Saturday, February 23, 2013

Give Up Harsh, Condemning Judgments for Lent

This season of Lent, my congregation is taking on the study Give Up Something Bad for Lent by James W. Moore.  The focus of this Lenten study is very practical.  Rather than giving up stuff that you like (chocolate, cokes and the like), why not give up something that's actually causing a problem for you?  Why not give up something that's actually coming between you and the relationship God really wants to have with you?

This week's study is focused on giving up judging others, remembering that judgement truly belongs to God.  Rev. Moore's scripture reference for the week is Matthew 7:1-5, when Jesus points out the fact that we often worry about the speck in another's eye, when in fact it's the plank in our own that needs to be dealt with.  The chapter closes with this prayer, and I offer it to help us prepare for our worship on Sunday morning:
Dear God, thank you for reminding us about the dangers of rumors and gossip.  Help us to refrain from judgment and explain the actions of others in the kindest way.  May we treat others the way we wish to be treated.  Amen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

#40Days Week 2

This Lent I've taken on the United Methodist Rethink Church 40 Day Photo Challenge.  During the season of Lent, as a spiritual discipline, I (and many, many others) are taking photos to represent different words that are common themes in the season of Lent.

It's been a wonderful week of pictures, with a lot of thought provoking subject matter.  I hope that you've found some form of spritual discipline that will allow you to get to know yourself, and the life Christ has called you to during this wonderful season of Lent.

I'm including the photos, and the tweet I posted each with.  Feel free to follow me on twitter @jarrodjohnston, and follow the #tag #40days to see what other UMCers are up to as they rethink church and the season of Lent!

Day 4 (Injustice): #40days Day 4 - From the National Civil Rights Museum. Fight #injustice w #mlk

Day 5 (Settle): #40days 5) Watching the kids play - rare #sabbath time on the sabbath. Taking time to #settle down. #rethinkchurch

Day 6 (World):  #40days Day 6 - change the #world? Let's hope! #rethinkchurch #lent

Day 7 (Wonder): #40days Day 7 - I #wonder what this kid dreams about? #rethinkchurch @umrethinkchurch

Day 8 (Evil): #40days Day 8 - No single word holds the church back more than 'tradition'. #evil #rethinkchurch

Day 9 (Love): #40days Day 9 - a house full of dirty dishes after serving dinner to some my favorite ppl #rethinkchurch #love

Day 10 (Spirit): #40days Day 10 - Fridays with this guy renew my #spirit. #rethinkchurch

Monday, February 18, 2013

"The End of Methodist Doctrine"

As I journey through the candidacy process, I've discovered a few holes in my game that need to be shored up.  I'm going to be asked some tough questions in tough meetings, and it would be nice to have at least a few answers ready.  I realize I've been at this ministry thing for a while, but I find myself feeling deficient in knowledge of things Methodist.  I know that things will be covered in depth as I get back into the seminary groove, but I've built up a small reading list in the meantime.

I've begun with Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials, by Dr. Ted Campbell, Professor of Church History at Perkins.  I didn't have the opportunity to take any courses with Dr. Campbell the last time through seminary, but I've heard great things and I look forward to possible coursework from him in the future.

At the end of the introductory chapter, I came across this little tidbit I would like to share:
The end, or goal, of the Methodist teaching is not the advancement of Methodism.  Our heritage has been used by God for a much greater end: the coming of God's reign, or kingdom.  So we should pray fervently for the day when Methodism ceases to exist, for that great day when, our historic mission having been accomplished by divine grace, the Wesleyan heritage finally dissolves into the glory of the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."  In the words of Charles Wesley, "names and sect and parties fall; thou, O Christ, art all in all!"
If only the church, from local to general could function under that kind of freedom.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Give Up Something Bad for Lent

This season of Lent, my congregation is taking on the study Give Up Something Bad for Lent by James W. Moore.  This study gives us a very practical view of the season during which we don't just give up things that we like (chocolate, cokes, etc.), but we give up the things that are actually creating barriers between ourselves and the Lord.  We'll be attempting to give up judgmental attitudes, gathering enemies, bad habits, pettiness ... and any number of other things that can come between what we want and what the Lord wants for our lives.  At the close of each chapter, Rev. Moore offers a short prayer, and the prayer for this week is what I offer to you today:

Dear God, thank you for the season of Lent.  Remind us of the importance of preparing for and anticipating Easter.  Help us to use this season wisely as we make positive changes in our lives.  Amen.

Friday, February 15, 2013

#40Days Week 1

This Lent I've taken on the United Methodist Rethink Church 40 Day Photo Challenge.  During the season of Lent, as a spiritual discipline, I (and many, many others) are taking photos to represent different words that are common themes in the season of Lent.  As Lent is a season of reflection and introspection, I've had a lot of fun jumping in on this meaningful task.

As this is a kind of 'twitter' discipline, I'm including my daily tweets and photos.  What spiritual disciplines are you undertaking this season?

Day 1 (Who am I?): #whoami? Dad. Husband. Laugh maker. #40days

Day 2 (Return): #40days day 2 #return Getting to the heart of the matter for kids chapel this morning. #rethinkchurch

Day 3 (See): #40days Day 3 - I #see what God is calling me to and the reason why. #rethinkchurch

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

From Worship and Song:
O God, you delight not in pomp and show,
     but in a humble and contrite heart.
Overturn our love of worldly possesions
     and fix our hearts more firmly on you,
     that, having nothing,
     we may yet possess everything,
     a treasure stored up for us in heaven.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Call to Ministry

I'm not normally one to rant, but I've been hearing something over and over again lately that's starting to bother me a great deal.

My call to ordained ministry is constantly referred to as my 'call to ministry'.  This language has been directed at me consistently from many directions, from clergy to the very forms I've filled out to apply for this next step in my call.

Why does this bother me?

Because I was called to ministry a full decade ago, it just wasn't to ordination.  But nonetheless, I was called to ministry as a worship leader.  It wasn't until just recently that I felt called to a new type of ministry: that of the ordained.  So, I take a little offense at the call to ordination as my 'call to ministry', as if I've finally arrived in the most exclusive and best group.  I have an Assistant Worship Minister that works for me.  Minister is part of his title and ministry is what he does.  Same goes for our Childrens Minister and our Youth Minister, none of whom are ordained but all are called to ministry.

As a current lay person, I feel the language being used denigrates the ministerial work I've already done - and the great work of all laity.

It's also contrary to the United Methodist understanding of the Christian call to ministry.

From the United Methodist Book of Discipline, Part III, Section II - The Ministry of All Christians:
¶ 125: The Heart of Christian Ministry - The heart of Christian ministry is Christ's ministry of outreaching love.  Christian ministry is the expression of the mind and mission of Christ by a community of Christians that demonstrates a common life of gratitude and devotion, witness and service, celebration and discipleship.  All Christians are called through their baptism to this ministry of servanthood in the world to the glory of God and for human fulfillment.  The forms of this ministry are diverse in locale, in interest, and in denominational accent, yet always catholic in spirit and in outreach.
When we take on the name "Christian", we also take on the title of Minister in the UMC.  I remember in the bulletin of my home church growing up, seeing the first line of the staff listing on the back: Ministers - Every member of the congregation!

Clergy are called to walk hand in hand with the laity.  To only refer to the call to clergy as the call to ministry further divides up the kingdom and fosters a very consistent problem we have in the local church - that the clergy are the only ones there to work.

End of rant.  For now!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lent: What You Need to Do

Repentance.  Renewal.  Recommitment. Revival.  These are all key words to the forty-day season of Lent, a time of preparation that leads to Holy Week and the great day of resurrection, Easter.

Why forty days?  This season of repentance comes out of a biblical notion of the number 40, a number that symbolizes fullness or the amount of time a task needs to be completed.  It’s most commonly connected with Christ’s journey into the wilderness after his baptism to fast and pray before starting his full-on earthly ministry.  But the number 40 also frequently pops up earlier in the Word.  The great flood lasted forty days and nights.  Moses, and later Elijah, dwelt at Horeb for the same amount of time.  Eli judged Israel for forty years.  Saul, David, and Solomon each are thought to have had reigns over Israel for forty years.

In the early church it was also a time of fasting and prayer for new converts to prepare for their baptisms.  It was an intense time for new Christians – a time of testing whether they really meant what they said when professing belief in Christ.  At the end they were born into new life, by water and the Spirit.  It is out of this early cycle that our season of Lent has come to us today.

The contemporary church has most gravitated toward the need to ‘give something up’ for Lent – the fast.  We usually focus on small things like chocolate or sodas.  Or we add things in, like exercise. Or maybe we check things off our New Year’s resolution list.  But we sometimes forget that when we fast there’s another thing that’s supposed to happen – we’re supposed to pray.

The fast itself is what needs the rethinking in our churches today.  When we fast, the intent is to make room.  But we’re not called to make room for just anything.  We’re supposed to make room for prayer; it’s a time for us to draw closer to the Lord.  We’re supposed to fast and pray like those new Christians as a way to prepare for a new life in Christ.

So, what could Lent be about for you this season?  First, look at your life.  Is there something that’s going on in your life that’s actually putting up a barrier between you and God?  Maybe that’s the thing you need to give up and show repentance.  When you feel a craving for that thing, whatever it is (maybe for you it is chocolate), pray to the Lord not just for strength to overcome temptation, but for strength to seek the Lord’s will in all things.  For a believer, this is a path to renewal and even recommitment to Christ.

Figure out a way to observe the season of Lent as a time of repentance, renewal and recommitment.  It will make the great day of Easter that much more of a revival in your life.

Friday, February 8, 2013

It's been a blessed year!

On February 2, this blog celebrated it's first birthday.  I'd toyed around with blogging a couple of times over the last several years, but I'd never made a serious attempt at writing.  This is the first time ever in my life that I've found writing to be truly fun.

I've been doing a lot of praying over the last year as my family and I have been discerning our path in ministry together, and this blog as been a big part of that journey.  I hope that as you've read, you've pondered a lot about the liturgy of your own life as we're all working together to glorify God through our various gifts and talents.

Here are my top five blog entries from the last year:

     #1 - Lighting the Advent Wreathe for "A Different Kind of Christmas"

     #2 - Like a Lion

     #3 - Let the Children Come!

     #4 - Ministry Bloopers, or How to Run a Race with Perseverance

     #5 - Sorrow + Joy

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Good Friday Starter

Holy Week is one of my most favorite times in the life of the church.  Beginning with Palm Sunday, and moving through Holy Thursday to Good Friday and then our arrival on Easter, I just find the whole atmosphere to be moving.

There are some pretty jarring transitions that come with the territory ... From intimate communion on Holy Thursday to dwelling on the crucifixion of our Lord the very next day, it's a heavy week.

As I've been in the thick of planning Holy Week since returning from the holidays, I always begin with trying to find something new - especially for Good Friday.  The most common service for most of our congregations is the service of Tenebrae, a service of darkness.  The faith family I serve had done a Tenebrae service for decades before I came on staff, so you can probably guess the first thing I changed!  Last year we had a very meaningful service dwelling on the Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross, and this year we'll also be embarking on a different journey for our community: the Stations of the Cross.

I say Stations, but it's more like a modified version of a Passion reading service.  Beginning with the wonderful work of Robin Knowles Wallace in Just In Time: Palm Sunday and Holy Week Services, we've put together a service of intercessory prayer, remembering that day when Jesus interceded for all of us.

We'll be staging the scripture readings as a kind of reader's theatre, with different congregants reading for the characters, our pastors as narrators, and our choir as "The Crowd".  We won't be editing anything out of the scripture readings, whatsoever.  The Gospel of John is so easily set as a play, with it's very dramatic scenes.  I would encourage you to find ways to bring the Passion story to life!  Much like the atmosphere of a Tenebrae service, we'll also be extinguishing candles and dimming lights as we journey through the evening.

Here is the service from beginning to end.  You can also note that there is no prelude or postlude.  This service picks up right where Holy Thursday left, and of course the story doesn't end until the Resurrection.  Feel free to use any and all parts of this service!


The Way of the Cross
A Service of Intercession, with the Stations of the Cross
Good Friday Worship
March 29, 2013

Invitation to Worship
Hear these words from Hebrews, chapter ten, verse twenty-three: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for God who has promised is faithful.”  Today, on this Holy Friday, we remember the day that the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace gave up his own life to intercede for the whole world and show us the way to the Creator.  As we travel with Christ on the way to His Crucifixion, we will pause to pray for the world He came to save out of His great love for us.
*Hymn 292 What Wondrous Love is This, stanzas 1-3 WONDROUS LOVE

*Opening Prayer
Amazing God, who has provided a way for us to come to you with clean hearts and  baptized bodies:
Thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ,
   who has opened a way for us to you
   by the sacrifice of his life and death.
May we accept this astounding gift
with humility and a generous spirit,
finding ways to live lives of love and good deeds,
   as Jesus taught us.
Grant this through the power of your Holy Spirit,
   we pray. Amen.
*Hymn 292 What Wondrous Love is This, stanzas 4 WONDROUS LOVE

The Stations of the Cross

Jesus in the Garden and His Betrayal, from the Gospel of John 18:1-8
Lord, we pray,
That we might not betray Jesus, but have God’s law in our hearts and written on our minds.
     Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Anthem Calvary Arranged by Lloyd Larson

Taken to the House of Annas and Caiaphas, from the Gospel of John 18:12-24
Lord, we pray,
For the leaders of the religions of the world – that truth, justice, and mercy may prevail.
  Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Hymn God Weeps HIROSHIMA

Simon Peter Denies being a Disciple of Jesus, from the Gospel of John 18:25-27
Hear our confession for times when we have not followed Jesus or claimed his place in our lives.
    Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Hymn 286 O Sacred Head, Now Wounded PASSION CORALE

Taken to the Headquarters of Pilate, from the Gospel of John 18:33-38
Lord, we pray,
For the governments of the world – that truth, justice, and mercy may prevail.
    Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Anthem God So Loved the World”, from The Crucifixion John Stainer

The People Choose Barabbas to be Set Free, from the Gospel of John 18:39-40
Lord, we pray,
For all under threat of punishment.
    Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Duet  “So Thou Liftest Thy Divine Petition” from The Crucifixion   John Stainer

Jesus is Crucified on Golgotha between Two Others, from the Gospel of John 19:17-22

*Hymn 288 Were You There, stanzas 1, 2, 3   WERE YOU THERE
Lord, we pray for all who die, who grieve, who suffer this day:
For those who die of hunger,
that might do more to share food and resources. For those who die of illness,
that we might work for health care for all. For those who die from the violence of others,
that we might spread love and teach caring. For those who die in wars,
that we might work for peace and reconciliation. For those who die at the hand of their government,
that other ways might be found to teach right living and rehabilitation. For those who die forgotten or homeless,
that we might open our eyes and move to their side. For those who die by their own hand because there seems no way to live,
open your arms, O God. For those who die when there seems to be no reason,
give peace, O God. For those who grieve,
give comfort, O God. For those whose illnesses seem to have no end,
give strength and steadfast love, O God. For those who see no way out,
give hope and courage, O God. For those who live with war each day,
give courage and humanity, O God. For children who live in fear or without love,
give strength and your love, O God. For those whose bodies are treated with violence or degradation,
give love and comfort, O God. For the elderly and those living on the edges of society,
give purpose and strength, O God. For those challenged by body or mind,
give strength and wholeness, O God. For those we deem as different and less,
open our hearts and minds and hands, O God. For those who struggle to do your will,
give strength and courage, O God.

*Hymn 288 Were You There, stanzas 4   WERE YOU THERE
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

It is Finished, from the Gospel of Josh 19:25-30

Anthem     I Believe Mark A. Miller
I believe in the sun
even when it's not shining.
I believe in love
even when I don't feel it.
I believe in God,
even when God is silent

How will your faith family be observing Good Friday?