God Is Wild About You!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 139

This week at Tuskawilla the children of our church and our community experienced God’s goodness and love at our Pandamania Vacation Bible School. I am immeasurably grateful for the leadership of Samantha Aupperlee, Shrell Chamberlain, Kelly Mawhinney, Vanessa Schuchart, Tim Rounsaville, and all the youth and adult volunteers that have made this week possible. Thank you for serving God’s children and sharing God’s witness this week!

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to attend a Compline Service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. Compline derives from the Latin word completorium, which refers to the completion of the working day. Compline services are entirely sung, save a few verbal instructions and the stating of the Scripture passages for the day.

At St. Mark’s the choir sang from a back corner of the cathedral rather than standing in the front of the gathered congregation. The congregation faced the altar and a brilliant rose window. Our group sat in the pews as the congregation gathered in silence, centering on God’s presence and welcome in that space.

But then a funny thing happened…

I saw a huge group of people stream into the cathedral carrying pillows and blankets. At first I thought a youth group had just returned from a trip and the Compline service was their final moment before heading home. I was wrong. In curiosity I watched as these fellow worshippers proceeded to spread out their blankets, place their pillows, and lay around the feet of the altar. They stared up at the ceiling. They peered out into the darkening sky. Some laid alone. Some laid alongside a loved one. They laid in God’s presence as God’s Scripture and prayers sang over them. They laid in comfort. They laid in peace. They laid at home.

It was beautiful.

In the gathering darkness we worshipped the Lord. In the gathering darkness we sang God’s praise. In the gathering darkness we laid ourselves on God’s altar…we became, we become, we are becoming holy and living sacrifices.

Even in the gathering darkness, as the Psalmist sings, God sees; God knows; and God comes alongside.

My heart broke once again as I learned about the terror attack in Istanbul. I added my lament with others’, “How long, O Lord, how long!?” Lord Almighty, cure our warring madness. Break the power that sin has over us. Take away our appetite for evil. Heal our brokenness. Instill within us that you desire light not darkness. Remind us that when we are in darkness – darkness that is and darkness that we create – you are with us. You see us. You redeem us. You perfect us. You make us new. You make us whole.

I take great comfort in knowing that children and youth surrounded God’s altar at Tuskawilla this week just as people surrounded the altar at St. Mark’s. Our children and youth offered their songs, laughter, curiosity, wonder, and joy to our God. I am filled with hope in knowing this is not an occasional but a regular occurrence; thanks be to God. May their gifts, may our gifts, rise up like sweet incense. May these our children know that God’s Sanctuary as their home. And may our church always understand the importance of creating a place and offering a space for all people to draw near to God as God draws near to us.

Be sure to join us in worship this Sunday for our Pandamania Worship Celebration. Our children and their leaders will guide the worship service. I cannot wait to dance and sing around God’s altar. See you there!

Prayer: “Jesus loves me—this I know for the Bible tells me so; little ones to him belong—they are weak, but he is strong.Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so!”* Amen.

*”Jesus Loves Me,” The United Methodist Hymnal 191.

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Prepare For Song: The Promise of Light

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 9:2 and John 1:5

This Sunday the Tuskawilla Community will celebrate the coming of the Christ child with two of my favorite symbols – music and light. Music is a very important part of my life. My mother has always been singing to me. She helped me get involved with music programs in school and church from a very young age. I happily played my part in many a bathrobe nativity – I made those sheep ears look good. As I grew up I helped other children fill the roles in those beloved nativities. Through the years children would sing and do sing the story of God’s entrance into the world. With Christ’s incarnation God’s love became physical and dwelt among us.

The Tuskawilla Choir will offer a cantata this week entitled The Promise of Light. This cantata walks tenderly the path from Advent to Christmastide, from preparation to incarnation, from people who walk in darkness to people who have seen a great light. As far as I know there will not be any bathrobed sheep running around though I would welcome them! The morning promises to be full of music and narrations that speak to humanity’s experience with darkness and God’s promise of light that will save all people.

As we pass through the middle of the Advent Season I am all the more ready for the glory of Christ’s light to be revealed. Spending so many years in church music programs and now pastoring churches has shown me the best seat in the house on Christmas Eve. I know that all good Methodists think that the back of the Sanctuary is where it is at…but anyone in the choir loft will tell you that the front is the place to be.

During the singing of Silent Night light floods the darkened Sanctuary. Light shines on each and every face. Features that were once obscure are now easily seen and most often the expression on each face is joy…joy that I trust is there because of Jesus. From my viewpoint I am able to see all of that joy as the light travels its way left to right front to back. Then together we lift the light, which I believe is symbolic of how Christ lifts all of us out of darkness. Surrounded by music and light we welcome our newborn King.

There are still a couple of weeks until we will lift that light in welcome. In the meantime I will wait. I will listen to music. I will sing as the choir leads me. And I will lean into the promise that our Lord is coming and will lead us out of darkness.

Prayer: “O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thy justice here; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”* Amen.

*”O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” The United Methodist Hymnal 211.