Defying Gravity and Loving Your Enemies

Sunday’s Scriptures ~ II Chronicles 15:1-12 and Jonah 4:1-11.

This week Andrew and I will ‘swap pulpits’ for our 11 o’clock worship services. Andrew will preach at Tuskawilla UMC and I will preach at Azalea Park following TUMC’s 8:30am Morningsong Service.

It has always been important to Andrew and me for our congregations to know both of us. Our congregations do not see both of us together regularly and we want you to know that both of us care for you, pray for you, and are grateful that you smile at our shenanigans…

Well, that you smile at our shenanigans…most of the time…

This week I am in awe of watching God’s people at work. Both of our churches hosted Trunk or Treats last week. It is an incredible sight to watch the church rally together around an event to serve our community. Smiles donned faces. Laughter filled the air. New connections were made. A broad sense of welcome was shared. Thank you, Church, for all your incredible service and hospitality.

This past Wednesday a college student made his way to the church, seeking counsel and direction. I was engaged in Bible Study when he arrived – and you know what – all was well. Again, the church – the Body of Christ present – rallied around this young man. Prayers were offered. Hands were held. Contact information was exchanged. And I imagine a young man who walked in the Sanctuary with his face downcast left with his head a little higher, his back a little straighter. This folks! This is what it means to be the Body of Christ. This is what it means to take on the posture of the Good Samaritan – to stop and serve a neighbor in need along any and every road in life.

And! even more telling – I was not the one to initiate or facilitate either of these encounters – neither Trunk or Treat or holding the space of grace for this college student. The Body of Christ – you – the church – stepped up and stepped into these valuable leadership roles.

I am so so proud of you. I am so so grateful for you. Well done, good and faithful servants.

I look forward to worship on Sunday – to serve with the TUMC Family at Morningsong, to join the Azalea Park Family at 11am, and to hear about the fun you will have with Andrew at 11 o’clock at TUMC. Thank you for welcoming him in worship leadership on Sunday. See you soon, church family!

Prayer: “God forgave my sin in Jesus’ name. I’ve been born again in Jesus’ name. And in Jesus’ name I come to you to share his love as he told me to. He said, ‘Freely, freely, you have received. Freely, freely give. Go in my name and because you believe, others will know that I live.'”* Amen.

*”Freely, Freely,” The United Methodist Hymnal 389.

 

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Longing For Spring: Protestant Models of Intentional Community

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 61:1-11

This week I have had the incredible privilege to attend the Faith Forward Conference in Chicago.

Tangent – someone this week wanted to tell Illinois that it is Spring…this Florida girl wanted to tell Illinois that it is Summer!

Faith Forward focuses on re-imagining children and youth ministry through supporting efforts to reclaim these age-segmented and age-sequestered ministries back into the entire Body of Christ. Studies continue to show that our children and youth learn how to do this thing called faith in this thing called life by practicing it alongside loved ones and ones that love them in the same space. This does not mean that we need to abandon all age-level ministries; it does mean that the church needs to be intentional in crafting faith interactions and experiences that are inclusive of and will resonate with all God’s children, whether they are learning or teaching or learning through teaching.

Faith Forward believes this methodology of intentional teaching, learning, and faithing communities will lead to the renewal of the church. I believe this, too. This conference has so affirmed the work TUMC has begun and will continue through the help of our children and youth ministries to further integrate our children and youth into the life of the church through teaching, service, community, and prayer. And let’s face it, we all smile a bit brighter when we see children and youth in worshipping, serving, and praying with us – not because they are cute or because they say the darnedest things. We smile brighter because in our children and youth we see the church continuing.

Again and again we hear “children are the future of the church”. Wrong folks. Children are the present. How can we help them explore and craft and articulate their future with Christ? By being with them. By inviting them to be with us. By modeling the faith we love. By answering honestly the questions they ask – even if the answer is “I don’t know.” And if the answer is “I don’t know,” why not include with it, “but let’s find the answer together.”

This is the good news, friends. God has called us – all of us – young, old, folks of every hue, folks of every ability, folks of every education level, folks of every life experience, folks who wear stilettos, folks who wear flats, and folks who smile or even eye roll when someone else wears stilettos. Like Isaiah we are called “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of the vengeance of God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion – to give them a garland instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isa 61:1-3). By attending to this work, we will be renewed, our youth “will be renewed like the eagles,” and our church will be renewed.

I am committed to moving our faith forward. Not just for the sake of the future, but for the sake of the present.

Prayer: “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace! My gracious Master and my God assist me to proclaim and spread through all the earth abroad the honors of thy name. He speaks; and, listening to his voice, new life the dead receive, the mournful broken hearts rejoice. The humble poor believe.”* Amen.

*”O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 57.