Vital Elements of Worship: Let Every Soul Be Jesus’ Guest

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Hosea 11:1-11 and Luke 15:1-2.

This past week I heard stories about the experiences of two of our Tuskawilla Family members.

One was a story of gratitude – that Tuskawilla is a place where we welcome people and value the service they offer. It was a story of being so glad to be apart of this fellowship, recognizing that not all church families are like ours.

The other story was a story of hurt feelings – that on our campus, that in our walls, that by our actions a member of our church did not feel welcomed and did not feel that the service they offered was valued.

In mere moments of one another – I was so proud of our church…and then saddened that one of our family is living with this hurt.

My dear TUMC family, I want our church – the place and the fellowship that we co-create in the name of God, the power of Christ, and the community of the Holy Spirit – to be an environment at all times and in all seasons where we welcome everyone and value the service offered, where we BelongGrow, and Serve together. It is bound to happen that we will not get it right from time to time; I know I do not get it right from time to time. When we mess up, let us not leave the mess. Let us not leave the relationship. Let us not walk away from one another.

God does not leave us in the messes we create. God does not, has not, and will not leave the relationship we share with God. Though we stray, God does not walk away. I believe there are times when God moves forward and invites us to follow, but God does not walk away.

Our Jesus welcomes and eats with sinners. Our Jesus welcomes and eats with people that do not always get it right. Our Jesus welcomes us to seek out our kin – that we have wronged and those that have wronged us – not for vengeance, but for forgiveness – and then in the beauty of restored relationship, share a meal together (see Matthew 18). Whenever we eat together, we remember the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night he gave himself up for us. We remember that Jesus ate with sinners. We remember that in that meal Jesus made tangible for us the grace that is available to us. This grace forgives, this grace reconciles, this grace welcomes, and this grace values. God’s grace truly is amazing.

My friends, I want us to be the church of the first story – not some of the time, but all of the time. And when we are not that church, I pray that God works swiftly in me, in you, in all of us, to be seekers of forgiveness and sharers of God’s grace so we are prepared to come to the table Jesus sets for us.

Prayer: “Come, sinners, to the gospel feast, let every soul be Jesus’ guest. Ye need not one be left behind, for God hath bid all humankind. See him set forth before your eyes; behold the bleeding sacrifice; his offered love make haste to embrace, and freely now be saved by grace. Ye who believe his record true shall sup with him and he with you; come to the feast, be saved from sin, for Jesus waits to take you in.”* Amen.

“Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast,” The United Methodist Hymnal 616.

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Avalanche Ranch!!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Joshua 1:7-9

This week over fifty children have learned how God is awesome, real, with us, strong and forever at Avalanche Ranch! With the help of many volunteers our church campus was transformed into a bible story learning, game playing, creative crafting, theatrical acting, song singing, rootin’ tootin’ ranch of celebration! The children travelled with Joshua and the Israelites as they made their way into the Promised Land. The children also learned about Nepal and collected a special offering that will be given in their name to UMCOR – the United Methodist Committee on Relief – to continue disaster relief efforts in this country.

Our theme verse for Avalanche Ranch reads, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). It has been amazing this week to watch all of these children – some that are very familiar with Tuskawilla and many that are new friends to Tuskawilla from the surrounding community – be bold, strong, and courageous as they learned together, worked together, and played together. Any hesitancy about a new experience that they felt on Monday evaporated by 9:03am on Tuesday. What’s a vision of the Kingdom and a vision for this church? That the church becomes a place where every child feels at home, feels welcomed, feels enriched, and feels loved.

In Joshua 3 and 4 we read a story of God once again parting the waters – this time the waters of the Jordan River – so that God’s people can cross safely to the other side. To remember God’s awesome deed and goodness in helping them with safe passage twelve men – one representing each tribe of Jacob – drew up a stone from the riverbed and together they built an altar. Joshua said, “When your children ask in time to come, What do those stones mean to you? then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial for ever” (Joshua 4:6-7). These stones became an Ebenezer – a visual reminder of a fresh beginning and new course for God’s people.

My hope is that the children’s experience at Avalanche Ranch this week will become an Ebenezer for them. I hope they will remember how they were welcomed here, the joy they experienced here, and how they learned (and will remember always) that God is awesome, real, with us, strong and forever.   And I hope as they want to learn more about our great God that they will remember the community they have felt this week and come back! Ya hear!?

I invite you to be present in worship this week as we celebrate Avalanche Ranch Sunday complete with a slideshow, ranch tunes, dancing, and reveal the amount of the offering the children have given for our neighbors in Nepal. I’m wearing my western finest for just this occasion. Wonder what that is? See you Sunday friends!!

Prayer: “Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love. Our God is an awesome God.” Yeeeeehaw! Amen.

*”Our God Is An Awesome God,” The Faith We Sing 2040.