Commitment and Conviction: Instructing Children

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Deuteronomy 6:1-9.

In 2009 I nearly walked away from the ministry.

(I know…it is hard to say! It is still hard for me to believe, even to this day!)

I was serving as a children’s ministry staff member at a large United Methodist Church in Atlanta. The church recently hired a new director of the ministry and our relationship was not going well. We bumped heads (locked horns) frequently. One day while expressing concern that the children – and their families – were not being as supported in their faith development at home as what I thought possible for the children’s ministry staff to provide I was told these words by the director,

“You are not here to worry about the spiritual health and development of the children and families in this program. You are here to sort curriculum, cut shapes out of construction paper, and sharpen pencils.”

I did not agree. And my resignation was on her desk two days later.

I cannot not be who I am – and I am a disciple of Jesus deeply committed to supporting, nurturing, and equipping families – especially children – in their faith development. I am certain that if there ever comes a day where this commitment wanes, then the time has come for me to retire.

I want faith to be accessible. I want to make faith accessible. I want to ask questions, listen to questions, and join people of every age in seeking answers to those questions. I want to stand on chairs alongside others a la Dead Poets Society and holler “I don’t know!” when it comes to a question of faith…and then climb off the chairs and pull them up to a table with others as the first steps in the adventure of finding the answer(s). This is one of my greatest passions…and to live into this passion with others is without age restriction or requirement.

Children are capable of incredibly faithful and faith-filled conversations. Their innocence and wonder makes them so wise. Their ability to imagine reintroduces adults to a world that they (we) see all the time but rarely notice.

I am grateful for South Shore’s welcome and addition of the Children’s Moment in our Sunday services. I boldly confess…it is my favorite time of the whole service! I look forward to supporting, nurturing, and equipping the faiths of these young ones. I am also looking forward to ROAR-ing with them at Vacation Bible School next week!

I am eager to see and celebrate how God will lead me in supporting, nurturing, and equipping the faith of the children at South Shore. And, I am equallyeager to see and celebrate how God will lead our children in supporting, nurturing, and equipping the faith of the adults – including me! – at our church.

Prayer: “Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest; now thee alone I seek, give what is best. This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to thee; more love to thee, more love to thee!”* Amen.

*”More Love to Thee, O Christ,” The United Methodist Hymnal 453.

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Woman In The Night: Weeping Daughters

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 23:26-31

 The role of the crowds in the gospel narratives is always in flux. They are people – like you and me. They are women and men. They are witnesses of our Jesus – of his ministry, his miracles, and his majesty. They are potential disciples. They become his supporters and fellow travellers. They waver through his arrest and trial. They join the opposition and shout for his crucifixion.*

And in this scene, they walk behind him on the way to Golgotha – the Place of the Skull – where Jesus will be crucified.

In the past when I have read this text I conceived that the crowd followed Jesus for one of two reasons. One – they wanted to have “the last laugh” when Jesus was, in fact, not able to save himself and get down off that cross. Two – they were curious and, not having missed any of the spectacle to this point, thought they would see it to the end.

Recently I received a different point of view from an excerpt by pastor and theologian Fred Craddock, whose words continue to be so life-giving for me. Craddock acknowledges that a mighty throng follow Jesus as he stumbles – bruised and broken – towards the cross. The people that follow him do so beating their breasts and wailing for him. Craddock connects this activity to the traditional gesture of lament enacted by prophets like Zechariah:

 And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one[a]whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn (Zech 12:10).

Craddock notes that Luke takes care to connect this behavior – wailing and beating one’s breast – to the act of repentance. In Luke 18 Jesus tells the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee praises God in prayer that “he is not like other people…even this tax collector” whereas the Tax Collector rends his heart, “standing far off, [not even looking] up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk 18:12-13). Jesus said, I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted (Lk 18:14).

I was wrong. The people did not want to have the last laugh. Neither are they curious. They are repentant. And they are committed. Their allegiance to Jesus returns.

And so they walk to the cross. To the grave. And – thanks be to God – from the empty tomb.

I look forward to the opportunities to walk with the people of TUMC this Holy Week. We walk as the foremothers and forefathers in our faith – repentant and committed. To the cross. To the grave.

And – thanks be to God – from the empty tomb.

Holy Week at Tuskawilla UMC

 

Saturday, April 13 – Easter Egg Hunt

9:30am – Gather in Fellowship Hall

Sunday, April 14 – Palm Sunday Worship

8:30am – Morningsong in the Sanctuary

11am – Here Is Love Cantata in the Sanctuary

Monday, April 15 – Prayer Stations

5:30-7:30pm in the Sanctuary

Tuesday, April 16 – Prayer Stations

5:30-7:30pm in the Sanctuary

Wednesday, April 17 – Prayer Stations

11:30-12:45pm and 5:30-7:30pm in the Sanctuary

Thursday, April 18 – Maundy Thursday Drama

Daughters of Jerusalem concluding with Holy Communion

7:00pm in the Sanctuary

Friday, April 19 – Good Friday Service of Tenebrae

7pm in the Sanctuary

Sunday, April 21 – Easter Sunday

Bring flowers for our Courtyard Easter Cross

7am Sunrise Morningsong Service with Holy Communion in the Courtyard

9:30am Easter Breakfast in the Fellowship Hall

11am Worship in the Sanctuary

Monday, April 22 – TUMC Offices Closed

Prayer: “The people of the Hebrews with psalms before thee went; our prayer and praise and anthems before thee we present. To thee, before thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise; to thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise. Thou didst accept their praises; accept the prayers we bring, who in all good delightest, thou good and gracious King. All glory, laud, and honor, to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.”** Amen.

*The People’s New Testament Commentary 275-276.

** “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” The United Methodist Hymnal 280.

Messiah: His Yoke Is Easy

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 11:28-30. 

Remember your baptism, and be thankful.

Last year on Baptism of Our Lord Sunday I worshipped as I watched our church family approach the baptismal font, touch the water and remember for themselves, and for most, to touch the water again and share the gift of grace the water represents with their spouse, child, or sibling in Christ. 

Remembering this moment brings tears to my eyes. 

As I watched our church family return to their seats I prepared to conclude our worship service when movement caught my eye. Half way back in the sanctuary, Phil Detmer rose to his feet to help his beloved Beverly Joyce – the girl of his choice, he told me – into her wheelchair and together they came to the font. Without thinking I lifted the bowl of the font off its stand and knelt with it. I watched Bev touch the water and touch her forehead. Then she touched the water again and touched Phil’s hand – a hand she knew so well. Every crease. Every callous. Every kindness created for her and the beautiful daughters they share in their over fifty years of marriage. 

Remembering this moment tears fall down my face. 

Commitment. Unity. These words join beautifully in Community

Ephesians 4:5 affirms the community we have with and because of Christ – “one Lord, one faith, one birth.” Our birth to new life through the waters of baptism is also our birth into the family of God, a family whose foundation is grounded in the covenant of God being our God, our being God’s children, and our responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters. 

I believe the care we are called to give is the care that is articulated in the marriage covenant – to have, hold, and honor – in all times and in all circumstances. 

I see commitment and unity to this belief in the family at Tuskawilla. I see community of this belief in the family at Tuskawilla. I saw it last Baptism of Our Lord Sunday as our family remembered our baptisms and expressed thankfulness. I saw it in the love between Phil and Bev. I see it in each face as we fellowship, study, serve, and worship as God’s family. 

We return to our regular worship service and small group times this Sunday – Morningsong at 8:30am, Small Groups at 9:30am, Worship at 11am. Both Morningsong and our 11am Worship Services will include opportunities for Baptism Remembrance. Peace, friends. See you Sunday!

Prayer: “Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Grant that all who are baptized into his name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, One God, in glory everlasting. Amen.*”

*”Baptism of the Lord,” The United Methodist Hymnal 253. 

Be Still: Stand Still and See

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Exodus 14:10-22

When was the last time you took a moment to stand still and see – to stand still and marvel at God’s creation and what God is doing?

I have been blessed with the privilege to see some of God’s most amazing sites in creation – the Grand Canyon, the Grindelwald Glacier in Switzerland, sea turtles swimming along the North Shore in Hawaii, a rainforest-filled valley below a smoldering volcano in Costa Rica, the fog settling among the peaks of the Smokey Mountains – to name a few.  These creations are a wonder to behold…and there is so much about these creations that a picture can capture and so much that a picture can not begin to capture.

These are grand images.  They are truly wonderful.  And what amazes me about them most is that they did not appear overnight.  The Grand Canyon was carved through years and years of water slowly running through sedimentary rock.  The Grindelwald Glacier amassed as one singular ice crystal connected with another, and then another, and then another.  The mature sea turtles grew from eggs, the trees in the rainforest from seeds, the volcano and mountains through continuous pressure from colliding tectonic plates.  Each of these developments in our environment are the result of a change – from egg to animal, from seed to plant, from plain to peak, from shallow to deep.

Change requires time and commitment – and in that knowledge I receive grace – not only for others and for the systems that I participate in, but also for myself.  I have been on a personal journey for a little over a year for better health and wellness.  I am engaging in regular physical activity through walking and yoga.  I have altered my eating habits, eating more vegetables, fruits, and leaner meats.  I am eliminating foods and beverages that are “empty calories” – I love to eat…so when I eat I want every one of those calories to count!  There have been times along this journey that I have questioned whether or not what I am doing is making a difference…and when those negative worries creep in God always seems to place someone in my path that says something about my transformation without any prompting.

I have heard to said that it takes four weeks to see a change in your own body/life, eight weeks for your friends and family to see it, and twelve weeks for the rest of the world to see it.  In my own journey I feel that I have lived the reverse.  It took my eyes the longest to adjust and to see what everyone else sees – to see what God sees.  God is making me a new and beautiful creation.  God is making me a wonder to behold.  And God is inviting me to stand still and see what God is doing in my life that I will celebrate!  God has delivered and is delivering me to a place of whole-iness.

“Rome was not built in a day” as the saying goes.  Transformation takes time.  And God’s imprints are all over it.

Have you taken time to stand still and see the transformation God is doing in your life?  In your own body?  In your relationships?  In the systems in which you participate?  Receive God’s grace that accompanies change.  And take time to wonder.

Prayer: “I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord; no tender voice like thine can peace afford.  I need thee every hour; stay thou nearby; temptations lose their power when thou art nigh.  I need thee every hour, in joy or pain; come quickly and abide, or life is vain.  I need thee every hour; teach me thy will; and thy rich promises in me fulfill.  I need thee every hour, most Holy One; O make me thine indeed, thou blessed Son.  I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.* Amen.

*”I Need Thee Every Hour,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 397.