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The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts

Servanthood

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Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: October 21, 2018
Scripture: Mark 10:35-45

[A]nd whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
(Mark 10:44-45, NRSV)

Devotion

One of my choral professors always reminded us that the best conductors are those who do not "conduct" the music but allow the music to conduct them. These are the conductors who become subservient to the music so that the music can speak. The true conductor serves the music.

One of the joys of being a Minister of Music is that I am privileged to serve my choir members. It might be late at night when I really need sleep or during the day when I have tons of work to do. However, the music I make with my choirs is very deep and powerful because my singers and ringers know that I will be there for them, and they will be there for me as well. Together we are creating a community of servanthood.

Being a servant to our art, our music ensembles, and worship design teams creates Christian community. We are all sharing the love of Christ through caring and sharing with one another. The music and all the arts speak through us in community.

Prayer

Spirit God, move us to love and nurture one another. Allow that servant love to produce music and worship arts that celebrate the wonder of you and your creation. Amen.

C. Milton RodgersThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music and Organist
Grace United Methodist Church
Manassas, VA

Photo: Dr. Cari Earnhart directs the Middle High Choir during the Thursday evening concert at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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On To Perfection

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Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: October 14, 2018
Scripture: Mark 10:17-31

Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."
(Mark 10:18, NRSV)

Devotion

Kalosis is a Greek word for "good." It means beautiful and worthy. Those of us in worship arts are striving for this "good." With a slight stretch, we could add the term "perfection," as in "God is my strength and power, and he makes my way perfect" (2 Samuel 22:33, NKJV). Our striving toward perfection is a journey.

Artists are always concerned about the rendition of our art. We are trying for that perfect choral nuance, the perfect handbell performance, or that perfect illustration. As artists, are we "going on to perfection" through our varied arts?

We are always trying to give our very best to God. However, what do we do when we have done our best to prepare and the choir sings out of tune, the handbell players pick up the wrong bell, or the drawing does not speak to the people gathered for worship as we had hoped?

We need to remember that "good" is a process – perfection is a journey. We give our best to God, but it will always fall short of God's goodness. God is with us on the expedition to perfection even if that does not happen until the full Kingdom of Heaven comes to fruition.

Prayer

Creator God, move us to offer our very best to your people assembled for worship and to you. Send your Spirit to strengthen us toward that perfection which will come to fruition in the fulfilled Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

C. Milton RodgersThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music and Organist
Grace United Methodist Church
Manassas, VA

Photo: The Intermediate II Handbell Ensemble performs during their Thursday afternoon concert at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Worshipping With Wonder

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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost / World Communion Sunday

Week of: October 7, 2018
Scripture: Mark 10:2-16

Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.
(Mark 10:14b, NRSV)

Devotion

There is something special about a child. Children experience the world in a new way every day. Jesus reminded us of this when he said that the kingdom of God belongs to the children.

I am always inspired by the new ways I experience worship when I attend Music & Worship Arts Week at Lake Junaluska. The design team clearly plans each service through the eyes of children. Such creativity is evident in the visuals, the music, and the dance. I find myself pondering whether our own worship services have lost their sense of creativity and become boring and uninspiring. Is the "spark of creation" (thanks to Steven Schwartz from "Children of Eden") still there?

I'm also moved by the singing voices of our three children's choirs in my local setting. Congregation and family members share that they are encouraged by the energy, innocence, and power of children singing their faith.

Children help us to experience God because they are seeing everything in a new way with the "spark of creation." That is why the kingdom belongs to them and to us, too, if we come to worship with new eyes of wonder.

Prayer

Loving God, let us come to worship planning with the innocence of children. Let us experience worship and creativity in new ways through the eyes of children filled with the spark of creation. Amen.

C. Milton RodgersThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music and Organist
Grace United Methodist Church
Manassas, VA

Photo: Elementary children in the DRUM program play as part of their Thursday afternoon concert at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Remember

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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 30, 2018
Scripture: James 5:13-20

... and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.
(James 5:16b, NRSV)

Devotion

A few months before my father died, when I came to visit him, I took him to worship at the church where he had taken me from birth. When we walked in the door, people welcomed him warmly and greeted him by name. He had Parkinson's and dementia, and when I looked at him sitting in the pew, he had the worship bulletin upside down. Yet, even though he couldn't remember simple things like turning off the kitchen stove after warming his coffee, when we prayed the Lord's Prayer and stood to sing the Doxology, he still knew every word.

As James counsels, this is the power of the church as a community that worships and prays together. We come and support one another in good times and bad, confess our sins, sing praise to God, and tell the story of Jesus Christ in word, silence, image, movement, and music. We pray for those who are suffering, whether someone is ill like my father, dismissed from a job, or charged with a felony.

When one is too broken to sing or pray, someone else prays and sings for them. When people forget who or whose they are, as worship leaders we remind them what God has done and is doing still.

Prayer

Eternal God, help us to remember the story of our faith and act it out in our lives. Amen.

Theresa MasonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director, Earthen Pot Ministries
St. Paul, MN

Photo: Communion is served during closing worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Welcome

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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 23, 2018
Scripture: Mark 9:30-37

Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.
(Mark 9:37, NRSV)

Devotion

The disciples had been fighting over who was the greatest and failed to understand Jesus' embodiment of a humble servant. So Jesus took a child, because children were vulnerable in his society, to demonstrate to his disciples that we are called to care for the marginalized among us — the immigrant, destitute, sick, and those rejected and despised.

When I've served persons who are marginalized by society, I've been so blessed by them. I worked with a Sudanese congregation that met in the church where I pastored. They worshipped in Arabic in a separate service from the English-speaking services, and sometimes invited me to preach. They translated for one another and witnessed how their deep faith got them through horrors of war, troubles in refugee camps, and the difficulties and dangers they face now as immigrants in this country. I can recall asking the youth, "How big is God?" and "Marcus" said, "It depends on how close you are to God."

How has your life been blessed by reaching out to the vulnerable in your worship ministries or as a leader in the church? Are there ways that God is nudging you to care for and "re-present" persons who are marginalized — perhaps through music, images, or art from a global perspective in worship?

Prayer

Almighty God, guide our steps. Help us hear how you are calling us to serve in Jesus' name. Amen.

Theresa MasonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director, Earthen Pot Ministries
St. Paul, MN

Photo: The Younger Elementary Choir sings during a Thursday afternoon concert at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Glory

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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 16, 2018
Scripture: Psalm 19

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalm 19:1, NRSV)

Devotion

Psalm 19 sings our Creator's glory with such wonder that, as the psalmist says, even creation itself can't keep silent about God's majesty.

Like Psalm 19, any and all worship arts can ignite our praise and stir our hearts. Recall a moment when music, dance, word, or drama turned your own breath into a gasp of awe.

Our leadership as worship artists — those who work creatively to reveal aspects of the nature of God — grows naturally out of our own relationship with Jesus Christ and participation in spiritual disciplines that connect us with the Creator of heaven and earth. However, at least for me, many times quality prayer time and spiritual renewal are crowded out when the ministries of the church season become hectic.

How do you renew a sense of wonder in your own life: being in nature, listening to music, sitting in silence, being with friends, working for justice, creating art, going on retreat? Think about the times and places you encounter the Holy where your spirit is renewed.

I know how challenging it is to set aside the time for stillness, reflection and meditation. Those sacred moments are opportunities to clarify the nature of the gifts offered — to God and for the people who gather for worship.

Prayer

Awesome Creator, fill us with your Holy Spirit again and again. Renew and restore us so we might show forth your wondrous glory. Amen.

Theresa MasonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director, Earthen Pot Ministries
St. Paul, MN

Photo: Carrie Gerow dances during opening worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Gifts

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 9, 2018
Scripture: James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17

... do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?
(James 2:1b, NRSV)

Devotion

The letter of James tells us that favoritism is a sin because it opposes the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

I confess that I’ve shown favoritism — sometimes toward the most gifted, but other times, just because I like them. I also confess times when I didn’t know what to do when someone was "difficult" to deal with or kept "messing up" the worship design plan. How can we find the grace to offer quality artistic leadership and welcome people to roles that match their gifts?

I think of "Melanie" with arm braces walking down the aisle with her father's help, who not only lit the candles, but lit up the whole room with her joy. I think of "Judy" from a developmentally disabled group home, who waved and smiled from ear to ear as she joined in a worship drama in a part written for her. I think of "Thomas" who is socially awkward, but his enthusiasm for singing is contagious; and transgendered "Elaina," who greets people as an usher because she knows in her bones what a difference it makes to be welcomed instead of excluded.

Collaborating with individuals has taught me that anyone, everyone, can serve in ways that I might never have considered.

Prayer

Creator, we bring imagination to the arts we offer. Fill us with that same imagination to see the value and gifts of each person you have created. Amen.

Theresa MasonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director, Earthen Pot Ministries
St. Paul, MN

Photo: Worship leaders pray together in a circle prior to a morning worship service at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Words

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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 2, 2018
Scripture: James 1:17-27

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves ...
(James 1:26a, NIV)

Devotion

Throughout the book of James, the writer reminds us how destructive words can be. Today, as we listen to the daily news, we realize how toxic words have become.

Consider how often words have torn apart relationships in our families and in our world. Words can break down community and threaten the worship ministries we seek to lead. Yet, as James admits, taming our tongues is harder than taming wild animals.

In a previous Fellowship Reflection, Mark Miller introduced the song, "I Need You to Survive," by Hezekiah Walker, that says, "I won't harm you with words from my mouth."

How can we, as worship arts leaders, tame our tongues so that our words do not harm? How can our words be bridges of peace in dealing with disputes among the people with whom we work? How can we use words to build up, rather than break down; to support, rather than gossip; to love, rather than hate; to inspire, rather than destroy? How do we fill our mouths with words that honor God?

Prayer

Living Word, tame our tongues to keep us from harming others with our words. Speak your Word of love through us. Amen.

Theresa MasonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director, Earthen Pot Ministries
St. Paul, MN

Photo: Choir members sing during worship in Stuart Auditorium on Monday morning at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Offer the Living Bread

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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 26, 2018
Scripture: John 6:56-69

It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
(John 6:63, NRSV)

Devotion

Jesus is continuing to teach the disciples about the bread of life and how to receive it. He explains that it is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. Like the disciples, we too have moments of unfaithfulness and doubt. We often find ourselves relying too much on the flesh and not enough on the Spirit of God living within us.

Worship is a time for us to be reminded of God's life-giving Spirit and to be nourished by the bread of life. If we offer people the bread of eternal life through engaging worship experiences they will want to come back for more of what we are offering.

We are all in search of "good bread." There is no substitute for fresh, fulfilling, and authentic experiences. When worship arts are presented in authentic ways, then the people to whom we offer the arts in worship will receive them like rich, fresh bread, and will want more.

Prayer

Creator God, help us to be authentic in the ways we weave the arts throughout worship. Send your Spirit to guide us so that we are inspired and enabled to offer the living bread of life to all through worship.

Trenton TeegardenThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Contemporary Music & Worship Arts
Pulaski Heights UMC
Little Rock, AR

Photo: Communion elements are seen on the altar during closing worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2016. The altar design was created by worship visual artist Wendy Marble.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Feast on Jesus

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 19, 2018
Scripture: John 6:51-58

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.
(John 6:56, NRSV)

Devotion

Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Come and feast on Jesus! Imagine that you were standing among the Jewish people when Jesus spoke this passage from John 6 and he asked those questions. What he said next would shock most anybody. They must have whispered among themselves, “You want us to eat your flesh? Drink your blood?”

What Jesus tells the disciples doesn’t make much sense to them and ends up turning their world upside down. Has this ever happened to you in your daily work as a worship artist? Has someone asked you to do something you just don’t want to do at the time, or to take on a task that doesn’t seem like it will be worthwhile to you?

Jesus says that when we eat his flesh and drink his blood we will abide in him and he will abide in us. Jesus will be with us during all the worship arts endeavors that we enter into and offer in the liturgy.

Prayer

Gracious God, give us the strength to endure the tasks that we may not want to do. Remind us that you will be with us through the hardest situations and the best situations. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Trenton TeegardenThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Contemporary Music & Worship Arts
Pulaski Heights UMC
Little Rock, AR

Photo: Communion elements are seen on the altar during closing worship at Awaken 2017, the Fellowship's convocation held in Little Rock, AR. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Daily Bread Presence

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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 12, 2018
Scripture: John 6:35, 41-51

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
(John 6:51, NRSV)

Devotion

Do you have a daily bread presence?

This week’s Gospel passage reminds us that Jesus is the bread of life, which is given to all who believe in him. This bread is life-giving, intimate, and mysterious.

Bread is symbolic because it is something that is common, accessible, and a constant source of daily nourishment. We find reference to bread in the Lord's Prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread." In the same way that our bodies need food to be physically healthy, our souls must also be nourished and replenished for us to be sustained spiritually.

We receive this bread of life through Jesus' presence with us and through God's Spirit who draws us into an intimate, spiritual relationship.

As worship artists, we experience and share with all who gather for worship this spiritual intimacy through the arts — and, in turn, what we offer also becomes our own daily bread presence.

This bread of life, which is Jesus, works in wondrous and mysterious ways through the arts. It provides in worship, as well as in life, a nourishing connection to God, our Creator.

Prayer

Ever present God, we give thanks that you are always with us, reaching out to be our daily bread presence. Open our eyes, open our ears, and open our hearts that we might know you and love you more. Amen.

Trenton TeegardenThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Contemporary Music & Worship Arts
Pulaski Heights UMC
Little Rock, AR

Photo: Communion bread baked by event participants is seen on the altar during closing worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2017. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Bread of Life

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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 5, 2018
Scripture: John 6:24-35

Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.
(John 6:27a, NRSV)

Devotion

In the verses of this week's Scripture, Jesus guides the disciples to both think and live in a more meaningful way. The disciples are focused on the present and want instant gratification for what they are asking. They say to Jesus, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" (v.28). In other words, tell us what we must do so we can enjoy the results.

Worship artists are, at times, much like Jesus' disciples — we expect quick results from the work we are doing with our ensembles, teams, and worship services. We too want to see and experience the "fruits" of people encountering God through the means of worship we diligently prepare.

However, most days seem to be filled with staff meetings, budget preparations, selecting music for the next church season, and putting out the latest "fire." The good news is that these tasks are also important to kingdom work that endures. It is important for us to remember that everything we do holds the opportunity of offering the bread of life to the world.

In what ways can you offer the bread of life through your work each day? 

Prayer

Wonderful Maker, we praise you for sustaining us with the bread of life that you provide for us each day. Help us to take the bread of life into our daily routines, so that others may encounter you and come to know you more through us. Amen.

Trenton TeegardenThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Contemporary Music & Worship Arts
Pulaski Heights UMC
Little Rock, AR

Photo: Communion elements are prepared prior to closing worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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A Sacred Pattern

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 29, 2018
Scripture: John 6:1-21

He said this to test them, for he himself knew what he was going to do.
(John 6:6, NRSV)

Devotion

Why is this story of feeding the five thousand so important to our story as Christian people? Maybe because the central act of this miracle story happens when Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives. You will no doubt recognize these actions as the same words in the same sequence as in the story of the last supper.

The repetition of this ritual action in the stories that the early Christians told about Jesus might suggest that they found that it is the way or pattern of relationship with Jesus — that somehow by grace Jesus takes what we offer, blesses it, then breaks it so that the gifts and graces we offer can be given for others in the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is the real miracle — not the number of souls fed or the initial quantity of provisions, but the movement that Jesus initiates within the disciples — a movement from scarcity to abundance, from "we can't" to "you can."

And just maybe, this is the good news of Jesus, that when people are thirsty for justice and hungry for hope, Jesus says, "Bring what you have to me."

When we allow our worship arts and our very being to be shaped by God's story, then we will truly learn that the question is never "Can we do it?" but always "Won't God do it?"

The answer to this question is always "Yes, and Amen!"

Prayer

Lord, transpose your church into a blessed, broken and given people, until all the world becomes a "Yes, and Amen!" Amen. 

DeAndre JohnsonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Pastor of Music & Worship Life
Christ Church, Sugar Land
Sugar Land, TX

Photo: The Rev. Alice Rogers leads the communion liturgy during closing worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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... And Rest

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 22, 2018
Scripture: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
(Mark 6:31b, NRSV)

Devotion

Wednesdays are the worst. After dropping kids at school, I go right into the office with back-to-back meetings, rehearsals with accompanists and liturgists, score study, picking kids up from school, helping with homework, and finally back to the church for choir rehearsals. Like the disciples, there seems to not even be enough time to eat – never mind sleep, exercise or pray. In the seeming urgency of right now, it is easy to not only neglect basic needs but also the life-giving practices that keep one grounded with God, with self and with others.

Over all this busyness, Jesus beckons us to "come away ... and rest." His words sound so wonderful, but always feel nearly impossible to actually do, in part because I love the work. We make fun and beautiful music; we design meaningful and inspiring altars and banners; I preach convicting and formative sermons. In short, my work as a worship artist transforms the world through worship ... but Sunday comes every week.

Maybe the invitation is meant to remind me that I am a participant in God's work, not the other way around. Sunday comes every week, not by my design or desire, but by God's grace. 

So it is, also, with the salvation of the world.

Prayer

Gracious God, deliver me from the pride of busyness to the restful rhythm of grace. Amen. 

DeAndre JohnsonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Pastor of Music & Worship Life
Christ Church, Sugar Land
Sugar Land, TX

Photo: Fog rises in the mountains over Lake Junaluska after an afternoon rainstorm during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Dancing

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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 15, 2018
Scripture: 2 Samuel 6:1-19

David danced before the LORD with all his might ...
(2 Samuel 6:14, NRSV)

Devotion

Dancing, like all the arts, requires a certain level of vulnerability – an acquiescence to both external and internal rhythms. I dare say, too, that the beauty of the artform arises and becomes clearer when the dancers submit themselves to these two rhythmic forces.

Here we see David dancing twice, but for different purposes. At first, he dances as a triumphant king intending to make a political statement by bringing the “ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim.” Here, David is bold and proud, and literally accompanied by all the bells and whistles.

However, the second dance follows the tragic death of Uzzah and David’s subsequent anger and fear of God. David is humbled by a God he cannot control. His dance becomes less triumphant and more vulnerable, emotional. Instead of royal regalia, David is now nearly naked and accompanied with only a trumpet. The more vulnerable dance elicits response: ridicule, from Michal who finds his vulnerability shameful, and extravagant generosity from David, whose place of vulnerability opens him to be a conduit for blessing.

Prayer

Almighty God, forgive my attempts to control or confine you. Teach me to dance and move with you until my life becomes a conduit of blessing. Amen. 

DeAndre JohnsonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Pastor of Music & Worship Life
Christ Church, Sugar Land
Sugar Land, TX

Photo: Tim Ethridge (center) solos as part of "Wade in the Water," a dance performed during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Leading and Following

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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 8, 2018
Scripture: Mark 6:1-13

And he could do no deed of power there ...
(Mark 6:5, NRSV)

Devotion

The first rule of nearly every music ensemble is "watch the director," to follow where and how they lead. Clearly the people of Jesus' hometown did not get the memo!

Since Jesus recently visited Nazareth, it is no wonder that they would be astonished at his teaching. This village would have been so remote and off the beaten path that you really had to be looking for it in order to find it. So, it is not hard to imagine that this traveling Jesus must have seemed laughable to them with all his new teaching, new authority, and new convictions. It is also not surprising that when Jesus comes home preaching repentance and disrupts the social and economic order by healing those who are dispossessed, his community becomes offended and discredits him – like his family did earlier in Mark 3:21.

As a leader, what do you do when the people in whom you have invested so much resist your leadership? Well, you follow Jesus. Even though the fullness of his ministry was frustrated in that place, Jesus did what he could so that at least some of the people could receive the healing they needed.

Resistance isn't failure – nor is knowing when to move on to the next place of ministry.

Prayer

Gracious God, you have called us to this place of ministry. Give us courage to lead through resistance to healing and new life. Amen.  

DeAndre JohnsonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Pastor of Music & Worship Life
Christ Church, Sugar Land
Sugar Land, TX

Photo: Welborn Young directs the Chamber Choir during a rehearsal at Waynesville First UMC as part of Music & Worship Arts Week 2018. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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The Crowd

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 1, 2018
Scripture: Mark 5:21-43

... And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.
(Mark 5:24, NRSV)

Devotion

You know, sometimes it's the well-meaning church folk who stand in the way of someone's healing. We can get so caught up in doing our own thing that we don't realize that we, at best, block others from Christ; and at worst, we trample them in order to receive our own blessing.

There are always people who feel hindered in their access to Jesus. We are so caught up in our own selves that we can’t see them reaching out for a blessing from the Lord. Despite the crowd, this woman reaches out in desperate hope. She is perhaps unlike Jairus, who has enough social power and privilege to get Jesus' attention. She feels she has no voice, or at least feels that if she were to make a scene by pleading her case, she would be ridiculed and shamed. So, she does the only thing she feels she can. She stealthily and anonymously reaches out for healing.

Am I blocking others' access to Jesus? Is my ministry so oriented by my own perspective – physical ability, economic, cultural or otherwise – that others are shut out? Like Jesus, sometimes we have to stop doing our own "thing" so that others may have the space to speak their truth and receive their healing.

Prayer

Lord, give us eyes to see those who are straining to reach you. Give us courage to stop what we are doing so that they can. Amen.  

DeAndre JohnsonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Pastor of Music & Worship Life
Christ Church, Sugar Land
Sugar Land, TX

 

 

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Afraid

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: June 24, 2018
Scripture: Mark 4:35-41

He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"
(Mark 4:40, NRSV)

Devotion

Several of the disciples were fishermen and if they were afraid of a storm, it must have been quite severe. I can imagine them, calmly at first, summoning their skill to keep the boat afloat as the gale batted it around. One by one, the less experienced called upon the more experienced until, in desperation, they called upon the captain of the boat. I can see that captain, drawing upon his training and experience to guide them, yet knowing in his heart that they were doomed. How terrifying to be lost in a maelstrom!

This how I felt on Easter Sunday when our pastor became ill just before the service.

At first, the worship team tried to find a solution using our own resources: a Certified Lay Speaker would preside and preach his "pocket" sermon. But God led us in a different direction — repeat the children's program in the place of the sermon. What a blessing!

Meanwhile, in the back of the boat, Jesus was asleep. Asleep! Did Jesus not care that they were dying? In the chaos and storm, they had been looking to each other rather than God for help. Jesus had been there all along, willing to help if the disciples called upon him.

Worship planners and artists, we can also find ourselves in chaos. Will we try to solve the problems ourselves or will we call out to Jesus?

Prayer

Lord of all creation, help me to grow in faith so that I turn to you for guidance and assistance.  

Nancy Yager SmithThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Music Director
Somerville First UMC
Somerville, TN

 

 

Image: Backhuysen, Ludolf, ca. 1630-1708. Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54955. Original source:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Backhuysen,_Ludolf_-_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Sea_of_Galilee_-_1695.jpg.

 

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Planting Seeds

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: June 17, 2018
Scripture: Mark 4:26-34

... "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground ... and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how."
(Mark 4:26-27, NRSV)

Devotion

One of the things I find most frustrating about planning worship is the lack of immediate results. I receive a fair amount of feedback: hymns we like, hymns we don't like, more contemporary music, too much contemporary music ... you get the idea. What I don't often see is results.

Frequently, parishioners compliment the musicians or let me know that something in the service met a need or touched a tender spot in their soul. Those are good days.

What about the other days? What about the days when the choir has worked very hard to present a difficult piece — an offering of work and praise — and nobody responds?

Worship planning is much like planting a field. Just as I choose seeds for my garden, I select the hymns, anthem, and readings (the "seeds") far in advance. Those selections are the result of study, prayer, and a realistic knowledge of the capabilities and the hearts of the people I serve. There are times when the "perfect" worship element is not workable in my context. When these times occur, I have to trust the Lord to lead me to the appropriate resources.

God will lead me, if I will listen.

Prayer

Guide me, loving God, in planting seeds that glorify you. Help me to remember always that the harvest is yours. 

Nancy Yager SmithThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Music Director
Somerville First UMC
Somerville, TN

 

 

Image: Gogh, Vincent van, 1853-1890. Harvest in Provence, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55315. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ernte_in_der_Prov%C3%A9nce.jpeg.

 

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Family

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: June 10, 2018
Scripture: Mark 3:20-35

Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.
(Mark 3:35, NRSV)

Devotion

I had not really considered the reaction of Jesus' birth family to his mission. They — his mother and his brothers — were so worried that he might be crazy (v. 21) that they staged an intervention. It certainly hurts when those closest to us do not understand us.

How did Jesus react? First, Jesus used this opportunity to affirm that his mission was God's mission. How often are we able to stand firmly in God's will in the face of opposition?

Second, Jesus enlarged his family circle to include the entire family of God. He did not reject his birth family; rather, he enlarged his spiritual family to include all who would do the will of God.

A spiritual family is especially important for worship artists and leaders. We need to find or build a family who can support us as we do God's work. We who serve God are siblings in the same family, and we take care of each other by helping one another stand firmly in the center of God's will.

Prayer

Guiding God, help me to stand firmly in the center of your will with the support of my siblings in Christ. 

Nancy Yager SmithThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Music Director
Somerville First UMC
Somerville, TN

 

 

Image: Giorgione, 1477-1511. Holy Family, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55244. Original source: https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.41590.html.

 

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