First United Methodist Church

Lenten Devotion: Making Ourselves Home in God’s Love

The truth is, I am actually a home-body. I love adventures and traveling, I do, but I love my time at home. Ever since leaving my parent’s home and moving away to college, I have had almost 10 homes or apartments since entering adulthood. As I have occupied them for as little as a year and as long as four years, each one has a different size, location, pros and cons, but I have made my home in each. (I guess this is a learned trait as an itinerate pastor). While I love traveling and exploring with my children, our pace has changed a bit lately. As they grow and life gets busier and busier, I am learning to be content much more with our valuable time at home. Time that we can enjoy each other, play with our toys, create new worlds, clean and organize our reality and entertain loved ones. There is something so holy about a home and how it feels to belong to one.

As I process the Scripture from Sunday and the way it changes who I am becoming, I enjoy reading this Scripture John through a different version. Here is a portion of that Scripture from The Message.

5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

9-10 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.  John 15:5-10

While the sermon focused on remaining in God and showing our love not to earn God’s love, but because of it, this thought of “making myself at home in his love” really resonates with me. Think about that for a minute. How do we make ourselves at home in God’s love?

Well, how do you make yourself at home in your home? For me, I am most comfortable in my pajamas, or my comfy clothes. I kick off my shoes and wipe the day off of my face. If I am awarded those rare, calm moments, my legs are up on our couch or I’m snuggling with my kids or reading a book with them on my lap. In our house there is usually singing and noise and one talking over the other, there is clutter and playdoh pieces, Legos and half-finished drawings. There is unfolded laundry, books scattered all over and beds always unmade. This is what it means to feel at home for me.

How do you make yourself at home? And how does that translate into you remaining in the True Vine? Are you comfortable and relaxed, or are you all dressed up and ready to perform? Are you bare in your clutter and messes and disorganized thought, or do you feel the need to clean up quickly as if guests are coming over? Do you spend time and just BE in the presence of Christ by loving those God has blessed you with or are you always wanting more?

If remaining in God is about making ourselves at home in His love, then we look to Jesus for the example. We see his vulnerability, trust, openness and deep need to connect to His Father. Over and over again we see Jesus at home in God’s love through their intimate connection and relationship. And we are invited to do the same. What would it look like if you approached your relationship with God like you do your own home? What would have to change in you to reach that level of comfort and vulnerability? As we near closer and closer to Jesus’ final week on earth, what is one way that you can tweak your relationship with God that feels more familial and more at peace as you grow?

May God add God’s blessing to the reading and the meditating of these words.

AMEN

 

Lenten Devotion: Jesus Is the Vine

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Lenten Devotion: The Cornerstone

Growing up, I can often remember going with my Dad to job sights. In fact, he always had a child’s sized hard hat in his car for me to wear so that I could stay safe with him. He is an architect and has been one for over 40 years. I have always been fascinated by building sites and how quickly homes and commercial buildings are erected. My dad showed me how to read a blueprint in Elementary school and it was amazing to watch those blueprints come to life. In Middle School, my dad designed the home I grew up in and during the summer of 1999, we watched that home getting built. First, the land was cleared, then the foundation poured, then the walls, roof, windows and doors were constructed. We all pitched in to paint it over a few weekends and then moved in the Fall of 1999. There is a lot that we can learn about our faith journey through watching a home being built.

If you read through the Scriptures, there are several references to buildings as a lesson for our faith journey with God. On Sunday, Pastor Philip shared about how if Jesus is the Cornerstone then we are called to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and allow ourselves to be used in God’s Holy Temple. The Cornerstone is the first piece that is laid down on a foundation and it is what all other pieces are laid down in connection to which signifies its utmost importance. Other stones in the building, temple, or church will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure. Cornerstones now are no longer made out of stone, as they were in Jesus’ day, but with more modern building materials. Now cornerstones are about the symbolism and the dedication of the building and who helped shape it. Sometimes a Cornerstone would have the year the building was established or the name of the Architect on it to commemorate its dedication.

And so, if we don’t live in stone structures anymore and we don’t worship in stone churches today, what can we take from this metaphor on Sunday and how do we implement it? How can we daily live out that Jesus is the Cornerstone in our lives?

If a Cornerstone is the first piece laid down, then start your day with Jesus. If Jesus is the one that sets the walls in alignment for a building, then, Jesus can align the priorities, relationships, and situations in our lives and set them straight. When we take the time to pause and begin or dedicate our day back to God, it is amazing what we see unfold. When we start with our relationship with Jesus being primary, the other issues of the day seem to either melt away or figure themselves out. Not all of the time of course, but at least most of the time. This can be one way of using the metaphor from Sunday to grow in our faith.

Another way to understand this metaphor is to remember the modern use of a Cornerstone. In today’s culture, you can often see Cornerstones as symbolic of celebrating the person or persons that the building is dedicated to. And in some cases, Cornerstones serve as a time capsule that commemorates the stories of the people that use that sacred space. Either way, we ask ourselves, if Jesus is the Cornerstone, is His name written out in a permanent way on the corner of our lives? When people look at us, do we act as if we are commemorating the life, death, and resurrection of Emmanuel? Are we dedicating our words, actions, ambitions, and passions to the one who can calm the seas and raise the dead? Do we represent the Image of God in how we carry ourselves and treat one another?

As I think back to my younger years, I know that God has a blueprint for each of us; a design of a life lived out in abundance. And I know, from life experience that a home isn’t built in a day, just like our faith will be tested and grows over time. But as I consider this building metaphor throughout my life, I must ask and answer honestly, is Jesus the Cornerstone or am I? As I consider this, I invite you to think about this with me. And may you ask God to show you a way of more deeply understanding Jesus as the Cornerstone for your own life.

AMEN

Lenten Devotion: Heaven On Earth

Here are a few resources that will help you see the Biblical interpretation of Heaven coming to earth. I hope you enjoy these resources and if you have any extra questions you can reach out to Pastor Philip at [email protected].

The Bible Project: Heaven and Earth (VIDEO)

Tim Mackie- Compelled: Speaking and Living the Gospel (EXTENDED VIDEO)

The Bible Project: Eden as Heaven on Earth (MINI CLASS)

Brian Zahnd: Heaven Is Coming (BLOG)

NT Wright: Surprised By Hope (BOOK)

Children’s Home Devotion

Over the last two days, I have embedded myself in the diligent work of the Board of Trustees for the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home. I am honored to do this work and to serve alongside talented staff, pastors, and lay leaders. I have served on this Board for four years now and each time I leave the meetings I am overwhelmed by God’s grace through the Home and how God is constantly working in the lives of these children and youth through restoration.

I am also reminded once again how lucky I have been to grow up in a family that loved and provided for me. For two parents that remained married and faithful to each other. I never had to wonder if I was wanted or appreciated, and I had a church home that supported me too. I often see the world through my privileged lens and assume it is the same for others, but that is not the reality for all. That sadness hits me when I hear the stories about what these young children and teens walkthrough.

The Florida United Methodist Children’s Home was established in 1908 by the Methodist Episcopal Church and it has been changing lives ever sense. Right now, there are two campuses in Enterprise and Madison, as well as Resident Homes and Shelters in three other counties. A banner that hangs in their main hall has these words on them that are attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.”

And I think Jesus would agree. Over and over again we see Jesus stoop down to help the most vulnerable: children, the blind, the paralyzed, the deaf, the bleeding woman, and the outcasts of society. When I think about the legacy of those who follow Jesus, I hope we can look back on our lives and say that we also stooped down to help the most vulnerable.

I leave you with some statistics from this last year of ministry through the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home and I hope they bring you as much joy in reading them as I had in hearing them.

In 2021, the Florida United Methodist Children is served…

  • 333 children in residential and shelter care programs
  • 134 children in Foster Care
  • 38 young adults with our independent care
  • Roughly 2,000 children received counseling through Circle of Friends

I give God praise not for the numbers, but for the lives that have been transformed or the families that have been restored. As you digest this information and our calling to serve the vulnerable, would you hug extra tight the children in your lives? Would you make sure that there isn’t anything left unsaid or unresolved between you? Would you tell those you love that you are proud of them and that you see a bright future for them? And if you are lucky enough to still love on your parents, would you thank them for all they have done for you?

May God add God’s blessing to the reading and meditation of these words. AMEN

January 2022 Financial Report

Lenten Devotion from Pastor Rachel

Here we are, one week into the Lenten Journey and I want to encourage those of you that are starting new practices, or giving up something, or maybe still deciding. It is not too late to start something new or even to join a Lenten Small Group as there are a few still open. But Lent is about the Journey, not winning the “Best Attendance” award. Meaning, God is not scoring points on you and on your performance over these next 5 weeks. God just wants you to know God on a deeper level and to come to know yourself and others in a more authentic way.

I thought it would be helpful if I shared what I have taken on and given up this season. My Lenten Small Group that meets on Thursday afternoons already knows this, but I have chosen to give up “the need to control.” Notice I didn’t say, Control. As a Mom, Wife, Pastor and Friend, there will be things I still need to control for safety, health and boundary reasons. But my NEED TO CONTROL comes from something deep within me that does not go with the flow as much as I could. I worry about my reputation or how others will see me, and quite possibly judge me if I lose control over a situation. I realize that those feelings come from my ego and aren’t necessarily God-honoring.

What I have taken on this year is a bit more measurable. I heard this from a Clergy friend of mine and completely stole it, but it is to take a walk outside every day. There is no time limit on it, but so far, one week in, this has been a wonderful practice for me. One day, I was able to walk a beautiful path to and from Lake Howell at a retreat center (see pictures below) and I read Scripture along the way. I have also enjoyed walking my kids to our neighborhood park now that they are both avid bike riders. One afternoon I took a walk down Park Ave. on some important church business and last night, I chatted with a friend I hadn’t seen in almost 8 years as we walked in the rain together.

What this practice is teaching me, is to notice the details. To pay attention to what I would normally drive by or not notice in my rush. What this practice is teaching me is that my body is a Temple and that walking is good for my Temple and that there are many people for whom walking for 20 minutes straight is out of the question and so I give God thanks that my body can do that kind of activity. Lastly, this practice is about the deep breathing that happens when I am not reading emails, checking social media, making calls and in “work” mode. I am just listening and walking and paying attention to my breath. And that is helping me slowdown in this busy season and to appreciate all the good that God has given me. I use the time to pray for our world, to pray that my children won’t go too fast on their bikes or at least remember how to stop when they do, I pray for my neighbors and for our church.

This is simply what has worked for me over this last week. But I encourage you to find your own practice, your own rhythm, your own journey, then let us know how we can encourage you in it.

I invite you to pray a new prayer with me this week as you focus on the Journey of loving God and loving yourself more.

Oh God, help me believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is!

            Prayer by Macrina Weiderkehr

Lenten Devotion: If Jesus is the Bread of Life, then who is the early church?

Learn more about the Lenten season below!

Ash Wednesday 2022

Ash Wednesday begins the Christian season of Lent. We will spend the coming days journeying with Jesus toward the cross; toward the death that ultimately brings resurrection life. Many of us will spend these coming days practicing a new spiritual discipline or giving up something that seems to be getting in the way of the life we long to live.

We come together to acknowledge our sin, to acknowledge our mortality. We come to glimpse the Christ who offers forgiveness and who offers everlasting life.

Ashes have been used in Christian churches to mark the beginning of Lent since the 10th Century, and ashes are mentioned in Scripture as a symbol of purification and repentance. Today, the imposition of ashes are a physical reminder of our mortality and sin; an assurance of God’s forgiveness and salvation.  

Ash Wednesday Prayer:

Holy, holy, holy God
We place ourselves in your presence; we rest in the promise of your grace.
Our minds and our spirits are cluttered with many thoughts and feelings that threaten to pull our attention away from you. 

Let us unclench our fists and release these things:
We release all that we have done today–whether for good or for ill.
We release all that we feel like we should have done today, but did not do.
We release all that we need to do tomorrow.
We release our fear. We release our anxiety. We release our impatience. We release our pride.
All of the thoughts, all of the feelings that pull us away from you, O God, we release.
Fill us now with the joy and the peace of your deep, abiding presence.
We offer all of ourselves to you, our One God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.
AMEN

Scripture Reading: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Prayer of Confession:

O God of life, we confess the ways we turn away from the fullness of life that you offer.
God of love, we confess the hatred we hold in our hearts.
God of compassion, we confess our indifference.
God of justice, we confess that our lives are linked to oppressive systems.
God of peace, we confess the violent movements of our hearts, the violent realities of our world.
Holy God, we confess our sins to you.
AMEN                                                          

Spacious Faith, March 2011

Learn more about Lent!

Click the link below to learn more about our upcoming sermon series, small groups, and the purpose of the Lenten season.