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The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts

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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God's Healing

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Second Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: June 3, 2018
Scripture: Mark 2:23 - 3:6

... [He] said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."
(Mark 3:5, NRSV)

Devotion

The Pharisees were on a mission; they followed Jesus and the disciples, waiting for them to make mistakes. On this occasion, they caught the disciples plucking grain on the sabbath. You could imagine the Pharisees scribbling the details of the infraction in their notebooks.

Later, Jesus encountered a man with a withered hand. You can still sense their glee throughout the ages; they knew they would catch Jesus working in the synagogue on the sabbath! Before he healed the man, Jesus asked them a question. Which is lawful on the sabbath — doing good or doing harm?

Despite knowing the answer, the Pharisees refused to speak. Scripture records that their hard hearts saddened Jesus. The man with the withered hand, however, responded to Jesus' call. He stretched out his hand and was healed. The Pharisees did not respond. They stood silent, their withered souls rejecting Christ's healing power, ignorant of their need for healing.

As busy worship artists, it is easy for us to ignore our own spiritual health. How often do we, like the Pharisees, ignore a restorative opportunity God presents to us? How often do we stand like a stone, set in our pride?

God's healing is but a touch away.

Prayer

Gracious, healing God, when my creative spirit withers, help me to reach for you.  

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

 

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What Do We Know?

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Trinity Sunday

Week of: May 27, 2018
Scripture: John 3:1-17

... we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen ...
(John 3:11, NRSV)

Devotion

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to testify. What did they know?

From the prophet Isaiah (6:1-5), the disciples knew God as holy and worthy of praise, but they had fallen short of God’s expectations. Isaiah confessed his sin and was cleansed. The disciples knew of Isaiah’s confession.

From the Psalms (29), the disciples knew that God commands the waters and rules over the flood. He breaks the cedars and the oaks. He shakes the wilderness.

The disciples knew the same things Jesus taught Nicodemus — that Jesus is the Son of God, and those who believe in Jesus will have eternal life (John).

The apostle Paul later taught the Roman disciples that by living through the Spirit, they became God’s beloved children (Romans 8:14-17).

The first-century disciples knew these things and they testified of these things, even at the cost of their lives.

These lessons still hold true two millennia later. So today, what do we know?

Through dance or movement in worship, we experience God’s richness.

Through visual expressions in worship, we envision God’s story.

Through music in worship, we experience God’s tender mercy and God’s glory.

We tell what we know of God through the artistic talents we have been given. This is our testimony through God’s gift of the creative arts.

Prayer

Abba, Father, thank you for enfolding me into your family. Use my testimony of your redeeming love to add to your kingdom.  

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: Strater, Louis Joseph. Trinity, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56147. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Detail_kazuifel_J.L._Str%C3%A4ter_drie-eenheid.jpg.

 

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Testify

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Day of Pentecost

Week of: May 20, 2018
Scripture: John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
(John 15:26-27, NRSV)

Devotion

I wonder why Pentecost is not a bigger festival in our churches. The dramatic story is told in Acts 2:1-21; the disciples are gathered in a house in Jerusalem when they are startled by a windy roar and flame-like tongues. They are filled with the Spirit and speak in other languages which were understood by the curious crowd. Peter explains the empowering of the disciples by the Holy Spirit using the prophecy of Joel (2:28-32).

How could we not share such news?

The Holy Spirit empowers each of us to testify — to tell the story. We embody God’s good news in dance, gesture, and movement. We illustrate God’s story in visual arts. We write of God’s grace in narrative and poem. We sound God’s message with music.

We can testify with our tongues and our talents to the saving and sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ.

How could we not share such Good News?

Prayer

Gracious God, through your Spirit, empower me to testify to your grace using all of your gracious gifts. Amen.  

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: JESUS MAFA. Pentecost, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48388. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact).

 

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Glory

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Ascension Sunday / Seventh Sunday of Easter

Week of: May 13, 2018
Scripture: John 17:6-19

All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.
(John 17:10, NRSV)

Devotion

Ascension Sunday brings a day of endings which beget new beginnings. Jesus’ earthly ministry ends, leaving his disciples to begin the work again and anew. He’s embodied love fully — loving so powerfully that it defied death itself. And now he must depart.

We travel back in the Gospel of John to his farewell speech, before his death and rising. Jesus lifts his friends in prayer, gifting them to God, reminding them they’re divine possessions. The eternal love, life and light once contained in his singular body is now gifted to his followers. Having revealed divine glory to them, they will now bring glory, honor and praise because it lives on in them.

As we do glorious things that make the presence of the Living God visible, we are joined to the Risen Christ. Glory is the mark of resurrected hearts. Glory is the sight of resurrected eyes. Glory is our baptism into the eternal day of Easter.

As this season of resurrection ends, where in your ministry have you been awakened to glory? What would allow you to better reflect and radiate praise, thanksgiving and joy? As our choruses of “Alleluia!” shift with anticipation to “Come, Spirit, Come!” ... how will you allow yourself to be transformed again and anew into glory?

Prayer

Love Divine, let our lives echo the refrain of your eternal life. Let our lives proclaim your life-over-death promises. Let our lives become your glory. Amen.

Revs. Todd and Jennifer PickThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Central Texas Annual Conference

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Chosen

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

Week of: May 6, 2018
Scripture: John 15:9-17

You did not choose me but I chose you. I appointed you to go and bear fruit ... I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
(John 15:16-17, NRSV)

Devotion

Jesus seemed to be in the habit of weaving together the most improbable, disparate people into the tapestry of God’s mission. Perhaps this crazy quilt of differences is the reason he felt compelled to command them to love, as if it were ever that simple. He was addressing those whose frayed lives were about to become truly unraveled by his death and resurrection. Jesus knew that love is the only tie that is strong enough to bind them together. And in that moment, he offered a reminder to all who have ears to listen: “You did not choose me but I chose you.”

And so, we find ourselves in a similar state of chosen-ness. Many of us were chosen by this life of service, ministry, artistry and leadership of God’s improbable and disparate people. We did not choose it – the Great Weaver chose us.

Chose us to live into the commandment to love with our whole hearts.

Chose us to weave generations together with ancient story and new songs as we piece together God’s reign on earth.

What binds you to the One who chose you? How do you live into your purpose in God’s grand design?

Prayer

Blessed be the tie that binds, O Great Weaver. May the cords of love hold us tightly together in beloved community. Amen.

Revs. Todd and Jennifer PickThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Central Texas Annual Conference

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The Vine

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Week of: April 29, 2018
Scripture: John 15:1-8

Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.
(John 15:4, NRSV)

Devotion

Several years ago, we planted some morning glory seedlings by our mailbox. They grew on the ground for awhile but didn’t seem to be doing that well. We bought some lattice so that the stringy stems would have something to climb. And then we went on vacation.

When we got back, the mailbox had been swallowed up in lush green leaves pierced with delicate blue flowers! Underneath, tendril upon tendril had woven together like rope. Thick vines, tenaciously holding onto every inch of lattice in hopes of getting more sunlight, even wound their way inside the mailbox!

Vines can be powerful, living things. Our life flows from the heart of Christ: the very love of God. From Christ the Vine, we receive the nourishment we need to become stronger branches; our lives intertwining to form a faith-filled latticework of love.

In this season of resurrection, what nourishment do you need to renew your artistic soul? What strengthens you to continue this work of proclaiming the gospel through sacraments of color, movement, music and poetry? What helps you abide in the source of creativity and beauty so that beauty and creativity might continually bear fruit in you?

Prayer

Nourishing God, Wellspring of Life: weave together our lives, our gifts, our hopes, our hearts. Rooted in Christ, restore us to be fruitful life-givers, vision-bearers, truth-tellers, bridge-builders, lattice-makers. Amen.

Revs. Todd and Jennifer PickThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Central Texas Annual Conference

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Voice

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

Week of: April 22, 2018
Scripture: John 10:11-18

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father… and they will listen to my voice.
(John 10:14,16, NRSV)

Devotion

The voice of Love has invited us into the fold. Named by Resurrection’s voice, we are called forth into new life and being. We are invited into a life in which we are well and truly known by the Shepherding One. We are called by this voice which re-inscribes our self-image of sacred worth. It’s a voice that seeks the lost, lifts up the lowly, heals the unworthy, awakens justice and entices us to join in the chorus which the morning stars began. This is the voice which invites us into pastures of peace, leads us through shadows and valleys, and ultimately teaches us to dwell in the house of God forever.

In this season of Eastertide, how have you listened for the voice which calls you to renewal, re-creation and rebirth? What creative practices help you to see the beauty within you? What is your joy-filled response to the One who calls you in joy?

Prayer

Shepherd of all, gather us as your children. Guided by your loving care for us, may we offer our lives in love for you and for the world. Teach us to follow you and to be faithful to the calling you gave us to be shepherds in your name. Amen.

Revs. Todd and Jennifer PickThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Central Texas Annual Conference

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Feasting

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Third Sunday of Easter

Week of: April 15, 2018
Scripture: Luke 24:13-49 *

When [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. 
(Luke 24:30-31, NRSV)

Devotion

Blessed, broken, shared, and opened … it is the pattern of our very lives, not just the communion table. Did the Emmaus travelers know this truth as they invited a stranger to stay with them and asked him to share in a simple meal? What exactly did their burning hearts desire? Did they know that they would become bread for the world, grace made visible — a living sacrament?

In this season of resurrection, how do we embody this liturgical dance of sacramentality? There are days when we feel more broken than blessed; days in which we share all that we are, praying for those whom we lead to break open and join in the dance with eyes fully opened to the reality of Christ in their midst.

To keep leading the dance, we need to be fed. We need to sit at ordinary-yet-holy tables singing grace with strangers and friends, being human together. Feasting in our blessing and brokenness, we discover that we can be shared and opened to new possibility and new life!

Prayer

God of meager meals and rich feasts, lead us to the table of love. Let us be blessed. Let us be broken open to your actions in our lives every day. Let us be bread. Amen.

* Note: This devotion is based on a text from the Year B lectionary readings for Easter Evening.

Revs. Todd and Jennifer PickThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Central Texas Annual Conference

 

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Christ's Peace

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Second Sunday of Easter

Week of: April 8, 2018
Scripture: John 20:19-31

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." 
(John 20:21-22, NRSV)

Devotion

Holy Week has ended. The pungent, lingering scent of lilies in the church building and the colorful shrapnel of plastic Easter eggs that were found by the lawnmower bear silent testament to the months of preparation, hard work and creativity that went into each service, song, drama, and sermon of the most hectic/holy weeks of the year.

Now, it is time to take a deep breath, listen to the rhythm that your heart beats, and let Christ’s peace wash over you as it did on the disciples in the Upper Room on Easter evening. Let that peace find its echo in your weary bones.

This peace allows itself to be still for an instant — to savor the Risen One’s presence amid frazzled days full of fear, anxiety, and doubt. This peace finds a place to dwell for a moment. Where is it, beloved, that you allow this peace to settle upon you? Where is your Upper Room, where Christ can speak peace into your soul three times over? How deeply do you breathe it in?

That breath, that moment, that peace, is needed more than you can know.

Because in the very next breath, Christ sends us forth again, buoyed by the fiery Spirit.

Prayer

May Christ’s peace be with us. Amen.

Revs. Todd and Jennifer PickThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Central Texas Annual Conference

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Linger

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Easter Sunday

Week of: April 1, 2018
Scripture: John 20:1-18

The disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb ...
(John 20:10-11, NRSV)

Devotion

It’s Holy Week, and as worship artists, we are running a marathon.

We will reenact the story which transforms mourning into dancing.

We will enter the deep darkness and paint the dawning light which overcomes it.

We will sing of a love strong enough to open the tombs of our hearts, raising us to life abundant. We will walk the road to “Alleluia” by way of the valley of death, slowly winding our way to a garden teeming with life.

In the darkness of Easter morning, Peter and the beloved disciple (after running a marathon of their own) entered the empty tomb. They witnessed the confining cocoon, which once held death, now discarded. Without a word, they returned to their homes. The rest of the resurrection story belongs to Mary. Lingering, longing, looking closer: she’s the one who sees angels! She’s the one who encounters the risen Lord, who lovingly calls her by name!

Many will come to church this Sunday to celebrate new life. How will the worship experiences we create beckon them to linger? How will we embody hope reborn, hearts made new, and love let loose so that others will long to look closer … until the Living Christ calls them by name?

Prayer

Running the marathon which rehearses resurrection, give us spaces to linger;

Entering the drama where love overcomes death, help us look closer;

Proclaiming alleluias, give us eyes to truly see you, Christ of our rising strength.

Amen.

 

Revs. Todd and Jennifer PickThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Central Texas Annual Conference

 

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Love

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Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday

Week of: March 25, 2018
Scripture: John 12:12-16

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
(John 12:16, NIV)


Each week during the season of Lent 2018, the Reflections will explore the lectionary text through the lens of a representative hymn.

"My Song is Love Unknown,"
The Faith We Sing 2083. Text by Samuel Crossman (1664).


Devotion

This hymn’s title — "My Song is Love Unknown" — is intriguing. Does it mean we do not fully comprehend God’s love? The text first reflects upon the world’s refusal to know Christ. Later, the stark reality of our fickle human nature is exemplified in the narrative of the crowds in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as they shouted “Hosanna,” only to turn to the word “Crucify!” expressed in a most graphic way “for blood and death they thirst and cry.”

We find powerful questions posed within the text. “What has my Sovereign done?” and “What makes this rage and spite?” This hymn challenges us as it powerfully declares that although we have received many signs and gifts of healing from Christ, we cannot help but see ourselves in the story of the people of Jerusalem.

Finally, we sing our “plain belief” of God’s goodness and mercy, affirming our faith as we declare that we will spend all our days singing his praise, recognizing the depth of Jesus’ love.

Consider ...

Consider creating a reminder of this hymn text for your ensembles, religious arts participants, and other worship teams to use during their prayer time this week. Add the words of the third stanza to a document that includes a picture of your sanctuary (or other centering image.) Format the document to a postcard size or smaller. Many computer programs have templates you can use. Print it on card stock and read it together as part of your closing prayer and devotions at rehearsals this week.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I acknowledge that your love lies beyond my comprehension. Despite my weakness, help me remember what you have done for me, that I may now and forever spend my days singing your praise. Amen.

Catherine NanceThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music Ministries
St. John's United Methodist Church
Aiken, SC

 

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The Light

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 18, 2018
Scripture: John 12:20-33

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
(John 12:26, NIV)


Each week during the season of Lent 2018, the Reflections will explore the lectionary text through the lens of a representative hymn.

"I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light,"
United Methodist Hymnal 206. Text and tune by Kathleen Thomerson (1966).


Devotion

The title, "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light," references verses that immediately follow this scripture as well as Matthew 18:2-4, as Jesus reminds us to be as little children. An image of God as Creator and Mediator follows each “I want” statement in the first two stanzas. The third stanza moves to the eschatological concept of life eternal with Jesus. Note the refrain moves from the “I” statements to the declaration of who God is, quoting Revelation. Finally, the last line in the refrain is a prayer.

In our 2018 Lenten journey, the image of light amidst the shadows calls us to become children of the Light so that the darkness will not overwhelm us. In your time of confession, ask God to reveal ways you are walking in the shadows, so you may then remember you are to walk in the light “as he himself is in the light.”

Consider ...

Consider lighting a large candle as you lead your closing prayers with each of your ensembles, religious arts participants, and other worship teams. Invite them into a time of silent prayer as they confess the places in their lives they have forgotten to “walk” as children of the Light. You could also give them a small tea candle to take home and light as a part of their evening prayers.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, Lamb and Light of the city of God, shine in my heart. Amen.

Catherine NanceThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music Ministries
St. John's United Methodist Church
Aiken, SC

 

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