Sunday Sermon: Sowing Discipleship

Sunday Sermon: Sowing Discipleship

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”

New Life, New Creation

New Life, New Creation

Throughout my life and ministry, I can remember several unique and memorable Easter celebrations. I remember the first time I served as a lay reader on Easter Sunday. Not only was I to read the lectionary passages for the day, but I was also asked to help serve communion, So, there I was with the assistant pastor, a friend of mine, when someone tried to take the cup and drink out of it. I lost it. It wasn’t how we did things around there, though in other traditions that would have been acceptable.

There have been times, too, as a pastor that have been joyous. My first Easter Sunrise as a pastor I remember smelling the food coming out of the kitchen and getting hungrier and hungrier as I spoke. There was the time at Claylick that people thought I had forgotten the service when I wasn’t there at my usual 30 minutes before the service. And there was a couple years ago at my last appointment when we were planning a 200th anniversary a few weeks after Easter and wondering if we had the strength to do both well.

What I remember, as well, are the moments of tension of wanting everything to glorify God, and, as well, to make people happy. Much of our Easter services are a pageantry of the holy name of God. A show on our biggest day of the year, because we believe the grandeur of the importance of an empty tomb requires all the bells and whistles. Too often, I get lost in those elements, making sure everything is right, to the point that when I get home on Easter Sunday I am not filled with hope, but overwhelmed with exhaustion.

We approach, then, what will certainly be a memorable Easter celebration in our lifetimes. Not since the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 have churches closed their doors in order to provide safety for their people and others during a health crisis. We will continue to be closed until such time that it is safe to be back together. This is a unique time, and perhaps we are wondering if we can really celebrate Easter without the bells and whistles and, truly, without being in the church.

Perhaps, just maybe, the lack of the bells and whistles, the full regalia of the day, will allow us the possibility to hear the story of Christ’s resurrection in a new way. A way that will relaunch us into being Easter people, filled with the hope of the resurrection, and confident in knowing that Christ is alive even in times like today. Perhaps, just maybe, we can give our full attention not to the grandeur, but to the simplicity of the message and the mission that is before. Continue reading “New Life, New Creation”

Maundy Thursday Reflection

Maundy Thursday Reflection

We have entered the holiest weekend on the Christian calendar. Perhaps, it is one that comes to us not as we expected.

For one, we find ourselves disconnected physically, but emotionally and spiritually connected to one another. Throughout this season of our shared lives together, I have given thanks, and continue to do so, for the gift of technology that allows us to be in worship with one another while we are distant from one another. Tonight, on this night of reflection, we do so in our homes and, truly, around our city, state, and world to reflect upon the meaning of this night.

Yet, personally, this is a night that I did not expect to be sharing with you. We expected this to be the day our son, Thaddeus, was born, and plans were in place to allow me to be at the hospital and prepare for Easter. Obviously, when Thaddeus was born last week and the health crisis came upon us those plans were changed. Continue reading “Maundy Thursday Reflection”

Hope for Today

Hope for Today

This past week, it seems like our current situation and the health crisis we are experiencing has become more real. We have experienced a lot of changes over these last few weeks, but for some reason, this week, it has sunk in that we are in for a long battle and not a short-term halt to daily life.

We’ve seen confirmed cases, based upon testing, of the coronavirus top the triple digits in West Virginia. We’ve heard of the first confirmed case in Cabell County. We’ve heard stories of nursing homes in Morgantown with multiple cases. We’ve heard of hospitals in our region running short on necessary supplies. We’ve seen orders for non-essential businesses to close for an unknown period of time. We’ve seen school closures extended. We’ve seen phrases like “stay in place” and “social distancing” become part of our common vernacular.

Life does not seem normal. When we travel out and about, we witness an eerie quiet that is symbolic of where we are today. Walking to the store becomes a challenge of trying to stay six feet apart. We’ve seen our lives changed and we’re not sure when any semblance of normal will return. We’re looking for a day, perhaps even a particular day to return, yet deep down we’ve come to realize life is going to be altered for longer than we had expected as we seek to provide care to the most vulnerable among us. Continue reading “Hope for Today”

One Week of Grief and Lament

One Week of Grief and Lament

As we begin our time of reflection upon the Gospel, this morning, I am mindful of the fact that our Lenten sermon series is a little disjointed. We took a week off, last week, to reflect on how we can be the people of God in the midst of these difficult times. At the same time, I recognize that, because of the nature of how we are worshiping today, that many of you are coming into a sermon series that is a few weeks old. With that in mind, I want to take a moment and get everyone caught up on where we are.

Our series, called One Week, is focused on the events of Holy Week. It is the week where we commemorate the Jesus’ activities in Jerusalem that lead up to his betrayal, death, and resurrection. What we describe as Holy Week took place during the Jewish festival of the Passover, which remembers God’s redemption of Israel from Egyptian slavery. In this series, we have wanted to tell the stories of the events during that fateful Passover that do not receive the attention of sermons, Bible studies, and conversations.

There have been some key moments in the series. We began three weeks ago, which seems like a year ago in a different time and place, by looking at how Jesus expressed holy frustration in the Temple for it becoming consumed with things not of God. From there, we looked at how Jesus cursed the fig tree in a call for those who would follow him to seek to live out our faith in Christ. Last week, had we not focused on the realities of our current world, we would have seen how Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the religious elites for saying one thing and doing another. Tensions are picking up, especially now as Jesus expresses his grief and lament at what he sees in Jerusalem and the people of faith. Continue reading “One Week of Grief and Lament”