Loves, Freed, Made

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Revelation 1:4b-8.

On Thanksgiving Week much of our attention is focused on nourishment – nourishing our bodies with delicious food and nourishing our hearts with hugs and hearty conversations with loved ones.

I often turn to the beautiful words of Rev. Jan Richardson to nourish my spirit when I am feeling dry or in need of a thoughtful pause. I met Jan on a retreat in the Fall of 2010. Her gaze has a way of embracing your whole person that is both a comfort and a calling. People feel at ease around Jan – free to be themselves. I would also say people feel a calling around Jan. The way God uses her to draw people to reflection and discernment of what is next – both their next depth of being and towards their deepening relationship with God.

And so on this week of nourishment, I turn to Jan for this wholesome word. May it be a blessing to you, my friends and fellow servants.

— — —

“Come, you who are blessed,” Jesus says; “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:35-36).

 

You Who Bless by Jan Richardson

 

You who are yourselves a blessing

who know that to feed the hungering is to bless

and to give drink to those who thirst is to bless

who know the blessing in welcoming the stranger

and giving clothes to those who have none

who know to care for the sick is blessing

and blessing to visit the prisoner:

may the blessing you have offered now turn itself toward you

to welcome and to embrace you at the feast of the blessed.*

Amen.

http://paintedprayerbook.com/2011/11/15/you-who-bless/

 

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Upbuilding: Coming Alive

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Thessalonians 1:1-10

This week the Tuskawilla community begins a new sermon series entitled Upbuilding.  In this series we will study texts from I Thessalonians.  The Thessalonians were an exemplar community – they received God’s Word, they were convinced that true salvation is grounded in Christ, and they lived their faith outwardly.  Other early Christian communities set the Christians at Thessalonica as their example.  Paul did not write to the Thessalonians to respond to an erupting issue; he wrote to praise them.  Paul sought to build up the Thessalonians so that their work would continue inspiring, encouraging, and upbuilding others.

 

Earlier this week I was in a meeting – don’t you just love meetings?  And in said meeting I was asked to take the minutes – don’t you just love meeting where you take the minutes?  For a good portion of the meeting it was business as usual – input on this budget item, update on this ministry action, report on this project, type type type.  But then a shift.  The committee began to dream about something entirely new – not new in the way that it has never been done before but new in the way that we are intentionally sculpting this new dream by bringing in the experience of others.  I got caught up in the moment…I had to remind myself to keep taking notes when I really wanted to just bask in the beauty of this dream!  We briefly brainstormed the best practices that certain persons, certain groups, and certain churches could bring to the table as we dream something new.  No one person or group or church does everything well; we do somethings well, but not everything well.  So what if we gather all of the tasks, ministries, and gifts that individually we do well and gift that wellness of best practices to a new dream?

It’s not often that I get really excited in a meeting, but all of this made me really really excited!

So before I could lose the great thoughts I returned to my typing!

Gathering these best practices is a way is a way this leadership team can upbuild a new ministry.  It’s the way this leadership team and those who work with us can invest in our neighbors and invest in strengthening God’s Kingdom on earth.  And why are we doing this?  Not so someone will write an epistle about us.  We do it because it brings God joy – and what brings God joy brings us joy.

The Thessalonians modeled faith and perseverance as best practices.  This is what we read in our Scripture text this week.  This is what Paul praises in his thanksgiving over them.  If someone were to name your best practices that you could offer as a gift to another person or another community, what would they identify?  What are those best practices that you would like to cultivate?  God is already singing your thanksgiving because you are God’s chosen and beloved.  In offering your best practices to use in the Kingdom God will shift from singing general thanksgivings to singing specific thanksgivings of you.

Prayer: “Come, thou almighty King, help us thy name to sing, help us to praise!  Father all glorious, o’er all victorious, come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!  Come, thou incarnate Word, gird on thy mighty sword, our prayer attend!  Come, and thy people bless, and give thy word success; Spirit of holiness, on us descend.  Come, holy Comforter, thy sacred witness bear in this glad hour.  Thou who almighty art, now rule in every heart, and ne’er from us depart, Spirit of power!  To thee, great One in Three, eternal praises be, hence, evermore.  Thy sovereign majesty may we in glory see, and to eternity love and adore!”* Amen.

*”Come, Thou Almighty King,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 61.

 

Plot From The Plain: Firm Foundation

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 6:46-49

This Sunday Reeves’ concludes our sermon series Plot From The Plain that subjected the texts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain from the latter part of Luke 6.  Our passage for this week focuses on Jesus’ prescription for sturdy foundation formation…and I can’t help but be propelled back to my Vacation Bible School days and sing…

The wise man built his house upon the rock.  The wise man built his house upon the rock.  The wise man built his house upon the rock and the rain came a tumblin’ down.  The rains came down and the floods came up.  The rains came down and the floods came up.  The rains came down and the floods came up and the house on the rock stood firm. 

The foolish man built his house upon the sand.  The foolish man built his house upon the sand.  The foolish man built his house upon the sand and the rain came a tumblin’ down.  The rains came down and the floods came up.  The rains came down and the floods came up.  The rains came down and the floods came up and the house on the sand went SMASH!

That song – though somewhat juvenile and not as inclusive as I would like it to be at this point in my life – is very true to the teaching of Jesus.  For our foundations to withstand the trials of life they must be built on firm support…and if not…SMASH.

As I reflect on this Scripture – and the upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving – I am reminded of those persons that have helped create a firm foundation on Christ in my life and I would like to share a bit about them with you.

(Note: names have not been changed so I can properly celebrate these people!)

One – my sweet mama who read me Bible stories every night as a child, who continues to pray for me and my ministry every single day, and who has an infectious desire to keep exploring, deepening, questioning, and expanding her relationship with the God she loves – the God she taught me to love.

Two – my beloved Andrew who is my constant support, strength, and security.  His belief in me is unfailing.  He truly is my hero.

Three – my Becky, Melissa, and Melanie – these incredibly strong women speak truth into my life, they call me on my stuff in good times and in times when I need an adjustment, and constantly peel back the veil from my eyes so I truly embrace and celebrate my own gifts and accomplishments.

Four – my Sara(h)s and Dan – amazing friends from my Candler days.  Though we live and serve in different parts of the country, they are my covenant family and we share the timeless gift of picking up right where we left off.

Five – my clergy mentors Tim, Jenn, Lisa, and Riley – your wisdom is pure gift.  You allow me to ask questions, you give me the space to try on something new and then to digest the process.  You have dried my tears and made me laugh till my ribs ache.  Your presence has and continues to shape me so much.

Six – my dear friend Lisa who has opened my eyes and deepened the love in my heart for the development, resourcing, and true connection within and beyond the beloved inclusive community.  Thank you for being my guide and including me.

Seven – the United Methodist congregations that have had hands in my formation ~ First UMC Lakeland, FL; Northside UMC Atlanta, GA; Inman UMC Fayetteville, GA; New Horizon Church Haines City, FL; Reeves UMC Orlando FL; St. Luke’s UMC Orlando, FL.

Eight – the incredible camping and retreat ministries of the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp and Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park, FL – both as a participant and a leader

Nine – a shout out to John Wesley.  Yes.

Ten – a place to honor those that will help firm and form my foundation in Christ in the days, weeks, and years ahead.

Relfection: Who are those persons in your life that have helped strengthen your foundation?  Who are those persons you could seek out to either firm up your foundation or aid them in firming theirs?  This is our work in the Kingdom – so it is also our joy.

Prayer: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”*

*”My Hope Is Built,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 368.