Bloom Where You’re Planted

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Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 (NRSV)

Sheryl and I made our way to First United Methodist Church in Duncan in 2006 to celebrate the 100th birthday of Reverend Phil Wahl, pastor emeritus of that church. He had been serving in some type of pastoral role in that congregation since 1968 and Sheryl had grown up with him as her pastor. We didn’t know if he would recognize us or not when he saw us but he called each of us by name.

His greater gift was to not only recognize people but to really know them.

He asked us several pointed questions that indicated he not only remembered our faces but knew what we were about.

There were some great stories about Rev. Wahl through the years. He was famous for driving over the speed limit wherever he went and most people learned to get out of his way! I heard a story that he told the church secretary to call the highway patrol:

“Tell them I’m headed to Oklahoma City to visit people in the hospital so don’t stop me for speeding.”

There were various times he ended up in the hospital himself. The great thing about him was that he wouldn’t stay in bed while he recovered. He would move from room to room, visiting others who were there in need of prayer. He definitely bloomed where he was planted!

His attitude exemplifies the scripture from Jeremiah today. Jeremiah tells the people who have been forcibly removed from their homes to not only prosper but to help their new nation prosper. What does it mean to pray for a place when you don’t necessarily agree with their philosophies?

Can we find a greater good?

This Sunday, we will explore this important scripture in an age and culture where we are so partisan as to consider it anathema to seek the good for our opposition. I hope you’ll join us as we grow in faith together!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Laurel F via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

The Power of Touch

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Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-14 (NRSV)

There is a longing that people have to be touched. It is ingrained in us from our birth. In fact, premature babies that end up in natal intensive care units are found to grow and improve more rapidly with gentle touching and skin-to-skin holding.

Watching Trey hold Sloane at lunch on Sunday reminded me of how my own children touched my face so often when I held them. Touching is fundamental to us.

When both of my children were born, I was able to wash them for their first bath. I remember gently holding them and gingerly putting the cloth on their skin. I think I probably took a long time for the task because I was afraid that I would be too rough!

My own parents gave me plenty of hugs growing up and as they grew older in recent years, I realized that they needed the hugs from me. Prior to their deaths, it was important to see them and touch them each day.

As I think about how we ritualize touch, I remember my wedding day. When we join hands in the ceremony, it is a formal acknowledgement of the relationship. At the end of the ceremony, the permission to kiss publicly is a declaration that this romantic touch is now validated and even encouraged by society.

As an ordained pastor, the bishop laid hands upon me. Bishop Blake implored as he did so, “Samuel, take authority as an elder to preach the Word of God, to administer the Holy Sacraments and to order the life of the Church, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Today when praying for someone in the hospital, we touch the person with whom we are praying for healing.

In the scripture reading today, we hear the importance of the laying on of hands. This is done to rekindle the sense of mission in the people of God. In verse seven, we shrug off cowardice and replace it with power, love and self-discipline. But this comes within the Christian community. It is done when we hold hands and create a circle of prayer together. This binds us together. This clarifies our purpose. This allows our mission to continue through the generations.

I hope you’ll join us on Sunday as we worship together. My hope is that you will renew in yourself your own sense of power, love and self-discipline which are life-giving!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

There’s Your Sign

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*For the next few weeks, we will look at the lectionary passage from the previous week.

Lectionary Scripture: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 (NRSV)

Oklahoma got hit with a double whammy when we experienced the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression in the mid-1930’s. When drought set in and the dust storms were more common, the decreased prices for agriculture and livestock forced many Oklahomans to migrate west to California.

Land was not worth much and was often abandoned.

Even years after the drought had ended, dust storms were still common.

Sheryl’s grandparents returned to Oklahoma after living in Vermont for a number of years in the 1940’s. They lived in the Panhandle in Guymon and her grandmother told about hanging wet sheets over the doors and windows when a dust storm blew through. This would help them breath a little better but there were still layers of dust to be cleaned after it blew through.

Years later in the mid-1990’s, when I was appointed to Drummond in the north central part of our state, I can remember dust storms blowing through the town. We had clothes lines in the backyard and would sometimes hang sheets to dry. Once the red dirt turned them pink! You learned to bring them in if you didn’t want to redo your wash.

In our scripture today, we see Jeremiah looking to redeem land. His problem was not environmental but rather a foreign military power besieging their gates. The effect on land price was the same. It was worthless.

Yet Jeremiah is invited by God to redeem the land. This was a family option instilled by the covenant to keep a family from losing their ability to make a living. He has the option to buy his cousin’s land. He does so publicly with great show to make a statement. This was a sign act. It was done to indicate hope in a future that only God could provide.

It was a statement that God was still present even though appearances spoke to the contrary.

What kind of sign acts do we make today?

I would say that attending worship is one such sign act. We gather together even when the culture at large is beginning to abandon Sunday morning worship. We are declaring that God will have a future here after all. In doing so, we offer encouragement to ourselves and to one another.

This Sunday, we’ll continue to explore this passage as we celebrate World Communion Sunday together. This is one of my favorite days of the year as we recognize our solidarity with other Christians around the globe. I hope you’ll join us as we embrace the hope that God gives us!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by WaterArchives.org via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

How Do You Listen?

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Sunday’s Scripture: Luke 8:1-8, 16-18 (NRSV)

Jesus was definitely a revolutionary for his time. As we have moved through Luke’s Gospel narrative of his life this year (Year C liturgically), we have seen how Jesus elevated women to positions of leadership. In Sunday’s reading, we see how the women supported his ministry and were even itinerant with him as he made his way to minister with all the people.

For his context in culture, time and place, Jesus would have been turning heads. Women may have supported various rabbis but traveling with them would have caused a lot of talk. Why wouldn’t Jesus just accept the money and make them stay at home? It would have made locating accommodations that much easier on the road.

We may get a hint as we see the parable of the sower. Certainly, a part of the ministry of Jesus was to plant seeds in people who would go on to lead following his time on earth. The seeds as in the parable of the sower were cast wide – to women as well as to men.

Later, in chapter 10, we see Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus just as any disciple. While her sister Martha was disturbed by this allowance by Jesus, we hear Jesus tell us that Mary has chosen the better way. Evidently, the seed that Jesus planted was beginning to take root.

Jesus tells us in verses 16-18 of chapter 8 that we are not to hide our light. This applies to all of us. He goes on to pay attention to how we listen. If we are able to hear words of faith from women as well as men, we will increase our capacity for grace in our lives. More will be given to us.

This Sunday, I’ll be preaching on this passage as we celebrate United Methodist Women’s Sunday. We will remind ourselves of the variety of ways that God calls people to serve and how the faithful have continually answered that call through the centuries.

I hope you’ll join us in Guthrie, Edmond or online for worship that will seek to help us grow more in likeness to our Lord!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com.

Adjusting to a New (Unpleasant) Reality

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Lectionary Reading: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 (NRSV)

When our son David was five years old, we were hosting an afterschool tutoring program at our church in Piedmont. He was on the playground as the day was finishing, enjoying the older children for some unscheduled time together.

Unfortunately as he was standing atop the slide, getting ready to go down, another child pushed him in the back and he went off sideways. His arm was obviously broken and we rushed him to the hospital.

It was a rather bad break that required surgery. As Sheryl eventually took him home from the hospital, he was looking rather despondently at his new cast. He asked his mother, “How many more minutes do I have to have this thing on?”

Sheryl said that it broke her heart to tell him that his expectations were off by a magnitude.

There are times in our lives when we must adjust to difficult circumstances.

Sometimes it has to do with our health. There are diagnoses that we recover from and others that we must learn to live with. Even worse are those that cause deterioration and are fatal. Our attitudes in dealing with these new conditions may factor into our recovery or they may contribute to our demise.

In this week’s reading, we see Jeremiah reporting on the perceived absence of God. Times had turned and a tyrant was knocking on the door. Independence would quickly change to suffering and subjugation. This was a reality that the people of God couldn’t quite grasp. It seemed to them that God had abandoned them.

It is difficult to know in today’s passage whether this is God speaking through the prophet Jeremiah or if it is the feeling of Jeremiah himself. As the two voices are often intertwined, it may make no noticeable difference for us. We see the lament. We can almost feel the tears falling from eyes moist with heartache. Jeremiah weeps for his people and so does God.

When David broke his arm, he suffered quite a bit of pain. He was comforted somewhat by the presence of his parents who loved him and sought to alleviate his difficulty. At the same time, as parents, we are stricken worse than if it had happened to us. Love for a child is like that.

When we suffer with our own ailments, we turn to passages like this to remember God’s love for us is akin to the love of a parent for a child - even when we may not perceive that love clearly. When we cannot find a physician to give us comfort, we resonate with the frustration in verse 22. Faith retains the belief that God is indeed on our side even when reality points to the contrary.

This Sunday, we’ll explore this theme in worship together. Join us in Edmond or Guthrie or online so that we may renew our faith together and stand up to the frustrations that are so common to the human life.

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Sandor Weisz via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

Sometimes I Need to Convince Myself

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Lectionary Scripture: Exodus 32:7-14 (NRSV)

Christians often utilize the image of Jesus as the advocate for humanity standing in the way of an angry God that is all-too ready to smite us. Within this view, our atonement comes because the mercy and faithfulness of Jesus off-sets and overcomes the wrath of God.

I don’t personally hold to this view as I think that it pigeonholes God into someone who is one-dimensional. The Hebrew scriptures reveal quite often the characteristics of love, mercy and compassion for God. Christians also ascribe these to God but often from within the person of Jesus. As Trinitarians, we often forget our own doctrine that no one person of the Trinity has characteristics that aren’t shared by the other two!

But in looking at today’s text, I can see where the view of Jesus standing against the wrath of God might have emerged.

Moses stands up for the Hebrew people that have been freed from Egyptian slavery. They have sinfully adopted idol-worship in making a golden calf. The local Palestinian deities were influencing them as they would throughout the biblical witness. God is understandably disgusted with them. Moses feels that he must intervene.

It is not without precedence.

Moses is adopting a similar stance of mercy for humanity that Abraham exhibited when God was set to destroy Sodom in Genesis 18:16-33.

Both of these stories portray God as a judge ready to carry out a sentence. Moses and Abraham operate as defense attorneys that seek to plea for leniency. Moses doesn’t dispute their guilt. He doesn’t try to explain it away. Rather, he seeks to persuade God that genocide would be a public relations nightmare. What will people say about you?

God seems to be ready to start over with the line of Moses. When presented with this idea, it may have been that Moses knew his own offspring weren’t any better than the rest. After all, Joshua was chosen as his successor to lead rather than one of his own sons. Jewish Midrash gives explanation that the sons of Moses didn’t give much time to their study of God’s word.

If the line of Moses were used as a template, how long would it be before we were right back here with the people going astray?

Could it be that Moses needed to work out his own issues with God? It is possible that God didn’t need a cooling off as much as Moses did. If we continue in chapter 32, we see in verse 19 that “Moses’ anger burned hot” which mirrors language written about God in verse 10. As he continues in his anger, he calls the sons of Levi (of which tribe the priests would come) and orders them to kill those that we must assume were the greatest offenders. About three thousand were put to death by the sword and while Moses speaks of ordaining themselves at the cost of a son or a brother, his own brother Aaron was spared even though he was in charge of the mess!

It may be that the conversation with God was God’s design that Moses would curb his own wrath against his people. Could this great slaughter have been restrained in comparison to his original desire?

When we pray with God, we are often seeking God’s will. Sometimes we pray for mercy in circumstances that do not favor us. Even if we do not imagine God to be the author of our difficulty, we would like for God to take it away. But sometimes we may need God’s help to stay our own wrath. We sometimes imagine that God mirror’s our own anger so as to justify it. Yet the longer we stay in conversation with God, the hope is that we will remind ourselves of the love, mercy and compassion of God.

And sometimes we may just need to bounce our thoughts and feelings off God until we come to what we know is right.

We’ll continue to meditate on this passage in worship on Sunday. You’re always welcome to join us whether in person or online if that fits better with your schedule and location.

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Patrick Rasenberg via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

What is Shaping Me?

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Lectionary Reading: Jeremiah 18:1-11 (NRSV)

Our culture shapes is in lots of ways.

For a while, we were very body-conscious and the best-sellers all had to do with diets and exercise trends. While there is still emphasis on being slim and trim, I’m not sure the subject carries the weight it once did (pun intended)!

Quite frankly, it is easier to be more conscious of our bodies than our spiritual lives.

We see our bodies in the mirror on a daily basis.

We know when we are having trouble catching our breath after the flight of stairs.

We encounter lots of advertising using men and women of particular body types.

But as pervasive as body-consciousness is, there may be a new sheriff in town with regards to what captures our attention. This is because the way we process information today continues to change. The use of screens has become obsessive for many people. We gather and are exposed to more information than we were in the past.

While reading a novel written in the 1970’s, I was surprised that the characters in the book were waiting for the 6:00 hour with anticipation so they could learn about the latest national disaster on the evening news. We are so used to the 24-hour news cycle and its immediate consumption that it sounds strange to think that people used to make it a priority to watch the news at a specific time.

The average amount of screen time for Americans seems to vary widely depending on the study you read but the consensus is that the average continues to increase. There is so much that we can do on our tablets or smart phones that it boggles the mind.

How does this shape us? I don’t think we can definitively say yet. It is so new that it is difficult to process the good and the bad.

This Sunday, we will let Jeremiah remind us that God will shape us if we are willing. But it clearly looks like our choice (God will not force our cooperation) in this week’s scripture reading. Our actions will bring consequences and Jeremiah seems to indicate that we should be more willing to count the cost.

Join us for worship either in Edmond or online and we’ll continue to explore this important topic!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Malingering via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

Wednesday Night Programming begins September 4

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Wednesday nights are full of programming options for you and your family at Edmond FUMC! We have a variety of options of classes for the old and young alike! Here is a complete list of classes and studies you might want to be a part of following dinner at 5:15 pm:

Short-term bible study- Everybody Always:

Join in for a 4 week study by Bob Goff on becoming love in a world full of setbacks and difficult people! A study guide is helpful for the course, but not required.

long-term Disciple Bible Studies:

Disciple Fast Track 1 provides comprehensive engagement with the entire biblical text. We meet for 24 weeks, devoting 12 weeks each to the Old Testament & New Testament. Preparation is manageable, with 3–5 chapters of the Bible to read each day. This class will be led by Rev. Trey Witzel and Madison Waller on Wednesday evenings at 6 pm.

Disciple Fast Track 3 Classes meet for a total of 24 weeks, studying the Prophets and the letters traditionally attributed to Paul for 12 sessions each. Preparation is manageable, with 3–5 chapters of the Bible to read each day. This study examines the connection between memory and identity as the people of God by looking at the Prophets and Paul. This class will be led by Rev. Don Vaught and David Lee on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 7:15 pm.

Sign-ups are located at the welcome desk in the foyer or on the website at www.fumcedmond.org. Questions about one of these studies? Contact Associate Pastor Don Vaught at don@fumcedmond.org.

Choirs and Music:

Beginning Handbells- 5 pm

A new handbell choir is forming! This group requires no musical experience, no handbell experience, we will start at the very beginning! The bell choir will rehearse from 5:00 to 5:30, immediately before dinner so then you can enjoy the rest of your Wednesday evening activities! Please let Tim Navis know if you are interested, tim@fumcedmond.org or 405-423-3383.

Cherub Choir (Preschool)- 6 pm

Kids in the Cherub Choir learn how to sing accurately, develop their singing voices for use in worship and begin to learn the basics of rhythm and pitch through age-appropriate games and activities. Members of the Cherub Choir participate in worship approximately four times a year.

Chorister and Junior Choirs- 6:30 pm

Children in these choirs learn the fundamentals of music reading through a variety of exercises and games based on the Kodály method. They also spend time learning about the seasons of the church year while learning age-appropriate anthems for presentation in worship. They sing for worship about once every 5-6 weeks.

Chancel Choir- 7:15 pm

Our church is blessed to have a 50-voice adult choir that enhances our worship. The ensemble rehearses on Wednesday evenings from 7:15-8:30 and Sundays from 5:00-6:15 in the choir room (Main Building, Room 100B), and they sing nearly every Sunday at the 8:30 & 11:00a.m. worship services. It is important to note that members need only commit to one rehearsal and one service per week. Twice a year, the choir presents a larger choral work, such as a cantata or small oratorio.

All voice parts are needed and new members are always welcome. If you are interested, please contact music@fumcedmond.org or 405.341.0107 ext. 113.

Youth Programming- 6:00 pm

Youth members come and learn with peers about the teachings of Christ through mission, fellowship and Bible study. The Youth meet on the 3rd floor of the main building.

But I’ve Got Some Very Good Reasons...

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 2:4-13 (NRSV)

The sheer scope of history in examining the prophet Jeremiah boggles my mind. When I think about the time frame, we know that he is preaching to a specific moment in history - likely here at the end of the 7th century BCE. This is a little over 600 years before the birth of Jesus.

The southern kingdom of Judah was facing a threat from the Babylonian empire. Unfortunately for God’s people, they occupied land that was the preferred route between Egypt and Mesopotamia. While this might allow for prosperous trade to flourish during certain points in Israelite history, the land often becomes coveted by whichever larger nation or empire becomes greedy for expansion.

In today’s reading, we see Jeremiah berate his people for turning away from God.

This seems to be a common theme with humanity and it still rings true all of these centuries later. While in Jeremiah’s day, there were tempting idols from other exotic cultures to worship. We may scoff at them out of our own sense of superior knowledge. We know as in verse 11 that idols “are no gods” and our temptation is not to worship anything else.

We might want to belay our scorn for a moment.

While we aren’t tempted after literal alternate deity worship, there are many things that capture our attention, time and resources.

Many people today are looking for meaning in life. We seek it out in many ways. It may be similar to the journey of the person looking for themselves only to find their identity after they return home.

The largest idol that we have ever worshipped is the self. We elevate our own desires above the will of God and then we remake God into our image so that our will coincides perfectly with God’s will.

Giving in to the self will not refresh or quench our souls. It is not living water. Rather, we find that it is more like a cracked cistern that leaks. We may find that we are empty more often than not.

These are difficult words to hear and they would have been no easier for Jeremiah’s original audience all of those years ago. Self-examination is never easy but it may be profitable if we are willing to pursue it in earnest.

If you have come this far, maybe you’ll come a little farther. We’ll explore this more in depth on Sunday. I know it is Labor Day weekend here in the United States, and so if you can’t be here in person, join us online for worship!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by mliu92 via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

Is Respect a Right or a Benefit?

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Lectionary Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV)

Jeremiah is called at a very young age. He is worried that he will not be taken seriously.

I know how he feels.

When I started out as a pastor, I grew a beard before taking my first appointment. After being there for a while, I shaved it off. One of our parishioners smiled at me and exclaimed, “Oh, you look just like a little boy!”

I heard lots of comments from people I met outside of our church along the lines of “You’re too young to be a pastor.”

It may be that they believed that old pastors were just hatched and came out of the egg with wrinkles, grey hair and life experience!

It has been my experience in life (and my guess is that this is your experience too) that some people have automatically afforded me respect and others have waited until I proved myself.

There are many in the world with the attitude, “You’ve got to earn my respect.”

This is likely the world in which Jeremiah lived and the reason for his trepidation. Who is going to listen to me?

I understand the view of earning respect and have done things to prove myself in the eyes of others so that my voice will be heard. After all, a preacher that no one pays attention to is doing a lot of preparation for nothing!

But as I think about this idea of earned respect, it makes me realize that we may often be telling the world that I will disrespect you until you deserve otherwise.

This is not a healthy way for us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

As I mentioned that I have experienced those that have given respect and those from whom I had to earn it, I can tell you with which I prefer to deal!

Respect for others should be a fundamental thing that is our starting place. What if we adopted the attitude that people are to be respected until they prove otherwise? And even then, it may be that we disrespect behavior rather than people.

One argument for earned respect is that it sharpens us. Would I have been as effective if I didn’t have to prove myself? This may be important for positions of authority that don’t have prior certifications. Leadership is often this way in that we want to follow someone who is going to be effective.

So while I may reserve judgment on a leader based on his or her ability and track record, I will still fundamentally respect them as a person. This means allowing them a voice until they do or say something that would be harmful to those they encounter. Fortunately, I live in a country that is set up to allow the people being governed to have a voice through our representative democracy. This country fundamentally respects its citizens through the Bill of Rights.

This philosophy was not shaped in a vacuum and comes out of the Christian idea that all people are deserving of respect and love simply because they exist. As I mentioned, our behavior is not always to be commended but we continue to respect human beings. This is why we treat prisoners humanely.

So as we explore this passage from Jeremiah, we’ll discover that the message God gives him to relate is not one that will be popular or well-received. No wonder he was nervous! Are you sure you want me to do this God? I hope you’ll join us for worship as we reflect upon Jeremiah’s call story together!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Aaron Tait via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

FIRST KIDS TUTORING MINISTRY – SUNSET ELEMENTARY

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This FUMC Edmond ministry assists children from Kindergarten through 3rd grade that are struggling in reading at Sunset Elementary. Tutors work with children one-on-one, for 30 minutes, one time per week. Tutors are provided materials and training specific to the grade level they will tutor.

Training for this year will be held on Monday, September 23:

• 9:00-11:00 – Kindergarten

• 11:30-1:30 – 1st Grade

• 1:30-3:30 – 2nd/3rd Grade

We would love to have you join us in this very rewarding ministry. For more information you may call Sherri Brown, 405 833-2583 or email her at sherribrown56@me.com. If you are ready to volunteer, you may sign-up here:

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Jesus Christ, Prince of Division??

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Lectionary Scripture: Luke 12:49-56 (NRSV)

What was your family like growing up? Did you experience an easy childhood where everyone got along with one another? Or was it more difficult? Was there a lot of conflict and chaos?

Likely it was somewhere in the middle.

Family systems operate on cycles. They achieve a type of balance (theorists call this homeostasis) that may or may not be healthy. Sometimes there are larger family gatherings that upset the applecart. Old systems that have been escaped through family members moving out or moving away sometimes rear their ugly heads and you have heated arguments arise.

I’ve heard people tell me as a pastor, “I’m never going back to Thanksgiving dinner as long as it’s at so-and-so’s house.” I’ve also heard of people cutting off their relatives from communication because their relationship is unhealthy or emotionally abusive. Yet at the same time we mourn the loss of contact with people with whom we’ve grown up. We may even feel somewhat guilty about making a specific stand with relatives even if we believe it is for the best.

I grew up in a home that included a family business when I was a teenager. All of us worked the business - both parents, my older siblings and me. Money was tight and the stress of making ends meet was always present. Harsh words were often spoken between my father and brother on a cyclical basis. I often felt the need to play peacemaker between them. The words said in anger did not help relieve the stress all of us felt. Eventually, they would make up and we would continue to work together. This lasted for years until my parents retired.

When I received my psychological evaluation as a part of my preparation for ministry (all candidates go through this!), I was labeled as a peacemaker as a large part of my identity.

So when I read today’s text, I am at a loss. It doesn’t sound like what Jesus would say! We more readily identify Jesus as the Prince of Peace rather than a cause of division. When we identify Jesus with service and love, our reading for Sunday seems to run contrary to those characteristics.

Before preaching my last sermon, I mentioned that our scripture was a part of the genre of eschatology or end times theology. We see that continue in this reading. Luke in particular relayed the words and deeds of Jesus in an orderly fashion to share specific theological points. Luke wrote these things in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome which directly affected the leadership within the early church.

In a way, I believe that Luke is trying to normalize the stress and conditions that the early church would have been under. The violence and upheaval that they experienced were seen in the light of the Gospel as something to be expected.

This may actually be comforting when we are going through difficulty. If we experience family conflict and then find out that most families go through this, it can actually help relieve the stress we are under.

We do know that our relationship with Jesus when taken seriously changes our lives. We also know that changes are disrupting to the balance and patterns we already regularly experience. So in a very legitimate way, Jesus does cause division for those who would like for us to remain unchanged!

This Sunday, we will explore this passage further in worship. As I read it again, my first instinct was to say “let’s choose an easier passage to work with!” But I find that the greater fruit may lie with tackling the tougher scriptures. Luke included these for our benefit after all! I hope you’ll join us as we discover what that may be!

In Christ,

Sam

Follow Sam’s Blog at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by Thomas Halfmann via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.

New Handbell Choir Coming September of 2019!

Have you ever wished to be a part of handbells at First UMC? Have you ever seen the bells play and think it would be fun to do that? Perhaps what has held you back is that you may not have music experience or may think you wouldn’t catch on to how to play them. This fall, beginning on Wednesday September 4 and running with the Wednesday night programming schedule, there will be a new handbell choir forming! This group requires no musical experience whatsoever, no handbell experience whatsoever, as we will start at the very beginning! The bell choir will rehearse from 5:00 to 5:30, immediately before dinner so then you can enjoy the rest of your Wednesday evening activities! Please let Tim Navis know if you are interested, tim@fumcedmond.org or 405-423-3383. Please consider joining us!

Guthrie First UMC Update- From Pastor Trey

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We’ve officially been partnered and worshiping with our sister congregation Guthrie First UMC for an entire month, and I wanted to take a moment to share an update on how things are going. Eagerly accepting such a partnership is exciting but can also prompt some anxiety between both congregations. Yet from both churches I have encountered nothing but enthusiasm and inquisitiveness!

For the month of July, Guthrie FUMC has averaged 57 in worship—an almost doubling from the previously reported 30. This kind of response way surpasses any preconceived assumptions I had! When you factor in all the changes—particularly earlier worship time and new music styles—this kind of worship growth tells me two things. First, the Guthrie congregation has shown me exceptional spiritual maturity in being open to how the Holy Spirit is moving in this partnership. The kind of faith it takes to not only agree to this partnership, but to also dedicate themselves to faithfully attending is incredibly inspiring and humbling.

The second thing I’ve learned in this partnership is how blessed we are at Edmond First! From the entire worship team to our members who have been praying for this Guthrie ministry to bloom, I thank God every night for my appointment. We have families who attend Guthrie every Sunday, and I am consistently surprised at who from church decides to “drop in” to support. Each Sunday it seems there is a friendly face from church who decided to wake up early and make the drive to worship with our sister congregation. You cannot know the energy it gives me when I see your faces while I’m up there preaching.

Our youth are continuing to partner in programming; Guthrie youth meet on Sunday night, led by Rev. Kevin Tankerson, and we’ve been joining together for monthly fellowship activities. This week both youth groups went bowling at Guthrie’s 89er Bowl to kick off Youth Week 2019, and yesterday we explored Downtown OKC.

I ask that you continue to pray for this partnership. Please keep asking me how it is going because I have so many stories to tell from just one month! If you are interested in further supporting Guthrie, you can join us for a concert at Guthrie FUMC to hear Kyle Dillingham & Horseshoe Road fresh from the Grand Ole Opry! Stop by the church office to buy your tickets for $15!

Save the Date- All Church Retreat

As summer is coming to an end, the talk of camp still reverberates throughout the church. Talk of friendships made and faith deepened. Camping ministries is a huge part of our faith formation for our church—I have a colleague who likes to say that it is easier to grow closer with God in the five days at camp than any other time. The removal of distractions, the dedication to spiritual disciplines, the simple yet profound impact of just having fun, it’s what makes camp, well, camp.

It is this love of camp that led our staff to decide to hold an all-church retreat at Canyon Camp November 16-17th. We will all arrive down in the Canyon Saturday morning and depart following our own worship service Sunday morning.

We have a lot of lodge options ranging from the beautiful Hardt Lodge, the brand new cabins, or, for our more adventurous folk, tent camping! The break down of costs per person are as below:

Tent camping (must bring personal tent) – $35 per person

Bunk in Cabin – $60 per person (ages 1-7 $50)

Single in Hardt Lodge – $90

Double in Hardt Lodge – $70 per person

Triple in Hardt Lodge – $65 per person

Quad in Hardt Lodge – $62 per person

All of our meals will be included in the cost. I pray that you would consider coming to the all-church retreat. To reserve your spot NOW, email Trey at trey@fumcedmond.org.