First United Methodist Church

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9am Contemporary | 11am Traditional

A Wiggly, Jiggly, Loose Tooth Kind of Faith

It was an exciting weekend in the DeLaune household; Emmaline lost her first tooth! Her bottom middle one has been loose for almost a month and several of her friends in her Kindergarten class had already lost a few of theirs. For weeks she has been eating extra apples and wiggling it at night. We even took her to see one of the Pediatric Dentistry Nurses to check and see how long we should wait before helping her pull it out. But over the last week, it became apparent that it was time because her new tooth had grown in behind it and was already showing. While there was fear and a little bit of pain behind this first new experience, she bravely, with the help of her Daddy, pulled it out on Sunday afternoon. She was so proud of herself for this milestone and that she had had the guts to do it. While Sunday night was filled with conversations about what the tooth fairy might leave for her and what she should do if she wakes up and meets the tooth fairy, my Mommy/Pastor brain was processing the pain and joy of change.

God created our bodies to naturally move and shift during transition. Sometimes it is a little painful, with a tiny bit of blood like when we lose our baby teeth, but the losing of one thing makes room for something bigger, better and more permanent. Our bodies were created as we grow to embrace biological change, movement, shifting and new beginnings and while scary at first, they open us up to opportunities and situations that are bigger, better and more permanent. But it doesn’t just happen in our bodies, but as spiritual beings, we are all changing hopefully to look more like Jesus. In order to do that, things have to fall out or be removed so that the permanent foundations of our faith, spiritual practice and deep relationships can move on to being Bigger and Better.

Are you following my logical here? I am comparing the loss of teeth to the loss of hurts or habits or sin or brokenness that is painful at first to let go of, but makes room for something much more sustainable in the long run. It is the same comparison the Apostle Paul makes about Christian maturity and moving from spiritual milk to solid food in his writings. As we grow from a young faith, to a mature faith, we would call that Sanctification, we are growing into our permanent and strong selves that reflect the light of Christ.

Right after the famous 1 Corinthians 13 text that is often read at weddings, the Apostle Paul finishes his chapter with verses 8-13. 

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

If you would, take a moment to reflect on how you have “put away childish things” as Paul writes. Like Emmaline’s loss of her first tooth, the pain of losing it actually made room for good to come next, for maturity to continue. But we all have something. Some of us have experienced more loss than others over the last few years and so I invite you to reflect on that and name the pain associated with it. Name the discomfort in losing your routine, your comfort, your friendships, your freedoms, your expectations or maybe even your health over these last few years. Then after you name that thing or relationship, lament to God about how it felt to lose something you held so dear. Cry out to God, like we see over and over again in the Psalms and be honest about how much it hurt to get used to something only to see it disappear. It isn’t selfish or childish to name these feelings aloud, it is simply HUMAN and God invites you to speak because God never ceases to listen.

Pause and wait in your lament. Sit in your discomfort. Rest in your honesty.

Then, as you slowly move out of your lament, turn your thoughts to the new space that has made room in your life for something BIGGER and BETTER. Like Emmaline’s new adult tooth, it was ready to come in and so it had to push that baby tooth out of the way. What good and natural thing now has space in your life and faith to grow? What is developing in you, now that something from your young faith has been let go of? Maybe it is how you have let go of people-pleasing and now focus more on pleasing God. Maybe it is spending less time trying to be perfect and more time resting in God. Maybe you let go of a toxic relationship or an abusive understanding of Scripture or an authoritarian view of the faith? Wherever you have seen the loss and the letting go, give thanks because God is always up to something GOOD.


What to Expect at Good Friday Worship!

Learn more about Holy Week at the link below!

Holy Week Devotion from Pastor Rachel

Welcome to the week of Holy Week! We have *almost* made it to the end of the story, and so now we begin the holiest of days as we grieve and watch and wait.

In my readings this week, I was sent by my Spiritual Director to an article by a priest and a rabbi. Father Melton and Rabbi Leder talked with the journalist about how to make this Holy Week sacred. Both of our traditions have many of their roots found deep in this week. For our Jewish brothers and sisters, it is the story of the Passover and the deliverance from Egypt that brings healing and transformation in their lives. In our own lives, those of us that follow Jesus, we are celebrating that death is not the end of the story. We celebrate that God, through Jesus experienced the very worst that we could ever experience and so when we go through the worst of the worst, we know that we are not alone. And so both traditions celebrate the work of God in our midst.

But this week is already busy and we might miss out on the joy if we move too quickly. This is an extremely busy week for me, not to mention one of my children being out of school on Friday and Monday, so I have 4 days to get 5 days worth of work done. As a mom, I have taken on the Easter Bunny duties and have baskets to prepare, “Easter-best” clothes to get ready, cookies to make, classroom celebrations to prepare for all while trying to keep my children centered on the fact that Easter isn’t about the Bunny, but the cross. And while chocolate candy is great, abundant life lived with God is much, MUCH better!

All that to say, I don’t want to miss out on where God is already present this week. I invite you to do the same.  One way to not miss the holiness of Holy Week is to slow down and pay attention; notice where God is present. We tend to rush through our days and weeks without stopping to notice the moment-to-moment encounters we have with the living God. Just this morning, I did something out of my normal routine and encountered the gentleness of the checkout clerk at the Dollar Tree. She could have been tired and impatient, even rude, but she was joy-filled and helpful. Then I got to work and headed into the Marcy Chapel to prepare for our Holy Week Chapel lesson for our MSEE Preschool and I encountered a husband and wife that told me that they had just finished praying for the pastors of this church. WOW! In just two short hours, I had encountered God, twice! God is always present, always participating, always surprising.

Now this is just one example, but I am sure you can think of other holy encounters from the last few days. Pay attention to those. They aren’t happenstance or coincidence, they are moments, thin spaces, where God is revealing Godself and showing you more of what the Kingdom of God is like. Maybe you have been more present this Lenten Season. Maybe you have joined a Lenten Small Group and met with new people on similar paths. Maybe you have added something into your spiritual practice or let go of something that was weighing you down or distracting you. Maybe you have deepened your prayer life, or become more generous or worked for justice in a new way. Whatever it is that you have done in this Lenten season, keep going. Keep being present and open and ready.

If you need a few ways to continue to not miss out on where God is present this week, join us for Stations of the Cross from 5-7PM or 8-9PM on Thursday and Friday in the Courtyard. Come and join in an intimate contemporary worship experience for Maundy Thursday or a music driven service of darkness on Good Friday. Whatever you do, come and just BE. Open your heart, and mind and soul to God’s presence within you and then just speak these words, “Come Lord Jesus, Come.”

Lenten Devotion: If Jesus is the King of Kings…

Service & Outreach Conversation with Pastor David and Victoria Vaden

Lenten Devotion: Running the Race

On Sunday, I ran in a race. I wasn’t in Sunday morning worship because I was finishing a 10 Miler race over at Disney World. I can assure you though that I was worshipping, especially when I crossed that finished line. I have been training for this race for about 6 months and I am happy to report that I finished it under my goal time of 2.5 hours.

As I have stated in other devotions, I wouldn’t call myself a “runner” or even an athlete, but I do like to set goals and stick to them. I have run in several longer distanced races over the years, and I have always enjoyed Disney races because of the experience. I signed up and paid for this race before I was pregnant but really, that new development in my personal life just spurred me on toward more choices to be healthy and strong. As I trained and practiced and prepared, it allowed me to have moments of digging deep into my own faith journey because when we look at the journey of faith like a race and not like an all-out sprint, we can see God’s faithfulness over time.

When the Apostle Paul was writing his letters of correspondence to the churches in the Ancient Near East, he used a lot of athletic metaphors to drive the point home. Take this example from Hebrews 12: 1-2; 7-11

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. 11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

I love that the Apostle Paul calls us to run the race with perseverance, not perfection. Ultimately, we are to run the race of our faith by looking toward the one that is perfect and to keep going. When I was telling my children about the race I was getting ready to run this last weekend, Charlie asked me if I was going to win. You see, everything is a competition in his almost 4-year old mind right now. But I looked him in his eyes and told him that it wasn’t my hope to win, but it was my hope to finish.

We all have a race we are hoping to finish. Maybe you have been training for this race since you were baptized as a baby or Confirmed as a teenager. Maybe you have been training in this race since joining a ministry in college or maybe you came to faith later in life. Just like in running, you can work towards a relationship with Jesus at any point in life; God’s arms are always open. But along this race we call faith, there are hurtles and obstacles to work through. There will be winding paths of beauty and interest to keep you occupied and content and then there will be long stretches of path that seem to provide no end in sight. There will be others that run this race with us, but some will go faster and others slower. There will be hills and narrow pathways and moments when your knees hurt and you feel like you just can’t go on.

And so I ask, what helps you train and gives you endurance in moments like those? Yes, worshipping with a body of believers on Sundays can help give you endurance, of course and maybe a devotional life. But what else are you doing to fix your eyes on the pioneer and perfector of our faith? How are you leaning on the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before you to cheer you on and pave the way forward? For instance, are you meeting with believers that have a different way of reading Scripture or have been raised in a different tradition? Are you reading different theologians that push you to see another way of practicing your faith? Are you meeting with people young and old and listening to the way that God is at work in their lives? Are you lacing up your shoes every day and giving this race your best effort?

Remember, in the end it is about perseverance, not perfection. May God, through the work of others build you up strong and continue to lead you on.

Ready, Set, GO!