Church Behind the Scenes

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Acts 2:1-12.

Some years ago I heard this piece of truth: if your dreams do not scare you, then your dreams are not big enough.

I tend to avoid things that scare me: roller coasters, water chestnuts, flats on Sundays… so it is a bit counterintuitive for me to run towards and hold fast to something that scares me.

I am a planner. I do not like surprises. I like expectations – both what to expect and what is expected of me. While the unknown and the future holds a certain intrigue – a certain mystique – it scares me.

On Pentecost we celebrate the birth of the church – the day we received the gift of God’s Holy Spirit as well as the invitation to worship, gather, and serve as part of God’s dream that is both seen and unseen. As we are the church together God reveals more of God’s dream – God’s big, grace-filled, freeing, heart-capturing dream. We have the opportunity to take hold of God’s dream and very quickly it takes hold of us and draws us towards a future we cannot fully see but can fully trust.

It can be scary…but a relationship with God draws us into such a greater world. In God’s world we matter and what we do matters. Sometimes we can see how what we do fits into God’s larger dream. And sometimes we serve not knowing exactly how our offering fits into God’s big dream and so we trust that God uses our offerings to God’s good and God’s glory.

As scary as all of this is…God has so captured me that I cannot do anything but pursue God’s dream. I know some of the steps, but not all of them. And I continue walking. I continue trusting. I continue dreaming. And when I am scared I know I am not alone…and that I am right on track.

Prayer: “Wind who makes all winds that blow, gusts that bend the sapling low, gales that heave the sea in waves, stirrings in the mind’s deep caves: Aim your breath with steady power on your church, this day, this hour. Raise, renew the life we’ve lost, Spirit God of Pentecost.”* Amen.

*”Wind Who Makes All Winds That Blow,” The United Methodists Hymnal, 538.

 

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Lord of the Dance: The Dance Goes On

Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 15:9-17.

This week we conclude our sermon series based upon Sydney Carter’s hymn The Lord of the Dance. In five verses this hymn sings the story to Jesus’ life – incarnation, disciple-making, facing adversaries, sacrifice, and resurrection. Carter’s final verse takes care to make us aware of our invitation to join Jesus’ dance. In verses one through four we observe Jesus dancing; in verse five he extends his open hand to us.

“I’ll live in you, if you live in me.”

I gain a sense of infinity when I sing that phrase. There is an infinite number of people that could join Jesus in his dance. And there is an infinite number of ways we could continue the dance with Jesus. These truths affirm the following for me:

There is wideness in God’s mercy.

There is great freedom in the ways we can demonstrate our commitment to the dance led by Christ.

Barbara Brown Taylor is a pastor and writer that I often turn to as I continue shaping my life of faith and pastoral craft. In one particular story she shares about a time of discernment with God as she prepared to graduate from college. She lacked certainty in her next steps…she sought confidence to continue in Christ’s dance. So she prayed. And God answered her in prayer, “Do whatever pleases you and belong to me.”

Wideness in God’s mercy.

Freedom in the ways we can demonstrate our commitment to the dance led by Christ.

How are you dancing with Christ? What objections or inhibitions do you have to joining Christ’s dance? By experiencing the wideness of God’s mercy and the freedom in how you can dance with Christ, in what ways are you doing whatever pleases you and belonging to God?

This is our invitation to eternity with Christ. “I’ll live in you, if you live in me. I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.”

Prayer: “They cut me down and I leapt up high, I am the life that’ll never, never die; I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me; I am the Lord of the Dance said he. Dance, then, wherever you may be; I am the Lord of the Dance, said he. And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.”* Amen.

*”The Lord of the Dance,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 261.

 

The Gospel According to Showtunes: Freak Flag

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Jeremiah 1:4-10

This passage of Scripture shares the call of the prophet Jeremiah.  God calls Jeremiah to live a life set apart  and to lead God’s people through proclamation, guidance, and accountability.  Jeremiah resisted, but God convinced him, and Jeremiah lived his life in the service of his Lord.

As I read Jeremiah’s call story, I am drawn to the memory of my own.  I have known since the age of 11 that God called me – and calls me still – to live a life set apart and to lead God’s people through proclamation, guidance, and accountability.  I cannot recall any moments where I resisted in the manner of Jeremiah, but that does not mean that I have not faced my share of hardships…and it does not mean that I do not continue to face hardships.  I receive criticisms on my age and my gender.  My intellect and work ethic are questioned.  I am looked down upon and it is God who helps me keep on standing when my knees buckle.

Some folks think that only ministers, pastors, and priests are called by God.  Not true.  So not true.  We all participate in the ministry of all believers, which means we are all called and set apart by God to do a specific task or many specific tasks in the Kingdom.  Some flavors of set apartness lead persons into lives of ordained clergy and other flavors of set apartness lead persons into lives of awesome servant leadership without having a formal title in the church.

But wait…we all bear a formal title.  Actually we have several formal titles from God.

Child of God.  Disciple.  Beloved.

All of these calls – clergy / laity / children of God / disciples / beloved – are worthy and honorable and necessary in the Kingdom.

We can try to offer excuses to God as to why we are not fit to serve or worthy of God’s call, but if we gaze into our Scripture passage for this week we learn that God has an answer to each of our objections.  We could follow in the footsteps of Jonah and flee from God’s call with an excursion on our own, but I know I would rather follow God’s will – no matter how trying it may seem to me – smelling fresh and clean than smelling like l’eau de poisson.

How awesome it is that our mighty and powerful God, who could and is able to do all the work and service needed in this world, is so generous in inviting us to join the work?  When we call on God, we want an answer…and that’s a two way street, my friends.  When God calls on us we should not send God to voicemail or hit “ignore” or receive the message and never respond.  God calls and God wants an answer.  The unknown of that call – the where will I be sent, what will I be asked to do, how will I make this work, why did God pick me – will be answered in time.  Our initial and quick answer to God’s call should be in trust and in faith.

“I am with you to deliver you,” God said to Jeremiah.

God affirms those words to us as well.

And we should say, “Here I am, send me.”

Prayer: “Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God.  Standing on the promises I cannot fall, listening every moment to the Spirit’s call, resting in my Savior as my all in all, standing on the promises of God.  Standing, standing, standing on the promises of God my Savior; standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God.”* Amen.

*”Standing on the Promises,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 374.