Today: An All-Saints Review

We remembered the saints of FUMC Missouri City today.  I knew a lot of the names intimately.  In addition to the persons who have died, we remembered the persons we had baptized this year — moving from the saints past to saints future.  I knew many of them personally, too.

It was very moving to stop and take “inventory” of sorts.  By inventory, I mean who stands beside me serving Christ in body and who stands in Christ serving with me in spirit.  Sobering day, to say the least.  I was most moved by the prelude processional at 11 AM.  The faces of the people as they placed the pillar candle on the altar in honor of their husband, wife, daughter, son, or friend.

On a day when we recall the saints, I had to ask myself if I am preparing the church of the future?  Am I doing everything I can to make sure that I further the kingdom?  I seriously doubt it.  I fall short.  Constantly.

When I was in Kansas City, Rev. Adam Hamilton asked 1900 of us in a plenary session this question: “Would you give up your preferred style of worship if it meant that 100 people would come to Christ?  Even tougher, would you give up your preferred style of worship if it meant 1 person would?”

I had a hard time hearing that.  Although I’m pretty eclectic in my worship style preference, I wasn’t sure what I could give up?  There are distinct and intimate ways I personally connect to the Holy  — a huge choir anthem with a pipe organ, an excellent worship film, a moving sermon, The Apostle’s Creed, a worship band, just to name a few.  And, I should note that I don’t care for all of those acts of worship in one worship service.  I like things separated out a bit.

My thoughts go to a piece of information that I read on a the North Alabama Conference website.  On Bishop Willimon’s site, there was a quote that I remember that said something to this effect “For every new church we (United Methodists) start, we close three.”  Ouch.  That is painful to hear.

Open one new church, close three – that is a terrible ratio.

If it meant one person would come to Christ, what would I be willing to give up?  Have I done everything I can do to further the kingdom of God?

Let’s just say I continue to struggle.  Pray for me.

 

Making Small Changes

This evening, I was working at the church getting some video equipment set up. During a break, I stopped to chat with a good friend. I had passed on a devotion/sermon to her and we talked about that sermon. While the Open Skies Band rehearsed, we chatted.

After that conversation, I thought about this Sunday, which is All-Saints Sunday. Our confab during band practice centered around making small changes in your life. It made me think and reflect on our own church saints.

The saints we will honor didn’t cure cancer, end world hunger, or invent the longer lasting light bulb. But, one person was a nurse and helped patients for many years. One person served each week at the local food pantry. One person made sure that the buillding was in good shape for impacting lives in and out of our church community. Their impact will be felt in the years ahead. All of them made a difference one life at a time.

While in Kansas City, I heard Adam Hamilton talk of a person who, in traffic, cut in front of him. Instead of getting angry, he took a moment to pray for that person. Perhaps they were in an emergency. Perhaps they just couldn’t find peace in their life which led them to be stressed. He prayed for peace for that person. And, by doing so, he, Adam Hamilton, was changed. He made a difference by changing his life and then, through a prayer, making a difference for someone else. And, small changes pay forward to greater things in Christ.

What one small difference will you make?

Prayers – Hospital

While in Kansas City, MO for a workshop, I picked up a book by Katie Maxwell titled Bedside Manners: A Practical Guide to Visiting the Ill. (BakerBooks)  This is always something I’ve struggled with — saying the right things, doing the right things.  I was reading a few passages from it and was struck by two prayers from the wonderful book.  Even when I am not dealing with persons in the hospital, I find these prayers applicable/adaptable for my life.

A Visitor’s Prayer

Gracious Lord,

Beneath whose eye and within those love the story of our lives is told; give me grace to pause in my hurried pace to bear your love and bring your grace to someone ill this day.  Let me listen without judgement, care without condition, pray without ceasing; just tell me what to say.  Go before, walk beside; live within I pray.  I am ready, Lord, guide me in my way.

Amen.

(prayer by Dr. Kenneth C. Working)

A Caregiver’s Prayer

Gracious God, I confess how mixed my feelings are.  I’ve got my health, and I should be grateful.  but, why do I feel so empty sometimes?  And, why do I feel resentment at helping?  But, sometimes I do feel resentment.  I do feel poured out, depleted, empty.  God, help me accept my mixed feelings and most importantly, help me so that I don’t inflict my pain on the one I most want to help.

Dear God, when I feel so tired and worn down, help me find the strength to carry on.  And, save me from heroics.  Help me put aside my pride and find the courage to ask for help.  Thank you for the gift of life with all its pain, questions, and mysteries.  Thank you for this life for which I am privileged to care, for this precious friend, mate, lover.

Amen.

(Rev. Steve Smith)

Waiting for The Car

Although it sounds like a cheap novel, my day began as any other day. Really, it did!

Kids got off to school early dogs fed and cats, too. Rhonda came home, we talked through the prior evenigs events. She told me of her night at the hospital. I cleaned up and left for work. I headed outside and started the car. Ah, the familiar sound of a battery struggling to start the car. And this morning, it was strggling mightily.

So, I drove to the nearest auto parts store and had it tested. Bad battery. But, the auto place didn’t have a new one. So, off to the dealer. However, when I tried to leave, dead battery. It seems the act of testing the battery killed it. After a jump from the auto parts guy, I was on my way except I couldn’t kill the car or I’d never get it restarted. On to the dealer as fast as possible

I can’t help but wonder if this is God’s message for me today. Maybe, I must keep my battery charged – fresh and new and ready for whatever the day might hold. Maybe, I must rely on others to help me charge myself so I can go on my way. Perhaps, it is God’s telling me to give thanks rhat I have resources to make repairs (which did total up since I was behind on regular maintenance.) Or, perhaps it is just a dead battery and nothing more and God isn’t teaching me anything today.

I’m sure it isn’t the last one. God is always teaching me something. I’ll wait and see. But, nice to ponder on God while in the dealership.

Worship and Encountering the Holy

Worship is really about an audience of ONE – God.  We, the actors, carry on the “work,” the liturgy.  As followers of Christ, it is the reason we gather.  We gather not be a part of some performance but conscious connection to the One who is greater than we can imagine or comprehend.  We come and leave changed by this incomprehensible encounter.

Planning and executing worship is a challenge.  Balance between new scholarship, ancient texts, compelling visuals, transformational preaching, and stirring music must lay the groundwork for a stable God-connection.  Prior to worship, prayer, scriptural and thematic research, and consideration for what elements will be present foster a Holy Spirit led plan.  In the end, the scripture, sermon, music, prayers, and even announcements must reflect connection with the worshippers heart, soul, mind, and strength.  (Matthew 12:30)  And, finally, much comes down to the worship personnel’s execution of the planned event and the receptivity of the worshipper to enter into dialogue with God.

Finally, as quoted in scripture, faith without works is dead. (James 2:17)   When people depart worship, what works will a congregation participate in that will become the embodiment of Christ in the world?  What will move faith from worshipping safely away from the world to becoming the hands and feet of Christ?  We try to offer something missional that each worshipper can participate in outside the walls of the church.

If you aren’t a United Methodist, perhaps this seems a bit over-thought.  Thinking is in the D-N-A of a United Methodist.  As a United Methodist, we use the Wesleyan quadrilateral as our guide in all that we do, including the planning and execution of worship.

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What helps you connect with the Holy?

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