Memorial Day Sunday Hymn Sing

Scripture ~ Psalm 72.

When I was a girl, Memorial Day signaled the start of summer. School would be out soon if it was not already. We would eat more meals of hamburgers and hotdogs from the grill. Long days of sunshine and riding bikes into the evening hours until the mosquitoes literally chased us inside were in my grasp.

Memorial Day took on a new meaning my senior year of high school. My brother, Charlie, enlisted in the United States Army and deployed to Kuwait. There he served as a fueler and he patrolled the oil lines headed into the war zone. I thought of and prayed for him every day he was away. I wanted to eat burgers and hot dogs with him on Memorial Day, not wish he was there…

My appreciation for Memorial Day deepened a great deal when we learned of the death of Andrew’s beloved Josh. I will never forget driving into the National Cemetery in Bushnell and seeing each grave decorated with an American Flag. Josh loved this country. He gave his life for it. Duty. Honor. Brotherhood. Those values were the foundation of his life.

When Andrew and I found out we would be parents – like many – we began discussing names. It was not until the day we learned that we would have a son that I looked at Andrew and said we should name him Joshua. I will never forget the way that Andrew‘s face lit up. I asked him if it would be painful for him to call our son Joshua and Andrew said no because he wants our son to hold dear all of the things that his beloved Josh held dear. And so when we look at our Joshua we remember his namesake. We remember duty, honor, brotherhood and sisterhood. We remember and we give thanks.

As you celebrate Memorial Day this coming week, I invite you to reflect on how the celebration of this holiday has changed for you. How has the meaning of this day deepened? Is there someone that God is calling you to connect with on this day? What values ground your life and how do they give shape to the service that you offer to your neighbors?

Prayer: “Almighty God, before whom stand the living and the dead, we your children, whose mortal life is but a hand’s breadth, give thanks to you:

For all those through whom you have blessed our pilgrimage, whose lives that have empowered us, whose influence is a healing grace, we lift up thankful hearts.

For the dear friends and family members whose faces we see no more, but whose love is with us for ever, we lift up thankful hearts.

For the teachers and companions of our childhood and youth, and for the members of our household of faith who worship you now in heaven, we lift up thankful hearts.

For those who sacrificed themselves, our brothers and sisters who have given their lives for the sake of others, we lift up thankful hearts.

That we may hold them all in continual remembrance, and ever think of them as with you in that city whose gates are not shut by day and where there is no night, we lift up thankful hearts.

That we may now be dedicated to working for a world where labor is rewarded, fear dispelled, and the nations made one, O Lord, save your people and bless your heritage. Day by day we magnify you, and worship your name, for ever and ever. Amen.”*

*”Memorial Day,” The United Methodist Book of Worship 440.

Join us in worship for one service at 11am this Sunday at Tuskawilla UMC. Our choir will lead us through a guided hymn sing celebrating American Hymn Writers.

 

Advertisements

Hone For The Holidays

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 1:39-45

The Nativity Story is a story of movement. In reading scenes of the story in Matthew’s gospel or Luke’s gospel, we observe that the characters are always on the go. Mary travels to visit Elizabeth, as we read in our text this week. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for the census. The shepherds leave their fields to worship at the manger of the Christ child. The Magi from the East trek westward towards the star that hangs over where the child lays. The Holy Family seeks refuge in Egypt until the sign is given that it is safe for them to return to their homeland.

Somewhere to be. Something to do.

Sound familiar?

For many of us during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years we are on the go. We travel to eat with family, to visit friends, to shop, to attend parties, to catch concerts, to see Christmas lights. We go and we do because we do not want to miss out and we do not want to disappoint.

I shared Thanksgiving Day with almost 40 family and extended family members across two meals. It was fantastic to see them and to catch up, to break bread and to hope no one would break buttons off of their pants! My heart was full and my belly satisfied by the fellowship and food that was shared. I treasure that time with my family.

And I also treasure the time Andrew and I spent driving to these gatherings. I confess that most of our travel time was in silence; there had been plenty of sound in other moments of the day! In silence we “pondered in our hearts” all that had happened with our families and held the moments dear (Lk 2:19, 51). In silence we shared gratitude for the family that we – the two of us – are together. In the silence, though we were moving, at times, swiftly down the interstate, we were able to slow down. We were able to reflect, to be present, and to process. Intermittently we would break the silence to share a thought or crack a joke. And then we would return to the silence – to think, to be still, and to be grateful.

I encourage you in this season of Advent and activity – in this season of personal and Scriptural movement – where there does not seem to be enough time and the world will not slow down to find and/or create moments of silence. Slow down. Share gratitude and quiet prayer. Listen for expected and unexpected words from God. Ponder these moments in your heart. Share what you observe and learn with a loved one. Crack a joke with a friend. Then return to the silence once more.

I am grateful I did. I am sure you will be, too.

Prayer: “Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand. King of kings, yet born of Mary, as of old on earth he stood, Lord or lords, in human vesture, in the body and the blood; he will give to all the faithful his own self for heavenly food.”* Amen.

*”Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” The United Methodist Hymnal 626.

PictureLent ~ Reflect

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Our very own Pastor Kate is preaching this week! I hope you will join her in worship on Sunday and to receive the Scripture and message that God has prepared in her to share with each of you.

This week’s #picturelent focus word is Reflect. If you are reading along with the #picturelent devotions you will observe a reflective tone throughout: (1) of Jesus reflecting on Hebrew Bible Scriptures and (2) of how we are called to reflect Jesus’ love through our service in the world.

This reflective tone causes me to pause. I often think about how I am reflecting  Jesus’ love through service to, for, and with my neighbors. But reflecting on these Scripture texts has drawn my attention to something I have known for some time, but I have not had at the forefront of my mind: Jesus was not always the first person to offer the lessons he taught. His lessons are steeped in the Hebrew faith tradition. Some he taught verbatim scroll to people and others he expounded upon to bring a new interpretation. These lessons were passed down generation to generation and Jesus’ endorsement – God’s own Son saying “Yes! This! Do and keep doing this!” – of these lessons reinforce their importance and life-givingness.

I am convinced that we are able to care for others after the example of Christ through responsible stewardship of our resources that leads us to responsible living in the world. Whether time, talents, prayers, or passions, when we order them properly – offering first to God and then to neighbor – God’s blessings abound for the whole community. These lessons in stewardship were not advents with Jesus; Judeo-Christian lessons of stewardship were appropriated from Egyptian culture where the first fruits of all harvests were offered to Pharaoh, who was considered a deity. Instead of offering first fruits to Pharaoh we offer them to God. And then the remaining fruits are available for us to steward and share.

As I reflect on this interaction of Jesus reflecting on texts and then people reflecting his love through service, my mind comes to my friend Holly. She is my primary yoga teacher, the one responsible for walking with me and leading me through the wide world of yoga. Holly is a strong woman of faith and she is deeply committed to sharing the compassion she experiences in her relationship with Christ with others. When structuring the class schedule at her yoga studio she intentionally and purposefully dedicated her Sunday class as a Give class. Participants do not pay for this class; rather, they offer themselves in their practice and, in appreciation of that practice, participants offer a donation that Holly then gifts to a local philanthropy. Why does she do this? Because it is an expression of her understanding Scripture and an outpouring of her commitment to serve others after the example of Christ. Holly’s commitment to serve others after the example of Christ has even benefited the Tuskawilla Community as she gave the offerings from January’s Give classes in support of our support of the Conference Imagine No Malaria Campaign.

This is one example of a person’s understanding of Scripture nourishing her care and compassion for her neighbors. To incarnate this sort of understanding requires an exposure to God’s Word and time intentionally given to studying the connection between reading God’s word and living it out. To incarnate this sort of understanding requires reflection.

If you look in our mosquito net in the Narthex, you will see Firefly Yoga covering a few of the mosquitoes representing Holly and Firefly’s support of Imagine No Malaria. If you are committed to being one of TUMC’s 100 families to commit to the campaign, please write your name over a mosquito and hang it in the net as a sign of your support!

Bearing in mind the dual nature of reflections in this post, consider these questions: What is the subject of your recent reflections? What reflections are you showing in the world? Thinking on your activity in the world, what do they reflect as your source? What do they say about what you have been studying?

Prayer: “Blessed Jesus, at thy word we are gathered all to hear thee; let our hearts and souls be stirred now to seek and love and fear thee, by thy teachings sweet and holy, drawn from earth to love thee solely!”* Amen.

*”Blessed Jesus, at Thy Word,” The United Methodist Hymnal 596.

Atonement: Family Transaction

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Genesis 22:1-19

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent!  We also “spring ahead” at 2am on Sunday morning.  Three cheers for more sunlight…and being to worship on time!  Woot-Woot-Woohoo!

This week I find it rather fitting to study the almost child sacrifice of Isaac alongside the beginning of Lent, which is a season of sacrifice.  Both occasions – the pericope from Genesis and the liturgical season – are opportunities for obedience.

God gave Abraham instructions and he obeyed.  He started and – at the right time – God stopped him!  God provided another sacrifice – a gift of a ram so that Abraham could retain his greatest gift, his son.

The season of Lent presents us with an invitation to reflect and fast – reflect – on who we are and what we do; fast – that who we are and what we do make us more into who God desires.  We are not called to mandatory obedience in this reflecting and fasting…but I have to question why we would shy away from it?  Is it because we are too proud?  Is it because we are scared of what might be revealed?  Or is it because we are resigned in thinking that no change can come our way?

This past weekend I had the opportunity to lead enrichment sessions at a conference women’s retreat.  My session, Letters of Treasure, was a time for retreat participants to write letters to women currently incarcerated in our local area.  Our mission was to remind these ladies that they are women of worth; that they are treasured, beloved, and special; that they belong to God.  We wanted to affirm in these ladies that change is possible, that God is already at work in their lives, and that God is inviting their participation to continue their change to lead more healthy and whole lives.

In the letters we asked the ladies to consider who they were, who they are now, and who they wanted to be.  We encouraged the ladies to (1) identify their healthy behaviors and then (2) either transform unhealthy behaviors or leave them aside completely.  We invited them to reflect and and fast.  Why?  Because we believe change is possible.  Because we are affirmed that we bear the change of Christ in our bodies.  Because we believe reflecting and fasting are signs of our obedient faith.

It’s not about who these ladies have been or what they have done.  It’s about who God will lead them to be and what God will lead them to do.

The same is true for each one of us.

During this Lent I will take pause to reflect upon who I have been and ask God to lead me, break me, craft me into who God wants me to be.  Tonight I will starkly remember that all that I have is because of all that God has given and continues to give with the sign of the cross upon my brow.

Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust.

During this Lent I will fast from all bread related products as a way of standing in solidarity with my neighbors worldwide who hunger and ache for daily bread.  My prayer is that in these 40 days God will lead my heart and my body to God’s true and everlasting nourishment that as God’s vessel I will be able to nourish others.

What will be your reflection this Lent?  Where will God lead you to fast?  How will God encourage, challenge, and increase your obedience?

Believe in change.  Be prepared for change.

Obey and change.

Prayer: “O God, maker of every thing and judge of all that you have made, from the dust of the earth you have formed us and from the dust of the earth you would raise us up.  By the redemptive power of the cross, create in us clean hearts and put within us a new spirit, that we may repent of our sins and lead lives worthy of your calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”*

*”Ash Wednesday,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 353.

Almost 2013

Sunday’s Scriptures ~ John 1:1-18; Luke 2:25-32; Romans 13:11-12; II Corinthians 4:4-11; Ephesians 5:8-14; and I John 1:5-7.

Reading lots of Scripture – it’s a beautiful thing.

This week we turn our attention towards New Year.  We have celebrated Christmas, our houses are wrecks, our fridges are over-flowing with left-overs, college football bowl-season is in full swing, and people are beginning to make plans for the new year.

2013…

What will it hold?

What will I resolve to do this year?  What will I resolve to not do this year?

This Sunday’s service is based on a Watchnight Service, which is a service typically held on New Year’s Eve.  It begins late in the evening and typically concludes after the clock strikes *NEW YEAR*.

(Reeves will be having our service at 10am on Sunday, December 30…same time…same place…same Bat-channel…see what I did there?!)

A Watchnight Service provides us with an opportunity to reflect, confess, and prepare:

  1. Reflect – upon the year that has come to an end; what was started, what was accomplished, and what was left undone; the joys and successes alongside the trials and the losses.
  2. Confess – our sins, individually and communally, and be reconciled
  3. Prepare – for the new year through prayer and resolving.

As I consider the spiritual opportunities in a Watchnight Service I see a fantastic opportunity for growth in spiritual discipline throughout the new year.  What if I (what if we) resolved to have this sort of reflection time each week during 2013?  A time to:

  1. Reflect – upon the week that has come to an end; what was started, what was accomplished, and what was left undone; the joys and successes alongside the trials and the losses.
  2. Confess – my sin and be reconciled.
  3. Prepare – for the new week through prayer and resolving change and to be the change.

Each weekly watchnight would be an opportunity for private worship, study, journaling, and prayer.  Each weekly watchnight would be an opportunity to commune with God, center oneself again on the being who is our true center, and then proceed into the world as God’s hands and feet.

Perhaps…

Perhaps this is what God is calling you to resolve…perhaps this is not what God is calling you to resolve.  If a weekly reflection experience is not your cup of tea, then seek diligently the way God is calling you to resolve more time in the divine presence.  Seek it.  Name it.  Engage it.  And on the cusp of 2014 we will celebrate it!

Happy New Year!

Prayer: For “Seeking God’s Will” through Confession and Words of Assurance* by Bishop Ken Carter, Resident Bishop of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

O God, we seek you, and yet we hide from you.  At times we draw near, and at other times we move away.  If we are honest, we sometimes prefer darkness to light; despair to hope; confusion to clarity.  Help us receive the call to rebirth as a gift, and open our hearts and minds to the Spirit that makes all things new.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Pray in silence.

Brothers and sisters, hear the good news.  The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent, and believe the gospel.  In the name of Jesus, you are forgiven.  Amen.

* Kenneth H. Carter Jr, Prayers and Liturgies of Confession and Assurance (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009), 37.