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.
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.
We celebrated and honored them with a reception following.
You can find the whole worship service or just the sermon here.
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.
Today we began a new sermon series, “LifeCycle of Giving.” This is the time of year when Stewardship is the emphasis as we plan on how we will support and underwrite ministries for 2020. This year we will focus on the lifecycle of trees, from seed to sprout, to flowers to fruit to regeneration. We celebrate All Saints and the series ends not with our consecration Sunday, but with Confirmation as young people choose to proclaim their own faith in their own way.
This afternoon, several United Methodist Churches gathered to participate together in a National Coming Out Day Celebration Service. Reverend Elizabeth “Liz” Evans preached a powerful sermon. She grew up here in Wichita and shared her story and her challenge that all of us, whether we are LGBTQIA or allies need to find ways to live into the world that God has created and move out of the dark caves of death and despair. The music, the stories shared through poetry and Brian Sutton’s testimony were all deeply moving. I am deeply grateful to have experienced this gift of grace.
This morning we focused on gratitude as one of the seeds of faith that enables us to give thanks for every moment and to help us be witnesses to the God of love and grace. We were given leaves to write down the names of those who planted the seeds in our lives and/or how our faith is being nurtured now. Those leaves we placed in our offering plates and will be displayed. You can find today’s worship service here.
Today as we continued our sermon series, “Connect: Building Our Life Together.” Not only did we celebrate Grandparents Day, we took a special offering for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) for the victims of Hurricane Dorian. This sermon series uses building blocks to represent the different colors and ways we connect to each other and to God.
While I acknowledge Grandparents Day is not a liturgical holiday, we chose to focus on this important relationship and ask grandparents to invite grandchildren and grandchildren to invite grandparents to church. Following the Downtown Alive service, there was lunch of pizza and salad and everyone was invited to come down and to play and to do activities together.
There was a photo booth, board games, cards to write and send to far away grandchildren or grandparents. We gave cards with suggestions on grandparenting and then these yellow cards for grandparents to ask questions of their grandchildren and the green cards that had questions for grandchildren to ask grandparents. Our grandchildren will be sent a set of the green cards so we can talk in different ways.
My associate Rebecca Goltry Mohr did such a good job creating this very meaningful event. In worship, I spoke of the church being intentionally intergenerational. Our community is not made based on genetics or nationality or ethniticity or age or background. We are created into community or family because of God’s grace and love.
I am grateful to be a grandmother, but I am also grateful to be in community with people of all ages. You can find the whole worship service or just the sermon here.
We started a new sermon series yesterday in worship. Over the next six weeks we will be focusing on building our lives together using interlocking building blocks. Each person who came to worship received a small drawstring bag, an orange building block and a card with a prayer that will lead us through the next few weeks.
Next week, each person will received the next color of block until there is six different colored blocks. Each color has a different meaning
Our focus was our “work” both paid and unpaid as it was Labor Day weekend. For over two decades I have had an anointing service on Labor Day Sunday. I feel as if we underestimate how important our work is in the world. Sometimes we embrace our work with enthusiasm and with a sense of adventure and sometimes we do not. Regardless, our work connects us to God, to each other and to the world.
Our lives matter and work whether it is a vocation or a job or volunteer matters and how we share our work with the world says volumes about out faith in God.
You can find both the entire worship service or just the sermon here http://sundaystreams.com/go/firstwichita
We are almost to the end of this sermon series, “Setting the Table.” Focusing on Hospitality and some of the food mentioned in the bible has been both fun for me and informative. This week the focus was on figs.
Now what I know about figs revolves around Fig Newtons. I still love those cookies! Fig trees are mentioned in the Bible often enough to be noticed. The parable of the fig tree in Luke is particularly unsettling. Yet in other examples, the fig tree is a sign of abundance and peace.
In her book, Taste and See, Margaret Feinberg does a marvelous job and describing the culture around fig trees, but also the symbolism of their great harvests and longevity. Fig trees produce tens of thousand of figs each year! What a metaphor for our faith and life! During the time with children they were able to taste both fresh figs and dried and of course there was some left over for the adults after the service.
At the end of the children’s time, I gave the children a fig leaf outline and invited them to either draw or write ways they could provide sweetness to the world and to the lives of others. Following worship, I found this:
You may find the whole worship service here.
Today in our sermon series we focused on “salt.” The most well known passage is from Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matthew where he states, “You are the salt of the earth.” Now salt is found else where in scripture, and we used the Leviticus passage that spells out the salt of the covenant (which means all offerings needed salt to make them holy for God.)
The salt of the covenant was many things, not the least of which it pointed to God’s loyalty and faithfulness and ongoiingn attempts to be in relationship with God’s chosen people. In the twenty first century we often overlook how special salt is because it is so readily available.
Margaret Feinberg in her book, Taste and See, point out that not so long ago, salt was not so easily available. In ancient times we was used as currency and for the Roman soldiers as part of their sal—ary.
I have an opportunity to visit briefly the underground salt museum Stratica to film a promo AND to interview a lovely docent named Brianna. This is still an active mine, although not the part in which the museum is housed.
For the children’s time, before we blessed the backpacks I had a chance to have our children try and figure out the different salts I had. It wasn’t until I got to the white sea salt that they figured out it was salt…all of it salt: black, red, pink and white. They got to try them too!
Salt is an amazing gift….and a challenge for us to live out our saltiness.
You can the worship service at here.