You Might Be A Christian If…You Think There Is A Guy In Your Food

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Corinthians 11:23-27.

Andrew and I love to eat. We especially love to eat when we travel because eating is a way to truly get to know a people and culture. When given the option, we like to eat “off the beaten path…” and I would not be surprised if some of our eating “off the beaten path” was actually eating “from the beaten path.”

As my father-in-law says, “It is all protein, after all…”

That.it.is.

One night while on our trip to Nepal our hosts cooked us dinner. Kyle decided to make spaghetti with his special ingredient. Being that we were in a country that marked every meal with curry, Andrew and I anticipated some curry-spaghetti mash-up.

Oh how wrong we were.

The noodles arrived on the table. Next to the noodles sat the pot full of deep, dark sauce. I was accustomed to spaghetti sauce being “fire engine” red; this sauce was much more mahogany in color.

We fixed our plates, adding liberal portions of the sauce to our noodles. Andrew and I twirled our noodles around our forks. “Get ready!” Kyle prepared us! “Guess my secret ingredient!”

*chomp…chew…ch…ew…c…hew*

I looked at Andrew. And he looked at me. His eyes started to water. And I started to giggle, mouth full of mahogany-sauce covered noodles.

Y’all…it was cinnamon!

Cinnamon!

Cinnamon spaghetti sauce!

That was definitely a first. (and only!)

We were certainly surprised at that meal. And we ate the portion on our plates much as we had at other occasions of interesting meals. Because our hosts prepared with us in mind. And I believe they prepared their best because they had us in mind.

I believe that when Jesus prepares his Table for us that he prepares his best because he has us in mind. And because he wants the best for us he hopes that we come to the table prepared. He hopes that we come to the table having made confession of our sin and having reconciled with any sister or brother we wronged. He hopes that we come to the table wanting and expecting to be changed. He hopes that long after the taste of the bread and juice have faded that we act and advocate and sing and serve as if we have just received the gift of the sacrament.

Jesus hopes we are surprised by what we experience at the table. Jesus hopes we are surprised by where the table leads us.

I look forward to gathering with you at Christ’s Table this week. I pray that you come to the table encouraged and expectant – encouraged by the love of our Savior and expectant for what his love will invite you to do.

Prayer: “Lord, you make the common holy: “This my body, this my blood.” Let us all, for earth’s true glory, daily lift life heavenward, asking that the world around us share your children’s liberty. With the Spirit’s gifts empower us for the work of ministry.”* Amen.

*”Lord, You Give The Great Commission,” The United Methodist Hymnal 584.

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You Might Be A Christian If…You Are Kind of Weird At Math

Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 1:1-5, 10-18 and 16:4b-15.

To quote the redoubtable Samantha Aupperlee, “Math is hard.”

True words, dear Samantha. True words.

I have had the privilege of knowing Samantha for six years. We met one another through the Young Adult Missional Movement, a ministry of the Florida Annual Conference. She was appointed to Tuskawilla UMC to serve as the church’s intern. And saying she (we) faced some hard circumstances in that first year together is an understatement.

What we really faced? Shenanigans.

Samantha never shied away from a difficult circumstance – from math or any other ‘opportunity’ where we did not see an obvious solution. Where others (where I!) saw broken bridges, Samantha always saw a chance to rebuild or to forage a new way. Samantha is calm and confident. Though she was not always eager to go along with my crazy schemes – like the day I seatbelted her into the front seat of my car with Easter Lilies when she can.not.stand. the smell of said Easter Lilies – she was and remains a faithful partner in ministry.

Recently I attended a leadership conference and one of the speakers – a former FBI hostage negotiator – who said church leadership conferences were not interesting!? –  said that humans are disposed to one of three responses when we encounter conflict: fight, flight, or make friends. I am quite familiar with the first two: Fight – take on the conflict with the hope of being victorious. Sometimes the victory is winning; other times the victory is achieving a mutual resolution. Flight – avoiding the conflict all together, a “do not pass go, do not collect $200” scenario. But the third was new to me. Make friends – curious. Very curious indeed.

Curiosity about a conflict is the first step in making friends with it. Investigate it. Get to know it. Ask questions of it. Seek to understand it. And then seek to understand yourself in association or relationship with it. Making friends with a conflict or hardship resonates on a different level with me than fighting a conflict because making friends necessarily begins from a place of peace – of hoping for the best in a person/situation, for a person/situation, for the duration of our cooperation together.

When I think back on Samantha, making friends is truly at her heart. Even when something is hard, Samantha, you seek to make friends.

You are brilliant, you know that?

When you encounter hardship or conflict or even a shenanigan – what is your response? Do you fight, flight, or make friends? How can curiosity become a tool for you to alter how you respond to future hardships, conflicts, and shenanigans? Share your answers with a friend this week. I look forward to worshipping with you on Sunday!

Prayer: “Crown him the Lord of love; behold his hands and side, those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified. All hail, Redeemer, hail! For thou hast died for me; thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.”* Amen.

*“Crown Him With Many Crowns,” The United Methodist Hymnal 327.

You Might Be A Christian If…Your Theological Vocabulary Includes Whoopsie

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 15:11-23.

I recently finished reading Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan. In this book she explores twelve words and phrases she believes 1) are the hardest and most potent words to say and 2) every adult needs – and therefore, should learn – to incorporate into their/our vocabulary.

It is one of the more brutally real and honest books I have read in quite sometime. Some moments I literally laughed.out.loud. Other moments I quietly welcomed tears as they streamed down my face.

Thank you, Kelly, for your gift of words about these twelve words and phrases.

Her last chapter is a beautifully written letter to her friend, Liz, sometime after Liz’s death. Kelly assures Liz that her family is not forgotten. Kelly reports that she, her husband, and their girls make regular contact with Liz’s Andy and their three children, Gwen, Margo, and Dru. Kelly recalls a recent ski trip. After a morning on the slopes she is laying on the couch in her thermals by the fire trying to get warm. Music is playing in the background. Seeing Margo, Kelly extends her arm towards her best friend’s daughter. Time seems to still as Margo and Kelly’s heartbeats sync to the music. “I held her for you,” Kelly wrote to Liz, “for as long as she would let me. Two songs at least. Then Margo announced it was time to make brownies and she was gone. It was sublime” (Tell Me More 200-202).

The phrase I held her for you lingers with me. In it there is aching and longing both for everything more and everything lost. That statement is so bitterly sweet – bitter because Kelly held her friend’s daughter because cancer prematurely moved Liz from this side of eternity to the next – sweet because even in the messiness that is grief and death and unanswered whys Kelly was not shy. She faced the loss, heartbreak, anger, and grief head on. And Kelly held on…she held on to such a degree that she and Margo’s hearts beat as one.

Recall a time that someone held you. Then recall a time you held someone. What were the circumstances? What aching or longing did that holding help relieve and (hopefully) heal? What did you have to face – what did you have to overcome – to hold or be held in that moment? Find time this week to share your answers with someone you trust. Find time this week to be trusted with someone’s answers.

Hold someone. Be held by someone. Fearlessly enter the troubled messy waters of this life. Get so near to someone that your heartbeats sync. Behold the image of Christ in them. And may that experience linger with you – with us! – that we may be more compassionate, more vulnerable, and more generous in both our listening with and responding in grace.

Prayer: “Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit into every troubled breast! Let us all in thee inherit; let us find that second rest. Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be; end of faith, as its beginning, set our hearts at liberty.”* Amen.

*”Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” The United Methodist Hymnal 384.

 

You Might Be A Christian If…You Are Related To More People Than Kevin Bacon

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Hebrews 12:1-2.

Jean Arthur is a hero of the faith to me. She entered into glory on July 25, 2019. Her family lovingly walked with her to the threshold on this side of eternity and – I am certain – her beloved Corky met her – arms open wide – to guide her across to the other.

I can only imagine that sweet reunion. That sort of reunion awaits us all because of Christ’s gift in resurrection.

Jean – I called her Miss Jean – was the matriarch of a five-generation family at Tuskawilla UMC, where I served before coming to South Shore. Jean and many of her family – children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren! – would join her on the second row of the left center section near the main aisle of the Sanctuary each week for worship. Jean always sat nearest the aisle. It may have been for ease of access to her walker on Communion Sundays. It may have been because she wanted an unobstructed path to excuse herself during the service.

Sometimes she whispered her excuses…other times she thought she whispered her excuses…

I think Miss Jean sat on the aisle so she would have a front row seat to the Children’s Moment. The children of the church sat with me on the steps of the chancel as we shared a moment together each Sunday. In time, Joshua joined us. He is known as Hue to Miss Jean’s family. And Hue would usually be snug in Ashley’s arms – one of Miss Jean’s great granddaughters.

One of her babies was the earliest caregiver for my baby…that is a bond our families will always share.

Miss Jean often told tell me stories about growing up. I am known for some pretty outlandish footwear and Miss Jean’s father owned a department store with quite a shoe selection in the Midwest. She often told me about her husband, Corky, coming to Florida ahead of the rest of the family. She warned him and their daughter, Louise, about finding a church without her… “And you know what!? They did! I got here and they had made the decision…good thing I liked this place…” talking about Tuskawilla UMC. Miss Jean often told me stories about how Corky followed his heart, and how following his heart always affirmed his faith in God and answered a need in the community. Miss Jean’s family is committed to ending childhood hunger through partnering with local schools to send weekend food bags home throughout the school year. A vision that was first seen by Corky and Jean is now a reality for students at nine elementary and high schools across Seminole County.

Miss Jean was humble and astute. You never had to guess her opinion. She loved fiercely and was a model encourager. She trusted God.

She exampled for me what it means to live the assurance “it is well with my soul.”

Miss Jean, I am grateful you liked the place known as Tuskawilla UMC. I am grateful to have been appointed there and to have had the privilege of serving as your pastor for five years. I am grateful that my family is considered part of your family, even when Harry calls me Molly, and especially when I have the privilege to mentor your sweet Ashley.

I feel like an honorary lucky ducker.

I miss you. I celebrate that you are no longer in pain and that you are once again holding hands with Corky. I trust God will continue to put your faithful hands to work as you serve alongside the great cloud of witnesses.

Well done, good and faithful servant. I love you, Miss Jean. Always.

Prayer: “The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures; he will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.”* Amen.

*”Amazing Grace,” The United Methodist Hymnal 378.