Sunday Sermon: Faith Over Fear

Sunday Sermon: Faith Over Fear

This story is like the second half of an unbelievable tale. Almost like the next episode on your favorite television program after the previous show ends with a cliffhanger and you’re waiting to find out what comes next.

When we last met with Jesus and the disciples, we were with them along the shores the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had just fed the 5,000, which, if you remember from last week, was probably more like 10-20,000 when you include women and children. Before that, he had met their needs and cared for the large crowd that gathered around him.

The scene came in the context of Jesus needing to get away for some prayer and reflection. This after he had received news that John the Baptist, his cousin, was beheaded. So, we left the story in the midst of wonder, awe, and celebration.

We pick it up, however, with Jesus ready to send everyone out. That need for rest had not gone away for Jesus. There is no time to stay along the shores. He is desiring that long-yearned-for rest that has, so far, evaded him. The crowds are wanting to stay. The disciples are wanting to stay. Jesus, on the other hand, wants everyone to leave, so he can go to the hilltops around the Sea of Galilee to pray, contemplate upon the mission, and rest.

Jesus doesn’t let everyone stay, even though they wanted to remain with him. He sends them away. The crowds he sends out to return to their communities and homes. The disciples, on the other hand, were sent out to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Most likely, they were sent to go to another port stop upon the western shoreline of that massive lake. Regardless, Jesus sends them out into the sea and into the storm that was brewing. Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: Faith Over Fear”

Sermon: Yoke of Christ

Sermon: Yoke of Christ

I remember the day I received a stole in worship for the first time. It was in 2017 and I had just been ordained by Bishop Leonard Fairley. For me, ordination was a long journey of starts and stops. It seemed like it would never happen for me to be ordained. When it did happen, I felt like an enormous weight had been taken off my shoulders.

So, when Kevin Burney placed the stole on me it felt like a victorious moment. I had made it. The mission had been accomplished. I could breathe easily now.

Or so I thought. The following Sunday, I wore a stole Abbi had made for me in worship. It is one you will see, from time to time, that includes elements of both West Virginia and Kentucky. It doesn’t weigh much, but the moment I placed it on me I felt a weight I had never felt before. I felt the responsibility, in a deeper way, of the call to pastoral leadership and the authority entrusted to me by God. Continue reading “Sermon: Yoke of Christ”

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”