Thank you, God, for worms.
Our worm community’s home.
A couple of worms hiding among all their delicious food.
Thank you, God, for worms.
Our worm community’s home.
A couple of worms hiding among all their delicious food.
I am enjoying time away at Princeton’s Institute for Youth Ministry’s yearly forum. It is a week of learning and laughing with others who love youth. It is a week of worship and table fellowship. It is a week of questions and wondering. I haven’t been here in a few years and coming back makes me realize how much I’ve missed it.
My reflection is inspired by the song, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, which we sang yesterday in opening worship.
As a young child, I began taking piano lessons. I remember practicing this song over and over. And even when I learned other songs, I kept playing this song because it was familiar. As we sang Joyful, Joyful yesterday, the familiar feeling came again. And I wondered what other songs are such a part of my life that they are in my memory from childhood and youth years? And how can I help my youth learn the songs of faith that will stay with them all their lives?
Giver of immortal gladness, We thank you for all the ways you reveal yourself and your amazing love to us. Thank you for giving us the gift of music. Thank you for people of faith throughout the generations who have shared the faith with the next generation. All the good gifts that you have given us call us to rejoice in thee. Help us to rejoice, Loving God. Amen.
Sunday’s Sermon at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church
For many of you this may be the first time you’ve heard much from me. It isn’t easy to write a sermon that is a get to know you sermon that explains my philosophy about youth ministry and mission trips, what I love about cooperative youth ministry, and ties it all in with two Scriptures from the lectionary. And still I’ve accepted the challenge and am giving it a go.
I believe we are all important members in the body of Christ. For my entire ministry I’ve found myself called to work with a specific portion of the body of Christ-youth. And yet, when you work with youth you don’t just work with youth. You work with the parents of youth, the grandparents of youth, younger and older siblings of youth, church members of all ages who you are working to integrate into the youth ministry while you are integrating the youth into the whole ministries of the church. Working with youth helps you to see how we all fit together to be the body of Christ. We are all needed. We all bring gifts. And yes, sometimes it is difficult when so many gifts are present at once and everyone wants to share their gift or when people don’t seem to recognize the gifts that they bring.
My call and gift is gift-awareness. Recognizing the God-given gifts in others and helping each person discern how to utilize that gift to God’s glory. This requires and works well with another passion of mine relationship building. Usually for me to see someone’s gifts, I must know that person. Relationship building requires time, energy, listening, and patience as we grow to know each other and see where God is moving in our lives. Lest you think I am bragging and listing a litany of my God-given gifts, I am aware that I am not the person you should call for any construction, plumbing, electrical, animal removal, cooking or a variety of other important tasks in the life of the church. This is the message of the 1 Corinthians passage today. Together all of us make up the body of Christ.
This portion of the body of Christ worshiping in these walls, TPPC, covenants with another portion worshiping only a few miles away, CCC, for youth ministry. Youth are typically defined as those who are in 6th-12th grade. During these years, youth will (often) move through middle school and high school and navigate all the challenges and joy that are associated with attending school and preparing for adulthood. Some people believe that this is a time where youth are becoming themselves. I believe that our youth are already called beloved by God and created in God’s image. While helping them to discover who they are and how they’ll use their God given talents in their lives, youth ministry is an amazing opportunity for the whole congregation to be involved in the lives of awesome individuals who help us live out our calling to be the body of Christ.
For me not only is relationship building one of my passions, I believe relationships are the heart of ministry. Youth ministry is the perfect place to develop relationships in ministry. It is as easy as presence, time, and listening. And in a ministry built on relationships time must be spent our relationships with God…faith development is essential. Faith development not just of the youth…but of those working with the youth, family members of youth, and the whole congregation. [Read more…]
My heart breaks when I hear people say they can’t be who God created them to be and participate in the life of the church. And I believe this breaks God’s heart too.
God is the Source and Originator of Love. God loves you and wants you to be loved.
God created us to be in relationship. God wants you to be in healthy and happy relationships with others.
God created us with brains for thinking and questioning. God wants us to look critically at the Bible, at the world around us, and sometimes at each other, so we can all live in love and as Christ’s disciples.
What obstacles or barriers are we putting up that stop people from being part of the church community and experiencing God’s love?
O Love that will not let us go, help us to love each other as you love us. Help us to see each other as you see us. Help us to welcome each other as you welcome us. Break down the barriers that divide us. We want to make our churches places where all can feel at home, and we know this is only possible with your Spirit. In hope for a new day of acceptance and love, we offer this prayer to you. Amen.
Once again we find ourselves in the season of Lent. I’ve been talking with friends about what practices they’ll take on or what they’ll give up for Lent. And this morning, my husband asked what I was doing for Lent. For many years our combined practice has been to not eat meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. This is a challenge for us as most of our meals include meat. I knew we had already agreed on that, so that was not his question.
My practice for this Lenten season is to intentionally hold one person in prayer each day. I am keeping a small notepad by my bed so when I wake up I’ll see the name of the person who I am keeping in prayer. When I go to bed, I’ll see the name again as a final reminder that I am praying for this person.
My husband’s Lenten practice is to remember that most people are doing the best they can. He is practicing this by being more patient with other drivers. When he described what he was doing, I asked how it went yesterday. He said he didn’t even make it home from work without getting angry at someone. We both agreed that this is why it is called a Lenten practice and today is a great day to start again.
So how are you observing this season?
This photo was taken on a hot August day when I was stranded on the side of the road with my 1 month old niece, husband with a broken leg, parents, sister and brother-in-law. Thankfully, we had a few drinks and a bag of pretzels in the van. It took us hours and hours to get to lunch or maybe we should call it dinner by the time we ate.
This picture reminds me of the season of Lent. We start out with great intentions. Sometimes it is smooth sailing, and sometimes our plans are changed. We adapt. We learn. We rely on God as our constant companion for this journey.
As you journey through this season, I hope for you grace and peace for yourself as you practice what it means to love Jesus and follow him.
Recently my life has not included enough time reading time. This week’s review is a movie that has quickly become a favorite of my four year old niece-Inside Out!
Watching this movie with Ella is like watching the Director’s Cut. She tells you what is happening, who is on screen, and what is going to happen next. It is obvious that she has seen the movie many, many times, and she still asks to watch it every day! Her favorite character is ‘Sgust (aka Disgust).
I’m not qualified to review this movie on Ella’s behalf, so I will tell you why I like it and recommend it for all ages.
Inside Out is the story of a young girl, Riley, and the five emotions (Joy, Anger, Fear, Sadness, and Disgust) who guide her responses to life. This movie offers a visual explanation of our emotional responses and memory making and storage. It attempts to make sense of the complexities that make us who we are. It is a movie that hits close to home as I moved when I was about Riley’s age. You’d have to ask my parents how often Joy was present in my life at that time. I do remember feeling plenty of Anger, Disgust, and Sadness at the prospect of leaving all that was familiar and some Fear about what my new home, friends, and school would be like.
This is a heart-warming story and challenging story about moving, growing up, and the life-long process of discovering one’s self.
When you watch it, I hope you’ll consider-
What are my core memories?
What are my islands of personality?
What emotion guides me the most often?
Enjoy the show!
It is the one year anniversary of Tea and Theology. Thank you loyal readers for reading, commenting, and sharing your favorite posts. I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing. I believe ministry is built on relationships. I thank you for being in relationship with me and the other readers of this blog. While it is rewarding to write, it makes it even better knowing someone is reading these words.
So thank you again for reading. I hope the words you have read over this past year have strengthened you on your faith journey. If a blog post brings to mind someone, I encourage you to share those words with that person. I consider that a nudge from the Holy Spirit which should not be ignored. I hope you will continue to read as we look forward to many more years of Tea and Theology together.
Blessings and Peace,
Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.
Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.
I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.
On All Saints’ Sunday, we usually spend our time thinking about faithful people who have died. We read out loud the names of all our church members who have died this year. We remember the gifts they have shared with our church. We remember famous Christians who have died and are thankful for all they did for the church. We remember people from around the world who died in the last 12 months-ordinary people like us whose names we will never know. We remember our ancestors in the faith who boldly proclaimed the good news. All of these things are important and good to do. We should remember all of these people. Absolutely. Yet, this is only ⅓ of what we need to do today.
We need to remember the saints of the past. This is part one. Part 2 of our task for today is looking around and seeing the saints with us today…ourselves, our church family, and the faithful around the world. Too often, we think the saints are the perfect people and we would never put ourselves in that category. The saints of God are everyone who tries to follow God. So, look around at all the saints here this morning.
And, we need to hope and pray for the saints who are not here yet-those faithful people who will keep the good news alive and strong long after we are all gone. We are charged to plant seeds-to pave the way for the future and prepare for the future saints even knowing we may never meet them. This is part three. When we focus on the past, present, and future saints, our vision is expanded and is closer to how God sees. Unfortunately, we struggle to look to the past, present, and future. More often, we get stuck in one or maybe two of these places and fail to see the rest.
For some of us, we fondly remember the good old days when… In the article, Developing a Missional Mindset by Don Detrick, he said this about churches. “When our memories of the past are more exciting than our vision for the future, we have begun to die.” This article was not telling us to abandon our past and look only to the future. It was urging us not to live in the past. When we spend all our time reminiscing, there is little time left to enjoy today or plan for the future.
For others of us, we look too much to the future-worried or wondering what will happen in 5, 10, 20 years. What is our 5 year plan? Where will we be in 10 years? These are important questions and need to be asked. When we get so excited or terrified about what is coming, we can neglect to see what is happening now or where we have been.
And others of us live only in the now. The present is all that matters because it is happening now. It is exciting, challenging, and always changing. We have no use for the past because it is over and no need for the future because it hasn’t happened yet!
Story is one way to help us to keep this three-fold focus. What is your story? From whom and where did you come? When did your ancestors first settle in this land? How did your parents meet? When and where were you baptized? This is part of your story. From your past and the past of your ancestors, you have become the you of today.
Speaking of the you of today-your story now includes-What do you enjoy doing today? Who are your friends and relatives who make life sweeter for you? How would you describe yourself-electrician, grandparent, student, cat lover, comedian, friend, disciple of Jesus? What do you do with your free time? How do you spend your money? What makes you laugh? These are the now parts of your story.
The future part of your story is still unfolding. What will you do in the coming days and years? What are you doing or have you done that will live on after you are gone? Some answers to this might be easy like children you’ve raised or books you’ve written. We do not know all the times and ways we have left impressions on people. Our future is part of our story. Our past, our present, and our future combine to become our story.
What about God’s story? This is the story our ancestors were commanded to pass on in our reading from Deuteronomy. They were commanded to observe the commandments and keep God’s story alive. The 10 Best Ways to Live are not something we memorize and then forget. They are how we live. We live them by loving God all the days of our lives. By writing God’s story on our hearts, so it is with us always. Tell them to the next generation-those who will follows us in the faith. We tell the stories of God when we are here at church and when we are not here (which is the majority of the time!)
God invites the Israelites to a new way a living, so “It may go well with them and their days may be long.” God doesn’t say life will be easy or exciting-instead God offers community and relationship. All Saints’ Sunday reminds us we do not journey alone. God is with us. Also, we are not the first saints on this journey. We are surrounded by such a great multitude of faithful people who have journeyed before us.
We need these saints of the past to remind us that while much of our life feels ordinary, God is still with us. It is in the dish washing and lawn mowing times of life that we can share and remember these stories of God. In the carpool lanes and grocery store aisles, we can pray for those around us that they may know the grace of God. God’s presence in the regular lives of faithful is summed up in the great All Saints’ Day hymn-I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.
I sing a song of the saints of God,
Patient and brave and true
Who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor and one was a queen
and one was a shepherdess on the green
They were all of them saints of God
and I mean, God help me to be one too.
They lived not only in ages past
There are hundreds of thousands still
They world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus’ will
You can meet them in school or in lanes or at seas
In church or in trains or in shops or at tea
For the saints of God are just folk like me
And I mean to be one too.
I remember singing this song with a great group of women-all of them old enough to be my grandmother at the women’s fellowship meetings when I was a child. We sang together-many songs including this one and when our worship and program time was over, we ate delicious desserts together. Each of these women knew my name and my story. They were interested in me and in telling me the faith stories that meant so much to them. When I sing this song, I remember those women and am grateful for their faith that they passed along to me.
If your story and God’s story seem separate or far apart, today is a great day to begin to weave them together. As you focus on your past, present, and future, God longs to be a part of it. And the saints gathered here want to know you better and join their stories with yours. When we link our stories together as Christians, we add in not only our stories, but the stories with all who have faithfully gone before us and those who will follow after us. Where else do you have the opportunity to form relationships with so many different and interesting people?
So, please tell the stories of our faith, and live our faith as we continue in the amazing tradition started by God, followed by our ancestors in the faith that will be carried on by generations of faithful in the future.Thanks be to God for all the saints. Amen.
A version of this sermon was originally preached at St. Giles Presbyterian Church on November 4, 2012.
Two saints in Edinburgh, Scotland in October, 2005.
To celebrate All Saints’ Day 2012, my congregation created memory pages. Each page had space for a picture, the name of the saint, one’s relationship to the saint, and a special memory. We hung purple ribbon on the walls of the sanctuary and affixed the memory pages to the ribbon. For a month, we were surrounded by pictures and memories of saints we had known and loved.
Here is the introduction to the hanging of the memory pages and the prayer we prayed together.
All Saints’ Day has always been one of my favorite church holidays. In recent years, it has become especially more important to me as more and more people I love have moved from saints on earth to saints triumphant. It is no longer an abstract holiday celebrating my ancestors in the faith. It is a day when I remember those who walked with me on my faith journey who are no longer walking with me on earth. Today is a day we remember those we love. Now, you are invited to go to one of the ribbons and hang up your memory page. When you are done, please return to your seat and we’ll pray together.
God of the ages, You know each of us and you know all who have ever lived and you love us all. Today, we give you thanks for those we love. For our family and friends still with us and the ones with You. For all your children remembered on the walls of our sanctuary, we say thank you. Thank you, God, for bringing them into our lives and us into their lives. Thank you for the laughter and good memories. Thank you for the friendship and love. Thank you for the time we shared together. Thank you, Gracious God, for giving us so many people who taught us about you, who loved us, who fed us your Word and delicious foods too. You know we love them and miss them. We remember and we say thank you, God. Amen.
This month I have the privilege of officiating two weddings. It is a joy to have a part in these special days and as I was preparing for their services I decided to reread my wedding service. Reading these words reminds me of all the people who came to support us as we entered into this covenant. Also, it reminds me (after more than 8 years of marriage) of the many people in my life who have only known me as married.
I am unable to give credit to those who wrote some of these words. I know they were picked and pulled from a variety of sources, written by us, and written by our officiant, the always amazing, Rev. Kristi Foster.
In the spirit of wedding month, I share these special words with you.
The two mothers will be escorted into the church and brought forward to each light one of the candles, representing each of their children.
Richard and his attendants will walk onto the altar with Pastor Kristi. After the attendants are in place, the bridesmaids will process down the aisle: Elizabeth, Heather, Julie, Becky. Then the music will change and Susannah will process down the aisle. After taking her place, Susannah will hand her bouquet to Becky and she and Richard will face each other and join hands.
I greet you in the name of Christ. My friends, we have come together from many places on this day, to join together the love of Richard and Susannah in the celebration of marriage. We witness, by our joy, that the happiness these two find in one another is unique. And yet, it is no more than the happiness which all people might find. For life is a dance, and marriage is the choosing of eternal partners for that dance. We are here, above all, to worship God—creator of both the dance and the dancers. We rejoice that God brings God’s people together as one in the Spirit. Love has brought them together, and so it will keep them together.
O Loving God, out of this complex world you have drawn together these two persons, and are binding them in love. As we contemplate these moments of worship with them, may we approach its mystery in reverence, its goodness with rejoicing, its meaning with celebration, and its holiness with respect. We thank you for the homes in which Susannah and Richard have been cared for. We thank you for the parents who have sacrificed on their behalf, and for families and friends who have loved them. Lord, we ask your blessing on these two partners, as they affirm the choice they have made of each other as life’s mate. Give them a seriousness of purpose, that they will be delivered from empty words and casual commitments. Increase their faith and love all the days of their lives. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Declarations of Intent
Recognizing that marriage is not the end of two people and the formation of one, but the joining of two individuals who, while they become one with another, are still one from another, I call on you both now, in the presence of God, and your families and friends, to give expression to the commitment which was long ago formed between you.
Susannah, will you have Richard to be your wedded husband and live together in one love? Will you honor and comfort him, share his joy and his sorrow, always endeavoring to understand his needs and will you cherish his love forever? If so, please say, “I will.”
Susannah: I will.
Richard, will you have Susannah as your wife and will you promise to love her always, not through duty or obligation, but through integrity, respect, and faithful consideration? And do you promise to live, and especially to work, with her, in order to share and spread you love throughout your lives? If so, please say, “I will.”
Richard: I will
Family and Friends Support Time (From Kristi)
Pledge of Support
Will the families of Susannah and Richard please stand in support of this couple?
Do each of you offer your prayerful blessing and loving support to this marriage? If so, please say, “I do.” I do
Please join me in prayer. God of our mothers and of our fathers, hear our pledges encouraging and supporting this union of Richard and Susannah. Bless us as we offer our prayerful and loving support to their marriage. Bless them as they pledge their lives to each other. With faith in you and in each other, may this couple always bear witness to the reality of the love to which we witness this day. May their love continue to grow, and may it be a true reflection of your love for us all. AMEN
From the Non-Canonical Gospel of Philip:
Every plant my Father in Heaven does not plant will be rooted out. Those who are alienated will be united. They will be filled. Everyone will join in lighting the light of the Bridal Chamber. For the light shines in the marriages which are seen. The fire burns in the night, then it is extinguished. But the mysteries of this marriage are fulfilled in the day and the light. That day and its light do not set.
Ruth 1: 16-17
But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die–
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”
The Lord’s Prayer
Susannah and Richard, please kneel together for our prayer. Richard and Susannah invite all those present now to join in the prayer common to our faith, using those words which are most comfortable to you.
Our Father, which art in heaven. . .
Kristi to couple while they are kneeling:
I charge you Richard and Susannah, with the responsibility to keep alive: to grow, to change, to maintain the capacity for wonder, for spontaneity, for humor. To remain pliable, warm and sensitive. I charge you to give fully, to show your real feelings, and to save time for each other, no matter what demands are made upon your day. I charge you to see the meaning of life through the changing prism of your love. To nurture each other to fullness and wholeness, and in learning to love each other more deeply, learn to love the creation in which the mystery of your love has happened. And, above all, I charge you to keep God in your marriage. Not as an uninvited houseguest, but as an indwelling part of your relationship.
I invite the parents of Susannah and Richard to come forward for the charge.
Parents to couple:
Susannah and Richard: nothing is easier than saying words, and nothing harder than living them day by day. What you promise today must be renewed and rededicated tomorrow. At the end of this ceremony, legally you will be husband and wife. But you must still decide, each day that stretches out before you, that you want to be married. Getting married is really quite easy. Staying married is a life-long task. Real love is something beyond the warmth and glow and the excitement and romance of being deeply in love. It is caring as much about the welfare and happiness of your marriage partner, as about your own. But real love is not total absorption in each other. It is looking outward in the same direction together. Love makes burdens lighter, because you divide them. It makes joys more intense, because you share them. It makes you stronger, so you can reach out and became involved in life, in ways you dared not risk alone.
Richard and Susannah: I invite you to stand now and repeat your vows to one another in the presence of those who are assembled to witness your covenant.
Richard, turn to Susannah, take her hands and repeat after me:
take you Susannah,
to be my wife.
And I promise
I will be faithful to you,
and at all times loving.
Whether in joy or sorrow.
I will share with you
and believe in you.
I will cherish you forever.
I give you my hand
and my love.
Susannah, repeat after me:
I take you
to be my husband.
And these things
I promise you:
I will be faithful to you
and honest with you.
I will respect, trust,
help and care for you.
I will share my life with you.
I will forgive you,
as we have been forgiven.
And with you
I will try to better understand ourselves,
the world, and God.
Through the best and worst
of what is to come,
as long as we live.
Exchange of Rings Get rings from best man, groom, etc.
These rings, when placed on the other’s finger becomes a symbol of your pledge to one another, and to all of us here, that you are going to encircle each other with your love, your care, and your protection. You pledge that whatever happens you can depend on each other. We do not expect you to know all that this means now. But we do expect that you are pledging your will, so that whatever turns there are in the road ahead, we may depend on your being there, one for the other, supporting each other with your very lives.
Richard, place this ring on Susannah’s finger and repeat after me:
I give you this ring,
as a symbol of my vow,
and with all that I am,
and all that I have,
I honor you.
Susannah, place this ring on Richard’s finger and repeat after me:
I give you this ring,
as a symbol of my vow,
and with all that I am,
and all that I have,
I honor you.
Lighting of the Unity Candle
At this time, I invite Susannah and Richard to join together in lighting the unity candle. They asked their mothers to light each of their individual candles. These lights, which represent the faith, wisdom, and love they have received from their parents, are distinct, each burning alone. As Richard and Susannah light the center candle together, they join their two lives to make one life together.
Richard and Susannah, As this one light burns undivided, so shall your love be one. From now on, your thoughts shall be for one another, not just for yourselves. Your joys and your sorrows are no longer yours alone, but are shared. Keep the radiance of this candle in your hearts always, as a symbol of your commitment to the unity of your life together. I invite you to take this candle with you at the conclusion of this service and light it often, as a reminder of this day and the promises you have made to each other.
May the blessing of light,
Be with you always,
Light without and light within.
And may the sun shine
Upon you and warm your heart
Until it glows
Like a great fire
So that others may feel
The warmth of your love
For one another.
In the presence of these witnesses you have spoken the words and performed the rites that unite your lives. Richard and Susannah, you are now husband and wife in the sight of God, your family and friends, and your community.
You may now seal your covenant with a kiss.
Lord, hear us for a quiet moment as each of us contemplates what we are celebrating right now. Keep Richard and Susannah faithful to each other and to you. Fill them with such love and joy that they may build a home where no one is a stranger. And guide them by your word, to serve you all the days of their lives. Go in peace, as two, yet one. May your unity last through the trials and triumphs that lie ahead. So that at the end, you may feel just as you do now: very happy to be in love and to be married. Go, then, in peace. Amen.