You Might Be A Christian If…You Have A Weird Thing For Calling People ‘Ministers’

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Peter 2:1-10.

This is my tenth year under pastoral appointment. This means – to date – I have written somewhere in the realm of 520 Sunday sermons.

Woah!? That does not seem possible.

But it is.

While I continue to find Scripture passages I have yet to explore for preaching, I am also now to a place in my preaching where I have already preached particular texts on one or more occasions. I like to return to these sermons as a way to reflect and remember…and to also rejoice because some of my earlier sermons…

Woah…

And not “Woah! That was great.” More “Woah…that was a nice effort…?”

My congregation’s were (are!) super gracious.

The last time I preached this text from I Peter I was appointed to a congregation in downtown Orlando. With this text I encouraged and exhorted. I impressed upon them the significance of their presence in and participation with the Body of Christ.

I affirmed them as living stones!!!

And two years later – almost to the day – the church closed.

Learning of that closing caused me to experience a scattering silence.

Luke 19 describes Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The faithful and hopeful surround him; joyfully they “praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the LordPeace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Lk 19:37b-38). Some of the Pharisees admonished the crowds’ praise of Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “‘I tell you,’ [Jesus] replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out’” (Lk 19:39-40).

Jesus said the stones would cry out – in hope and praise and assurance – of him as King and Messiah. In I Peter the Apostle also called the church – God’s holy nation and royal priesthood – stones. The same Greek word – lithos – is used in both places. While Jesus anthropomorphizes stones by giving them human qualities in praising and crying, Peter likens humans to stones hewn together for strength and stability as God’s kingdom is built with us and before our eyes.

With Reeves Memorial UMC closing…I felt the stones had been scattered and silenced. I experienced a scattering silence. And the effect was sobering.

I went into a time of mourning and grief. I questioned what I had done. I questioned what I left undone. I hoped the good I offered far outweighed any harm I committed.

Ultimately, I felt like I let them down.

In time God met me in the scattered silence and reminded me that the church did not close. The building closed but not the church. Yes, indeed, the stones were scattered from that locale…and they were still speaking testimonies of God’s goodness and grace.

I know there were also words of grief and grimace peppered among the words of goodness and grace. In fact, I heard some of them personally! And that is okay. They are human. We are human. That behavior is human. Telling that story – of goodness and grace alongside, speaking louder, and/or resulting from grief and grimace – is one way God does what God does in transforming scattered stones into seeds.

Seeds that root and sprout.

Spouts that rise and bloom.

Blooms that bring beauty and joy.

The timing of this transforming is something God alone can see. The testimony of that transformation is a gift for all the world to see.

I do not think I will ever read this text from I Peter and not think of my time with the Reeves congregation. I am grateful for the opportunity to have shepherded them and to have been shepherded by them. I am hopeful for the ways God continues to use the faithful stones of that congregation to cry out in prayer and praise. I pray those stones have found their way into new congregations so that their faith is strengthened through proximity relationship to Christ and neighbor.

I trust God is making seeds of those stones – that with God’s help they are rooting and sprouting, rising and blooming, bringing beauty and joy as they testify to God’s enduring faithfulness.

God knows the timing of their transformation. God gifts these transformations to us as testimonies of lives lived in faith.

Prayer: “There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody; there’s a dawn in every darkness bringing hope to you and me. From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”* Amen.

*“Hymn of Promise,” The United Methodist Hymnal 707.

 

Make Way For Jesus

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Mark 11:1-11.

One of my favorite books growing up was Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. And even better than the book? The day the book came to life when my grandfather took me to visit the Peabody Hotel in Orlando.

That was a special day for many reasons. This Polk County girl was headed for the Big City. I had one-on-one time with my grandfather. And I would get to make way for ducklings.

We entered the hotel lobby and waited. And waited. And waited. I remember the elevator bell ringing. The door opened and a mother duck, followed by a dozen ducklings, filed out. The people in the busy hotel lobby parted like the waters of the sea as the ducks made their way. They crossed the lobby in pursuit of the pond adjacent to the hotel’s lanai. We followed after them – my grandfather guiding me so the ducklings would always be in view. And then *splish splish splash* the ducklings followed their mother into the water. They were onto their next adventure as my grandfather and I completed mine.

Many people waited and then watched as Jesus made his way down the Palm Sunday road into Jerusalem. Men placed their cloaks on the ground. Women sang songs. Children waved branches. And I imagine grandparents guided the younger generations so they, too, would have Jesus in their view.

This intergenerational Palm Sunday image is powerful. So often the Church – the Body of Christ – allows or elects to be silo-ed. Adults here. Youth here. Children here. At times this is good; it enables and supports age- and cognition-appropriate learning and discussion. However, at other times, it is important for the Church to be together. To share moments of worship and wonder together. To create collective memories together. To be changed by the conclusion of one adventure and to start the next together.

Holy Week at TUMC, beginning with the Easter Egg Hunt this Saturday, is full of opportunities for the generations of Christ’s Body, the Church, to be together. We will have opportunities to seek and sing, read and remember, mourn and magnify. And these opportunities will be enhanced by our being together.

This is the first year I will witness Jesus making his way through Holy Week alongside the next generation in my family. I plan to take care in guiding Joshua so he is able to keep Jesus in view. I look to our TUMC Family to take on that same commitment for all the children in our families and in our church. This is a time for us to be together. This is the time for us to make way for Jesus and witness as he begins his next adventure.

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.

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

 

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