2017 Annual Conference Worship Schedule

The Oklahoma Annual Conference begins on Monday, May 29.  Please remember each of the pastors, delegates, staff and many others in prayer throughout the week.  Below is the schedule of worship that all are welcome to attend.  For more information about annual conference, visit www.okumc.org/annual_conference.

Monday, May 29
6:30 p.m.     Pre-worship concert (St. Luke’s Sanctuary)
7:00 p.m.     Memorial Worship and Communion – Bishop
            Nunn, preaching(Sanctuary)

Tuesday, May 30
2:00 p.m.     Worship Service of Retirement (Freede Center
                       - OCU)

Wednesday, May 31
11:30 a.m.     UCO Luncheon – St. Luke’s (RSVP required)
6:30 p.m.       Pre-worship concert (Sanctuary)
7:00 p.m.       Worship Service of Commissioning and
                        Ordination – Bishop Nunn, preaching (St.
                        Luke’s Sanctuary) Our new associate, Trey
                        Witzel, is getting commissioned at this
                        service.

 

Music Ministry Update


Andrew Schaeffer, Director of Music Ministries
andrew@fumcedmond.org

Like our Episcopal, Roman Catholic & Lutherans sisters and brothers, we in the United Methodist Church use the Lectionary to guide us through the church year. While the Lectionary states that this upcoming Sunday is Ascension Sunday (40 days post-Easter) it’s hard to ignore that Memorial Day weekend is juxtaposed against it. However, while Memorial Day is strictly a secular holiday, it is appropriate for us to pause and give thanks to God for the many men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that, among other things, we can worship our risen Lord freely and boldly.

In keeping with this theme, the Adult Choir will sing a stirring rendition of the hymn “God of Our Fathers” while Abby Boatman will offer “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” during the offering. At points in both pieces of music, you as a congregation will be invited to sing along, joining our voices to honor of the sacrifice of so many and to celebrate the freedom we have through Jesus Christ.

I hope you’ll join us this Sunday!

Adversarial Relationships


Lectionary Reading for Sunday: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 (NRSV)

At this point in the letter, there is the assumption that suffering and persecution are a part of the Christian life.  It could be that the author is speaking of persecutions directly experienced or of those related by colleagues.  In any event, there seems to be a sense of solidarity in suffering as if it is helpful to realize that you are not the only one in turmoil.

The old adage “misery loves company” helps us to remember that we don’t do as well in isolation.

The Christian community works well when it lifts up its various members when they are down.  It does even better when it applies this same helping hand to anyone in its vicinity.  Churches are some of the best organizations at responding to disaster relief. We step up when we see the need staring us in the face.

To be isolated in the midst of crisis is to often face despair.  People working through grief know that it is easier when shared with others.  We instinctively understand that we need to lean on one another from time to time.

The second part of verse 5:8 struck me as it declares, “Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.”  This metaphor is apt.  Human beings have known for millennia that it is easier to get picked off by lions when you stray from the group.  There is strength in numbers - spiritually as well as physically.

This verse reminds me of the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.  After God favors Abel’s offering, Cain is upset and God states in verse 7, “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” This particular verse is from the New International Version which makes the metaphor of sin similar to the roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8.

These metaphors characterize evil as a force that is pursuing us.  In order to overcome it, our best defense is to share in the strength of the Holy Spirit which is most often expressed within the Christian community.

What does it mean for us to share in the suffering of one another?  How do we do this without getting dragged down with those in pain?  In other words, how do we lift them up rather than empathizing so much that we are now the ones needing help?

Prayer for the day:

O God, we have known and believed the love that You have for us.  May we, by dwelling in love, dwell in You, and You in us.  May we learn to love You Whom we have not seen, by loving our brothers and sisters whom we have seen.  Teach us, O heavenly Father, the love wherewith You have loved us; fashion us, O blessed Lord, after Your own example of love; shed abroad, O Your Holy Spirit of Love, the love of God and humanity in our hearts.  Amen.

     ~Henry Alford, Church of England, 19th Century

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com/
Photo by Aftab Uzzaman via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.

 

Earn Stars for your CROWN...

Looking for toddler volunteer helpers.
At the beginning of the school year our youngest classes usually have several children who are unhappy to be left by mom and dad.  There are many toddlers with tears as the staff begins to work with these babies to get them settled into the routine of their day.  All of our toddler classes are full.  We are very excited about that, but what that means is there will be 10 toddlers and only 2 teachers in this room.  We NEED baby holders to assist.  If you could spare one or two days during the first 8 weeks of school on either Mondays or Thursdays from 9:00 to noon we’d love to have your help beginning September 5 through October 25.  Ear plugs available upon request...

Call the Preschool / MDO office at 341-1230 or sign up on “Serve the Lord with Gladness” Sunday - May 21 at the Preschool / Mother’s Day Out table.  We’re in the BLUE tablecloth section.

New Sunday Morning Service

Worship at 9:45 am
As we continue to grow, we realize that we need more space!  While the easiest thing to do would be to continue to pack people into the sanctuary at 8:30 or 11 am, there is an informal rule that says that once a worship space has hit 80% capacity, you have reached your ceiling.  People will sit shoulder-to-shoulder on Easter or Christmas Eve but not on a weekly basis.  So if we do not add any more worship services, our worship attendance will plateau.

Our staff has been working to expand our offerings on Sunday morning.  We would like to start a new worship service in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings at 9:45 am beginning in September after Labor Day.  This worship would be identical liturgically to the existing sanctuary services with a couple of exceptions.  We would not offer a children’s sermon during this time because the children will presumably be in Sunday school during this time.  We would also not feature the choir at this service as we do not want to burn them out or keep them from their Sunday school classes!

Musically, we are looking at having various instrumentalists such as flute or strings (violin, cello) play for the worship service.  They would also accompany the hymns along with a vocalist or two.  This would keep the service similar but offer a musical variance that others might find attractive as a worship option.  The sermon will remain the same as currently offered at the other three services.

We are beginning to look for people to seed this service.  Seeding the service will mean that you plan on attending this as your primary worship at least 3 times per month.  This means that we will hopefully launch with an average of fifty people per Sunday so that it doesn’t seem too empty when visitors drop in.  This will draw people off of our 8:30 or 11 am services which will provide more space for growth in those services as well.

We invite you to pray for our new service, that we would continue to reach people in our community.  If your prayers lead you to an interest in helping with this new worship service or if you have questions concerning the service, please contact our Senior Pastor, Sam Powers, at sam@fumcedmond.org.

Music Ministry Update

Andrew Schaeffer, Director of Music Ministries
andrew@fumcedmond.org
As the first year of our rejuvenated children’s choir program year ends, I thought it would be fun and encouraging to reflect on some statistics over the past academic year:

• We had 22 children enrolled in the Cherub Choir (Pre-K & Kindergarten) and an average of 17 coming every week.

• The Cherub Choir (1st-5th graders) had 15 participants with an average of 13 per rehearsal.

• Both choirs sang for worship eight times throughout the year deeply enriching the 11:00 worshipping community.

My sincerest thanks to all the children who participated with gusto, the parents who dutifully brought them every week, and my assistants, Karen Hudgens & Mary Beth Singleton who gave me practical help, ideas and encouragement along the way. Most importantly, thank you to you, as a congregation, for supporting this vital ministry through your offerings and presence. Sadly, programs of this type are increasingly rare in Protestant churches and indeed, we are one of the only churches in town to offer a comprehensive choir program like this.

I’m excited to build on this foundation for the years to come. Registration for the fall is open, so please contact me if you know of a child who would benefit from this program!

The Descent into Hell

Sometimes imprisonment is perplexing as we wonder aloud, “How did I get here?”

Sometimes imprisonment is perplexing as we wonder aloud, “How did I get here?”


Lectionary reading for Sunday: 1 Peter 3:13-22 (NRSV)

This reading starts out a little dubiously when it asks, “Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?”

Could this have been asked a little tongue-in-cheek as we obviously knew what had happened to Jesus?  If this letter was written by a disciple of Peter’s, the martyrdom of Peter would already have been known as well.

Every person faces choices from time-to-time.  Sometimes if we choose not to decide, the choice goes away.  Sometimes the choice to do what is right is tiring and takes effort.  We know there will be push-back.

A person who lives with a functioning alcoholic may choose not to make the drinking an issue in order to (seemingly) preserve the relationship.  It is almost always easier in the short-term to go with the status quo.

The reading speaks of Jesus making “a proclamation to the spirits in prison” in verse 19 immediately following his death on the cross.  This is the doctrine of Jesus descending to the dead or to Hell as proclaimed in the Apostles’ Creed. Theologically, this offers salvation to all the souls who died before Christ redeemed humanity.  It seems that God is not content with the redemption of those born after Jesus, but actively seeks all people.

This is a part of the meaning of the resurrection.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to live out this resurrection faith.  And that means that we are to do the right thing.  Not just sometimes, but all the time.  This is not meant to make us weary or to find it an impossible task.  As we remain in Christ, our own natures begin to shift toward the desire for compassion for all as we take on Christ’s nature.

The difficulty of this is when we run into resistance for our good efforts.  Not everyone wants our compassion and some people prefer to remain in prisons of their own making. When these are strangers, it is a little easier to let go.  When they are people we love, their problems can become fused into our lives.

Ultimately, these are times when we must cling to our resurrection faith.  We remain hopeful in the salvation in Christ that transforms lives not only in the next life but in this life.

Some days that is all we have.

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com/
Photo by Tiago Pinheiro via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.

 

Growing into Salvation

Sometimes, we are reluctant to share if the recipient seems like a pest!

Sometimes, we are reluctant to share if the recipient seems like a pest!


Lectionary Reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10 (NRSV)

I like how the author speaks of growing into salvation in verse two.  So many times we speak of salvation as an event done by Jesus on our behalf or we speak of it as a moment in which we cross over from damned to blessed.

While these popular usages attempt to define our theology, they may also be limiting for how God works in people’s lives.  Growing into salvation implies a process.  This fits with the Wesleyan idea of sanctifying grace in which we grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

As I consider my own growth as a Christian, much of it stemmed from the narrative my mother would share.  These were stories of my very young childhood that would get repeated as part of the family lore.  I heard them countless times growing up so that they began to shape me through their telling.

For example, once my siblings and I all received full-sized candy bars for a treat (this was unusual and the reasons are now lost).  I gobbled mine down and my older sister Becky saved hers for later.  When she finally got around to eating it (I think it was a Three Musketeers), I asked her for a bite.  She replied, “No, Sam, you already ate yours!”  I paused for a bit and asked her, “Becky, remember sharing?”  Of course, I couldn’t pronounce the letter “r” and so it came out, “Becky, wemember shaiwwing?” This was a lesson the older family members were trying to ingrain in me.  She groaned and gave me a bite.

This story helped me to understand that cunning and creativity are better pursuits for getting what you want than whining or throwing a fit.  One could argue that this was more about manipulation than it was about learning to share.  However, it also taught an important lesson from my sister.  The value of sharing is more important than the irritation you obviously feel from a little brother.

It taught me that sharing is what we should pursue even if a person is taking advantage.  If my fundamental nature is to share, then a person cannot take advantage of me.

This is the very nature of grace that we receive in Christ Jesus.  It is something I learned a little bit at a time through these important women in my life.  I hope that you will take the time to reflect upon the life-giving things your own mother did for you this week as we approach Mother’s Day.  I recognize that some have an easier time of this than others but any difficulty with this meditation may end with fruit and blessing for you.

I give thanks to God for my own “growth in salvation” and for my mom’s hand in it.  

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com/
Photo by Timothy Vogel via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.

 

UNITED METHODIST MEN BREAKFAST

Saturday, May 13 | 8 am | CAC Gym

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at  07.29.23.png

Join the United Methodist Men on Saturday for a delicious breakfast with scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, coffee, orange juice, milk, fellowship, and a fantastic speaker.

This month’s speaker is David Christopher. David Christopher is the father of three boys, Finn, Jack Henry and Judd.  David grew up in the Anglican Church and was a chorister for many years.  He has a broad interest in world faiths and spirituality.  He joined Boston Avenue United Methodist Church about nine years ago when he moved to Tulsa from the UK to marry his wife, Stacy Christopher.  He has been a Methodist ever since and particularly enjoys the feeling of community among the parents of young children that the close ties between the preschool and FUMC creates.   

David is the Director of Marketing and Growth at Tailwind, a social media marketing software startup in Oklahoma City.  In his spare time David likes to write fiction.  He is a former journalist who has written for The Times, had short stories published and plays produced. When he’s not writing or taking care of his kids he enjoys travel, reading, mentoring, and contributing to the pastoral care committee.

Exodus House Donations

 

Did you know that the United Methodist Men of Edmond First UMC sponsor apartment #14 at the Exodus house?  The Exodus house is a criminal justice and mercy ministry of the Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church and serves those that are newly released from prison so they can re-enter life successfully outside prison walls.  Donations of anything needed to furnish a one bedroom apartment, including kitchen and bathroom items are always needed.  If you have items to donate, please call Rodney Indermill at 405-227-4041 any time, and a pick up time will be arranged.  For more information on the Exodus House visit: http://www.okumcministries.org/cjamm/exodus_house.

 

Edmond FUMC to Receive Award

 

FUMC and its members have been selected to receive the Edmond Historical Society & Museum’s2017 Preservation Award for Historic Sites.

The award recognizes an individual, organization or company who has made a significant contribution toward the preservation of the history of Edmond. The recently completed expansion and restoration of our 1929 building has been recognized by the Historical Society as preserving a historically significant site within Edmond. Information about Rob Holloway, the project designer, a description of the completed project with interior and exterior photos and a copy of the Spirit Act’s historical video were submitted.
The award will be presented at the Society & Museum’s Heritage Celebration on July 18, 2017.

 

Walking through Darkness


Lectionary Reading for Sunday: Psalm 23 (NRSV)

The twenty-third Psalm is probably the most well-known of all the psalms.  It is often a go-to comfort passage for funerals.  When people do not express a preference, I often use it in a graveside service if we are coming from worship at the church or chapel.

The familiarity for many people (especially in the King James Version) is helpful as we consider our grief or loss.  While the NRSV is more accurate in translating the ending as dwelling in “the house of the Lord my whole life long”, the KJV speaks more to eternity for a memorial as it reads, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Green pastures and still waters offer a peaceful setting that is helpful when thinking of eternal rest. These can apply to more than people.  One of our faithful dogs, Darwin, was a mixed breed of German Shepherd and Black Labrador.  He used to love swimming in our family pond near Stillwater.  It was enjoyable just to watch him go for a dip.  He would do lazy circles in the water and when he would get close to the shore, he would turn and head back out taking long slow strokes with his big paws.  You could tell that he just loved the water.

One of his favorite games was fetching a plastic fish on the end of Kyla’s Barbie fishing pole.  You could cast it into the pond and Dar would go after it every time as you reeled it in.  If he caught it, he would bring it back to shore and would deposit it unharmed for another go.

I loved that dog!

Sometimes I wonder if I will see him again after this mortal life is over.  Will there be a large pack of dogs waiting for me?  It is comforting to think so.  I’ve heard some say that it wouldn’t really be heaven without their beloved pets.  Since there is no way of knowing, I’m not going to argue against it.

Pets, just like people, can be emissaries of God’s grace in our lives.  They may even help us through the dark valleys that everyone must walk from time to time.  We each experience God’s presence in different ways.  I think the unconditional love of a dog has often expressed the Divine presence to me more times than I could count.

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com/

 

The Sound of (sheer) Silence

There is something transcendent about the high places on our planet.

There is something transcendent about the high places on our planet.

Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18 (NRSV)

Elijah is one of my favorite figures in the Bible.  In the previous chapter, he has a lot of courage to face down the prophets of Baal when he was so greatly outnumbered.  He trusts in God to see him through and God does not let him down.

That’s why this story is so important.  After the dust settles, Queen Jezebel threatens his life because she was a supporter of Baal.

And even though he just had a victorious showdown with miraculous intervention, he fears for his life and heads for the hills.  As an outside observer, we want to shake some sense into Elijah and say, “After all you just witnessed, why would you run?”

But what makes this such a great story is that it shows Elijah as all-too human.  We all have moments of courage and cowardice.  We want to highlight our bravery and sweep the not-so-spectacular moments under the rug.  I would be happier if no one else knew anything about them.

Yet, the Biblical authors share these details precisely so we can connect with them.  To be afraid is to think with blinders on.  When we are afraid, our ability to make good decisions actually decreases substantially.  So Elijah runs away when maybe the best thing for him would be to stand firm in the Lord.

Elijah travels to the same mountain where Moses encountered God and received the 10 Commandments.  He sees a lot of flash in wind, earthquakes and fire but he doesn’t perceive God in any of the chaos.  This reminds Oklahomans in particular that God is not sending tornadoes as retribution!

Rather, Elijah encounters God in the stillness following the turmoil.  The New Revised Standard Version relates a “sound of sheer silence.”  The King James Version translates it as a “still small voice.”  I think I prefer the new Common English Bible which states, “there was a sound. Thin. Quiet.”

This reminds us that we can fill up the space in life with a lot of noise.  We can say a lot of words and phrases when we pray.  But maybe the most meaningful communication with God is when we can stop and listen.  When we hear nothing, our faith can allow a connection that is greater than the absence of sound.  It is mystical and it allows us to simply be.

Elijah interprets that God is not done with him yet.  In fact, he is not the only faithful person alive.  God begins to connect Elijah with others so that God’s work can take on greater meaning.  But he might not have been able to hear this if he hadn’t stopped running and stopped talking.  Good lessons to be learned almost three thousand years later!

In Christ,
Sam

Check out Sam’s Blog here:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com/

 Photo by Trekking Rinjani via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.

A Witness to Resurrection

This old Sunday school postcardassumes that the truant friend is “lost” while the regulars are “found.”  This may not be the kind of witness we want to project today.

This old Sunday school postcardassumes that the truant friend is “lost” while the regulars are “found.”  This may not be the kind of witness we want to project today.

Lectionary Reading: Acts 2:14a, 22-32

The context of the world during the early days following the resurrection was very different religiously than it is today.  It is strange to think that the majority of people on the planet had never heard of Jesus.  Christians today often take it for granted that everyone within our culture knows at least some of the basics of our faith.

After all, even non-religious people celebrate Christmas.

How did we go from obscurity to dominant?

Peter mentions in the above reading that the disciples were all witnesses to the resurrection.  Of course, by the time the Acts of the Apostles was written, most of the witnesses to the resurrection were in the third and fourth generations.

Being a witness to the resurrection originally meant “eye-witness” as in “we saw Jesus risen from the dead.”  As people heard Acts read to them, “all of us are witnesses,” began to take on a different understanding.  They would have seen themselves as a part of the movement.  They are also witnesses to the resurrection because Christianity is a living faith.

The fact that they made this leap of understanding is evident because we are recipients of this faith today - a faith that crossed two millennia and an ocean.  The difficulty for Americans is that we grew up in a culture where the majority were already witnesses to the resurrection.  And so we began to assume that everyone was already part of the story.

This dampens the urgency of sharing as a witness.  And so this led to the plateau of American Christianity which now finds itself in decline.

What does it mean for us to reclaim our identity as witnesses to the resurrection?  At some point, we must quit assuming that others claim the Christian faith.  The difficulty of sharing the faith is that when we were dominant, Christians sometimes adopted an arrogant stance.

How do we prioritize the sharing of faith while at the same time keeping an air of humility?  I believe it begins with the resurrection becoming a key part of our lives.  This means that the witness is something we don’t aspire to do as much as how we go about living our lives.

In Christ,
Sam

See more articles like this from our Senior Pastor:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com/

Photo by wackystuff via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.

 

What a Surprise!

But sometimes surprises are good.  Like encountering a loved one you didn’t expect to see knowing they went out of their way to be there.  

As we experience Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday, my hope is that you will encounter God in ways that may surprise you in a way that is pleasing but at the same time stretches you.

All this week (M-F), there will be breakfast available in Wesley Hall along with a devotion that someone from our congregation has prepared.  Breakfast begins at 6 am with devotions at 6:30 am and finishing by 7 am.  

On Thursday, we’ll meet for Maundy Thursday services at 7 pm as well.  This service will celebrate Holy Communion as we recall the first Lord’s Supper so many years ago.  We will also have foot washing for those desiring it in the east wing (although most do not receive it so you won’t be odd if you don’t partake).  This will be done while people are waiting to receive Communion or immediately after they receive.

On Good Friday, our worship service will also be at 7:00 pm.  Our choir has been working hard to present “Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross” by Theodore Dubois.  We got a preview of one of the songs on Sunday and I think you will be blessed if you attend.

On Easter Sunday, we have five opportunities to worship.

At 7 am, our Sunrise Service will be in Wesley Hall led by our youth.  I happen to know that there will be a musical number that will make it worth the early alarm.
At 10:50 am, Worship on Hurd will also have special music for Easter Sunday in Wesley Hall!

For the Sanctuary, we have a slightly different schedule for Easter.  We will meet at 8:00 am, 9:30 am and 11:00 am.  If you are in good health and regularly attend, we would invite you to park a little farther out to make room for visitors as a part of our service and gratitude for the grace we’ve received!

Glennis Peterman and I shot a video celebrating the resurrection with a personal story of hers that will help everyone dealing with grief.  You can find it by visiting our Facebook page or our website at www.fumcedmond.org.

If you have a Facebook account, I hope you will share it sometime this week on your Facebook page as it is not only a great witness to the faith, it will also serve as an invitation for all of your friends for Easter!

I would invite you to be in prayer this week for our visitors as well as members who don’t regularly attend.  My hope is that worship will be transformative for their lives and that each person will experience the resurrection that we find in Jesus Christ!

In Christ,
Sam

Continue to follow the Gospel of John as a daily devotion for Lent with our Senior Pastor:  http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com/