Monday, February 29, 2016

"Searching for Sunday" Lenten Devotional Series: Shake the Preacher's Hand

Monday, February 29

Shake the Preacher’s Hand

Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.—Isaiah 41:10

The church of my youth was the basement of a Catholic school.   There were pews, an organ, and a preacher.  Sitting in the pew I felt God and goodness, love and acceptance.    During the preacher’s sermons I sometimes squirmed but they did keep me on the straight and narrow.  The organ was small which was fine because few people sang anyway.  

I thought of Sunday as the refreshing start to the week.   Monday-Friday was packed with school, work, and chores.  If we weren’t cleaning the house, Saturdays were a play day with time to go to the library and hang out with friends.  Sundays were about church and family with chicken dinners, fishing, and reading the Sunday paper.  

Craig Morgan captures some of these themes in his song, “That’s What I love About Sunday.”   He talks about cane poles, cutting coupons, naps, walks and church.  The refrain is what grabs me;  
That’s what I love about Sunday,
Sing along as the choir sways,
Every verse of Amazing Grace,
And then we shake the preacher’s hand.

As a kid I wanted to sing at church and I wanted to thank the priest for his sermon.  Unfortunately, few people sang so I mumbled and as the first closing notes played on the organ the priest disappeared into his dressing room.   So we all left in a hurry, exiting to cars that would scatter us into the rest of Sunday.   Which is why now, on Sundays, I love belting out a closing hymn and the highlight that starts my week is shaking a preacher’s hand as I leave Trinity. 

Jody Pritzl

Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Searching for Sunday" Lenten Devotional Series: Holy Orders

Sunday, February 28
Holy Orders

An Invitation for Reflection through Lent Week Three

What can we tell about a person simply by looking at their hands?

Evans points out, “No one ever said the fruit of the Spirit is relevance or impact or even revival.”

What are the measures by which most churches judge “success”?

What might be a better measure or method to determine if a church is succeeding in its mission?

Why is it a good idea to surrender “all cynicism and pride” before we “take up the basin and towel”?

How does your faith community reach out in service?

What are ways that you can show the love of Christ through the “works of your hands?”

Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Searching for Sunday" Lenten Devotional Series: The Three Kings

Saturday, February 27

The Three Kings

For the young will see visions and the old will dream dreams.Acts 2:17

When you travel somewhere, you usually have a destination in mind, a goal which you are traveling toward. This particular day, we didn’t. Yes, at Trinity one Sunday  morning, Josh, Nate, and I dressed up as kings who were seeking the baby Jesus, perhaps the most important goal or destination of all, but we, ourselves, didn’t have a destination.

As we traveled to each classroom, telling every group, young and old, about the kings and their gifts, I thought to myself, why not go out of the church and travel in a place where it was less common to come across three people dressed as kings? So my two friends agreed, and the best moment of the three of us walking around in public was when the rest of our youth group saw us on the street.

We had wanted to surprise and hopefully embarrass them by walking into Starbucks as kings, but they met us outside. The smiles and laughter which came from my friends were too amazing to see that we couldn’t feel awkward about how we looked. Sometimes it’s not about the destination, but the journey, and sometimes we need to let go of our self-consciousness and live with passion and cherish each moment.

Acts 2:17 tells us about the future, how we can see it in different ways, and that was so much more fun to do when dressed as a king.

Caden Hirsch

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Searching for Sunday" Lenten Devotional Series: GRACE ("megumi" - grace in Japanese)

Friday, February 26

GRACE  ("megumi" - grace in Japanese)

When I received the confirmation to teach at a teacher-training college in Japan I began an in-depth-study of the religions of that country as well as the role of the Church among the Japanese people.  Most pledge themselves to Shinto, the way of the gods, and to Buddhism.  

My first experience with the community church was on a Sunday morning about four weeks after arriving at the college.  I was apprehensive and my heart was vibrating more rapidly.  How would I be received as I knew few words in Japanese?  Would my bow be appropriate? Would they overlook my foreign face?  I arrived at the small church building and stepped into the entrance to see shoes everywhere.  I was then greeted by a gracious lady with a very deep bow.  I saw in her eyes the reflection of her thoughts: "How do I greet her as she has the face of a stranger (foreigner)?  "Why is she here?"  Her Japanese was quick but I felt acceptance as I bowed and used the greetings I had learned.  Soon the service began and I felt totally and utterly alone.  As the service progressed two senior ladies moved to sit with me and to share the hymnal which I could not read. The message dealt with "grace" Suddenly, I felt grace flowing between us and binding me to them.  I was alone but not really as I had found a Sunday home filled with God's grace.  I was experiencing the binding force of salvation's eternal grace.  As long as I attended there they loved me with that "Amazing Grace." Through them I learned I needed a Bible and a hymnal for the services.  They taught me about their traditions, their customs, and forgave my horrible mistakes in Japanese.  They even asked me to pray and to speak during some of their services.

Some Sunday mornings when I enter the doors of Trinity I have an overwhelming desire to leave my shoes at the door, place my feet in slippers, enter the sanctuary with my Bible and hymnal and hear "megumi" once again.  Grace was shared with me in a Japanese country church and now it is shared with me at Trinity.  It is the binding link among God's people around the word.

            By Grace we are saved!
            By Grace we are accepted!
            By Grace we are loved!     
  Julia Williams

Thursday, February 25, 2016

"Searching for Sunday" Lenten Devotional Series: Imperfections

Thursday, February 25

And Jesus took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.Mark 10:16

I spent 26½ years on the staff of three United Methodist Churches.  This time has not been without humor.  They say that laughter is the best medicine. Here are some of my favorite Sunday stories that still make me chuckle.

It was my first children’s time in worship as the new Director of Christian Education and   I really wanted to make a good first impression.  Ready with my story I took the microphone and began, but instantly I could tell my voice wasn’t carrying.  I began frantically looking for the on/off switch. Some lady on the front row kept motioning to me with hand actions.  I had no clue what she was trying to tell me.  Finally she just said out loud “Kathy you have the microphone upside down!!”  I quickly righted the microphone and quipped, “This is the last mistake I am ever going to make in this church." 

5:00 Christmas Eve service at Trinity is known for an abundance of wide eyed children, many of whom are too young or too excited to remain quiet in “big church.”  One of my co-workers, commented “It sounds like the cattle are lowing.”   Here are some of my humorous memories from the “cattle are lowing service."

  • The year the two preteen boys who had volunteered to light the Christ candle  proceeded to race down the aisle so fast that they literally blew the light on the acolyte wand out before they reached the front of the sanctuary. 
  • Or the Christmas the angel’s wings got stuck in the door and the shepherd’s came in right on cue to the wrong scripture.

And so we are reminded that real people are participating in real church and grace abounds in spite of our human efforts for perfection.

Thank you God for all the moments when you speak to our souls even when things aren’t perfect. Amen.

Kathy Gibb