Tuesday, June 12, 2018


"Wow" just about covers it. 

Sunday was a difficult day, but a great day. I cried as I remembered my 4 years, what I have experienced with the congregation, and remembered who I am in Christ...

Gray Memorial UMC has accepted me just as I am for 4 years. From my first day, when I knew hardly anything about what it meant to be a pastor, to today, when I am humbled and thankful to the point of tears for their welcoming and ministering with me. In this way, the congregation has shown me the grace and love of God. This congregation has helped me remember who I am--an imperfect person, called by God to offer the hand of Jesus to a world that is hungry, broken, and looking for hope.

Yesterday, I  opened all of the cards and gifts received yesterday at Gray Memorial United Methodist Church. They thanked me, encouraged me, and expressed prayers for my journey ahead. They made me laugh, cry, and remember the goodness of God. There is also a new cookbook, candy, and a Tervis cup for when I am on the go. But most of all, there is love in these expressions of gratitude and support.

Thank you, church. You have blessed me. You have shown me the grace and love of God. I will always remember you. 

On my way to Annual Conference in Lakeland this past week, a song came through my speakers that I hadn't heard in a while. Once I began to recognize it, I was thankful there was a rest area ahead. I began to remember the words and knew that I needed to pull over; it was going to be difficult to focus on the road during this song, but I did not want to skip it. So I sat in the parking lot of the rest area, close to tears, sort of lost in the song, and began to pray it. 

The song is called "You Have Called Me Higher" by All Sons and Daughters

here is a link to the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGDVlOKoOoE

And here are the lyrics:

I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness
Hope to feel Your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel You
Hope to feel something again

And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You
Change me from the inside
And I could be safe, oh 
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down

But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I'll go where You will lead me Lord

And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You
Change me from the inside
And I could be safe, oh 
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down


And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy

Oh, and I will be Yours, Lord
And I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy light the path before me


This song, by chance, was also one of the worship songs played by the Eleven20 band at Annual Conference. I knew God was speaking to me. The words that stood out to me, in this season of my life, are : I will go where you lead me, Lord. This is my assurance that where I am going, the Lord is leading me, and that I will follow Jesus there. 

I covet your payers, I thank you for all that you have done with me and for me, and wish the congregation God's blessing with Myron Rhodes, and his wife Annette. I have gotten to know them, and you will be blessed by their presence and leadership here. 

Loving God, 
Creator of all things, 
Bless this congregation at Gray Memorial UMC
   and their surrounding community of Tallahassee
   that they may continue the good work of spreading your good news
I thank you for my time with them
  for their service, love, and dedication to love you and their neighbors.
During this time of change, 
  I ask that you may cover them with your hope and peace
Bless and prepare Myron and Annette
   as they anticipate coming into this community
   to continue and witness the good work that you have done.
May their ministry be fruitful.
May they bring people to know your love and grace,
   through their gifts and graces.
You have done marvelous things, O Lord.
We can't wait to see what you next.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.

In Christ, 


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Just as I am

This time of year is always a bit stressful for UMC pastors. All over our country, some pastors are preparing to move to new churches, and also for Annual Conference meetings. Sunday is my last Sunday here at GMUMC in Tallahassee, and the transition has been a bit stressful. But I have also found life and hope in this season. Here are some passages, that will be read aloud as we worship Sunday, that have helped me during this time. I believe that they can help this congregation find God in the midst of all these changes and through this transition.

I invite you to read them with me now, and offer your own reflections. Perhaps you can pray through these passages and/or write down what God is doing in them, and how that impacts you.

Exodus 16: 1-12

This passage tells the story of how God provided manna in the wilderness for those Israelites travelling to a new land. They were transitioning, too, not from one pastor to the next, but to a new land. They would travel for many years from Egypt to the promised land. They sought hope and nourishment from their leader, and God provided. What stands out to me is that in their confusion and even their complaining, God gave them their daily bread. God equipped their leader, Moses, with the assurance of this provision, and guidance on what it meant for them. God not only provides "daily bread," but direction in the midst of confusion, hope in the midst of complaining, and a way to enter into a new place and situation.

Image result for psalm 100 love endures
Psalm 100

This psalm is an invitation to worship God, because God is so good. God's love endures forever! All other things are temporary, yet God's love endures forever. Of course, I can think about how my time here at this church is temporary, but not only that: my career, my relationships, my stuff, money, all of it will be gone some day. That isn't such a sad thing when I reminded that God's love endures forever. God is worthy of my praise, and worshiping God gives me the peace and the hope that God's love endures forever.

Ephesians 4: 1-16

Image result for ephesians 4 gifts
Paul writes a new community of faith in this letter to the Ephesians, encouraging them to live faithful lives and find unity in that. He does not do this by giving them rules to follow, but by inviting them to live into their unique gifts from God, writing: "The gifts he (Christ) gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ..." Paul encourages this new community to be who God created them to be; to live into the unique way God made them. In a transition, it always helps to have unity. The receiving community can be united by the way they serve and welcome all people, even their new pastor. I just love how Paul validates these gifts from God. We are invited to come to Christ, just as we are. And this unites us, even though we are all different.

Image result for john 6: 35-37

John 6: 35-51

The folks that Jesus is talking to in this passage remember what God did back in Exodus 16 with their ancestors. Jesus had just fed thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread. Jesus had just walked on water, taming the chaos and making it to the other side of the water. And now he is speaking to those questioning him: "will you give us bread to eat like God did for our ancestors?" He replies “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away."

Jesus loves you just as you are. You are gifted. You are accepted. You have a place with Jesus.


1.        Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

2.        Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

3.        Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

4.        Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
sight, riches, healing of the mind,
yea, all I need in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

5.        Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

6.        Just as I am, thy love unknown
hath broken every barrier down;
now, to be thine, yea thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

In Christ,


Tuesday, May 29, 2018


The grade school playground was a dangerous place. Every day, I would venture into the unknown; there was no telling what kind of trouble I was going to get into or witness. The playground was  a stage where children performed their best shows of strength, popularity, and quests for acceptance. But everyday, we recited the rules. Do not hit. Do not throw anything.. Do not, do not, do not....

One day, for some reason, I became a threat to a bigger kid's popularity; I stood in his way on his quest for ultimate popularity in the class. How? I do not know, but nonetheless, here I was, swinging on a tire, as he walloped over to me. He wanted that tire swing, and nothing would stop him. But I had waited my turn, patiently, and earned my chance at this most precious tire swing. I was not going to move, either. It was a stand off. He's yelling. I'm spinning. He starts to run towards me on the tire, threatening to flip it over, so I do the only thing I could do: I spun and turned on that thing and kicked him right in the mouth. And then the megaphone sounds: "Jack, get over here!" I was in trouble, now. As I sob and embarrassingly mope over to my teacher, I began to formulate my plight. And the best thing I could come up with, was "I didn't throw anything..."

Obviously, I got the rule wrong. My teacher informed me of this, offering a new lesson to me. She knew the spirit of the rule was to not hurt anyone else.

One of the most significant aspects of Jesus' ministry was that he was not afraid to "break the rules," push the boundaries, and give things "new life."  Mark 2:23-3:6 illustrates this. In back to back episodes, Jesus reinterprets the Sabbath in front of the religious leaders, the Pharisees. He gives a counterpoint to the tradition of Sabbath keeping. This practice was a very important one; it is no shock to learn that Pharisees would make sure that Jesus kept the Sabbath holy, and conspire against him if he did not.

So, there he is, in a field with the disciples as they gather grain, on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees question him and point out how wrong he is! Jesus answers this with a counterpoint: even King David did such a thing! And again, the Pharisees find Jesus in a synagogue, healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. They question him again and point out how wrong he was.  He offers a an even stronger counterpoint: "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?"  I love the next part...but they were silent. Jesus had silenced his critics. They may have realized, then, how this new interpretation of keeping the Sabbath holy gave life and liberation from their rules and regulations. It is summed up by a phrase which Jesus uttered between these 2 counterpoint episodes "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath."

There a several great takeaways from these passages:

Jesus is not about rules, but the spirit that lies behind traditions and practices

The laws of God does not prohibit self-care or care for others

Jesus reinterprets and offer counterpoints for the sake of liberation, new life, and to usher in the Kingdom of God.

We all have traditions, rituals, habits, routines...rules, laws. What Jesus offers us here in his counterpoint to the Sabbath is an invitation to consider these things. Do they bring you life? Do they help you love God and neighbor? Jesus isn't just changing things here for the sake of it, but offering us new life, which may need to include a sort of liberation from living into the love of God (not just the "laws" and "rules")


Lord, we thank you for the rich traditions we have because of our faith,
Help us to remember the reason that we practice is because we love you,
   and seek your presence with us.
Where habits and rituals keep us from seeing your fresh presence,
   offer us new life.
Liberate us where we try and build a box around you
Offer us new signs of your love and grace,
That we may honor and glorify you.
Through Christ, our Lord, Amen.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Remodeled for Eternal Life

John 3: 1-17 shares with us a fascinating conversation between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus.

Nicodemus came to Jesus, in the dark of night, intrigued by his teachings of new life. He asks Jesus, perhaps
sarcastically, if one would have to enter back into their mother's womb! He was asking Jesus what this "new life" thing meant. How does it happen? What happens after you receive it?

Some background:

Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Pharisees came about in the 3rd century BCE as as a reaction against Hellinism, the increasing Greek influence over thought, practice, philosophy, and religion. They were a class of Jews that staunchly defended their religion's tradition and teachings. They grew to power, and even abused that power. Jesus' teachings represented a threat to their rigid interpretation of their religious tradition. They had something to lose, but they also could not resist trying to understand Jesus.

So here comes Nicodemus, late at night, trying to steal away for a private conversation with Jesus. Others gather, too; Jesus is now teaching a crowd (The Greek word for "you" becomes plural when Jesus is speaking).

Rev. Cynthia Weems puts it this way in her sermon "A Complete Makeover" on Day1.org:

"Nicodemus represented a rigid kind of thinking about laws and traditions and rituals but also about the basic work of God. Jesus wonders how Nicodemus could be such a trusted teacher and not know the inner workings of God's Spirit, not know the power of God's Spirit. Nicodemus, and the Pharisees, had such clarity about the things of God that any entry of new ideas or expressions was too much to grasp. They seemed unable to bear the weight of the perceived consequences that might come from acceptance of such thinking about the holy."

Nicodemus and the crowd learned something that I hope we can all learn: God does not want an inventory of every little thing wrong with us, but to renew us, remodel us. Yes, there is power in going back to seek forgiveness and healing from our pasts, but God is concerned also about transformation. Through this new life, your past is redeemed through the love and grace of God.

We are so benefited these days that for every break or dysfunction we face, there seems to be some sort of cure, a person that can fix it. Plumbers, mechanics, electricians, construction workers, help lines, , doctors, tailors...this world is full of fixers, and we use them all the time. Jesus offers us this same thing, but not for our appliances, electronics, or diseases...but for our very life. I wonder if we can call on this love of Jesus as fast as we call on others to help fix things. Lord knows, he will always be there.


God forgave my sin in Jesus' name;
I've been born again in Jesus' name;
And in Jesus' name I come to you
To share His love as He told me to.

*"Freely, Freely," The United Methodist Hymnal Number 389

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

When Jesus Interrupts

This is the final week of the Easter season, a season where our faith community has pondered how Jesus welcomes us to become his people. As we have observed, Jesus first invites us to belong, even before we are invited to behave and believe. That is, Jesus is with us and welcomes us before we our behaviors and beliefs change.

It happens again in the text for this week, Acts 10: 44-48. Here is Peter, one of the first followers of Jesus, and a new leader from Jerusalem, who is called by God to go into the home of a Roman centurion. Has God ever called you to go somewhere you don't want to go, or do something you don't want to do? That might have been how Peter felt. Not only was it improper for him to go into the home of a Gentile, this particular Gentile is a commander in the occupying army. Peter, most likely confused and scared, still enters Cornelius' home and begins to teach the gathered "outsiders" about Jesus. And then God does something amazing...

What is "supposed" to happen here? If this were to go according to plan, the Gentiles would first come to believe what Peter is saying; they would first come to have faith in Jesus. Then, they would learn the laws, and how to keep kosher, how to stay pure, etc. Then, they would be baptized as a sign of their faith and a seal for their new identity in Christ.

But what actually happens here? The Spirit of Christ rudely interrupts and just starts baptizing the Gentiles! What was supposed to be the last step, becomes the first step! They start confessing and showing that they are blessed by God. And Peter asks the burning question: "can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit?" I guess not!

In my commentary (A Preacher's Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series) this week, the author gives this example to try and relate this scene to us today:

"Imagine a room full of immigrants, just starting the process of gaining U.S. citizenship, suddenly being visited by the highest judge in the land who begins shaking their hands and conferring upon them all rights and privileges as U.S. nationals, before they've studied, taken their citizenship test, and said their oath while the authorities and bureaucrats try to figure out how to get these people stamped paperwork and passports. What is going on?"

Jesus, again, says that people belong, way before they behave and believe.

I belong. You belong. We belong.


In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts everywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord,
Close binding humankind.

Join hands, then, members of the faith,
Whatever your race may be!
Who serves my Father as His child
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet North and South;
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.

*In Christ There is no East or West, United Methodist Hymnal, 548

In Christ,

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Belong, Behave, Believe: Follow the Verbs

In middle school, like many of us, I felt like an outsider. It seemed as if I had a lot of friends, but that was because I jumped around from clique to clique, trying to seem like I was popular. In actuality, I really had so sense of belonging while I was at school. During lunch, I remember sometimes sitting by myself pretending to be in lunch detention. I would rather sit alone than sit with no sense of belonging with the other kids in the cliques.

In Acts 8: 26-40, there is a fascinating encounter between Phillip and an Ethiopian eunuch. It is utterly amazing to me how these two specific people have this encounter. This is the third time that Phillip make an appearance in the book of Acts. He was one of the Greek followers of Jesus in chapter 6 who was chosen to take over the distribution of food from the Hebrew disciples as they traveled to spread the gospel. Phillip is a product of the expansion of the gospel! He was not Jewish, but Greek, but he followed Jesus (post-resurrection) and proclaimed the gospel. Just beautiful inclusivity of the gospel by the multiplication of disciples of Jesus.

So Phillip travels away from the religious hub of Jerusalem and finds himself in this interaction with the Ethiopian eunuch. By all intents and purposes, this person that Phillip finds would have been considered an outcast; he would have been extremely ineligible to worship God in Jerusalem with the Jews. This dark-skinned, non-Jew, unable to be circumcised  person would have had no place, had it been for Jesus, and Phillip carrying on his mission of proclaiming the good news.

This eunuch is reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. He is seeking God! I can't help but think of all those who perceive that they would not be welcome in our churches, because the face of Christianity is not so pretty right now. In an age where Christians are perceived as 1) anti-gay 2)judgmental and 3)hypocritical , it's no wonder our local churches are dying. The church is perceived as a place that is exclusive and manipulative, not a place where you may find belonging and community.

To recover our image as a place where we welcome the stranger and offer a loving community to all seeking it, we can learn from this passage in Acts, by following the verbs:

Go- not to church, but away from church (like Phillip traveling away from Jerusalem) to share the gospel wherever we are

Join- God tells Phillip to join the eunuch at his chariot. Before we expect anyone to join us at church, God invites us to join our neighbors and experience life with them

Listen and Ask- Phillip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah, and then asked him "do you understand what you are reading?" I know I fall into the trap of thinking that I have to do "all the work" when I share my faith. That's not the case: God was already there, preparing the eunuch to engage Phillip in this conversation. God is ahead of us, working to show the good news to others, inviting us to have the courage to meet God there.

After Phillp asks this question, the eunuch starts asking his questions. They engage in a rich conversation! Phillip is willing to give this eunuch a sense of belonging by first joining and asking the question. When this happens, they explore together their beliefs, and it leads to the eunuch's baptism. Such a beautiful encounter...


We've a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright;
and Christ's great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.

*We've a Story to Tell to the Nations, The United Methodist Hymnal, 569

In Christ,


*My thanks to Paul Rock, who shares reflections on texts for preaching during the season of Easter in "A Preacher's Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

When You Say Nothing at All

"When You Say Nothing at All" is a country song written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz. It is among the best-known hit songs for three different performers: Keith Whitley, who took it to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart on December 24, 1988; Alison Krauss, whose version was her first solo top-10 country hit in 1995; and Irish pop singer Ronan Keating, whose version was his first solo single and a chart-topper in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 1999. (Wikipedia)

Think of a time where you knew that you were loved, that you felt cared for...Isn't it interesting that we most often have that assurance not through someone's words they tell us, but the presence they share with us? I can think of many instances where it was not what I said, but what kind of presence I shared with someone that made a difference. I often joke that half of my job as a pastor is simply to show up and know that God beat me to the spot; that God is already there. It is not very funny anymore, because it has been so true.

Psalm 23 illustrates this.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3     he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff—
    they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.

This says nothing about the shepherd saying anything; this psalm shares what the shepherd does to show care for the sheep.

And John 10: 11-18 tells us what a "good shepherd" is like.

Raymond Brown translates kalos, which is translated "good" in the passage, as “I am the model Shepherd.” So "good" may not mean "good" to the sheep, but "good" as in the shepherd is "good" at shepherding. This shepherd shows us how to do it, that is, by laying down our lives for the sheep. 

A good shepherd is not concerned about salary, reputation, or success of the sheep. Jean Vanier puts it this way:

“To become a good shepherd is to come out of the shell of selfishness to be attentive to those for whom we are responsible, to reveal to them their fundamental beauty and value and help them grow and become fully alive. It is not easy really to listen. It is not easy to touch our own fears. It is a challenge to help others gradually accept responsibility, to trust themselves. When people are weak or lost, they need a shepherd close to them. Little by little, however, as they discover who they are, the shepherd becomes more of a friend and companion.”

Becoming like Jesus means becoming a good shepherd: putting away our own desires, our need for success, our own reputation, and noticing the need for care around us. To follow Jesus as his disciples is to both be the sheep in need of this care, and the shepherd that, in turn, cares like the shepherd does.


O Thou, in whose presence my soul takes delight,
on whom in affliction I call,
my comfort by day and my song in the night,
my hope, my salvation, my all!

*O Thou, in Whose Presence, The United Methodist Hymnal Number 518

In Christ,


My thanks to Rev. James Howell who has much more to say about this topic, and does so highlighting the ministry of presence and care of the shepherd in his blog this week

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Belong, Behave, Believe: In Defense of Doubt

It is no secret that the mainline church is dwindling in numbers. Part of the reason for this is that the Church seems largely "behind" the cultural and societal trends regarding involvement in particular communities. Gone are the days where you find community and belonging only in the area directly around you: your neighborhood, place of work, or other places that require minimal effort to get to. In short, with the advancement of vehicles and technology, we really do get to choose where we belong.

I say that to say this: in the Church's heyday, where the trend of finding the church on the corner and finding belonging there, there was a general process that someone went through. First, they'd attend the church out of a sense of obligation, at least initially. Within the first few months, typically, you'd attend the new member class and learned what the church believes. At the end of the class, you confessed to believe that stuff too. In those first few months, you also learned how to behave in the church: what we wear, what music we use, when to stand and when to sit...And then you joined. You belonged. So that was the process: believe, behave, belong....

....and Jesus flipped the script. On Easter morning, he did not give Mary a treatise of doctrine to believe. Only after he said her name "Mary..."  did he tell her what to do, to go and tell the disciples that she had seen him. Jesus' "formula," then, is belong, behave, believe. God gives us a sense of belonging by creating us and calling us to new life through Jesus. Only then does our life begin to change (we start to "behave") and we are brought to faith. We belong to God, our life changes, and we are confronted with who God is, bringing us to belief.

This week, we come to a post-resurrection passage in John 20: 19-31, where Jesus comes to meet the disciples in their fear and confusion. Thomas, knowing that he belongs in relationship with Jesus, is seeking confirmation in his faith when asks to see Jesus' wounds from the cross. His faith is confirmed. Thomas is often ridiculed or looked unfavorably upon because he "doubted," but I disagree. Doubt is part of the process of believing. He is not doubting as if he does not believe, but discovering his faith and belief in Jesus again.

Because we belong to God, we have been called by name and loved uniquely by God, we can come to God in hopes to affirm our belief or seek a way out of our doubt and confusion. This is good news.

As you ponder what this means for you, I invite you to engage with this song/prayer.

In Christ,

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Palm Sunday: What Happens When You Assume?

Palm Sunday is upon us. Christians all around the world will remember and celebrate Jesus coming into Jerusalem. For Jesus, this was the beginning of the end; he knew this journey would lead him to the cross. But for those present on the road with him into the city, this was an occasion to celebrate! They spread cloaks on the ground and waved palm branches in the air and yelled shouts of "Hosanna!" (Mark 11:1-11)

The word "hosanna" has its roots in Hebrew and made its way into Aramaic (the language Jesus probably spoke) and Greek. People have been saying it for a LONG time. It means "help us" or "save us." So when they shouted this as Jesus traveled to and entered Jerusalem, they were asking for a savior. Today, we ask ourselves: in a world of violence, injustice, greed, pain, and suffering how do we wage peace, hope, healing, gratitude, and love? I imagine that the people who first shouted "Hosanna!" were crying out for the same thing.

You may have heard the joke about what happens when you assume...you make a...donkey...out of u and me. Both the Romans and the Jews did a lot of assuming. They assumed they knew what Christ meant when he promised to bring the kingdom of heaven. Jewish zealots were eager to spill Roman blood and take their roles in a new Davidic monarchy. Pharisees and Saducees were concerned about their religious leadership. Centurions were ready to ensure that  the "peace" that existed between nationalities within the Roman Empire was maintained, no matter the cost.

Jesus came, proclaiming that the kingdom of God was near, and people assumed they knew what he meant. They were eager to make sure their expectations about this new covenant were met, beginning with the crowds. The people of Jerusalem poured out into the streets and shouted this word, "Hosanna!" This was not the first time the people of this city shouted this word; nearly 150 years prior to this occasion, they same exclamation was shouted as a family called the Macabees assisted a revolution that drove the Roman occupiers out of the city. They ruled there for a while until the Romans came back and installed puppet Hebrew kings (like Herod, who attempted to find and kill Jesus when he was born). "Hosanna!" they called out to the Macabees. "Hosanna!"they called out when Jesus came..."Save us, king of Israel!"

But Jesus did not come to drive the Romans out. He did not come to conquer the city. He inspired a different kind of revolution. Jesus introduced another way, another kingdom. The only blood that was spilled from his revolution was his own, on the journey to his own death on the cross. Jesus began a revolution of grace, forgiveness, hope, and love.


God, whose fingers sculpt sun and moon
   and curl the baby’s ear;
   Spirit, brooding over chaos
      before the naming of day;
Savior, sending us to earth's ends
   with water and words:
startle us with the grace, love, and communion
   of your unity in diversity,
that we may live to the praise of your majestic name. Amen.

*Worship and Song Worship Resources, 21.

In Christ,


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Covenant: Vows

In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God has a relationship-defining conversation with the prophet Jeremiah, who is a spokesperson of the Israelites in exile in Babylon. In High School, me and my friends would call this a "DTR," an occasion in which a couple would have a conversation where they would "define the relationship." It was time, in this DTR, to label the relationship: are we dating? boyfriend/girlfriend? going steady? Where are we as a couple?

So God has a DTR with Jeremiah and the Israelites. God says "I don't want to be just friends, I want to deepen things, I want to take things to the next level. The covenant I am making with you will be a covenant whose codes are not written in stone, but on your hearts." God wants a more personal relationship with the Israelites. "I will write this covenant on your hearts; and I will be your God, and you shall be my people."

The word "religion" comes from the Latin verb religare, which means "to connect, to bind together." So my faith, your faith, the Church's faith, our relationship with God, are not about getting ourselves or others to fall in line with a set of doctrine. Religion and faith is not about getting anyone to fall in line with a proper way of doing things. What this faith, this religion, this community, this covenant with God is all about is to get us, not to fall in line, but to fall in love. This is not entirely romantic, but there is an element of that as God reveals and sticks to God's promises. God loves us, and we can fall into that love by living as if this promise by God is indeed on our hearts. It is part of us.


O God of our Hearts
You yearn to be so close to us
that we can know you in every breath,
in every hope, in every relationship.

Meet us here today and
teach us to recognize
the covenant of justice, peace and love
you have written on our hearts.

So may our desires become your desires,
our work become your work,
and our community
the place where you are sought and found.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

~*taken from “O God of Our Hearts: Prayers for the Fifth Sunday in Lent,” written by Rev. Kathryn Matthews Huey and the Rev. Susan A. Blain.

In Christ,


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Gospel in Miniature

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." Martin Luther once said that John 3:16 is "the gospel in miniature."  It is one of the most well known verses from the whole Bible, let alone the gospels. I have seen it on signs at Super Bowls, billboards, church signs, and out of the mouths of new Christians and long-time ones too. It might be the gospel in miniature, but there is nothing else small about it.

Scholars have debated it, but it seems as though the words in John 3: 16-21 come from John the evangelist himself, not Jesus. Here, the author of the gospel is reflecting on a crucial conversation between Jesus and "a man of the Pharisees" (part of the religious authority who contended with Jesus) named Nicodemus. They have this conversation about what it means to be "born again" in the beginning of chapter 3, and then the evangelist John begins to reflect on what he has learned from this interaction.

I will admit that to comment on these verses, John 3:16-21, is quite humbling. Here, I am encountered with, much like the author, the awesomeness of God, the love of God. These verses can stump my speech and take my breath away.

If we agree with Luther that John 3:16 is the gospel in miniature, perhaps we would agree with him when he says "If I were as our Lord God, and these vile people were as disobedient as they now be, I would knock the world in pieces." But God "so loved the world..." God's foolish, blundering, wayward, sinful world...and God cannot bear to leave it in its troubles and disasters, but has done all that God can do to save it. God gave us Jesus. God can not, will not, let us go. We have given God every reason to, and yet God has remained our God. God has remained faithful to us, and given us eternal life. That life begins now, no matter how deep in sin or shame you are. And it continues forever.

"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:17)

Come to Jesus, for the first, tenth, hundredth, thousandth, or millionth  time, to be saved.


Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
brighter than snow you may be today.

Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

*Grace Greater than Our Sin, The United Methodist Hymnal, 365

In Christ,

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Contracts and Covenants

So, how are you doing with the Ten Commandments? Some of these are easy to follow: do not murder, do not steal...but how about using the Lord's name in vain? Uh oh...someone cut me off in traffic yesterday and, well, maybe these aren't so easy to follow after all...working on the Sabbath and and coveting our neighbor's car or high-tech gadget seems like a way of life these days. The truth of the matter, is that we have failed to keep these commandments. We are human, and we fail. If these commandments are part of the contract that we must keep in order for God to remain or God, well, God would have moved on centuries ago to seek out a new species to be God over!

Contracts, in a legal sense, are formal agreements based on mutual benefit. They are awesome for employee situations or business transactions. You put out what you put in and everyone wins.

Thank you God for not giving us a contract to sign and date and, inevitably, break. What God has with us is a covenant to be our God. To love us and forgive us. To lead us and walk with us through life. God gives us a promise. We have been reminded of that here at GMUMC and if you have been reading this blog, through the reminder of the rainbow after the great flood. In the covenant that God gave to Noah, God says "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you...that never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." God promised all humanity and all the earth to protect and not destroy it. Like in a marriage, a covenant is a soul-binding promise from one party to the other. 

God still expects us to seek to live in joyful obedience to God. This isn't necessarily a "free ride." As evidence of living into the love and grace of God, the obedience to these commandments, summed up by Jesus to love God and love neighbor as yourself, should be lived out. If you know God loves you but are still driven to murder or steal, for example, that is a sign that you are not living into the fullness of God's love for you. When you are, I do not think that you could be driven to take a life or steal from someone. 

And when we fail, God is still our God. God still loves us, protects us from sin, and desires us to be in relationship with God. 

So if you feel like you're a good person and don't ever break any of the commandments, think again. Realizing that you fail can remind you just how much God loves you and forgives you. This can deepen your relationship with God. If you feel like you are nothing and have nothing to offer, think again. God created you and made you a child of God. God has given you the chance to live in joyful obedience with God. And when you follow a commandment, God is pleased with you, for this is a sign of your love of God and desire to live in covenant relationship with God. 


Change my heart, O God, make it ever true. 
Change my heart, O God, may I be like you. 
You are the Potter, I am the clay; 
mold me and make me, this is what I pray. 
Change my heart, O God, make it ever true. 
Change my heart, O God, may I be like You.

*Change My Heart, O God, The Faith We Sing, 2152 

In Christ, 


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Covenant: Promises We Can't Keep

Christians around the world the world are embarking on week 2 of Lent, and here at GMUMC we are journeying through the season together as we explore God's promises to us. The "parable" (so to say) of the Monks and the Stone Soup come to mind. I invite you to read and reflect on it....

 Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth

Three Monks traveled along a mountain road. They talked about cat whiskers, the color of
the sun, and whatever else came to mind. “What makes one happy?” asked the youngest monk.
The old and the wisest monk said, “Let's find out.”

The monks found themselves gazing down at the rooftops of a village below. The monks
knew the village had been through many hard times and villagers had even become suspicious of
their neighbors. The villagers worked hard, but only for themselves. They had little to do with one another.

When the monks came down, the villagers disappeared into their houses and no one
came to the gate to greet them. Even the windows were closed tight. The monks knocked on the
doors but there was no answer. “These people do not know happiness,” they all agreed. “But today we will show them how to make stone soup.”

They gathered twigs and made a fire. They placed a small tin pot on top and filled it with
water. A brave little girl who had been watching came to them. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“We are making stone soup and we need three round, smooth stones,” said a monk. The
little girl helped the monks find three perfectly round stones. “These stones will make excellent soup,” said the oldest monk. “But this very small pot won't make much.” The little girl ran home to get her mother's big pot. “The three strangers are making soup
from stones,” she said.

The monks poked the coals. As smoke drifted up, the neighbors peered out from their
windows. They found the monks, the fire, and the large pot in the middle of the village very
curious, indeed!

One by one, the villagers came out to see just what this stone soup was. “Of course, old-style stone soup should be well seasoned with salt and pepper,” said the young monk. “But we have none.” “I have some salt and pepper!” said a villager and disappeared and came back with spices. The old monk took a taste. “The last time we had soup stones of this size and color,
carrots made the broth very sweet.” “Carrots?” said a woman from the back. “I may have a few carrots!” And she returned with as many carrots as she could carry and dropped them into the pot.
“Do you think it would be better with onions?” asked the other monk. “Oh, yes, maybe an onion would taste good,” said a farmer. He left and returned in a
moment with five big onions. He dropped them into the bubbling soup. Something magical began to happen among the villagers. As each person opened his or her heart to give, the next person gave even more. The monks simply stirred and the pot bubbled. At last, the soup was ready. The villagers gathered together. Everyone sat down to eat. They had not been together for a feast like this for as long as anyone could remember.

After the banquet, they told stories, sang songs, and celebrated long into the night. Then they unlocked their
doors and took the monks into their homes and gave them very comfortable places to sleep. In the
gentle spring morning that came the next day, everyone gathered together to say farewell. “Thank you for having us as your guests,” said the monks. “You have been most generous.” “Thank you,” said the villagers. “With the gifts you have given, we will always have plenty.
You have shown us that sharing makes us all richer.” “And to think,” said the monks, “to be happy is as simple as making stone soup.”

Genesis 17: 1-7 and 15-16 is a story about God filling the empty hearts and souls of Abram and Sarai with a promise. The promise is so important that God marks it by changing their names to Abraham and Sarah! I invite you to read the passage in your own Bible, or here .

Abram and Sarai felt that they were empty pots, too. God filled them with a promise that God fulfilled. This promise had little to do with them, and everything to do about God. All they had was their faith, which for me symbolizes the stone that the monks began with. I learn in this passage that it is in God's nature to bless.

No matter how small you feel, how little you think you can offer God, or even your community, it is in God's nature to bless you. Somehow, someway, God is still in the picture. Even in our world today, where God seems absent at times, God is still here. God will still keep the promises of protection (Genesis 9:8-17); to be our God.


Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided;
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

*Great is Thy Faithfulness, United Methodist Hymnal, 140.

In Christ, 


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lenten series: Covenant

As we enter the season of Lent, we come again into a time where Christians emphasize their prayer life, fasting, and service. Christians remember the life of Jesus and his ministry of preaching, teaching, healing, and ultimately dying on the cross to save us from our sins and isolation from God. With that said, it is one of the most meaningful seasons of the year for those who follow Jesus.

The season of Lent begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday (there will be a service here at GMUMC at 7:00). The season of Lent begins with the imposition of ashes on the forehead, and the words: from dust you came, and to dust you will return. We are reminded of our mortality and deepest need for Christ to enter into our hearts, souls, and our world. We come from dirt. We are dirt, and we need to be cleaned by loving mercy of God.

As a child, I loved to play in the dirt. But that kind of goes away as an adult, doesn't it? I no longer enjoy being dirty. I desire to be clean. I want my house clean, the church clean, and the world to be clean. And maybe this doesn't mean that dirt goes away--any productive and fruitful garden needs good dirt. Perhaps Jesus makes the dirt in our life productive. Jesus heals us, and makes us clean (Psalm 51).

As we enter into the season, I want to offer you a great resource for your prayer life. It was produced by my friend and colleague Dan Wunderlich. The 2018 Lent Prayer Calendar (click to download and print) offers a prayer guide for each day during Lent.

Whether you use this, or perhaps sign up for devotionals to be sent to your inbox each day at  #pictureLent (highly recommend, click to sign up), or find other ways to engage with God through prayer, fasting (or adding a spritual practice), and service, I invite you to seek Christ through this period of 40 days.

Here at GMUMC,  we will be focusing on the word "covenant" during Lent. We will explore the promises that God has made to us, what it means to live in a covenant relationship with God, and that ultimately God's love for us is unbreakable/unconditional. This Sunday, we will focus on Genesis 9: 8-17. Go ahead and read it now so that God may begin moving in your heart as you prepare for our time together on Sunday! Ask yourself: How does God's covenant with Noah shape your view of creation? What does this covenant mean for you today?

Happy Lent, folks!

Lent Prayer Calendar 2018

Weekly Theme: Internal

□ Wednesday, February 14 (Ash Wednesday, Lent Day 1) – My sin
Reflect on areas where your thoughts and actions have separated you from God, others, and yourself. Ask God to make you aware of unrealized sin, and accept God’s forgiveness.
□ Thursday, February 15 (Lent Day 2) – My limitations
Reflect on areas where you don’t feel 100% or where you have experienced failure. Turn your limitations over to God who is our strength.
□ Friday, February 16 (Lent Day 3) – My doubts
Admit to God those areas where you struggle with questions and doubt. Don’t worry—God already knows, and God can handle it. Ask God to bring you perspective and peace.
□ Saturday, February 17 (Lent Day 4) – My resources
Give thanks to God for the resources you do have, ask God for provision where you experience lack, and ask God to show you the difference between wants and needs.
□ Sunday, February 18 (Little Easter 1) – My relationship with God
Thank God for initiating a relationship with you, and ask God to continue to shape you into the person God is calling you to be. Ask God to show you areas where you can better connect. 

Weekly Theme: External

□ Monday, February 19 (Lent Day 5) – Friends and family
Give thanks for the people who fill and color your life and bring you joy. Give thanks for the support they give you, and ask God how you can support them in return.
□ Tuesday, February 20 (Lent Day 6) – Enemies
One of the most difficult commands Christ gave us was to pray for our enemies. In the spirit of peace and forgiveness, pray for those individuals, organizations, and even nations that you view as adversaries.
□ Wednesday, February 21 (Lent Day 7) – Those who serve
Say a prayer of thanks for teachers, doctors and nurses, government employees, non-profit organizations, law enforcement officers, first responders, and all those who serve. Ask God to keep them safe, and pray for their relationship to your community.
□ Thursday, February 22 (Lent Day 8) – Those who lead
Pray for wisdom and guidance among those who make decisions and lead in your community and around the world. Pray that they would seek to improve the lives of all people, especially the poor and powerless.
□ Friday, February 23 (Lent Day 9) – Those in need
Remember those who do not have a permanent roof over their head, those who are suffering through illness or injury, those in prison, the poor, and those shackled by systems of prejudice and injustice. Ask for God’s provision, including awareness of ways you can help.
□ Saturday, February 24 (Lent Day 10) – Other local churches
As you look forward to gathering with your church family in worship this weekend, pray for the other churches in your area that do the work of ministry. Pray especially for their work in evangelism, discipleship, and missions.
□ Sunday, February 25 (Little Easter 2) – Those who do not know Christ
Remember in prayer today those who don’t yet know Christ or who struggle with faith. Ask God how you can be the presence of Christ in their lives.

Weekly Theme: The Lord’s Prayer

□ Monday, February 26 (Lent Day 11) – Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Think about the holiness of God as you pray today. What does ‘holy’ mean to you? What does it mean to you that a holy God would want to hear your prayers?
□ Tuesday, February 27 (Lent Day 12) – Thy kingdom come
What would it look like in your community if God’s kingdom were fully present? What is one practical thing you can do today to help bring about God’s kingdom?
□ Wednesday, February 28 (Lent Day 13) – Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
We are saved by faith alone. Yet Scripture, including through the teachings of Jesus, tells us that obedience is a sign of our faith and salvation. Pray for the direction and confidence needed to follow God’s will in your life today.
□ Thursday, March 1 (Lent Day 14) – Give us this day our daily bread
Offer up a prayer of gratitude, recognizing that all you have is a blessing from God. Keep in mind those in your community whose daily needs are not met—whether it is food, shelter, or medical care.
□ Friday, March 2 (Lent Day 15) – Forgives us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
As you seek forgiveness, offer forgiveness. There may still need to be consequences and/or boundaries, but let go of the power that holding onto wrongs can have over you.
□ Saturday, March 3 (Lent Day 16) – Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
Ask God for the strength to focus on what God would have you do today. Say a special prayer for those who struggle with addiction.
□ Sunday, March 4 (Little Easter 3) – For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
Why do we pray all of these things in the Lord’s Prayer? Because all power and glory belong to God—they always have and always will. Let this truth animate your worship today.

Weekly Theme: The Beatitudes

□ Monday, March 5 (Lent Day 17) – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Beatitudes are so impactful because they turn perspectives upside down. Jesus begins by proclaiming that those who find little hope in the kingdoms of this world will find their place in the heavenly kingdom.
□ Tuesday, March 6 (Lent Day 18) – Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Say a prayer for those in your community who are grieving the loss of loved ones. May God bring them peace.
□ Wednesday, March 7 (Lent Day 19) – Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Say a prayer of thanks for those people in your life who model humility. Consider finding some small way to let them know that you appreciate them.
□ Thursday, March 8 (Lent Day 20) – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Ask God to make you aware of voices that are calling for justice and righteousness. Pray for the openness to listen and learn from them.
□ Friday, March 9 (Lent Day 21) – Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy… Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Peace is not simply the absence of conflict. Ask God to show you ways that you can be an active force for mercy and peace in your community.
□ Saturday, March 10 (Lent Day 22) – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Be honest with God about your doubts, your struggles, and the ways in which doing God’s will remains difficult. Ask God to reveal and remove the impurities that hinder your relationship.
□ Sunday, March 11 (Little Easter 4) – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on [Jesus’] account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.
Ask God for the courage to live a life that reflects your faith in everything you do. Say a prayer for those around the world who face persecution, including violence and even death, for their faith.

Weekly Theme: Fruits of the Spirit

□ Monday, March 12 (Lent Day 23) – Love
Ask God to increase within you the fruit of love.
□ Tuesday, March 13 (Lent Day 24) – Joy
Ask God to increase within you the fruit of joy.
□ Wednesday, March 14 (Lent Day 25) – Peace
Ask God to increase within you the fruit of peace.
□ Thursday, March 15 (Lent Day 26) – Patience
Ask God to increase within you the fruit of patience.
□ Friday, March 16 (Lent Day 27) – Kindness, Generosity
Ask God to increase within you the fruits of kindness and generosity.
□ Saturday, March 17 (Lent Day 28) – Faithfulness, Gentleness
Ask God to increase within you the fruits of faithfulness and gentleness.
□ Sunday, March 18 (Little Easter 5) – Self-Control
Ask God to increase within you the fruit of self-control.

Weekly Theme: Spiritual Disciplines

□ Monday, March 19 (Lent Day 29) – My prayer life
Ask God to bring you assurance that your prayers are heard and valued.
□ Tuesday, March 20 (Lent Day 30) – My reading of Scripture
Ask God to bring the Word of God alive for you today.
□ Wednesday, March 21 (Lent Day 31) – My practice of celebration/gratitude
Ask God to make you someone who remembers to celebrate and give thanks often.
□ Thursday, March 22 (Lent Day 32) – My practice of giving/simplicity
Ask God to show you how you can simplify your life. Dedicate or donate any time, resources, or tangible things you no longer need or use to someone or some organization that needs it.
□ Friday, March 23 (Lent Day 33) – My practice of service/missions
Ask God to place on your heart a person or group, a problem, or an organization to whom or through which you can be the hands and feet of Christ.
□ Saturday, March 24 (Lent Day 34) – My practice of Sabbath/silence/solitude
Ask God to help you find spaces in your life where you can be still and rest in God’s presence.
□ Sunday, March 25 (Palm Sunday, Little Easter 6) – My practice of worship
Ask God to reignite your passion for worship, especially as you come to church today.

Weekly Theme: Life of Jesus

□ Monday, March 26 (Lent Day 35) – The birth/baptism of Jesus
Think about how much of a sacrifice and how great a gift it was that the infinite God chose to take on human flesh. Remember and give thanks for the gift of baptism.
□ Tuesday, March 27 (Lent Day 36) – The teachings of Jesus
Reflect on the teachings of Jesus that have had the greatest impact on your life. Notice too how Jesus often chooses to teach through stories. Ask God how you can use your story.
□ Wednesday, March 28 (Lent Day 37) – The miracles of Jesus
Remember the ways in which Christ did the work of God through miracles. Give thanks for the modern-day miracles that we take for granted all the time.
□ Thursday, March 29 (Maundy Thursday, Lent Day 38) – The institution of communion
As we mark the night of the Last Supper, remember that Jesus called them to unity. Remember also that Jesus took an ordinary meal, bread and wine, and made it extraordinary.
□ Friday, March 30 (Good Friday, Lent Day 39) – The crucifixion of Jesus
Remember the pain and suffering that Christ took upon himself, even though he did not deserve it, so that our sins could be forgiven.
□ Saturday, March 31 (Holy Saturday, Lent Day 40) – The defeat of sin and death
Remember that as the world waited in silence, Jesus continued to reveal God’s power and love for us by defeating the powers of sin and death. Ask God to defeat them in your life today.
□ Sunday, April 1 (Easter Sunday) – The resurrection
Remember the most amazing gift of all—Christ rose from the dead! In doing so, he made a way for us to be reconciled to God and to be in relationship with God for eternity.