You Might Be A Christian If…You Think There Is A Guy In Your Food

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Corinthians 11:23-27.

Andrew and I love to eat. We especially love to eat when we travel because eating is a way to truly get to know a people and culture. When given the option, we like to eat “off the beaten path…” and I would not be surprised if some of our eating “off the beaten path” was actually eating “from the beaten path.”

As my father-in-law says, “It is all protein, after all…”

That.it.is.

One night while on our trip to Nepal our hosts cooked us dinner. Kyle decided to make spaghetti with his special ingredient. Being that we were in a country that marked every meal with curry, Andrew and I anticipated some curry-spaghetti mash-up.

Oh how wrong we were.

The noodles arrived on the table. Next to the noodles sat the pot full of deep, dark sauce. I was accustomed to spaghetti sauce being “fire engine” red; this sauce was much more mahogany in color.

We fixed our plates, adding liberal portions of the sauce to our noodles. Andrew and I twirled our noodles around our forks. “Get ready!” Kyle prepared us! “Guess my secret ingredient!”

*chomp…chew…ch…ew…c…hew*

I looked at Andrew. And he looked at me. His eyes started to water. And I started to giggle, mouth full of mahogany-sauce covered noodles.

Y’all…it was cinnamon!

Cinnamon!

Cinnamon spaghetti sauce!

That was definitely a first. (and only!)

We were certainly surprised at that meal. And we ate the portion on our plates much as we had at other occasions of interesting meals. Because our hosts prepared with us in mind. And I believe they prepared their best because they had us in mind.

I believe that when Jesus prepares his Table for us that he prepares his best because he has us in mind. And because he wants the best for us he hopes that we come to the table prepared. He hopes that we come to the table having made confession of our sin and having reconciled with any sister or brother we wronged. He hopes that we come to the table wanting and expecting to be changed. He hopes that long after the taste of the bread and juice have faded that we act and advocate and sing and serve as if we have just received the gift of the sacrament.

Jesus hopes we are surprised by what we experience at the table. Jesus hopes we are surprised by where the table leads us.

I look forward to gathering with you at Christ’s Table this week. I pray that you come to the table encouraged and expectant – encouraged by the love of our Savior and expectant for what his love will invite you to do.

Prayer: “Lord, you make the common holy: “This my body, this my blood.” Let us all, for earth’s true glory, daily lift life heavenward, asking that the world around us share your children’s liberty. With the Spirit’s gifts empower us for the work of ministry.”* Amen.

*”Lord, You Give The Great Commission,” The United Methodist Hymnal 584.

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Woman in the Night: Fellow Travelers

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 8:1-3.

Many people – many women – were fellow travellers with Jesus. In him they found their Savior. In him they found a generous friend.

These are two of my generous friends – Mr. Joey and Miss Alice.

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They attended the Morningsong Service for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Morningsong follows its own liturgy – meaning work of the people – that has many consistent worship elements week to week. The “variety” in the service comes in one song of praise, the three Scripture readings, and the sermon.

(Let us pray there is variety with the sermon…)

It is also a more intimate worship experience, with a smaller attendance, that supports worshippers passing the peace to each of their neighbors every Sunday. It is awesome to watch the people that gather for Morningsong truly behold one another – and in so doing – behold the true and living presence of Christ in his and her generous friend with Christ.

Morningsong celebrates weekly Holy Communion and I invite one or two persons from the congregation to join me in sharing the elements. That day I asked Mr. Joey and Miss Alice if they would come. Of course, they sprang from their pew and bounded towards the altar rail. After inviting them to use the official unofficial third Communion element – otherwise known as hand sanitizer – I moved them into position.

“Miss Alice, when people come forward, offer them a piece of bread, and when you give it to them say, Jesus loves you.”

“Mr. Joey, when people come to you, offer them the cup in which to dip their bread, and say, Jesus loves you.”

Y’all, the gift of Holy Communion was so sweet that day. Watching these two serve the congregation, including their mother, is an experience I will never forget.

We all join the journey with Christ in different places and at different times. And yet – blessedly – we are all headed in the same direction – towards God’s preferred future for us.

Take notice this week of the travellers near you. Offer them a word of encouragement. Receive from them a word of wisdom.

Be a generous friend.

And give thanks. Always give thanks.

I am so proud of you, Mr. Joey and Miss Alice! Thank you for serving your church family. You did a wonderful job! See you Sunday!

Prayer: “Woman on the hill, stand when men have fled! Christ needs loving still, though your hope is dead. Come and join the song, women, children, men; Jesus makes us free to live again!”* Amen.

*“Woman In The Night,” The United Methodist Hymnal 274.

‘Check’ None

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Romans 1:16-17 and Luke 10:29-37.

A week ago while out running errands I stopped at a local alterations place to pick up a blouse that needed mending. On the way out of the store, I saw a young woman – maybe high school or early college – sitting at an outdoor table with her face in her hands. Her shoulders were up by her ears. She was quiet or perhaps striving to stifle cries.

And what did I do?

I walked right on by…

I know well the story of the Good Samaritan. And I like to think that I am the Samaritan…but in this moment I was the Levite. This young woman was in need and I did not stop. The rest of my errands took precedence.

Friends, I got it wrong. And so, I ask for forgiveness.

It is a challenge to put feet to our faith. It is a challenge to live the words of Scripture that we read in our daily study and hear proclaimed in worship. It is a challenge, but it is not a challenge that we cannot fulfill. It takes practice. And the more that we put feet to our faith, the more consistent our behavior becomes.

The invitation to put feet to our faith is not a one and done. It is an invitation before us each moment of each day. It is a challenge, but it is not a challenge that we cannot fulfill. It takes practice. And the more that we put feet to our faith, the more invitations we will receive to do it again.

Last Sunday before Morningsong I had to privilege to share with a guest to that service what United Methodists believe about Holy Communion – specifically the transformation we believe occurs through praying that the bread and the cup be for us the body and blood of Christ that we may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by his blood. By receiving the grace of the sacrament we believe we are transformed by that grace so much so that we – because of and with God’s grace – will transform the world to God’s glory. Our transformation will be noticed by others – it will witness to them – and through God’s Holy Spirit working through us – our witness may stir up a curiosity in them to seek what is different about us…that it might become what is different for them.

I am confident of humanity’s deep need for God’s grace. I am confident that humanity’s transformation by grace is what caused the Samaritan to stop on that Jericho road. I am confident and hopeful God’s grace will hold me accountable and remind me to stop when the next invitation comes my way.

Be sure to join Rev. Kate Ling and members of the Quest Sunday School Class as they lead worship on these Scripture texts this week. Thank you, friends, for your leadership in worship and service to the TUMC Family!

Prayer: “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus – no turning back, no turning back.”* Amen.

*“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, The Faith We Sing 2129.

Vital Elements of Worship: Let Every Soul Be Jesus’ Guest

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Hosea 11:1-11 and Luke 15:1-2.

This past week I heard stories about the experiences of two of our Tuskawilla Family members.

One was a story of gratitude – that Tuskawilla is a place where we welcome people and value the service they offer. It was a story of being so glad to be apart of this fellowship, recognizing that not all church families are like ours.

The other story was a story of hurt feelings – that on our campus, that in our walls, that by our actions a member of our church did not feel welcomed and did not feel that the service they offered was valued.

In mere moments of one another – I was so proud of our church…and then saddened that one of our family is living with this hurt.

My dear TUMC family, I want our church – the place and the fellowship that we co-create in the name of God, the power of Christ, and the community of the Holy Spirit – to be an environment at all times and in all seasons where we welcome everyone and value the service offered, where we BelongGrow, and Serve together. It is bound to happen that we will not get it right from time to time; I know I do not get it right from time to time. When we mess up, let us not leave the mess. Let us not leave the relationship. Let us not walk away from one another.

God does not leave us in the messes we create. God does not, has not, and will not leave the relationship we share with God. Though we stray, God does not walk away. I believe there are times when God moves forward and invites us to follow, but God does not walk away.

Our Jesus welcomes and eats with sinners. Our Jesus welcomes and eats with people that do not always get it right. Our Jesus welcomes us to seek out our kin – that we have wronged and those that have wronged us – not for vengeance, but for forgiveness – and then in the beauty of restored relationship, share a meal together (see Matthew 18). Whenever we eat together, we remember the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night he gave himself up for us. We remember that Jesus ate with sinners. We remember that in that meal Jesus made tangible for us the grace that is available to us. This grace forgives, this grace reconciles, this grace welcomes, and this grace values. God’s grace truly is amazing.

My friends, I want us to be the church of the first story – not some of the time, but all of the time. And when we are not that church, I pray that God works swiftly in me, in you, in all of us, to be seekers of forgiveness and sharers of God’s grace so we are prepared to come to the table Jesus sets for us.

Prayer: “Come, sinners, to the gospel feast, let every soul be Jesus’ guest. Ye need not one be left behind, for God hath bid all humankind. See him set forth before your eyes; behold the bleeding sacrifice; his offered love make haste to embrace, and freely now be saved by grace. Ye who believe his record true shall sup with him and he with you; come to the feast, be saved from sin, for Jesus waits to take you in.”* Amen.

“Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast,” The United Methodist Hymnal 616.

Once Upon A Cross

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 21:1-11.

TUMC celebrates Holy Communion weekly at our Morningsong Service and at each service I ask different worshippers to help serve Communion.

(This may cause anxiety in some folks…I hope not!)

One Sunday I invited John Rothrock and his daughter, McKenna, to serve communion. McKenna is in first grade and full of life. She skipped up to the table with the world’s biggest smile on her face. I served her communion, telling her that as she ate the bread and tasted the juice that Jesus loves her so much. I then carefully handed her the ceramic chalice. She looked at me with eyes half full of wonder and half full of uncertainty. I knelt down again, “As people come to you, tell them what I told you, ‘Jesus loves you so much.’”

Our worshippers came forward for Holy Communion and had to bend down a little bit more than usual to dip their bread into the cup. They all returned to their seats with the glory of God upon their faces. Seeing McKenna serve Holy Communion with her father is a memory I will cherish forever.

At the conclusion of the service I met McKenna in our church’s Family Room, knelt down, and thanked her for serving with her father and me in worship. I opened my arms to her and she ran for me with such joy in her hug that she knocked me to the floor! It suddenly became one of those moments where everything went silent in the Family Room until our shared giggles filled the room to a roar.

“Jesus loves you so much, McKenna.” “I know…because you tell me.”

It is so important to proclaim God’s good news to one another. Proclaiming God’s good news is a sign of our maturing discipleship, our growing in faith and in love of God. It is equally important for us to hear God’s good news proclaimed. When we feel alone or afraid, when we feel lost or ashamed, recalling God’s good news proclaimed can comfort and reassure us. We do not have to be a certain age or have certain skills in order to proclaim God’s good news. God invites all of us to share, to tell, to proclaim.

In the week ahead we will celebrate with Jesus as he enters Jerusalem, weep with Jesus in the garden and at the cross, and hope for our own resurrection as we witness Jesus’ empty tomb. On some of the days of Holy Week it is easy to proclaim God’s good news while on others it is more challenging. Be encouraged to speak God’s good news even when it is difficult. They are words that definitely need to be said. They are words that we definitely need to hear. Through proclaiming God’s good news others will know…because we tell them.

Morningsong will gather this week and hear a sermon entitled, “A Little More Than HeeHaw” and celebrate Holy Communion. Our 11:00 service will worship alongside the leadership of our Sanctuary Choir as they offer their cantata Once Upon A Cross. We welcome you as we begin our Holy Week journey together.

Prayer: Holy God, who gives good news, help us to proclaim your good news so that all may know your love and establish their hope in you. In the power of your name, we pray. Amen.

Holy Week at Tuskawilla UMC

Saturday, April 8 – Easter Egg Hunt

9:00am in Fellowship Hall

Sunday, April 9 – Palm Sunday Worship

8:30am – Morningsong in the Sanctuary

11am – Once Upon the Cross Cantata in the Sanctuary

Monday, April 10 – Prayer Stations

5:30-7:30pm in the Fellowship Hall

Tuesday, April 11 – Prayer Stations

5:30-7:30pm in the Fellowship Hall

Wednesday, April 12 – Prayer Stations

5:30-7:30pm in the Fellowship Hall

Thursday, April 13 – Maundy Thursday Experience

A Taste of Seder concluding with Holy Communion and Prayers for Anointing

6:30pm in the Fellowship Hall

Friday, April 14 – Good Friday Service of Light

7pm in the Sanctuary

Sunday, April 16 – Easter Sunday

7am Sunrise Morningsong Service with Holy Communion in the Courtyard

10am Breakfast in the Fellowship Hall

11am Worship in the Sanctuary

Monday, April 17 – TUMC Offices Closed