The Fellowship Blogs

The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts

Timing

Timing

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany

Week of: February 12, 2017
Scripture: Mark 1:44-45 *

" 'See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing as a testimony to them.' Instead (the man) went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him everywhere."
(Mark 1:44-45, NIV*)

Devotion

After healing the man with leprosy, Jesus commanded him to keep silent about it. The time was not yet right to reveal this healing to everyone.

However, caught up in his own excitement, the man did the exact opposite of what Jesus had commanded. As a result this had a potential negative effect on Jesus’ ministry – he could no longer enter a town openly.

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A Top Priority

A Top Priority

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany

Week of: February 5, 2017
Scripture: Mark 1:35 *

“Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.”
(Mark 1:35, CEB*)

Devotion

In the hustle and bustle of life and the demands of our various ministries in worship arts, there are many tasks, deadlines, and individuals perceived to be our number one priority.

In the midst of full and exhausting days of healing, teaching, exorcism – competing for Jesus’ full attention – Jesus revealed to us that despite the importance of each area of ministry, his grounding priority was to spend time alone with God.

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Creating Space

Creating Space

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany

Week of: January 29, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:10, NRSV)

Devotion

The Beatitudes have always been one of my favorite portions of scripture. Yet this particular one took on a whole new meaning for me on the morning of June 18, 2015, the day after the unfathomable massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. My seminary professor entered the classroom silently, read the Beatitudes, and led us in a prayer of mostly silent grief.

The entire trajectory of the semester seemed to change after that moment, and what emerged was a group of people more committed to working against the very serious powers of hatred.

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Leaving Our Nets

Leaving Our Nets

Third Sunday After Epiphany

Week of: January 22, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 4:12-23

“Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
(Matthew 4:20, NRSV)

Devotion

As a worship artist, there is simply nothing more important in my life than the project I am currently working on. The artist in me knows that an interruption at a crucial time in a highly artistic thought process could be devastating to the potential creativity of the finished product.

The worship leader in me almost feels as though souls may be at stake in the song I have chosen for such a high moment in the upcoming service. And then it comes, often through the door of my office: the interruption that seemingly ruins my whole day!

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Abundant Gifts

Abundant Gifts

Second Sunday After Epiphany

Week of: January 15, 2017
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

“... so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 1:7, NRSV)

Devotion

As usual, God’s grace sustained me during the hectic season of Advent, and there was enough left in the tank to experience meaningful services of Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord. Yet it’s about this time in the liturgical year when reality hits: Holy Week is right around the corner! Indeed, it’s about this time when I begin questioning whether my gifts and my endurance will be enough for the task ahead.

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Bursting Forth

Bursting Forth

Baptism of the Lord Sunday

Week of: January 8, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 3:13-17

“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”
(Matthew 3:16, NRSV)

Devotion

I will never forget the time I was flying back home from China amidst what seemed like complete darkness over the Pacific Ocean. Even though I am never able to sleep on flights, my eyelids could barely stay open as I stared out the window. And then suddenly, rising far off in the distance, breaking through the enormous clouds, light burst forth over all the earth, scattering every hint of darkness. The sun overwhelmed the sky, its brilliant rays racing to all corners of creation, and my heart was equally overwhelmed.

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Total Transformation

Total Transformation

Epiphany Sunday

Week of: January 1, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

"… they left for their own country by another road."
(Matthew 2:12, NRSV)

Devotion

What will it be this year? Exercise more? Get more organized? Commit to less use of social media? New Year’s resolutions are a societal ritual that we simply must take part in, right?

Unlike the often fleeting nature of New Year’s resolutions, this powerful text from Matthew’s Gospel is a reminder of the total transformation that we are called to after encountering Christ. Just as the Magi left “by another road,” how can we not be changed by our encounter with Christ during the Advent and Christmas seasons that we have just experienced? What might the transformation that others see in us elicit from the people with whom we partner in ministry?

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The Mystery

The Mystery

Christmas Day

Week of: December 25, 2016
Scripture: Hebrews 1:1-12

"He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being ..."
(Hebrews 1:3a, NRSV)

Devotion

Mystery. Few other words seem to capture what this day is better than "mystery." Yes, this is a day of rejoicing, of carols, of laughter, of family gatherings with presents and food. This is the day that all our work and planning has been leading up to. Celebrate! Christ is born! And still I say ... mystery.

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God With Us

God With Us

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 18, 2016
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

"(A)nd they shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us.'"
(Matthew 1:23b, NRSV)

Devotion

I hope you will read the birth of Jesus the Messiah according to Matthew's gospel. I know it is not the picturesque-image-packed-script-for-a-children's-pageant reading that Luke's gospel gives us. It was not read by Linus in the Peanuts Christmas television special. It is not theologically dense like John's gospel, "In the beginning ..."

And yet ...

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We Wait

We Wait

Third Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 11, 2016
Scripture: Luke 1:47-55

"And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord ...'"
(Luke 1:46, NRSV)

Devotion

Regardless of whether your congregation will celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent using Mary's Magnificat (spoken or sung), it is fitting in our devotion and our work to remember these powerful words.

We are in a season of waiting not only for the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, but also for the fullness of God's plan to be accomplished. We wait for the reconciling of all creation, the "peaceful kingdom" as Isaiah described it in Isaiah 35:1-10.

We wait.

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Why?

Why?

Second Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 4, 2016
Scripture: Romans 15:4-13

"Welcome one another ... Just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God."
(Romans 15:7, NRSV)

Devotion

Do you ever ask yourself ... why am I doing this? Why am I worship planning or leading or writing sermons? Why am I putting hours into a dance choir, an adult choir, a youth choir? Why do I try so hard to coordinate the worship space with the scripture?

Do you ever lose touch with the "why" of your ministry?

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What Time is It?

What Time is It?

First Sunday of Advent

Week of: November 27, 2016
Scripture: Romans 13:11-14

"Besides this, you know what time it is ..."
(Romans 13:11a, NRSV)

Devotion

What time is it? Is it Thanksgiving? Is it the first Sunday of Advent? Is it Christmas time already? What time is it? Have we adequately prepared? Do we have enough time for rehearsals, study, planning for each Sunday of Advent, for Christmas Eve? — and to add to the fun(!) Christmas is on Sunday this year!

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