Sunday, August 21, 2016

Small Thinking

This morning, I preached on small thinking and how it holds us back from what God is calling us to do.    I thought I'd share with you all here.

The scripture readings came from Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Luke 13:10-17



“Small Thinking”

Today we move on to a new prophet, Jeremiah.  Jeremiah is different from the other prophets in that he was called young.  The other prophets were all second career prophets.  Jeremiah tries to use this as a way of getting out of God’s call on his life.  He says, “I’m too young!  I don’t know how to speak!  I’m not qualified.”  That last one I think has been used by young and old alike, but this is all small thinking and well, I don’t think God thinks small, he’s more of a Big Thinker don’t you think?

Would you please pray with me?  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and redeemer.  AMEN.

Small thinking… I think we all do it from time to time.  It’s the thinking that says we aren’t good enough, we’re too young, we’re too old, we’re too small, we’re too big and so on.  This is what Jeremiah was doing.  He was making excuses for why he couldn’t answer God’s call.  He actually used one of the same reasons Moses did, his poor communication skills.  But God wouldn’t have any of it.  He touched his lips and gave him the words he needed.  He told him that he knew him before he was born.  He told him that he had a plan for him before he was born.

Now, as a side note, I don’t think this is proof of predestination.  I think it’s more of an assurance that God’s love, grace and support have always been with us and will continue to be… always.  It’s more of a divine inspiration in the here and now and that the God who was with you in birth will always be with you and seeks your abundant life.
He thinks BIG for us.  He wants big things for us and he calls us to do big things, both as individuals and as a church.  Even as a church we can find ourselves held back by our small thinking, we think we are too small to do much.  We think we don’t have the money to make a difference.  We think small and in our small thinking we forget who we serve, we forget who calls us.  We forget what he can do in us, for us and through us.  We forget his power, his might.

After God put the words in Jeremiah’s mouth, we see another way in which Jeremiah is different. God told him he was set before nations and over kingdoms, not just Judah or in Israel like the others.  He was set before nations and over kingdoms to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.  As I was reflecting on this part of the scripture, I first thought well, this doesn’t really pertain to us today but as I continued to dwell on it I suddenly realized that it does!  Just not in the literal sense. 

I think God did set us before nations… the nations of hate and judgment, the nations of fear and greed.  Just like Jeremiah, we are to pluck them up and break them down, destroy and over throw them.  But how are we to that?  I imagine that Jeremiah was thinking the same thing!  This seems like a really big hard thing to do.  This seems like some pretty big thinking!  But you know, God, he always has a plan and that is what I think the next part that Jeremiah tells us God told him to do is; to build and to plant.  I think this is how we are to take down these nations.  We are to plant seeds of hope and love.  We are build bridges of compassion.

That’s just what Jesus was doing in our reading from Luke this morning.  He was taking down the nation of legalism by showing this woman, this woman who had suffered for some 18 years a little compassion even on the Sabbath.  He was teaching that compassion was more important than the laws.  He was applying the heart of his teaching and preaching to real life.  On the surface he was showing that humans were just as important on the Sabbath as their animals and if they would care for their animals on the Sabbath, they could definitely care for their brothers and sisters. 

Now, some of the commentary I read pointed out that there was more to this than just the healing on the Sabbath.  It also had to do with it being a woman.  It had to do with Jesus calling her forward out of the back where she would have been forced to sit because she was a woman in a deformed condition.  She had become religiously marginalized.  Such people wouldn’t have been allowed in the temple and the commentary said it was surprising she was even in the synagogue.  She would have been in the back, where people were not permitted to participate actively in the acts of worship offered up by the men.  They weren’t even supposed to speak!  And Jesus, who is sitting up front teaching, notices her and calls her forward and lays his hands on her and she was healed and what did she do?  She immediately began to praise God, to glorify God!  Remember, she wasn’t allowed to speak but she couldn’t contain her joy!  The religious leaders spoke out and condemned Jesus for ‘working’ on the Sabbath but he shamed them a bit.  This commentary said it was more about losing control than the actual healing on the Sabbath, control of the culture as he knew it.  A caste system that kept him and men in a place above women and others who suffered who couldn’t even ask for relief. 

Jesus’ actions this day as they often did broke down the nation of this caste system, the nation of the faithful religious social order and planted seeds of compassion and built bridges of love and those who had been shut out worshipped joyfully together with those of privilege.  They didn’t have to hold it in anymore, I bet they couldn’t!

Imagine, what our world could be like if we broke through some of these nations I mentioned before, greed, fear, hate, and judgment, the nation that Jesus himself was breaking through, a nation of social order, whether religious or monetary and then started to plant in them seeds of love and compassion and built bridges of acceptance and friendships.


See I think this is what God is calling us, you and me; this is what he is calling our church, this small single church and the big church in communion with each other to do.  How can we refuse? We can’t refuse anymore than Jeremiah could.  Often we think to ourselves, we’re too old, we’re too young, we’re too small, we don’t have any money, we don’t have the means, this is small thinking.  And you know what?  I think small thinking is like putting limits on what we think God can do.   But God knows no limits.  We teach our kids that God can do anything and yet when it’s time for us to answer his call we say, “Well, we can’t do that.”  And you know what, we’re right, we can’t but God can, that’s why he calls us!  He can do unimaginable things through us if we just answer his call and trust in him.    That’s the thing, we have to trust him, we have to have faith, faith in something bigger than ourselves that wants to work in us and through us.  That’s what we’ve been talking about the last few weeks.  Faith. That’s big thinking.  Faith is big thinking.  It’s hard to step out in faith.  Our small thinking wants to kick in and say we can’t for whatever reason but that’s just when Faith, when big thinking needs to really come in and take over. I read in some commentary that “This is when God wants us to spread our wings.  God seeks the well-being and fulfillment ofus as individuals and as a congregation as way to heal the world.”  We have to stop our small thinking.  We have to answer God’s call in our lives and in the life of the church even when it’s big thinking, even when it’s scary.  We have to break through self-imposed and other-imposed barriers, through the small thinking and join God on this holy adventure to heal ourselves and the world by planting seeds of compassion and love and building bridges of hope.  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Blessings

This week we had a backpack blessing at each of the churches plus a school supply drive for the schools right down the street from each church.  I have been so excited about this!  It was so fun to plan and I think we had a pretty good turn out too!  




I worked a lot this week on balance.  I've been finding myself working all day every day on church stuff and neglecting other things in my life.  I'm allotted 20 a week for both churches, each, but both all together.  I know it will be always be more than that but I think it's important to find balance and I did pretty good this week.  

I made time for my little family, I made time to do a little pleasure reading and even for some crafting.  It made my week and my family very happy so I will continue to work on this.  I think it's good for me.

I'm still thoroughly enjoying serving both these congregations and look forward to lots more outreach opportunities with them both!  I hope for us to be a light on the hill for their communities!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A full dunking...

Last week I got to the churches and found the signs looked a bit different! 

How exciting it that?  And very weird too... 

So, as it became 'sign' official, I was fully dunked into the pool of ministry and pastordom... 

Last week, I officiated at my first memorial service.  I was petrified.  I really was.  I froze when I was called and asked to do it and it took me a while to thaw out but lucky for me, I have some amazing mentors in my life who encouraged and helped me through it.  I think it went well, as well as a memorial service can go anyway.  No one yelled at me or fired me yet so I'm taking it as a good sign. 

And then, during worship Sunday, a member became ill and we had to call an ambulance.  It scared us all terribly but the person was cared for and is on the mend. 

See what I mean when I said I was FULLY dunked into the pool of ministry and pastordom?  I didn't get to just get my feet wet for long!  Week 3 was the week of dunking.  But it felt good to be there for those who needed someone.  It felt good to be in ministry.

As I went for now, my second hospital for visits, I remember a day back in high school when Daddy was going to visit an elderly member of the church in the hospital and he insisted that I go with him.  I always thought that strange and wondered why but now I'm ever so glad that he did.  He was preparing me well for today. 

I discovered, or was reminded, last week, that God knows better than I what I am capable of doing for him and I have to tell you, that is so comforting. 

Last week was a hard week but it was good too and I'm grateful for all those who offered words of encouragement to me and those who had such confidence in me as well.  You guys all ROCK!! 

THANK YOU!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Are you Listening?

What a wonderful morning of worship with two lovely churches!  Attendance at both were up from last week and that is exciting for me!  Someone asked if I would share some of my sermons here so I thought I'd share today's.  Let me say that I use the manuscript as a guide, so this is not exactly how it was presented but it's close.

Luke 10:38-42English Standard Version (ESV)

Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Are you listening?

Last week we talked about being a good and compassionate neighbor.  I wondered if we all worked towards that how our lives, community and world might change.  Being a good and compassionate neighbor can help us to be better disciples.  This week, I’d like to share some thoughts on something we can do help us be just that, good, compassionate neighbors and better disciples.  But first would you please pray with me?  “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.”  Amen.

In our gospel reading this morning, we find ourselves in the home of Martha and Mary.  Now, I want to point out that this is kind of a big deal.  It says, that a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  It didn’t say she welcomed him into her brother’s home.  It didn’t even identify her as being a man’s sister, wife, daughter or anything.  It named her as her own person and that’s a pretty big thing for back then.  Women only had property under rare circumstances and this scripture identifies this house, this property as Martha’s! 

Now traditionally when we talk about this story, we think of Martha as being busy with chores, household chores, things like preparing the meal for Jesus and his companions, doing dishes afterwards, and so on but I read some commentary this week that looked at this a little differently. They pointed out that Luke chose a very technical term to describe Martha’s work in verse 40.  The word was “diakonian” which as you heard from the reading from the English Standard Version I just read means “much serving.”  This word was used in Luke-Acts to denote participation with others in leadership and ministry on behalf of the community.  Six of the eight uses in Acts point to leadership in the church and proclamation of the Gospel.  So this kind of makes us think  well, maybe Martha is distracted by ‘much ministry’ rather than domestic activity.  Which would also make us wonder if maybe then she was upset about Mary not being more active in the hands on ministry they shared.  If maybe Martha thought Mary was spending too much time in the study part and not enough time on the doing.  I think this an interesting way to think about this.

Something else I thought was interesting was in another commentary I read.  It talked about Martha being overwhelmed.  So much so that she is lashing out not only at her sister but also her guest.  She put Jesus on the spot to take sides and wanted him to put Mary in her place.  Instead he calmly says to Martha, “You are anxious and troubled about many things.” Or another translation says, “You are distracted by many things.” 

Martha was busy in the details of ministry or in her housework, she was busy, too busy to see what was in front her.  Too busy to see and listen to what was important.  She was too busy being busy.  Busy in ministry.  Too busy to listen.

How often are we too busy.  How often do we find ourselves busy just to be busy?  Our society rushes from here to there, to that activity or that.  Churches are busy in ministry with this program and that program.  But I wonder are we being too much like Martha and not enough like Mary?  Are we so busy that we aren’t listening where we should? 

This commentary really got me thinking a lot about what all is going on in our world lately.  We often don’t listen to each other we talk over each other.  We don’t listen first we just react to what we think is being said.  We don’t listen to what people need we assume we already know. 

What would happen if we listened, truly listened to what each other was saying?  What would happen if we listen, really listen to what is going on around us? 

This made me think of the greeting “How are you?”  You know when see someone at the store or even here in church.  We greet one another with “Hi!  How are you?”  Have you ever said that someone only to have them say hello and then walk on?  They never answered the question?  Have you ever done that in response?  How often do we just say, “Fine.  How are you?”  How often is that question asked without really wanting or hearing the response?

I remember during one of my husband, Shannon’s, deployments.  I was tired.  He was gone 15 months and this was about 10 months into it.  Every Sunday, people asked how I was or how Shannon was.  Usually I would offer the standard reply, good, or fine.  But one day I was tired of that same ol’ same ol’ and I replied with the truth.  I told them we were tired.  I told them that Shannon just wanted to come home.  I told them the truth.  Some people were so shocked they didn’t know what to say and others didn’t even notice!  They weren’t really listening.  I even had someone ask if I needed anything or any help.  I told them that my lawn mower wasn’t working and the guy I hired to mow hadn’t come in a month and I didn’t know what to do and they didn’t hear me.  They weren’t listening.  If this happened to me, I wonder how many times it’s happened to other people.  I wonder how many times in my rushing about I didn’t hear the needs of someone else.

In all the things going on in our world, I wonder how many times things could have been prevented, or changed if we’d just listened.  If we listened to what people, communities were saying.  If we just noticed other people more and paid attention. 

They say that around 22 veterans commit suicide every day.  22!  I wonder, are we listening to them?  Do we hear what they are needing?  Are we there for them?  Or what about the teens who are bullied for this or that that commit suicide?  Did they tell us before hand that this was coming?  Did they try to let us know and we just weren’t listening?  Or what about the people who commit these mass shootings?  Did they warn us?  Were we so busy talking that we didn’t hear what we were saying?  Were we so busy and distracted that we missed an opportunity? 

What about the people who join cults?  Cults lure people in by listening to them, by hearing what they need and giving it to them.  Many cults hear that people want acceptance and love and so they offer that to them draw them into their circle.  Others, perhaps, Isis hear people saying they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, something that gives them a sense of purpose and so that’s what offer them.

How are we missing these people?  Are we not listening to them?  Do we really not hear them and their needs? 

I think about our politics right now.  Are we really listening to one another?  Are we really hearing each other?  Or are we too caught up in the us vs. them in the “my way is the only way”.  I’ve heard republicans say “those pro-abortion democrats” or democrats say those “anti-women republicans”.  Are they really listening?  Most democrats I know are not pro-abortion, they are pro-choice.  They don’t want women to get abortions but they don’t feel they have the right to make that choice for everyone.  Most republicans I know, aren’t against women.  They just want to give unborn babies a chance to live.  But we get so caught up in the ‘my way’ that we’ve stopped listening and made up what we think the other stands for and in most cases are wrong and it leads to more divisiveness.  More anger, more hate, more name calling and we never get anywhere. 

Ok, Shannon said I went too big here but I just wanted to show the need for more listening, more hearing because as a society, we have stopped listening to one another.

I realize that we can’t stop all the bad things in the world just by listening but if we are going to be in ministry in the world we have to first listen to see what the world is needing from us.  We have to listen in our communities, we have to be present and truly want to hear what people are saying, what people are needing so that we can be there for them, so that we can see where they are, who they are, so that we can see a way forward.

We have to be in prayer with and for the world, our communities, our church and our families.  Prayer is active.  In prayer we ask for guidance, for comfort, for help, but in prayer we also supposed to be actively listening for those very things for which we are asking.  We are to listen to see where God is guiding us, where he is calling us to be in ministry.  We are to listen to see what God is saying to us, teaching us so that we can use that in our ministry. 

I sometimes think Martha gets a bit of a bum wrap here.  She is busy doing the things, whether it’s housework or ministry that needs to be done.  She is doing nothing wrong but she was so busy that she didn’t see what was right in front of her.  She was so busy she forgot to listen.  To listen to her Lord, so that she could better serve, so that she could be refreshed and filled to go back to work less overwhelmed, less stressed, more aware of what she needed to be doing, and just full of what she needs to better serve her household, her church, her community, and her world.  And don’t we all need that?

We do all need to listen, both to God and the people around us.  We need to truly listen.  We need to open our hearts and our minds to hear, to really hear what, who and where we need to be.  We need to stop talking so much and listen.  We need to stop judging, stop assuming and listen so that we can better be in ministry of Christ.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

My First Sunday Ramblings

Today was my first official Sunday as a Lay Pastor.  I was nervous!  I've been providing pulpit fill at both of these churches as a Lay Speaker for 2 years and yet I still felt nervous this morning.  I couldn't figure out why at first but as I thought about it, it slowly dawned on me.  Before, I was only responsible for my little part in the service, and this time I was responsible for it all!

I think I worried that I'd somehow let them down.  I guess I still worry about that.  I've already made my first pastoral visit and my first hospital visit.  I want so badly to do right by both of these congregations.

I actually started on July 1st but we had already made plans to be out of town before we knew I would taking this position, so I missed what was supposed to be my first Sunday, but I was there some preparing during the week and have continued weekly duties.

So far I'm really enjoying myself.  I hope they are enjoying me too.  LOL  

Today's sermon was on BEING a good and COMPASSIONATE neighbor.  That's my goal in life, to be compassionate to all those around me everyday.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks, trying to get settled into the new churches.  I've not had a job in years so I'm learning how to  juggle my family life and my work life.  It may take a few weeks of getting adjusted, especially as I work on getting settled and learning what is needed from me but I have every confidence that it will all mesh together nicely.

++++++++

Romans 8:28New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Catching up

Good morning, my dear friends!

It has been way too long since my last post.  I've been taking time to enjoy the ... bits of freedom that come with an empty nest.  Oh, I miss my kids terribly but I've been doing things just for me and DH and it's been nice to reconnect again as a couple.

We've just hung out and watched TV together, we've gone to dinner together and shopping together.  We've talked a lot and enjoyed comfortable silence together.

I've done a little picking up here and there of the house and started working on Christmas gift ideas.  It'll be here before we know it!  

I've started dwelling on several different sermon ideas and I've been spending time thinking, reading and planning for the next few months in my new position as Lay Pastor.

I guess it's been a few weeks of contemplation around here but this week it's time to get busy!  I've got lots to do!  And I hope to back blogging regularly too.

How have you been spending your summer days?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

NEWS!

I am so excited, I'm about to bust!  I have news that I just can't wait to share though I've been waiting a while now...  It how things roll in the United Methodist Church.

Monday night I met with representatives of two wonderful congregations and was introduced to them as their new Lay Minister or District Superintendent Assignment.  It's funny to say I was introduced to them because I have been preaching at these churches for while now.  One of them I provided pulpit fill once a month and the other several times a year.  It's the formality of it all, but we already love each other and so it's was just a great meeting. 

I can't wait to get started!  My head has been swimming with ideas for a while now. I hope I am able to live up to what has been set before me and together, I think WE can!