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!

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.
 

[Beyond Sunday] Whale of a Tale 1

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah is a story every church kid has heard and almost no one knows. Yes, it is a story about how impossible it is to run from God.  But when we get beyond the children’s Bible picture, complex themes of calling, fear, grace, and hypocrisy emerge.   In the first chapter, we discover just how far out of our comfort zones God might call us to go. Join us for a 4-week journey through this whale of a tale and its message for our divided world.  [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:

  • Every believer has a calling from God.  How would you describe yours?
  • Has your calling ever led, or seemed to lead somewhere that made you uncomfortable?  Describe that time.
  • Which voice is stronger in your life right now: calling or fear?

Do and share:

  • Jonah 1 is Jonah’s call story.  Other Biblical figures– like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Moses– have call stories.  Spend some time this week finding call stories in Scripture.  Which one resonates with your own call?
  • Do something this week that scares you and share a picture on our Facebook group or 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

 

[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.