(March 19, 2017) We seem to think that God no longer speaks to us, since we don’t experience burning bushes or the voices of thunder and flashes of lightning. But is it possible that it’s not that God has stopped speaking to humanity, but that we have forgotten how to listen? When was the last time you were thunderstruck? (Exodus 3:1-12; Job 37:1-5)
“The Gift of Uncertainty” (When Broken Wings Learn to Fly)
(March 5, 2017) On the 25th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the first structure of Lebanon United Methodist Church, we confess that we are uncertain about where God will lead us next. Who are we, now that we are no longer “the church that burned”? (Matthew 4:1-11)
“I awoke in a Dark Wood where the true way was wholly lost.” – Dante
The journey through the “dark wood” is an unavoidable part of life. Whether by the awareness of our own brokenness, the changing circumstances in our lives or our world, or through the losses and failures that seem to haunt us, at some point we all find ourselves in a place that feels like a dark wood. No matter the path we followed in, the pathway out seems wholly lost.
Rather than run from the darkness, we must begin to see that the only way out is through. And here, where ego is at last stripped away, we are perhaps open at last to God’s guidance and way. As we experience uncertainty, emptiness, and temptation, as we become lost and thunderstruck, as we disappear and find ourselves out of place, these struggles turn to gifts. The Dark Wood becomes the place where God awakens us to the fullness of life.
Our worship series for Lent, based on the book by the same name by Eric Elnes, invites us to lose ourselves in the Dark Wood, and trust in Christ to draw us out. In the midst of darkness, we might find not only our way through life, but find ourselves.
Sermons in this series:
March 5 – The Gift of Uncertainty (When Broken Wings Learn to Fly)
March 12 – The Gift of Emptiness
March 19 – The Gift of Being Thunderstruck
March 26 – The Gift of Getting Lost
April 2 – The Gift of Temptation
April 9 – The Gift of Disappearing
(January 22, 2017) Sometimes we take ourselves far too seriously! Although we never want to use humor to hurt or demean anyone, laughter can often heal and uplift. Even the Biblical matriarch, Sarah, demonstrates several kinds of laughter: from disbelief and laughter at the impossible or painful, to the laughter of joy and hope. (Isaiah 9:1-4; Genesis 18: 1-4, 9-15, 21: 1-6)
As if to illustrate the point, I had numerous technical problems with this recording. The source recording and volume changes a couple of times throughout. It is especially poor at the beginning and so the first minute or so is taken off a different mic and sounds really far away. Sorry about that!
(January 15, 2017) Music can lift our mood, center us or grab our attention, and convey the deep range of emotion of the human experience. Is it possible that Jesus, who embodied that full range of human experience, can be found in just about any kind of music? What music has charms to soothe your inner self? (Psalm 40, Matthew 3:13-17)
Here is the playlist of music, suggested by Lebanon UMC:
Artists/Genres: Classical music * Cello * George Winston * Leary (Irish music) * Mark Miller * Taylor Swift * DMX * Beatles * Green Day * Heart * Linda Ronstadt * David Bowie * Foo Fighters * Celtic Women * Natalie Grant * Casting Crowns * Rascal Flatts * Indigo Girls * Libana * lots of hymns! * my own songs
Specific Songs: Miserere Mei (Albioni) * Happy (Williams) * Jesus, Take the Wheel (Underwood) * All You Need is Love (Beatles) * Don’t Worry, Be Happy (McFarrin) * Faith, (Michael) * Imagine (Lennon) * You There (Aquilo) * I Will Wait (Mumford & Sons) * Summertime (Fresh Prince) * In a Gadda da Vita (Iron Butterfly) * One of Us; Crazy Baby (Osborne) * Heal the World; Man in the Mirror (Jackson) * 500 Miles (Peter, Paul & Mary) * Alleluia (Cohen, lang) * Big Bad John (Dean) * Tomorrow (Annie) * Bridge over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel) * Count My Blessings (Crosby) * Put on a Happy Face (Van Dyke) * Gathered Safely In (Taraz) * Have you Talked to the Man Upstairs (Ford) * Grand Canyon Suite * Lord I Just Had to Pray * Mary Did You Know? * Be Not Afraid * From a Distance * Somebody Bigger than You and I * Brighten Your Corner where You Are * There’s a Quiet Understanding* Give Yourself to Love * Teach Your Children Well * Baptism of Fire * Pachelbel’s Canon
(January 8, 2017) Just as the dark and cold of the winter season can cause our bodies to feel sluggish, isolated, and even depressed, being disconnected from God causes a kind of “spiritual affective disorder.” We are encouraged to stretch and develop our spiritual practices, to reconnect with God, and reflect and bear God’s light in the world. (Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12)