Memorial Day Sunday Hymn Sing

Scripture ~ Psalm 72.

When I was a girl, Memorial Day signaled the start of summer. School would be out soon if it was not already. We would eat more meals of hamburgers and hotdogs from the grill. Long days of sunshine and riding bikes into the evening hours until the mosquitoes literally chased us inside were in my grasp.

Memorial Day took on a new meaning my senior year of high school. My brother, Charlie, enlisted in the United States Army and deployed to Kuwait. There he served as a fueler and he patrolled the oil lines headed into the war zone. I thought of and prayed for him every day he was away. I wanted to eat burgers and hot dogs with him on Memorial Day, not wish he was there…

My appreciation for Memorial Day deepened a great deal when we learned of the death of Andrew’s beloved Josh. I will never forget driving into the National Cemetery in Bushnell and seeing each grave decorated with an American Flag. Josh loved this country. He gave his life for it. Duty. Honor. Brotherhood. Those values were the foundation of his life.

When Andrew and I found out we would be parents – like many – we began discussing names. It was not until the day we learned that we would have a son that I looked at Andrew and said we should name him Joshua. I will never forget the way that Andrew‘s face lit up. I asked him if it would be painful for him to call our son Joshua and Andrew said no because he wants our son to hold dear all of the things that his beloved Josh held dear. And so when we look at our Joshua we remember his namesake. We remember duty, honor, brotherhood and sisterhood. We remember and we give thanks.

As you celebrate Memorial Day this coming week, I invite you to reflect on how the celebration of this holiday has changed for you. How has the meaning of this day deepened? Is there someone that God is calling you to connect with on this day? What values ground your life and how do they give shape to the service that you offer to your neighbors?

Prayer: “Almighty God, before whom stand the living and the dead, we your children, whose mortal life is but a hand’s breadth, give thanks to you:

For all those through whom you have blessed our pilgrimage, whose lives that have empowered us, whose influence is a healing grace, we lift up thankful hearts.

For the dear friends and family members whose faces we see no more, but whose love is with us for ever, we lift up thankful hearts.

For the teachers and companions of our childhood and youth, and for the members of our household of faith who worship you now in heaven, we lift up thankful hearts.

For those who sacrificed themselves, our brothers and sisters who have given their lives for the sake of others, we lift up thankful hearts.

That we may hold them all in continual remembrance, and ever think of them as with you in that city whose gates are not shut by day and where there is no night, we lift up thankful hearts.

That we may now be dedicated to working for a world where labor is rewarded, fear dispelled, and the nations made one, O Lord, save your people and bless your heritage. Day by day we magnify you, and worship your name, for ever and ever. Amen.”*

*”Memorial Day,” The United Methodist Book of Worship 440.

Join us in worship for one service at 11am this Sunday at Tuskawilla UMC. Our choir will lead us through a guided hymn sing celebrating American Hymn Writers.

 

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Church Behind the Scenes

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Acts 2:1-12.

Some years ago I heard this piece of truth: if your dreams do not scare you, then your dreams are not big enough.

I tend to avoid things that scare me: roller coasters, water chestnuts, flats on Sundays… so it is a bit counterintuitive for me to run towards and hold fast to something that scares me.

I am a planner. I do not like surprises. I like expectations – both what to expect and what is expected of me. While the unknown and the future holds a certain intrigue – a certain mystique – it scares me.

On Pentecost we celebrate the birth of the church – the day we received the gift of God’s Holy Spirit as well as the invitation to worship, gather, and serve as part of God’s dream that is both seen and unseen. As we are the church together God reveals more of God’s dream – God’s big, grace-filled, freeing, heart-capturing dream. We have the opportunity to take hold of God’s dream and very quickly it takes hold of us and draws us towards a future we cannot fully see but can fully trust.

It can be scary…but a relationship with God draws us into such a greater world. In God’s world we matter and what we do matters. Sometimes we can see how what we do fits into God’s larger dream. And sometimes we serve not knowing exactly how our offering fits into God’s big dream and so we trust that God uses our offerings to God’s good and God’s glory.

As scary as all of this is…God has so captured me that I cannot do anything but pursue God’s dream. I know some of the steps, but not all of them. And I continue walking. I continue trusting. I continue dreaming. And when I am scared I know I am not alone…and that I am right on track.

Prayer: “Wind who makes all winds that blow, gusts that bend the sapling low, gales that heave the sea in waves, stirrings in the mind’s deep caves: Aim your breath with steady power on your church, this day, this hour. Raise, renew the life we’ve lost, Spirit God of Pentecost.”* Amen.

*”Wind Who Makes All Winds That Blow,” The United Methodists Hymnal, 538.

 

The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss ~ Horton Hears A Who

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Romans 8:18-25.

One of my favorite moments of liturgy in our weekly 11 o’clock worship services is when I sit with the children of our church and sing Jesus Loves Me. They sing sweetly with smiles full of promise and hope. They sing confidently – even if they are still learning the words. I hear some pretty inventive and entertaining refrains from time to time! This is a beautiful ritual we share with the children of our church each week; it communicates that we value our children. Jesus loves them and so do we.

Recently I preached at Westminster Winter Park, which is the home of one of TUMC’s long time members named Grace. I always look forward to visiting with her and listening to stories of TUMC in the early days. She always asks how she can pray for the church. And she assures me that even though she is not able to attend as often anymore that our church is never far from her heart.

The day I preached the Westminster Tower Ringers – a chime choir – offered their spring concert in the worship service. I played bells and chimes during high school and college – Andrew and I met in that bell choir! – so those instruments and that music will always hold a very special place in my heart. Their final piece in worship that day was Jesus Loves Me.

The chime choir began chiming. Sitting in the midst of the congregation I listened as the music washed over us. As the sound of the chiming rose in the air, so did the quiet singing of the congregation. A congregation full of the Greatest Generation singing a song I am sure many of them learned as children – the same ages as those in the TUMC Family…

Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus love me. The Bible tells me so.

Romans 8:19 reads, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” We are God’s children for we have received God’s Spirit. And it is incumbent upon us to raise up the generations of God’s children – all of God’s children. We do so by speaking and singing God’s truth. That Jesus loves them – loves us. That Scripture is trustworthy and true. That by God’s gift of grace we are a part of God’s eternal promise.

Give thanks for God’s children in your life. And trust that whatever your age or ability that God can and does use you as part of God’s plan. The way you serve God may be changing…it may be different than it once was. However your service to God changes, ensure that you continue serving God! In doing so you offer encouragement and an example for all generations.

You reveal the presence of God’s children in creation. You reveal the presence of God’s children to one another.

You reveal the presence of God’s children to me.

Prayer: “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how he could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!”* Amen.

*”I Stand Amazed in the Presence,” The United Methodist Hymnal 371.

The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss ~ How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 19:1-10.

If you had the opportunity to eat lunch with Jesus, what would you discuss?

(*I would probably start with “why can’t we end sentences with prepositions!? I spent too much time devising a way to ask this question without ending the question with a preposition! … and then I would segue to a much deeper, more reflective topic… I hope!)

I asked this question on social media this week. The answers – like the song from my childhood Sunday School days – were deep and wide. Some wanted to know about certain biblical figures, teaching methods, and characters we meet in Scripture. Others said they would sit in the silence of the sacred moment to listen…hoping that moment would last a lifetime. Still others said they would ask Jesus what he wanted them to do next.

One person wondered if he would know Jesus was his lunch partner before the breaking of the bread!?

(I smiled…I like when bigger kids (*ahem* – adults) overhear the Children’s Moment.)

One response from my informal poll continues to linger with me – much like a word or phrase in the sacred listening of Scripture practiced in Lectio Divina. A friend – that said on the day we met, “you are a pastor and a girl; how cool is that!?” (And it is very cool, if I do say so myself!) wrote, “Did you ever think you wouldn’t do it?”

Did you ever think you wouldn’t do it?

When I first read this question, my mind immediately jumped to Jesus’ death and resurrection. But as I reflect on it further, I realize that Jesus could have backed out at any moment.

I tried; they didn’t follow, so I’m done… 

No…I do not feel like teaching today…

You want me to heal you!?…

Ummm no…I do not associate with folks like that…

Leave heaven for earth? For them? Now why would I want to go and do that?…

Ever thought about that?

No? Me neither.

(Thank you, Patricia.)

The Gospels share a common theme – Jesus’ pursuit of us in and because of love. There is no place he would not and did not go. There is not one thing he did not do. Folks heaped ridicule and scorn upon him until eventually they heaped Jesus up on the cross…

There was that moment in the garden where Jesus asked if the cup might be passed from him…it was the cup he shared – received and gave – again and again at countless meals throughout his life. If he passed that Gethsemane cup, how might that change the efficacy of all the other cups he shared in and because of love throughout his ministry – including the cup shared with wee Zacchaeus after he descended from the sycamore-fig tree?

If you had the opportunity to eat lunch with Jesus, what would you discuss? What cup would you receive from him? And what cup would you share?

Prayer: “As Christ breaks bread, and bids us share, each proud division ends. The love that made us, makes us one, and strangers now are friends, and strangers now are friends.”* Amen.

*”I Come With Joy,” The United Methodist Hymnal 617.

The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss ~ The Cat In The Hat

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Revelation 21:1-5.

The Warren Willis Camp in Fruitland Park will always be a special and holy place for me. It is the place I first received my call; God said “Follow me,” and I am continually amazed by where following God leads me.

The Maggie Brown Dock overlooks Lake Griffin. It is a weathered and wise structure bearing up generations of campers’ hopes and dreams, worries and confessions. The dock is an incredible place to watch the sunrise. The way the colors dance across the sky is truly incredible.

My friend Malinda Rains is a talented artist across a number of mediums – including Taylor Swift dance moves! She snapped a photo one morning of the sunrise from the dock. It captured the colors in the sky as the backdrop to the camp cross that floats in the lake. Adjacent to the cross was a fishing boat and a fisherman attending to his work. Upon seeing her photo I commissioned this watercolor from Malinda.

IMG_2003

(Upon receiving the watercolor, I commissioned the frame from Andrew!)

When I think of New Creation, Malinda’s image – first painted by God’s own hand – comes to mind. The night has passed and the day lies open before me. Light breaks and embraces me. And I am called to serve – to attend to the responsibilities God places before me – keeping always near the cross.

“And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people’” (Mt 4:19).

Today. Tomorrow.

Always.

What is your image of New Creation? How does it inspire you to attend to the responsibilities God places before you? Share your thoughts with a family member or friend. I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday.

Prayer: “There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody; there’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me. From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”* Amen.

*“Hymn of Promise,” The United Methodists Hymnal 707.

 

 

The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss ~ The Butter Battle Book

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Corinthians 13:4-8a, 13.

Joshua is teething. Our wonderfully content little man…is now a wonderfully cranky little man. Poor guy. It is true what they say – it is good that babies are the ones that teeth and that they (we) forget the pain. Adults could not endure it.

Watching Joshua teethe, attempting to soothe him, or listening as he gives Andrew a piece of his mind about teething during the late night hours is hard. It is hard to watch and attempt to soothe and listen to someone you love experience pain.

We rock Joshua. We sing to him. We offer him a cold teething ring. We assure him that the pain will pass. We offer him something to eat and, when necessary, pain reliever. He is not left alone in his pain. Our nearness assures him that we see, we know, and we walk alongside. Our nearness communicates our commitment to him. Our nearness and our presence in his pain – not to increase it but to comfort him in hopes of alleviating the pain – is an expression of our love.

Our world is full of all sorts of pain. And sadly there are many in this world that sit alone in their pain – some through self-selection and others that have sought listening ears and warm hearts and found only cold shoulders. I am convinced that their pain – our pain – would be surely eased and well on its way to being healed by giving and receiving the gift of nearness, which entails both companionship and compassion.

Sometimes when we see a loved one in pain, we can fix the situation. Andrew or I can offer Joshua a teether and that does the trick! But other times we cannot fix the pain; it is either beyond our capacity to fix or it is not our role to fix. No matter the circumstance, what we can do – and it is hard! – is show our loved one empathy by sitting with them in their pain. The intent of sitting with them is not to further exacerbate their pain but to acknowledge that it is real, and, that if it is a concern for their heart, then it is a concern for ours, too.

Pain, and often the shame that accompanies it, intensifies when we feel we are all alone, which is why the Apostle Paul calls our attention to “a more excellent way” – which is the way of love expressed through companionship and compassion. This is the love that we receive from God because God first loved us. This is the love that bears all things, believes all things, and hopes all things. This is the love that never fails. This is the love that never ends.

When was a time someone showed you empathy? How did that nearness comfort you and heal your pain? Who is God placing on your heart to connect with this week? How might sharing God’s gift of nearness alter their circumstances for the better?

Prayer: “Your love, O God, has called us here, for all love finds its source in you, the perfect love that casts out fear, the love that Christ makes ever new.”* Amen.

*“Your Love, O God, Has Called Us Here,” The United Methodist Hymnal 647.

The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss ~ The Sneetches

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Galatians 3:23-29.

The film Hidden Figures tells the powerful story of black female compute-ers that were integral to the United States’ success in the 1960s Space Race. Two of the most impactful scenes in this film for me feature bathrooms.

You read that right – bathrooms.

In the first scene, Katherine Goble, recently assigned to NASA’s Space Task Group, stands soaking wet in the middle of the Space Task Group’s Command Center – the lone black woman surrounded by white men, including her supervisor, Al Harrison – and defends why she is away from her desk forty minutes a day. Cold and embarrassed with her mascara running because of the rain and her anger, she responds, “There is no bathroom for me here. There are no colored bathrooms in this building or anywhere outside the West Campus, which is half a mile away. Did you know that? I have to walk to Timbuktu just to relieve myself…so excuse me if I have to go to the restroom a few times a day.”

The scene ends with Al Harrison breaking the Colored Restroom Sign off the wall on the West Campus with a crowbar and telling Katherine, “Use whatever bathroom you want, preferably one closer to your desk.”

In the second scene, Dorothy Vaughn finds herself in the women’s restroom – not white restroom or colored restroom just the women’s restroom – with Vivian Mitchell. Dorothy, a black woman, functions as the supervisor for the West Campus compute-ers without the title or the pay while Vivian, a white woman, is the supervisor of the East Campus compute-ers with all the rights and benefits that entails. Earlier in the film viewers see inside the Colored Restroom – dismal and gray, lacking in essential supplies like soap and paper towels – whereas the White restroom is rosy, warm, stocked and sparkling. Dorothy pauses, not taking for granted that there is soap in the dispenser and paper towels awaiting her use. Vivian comes toward a sink and her eyes lock on Dorothy’s. Vivian says, “Despite what you think, I don’t have anything against y’all,” meaning persons of color. Dorothy, without missing a beat, responds, “I know you probably believe that” and exits the restroom.

Scene One communicates the message that we are all one.

Scene Two asks if we really are all one…do we say it, believe it, and act it or do we say it but believe and act otherwise?

This week in worship we will study Paul’s words to the Galatians that affirm, “For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26 and 28). We will explore what it means for us to all be one, especially in light of the challenges that seek to chip away at the unity God desires us share, through the lens of Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches. I look forward to worshipping with you. 

Prayer: “In Christ shall true hearts everywhere their high communion find; his service is the golden cord close binding humankind.”* Amen.

*”In Christ There Is No East Or West,” The United Methodist Hymnal 548.