20 February 2014

Opportunities for the Season of Lent at Custer Road

The Season of Lent, a 40-day time of spiritual formation before Easter (April 20), officially begins with Ash Wednesday, March 5. However, this year at Custer Road we are stretching it out a bit. On March 2 we’ll begin a new sermon series for Lent on the Seven Deadly Sins, continuing through April 13. Taking things even deeper, the Seven Deadly Sins will be the theme of special weekly Lenten worship opportunities in the Chapel on Wednesday nights beginning March 12, (the Ash Wednesday service is in the Sanctuary) and I will lead a companion Bible study on the Seven Deadly Sins following the services. Click here to register.

Why the Seven Deadly Sins? Are we a Catholic church now? Well, no… but the Seven Deadly Sins were an important teaching tool well before there was a Catholic church, or a Methodist church, or any other denomination. This is just Christian Church stuff. The Sins as they are now formulated were solidified by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century. We’ll study them during Lent because it is a natural vehicle for self-examination and reflection. Now, if you’re worried about seven weeks of fire and brimstone preaching, don’t be. Each sin also has a corresponding virtue associated with it—so instead of hitting folk over the head every week we’ll speak to opportunities to grow in grace. Each sin also has a color ascribed to it. This will add a little fun to the mix!

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:11-14).

This series will be different than previous ones, in that Pastor Kory and I will divide it between us: I will preach three of the sermons, he’ll preach four.

March 2: Pride (violet; Humility)

March 9: Sloth (Light blue; Diligence)
March 16: Greed (yellow; Generosity)
March 23: Gluttony (orange; Self-Control)
March 30: Envy (green; Contentment)
April 6: Lust (blue; Chastity)
April 13: Wrath (red; Forgiveness)

Following Bishop McKee's lead, I will fast one meal a week and donate those funds to the Zip Code Project. I hope you will make every effort to join us each week during Lent and participate in the many opportunities we're offering as spiritual disciplines. You will come to Easter full of grace, having fully acknowledged your need for God’s help to overcome challenges we all face. Your relationships and faith will be stronger, and you will celebrate Christ’s victory with renewed joy.

18 February 2014

Prayer from Worship, Feb 16

Several folk (that's preacher talk for "more than one") complimented me on the prayer I shared in worship last Sunday. Here it is, for those who find it helpful. It is found in the United Methodist Book of Worship, page 546. Silent prayers may follow each petition.

O Healer of Galilee,
you are afflicted in the sufferings of your people
and are full of compassion and tender mercy.
Hear us as we pray for those who suffer:

For all who suffer trauma in body or mind...

For those whose livelihood is insecure,
the overworked, the hungry, the homeless, and the destitute,
for those who have been downtrodden, ruined,
and driven to despair...

For little children,
whose surroundings hide them from your love and beauty,
for all the fatherless and motherless...

For those who have to bear their burdens alone,
and for all who have lost those whom they love...

For those who are in doubt and anguish of soul,
for those who are oversensitive and afraid...

For those who suffer through their own wrongdoing...

For those whose suffering is unrelieved
by the knowledge of your love...

Set free, healer of the weak,
the souls of your servants from all restlessness and anxiety.

Give us the peace and power that flow from you.
Keep us in all perplexities and distresses,
in all griefs and grievances, from any fear or faithlessness;
that, being upheld by your strength
and stayed on the rock of your faithfulness,
through storm and stress we may abide in you. Amen.

14 February 2014

Hypnotic Lunch Break

(So I logged in to write this post, and noticed a comment awaiting moderation-- years ago I turned off automatic comments because of bots and loony tunes people. The comment was posted to a sermon on greed from a while ago. It said, in part, "Wow this is the most shocking blog I have seen on the Internet." Yeah. I don't think so. There may be some unorthodox posts, sermons, and movie reviews, but the most shocking blog on the Internet?? Not sure about that.)

I spent some time exploring today. The morning I explored various bike stores, shopping for a bike for Miles, who turns 9 next weekend-- time to leave the training wheels behind forever! I started at Academy, which was my first stop because it was open before 10:00. Then I drifted to Sun and Ski, then finally to the always glorious Richardson Bike Mart. Then I ventured across the street to Hypnotic Donuts, not for the sweet stuff but for their amazing chicken biscuit. I enjoyed it on a park bench looking out upon White Rock Lake. For photographic evidence, I snapped this shot:

Now, I know North Texas is going crazy about seeing the sun and feeling its warmth after several weeks of very cold, sometimes messy, weather. Personally, I am not ready for winter to leave, because I dread summer. And yes, I have lived 42 of my 43 years in Texas. That being said, today was a sunny, windy 70 degrees, and even I can rejoice in that.

But as I looked out onto this vista (my camera could not capture the whole panorama), I couldn't help to think of human ingenuity. You can see planes zooming overhead, skyscrapers peeking up over the horizon, and beautiful homes overlooking the lake. Heck even the lake itself was made by people. But as I thought about the architects and engineers who set all this into motion-- very grateful for their skill and ambition-- I immediately thought of the creative power of God. And Psalm 8 burst into my mind:

Lord, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
You have set your glory above the heavens. 
   Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
   to silence the enemy and the avenger. 
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars that you have established; 
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
   mortals that you care for them? 
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
   and crowned them with glory and honour. 
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
   you have put all things under their feet, 
all sheep and oxen,
   and also the beasts of the field, 
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
   whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 
Lord, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Now, you may say: wait a minute. You were just marveling at human engineering. Where does all this God stuff come from? Shouldn't you have been at least sitting at a natural lake before thinking such things? And away from the city? Sure. But this is where I live, and where does that human creativity come from? What inspires it? What is its origin? I believe, and my faith teaches, that it is in God, who creates out of love and for love. And this picture is a great example of humans using their dominion God gave us-- read the psalm again-- to create something peaceful and joyful, both for us, and for God.

But I went further. This was not an environmental experience.

I thought, as I walked about enjoying wind and birds and sunshine and the sound of waves and boats and airplanes and everything else: How am I embodying that love to/for the created order? What creative energy am I using? How am I exercising dominion for the betterment of my community? I'm no engineer or architect-- I can't build things or design things-- but I have other gifts that can bless and bring meaning and purpose. What specifically am I offering that may touch someone the way this little corner of White Rock blessed me?

I thought of Valentine's Day. Yesterday I gloated on Facebook & Twitter that I had made great personal strides this week, not speaking or posting anything negative about the Olympics or Valentine's Day-- two of my least favorite things (search the blog and I'm sure you'll find several posts on either subject since '06). Unlike more than a few others, I have not spent much time thinking or contemplating what to buy my spouse for Valentine's Day. In my mind, I am a pretty lousy husband if I need any commercial industry to remind me to honor and enjoy Christy. But since the day is supposed to be about love, and I was sitting and exploring evidence of God's love (the beautiful scenery around me; again, forged by human hands, but inspired by divine ones), I was reminded of my truest, best origins:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; 
and that is what we are (1 John 3:1)

Then, this random quote from the all-time best romantic movie Moulin Rouge jumped into my brain: 
"Oh, yes, above all things I believe in love" (Ewan McGregor's character Christian). 
Wait a minute: his name is Christian??

This day is a difficult one for lots of folk. I respect that, and pray that you will find and enjoy healthy, life-affirming romantic relationships you are searching for. For all of us, married, dating, searching, or none of the above: May we all know that love which surpasses all love. Love that goes far beyond any romantic love we could ever imagine. Love that could never be captured by balloons or roses or anything on sale today and on clearance tomorrow. Remember this today and tomorrow and every day: We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). May we all embody, and share, that creative love in whatever relationship or career or attitude or even fleeting moment we fully live in today.