Direct

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 1:76-80.

“The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter.”

The same can be said of conducting batons.

As a sacred music major Andrew took Conducting as a graduation requirement. He and his classmates received their batons and – ahhhhh – it was time to make music. Or at least direct it.

Conducting students rotated through the concert chorale, orchestra, and wind ensemble to practice their skills. Some displayed great confidence. Others were like musical deer under stage headlights. I do not blame them – some of those wind ensemble scores have upwards of twenty notated instrument parts to read and lead at once!

It is the conductor’s responsibility to direct every part. But the full weight of responsibility is not on the conductor. It is the musician’s responsibility to pay attention.

There were many a rehearsal that conductors throughout my life – orchestra, choir, handbells – asked, reminded, sometimes pleaded that the musicians would look up! “I will help you, I will bring you in, I will give you each note, each moment of movement. Just look up!”

How true that is for the life of faith as well. If we look up – or more specifically if we look to the people and teachings God places in our lives for help and guidance – we will find God ready and eager to help us. God will bring us in, alongside, and through; God will give us each moment of movement.

We do not have to go it alone. That is the gift of Emmanuel. God is with us – always.

I trust God in each entrance. I trust God in each exit. And I trust God in strengthening my commitment to pay attention.

Join us in worship on Sunday for the First Sunday of Advent. We will light the Advent Candle Wreath and begin singing carols of the season as we prepare our hearts for our Savior’s birth. See you Sunday!

Prayer: “O come, thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nigh; to us the path of knowledge show and cause us in her ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”* Amen.

*”O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” The United Methodist Hymnal 211.

 

 

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Loves, Freed, Made

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Revelation 1:4b-8.

On Thanksgiving Week much of our attention is focused on nourishment – nourishing our bodies with delicious food and nourishing our hearts with hugs and hearty conversations with loved ones.

I often turn to the beautiful words of Rev. Jan Richardson to nourish my spirit when I am feeling dry or in need of a thoughtful pause. I met Jan on a retreat in the Fall of 2010. Her gaze has a way of embracing your whole person that is both a comfort and a calling. People feel at ease around Jan – free to be themselves. I would also say people feel a calling around Jan. The way God uses her to draw people to reflection and discernment of what is next – both their next depth of being and towards their deepening relationship with God.

And so on this week of nourishment, I turn to Jan for this wholesome word. May it be a blessing to you, my friends and fellow servants.

— — —

“Come, you who are blessed,” Jesus says; “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:35-36).

 

You Who Bless by Jan Richardson

 

You who are yourselves a blessing

who know that to feed the hungering is to bless

and to give drink to those who thirst is to bless

who know the blessing in welcoming the stranger

and giving clothes to those who have none

who know to care for the sick is blessing

and blessing to visit the prisoner:

may the blessing you have offered now turn itself toward you

to welcome and to embrace you at the feast of the blessed.*

Amen.

http://paintedprayerbook.com/2011/11/15/you-who-bless/

 

Scripture – Story – Song

Sunday’s Scriptures ~ Genesis 1:29-31a; Job 1:13-22; Job 38:4; Psalm 100; II Peter 3:9; and II Samuel 7:18-22

During the month of November I make an annual practice of keeping a daily gratitude journal. With the advent of social media I am able to see entries to my journal from years past; those entries jettison me to fond moments of laughter and degrees of frivolity. Last week I read an entry about gratitude for completing a dumpster-diving project, which contained comments and concerns for my swift exit from the dumpster.

(I am happy to report I have not been dumpster-diving…recently…)

I find that it is easy to give way to the negativity that surrounds us on a daily basis. Criticism without action to create better situations and improved circumstances as well as pervasive divisiveness are grave temptations.

Friends, we need one another. We do. Our united giftings and offerings guided in application and investment by the Holy Spirit help reveal the Kingdom of God. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth,

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it (I Corinthians 12:12-26). 

When I set about writing my daily gratitude entry I begin by answering the question, “What brings or brought me joy today?” and then the answers flow with ease. As we approach Thanksgiving – an annual celebration of our abundant blessings and gratitude – I am all the more mindful of all the joy in my life due to God and my sisters and brothers in Christ.

Will you join me in keeping a daily gratitude journal through the end of the November? We have much for which to be grateful. Our God is so good to us. Therefore, let us be good to and do good for one another.

Join this Sunday for a special service of worship through Scripture – Story – and Song – to help us express our gratitude to God for all God has done and continues to do in our lives!

Prayer: “To God be the glory! To God be the glory! To God be the glory for the things he has done. With his blood he has saved me. With his power he has raised me. To God be the glory for the things he has done!”* Amen.

*”My Tribute,” The United Methodist Hymnal 99.

 

We Honor Forever

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ecclesiasticus 45:1-15

Y’all know how I feel about Little Orange Friends. Someone said to me in small group this week, “We haven’t been [together in class] in two weeks; you look a whole lot better!”

I look a whole lot less orange!

We have three pumpkins still in our house – a faithful(?) remnant, if you will. One is for Andrew and Joshua to carve…eventually. The other two are small pumpkins sitting on the table in our kitchen nook. One is for Josh. The other is for Joshua.

Each year we purchase a pumpkin for Andrew’s dear brother Josh that died of complications related to congestive heart failure several years ago. For a couple years we took Josh’s pumpkin to his interment site at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. We have not been in two years…but that does not deter us from buying Josh a pumpkin and holding his memory close.

Each night I look on that pumpkin and then see its neighbor for our Joshua. Andrew continues to tell stories about Josh – some I have heard before and others that are brand new. These stories will continue. We want Joshua to know his namesake…and I am sure as Joshua creates his own mischief, stories yet to be told will emerge.

And I will cherish every story just as I cherish our sweet son.

Ecclesiasticus – also known as Sirach or Ben Sira – meaning son of Sira – is an Apocryphal Wisdom text. And Ecclesiasticus contains the gem of a scripture passage that we will share this week in worship as we honor – forever – the Veterans in our lives and church family. Our ‘sermon’ this week will be a media presentation from Veterans in our congregation sharing (1) their name and rank in their branch of service (2) how their faith shaped their military service and (3) how their military service shaped their faith.

I am grateful for the kind and generous sharing of our Veterans’ stories; your words are truly a gift to our congregation. Your sharing with us welcomes us into your legacy of service. And the contributions of your service shape our lives – because your service gave and gives us the life we have today.

Thank you, Veterans.

I hope you will join us in worship this week. And I invite you to thank and encourage all the Veterans in your life.

Prayer: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God our Creator, children all are we. Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow: to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally! Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”* Amen.

*“Let There Be Peace On Earth,” The United Methodist Hymnal 431