The Fellowship Blogs

The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts

Glory

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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 16, 2018
Scripture: Psalm 19

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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Gifts

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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Words

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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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Offer the Living Bread

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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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Feast on Jesus

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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Daily Bread Presence

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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

Do you have a daily bread presence?

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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Bread of Life

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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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A Sacred Pattern

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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... And Rest

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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Dancing

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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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Leading and Following

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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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The Crowd

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

 

 

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Afraid

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

 

 

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

 

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Planting Seeds

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

God will lead me, if I will listen.

Prayer

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

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

 

 

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

 

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Family

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

 

 

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

 

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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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