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Third Sunday of Easter

Week of: May 5, 2019
Scripture: John 21:1-19

After this, he said to him, "Follow me."
(John 21:19, NRSV)

Devotion

The beautiful hymn tune and text by Cesareo Gabarain, "Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore" (UMH 344), is often paired with the stories of Jesus calling his disciples by the Sea of Galilee.

Lord, you have come to the lakeshore,
Looking neither for wealthy nor wise ones;
You only asked me to follow humbly … *

We do not find this sung story of the calling of the first disciples in John's Gospel. Yet, a similar scene appears at the end of John's Gospel after Jesus' resurrection. In John 21, the disciples are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias when the resurrected Jesus appears to them for the third time. When Jesus calls them to cast their nets to the other side, Simon Peter recognizes the risen Christ. Jesus and Simon Peter have a conversation in which Jesus asks Simon Peter to care for his flock in his physical absence. His last command and call to Simon Peter is: "follow me." 

This story reminds us that our task as worship artists and disciples of Jesus Christ does not change after the resurrection. We are continually called to follow; yet we are also charged with caring for the people of God in the same way that Jesus cared for them in his life. As we lead worship through our varied arts, may we follow him and feed his sheep. 

Prayer

O Risen Christ, help us to follow you with uninhibited spirit. Grant that we might tend your sheep and feed your lambs as you, our Good Shepherd, did in your life. May we be your hands and feet in this time and place. Amen.  

Rev. Taylor Driskill PaffordThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Deacon in Full Connection
Associate Minister, Children, Youth and Families
Washington Street United Methodist Church
Columbia, SC

* English translation: © 1989 The United Methodist Publishing House

Photo: Lake Junaluska is seen during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Thomas

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Second Sunday of Easter

Week of: April 28, 2019
Scripture: John 20:19-31

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.
(John 20:25, NRSV)

Devotion

One of the most famous depictions of “Doubting Thomas” in art is Caravaggio's The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. Looking at this artwork, I encourage you to reflect on Caravaggio's interpretation of this story. Notice Thomas' hands in Jesus' side. Look at who is guiding his hand into the wound. Observe the onlookers' faces.

Thomas gets a bad rap in some ways. Thomas was not there at Jesus' first appearance. He hears the story secondhand and perhaps thought the disciples were tricking him. Despite Thomas' doubting, Jesus comes to remove Thomas' doubt and to reassure him that the resurrection was real.

In scripture, Jesus tells Thomas to touch his wounds; yet, in Caravaggio's depiction, Jesus places Thomas' hand in his side. I imagine that Jesus' grasp alone would cause Thomas to no longer doubt; even so, Jesus affirms that he heard Thomas' doubts and allows him to touch his wounds.

The disciples' reaction to this moment between Thomas and Jesus is not in scripture. Yet, in Caravaggio's painting, we see two disciples looking on as if, perhaps, they also doubted. We can suppose that they were glad Thomas asked the question that begged an answer. Perhaps we can put ourselves in their shoes.

We were not among the disciples when Jesus appeared the first or second times. But Jesus offers us a blessing by saying, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." May we overcome our doubts and faithfully believe in the resurrected Christ as we empower God's people to lead worship through the arts.

Prayer

Living God, at times we are like Thomas, doubting your ability to perform miracles. In those times, give us Jesus, that we might be touched by his grace and love. Help us to believe without seeing, that our faith may be blessed by your Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Rev. Taylor Driskill PaffordThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Deacon in Full Connection
Associate Minister, Children, Youth and Families
Washington Street United Methodist Church
Columbia, SC

Photo: Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da, 1573-1610. The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54170. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_by_Caravaggio.jpg.

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The Green Blade

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Resurrection of the Lord

Week of: April 21, 2019
Scripture: John 20:1-18

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him …"
(John 20:15, NRSV)

Devotion

One of my favorite Easter hymns, which perhaps is slightly obscure and certainly underused, is "Now the Green Blade Riseth" (UMH 311). The poetic metaphor of Jesus' resurrection as a green blade rising from dead grain seems challenging, but a closer look draws us deeper into the larger biblical narrative.

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been: 
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
(Hymnary.org)

In the Gospel text for Resurrection Sunday, Mary Magdalene mistakes the unknown man near the tomb for the gardener. Jesus appearing in a garden reminds us of the Garden of Eden, helping us to imagine the resurrection as a return to the goodness found in God's creation before humankind disrupts that goodness. The hymn text supports this imagery by comparing Jesus to a green blade of hope rising from the dead.

In this Easter season, may we see Jesus as that green blade, giving us hope in God's miraculous ability to make all things new. Poetry, song, dance, and visual imagery provide the gathered body the "instruments" to celebrate that Love lives again, not only in creation, but in each and every one of us. It is through the variety of arts in liturgy that worshippers are inspired to live in the love of Christ Jesus, that the whole of creation might be resurrected in goodness and in glory. 

Prayer

O Risen Christ, in your resurrection, may we see hope in newness. As you live again, help us to love again. Cause your love to grow in us so that others might come to know you and, in turn, live their lives in love and peace. Amen. 

Rev. Taylor Driskill PaffordThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Deacon in Full Connection
Associate Minister, Children, Youth and Families
Washington Street United Methodist Church
Columbia, SC

Photo: The flowers outside Lambuth Inn at Lake Junaluska shimmer from the morning dew during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.​     (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Weary

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Palm / Passion Sunday

Week of: April 14, 2019
Scripture: Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.
(Isaiah 50:4a, NRSV)

Devotion

We understand what it is like to be weary. After all, many of us will be leading worship in multiple services this week. We will move from waving branches to washing feet, from a communal meal to betrayal, from mockery to denial, from death to resurrection. Regardless of the many hours we will invest in leading worship, rehearsals, and preparation of worship space, we are not alone — God helps us. When nerves are short and tempers flare, God sustains us.

Here, in these moments, God may very well use the lives of worship artists to teach others who are weary. When a volunteer makes a biting comment about the paraments or the way a banner is hung, we can embrace their weariness. When a musician becomes snarky because they are singing or playing at their fourth worship service of the week, we can offer thanks for their willingness to serve. When our supervisor requests one more thing of us in the midst of an already busy week, we can empathize with their own stress level.

God will sustain us through the highs and lows of this week. God will not leave us or forsake us. Rather, God will guide us to model grace and mercy to our congregation. God will be with us, sustaining us as we sustain others. Thanks be to God for this promise and gift!

Prayer

God, send your Spirit to us this week. May it sustain and strengthen us, so that we might teach others, by our example, how to move from their own weariness to joy. Amen.  

Rev. Jay RegennitterThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
First United Methodist Church
Robinson, IL
Development Coordinator, The Fellowship

Photo: Members of the dance ensemble perform to "Behold the Wood of the Cross" at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.     (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Praise

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

Week of: April 7, 2019
Scripture: Isaiah 43:16-21

The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
(Isaiah 43:20-21, NRSV)

Devotion

The Old Testament readings for the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, offer up a familiar theme. Isaiah 43 follows this theme — God journeys with us. Isaiah reminds us that God has journeyed with Israel through the sea, the wilderness, and the desert. 

God has been with Israel, but God also will do a new thing. Isaiah's warning about not remembering the former things may be helpful, because Israel, when venturing into the unknown, often looked backward and longed for the past — even when the past was unhealthy. God reminds both them and us that God will be with us in the new thing that is being done. God will guide us through the wilderness and provide us with water when we need it.

The proper response to God's presence in our lives is praise. How do we teach people to praise through the arts, far beyond cursory praise? Isaiah reminds us that we were created to praise God (as does the Westminster Catechism). Can we ring with joyful hearts? Can our voices swell with thanksgiving? Can we dance with purpose and passion? To do so praises God with our lips and our lives and can inspire those in our congregations to do the same, celebrating God's presence and activity in the world.

Prayer

God, just as your creative Spirit hovered over the waters, may it move among us. May it cause us to express our thanks and praise to you, because you continue to remain faithful to us. Thanks be to you! Amen! 

Rev. Jay RegennitterThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
First United Methodist Church
Robinson, IL
Development Coordinator, The Fellowship

Photo:The choir sings Richard Smallwood's "Total Praise" during worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.    (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Ritual

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Fourth Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 31, 2019
Scripture: Joshua 5:9-12

While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the Passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho.
(Joshua 5:10, NRSV)

Devotion

The people of Israel waited a long time to reach the Promised Land. Even though they wandered in the wilderness for decades, as they entered Gilgal they still kept the Passover. There’s wisdom in ritual. When they arrived in the Promised Land, Israel could have easily dismissed God, but they didn't. Instead, they turned to ritual in the midst of unfamiliar territory.

Liturgy, at its best, grounds us when the church journeys into unfamiliar territory. People come to worship and find comfort in ritual when many other things in their lives change. It's worth noting, though, that Israel ate from the fruit of the land right after Passover – they could embrace change because they remained grounded in their relationship with God. The people's eating patterns changed because manna didn't remain a staple in their diet.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the decades-long debate about worship style. God and change are two constants in our lives. Our worship practices may have variation, but the God whom we worship remains the same. Change will inevitably happen — God does, time and again, do a new thing. Regardless of style, God will still show up when we gather to worship in spirit and in truth. Perhaps we can utilize liturgy AND the new thing God is doing simultaneously during our Lenten journey, resulting in a deeper experience of God.

Prayer

God, we thank you for what has been, what is, and what will be. Your transforming love will not leave us the same, so guide us to ground our lives and our ministries in you. Amen.

Rev. Jay RegennitterThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
First United Methodist Church
Robinson, IL
Development Coordinator, The Fellowship

Photo: A path alongside Lake Junaluska as seen during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.    (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Finding Hope

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Third Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 24, 2019
Scripture: Isaiah 55:1-9

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9, NRSV)

Devotion

I can't help but hear John Foley's "Come to the Water" when I read this passage from Isaiah. This particular part of Isaiah's prophecy speaks hope to those in exile. This passage suggests that sometimes, when we find ourselves in the midst of struggle, we cannot find hope. Yet here, Isaiah invites those who hunger and thirst for hope to come and partake, at no cost to them.

Of course, this passage uses the ordinary elements of bread and water as metaphors for hope. When we long for hope, we long for God. Our hope comes in the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Our hope comes from the One whose thoughts and ways are not our own.

How might a dramatic reading of this Scripture offer hope to someone in your congregation? I can imagine a liturgical dance paired with an arrangement of Foley's setting, complete with flowing fabric for water, or the creation of an altarscape with an abundance of food, helping people envision a future with hope. How might your worship arts ministry offer hope to someone this weekend? How might it introduce someone to God?

Prayer

Gracious God, you offer hope in abundance, but often in ways that we do not comprehend. Allow your thoughts and ways to invade our own. Use us and our ministries to offer hope to our congregations and communities. Amen.

Rev. Jay RegennitterThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
First United Methodist Church
Robinson, IL
Development Coordinator, The Fellowship

Photo: The waters of Lake Junaluska, as seen during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.     (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Bigger Than Us

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Second Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 17, 2019
Scripture: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

The Lord brought Abram outside and said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.
(Genesis 15:5-6, NRSV)

Devotion

Have you ever felt like Abram? Have you puzzled over how to accomplish what seemed to be impossible? Have you questioned whether the choir would ever internalize the soul of Siyahamba? Have you erased a sketch of a banner so many times that the paper was worn through? Have you tried to work through a difficult passage of music, never able to come up with a consistent fingering?

Granted, most of the time we are able to overcome these challenges, but we do understand some of what Abram felt when he wondered if he would ever have an heir.

Sometimes we need reminders of things that are bigger than us. God took Abram outside and showed him the sky, full of abundant stars. Something so vast and so big puts things in perspective. The same God who created the heavens and the earth creates an heir for Abram. That same God invites us to believe that God will see us through times that challenge, frustrate, and deflate our worship arts ministries. We do not work in a vacuum, but in tandem with the God who calls us to follow and trust. How might our attitudes and outlook toward our lives and ministries change if we remembered God's creative energy and presence?

Prayer

Creative God, you move in ways that we don’t always see or feel. Open our eyes to see you at work in our lives. Open our ears to feel your presence in our ministries. Open our hearts to trust where your Spirit leads us. Amen.

Rev. Jay RegennitterThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
First United Methodist Church
Robinson, IL
Development Coordinator, The Fellowship

Photo: Sunset in Evansville, IN, in July 2018.    (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Prayer of Remembrance

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First Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 10, 2019
Scripture: Deuteronomy 26:1-11

The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
(Deuteronomy 26:8-9, NRSV)

Devotion

The Israelites struggled with spiritual amnesia as they journeyed to the Promised Land. Deuteronomistic history suggests that Moses gave instruction to Israel about what they were to do when they entered the Promised Land. They should gather the first fruits and make an offering to God. With this offering came a specific prayer and response of remembrance.

Worship artists also experience spiritual amnesia and need to offer up a similar prayer of remembrance. After all, we have just entered into one of the busiest seasons of the Christian year. I imagine most of us are planning special arts displays, offering deeply meaningful musical experiences, and planning special services. The hefty workload we encounter during this time of year may cause us to forget that God's mighty hand has been at work; that God's power will strengthen us to do ministry; that God will see us through this Lenten journey.

Every rehearsal, every dance, every brushstroke provides an opportunity for us to become aware of God's provision, mercy, and grace. Thanks be to God for the reminder that God moves in our lives and worship ministries!

Prayer

God of grace and God of glory, pour out your spirit on your servants. Remind us that you set out ahead of us, move behind us, hover over us, and undergird us to carry out your purposes in the world. Thank you for the constant reminders of your presence. Amen.

Rev. Jay RegennitterThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
First United Methodist Church
Robinson, IL
Development Coordinator, The Fellowship

Photo: Dancers participate in a reading during worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.    (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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In the Clouds

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Transfiguration Sunday

Week of: March 3, 2019
Scripture: Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)

While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"
(Luke 9:34-35, NRSV)

Devotion

At my last eye exam, the doctor asked me if I hit my head during the last year. I laughed, saying that I probably had hit it digging under the bottom shelf looking for fabric I needed for a visual display. In the midst of my joking, the doctor showed me a picture of my right eye. There was something akin to a small bite taken out of the back of my eye which causes a transition to blurred vision when I am tired. I am still unnerved when my vision is unexpectedly "clouded."

For worship artists, the transition to Lent is significant and we can get lost in the "cloud." How we approach sharing the scripture through music, visuals, dance, instruments, written word, and spoken word takes on an urgency. We can feel the fear of being lost, the clouds of stress and uncertainty seeping into us as we plan for the season. "Do I have the forces to pull this anthem off?" "Why can’t I find that one right word for the liturgy I am writing?" "Will the supplies I need get here in time?" "Why do I feel so empty this season?"

We too often want to stay at the mountaintop with Christ, but "clouds" will come. Do not be afraid! These clouds are places of transfiguration for ministry. From the midst of the cloud comes the voice of God, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him." This same voice calls to you saying, "You are my child. Open your life to me and you will be transformed into something even more beautiful."

God is with us in the clouds, on the mountains, and in the valleys of our ministry. Dance, sing, draw, paint, sew, and preach knowing that God is whispering to you in the midst of your transformation, "I love you. You are beautiful, gifted, and wonderfully made. I have chosen you."

Prayer

Speak to me loudly when I am lost in the clouds of life. Call me into this Lenten season full of the assurance that I am deeply loved by you. Whisper to me over and over, "Do not be afraid. Listen to my Son, my Chosen" and allow me to be transformed.

Rev. Debra TyreeThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Worship and Mission
Bellevue United Methodist Church
Nashville, TN

Photo: Clouds are seen above the mountains at Lake Junaluska during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.    (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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O Rest in the Lord

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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: February 24, 2019
Scripture: Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4, NRSV)

Devotion

Each time I read this week's lectionary psalm, I cannot help but think of the beautiful mezzo aria "O Rest in the Lord" from Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah. The aria quotes Psalm 37 in the following way: "O rest in the Lord, wait patiently for him, and he shall give thee thy heart's desires. Commit thy way unto him, and trust in him, and fret not thyself because of evil doers."

If you are like me, waiting is very hard to do. I have always been impatient, hardly being able to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time. As a church musician, I am always thinking ahead and planning for what will happen next. It seems that all worship artists live in a perpetual state of "what's to come." During the summer months we are planning for Christmas, and during the Advent season we are planning for Easter. The church year never stops, and as a result, neither do we.

Unfortunately, when we don't stop, we are missing out on opportunities to listen to and be in relationship with God. I once served with a minister who told his staff he didn't care what we accomplished in the course of a day, but that he expected us to find the time to be silent with God.

Are you finding time to share the desires of your heart with God? How might the worship of your church change if you found more time to rest in the Lord?

Prayer

Patient Lord, help us find the time to patiently wait for you. Grant us refuge and show us how to trust in you. Hear the desires of our hearts and inspire our mouths to utter wisdom. May we take delight in you and do good. Amen.

Justin AddingtonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music & Worship
St. John's United Methodist Church
Rock Hill, SC

Photo: Cecilia Ford dances during morning worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.    (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Blest Are They

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Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: February 17, 2019
Scripture: Luke 6:17-26

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven.
(Luke 6:23a, NRSV)

Devotion

This Sunday's Gospel text contains a shortened version of the Beatitudes, some of the most beloved and oft-quoted verses of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Generally associated with funerals and memorial services, these statements put forth an example of faithful living, and grant assurance to Christ's followers.

Unique to Luke's Gospel, the four statements of hope are followed by four warnings, which mirror the blessings. The fourth statement on enduring the rejection and insults of others seems especially poignant for those of us who occasionally encounter difficult people in the church.

While the Beatitudes are counted among the most popular portions of Scripture, they also seem to be one of the most difficult for which to select corresponding music in worship. A quick search on Hymnary.org produces many obscure results. However, one well-known song from our modern-day repertoire rightly deserves consideration.

This song, "Blest Are They," is a gift to us from David Haas, a prolific composer of post-Vatican II liturgical music. His hymn sets the individual blessings in Matthew's version of the Beatitudes as verses, then ties them all together with the refrain, "Rejoice and be glad! Yours is the Kingdom of God!"

During those moments when it is easy for us to become discouraged in our work, let us rejoice in the fact that our God is faithful, and that we are blessed with an eternal promise.

Prayer

God of blessings, grant us laughter when we feel poor in spirit and are hungry for love. Comfort us when we weep for our hurting world and when we experience that hurt first-hand through the actions of others. Help us to rejoice in the knowledge that the Kingdom is ours, and that we will be filled with all goodness and joy. Amen.

Justin AddingtonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music & Worship
St. John's United Methodist Church
Rock Hill, SC

Photo: Kaitlyn Wright and Taylor Edwards dance during the Youth Talent Show at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.    (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Sanctus

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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: February 10, 2019
Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13)

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.
(Isaiah 6:3b, NRSV)

Devotion

The third verse of this week's Old Testament lesson is the source of one of the oldest hymns in the Christian church. Often paired with Matthew 21:9, these verses together comprise the Sanctus portion of the Roman Catholic Mass. The Sanctus proclaims, "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest." Many beautiful settings of this text have been composed over the centuries, including those by Franz Schubert, Gabriel Fauré, Charles Gounod, and my personal favorite, Lindsay Norden.

The Sanctus is one of the few portions of the Mass that most Protestant churches retain in their liturgies. Occurring as part of the Great Thanksgiving in the service of Word and Table, the Sanctus offers worshippers the rare opportunity to enter into the song of the ages.

In the United Methodist communion liturgy, the Sanctus is preceded by the words, "And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn." In this way, the congregation becomes a part of the communion of the saints, and joins the praise of God that began before the creation of the world and that will continue throughout eternity.

As worship artists, let us consider the creative ways in which we are called to engage all who come to worship to join in this unending song.

Prayer

Eternal God, usher us into the unending hymn of the ages, and make us mindful of the saints who sing with us along life's journey. Inspire us in all that we do to answer, "Here am I; send me!" And when on the difficult road of life we cry, "How long, O Lord," show us glimpses of the eternity prophesied by Isaiah and offered through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Justin AddingtonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music & Worship
St. John's United Methodist Church
Rock Hill, SC

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

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The Gift of Love

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: February 3, 2019
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
(1 Corinthians 13:1, NRSV)

Devotion

After reading this week's Epistle text, I would imagine that choirs in many of our churches will be singing Hal Hopson's "The Gift of Love" on Sunday morning. The music library of every single church that I have served over the years included well-loved (and barely held together) copies of Mr. Hopson's simple yet beautiful setting of the love chapter from I Corinthians.

For some churches, "The Gift of Love" is a favorite anthem of children and youth choirs. For others, it is the "easy standard" pulled out on low-attendance Sundays, or when the regularly scheduled anthem isn't quite up to par. And for many, this anthem is the gift of hard work and sacrifice, offered by small but dedicated groups of singers who work for weeks and weeks to perfect the two-part stanza near the end.

It seems that no matter where we are in ministry, or how big our programs are, this anthem is always there serving a specific need. The love of God is exactly the same. God's love and mercy are there for us, no matter who we are or where we are on life's journey. In a world that is desperately hurting and barely holding together, it is the joy and privilege of those of us in worship arts leadership to share the love of God in ways that not only challenge, but also bring about comfort and hope.

How are you showing God's love to others through the gifts of the arts in worship?

Prayer

Loving God, help us to be patient and kind. Remove from us feelings that are envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude. Free us from all irritability and resentfulness, and inspire us to rejoice in the truth. Strengthen us to bear and endure all things, and encourage us to believe and hope in the love that never ends. Amen.

Justin AddingtonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music & Worship
St. John's United Methodist Church
Rock Hill, SC

Photo: The Chamber Choir rehearses at Waynesville First UMC during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.    (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Filled with God's Spirit

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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: January 27, 2019
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

For in the One Spirit we were all baptized into one body ... and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
(1 Corinthians 12:13, NRSV)

Devotion

Epiphany is a season of revelation and seeing Christ in new ways.

The church council was having a hard conversation about the state of a project that wasn't working. They were tired, discouraged, and unsure of how to move forward. The hour grew late. "We need to go home and get some rest," our leader said. "Let's pray that after a good night's sleep we will see things more clearly. We are not sure of the next steps, but we do know we are called to be faithful." We closed our meeting with a plan to meet the following week.

Sometimes as worship artists we cannot see a way forward and things seem bleak. At these times, we can call on the strength of God's Spirit to be faithful and allow the Spirit to reveal the next steps. That night we realized we didn't have to have all the answers, but we trusted that God was with us — a sign of the Body of Christ living in faithfulness and hope.

Prayer

Ever-present God, I know I cannot always see how things will turn out, or what to do next. Help me trust that you are with me in the process. Help me continue to live in hope. Amen.

Norma Lee Kerns BarnhartThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, The United Methodist Church
Consultation, Preaching, Teaching, Retreat Ministry
Rockford, IL

Photo: Storm clouds linger over Lake Junaluska following an afternoon rainstorm at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Gifts of the Spirit

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: January 20, 2019
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
(1 Corinthians 12:7, NRSV)

Devotion

Star MobileWhen teaching about spiritual gifts in ministry, I often heard people say, "I don't have any gifts." The assumption was if they could do a certain thing, anyone could do it. They didn't see their own gifts as unique. Some needed to explore new areas to find gifts that had been hidden. Gift inventories were an immense help for people to learn about gifts and thus discover ways to serve their church and community.

In one parish, Sherrie helped turn some old window coverings from the parsonage into paraments for the season of Advent. The soft blue fabric hung beautifully in the worship space. When I suggested other visuals, she hesitated, but agreed to look at ideas. She created some of the most beautiful visuals I have ever seen, including a mobile of stars that hung from the ceiling for Epiphany. She loved using her creative gifts; she had just never imagined that her love of fabric and creating things with it were "gifts" that could be used in her church in worship.

As worship artists, we often spend so much time looking for the gifts within others that we forget to be open to the Spirit within us. What do you enjoy doing so much that, while you are doing it, you lose track of time? Perhaps that is God calling you to use your gifts for your church and community.

Prayer

Loving God, guide me so that my gifts can be used for your work, no matter how simple or utilitarian I may think they are.

Norma Lee Kerns BarnhartThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, The United Methodist Church
Consultation, Preaching, Teaching, Retreat Ministry
Rockford, IL

Primary Photo: An altar design crafted by visual artist Les Oliver is shown prior to an evening concert at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

Inset Photo: The mobile of stars created by Sherrie is seen during Epiphany 2011.  (Photo submitted by Norma Lee Kerns Barnhart.)

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Remember Your Baptism

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Baptism of the Lord

Week of: January 13, 2019
Scripture: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased."
(Luke 3:22b, NRSV)

Devotion

On this Sunday when we remember Jesus' baptism, we also remember our own baptism when we were claimed as a beloved child of God. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can "resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves."

Baptism is our first call to ministry, where we name and face the powers of inequity in our world and bring love and hope to those places. Baptized as infants, as confirmands, or adults, we become a part of the community of faith. We are not alone; our gifts contribute to the community to make the world a better place. Perhaps we have the gift of listening, or the gift of compassion. Our ministry might be just beginning, or it may be changing and growing as we move through the different stages of life. Young or old, we are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to show God's love.

Where is God calling you at this time in your life? This wounded world needs the healing your gifts can give. Remember your baptism. Remember your gifts! Dance, sing, ring, play, act, draw, sew, preach — share your gifts with the world. You are a beloved child of God, a manifestation of God's love.

Prayer

Renew my call today, O God. Show me how to love through the gifts you have given me.

Norma Lee Kerns BarnhartThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, The United Methodist Church
Consultation, Preaching, Teaching, Retreat Ministry
Rockford, IL

Photo: The Rev. Barbara Day Miller pours water into a basin during a worship service at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

 

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Led By the Light

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Epiphany of the Lord

Week of: January 6, 2019
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

... we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.
(Matthew 2:2b, NRSV)

Devotion

Cologne Cathedral Shrine of MagiThe beautiful Gothic Cathedral of Cologne, Germany, was built (1248-1880) to house the bones of the Three Kings. Their shrine is bronze and silver, gilded, and detailed with figures and gemstones – a stunning tribute to the Magi.

As I viewed this celebrated work of art, I wondered: Do I believe the actual bones of the Magi are in this great shrine? I am not sure, but I believe it symbolizes the mystery of those being led to Christ at his birth, who trusted that God was sending hope to a hurting world. Traveling for many months, the Magi, led by the light of a star, found love in a humble stable.

Just as the Magi were led by the light so long ago, we are also led by Christ's light today. In our darkest moments, God's light beckons us to hope, new life, and new ways to live love in our world. As worship artists, we are called to use our gifts to share God's light with every corner of the world. Like the Magi, who "went home another way," our path often changes once we've seen the light.

I believe the Magi were called to give themselves and their gifts to foster a new hope. Like them, we are called to become a part of that mystery of love to our troubled world.

Prayer

Creator God, help us live into the mystery of love, the gift we give to others.

Norma Lee Kerns BarnhartThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, The United Methodist Church
Consultation, Preaching, Teaching, Retreat Ministry
Rockford, IL

Primary Photo: Members of the Federal Way UMC Worship in Motion dance ensemble from Auburn, WA, process during a worship service at the United Methodist 2016 General Conference in Portland, OR.   (United Methodist News Service photo by Maile Bradfield.)

Inset Photo: The Cologne Cathedral Shrine of Magi. By Arminia - File:Dreikönigsschrein im Dom1.JPG, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2237541

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The Peace of Christ

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First Sunday After Christmas

Week of: December 30, 2018
Scripture: Colossians 3:12-17

The peace of Christ must control your hearts. ... The word of Christ must live in you richly.
(Colossians 3:15-16, CEB)

Devotion

On the first Sunday of the twelve days of Christmas, the lectionary provides a segment from one of Paul's letters. This provides a fitting conclusion to our devotions this month, which from the beginning of Advent have centered on several ancient hymns and poetic writing in the scriptures.

The letter to the congregation at Colossae, opening with thanksgiving and prayer, also includes a hymn calling to mind the nature and mission of Jesus — a mission ultimately about reconciliation and peace.

In the letter, Paul urges the church to "sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" with heartfelt gratitude, as tools for transformative teaching. Paul understood that gaining deeper understanding of the pathway of Christ would lead to a more effective living practice of Christ-like discipleship.

Exploring, singing, and reflecting on hymns and songs as scripture is a significant aspect of the work of the people — the liturgy. That work allows room for the peace of Christ to control our hearts and for the word of Christ to live in us richly. May it be so.

Prayer

God of melody and metaphor, stir our hearts and minds to deeper exploration and understanding of the sacred songs we sing, so that we become your instruments of reconciliation and peace.

Roger DowdyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Deacon, The United Methodist Church
CROSS-PATHS Ministries
Richmond, VA

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A Hymn of Praise

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 23, 2018
Scripture: Luke 1:46b-55

In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
(Luke 1:47, CEB)

Devotion

Prophesy: a vision of the future, thankful remembering, trust, readiness — themes found in the lectionary readings for this Advent season and expressed as hymns or poetry. We will focus on one of these ancient hymns each week.

***

As perhaps the most recognizable scriptural song — a canticle — the Magnificat signifies the climax of the Advent season. Known appropriately as "Mary's hymn," this canticle is one of humble acceptance, remembrance, thanksgiving, and praise.

Mary, soon to become the mother of Jesus the Messiah, responds to the affirmation of her cousin Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, in prayerful verse: "In the depths of who I am ... I glorify and rejoice in God my savior!"

Oh, that our songs, words spoken, visual images, our gestures, and movements might echo the depth of thanks-giving which we hear from Mary! Mary, whose life is being completely transformed to be an instrument of God's hovering Spirit, is an icon to us for steadfastness, humbleness, and service to God in the world.

The Advent question lingers: how might we, through our varied arts, become better magnifiers of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Prayer

God of the past, the present, and future years, we rejoice in your embrace and your never-ending love and grace. Guide us in the ways of mercy and peace, made clear for us in the teaching and living example of your beloved, Jesus.

Roger DowdyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Deacon, The United Methodist Church
CROSS-PATHS Ministries
Richmond, VA

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