Monday, May 21, 2018

Pentecost Sunday-- sermon, thoughts, and reflections

#seeaheartshareaheart
Pentecost Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays to preach.  Okay, you might hear me say that quite a bit.  The truth is, preaching gives me life.  Sharing the word of God, breaking the bread of life with others is life-giving for me. Therefore, many Sundays are favorite.

Pentecost Sunday is the celebration of the beginning of the church, the birth day of the church. That is special and fun.  Then, when you read the Scripture and you read about howling winds and flames on folks' heads-- well, that stuff is pretty cool.

Several years back when I preached at Brooks Memorial as a pulpit supply lay speaker, I had created a birthday gift and brought bubbles in flame colors (red, orange, yellow) and white for the Holy Spirit.  I resurrected that aspect of that day for yesterday's sermon "Get Fired Up!"


Below you will find the sermon text, though what is written is never exactly what is said, as things are edited and adapted during the service.

You will see a picture of two people wearing red.  Wearing red for Pentecost has become a tradition in many churches and I encourage folks to do it.  I wore red too, foregoing the robe.  I wore a red cross and some new flame earrings I got at the arts festival in Mentone over the weekend.


Carmen and Cathy at FUMC on Pentecost Sunday

Since yesterday was also Heritage Sunday, I'll include a link at the bottom for information on that.

I started off the day with a great view off my deck and a "Prayer to the Holy Spirit":


"Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they 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."


An additional celebration for me yesterday was getting to cheer on the Iron Man cyclists on our way into Flintstone yesterday morning.  I enjoy encouraging them on their ride.  There were some residents on the main road in St. Elmo shouting at motorists to take Tennessee Avenue.  For us, that isn't a choice.  We would still have to cross over at some point for us to get to Chattanooga Valley Road.  We gave the cyclists the space they needed and got off the road as soon as we could, taking the back road to the church.  The Iron Man is an awesome race and it is great to see so many participate.


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“Get Fired Up!”
Acts 2:1-21(CEB)
May 20, 2018 (Pentecost, Heritage Sunday)
Flintstone UMC


1When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages. They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them? How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” 12 They were all surprised and bewildered. Some asked each other, “What does this mean?” 13 Others jeered at them, saying, “They’re full of new wine!”
14 Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, “Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! 15 These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! 16 Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
    Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young will see visions.
    Your elders will dream dreams.
18     Even upon my servants, men and women,

        I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
        and they will prophesy.
19 I will cause wonders to occur in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
20 The sun will be changed into darkness,
    and the moon will be changed into blood,
        before the great and spectacular day of the Lord comes.
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Joel 2:28-32)
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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
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Today is Pentecost Sunday.  It is also Heritage Sunday and we celebrate 50 years in the United Methodist Church.  It is truly a day of celebrating the birth of the church!  To celebrate this special birth of the church, it has become a tradition for church goers to wear red on Pentecost.  [page 22 in The United Methodist Church Handbook“Therefore, go: Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World” has a good time-line]

Today’s passage is a fairly lengthy one and we won’t be able to explore all of it.

Before we get started, we might need to look back to see what the background is for chapter 2.  What is the setting?  Who is there?  What is going on?  In Acts 1, we see that the risen Jesus is with the disciples and Jesus is instructing them on what to do next.  Jesus continues to teach the disciples and reminds them to be on the lookout for the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:3-5—“3After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1:9-10 tells us about Jesus’ ascension, which we celebrated last week on Ascension Sunday. “After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them.

Acts 1:12-13 lets us know that they are in Jerusalem, in the upper room, the same room where the last supper was held. 

When we pick up in Acts 2, we now know who is waiting, where, and why. 

Now let’s look at our passage again.  Verses 1-4—“1When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

Imagine the apostles, in the upper room and a howling wind fills the space and they saw what seemed to be flames on top of each of them.  At the same time, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages.  How would they have felt?  How would they have responded? 

This is the upper room where they had gone to get away after Jesus’ death. Jesus broke through the barriers of a locked door to get to them.  Now, Jesus has gone away for the final time and the promised helper, the Holy Spirit has come upon them. 

It wasn’t quiet nor something you could easily ignore.  Hear some of the phrases again: “Howling like a fierce wind”, “individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them”, “filled with the Holy Spirit”, “began to speak in other languages”.

This is going on in the house and it gets the attentions of others in Jerusalem who gathered around.  It was a loud noise.

Verses 5-6: “There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages.

This gift of languages here is one of known languages.  There is the gift of speaking in tongues, but that is a different gift and discussed elsewhere.  The languages here are known, yet the mystery is that there are people gathered from all over, yet they are able to understand the apostles speaking because they hear it in their native language.  The apostles didn’t speak those languages prior, but the power of the Holy Spirit upon them enabled them to communicate clearly to everyone as needed.

I will probably never forget the time I was with my French 3 students from Bryan College and I said something to one of them and she (Laurie Blanton) just looked at me funny.  She had been a missionary kid in a Middle Eastern country.  She finally said to me, you just spoke to me in Arabic.  I was blown away and confused. I didn’t know Arabic.  I knew a few terms because of Spanish, but nothing I could put together.  But she said I spoke to her in clear Arabic rather than French.  I had no clue.  Mystery.

The Holy Spirit enables us to communicate with others in ways that are meaningful to them, in their “language”, if you will.  It might take the form of a written word, a spoken word, a non-verbal communication, a number of things.  If we pay attention, we might be aware of a Holy Spirit encounter.  Sometimes, we might be the vessel, yet not even know it.  Verse 11—“we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!”

Pentecost Sunday reminds us that the power of the Holy Spirit came down, it filled the room, the whole house with its presence. It enabled and empowered the followers of Jesus to be and do what they were called to do—to spread the word about Jesus Christ to all.  They made such a ruckus that folks thought they were drunk on wine.  Peter stood before the crowds to let them know that it was not wine, but rather the Holy Spirit that was the cause of the uproar.

These apostles were literally “fired up”.  They were lit up by the Holy Spirit and allowed the Spirit to flow into them and through them. This was the beginning of their ministry with the Holy Spirit as their guide and teacher.

What was the result?  If we read further down in Acts 2, verses 42-43: 42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 43 A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles.

The same Holy Spirit that descended upon the apostles is the same one that guides, directs, and comforts us.  The Holy Spirit continues to teach us today. 

Bishop Rueben Job of the UMC reminds us, “Through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost God in Christ became available to every believer.” (217, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God)

I imagine anyone who heard about or saw the sermon from the royal wedding would recognize that Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal Church, was Spirit led.  I didn’t see it in real time, but after hearing about it, I checked it out. 

Two of his quotes that caught my attention:

“When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.”

“There’s power in love.  Love can help and heal when nothing else can.”

When we sing, say, and pray, “Come, Holy Spirit”, do we mean it? 

Are we willing to pray “Come, Holy Spirit” and allow the Holy Spirit to freely move within us—to give us dreams and visions, to show us and guide us?

As we consider the Holy Spirit coming and moving in and amongst us, hear these words of exhortation from ancient church fathers:

“It is possible either to sustain and strengthen this burning of the spirit, or to quench it.” (188)

“Cast everything aside that might extinguish this small flame which is beginning to burn within you, and surround yourself with everything which can feed and fan it into a strong fire.” (188) (A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants)

May the Holy Spirit come upon us and fire us up to live as followers of Christ, proclaiming the mighty works of God. 



In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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Worship was a blessing yesterday.  The songs dove-tailed so well, like most Sundays. The Holy Spirit works well to orchestrate this.

Here are the songs from yesterday's service:

"Soul on Fire" by Third Day


"Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" UMH 400
"Freely, Freely" UMH 389
"Spirit of the Living God" UMH 393

Here are some resource links:

Heritage Sunday UMC Resources-- from General Commission on Archives and History

Pentecost Sunday UMC Resources
On Fire!  Pentecost Worship
Pentecost 2018 Graphics and Resources

May this Pentecost season be a time when the Holy Spirit blows fresh wind through your world!

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

For some Pentecost humor, Kevin Frank's cartoon is pretty fun!

https://kevinfrank.net/

A day in Mentone for the Rhododendron Festival, May 2018

I have never been to the Rhododendron Festival in Mentone, AL before.  But since I learned that a new artist friend Donna Godwin was going to be there, some of her longer-time friends and I headed up to see her and check out the festival.



It turned out to be a gorgeous day.  And for me, it was good to be back at Brow Park.  Oddly, even though Riley and I have visited Mentone off and on, I forget to go over to Brow Park.



We ate lunch at Wildflower Cafe, my second time there.  This time we had entertainment. A gentleman with a guitar and tamborine toe-tappers.  I might add I was jealous of the tambourinne toe tappers.  He went around serenading all, even singing songs for the kids.

The festival had plants, food, art, photography, soaps, pottery, freshly roasted coffee, tie-dye, wood work, iron work, etc.  It wasn't too crowded and we ambled along, seeing the booths, smelling the aromas, and seeing the sights.


One of the aromas that got my attention was the coffee that was freshly roasted on site by Apison Creek Coffee Roasters.  I tasted a sample of the bold roast and the smooth flavor sold me on a bag.


After the festival we went over to Desoto Falls to check it out. There were folks enjoying the sun on the rocks up on the top part and folks below swimming in the big pool area.  There was a pontoon ride for 45 minutes for $15, but we didn't do that this time.  Hopefully they will be back another time.  It would be neat to go back up river without being the paddle power, as I was in my camper days.






We stopped at Miracle Pottery on our way down the mountain.

I experienced grace there.  A humbling moment of grace.  I had scoured the place for something to possibly buy, but couldn't find the right item. Then, I saw these tiny flower vases and I was going to get one for Charlie.  Charlie loves plants and flowers.  My hands got shaky with the one and only colored vase of the one I picked out and it dove to the concrete floor, chipping its rim.  I knew it now belonged to me, but the store keeper said it would go on the discount shelf, that I wasn't obligated to buy it.  Wow. Grace.  It should have been mine.  I should have had to pay for it. But I didn't.  That humbled me.  I went out to the car to check my blood sugar.  It wasn't dangerously low, but is was 115, low for me for a mid-afternoon.  I had a mint to raise it some.  I was willing to buy the chipped vase, but also glad to accept the grace extended to me in the moment to not have to buy it.

It isn't always easy to accept extended grace.  It is easier to extend it. However, receiving grace is as important as extending it.  I was humbled and blessed by that experience.

We checked out two more stores before getting on the Interstate to head back to Chattanooga.  Two antique stores.  One in Valley Head and one in Hammondville.

It was a great day of fellowship, fun, and overall peacefulness.

It was a day of enjoying the beauty of creation, art, and just being.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hixson High School Art Program Won!


https://customculture.vans.com/

I am a proud parent today.

Not just today.

I am a proud parent quite a bit of the time.

Just this week a picture came up on my Facebook timeline reminding me of Mr. Milton Hershey from the 5th grade Ganns Middle Valley Elementary Wax Museum.  Wow!  Charlie did a great job of researching Mr. Hershey, preparing for that role, and even being a still wax figure on that day.

May 16, 2012
This Vans Custom Culture competition has been a huge deal.  To go from 500 to 50 to 5 was INCREDIBLE.

You can check out their website here or read my previous blogposts on it:

Art Competition-- VOTING begins Monday, April 23rd
Update on the Vans Shoes Art Competition-- Top 5!


Today was the day that the schools would find out who won the Grand Prize of $75,000.  Charlie and the other art kids wore their newly created tie-dye shirts and Vans gear to school today in celebration of the $10,000 winnings.  The school was celebrating the students and the art program and the accomplishment of being in the top 5.

Oh, the joy of hearing my kid's voice on the phone this morning when I returned a missed phone call.  Charlie could barely speak.  Charlie was so excited to tell me that they had won!  Hixson High won the grand prize, the $75,000.  Charlie told me it was pretty loud in the gym and I couldn't really be heard on the phone, but I was still able to express my congratulations to all the art kids and I heard Charlie tell the others, 'my Mom says congratulations!'

Photo by Doug Strickland, Times-Free Press, used with permission
And then I got to see some pictures and videos posted from teachers and the PTSA President at the school.  I saw my kid holding the check high in the air and jumping up and down in the live video, surrounded by the other art students who made this possible.  They were a team of 10.  They worked collaboratively on this project.  I am proud of all of them.

Photo taken by Matt McHenry, Hixson High Band Director
My heart overflows today.  These kids poured their beings into these shoes.

I am grateful to the teachers at Hixson High School, the administration, their fellow students, the community, friends and family (near and far).  There has been SO MUCH SUPPORT for these kids!

The art teachers have taken advantage of opportunities for these students and others to enter many contests this year.  Because of the space for creativity and the push to become better artists, many students have achieved accolades this year.  I am so glad the art program is now able to move forward in pursuing equipment on their dream list so that they can continue this great path.

My kid is a rising Senior and desires to pursue a higher education degree in art.  The exact path isn't known to me, but I have no doubt that this kid can continue learning and growing.

Charlie began art at an early age and was involved in KidZart in elementary school.  Then at Hixson Middle School, Charlie had a great art teacher, Michael Weger, who taught Charlie more skills and encouraged Charlie to enter contests.  Charlie won a prize through one of those contests. 

There have been a variety of genres taken up over the years: watercolors, sculptures, photography, drawings, mixed media, short film, and I'm probably leaving out something.

Way to go, Charlie!

Way to go, Hixson High art students!  Keep reaching out to do big things!  Pursue your dreams!

Way to go, Katie Claiborne!

Way to go, Vans!  (If you didn't support the arts like this, we wouldn't be celebrating today!)

To all who have poured into Charlie's life up to this point, whether you have been a caregiver, a coach, a relative, a friend, a teacher, a pastor, a choir director, etc! THANK YOU!  You are part of Charlie's success.

Check out the Vans Custom Culture Facebook page for their updates.

Here are some pictures of the winning shoes (in case you don't want to go back and read my other posts on them):

cave shoes, photo by art student Addison

Chattanooga shoes, photo by art student Addison

Have I mentioned how proud I am of my kid?


May your journey bring you some joy today!

An overwhelmed and proud Mom!
Debra

News reports/articles:

Times-Free Press  online article from May 17, 2018 with pictures
WRCB News Channel 3 Eyewitness News Facebook page from May 17, 2018
Fox Chattanooga News Article from April 23rd with May 17th update-- Something's Afoot

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

World Needs Jesus-- new song for me

Music is a language.  For me and for many it a language of the soul. Music can soothe, inspire, encourage, take you to another place, etc.  Whether it is instrumental, with lyrics, or in a different language, songs speak to me often.

If you follow my blog, you know that.  I write about songs quite a bit.

I heard a song the other day on the radio that was new to me.  "World Needs Jesus".  I didn't catch who sang it, but I learned this morning  from multitracks.com that it was a new single this year by River Valley Worship.  They released it on March 2 through BEC Worship.  

Some of the lyrics that caught my attention from the song were "we know our world needs freedom", "hurt and broken", "let every heart turn".

Check out the lyrics:

Verse 1

When our homes are hit by heartbreak
Let Your presence meet us there
When the pain seems overwhelming
We hold onto You

Verse 2

When the streets are torn by chaos
We will be Your hands and feet
When the darkness brings division
May we be Your light

Chorus 1

We know our world needs Jesus
We know our world needs freedom
So give us eyes to see the hurting and the broken
Let our lives align with every word You say

Verse 3

When the nations ache from violence
We will be Your blessed peace
When the headlines scream injustice
May we shout Your Name

Bridge

Let every heart turn to Jesus
Let every voice sing of Your great name
Let all the earth know Your freedom
We believe for more
Let every heart turn to Jesus
Let every voice sing of Your great name
Let all the earth know Your freedom
We believe for more
We believe for more

Chorus 2

I know I need You Jesus
I know this heart needs healing
So from my knees I lift this prayer to You my Savior
For my life and for the world You're the answer
Jesus
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When you read through the lyrics, what stands out to you?  What speaks to you?

As I read through the lyrics, here are the words that stand out and speak to me:
  • heartbreak
  • pain
  • chaos
  • hands and feet
  • darkness
  • division
  • light
  • freedom
  • eyes to see
  • hurting
  • broken
  • violence
  • peace
  • injustice
  • every heart turn
  • healing

This song resonates with the truth that there is pain, brokenness, hurt, and difficulty in life.  Yet, there is also light, freedom, and healing.  

I constantly pray for eyes to see the hurting and the broken, to be the hands and feet, to be the light in the darkness, to receive healing, and to bring healing.

Wherever you find yourself on your journey, may you know most of all that you are not alone.  There are others who have walked the same journey before you or are walking it now.  Whatever your darkness, pain, or brokenness is, there is light, freedom, and healing.  

As I listen to this song and think about the 'eyes of the heart' and the 'light' I think back to Ephesians that I preached this past week.  

Ephesians 1:18 (NLT)-- "I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called-- his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance."

You can listen to the song below.  There are two versions.  The first has lyrics. The second is the lead vocalist and a guitar player.  




Blessings on your journey, 

Debra

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Prayer for the Church-- yesterday's sermon

I wasn't supposed to be back in the pulpit yesterday.  But when I learned that my hip surgery was postponed, I scheduled myself back in the rotation so my co-pastor wouldn't have to move to a 2nd church on the Sunday his daughter was being baptized.  Since we had the early 10 a.m. services covered, I took the 11 a.m. service at Simpson UMC.  I hadn't been to Simpson in several weeks, so I was looking forward to being back there plus because I was going to only be there, it was going to be a rare occasion to attend the prayer group and a Sunday School class.  Because we travel there from another church typically, those opportunities don't happen.  Only once before when I first began this appointment was I able to attend a Sunday School class at Simpson and be there only.  We did that intentionally when I began the appointment to give me a chance to get to know people.

It was good to be able to be with the prayer group and the Sunday School class yesterday.  Both encouraged my heart.  It was good to be back in the pulpit yesterday.  I hadn't preached in a couple of weeks. The last Sunday of April I was at Women of Joy. And since my surgery was supposed to be on May 2nd, I had planned to be out on May 6th. Since we had a special guest planned for Flintstone UMC and my step daughter was in town, I took that as a vacation Sunday.  Planning for sermons and preaching itself gives me life, so it was good to be back doing a portion of what God has called me to be and do.

I had chosen the Scripture passage from the Ascension text passages from the lectionary readings, Ephesians 1:15-23.  The special music during the worship service was a song dedicated to mothers, but it dovetailed nicely with verses 15 and 16, "Every Time I Think of You".

Though this sermon was preached at Simpson UMC and has examples pertaining to its particular location, one can easily think of their particular location and community as they vision with the eyes of their heart.

In preparing the sermon, I kept hearing a clip of "resurrection power" running through my head.  I looked it up, learned that it was a Chris Tomlin song, and that it was just released this past January.  I shared some of the lyrics that are in the sermon notes.  There will be a video to watch at the end of this post.

As with any sermon, what I have written in advance is not necessarily what is shared in person. In the case of this particular sermon, I edited several things, but I'm not adding them in to the written sermon.  I added in some extra examples of community and I mentioned the Sunday School lesson we had earlier in the morning and the special music.  It is always a blessing to me when the Holy Spirit helps dovetail the service and details.

This prayer for the church that Paul had for the Ephesians is a prayer for all of us.  It's a prayer to live into.  May it be so.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra


“A Prayer for the Church”
Ephesians 1:15-23 (CEB)
May 13, 2018 (Ascension Day, 7th Sunday of Easter, Mother’s Day)
Simpson UMC

Ephesians 1:15-23 (CEB)

15 Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that 16 I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers,19 and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength. 20 God’s power was at work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and sat him at God’s right side in the heavens,21 far above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power, any power that might be named not only now but in the future. 22 God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, 23 which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.
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THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.

THANKS BE TO GOD.
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Today is the 7th Sunday of Easter.  Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed. Every day we live as Resurrection people.  How does this change the way we live?

Today is also Ascension Day in the church calendar and Mother’s Day in the general calendar.  We have much to celebrate.  On Ascension Day we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. For Mother’s Day we celebrate all who are moms or mom figures and role models to others.  We also recognize that this is not an easy day for those unable to have children or who have lost their moms.

As we look at today’s Scripture passage, what message does Paul have for the Ephesians that we can apply for our lives?  How can Paul’s prayer to the church help us put things into perspective for ourselves?

This prayer by Paul is a word of thanksgiving and prayer. He begins with the prayer in thanksgiving for a faithful and loving community:  verses 15-16 “15 Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that 16 I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers.

Paul recognized the things that had been accomplished in Ephesus.  Think back a year here at Simpson.  It was a year ago May that we had the transformation in the sanctuary and rededicated it on Pentecost Sunday.  The faith in the Lord Jesus and the love for all God’s people is evident as we seek to make this place hospitable and welcome to all.  The nursery is being completed and we continue to look at how we can be a better facility to serve our community.

Paul goes on to pray in verses 17-18: “17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers,

Here Paul asks for wisdom, revelation, and vision, for the eyes of the heart to see God’s call.

What a prayer!

Paul prayed that for the Ephesians in Ephesus.  Think about what that might mean for those hear in Rossville, for those at Simpson.  What wisdom, revelation, and vision, what eyes of the heart to see God’s call do we need in order to carry out God’s work in this community with the resources God has provided us?

When you pray for this community, what wisdom, revelation, and vision do you have?  When you pray for God to use this church to work in and with this community, what do you see with the eyes of your heart?  What is God making known to us here?

We know the basic vision of the overall church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Yet, what can we do as Simpson UMC, in our unique setting, with our unique gifts, graces, and resources to join with God in kingdom work in this community?  How can we shine the light out of the darkness on this corner of the community and be a light of hope in the community? 

This ability to have a vision, to see with the eyes of the heart, is crucial to our spiritual health. 

Without a vision we will perish.  If we don’t recognize the gifts God has given us and if we don’t use them for his glory and the good of the kingdom, then we aren’t living into our full potential as light bearers or Christ followers.

We are called to envision what God has for us. By living into that vision we will fulfill the calling God has for us.  We can become the hope for others in the community as we continue to discern how to use our building and grounds, how to reach out to the community, how to share the love of Christ in community, how to work with other churches and organizations to accomplish more in community. 

Jesus modeled to us how to be the church and how to grow in our discipleship.  When he ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came to be our teacher to give us wisdom and to teach us. 

We are the hands and feet of Christ to do the work in the kingdom on earth. We are tasked to do our part, under the headship of Christ’s rule. Verses 22-23: “22 God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, 23 which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.

Because of Christ, we have “Resurrection Power”. Listen to these words by Chris Tomlin’s song that came out earlier this year:

[Verse 1]
You called me from the grave by name
You called me out of all my shame
I see the old has passed away
The new has come!
[Chorus 1]
Now I have resurrection power
Living on the inside
Jesus, You have given us freedom
No longer bound by sin and darkness
Living in the light of Your goodness
You have given us freedom
[Verse 2]
That I’m dressed in Your royalty
Your Holy Spirit lives in me
And I see my past has been redeemed
The new has come!
[Chorus 1]
Now I have resurrection power
Living on the inside
Jesus, You have given us freedom
I’m no longer bound by sin and darkness
Living in the light of Your goodness
You have given us freedom
[Bridge]
Freedom, You have given us freedom
You have given us freedom, my chains are gone!
Freedom, You have given us freedom
You have given us freedom, hallelujah!
Freedom, You have given us freedom
You have given us freedom, my chains are gone!
Freedom, You have given us freedom
You have given us freedom, hallelujah!
[Chorus 2]
Now I have resurrection power
Living on the inside
Now, I’m no longer bound by sin and darkness
Living in the light of Your goodness
You have given us freedom!
Now I have resurrection power
Living on the inside
Jesus, You have given us freedom
Now, I’m no longer bound by sin and darkness
Living in the light of Your goodness
You have given us freedom!
[Outro]
I have resurrection power
Living on the inside
Living on the inside!
No longer bound by sin and darkness
You have given us freedom
You have given us freedom!

As we recognize today that Christ has indeed risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and offers us an ongoing relationship of grace and freedom with himself, God, and the Holy Spirit, how will you (how will I) respond to that continuing beckoning of relationship? Will you and I seek to continue to grow deeper in our faith?

How will we respond to following Christ’s call to follow him into the community, to be the church he has called us to be?

May we continue to grow in our faith and may that faith be lived out so this community is drawn to the light and love of Jesus Christ that shines in and through each of us.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.