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!

Fear of What’s Out There [Beyond Sunday]

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!

-Genesis 4:8-11

Yes, you are your brother (and sister)’s keeper.  Yet we too often approach the world around us with suspicion.  Fear says you must compete and others seek your life.  But facts say we are better off when we work together and that Americans are safer today than they’ve been in decades.  Faith calls us to quiet our fears and reach out with love.     [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to dive into these scriptures and questions during your devotion time.

Read:

Reflect:

  • Find a news story about something that worries you or makes you afraid.  Take note of who is quoted and how they use statistics (if they do).   Now try and find the same event reported in at least two other sources.
    • What facts are consistent?  Can you verify them?
    • Who uses language that elicits fear?  What do they have to gain from you being afraid?
    • Faithful responses are shaped by love of neighbor.  How could you respond to this story with love of all involved? 

Do:

  • Lectio Divina: Find a quiet place where you can focus.  Choose one of the scriptures above.  Read through it slowly aloud.  Listen for a phrase or image that captures your attention.  Read it a second time and try to hone in on a word.  Take some time to ponder that workd and image.  Share with God what you hear and ask how this should shape you today.  REad the passage once more giving thanks for God’s word to you.

Share:

  • Take a picture of something you fear  or use the one from last week. Write out why you fear this and share it in our Facebook group or on Twitter and Instagram (tag us @dpumc).

 

Understanding Fear [Beyond Sunday]

But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying,
-Numbers 13:30-32

Everyone is afraid of something.  With good reason, fear can protect us from danger and helps us learn our limits as children.  But we get into trouble when fear rules our lives.  God will call us to do scary things, so we must learn to evaluate our fears, take the wisdom that is there and then move beyond into greater life.     [hear sermon audio]

This week, take some time to dive into these scriptures and questions during your devotion time.

Read:

Reflect:

  • Recall a time from your childhood that you were afraid.  As you tell that story to yourself or someone else, take note of:
    • What your fear felt like
    • What was the threat you were responding to
    • How the threat was resolved
    • Where might God have been at work
  • Name something you fear now.  Describe it to yourself or someone else and especially note:
    • What you fear feels like
    • What is the threat your responding to and how realistic is it?
    • What resolution do you hope for
    • How might God be at work in this

Do:

  • Praying the Scriptures: Take one of the scriptures above and read it through.  Identify the promises offered and list them using the words of the verses.  Pray to God by first reading a promise from the text and then offering your own experience of that promise fulfilled or naming your need for that promise in your life now.

Share:

  • Be a part of our Brave Challenge.  This week take a picture of something you fear and share it in our Facebook group or on Twitter and Instagram (tag us @dpumc) with a caption about why you’d like to overcome that fear.

 

For the Sake of Love [Calm and Bright III]

This year Silent Night turns 200 years old.  In the weeks leading to Christmas (Advent) we are using the carol to reflect on what it means to wait for Christ to come into the world.

I will remove disaster from you,

so that you will not bear reproach for it.

I will deal with all your oppressors

at that time.

And I will save the lame

and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise

and renown in all the earth.

At that time I will bring you home,

at the time when I gather you;

for I will make you renowned and praised

among all the peoples of the earth,

when I restore your fortunes

before your eyes, says the Lord.

 
-Zephaniah 3:19-20

So what are we to do?  What are we to do to prepare for Christ coming into the world?  John the Baptist tells us we prepare by loveing our neighbor, caring for one another and ceasing to participate in systems of oppression.  The crowd is grateful for this news; for things they can each do.  Are we, today, equally ready to live for the sake of love?

[Hear full sermon here]

This week, use these resources to grow in your faith, or with your family.  Scriptures and activities in bold are from DPUMC’s Advent Family Devotion.

First, Do:

On your own: Write 3 love notes to family, friends or coworkers who might need to hear some good news this holiday season.

With children:   In your manger kit, Take out the second smallest and the ball.  Paint or decorate the figure to look like a shepherd, the small balls to look like sheep, and the big ball to be a donkey or a cow.

Then, Read:

Now, Reflect:

Youth and Adults: Recall a story about a surprise.  What were you doing just before the surprise?  Why did it catch you off guard? How what feelings did you go through when you were surprised?

With Children: Ask your child(ren) to remember a time they were surprised:  Was it a good surprise? Did it make them feel mad, sad, glad or afraid?  What did they do after the surprise?

Everyone: Share how the shepherds might have felt about their surprise.  What did they do when they heard the news of Jesus?

And Pray:

Dear Lord, thank you for the good news of Jesus and that no matter what he came for us, Amen

Go Share:

Pray about who in your life might need to experience the love of Christ this Christmas.  Invite one of them to come to worship with you on Christmas Eve.

Share the Love of Christ by setting aside a portion of your Christmas budget for charities that work with children and refugees.  

Quake for Joy [Calm and Bright II]

This year Silent Night turns 200 years old.  In the weeks leading to Christmas (Advent) we are using the carol to reflect on what it means to wait for Christ to come into the world.

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,     make his paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled,     and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight,     and the rough ways made smooth;  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
-Luke 3:4b-6
In Advent we celebrate that God is coming into the world.  Yet, when God shows up in scripture, it almost always begins with the same words: Do not be afraid. Clearly to stand in the presence of the Lord, or even God’s messenger is awe-inspiring experience. But it should fill us, not with terror, but with Joy. The present is a season of preparation for the joy that is to come. And Joy we should proclaim, for God is coming to make all things right. [Hear full sermon here] This week, use these resources to grow in your faith, or with your family.  Scriptures and activities in bold are from DPUMC’s Advent Family Devotion.

First, Do:

On your own: Everyday this week, capture a picture of something that makes you joyful and share it with a note about why it is important With children:   In your manger kit, find the two matching middle sized figures.  Color, paint, or decorate these to look like Mary and Joseph.  Traditionally Mary is associated with blue because it signaled royalty, peace, and nature.  Joseph sometimes appears as a young man, sometimes as an old man, but always dressed simply.

Then, Read:

Now, Reflect:

Youth and Adults: Write out the story of the day you were born.  If you don’t know it, ask a family member to tell you about it.  What emotions were your parents feeling?  Who was there and how did they respond? With Children: Tell each child the story of the day they were born.  Or, if your child(ren) know the story, invite them to tell it to you. Everyone: How might Mary and Joseph have felt about Jesus coming.  How did they prepare for the baby?

And Pray:

Dear Lord, thank you for moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, thank you for my family and for the family of Jesus, Amen.

Go Share:

Find a piece of art depicting Mary and Joseph and share it with your thoughts on our facebook or twitter (@dpumc) #advent Share the Joy of Christ by setting aside a portion of your Christmas budget for charities that work with children and refugees.  

Peace in the Midst of Tumult [Calm and Bright I]

This year Silent Night turns 200 years old.  In the weeks leading to Christmas (Advent) we are using the carol to reflect on what it means to wait for Christ to come into the world.

Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
-Luke 21:29-33

Advent (the weeks leading up to Christmas) reminds us that the Kingdom of God is near; the promise of God to set the world right both has been and will be fulfilled.  Around us, we may see great strife and fearful signs in the world, but we are not shaken. The people of God possess a peace that passes understanding. A peace grounded, not in the security of the world, but in the righteousness of God. We can be peace, even in the darkest times, because we know the day of the Lord is at hand.

[Hear full sermon here]

This week, use these resources to grow in your faith, or with your family.  Scriptures and activities in bold are from DPUMC’s Advent Family Devotion.

First, Do:

On your own: Make a list of all the things that trouble you right now in the world.  As you add each item, try not to dwell on blame or anxiety, but offer it to God and ask for wisdom.

With children: Build a manger.  You can use Popsicle sticks or other materials (for DPUMC Joel has kits available).  Leave it empty for now. Over the coming weeks, you will add to the scene.

Then, Read:

Now, Reflect:

Youth and Adults: Recall a time from your childhood when you traveled to see family.  What was the journey like?  Where did you stay?   What was it like to stay in a strange place? With Children: Ask your child(ren) to remember a time they traveled:  Can you remember us spending the night somewhere else?  Where were we? What was it like to stay there? How did you feel about coming home? How might Mary and Joseph have felt in a strange city.  What do you think it was like sleeping in the stable?  Who is like Mary and Joseph today?

And Pray:

Dear Lord, Thank you for our family and our home. Thank you for this season of Advent so that we can wait for you together, amen.

Go Share:

Find a modern story that reflects Mary and Joseph’s journey and share it with your thoughts on our facebook or twitter (@dpumc) Share the peace of Christ by setting aside a portion of your Christmas budget for charities that work with children and refugees.  

Silent night, holy night/ All is calm, all is bright/ Round yon Virgin Mother and Child/ Holy Infant so tender and mild/ Sleep in heavenly peace Sleep in heavenly peace Silent Night v1

Giving Thanks

Every day we draw breath should be a day of gratitude.  However, in this season, we are more keenly aware of all God’s blessings.  I am thankful to gather with my family this week.  I am grateful to serve a loving energetic church, and for the work we are doing to refocus on discipleship.  I feel blessed to have bills paid, secure housing, enough means for a lavish meal.

I hope in the midst of your festivities this week, you take time to pause and be grateful for the blessings large and small that contribute to your life.  I also pray that we allow our gratitude motivate us to become blessings to others.  In the midst of this season of busy, may we be a place of peace.  In a season of buying and selling, may we be a people of generous hearts.  In a season of family and friends, may we have eyes for those who feel lonely, or lost.

I am grateful to be a part of the Deer Park UMC family and hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I look forward to celebrating the whole holiday season together.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Pastor Kate

[Beyond Sunday] Together

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

-Ephesians 5:1-2

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash There is a difference between truth and brutality.  Paul’s words encourage Christian communities to be honest with one another but to learn to speak honestly with love.  Too often our divisions are caused by the wounds we inflict in anger as much as by differing ideas.   [hear sermon audio] This week, use these scriptures and questions during your own devotion time or with your family.

Texts to read:

Questions to Ponder:

  • What does anger feel like for you? What signals does your body send you that you’re angry?
  • How do you typically handle your anger in a conflict?
  • Righteous anger can move mountains; unrighteous anger can rend families.  How does your faith help you know the difference?

Do and share:

  • Invite someone you disagree with to trade handwritten letters with you about the subject of your conflict.  Pay attention to how you feel when you read their words.  Work on channeling your own feelings into upbuilding words.
  • Many people are anxious or even angry about the UMC’s Called General Conference in February.  Take some time this week to write your thoughts, concerns or fears on a postcard and mail it to the church office.
 

[Beyond Sunday] Whale of a Tale 4

 That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 4:2b-3
We love tidy stories. Three acts with a Happy-Ever-After at the end. Maybe that’s why we skip the 4th chapter of Jonah. Without this last act, we have a story of repentance and forgiveness with everyone content at the end. But scripture pushes further, challenging us to ponder the full extent of God’s grace. If God is as merciful as we believe, perhaps we, his body, will have to expand who we are willing to care for.  [hear sermon audio] This week, take some time to dive into these scriptures and questions during your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to Ponder:

  • Who comes to mind when you hear God’s final question: And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left?
  • How do your present feelings affect them?
  • How do your present feelings affect you?

Do and share:

  • Make a list of those you find it difficult to offer grace.  Set aside time this week to pray for each person on the list.  What does God say to you through that prayer?
  • Post on social media about your gratitude for a time you were given grace.  You can tag us @dpumc.
 

[Beyond Sunday] Whale of a Tale 3

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. Jonah 3:4-5
The response of the Ninevites to Jonah’s “preaching” is almost incredulously large.  A nation falls down to worship and repent and return to God.  When we proclaim the work of God this should be the response we dream about.  Isn’t God’s grace supposed to be for everyone?   [hear sermon audio] This week, take some time to dive into these scriptures and questions during your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to Ponder:

  • To whom in your life might God be calling you to share the good news of grace?
  • What makes that difficult?
  • What difference might a relationship with God make in their life?

Do and share:

  • If you made a list of what you struggle to sacrifice to God last week, return to it.  (if not make one this week)  Journal about how you did on sacrificing something last week.  This week,  pick one thing to work on that could help you tell others about God.
  • What is one thing God has done for you in the last year?  Make a short video giving thanks for that and share it on social media.  You can tag us @dpumc.
 

[Beyond Sunday] Whale of a Tale 2

As my life was ebbing away,     I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you,     into your holy temple.  Those who worship vain idols     forsake their true loyalty. But I with the voice of thanksgiving     will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.     Deliverance belongs to the Lord!” Jonah 2:7-9
God doesn’t put Jonah in a fish to teach him a lesson.  God sends a fish to save Jonah from his own choices.  But only there, held suspended between a watery grave and life on shore, does Jonah come to terms with his soul.  In the fish he learns to let go of his pride and arrogance and offer praise to God, despite his circumstance.   In chapter 1, we discussed where God might call us to go.  In chapter 2 we wrestle with what we might endure to embrace our calling.   [hear sermon audio] This week, take some time to dive into these scriptures and questions during your devotion time.

Texts to read:

Questions to Ponder:

  • When in your life has faith or praise been most difficult?
  • When you are struggling, how do you make space to talk to God?
  • Describe a time when you had to let go of what you thought was right in order to follow God?

Do and share:

  • Songs have always been a powerful expression of faith and struggle.  What songs do you turn to when you’re wrestling with God?  Share one on our Facebook group or Twitter (@dpumc).
  • Make a list of what you struggle to sacrifice to God.  Pick one thing to work on this week.