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.

Longing for Spring: What New Methodists Want

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 10:1-12

Our Scripture text for this week has the image of hospitality as a primary focal point. The seventy – who are commissioned by Jesus to take his Good News through and to all the nations – will know that their message is received and accepted in households if they receive hospitality from the household. This hospitality would take the form of welcoming them indoors, providing them with food and water, inviting them to rest their weary feet from their travels. “Peace to this house!” will be the seventy’s salutation and if peace – in the form of hospitality is not given – the seventy are to continue on their way (10:5). Their message remains consistent, “The Kingdom of God is near” (10:11). Even if they do not benefit from hospitality, their message remains hospitable. “Prepare, my fellow citizens of earth. God’s Kingdom is coming. And you are invited to be a part of it.”

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Temples outside of Mother Theresa’s home in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her home is now used as a hospital, hospice, and care center of aging Nepalis. Mother Theresa understood Christ’s lesson of hospitality and peace so well. She is an example for us all. 

My heart continues to be heavy in the wake of the reports coming out of Nepal. I ache for the lives lost, for the historic and holy sites damaged and/or destroyed, and for the delay in delivering desperately needed relief supplies due to continued aftershocks and impassable roadways.

The Nepali people have a beautiful love for life and an incredible, innate sense of hospitality for their neighbors old and new.   Nepalis take every occasion to celebrate. In fact, my friends who worked in the Embassy said that recently the Embassy had to change their “paid vacation day” calendar, which typically follows not only American paid vacation days, but also the governmental and religious holy days recognized within that nation, because there are many weeks that for Nepalis they would not work at all! There was too much celebrating to be done!

When Nepalis celebrate, everyone is invited to the party. During our trip we had the opportunity to celebrate Holi, a Hindu spring festival celebrating color and love. At a Holi celebration there is music, dancing, delicious food and conversation. The day typically ends with a colored-dye water fight. The powered dyes are brightly colored and when mixed with water become even more vibrant…so vibrant that they stain your skin for the next few days.

I safely observed this colored-dye fight from afar. We celebrated Holi on the side of a mountain, which was at an elevation of just under 9000ft…and the wind was blowing…and it was 65ish degrees. I reckon if I had joined the fight I would have become a Holi popsicle!

The family that invited us to their Holi celebration gifted us with incredible hospitality. For that afternoon, their home was our home and we were to be at home with them. We talked about every topic imaginable: politics: Nepali and American; economics: Nepali and American; cricket; the 2016 Olympics; religion; and that women can be ministers. The conversations were incredibly diverse in opinions, in life experiences, in knowledge base, and there was peace. We came together. We shared our hearts. We dialogued about our passions and our dreams. We became community and there was peace.

I remember walking down the mountain and turning to look back up to the home where we celebrated Holi and thinking, “Wow, what a sanctuary. This experience is holy. I am being made more holy because of it.”

As reports continue to come out of Nepal I hope I will learn about the safety of this family and the safety of our driver, Ramesh, and his family. I hope that reports of aftershocks cease because the ground stills. I hope that relief efforts are swift and that healing begins sooner rather than later so that the Nepali people can return to their love for and celebration of life.

There are many relief agencies receiving financial contributions at this time to help with the Nepali disaster recovery. I would once again lift up UMCOR – the United Methodist Committee on Relief – as one of these agencies. UMCOR operates on the principle that for every dollar given for relief efforts 100% of that dollar is spent in relief efforts. Nothing is taken out of that dollar for administrative fees or organizational overhead. If you would like to make a gift to UMCOR to help our brothers and sisters in Nepal, you may do so by visiting www.umcor.org, select the DONATE button in the top right corner, and select International Disaster Response. You may also give a contribution to Tuskawilla UMC and mark “UMCOR” on the memo and we will send in your support on behalf of the church.

The Nepali people are truly a people of peace. Our prayerful and financial support will greatly help them reestablish their peace of mind and peace in their homeland. The peace we give is rooted in the peace of Christ and it brings all measures of healing.

Prayer: “Lord, you give the great commission: Heal the sick and preach the word. Lest the church neglect its mission, and the gospel go unheard, help us witness to your purpose with renewed integrity. With the Spirit’s gifts empower us for the work of ministry. Lord, you call us to your service: In my name baptize and teach. That the world may trust your promise, life abundant meant for each, give us all new fervor, draw us closer in community. With the Spirit’s gifts empower us for the work of ministry.”* Amen.

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