Sermon Series: Light in Dark Places
God’s Mysterious Light (To Be Transformed)
Rev. Deborah Stevens
Scripture: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Mark 9:2-9 <Click passage to read it
Our recent worship survey, and conversations about worship emerging from that survey prompt me to reflect on our worship practices at North Broadway. The word worship means to give reverence and honor to God. Reverence means taking seriously what God has done, is doing, and will do in the world. It means acknowledging ourselves as creatures, and God as creator. It means gratitude for the gift of life which comes from God. It means devotion to the creation and the other creatures who also have their life-source in God. Because our worship is distinctively Christian worship, it means attending to the call to discipleship that issues from the gospels, and offering our lives for the healing, mercy and transformation that is given through Jesus Christ. What we call “worship” is the time set aside for these purposes.
At North Broadway, we practice what is usually called “liturgical worship.” Liturgy technically means “the work of the people.” So the form of worship or order of worship that we follow is intended to facilitate the gathered community in acts of praise, gratitude, reverence, confession, invitation, relationship and transformation. Liturgical worship involves certain form and order, utilizes the Revised Common Lectionary for the weekly scripture readings, and follows a distinctive calendar. (More about those in future posts).
Liturgical worship has defined form, but within that form it can be rich and diverse in substance, especially as practiced over time through the liturgical year. There is a sense of order that accompanies worship guided by liturgy. Why be concerned about order and form? Because of what we understand about how God has revealed God’s self to us.
At the very beginning of our scriptures, in Genesis 1:1-2, we are told, “When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was without shape or form.” God, then, begins to order and give form to the formlessness by speaking. “God said…and it was so.” Light and dark, day and night, land and sea, bird and fish, and finally—humankind, into whom God breathes God’s own breath. We are creatures who are “formed” in a world being “formed.” So our worship should convey to us something about God’s character as one who gives “form” to our lives. In John’s gospel, John 1: 14: “The word became flesh, and lived among us.” The same word that orders creation becomes incarnate in Jesus, took on substance. So our worship should have “substance.”
Form and substance. What do we say, and how do we shape the worship so it faithfully reflects the character of God, and still leaves room for the freedom of the Spirit? Those are the questions worship planners must always ask.
Next up: Liturgy and the Community
Pastor Deborah Stevens
2017 VBS/Mission Squad- Aug.7-11 (3yrs-7th grade) 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM beginning 8/7/2017
VBS 2017 North Broadway UMC: Gadgets and Gizmos is for children ages 3 years (3 years by 1/1/2017) through 5th grade, 9:00-12:00 Noon, $10 per participant (scholarships available). Mission Squad, for kids in 5-6-7th grades, will involve doing various mission projects at the church and in the community. Sign up your kids, grandkids, and your neighbor’s kids! We look forward to seeing you this August. Register Here!
So it is about to be Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Every Ash Wednesday, we begin the journey with a reminder of our mortality. “Remember that you are dust,” we are told, as ash is smeared on our foreheads, “and to dust you shall return.”
Dust we are—the whole universe is some kind of dust arranged in infinitely beautiful and intricate ways. There is cosmic dust, and the dust that makes mud that makes fertile ground that grows things. Genesis speaks of all of this, and speaks with great reverence of the moment when God’s spirit is breathed into dust, and human consciousness is called into existence. Of course, this is not literal. But how beautifully poetic. The Genesis story connects us to all of creation, while telling us that the Creator took special, extra care with humanity, that we might also become creators—made in the image of God and infused the Divine Spirit of God. Breath is Spirit.
Even so—the created self that we are will one day die. Modern technology has challenged our understanding of the difference between life and death, but I believe it to be this: breath. When breath leaves us for the last time, our “dust” begins to become again the dust from which God creates. Our breath—who knows where it goes? Back into the breathing/creating/heart of God, I think.
On Ash Wednesday, I practice. I rehearse. I remember this part of my future—that I will die. I do this by reviewing my funeral plans. This is not depressing to me. It makes the present moment ever more precious, and the words of Corinthians that are always read on Ash Wednesday ever more meaningful: “Now is the time. Now is the acceptable time.” Now. Today. I am alive. Thanks be to God!
And then, it is Lent. And we are engaged anew in living, and dying and living again; beautiful cosmic, spirit infused dust that we are. Blessed Lenten journey.
During the month of February we are officially kicking off our fundraising campaign to help raise money for Imagine No Malaria, the United Methodist Church’s effort to eradicate malaria from Africa. Since 2010, the Imagine No Malaria campaign has grown and become a major emphasis of the UMC’s work in many African nations, as a follow-up campaign to the largely successful Nothing But Nets effort. Malaria is considered one of the diseases of poverty because it is easily prevented or treated if people have access to the necessary resources. This disease impacts roughly 219 million people each year causing about 600,000 deaths, 85% of which are in sub-Saharan Africa mostly among children and pregnant women. Every 60 seconds, someone dies from this preventable disease.
Imagine No Malaria is our name for the work we are doing in partnership with groups such as the World Health Organization, the Global Fund, the United Nations Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Thanks to generous grants from the United Nations Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, all of the money that is raised for Imagine No Malaria is able to be spent on the goal of eradicating the disease from Africa – all administrative costs are covered by these grants and by the One Great Hour of Sharing special offering collected to support the work of UMCOR.
The West Ohio Conference of the UMC has pledged to raise $3.5 million by June of 2016, and North Broadway UMC has committed to taking on $25,000 of that overall goal. While this may seem like a large amount of money for NBUMC, here are some numbers that might make you feel less anxious: we have about 28 months to meet this goal, and there are about 250 people in worship each Sunday. So if each person donates $4 each month, we will surpass our goal! The money we provide will be used for a number of projects, including:
Over the next few weeks and months, as the campaign gets underway here at NBUMC, we will be offering a number of events and opportunities for people to donate money, as well as the chance to learn more about malaria, the preventable deaths caused by malaria each year largely because of the effects of poverty, and the four-fold approach of the Imagine No Malaria campaign (Education, Prevention, Communication, and Treatment).
In the mean time, if you are interested in learning more about ways in which you can be involved, contact Pastor Peter, then come to the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper on March 4th, and keep watching for more ways to get involved.
I look forward to working with you as we begin our work toward this worthwhile and urgent goal.
Grace and peace,
Remembering 2013 at NBUMC…We gathered our hearts and our resources around a vision to “Engage the Spirit and Embrace the Future” as we launched our successful capital campaign. By the end of the year we were very near our goal of $1.1 million and construction was begun. We celebrated with Pastor Anna as she was ordained, and then sadly bid her blessing and farewell as she moved to her next ministry. We welcomed new staff members– Pastor Peter, Pastor David and Administrative Assistant Jody Hepp. Anthony Adriance joined our maintenance/custodial staff and Chrissy Hilt to our Childcare staff.
We served 11 meals at The Family Center to an average of 150 persons each time; we served breakfast for the CRC community 8 times and gathered 12 carts full of food and resources along with many Christmas gifts. We served breakfast 3 times at Church for All People, and our annual meal at New Life Church. We sent people to assist in recovery after Superstorm Sandy, and our youth to inner city ministry in Cleveland. We housed 4 different families for 7 nights each in November and December. We emptied the church for “Church Outside the Walls” and served in our community on a Sunday morning. (These numbers are my estimates!)
We marched in the Pride parade, reminding the community that we welcome and include all people in our ministries.
We gave generously, as we always do, to UMCOR special appeals, to special offerings and to the ministries of our District and Conference.
We opened the doors of the sanctuary every Sunday morning and gathered to worship God with gratitude for the week past, and hope for the days to come. We were blessed by beautiful space, beautiful altar tables, wonderful music and the Word of God read and proclaimed. We served Holy Communion regularly at a table where all are welcome, and we shared special moments during Holy Week and Advent as we journeyed through the year.
We welcomed wedding couples and their guests, and we cared for grieving families and their loved ones. We baptized babies, and were blessed by the presence and the ministry of children and youth.
We hosted important Adult Education topics, a lively Vacation Bible School, and some great parties, including a School Supply give away to neighborhood children.
We welcomed guests and visitors, and new members to the church.
A new adult Sunday School class began.
We did these things in 2013 (and much, much more!), continuing a nearly 90 year legacy of ministry.
Here is my paraphrase of a favorite prayer for the church: “May God make the doors of this church wide enough to welcome little children, and all who are seeking the welcome and hospitality of Christ. And May God make the threshold of this church low enough that it is never a barrier to the sending out of faith-formed people who can change the world.” May the amazing flow of blessing that passes through the doors of North Broadway become more abundant than ever in the year ahead.
It is a joy and a privilege to serve in ministry with you, and I look forward to what God will do through us in 2014! God’s blessing and peace rest upon you each and every day of this New Year.
Pastor Deb Stevens
Weekly on Sunday Mornings
8:30 a.m. Casual
9:45 a.m. the Source
11:00 a.m. Traditional
11:00 a.m. Kids’ Own Worship
9:45 a.m. Christian Education