Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
And yes, I also got a pie in the face. I still feel a little sticky.
Enjoy the brief video of two of our adult youth volunteers getting their dessert, so to speak.
We all know that this isn't how life works. We don't all experience life in the same way. Some of us might be smiling when we go to church because we are in a celebratory mode because of a special sense of God's presence and love in our lives.
But we also might enter church with heavy hearts; the loss of a loved one, an upcoming surgery, a friend who has let us down, the loss of a job, etc. To put a big smile on our face when going through such times, just to have the right "church look," isn't what God expects of us. God just wants us to come to church the way we are...happy, sad, troubled, elated, worried, expectant.
When people enter a church building, they may see all kinds of expressions, not just smiles. But that's OK. People don't have to all have the same look. The beautiful thing about the church is that the invitation to gather for worship is open to all people and one doesn't need to bring a certain look to be welcomed and accepted.
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30
Friday, March 27, 2009
- Remember, if we compare the reading of scripture to harmony parts, the Old Testament would be the bass part because it tells the story of God's desire to rescue the world from sin and death. Like the bass part of a song, this story undergirds the whole biblical narrative and Jesus' life and ministry should be seen within this context.
- Jesus used a meal (the annual Jewish Passover Meal) to help interpret how his death would bring fulfillment of the bass part of the Old Testament (God's desire to rescue the world.) Passover/Red Sea/Deliverance are intimately woven throughout the Passover meal.
- Every time we receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we are announcing to the world that the principalities and powers that keep people enslaved have been defeated by Jesus because of his death on the cross.
- "Maundy" is a Latin word which means "commandment" and it reminds us that at the Last Supper, Jesus commanded his disciples (and us!) to love one another. We are to extend God's love to the people of our community and world so that they will know the good news that through Jesus, we have been rescued from sin and death.
- As we offer God's healing love to others, the pain and hurt might not happen overnight, but steadily and most assuredly, the healing will come.
- Decrease the number of meetings to free up church members to be involved in hands on ministry and mission work.
- To reach new generations, the church needs to change and adapt methodologies in order to speak their language.
- Signs of growth and vitality will not happen quickly. Lay a foundation for the church to grow and don't give up! Redeemer UMC is an example of this point.
- Program Staff should not do the ministry, but instead recruit, equip, and empower laity to use their gifts to be in ministry and reach the community.
- This wasn't mentioned in the seminar, but the church is set up and decorated in such a way that a guest can easily find information and feel welcomed. It was easy for us to see that a ton of intentionality was put into the lay-out of the church. Their information center is a case in point. (see picture above.)
The brief video includes thoughts from our Youth Director and our Worship Chairperson on what they learned from the seminar.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
After all, It's not everyday
that a 55 passenger charter bus pulls up to a homeless shelter.
Curiosity transitions to bewilderment
as 55 teens start emerging out of the bus.
By the time the musical instruments, risers,
sound equipment, and risers
start to be systematically assembled,
our group has their full attention.
Some just observe from a distance.
Others ask questions.
Very few offer to help,
for they have learned that in the world of homelessness,
they are often seen as unimportant.
And there is always someone else who is charge.
We bring music,
and we also bring a message.
Sometimes, that is difficult to do
when music falls upon the ears of those
whose lives are filled with discordant sounds.
Messages of hope
are difficult to receive
when life seems to be without hope.
60 minutes of music,
seeking to plant itself in hard soil.
Our group has engaged in this outreach for years.
There is no doubt that the experience causes change in us,
but what change does it really effect
upon those who sleep under a highway overpass?
The music arouses some smiles.
It initiates some hand clapping.
Once in a while an Amen or Hallelujah is sounded.
It even cause a few to dance in a freedom that is rarely afforded to them.
But ultimately the music ceases.
The gear is packed.
The bus is loaded.
What is for a while
a Kingdom moment in the desert,
appears to fade away.
That is until musician meets the listener.
His name was Brian.
He was originally from Ithica, NY.
He was unable to keep his job.
He had no family to speak of,
and so when his life fell apart,
there was no one to catch him in his free fall to homelessness.
After the music faded,
we sat at table and talked.
Why did you home all the way from Pennsylvania to be here?
It was a good question.
It took a lot of fund raisers,
a lot of planning,
and a lot of prayer.
Why were we there?
As the question rolled around in my mind,
only one answer came to my mind.
God wanted us to be with you today,
to tell you that you matter,
that He hasn't forgotten you.
It was the only answer that seemed honest.
When Brian heard that,
he smiled and bowed his head.
After a few long moments,
he looked up and said,
That's good to know.
I haven't heard from God in a while.
We took time to pray
that each of us would live each day
in the awareness of God's presence.
I don't understand why Brian walks this earth without a mailing address.
I have no idea if God has something better in store for him in this life.
What I do know is that God cares deeply about Brian.
And for whatever reason,
on a sunny, brisk spring morning,
God wanted me
to let him know.
For God so loved (insert your name) that He gave
His only Son
Monday, March 23, 2009
I am sitting at the window of a café
From an exotic locale in the Orient
I am solo again, leaving the entourage behind
As I look out the window it is raining
My thoughts are as scattered as the droplets
It is a cold wet rain creeping into my bones
Just a slow drizzle leaking from a very grey day
I have the dull haze of jet lag in my head
And I am thinking about the journey yet to come
I see my reflection in the glass clearly
It’s a middle aged guy, graying from his youth
With raindrops smearing the runny image into older age
Which adds to the illusion I am not young any more
I stare past this image as an unfamiliar canvas unfolds
I can’t quite get my bearings aligned in this culture
Time zones still clicking by slowly in my head
It seems like I have been here before briefly
But I am lost in recollections from another land and reality
Looking out the window, my focus is distracted
It’s from the corner of my eye at the edge of periphery
A blurred image of a man enters a car, and it’s pulling away
Did he have a beard and long hair?
Quit unusual in a culture this far from home; I thought
It draws my attention like the force from a magnet
And polarizes my full concentration blindly
At this point the surreal takes over and things slow down
As in a sluggish motion with time stopping imagery
You know, the kind where the movie pans in slow motion
As the director instructs the camera’s movement for effect
Where it seems an instant collapses into an eternity creeping
With raindrops and vehicle almost frozen in time
The rain smears the image of the driver completely
Like a shadow running down the window soaking
Which quickly comes out of focus while accelerating away
And enhancing the slow motion effect immensely
As the car passes, our eyes meet for an instant
A heart warming glance from infinity it seems
This image still haunts my memory like a photograph
Wondering who I had connected with as the shutter closed
Strangely blurred beyond true identity or certainty
In a subliminal, yet conscious way the snapshot taken
Leaving me frozen with doubt for an instance, and then he was gone…..
Was that you Jesus?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Sermon - “Isn’t God Wonderful?”
Features - 5th Sunday in Lent
Scriptures - Hebrews 5:5-10 & Luke 12:13-21
Theme - This is the final part of a five-part sermon series on our Lenten season focus on “The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregation.” On this Sunday, we focus on the practice of extravagant generosity. Jesus warned about greed and spoke often about money and possessions to help us know the joy of offering our financial resources to the work of God’s kingdom on earth.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
“I want to know if it’s OK if I paint over a noticeable smudge that I made with the ladder when I was working by the cross the other day. Does anyone know where the leftover paint is so I can come in some day and paint over it?”
Following the meeting, this man led us to the sanctuary and said, “Well there it is.” It took a while for anyone to notice when someone finally said, “Oh, I see it. Look just to the right of the cross and you can see about a six feet smudge line next to it.” “That’s it,” he said with a twinge of embarrassment in his voice. “That’s because of me.”
So I asked him, “Can you see this mark from where you are sitting during worship?” “Oh yeah, and it really bothers me. I need to fix it.”
Three days later, I’m conducting a funeral service in our Sanctuary and during one of our hymns, I happen to look up at the large cross and for the life of me, I can’t find the smudge mark. A smile came to my face as I thought about this concerned church member and how he had painted over the smudge mark in such a short amount of time. “That really did bother him,” I thought to myself.
In this season of Lent in which we are preparing ourselves for Holy Week and Easter, we are invited to examine our lives to see if there are any smudge marks, subtle and not so subtle, needing a fresh coat of God’s grace applied. Thanks to what Christ has done for us by dying on our behalf, we can become clean again and set aside those things which are distracting us from seeing the meaning of the cross of Christ more clearly.
Maybe this gives new meaning to the punch line of that old joke, “Repaint and thin no more.”
“If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – I John 1:9
Thursday, March 19, 2009
- The sin, pain, and evil of the world are all hitting Jesus during Holy Week including lies, injustice, racial prejudice, idolatry, and love of power.
- As someone trusted by Jesus and the other disciples, Judas's betrayal of Jesus makes this a very painful story to read!
- When Jesus died on the cross, he took all of this pain and sin upon himself on behalf of the world (including us!)
- In what ways have we been betrayed personally? In our communities? Other ways? We can either cling to this pain and be victims or name the betrayals and know that Jesus's death on the cross has defeated the dark forces of evil and through him we can live victoriously.
- By identifying with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, Jesus saw himself as the one who would need to take on the sin and pain of the world in order to defeat it. This is the picture of the suffering servant.
- Because of what Jesus has done through the cross, we are empowered to forgive and not allow past and future sin to hold us captive.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
It happens once a year,
it comes and goes like Christmas morning.
IT is Shamrock Shake Day,
otherwise known as St. Patrick's Day.
Even though they are sold well before the day of the Irish,
I wait until March 17th to purchase.
It is tradition.
It is something to look forward to.It is...Shamrock Shake Day.
Current readers might recall
that the last 3 years have been problematic for this writer....
'06 was the year of "I'm sorry sir, we are out of them."
'07 was the year of the shake that tasted more like a pistachio nightmare than mint heaven.
'08 was the year of the lady who had the cat with green cat diarrhea.
3 long years without an unadulterated shake.
Let it be said that in the year of our Lord, 2009, March 17.........
It was spectacular.
I continued my 3 year boycott of the local fast food restaurant
that serves the foamy greenery before Valentines
and then is out of them before March 17.
I found the next closest establishment
and walked up to the counter.
"I would like the extra big, biggie,
and would you king size that please"
I held my breath waiting to hear some reason that I would be denied once again.
But there was none.
That will be $2.96 the cashier said.
I gasped as I looked around for something
that would interrupt this celebration.....
an armed bandit,
a skunk invading the premises,
a terrorist attack.
Just 4 cents returned
and 32 ounces of luscious thick green Shamrock Shake.
Here you are, sir.
Like a child ripping into the first wrapped Christmas present.....
There is a tear of joy running down my cheek.
Somewhere off in the distance
I hear the Hallelujah Chorus.
a homeless child with only one arm crosses my path
and looks directly into my eyes.
Sorry kid, it ain't happening.
I am starting to feel that sugar buzz...
Bring it on baby!
Someone is getting mugged in the parking lot,
but it doesn't matter....
Did I mention this is sooooo good?
I notice that I have already consumed one-third of the shake,
better slow down I think.
it's 364 days till the next one.
Sitting in my car
I notice the ambulance pulling into the parking lot to help the mugging victim.
Gosh, I hope he's alright
I think as I take another slurp.
Man, this would be good with some fries.
Gulp # 41
I begin to notice that this 32 oz cup
isn't much smaller than the fish aquarium I had in my college dorm room.
This is a lot of shake
I think as I begin to slow down.
The ambulance has pulled out of the parking lot.
The homeless child is gone...
but more importantly,
my tummy hurts.
I am down to the bottom third...
Can I get a to go bag for this? I think
Oh wait....this is a to go bag.
The pace is definitely slowing down.
Not sure I can finish this.
Where is that homeless child?
Looking for inspiration to finish,
I think of the July 4th hot dog eating contest on Coney Island,
when I realize that the carryout bag can also suffice as a barf bag
That's a very clever marketing technique, I think.
Almost to the bottom,
I think I'll skip lunch today.
Gulp # 86 (the last gulp)
I can see the bottom of the cup.
Like a marathoner stretching for the finish line and the laurel wreath of victory,
I take one last lunge and siphon the bottom like a wet vac
There is nothing like the gurgling sound
as the straw begins to take in air rather than cream.
And there is nothing like the sweetness of fresh cream upon the first sip.
But what is at one time sweet and delicious
can turn sour.
Many things in life can turn sour,
attitudes, economies, relationships.
Nothing is guaranteed it's sweetness forever,
except for one thing.
And that is the Lord.
And I am so grateful that I don't need to wait even one day for Him.
And with him, He brings all other things
into it the sweetness of its season.
O taste and see that the Lord is good!
Happy Shamrock Day!
And congrats to Kerry Matson who was closest
in guessing the total gulp number!
Dinner is on me next time I see you!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Sermon - “Risky Business”
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
The book consists of a series of sermons that Bishop Wright preached at Church of the Ascension, located in Easington Colliery, north east England, overlooking the North Sea. The reason he preached a a series of sermons for Holy Week in this particular location in 2007 is due to the tremendous economic hardships facing this former coal mining community which shut down in 1993.
This is also a community which continues to carry the heavy grief of a terrible mine explosion which happened in that community in 1951 (81 miners and 2 rescue workers died.)
The events of Holy Week which led Jesus to the cross is a way to help whole communities facing economic and societal problems like Easington Colliery to work through immeasurable pain and grief and point us forward to a new beginning and a new way of living through the hope and promise of Jesus' resurrection.
During this Lenten focus, members of my bible study will be naming the pain and struggles of our community and surrounding area by printing these on pieces of paper which will then be brought to the cross at our Good Friday service for God to bring about healing and a new way of moving into the future with hope.
Today, we focused on Tuesday of Holy Week. Here are the brief highlights of our study:
- The scriptures for this day are Isaiah 49:1-7 & John 12:20-36 (The connection is between the Suffering Servant's lament that he has served in vain & Jesus looking ahead to his own death by mentioning the grain of wheat needing to die before it can bear fruit.)
- Defeating sin and death cost Jesus' his own life. What appeared to be in vain turned out to be God's victory!
- Based on these scriptures, NT Wright encourages us to do four things: 1) claim the victory that Jesus won on the cross. 2) hold the pain of our community/world in our heart and in light of Jesus' victory on the cross. 3) pray that the grains of wheat that fall into the earth and die will bear much fruit. 4) work for this fruit by being part of God's healing love in a hurting world.
- We don't know exactly how God will bring about healing in our communities and in our lives, but the story of Jesus' last days and Holy Week are what we need for the present moment. Journeying with Jesus through Holy Week to the cross reminds us that we do not go through this journey alone.
- Next Thursday, we will focus on Wednesday of Holy Week.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
It's all about nomenclature.
Our names identify us with who we are.
If there are two David's in the crowd,
and one of us is called,
we both look up.
I cherish my name.
The meaning of my name is "beloved"
David is the name my family uses
Dave is often used by friends.
Davey is used only by those who have a death wish......
Somehow the receptionist at the gym didn't get the memo.
The first day I walked into the gym,
I, a complete stranger, was greeted with.....
"How are ya, hon' "
It's not that she didn't know my name.
It came up on her screen the moment that I scanned my membership card.
She was just trying to be friendly at level we had not yet reached.
I was tempted to respond with,
"Just great, honey bear!"
but for once in my life
I showed restraint.
I'm not a big fan of slang names
when I don't have some level of familiarity with the person.
The next time I entered the gym,
my identity had migrated to "Sugar"
I wasn't feeling particularly sweet that day,
especially when anticipating a hard workout at 6:30am.
On another trip,
I had somehow become "sweet cakes"
That just made me hungry
and wished that I was eating breakfast rather than pumping iron.
Other days I became "tootsie,"
occasionally, "sugar pie".....
Throw in a "honey bunch"
and I was in the midst of a Motown revival.....
I thought about asking her to address me by my real name,
but instead I decided to do the mature thing....
which was to try to sneak past her when she wasn't looking.
One morning I almost did it.
She was busy folding towels and talking with some other honey bun.
I scanned my card and slithered away.
Just as I reached the locker room door,
the walls of the gym echoed with a resounding.......
Somehow cupcake doesn't quite measure up to beloved,
not to mention the additional calories.
I realize that all of these names are attempts to be friendly, to build closeness
but they don't appropriately define our relationship.
I like how the Lord addresses me.
His first name for me recorded in Scripture was....
Doesn't sound very personal,
or does it?
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have everlasting life. John 3:16
I like being a whoever.
Whoever unrolls the welcome mat of heaven for everyone.
Whoever invites the world to God.
Whoever exports God's grace worldwide.
For anyone who attempts to restrict it, Jesus has a word: whoever *
Later on, we take on more personal, intimate names.
In Romans 8 we are called children of God
To those who follow Him, in John 15, He calls us friends.
In Matthew, the obedient are called brother, sister, mother.
The spiritual relationship between Christ and those of us who believe
is closer than the closest of blood ties.
It doesn't get any more intimate than that.
I may or may not desire to be someone's cupcake or honey bunch,
but oh how I value being beloved of Christ.
After all, it's all about nomenclature
*from Max Lucado's 3:16 The Numbers of Hope
Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
Their unique role as missionaries in Milan, Italy is to pastor a church that offers radical hospitality to people of all nationalities.
The video is a song by their choir this past November. Just by noticing the different nationalities of the people who are singing is evidence of the radical hospitality of this church. Words of encouragement by e-mail may be sent to Rev. David & Kristin Markay at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a description of their church from their website:
"The Italian Waldensian/Methodist Church has set as one of its missional goals the hospitality to the stranger. The church seeks to embody the inclusive love of Jesus by offering a spiritual home to persons from places far from their homelands. Intentionally, the Waldensians and Methodists in Italy are striving to "essere chiesa insieme" (be the church together). Therefore, persons with all faith backgrounds, cultural heritage, and church experience are seen as gifts to the community.
The Methodist Church of Milano has members from all over the world: Italy, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Canada, the United States, Great Britain, and elsewhere."
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Sermon - “A Year of Living Biblically”
Thursday, March 5, 2009
It's just a piece of paper.
That's often the comment I hear
from couples who live together instead of choosing to marry.
But sometimes paper is more than paper.
I make several prison visits a year.
Each one involves a rigorous entry screening including
metal detectors, ID checks, and drug screenings.
To my credit, I have always successfully navigated through the process with relative ease.
Each successful entrant is rewarded a visitors pass,
which allows entrance to the visiting center and eventually back to freedom.
The visitor's pass includes my name,
the nature of my visit,
the time of my check-in,
and my age among other things.
I walked down a long hallway,
as I heard the clank of the door closing echoing behind me.
To this day, it remains an unnerving sound.
As I moved into the waiting area,
I realized that I needed to use the restroom.
The guard issued me a lavatory key
and I proceeded inside.
I placed the visitors pass
on the edge of the sink.
I proceeded to wash my hands.
To my chagrin,
I noticed there was no towel dispenser,
just a hot air hand dryer.
I have never liked hot air dryers,
but now I really dislike them.
I pushed the start button
and was stunned how forceful the airflow was.
At least this will really dry my hands
As I turned my body ever so slightly,
it must have changed the the direction of the air flow in the small room.
Did I mention that I really dislike hot air dryers?
The air flow changed just enough to catch my visitor's pass,
creating an air foil that caused it to go air born,
until it reached an elevation where the visitor's pass
took a nose dive directly into the toilet bowl.
Now mind you, if I had been aboard an airplane,
an aquatic landing would have been a welcome alternative.
Not so much in this scenario.
There lay my passport to freedom,
in a recently flushed,
but not-so-fresh bowl of toilet water.
I considered whether to curse or cry.
I opted to cry,
at least on the inside.
Throw in a good measure of panic as well.
I did what any lover of freedom would do.....
I fished my passport to the outside world
out of the drink.
I opted not to try to re-wash my hands
as it seemed a pointless task.
As I child,
I am sure that I had more than one shameful miss in the bathroom
this seemed bigger.
As I opened the bathroom door,
I seemed to attract the attention of everyone in the waiting area.
I reluctantly lifted my eyes to meet the guard's eyes
I had an accident
I do believe I recall using that same line with my mother as a child.
This was not one of my shining moments.
I wasn't sure how to interpret the look on the guard's face,
but he either wanted to laugh directly at me
or rush to his lunch break to share the best prison story of the year.
After a painful few seconds of uncomfortable silence,
Would you like a zip-lock bag.?
If a thin sheeting of plastic
was my passageway to freedom,
I would love a zip-lock bag.
Have you ever tried to insert a wet piece of paper
into a zip-lock bag??
It ain't easy.
It wasn't pretty,
but I got it in there.
And yes, I had a second trip to the lavatory to wash my hands again.
Sometimes paper is more than just paper.
A marriage license speaks commitment.
A visitor's pass ensures passage to freedom.
There is another pass to freedom.
Scripture calls it the Book of Life.
It is mentioned particulalrly in the book of Revelation.
It contains the names of those who confess faith in Christ.
John speaks of it as containing the names of those who overcome the world.
They are those who pass through the soiled situations of life
and come to heaven's gates with the name of Jesus on their lips,
the name that cleanses away all our soiledness.
Along the way, each of us finds ourselves in messy situations,
situations which seek to rob us of our path to freedom.
As we journey through Lent,
as we encounter tribulations and temptations,
don't let the enemy rob you of your pass to freedom.
You might need a zip-lock bag,
but with Jesus,
He guarantees that it is airtight.
To the one that overcomes shall thus be clothed
in white garments, and I will not erase that one's name
from the book of life,
and I will confess his name before My Father,
and before His angels. Rev 3:5
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Sounding like a Psalmist, Bono sings out, "I was born. I was born to sing for you."
Our church will be focusing on passionate worship this Sunday as part of our Lenten focus of "The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations." This song gets at the heart of why we come together each week to magnify the Magnificent.
Here are the lyrics and the song, "Magnificent" performed by U2 on David Letterman last night from their new album, "No Line on the Horizon."
"Magnificent, Magnificent! I was born...I was born to be with you. In this space and time...After that and ever after I haven't had a clue. Only to break rhyme. This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue.
Only love, only love can leave such a mark. But only love, only love can heal such a scar.
I was born. I was born to sing for you. I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up. And sing whatever song you wanted me to. I give you back my voice. From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise…
Only love, only love can leave such a mark. But only love, only love can heal such a scar.
Justified till we die, you and I will magnify...The Magnificent. Magnificent. Only love, only love can leave such a mark. But only love, only love unites our hearts. Justified till we die, you and I will magnify The Magnificent...Magnificent...Magnificent."