Friday, March 7, 2014

This Lent at Pleasant Street

"A Place at the Table"

In a culture built on consumption, it’s easy to forget the poor about whom Jesus cared so much.  This Lent we will use the resource, A Place at the Table, to guide us on a life-changing journey of self-examination, discipline, and renewed focus on Jesus.  Through worship, sermons, study, and daily devotions we will be challenged to eat like the poor for forty days in solidarity with them and to donate the money we save on groceries to a charity or project that serves the poor in concrete ways.

Whether you choose to fast by altering your customary diet, or by not eating out, or by avoiding purchases of all non-essentials, or by practicing some other way of putting the brakes on your cravings, we hope that you’ll participate in this endeavor to increase our awareness of others, identify with people living in poverty, and tune our hearts to the heart of Jesus.

Each Sunday our worship will focus on the ways that Lent challenges us to care about those in need. The adult Sunday School class will view and discuss the A Place at the Table DVD series.  Video devotions are available online for each of the forty days of Lent. (You can access them on the church's Facbook page by clicking here.)  And everyone is encouraged to use Chris Seay’s book, which includes daily Scripture readings, reflections, prayers, and encouragement.  

Join us as we go on a journey of radical faith, personal action, and extravagant grace that can change our lives and the lives of our brothers and sisters in need all over the world.   

Lent 1 – March 9
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Matthew 4:1-11
“Saying No”
Lenten disciplines help us to say “No” to ourselves and enable us to tame our natural tendency for instant gratification.

Lent 2 – March 16
Isaiah 58:1-12
“The Fast I Choose”
What God wants from us is not just religious obedience and ritual observances, but compassion and care for those in need.

Lent 3 – March 23
Luke 3:1-20
“A Call to Repentance and Generosity”
John the Baptizer calls us to a counter-cultural life that turns away from greed and toward generosity.

Lent 4 – March 30
Matthew 14:13–21
“Performing Miracles”
Jesus calls his followers not to dismiss the needs of others, but to share in his work of providing for them.

Lent 5 – April 6
John 9:1-41
“An Undeserved Birthplace”
Who deserves their lot in life? Are those born into lives of comfort more worthy than those born into poverty?

Palm Sunday – April 13
Matthew 21:1-17
“Wave Your Flag, but Don’t Touch the Treasury”
One biblical commentator suggests that it wasn’t Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem that ticked off the religious authorities, but the fact that he meddled with the finances of the Temple (i.e., overturning the moneychangers’ tables).  Maybe we don’t want Jesus meddling in our finances either.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Looking Toward Sunday

"God's Secret Agents"

February 2, 2014

There's a meme going around on Facebook that reads, "God sent angels down to earth in the form of dogs with notes saying, 'Don't judge - just love'. They ate the notes, but keep trying to deliver the message." 

Anyone who has ever been loved by a dog has experienced the delivery of that message firsthand. The love of a dog is undoubtedly unconditional - but is it in any way comparable to the love of God? Can it serve as a metaphor for God's love, showing us something about how freely, generously, and unabashedly God loves us?

This Sunday, as Pastor Arlene prepares to travel to NY to train for a new Ministry Dog, we'll be pondering the answer to those questions. Our scripture for the day is 1 John 4:7-12. (You can read it here.) Join us as we playfully consider whether dogs really are "secret agents" of God's lavish, unconditional love. 

See you on Sunday!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Looking Toward Sunday

"Called to Relationship"

Third Sunday after Epiphany
January 26, 2014

This week we'll look at the story of the call of the first disciples as told in the Gospel of Matthew. (You can read it here) Jesus says two key things in his invitation to Peter, Andrew, James, and John that represent the core of Christian discipleship: "Follow me" and "I will make you fishers of people". While these four men will eventually become "laborers in the vineyard", "witnesses to the Christ", "apostles of the Messiah", "leaders of the church", etc., Jesus is first calling the men not into work, but into relationship. They'll be mentored by Jesus ("following") and they'll welcome others into community ("fishing").

As with those first disciples, the invitation to discipleship represents a call to relationship - relationship with Jesus and relationship with others. That's the essence of our vocation as Christians. Anything else we may do or become as Jesus-followers is rooted in those relationships.

Join us as we reflect on the proposition that nurturing relationships is our primary call as Christian disciples.

See you on Sunday!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Looking Toward Sunday

"Pointing the Finger"

Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 19, 2014

This week we're taking a look at John the Baptizer's revelation of Jesus as the Son of God, as told in the Gospel of John. (You can read the passage by clicking here.)

Religious art often portrays John the Baptizer with a pointed finger - not an accusing finger, but gesturing toward something out of the frame, beyond the viewer's sight. That had me a bit perplexed, until I came across a painting that depicted Jesus as the object of John's pointing finger. Then I understood that John's outstretched digit in all those other statues and paintings conveyed the purpose of John's life - which was pointing others toward Jesus.

How well do our lives point to Jesus? Can people see Jesus in our words, our behavior, our lifestyle? Do our lives reflect the love and compassion of Jesus? Is Jesus the object of our attention as he was for John, or are we focused primarily on something or someone else?

Join us as we reflect on those questions and take a look at the role of John the Baptizer - and our own - in pointing others to Jesus.

See you on Sunday!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Icebound Worship

Once again it looks as though inclement weather may prevent many people from attending church tomorrow. If the ice keeps you home, here is a worship service that you can use for your Sunday morning devotion. If you're with others, you can alternate the "One" and "All" parts. 

Preparation: If you don't have an Advent wreath, gather 4 candles to light.

Centering:  "Love Came Down:  (click here)

Call to Worship: (based on 1 Corinthians 13)
One: If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
All: If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing.
One: If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing.
All: Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!
One: Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
All: Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love.

Opening Song: "When Love Was Born"  (click here)

Lighting the Advent Candle of Love: Adapted from Martha Spong
One: The poet, George Herbert, wrote: “Love bade me welcome, but my soul drew back.” It’s hard for us to take in the enormity of God’s love made flesh in Jesus Christ. Yet we know by heart the words of John the Evangelist: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” God gave us the gift of Jesus out of love for all of us, then and now and forever.
All: As we light the candle of Love, we stop in awe of God’s unending love. Whatever we face in life, God’s steadfast love surrounds us.

Scripture Reading: Romans 1:1-7 (click here to read)

Message: "Love...Gotta Have It" (click here)

Response Song: "Love Came Down at Christmas" (click here)

Think of a time when you experienced undeserved love.  
How has God's love been made known in your life?
What is one tangible way that you will share love this week?

Praying Together:
Receive God’s gift of time to be in prayer, offering God any burdens or joys that you are aware of for yourself, others, the world. Don’t rush. Receive silence as well as words. God has all the time in the world for you! Then join in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespasses against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Sharing Gifts and Self:  
If you are worshiping with others, name at least one way that you have received love from each of them. Make sure that each person has a turn to do the same, if they wish. If you are worshiping by yourself, take a few minutes to identify how at least 3 people have shown you love and give thanks to God for them.

Closing Prayer  by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Holy One,
prepare your way in me.
Give me faith, like the stable,
to know your presence within me.
Give me courage, like Mary,
to let your life overwhelm mine.
Give me strength, like Joseph,
to protect what is holy, tender and growing.
Give me patience, like the shepherds,
to be still and listen.
Give me humility, like the magi,
to kneel before your presence.
Give me trust, like the child,
to let myself be borne into a new world.
Give me joy, like the angels,
to bring good news to the poor.
Give me love, like the manger
to hold Christ within.
Holy One,
prepare your way in me.

Closing song: "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"  (click here)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snowbound Worship

Meteorologists are predicting a serious snowstorm tonight and into tomorrow. Some churches have already canceled worship.  And while we never cancel worship, there will no doubt be people who will not (and should not) travel to church. One of my colleagues had a brilliant idea to create a sort of online virtual worship service. So, with a hat tip to Rev. Karen Munson of Brunswick United Methodist Church (and borrowing some of her material), here is a suggested format for worshiping at home. The words can be read by one person or, if you're with others who wish to participate you can use the "One" and "All" parts.  

Preparation: If you don't have an Advent wreath, gather 3 candles to light.

Centering Music: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (click here)

Call to Worship: (based on Philippians 4:4-7)
One: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
All: Rejoice!  Emmanuel is near.
One: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
All: Rejoice!  Emmanuel is near.
One: And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
All: Rejoice!  Emmanuel is near.

Lighting the Advent Candle of Joy:  Adapted from Martha Spong
One: The poet, Mary Oliver, wrote: “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it…Don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”  When the day approached when the Israelites would return to their home from exile in Babylon, the prophet Isaiah spoke God’s promise: “They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion, unfading halos of joy encircling their heads, welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.” The people rejoiced, amazed to have a second chance.  The end of the story had yet to be written.
All: As we light the candle of Joy, we celebrate the One who has come, is coming and will come again. Whatever we face in life, God will make joy possible. 

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 35:1-10 (click here to read)

Message: "Joy...To Get Me Through The Tough Days" (click here)

Response Song: "I'm Trading My Sorrows" (click here)

What sorrows would you trade?  What burdens would you lay down for the joy of the Lord?

Praying Together:
Receive God’s gift of time to be in prayer, offering God any burdens or joys that you are aware of for yourself, others, the world. Don’t rush.  Receive silence as well as words.  God has all the time in the world for you!
Then join in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespasses against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Sharing Gifts and Self:  
If you are worshiping with others, take turns naming God’s gifts that you recognize in each other.  Make sure that everyone has a gift named! If you are worshiping by yourself, take a few minutes to name the gifts you recognize in at least 3 people you know. Next, name gifts that God has placed in your life this day.

Prayer of Thanksgiving  by Thom Shuman
It is your nature to be holy,
and gracious in the giving of Jesus,
your Child, our salvation.
He comes to the barren places,
so life might blossom in us.
He comes into our brokenness,
so we might be made whole.
He comes into our silence,
telling us of your miracles of grace and hope.
He went into our death,
and comes forth bringing resurrection for all.
As we prepare to celebrate his birth
and to journey with him once again,
we thank you for giving us the gift of Jesus. Amen.

Closing song: "Joy to the World/Shout for Joy"  (click here)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Advent 2013 at Pleasant Street United Methodist Church

"A Life-Giving Christmas"

Have you ever woken up the day after Christmas feeling like you missed it? That with all the craziness (shopping, parties, cooking, family visits, etc.,) you just didn’t get the experience you had hoped for?

For those searching for deeper meaning this Christmas, we are offering an Advent program entitled “A Life-Giving Christmas”. We’ll explore the fuller meaning of the season and rethink what it is we truly want on our “wish lists”. We’ll widen the lens, focus on the real, the authentic, the things that really matter and the true gift of the season – life. And not just any life – rich, meaningful life in Jesus Christ. Hope, peace, joy and love are not just candles to be lit around an Advent wreath – they are facets of a living Christ to be ignited in our lives and our community. 

Join us for worship and discussion opportunities. Watch for messages via Facebook and Twitter, and be a part of conversations on our website forum. Get involved in Advent activities and share mutual prayer support. Take home a “Family Faith ADVENTures” guide for children and keep Advent as a family. Participate in “outbound challenges” that reach out into the community. This year we invite you to experience “A Life-giving Christmas”!

December 1
First Sunday of Advent:
“Hope…Next Year Things Will Be Different!”
Putting our Christmas list in perspective; seeking God first.
Scriptural Focus: Romans 13:11-14
Discussion Group on Sunday at 9:15 AM or Wednesday at 6:00 PM

December 8
Second Sunday of Advent:
“Peace…Strength to Hold On”
Focusing on Jesus; finding peace.
Scriptural Focus: Matthew 3:11-12
Discussion Group on Sunday at 9:15 AM or Wednesday at 6:00 PM

December 15
Third Sunday of Advent:
“Joy…To Get Me Through the Tough Days”
Celebrating God’s promises; discovering joy.
Scriptural Focus: Isaiah 35:1-10
Discussion Group on Sunday at 9:15 AM or Wednesday at 6:00 PM
(Note: No sermon at the 10:30 service – Christmas Pageant)
Christmas Dinner following the 10:30 service

December 22
Fourth Sunday of Advent:
“Love…Gotta Have It”
Discovering the essence of life; giving and receiving love.
Scriptural Focus: Romans 1:1-7
Discussion Group on Sunday at 9:15 AM