Welcome

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.

Enjoy!

[Beyond Sunday] Bible Sunday

​ But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,  and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17
We presented elementary students with their first Bible this week at DPUMC.  It was a great day to reflect on the importance of scripture to our faith and formation.  [hear sermon audio] This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Do and share:

  • Make your own scripture resource file.  Get a journal or some index cards.  Then spend some time finding scriptures you love for each category and put one on each page or card.
    • Scriptures for times of Joy
    • Scriptures for times of Greif
    • Scriptures for times of Disappointment
    • Scriptures for times of Uncertainty
    • Scriptures for times of Hope
  • Encourage your friends to make a list of these scriptures too.  Swap lists and add their thoughts to your file.
  • Share a scripture of Joy in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).
  Feature image by MiniPress and available for download at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/488606806/instant-download-your-word-is-a-lamp-to?ref=shop_home_active_1  

If your kids and youth have questions this week…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all yourstrength, and with all your mind; and your neighboras yourself.”

Luke 10:27

This week we didn’t have a traditional sermon at DPUMC.  We tied up our series on difficult questions of faith by answering questions from the congregation.  So it wasn’t possible to write my usual Tuesday follow up blog.  Instead, I thought I’d offer some information to help parents and grandparents answer some difficult questions they may be asked this week.

The testimonies of Dr. Blasey Ford and Hon. Kavanuagh continue to dominate the news.  The ongoing nomination process has sparked a national conversation about consent, assault, men and women’s experiences and rights.  These subjects are as important as they are sensitive. Children and teens need to have their questions honored and feel safe talking to the adults around them.   If the young people in your life have questions, it is because they are seeking your wisdom about the person they should become.

Many parents will want to shield young children from the explicit details.  But children are capable of grasping consent and how they should treat others in an age-appropriate way.  They can be reminded Jesus loves them and everyone.  Because we love Jesus, we also love other people and treat them nicely.  We only hug or touch others if they say its okay.  And people should only hug or touch them if they say its okay.

With older children, you might emphasize that God has created each person and that all are equal in Christ.  You can read together Psalm 139 or 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 and along with the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27).  Discuss what it means to love others as ourselves.

With pre-teens that might also include a conversation about substances, like alcohol and drugs, that inhibit our ability to make good decisions and can even put us in dangerous situations.  You might find the UMC’s Social Principles a helpful guide.  From the section on Women and Men:

We affirm with Scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God. We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another, and that members of one gender may receive love, power, and esteem only at the expense of another. We especially reject the idea that God made individuals as incomplete fragments, made whole only in union with another. We call upon women and men alike to share power and control, to learn to give freely and to receive freely, to be complete and to respect the wholeness of others. We seek for every individual opportunities and freedom to love and be loved, to seek and receive justice, and to practice ethical self-determination. We understand our gender diversity to be a gift from God, intended to add to the rich variety of human experience and perspective; and we guard against attitudes and traditions that would use this good gift to leave members of one sex more vulnerable in relationships than members of another.

UMC Social Prinicples ¶161

Teens, especially, may be wrestling right now because Ford and Kavanaugh were themselves teenagers on the night under discussion.  Your teen may know a friend who abuses alcohol or drugs, or who has been the victim of sexual assault.  Try asking for and listening to their opinion first.  If they have questions, remind them that sex is a good gift from good, but meant to be a gift between married people. Help your teen understand that loving others, means respecting their boundaries; loving yourself means being careful about the people you spend time with and the situations you put yourself.

Be an adult they can come too.  Even if they or their friends find themselves at a party, on a date, or in a situation they’re uncomfortable with, let them know you are someone they can call with no questions asked until the morning.

For a deeper family study, you might read 2 Samuel 13-15 or Judges 19-20.  Be aware that both these stories contain difficult content including sexual violence.  In both, the assault and subsequent injustice have devastating effects for the Israelites.

Whatever questions your kids have, remind them that they are loved and that you are a safe place to bring their fears and anxieties.

Prayers for you this week parents.

[Beyond Sunday] What’s Up With End Times

​ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will freely give water from the life-giving spring.


Revelation 21: 1-6

Perhaps no faith questions provoke as much speculation as, “What happens after we die?” and “What will the end of time look like?”  The Wesleyan traditions have never been focused on the last days.  The final victory is already won and the details are known only to God.  What matters more is do we follow the commands Christ gave us for the here and now. [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • Why do you think people engage in speculation about end times?
  • How might the belief that we will leave this world behind affect the way we behave now?
  • How might the belief that God’s final plan involves returning and dwelling here affect the way we believe now?

Do and share:

  • Take some time to chart our your beliefs.  What questions do you have about the end?  Where did you learn what you believe?  How have those beliefs changed over time?
  • Research art connected to Revelation.  Share an image in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).

Feature Image: Guernica by Pablo Picasso

[Beyond Sunday] What’s Up With Perfection

God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.

-1 John 5: 16b-21

As Methodist, we talk about the life of discipleship as going on to perfection.  But does that mean that every mistake we make is a failure?  If God is love, is it possible that we are called into a perfection that is not a burden, but a graceful reflection of the love that is in us?  [hear sermon audio]

 

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • When have you felt pressure to be perfect?
  • Was the pressure for perfection internal or external?
  • How does the idea of perfect in love change your perception of perfection?

Do and share:

  • Step out of your comfort zone and try something new or do something you don’t feel you are very good at.  Record how it makes you feel and what you do with those feelings.
  • Take a picture of a random act of kindness this week.  Share in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc) and include how it expresses perfect love.

 

[Beyond Sunday] What’s Up With Simplicity

Then the ruler said, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.”

When Jesus heard this, he said, “There’s one more thing. Sell everything you own and distribute the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” When he heard these words, the man became sad because he was extremely rich.

When Jesus saw this, he said, “It’s very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom! It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

-Luke 8:20-23

Do we own our stuff or does it own us?  While Jesus never passes judgment on either wealth or poverty, he does point out that the accumulation of things usually indicates attachment to things.  And we are not meant to carry things with us into the kingdom of God.  [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • When have you let possessions define who you are to yourself or to others?
  • How many things in your house have not been used in the last 6 months?  The last year?
  • How does your relationship with stuff affect your relationships with others?

Do and share:

  • Take a less stuff challenge:  Try to go 1 week without buying anything other than food.  Keep track of the things you think you need and how you got around buying something. #lessstuff
  • Choose an area of life you need to simplify.  Give away unused clothes, Stop eating out,  Give up coffee shop coffee.  Share your story in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc). #lessstuff

 

[Beyond Sunday] What’s Up With Politics

2 Keep the king’s command because of your sacred oath. 3 Do not be terrified; go from his presence, do not delay when the matter is unpleasant, for he does whatever he pleases. 4 For the word of the king is powerful, and who can say to him, “What are you doing?” 5 Whoever obeys a command will meet no harm, and the wise mind will know the time and way. 6 For every matter has its time and way, although the troubles of mortals lie heavy upon them. 7 Indeed, they do not know what is to be, for who can tell them how it will be? 8 No one has power over the wind to restrain the wind, or power over the day of death; there is no discharge from the battle, nor does wickedness deliver those who practice it. 9 All this I observed, applying my mind to all that is done under the sun, while one person exercises authority over another to the other’s hurt.

-Ecclesiastes 8:2-9

Where there are people, there will be politics.  How do we as the people of faith navigate our relationship to the state and to each other.  [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • How does your faith inform your politics?
  • Do you find your politics informing your faith?
  • Do you ever see us as a people trying to “restrain the wind”?

Do and share:

  • Listen to 30 minutes of a quality news source different from your typical leaning.  Note the feelings that come up in you.
  • Find a story of faith positively impacting politics.  Share it in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).

 

What’s Up With Judging (Follow Up)

Hey friends,

We had a great time Sunday kicking off our What’s Up with That sermon series and playing with a new tool called Mentimeter.  I love that you all got to respond and ask questions live.  I couldn’t get to all of them during the service, so I wanted to follow up with a couple of answers here.

1. Didn’t we invite accountability when we joined the church? Or does it have to be explicit?

Great question!  Sunday we talked about the difference between judgment that condemns and accountability among believers is :

  • Accountability presumes equality
  • Accountability always benefits the person receiving
  • Accountability has to be invited

Yes, I do think we invite accountability when we become a part of a faith community.  For instance, in our baptismal vows we pledge to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves; and in our membership vows we pledge to uphold the congregation with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.  Those are very explicit expectations and it is good to hold one another to those standards in love.

It is fair to hold each other accountable for explicit and widely shared expectations.

For less overt expectations or expectations that are held mainly in a subgroup of the congregation, I think the depth of relationship you have with the person dictates whether on not you need an explicit invitation.

2. How do we find that log without judging ourselves to much?

Another good question.  Some of the answer depends on where the fulcrum is in the question.

If the issue is you have trouble seeing yourself as you really are, then sometimes its helpful to ask others you trust.  Don’t respond to what they say immediately, but write it down and over the course of a week, record times you think this is true and times you think its false.  Try repeating several times.

If the issue is that you are prone to self-criticism or shame try the activity in reverse.  Ask your inner critic what they judge to be “wrong” with you.  Then share that with others you trust and let them provide some balance.

It can take a while to sift out what we need to work on and what we need to accept.

This coming Sunday we are talking about What’s Up with Politics.  They’ll be less Mentimeter, but it will be available at: https://www.menti.com/8af99638  for you to send in your questions.

[Beyond Sunday] What’s Up with Judgment

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s[a] eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor,[b] ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s[c] eye.

-Matthew 7:1-6

A person who makes no judgments in a day would be like a body without a skeleton.  We have to judge, but Christ calls us to judge ourselves first and to view others without contempt or condemnation. [hear sermon audio]

 

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • Think of a time in the last week when you found yourself judging someone’s behavior.
  • How did you measure what was “right”?  Was the standard your own behavior or something else?
  • Search scripture, are there words from Jesus that apply?  Do they speak to you or the other person?

Do and share:

  • Journal about a judgment you passed this weak.  What in you felt threatened?  Did your attitude help the other person?
  • Share a story of overcoming judgement in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).

 

[Beyond Sunday] Reaching Out

Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.

As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. 43 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians,[l] no one could cure her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45 Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter[m] said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

49 While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” 50 When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.”

-Luke 8: 40-50

We heard from Rev. Jim Bankston about what it takes to reach out to our neighbors.  This is part of our church’s 2 year Vibrant Church Initiative [hear sermon audio]

 

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • How many of your neighbors are like you? (age, race, income etc)
  • How often do you come into contact with people who are unlike you?
  • The woman who was healed had suffered long with a bleeding, odorous illness.  When you come into contact with people like that, how do you respond?

Do and share:

  • Journal each night about every person you talked to that day.  Note how they were like you and how they were unlike you.  Based on your notes, how well do you deal with those outside your comfort zone?
  • Visit a sick friend or elder this week and share a story or picture in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).

 

[Beyond Sunday] It is Well With My Soul

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

-Luke 10: 38-42

Everything about our culture encourages us to side with Martha.  We are told that if we work hard we will succeed.  We are told everyone should do their fair share.  We are told that if you don’t have something it is because you didn’t work for it.  Yet God’s favor cannot be earned by our work.  Grace is given and calls us to rest at the feet of the Lord.  Our lives should balance both activity and contemplation in their turn. [hear sermon audio]

 

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Use these scriptures and questions to reflect in your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • Describe a struggle you encountered that you could not work yourself through.
  • How do you spend time resting with God?
  • What happens to your soul if you do not rest?

Do and share:

  • Set aside a whole 24 hours for rest this week.  Document how keeping a Sabbath changes your week.
  • Find a video of your favorite praise music and share in our Facebook group or on Twitter (@dpumc).