Direct

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 1:76-80.

“The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter.”

The same can be said of conducting batons.

As a sacred music major Andrew took Conducting as a graduation requirement. He and his classmates received their batons and – ahhhhh – it was time to make music. Or at least direct it.

Conducting students rotated through the concert chorale, orchestra, and wind ensemble to practice their skills. Some displayed great confidence. Others were like musical deer under stage headlights. I do not blame them – some of those wind ensemble scores have upwards of twenty notated instrument parts to read and lead at once!

It is the conductor’s responsibility to direct every part. But the full weight of responsibility is not on the conductor. It is the musician’s responsibility to pay attention.

There were many a rehearsal that conductors throughout my life – orchestra, choir, handbells – asked, reminded, sometimes pleaded that the musicians would look up! “I will help you, I will bring you in, I will give you each note, each moment of movement. Just look up!”

How true that is for the life of faith as well. If we look up – or more specifically if we look to the people and teachings God places in our lives for help and guidance – we will find God ready and eager to help us. God will bring us in, alongside, and through; God will give us each moment of movement.

We do not have to go it alone. That is the gift of Emmanuel. God is with us – always.

I trust God in each entrance. I trust God in each exit. And I trust God in strengthening my commitment to pay attention.

Join us in worship on Sunday for the First Sunday of Advent. We will light the Advent Candle Wreath and begin singing carols of the season as we prepare our hearts for our Savior’s birth. See you Sunday!

Prayer: “O come, thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nigh; to us the path of knowledge show and cause us in her ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”* Amen.

*”O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” The United Methodist Hymnal 211.

 

 

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The Gospel According to Showtunes: Defying Gravity

Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Chronicles 15:1-12

This week at Reeves we begin a new sermon series – I am so excited!!! – entitled The Gospel According to Showtunes!  Each week we will explore a Scripture passage alongside a showtune and examine where there is harmony and dissonance.  Applying showtunes as an interpretative lens to Scripture will be a challenge, but it will also have its benefits.

Among the benefits is hearing the showtunes in worship.  It’s gonna be awesome!

This week we Defy Gravity in partnership with Wicked and the story of King Asa from II Chronicles.  Asa is of the house of David.  He is a ruler in the Southern Kingdom – a kingdom that is presently pockmarked with idols.  God’s people have strayed once again.  Their praises seek to please static gods in the Ancient Near East rather than the mighty, dynamic, saving God that delivered them through the Sea of Reeds from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.  Asa receives a word from the Lord from God’s messenger Azariah.  Azariah reminds Asa and calls to the people, “The Lord is with you, while you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you abandon him, he will abandon you” (II Chron 15:2).  The people’s idolatry is a sign of their sin and abandonment.  In order to redirect their attention, to redirect their worship, service, and reverence Asa must remove those items that skew the people’s vision.  The idols and Asherah poles – they have got to go.

At this point in the story…it looks like it’s Asa against the world.  What is he going to do?

I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter.  I was a little late to the Harry Potter party – but escaping into JKRowling’s England helped me write my commissioning and ordination papers.  Thank you, Harry.  “Always.”

In the first book of the series, Professor Dumbledore – Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – is in the midst of awarding house points at the end of term banquet.  Whichever of the four houses of Hogwarts – Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Slytherin – has the most points (awarded for good deeds and write answers, deducted for misbehavior) at the end of the year wins the coveted House Cup.  At the beginning of the banquet Gryffindor – Harry’s house – was in last place, but because of a series of event (read the books folks) Gryffindor is now tied with Slytherin for first place.  Has their ever been a tie for House Cup Champion?  Students and staff in the Great Hall wait with baited breath…and Dumbledore says, “There are all kinds of courage.  It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but just as much to stand up to your friends” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 17.197).  And then Dumbledore awards 10 points to Neville Longbottom – the most unlikely person to ever earn House Cup Points – because he stood up to his friends.  Gryffindor wins!

Asa would be rewarded 10 points…probably more.  He stood up to his friends.  He stood up to his family members.  He removed the idols.  He tore down the Asherah poles.  He sought the Lord.  He did not succumb to peer pressure and leave things the way they were.  He knew what was right and he went after it.  And if you know anything about Wicked – Asa’s acts helped him to Defy Gravity!

Where is God calling you to stand up?  It could be to enemies.  It could be to friends.  What conviction has God given you?  How is God calling you, shaping you, to become an advocate?  Sit with these questions for a while…and then act.  Fly high.  Defy Gravity.

Prayer: “The care the eagle gives her young, safe in her lofty nest, is like the tender love of God for us made manifest.  As when the time to venture comes, she stirs them out to flight, so we are pressed to boldly try, to strive for daring height.  And if we flutter helplessly, as fledgling eagles fall, beneath us lift God’s mighty wings to bear us, one and all.”* Amen.

*”The Care the Eagle Gives Her Young,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 118.

Atonement: Out With The Goat and In With The New

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Leviticus 16:5, 7-10, 15-22

Football season ended the first week of February. Then I watched the Olympics. And now it’s Award Season. Let’s face it folks…I’m counting down to mid-August…get me back to football season – and Go Packers!

Everyone has been talking about the Academy Awards – and I admit that the only movie I have seen that won an Academy Award – also the only movie I’ve seen that was nominated for an Academy Award (thanks to Andrew being a youth director…we need to get out more…) is Disney’s Frozen.

And thanks to the Academy Awards I now have a super long list of movies that I need to see! But, as Hagrid would say, “we’ll get to that later.”

If you haven’t seen Frozen yet, I highly recommend it. And I applaud Disney for the many beautiful expressions of family celebrated in this film. The primary protagonists are a pair of sisters – Anna and Elsa. Both are princesses. Both love one another deeply, but Elsa has a unique gift that if uncontrolled can be damaging. So she is raised to suppress it – “to conceal, not feel.” Well…what was to be concealed is revealed on just about the biggest stage imaginable and Elsa flees. As she flees she sings “Let It Go.”

These lyrics speak directly to me – and I believe to our Scripture passage for this week:

I’m never going back,
The past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

I’m never going back, the past is in the past, let it go, let it go. In our Scripture passage for this week we learn about purification rituals enacted on the Day of Atonement – one of them being casting the sins of the community onto a goat and then releasing a goat into the wilderness. In this way the sins of the people literally ran away and were removed from their persons thereby making the people “at one” with God again. Once the sins were atoned for God’s people believed the act of sin, the blame of sin, and the shame of sin were all removed – were all forgiven. They “let it go” on the goat; they didn’t go back, the past is in the past. They looked forward. They moved on. They enjoyed the full measure of God’s forgiveness.

Sometimes I wish real life were as easy as a Disney movie – that every problem would be resolved in 90 minutes or less…and that there would be more singing…yeah…especially if I could sing like Idina Menzel! But then again, Disney movies aren’t always tied up in a nice little package. Elsa sings this song early on in the movie proclaiming that she has “let it go” – but she still has to work through her circumstances. She has to process what happened, integrate what she learned from the experience, strategize so it does not happen again, and apply the learnings and strategies in order to let it go, to let the past be in the past.

I believe the same holds for us. When we sin – when we abuse God’s good gift of free will and choose something other than God as the priority in our lives – we want to let it go. We want to experience God’s forgiveness. We want to be at one with God again…but if we fail to process the sin, integrate what we have learned from the experience, strategize so it does not happen again, and apply the learnings and strategies, then we may fall as a casualty to sin yet again. We cannot only hope to not fall into sin again because hope is not a strategy. We must work out our faith – work out our salvation – so that with God’s guidance we rise from sin, released from its blame and shame, and live in the peace of letting it go.

During the season of Lent we are invited to become more aware of our sins – to process, integrate, strategize, and apply as we seek to go and sin no more. During this season I believe God wants us to examine ourselves and let sins go.

What sins are you retaining? What sins, what pasts, are God calling you to let go?

Reflect. Confess. Let them go. Experience peace.

Prayer: “O God, just as we look into a mirror to see any soiled spots on our face, so let us look to you in order to understand the things that we have done amiss.  We are like a reed shaken in the wind; we are inexpressibly weak.  Leave us not to ourselves, but dwell in our hearts and guide our thoughts and actions.  Amen.”*

*”For Guidance,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 366.