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 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

"Counting Our Blessings"

Thanksgiving Sunday
November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving is just around the corner - a special day to set aside time to count our blessings and give thanks to God.  

On this Sunday before Thanksgiving we'll be taking a look at a passage from the Gospel of John. (You can read it here) The day after Jesus turned a little boy's lunch into enough food for 5,000 people, a crowd follows Jesus across the Sea of Galilee in hopes of another meal. Jesus tells them, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free. Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides." Jesus notes that the crowd is hoping for something material rather than spiritual. They're seeking a gift (free lunch), but Jesus is offering them a blessing (divine presence).

Have you ever given any thought to whether there's a difference between God's gifts to us and God's blessings - between the material things that God provides (food, shelter, warm clothing, etc.) and the spiritual benefits that come from a life with God (peace, joy, comfort, etc.)? While we should surely give thanks for both gifts and blessings, which of the two is more important to you? Which do you think should be? Which will you be counting on Thanksgiving Day?

Join us on Sunday as we ponder these questions and offer thanks and praise to our generous God, "from whom all blessings flow".

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

"Doomsday Preppers"

November 17, 2013
26th Sunday after Pentecost

The National Geographic Channel features a popular show called "Doomsday Preppers", which explores the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. These people go to great lengths to build bunkers, gather weapons, stockpile food, and devise systems (some quite ingenious) to ensure their long-term survival should they need to "bug out" at the onset of catastrophic war, the collapse of the world economy, mass insurrection, or other doomsday event. They wait and watch carefully for signs of the beginning of the end, secure in the knowledge that they're ready.

According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus' followers once asked him about the timeline for The End and the indicators that everything was about to hit the fan.  (You can read the passage here)  But Jesus' instructions for doomsday prepping are very different from the folks on the TV show. He says that the best way to be ready is not to be ready! What could he have meant, and what does it have to say to us in the 21st century?  Join us as we explore doomsday prepping, Christian style.

See you on Sunday!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

"Saving Zacchaeus"

November 10, 2013

"Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he."  

If you attended Sunday School as a child, you're probably familiar with that little ditty about the character in Luke 19:1-10 (you can read it here).  Poor Zacchaeus - despised, sneered at, and made fun of by his neighbors in Jericho - and by every generation of Christians since Luke first recorded the story. 

What do we really know about Zacchaeus? Does he deserve his reputation as an infamous racketeer who got fabulously rich by extorting his fellow Jews? Or might he have been a victim of people's mistaken presumptions about him? Was he greedy or generous? A bully or bullied? Berated by Jesus or befriended by him?  If Zacchaeus wasn't the sinner that the townsfolk supposed him to be, then what did Jesus mean when he said, "Today salvation has come to this house"?

Join us on Sunday as we take an unconventional look at this familiar story.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

All Saints/Laity Sunday
November 3, 2013

This Sunday we remember and celebrate the saints who have gone on the the "Church Triumphant" since last All Saints Day. As part of our observance, we will read the names of our departed saints aloud and light candles in their memory.

This Sunday we are also observing Laity Sunday.  Laity Sunday is an opportunity to celebrate the ministry of all lay people. Grace Von Tobel will deliver the message in an unusual way (no hints - you'll have to come to find out the details!) and other lay folks will lead the prayers, scripture readings, etc.

Join us as we celebrate the saints who've gone ahead of us, as well as the saints who serve among us now.

See you on Sunday!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

"Declarations of the Heart"

Commitment Sunday
October 27, 2013

For the last two months we've been studying and discussing United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase's Five Practices of Fruitful Living. The fifth practice, "Extravagant Generosity" has been our focus throughout the month of October. The entire congregation has been using an insightful devotional book entitled, Practicing Extravagant Generosity: Daily Readings on the Grace of Giving. We've been completing "heart cards" each week that share what we love about our church, who has contributed to our spiritual growth, and our hopes and dreams for Pleasant Street United Methodist Church. Storytellers have shared their responses to the heart cards each Sunday, and our completed cards have been posted all over the church entryway.  It's been a time of giving thanks for and celebrating the generosity of others, and an invitation to practice that same sort of generosity ourselves.

This Sunday we'll be invited to express our Extravagant Generosity through the offering of our Estimate of Giving Cards for 2014. Our scripture lessons for the day are 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 24 and John 3:16-17. (You can click on the links to read them.) Worship will focus on our gratitude for all that God has done for us and through us. And we'll think about how the year ahead can be an opportunity for us to both express our love for God and grow in generosity through the practice of giving.

Join us as we consider how our offerings to God through the church represent a "declaration of our heart".

See you on Sunday!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

"The Central Question"
First Sunday after Pentecost
May 26, 2013

This Sunday we'll be looking at Psalm 8 (you can read it here) and pondering the central question asked by the psalmist: "What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?"  

It's easy to feel insignificant in a world as large as ours - even more so when you consider the incomprehensible vastness of the universe.  And yet, as the psalm reminds us, each one of us matters to God. Join us as we take a closer look at Psalm 8 and our place in the scheme of things.  

See you on Sunday!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

"The Spirit of Pentecost"

Pentecost Sunday
May 19, 2013

This week we'll be using the traditional reading for Pentecost from the Book of Acts (you can read it here) as five of our youth make their Confirmation. They have been working with their mentors since September in preparation to make their profession of faith and become full members of Pleasant Street United Methodist Church. 

Join us as we celebrate these five young people's decision to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.  May the Spirit of God fall afresh on them (and us!)

See you on Sunday!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

"Plan A"

Ascension Sunday
May 12, 2013

This week we observe Ascension Sunday by reading the opening verses of the Acts of the Apostles (you can read the text here).  It's the story of Jesus' departure from earth and ascension into heaven.  As he leaves his somewhat confused apostles behind, Jesus commissions them to "be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth".  While it may have seemed risky to entrust the gospel to the apostles with all their foibles and faults and flaws, they succeeded spectacularly. The Christian movement grew like a raging wildfire.

These days that wildfire seems to be burning itself out - at least for mainline Western-world Protestants. Could it be that we have stopped being Jesus' witnesses?  (Hint: One church consultant claims that the average United Methodist shares his or her faith with another person once every 38 years.)  Can we take the call to be Jesus' witnesses as seriously as his first followers?  And what would it take to do that?  

Join us on Sunday as we think about what the "Great Commission" means for us.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday


Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2013

This week's reading is an excerpt from Jesus' "farewell discourse" - his final teachings and instructions to the disciples at the Last Supper. (You can read the passage here.) The discourse covers several chapters in the Gospel of John, but this small section includes Jesus' promise that his followers will not be left alone when he leaves them.  (Remember that this meal takes place the night before Jesus' crucifixion.) The Spirit will remain with them in Jesus' absence to give them peace and to continue the work that Jesus began in them.

We'll be focusing on the opening verse - Jesus' words, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” What does it mean for Jesus to make a home with us? How do we receive such a houseguest? And what would happen if that houseguest were to take up permanent residence with us? Join us as we reflect on those questions, and on our readiness to invite Jesus in to "make his home with us".

See you on Sunday!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

April 28, 2013

"Moving the Fence"

As evidenced in "The Acts of the Apostles", the early Church struggled with the question of whom to include and whom to exclude from the Christian community.  In this Sunday's reading (you can read it here), the Apostle Peter has a vision that challenges his understanding of the borders between clean and unclean, acceptable and unacceptable.  The revelation convinces him that it's God's will to move the fence separating the Gentiles from the Church.  "If God gave them the same gift that we received when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" asks Peter. 

Over the millennia since, the Church has found it repeatedly necessary to move its fences in order not to hinder God. (Think Galileo and the Inquisition, banned divorcees, and the prohibition against female clergy.) This week we'll consider a fence that's being moved by many mainline Protestant denominations - the one that excludes LGBT folks. We'll talk about the official United Methodist position on the inclusion of LGBT persons and about our congregation's decision to explore becoming a "Reconciling Congregation".  Join us on Sunday to learn more.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

"The Way" Worship Series for Lent

This year’s worship series for Lent is entitled “The Way”.*  Over the next few weeks we’ll be thinking about Lent as a metaphorical pilgrimage or “way” that can help lead us to spiritual awakening, insight, and renewal. The inspiration for the metaphor of Lent as a virtual pilgrimage comes from a well-known literal pilgrimage in Spain known as El Camino deSantiago – popularly called “The Camino”. Like the Camino (which has many different routes that all converge at the same destination) we’re all on our own unique spiritual journeys, but they all lead to a common goal – a closer walk with God.

The "routes" that we'll explore are:

Ash Wednesday, February 13:  "Buen Camino" (Joel 2:1-2, 12-17)
We begin our Lenten pilgrimage with a time of reflection, the imposition of ashes, and a blessing for the journey ahead.

Sunday, February 17:  "The Wandering Way" (Luke 4:1-13) 
Like Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness, we begin a journey that will take us out of our spiritual comfort zone.

Sunday, February 24:  "The Way Around" (Luke 13:31-35)
Sometimes our faith calls us to claim who we know we are and take the way around what others think we ought to do and be.

Sunday, March 3:  "The High Way" (Isaiah 55:1-9) 
We are taught that everything costs. But our ways are not God’s ways. We are all invited, without price, to the table of God’s grace - and to extend God's hospitality to others.   

Sunday, March 10:  "The Way Home" (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32) 
The father's extravagant acceptance of the son in Jesus’ parable of the lost son is difficult for us to believe sometimes.  But no matter what we have done, who we are, how far we are from what we want to become, we are welcomed home by the Loving Parent.

Sunday, March 17: "The Free Way" (Isaiah 43:16-21)
New paths in life are always possible, and these ways are made plain before us if we have eyes to see.

Palm Sunday, March 24: "The Other Way" (Luke 19:28-40)
This moment on this road for Jesus feels both like the end and the beginning. Such are so many moments of our lives. A pilgrimage may reach its destination, but the hope, the wisdom, the lessons learned along the way offer a new starting point for us. What have we learned and what transformation – what “other way” – are we called to in our lives?

Don't forget - if you miss a week you can listen to the sermon online at our podcast website.

* The outline for this series comes from Marcia McFee's "Worship Design Studio".

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

January 27, 2012 - Third Sunday After the Epiphany

"Symbiotic Christian Life"

In nature, an interdependent and mutually beneficial relationship relationship is known as "symbiosis".  One of the best-known examples is the clownfish and the anemone.  The clownfish attracts prey for the anemone, and the anemone provides food for the clownfish.  God has designed them to live in symbiotic relationship.

Although he uses a different metaphor to describe it, the apostle Paul says that Christians are also designed by God to live in symbiotic relationship.  In chapter 12 of his first letter to the church in Corinth (you can read it here) Paul reminds the conflicted and divided congregation that each individual Christian needs the faith community and the faith community needs each individual Christian. Neither can thrive without the other.

We would do well to remember that the same holds true for contemporary Christians and today's church.  Like the different parts of a human body – like the anemone and the clownfish – we need each other in order to live as well and as fully – as symbiotically – as God designed us.    

Join us as we reflect on being a more "symbiotic church".  See you on Sunday!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Looking Toward Sunday

January 20, 2012 - Second Sunday After the Epiphany

"An Invitation to Abundance"

This week we take a look at the familiar story of Jesus turning water into wine. (You can read it here.) Jesus and his mother and the disciples are at a wedding in Cana when the wine unexpectedly runs out. Jesus' mother turns to him to provide a solution to spare the party's host from public humiliation. 

Jesus' answer to the predicament is to transform six stone jars of water (each of which held around 20-30 gallons) into wine. Wine that isn't just passable, but the richest, finest wine anyone has ever tasted. This absurd extravagance is the very first "sign" recorded in John's gospel, and it tells us something very important about Jesus.

This story of transformation and abundance sets the stage for Jesus' ministry - a ministry that demonstrates  in countless ways the inexhaustible love and extravagant grace of God. From the miracle at Cana to the miracle of the empty tomb and everything in between, Jesus invites us to “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Join us as we think about the kind of transformation and abundance Jesus can bring to our lives.  

L'Chaim!  See you on Sunday.