It Takes a Village

There is an African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” If you have children or have worked with children you know this is true. Yet, its true for many other aspects of life. In fact, I often say about myself, “I take a village.” I need “a village” of friends, family, and church to help me be the best I can be and grow into who God is creating me to be.
Organizations are no different.
This week I was reminded of this as I sat down for an early morning meeting with the leaders of Feed My Sheep. Feed My Sheep was first started by Trinity Cathedral Episcopal Church downtown. When they sold part of their property they asked FUMC Miami if we could host their Wednesday and Friday Breakfast outside in our parking lot. A few years later leadership changed and St. Philip’s Episcopal Church has taken over the ministry BUT they do not do it alone.
Our meeting together included a day-by-day list of what happens to make the ministry run. They listed off 5 am Publix pick-ups done by various volunteers (Kevin Adamson being one of the volunteers who continues to pick up at 5 am on Saturday mornings to honor the memory of Harry Ott and Larry Ligon.) They listed schools who make sandwiches and people who prep on Tuesday and Thursday (our very own Reba Clark comes to those prep days.)
All together they bring together over 8 churches, AA groups, and community members who want to serve.
I went away from my meeting with them sensing how powerful the work of God is in the Feed My Sheep Ministry. Not only in their outcomes in serving the homeless but also in their work in involving so many in God’s mission! They are a small village that is helping another small village, the homeless, downtown.
I have also been reminded of the work God is doing through United Methodist across the state in helping Hurricane Michael victims. Various churches from around the state are donating items. WeWork has a system of making a donation for a particular item like diapers or cleaning supplies.
Another proverb from Haiti says, “Many hands make light work!”
Through both initiatives we see volunteers giving back and making a difference. No one person can save the world but together we can make a world of difference for vulnerable people around our state.
Jesus knew this was true. Jesus often spoke about small acts that had a big impact.
Jesus told a story about a seed.
 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”  Matthew 13:31-32
 
This week I encourage each of us to plant small seeds and trust that God will do the growing! 
 
The seed could be a simple donation, a small prayer while waiting in traffic or a card sent to someone in need. 
 
No seed is too small! 
 
See you Sunday! 
Pastor Audrey

World Communion Sunday

This past Sunday was world communion Sunday where we recognize people all around the world that share in the fellowship that is our Global Christian Family!

We recognize that we are all indeed connected.

One of the ways we are connected is through prayer. Recently many places around our world need prayer such as:

Haiti- Last weekend Haiti had an earthquake where over 30 people were killed and more than 330 were still injured. Many homes were lost as well.

Southeast US- Hurricane Michael is passing over the Southeast US at record speed and with record winds.

Indonesia- Recently experienced an earthquake and Tsunami with over 2000 dead.

The Middle East- Afghanistan and other countries who are experiencing war.

As you take time to be silent today include these places as well as this prayer.

Creator God, I give you thanks for calling me as a steward. Open my eyes to the intricacies of creation. Help me feel the textures of the world. Unstop my ears that I may hear your Word. Breathe into me the sweet aromas of life, that I may taste the fruits of your promise even now;

Even now, O God, even in Africa.
Africa. Where your church grows rapidly. Where faith is exuberant. Where a bright mosaic of culture shows the world the vibrancy of your love.

But where there is also pain, and famine, and thirst. Where violent unrest and ethnic strife fill so many lives and resist the unity our Savior brings.
Help me to stand with those who suffer, respond when I am called, give in appropriate ways so that wells will not run dry, creeping deserts may be slowed, and the chains of despair may be removed. Help me to bring the gospel, that your realm may be realized, even now;

Even now, O God, even in Asia.
Asia. So vast, so deeply rooted in tradition. Where your church is small but where religion is great. Gentle Asia, beautiful Asia, troubled Asia.

God of wisdom, teach me respect. Help me to learn from those who express their faith in different ways. Deepen my understanding of tradition, serenity, and prayer. Help me in this ancient land to witness meaningfully to the saving power of your Son.
Awaken me to systemic issues that increase despair and prolong poverty. Guide me in responsible stewardship, that your reign may extend throughout the world, even now;

Even now, O God, even in the Middle East.
The Middle East. The cradle of the church; the birthplace of our Lord; the land we call holy. Where the pain of the cross is so vivid; where the dry earth is watered by the tears of its children.

Show me again that I cannot feed the hungry with threats. I cannot quench thirst with religious intolerance. I cannot build for the future on sands of hate.
Lift me above strife. Infuse me with mutual respect, that the captives might be freed, that the frightened might be comforted. Lift me, loving God, as you lifted the stone from your Son’s tomb. Make me a joyous witness of his victory over death. Show me your grace, even now;

Even now, O God, even in Europe.
Europe and its magnificent Christian heritage. Where art, music, and architecture inspire generation upon generation with the beauty and the majesty of your gospel message.

Where the dramatic changes have brought poverty and violence, displacing whole communities into a desperate present and an uncertain future. Where entire peoples have fallen away from faith in you.
God of grace, help me to believe and live in your eternal promise. Point me toward the pathway of peace. Answer Jesus’ prayer that all may be one in him, even now;

Even now, O God, even in Latin America.
Latin America. Where your church struggles valiantly for the weak and the poor. Where martyrs are made. In Latin America, so rich in the bounties of creation, so misused by outsiders. In Latin America, where we have made mistakes in your name and brought a gospel soiled with our greed.

Your servants in Latin America have taught us by example. Kindle within my heart my own integrity of faith. Inspire within me a new sense of your church.
Make me aware that through such commitment, your peace and justice will be revealed, not in some distant time and place, but also right now, right here;

Here, O God, in North America, even here.
North America. Where so much affluence hides so much poverty and disease. North America, the sometimes hollow land, with so much to give. Make us bold in your Spirit, but humble in our work. Help us share your grace in Word and deed. Help us assume the servant’s role as Jesus did. Help us share our blessings as the Samaritan did. Help us to put ourselves in others’ shoes, sandals, mountain boots, and to walk in the footsteps of bare and calloused feet.

Here, O God, and throughout all the earth, I trust in your abiding care. I pledge myself to a deepened commitment in your name. Amen.
Adapted from One Great Hour of Sharing, Congregational Ministries Division of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sin Boldly…

“Sin Boldly”, these were the words of my high school Hand Bell Choir director at my church in Naples. There were times in practice where a song would totally fall apart. Sometimes this would happen not in a big glaring way like someone playing the wrong bell at the wrong time. Sometimes a song would totally fall apart because a few people would sheepishly play the right bell at the right time or the wrong bell at the wrong time. In those moments no one knew really where we were in the music or what was going on. Mrs. Parker would yell out, come on if you are going to sin, sin boldly. Play the wrong bell loud and proud, at least then the whole group could hear your mistake and still have an idea of where we are and where we are going.

The phrase sin boldly did not come from Mrs. Parker but was first written in a letter by Martin Luther while he was in hiding. He wrote to a friend these words, “Sin boldly, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death and the world.”

Luther was not encouraging sin or sinning in a way that was of more impact than other sins. Yet, in his letter, he acknowledges that every human who lives on earth is a sinner and will continue to be because we live in a world where justice does not yet reign in completeness.

This provocative statement by Luther has studied for many years by many scholars. One scholar Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflected on it with the following thought, “Admit your sin boldly; do not try to flee from it, but believe much more boldly in Christ.”

We as humans and Christians have a way of justifying our sins, behaviors, and thoughts. We all have the propensity of minimizing the ways in which we have fallen astray and separated ourselves from God and others. Although this minimizing makes us feel better about ourselves it also minimizes our trust and full dependence on God.

This week in our scripture from Luke 7 we will look at the story of a woman who was known as a sinful woman in the city. She interrupted a dinner Jesus was at with the Pharisees and began to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears.

At one point Jesus tells the Pharisee, Simon, “whoever has been forgiven little, loves little.” Jesus was teaching Simon that the degree by which we are aware of our own sin is really the degree by which we are also aware of God’s abundant grace.

WE are all sinners BUT we are also children of a God who is aware of the depths of our sin and still loves us and gives to us grace and forgiveness. Our scripture this week teaches us that we should be very aware of our sins BUT that we should be even more aware of God’s great grace and the way that empowers us to give grace and love to others!

So go out today, Sin boldly, but be aware of it, repent of it and be completely aware of God’s grace that is working in you and through you to keep loving!

(Also, if anyone wants to join our bell choir- we will start practices next month! Be in touch with Gerard! All music levels are invited!)

See you Sunday!

Pastor Audrey

Jesus Exaggerated

Do you know someone who exaggerates stories?
Does your uncle exaggerate on how big the fish was that he caught in the keys?
Does your child exaggerate their teacher’s behavior toward them?
Does your wife exaggerate how dirty you keep the garage?

Growing up my best friend loved to tell stories and exaggerate. She actually had a number that we lovingly began to call her exaggeration number. Whenever she exaggerate she used the number 9. She would say, “my mom has like 900 shoes.” “We made like $9000 in girl scout cookie sales.”

My best friend was not being deceitful but rather was getting her point across. Every good storyteller exaggerates a bit.

In the scripture, we will read this week Jesus is giving his sermon on the mount. He says things like,

“And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.” Matt. 5:30.

We know that Jesus does not want us to cut off our hand.

In another part of scripture, Jesus says, “Do not forgive only seven times but seventy-seven times seven.”

Jesus does not want us to keep a list of times we have forgiven and then cut-off a friend when they are done.

Rather, Jesus is exaggerating a solution to get a point across.

Jesus wants us to take his message seriously. He does not want us to cut off our hand but most likely wants us to pay attention to what is causing us to sin and cut that out of our lives.

Jesus does not want us to keep a list of wrongs and rights but rather wants us to forgive all the time.

At times Jesus says some things that seem strong or far-off. Today remember that Jesus was not literal in much of his preaching and behind every message was a deep care for his followers then and now.

As we hear scripture this week which might sound harsh may we remember God’s grace in it and spend time searching our own souls and how we might be convicted this week to walk closer to God and one another!

See you Sunday!
Pastor Audrey

Water into Wine….

Have you ever been to a party where the food has run out before the end of the night?
This is surely a Bride’s worst nightmare. We have created meticulous invitation systems in the modern wedding planning to make sure this very thing does not happen.
As the host of a party, you never want the food or drinks to run out.
This is exactly what happened during the wedding that Jesus and his mother Mary attended.
The wedding wine ran out before the party!
For some reason, Mary is motivated to try and solve the problem.
Maybe the hosts were family or close friends of Mary? Maybe Mary was deeply empathetic and wanted to simply help the soon to be humiliated guests?
My favorite possibility for Mary’s concern, maybe Mary simply wanted more wine herself?
Whatever the reason Mary involves herself in the situation she knows who can provide a solution, her son, Jesus.
Jesus’ reply was that it was not yet his time. Mary completely disregards his comments and tells the servant to do whatever he asks.
Jesus’ instructions were simple and before we knew it….more wine…the best wine.
In the parable, we see that Jesus takes what could be a humiliating situation and turns it into one of grace and extravagance.
Jesus and Mary could have interrogated that family asking:
– Why don’t you have enough?
– Did you count wrong?
– Did you not send the invitations out on time?
– How could you let this happen?
– Did people show up whom you didn’t invite? If so, why didn’t you kick them out?
Instead of interrogating them or letting them be humiliated Jesus solves the problem.
Jesus turns what could have been a shaming situation into one of supreme blessing. Not only did the couple have wine throughout the whole night but they saved the best for last.
What began as a story of scarcity ended as a story of abundance.
This is what Jesus does in our lives. Jesus turns our shameful situations into ones of grace and salvation.
One of the hymns that best exemplifies this miracle for me is the hymn, Something Beautiful. Enjoy the words of this hymn as a prayer for your day!

Something beautiful, something good

All my confusion He understood

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife

But he made something beautiful of my life

Letting Go and Letting God….is it just a cliche?

Letting Go and Letting God….this is a phrase I have heard a lot. Usually, when I speak these words it seems simple. When I hear these words it seems complex and when I practice these words it is usually profound.

Letting go is hard. Letting God is equally as hard. Also, there are moments when we do need to do something. Sometimes it is not so easy or hard to “let go and let God.” Is the phrase a Christian cliche that we say when things get difficult?

I do not think it is a cliche but I also do not believe that God picks up all our problems and sorts them out without our participation.

A public speaker I heard recently said, “For God to do the impossible we must do the possible.”

A prayer that has helped me decipher my participation in God’s work is the serenity prayer.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

There are some things God asks us to change and some things we simply can’t. The things we can’t we must give to God.

This week I pray that each of us seeks wisdom in all we do. Let us let go of the things we can’t change and in the things, we can do our “possible” that God might do the “impossible.”

See you on Sunday!
Pastor Audrey

Temptation…

Although the Bible is called our “Holy Book” there is a quite a bit of “unholiness” within it!
After the beautiful story of creation, the Bible turns 180 degrees and tells a story of temptation. The serpent tempts Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, promising that if they eat it they will be like God. Unfortunately, they give in to this temptation.
Again and again, we see the theme of temptation throughout scripture and most of the time our biblical heroes give in to the temptations that surround them. David gave into temptation and committed adultery with Bathsheba. Peter gave into the temptation to deny Jesus. Samson gave into the temptation of Delilah. For some characters, their failure was not fatal and for some, like Samson, it was!
This week in worship we will focus on the first thing Jesus did as he began his ministry- he was tempted.
We are reminded in scripture that temptation is part of life. God did not create humans as machines who are pre-programmed to do what God would do in all situations. We are not robots but instead were given a brain.
In the first temptation story, we see the temptation is to “be like God, knowing good and evil.” The temptation is to not be human- the very thing that God created us to be. God did not create us perfect but human.
As humans, we will struggle to know what is the greatest good in a situation or what is the best decision or which decision will honor God most. We will be tempted to give in to anger, jealousy, laziness and a number of other “deadly sins.”
Yet, in our temptation, we know that we are not alone.
Even Jesus was tempted.
Through Jesus’ temptation, he prayed and fasted. He was aware that he was being tempted.
Possibly the first step in seeking God in our temptation is to recognize that we are being tempted and then seek God through prayer.
Temptation is part of every person’s life. Part of Jesus being human was that he was tempted.
This week let us recognize the temptation and push through with the help of Jesus who has gone before us.
See you Sunday!
Pastor Audrey

Did God need Jesus?

This might be a question many of you have asked throughout the course of your life. It’s easy to look at Jesus and all that he went through asking, was this really necessary. Did God really need to send Jesus to be ridiculed, shamed, and eventually persecuted?

 

This week in worship we are reading from Luke 2, which is the birth narrative of Christ. In this passage, we are reminded that God CHOSE to reveal God’s self through the birth of a baby, Jesus. Whether or not God needed Jesus is not really ours to ask, but the biggest truth I gain from this text is that God CHOSE to reveal God’s self through becoming a human just like you and me.

 

In the book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey tells about his revelation of God through having a fish tank. He would feed the fish three times a day, would clean the tank often, and run chemicals in it simply to care for the fish. What Philip realized is that the fish would hide from him anytime he approached the tank. No matter how much he tried to communicate that he was simply trying to help them, they would never understand. He eventually realized that the only way they would understand him would be for him to become a fish just like them. As a human, he was simply too big to wrap their minds around.

 

Likewise, I see ourselves in the same situation. No matter how much we try to understand why God does what God does, the truth of the matter is we will never fully comprehend. However, that is why God CHOSE to become incarnate. In the birth of Christ, God chose to reveal God’s self to us by becoming like us, to experience life, pain, joy, and death. God knew this was the only we could possibly come to know God.

 

This week, I pray that we all find joy in the fact that God cares so much about us that God chooses daily to continue revealing God’s self to us in a way that we can understand. While it may not be the Christmas season yet, the promise and revelation of Christmas stands true today and every day.

 

I look forward to seeing you each on Sunday in worship!

 

Peace and blessings,

 

Pastor Kipp

Letting Go…

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

As you move into your weekend I pray this prayer be yours. May we each learn to give up what we can’t control and change and put our energies where we can- which is usually only ourselves!

See you on Sunday!
Pastor Audrey

The First Chapter…..

A book opened on the grass with a leaf for a bookmark.

The first chapter of a book really gives you a preview of what is to come. Characters are introduced, the location is often revealed and the beginning of a plot is formed.

If we think about the Bible in this way, as a literary document, which it is, greater meaning is given to all that happens in the first chapter.

In the very first chapter characters are introduced. God is the primary character and God introduces the rest by creating each one. The characters do not simply appear in a location but the location too is created in the first chapter.

As for the plot, it starts out very simple, there is a God who wants to create and so God creates land, sea, air, animals, and humans.

God looks at all that was made and says, “it is very good!” (Genesis 1:31).

We know the plot thickens starting in chapter 2 of Genesis but this first chapter is so important. It really is the first chapter of everyday. Everyday is a new creation. Every single day is a gift from God.

AND everyday God sees us as VERY GOOD! This is not only God’s perception of us. Perception is often how we see the world- not so much by truth but by a compilation of glimpses and experiences. Unfortunately, many of us take a selected amount of glimpses of someone’s life and assume them to be the person we need them to be for our own justification or fulfillment. Sometimes these perceptions are generous and many times not.

YET, God always sees everything…God sees every day, every thought, every action and every word. God sees the truth about each of us and all the facts. Even with that God still looks at us as God did the first day….as VERY GOOD! Today I pray that each of us might know deep inside God’s perception of us- “she is very good” or “he is very good.”

I also pray that we might know that the first chapter written about us is truly our most defining chapter.

We are God’s creation and we are good.

YOU are God’s creation and you are good!

See you on Sunday!
Pastor Audrey

Check out our Week 2 Video – What’s in that time capsule????

Week 2- What is in that time capsule????

Posted by First United Methodist Church of Miami on Monday, July 30, 2018