[Beyond Sunday] Pentecost (Confirmation)

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

-Acts 2:1-13

Clarity in the midst of chaos makes us brave.  The coming of the Holy Spirit empowers the disciples to unite and spread the gospel.    [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:

  • Who in your circle of influence needs to hear the Gospel?
  • What cultural languages do you speak?
  • What would it take for you to be brave enough to share your faith?

Do and share:

  • Find one person this week to tell the story of the first time you remember hearing about Jesus.
  • Share your hopes for our confirmands via Facebook or Twitter (@dpumc).

 

[Beyond Sunday] Mother’s day

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

-John 14:15-21

Christ promises that we will never be left orphaned.  In all our lives, the Spirit uses people to comfort, care for, teach and guide us.  Often we come to call them mothers.    [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:

  • Is there a woman in the Bible with whom you strongly identify?  Why?
  • What women in your life have helped you grow in faith?
  • How do you help the women in your life embrace their God-given gifts and talents?

Do and share:

  • Donate to a charity that supports women’s empowerment or maternal health.
  • Share a memory of a spiritual mother from your life on ourFacebook or Twitter (@dpumc).

 

The Way Here and Forward

This is a primer intended for the members of Deer Park UMC.  It is meant to answer basic questions leading up to the Bishop’s livestream on May 12 and our Community Conversation on May 13. All facts are represented to the best of my knowledge and ability and the impressions are my own.

For the last 2 years (and about 46 years before that) the United Methodist Church has been engaged in a heated conversation about the nature of scripture, especially as it pertains to human sexuality.  That means a lot of things theologically.  Practically, it means there are roughly three segments of our denomination who do not fully agree on the place of LGBTQ+ in our congregations, whether we sanction their marriages, or if they can be ordained for service to the Church.

In 2016, our worldwide legislative body, the General Conference, came to an impasse and requested the Bishops provide insight into how we ought to resolve the crisis.  They proposed a commission to meet, formulate options, and offer observations; from these, the Council of Bishops would make a recommendation to a special session of General Conference.  This plan was accepted and The Commission on the Way Forward began its work.  (on their website you can see interim reports and other writings from delegates).

In March/April, the Commission concluded its work and sent a report to the Council of Bishops, which the COB took up at its April/May meeting.  Last week the COB released the outline of its recommendation, with a detailed report and legislation to follow before the 8th of July.  You can read their full statement here.

As it stands now, the General Conference will consider three plans of moving forward. The best succinct explanation I have seen of these was from Bishop Laurie’s pastoral letter of May 5:

  • The Traditionalist Plan, which would retain the current disciplinary language around homosexuality* and provide accountability.
  • The One Church Plan, which would allow churches to contextualize language and practice around sexuality in support of witness and mission. The current prohibitive language in the Discipline around same-sex marriage and the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals would be removed. Local churches could decide whether or not to host same-sex weddings, and clergy could choose whether or not to officiate at same-sex weddings. Central Conferences in other parts of the world would continue to be able to adapt the Book of Discipline to their context.
  • The Connectional Conference Plan, where local churches and clergy could decide to join traditional, centrist, or progressive “connectional conferences” that would be formed according to theological conviction.

The Bishops recommended the One Church Plan.  We will not have full details on what any of these plans look like until the final report and legislation come out this summer.  All of these plans would mean some level of change, at least for Conferences in the US.

Our Bishop, Scott Jones, will host a live webcast with two members of the Commission on the Way Forward on Saturday at 10am.  It can be viewed on the TXCUMC website or youtube channel.  Our conversation on Sunday will center around answering questions on what we know, what the bishop has to say and the process going forward.

I urge you to join me in praying daily for our church, our denomination and our leaders in this season of discernment.  If you have questions and are not able to attend on Sunday, please email or give me a call.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Kate

 

*All Discipline language on homosexuality can be found on the UMC website.

 

[Beyond Sunday] Graduation Sunday

9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[a] any longer, because the servant[b] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

-John 15:9-17

As Jesus prepares his disciples for the next phase of their life, he leaves them with a parting commandment: To love as Christ loved.  As our graduates prepare to go out into the world, the same advice holds true.    [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:

  • Who are the people in your life that it’s easy to love?
  • When have you needed to put someone else’s interests before your own?
  • How might the love described here be different than what we typically see in tv and movies?

Do and share:

  • Take a picture of love in action. Share it with us on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Share your hopes for our graduating seniors via Facebook or Twitter (@dpumc).

 

[Beyond Sunday] We Had Hoped…

image: Emmaus Door

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread

-Luke 24:13-34

Worry, doubt, shame and grief can all rob us of our hope.  On the road to Emmaus, two disciples find themselves unable to rationalize all that has happened.  But then a strange encounter with a teacher opens there eyes to the new thing God is about.  When hope fails in our lives, how might God show up in unexpected ways to renew our hearts?    [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:

  • Have you ever hoped for something that did not happen?  How did it make you feel?
  • How might small habits help us regain our hope in difficult times?
  • What habits are you currently cultivating in your life?

Do and share:

  • Take a short video of yourself describing a time when hope was difficult and what helped you see God at work. Share it with us on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Share your hopeful prayer request on Facebook or Twitter (@dpumc).

 

[Beyond Sunday] There’s So Much To Worry About

image: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[k] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[l] and his[m]righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

-Matthew 6:25-34

We all carry weights like doubt, shame, and grief.  These can get in the way of our relationship with God and with one another.  Fear and anxiety feel like the order of our day.  But Christ reminds us that worry only puts the burden of our life on us, rather than on God, who is eager to provide.  In learning to focus on God, rather than ourselves, we are relieved of stress and worry.    [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:

  • What do you worry about most?
  • What might that worry be trying to tell you?
  • How do you spend your mental energy?  Thinking more about yourself or others?

Do and share:

  • Name something that causes you anxiety.  Lift it in prayer this week and make a plan.  Ask God for the strength to commit to your plan and see it through.  Every time you feel yourself start to worry, remind yourself there is a plan and you’ve given it to God.
  • Share your worry prayer request on Facebook or Twitter (@dpumc).

 

The Sermon On the Mount [Faith and Art]

Claude Lorraine was a seventeenth-century painter who worked primarily in Rome, but also France and Germany.  He was an early pioneer of landscape painting.  Often he would take a subject from history, mythology or scripture (as was the custom of the day) but would set it such that the surrounding landscape was as much a focus of the work as any action.  His Sermon on the Mount is a good example.

PRI_1633_Sermon_on_the_Mount__36537__48739__50964__94229.1500646160

Can you spot Jesus?  He’s the figure in blue on top of the mound.  His placement and attire draw the eye, but you’d be hard-pressed to call Him the sole focus of the painting.  Claude has taken the traditional composition of this story–Jesus seated, surrounded by followers including women and children –and placed it within this sweeping vista.

In doing so, Claude does two things I love.  First, rather than giving the impression of an intimate seminar for the disciples and a select few, this setting reminds that the Sermon on the Mount is a collection of the teachings Jesus did while out in the wide world.  He often spoke to large and varied crowds, and his teaching happened in the midst of daily life.

Second, look again at the picture.  Start at Jesus and let your eye fall toward the lower left.  At the base of the mount is an open rock tomb.  It’s a gentle reminder that foundation of all Christ’s teachings for us is the resurrection.  Though this story takes early in His earthly ministry, we reflect on it with greater meaning because of the coming triumph over sin and death.

I suggest taking some time to sit with this picture alongside Matthew chapters 5-7.  Look especially at Matthew 6:25-34.  What does it mean to place the words “Do not worry about your life” or “seek first the kingdom of God” in such a grand scape?

For more on Claude Lorraine, check out The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

On Faith and Art posts: I preach with slides and over the last few years, I have endeavored to include fine art images wherever appropriate (and legally available).  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.  These are often so dense with meaning that there isn’t time within bounds of the sermon to show or explain it all.  So these entries are thoughts from the cutting room floor.

 

[Beyond Sunday] If You Really Knew Me

image: Detail from Sistine Chapel 

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.

-Psalm 139: 14

We all carry weights like doubt, shame, and grief.  These can get in the way of our relationship with God and with one another.  But in Christ’s resurrection, we are all made new creations.  We have only to set down the burdens we carry and step into the life God has for us.  Psalm 139 reminds us that we are beloved creations of God.  Nothing we do or believe we are could ever separate us from 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:

  • How do you understand the difference between guilt and shame?
  • How is guilt helpful in teachings how to live?
  • Why is shame unhelpful?
  • What shame do you need to release to God?

Do and share:

  • Find art images that depict shame.  Journal about what you see in them.  Are their similarities?  What in the images you chose resonates with you?
  • Share your prayer request on Facebook or Twitter (@dpumc).

 

[Beyond Sunday] Easter

image: Resurrection 1,  Solomon Raj

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

-John 20:15-18

John 19:30 says it is finished.  Indeed, the reign of death is done; the great work of salvation is put in motion; the final battle is won.  But the story isn’t yet complete.  Easter marks the dawn of a new day and calls us into God’s ongoing project of resurrection.  [hear sermon audio]

 

This week, take some time to go deeper.  Explore how each of the gospels recounts the story of Easter.  And how their understanding shapes our faith.

Texts to read:

Questions to ponder:

  • Who comes to the tomb first and why?
  • What is their first response?
  • What does Jesus say to them?
  • What do they do when they leave?

Do and share:

  • After you have read all four stories and answered the questions for each, consider your own response to the resurrection.  Who are you most like?  How do you respond each year to the news that Christ is risen?
  • Share why Jesus matters for your life with someone you know.  Tell us the story on Facebook or Twitter (@dpumc).