Dimiss

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 1:18-25

This week while watching coverage celebrating the life and service of George H. W. Bush I heard him say in an earlier interview, “I have banned the use of the ‘L’ word.” What word was that? Legacy. He banned the use of the word legacy.

The 41st President continued, “I would like someone else to define the legacy…I think history will…point out the things I got wrong, and perhaps some of the things we did right.”

Your words ring true, Mr. President. Well done, good and faithful servant.

Our Scripture text for this week is the defining moment in Joseph’s legacy. Will he pursue betrothal to Mary to marriage or will he dismiss her quietly? Although the text does not lift the veil, we can sense the psychological turmoil Joseph endures. On the line are his reputation, his place in the community, his chances for another relationship, and his faith. The same things are on the line for Mary…add “her life” also to that list.

We do not hear from Joseph again much after Jesus’ nativity. He decides to enter marriage with Mary. He welcomes and names Jesus. He witnesses as the magi worship the Christ Child and then shepherds his family to Egypt seeking refuge from Herod. Joseph’s legacy is that of a caregiver and provider. He stood at the fork in the road between being right and being kind – and he chose kindness.

History points out that Joseph got this one right. When we find ourselves at the same fork in the road, may we also choose as Joseph did.

Prayer: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”* Amen.

*“O Little Town of Bethlehem,” The United Methodist Hymnal 230.

Advertisements

Lessons in Leadership: Felling Giants

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Samuel 17:38-50.

Is you seeing them? the BFG asked.

Sophie, squinting through the glare of the sun, saw several tremendous tall figures moving among the rocks about five hundred yards away. Three or four others were sitting quite motionless on the rocks themselves.

This is Giant Country, the BFG said. Those is all giants, every one.

It was a brain-boggling sight. The giants were all naked except for a sort of short skirt around their waists, and their skins were burnt brown by the sun. But it was the sheer size of each one of them that boggled Sophie’s brain most of all. They were simply colossal, far taller and wider than the Big Friendly Giant upon whose hand she was now sitting. And oh how ugly they were! Many of them had large bellies. All of them had long arms and big feet. They were too far away for their faces to be seen clearly, and perhaps that was a good thing.”*

Lately I have felt like a resident of Giant Country. And not only do these giants reflect Roald Dahl’s description, these giants are hangry– hungry and angry – ready to devour.

What is on the menu?

Me.

In Dahl’s tale, The BFG, little Sophie had a guide, a confidant, a protector, and a friend as she traversed Giant Country. And when I feel like the giants are looming, stomping, interrupting, or nearly triumphing, I am grateful for the guides, confidants, protectors, and friends that are with, before, and behind me.

Late last week my childhood best friend texted me to say she was headed to the hospital. “Memaw is not well,” Laura wrote. Less than thirty minutes later Laura texted again, “Memaw is gone.” Memaw – Shirley W. Warren – was an expert navigator of Giant Country. She shared her wisdom freely – wisdom that was steeped in beautiful Southern charm and North Carolina wit. She was the matriarch of her family. She loved deeply and sowed richly in the lives of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She took family under her wings that were both family by blood and family by choice. Memaw called me “Sarah Beth-Ann” whenever she saw me and considered me one of her own.

At my Friends and Family Baby Shower last September Laura presented me with a quilt that she, her mother, and Memaw made together for Joshua. I took hold of that quilt the other day. The pattern throughout the quilt reminds me of a compass rose – a navigational tool – Memaw’s living legacy that will comfort Joshua as he makes his way through Giant Country.

When you find yourself in Giant Country, who are the guides, confidants, protectors, and friends that are with, before and behind you? What legacy does their presence imprint on your heart? Offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for these persons in your life, and if you are able, express your gratitude to these persons.

Thank you, Memaw. I hope you are sitting in a recliner next to Granddaddy, holding his hand. Well done, good and faithful servant. See you again.

Prayer: “Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore; let the search for thy salvation be our glory evermore. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving thee whom we adore, serving thee whom we adore.”** Amen.

*The BFG, Roald Dahl 4.

**“God of Grace and God of Glory,” The United Methodist Hymnal 577.

Built On Faith

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 7:24-27.

How is it possible that in a couple of weeks Joshua will be ten months old? There were days when I thought he would never grow out of newborn diapers…and nowadays he will not stop growing!

It is good that he grows; Joshua is doing what he is supposed to do. Time is a gift, not an enemy.

Joshua’s new favorite pastime (new favorite pastime…is that a thing?) is “pulling up” – one step closer to cruising – and then to standing on his own – and then to walking! Joshua will pull up to stand on just about anything; unfortunately his choices of “pulling up” foundations are not always the sure-est, which leads to a quick departure back to the ground. Arriving back on the ground does not deter this kid. Though there may be a few tears, moments later he gets back up again.

As we mature in faith, the foundations of our faith shift, strengthen, and endure testing. Through times of trial and doubt we question our faith. Does what we believe hold? Does what we believe satisfy? Is what we believe well with our souls? Through times of health and hope our faith is confirmed, and as a result, we affirm our faith. We recognize it as our source of strength, our fount of wisdom, our well of comfort, and, perhaps most importantly, our legacy.

A signature teaching of my dear friend and fellow ministry mischief-maker, Rev. Melissa Cooper, is that faith is caught more than it is taught. Faith is caught as we live life with others – and as they live life with us – co-witnessing how we act and react to every day situations. When the going gets tough, how do we sustain? When we get knocked down, how and when do we get back up again? In our daily interactions, do we speak first of our joys or of our complaints? In our daily investments, do we think first of our neighbors or of ourselves? Each of these actions and decisions are actions and decisions guided and rooted in our faith. Therefore, it is vital that we have a sure foundation of faith so that as we pull ourselves up to the next opportunity or through the next trial, our foundation is sure – with Christ as our cornerstone and our friends in faith as encouragers at our sides.

Join us this Sunday at 11am as our Gravity Youth share with us about how they Built on Faith through their service with Metro Atlanta Project this summer. We will hear from each of the participants, view a slideshow of their experiences, and sing some of the music they sang in their nightly worship services. I look forward to worshipping with you on Sunday!

Prayer: “He’s coming on the clouds; kings and kingdoms will bow down. And every chain will break, as broken hearts declare his praise. For who can stop the Lord Almighty? Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah. He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles. And every knee will bow before him. Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain. For the sins of the world, his blood breaks the chains. And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb. Every knew will bow before him.”* Amen.

* “The Lion and the Lamb,” Bethel Music, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9ujBoud26k

FAMILY ~ It Begins With YOU

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Acts 2:38-47.

This week Andrew and I had the opportunity to return to some of our “old stomping grounds.” No, we were not in Polk County, but that is a great place, too! We were in the greater Atlanta area visiting dear family and friends, eating practically everything in sight, and reminiscing about our time spent here while in seminary at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

I may have also been bitten by the Doctorate of Ministry bug…but we will talk more about that later.

It is good to visit “home” or “the homes” throughout our lives because those occasions help us to reflect on how things were and how things have changed, and how we were and how we have changed. Going home is as much a physical visit as it is a spiritual and emotional visit. It draws me to a time of reflection as well as gratitude. Yes, somethings change – people who used to live or work in certain places are no longer there, buildings that were once used for one thing are now used for another purpose, praising God that one section of road construction is finally completed only to find that they have simply moved the construction two miles north.

And yes, somethings stay the same and get better with age – hospitality, kindness, generosity, curiosity, encouragement, and love.

This Sunday in the Christian Year we return home to Pentecost – the birth of the Early Church through the giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit. In returning to this home we are reminded of how things were and how things have changed and how we as God’s people were and how we as God’s people have changed. I am so thankful for the legacy from our Pentecost home that remains and sustains – worship, confession, gathering around Christ’s table in fellowship, thanksgiving, acts of mercy, acts of justice, service, companionship, and transformation. I am thankful for the ways our legacy from our Pentecost home has changed, morphed, and evolved through the generations. And I am hopeful for how we will continue shaping our legacy as a family of faith through our relationship with and response to the leadings of the Holy Spirit.

I invite you to join me in prayer for the continued shaping of our legacy as a United Methodist faith family as the voting at General Conference begins on Monday, May 16. I am hopeful that decisions made by this elective body and voice of our denomination recall our home in Pentecost – the mighty presence of God and the immediate, authentic, inclusive response to God’s presence in our midst – as they add their heads, hearts, and hands to the shaping of the United Methodist witness in the world for the next four years.

Gracious Lord, may hospitality, kindness, generosity, curiosity, encouragement, and love define United Methodists and our witness. May people see your face, your light, and your welcome in us.

Prayer“Wind who makes all winds that blow, gusts that bend the sapling low, gales that heave the sea in waves, stirrings in the mind’s deep caves: aim your breath with steady power on your church, this day, this hour. Raise, renew the life we’ve lost, Spirit God of Pentecost.”* Amen.

*”Wind Who Makes All Winds That Blow,”The United Methodist Hymnal” 538.

Stewardship Is Gifting The Next Generation

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 71:18

When I think about “gifting the next generation” I think about legacy.  What does it mean to be a legacy?  What does it mean to leave a legacy?

When it was time to apply to college I was surrounded by friends sending in scores of applications – in town, in state, out of state, out of the country even!  So many essays to write and recommendations to secure and transcripts to request.  Me?  I only filled out one college application.  It was to my mother’s collegiate alma mater, which is now my alma mater as well,  Florida Southern College.

Now some may say that I put all of my eggs in one basket.  Why on earth, Sarah, would you do such a thing?  Well, in my sophomore year of high school I received a letter from the Florida Southern Director of Admissions.  It was a letter that named me as a Florida Southern Legacy.  My mother attended and based on my preliminary information they had received about me, my academic career, and my academic aspirations, I would be most welcome to continue my education as part of the Florida Southern Family and keep the Florida Southern attendance tradition alive and well within my family.

That letter really impressed me.  And in turn, I felt impressive.  I felt proud.  I knew my accomplishments and my potential.  So did my parents.  But now, an “outsider” saw what we saw.  I was honored and humbled.  And two years later when all my classmates were scrambling to complete applications I knew exactly where I was headed.

Go Mocs!

As I reflect on receiving this letter, I am really amazed at what an impact a letter had on my decision to be a member of a certain organization.  How much mail do we receive and just set aside without even opening?  I’m talking post office mail and inbox mail!  I know I do it!  But this letter – still steps removed from personal interaction either through a phone call or face to face – made such an impact on me that I made the decision to only apply to one school and then attend that school!  That letter recognized who I was and joined me in dreaming about who I could become.  That letter said I was someone of worth, someone of character, someone of interest, and because of those attributes, this institution wanted to make an investment in me.  Florida Southern wanted me as part of their legacy.

There are lots of letters that are sent out to church members during Stewardship season.  Letters that share with folks the vision for the church in the next year.  Letters that ask people to give.  Letters that thank people for giving.  Some of these letters, like other posted and electronic mail, remain unopened.  Or if they are opened they have little impact.  I wonder if this is a casualty of churches focusing on the giving rather than the giver?  Yes, as a pastor I want people to give, but I want the people first.  As a minister of the gospel my first and foremost task is to edify the people I serve that they (that you!) are a person of worth, a person of character, a person of interest, and because of your attributes coupled with my understanding of faith, I and the church want to make an investment in you!  Then, together we can make an investment in others and this beautiful cycle of recognizing worth, investment, and creating legacies starts all over again.

Each person in the church is part of God’s legacy.  Each person on earth is part of God’s legacy!  As a part of God’s legacy, I want to do something that matters.  To me what matters is “proclaiming God’s might to all the generations to come.”  I want to proclaim to all God’s children that they are of worth, character, and interest.  How do I know?  Because God told me so.  How will I share what I have been told?  In any way I can – in letters, in emails, in handwritten notes, in sermons, in visits, in chats over coffee, and definitely at potlucks, in worship, in prayer, at bedsides and gravesides.   Long ago, people in the church – pastors, Sunday School teachers, choir directors, church ladies and more – recognized that I was part of God’s legacy and that my presence and participation was vital to the church.  Little did I know then that sharing this same message would be one of my greatest joys in life.  And sharing that message is part of my legacy of stewardship.

What legacy are you leaving?  What legacy would you like to leave?  How are you participating in God’s legacy?

Prayer: “O how sweet a walk in this pilgrim way, leaning on the everlasting arms; O how bright the path grows from day to day, leaning on the everlasting arms.  Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.”*  Amen.

*”Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 133.

God’s Balance Sheet: Lessons in Stewardship ~ Give With Us

Sunday’s Scripture Passages ~ Numbers 10:29-32; Proverbs 11:24-25; Acts 20:28-35

I am constantly amazed by where God’s Spirit leads me in the discernment of my sermons (and subsequently) the discernment of these blog posts.  This is where God led me this week…

This Sunday concludes our time spent with God’s Balance Sheet – Lessons in Stewardship.  The annual giving campaign at my church this year was entitled Give With Us and each week we thoughtfully explored what it means for individuals to collectively give to the furtherance of God’s Kingdom on earth.

This Sunday – the Sunday after a holiday where we pause to give thanks for our many blessings – Reeves will pause as a congregation to receive and rejoice for the riches that will be shared by individuals in the service of the Kingdom for the coming year.

All this got me thinking…what will all of this mean?

What’s next?

What all of it means is that we are continuing our legacy at Reeves.  And what a fruitful, Spirit-led, Christ-founded legacy it will be!

What’s next?  Well, I don’t know for sure.

What I do know for sure is there is great truth in the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.”  There have been several times in my life (and I’m sure there will be several, several more) where I have said, “God, where are you in this?!”  Frustrated, in the moment, I could not see.  But after that moment, in looking back I can see where God was creating space, crafting circumstances, and moving me into place, readying me to respond.  The path I have walked and continue to walk is part of my legacy.  It tells me where I have been and helps inform where I am going.

The same can be said for the church.  Throughout the ages God’s people have been crying out, “God, where are you in this?!”  And sometimes generations pass before the people are able to reflect and identify, “There.  God is there doing what it is that God does so well.”

The path the church walks and continues to walk is part of the church’s legacy – both the Church universal and the portion of Church I serve at Reeves.  Our legacy tells us where we have been and helps inform where we are going.  And our constant discernment and seeking the Lord’s guidance challenges us to further commit ourselves in strengthening our legacy through our service and stewarding of our resources.

Give With Us has been an opportunity for the family of faith at Reeves to consider our stewardship practices, to consider how Christ stewards us, and finally, to consider how we will participate in the legacy of the Kingdom.

I think we all want to leave a legacy.  And a good one, too.

Prayer: Legacy by Nichole Nordeman