The Three Wise (Wo)Men

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 2:1-11.

A couple months ago I shared an evening meeting with a family from the church and I admit my attire was quite casual. As we concluded our time together one member of the family stopped to study my shirt – a teal t-shirt emblazoned with a silhouette of the state of Florida and the words nevertheless she preached.

Nevertheless she preached…always up to something, aren’t you!?”

Yes. Yes, I am.

Students of Scripture know that women are not always cast in the best light in our sacred text; therefore, I cling to the moments that women are in fair light and seek the moments of hope and redemption for our Scripture sisters awaiting transformation.

Women were among the first to dance and sing of God’s deliverance through the Red Sea.

Women were the first witnesses to the resurrection.

Women were among and traveled with Jesus and his disciples.

Were women among the magi?

Were women…magi?

We have a tradition of three kings – king referring to male figures – because of the three gifts provided to the Christ child – gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And yet…

There could have been more gifts. There could have been more kings. Kings could have been a collective noun to group together male and female royalty.

There could have been women among the magi.

There could have been women magi!

I believe these imaginings are valid and worthy. Girls and women have a valuable place in this world. God created Eve alongside Adam. Women and men together have walked and weathered and wondered the journey of faith with God from the very beginning.

The worship of Jesus by the shepherds symbolizes the Jews worshipping God’s Son. The worship of Jesus by the magi symbolizes the Gentiles worshipping God’s Son. The Savior of the world is not just for some; the Savior of the world is for all. And imagining the presence of women worshipping Jesus in his nativity sends a powerful message of inclusion of the continuous presence of women in our narrative of faith.

“On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage…and having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road” (Mt 2:11a and 12). I trust the magi left praising and dancing. Upon returning to their homeland, I trust the magi witnessed to what they experienced and who they worshipped.

I trust that women were among the magi…that women were magi…and that nevertheless she (they) preached. From the Garden – from the Red Sea – from Jesus’ nativity – from the empty tomb – from today – for always.

Prayer: “O God, you made of one blood all nations, and, by a star in the East, revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel. Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches that all may come to his light and bow before the brightness of his rising, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.”*

*“Epiphany,” The United Methodist Hymnal 255.

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Gifts

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ephesians 3:18-21.

This week the TUMC Family welcomes Rev. Kate Ling in worship leadership for our one Sunday worship service at 11am. She will share a message on gifts and a gallery will be on display before and after worship. You will inspired and encouraged by this worship service.

As I study this Sunday’s text, God continues to bring me back to the word power:

  • I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit (v. 16). 
  • I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (v. 18 and 19).
  • Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine (v. 20).

The Greek word used here is dunamis. Dunamis refers to inherent power that equips a person to perform miracles and the power that perfects the excellence of the soul. The definition of this Greek word reveals that this sort of power is immensely valuable; a person that has it is afforded the influence that generally accompanies riches, wealth, and military prowess.

This power is God-gifted. We receive it upon making a faith claim in Jesus Christ, after which we are filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the power that enabled to disciples to join Jesus in performing miracles. This is the power that gave birth to the Church at Pentecost. This is the power that convicts us of our sin and convinces us of the abundance of God’s grace. This is the power that we each live out – uniquely and personally – through our passions and gifts as we serve God in this world.

I believe this power – this God-gifted power – awakens us to our true selves – to the selves that God created us to be and the selves that we have the privilege of pursuing throughout our lifetime.

We do not want to neglect this gift because with it and through it, God will use us to build God’s Kingdom and increase God’s peace.

Thank you, Pastor Kate, for your worship leadership this week! I treasure you as a true gift and friend in my life.

Prayer: “This star drew nigh to the northwest, o’er Bethlehem it took its rest; and there it did both stop and stay, right over the place where Jesus lay. Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel.”* Amen.

*”The First Noel,” The United Methodist Hymnal 245.

Dawn

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 1:26-38.

I am not really an early bird and I am definitely not a night owl. In fact, I recently learned that I wear a certain facial expression in the mornings when I am ready to interact with people! Before then, I am told my gaze is rather intense…

So not an early bird…and not a night owl…I am solidly a “progressively tired pigeon.” Yes. That is me to a T.

That being said, Joshua has encouraged my being a morning person. In our early months together he considered “sleeping in” to be 4:27am. Thankfully he is a much better sleeper these days; now I get up early in order to get work done when it is quiet and to organize myself for the day ahead.

Whether I am sitting on the couch or at our breakfast table I have the opportunity to watch light flood the landscape as dawn breaks.

I have watched dawn break in some remarkable places:

  • across the waters of Lake Griffin at the Warren Willis Camp
  • across the Atlantic at Cape Canavral Shores
  • across the Pacific in Wahiawa, Hawaii
  • across the Galilee in Tiberius, Israel
  • across the Himalayas in Pokhara, Nepal

In each context the pattern holds:

  • there is darkness
  • the color begins to shift and shadows begin to recede
  • rays reaching out from the sun extend to embrace me where I stand
  • the light makes visible what was once obscured or hidden
  • the light brings hope, reveals potential, and welcomes the promise of the new day

A couple years ago Bob and Debbie Spitzer gifted Andrew and me a beautiful Thomas Kinkade painting that captures dawn breaking in the mountains. They hoped it would remind us of our adventures in Nepal. It does. It also remind us of God’s promise found in Lamentations 3, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (vv. 22-23).

Christ’s Dawn awaits us as we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve in the coming week. The gift of the incarnation is the greatest expression of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness we will ever know. May the light of Christ’s Dawn shine in your life, affirming God’s love for you and your place in God’s Kingdom.

I look forward to worshipping with you

Sunday, December 23 at 8:30am Morningsong or 11am Traditional Worship with Christmas Brass.

Christmas Eve Monday, December 24 at 6:30pm – Carols, Candlelight, and Communion

Prayer: “Send, O God, into the darkness of this troubled world, the light of your Son. Let the star of your hope touch the minds of all people with the bright beams of mercy and truth; and so direct our steps that we may ever walk in the way revealed to us, as the shepherds of Bethlehem walked with joy to the manger where he dwelled, who now and ever reigns in our hearts, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”*

*The United Methodist Book of Worship 278.

Declare

This Weekend’s Scripture ~ Luke 2:15-20.

A couple years ago I had the privilege to attend the Trans-Siberian Orchestra Concert with Andrew and six very dear friends. What an experience! Lights – sounds – huge screen projections – incredible musicianship – and indoor pyrotechnics. Incredible!

Their show began with their story called The Ghosts of Christmas Eve. It tells the tale of a young girl that finds sanctuary on Christmas Eve in an old theater. The ghosts draw her into their past experiences as their way of meeting her where she is, offering her comfort, and preparing to send her on her way home for Christmas.

(And then later on a dragon appeared…)

The Ghosts of Christmas Eve included suspenseful and delightful moments. Through an amazing cacophony of sound – and so much sensory engagement one could easily slip into overload – clear voices sang through with hope.

Hope for reunification. Hope for forgiveness. Hope for coming home.

Songs of hope that began with these words so long ago…”Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (Lk 2:14)!

Christ’s nativity was suspenseful and delightful. Christ’s nativity is our gateway to reunification, forgiveness, and coming home – with God and neighbor.

That is my wish for you this Christmas. Admire and enjoy the spectacle, but do not miss the true meaning and purpose of Christmas in the sights and sounds. God meets us in the world – in the flesh – and offers us sanctuary. Christ came into a world that did not want him and equally ached for him. That environment of 2000 years ago describes us still today.

We need this Jesus. We need our Christ to forgive and to teach us to forgive. Jesus brings us together. Jesus journeys with us home to God.

This Sunday our choir will lead us in worship as they declare our Savior’s birth as they offer Jesus! The Advent of the Messiah at our 11am Worship Service. Join us for this special time of worship and song.

Prayer: “Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go, tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born. Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born, and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn. Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go, tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.”* Amen.

*“Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” The United Methodist Hymnal 251.

 

Dimiss

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 1:18-25

This week while watching coverage celebrating the life and service of George H. W. Bush I heard him say in an earlier interview, “I have banned the use of the ‘L’ word.” What word was that? Legacy. He banned the use of the word legacy.

The 41st President continued, “I would like someone else to define the legacy…I think history will…point out the things I got wrong, and perhaps some of the things we did right.”

Your words ring true, Mr. President. Well done, good and faithful servant.

Our Scripture text for this week is the defining moment in Joseph’s legacy. Will he pursue betrothal to Mary to marriage or will he dismiss her quietly? Although the text does not lift the veil, we can sense the psychological turmoil Joseph endures. On the line are his reputation, his place in the community, his chances for another relationship, and his faith. The same things are on the line for Mary…add “her life” also to that list.

We do not hear from Joseph again much after Jesus’ nativity. He decides to enter marriage with Mary. He welcomes and names Jesus. He witnesses as the magi worship the Christ Child and then shepherds his family to Egypt seeking refuge from Herod. Joseph’s legacy is that of a caregiver and provider. He stood at the fork in the road between being right and being kind – and he chose kindness.

History points out that Joseph got this one right. When we find ourselves at the same fork in the road, may we also choose as Joseph did.

Prayer: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”* Amen.

*“O Little Town of Bethlehem,” The United Methodist Hymnal 230.

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.

 

 

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/