Greetings Dear Ones,
Why was the blog so quiet last week? I was away at the Warren Willis Camp. I had the joy of leading worship for 168 middle school campers. 5 sermons in 5 days! Whew…
This week I’m writing prayers and liturgies to submit for next year’s United Methodist General Conference worship. It feels big with all that’s going on in our denomination. Thank you for your prayers. I so want to be faithful and helpful.
The theme verse for the conference is Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
The image of pressing on captured my heart. Journeying, persevering, springing, sprinting, running, pursuing, reaching out, moving forward, moving on.
This reminded me of the moment in the musical Sunday in the Park with George, where George has lost his way. He wants to explore the light, to get through to something new, but he doesn’t know how. His great grandmother, a loving witness from the distant past, encourages him to step out in faith, to try, to move on.
Maybe you needed to hear this encouragement today as well. Just keep moving on.
We do not press on in fear
anxious and competitive
We do not press on in duty obligated and mechanical
We press on in hope In your abiding presence In your saving love Your love, O Christ, urges us on
Extended quote from Ragamuffin Reflections by Brennan Manning
The prophet Jeremiah is a striking example of the Biblical paradox that surrender means victory, that in losing our life we find it. (Jesus Christ identifies with Jeremiah more than any other prophet and quotes him most frequently.) In the year 625 BC, the Lord summoned Jeremiah to a prophetic career. Jeremiah’s immediate response was reluctance. “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” he said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6). He was nineteen at the time. Jeremiah was not the confident, self-assured type like Amos or Isaiah. Sensitive, accustomed to the quiet of small-town life, he was temperamentally unsuited for public life and the harsh treatment that is the customary “reward of the prophets.”
Timid and afraid, Jeremiah had no ambition for such a mission. In no way did he want to preach God’s Word to his fellow Israelites. Nothing pleased him more than to be Mr. Nobody, ignored by the ruling clique of royal counselors and priests. How content he would have been to live in the tiny world of his own heart. And so he remonstrated with God, “Ah, Lord God. I am only a boy.” Each of us can sympathize, because Jeremiah is Everyman and Everywoman.
Take a Stand, a devotion inspired by Jeremiah 1:17-19 (NIV)
The words from scripture are found in regular type.
Get yourself ready! There are things God leaves up to you Your part of the preparation Prayer and study and silence Clearing out the crap so there’s space for what is coming
Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Rise now from the green pasture From the still waters of comfort and slumber Preparation leads to action Sanctuary to Taking a Stand
Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. God alone is God They do not deserve your reverence Your awe They are human Dust and ashes, just like you
Today I have made you a fortified city,
an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land –
against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. The call is beyond you So God makes you more than you Steadfast Enduring Rock and Refuge Living Stone Rejected in the Redeeming Like your Christ Your Jesus
They will fight But the battle is the Lord’s
They will fight against you but will not overcome you,
for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.
On this same theme, consider also reading The Stream of Justice, a stirring encouragement to continue our efforts for peace, freedom, and justice. Written by Steve Garnaas Holmes for Martin Luther King remembrances and similar occasions.
John of the Cross wrote that “In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone.” The two servants, probably more experienced in loving, fearlessly invest their portions of love. Heedless of sheer foolhardiness, they risk ego, rejection, derision, even death, adventurously increasing the master’s wealth of love in the world. The last servant misses the point, and like sinning against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:32) the poor clueless man finds himself in the outer darkness for clinging to the supposed safety of burying his love in the ground. John Wesley comments, “So mere harmlessness, on which many build their hope of salvation, was the cause of his damnation.” – Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure
The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him. He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless. He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit. This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit. A Christian is fearless. –Tertullian
Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once. – William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)
Only those who risk going too far will ever know how far they can go. – T.S. Eliot
Whatever you do you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you into believing your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories but it takes brave men and women to win them. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Moving ahead requires us to face the present with its hardships and afflictions, knowing that these, too, are part of the way. To do this requires a measure of courage, that word formed from the Latin cor, or heart. In such circumstances, the challenge before us is not simply to avoid losing our heart. Rather, it is that of finding our heart, of living “heartfully.” – Mark S. Burrows and John H. Ohlson, Love is a Direction from Weavings, Aug/Sept/Oct 2012
Click here and here and here for three thoughtful reflections on this passage by Steve Garnaas Holmes
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm.”
Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
… and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love. Amen. – Henri Nouwen
For more information on the use of the scripture translation, art and this resource in other settings, please leave a message in the comments.
Matthew 5:14-16 NRSV
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
You are the light of the world
Not hidden, never hidden
You let it shine
You share it with the other
What do they see?
Light overcoming the darkness
God is glorified
The Kingdom comes
Your light makes us light
What a gift to be made in your image
To reflect your grace and hope
Your power and peacemaking
Help us shine
Share your light with all
Near and far
Beyond our imagining to your imagining
A beam worthy of the stretch of your embrace
Worthy of your glory
Jesus, help us shine
Shining before others and for others
So others see you in us
and are drawn to your Light
You are so very good and generous, Jesus
You bathe us in the light of your grace, that we may be grace
You fill us with the light of your truth that we may be truth
You flood us with the light of your love that we may be love
Hallelujah! Glory to You, Lord of Life and Light!
Hallelujah! Come Glorious One
Dispel the darkness
Reveal what is real so we no longer fear the night
nor the light
Dawn a new day and a new us and a new Earth
***** Click here for the post Reflecting God’s Light, more resources on this scripture
The message opens with the story of Mandy Harvey, a deaf singing contestant on America’s Got Talent. (Click here for a video.) Mandy tells her story then sings a song she wrote entitled, “Try.” Mandy had every reason to stop trying- to give up on her talents and dreams in music, but she didn’t.
What talent has God given you? What dream has God given you to bless the world?
What’s stopping you from trying? We have a boat load of excuses- I can’t afford it. I don’t have enough education. I don’t have the time. I’m too old/young. I have too much responsibility. It’s too risky.
Beware my friends. There’s tremendous risk in hiding a talent and running from a dream, especially when they’re from God. That’s exactly what Jonah did. God calls Jonah. Jonah refuses and that refusal turn into rebellion.
There are 2 types of calls 1. “Who I am” call – God blesses and empowers us with gifts, talents, life, purpose, etc. Jonah understood his “who I am” call. Jonah son of Amittai literally means “Dove, son of Truth.” Think of the dove associated with the story of Noah’s Ark. The dove brings grace and good news. Think of the dove associated with the Baptism of Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings the powerful, anointing of God.
Jonah is a faithful, effective prophet of God. Jonah is a gifted, skilled, and anointed seer. Jonah reveals the word and purposes of God to Israel’s king. It was grace and good news that Israel would expand its boarder under King Jeroboam.
2. “What to do” call– a specific mission assignment. Jonah is to “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” (vs. 2) It’s a clear message from God of where to go and what to do. God said get up and go! Instead Jonah shut up and fled.
Problem was not misunderstanding. The problem was willingness. Jonah didn’t want to try. Jonah had every reason not to try
1. Nineveh wasn’t a Jewish city with a Jewish King. Nineveh was the magnificent capital city Assyria, a threatening, enemy superpower.
2. Nineveh was 550 miles away. Imagine that trip on donkey or on foot.
3. Jonah had no desire to preach to “those people.” They were enemies and Gentiles and pagans. He didn’t want to be labeled a “traitor” prophet by his own people.
4. God is a God of grace and mercy. God might extend forgiveness to his enemy and Jonah didn’t want that.
5. Jonah didn’t want to ruin his reputation. If he called out against the city and God spared it, his prophecy didn’t come true.
No God. It’s too risky. Too hard. You’re asking too much.
Does Jonah pray? Nope. Does he ask for help? Nope. Does he go? Nope. Jonah buries his talent, abandons his call, and runs away from the presence of the Lord. (mentioned twice in verse 3)
Jonah refuses and Jonah rebels and it breaks his relationship with God.
The Bible is full of examples which inspire us to greater faith and great acts of service. There are also examples for us to look to and avoid. Jonah is one of them.
How often are we more like Jonah than we want to admit? It doesn’t have to be this way. Step out in faith – try. God has tremendous faith in you. More than you have in yourself. God knit you together in your mother’s womb for a purpose. God empowers you with talents, gifts, graces, and experience for a purpose. Jesus died for you for a purpose- that you might be saved AND that you might join him in saving the world. Step out in faith – try
What is in your power to do for others? Do you have skills to teach and mentor others? Are you in a position to help alleviate suffering financially? Are you a great listener? Prayer Warrior? Organizer? Storyteller? Gardener? Share your testimony? Make an invitation? Do you have creative gifts in writing, music, dance, or art? Are you good with your hands in a way that you can offer practical assistance to people?
Step out in faith – try
You are the hope of the world- try
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to the tech team and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. Videos of these messages are available on the church Facebook Page.
If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.