Tag Archives: preaching

A Year of Gratitude End of May +++

I missed writing my prompt for our year of gratitude last week. I was attending the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis and posted two blogs, and had planned a third. Obviously not done! So I have a whole lot of gratitude, many random thoughts and a few things I want to share.

The Festival, as always was inspiritational and filled my “cup” both spiritually and intellectually. I am deeply grateful for all those who make this event possible every year. This was my fifth time to attend, and I have never been disappointed. The theme was “Preaching as Moral Imagination.” You can find my thoughts from the first couple of days here and here. The preachers were wonderful and challenging.

Some quotes that I continue to ponder from Anna Carter Florence:

(When speaking of Zaccheaus) “What Zaccheaus wanted was an unobstructed view of Jesus and what he got was an unobstructed view of Jesus in his life.”

As preachers, like Zaccheaus we need to learn to climb trees, “to try and see Jesus in the text, in the people, in the world, in each other, in the hard covnersation and in the meetings.”

So I am thankful for time away, for time to worship and learn and reconnect to the art and practice of preaching.

This week I am grateful for the clergy and laity that met at the Church of Resurrection to ponder and consider a way forward in the United Methodist Church. What’s next? UMC Next gathered people from every annual conference in the United States to pray, to have conversation and begin to discern a way forwawrd that would truly be open and inclusive for all. You can find the details of their meeting and their commitments here

I am deeply thankful for all those who gathered together and did the hard work to move the United Methodist Church in the United States in a new direction. I am personally committed to doing whatever I can to be part of this new direction.

This weekend is Memorial Day and I will give thanks for all those who have gone before me. I will decorate the graves of those I loved, and tell stories and laugh and maybe even shed or two.

What will you being thanks for in the next few days? What groups, or institutions or people are you grateful for their leadership and their commitment and their vision?

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Festival of Homiletics, Day 3

Oh my, what a day it has been and I haven’t even been to worship! I know tonight will be amazing with Rev. William Lamar IV preaching and a gospel choir. Today I have heard 2 sermons, gone to 2 workshops, listened to the amazing organ at Central Lutheran Church and walked, had a picnic and visited Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church.

Early this morning a little after six a..m. I took a lovely reflective two mile walk.

And then it was time for a morning filled with Spirit and content. Just a few quotes:

Reverend Cynthia Hale:

Her title and questions said it all: “Have you got good religion or is your religion any good?” Based on James she reminded us that good religion is based on character and conduct. God shows no partiality and neither should we.

Bishop Rob Wright:

Preaching on Exodus 1: 15-21, the midwives Shiphrah and Puah who resisted the Pharoah’s order to kill all the Hebrew baby boys noted:

“Insurmountable odds give rise to unbelievable moral courage.”

“There is a proportional relationship between the side of the God we imagine and the size of the Pharoah’s we defy.”

Then I attended Reverend William Lamar IV‘s workshop where he asked us to reflect personally on Luke 4: 18-19. After reflecting I wrote down: What is good news for the poor in downtown Wichita? What does it mean to preach good news, release, recovery and the year of Lord’s favor in downtown Wichita?

Didn’t answer those questions, but they are good ones for me to ponder and prayer over. Moral imagination according to Reverend Lamar is shaped by the Spirit and tradition, tradition being Jaroslav Pelikan’s definition, “tradition is the living faith fo the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

Then Pastor Rebecca Goltry-Mohr and I had a beautiful walk to the park for lunch

Then we walked to Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church where we visited the sanctuary with these beautiful windows (the pictures are dark because they were refinishing the floors and there were no lights on

Then a beautiful art gallery were the religious art of T.B. Walker and his wife Harriet were donated. Their other art work was donated to the art museum. These are priceless works of art and when the church was built in 1914, they created a room just for them. This room is used today for worship each Sunday and for weddings and other events and is open to the public.

We stopped into the chapel where I took this other dark photo of the organ pipes and windows. It is a beautiful space for worship.

We finished the afternoon with Reverend David Lose who I always appreciate. His reflections on his website never fail to make me think. He began today by saying that every person is hit with 30,000 words a day whether by listening and talking or by reading or by social media. Finding words and using words as a preacher sometimes has us wondering if our words have value or meaning. He encouraged us that indeed they do!

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Festival of Homiletics 2019, Day 1 and 2

This is my fourth time to attend the Festival of Homiletics. I am excited to be attending with Rebecca Goltry-Mohr as part of our Transition in Ministry grant. The experience has never failed to energize, encourage, inspire and fill my spirit with hope and faith. So far, this time has been no different. If I somehow missed the rest of the week (which I won’t), the price of admission has already been worth it.

Two beautiful sanctuaries are hosting the event. I was here six years ago and had forgotten the beauty of these spaces. Central Lutheran Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church sanctuaries and facilities connect historical buildings with twenty first century ministries. What a gift it is to be present in these places of sacred community.

The Festival is “an annual event that averages over 1500 attendees; fifty nine percent are women, twenty two percent under the age of 40, twenty six percent Lutheran, twenty one percent United Methodist, sixteen percent Presbyterian,” to name a few of the statistics. The speakers come from local churches, seminaries, colleges and bring inspiration and focus to this years topic: “Preaching as Moral Imagination.”

While I deeply appreciated last night, today for me has been what has triggered my own imagination and filled my soul. This morning, the first preacher, was not yet here. I didn’t catch why, but when we got to our seats we were singing and they were explaining that we were waiting. We went ahead and did the liturgy when the leader said, you know it is good for us to be in silence. Everyone laughed. He said, really it is. And then…..silence. In a sanctuary that seats 3000 people, with stone floors, in that moment, there was silence. And we waited.

Often that room is filled with music, with preaching and shouting and clapping, but for a few moments the space was still with expectation. Then Dr. William Barber II arrived to preach the morning service. And did he preach! He called out the need for a Moral Pentecost. He had so many quotes about the millions in poverty and the need for the church for Christians to no longer be satisfied to be silent in the face of the dehumanizing effects of poverty in our country and world. On Pentecost the afraid become empowered and get together and redeem the nation and the world.

That word would have been enough, but then I heard Otis Moss III preach twice. Oh my! I had forgotten how powerful and profound this preacher is! His first sermon was on Luke 24, the resurrection of Jesus. While others thought everything was said and done, “It’s too early to give up or give in.”

A few quotes:

It’s too early to give up on the church

It’s too early to throw in the towel

It’s too early to give a premature autopsy on the church and its ministry

It’s too early to put period where God has put a comma

It’s too early because God is bringing Life into the places of death and decay.

Then this afternoon, preaching on Luke 5:17-26 he proclaimed that God can speak through any one God chooses and by any means necessary. That sometimes religious folk block the door but God is moving on the margins and bring healing, hope, faith, love and grace by any means necessary.

It is well with my soul today. Tonight is an evening of music. First a concert with Brendan Mayer and Peter Mayer. Peter has been touring with Jimmy Buffet for over three decades as the lead guitarist. Later is the annual Beer and Hymn event with the Fleshpots of Egypt. This blue grass group takes over a pub and we do a lot of hymn singing.

Tomorrow, will be another day filled with experiences.

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Ponderings on International Women’s Day

So many do not remember their names, except the ones who were first: the first woman in a pulpit, the first ordained, the first consecrated bishop. But there are others I remember who never made the history books. Those pioneering women who pastored and preached and provided leadership before there many women, in times past, when the push back was terrible and the call was strong, the prospects of living fully into their call bleak.

Yet the persisted, seeking out their pulpits, while the men were appointed, these women found their own places of service. When a man was found to serve, they had to seek again their own places to preach, to pastor, to pray. Their names: Nina Anderson, Marian Holbert, Portteus Latimer, Lois Lenz, Janet Sevier, Marjorie Swingle. These women are a few I remember. There are countless others who led the way, who persevered against the odds to serve and lay the ground work for all of us who followed.

My path as a pastor has been made so much easier because of the witness and the strength and the determination of those who went before me. While my ministry has not always been easy,  it is those amazing, beautiful, strong women who went before me that paved a path for living out my call. Those women stood up preached, prayed, proclaimed and pastored in spite of the name calling and the flat out determination that they not succeed.

Every excuse was used to stop these women from following the call of God in their lives. You are too young, you are too old. You are too tall, you are too short. You are single and will steal our husbands, or you are married how will you take care of your husband? You are too ugly, too beautiful, you voice is too high or too low or too soft.

They preached even when they were told to be silent. They prayed even when their right to do so was questioned. They presided at the table and baptized and stood at gravesides to comfort the heartbroken in the face of unbelievable opposition.

On this International Women’s Day, I want to say thank you to Portteus, Marian, Janet, Marjorie, Nina and Lois in particular and to all those other women who pioneered in ministry. Thank you for your witness, for your strength, for your sense of humor and for your determination. Your memory is a blessing to me, and to those who do not know your name. You are blessing to a new generation of women who have a much easier path and I am deeply grateful to be part of your legacy of faith and ministry.

For me, I am once again reminded to live out my call to proclaim the love and grace of God for all people. While sometimes my pathway in ministry was difficult, it was certainly made easier by these amazing women. May my ministry make the way broader and more inclusive for the next generation. May it be so….may it be so.

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Vacation for the Soul: Prayer

There are thousands of books on prayer. Millions of references and chapters in books as well as printed prayers that have covered thousands of years. And still, I struggle, I believe we all struggle with prayer.

Sometimes my prayers and my time with God seems simple and grace-filled. God feels so near to me. Other times, my prayer life is dry, God seems distant. Or, if I am honest, I am just not very happy with God or just plain angry. I am deeply grateful that God doesn’t seem to mind. Going back to last Sunday’s sermon, God longs to be in a deep relationship with me and with you and is inviting us to come home in both our joys and sorrows, our highs and lows, our angry and our grief.

This was a sermon I fought all week. I don’t know if it didn’t want to be written or if the pain of the world or the juxtaposition of lectionary texts with the celebrity deaths made this particular articulation of the Word more difficult.

Of course the sermon was preached, but preachers everywhere know some sermons are more of struggle to write and preach than others. What is odd to me, is that I never know what week it will hit or which sermon I am going to have to wrestle out of my heart and spirit.

Here is what I do know. It is an incredible privilege to preach the Word each week. I am in awe after all these years, that the fire within the bones (as Ezekiel describes it) still burns. Wrestling with text, struggling with how it relates now in this time and place, and meandering through the highs and lows of life itself is a gift. Prayer is what makes it real, what weaves the pondering and questions and the fear, the bits and dabs of faith together. The whole of today’s worship service can be found here.

My prayer is that this week you might have a vacation for the soul and find the time and space to reconnect to the God who loves you.

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Sunday Service, Celebration of Graduates

Yesterday’s service at 11:00 was packed, literally! So packed that there is not much of sermon (with about 57 minutes and a few seconds of actual television time) my sermon ended up being maybe 9 minutes. I was editing and cutting on the fly. So I suppose I could say unlike what Otis Moss III said at the Festival of Homiletics, this particular sermon was not a work of art.

The good news for me, is that worship is not always about the sermon. The proclamation of the Word is important of course, but so is the music, the liturgy, the prayers and the commissioning.

Sunday, we celebrated our graduates, our scholarship recipients, commissioned a mission team and blessed two young women as they prepared to go on the United Methodist Women’s MET (Mission Education Tour) tour. Our youth director sang “Go the Distance”  as a dedication and blessing. It was a beautiful morning.

The link to the service is here  First UMC Worship

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Festival of Homiletics, Thursday’s Thoughts

Thursday was filled with pretty diverse speakers; a preaching professor, a local pastor, a president of a seminary and a New Testament professor. Almost sounds a bad joke….you know the one that starts with all of them walking into a bar. My colleague, Randy Quinn, senior pastor of West Heights UMC, posts weekly “Quips and Quotes.” I love reading them each week and I have kind of used that idea in the back of my head as I have shared my ramblings from the Festival of Homiletics. I don’t share all my notes, just a few I intend to chew on some more over the next days and weeks.

 Choosing each day from 2 speakers or worship services is a exercise in discernment, because they are all so good. The other exercise in figuring out what to right down because the information comes so quickly and I hate missing any part of it. Having said that, by mid afternoon yesterday my mind was mush and I just couldn’t quite write things down. The delight at the end of the day was the Beer and Hymns event, followed with good time with colleagues.

Karoline Lewis:

Karoline focused on incarnation and proclamation. Why do we need to reconnect them? 

“We live in a time we cannot afford perching from assumptions. Often the loudest voices are talking about God as if God is not in the room.”

“We need to preach with something theological at stake, for that is at the heart of incarnation preaching.”

“Faith is not a point, it is a presence.”

“Biblical texts were meant to be heard, not read. When we read it, we don’t listen to it.”

“Sermons are not papers.”

“Our job is not to figure out if our sermon is good or not, that’s up to God, we are called to be faithful.”

Matt Skinner

Matt’s sermon was on the text Matthew 9:35-10:23. As a New Testament scholar it was filled with excellent information and insight into Matthew’s world view. Matthew’s community’s concern was reflected in their need to know they were safe or right. The tendency was to be careful as to who was part of the community and who was not. 

“The history of the church tends to be preoccupation with that’s that stop our wonder and stifles our faith. ”

“Fear is an idolaty’s most effective evangelist.”

“What is the lasting good of the this gospel/ Christ promises to be with us always.”

Adam Hamilton

Adam has a new book out, but the workshop I attended was focused preaching. He said, “I am constantly looking for ways to do it better and new ways to engage the world and the congregation better.”

David Lose

David’s lecture was about Proclaiming Truth in an Alt-Fact World. This whole week actually has been about how to proclaim the gospel, the good news in a world where it is very difficult to discern what is “real” and what is “news.”

“The internet has fulfilled its promise that anyone can create information, disseminate it and create a following. We are also in an age of information overload.” 

“Because of our information overload, we tend to react to that information and fill our news feeds only with those who confirm our own bias.”

“It is now difficult to standardize or legitimize our sources, and our own processes and information may not be well vetted.”

“How do we proclaim truth when truth is completely and utterly contested?” 

HERE WAS PERHAPS THE BEST THINGS HE SAID AFTER THAT QUESTION:   I Don’t KNOW.

“Using facts and figures and trying to argue doesn’t change anyone’s mind, but stories do.Often when I tend to preach on justice around an issue I care about, it paints everyone who disagrees with me unjust.”

“What can we do? Primarily, we proclaim God’s presence and love and grace for all of us. we witness to Jesus as best we can in word and deed.”

Thursday evening was Beer and Hymns with the Fleshpots of Egypt! So much fun and it was amazing to hear that many voices raised in song. A couple of pictures from that event:


And a video (not great, but gives a sense of what happened.

To say my heart and soul are filled would be an understatement. I am energized and ready to get back to church and to work. I say it often enough, I am so honored and privileged each week to serve as a pastor. It is a gift to be given space to get away and learn and grow. 

Only in Texas, I suspect, would there be “fortune tacos.” I received one on Tuesday and slipped in my bag. 

I finally opened it up last evening and this is what it said:

I guess it is. I am so grateful to Lutheran Seminsary and all those who helped make the Festival of Homiletics possible.

I am graced to serve

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