Monday, November 23, 2015


DD and I had a lovely morning with dear friends at one of the churches where I often preach.  This morning we were preparing for Advent!  We were decorating the sanctuary with greens, trees, candles, poinsettias, and the nativity.  We laughed, we shared, we reminisced.  It was a wonderful morning preparing not only the meeting place but also our hearts for coming of the Christ.  It felt wonderful and I'm so glad they invited us to be a part of it.  

It got me to thinking about the Hanging of the Green service.  I wonder if many churches these days have the service.  I remember it being a part of our Sunday Morning service once at one of our churches in the past.  We brought in some of the decorations during the service as they were talked about and then later in the day certain people went back to help actually decorate.  I think it might be fun and meaningful to participate in this service, or have it as part of the decorating, whether it's formal done in service fashion, or simply as a way of organizing our decorating; putting out what needs the different parts of the service talks about with pauses in between to actually do the decorating.

Something to think about...  My family would think I was crazy if used it at home, but I wonder...  could I incorporate it somehow in little doses?  Hmmm....  My wheels are turning...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Confidence, Faith, and Change

I had the privilege to preach at two lovely churches yesterday and I thought I'd share the sermon here .  The scripture used is 1 Samuel 1:4-20, Hebrews 10:11-25, and Mark 13:1-8. 

As I prepared for this morning.  I sat down and read the scriptures and then I also read the commentary provided on the United Methodist website and when I was done, I felt completely overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed at how these readings spoke to me so personally.  I had to sit on them for a day or so to let it all sink in and really move into my being so that I could then sit down and write it out into a sermon.  We have Hannah, so brave, so confident in what God could do, and we read in Hebrews that WE are to have that same confidence when we come to God as well!  And then in Mark we have change.  I personally, am not always a fan of change but I think Jesus has a special message for us about it in this reading and early this week it really soothed me.  It was just what I needed.

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

The reading from 1 Samuel brought back to me a sweet memory.  When my son was about four years old and I was pregnant with my daughter, I taught a Sunday School lesson for his class on Hannah and Samuel.  I shared how Hannah had prayed and prayed for baby.  I told them how she went to the temple to pray, to cry out to God for a baby boy and how she told God that if he would answer her prayer, she would give her baby back to the Lord.  I told them how she did have a baby boy and when he was old enough, she took him to the temple to live to serve the Lord.  I had no idea the power of this story.  See, all the way home from church he cried and cried because he didn’t want to give our baby to God, he wanted to keep her!  It took me all day to convince him that we were going keep her.  I love this memory!  It is so precious, one because he loved his unborn sibling so much already!  Two because even at 4 years old, this precious little boy wanted to do what God wanted even though he totally didn’t want to!    It’s a precious memory to me, and one I think of every time I read Hannah’s story.

But there is more to this story of Hannah that we can take away with us.  See, Hannah came to God full of expectation.  She had taken all she could from her rival and being deeply distressed she went to the Lord in prayer.  She prayed with fervor, full of tears.  She prayed her heart out not caring who would see her or what anyone would think.  She just opened up her heart in prayer asking for the one thing she wanted more than anything else, a child, not just a child but a son.  She isn’t even overly selfish in this prayer because she also says that she will “set him before you (God) as a nazirite until the day of his death.”  To be a nazirite means to be set apart for the Lord for a specified time, in this case his whole life.  Hannah takes care of her son Samuel until he is old enough to leave, probably around 3 years old, and then takes him to temple.  As she is praying this she knows that she will only be able to keep him for a short time, though we know from the rest of the story that she visits the temple and takes him clothes from time to time.  

The thing is, Hannah went before God full of expectation.  She knelt down with confidence that God would answer her prayer.  She poured her heart out knowing God would hear her. 

Our reading from Hebrews, today talks about this ‘confidence.’  It says, “Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary…” Because of Jesus we can have confidence!  Confidence that our sins have been forgotten.  A few verses back it says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  That should offer us plenty of peace and confidence that when we come to God, we come with clean slates and that he is ready to listen.  We can approach him with a true heart full of assurance of faith. Faith, that God is faithful to us.

But Hebrews also says that we must provoke each other to love and Good deeds.  That we shouldn’t neglect to meet together to encourage one another.  I find it interesting how that part is worded.   “ Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…”  He knows us so well, doesn’t he? 

In this day and age, there are so many other activities, so many other things calling for our attention.  Often we are torn as to where we should be!  I remember when Sunday’s were strictly for church.  There weren’t other activities fighting for our Sunday morning and evening time.  Oh, we’ve always, at least as long as I can remember, had to get out on time for “the game” but the game didn’t ever start before noon!  Now, we have youth leagues that play on Sunday mornings. We have games on TV that go late into the night.  I remember when Wednesdays were kept free, no school programs or sports happened because people had church.  Now it seems no day or time is sacred anymore.  We just try to fill in everyday as much as possible and often there isn’t much time for church activities anymore.  We like to say we just don’t have time for church, or Bible studies, or Sunday school or even for the fellowship time, such as potlucks or suppers. 

But here we are in Hebrews being told to NOT NEGLECT meeting together.  We NEED to meet together to encourage one another.  To encourage one another in our faith, in our lives, in our growth, in love.  It’s important and yet it’s often neglected.  As a side, this Advent study starting this month would be a great way to get started!  I hope you’ll come join me for this study.  I’m really excited about it.

Anyway, back to the sermon.  There has been so much change over the years, over all of time in how we spend our time.  Change isn’t all bad.  Change is to be expected!  It’s to be anticipated!  In our reading from Mark, Jesus is talking about the change that is going to occur.  The destruction of the temple, the wars, the earthquakes and so on but he tells them not to be alarmed that these are just the beginning of the birth pangs.  Just the beginning.  

See, Jesus saw the destruction of the temple as a demolishing of an old way to make way for the new.  He saw his own death as a kind of birth.  As I read the commentary on these verses from Mark, I started thinking of my own life and the changes that happening or that are getting ready to happen.  My kids are growing up!  My son will be graduating from college and commissioning into the Army this spring and getting married sometime after that.  That means his moving away and not seeing him as often.  My daughter is growing up too.  This summer she is hoping to go to a month or more long summer dance intensive!  I can’t even imagine being without her that long!  Honestly, I can’t imagine being alone with my husband for that long!  She has a year then she will be heading to college and as much I hope it’s nearby, REALLY nearby, she could go off!  My life is changing fast and furiously.  My first thoughts are sadness, and that it will be awful but if I adopt the attitude of Jesus, I see that the sadness, and fear are but birth pangs of a new life for me and my husband together! 

Change is a part of life.  It is!  We often don’t like change, I know I don't, because it makes us feel a little out of control and we like to have control over things in our lives but as a church, we have to be open to change, open to new ideas, to new ways of doing things, to new people. We need to be ready to welcome it, to give it a chance because often with change comes glorious new beginnings. Last week Pastor Wayne asked for new ideas, share them!  Go research them!  See what other churches are doing that’s working.  Let’s be the change we need to be.

I have a couple of friends who are always reminding me that sometimes we have to have death in order to have a resurrection, in order to have new life.  It’s a hard fact of life but if we take on the attitude of Jesus, to not be afraid of change, to not fight it.  Then we can come to change with that confidence of Hannah, with the true heart of faith we heard about in Hebrews. Then we just might recognize that something wonderful is always being born.  That sometimes the old has to give way a bit to make room for the new. 

For me, this means I need to let go of my kids, let them go out in the world and make their mark, start their lives so that husband and I can find each other again and learn to be a couple again and then eventually all this new will show how great the old was as we share our memories with our grandchildren someday, as our children share some of our traditions with their families while making new ones of their own.

The old way will always be there to help influence the new.  The ‘new’ wants to come and brighten things up a bit, clean out the closets and knock down the cobwebs and fling open the doors to let the light in so that others can come in with it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Life = Change

As I sit here trying to prepare for Sunday's sermon, I feel completely overwhelmed.  There is so much in the scriptures this week!  As I read the scriptures and read over commentary, I was struck.  Just totally silenced.  I need to let all this sink in and settle in me.  It all spoke to me in a very personal way that I'm not sure is sermon material...

The first Scripture is from 1 Samuel and I'm brought back in time to when I was pregnant with my daughter and my son heard Hannah's story and he was sad.  He cried because he didn't want to give our baby to God.  He wanted to keep her.  It's a sweet, sweet memory for me.

The next scripture is from Hebrews and I am drawn to the words "stir up one another to love and good works... encouraging one another."  Just before that, "have confidence... draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith."  I think of class meetings and accountability groups that are trying to make a come back.  I think of the Advent Study I be will leading soon at 2 churches and can't help but wonder if anyone will come.

Then in Mark...  I hear Jesus telling us to stay on task and not to be led astray.  To be ready for change.  Again, I'm led back to my children.  They are growing older and I feel my life rolling into the change of them starting their lives, of them moving away, of me having a new life without them in my everyday and how this is all part of the way life works.  Life = change.  We have to go with it, we have to embrace it!  We have to meet change head on in faith and confidence.  We can't, I can't be afraid of it.  I'm not supposed to be in control of everything.  Life isn't supposed to stand still.  It is meant to move and grow and change so that new and wonderful things can happen.  Sure sometimes change brings a few bumps in the road but it's those bumps that we learn and grow from, they give us opportunities to cling to God and trust in him.  

Change gives us the opportunity to be there for one another to encourage each other, to provoke each other to love and good deeds.  Change brings us opportunities to go to God in confidence, with a true heart of faith and share it all with him, knowing, as Hannah did, that he hears our prayers and he responds.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Saints Day

What a wonderful morning in worship today.  I had the opportunity to share in worship with the congregation at First United Methodist Church in Leavenworth, KS this morning.  I helped in leading the service and the Litany for the Saints and then brought the message and helped to serve communion.  It was a lovely service and I'm so happy I was able to part of it.  I thought I'd share my sermon with you today.  I hope you don't mind.  I love to hear from  you!  Comments will be open below.



Saints.  Honestly, I don’t really remember talking all that much about saints when I was a little girl.  I mean I knew churches that were named St. Luke's or St. Mark's but that was really it.  I do remember as a little girl wondering how you get to be a saint.  Well, actually, I think at first I thought only disciples were saints but as I grew older and heard other saints names, I realized there were others.  I mean I had never heard of a disciple named Christopher before so I began to wonder how exactly do you get to be saint?  I figured you had to do something really AMAZING, something incredible.  Probably something really far out my reach, I was just a little girl after all.  I can’t really tell you at what point I started to figure things out but it was a slow process.  I didn’t ask anyone because it seemed that the whole world understood sainthood except me.  So I just listened quietly and read. I just tried to quietly take it all in and figure it out myself.  Even in preparing for today, I looked up what the United Methodist church believes about saints.  We call people “saints” because they exemplified the Christian life, so every Christian can be considered a saint according to the website.  John Wesley believed we have much to learn from the saints but not that they are not to worshipped. 

So, All Saints' Day is a time to remember Christians of every time and place, honoring those who lived faithfully and shared their faith with us. 

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

 Well, I have to tell you, the scriptures for today are not the easiest for me develop a sermon.  The Gospel reading, hmmm… well, my first thought was a Sunday School lesson my husband did on Zombies and I don’t feel like that is really all that appropriate.  Then we have the reading from Revelation and Isaiah about what life could be, or will be.  The problem with those is that well, I don’t think we should be good, or lead a good life just for the end, just for the what we will receive in the end.  I think we should be good, lead the good life, be Christ-like because, well, that just how we should be. 

I struggled all week over these verses and tried to really look at them with new eyes, with fresh eyes, with open eyes.  Often when we think of All Saints Sunday, we think of those we have lost, those who have gone before us, those who, well, we miss!  That’s when I saw the verse from John, “And Jesus began to weep.” Or in the English Standard Version, “Jesus wept.”  Actually, just a couple of verses before that it talks about Jesus seeing Mary weeping and that he was deeply moved.  It reminded me of my grief when my father passed away last year.  It comforted me to know that he saw my grief and was moved and that he wept with me.

If we go back a few verses before our reading for today actually began, we see Jesus explaining to Martha, that he is the resurrection and the life and all who believe in him, even though they die, will not perish but will live forever.  Reading these verses again, reminded me that he wasn’t only talking about physical death.  When my father died there were days I felt like I had too.  I know my mother felt this way as well but because of our faith and our belief we could were able to move through that, albeit sometimes very slowly, we were able to move through that death into living again and being there for others, to help others, to love others, and to continue to grow in our faith.

When I was asked to preach this week, I wasn’t sure which scripture was going to be used, the regular Lectionary reading or the special lectionary reading for All Saints Day.  It felt like it could really go either way.  So I want to share with you the gospel reading from the regular lectionary reading from the book of Mark 12:28-34 

12:28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?"

12:29 Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;

12:30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'

12:31 The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

12:32 Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other';

12:33 and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself,' --this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

12:34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question.

I think this goes well with our theme of All Saints day because it gives us a guide for living an exemplified Christian life.    First is to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind. Of course a great way to do that is by following the second part of Jesus’ answer, which was to love our neighbor as our self. I started thinking of some the saints who have gone before me who did so well and who taught me to do the same.  My grandmother was to me the epitome of a saint.  She had that first part down.  She was faithful in her church attendance, she was active in Bible studies and UMW.  She took care of her neighbors.  She trusted God wholeheartedly.  I’ve always wanted to be like her, strong in my faith, strong in service and overflowing in love.

As I thought on this, the verses from Revelation and Isaiah came to mind.  They are so similar to me.  Revelation talks of a new heaven and new earth.  It talks of God coming down and living among mortals, with us and making all things new.  It got me thinking about today, our time.  It got me wondering.  It reads “He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."

How often do we say we, as the church or as individuals, are the hands and feet of God?  If we truly are that then shouldn’t we be doing this?  Shouldn’t WE be comforting and loving one another. And then I thought, if we do those things how much closer we will become to God.  We will feel him nearer to us each time we comfort our neighbor, each time we offer and show them love.

In Isaiah, we hear about the feast the Lord will put out for us.  That he will destroy the shroud that is cast over us and again it says he will wipe away the tears and disgrace of his people.  Again, as God’s hands and feet we should helping with that feast, we should be helping to destroy the shroud that separates us from one another.  We should love one another. 

Imagine what this world would be, could be like if all Christians, if EVERYONE, worked on this!  I think we would see a world that just might resemble that new earth, that new heaven and I know that we would see the face God in each face in which we looked.  We would grow closer to him.  We would be drawn ever so near to him.  We would feel his presence among us and like the saints who have gone before us, we would exemplify the Christian life the way it is supposed to be.