Lectionary Texts for Sunday, December 1, 2019
Preparing to Climb
Eighteen years ago, a group of young teenage boys and a handful of adults decided they wanted to climb a mountain. They’d never climbed a 2+ miles high mountain before. In fact, they’d never seen the mountain they had decided to climb, but it was an outdoor challenge that each one of them were compelled to accomplish. In a brief article it is impossible to fully articulate all the good that happened because of their decision.
Preparation began over a year in advance. Trip planning to and from New Mexico had to be done. Money had to be saved. Doctor visits for physicals had to be completed. Maps and trails had to be studied and a route plan had to be decided. Hikes through the wilderness had to be practiced each month to get the team physically and mentally prepared. To be honest much of the preparation took sacrifice, and each person in the group had to do many things he didn’t really want to do to prepare for the climb.
But what started as individual sacrifice ended with team accomplishment. The people on that climb, to this very day, carry with them a sense of gratitude and wisdom for what we accomplished as a team, through planning and preparing for the climb. Going through the entire process together made all the difference.
I was reminded of this group this past Sunday when Pastor Darian focused on our stewardship campaign theme of “planning to climb together.” What are we preparing for anyway?
What mountain are we planning to climb? I think the mountain top is eternal life with our Father, don’t you?
How do we prepare? I think Jesus showed us how. We believe in him, and we serve others as he served us. In church we like to call that stewardship. We take what God has given us and we share it with others. And as a church, when we do it together, it makes all the difference.
Prepare to climb? Absolutely!
One verse of the beloved hymn, “Rock of Ages,” says, “Nothing in my hands I bring/Simply to thy cross I cling.” Jesus calls us each and everyday to empty our hands so we can cling to the love of the cross. Will we follow the example of our little brother and do so effortlessly?
all good things to each of you,
Twenty – Nine Hymns, One Prayer
This upcoming Sunday we will share in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, as is our monthly tradition at First UMC. In last year’s Confirmation class, when we talked about worship, one of the students said, “I wish we had Communion more than once a month.”
I wholeheartedly agree, as did John Wesley. He even preached a well-known sermon titled, “The Duty of Constant Communion,” four years before his death – at the age of 84. We should take note that in the last years of his life, this father of Methodism was so focused on articulating for the Church what Holy Communion means for us.
This Sunday we will observe World Communion Sunday, a time to remember that the body and blood of our Lord is not only for us as individuals bur for the redemption of the whole world. My hope and prayer for all of us is that we never lose our holy and reverent fear of the Sacrament and what it means for us.
One of the best ways to dig deeper into our faith is in our hands every Sunday morning. The United Methodist Hymnal is more than a book of songs. If we look through it carefully, we’ll see how well-ordered it is with songs familiar and new. Beginning on page 612, there are twenty-nine hymns and one prayer in the category, “Holy Communion.” I would encourage you to take a moment in the near future to flip through these 30 pages and pause with a hymn you don’t know. Take a moment to read that hymn slowly. If you can read music, sing along (and join the choir!). If you don’t read music, invent your own tune. These songs both old and new are sure to express something about Holy Communion we haven’t experienced yet.
I look forward to seeing you at the Lord’s table on Sunday – a table set for the whole world, whom he loved deeply enough to give his life.
all good things to each of you,
Lectionary Texts for Sunday, October 6, 2019
2 Timothy 1:1-14
The Gospel According to Downton Abbey
The new Downton Abbey film, which I look forward to seeing this week, has me reflecting on some favorite moments from the PBS series.
During the second season, set during World War I, the Crawley family transforms Downton into a hospital. Beds and injured soldiers fill rooms once resplendent with gold. The Crawley family changes their century-old traditions to accommodate the healing of those injured in war. After the war ends and the family returns to their traditions, newfound peace seems present. However, war still dominates the conversation. The house may look like it did before the war, but the people are not the same – except for the Dowager Countess, played by Dame Maggie Smith.
Lady Sybil, her justice-loving granddaughter, notices that the Countess talks lovingly of life before the war and calls her out on it.
“Granny, do you really want for things to be the way they were before the war?”
Without hesitation or exclamation, the Countess answers, “Of course I do.”
The family exchanges quick glances that convey the same message: the Countess wishes for something that cannot be. Downton’s rooms may look like they always did, but they are not the same because of the wounded who have lived in them.
During our current worship series I’ve occasionally referred to an old order of worship that a friend of mine found recently. It was saved by someone who visited our church in February of 1963. It has been fun to learn from this piece of history. Some things are the same in our church, but so much has changed because of the time passed and the people who have passed through our pews.
It’s human nature for us to long for feelings of times past, but we set ourselves up for disappointment if we try to live in the past. While Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, the ways the church shares his good news may change so as to reach more people. Let us give thanks for what has been, and let us walk into the future unafraid of how we change for the better!
all good things to each of you,
Lectionary Texts for Sunday, September 29, 2019
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
1 Timothy 6:6-19