The Fellowship Blogs

The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts

Christ's Peace

Easter2B_1080

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

Continue reading
  868 Hits
  0 Comments
868 Hits
0 Comments

Linger

Easter1_1080

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

 

Continue reading
  968 Hits
  0 Comments
968 Hits
0 Comments

Love

Lent6_blog

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

 

Continue reading
  816 Hits
  0 Comments
816 Hits
0 Comments

The Light

Lent5_blog

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

 

Continue reading
  914 Hits
  0 Comments
914 Hits
0 Comments

Covered

Lent4_blog

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 11, 2018
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.
(Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV)


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

"Jesus, Lover of My Soul,"
United Methodist Hymnal 479. Text by Charles Wesley.


Devotion

Charles Wesley wrote "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" soon after his conversion. The lyrics hold rich imagery for us to explore. In the opening words, we pray to Jesus as the "lover of my soul" — proclaiming the depth of love that Jesus has for our very soul.

The hymn contains images of our being "covered." We are covered and protected in times of trial (Psalm 107:30). We are covered when we open ourselves fully to God and confess our sinfulness. We are covered in the embracing grace of Jesus Christ — enough to cover all our transgressions!

You will also find images of water in the text: a flood of trials, such as in Job 27:20 and Psalm 29:10, and healing water found in the image of the fountain of life.

In reflecting on these words and images, drink in the deeply personal nature of each stanza, the idea that you must uncover your deepest sin to God, even as God will provide cover, comfort, and boundless grace.

Consider ...

As a part of your closing devotions this week, consider inviting each of your ensembles, religious arts participants, and other worship team members to share what it means to have Jesus love them as deeply as is described in this hymn.

Prayer

Grace-giving Lord, thank you for life and for providing healing streams enough to cover all my sin. I ask for grace to take freely what you have offered. 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

 

Continue reading
  947 Hits
  0 Comments
947 Hits
0 Comments

Strong Texts

Lent3_blog

Third Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 4, 2018
Scripture: John 2:13-22

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
(Romans 4:25, NIV)


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

"Living for Jesus,"
The Faith We Sing 2149. Text by Thomas O. Chisholm. Music by C. Harold Lowden.


Devotion

As he prepared a publication of hymns in 1917, C. Harold Lowden decided that the tune he had composed needed a stronger text. He replaced the original title “Sunshine Song” with “Living for Jesus” and asked Thomas O. Chisholm to write a new text.

Chisholm was reluctant, saying that he had no idea how to write a text to pre-composed music. However, Lowden insisted that God had led him [Lowden] to select Chisholm to write this text.

It is fascinating that Lowden had already given the hymn its title.

In our work as worship architects or the worshiping church, let us pray that we may meet the challenge of choosing strong texts, just as Lowden sought from Chisholm. Let us ask for strength to “do each duty in his holy name.” Pray that everything you do be in Christ’s name — worthy of him.

Consider ...

Consider singing a different stanza of this hymn at the close of each of your ensembles, religious arts gatherings, and other worship team meetings during the rest of the Lenten season as a part of your closing prayers.

Prayer

O, Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to you, henceforth to live and work for you alone. 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

 

Continue reading
  929 Hits
  0 Comments
929 Hits
0 Comments

Turn Our Eyes

Lent2_blog

Second Sunday in Lent

Week of: February 25, 2018
Scripture: Romans 4:13-25

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
(Romans 4:25, NIV)


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

"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,"
United Methodist Hymnal 349. Text by Helen Howarth Lemmel.


Devotion

The original title of "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" was “Heavenly Vision” — a strong metaphor for us. So many visions in this world seem brighter than the heavenly vision of Jesus.

Our family's dog, Barnabas, is named after one of Paul's companions. Mostly, he is the epitome of his name, "Son of Encouragement," save one major fault. When we are out walking and he sees another person or dog, he lunges and barks. After many frustrating walks, we discovered that if we anticipate such an encounter by saying, “look at me, Barnabas — keep looking at me,” we distract him, avoiding the undesirable behavior.

As we walk through this life with its bright, earthly visions that do not glorify God, God says to us, “look at me!” Sing the chorus to yourself next time you are tempted, lonely, sad, or discouraged.

Absorb the words of the final stanza to “go to a world that is dying.” Ponder how you might first turn your eyes to the Savior, then look to the world with different eyes, seeing where you can make a difference!

Consider ...

Consider inviting each of your ensembles, religious arts participants, and other worship team members to sing this hymn at the beginning of their prayer time each morning this week, changing the word “your” to “my.”

Prayer

Lord, let us turn our eyes upon you, no matter the temptations and visions in this world that are not heavenly. Let us stand in the light of your glory and grace. 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

 

Continue reading
  808 Hits
  0 Comments
808 Hits
0 Comments

A Wilderness Journey

Lent1_blog

First Sunday in Lent

Week of: February 18, 2018
Scripture: Mark 1:9-15

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan ...
(Mark 1:12, NIV)


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

"Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days,"
United Methodist Hymnal 269. Text from Claudia F. Hernaman, Child's Book of Praise: A Manual of Devotion in Simple Verse (1873).


Devotion

The text of this hymn is fascinating considering its origin as a children’s devotion. The text does not say those forty days but rather these forty days, highlighting the continued relevance of Christ’s wilderness journey, retelling the story of the journey, and relating it to our own journey of faith.

Consider this prayer-structured text and its retelling of the events of Jesus’ wilderness journey. Does God need the story recounted? Certainly not! I believe God loves to hear us recount the narrative, lest we forget. In our church’s liturgy, we remember the story of creation and the continued story of God’s activity throughout the entire Bible. The first phrase of stanzas 1 through 3 of this hymn narrates Jesus’ trials. The second phrase of all of the stanzas contains a prayer to guide us as we follow Jesus’ path during Lent.

Do you presently feel "sent" into the wilderness? Take these forty days of Lent and ask God what lessons you need to learn.

Consider ...

Consider inviting each of your ensembles, religious arts participants, and other worship team members to read this hymn as part of their evening devotion and prayer time this week. Perhaps you could use this as part of your group or ensemble devotion time. Invite members to share the hymn phrases that resonate with their lives.

Prayer

Gracious and loving God, abide with me, that so, this life of suffering over past, an Easter of unending joy I may attain at last! 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

 

Continue reading
  1132 Hits
  0 Comments
1132 Hits
0 Comments

Transformations

Epiphany_Transform_blog

Transfiguration of the Lord

Week of: February 11, 2018
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

We do not preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord .... God said that light should shine out of darkness. God is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:5-6, CEB)

Devotion

Four verses from Paul’s second letter to the Christians in Corinth are the Epistle reading in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). The RCL's selection is somewhat ironic, however. For, like the disciples who misinterpreted what they were witnessing (Mark 9:2-9, the transfiguration of Jesus), the crowds witnessing the teaching and preaching of Paul and other apostles misunderstood what they were hearing. 

Transformations do occur. When experienced or witnessed they may seem phantasmic; transformations seem unreal, imagined, illusory. However, in the particular sphere of worship arts we may witness frequent transformations. God's light shines through the child singer who blossoms into a gifted youth or adult soloist, the shy or awkward youth who is transformed by a dance or a reading offered in worship, the adult whose scribble in the margins of their Bible becomes a worship visual design.

Paul reminds his hearers, contrary to their impression, that he is not preaching about himself; rather he is transformed by preaching about Jesus Christ. The transforming light of Christ shines forth through the darkness – i.e., the limited, but heart-sincere, abilities and offerings in worship. 

We should intentionally encourage and watch for such sacred in-breakings, such transformations in our midst.

Prayer

The hymn by 20th century British Methodist minister and hymn writer, Fred Pratt Green, provides words for praise and prayer:

Christ is the world’s Light, Christ and none other; 
born in our darkness, he became our brother. 
If we have seen him, we have seen the Father: Glory to God on high! *
 

* Words: Fred Pratt Green, © 1969 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Found in The United Methodist Hymnal (1989), No. 188.

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

 

Continue reading
  916 Hits
  0 Comments
916 Hits
0 Comments

Questions

Epiphany_Remember_blog

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: February 4, 2018
Scripture: Isaiah 40:21-31

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? Wasn’t it announced to you from the beginning? God inhabits the earth’s horizon ... stretches out the skies like a curtain and spreads it out like a tent for dwelling.
(Isaiah 40:21-22, CEB)

Devotion

This week's reading from the Hebrew scriptures focuses on Isaiah addressing Israel, and calling them to remember exactly who is creating, calling, guiding, and protecting them.

These words reach our 21st century hearts as poignantly as in the 6th century BCE, when they were written. Just as in the Babylonian exile, today's population seems to have forgotten or misunderstood the true nature of the Holy One: "God makes dignitaries useless and the earth’s judges into nothing. ... The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth" (Isaiah 40:23 & 28).

In worship, the spoken words, the songs, the visual imagery and movement act as vital conduits giving life to Isaiah’s prophetic word-images. The three "question-and-answer" sequences call us, through varied arts in worship, to enter this scripture and explore the prophet’s questions and to respond. "Don’t you know? ... Who created these? ... Haven’t you heard? ... God inhabits the earth’s horizon ... summoning each by name ... those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength ...."

Prayer

Holy One, Maker, Creator, and Guide, we gather for worship to remember and to offer thanksgiving for all that you are. We offer our worship as the "work" of your people so that we grow in our understanding of you, believe more steadfastly, and share with gladness the reality of who you are. Amen. 

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

 

Continue reading
  1108 Hits
  0 Comments
1108 Hits
0 Comments

Transformed

Epiphany_Heal_blog

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: January 28, 2018
Scripture: Mark 1:21-28

And the unclean spirit ... came out of him.
(Mark 1:26, NRSV)

Devotion

By what do we measure our worship services? By style: traditional, modern, blended? By participation: "The congregation really sang those praise songs today!"? Perhaps by the feedback we receive: "Great sermon today! ... Never heard the choir sound better! ... The altar flowers were gorgeous! ..."?

In today's gospel lesson one might think it was the latter — measured by the feedback: "What is this? A new teaching — with authority!" (Mark 1:27b, NRSV). Wouldn't we all as preachers, worship leaders and designers love to be complimented on the new thing we did so convincingly!?  However, what was truly important that day in the synagogue was that one man came sick, wounded, and hurt — and Jesus healed him. He was transformed. 

In the midst of all our careful worship planning and preparation may we not lose sight of those who are broken, hurt, and in need of God's healing touch. May all we do and say in worship leave room for the new thing God is doing to transform our lives and the lives of everyone within our congregations. 

God's transforming power can heal and change each one of us — the true measure of Christian worship!

Prayer

I thank you God, for your transforming power to heal us. Amen.

Nancy Hastings HornsbyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Pastor and Retreat Leader
North Alabama Conference of The UMC
Tuscaloosa, AL

 

Continue reading
  1007 Hits
  0 Comments
1007 Hits
0 Comments

Following

Epiphany_Follow_blog

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: January 21, 2018
Scripture: Mark 1:14-20

Follow me and I will make you fish for people.
(Mark 1:17, NRSV)

Devotion

We hear again the familiar story of Jesus calling the fishermen with the words, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people" (Mark 1:17, NRSV). The beginning of Jesus' public ministry included gathering together a close circle of friends; not a planning team or task force, but friends — ones who would follow him, hang out with him. He needed the kind of friends who would be in relationship with him.

I recall reading somewhere this impactful statement: Before we are called to do anything, we are first called into relationship — to fall in love with Jesus. "Follow me," we hear Jesus say to Simon and Andrew and to us. Follow me, love me, be my friend and then I’ll make you into one who preaches, teaches, sings, dances, directs, creates ...

I don't know what's on your "To Do" list today ... perhaps a worship team meeting, sermon writing, anthem selection, ensemble preparation, visual proclamation planning ... the many creative and mundane ways we are called to "fish for people." But before the doing begins, take a moment to remember that you were first called by name to follow, to love, to be a friend of Jesus. Taking the time to be with Jesus will make the doing far more fruitful and joy-filled!

Prayer

Jesus, dearest friend, help me to follow you, love you, and be your friend today. Amen.

Nancy Hastings HornsbyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Pastor and Retreat Leader
North Alabama Conference of The UMC
Tuscaloosa, AL

 

Continue reading
  1202 Hits
  0 Comments
1202 Hits
0 Comments

Senses

Epiphany_Come_blog

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: January 14, 2018
Scripture: John 1:43-51

... Philip said to him, "Come and see."
(John 1:46b, NRSV)

Devotion

Philip has become a follower of Jesus and he shares this news with Nathanael. Don’t you just love Philip’s description? “Come on Nathanael, you know who I’m talking about, Jesus son of Joseph of Nazareth.” And Nathanael’s reply, “Who? From Nazareth? Impossible!” So Philip, searching for the right words, throws up his hands and says, “Oh, just come and see!”

Who of us has all the right words, names, phrases to describe a love so great, a power so amazing found in the person of Jesus? No one word or witness will do. Come and see. No one expression will do. Come and hear. Come and feel. Come with all your senses!

Perhaps Philip is the patron saint of worship artists. As worship leaders, our mission is to invite others to come and see. Come. Bring all your senses. Come and see, hear, feel, touch. Come. Bring your own witness to the love of God made manifest through Jesus Christ.

It is not our job to have all the answers and hand them to our congregation. No. In the spirit of our St. Philip, we invite all to come. We prepare the space and create the avenues for everyone to discover and know the love of Jesus. 

Prayer

Loving Jesus, may I not wait for Sunday to open all my senses to experience your love today. 

Nancy Hastings HornsbyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Pastor and Retreat Leader
North Alabama Conference of The UMC
Tuscaloosa, AL

 

Continue reading
  1178 Hits
  0 Comments
1178 Hits
0 Comments

Beloved

Epiphany_Beloved_blog

Baptism of the Lord

Week of: January 7, 2018
Scripture: Mark 1:4-11

You are my Son, The Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
(Mark 1:11b, NRSV)

Devotion

It is the first week of January, the first week of a new year. Time seems to move so fast! The church calendar also speeds along. Little time has passed since our adoration of Jesus in a manger surrounded by Mary and Joseph and shepherds.

Now, suddenly, Jesus is an adult stepping into the waters of the river Jordan to be baptized, the beginning of his public ministry. He has received a sign ["… the Spirit descending like a dove…"] and a word ["… a voice came from heaven, 'You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased'"] (Mark 1:10b-11, NRSV).

It is the beginning of a new year for us, the time to start anew in our own lives and worship arts ministry. What shall be our sign, our word to jumpstart our worship arts ministry this year? 

Water. Water shall be our sign. Water is at the font and in our daily drinking, cooking, washing …

Beloved. Beloved is the word we need as we embark on our daily tasks of ministry. We too are God’s beloved. We are baptized by the Holy Spirit. Remember: you are named and claimed as God’s own beloved child. You are not alone as you step into this new year. 

Prayer

Loving God, thank you for claiming me as your beloved child. Amen. 

Nancy Hastings HornsbyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Pastor and Retreat Leader
North Alabama Conference of The UMC
Tuscaloosa, AL

 

Continue reading
  1399 Hits
  0 Comments
1399 Hits
0 Comments

Praise and Fulfillment

Advent5_Light_blog

First Sunday After Christmas

Week of: December 31, 2017
Scripture: Luke 2:22-40

Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God.
(Luke 2:28, CEB)

Devotion

Last Sunday we sang the Song of Mary and later that day we celebrated with a “new song.” This Sunday we sing the Song of Simeon filled with praise and fulfillment.

This is usually a week when we music and worship artists can “put our feet up,” relax and spend much-needed time with the ones we love, and replenish our spirit-soul.

I encourage all of us, as worship designers and liturgy leaders, to use these days of Christmas as a time to reflect upon and to marinate in the arts offered in worship – giving praise and thanks for the fulfillment of God’s mighty work in the coming anew of Jesus the Christ.

Prayer

God of Promise, like Simeon, we praise you for the fulfillment of your promise through your Son, Jesus Christ. Our hope, through your Holy Spirit, is that the arts in worship may germinate into acts of grace, mercy, and peace. We offer up praises of thanksgiving to you, not only this Christmas season, but until the close of our li​ves​ on earth. Amen.

Amy YoungbloodThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music Ministries
First United Methodist Church
Stuttgart, AR

 

Continue reading
  898 Hits
  0 Comments
898 Hits
0 Comments

Glorious News

Advent4_Sing_blog

Fourth Sunday of Advent / Christmas Eve

Week of: December 24, 2017
Scripture: Luke 1:46b-55, Psalm 96

With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
(Luke 1:46b, CEB)

Sing to the Lord a new song!
(Psalm 96:1, CEB)

Devotion

Mary, the mother of the promised Savior, will sing her song, the Magnificat, this Advent Sunday morning. She is just beginning her long Advent journey of HOPE, LOVE, JOY and yes, PEACE. With the daunting task of giving birth to the hope of Israel, it is amazing how she sings gloriously with the confidence of peace.

On Sunday night, the Eve of Christmas, Psalm 96 gives us a “new song” to sing. Our Advent worship journey has been completed. We can now celebrate the coming of the One to whom we have offered our gifts of worship this season. How can we not sing a “new song”?

Prayer

Holy Christ Child, you have come to give us PEACE so that we might sing, dance, play, visualize, dramatize and preach a glorious new song. Grant us the confidence of Mary to always magnify your name. Amen.

Amy YoungbloodThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music Ministries
First United Methodist Church
Stuttgart, AR

 

Continue reading
  900 Hits
  0 Comments
900 Hits
0 Comments

Rejoice Always

Advent3_Joy_blog

Third Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 17, 2017
Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

The Lord ... has sent me to bring good news ...
(Isaiah 61:1, CEB)

Rejoice always. ... Give thanks in every situation ...
(1 Thessalonians 5:16 & 18, CEB)

Devotion

It seems every day this year we have been inundated with news that creates fear and injustice, spreads rumors of war, and/or reports a new natural disaster.

In the midst of oppression, brokenness, and the prisons of our own minds, it can be difficult to seek joy. Yet, in Isaiah 61, God has promised to bring comfort, hope, and justice to this world through the promised Messiah.

We, who are caretakers of God’s people through our various worship arts, have the power to inspire people to be the hands and feet of the promised Savior. Take time during this week and season to be thankful for the gifts God has given you which serve as a vehicle of transformation and JOY in this world.

Prayer

Come, Lord Jesus, to give us JOY! Amen.

Amy YoungbloodThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music Ministries
First United Methodist Church
Stuttgart, AR

 

Continue reading
  1065 Hits
  0 Comments
1065 Hits
0 Comments

Advent Wilderness

Advent2_Prepare_blog

Second Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 10, 2017
Scripture: Mark 1:1-8

A voice shouting in the wilderness: "Prepare the way for the Lord …"
(Mark 1:3, CEB)

Devotion

When you truly think about it, John the Baptist is an amusing and intriguing character! He is clothed in camel’s hair held together with a leather belt. He eats only locusts and honey AND he is in the wilderness loudly shouting what some would perceive as crazy stuff.

The significant thing about John is he knew his place in God’s magnificent plan to save the world, and he played the part well. John knew his message and proclaimed it in a place away from the hierarchy of wealth and privilege. Yet, as a human being, it must have been a lonely existence for him.

We may also succumb to the traps of loneliness as we proclaim the message through sacred arts. At times we can feel apart from the world that rushes on without us. But remember the Christ Child comes to those set apart for God’s creative work so that God might be revealed to others.

Prayer

In the Advent wilderness of our lives, come, Lord Jesus, and deliver us into your LOVE. Amen.

Amy YoungbloodThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music Ministries
First United Methodist Church
Stuttgart, AR

 

Continue reading
  1102 Hits
  0 Comments
1102 Hits
0 Comments

Watch Out! Stay Alert!

Advent1_Wait_blog

First Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 3, 2017
Scripture: Isaiah 64:1-9

From ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god but you who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
(Isaiah 64:4, CEB)

Devotion

We live in a world where waiting is not popular. We can obtain any information or order anything we want and receive it the next day with just a click of a mouse or a touch on a screen. In his gospel, Mark tells us in 13:33 & 37 to “Watch out!” and “Stay alert!”

In our society, “watch out” and “stay alert” scream at us with an element of fear. Watch out for people who are different; “stay alert” and avoid unsafe areas. But Isaiah’s and Mark’s words were not meant to be of fear and competition, but a message of “Listen, God is about to do something grand!” Be on the lookout so you can participate in the joy!

We, as creators and leaders of worship, have the unique privilege and responsibility of leading God’s people away from the shouts of this wilderness world and into an Advent experience: an experience of “quiet waiting,” as we “watch out” and “stay alert” for the coming of the Christ Child.

Prayer

God of Advent, may we nurture your people and ourselves to wait with patience, be alert to your presence, and stay ready to spread the word of your coming to the entire world. Come, Lord Jesus, and give us HOPE. Amen.

Amy YoungbloodThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music Ministries
First United Methodist Church
Stuttgart, AR

 

Continue reading
  1046 Hits
  0 Comments
1046 Hits
0 Comments

When Did We See You?

Nov_See_Blog

Reign of Christ / Christ the King Sunday

Week of: November 26, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46

Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?
(Matthew 25:37, NRSV)

Devotion

Ah, the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats — there is so much to love about this passage! First, there is no mystery about what it looks like to be a "saved" people; the test and the answers are listed right here, plain for all to see! When you see someone in hunger, feed them! When you see someone in prison, don’t let them suffer in isolation; visit them, for God’s sake!

Secondly, the sheep don’t know they are sheep and the goats don’t know they are goats! Do you see it? We read this gospel lesson on Reign of Christ / Christ the King Sunday because it is Christ who is the head of God’s reign, Christ and not anyone else. And because Christ sits where he does, he sees the image of God in each person on earth.

Even though we can’t always see the image of God in others as quickly as Jesus does, we are still called to treat everyone as if they are Christ: it is not up to us to judge whether anyone is worthy of help, love, grace, justice, mercy and dignity! Our calling is to help those who need help. "Be Thou My Vision," indeed!

How are we, as worship artists, helping our people see that God is at work and already present in the lives of all people, not just the ones who come through the doors of our institutions? And, further, how do we serve as a bridge between the worship inside the walls of our institutions and our people’s worship outside of those walls?

Prayer

Jesus, on this Sunday when we celebrate the goodness, righteousness, and holy justice embodied in your reign, may the Spirit enable us to move beyond our preconceived ideas about our fellow humans and break open our hearts to their needs, so that we may alleviate suffering wherever we see it, just as Jesus did. Amen.

Joe StobaughThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Executive Minister of Worship and Arts
Grace Avenue United Methodist Church
Frisco, TX

 

Continue reading
  1234 Hits
  0 Comments
1234 Hits
0 Comments