Here is some examples of the exciting music that we make in Kingwood. Come join us in worship!
We Talk About Enemies
Often, I have music or something playing on my iPad as a work in the office. Recently, I had an episode of The West Wing streaming (it’s on HBO Max.) At the very end of that particular episode, Josh Lyman rushes out of the Oval Office to catch the president and offer him one more thing that’s on his mind all day. He says . . .
“We talk about enemies more than we used to.”The West Wing, Season 1; Episode 8
I think that has sentiment written some 20+ years ago has much speak into our human condition today as previously on that TV show.
I have failed.
I have gloated.
I have hated.
I have ignored.
I have raged.
I have hoarded.
I have judged.
I have turned away.
I am sorry.
I am exhausted.
I am done.
Fix me, heal me, break-and-remake-me, hold me, comfort me, nurture me, revive me, resuscitate me, bring me back from death.
I give you the last word, O God. Will it be ‘grace’? Will it be ‘free’? Will it be ‘love’?
My friends, God is not done with us, not by a long shot. You are more beloved than you can ever know, and God is working in you and in the world beyond our wildest imagining. The beginning of all that is forgiveness. So know that you are indeed forgiven, and be at peace. Amen.
-Beth Merrill Neel
If you know much about me you know that I am an early riser. You might be surprised to learn that being an early riser really isn’t my natural inclination. At least I don’t think that it is. Several factors have changed my morning routine:
- My dog Hank, who simply does better throughout the day if we walk a bit.
- Living in Houston, which is interminably hot during daylight hours.
- A need to simply get exercise over and done.
- Attempting to get some things accomplished before the day begins.
Normally, I put on some crime drama or news program when Hank and I are on our now four-mile strolls. However, back in January I decided that listening to the interesting and informative things weren’t giving me a good start to the day. Rather, I felt a desire to add scripture to my walking.
Out of the blue, The Bible in One Year, came my way. I was listening to another program and heard Nicky Gumbel. This seemed a good place to start. While not always agreeing with his interpretation of scripture, he is engaging and gives me quality moments in God’s Word which can foster a more healthy beginning to my day.
Some days are more successful than others at staying engaged. The past few days have been a bit of a struggle. My mind has been on the our United Methodist Church’s struggle to define who exactly we are. I realized after today’s walk that I didn’t really stay engaged as I should’ve.
Why is it that? Is it that I’m distracted? Is that I have too much on my mind? In his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer offers up . . .
“In 2000, before the digital revolution, it [our attention span] was twelve seconds . . . but since, it’s dropped to eight seconds. To put things in perspective, a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds. Yea, that’s right, we’re losing to goldfish.”
Upon reflection, I needed to jump back into the scripture lesson for today, which was from Romans 1:17 . . .
“God’s righteousness is being revealed in the gospel, from faithfulness for faith, as it is written, The righteous person will live by faith.” (NIV)
I think the message for today was for me to “live by faith” a bit further. I’ll work on that.
PRAYER (from The Bible in One Year)
Thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of your presence with me. Thank you for the very way in which yo strengthen me daily with your presence. Amen.
Virtual Worship: Light of the World
In this time when we cannot gather as a traditional worshipping community next to one another, I invite you to take a few minutes of personal worship time in front of your screen. Use the parts that contribute to your connection with God and move to the next section, skipping those things that do not. The entire service in video form is at the end of the blog. I also invite your feedback.
Opened my eyes . . .
Hope of a life spent with You.
Here I am to bow down.
Here I am to say that You’re my God.
altogether wonderful to me.
Call to Worship (video includes anthem O Love.)
Perhaps it does not begin.
Perhaps it is always.
Perhaps it takes
to open our eyes,
to learn to see
what has forever
shimmered in front of us
the luminous line
of the map
in the dark
the vigil flame
in the house
of the heart,
we cannot keep
from crying out
Perhaps this day
will be the mountain
the dawn breaks.
will turn our face
toward what has been
will finally open
in ancient recognition,
illuminated at last.
Perhaps this day
the light begins
– Jan Richardson, from Circle of Grace, Wanton Gospeller Press
Hymn: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
Prayers of the People
(NOTE: The video prayer that accompanies this part of the service has been edited.)
Heavenly Father, we are not altogether convinced that darkness is a thing of the past. Many people in this world of ours feel their world is one of darkness and gloom. Pressures crowd in upon us and get us down.
The causes are varied: bereavement, illness, money, worries about family, trouble at work or not having work, drugs, drink, boredom, doubt, weariness, futility.
Then there are the world issues: war, poverty, climate change, disease, unfair trade and so on. It does not help when we feel that as Christians we should be doing so much better than we are. Gracious and loving God, we rejoice that you are with us in our troubles, you know us and you love us – always.
Even though we have made a mess of things personally and collectively you remain faithful. We rejoice that your Son came not to a perfect world, but to a broken world, our world. To bring light to the darkness, our darkness.
We pray for our dark and dreary world, a world in need – in need not just of a technical fix, but in need of love and grace, forgiveness and new life, hope, peace and fellowship, in need of renewal, in need of YOU.
We pray that you would come alongside us and all those for whom we pray, that you would show us Jesus, the light of the world, the one who came (and who comes) to rid us of sin, to give us life and health and peace, peace that passes all understanding – not a temporary respite from trouble but the strength to overcome it and ultimately to receive life eternal.
You don’t wave a magic wand for everything to sorted instantly – you require us to exercise our faith and to respond to your call to preach the gospel and to seek to live it out, to look to you for the strength that we need to share your love and grace. Help us to share the good news in word and action – the same good news that the fishermen were called to proclaim that there is a Saviour, a merciful king who loves us and whom we can love and adore.
We have been set free. Enable us to use our freedom to share in bringing in the kingdom. In the light of this we have something to celebrate, something to shout about – for even in our trouble and pain, even in our loss, we know that Jesus is with us.
Hear us as in a moment of silence we pray for those in darkness (of whatever kind) – let us pray that they may see and know the light of Christ:
The Lord is my light and my salvation. Hear our prayers, Lord, spoken and unspoken and answer them for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
To see the source of this prayer, click HERE.
The Word Proclaimed
Sermon: Light of the World
Complete Video of Entire Service
Imagine What You’ll Know Tomorrow
If you know me you know that I love movies. In particular, I’m a fan of the super hero science fiction genre. As I was ramping up to work from home during this era of the super-virus, I saw a .gif that referenced a movie that I truly love. Looking through the lens of our current situation, I went back and reviewed the clip , which comes from the first Men in Black movie, stopping after the first 50 seconds of the scene . . .
In this scene, Tommy Lee Jones’s character, Agent J, is recruiting Will Smith’s character, a future agent K, to join him at MIB. K is questioning everything he has seen and everything that he thinks he knows about the world around him. J offers him a cold assessment of society and how society behaves when faced with things around them that they can’t comprehend or understand.
If we consider our current plight, I’d say that the movie is . . . well . . . art imitating life.
Only a short time ago, we knew that our medical community could stave off this virus half a world away. Only a short time ago, we knew that in times of crisis, our government leaders could put aside bickering to heroically lead us out of a situation. Only a short time ago, we knew that our economy could withstand pretty much anything because we had a medical community and government . . . well, you get the idea.
Now, understand, I’m not taking shots at either one or these entities. Brené Brown says that I should make an assumption of positive intent . . . that we should, “work from the assumption that people are doing the best they can.” And so, I believe that those entities are doing exactly that . . . the best that they can at the moment. I should pray for our leaders — all of them — carefully supporting them. I can be supportive and still discern their choices and work to better us all in this moment in time. I can do so without being reactive and destructive. When this is over, clearly there will be a time for assessment. Until then, I should live an informed existence, listening carefully to what our leaders are telling us . . . most especially giving support to the health care folks, first responders, and other essential personnel who are on the front lines of this corona virus epidemic, of which my wife is one.
I am saying that I hope is that we can keep panic and irrational things to a minimum. Oh, the things that I read online these days tell me that we are exactly as Agent K says in the clip, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals.”
What, then, do we do to ground us in our faith in a calm and informed way?
I start with the historic aspects of faith. The Shema ( literally translate as “hear”) is the Hebrew word that begins the most important prayer in Judaism. It is found in Deuteronomy 6:4. The whole Shema prayer, which includes verses 4-9, is spoken daily in the Jewish tradition.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9: Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (NRSV)
The Shema is taken literally by the Hebrew people. It is rolled up and inserted in a container on the front doors of many Jewish homes in something called a Mezuzah. A Mezuzah serves as a symbol to everyone else that this particular dwelling is constituted as a Jewish household, operating by a special set of rules, rituals, and beliefs. As a part of the practices in that household, the Shema is recited several times a day. It is said to make sure that they, as a people, never forget who is the focus of their lives and how they are to remind themselves to stay focused.
The Shema prayer was so influential and important that Jesus used it as the beginning of His answer to the “greatest commandment” question in Mark 12:28–30. When Jesus began His answer with the Shema prayer, Jesus acknowledged the Lord God as most important.
As we navigate this season of stress, I invite you to not step into the panic, even though it may be all around you. Rather, if you feel yourself giving in to the panic and street, insert your name into the first parts of the Shema and pray,
“Hear, O ____________: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.”
As we all “imagine what we may know tomorrow,” may we all remember who is our focus — the Lord our God.
Here’s a prayer that I found online. that might help us be mindful of others and not focus on our own stresses. Let us pray . . .
May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
And during this time when we may not be able to physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors. Amen.
– Submitted by Fr. Michael Graham, S.J.
To reference the websites that contributed to this blogpost, click HERE and HERE.
NOTE: I wrote this to be used as the devotion for our Zoom Chancel Choir gathering on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.