The One Where We're Adopting a Baby

It's been quiet out here, and for good reason ... In the middle of summer school (six weeks of intensive Methodist-centric study at Perkins), our baby girl was born.  We've been in the adoption process for about a year now and were about to pause things for a little while when a family was brought into our lives, just after Easter, with a need we were called to meet.  Our baby girl is now six weeks old (she's been with us since she was about two minutes old) and it is just amazing to have such a tangible witness in our home to God's goodness.

God has blessed us every step of this journey.

On July 6 I intended to offer a sermon, but it ended up being more of a testimony on the amazingness God worked to bring us our baby girl.

July 6, 2014 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Method: Our Wesleyan Way - "Free Grace"

Here's the wrap-up to our 8 week series on Wesleyan beliefs, ending with the big one - GRACE.

It was a lot of fun to dig in here, it's a bit of a lecture on the four steps of grace - prevenient, justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying.  We crammed a lot in, but it was great to end things on a high note!

March 2, 2014 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

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.

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.

Method: Our Wesleyan Way - "The Difference Between Walking by Sight and Walking by Faith"

This week's message was the second in our sermon series Method: Our Wesleyan Way.  We're attempting to wade through the hot topics of our beliefs as United Methodist, turning to John Wesley and his sermons as inspiration in addition to the scriptures of the lectionary.

Last week was baptism, this week was faith.  We have a lot to learn from a few disciples that could just drop everything and follow, but I don't think we're called to that kind of blind faith anymore.  Faith is believing without seeing, but at the same time, can we not see Christ in one another?

I also briefly refer to a modern-day Saint of the church as we remember the life and message of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 19, 2014 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Method: Our Wesleyan Way - "The Marks of the New Birth"

This week we launched our latest sermon series Method: Our Wesleyan way here at FUMC Arlington.  Since we began the series with Baptism of the Lord Sunday, we focused on the basics of our baptismal theology in the Wesleyan tradition.

Things turned into a little bit of a lecture this week, as I've been fielding a lot of questions on baptism, especially infant baptism lately.  Here's how things turned out for week 1:

January 12, 2014 - Celebation from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Hope is on the Way Conclusion: What Gift Did God Bring?

Sunday marked the close of our epic journey from Advent to Epiphany.  It was a blessed time from Sunday to Sunday, my first sermon series to compose from scratch.  We concluded with the poetic and musical creation/birth narrative from John 1.

The questions we asked: What gift did God bring us with the birth of Christ?

And ...

What do we do with that gift?

January 5, 2014 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Post-Epiphany Sermon Series Idea - Method: Our Wesleyan Way

What's next?

It's a question that we're frequently asking ourselves in the worship planning professions.  What's next?  What's needed?  How do we tell the Gospel story?

In my congregation, and I suspect many others, one question I seem to be running into over and over again is:
"What do United Methodists believe?"
I come up against this in many ways, though maybe not as overtly as those words themselves.  It happens in the hallways, in Sunday School classes, in the parking lots after worship.  One of the problems in the UMC narrative, is that through our own doings, the message of Methodism has become watered down.

We're the church that believes everything.

Our founder, Mr. Wesley, would argue against that, to be sure.

So, I approached our Senior Pastor with an idea.  What if we started the year off with a study on our Wesleyan roots?  What if we gave a few basic lessons on the tent-poles of our faith?  I wanted to take the start of the year and talk about our views of the sacraments, the social gospel, and of course, GRACE.

He really liked my idea, but put three requirements on it in order for us to bring it together.

  1. We need to follow the lectionary.
  2. It needs to take up the eight Sundays between Epiphany and Lent.
  3. We need to feature one sermon by John Wesley each week as a source of inspiration.

There's been a dearth of less-than-Wesleyan teaching across the board in our United Methodist Church, so we figure going to the source of our denomination's founder was a great way to talk about what we really believe.

With that in mind, this is what we've come up with:

Method: Our Wesleyan Way
Sundays after Epiphany
January 12 – March 2

For each Sunday, there's a scripture from the RCL, featured sermon by John Wesley (which is also the title for the message of the day - links provided), and the main topic for discussion.

January 12 – Baptism of the Lord Sunday
RCL Scripture: Matthew 3:13-17
Featured John Wesley Sermon (title of the message for the day): #18 “The Marks of the New Birth
Main Topic(s):  Baptism

January 19
RCL Scripture: John 1:29-42
Featured John Wesley Sermon:  #113 “The Difference Between Walking by Sight and Walking by Faith
Main Topic(s):  Faith, Discipleship

January 26
RCL Scripture: Matt 4:12-23
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #7 “The Way to the Kingdom
Main Topic(s):  Heaven (up there and down here), Kingdom building

February 2
RCL Scripture: Micah 6:1-8
Featured John Wesley Sermon:  #2 “The Almost Christian
Main Topic(s):  Justice, the Social Gospel, Works of Mercy, Communion…

February 9
RCL Scripture: Matthew 5:13-20
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #24 “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount
Main Topic(s):  Holiness of heart and life

February 16
RCL Scripture: 1 Cor 3:1-9
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #39 “Catholic Spirit
Main Topic(s):  Universality of the church, 'non-creedal-ness'

February 23
RCL Scripture: Matt 5:38-48
Featured John Wesley Sermon:  #89 “The More Excellent Way
Main Topic(s):  GRACE

March 2 – Transfiguration Sunday
RCL Scripture: 2 Peter 1:16-21
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #128 “Free Grace
Main Topic(s):  Evangelism, More Grace, Sanctification, Election, Communion…


Feel free to use any or all of this!  As always, all I need is a comment if you put it to use.  God bless your future planning!

Hope is on the Way: Hope in the King

This week we were back on track at FUMC Arlington after the snow day last week that forced mass church cancellations across the DFW area.  It was great to formally dig back into our sermon series, "Hope is on the Way".

This week, John the Baptist is back for a visit - except not really.  He's been imprisoned for proclaiming the Gospel.  Because he's holed up in jail, awaiting his execution, he starts to have some doubts.  So he reaches out to Jesus for a little validations.

Was it worth for him to be a risk-taker in the name of Jesus?

December 15, 2013 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

"Embracing Our Inheritance" - Ephesians 1:11-23

Sunday was a pretty thick day for us as far as themes go ... On the one hand we celebrated All Saints Sunday, on the other hand we also started off our stewardship season ... But it seemed that the two went hand in hand, as we celebrated the good stewards who went before us, those who have passed the faith down to us through the ages.

Thanks be to God for the living ministries of the saints!

November 3, 2013 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

UPDATED: Hope is on the Way!

I've been kind of silent on my blog lately, and I can finally share the reason why!

For the last two months, I've been working on a writing assignment for GBOD Worship - sermon preparation ideas for the Hope is On the Way Advent Series I helped to put together for my faith family at FUMC Arlington.

It was a tall assignment, working out seven sermons a couple of months out, but it was a really fun project and a blessing to get this opportunity!

The GBOD published it all today!  So, if you're looking for a little bit of help with your sermon preparations for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, I hope you'll check out what we've offered.  With these notes, I also wrote out a few ideas each week for you to discuss with your worship planning team, questions to ask and ideas for you to own your worship this season and glorify God in your context.  Combine them with the liturgy resources we have, and it's a comprehensive resource to serve your congregation!  It's all free, but I'd love for you to comment if any of this is of help to you, or if you have a different perspective than from what I've given!

Blessings as you plan!

Looking Back: 2nd Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Sunday marked the end of our four week series focused on 2nd Timothy.  This week we see Paul's conclusion to this letter ... A letter of dubious provenance to be sure, but at the same time a beautiful summation of Paul's life in ministry.

Does it cheapen it if this letter was written by a student of Paul rather than Paul himself?  I don't think it does, actually.  If it was written by a student in Paul's voice, that might actually magnify it's impact in my eyes.

Wouldn't we all love to have lived the Christian life to such an extent that someone would write for us an obituary like this one?

Paul told his story, he poured and poured into God's children.  That is our closing challenge from 2nd Timothy.

October 27, 2013 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Scripture ... useful for teaching

This week, our scriptural focus was again in 2nd Timothy, 3:14-4:5.

Paul here points a struggling Timothy to the Word of God, most notably the Hebrew Scriptures as a source of inspiration in tough times.  That the Word is useful not just for teaching, but also equipping disciples to know what's right and good.

So, how often do you read your Bible?

October 20, 2013 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

If ...

We've just begun a sermon series on 2nd Timothy to carry us through October.  Our youth pastor kicked it off, and I picked it back up this week.

In this chapter, Paul is reminding Timothy of his pedigree in Christ, that he has a heritage in his witness that will carry him through these tough times.

And of course, regardless of how hard things are for Timothy, at least he's not in prison ...

October 13, 2013 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.