Welcome to the scribblings of one Methodist pastor. Here you will find devotions, sermon clippings, pastoral letters, and other assorted thoughts and reflections. The most significant categories can be accessed through the menu at the top. These include:
Beyond Sunday: These are follow up materials related to sermons I preach. If you would like to hear the audio for the sermon, it is generally posted by Tuesday on my church’s website.
Open Source Liturgy: Prayers, readings, and sermons series crafted by myself, my team, or posted with permission. You are free to use and adapt these with attribution. Pictures or stories of how they worked for you are always appreciated.
Faith and Art:For more than two thousand years artists across the world have produced moving works based on Biblical texts and the stories of the Christian faith. I use many of these in preaching but often can’t delve fully into them so the extra reflections end up here.
Leading:Reflections on leadership, change, and being a pastor.
Across generations, the people of God have created metaphors and imagery to explain God, imagine God, and relate to God. Children asked to draw God will often picture someone who cares for them and teaches them about God. As adults, how we imagine God can have a subtle but profound impact on how we live our faith.
What does God look like? The Bible gives us lots of imagery for God
Is God a He? Yes, especially when we’re talking about the human/divine Jesus. For all of God, She and They (singular) are also appropriate.
Does the way we imagine God affect how we live our faith? Yes.
Find an image from art or life that helps you imagine God and journal about what that picture says to your faith.
Spend some time with a scripture that images God. Pray through it and respond to it by creating visual art that reflects what it teaches you about God.
Ask someone else how they see God and mediate on their answer and how it relates to you.
Gather images of God from Christians around the world. Study what each one reflects about their culture and God. Create a devotion or series of devotions around the images and share them with your Sunday School or Small Group.
Though we won’t often admit it, we all like to know our boundaries. What is the minimal effort required, what is the most that is acceptable. We might not always color inside the lines, but we like knowing where the lines are. So perhaps we find ourselves asking questions like: What is the least you can believe and still be Christian? or What must I do to be saved? The questions are eternal, and so is the answer. As Jesus said, love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.
Does everyone need salvation? Yes
Does Christ offer salvation to everyone? Yes
Do I have to go to church to be saved? God does the work of salvation, church helps us grow in our love for God and neighbor.
James exhorts us to pray in the midst of suffering and celebration. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. Again and again we hear the power of prayer exhorted. But exhortation doesn’t necessarily answer all our questions. There is great power in prayer, and it is an essential part of our faith life. But what if that power is bigger and wilder than what we imagine with our well loved platitudes.
Does God always hear our prayers? Yes
Why doesn’t God answer every prayer? God always answers, just not always in the way we expect or with what we hoped for; sometimes the answer is no, or not right now.
If God is in control of everything, do our prayers matter? Yes.
Big things begin from small seeds. A tax collector can be reformed by dinner. A small group of women in a church basement can become a mission organization with worldwide outreach. You may see your gifts as small, but in them God sees great opportunity.
Remember a time when you offered a small kindness that was received as a great blessing.
What actions have had ripple effects in your faith community?
What big work would you like to see accomplished? What small step might begin it?
Set aside 30 days to pray for discernment about where God is leading you now.
Read “Maid” by Stephanie Land
Volunteer 10 hours with an organization that works directly with poor or marginalized persons
Commit a year to learning about a broken circumstance in the world (poverty, immigration, polarization, etc)
Start a small group to focus on a single issue. Study together, pool money, and offer service together.
Peter says in Acts “God is no respecter of persons”, meaning God does not show partiality. The world marks all kinds of status divisions, wealth, influence, age, race, gender. The Church as the body of Christ should be without partiality, but often we can be as infatuated with status as any other community. Our discipleship calls us to rise above and see the image of God in all.
Have you ever been honored for your contributions of time or treasure? How did it feel? Were you more or less inclined to give again?
Have you ever refrained from supporting a ministry or program because you didn’t like an aspect of it? What would Mary McLeod Bethune have said to that?
Make a list of places you give time or money. Ask yourself how you chose those.
List places you used to give time or money along with the reason you stopped. Were any of those about a need for control?
Pray about one place you could give time or treasure that has no benefit for you.
Make all of your giving for 1 year anonymous. Reflect on how that changes your attitude.
Francis of Assisi was born to wealth and privilege. Yet he wrestled with how to use what he had for others and what so much luxury did to his soul. Eventually, he turned his back on riches and chose a life of intentional poverty and service. His witness has influenced generations. Though we may not be called to a life of aestheticism, we can learn from Francis the truth that giving to God is as much about our own spiritual needs as it is about the needs of others or God’s requirement.
Can you recall a time when you gave something away only to receive an unexpected return?
Paul asks the Corinthians to contribute to the life of the Church by saying “that you might have the blessing of giving…” Do you view giving as a blessing or a duty?
Journal about the stories of your life that have shaped how you veiw giving.
Make a list of all the groups and causes to which you contribute and select one place to increase your donation.
Review your budget. Find at least one item you could reduce or eliminate and give away that money.
Eliminate one thing from your calendar and use the time to volunteer.
Part of DPUMC’s unique make up is that we put love into action. We believe that when the love of God is deeply rooted in our hearts, it pours out in our actions. We help others, not for glory or duty, but because it is our nature as disciples and we cannot be otherwise. [hear sermon audio]
Devotion time is crucial to your growth in faith. Here are some resources for yours this week:
Our scripture this week is part of a larger speech. It is the last of the discourses that structure the gospel of Matthew. This week take a look at the rest of the teaching:
Dorothy Day said, “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Who is least for you? What actions could express compassion toward them?
Put it into practice: Take a sheet of paper and list our core values: Welcome, Family, Faithfulness, & Compassion. For each, write out ways you do or could put that value into action. Commit to making those values explicit in your life over the next week.
Share an invitation to church. Invite someone to come with you next week and experience our compassion.
All change has potential pitfalls; whether you are casting a new vision for an organization or switching the brand of coffee you brew for guests. This worksheet helps me think through the steps needed to communicated and implement a potential change.
The front side is questions to ask yourself (or your team) to help clarify the reason changes is needed and the path you’ll take to get there. The back can be used to record input from stakeholders and partners.