Mountain Meditation: Sure Foundations

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 7:21-29.

This week I have the privilege of gathering with 30 pastors from around the Florida Annual Conference to participate in the third retreat for the 2016-2017 Generative Church Leadership Academy. This retreat – ironically? with greatest timeliness? both? – subjects seeing, knowing, and serving our neighbors.

As Mordecai said to Esther, “For such a time as this…” (Es 4:14).

Recently I attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meeting at Winter Springs High School with the one, the only, Ashley Lilly. The student offering the lesson that day posed the following questions to his classmates – “What does it mean to be a Christian” – and invited those present to respond. I was struck by how many of the responses were epistemically based – episteme meaning belief.

“Believe in God.” “Believe in the holy Bible.” “Trust in Jesus.” And more.

As Ashley and I left FCA that day I asked her what she thought about the responses, and immediately she replied, “Being a Christian is about the believing and the doing. It’s not just something you think or say. It’s something that you live.”

That response earned a fist bump…my heart was and is so warm.

I wholeheartedly agree with Ashley. When I think about our sure foundation, the bedrock of Christianity, it is believing and doing. It is faith and works. It is showing we are Christians by our love. It is seeing, knowing, and serving our neighbors.

The Apostle James asked, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (Jas 2:14-18). This is the ongoing work of sanctification (right, Gravity Youth!). This is the ongoing work of being made holy in this life.

Many, if not all, of us in the Tuskawilla Faith Family will agree that recently this has been a very hard season for our church. We have experienced the deaths of very dear friends and loved ones, we have watched folks we love navigate broken health and relationships, we have experienced the ebb of transition across all our ministries. I believe there are two stances we can take on what we are in the midst of: (1) we can be angry (and trust me – I have had many angry days) or (2) we can take this opportunity to return to the firm foundation of our faith, to our bedrock, to seeing, knowing, and serving our neighbors.

I don’t know about you – but I would rather serve than seethe. So that is what I will do. And I hope you, Tuskawilla Family, will continue serving with me.

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate with my colleagues at GCLA this week. And I am hopeful for how what is learned will further equip our ministry and mission and TUMC.

Prayer: “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her lord; she is his new creation by water and the Word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride; with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died. Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed, by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed, yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, ‘How long?’ And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.”* Amen.

*”The Church’s One Foundation,” The United Methodist Hymnal 545.

 

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Jesus Sees You

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 13:10-17.

Earlier this week I taught a yoga class that included a student with a broken big toe. He was anxious – to participate, to not harm his toe further, to not be a distraction to the other students, and to feel like he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish by the end of class.

The good news about yoga is that every pose – every.single.pose. – can be modified to each individual student. Poses can increase in challenge or comfort. Poses can be completed standing, kneeling, or sitting. So no poses on your feet – no problem.

He did not leave. He did not sit out. He practiced.

He did not feel cast to the side. He felt seen. He felt heard. He felt comforted. He felt accomplished. He felt included.

Before leaving class he thanked me for taking such special care of him in class and then asked me to suggest what other classes he might take that would accommodate and guide him through his recovery. I shared with him that it would be the pleasure of any teacher in the studio to lead him through a class at his ability level. It is on the teacher to meet the students where they are, to listen, to guide, and, most of all, to see.

When I feel seen, my self worth soars. When I feel seen, I am affirmed that I matter and that my contributions matter. And that feeling motivates me to see and affirm others.

As we head into the Fall months at Tuskawilla UMC we will have increased opportunities to see and connect with folks in our church family as well as see and connect with folks in our community. I love to watch our church during the Greeting Time on Sundays…I am convinced that our church family would greet one another for at least 20 minutes if we did not draw the congregation’s attention forward in the service. No one stands alone. No one is without a hand to shake or a smile to receive. It is truly extraordinary to behold and warms my heart so. We take time to see one another every Sunday. We take time to see one another as Jesus sees us.

In that same spirit I look forward to seeing our Bible Study groups resume, to seeing Scout Troops return to our campus, to seeing our Morningsong Worship Service begin on Sunday, September 11 at 8:30am, and yes, even to seeing the arrival of our little orange friends because their presence means we will soon see many of our community members on the church campus. I celebrate how our church sees both the Class Athlete Afterschool Program and the students of the Arbor School of Central Florida and has welcomed them to meet on our campus. I am amazed by the number of families our Friday Afternoon Food Bank sees and serves twice a month; their commitment to nourish the body and the soul is deeply inspiring.

The Tuskawilla Family understands well what it means to see one another and to meet our neighbors where they are. Through our ministries and witness we comfort and we challenge; we see, hear, and include God’s people. Through this behavior we add our hands to building God’s Kingdom.

Jesus sees us. When we serve one another well, we serve him well and he is so pleased.

Prayer: “Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do. Breathe on me, Breath of God, until my heart is pure, until with thee I will one will, to do and to endure.”* Amen.

*”Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” The United Methodist Hymnal 420.