Thursday, August 29, 2019

Bamboo Encounter-- August 24

The 4th Bamboo Encounter  held at Reflection Riding was last Saturday, on August 24th, making it the end of our first quarter.  Things have been a little busy in my life as you might notice that the only blog posts currently are Bamboo Encounter posts.  That doesn't mean I don't have more to write or say; it just means I don't have the time, space, or energy to do it right yet.  

So, here is the Bamboo Encounter from Saturday, August 24th. You will find pictures here, a link to the song we sang at the end, the order of worship, the opening prayer, etc.  If you go to the Bamboo Encounter Facebook page, you can see photos that others have tagged "Bamboo Encounter" and reflections from others.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning for our last meeting of summer.  Our next meeting will be in the fall month of September, on the 4th Saturday.  There was a threat of rain and storms for later in the afternoon, but we weren't hit by those.  We experienced some breezes inside the bamboo and were able to hear the blowing of the leaves and the clacking of the bamboo.

There were eight of us humans total gathered, with a sweet furry friend who joined us.  I knew from several people that weren't able to make it out that day for various reasons.  There was someone new that came out that day.  One never knows who or how many will be able to make it.  And that's really okay.

Once I get into the bamboo and get things set up-- the welcome table and the Eucharist table, then I am able to enter into the calm and peace that the bamboo offer.  

I recently read a great article that explains physiologically why being under a tree covering calms folks.  Though this isn't that same article (I think I posted it on Bamboo Encounter's page), this is a good one to read: "Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health".

The opening prayer for the morning: 

"Creator God, as we come into the bamboo in this final month of summer, help us to set aside all distractions and concerns to be open to your presence, preparing our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls to recognize your presence in our midst.  May we connect with you in this space-- whether in the silence, the rustling of leaves, the knocking of the bamboo, the spoken word, or through one another.  Amen." (DD--8/20/19)

[I did edit it while I was praying it to include Gracie, our furry friend who was with us that morning.]

Scriptures for the day:

1 Kings 4:29, 33-34 (CEB)
29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and very great understanding—insight as long as the seashore itself. 33 He described the botany of trees, whether the cedar in Lebanon or the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He also described cattle, birds, anything that crawls on the ground, and fish. 34 People came from everywhere to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; even the earth’s kings who had heard about his wisdom came!

Psalm 104:19 (CEB)-- 19 God made the moon for the seasons,
    and the sun too, which knows when to set.

I encouraged all to go back and read the rest of Psalm 104 at some point because reading Scripture outdoors that talks about nature adds to the reading and living of it.

I said this: "Reading the Scripture outdoors helps us embody it.  It comes to life."

And I shared a quote:  “Nature, as it tells the story of an outdoor Creator and as it mirrors Scripture, is not limited to any particular denomination, church, or rite.” Steven Chase, Nature as Spiritual Practice, 62)

Then I shared this short reading/quote from Thomas à Kempis  about God's creation: "If your heart is straight with God, then every creature will be to you a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine.  No creature is so little or so mean as not to sow forth and represent the goodness of God.” Imitation of Christ, p. 114 (from Nature as Spiritual Practice

We had a time of silence and reflection and then a time of sharing.  That time of sharing in community is one of my favorite times as folks share (as they wish) what came to them during the readings or during the silence.  It is very holy time for me.

After the sharing from reflection time we share Holy Communion, Holy Eucharist.  The Scripture verses for this gathering: 

John 6:33,35 and 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 Common English Bible (CEB)

33 The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

16 Isn’t the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Isn’t the loaf of bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share the one loaf of bread.

After sharing at the table, we sing a song, share the closing prayer, and we part.

The song this past gathering was a Taizé song by Jacques Berthier: "Bless the Lord"

Bless the Lord, my soul,
And bless God’s holy name
Bless the Lord, my soul,
Who leads me into life

The blessing that we read in unison for the closing of our time together:

Blessing— (from Church of the Woods, a program of Kairos Earth)
God’s Blessing be with you,
Christ’s peace be upon you,
The Spirit’s outpouring be within you and amongst you,
This day and always. AMEN.

If anyone who attended this gathering or any of the others would like to comment on their experiences in the bamboo, I invite you to do so.  

The worship is the bamboo has been life giving for me and I'm grateful for the seed planted and the wildness to step out in faith to try something new.



Saturday, July 27, 2019

Bamboo Encounter-- July 27

Today was our third meeting in the bamboo.  We are a new outdoor worship service, in that regard.  However, the Bamboo Encounter has been out on Facebook since January 2019, sharing uplifting quotes, verses, and photos to let people know it is here in the Chattanooga, TN area.  Bamboo Encounter is also listed on the Wild Church Network website.  That is how three of the 15 people found us yesterday and came to join us today inside the bamboo for worship.

I am still (happily) surprised that folks join me to worship Creator God in the bamboo each month.  I never know who or how many are coming to join me and Riley.  Though I did eventbrite tickets for the first month, I haven't done it again, simply for time reasons.  I will try to get back to that though.  It's not about who comes out to the bamboo.  I know it's not about me and I say so, every time.  It's about the Holy Spirit creating a space for us.  I said "yes" and opened up the opportunity for others.  Others are saying yes too.  When others do say "yes" it is such a humbling and meaningful experience in the bamboo as we gather together to worship Creator God, to listen, and to share.

Today was a great experience, just as the other two months have been.  There wasn't much of a breeze inside the bamboo today, so hand fans might have been nice (note to the leader) :).  We did have lots of shade cover from the bamboo. 

There were 15 total today in the bamboo, counting myself.  I sign in, just like everyone else since I keep track of how many attend, in case I need to pay extra.  Five of the 15 were first-timers today.  That is pretty neat.

After we arrive and settle in from signing in and getting name tags, we spend a little time going over what is coming and then begin in silence.  Today we could "check-in" on Facebook since I added the address.  Yes, I asked folks to check in on social media.  (Thanks to those who were able to do so!)

Today's opening prayer was similar to those I've used in the past, just modified slightly:

Creator God, as we come into the bamboo today, meet us where we are.  We ask that you quiet our hearts, our minds, our souls, helping us to set aside all distractions and concerns.  As we become silent in this space, speak to us in the quiet rustling of the leaves or in the singing of the bamboo.  May we be open to your presence in this space through the silence, the spoken word, your creation, and one another.  Amen. (DD-7/25/19)

Today's Scripture readings were from Isaiah 61:11 and Psalm 19:1:

Isaiah 61:11 (NAB)—(New American Bible)—“As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, So will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.”

Psalm 19:1 (CEB)-- Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
    the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.

Then I shared a quote/reading from Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologian, that I had found in Earth Gospel, a great resource for outdoor churches or folks who love creation. (I've read a book on sacraments by Boff in the past and enjoyed his work.  I recently picked up a creation book by him, but haven't read it yet.)

“Above all, we should see the creation as the expression of God’s joy, as the dance of God’s love, as the mirror of both God and all created things.  In this sense every creature is a messenger of God, and God’s representative as well as sacrament.  Everyone is worthy and is to be accepted and listened to as such.” (173)

After these readings, we had a time of silence.  After the time of silence, we had a time of sharing.  During the sharing time, about a handful of people shared what the readings had spoken to them, or what they had heard in the silence, or why they had come.  This time of sharing is a big part of our time together.  It isn't mandatory.  It is by invitation.  Yet, it is this time of openness and sharing that we learn from one another.  Next to the silence and sharing communion together, it's one of my favorite parts.

Today's communion Scripture came from 1 Corinthians 10:16-17:

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 Common English Bible (CEB)

16 Isn’t the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Isn’t the loaf of bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share the one loaf of bread.
After communion we sang "Alleluia" by Jerry Sinclair (1972).  I like to keep the singing portions simple in the bamboo, mainly because I'm leading and we're singing acapella.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,
alleluia, alleluia,alleluia, alleluia.

We closed with a blessing from the Iona Community that we said together.  I found it in Earth Gospel too, page 81:

Bless to us, O God,
the moon that is above us,
the earth that is beneath us,
the friends who are around us,
your image deep within us,


To those who were able to make it to the bamboo today, thank you for joining me to worship Creator God today.  For those who couldn't make it today, I hope to see you next time.  For those who haven't made it yet, we meet every 4th Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in the bamboo patch on the hill at Reflection Riding.  Check out the event pages on the Bamboo Encounter Facebook page for more information (as well as the posts there and brochure).

Enjoy these additional pictures from today's Bamboo Encounter.

See you in the bamboo,


Monday, June 24, 2019

Bamboo Encounter-- June 22

Our second gathering in the bamboo was this past Saturday, June 22.

We had 10 people and 1 cute dog.  She was an adorable little dog named Riley.  That was fun because then there were two named Riley at the service.

As we gathered together in the bamboo for the 2nd time for Bamboo Encounter, I didn't know what to expect.  I had an order of service, a guideline, and I knew where I thought it was headed, but I didn't know who all would come or how it might go.

Ginger came in doing a Facebook live video, which was a neat way to show the surrounding area and how to enter into the bamboo.  As she entered into the space, she caught me and Riley setting up the table for the service and let us know we were on video.  She asked what could be expected in the Bamboo Encounter service.  I said something to the effect of 'Scripture, silence, sharing, and communion.'  And then I added, 'you can expect the unexpected.'  As I have thought about that more, that is true.  When we surrender to the Holy Spirit, we can expect the unexpected.  Unexpected insight from the collected community, unexpected breezes, unexpected sounds from unknown species of birds, unexpected guests, etc.  It seems to me that as we expect the unexpected, we create a space of hospitality and openness.

Even though we've only met twice now in the bamboo, these monthly gatherings have encouraged my spirit and given me a place to share my faith with others who desire to worship God the Creator in creation.

As we continue to gather in the bamboo, I hope others who desire to share on this journey in the space will find their way there.

The Bamboo Encounter Facebook page has photos, posts, and a brochure.  You can access it by clicking HERE, even if you don't "do" Facebook.

Below you will find the Scripture readings and additional reading from this past Saturday.  Included you will also find some pictures I took and  two JPGs: one of the Psalm 46:10 "hour glass prayer" that was part of the service and another of the reading I shared.

If you (or someone you know) is interested in this outdoor worship service at the Bamboo Encounter, which is part of the Wild Church Network, come check it out.  We meet the 4th Saturday of the month at 11:30 a.m. at Reflection Riding, 400 Garden Road, Chattanooga, TN.

Here is the opening prayer from Saturday:

"God of creation, we come today into the bamboo to quieten our hearts, our minds, our souls.  As we become silent in this space, speak to us in the quiet rustling or in the loud clacking of the bamboo.  May we be open to your presence in the silence, the spoken word, your creation, and one another.  Amen." (Debra Dickerson, 5/29/19)


Psalm 46:10—as an hourglass prayer:

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be still.
Be still and know.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 1:3 (CEB)--  They are like a tree replanted by streams of water,
    which bears fruit at just the right time
    and whose leaves don’t fade.
        Whatever they do succeeds.

Additional reading:  This was something we were asked to bring to the Wild Church Network, a writing from our place of worship.  I spent some time in the bamboo prior to going to the retreat and this is what came of my time in the bamboo:

"Our brown, dried leaves provide a floor covering for you. Our tall stalks lean into one another to shade you from the sun and provide shelter from the rain. Birds make their home in our midst and provide you with song. When the wind blows through us, you hear the many sounds from the old and the young as they combine together.  Some of us are bent. Some of us are broken. Some of us are no longer living, yet we are all here together.  Do you recognize us?  Do you honor us?  Will you join us in offering praise to the Creator?”
~The Bamboo, transcribed by Debra Dickerson-- 6/1/19

The communion Scripture passage came from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:

23 I received a tradition from the Lord, which I also handed on to you: on the night on which he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread. 24 After giving thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.”25 He did the same thing with the cup, after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do this to remember me.”26 Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes.

As I uncovered the bread and cup, I noticed a black ant had already been through the self serve line for the bread and was scurrying away with a tiny morsel of bread.  I gently moved the ant from the plate, so as to not offer protein along with the bread.

After sharing our gluten free bread (which was really good and a new brand for me-- Schär) and fruit of the vine, we closed with this Taizé song by Jacques Berthier: "Jesus, Remember Me":

Before I close out this post, let me give a "shout out" to Reflection Riding. Reflection Riding put out the white event signs again along the driving route, which is very helpful in guiding folks to the bamboo.  The hospitality of Reflection Riding has been tremendous and I look forward to spending more time in personal nature therapy there, as well as working with them in their endeavors.  If you haven't been to Reflection Riding ever or recently, I encourage you to go, even if you don't come to the Bamboo Encounter.

Peace on this adventurous journey!


Father's Day Sunday-- Last Sunday in the Holston Georgia Parish--- "Love Poured Out"

I'm about a week behind in getting last week's sermon posted.  It has been a busy week.  I moved out of both my offices last week (Simpson and Flintstone) and turned in my keys.  I moved those things to my new office at St. Elmo, but I haven't started organizing just yet.  I got to meet folks from theater camp last week at the new appointment while I was doing the moving out and moving in.  I also had some visits in the current, almost over appointment.  It's that in-between time, transition time.

All that to say why I didn't get a post done about my final sermon in the Holston Georgia Parish.  I did, however, get the sermons posted on our Facebook pages, as is our custom.

On June 16th I preached at Fort Oglethorpe UMC and Simpson UMC for my final Sunday.  As I already wrote, June 9th was my final Sunday at Flintstone UMC.  My final sermon on Father's Day/Trinity Sunday/Peace with Justice Sunday was "Love Poured Out".

The transcript will be below, underneath the two recorded sermons.

At FOUMC, DooNa played "The Summons" (also known as "Will You Come and Follow Me?" by John Bell on the piano in the prelude.  That was meaningful to me.  What a song for me to hear on the Sunday I was leaving.  I don't think we've sung it there, but I have used it at Flintstone and I have already asked for it to be used on my first Sunday at St. Elmo.  I was a little taken aback, yet in a good way, to hear it that morning.

Though the congregation didn't hear the lyrics that morning to the song, they heard the tune.  I will share both with you here.


Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.


The entire service flowed well.  It was, for me, love poured out, as I shared the gospel message, the good news of Christ's love once again in a community in which I had served for four years.  I don't think I will ever forget meeting Sorie and Sky and learning that Sorie means "sound".  I met the other young people, some who've graduated and moved on, some who just graduated, and some who are still in school (high school and college). Those "kids" hold a special place in my heart, as I got to hang out some with them on a few activities over the years.

In four years there are many memories, people, and situations that flash through your mind.

After I finished the sermon and I cut off the recorder, I gave a final exhortation.  I can't really remember it, but it was something to the tune that they continue to grow and be the church that God is calling them to be, to not quit, etc.  When I finished, they broke out in spontaneous applause.  That caught me by surprise, as I gathered my things and headed down the aisle, taking off my microphone, to go to the next church for my final sermon. It was a moment of recognizing that love had been poured out.  God's love was in that place.

Getting to church #2 always means traffic on highway 2, refocusing and allowing the Holy Spirit to be the ongoing guide.  It wasn't any different as we headed to Simpson that day.  We got there and Riley dropped me off so I could go in the front doors to get the microphone.  I usually get there in time for announcements and sometimes I would even be in there before the choir.  But not on that Sunday.  The choir was there already.  They had already begun the service.  The worship leader was the SPRC Chair that day.  I got called up to the podium and was surprised with a plaque of recognition.  We had already celebrated our time as pastors in the churches, so this was not expected.  It was another humbling experience.

There were some folks on vacation from the choir, but their special music was beautiful.  I have always been proud of that choir.  They may be small in number, but they do very well with what they have.  They sing their hearts out.

At the benediction time, I took a moment of pastor privilege to exhort and encourage this congregation.  As at the other church, it wasn't planned.  It was more Holy Spirit stream.  I recognized that things hadn't always been easy these past four years, but we had all grown through them.  I recognized that some were sad to see me go and others were happy.  No matter where any one was on that spectrum, it was okay.  Because it's not about me anyway.  It's about God.  Out of nowhere, the communion liturgy phrase "In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven." came from my lips.  As I have reflected on that, that isn't such a bad benediction.  I know that I am forgiven as well.  I encouraged them to continue to be the church God wants them to be in that community.  I have much hope for that church that sits on the corner in a community that needs the love and light of Christ poured into it.

As always, the sermon transcript isn't exactly what is shared on any given morning, but it gives you a good idea of the sermon.  The recordings from each church aren't always the same either.  I share different things, depending on the moving and leading of the Holy Spirit. 

Maybe there is something here for you-- from the songs, the Scriptures, the thoughts, or reflections.  I don't know.  I continue to blog to get it out of me to make space for what's next.

Peace on the ongoing adventurous journey,


Recorded sermons:

Fort Oglethorpe Recorded Sermon

Simpson Recorded Sermon


“Love Poured Out”
Romans 5:1-5 (CEB)
June 16th, 2019 (Peace with Justice Sunday/Father’s Day/Trinity Sunday/1st Sunday after Pentecost)
Fort Oglethorpe UMC / Simpson UMC

Romans 5:1-5 (CEB)
1 Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
THANKS BE TO GOD.                      
The title for today’s sermon comes from verse 5: “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (CEB)

Last week we celebrated Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit came down upon the people and the church came to life.  The breath of the Holy Spirit that gave life to the church then continues to give it now. 

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday (along with Peace with Justice Sunday, Father’s Day, and the 1st Sunday after Pentecost).  Trinity Sunday, always celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost, is a day in which  we celebrate the three persons of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

As a member of the trinity, we recognize that the Holy Spirit is an active presence in and among the followers of Christ.  It is a matter of listening, paying attention, and responding to, and joining in with what the Holy Spirit is trying to do.

As we dig into today’s passage, we will explore several questions:

*What does it mean that the Holy Spirit has poured God’s love into our hearts?

*How do we live as people who have God’s love poured into our hearts?

*When you think about “love poured out”, what comes to mind?  (Pause) 

Starting with the last question, for me, I think of Jesus pouring out his life, because of love, for us.  He poured out his life in three years of ministry, as he taught those who had ears to hear.  He shared parables, he took them with him to the mountain to pray and to get away from the crowd.  He tried to show them by example how to live and love and do ministry.  He tried to tell them what was going to happen, but they didn’t quite get it.  He prayed for them and for those who would come after them (including us) in John 17:20—“20 “I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word.

Go back and read the surrounding verses to get a better feel for it, but Jesus is praying a ripple effect prayer here.

Going back to the first question, “what does it mean that the Holy Spirit has poured God’s love into our hearts?”

I think we can answer that by looking at Jesus’ life.  Jesus lived his life poured out in love, to the point that he gave up his life for us.  This is God’s love poured out for us as well. 

John 3:16-17—“16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

This life poured out for us is a pouring out of love.  What does it mean to be “poured out”?

Philippians 2:6-8 reminds us that even though Jesus was part of the Trinity, as God, Jesus poured himself out to the point of emptying himself:

6Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
        he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.

As we reflect about what it means to live a life of love poured out, let’s look at the rest of today’s passage.  This will help us answer the second question we heard earlier: “How do we live as people who have God’s love poured into our hearts?”

In verses 3 and 4, we see a string of situations that connect each other by what they produce.  Does this relate to us today or is this just a message for those then?


How often do you see “trouble” connected to “hope”?  Some versions use the word “suffering”.  How do we gain hope from trouble or suffering?

Paul is showing us a different way to live here, a different way of seeing things.  He is reminding us that trouble and suffering can produce endurance, which in turn produces character, which leads to hope.  Though this is counter cultural, counter cultural living isn’t new with Jesus nor is it new with his followers.  What is even more countercultural here is found in the beginning of verse 3 where we are told to “take pride in our troubles” (CEB) or “boast in our sufferings” (NRSV). It is difficult enough to think that we can derive hope from our troubles and sufferings, but that we are to take pride and boast in them?!?!

Professor Linda Thomas reminds us that “the strains and frictions in life help us grow stronger and build our character, especially our patience—the capacity to have endurance, staying power, resilience, and fortitude.” (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 42.)

Paul reminds us in today’s passage that sufferings and troubles are not wasted.  They are used to grow us as disciples of Christ, into whom the Holy Spirit has poured God’s love.  As disciples of Christ, we are called to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.

Because of Christ’s poured out love for us, we can pour out love for others.

Professor Michael Jinkins notes:
“Because we belong to God in Christ, because God has poured his love into our hearts, that which we suffer can produce patient endurance.  This endurance can form the character of the God who gives God’s self away for us all, and this character produces hope, hope that we will never disappoint because God is more faithful than we can ever imagine.” (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 42.)

Even though we face difficult times, may we recognize that we have the love of God poured into us through the Holy Spirit.

May we pour out that love so that the love and light of Christ will be evident in our words and through our deeds.

So be it.

Call to Worship:

L: How shall we describe the concept of Trinity?
P: In the first "person" we find God the creator
L: In the second "person" we discover Jesus the Redeemer
P: In the third "person" we greet the Holy Spirit, the Guardian and Guide.
L: There are so many ways to describe the work and witness of God.
P: The Trinity helps us to understand the nature of God. AMEN.

~Nancy Townley

Songs at FOUMC:

Opening Song:

UMH #64 ("Holy, Holy, Holy) [I enjoy singing the "left side of the page-- Spanish!]

"Open the Eyes of My Heart"

"This I Believe"

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Pentecost Sunday-- sermon and service

Today was my last service at Flintstone United Methodist and it was Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church.  Pentecost is a fun Sunday for worship and for preaching.  Well, most Sundays are... especially when the songs and service come together and flow.  Today was one of those days.  Things flowed... from the songs we sang, to what the Spirit brought about.  It was a good time of worship.

We had a member join the church today and that was a gift.  Another gift was a young man whom I baptized my first "Baptism of the Lord" Sunday in the parish, when I happened to be at Flintstone UMC. He has grown quite a bit these past several years.  When I gave an invitation for anointing and prayer at the end of the sermon, he was one of a railing full who came forward.  What a moment to pray for him and anoint him, thinking back to that day several years ago in January 2016.  It was also meaningful for me to pray for each and every one who was at that altar for anointing and prayer.  What a humbling and powerful experience.

At the very end of the service, I was asked to come up front so that they could pray for me.  I tossed my vial of anointing oil to the lay leader of the day, Mary Beth, and she caught it. I asked her to anoint me as they prayed for me and Riley at the close of the service.  It was a first for her and it caught her off guard.  But it was one of those moments in which the Spirit was moving. 

That happened often at the "little rock church".  I have many wonderful memories of Holy Spirit moments in services where things just flowed well, "home runs" as David would say. 

What an incredible four years to be in mission and ministry with those folks at Flintstone as we were led together by God's Spirit.

The sermon was "Led By God's Spirit" from Romans 8:14-17.

You can hear the recorded sermon by clicking on this link for the sermon: "Led By God's Spirit".

Here is the transcript for the sermon:

“Led By God’s Spirit”
Romans 8:14-17 (NRSV)
June 9th, 2019 (Pentecost Sunday)
Flintstone UMC

Romans 8:14-17 (NRSV)

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
THANKS BE TO GOD.                      
In our call to worship this morning, the leader invited the Holy Spirit to come, along with additional words to ignite our hearts, fill us, and be with us.  We responded to each one. Yet, what we didn’t do as a whole was to invite the Holy Spirit to come.  I want to give each of us the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit free reign as we continue our worship this morning.  Will you join me in saying: “Come, Holy Spirit!”. [“Come, Holy Spirit!”]

Will you pray with me?

“God of wind, word, and fire, we bless your name this day
   for sending the light and strength of your Holy Spirit.
We give you thanks for all the gifts, great and small,
   that you have poured out upon your children.
Accept us with our gifts
   to be living praise and witness to your love throughout all the earth;
through Jesus Christ, who lives with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
   one God, for ever. Amen.”  (Don E. Saliers, U.S.A. 20th CENT.) BOW 408

Today is Pentecost Sunday.  From the site glossary ( “One of the principal days of the Christian year, celebrated on the fiftieth day after Easter. The Greek word pentecoste means "fiftieth day." Pentecost is the day on which the Christian church commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and others assembled in Jerusalem. It marks the beginning of the Christian church and the proclamation of its message throughout the world and is often referred to as the birthday of the church. The liturgical color for Pentecost is red. Traditionally, Pentecost has been a day for baptisms. Because it was the custom in the early church for persons being baptized to wear white robes or clothing, the day also became known as Whitsunday, a contraction of white Sunday.” 

When we are baptized, we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)

The place of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in our faith journey, in our churches, in everything is undeniable and something to which we are well advised to pay more attention.

As we become quiet and posture ourselves to listen to the Spirit, we are more likely to hear what is being said.

This past week I spent time at a retreat center in Wisconsin with other pastors and leaders who have been led by the Spirit to start outdoor worship services, outdoor churches.  It was an amazing opportunity to gather, to listen, to worship, to hear the stories of how the Spirit has been moving in and among people.  There are Lutheran, Mennonite, Episcopal, UCC, and Methodist folks involved.  To hear the stories of the different beginnings reminded me quite a bit of the early church and Pentecost.  The church began at Pentecost, as we see from the other Lectionary readings for today. (Acts 2:1-21) 

Verse 17— ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 

There are dreams and visions coming to life as people listen to the Holy Spirit and respond to the nudging.  I have shared with you before about my time in the bamboo at Reflection Riding and how that experience has become an outdoor worship service.  I had no idea in the beginning that seeds were being planted for such a thing.  When things began stirring more inside me, I questioned and doubted some, but decided to trust and obey and see what the Spirit was doing.  It was humbling and encouraging to gather in the bamboo that first Saturday with others for worship, recognizing that the nudging of the Holy Spirit inside me was coming to life.

It isn’t easy to take those steps of risk in the faith.  I imagine it wasn’t easy back in the day when the church first began.  As you look at the Acts 2 passage, you will notice that folks were bewildered by what was going on.  They couldn’t understand.  Some people even condemned those who were responding to the Holy Spirit.  Yet, the Spirit continued to work and the people responded.

Our focus passage in Romans today reminds us that all who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s children. 

There is encouragement and affirmation in that statement that comes from Romans 8:14.

As God’s children, we are adopted (15) and we are heirs (17).  This is good news! 

As God’s children, who are led by God’s Spirit, here are some questions:

*Where is the Spirit leading you individually?
*Where is the Spirit leading you as a congregation?
*How will you respond to the Spirit, individually and as a congregation?

Think on these questions for a moment. [Repeat the questions. Allow for quiet reflection for a moment.] [Allow for sharing, if led by the Spirit.  Use the hand held microphone.]

I close with this prayer that we pray on Emmaus weekends:

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy your consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

As we sing the song of discipleship, I invite you to come to the altar to pray, to covenant with the Holy Spirit to work together in whatever you are being led. [offer anointing]

In the name of God, the Creator, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Songs from today:

"A Hymn of Pentecost"

"Refiner's Fire"

"As The Deer"

"I Love You Lord"

I love you Lord, and I lift my voice, to worship you, oh my soul, rejoice, take joy my king, in what you hear, may it be a sweet, sweet, sound, in your ear.   

In preparation for today's worship, I created this from the Emmaus prayer and using a photo from the Wild Church Network retreat I took this past week:

Pictures from today:

me and Riley before heading to church this morning-- #wearred #pentecost

sharing how we are led by the Spirit
children helping children moment
new member