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.
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.
What a beautiful day we had together at First United Methodist Church. This Sunday we presented our third graders with bibles, commissioned a mission team and blessed our bibles at our Downtown Alive service. I love gifting bibles to third graders. Over the last few years the new ones are so colorful and inviting.
We have continued our sermon series, “Connect: Building Our Life Together.” We have used different colored building blocks focus on the various ways we are building our lives together: orange, the color of adventure for our work, the color brown representing stability and support and we focused on our relationships and today the color was blue for devotion and contemplation.
Our Hebrew text was from Jonah. I have been stewing for days because as I practice I kept substituting Noah for Jonah! So what did I do today? Exactly what I was afraid of, at least six times I said Noah instead of Jonah! Sigh. Stewing about it and practicing didn’t seem to change it, but nonetheless that is life.
Today’s worship service, or sermon alone can be found 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.