Dare to Dream: Your Burning Bush

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Exodus 3:1-10.

My home church is First United Methodist Church of Lakeland – ahhh Polk County! After receiving my call to serve God by serving the church at the age of eleven I shared my call with my Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Riley Short. From that time forward Riley encouraged me to pursue present opportunities to live into and live out my call.

One of those early opportunities was to lead the Children’s Moment during worship – an offering that I continue to look forward to each and every Sunday!

One Sunday (like this coming Sunday) my children’s sermon was based upon Moses at the burning bush. The children were invited forward to sit on riser steps leading up to the chancel. One of my favorites – a boy named Larry that always styled a spiked mohawk – the tips of said mohawk were usually electric blue – perched himself on the highest step. I began to tell the story of Moses at the burning bush and afterwards I asked the group of children, “What was so amazing about the burning bush?”

Larry hollered, “The bush was on fire!”

“Yes, that is right! And what else was amazing about the bush?”

Anticipating answers like, “And the bush did not burn up!” and “God spoke from the bush!” Larry hollered again, “And it was BLUE!”

Blue – the bush was the color blue. Thank you cinematic masterpiece The Prince of Egypt.

Larry’s response was one of pure innocence. It continues to remind me – even today – that our faith germinates from a place of innocence. A product of having faith – I hope! – is developing a deeper faith. And we all start somewhere.

And that somewhere is important. And that somewhere is worthy.

And that somewhere is holy.

That children’s moment was not the place for me to teach Larry the deeper, more profound, theological impact of God’s presence in the burning bush. That children’s moment was the place that Larry taught me about pausing to embrace the wonder of God and to notice how God surprises us.

And the surprise that day – God made the bush blue.

How has God surprised you recently? How did you appreciate that moment? How will you be on the lookout for God’s surprises in the future?

Prayer: “If our love were but more simple, we should rest upon God’s word; and our lives would be illumined by the presence of our Lord.”* Amen.

*”There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” The United Methodist Hymnal 121.

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The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss ~ The Zax

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 15:11-24.

Joshua Emory Andrew’s arrival ushered in numerous changes to my and Andrew’s life – and we would not have it any other way. For example, house cleaning now only occurs during morning naps. Eating now resembles the sport of juggling. And evenings spent reading theology books have been replaced with reading storybooks.

Become a parent – graduate back to books with pictures.

I consider that a win.

I am grateful for all of the books Joshua received from the showers celebrating his arrival. We have enjoyed reading so many already and I look forward to the days we can talk about what we read as a family. So many books draw their themes and main ideas from Scripture. They may not quote Scripture directly, but their lessons remind us of words and truths shared in the greatest story ever told.

This Sunday the Tuskawilla UMC Family begins a new sermon series inspired by some of the books on Joshua’s shelf, “The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss.” We will study the Parable of the Prodigal Child through the eyes of Seuss’ The Zax. Many of us know this parable well; I hope studying it alongside The Zax will deepen our knowledge and understandings in new ways.

And so as we start our six-week journey with Seuss, let us frame our adventure with words he would use,

Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never foget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off the Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!*

We hope you will join us in 11:00 Worship this Sunday to celebrate Joshua Emory Andrew’s baptism and to highlight your favorite Scripture verse in his Bible so as he begins learning the greatest story ever told, he will know you journey with him. If you will not be in worship this week, I welcome you to share your favorite Scripture passage with me to be highlighted in his Bible. A lite reception will follow worship in the Family Room.

Prayer: “High King of heaven, my victory won, May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”** Amen.

*“O The Places You’ll Go” – Dr. Seuss

**“Be Thou My Vision,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 451.

 

FAMILY ~ All Means All

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

She arrived on a wind from the East. Michael thought she was a witch. Jane knew better; witches fly on brooms, not with umbrellas.

Why is she here? Because the Banks’ children excel at nanny resignations. Their most recent conquest? Nanny resignation by following a kite.

The kite in Mary Poppins becomes a very powerful symbol. To Mr. Banks, father to Jane and Michael, the kite is a symbol of childishness and a need to grow up. To Michael, the kite is a symbol of playfulness and freedom, which are two qualities that are hard to come by in the Banks’ home. Within the walls of Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane children are not meant to be children, but little adults.

One day Mary Poppins announces the children will join their father on an outing to the bank where he works. The children nearly collapse of amazement because their father never takes them anywhere. When the children return to reality, sensitivity to their impending boredom arrives. Mary Poppins, in her wisdom, sweetens the deal, “Children, you could take a tuppence to feed the birds.”

Bird feeding is not on Mr. Banks’ agenda. Bird feeding is childish and wasteful spending of money. Guided by his father, and encouraged by his father’s coworkers, Michael hears, “Come, young man, grow up and be responsible. Invest your tuppence in the bank.” Nearly convinced to invest, Mr. Dawes, Sr. – the bank owner – abruptly takes the money from Michael’s hand, which angers Michael greatly. Michael’s determination to retrieve his money turns the bank into a zoo.

Mr. Banks’ job is now in jeopardy because of the tuppence fiasco. Heart and mind heavy with burden, Mr. Banks receives care from an unexpected place. Michael gives the fiasco-causing tuppence to his father as a sign of faith that it will help fix the situation at the bank, as a sign of belief in his father. Michael gives to his father – simply, beautifully – in a child-like way to help heal an adult-sized problem. This gift brings into focus the true adult-sized problem in Mr. Banks’ life – his desire to forcibly mature his children rather than support them and grow with them through relationship.

Mr. Banks puts down the tuppence and goes in search of Michael’s kite; he mends it so the family can fly it. The Banks’ growing and maturing in mutually beneficial ways – growing and maturing together – was of most importance. And they returned to this essential work by flying a kite.

//

When I read this passage from Paul, particularly the opening verses, I am struck by the image of growing in faith together. There are definitely lessons that are passed down from older generations to newer generations. There are definitely lessons that are passed up from newer generations to older generations. And there are definitely lessons that we all learn together.

In Christ we are all children of God. In faith we grow together…not so much into “adults” of God…but more so into “maturing” children of God. This maturing continues throughout our lives. It is not a forced maturation like what Mr. Banks wanted originally for his children. If our maturation in faith was forced, then we might rush through or all together disregard a lesson or time in our lives where we and our faith need time to explore and develop.

I worry when I encounter circumstances that pit mature faith against a child-like faith or picture a mature faith as superior to child-like faith. I believe we need both qualities present in our faith. As we mature in our relationship with Christ, as we mature in years, as we mature in our abilities to reason and research, we mature in our ability to argue, to defend, to question, and to prove. At times this ability to reason and research is helpful…and at other times all it does is make the waters more muddy. It is in these moments that our child-like faith serves us well to simply believe, rest, be at peace.

Simply be.

In Christ we are all children of God together. While each of us are at different places in our relationship with Christ, collectively we are all in relationship with Christ together. This is one of God’s mysteries – we are all in different places, but somehow all in the same place through community. This is a gift to us – to be with Christ as we are with one another – to learn, to play, to be challenged, to be supported, to mature in faith by growing in responsibility, and to mature in faith by flying a great number of kites.

Friends, let’s commit to doing this work – as God’s children – all of us.

Together.

Prayer: “One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless. And we, though many throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord. Gentile or Jew, servant or free, woman or man, no more. Many the gifts, many the works, one in the Lord of all. Grain for the fields, scattered and grown, gathered to one, for all. One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless. And we, though many throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.”* Amen.

*”One Bread, One Body,” The United Methodist Hymnal 620.