The Joseph Saga: The Truth Comes Out

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Genesis 45:1-14.

This has been a trying week for me at Tuskawilla UMC. On Monday we experienced a large scale water leak in the Sanctuary. On Tuesday we had a pipe burst at the parsonage. A friend of mine texted me saying, “Sarah, this is not what you needed following a hurricane!”

Yeah…I am over water at this point. It is necessary and needful…and I like it a whole lot more when it stays where it is supposed to be – offshore away from land, secured by valves, and contained within pipes.

What a week…and we are only halfway!

These water emergencies have thrown off the groove of my typical week. So as I sat down this morning to begin my study on this week’s Scripture text, God brought order to the chaos with these words: “God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5b).

Joseph speaks these words to his brothers, affirming that God sent him ahead of his family into Egypt so he would be in a position to help his family – even though they did him harm. I read these words and they resonated deeply in my heart this week in relationship to our church family. God sent our church family ahead of me to preserve life.

Now our water woes this week are certainly not a matter of life or death. Many of our brothers and sisters across Florida, Texas, and especially the Caribbean are facing matters of life and death because of water – they remain in our prayers and a focus of our mission efforts with the creation of hygiene kits and offerings through the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Our water woes were a crisis. We did not want to waste anymore water than what was already leaked. We did not want any additional damage to be incurred on our buildings. And we – because of dedicated church family members showing up after a desperate appeal for help – dedicated church family members that God saw and sees fit to draw into relationship and community in this place – preserved life – for our safety, our assets, and our ministries.

I am so very grateful for the students, adults, and families that dropped what they were doing Monday afternoon to come clean up the church, to reorganize materials brought out of closets, and to help me make decisions. I am so very grateful to Wayne Wright and his work to continue cleaning our facility through the night so that hopefully all will be dry before worship gatherings this weekend. I am so very grateful for the resources of our church to rent equipment to clean the church campus and support the repairs at the parsonage. None of this would be possible without YOU, church family. “God sent me [you – each one of you!] before you [me] to preserve life.”

Thank you, my dear church family, for all the ways you have cared for me, my growing family, and your church family this week. Melissa Martin said it best on Sunday afternoon – it takes a village. I am thankful to be one member of yours. See you in worship on Sunday.

Prayer: “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine with ten thousand beside! Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”* Amen.

*”Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” The United Methodist Hymnal 140.



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. 

A Special Treat

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 19:1-10 (Morningsong) and 1 Samuel 17 (11am Blended Worship)

On Monday Andrew and I took his brother, Josh, a pumpkin. Josh is interred at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell and Halloween was (is) his favorite holiday. Oh the mischief Andrew and Josh would cause on Halloween.

One Halloween they kept changing their costumes – full wardrobe changes at first and then only minor changes towards the end – as they revisited the same house again and again. Why that house? Four words: full.size.candy.bars.

Andrew and Josh did not start out as friends. They started out having a fist fight…and then they became friends. And once they were friends, the two were instantly brothers. If you were to ask my in-laws or Josh’s parents, I am sure they would say that a common phrase between Andrew and Josh was “I am coming to your house today!” To hang out, to sleep over, to build something in the garage, to scheme the next prank, to plot resistance against “the man” (whatever or whoever “the man” was that week), to laugh, to live. “I am coming to your house today.”

Wherever Josh was, there Andrew would be and vice versa.

My heart breaks because Andrew cannot have those experiences with Josh right now…but that will not be the case forever. We trust, we believe faithfully that God is bringing us all – bringing them – together again.

Jesus shocked the crowd when he announced that he was going to Zacchaeus’ house. Perhaps some hoped that Jesus was going there to “clean house” or spare Zacchaeus the public ridicule and shame of being rebuked by the Savior before his peers. But that was not Jesus’ intent. Jesus’ intent was to build community and include rather than further exclude the tax collector. Jesus wanted Zacchaeus, who had been so far from Jesus as evidenced by his behavior, to come near to him. Zacchaeus, this tax collector, this culturally despised man, this swindler, this con – Jesus had so many reasons to come to blows with this man. And yet Jesus does not throw a fist, but offers a hand. “I am coming to your house today.”

Jesus said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21). Through his repentance and reconciliation – through admitting his wrong and repaying his neighbors – Zacchaeus turned his will towards the Father’s and embraced his kinship with Jesus.

We visit Josh to remember. We visit Josh so that Andrew and Josh can hang out. We visit Josh so Andrew can tell him what has been built in the garage, report on completed pranks, update resistance plans, and laugh. We visit Josh as an act of living and leave Josh’s side with a renewed sense of calling: Who will we invite to our house today? What homes will we ask to enter? What new and continuing relationships will we nurture? How will we see Christ in others and invite them to see Christ in us?

Remember this Sunday’s treat: Join me for the 8:30 Morningsong Service and then plan to stay for worship at 11am as Andrew preaches on David and Goliath from I Samuel. I am looking forward to my time at both Tusakwilla and Azalea Park UMCs this weekend! The Millers are excited to see you in worship on Sunday!

Prayer: “Called forth from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth; our charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth. One holy name professing and at one table fed, to one hope always pressing, by Christ’s own Spirit led.” Amen.

*”The Church’s One Foundation,” The United Methodist Hymnal 546.

Community Charge

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Timothy 6:6-19

One of my greatest lessons – and continuous lesson! – from God is the lesson of contentment. Since moving into our first apartment in January 2007 God has sown and is persistent in sowing this question of discernment:

Do you cherish it enough to move it?

Now that question may cause some to laugh, but for folks in professions and vocations that relocate with great frequency, this question that prompts a reflective pause is so valuable. I am able to appreciate something in a shop window, on a hanger, or in a display and with great joy leave it right where it is because the thought of finding a box to move it in causes my guts a great deal of distress. And then, of course, there are other items for which I will absolutely secure a safe mode of transportation for relocation.

And for the record not all of them are shoes.


Through the practice of contentment – and yes it is a practice – God shifts my heart away from the desires of this world and towards the desires of Kingdom.

  • In the Kingdom it is not about what I have, it is about what we share.
  • In the Kingdom it is not about what I want, it is about what God desires.
  • In the Kingdom it is not about my will be done, it is about God’s will be done.

I truly believe a huge part of God’s will, a huge part of God’s justice is to live in the world of enough rather than in the world of excess. When I live within enough

  • I am able to live within rather than beyond my stewardship.
  • I am able to share God’s riches with all people rather than hoard them to myself.
  • I am able to keep my commitments, which helps me keep to my word, which helps me keep my integrity.
  • I am free.

In this world of enough I do not feel without or less than or lacking; I feel whole and focused. I feel less distracted by stuff and more centered on faith. I feel empowered to keep the first things first – faith in God and faith with family.

I am so grateful to begin my third year of ministry with the Tuskawilla Family in just a few days. Even though I am not packing as some of my friends and fellow pastors are currently, I continue to be mindful of our culture’s message to collect and consume while Jesus impresses the message of contentment and healthy stewardship. I want less so God’s family can have more. And when God’s family has more, we all are truly blessed.

Please join me in welcoming and thanking Vanessa Schuchart and Rev. Kate Ling for their leadership in worship this Sunday. Both of these ladies are such gifts to me. Thank you, Vanessa and Pastor Kate, for serving this week!

Prayer: “Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet,  sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.”* Amen.

*”Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” The United Methodist Hymnal 400.

Community Dedication

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Timothy 4:7b-16

One of the methods I use during meditation and study of Scripture is lectio divina. Lectio divina is a Latin term meaning “divine reading” and through this process of reading, listening, and meditating those that practice lectio divina experience Scripture as the living Word of God through their interaction with it.

To practice lectio divina follow these steps:

  1. Select a passage of Scripture (I recommend no more than 10 verses so the passage is easy to comprehend and follow from beginning to end) and read it aloud.
  2. Pause in silence for 1 to 3 minutes. Perhaps close your eyes.
  3. Read the Scripture passage aloud a second time and notice if there is a word or phrase that stands out to you or lingers with you after you finish reading the passage.
  4. In your journal – either paper or electronic – write down the word or phrase that stood out or lingered on; meditate on that word or phrase. Consider the circumstances in your life that helped bring that particular word or phrase to the forefront for you. Take a few moments to capture your thoughts in your journal.
  5. Share a prayer with God.

As I practiced lectio divina with our text for this Sunday, the word that lingered with me is godliness. “Train yourself in godliness,” Paul writes to Timothy, but what does godliness mean?

For me training for godliness means becoming more of a servant. While I understand God as my Lord and Savior, I also understand that God is my greatest example of servanthood, especially in the person of Jesus. Philippians 2:5-8 reads, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a [servant], being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”

I have learned that to grow as a servant – and grow in godliness – means seeking opportunities to serve and rest, to study and fellowship, to be surrounded by a team and to be alone, to be loud and to be silent. Recently I was reminded of the lesson that serving is not about the task that is accomplished. Serving is about the person that is served. If I forget that, if I neglect the person I serve, then all I have done is accomplish some task; I have not served.

My second reflection on godliness as growth in servanthood pertains to the eternal nature of godliness. I Timothy 4:7b-8 assures that training in godliness has implications and impact on both sides of eternity. On this side of eternity we are called to be the sheep that fed Jesus when he was hungry, gave him drink, clothed, visited, and welcomed him (see Matthew 25). On the other side of eternity we take up our cross with the great cloud of witnesses that cheers, supports, and offers lessons through the witness of our lives to God’s people on earth (see Hebrews 12). The goal, then, of this life is not to reach the new life of eternity and kick my stiletto-wearing feet up. The goal of this life is to serve my way to new life and to continue my service there – perhaps in the same way and perhaps in entirely different ways.

I just really hope there are still stilettos.

I encourage you to try on the practice of lectio divina with our Scripture passage this week. Read the living Word of God. Listen for the word or phrase that lingers. Meditate on it. Respond to it. Discover something new about God. Discover something new about yourself.

Prayer:”Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Now I will not forget your love for me and yet my heart forever is wandering. Jesus, be my guide and hold me to your side, and I will love you to the end. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”* Amen.

*”Thy Word Is a Lamp,” The United Methodist Hymnal 601.


Community Leadership

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Timothy 3:1-7, 14-16

On our third full day in Israel our group was scheduled to travel north. Our guide, Mike, mentioned there was a great possibility for the presence of accumulations of frozen water where we were headed…so naturally I layered up with my clothing.

And wore sandals. You can take the girl out of Florida…

I knew as long as I started out warm that I would stay warm throughout the day; therefore, coffee was next on my list. At our particular hotel – and at most hotels throughout Israel – the coffee cups are tiny and the queue anticipating coffee deep and wide. So instead of filling one cup, I decided to fill three. Yes. Three. All for me.


Andrew and our friend, Winnie, think all my coffees very amusing. And Bishop Carter was so kind to lend a hand in lifting my third cup.

“Are all of those for you, Sarah?” “Yes….”

“Well, you will have quite the day ahead of you.”

Indeed I did…because this was the day I decided to headstand on a cliff of Mount Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee.


The Bishop may have been slightly more impressed by this headstand than my three cups of coffee…but only slightly.

I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to travel to Israel with Bishop Carter, Andrew, and 33 others from the Florida Conference. It was an incredible journey of study, worship, friendship and discovery in the homeland of our faith. There was much to learn about culture, faith, tradition, and hope during our trip – not only of the places we visited but also of our fellow travelers. We travelled as a group of people with very specific roles and very specific labels – pastors, pastors’ spouses, conference staff, and bishop – but at our heart, we are all people. We are all God’s children. As we continued on our trip it was not that we forgot the roles that we serve, but we remembered and brought forward our shared humanness and kinship as sisters and brothers in Christ.

I think part of our human nature is to put people up on pedestals; I know that I have done and continue to do it! We put people up on pedestals that we revere and trust, people that we aspire ourselves to be. While this is kind and has good intentions, it is not sustainable for the person on the pedestal or for the person that put the other there. We are human. We are fallible. We stumble. We fail. We let one another down. These lapses chip into the pedestal until it crumbles…and if we so attach our faith and hope to that person being on a pedestal, our faith and hope are in jeopardy of crumbling, too.

In our Scripture for this week we read about the leadership of the Early Church – leadership that was not plucked from pedestals but raised up out of the faithful. Leaders came from the people; they knew well the people’s joys and struggles because the leaders shared in those same joys and struggles. Leaders were named as such because they covenanted to be their sisters’ and brothers’ keeper. They did not want to be lord or king because their Lord and King was Jesus.

Leaders were not asked to be perfect; they were not asked to perform on pedestals. Rather, leaders were asked to model and lead in faithfulness. Leaders were asked to learn from their humanness as well as from their kin and then interpret those lessons for the health, sustainability, and growing maturity of the Body of Christ.

When I met with Bishop Carter prior to my ordination that was the lesson he shared with me, as my leader and as my brother in Christ. He encouraged me to be myself and to trust God in using my humanness, my relationship with others, my fallibility, and my faithfulness to not lead me to a life on a pedestal but to lead me in life with others, to lead me in life with Christ.

Bishop Carter picking up my third coffee cup, laughing with me, cautiously eyeing my headstand, as well as many other acts of leading and caring while in Israel and throughout my ministry remind me of this lesson. I am grateful for his leadership and friendship. I am grateful to lead and be in relationship with all those I serve in and beyond the Tuskawilla Family. Together I know that we are bringing joy to God as the God’s Kingdom strengthens in our community.

Prayer: “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; she is his new creation by water and the Word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride; with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died. Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth; her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth; one holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.”* Amen.

*”The Church’s One Foundation,” The United Methodist Hymnal 545.


Community Instruction

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Timothy 2:1-7

For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all (I Tim 2:5-6).

There is an abundance of theology packed into this credal statement from the Early Church.

  • There is one God
    • A statement affirming monotheism – the belief in one deity, rather than
    • Polytheism – the belief in many deities or
    • Henotheism – the belief in one deity with an allowance for other deities in a hierarchy under the lead deity.
  • One mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus
    • A statement affirming that Christ Jesus proceeded from the one God, and is of the same substance with the one God, to be the physical, tangible, living, breathing, dying, saving link between God and humanity.
    • Christ Jesus is not a separate deity under God; they are the same, just as the Holy Spirit is the same with them. Together those three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are the Trinity – One God in three persons.
    • The need for Christ Jesus to be our mediator indicates a rupture in our relationship with God. This rupture is caused by sin and we cannot fix our sickness with sin on our own. We need God’s power and God’s power is available to us in Jesus.
  • Himself human – A statement affirming the humanness of Jesus.
    • We believe that Jesus has two natures; he is fully human and fully divine.
      • As fully human Jesus is able to stand in humanity’s place and take the punishment for sin.
      • As fully divine Jesus as God incarnate can save humanity from its condemned state due to sin and break the power of sin over humanity.
    • Jesus did not ‘appear’ human or ‘appear’ divine as some speculated; he was God incarnate.
  • Gave himself as a ransom for all – A statement affirming that our sins are atoned for through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
    • Through atonement we are made at one with God once again.
    • Hebrews 2:14-18 describes Jesus atoning actions writing, “Since, therefore, the children [humanity] share flesh and blood, he himself [Jesus] likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”

Most theological education took place through oral tradition in the Ancient World and in the Early Church. Much of the society had very little or no formal education; so, learning occurred through telling the same stories or lessons repeatedly to help all members of the community – children by age and children at heart – commit them to memory and behavior.

The more ‘meaty’ the statement, the more learning to be ‘digested’ and ‘converted into lived energy’ for each individual. 

The above credal statement contains 25 words. If you were to write a credal statement for your faith using only 25 words, what would your credal statement say? What concepts would you include? What teaching would you name? Spend some of your devotional time this week writing your statement and then share it with someone. 

My credal statement reads:

God created out of chaos. God created Jesus to atone the chaos. God creates out of my chaos. God forgives our chaos. We are redeemed. 

Prayer: “Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way. Thou art the potter; I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still. Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way. Search me and try me, Savior today! Wash me just now, Lord, wash me just now, as in thy presence humbly I bow.”* Amen.

“Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 382.