Monday, July 27, 2009

Zion is...for singing

We are exploring the meaning of Zion. Today I want us to remember that Zion is a place for singing. Isaiah 12:6 calls the people of Zion to sing for joy. I believe we do have reason to sing. in our lives we have many blessings that draw us to singing.
It was my birthday last week and I was at Summer Games University camp for the week. During that day I had "Happy Birthday" sung to me at least four times if not more. Several times by other pastors and adults at the camp. One time was by over 350 campers and staff, which is the largest crowd I have ever gathered for my birthday. (Actually Helen was giving the message in worship that morning at camp, so she had the mike and got our youth group together to lead the singing.) Birthdays are a wonderful time of singing.
However, we have more to sing about that just another year of life. I can look back over this past year and sing great songs about what God has done. God has been working in my family and church. I have seen God transform lives and renew relationships. I know I can sing for joy because of what God has done.
Isaiah reminds us that we do have reasons to sing because of the glorious things God has done. He also calls us to sing because of the strength, comfort and salvation God has given us.
What are your reasons to sing today?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Zion is...Sacred Space

As we approach the kick-off of EZ Worship at 9:30am August 16th, we are going to learn more about what Zion might represent. EZ stands for Experience Zion and so we need to know what we are looking forward to experiencing.
The first thing Zion represents is sacred space. Zion was and is a place where the presence of God lives. We all know God lives everywhere, but there are certain places God's presence is felt in a special way. I believe the difference is not in God or even the place, but when we enter a sacred place something inside us opens up to experience God more easily.
The church I grew up in, Marion FUMC, is a sacred place for me. No matter how long it has been since I have been in that building, once I am there it feels special. It feels like no other place.
The church I serve now, St. Paul's UMC, is also a sacred space. Not because of the quantity of time I have spent there, but the time there has been packed with experiences that are all new to me as a pastor.
What are your sacred places? Where do you sense the presence of God is near?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lean on the Spirit

Yesterday for our service on the square with First Presbyterian Church we had a jazz group lead our music. They did a wonderful job and I have heard many positive comments about the music.
So in the jazz tradition of improvisation I decided to draw a scripture out of a basket of suggested scriptures from the congregation that had gathered. I was given one song to then get my thoughts together and deliver a message.
My plan was to work up a core message to then build that message around the scripture that was drawn. However, I felt that was not true to the scripture. I would be placing the message I wanted onto the scripture, so I was not able to do that.
My second plan then was to come up with a list of stories I could share depending on the scripture that was chosen. I had a healing story, temptation or sin stories, and stories about trust or faith. Somehow I missed stories about love, which the scripture chosen was Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
I had no time to really write down any notes, so I just asked the Holy Spirit to speak and I believe the Spirit was present.
I share all of that to say it really is tough to fully rely on God. I normally put in hours of preparation for each message I deliver and I do believe the Holy Spirit is at work in those hours of preparation. So to not have that preparation was difficult for me. I get some nerves each Sunday before preaching, but yesterday was a very nervous morning for me.
This reminds me not to be too quick to tell someone just to have faith. Sometimes there is not much more I am able to do, but I tell someone just to hang in there and God will do something. Being unprepared to deliver a message is a little different than telling someone to have faith the rent will show up. The consequences are not the same. There are more nerves and uneasiness if your life and the lives of your family will be effected.
Is there a better way to respond in those times of not knowing what will come? How can we look to the future knowing God will always be with us?