Boundary Breaking Stories from Union, #1

I've had Reality, Grief, Hope by Walter Brueggemann on my reading list for several months now.  I've had the copy out numerous time, even highlighting a few things in the first chapter.  It's been in my work bag for the last three weeks, in hopes that during some down time I'd be able to give it a shot.

It's ironic that the subtitle for the book is "Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks", because when I get the book out to read, reading it becomes anything but urgent.

There's this thing about working at Union Coffee that's unique compared to most United Methodist churches, outside of perhaps Wesley Foundations.  It's open to the public, 7am to 9pm (or 10) every day.  And my office is the shop itself.  There are quiet corners, sure, yet, every time I pick one of those corners, a couch or comfy chair, and get Bruggemann out, a neighbor asks me something.

And it's awesome.

Two of the major core values of Union Coffee are story telling and boundary breaking (the others are sanctuary, sustainability, quality, and generosity).  The picture above is of our most recent worship series ... Two short weeks to unpack the topic of privilege ... What we can do about it and what we can do with it.  This picture was out in the form of display cards on the tables of the shop.  Let me tell you, if you advertise a conversation on privilege, people are going to have things to say and stories to tell.

So, a story from last week that called me to check my privilege and marvel at the work God is doing in bringing this remarkable community together.

Last Sunday I got my book out an hour before it was time to flip the shop for worship.  I approached one of the corners near our stage with a couple of big couches.  I asked the man who would be sitting across from me if the seat was taken, and we proceeded to chat for an hour.  As I sat down, he asked me what the place was about, noticing our privilege cards on the table.  Things went on from there.

It was the first time he had ventured into Union.  His wife's nonprofit was meeting in one of our conference rooms and he was just hanging out.  Let's call him C, and his wife S.

I learned a lot about C during our conversation.  He's in the National Guard and just finished his history degree at UNT and is planning on shifting to a career in the army.  He'll be attending officers training school shortly.

He's also African American.  As is his wife.  He has a three-year-old daughter and another on the way this September.  He'll likely miss the birth of his second child due to a training deployment that he's being called to lead.

We talked a bit about the series on privilege that we were in.  We talked about the two weeks prior that Union spent sharing in a conversation on race and faith in the wake of the shootings of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling, and the shootings of the DPD officers.

As we got deeper into things he shared with me a new truth in his life: he's afraid for his family, as a black American.

He said that he'd never, ever, felt this way.  This is an articulate, educated, soldier, mind you.  But, he's afraid for his family, when he looks at the current cultural divide in our country.

A couple of weeks prior to our meeting at Union, he and his wife had gone shopping at a nice little shop in Dallas.  He tried on a many things, putting back what he didn’t want (which is a gift to any sales associate).  He ended up purchasing over $200 in clothes by the end of things.  He was polite and respectful to the staff and had a great experience.  But, as he was leaving, he noticed a police officer pulling around the store.  C took note of it, but he and his wife got into their car and began to head home.  A few minutes later not one, but three, police cars pull him over.

Three police cars to pull over he and his wife.

The officer tells him that his turn signal is out and asks for his license and registration.  After running everything, the officer returns and C politely asks, “Why was I really pulled over?”

It turns out that the store accused C and S of shoplifting.  After a minute more, C and S were let off with a warning, the officer(s) knowing that it was a racially motivated report.  C didn't complain about the officers.  He said that they were respectful because he was respectful.  But ...

This would never happen to me, a white man.  It just wouldn’t.  If I had behaved and purchased as he had at any given store, there is no way the police would be called on me.

I thanked him for sharing his story.  I met his sweet wife just a few minutes later.  I’ve never heard a story like theirs told within the walls of another church.

I'm in a place, though, where I don't just hear those stories.  I am told them.  I'm checking my privilege. 

Grace Like Fireworks

Sunday night we took our kids to see fireworks for the very first time.  In fact, it was the first time that my wife and I had been to see fireworks since before the birth of our son ... Some four-and-a-half years ago.

We set out, three hours before the show, ready to see the awe and wonder on our children's faces as they observed exploding showers of sparks and light.  After the wait, with tense moments, but also dancing, snow cones, and pretending our stroller was a rocket ship, the lights in the field went out and the show began.

I put my arm around my boy whose jaw dropped open at the first flare, while my wife held our girl who insisted over and over again that it was scary.

Neither kid took their eyes off  of the explosions in the night sky.

Fireworks like supernovas.  Fireworks like dandelions.
Vivid colors of magenta, blue, violet, red, green, white, and yellow.

We had no idea when we picked our spot in the ballpark complex that we would be mere yards from the launching pad.  I can't understate the nearness of the fireworks - they were literally just over our heads.

Yet, even then, even though we felt we might be able to stretch out our hands and feel the heat of the flames in the sky, there was something noticeable in the proceedings:

No matter the closeness, as each firework went off there was a clear delay from the explosion to the sound.

Whether it was the sound of dynamite.
Or the sound of a drizzle on pavement.
Or popcorn in a microwave.
There was a delay between the light and the noise.

Sometimes for nearly a second ... Astonishing.  The spreed of light and the speed of sound in stark, colorful, contrast.

And as I spent that hour huddled down with my family enjoying the festivities, I felt that I was learning something about grace.  There's something to be said about how God is moving to us, all around us, before we hear God's voice in our lives.  That God is within us, drawing us near to God, before we acknowledge God's presents.

That THE God, before we were knitted together in our mother's wombs, knew us - and still knows us.

What if it's the mission of us who follow the Son of God to call others to listen to the lightshow booming all around them?  And sit with them as they listen to the sound?

Grace like fireworks.
Every second.
Of every day.

Worship Series: The Hospitality of Jesus

This worship series is one of a set written from mid-Summer to the end of RCL Year C in November. Notes are sparse, but I'm hopeful that it's helpful to pastors during a season of the year that can be ... Dry.  Ordinary time, which we are in the midst of, can be a time of rich teaching and following specific narratives in the Bible.

This series follows the Gospel of Luke stream in the Revised Common Lectionary for six weeks, beginning on July10.  In each of the readings given, Jesus is answering questions, telling stories, demonstrating what the Kingdom of God is like and offering the welcome to that Kingdom that only Jesus can give.

Ask the question: what is the hospitality of Jesus like?

It should lead to another: do I (pastor and church) offer hospitality like Jesus in my life?

The Hospitality of Jesus

July 10  (Eighth Sunday After Pentecost) 

Sermon Title:  What must we do?

Scripture Lessons

    Primary: Luke 10:25-37

    Secondary: Col 1:1-14


    The Good Samaritan ... Jesus expects us to welcome the 'other.'

July 17  (Ninth Sunday After Pentecost) 

Sermon Title:  Listen and Learn

Scripture Lessons

    Primary: Luke 10:38-42

    Secondary:  Col 1:15-20


   Mary and Martha - are we just preparing to meet Jesus?  Or do we expect a visit to actually happen?

July 24  (Tenth Sunday After Pentecost) 

Sermon Title:  What are you asking for?

Scripture Lessons

    Primary:  Luke 11:1-13

    Secondary:  Col 2:6-9


    Jesus, himself teaches us to pray!  And reminds us that God is always available.

July 31  (Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost) 

Sermon Title:  True Abundance

Scripture Lessons

    Primary:  Luke 12:13-21

    Secondary: Psalm 107:1-9


   On building bigger barns ... Now, where do I store my treasure?

August 7  (Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost)

Sermon Title:  Always Ready

Scripture Lessons

   Primary:  Luke 12:32-40

   Secondary: Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23


   Are you ready to greet the Messiah?  Or do you cower in fear?

   Who does your heart belong to?

August 14  (Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost)

Sermon Title:  What Christ Offers

Scripture Lessons

   Primary:  Luke 12:49-56

   Secondary:  Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19


What does it actually mean for us to follow Christ?  It may not be pretty, but it’s worth it.

The Next Adventure

For the last three years, I have served as an associate pastor at an unbelievably gracious church - FUMC of Arlington, TX.  The church took a risk on me.  While I had a great resume in worship ministry and leadership, I hadn't preached a whole lot yet.  I was a young adult, passionate about young adult ministry, but I hadn't built a lot of small groups.  I loved Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but had no proven expertise in using them to reach new people for the kingdom.

So, why not make me a Pastor of Young Adults, Communications, and Modern Worship?

And, let's help me get my Master of Divinity at Perkins while we're at it.

This church has helped me to learn.  It's pushed me to grow.  It's critiqued me in life-giving ways.  It's helped me to fulfill God's calling on my life to be a pastor in the United Methodist Church.

Yet, and this is the definition of bittersweet, it's time for the next adventure in my ministry journey.  Two months or so ago, an opportunity to apply for a church planting residency fell into my lap.  Or, appeared in my Facebook feed, as things are wont to do these days.  I filed it away as something that would be awesome to do, but sounded hard to pull off.

But, then I get a text from my wife ... "Did you see that?"

And, as a person who often hears the Holy Spirit nudge me through my spouse, I messaged the pastor of the church sponsoring the residency, wondering if they'd take an application from somebody outside of their conference.  The response was that as long as I got the OK from my District Superintendent, absolutely.

I'm paraphrasing all of this, of course.

Well, one thing lead to another, and I'm now free to share some rather large news in the world of my family:

Beginning July 1, I will be a Path 1 Church Planting Resident at Union Coffee, an amazing UMC church plant across I-75 from SMU.  Union is indeed a coffee shop, called to reach the young people in the area, the unchurched, the dechurched, a generation that the church earnestly wants to reach, but often doesn't know how.  The coffee is delicious, the worship is quirky, the community is amazing.

I'll be pastoring at Union with the hope of aiding in their efforts to go multi-site and bring a branch to the Central Texas Conference the following year.  There aren't any promises in this; it's yet another risky ministry move.  But, in the Kingdom of God, as in many things, where there's no risk, there's no reward.

I'm beyond excited to accept a new role in ministry.  FUMCA has been family to me, but it's time to strain forward to the next step.  Thankfully, my wife, Leanne, will be able to keep going in her own ministry at another church in our current area.  My kids go to preschool there and we often worship there as a family.  In a way, we'll be building ourselves a new/old home church and keeping our home in Central Texas, where we're so looking forward to continuing our ministry.

Trusting in the providence of God has taken my family and I in so many amazing directions and we know that God will be with us, and our faith communities, through this next step and beyond.

An Easter Season Worship Series: Revealing Revelation

For the last three Easter Seasons at FUMC of Arlington, we've studied the Book of Acts, focusing on the building of that first Christian community after the resurrection, leading to Pentecost.  The Book of Acts is an important book  for the church to study, as it chronicles the early problems, oppression, and successes of the early church and the apostles.

However, this year, Year C in the Revised Common Lectionary, the epistle reading was ... well ... too good to pass up.  In six weeks, which is rather quick, it takes us through the Book of Revelation.

Now, I know that many of the United Methodist variety might take to the famous perspective of Martin Luther ...

"I can discover no trace that it is established by the Holy Spirit."

Or, still others might pour over the details of the book, looking for prophecies of the end, trying and trying to apply the details to the world of today.

It's a provocative book.  It's imagery and literary content transcend the Christian faith.  So, we should talk about it.

At FUMCA, from April 3 until the Sunday before Pentecost, we will be.  Here's a breakdown of the series, for your use and perusal.  As always, post in the comments if you're taking this on!


Easter Season Worship Series:

Revealing Revelation

The Book of Revelation has been controversial since its inception.  Its vivid imagery, depictions of violence and empire, and cryptic allusions to the return of Christ have made it a book that is easy to misuse and misinterpret.

But, what if we took Revelation and refused to get caught up in picking apart its symbols … Trumpets … Dragons … Numbers … And read it as a letter to people, to churches, in trouble and losing their faith.  What if we took this book and realized it was from a servant of Christ to fellow servants of Christ that said this:

This is hard right now.

And it might get harder.

But hold on to Christ - 

God is with us.

This Easter Season we’ll take on the mysteries of the Book of Revelation, and wonder together of the life God calls us to as people of God in the world that longs for the Kingdom of God to break through.

April 3 - Revealing Revelation

Revelation 1:4-8

So ... Christ is coming again?

April 10 - Worthy is the Lamb

Revelation 5:11-14

What did Christ give himself for?

April 17 - Bigger than U


Revelation 7:9-17

Do we, humans, prefer a limited offer of salvation?

April 24 - City of God

Revelation 21:1-6

Does God want to replace?  Or redeem?

May 1 - No More Night

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

What if it's really all about holding fast to Christ in the most difficult times?

May 8 - Benediction

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

Can we stay thirsty for Christ's living water?

Our Lenten Worship Journey - The Path

Greetings to my brothers and sisters, worship planners and leaders, liturgy nerds and readers!  Lent is fast approaching ... It starts next week!  So, if it's helpful, I thought I would post the series we'll be going through at FUMCA.

This year, we're taking things on as a journey ... a hike ... a marathon ... Lent is a time of trial and perseverance that Christ calls us to and carries us through.  The series follows the Gospel stream of the RCL.  I've included, as always, scriptures, sermon titles, a description of the series for websites/worship guides, and a few ideas to start the sermon.

If you find it useful, please let me know in the comments!  An Easter Season Series is on the way1


Our 2016 Lenten Journey:

The Path

Welcome to The Path, FUMC of Arlington’s 40-Day Journey of Lent.  It is a time to accept the call to set aside more time than usual to cultivate our faith lives.  Where, in the end, we have deepened our relationship Christ, deepened our relationship with the church, and centered ourselves on the call God puts on each of our lives to be better, do better, love more.

At least, this is the hope and the goal.

The Christian life could be described as a marathon, a lifelong journey, of study, praise, and service.

It could also be described as a treacherous hike, where peaceful streams travel down into dangerous valleys.

We are called to exert effort in our life journey with Christ, in our personal journeys, and in the way we bring others along with us.  But, as always, when we jump into the race we have Christ as our trail guide, our coach, and ... our map, as the Word of God made flesh.

From our start on February 10, Ash Wednesday, to Easter Sunday on March 31, here is a vision of The Path:

February 10 - Ash Wednesday

Scriptures - Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

2nd … All of them, but especially Psalm 51:1-17

Sermon Title - Before We Start, We Practice


Are there ‘Lent experts’?  Are there faith experts?

10,000 hours

“Give me a clean heart”

February 14 - Lent One

Scriptures - Luke 4:1-13

2nd - Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

The Lord delivers ...

Sermon Title:  The Starting Line


Jesus’ temptation …

Testing God?

Practice of fasting …

What’s holding us back in our relationship with Christ?  

What are we filling our bellies, minds, and hearts with that create barriers?

February 21 - Lent Two

Scriptures - Luke 13:31-35

2nd - Phil 3:17-4:1

Citizenship of heaven, standing firm

Sermon Title - Getting off track


Jerusalem kills prophets?  Foreshadowing Palm Sunday.

Jesus’ (Son of God) desires to gather all children together


February 28 - Lent Three

Scriptures - Luke 13:1-9

2nd - Isaiah 55:1-9

Come to the waters … My ways are higher ways.

Sermon Title - Traversing obstacles


A call for repentance

Yes, we do need to do it to follow Christ.

The practice of confession/repentance

When bad things happen …

Bad theology … Defining ‘God’ is hard.  We should, however, know ‘not God’.

March 6 - Lent Four

Scriptures - Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

2nd - 2 Cor 5:16-21

New creation ...

Sermon Title - Don’t look back


Eating with sinners … Communion, anyone?

The Prodigal Son

God desires all to repent and return home.

The center of Luke’s story.

Practicing hospitality

March 13 - Lent Five

Scriptures - John 12:1-8

2nd - Phil 3:4b-14

Press onward to the goal … Resurrection

Sermon Title:  Almost done, but not yet


Anointing at Bethany

For burial, but where is Christ going?

At the home of Resurrected Lazarus - a foreshadowing of Easter

Tie in to washing the disciples’ feet

Judas vs. Mary

Practicing generosity

March 20 - Lent Six: Palm Sunday

Scriptures - Luke 19:28-40

2nd - Phil 2:5-11

Sermon Title - Not the finish line


The irony of Jerusalem's Welcome.

Back to the killing of prophets …

The Reality - Jesus is going to die, for our salvation.

Practicing self-sacrifice

Breaking down whatever At-One-Ment means.


Holy Week

  • March 24 - Holy Thursday
    • Scriptures - Luke 22:14-20
    • Sermon Title - Fuel for the Marathon
      • Themes
        • Jesus calls us to remember him in a meal - a meal that’s free to us, but comes at great cost to Christ
        • A symbol of sacrifice, that at the same time causes us to pause, rest, and give thanks
        • Communion is for the Community.
          • It binds us together, in the good and the bad, reminding us that we are equally given the grace of Christ.
          • March 25 - Good Friday
            • Scripture - John 18:1-19:42
            • Sermon Title - It is Finished
              • Themes
                • Don't be afraid to read the whole story, break it up throughout the service, and intersperse hymns and anthems.  This might be the only time all year that people read/hear the Passion Narrative at one time.
                  • Reading the Gospel is much more than preaching it in this instance.
                  • Christ did die to save us from our sins, our selves.
                    • Do not shy away from this fact by bringing in a happy ending.  We need to wait for Easter for that.
                    • I would recommend you conduct your worship in the traditional way and not have any kind of postlude or dismissal.  Directions can be in your worship guide, but the more abrupt the ending the better.
                    • March 27 - Easter Sunday!
                      • Scripture - John 20:1-18
                        • Sermon Title - Love Wins
                          • Themes
                            • The Disciples had all of the information they needed, but still the doubted the Resurrection would happen.
                            • Our lack of faith doesn’t determine the faith God has in us.
                            • Love wins out for us, but it’s just the start of another journey.


The banner for the series is designed my super creative Director of Design at FUMCA, Mary Gibson.  Feel free to check out her work



Advent 2015 Liturgy Resources!

Here are all of the resources for the

previously posted

Advent 2015 worship series:  From Heaven to Earth!

Advent/Christmas 2015 Liturgical Resources

From Heaven to Earth

  • Advent 1 - Nov 29
    • Sermon Title:  “The Day is Coming”
    • Scriptures: Jeremiah 33:14-16
      • 2nd - 1 Thess 3:9-13
      • Candle - Hope
      • Creed:  Nicene (880)
      • Lighting the Candle of Hope:

While the people of Israel lived in exile, God was still at work. The people of God cried out for God to intervene on their behalf, but still they had to wait.  God works in God’s own time, but ever calls us to place our hope and trust in God’s plan.  From heaven to earth, God did come to our rescue and even now, especially now, the Son of David is still with us.  May we, as God’s children continue to hope in the Lord, even as God calls us to wait!

Let the candle we light today help God’s hope to burn brightly in our hearts!

    • Call to Worship:

Eternal God, we are here!

We are ready and waiting to worship you this day!

Now is the time!

And we are God’s people!

    • Prayer of Confession:

Righteous God,

We do love you.  We do praise you.  But we don’t always trust you.  It is our failure to do so that leads us astray from your will again and again.  We let culture dictate the work of your church.  We are distracted by trivial things like decorations, extravagances, and pride.  All the while, your saving work in the world, of which we are gifted to be a part, remains unfinished.  We avoid the homeless.  We refuse to see the hungry.  We ignore the disabled.  Give us clear eyes, God, and open hearts.  Hearts that are so full of hope that we can’t help to pour out your never ending love over all of your children during this season of expectation.  We expect you to come near to us God today; may we be mindful of your expectations when we leave this sacred space.  Amen.

  • Advent 2 - Dec 6
    • Sermon Title:  People, Get Ready
    • Scriptures:  Luke 3:1-6
      • Malachi 3:1-4
      • Candle - Love
      • Lighting the Candle of Love:

From the wilderness, John the Baptist comes to us today. Will we listen?  His message is the same today as it was then: God is on the way.  Yet, even as John was preaching, our Lord Jesus was already walking with God’s people.  Jesus was already preparing to teach us the ways of God, to show us what sacrifice looks like, to demonstrate to us that nothing is greater than the love of God.  Hear the call of John today; let us prepare to meet Christ not just on Christmas, but right now.

Let the candle we light today help God’s love to burn brightly in our hearts!

    • Call to Worship:

Prepare the way of the Lord, you people!

May God’s path lead straight to our hearts.

God’s salvation is already ours.

We give thanks, this morning, and everyday, for the good news of God’s love for us!

    • Prayer of Confession:

Loving God,

What are we prepared to do this Advent Season?  We say that we watch for you.  We say that we wait for you.  But shouldn’t we be working for you while we watch and we wait?  The prophets to tell us to look around, that you are ever near to us.  We confess that in our waiting we grow anxious about the calendar.  We grow weary of all the planning.  We fail see where you tell us to look … To the ‘least of these.’  To our children that need care.  To the hungry that need food.  To the immigrant that needs our hospitality.  God, help us to go where you would go and be the people that you’ve called us to be, people who are loved into your service.  Pull us out of the wilderness and open our eyes, Lord.  Prepare us to greet you this Christmas by loving those that need you the most.  Amen.

  • Advent 3 - Dec 13
    • Sermon Title: “Filled With Expectation”
    • Scriptures: Luke 3:7-18
      • 2nd - Isaiah 12:2-6
      • Candle - Joy
      • Lighting the Candle of Joy:

The voice crying out from the wilderness, calling us to ‘Prepare the way of the Lord!’ is still calling out to us today.  John the Baptist reminded Israel of who God created them to be: a holy nation, a holy people that were supposed to be caretakers of one another.  He was bold in his cries of injustice around him and among God’s chosen people, and if he was here today he would still be calling us out.  This is a season of joy, as we remember the arrival of Jesus on Christmas day, may we be reminded that the transforming work of Jesus is to be alive in us as his church.

Let the candle we light today help God’s joy to burn brightly in our hearts!

    • Call to Worship:

Call us out, God!

You are the reason for our worship today!

Call us out, God!

Draw us into your presence!

Call us out, God!

Have mercy on us, who joyfully wait for you.

    • Prayer of Confession:

Merciful God,

We confess this day that we, your people, don’t like to be told what to do.  We desire independence, to be individuals, choosing our own paths and making life all about ourselves.  We want our will more than your will for our lives.  But, this isn’t what we need.  We need to seek your ways, above all others.  We need to see what you see.  We need to cry out for justice where there is none, in a time when gathering more and more ‘stuff’ unto ourselves is the at heart of our Christmas culture.  Lord, call us to repentance again.  As we get ready to meet the Christ Child on Christmas day, make us more mindful of the unclothed, of the hungry, of the very poor.  Remind us that we are not alone, that we are all in this together.  Your kingdom come, amen.

  • Advent 4 - Dec 20
    • Sermon Title: “We Are Blessed”
    • Scriptures: Luke 1:39-55
      • 2nd - Micah 5:2-5a
      • Candle - Peace
      • Lighting the Candle of Peace:

The hope of the world came down to us at Christmas, but in order for that to happen a mother had to say “Yes.”  When Mary accepts the blessings and the hardships that would come with being the mother of Jesus, she changed the world forever.  When Mary sings her song, she recognizes something wonderful and totally opposite to how the world works: God came into the world through a family among the very poor.  Through Jesus’ birth, God sends a challenge to all of us to seek God’s movement in unexpected ways, and show God’s hope wherever we are.

Let the candle we light today help God’s peace to burn brightly in our hearts!

    • Call to Worship:

Are you all blessed?

Yes, we are!

Does God favor you?

Yes, God does!

God heard our cries for mercy.

And God sent us Jesus!

    • Prayer of Confession:

Holy God,

We are getting ready for Christmas.  Presents are being put under trees.  Dinner menus are being planned.  Last minute errands are being run.  Traveling has begun.  As we get wrapped up in this season of Christmas, we often forget what truly matters.  In all of our dealings with presents, we forget to be present for one another, especially those outside of the circle that we call ‘family.’  In our focus on things, we forget that the best gift many of us can truly share in the gift of our time.  Time for conversation.  Time for service.  Time for worship.  God, as Mary sings her song rooted in eternal hope in your mercy, may we share mercy where we can, when we can, in the many ways we can, sharing the love of God incarnate that Jesus Christ brought to us.  Amen.

  • Christmas Eve - Dec 24
    • Sermon Title: “From Heaven to Earth”
    • Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
    • Candle - Christ
    • Lighting the Christ Candle:

As we light the Christ Candle, we remember that long ago heaven met earth with the birth of Jesus Christ.  We called on the Lord for salvation, and not only did the Lord bring it, the Lord Our God appeared to us as a baby.  A baby to be loved and nurtured in a human family.  A baby Messiah that would grow up to preach the good news that all are welcome and loved in the Kingdom of God.  Today, we welcome Jesus Christ!

Welcome to you, Lord Jesus!  May this light remind us of the hope, peace, love, and joy that can only be found in you!

    • Call to Worship:

Let heaven and nature sing -

Joy to the world!

Oh come, all ye faithful –

Joyful and triumphant!

The herald angels sing –

Glory to God!

Jesus is here!

Jesus is here!

    • A Christmas Prayer:

God, we welcome you here.  We have been waiting for you, anticipating your arrival, expecting you to visit us today.  We need you God, and we are so grateful that you love us so much that you came to us in the form of a child.  You place so much trust in us, even trusting a humble family to raise your own son.  On top of that, you gift us with care over one another.  Yes, it’s a care that we often fail to give.  Thanks be to you God that no matter how often we forget to take care of each other, to love each other as you love us, your forgiveness knows no end.  Forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love that became incarnate in Jesus Christ.   Welcome to the world, Lord Jesus.  May singing your songs, sharing in your gifts, and looking to your earthly life bring heaven closer to us this Christmas.  Amen.  

  • Sunday After Christmas - Dec 27
    • Sermon Title: “Love Came Down at Christmas”
    • Scriptures - Colossians 3:12-17
      • 2nd - Psalm 148
      • Call to Worship:

Merry Christmas, church!

And a merry Christmas to you!

The season is not yet over, there’s still time to celebrate the birth of Christ.

How can we celebrate today?

By sharing in the true gift Christ has given to us …

Love for all the world.

    • Prayer of Praise:

Jesus Christ,

We give you the glory this morning!  Where would we be without you?  Who would we be without your saving love?  As your family, we give you thanks.  For the journey you took to bring us hope, coming to us as but a little baby, we stand in awe of you - Emmanuel, God With Us.  You are the one for whom the angels sang, “Peace on earth and goodwill to all people!”  We remember you today, humble Lord Jesus.  Let us not forget to share with others the hope, peace, love, joy, and community that we have come to find in you.  Amen!

  • Epiphany Sunday - January 3
    • Sermon Title: “Searching for Jesus”
    • Scriptures: Matthew 2:1-12
      • 2nd - Psalm 72:1-7
      • Call to Worship:

From near and far, we come together in worship.

We have come here to meet Jesus!

What gift do you bring to the Lord this morning?

All honor, glory, and praise!

    • Prayer of Praise:

Lord Jesus,

As the wise men who traveled so far to meet you, we give you thanks for the glory you reveal among us.  When the world needed a savior, in your great wisdom, you chose to come down to us in humility of a stable, to be raised by those who would be looked past by those around them.  We don’t have gifts to offer you that could even start to measure up to what you have given to us in your saving life.  Take all that we have and make it yours, call our lives to light the darkness of this world with your everlasting light.  Amen.

Advent 2015: From Heaven to Earth

Friends, this is a bit of a last-minute post, but here it is!  Hopefully most all of you are in the thick of your Advent planning - or it's done already!  Just in case, here's what we'll be offering this year at FUMC of Arlington, TX.

Liturgy resources can be found



Advent/Christmas 2015 Worship Series: November 29 - January 3

From Heaven to Earth

Advent 1 - Nov 29

  • Sermon Title:  “The Day is Coming”
    • Scripture: Jeremiah 33:14-16
      • 2nd - 1 Thess 3:9-13
      • Candle - Hope
      • Themes
        • Setting the series … From Heaven to Earth
        • What its like to wait … … And still be hopeful
        • Explaining Advent - it isn’t Christmas, yet
        • Speaking of exile (Jeremiah)
        • Who is actually waiting to meet Jesus?  Who needs to meet Jesus and hasn’t?
          • God’s long-view on deliverance and our work in the meantime. 
          • Nicene Creed
            • Light from Light, True God from True God

Advent 2 - Dec 6

  • Sermon Title:  “People, Get Ready”
    • Scripture:  Luke 3:1-6
      • Malachi 3:1-4
      • Candle - Love
      • Themes
        • Setting the stage … Luke is creating a backdrop of kings and emperors, while the King of Kings is coming out of nowhere and nothing.
        • Love means telling it like it is, sometimes - J the B.

Advent 3 - Dec 13

  • Sermon Title: “Filled With Expectation” 
    • Scripture: Luke 3:7-18
      • 2nd - Isaiah 12:2-6
      • Candle - Joy
      • Themes
        • How are we preparing to meet the Messiah?  Are we focused on our needs, or the needs of others?
          • Are we heading into a joyful season?  Is it joyful for everyone?
          • Unreasonable expectations
            • What do you expect to get from this season?  What are you prepared to give?  John stood his ground.
            • Trimming back to proclaim the good news.

Advent 4 - Dec 20

  • Sermon Title: “We Are Blessed”
    • Scripture: Luke 1:39-55
      • 2nd - Micah 5:2-5a
      • Candle - Peace
      • Themes
        • God’s peace comes with a special kind of justice
          • But it's the same theme that God has been working with since the very beginning: care for the least of these
          • Turning the world on its head … who would’ve thought God would choose a person like Mary to be mother to God?
            • Our God is a fan of the underdog

Christmas Eve - Dec 24

  • Sermon Title: “From Heaven to Earth”
    • Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
    • Candle - Christ
    • Themes
      • Incarnation
        • What does it actually mean for the world that Emmanuel would be a human baby, in actuality?
        • How does this amazing gift show how highly God thinks of us?  Or what brings out the best in us?

Sunday After Christmas - Dec 27

  • Sermon Title: “Love Came Down at Christmas”
    • Scripture - Colossians 3:12-17
      • 2nd - Psalm 148
      • Themes
        • CHRISTMAS
        • The values that God sent Jesus to demonstrate to us:
          • Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience
          • Love
            • God so loves the world ...

Epiphany Sunday - January 3 

  • Sermon Title: “Searching for Jesus”
    • Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
      • 2nd - Psalm 72:1-7
      • Themes
        • Where do we expect to find Jesus?  Might that be a dangerous search?
          • Who would be the opposition?
          • The political cost of following Jesus, bending the Messiah to our vision, rather than God's vision.
          • God Revealed - the meaning of  Epiphany 
            • Welcoming the Gentiles to the Kingdom.
            • Offering a Wesleyan Covenant Service
            • The New Year

Song of the Bow

Due to a few technical difficulties, we didn't get a video of Sunday's message recorded.  So, here is the message from June 28.  At FUMCA, we're currently following the Old Testament stream of the RCL, studying the monarchy of ancient Israel has handed down to us through 1st and 2nd Samuel.  Below is a sermon on 2 Samuel, 1:1, 17-27 - the "Song of the Bow".

What happened in Charleston was still running through my mind as I wrote this on last Thursday.  I'd never had to preach on racism before, and here God is calling to speak on it two weeks in a row.  I don't know if I got everything right, but I do know that in the face of such horrendous tragedy, maybe the worst thing a pastor can do is say nothing.


Have you ever had a tried and true enemy?  Someone who all-out opposed you every chance they could?  Where things just got more and more terrible?  Maybe this enemy is one of your closest friends … Or a sibling … Or a spouse … A surprise.  How have you dealt with adversity that came at you in the form of a person, or people?  With a hot head?  Or with peace?

Last week, we read one of the more popular stories of the Bible, probably one of the few stories that people inside and outside of the church probably know, David and Goliath.  David, the passionate servant of God, trusts in God’s power to save him and his Israelite family, and takes on a giant.  He took on an enemy of our God, and by God’s power, he won.

If you know your Bible, from that moment on, things get kind of hard for David.  King Saul, who had lost his faith in God and in turn lost the Lord’s favor, grows jealous of David.  Saul knows that God has chosen David over him to be King and he isn’t too happy about it.  David ends up being the most famous general in Israel, fighting for Saul, but soon Saul’s jealousy takes over and forces Israel into a civil war, pitting those who love David against those who love Saul.

Things go back and forth through the end of First Samuel, our book for the last few weeks.  In the end, Saul loses his life, not by David … David actually spares his life multiple times, even as Saul continually tried to murder David … Game of Thrones stuff … Saul suffers a defeat at the hands of the Philistine army, in the end taking his own life over becoming a prisoner of war.

What happens after that, is one of the most touching moments in the Word of God, that you’ve probably never read.  When David hears of the death of Saul, he loses it, in front of his people whom he was anointed to lead.  He never chose to be Saul’s enemy.

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 Common English Bible (CEB)

After Saul’s death, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, he stayed in Ziklag two days.
David mourns Saul and Jonathan
Then David sang this funeral song for Saul and his son Jonathan.  David ordered everyone in Judah to learn the Song of the Bow. (In fact, it is written in the scroll from Jashar.)

Oh, no, Israel! Your prince lies dead on your heights.
    Look how the mighty warriors have fallen!
Don’t talk about it in Gath;
        don’t bring news of it to Ashkelon’s streets,
    or else the Philistines’ daughters will rejoice;
    the daughters of the uncircumcised will celebrate.
You hills of Gilboa!
    Let there be no dew or rain on you,
    and no fields yielding grain offerings.
Because it was there that the mighty warrior’s shield was defiled—
    the shield of Saul!—never again anointed with oil.
Jonathan’s bow never wavered from the blood of the slain,
    from the gore of the warriors.
        Never did Saul’s sword return empty.
Saul and Jonathan! So well loved, so dearly cherished!
    In their lives and in their deaths they were never separated.
They were faster than eagles,
    stronger than lions!
Daughters of Israel, weep over Saul!
    He dressed you in crimson with jewels;
    he decorated your clothes with gold jewelry.
Look how the mighty warriors have fallen in the midst of battle!
    Jonathan lies dead on your heights.
I grieve for you, my brother Jonathan!
    You were so dear to me!
    Your love was more amazing to me than the love of women.
Look how the mighty warriors have fallen!
    Look how the weapons of war have been destroyed!

David often chose music and poetry to express his emotions.  He even danced on occasion … We’ll get to that one in a week or two … Seventy-one of the hymns in the Book of Psalms have his name in the superscriptions - “A Psalm of David” - while at least twelve of them clearly describe events in his life.  He was a warrior poet, and here he composes a lament for the dead, a song of mourning for those he would consider dearly departed, a song that he would make all of Israel learn.

It’s amazing to think that Saul tried over and over again to murder David, and still, he would write this song.  And to have to compose these words so personally at the end to memorialize his very best friend, Jonathan.  It’s a beautiful song.  How would you write of your enemies?  Could someone write this one for you?

As a worship minister, I participated in the music for an awful lot of funerals.  Many while we were in Louisiana.  But the biggest one I ever participated in wasn’t for a person, it was for an event, and event names after a person … A hurricane named Katrina.

The storm changed that church and community in vivid ways that are still evident when you walk the streets of Slidell, especially in the outskirts of the town.  But on the fifth anniversary of the storm, my pastors decided it was time for the community to put it to rest.  We mourned the losses that day.  Friends that had to leave, never able to return due to houses lost.  Friends that could return, only to have to rebuild their lives once the waters receded.  The loss of many lives in a region that wasn’t ready.  We sang songs of lament … but then we celebrated a community that was able to rebuild.

We concluded the services with a style that only that region has … A song welcoming the saints … complete with a second line and hankies in the air.  Because with any funeral, we celebrate that the worst thing is never the last thing, right?

However, how do you mourn an enemy?  David stops everything in Israel when he hears the news of Saul’s death.  Everything.  The fighting.  No rejoicing.  David feels a deep loss in his soul for himself and his nation, a loss of one who was anointed to lead.  But there is further weight on his shoulders … He’s going to have to rebuild this nation after its civil war.  It would be years before David could unite north and south again.

It’s just got me thinking about how we treat our enemies, with those that oppose us.  When you watch the Cowboy game, right, when a player is injured on the field, everything stops, even if we're playing against Philadelphia.  You know what I mean.  Maybe our cornerback made the most amazing tackle on the Eagle’s wide receiver.  A game saving tackle when a player was on a break away.  Even so, everything quits.  The hush falls over the crowd when trainers and coaches rush onto the field, even for a player from the Eagles.  Players are standing over their comrade.  If it’s bad a stretcher comes out and the cart that comes with it to hurry the player across the field to the locker room, perhaps even to an ambulance.  And everybody falls into a hushed stillness.  People that have their faces painted in team colors, with signs that say terrible things about the opposing team.  All still.

And the player is loaded onto the stretcher.  And then the cart.  His neck is immobilized and you can’t hear what the people are saying.  But then you see him give a thumbs up as he’s driven off the field.

What does the stadium do?  It claps.  It cheers.  Breaths that were held are let out.  People that jeer are booed.

Why?  Because there’s a difference between wishing your enemy to fail and wishing your enemy harm.

Do we get that?  We are called to always seek to “Do no harm.”  Regardless of the opposition; we pray for changed hearts.  And changed minds.  And changed lives.

The events of last week are still weighing heavily on my heart.  A young man does to a church and accepts the hospitality of a faith family, even though he looks drastically different on the surface than they do.  After studying the Bible with them for an hour, he commits an act of terrorism, and nine of God’s children perish.

How does the church react?  It falls into a hush, but then it sings songs of mourning.  It laments that the stain of racism still hasn’t been washed clean from our world.  It prays that Jesus is still at work, that the Holy Spirit is still moving to fix people’s hearts.

I call us all to search our souls for what the Lord’s justice would look like in today’s world; what people who ultimately believe in God’s hopeful reconciliation would bring to the table.  I pray for the enemies of justice to fail, and I hope that God will change their hearts.

I grew up in Farmers Branch, TX.  Not a town that’s done super well on race relations, in recent history, but that doesn’t mean that amazing things can’t happen in the midst of dealing with an influx of immigrants just trying to find a home.  In high school, I did a little tutoring in a reading program at Central Elementary in Carrollton.  At the time it was full of little kids learning English as a second language.  You’d guess that most of them were coming to English from Spanish, and on the whole, you’d be right.  But, back then, there was a surprise when you walked in the front entrance, a sign, that said hello in every language represented by the student body, which was 3rd through 5th grade.

“Hello” was written on this sign in thirty different languages.  Thirty languages.  Quite the job for the teachers, right?  But they did the work for those precious children.

I pray for those that perpetrate racism in our nation to fail, and those that would divide God’s children up into categories to have changed hearts.

David prayed for his enemies, and mourned their loss, because they were children of God.  But, our Lord Jesus Christ takes things a whole lot further than that.

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Listen, whether you’ve joined this faith family or not, I’m just going to assume for a moment that you’re part of the Body of Christ.  If you are, if we are, Christian, how is it that Christ called for us to be known in the world?  By our love.  We’ve been studying the monarchy of ancient Israel, learning about leadership and how God calls us to lead.  However, we follow something other-worldly, an alternative Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom based on a value of love that is above all and eternal.

May we hear the call of our Lord, to share God’s perfect love, with imperfect people, that someday we may all set aside what we think sets us apart, and just be children of our Heavenly Father.