Worship, today, is modified from what we’ve been familiar with, but it is still worship.
We’ve moved to different expressions of worship – from parking lots and online services to some in-person activities – as a response to the current health crisis affecting our community and world. Worship is not what we are used to, but that doesn’t make it less holy or impactful to our walk with Christ.
At its core, worship has never been about us or what we like. It’s not about the music, the style, or the oratory skills of the pastor. Worship has always been about a community coming together to give praise and adoration to God for all that the Lord has done. It centers us as a community, but also calls us outward to continue the worship through our acts of love and grace in the world.
In leading in this modified time, we have all made difficult choices on how to give honor and worship to God in a safe and healthy manner. There are aspects of worship that are central to who we are that we have refrained from in this time. There are other aspects that we have continued doing.
No matter what the function of worship may be, we have to remember that worship is never about us. It is always about God. When our administration and, even, evaluation of worship is based upon our preferences and desires, then we are missing the true nature of worship. In this way, worship becomes a form of entertainment that is about pleasing the masses and not celebrating the name of God.
How do we keep the focus on God in worship, regardless of whether we are in the parking lot, online, or in-person? Continue reading “Ways to Engage Worship”
I have to admit that I have always loved these words from Paul and Romans 8. They have comforted me in times of trial, and encouraged me to keep the faith when things seem difficult in both life and in the ministry. They are a “go to” when I need to be reminded of God’s love.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Those words comfort and provide hope immediately once we read them and reflect upon their meaning. They are, perhaps, words we need to hear this morning.
Perhaps, too, words I need to hear as we gather for worship in our parking lot and online. You see, there are moments when I wonder how could God love someone like me. I look at myself and wonder what is there to really love. I am the product of childhood trauma from, at best, a neglectful step-father. My first marriage ended in divorce, which led to a period of deep despair and financial struggles. I have long believed that people expect perfection from me, and so it is easy for me to find my faults and criticize who I am and what I do. I have often asked how could God love someone like me? Continue reading “Share the Love”
I love the first song in the second half of “Hamilton.” It is a hilarious song that transitions the show, and many of the cast members, into a new portion of the story of Alexander Hamilton and his work in the administration of President George Washington.
The song, called “What Did I Miss?,” introduces Thomas Jefferson to the story, but with some humor since it is played by the same actor who, in the first half, portrayed the Marquis de Lafayette. In the song, though, the conversation is in the past tense. It describes things that Jefferson has missed while he was in France and moves the story along past the Revolutionary War. To be honest, it is the celebratory dancing that make the song. If you don’t believe me, access Disney Plus and watch for yourself.
While the song may be sung in the past tense, I believe for many of us in the church we are living out the song. There are things we miss as we continue to exist in a socially distant expression of worship in response to the current pandemic. I hear these things expressed in conversation and, recently, as we have transitioned to a modified form of worship in our parking lot. We are missing the people, music, and worship as a body.
I can understand that. I feel each of those things in my soul. Continue reading “What Do I Miss?”
I was raised in Shady Spring: population of 1,000 and now with its regionally-famous traffic light and Dollar General. It is a small town on the outskirts of Beckley, but has always been home for me.
I was what you would call a nerd. My focus was on studying presidential history and being part of the journalism staff at the junior high and high school. I also worked for the local paper. I wasn’t athletic, even though I tried about every sport and loved to watch them all.
My favorite sport to participate in was wrestling. I loved the sport, and was average, at best, at it. When I moved more into my journalism career, it was always the most enjoyable and complex sport to cover. I still enjoy it today. What did I enjoy about it? You were part of a team, yet you were responsible for your own actions. You had to think on your feet and consider how to achieve your objective in a limited time and space.
Now, I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t just enjoy freestyle wrestling as a youth. I also enjoyed professional wrestling. There is something humorous about watching two people bark about how they are the most impressive talker and fighter all while wearing a feather boa and a mullet.
That love of professional wrestling has led to the creation of a line that you may hear from time to time. That line is this: This is feeling a lot like WrestleMania. It was a line, and its variations, that I started to say in the lead-up to General Conference last year. I was responsible for covering the event for the Kentucky Annual Conference. As I covered the event, I actually felt like I was at WrestleMania. For me, the phrase is used to describe an event that has become filled with anger, talking, and divisiveness, especially in places you would least expect it. Sadly, I use that phrase a lot in the life of the church. Continue reading “Living with Weeds”
I was here at the church the day after it was announced I was your new pastor. That was one of the unique aspects of this particular move. Our covenant team meets each week in the parlor, at least we did until the pandemic began, to talk about life and ministry.
On this particular day, however, I walked up the ramp to the sanctuary entrance, to go through the same door I walked into each time we met. I was with a couple of other pastors and we were talking about the uniqueness of walking in knowing I would be coming here to serve in a few months. It was at that moment I noticed something I had never noticed before. I looked down and I saw a row of bricks, each with the names and dates of service for the pastors who have served faithfully here with love. I looked down and couldn’t help but wonder if, one day, I would be placed along that row of bricks.
Lots have changed since that day. I am still walking up that same ramp, but this time to serve as your pastor. I will admit that this particular transition is not what any of us imagined back in March. I didn’t believe for a moment that on our second week together we would be gathered in our cars and online to worship. I never imagined we would be socially distant from one another unable to really meet and get to know one another except for the use of technology, which I am appreciative to have. None of us imagined this would be life, but yet we press forward with the hope of Christ knowing that God is with us, even when it is hard and challenging.
While this transition may not have the normal components to it, we still have the same hopes and desires for God to bring forth a blessing in this new season together. We still have the same questions of where will God lead us and what am I about as a pastor. You’re starting to get a sense of me, in a way, already. I am someone who loves the liturgy of the church. I believe in the connection of the Methodist movement and working together as one body. I believe in having a good laugh, even as we do hard and serious work together. I believe in being a servant leader who shows the way by my example, which I pray is one of humility, grace, and hope in all things.
In all of that though, there is one overarching thing about me that really guides me as a follower of Christ and a pastor. Our passage, this morning, from Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23 gives us an opportunity to reflect upon that and that is discipleship. Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: Sowing Discipleship”