believed that some how the space between this life and the next life was thinner.  They would don “masks” to keep former souls from recognizing them.  Of course in North America this became “trick or treating” through costumes and pranks and the offering of treats.

The second day was All Saints Day, November 1, which remembers all martyrs and official saints of the church both known and unknown.  The third day, All Souls Day, November 2, remembers “all the faithful departed.”  In most protestant traditions, these days are lumped together and often celebrated on the first Sunday of November.  A google search will give multiple hits on these traditions.

I, being who I am, love this history and the layers that surround these practices both from the Christian tradition and other traditions.  What I love most, is the remembering and the giving thanks.  Often in the U.S.A. graves are visited on the last weekend in May.  I always tried to avoid focusing All Saints on that weekend, because it is also the first three day weekend of the summer and consequently loses some of the religious significance that the first Sunday of November can offer.

Remembering those who have gone before is holy, sacred and spiritual work.  The act of remembering is a blessing on those who take the time to laugh, to cry and to tell the story of those who have made a difference in their lives.  After thirty plus years of ministry, the list gets longer each year for me.  The spaces around those memories grow more tender as I remember, as I grieve and as I smile through tears and give thanks that I have been so blessed by so many.

The holiness of these moments become more sacred in the midst of a time of great anxiety and fear. Next week, will be an election which has been filled with bigotry, hatred, lies and ugliness from both sides. The fear mongering has been almost overwhelming. Many, myself included, will be glad when the election is over.

Add to that another horrible shooting in Des Moines where two police officers were ambushed, another black church is vandalized,  and where the deaths in Syria mount, is it any wonder that many are just tired and afraid. It is important in times like these, to remember the saints and souls and spirits who went before us. We are NOT living in the first period of time fraught with fear and anxiety.

Those who went before us lived through wars and rumors of war, violence, hatred and natural disasters. The early Christians were persecuted and wondered if the end of the world was coming. In these days, we are hearing the same from both parties. Neither is speaking the whole truth. These elections and difficulties are part and parcel of being part of this world. The saints that have gone on before us, understood that whatever occurs day in and day out is not the kingdom of God. The reign God continues to challenge all of us “saints” to live lives of faith, of hope, of love and justice.

We keep eyes and hearts and spirits focused on the promise that the time is coming when we will experience something new and wonderous. In the meantime, we lean into each other for strength, and trust God’s Spirit to help us believe and God will make all things new in God’s own time.

And so, remembering I am “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) , these saints and souls of God, I am graced to serve.

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Hope

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. While our society has been gearing up for Christmas for weeks, for Christians, “traditionally” the season begins a little slower and a little more reflective. Each week, a candle is lit as a way of counting down until the nativity of Jesus.

Each candle focuses on some promise of God that keeps us moving toward the gift of Emmanuel, God-with-us. The first Sunday of Advent, the candle is the candle of Hope.

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I don’t know about you, but I need hope. I am not naturally a “hope-less” person. The world, however, is relentless in its violence, its chaos and its craziness. Two short weeks ago there were terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris. Boko Haram continues to terrorize countries in Africa, racial unrest in Chicago and other American cities and then a shooting where three people died and nine people were injured at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs.

When will it end? How will end? I don’t know the answers to those questions, what I know is that as a person of faith I am called to have hope. The season of Advent is all about hope, in the one who came a long time ago and hope for the time that is coming when justice, righteousness, peace and love will reign for all people.  Anne Lamott puts it this way:

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I don’t want to give into to despair or to give into fear. All the “angel” stories start out with “Do not be afraid.” It is the basic message of God to God’s beloved children. Hope does not give into fear. Hope leads us into faith, into love and into trusting the grace God has for us in the midst of life’s craziness.

I am not interested in something simplistic and silly. I want hope that means something. I want hope that isn’t into some kind of game where there are winners and losers. I want hope that points to something more mysterious and wonderful than I can possibly imagine.

So I come into the season of Advent hungry for a Hope that leads to justice, to peace and to love. So I always begin the season with the ancient hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  The band Sugarland sings this as well as any I know. Their rendition is hauntingly beautiful. Listening to them sing, I offer my longing for peace as a prayer for hope, not just sometime in the future, but for this moment, this day and this season.

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Finding the Center in the midst of craziness

I am struggling to make sense of the craziness of the world. The struggle is not new of course, but still, within a couple of days, social media is filled with people angry, frightened and ready to do unspeakable things in the name of safety and security.

The terrorist attacks in Paris have brought the best of the worst of humanity to the forefront. I have been heart sick over the comments and posts that no matter what, none of “those” refugees will be allowed into Kansas, or Texas or anyone of about two dozen states. Children and women and men who fleeing for their lives. Women and children who are being raped and sold into slavery.

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I don’t have enough wisdom or knowledge to truly write about these issues other than to believe that I can not claim the name Christian and turn my back on those who are fleeing such horror. I do not choose to live in fear, and to claim that God wants us to take care of the least and lost.

Better writers and minds than mine have written numerous blogs and news stories. I will write something in the next day or two. Later than everyone I suppose, but I need more centering and prayer before I am prepared to put my thoughts out into cyberspace.

I am part of group called RevGalBlogPals who have taken the challenge to blog daily during November. I haven’t made it every day, but each day a “prompt” is posted on facebook. Today’s has to do with what keeps one connected to God and to others.

So in responding to that prompt, I am aware there are many things I do to recenter myself when I am overwhelmed, confused, scared, or just need to be reminded of who I am. I pray, I read, I cook. Cooking is practical and creates something that is helpful. Everyone needs to eat. So I can do something that makes a difference in that moment. I listen to music, occasionally watch television or movies. I find a way to laugh and smile.

I think true “power” lies not in how strong one might be, but in the ability to find joy in the midst of all: tragedy, grief, pain, sickness, uncertainty and fear. Today, I ran across video that features dancers from old time movies in a mashup using Old Town Funk. It made me smile today and I have watched it a couple of times.

http://www.slate.com/articles/video/video/2015/11/mashup_of_uptown_funk_and_hollywood_golden_era_movie_dancing_video.html

In the midst of life that would grind us down, I share this for a smile and moments respite. May joy infuse our lives. May a little laughter bring some happiness in the midst of a time that would wear us down and bring us despair. Today, I choose faith, I choose hope and I choose life.

 

 

 

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