Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Second Sunday in Advent

Every week I craft a prayer for our church services. Instead of just keeping them quiet, I thought I'd share them. So here is this past weekend's prayer:

Have you ever been to someone’s house leading up to Christmas and noticed the gifts that extend beyond the wide branches of the Christmas tree?
Do you ever think to yourself, and Santa hasn’t been here yet either???
I don’t have a children… yet, but I do understand already wanting to give my future daughter everything she could want or need. I’ve already found myself wanting to buy her Christmas presents and she’s not even here yet.
I’ve had to stop myself and say, really Angie? Does she need that? Or is it me that WANTS that because it’s so cute??? 
I have to stop and think that the first thing she is going to need is her parent’s love and comfort.
One of the things that I have actually begun is reading one of those rhythmic Baby Bibles to her and saying nightly prayers because I want her to know how much God already loves her.
I want her to know that the ultimate present she could ever have is the love of God and the gift that has been given through the incarnation, life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
During this busy holiday season, I hope that we all take time to remember that gift: The greatest present of all that God has given us.
Will you pray with me?

Pastoral Prayer
God of abundant life, you have blessed us with so many gifts and we give you thanks. We give you thanks for the gift of life that you have given to us through your Son Jesus Christ. You are the ultimate provider and you fulfill our lives. But during this Season as we await with anticipation the celebration of your gift to us, we find ourselves too busy with preparations. We find ourselves overspending of presents so that we can provide our children and loved one with material things that we think will make them happy, when really it is you that is often needed most. God, we ask for your forgiveness when we pull away from you and forget that you are the focus of this season, you are the one that truly loves us.
God, we know that your Spirit is upon us, you have called us to work alongside you to bring good news to the poor, to liberate those captive to darkness. You love is our strength. Through you we can do all things, you surround us with constant forgiveness and love.
And we offer to you now our prayers for healing for those in our lives who need you most.

God, we lift up those on our hearts. Help them to know that you are ever present with them. Help us be faithful witnesses to your law of love and unity.
We ask these things in your son’s Holy name, Amen. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

MIssio Dei

Preparing for Local Ministries: Required. Meet weekly with a group of fellow students to share our experiences within our ministry settings. Easy and fun.
Christian Traditions (or the History of the church): Required. To be an effective pastor, you should have a working knowledge of the History of the church.
Biblical Hebrew: Elective. I like to challenge myself with languages, and writing right to left!
Missions of the Church in the Contemporary World:  A Church and Society required course. This course is a practical course for church management.

These are my seminary classes this fall and the course I am most excited about is the Mission of the Church in the Contemporary World (Hebrew is a close second) and it is incredibly fitting now that I have stepped into the role of Director of Missions at a church that values service and living for others. Yesterday I began reading the first required book for this class, and the first question the author asked was, is the service the church is engaging in the mission of that particular local church or is the service being engaged in, truly adhering to God's mission? Wow! Sometimes, I think that when we go into service and living for others, we forget that when we volunteer to do church work, we are ultimately working as vessels by which God's mission for his world is achieved.

When I first started this position, I thought to myself, what is it we are doing as a church that embodies living for others? We definitely have people that are going out regularly to be in service, but are we going out because as followers of Christ we strive to affect transformation in the lives or others? Or are we going out because it makes us feel better about ourselves, or because it keeps us busy and out of trouble?

From what I have seen from those who are actively going into the mission field every day (and yes, the mission field can be found in our own community), I see the passion for Christ as the driving force. I see our congregation actively engaged in bringing God's kingdom and his will to earth. And this excites me!

This past month I have been working with a group of individuals for our upcoming Every1Serve which is scheduled for Saturday, October 5th. The challenge I gave everyone was to make sure they know why exactly they are engaging in service that day and to be able to tell all those who step up to volunteer for various projects what exactly they are doing, and most importantly why. I believe that you can ask anybody to work and most people can and will work. However, I believe even more ardently that when you tell someone why they are working, you can really inspire them to live for others when they see how their work is bringing about God's mission.

That is why each project and organization for Every1Serve has a definite mission that strives to transform lives. We are all called into ministry, to love and care for our sisters and brothers no matter where they are in their journey with God. I wanted us to really focus on transformation. I want us to not focus so much on carrying out the mission of our local church but to carry out the mission of our most loving God. We are called to love one another and being in service to our neighbors, even our enemies, affects change in the heart of God's children, including those of us who choose to serve.

I look forward to this upcoming Every1Serve. We have worked hard to secure a variety of projects for all ages and skill levels. I keep saying to everyone, this is called EveryONEServe, not JustafewServe. I hope that everyone who is available on October 5th, will step into service for a few hours that day and prepare to be amazed at how God can work through you to bring his healing grace and power to those in need.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Receiving Blessings

When I first starting working for a church, I did not know how radically it would change my life. I had ideas on how to make our church more visible and more active in the community. I realized quickly that church life is built on a steady and strong volunteer base. The church members had grown older and could no longer effectively carry out the vision they had when they had established the church 60 years earlier. It isn't that they wanted to see their beloved church close, they just were not physically able to do the work that I so desperately wanted us to be involved in.

So, I took on the task of being all things to all people and took it as my personal mission to bring new people into the church. I engaged in outreach and missions. I took Jesus' words seriously, "the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28, NRSV).

My mantra was this, Jesus gave his life so that I could live, therefore I must give of my life to those who are marginalized in our society. I worked hard and the members of my church loved me for it, but it was hard work that needed to be done with other people.

One of the things that has resonated most with me since I began working for the church is that we have been created for relationship. God created us and seeks to be in relationship with us. God doesn't want us to be alone in our physical or spiritual lives as evidenced when he created a companion for the first human. We are to create relationships with the people around us to serve as an example of how we are to be in relationship with God. Our church was actively engaging in service, but not actively engaging in developing relationships.  Eventually, with the help of one of my professors, I  started to seek out a place where people were growing in their faith, their relationships with each other and with God. I believe I have found that place.

I had become used to doing work and serving others on my own and did not know how to react when a man from my new church offered to help my husband and I move to our new house. I immediately told him that we would be okay and that it was very nice of him to offer his services and the services of the people in his Sunday school class. I told my husband about the offer and he immediately told me I was nuts for turning him down and that I needed to call him back. At that point I felt embarrassed, but I called him and he wasn't put out and arranged a moving day for us. In addition, he offered the services of bringing his trailer to load up our stuff so we wouldn't have to rent a U-Haul. We were told that there would be about 5-6 people to help us move, but when 13 people showed up to our house, we were overwhelmed! All of our belonging were moved to the new house within 4 hours and our new kitchen was in the process of being organized by the efforts of some amazing women. They did such a nice job that we have not moved anything around.

The generosity and love that poured out from these people did not stop there. One of the men who was unavailable to help us move that day gave us a refrigerator. I had told him a few days earlier that I was taking the Thursday off before the move day to go and purchase one for our new home. He looked at me and said, "don't buy one, we have one you can have." I was speechless and almost turned him down, but remembered that my husband would probably tell me to call him up the next day and say nevermind. So, I accepted and then he wouldn't take any money.

One of the greatest things in life is Christmas morning. Not because of all the gifts that have my name on them, but because of the joy I see on a person's face when I give them something that they need. Organizing birthday parties for loved ones is equally gratifying. I love giving to people. That means that I am not well versed at receiving.  However, on this particular day I was forced to open myself up to accepting the gift of love and service. I embrace the United Methodist Church's mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. A few weekends ago I got to witness and receive the love of Christ through his disciples. My heart has been transformed in a way I did not think possible.

We can give of ourselves all we want to help change lives, but sometimes we have to pull back and see that there are others who are working to help change ours as well.

Remember that we all need from time to time to experience the love of Christ through our sisters and brothers.

Peace be with you my friends,

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Problem with Complacency

Lately, I've been having an issue with complacency. In Raytown, Missouri there is a hot issue about the City Government trying to sell a piece of land to Walmart. Like most people my age I'm not the biggest fan of Walmart and often get mad at myself for even walking into one. They are too dang convenient and their prescriptions are so reasonable! Agh!
The issue in Raytown right now is that some citizens want to preserve this vacant piece of land for local business. They've been crying out in uproar over it since the idea went into effect.
Here's my issue:
Why the uproar now? The Raytown Baptist Church used to stand on the site and probably about 10 years ago, the city tore the building down because of asbestos issues. And for 10 YEARS no one has had anything to do or say about this large green space. The two things that I know that occur there are the Summer Community Festival that has taken the place of Raytown Round-Up Days and the annual Raytown Easter Egg Hunt.
Now that Walmart wants to build and Raytown wants to sell, the outcry of a select few is ridiculous. Ah, complacency!
Often times we sit back, waiting for others to fix an issue, but if its not the way we want it done, then bah humbug! We want to call shenanigans. And this is an issue in all aspects of society and it makes me go crazy.  It happens in our work places, governments, churches... especially churches.

What are doing in the church? The older generation is sitting back just waiting for the younger generation to step up. However, when we do, we are pushed back and ridiculed for our efforts. This is unhealthy and does not create a sense of hospitality for people seeking spiritual guidance in their lives. Many people will walk into a church that is fraught with negativity brought on by issues of change. Many people in aging congregations wonder why new people don't come to their change. I'll tell you why, 30-somethings don't understand how the 50 to 60 year old crowd operate. We are not interested in committees and boards as ways to develop our spirituality. We want to see the church living in service to the world and being actively engaged in ministries. Jesus calls us to pick up our crosses and follow! Jesus served. The Bible doesn't mention meetings where decisions were made. Jesus worked for the transformation of hearts.

That's what the younger generation wants from church. A place to engage in spiritual development and a means to actively engage our brothers and sisters who are marginalized and suffering.

However, we are forced into our place. We are forced into areas of complacency and then we move on to where we can be active participants in the upbuilding of the realm of Heaven.

Rev. Jim Preisig in his blog writes, "most folks act as if everything will be fine, or worse yet that someone else will take care of things. Is it just possible that the world is waiting for someone like you and me to finally dare to speak up and make the changes necessary in this complacent world? (italics is my wording of Rev. Preisig's words, check out his blog here: http://www.jimpreisig.com/)

Bishop Robert Schnase encourages churches to listen to its younger leaders because we see things differently. Change can be incredibly tough especially since we are conditioned towards routines and complacency. For those sitting on church boards who are wondering when the younger people will step up, I implore you to invite those younger people you know to be in leadership roles. And when they offer you a vision slightly different from the old way of doing things, don't be afraid, give it a shot.

Change is challenging, but for the most part it creates new life and is rewarding.

Peace to all!