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

Monday, June 3, 2019

"Be Made One"-- yesterday's sermon from John 17: 20-26

Yesterday I was at Fort Oglethorpe UMC for communion Sunday, the 7th Sunday of Easter, and Ascension Sunday.  The preaching focus wasn't really on the Ascension, though one could note that if we are focusing on Christ, then it all fits together, somehow.  I did share a little about the Ascension.

In this post I will include the songs that were sung, the bulletin cover, and a few reflections.

This wasn't my last Sunday at Fort Oglethorpe UMC, but it was my last communion Sunday.  In fact, that means it was my last communion Sunday in the parish.  Unfortunately, I didn't think about that the last time I was at Flintstone and Simpson for communion, which was Easter Sunday.  If I had, I might have done things differently.

I didn't really do things differently yesterday at FOUMC, except that I offered the opportunity for folks to be anointed with oil and receive prayer after they received communion, if they would like. At FOUMC, the laity serve communion, so that freed me up to offer oil and prayer.  I have offered both at the other churches in the past.  I may have done so at FOUMC too, but I don't recall in the moment.

From my perspective, yesterday was a meaningful worship experience-- from the songs sung, to the music played during communion-- mother and daughter combination of piano and violin, respectively, to the prayer for the mission buckets, to the sharing of communion at the table, to the hearing of the word, to visiting with folks before and after the service, etc.  (Not in that order.)

Below is the transcript of the sermon, the recorded sermon, the songs sung/played during the sermon, and the bulletin cover.

May you find something to encourage and edify you in your journey,



Recorded sermon: "Be Made One"

“Be Made One”
John 17:20-26 (CEB)
June 2nd, 2019 (Communion Sunday/7th Sunday of Easter)
Fort Oglethorpe UMC

John 17:20-26 (CEB)

20 “I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. 21 I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22 I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. 23 I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you gave me to be with me where I am. Then they can see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, even the world didn’t know you, but I’ve known you, and these believers know that you sent me. 26 I’ve made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.”
THANKS BE TO GOD.                      
Today is the 7th and final Sunday in Easter. 

Today is also considered Ascension Sunday, with Ascension being Thursday, May 30. [explain—our scripture doesn’t coincide with this, however]

The act of Ascension (Jesus literally rising into the sky) is less important than what it signifies — his enthronement, his being exalted to the right hand of the Father, and his authority in heaven and on earth.
Like the Resurrection, the Ascension of Christ is not primarily a historical proposition we investigate to prove or disprove, but instead an article of our faith in God's history with us and our history as God's people. It is affirmed in all the ecumenical creeds on a par with the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. "He ascended into heaven affirms the core Christian conviction of the fullness of Christ's reign now and in the age to come.
Since Ascension Day always falls on a weekday (always on Thursday), many of our congregations transfer the readings and the celebration of this day to the following Sunday (June 2nd, Seventh Sunday of Easter)
Be made one—from verse 23.
Love(d)—4x (CEB)

The prayer begins at the end of Jesus’ farewell meal (Keeping Holy Time, year C, 197).  He stopped speaking with his followers and began to pray.  Farewell prayer for original disciples, yet a prayer that enlarges the circle beyond them to include many in the days to come.

Thus, it is a prayer not just for those in his immediate hearing, but for those who came afterwards, for us, and for those with whom we continue to share the love and light of Christ.

The table continues to expand and grow larger.  Imagine that!?!

What do we see from this passage as Jesus’ vision for the church?

How might we pray?

Colossians 3:15 reminds us: “May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this you were called together as parts of one body.”

If we are truly one body, connected, is there unity in Jesus Christ?

“We are One in the spirit/They’ll Know We are Christians”—though not in the UMH, it is in “The Faith We Sing” and many of you may know it, as it was a good ‘old camp song for many years and recently sung by Jars of Clay:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they'll know we are Christians by our love

UMH 560, Fred Kaan—“Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace.  Be present, Lord, among us, and bring us to believe we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.” 

Help us accept each other
as Christ accepted us;
teach us as sister, brother,
each person to embrace.
Be present, Lord, among us
and Bring us to believe:
we are ourselves accepted
and meant to love and live.
Teach us, O Lord, your lessons,
as in our daily life
we struggle to be human
and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people,
for all - not just for some,
to love them as we find them
or as they may become.
Let your acceptance change us
so that we may be moved
in living situations
to do the truth in love;
to practice your acceptance
until we know by heart
the table of forgiveness
and laughter's healing art.
Lord, for today's encounters
with all who are in need,
who hunger for acceptance,
for justice and for bread,
we need new eyes for seeing,
new hands for holding on:
renew us with your Spirit;
Lord, free us, make us one!

Make a friend “campaign” that Pastor Justin has started…. How that ties in with what we did/tried to do with “Get Their Name”—
1. Get their name
2. Start a conversation
3. From an authentic relationship over time
4. Lead to a faith moment / sharing
5. Invite to come and see
6. Let the Holy Spirit take it from there

How are you doing in making new friends?  Are you still stuck at where to start?  Why not start in the shopping plaza right next door?  There are employees at each store.  What about the schools across the street?  We already have a connection with the high school through feeding the football players and the band and allowing them space here for testing.  We have one student still there.  What if a couple of folks intentionally made connections with the school?  I wonder if the teachers there need encouraging or prayer?  What can we, as the local church, the church right across the street, do / be for the students and staff?

Yesterday was Rachel Held Evan’s funeral, held at 1st Centenary UMC.  I wasn’t able to go nor was I able to watch the live stream.  A friend went and shared with me some of the details.  She shared the benediction, the farewell prayer with me. It is a fairly long one, so I won’t share all of it.  However, as we contemplate Jesus’ farewell prayer for us to be one, I think these words from the benediction at Rachel Held Evan’s service tie in well for our consideration:

“Blessed are the agnostics.  Blessed are they who doubt.  Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.  Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion.  Blessed are the poor in spirit.  You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are those whom no one else notices.  The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables.  The laundry guys at the hospital.  The sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers.  The closeted.  The teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms.  Blessed are the meek.  You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like.  Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried.  Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else.  Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.”  Blessed are those who mourn.  You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

I imagine Jesus standing here blessing us because that is our Lord’s nature.  This Jesus cried at his friend’s tomb, turned the other cheek, and forgave those who hung him on a cross.  He was God’s Beatitude—God’s blessing to the weak in a world that admires only the strong.

Jesus invites us into a story bigger than ourselves and our imaginations, yet we all get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of this moment and this place.  We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God.  May we never neglect that gift.  May we never lose our love for telling the story.  Amen.” (Benediction at Rachel Held Evan’s service by Nadia Bolz-Weber on 6/1/19 at 1st Centenary UMC, Chattanooga, TN, bulletin)

This was read by Nadia Bolz-Weber at the service, who shared that the last three sentences were written by Rachel.  Indeed, they come from her book, “Inspired” n page 164—“We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God.  May we never neglect that gift.  May we never lose our love for telling the tale.”

Jesus constantly invites us into the story and to the table.  We are reminded today of Jesus’ final prayer for us to be one and how we need each other in community. 

As we prepare our hearts and minds to come to the table, hear this closing prayer shared this week, on Wednesday morning, from a colleague that he got from the Daily Prayer App (Common Worship: Daily Prayer) of Church House Publishing, a publishing house of the Church of England.
Grant to your people, good Lord,
the spirit of unity,
that they may dwell together in your love,
and so bear to the world
the ointment of your healing and the
dew of your blessing;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Gathering Hymn "Standing on the Promises" -- UMH 374

Praise Music: "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High"


Special Music-- "He's Everything"

Closing Hymn-- "Seek Ye First"-- UMH 405

Call to Worship:

L: I tell you this:
It is a wonderful thing when members of the family
live together in love and peace.
P: They shall be like trees planted beside flowing rivers.

L: May the church be one, just as Christ and God are one,
that Christ may be glorified in us.
P: They shall yield good fruit in its season,
and their leaf shall never wither.

L: The grace, mercy and peace, of the Lord Jesus,
be with you all.
P: And also with you.
~Bruce Prewer