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”
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”
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”
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”
The events of Jesus’ passion are the most significant moments in not just the history of our faith, but all of human history. We position these events, traditionally, in a week-long celebration known as “Holy Week” or “Passion Week.” No matter how the week is named, the purpose is the same and that is to celebrate and commemorate the moments that lead up to Jesus’ arrest, death, and resurrection.
When we come to Holy Week, however, we mostly focus on just a few moments within that week, especially towards its end. We focus on Jesus procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We dine with Jesus and the disciples in the Upper Room and pray with them at the Garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday. We mourn at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. Those are, traditionally, the moments we focus on, yet there is vastness of experiences throughout the week that we rarely talk about.
Among those moments we rarely talk about, how can they lead us to a deeper faith? What within those moments that don’t get the attention can help us to understand how Jesus went from a heralded king on Sunday to being treated as a traitor and blasphemer by Thursday? Those two questions, and others, are what we are going to use to center ourselves throughout Lent. We will examine these events that transpire early in Holy Week and contemplate upon how they advance the narrative of the conflict between Jesus and the religious elites. As well, we will see how they enable us to experience what Jesus was doing in the world and our lives today.
Our journey with Jesus through Holy Week begins with one of the most intense moments in the Gospels. It was a moment initiated by Jesus in response to something he saw when he entered the Temple. Yes, we are talking about the time Jesus flipped the tables and cleaned house in the Temple. It is one of the places that challenges our idea that Jesus was always mild-mannered. (That is what we desire of Jesus, by the way.) What took place and why should it matter to us today? Continue reading “One Week of Upsetting the Norms”