Tag Archives: Vacation for the Soul

Vacation for the Soul: Celebration

We finished up our sermon series, “Vacation for the Soul,” yesterday. For me, it has been good to focus on classic or traditional spiritual traditions or prayer practices. Some I have engaged in more fully than others, some have been a stretch for me, but all have deepened my spiritual life.

In worship yesterday, we focused on the final spiritual discipline in Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline. “Celebration” is the last practice or discipline he writes about, and it is fitting because he says, “is an act of will and is at the heart of the way of Christ.”

In a nutshell, what he means is that celebration is not just about a party for some high point in our lives. Celebration is finding joy in our path with Christ and that joy remains with us no matter what occurs in our life. In the words of one of our Vacation Bible School songs: “in a world ever changing, there are times we when feel alone. But in this world God is with us, He’s in our lives wherever we go.” Celebration has that understanding at the root of our spiritual lives.

In worship we showed a short video from VBS and had some wonderful music. You can find the whole worship service here.  Beginning next week I start a new sermon series, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” I am really looking forward to that.

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Vacation for the Soul: Into the Fire

What a great morning. After being on vacation for my wedding anniversary last week, it was a joy to return to worship at First United Methodist Church. The service was filled with terrific music, as usual we had our Downtown Alive Choir, a beautiful solo by Rebecca Beard AND the Treitsch Memorial United Methodist Church Youth Choir. We were their first stop on their tour this week sharing music and mission.

In our time with children, Mr. Phil Davis shared with us “tools of the trade,” including a plumb line. Many adults as well as the children had never seen one nor understood how they worked. It was a great visual for our Amos reading.

Today’s lectionary readings were hard. I do not think any one would choose both Amos and the death of John the Baptist for fun. Our Vacation Bible School theme is “Daniel, Courage in Captivity.” That theme pairs well with the spiritual discipline of study. In our tense and anxious time, how we experience God’s presence as we live out our faith is important to study. The prophets knew it was never easy and yet they stood firm in their speaking the truth when no one wanted to hear it. You can find the entire worship service with all the music at this link. The study guide this week has us reading the entire book of Amos. Each week, the study guide is uploaded on the church’s website. You can find it in several places but here is this week’s study guide.

For those who watch through television, I didn’t quite get all of my sermon on air. I will publish the manuscript tomorrow. May the prayer/spiritual practice of study this week, help us find our voice in these tense and anxious times.

 

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Vacation for the Soul, Guidance

This week’s Spiritual Practice or Discipline is Guidance. That doesn’t tend to make the top five list of things that are “spiritual.” Guidance doesn’t seem to fall in the same sphere as prayer or meditation or sabbath or worship. Yet, guidance has a long tradition of being important for deepening the spiritual life.

I didn’t mention it in worship, but many people have spiritual directors that help guide them in their Christian walk. Small groups or Sunday School classes can be part of the spiritual practice of guidance.

Today in worship, instead, I focused on being guided by love. Using Paul’s imagery in Colossians and pairing it with the lectionary gospel in Mark, I pondered how being clothed in Christ and in love guides us as it guided Christ.

I mentioned Lauren Winner’s book Wearing God, which is a marvelous book on how we experience and meet God in different ways: through clothing and laughter and fire to name a few. As followers of Jesus we are “fashioned” in the old sense of the word by Christ and by love. We are shaped, molded into the image and likeness of Christ.

It was a good day to being year three at First United Methodist Church. If you would like to watch the service in its entirety you will find the video here.

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Vacation for the Soul: Confession

We continue in our sermon series, “Vacation for the Soul.”

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The last couple of weeks have been incredibly full. Last week, I was grateful to assist in worship and listen to Leslie Coates preach. Leslie is a talented preacher and I am always blessed to hear him deliver the word. That week had been filled with the Great Plains Annual Conference. Even though it was in Wichita, I think I am more tired than if I had traveled to a different city.

This last week was spent catching up, presiding at a funeral, (with two more funerals in our church). Too many meetings and honestly, trying to stay away from social media and the news. The reports of children being separated from their parents who crossed the border looking for safety was more than my heart could take.

Instead of filling my social media posts with pictures or articles or memes (which I do not believe changes one persons mind or makes a difference) I have been uncharacteristically quiet. I would not want my silence in public places to be seen as approval. It is not. I feel like I have no voice to change policies that paint refugees fleeing from horrible violence as criminal, as other, as less than human. I still do not have any words to give voice to my grief and pain over this unjust and inhuman policy. By the end of the week, a bit had changed as now children won’t be taken from their parents, but it is still unclear what that will do to the over 2000 children that are in facilities across this country.

Today in worship I spoke of confession as that spiritual/prayer practice that helps deepen our relationship with God. It reminds me, it reminds us all that God is God and that our traditional prayer of confession says it all:

Merciful God,
we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have failed to be an obedient church.
We have not done your will,
we have broken your law,
we have rebelled against your love,
we have not loved our neighbors,
and we have not heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive us, we pray.
Free us for joyful obedience,
      through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

You can find the full worship service here.

Here is my confession: I confess I feel powerless in the midst of the storm of hate and bigotry I see in so many places. I confess I feel voiceless in all the loud clamoring and shouting between the opposite points of view. I confess I do not know how to affect real change in local, state and national governmental policies. I confess I feel like a very small boat in a very big sea filled with giant waves and gale force winds. I confess that it is sometimes easier for me to just do what is in front of me rather than do what needs to be done for justice, for righteousness and for the kingdom of God that is promised in Christ.

Tish Harrison Warren in her book Liturgy of the Ordinary writes: “Repantence is not usually a moment wrought in high drama. It is the steady drumbeat of a life in Christ and, therefore, a day in Christ.” So I confess and repent and know that is part and parcel of a life in Jesus.

When I was growing up there were two women I read everything I could get my hands on in the library. One was Harriet Tubman and the other was Sojourner Truth. I was in awe of their strength, their willingness to do whatever it took to work against the institution of slavery and later for full rights for women.

Sojourner Truth, particularly had a “way with words.” She worked long and hard for the abolition of slavery. Often she was heckled as an illiterate African American woman. None of this stopped her. In fact, as one story goes, a proslavery Northerner asked her what did she think she would accomplish being a black woman calling for the end of slavery. He said something like, “I don’t care any more of your talk, than I do for the bite of a flea.” “Perhaps not,” she replied, “but the good Lord willing I will keep you scratching.”

So, I guess, I keep writing. I keep speaking. I have not the presence or perhaps even the same amount of strength and faith of Sojourner Truth. I have the same God. I have the same Christ who is still calling me to confess and to do what I can do to work for what is good, what is right and what is just.

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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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Vacation For the Soul: Sabbath

I started a new sermon series today “Vacation for the Soul.” As a discipline I have pushed myself back to using the lectionary most Sundays. It connects me ecumenically to other Christians and it encourages me to wrestle with texts I might not always preach if given my own choice.

I also preach series, so I wanted to pay attention to what it means to feed and water the soul if you will this summer. Vacation! Summer time invites long evenings on the deck or porch or on the water. These moments during those long lingering days allow for enjoyment of family and friends.

It dawned on me that the spiritual practices or disciplines that are classic or traditional to our faith are mini vacations for the soul, time spent apart from our everyday life. In music it is the rest or the pause that create space for both the composer and musician to create something deep and moving. In Judeo-Christian history and tradition we call that moment, that pause, that time, Sabbath.

Now I am the first to admit I am terrible at keeping Sabbath. (here is a little secret for those who don’t know or haven’t caught on, I tend to preach to myself and if anyone overhears all the better!) Sunday, obviously is not a day of rest for me, but I claim Friday as my Sabbath. I have Jewish friends that as Friday evening descends, their televisions are unplugged, their phones and tablets are silenced or turned off or turned on to airplane mode. Their computers are turned off as well. They create and eat a meal together and either attend services Friday evening or Saturday morning. They walk, they talk, they read, they play board games with their children. They observe and keep the sabbath as honoring of God.

I actually on occasion turn off my phone, tablet and computer on Friday. More likely, I check my e-mails at least a couple of times, I might not answer them, but I know what is in my inbox. I usually try to avoid checking the news, but I am not always successful. I tend to see how much I can get done on “my day off.” Sabbath? Not usually.

Today in worship we heard again from Deuteronomy 5: “Observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” In my sermon I noted that this was never to be a burden or a punishment but a gift from God. I quoted Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book The Sabbath (it is THE book on sabbath that every other book cites.) In it, he reminds us that in Genesis that God finished his work on the seventh day, in Exodus in six days God made the heavens and the earth. On the seventh God rested, but according to Heschel, creation was not yet finished. On the seventh day God created the Sabbath. “What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace, and repose.”

Wow, what a gift we need today. Or maybeI need Sabbath peace, tranquility, rest and serenity. “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time.” (Heschel)

For the next few weeks the study guide I write will include a spiritual practice each day. This week will focus on Sabbath moments. The study guide is linked above and available each week on our website or through our new church app. We will be gathering for prayer each week in our Chapel on Wednesdays. It will begin at 12:10 and be finished by 12:40. Lead by different people each week, they will invite us into practicing a different spiritual practice that we studied on Sunday.

If you would like to participate in the worship or listen to the sermon the link to Sunday’s service is here .  I believe that God longs for my presence and your presence. God is leaving the door open, the table set, the wine cup poured and misses us so much when we don’t take time to visit, to listen and to be blessed again by love and grace. We are the children of the Divine and we are being invited: “Come home, Come home, I am waiting for you my beloved child, I love you.”

“On the seventh day, You, O Lord, created rest, So that I, made in your image and through your love, might be made whole in the joy and the peace of your Sabbath gift.” (Doris P. Hand-Glock, alive now! July/Aughts 1989)  Amen and Amen.

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