Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Health Kits and Worship

When the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, the church I was serving in Louisiana did something monumental.

We cancelled Sunday school.

We cancelled Sunday school  the following Sunday and took a mission trip as a church to our fellowship hall where we, as the church, packed UMCOR Health Kits to be shipped to Haiti, via UMCOR's warehouse in Sager Brown.  In one hour, 400 people came together to back a 2,000 kits or so.

For that church, offering an opportunity to provide that kind of relief was second nature.  When Katrina hit their area of LA, UMCOR was quickly on the scene with a trailer of bottled water and flood buckets, essentials for nourishment and hygiene when all of those things most people take for granted were nowhere to be found.  In response to the generous outpouring of God's love through God's people it became one of the most mission-oriented churches in the area.

That morning three years ago was the genesis for our worship service this last Sunday.  I offered up the preaching time for our contemporary service to take on a missional experience in the fellowship hall where we worship every Sunday morning.  Our missions committee gathered supplies over the last several weeks, getting buy-in from nearly every small group ministry of the church.  We had the supplies to back 300 health kits during worship, and that's exactly what we did together.

It's special to have a multi-use worship space, where we have the ability to create a hybrid experience of worship and mission in the same place.  We began with the elements of our normal worship, with song, prayer, and offering.  I offered a short devotional and then we moved into packing the kits, children, youth and adults walking down the assembly line together as a family.  A multi-generational mission activity, and it took about 30 minutes in total to pack the 303 health kits.  It was slow to start as people found their rhythm, but completely worth it.  People didn't get impatient.  People helped our children.  People got to work, bringing together service and worship.

After all, don't we call it the worship service?   Don't we refer to our orders of worship as 'the liturgy' - the work of the people?

We had to pause in the middle of the packing to offer Holy Communion and formally conclude the worship service, but by the time I'd gotten through the benediction, all supplies had been packed and worship clocked in at just over an hour.  It was epic.  It was moving.  It was fun.

Initially it felt like a risk, but then it just felt like it was something the Spirit was calling on us to do.  303 Health Kits were offered to the world, for the Glory of God last Sunday in worship at FUMC Arlington.  Is that radical hospitality?  Risk-taking mission and service?  Maybe both, but most of all, it was just right.  Think about it - we're always trying to find ways to get people to go somewhere, and that is very important - to go places and do good works.  But not everyone can do that.  Are there more ways to bring a mission experience to the people?  This was an easy one, and too easy not to pass on.

How is your church innovating ways to create multi-generational mission experiences?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Method: Our Wesleyan Way - "Upon Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount"

Last week we continued our sermon series Method: Our Wesleyan way with a glimpse into John Wesley's thought on the Sermon on the Mount, the Gospel Lectionary stream right now.

Wesley published 13 of his own sermons on this great discourse from Jesus in Matthew's Gospel, which goes to show how much we could say on this one (or many ...) message from Jesus.

We tackled what it means to be salty, what it means to be light, heading towards what Wesleyan Christians refer to as 'holiness of heart and life'.

February 9, 2014 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Upon Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount

If you've read this blog at all lately, you know that my church is in the midst of a preaching series on Wesleyan beliefs, Method: Our Wesleyan Way.  It's been great fun to preach, mostly has it's been a call to dig into the sermons of John Wesley as weekly inspiration.

This week, the text is Matthew 5:13-20, which encompass sermons 4 and 5 of John Wesley's preaching series, "Upon Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount".  As it's a lot to get through, I've mostly focused on sermon 4, which has a lot of wisdom to share on our Wesleyan drive to bring together a holiness of heart and life.  To be salt and light.

Just a few quotes that I dig:

First, I shall endeavour to show, that Christianity is essentially a social religion; and that to turn it into a solitary religion, is indeed to destroy it.

 "Ye" (Christians, ye that are lowly, serious and meek; ye that hunger after righteousness, that love God and man, that do good to all, and therefore suffer evil; ye) "are the salt of the earth:" It is your very nature to season whatever is round about you. It is the nature of the divine savour which is in you, to spread to whatsoever you touch; to diffuse itself, on every side, to all those among whom you are. This is the great reason why the providence of God has so mingled you together with other men, that whatever grace you have received of God may through you be communicated to others; that every holy temper, and word, and work of yours, may have an influence on lo them also. By this means a check will, in some measure, be given to the corruption which is in the world; and a small part, at least, saved from the general infection, and rendered holy and pure before God.

A believer may fall, and not fall away. He may fall and rise again. And if he should fall, even into sin, yet this case, dreadful as it is, is not desperate. For "we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins."
And finally ...
So impossible it is, to keep our religion from being seen, unless we cast it away; so vain is the thought of hiding the light, unless by putting it out! Sure it is, that a secret, unobserved religion, cannot be the religion of Jesus Christ. Whatever religion can be concealed, is not Christianity. If a Christian could be hid, he could not be compared to a city set upon an hill; to the light of the world, the sun shining from heaven, and seen by all the world below. Never, therefore, let it enter into the heart of him whom God hath renewed in the spirit of his mind, to hide that light, to keep his religion to himself; especially considering it is not only impossible to conceal true Christianity, but likewise absolutely contrary to the design of the great Author of it.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Picture of Why Facebook Matters to the Church

Have you seen this image before?  It's currently the cover photo on Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook profile.  Dated September 24, 2013, it shows the friendship connections made through Facebook on a global scale.  I'm sure it's out of date as I write this entry 6 months later, but I think it makes a serious case for the presence of the church on Facebook and other notable social media platforms.

But I'm not just talking about your church's FB page - which every church should have by the way, it's a free website for crying out loud - but I'm also thinking of how we-the-people-who-are-the-Body-of-Christ inhabit this "third space".

Sunday we discussed Micah 6:8, one of the easiest scriptures/commandments from the Lord to remember there is.  Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.  Short, simple, to the point.  The Gospel in a nutshell, really.  But how do we do that on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like?  We Christians love to dispense various brands of justice on social media don't we?  We're quick to judge and share those judgement.

And people are quick to unfollow those that do.  A click and you're done.  That's it.  I have 871 'friends' on FB (I'm sure many of you have more), accrued over nearly 10 years of usage.  That's quite the potential reach, especially if you count the worlds of people that each of my FB friends also reach.  But we're all just a click away from being unsubscribed to if we're offensive, bully, or generally take things too far.

Right now, there are some 1.26 billion Facebook users out there, many of whom waiting to have the love of Christ to be revealed to them.  Facebook is a global fellowship, how are you like Jesus there?  Do you just seek justice?  Or do you love mercy as well on social media?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Method: Our Wesleyan Way - "The Way to the Kingdom"

Last week in worship we discussed heaven, or really, the Kingdom of Heaven (or of God depending on your gospel/version choice).

When Christ talks about Heaven, he speaks of it as if it was right next door to us, right now.  How do we find it?  When do we see it?  What does it take to get there?

January 26, 2014 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.