Thoughts from Our Pastor, Rev. Loren

Posted by Loren Boyce on 12/19/16 @ 12:29 PM

As we prepare our hearts and very beings, yet again, for coming of the Christ Child, I want to share an email. Periodically, our Bishop, Karen Oliveto, will share thoughts around the crisis of the day, the happenings in the Conference, or musings around the season.  I thoughts her words seem to hit the spot.  So, here is her email:

Greetings to you, sisters and brothers of the Mountain Sky Area, in this Advent Season!

One of my favorite plays is The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe. In it, Lily Tomlin plays a bag lady named Trudy, who says, "On the way to the play, we stopped to look at the stars. And as usual, I felt in awe. And then I felt even deeper in awe at this capacity we have to be in awe about something. Then I became even more awestruck at the thought that I was, in some small way, a part of that which I was in awe about. And I felt so good inside and my heart felt so full, I felt I would set time aside each day to do awe-robics."

Two thousand years ago, on hillsides shrouded in darkness, the heavens burst forth in light. Angels sang choruses of peace on earth, and a bright star pierced the gloom of night. Simple shepherds on hillsides and learned wise men in their studies saw the awesome sight and were brought together in a journey that would lead them to the most wondrous event. They were of different classes, different races, different languages, and different cultures, but they were united through the birth of a baby boy marked by a heavenly sight.

What happened to the star that guided their way? Ann Weems asks, "Where did the angels song go? Who hushed the alleluias? Was it death and war and disease and poverty? Was it chaos and famine and plague? Who brought violence and took away the sweet plucking of heavenly harps? Who brought despair and took away hope? Who brought barrenness and crushed the flowers? Who stole the music and brought the silence?"

Every year at Christmas, we are invited to do our own awe-robics, as we re-live the birth of the Christ Child. This year, especially, we need to pause in the midst of the world’s darkness and strain our eyes for signs of a star that will split open our world and pour forth once again goodness, mercy and peace on earth. Two thousand years ago, something so spectacular entered the world, changing the course of human history forever. Men and women continually since that time have found their lives transformed by their encounter with the man who was born in a Bethlehem manger. Broken hearts have been mended, shattered lives have been made whole, and a world fractured by evil has been restored to goodness and peace.

Make time this Christmas for your own awe-robics. Listen for the angels’ song of peace. Look toward the heavens for a star that will light your way, watch for God being born in our midst again, the One who can, does and will unite us all in peace and goodness again.

 

Blessings to you and your family,

Bishop Karen P. Oliveto

 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.  Hope to see you this Saturday for Christmas Eve services at 4, 6, or 11.

Loren

 

All Saints Day

Posted by Loren Boyce on 10/13/16 @ 11:01 AM

Ministerial Musings All Saints Day: A Sermon
(article from the Lakewood Observer, Lakewood, Ohio, 2001)

When I was a kid I loved the hymn, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.”  It sounded very British to me and it seemed to transcend time.  It sounded as if it was all about knights, and princesses, and tea time.  These are the people of legends and fables and Buckingham Palace. It is not a whole lot different than the characters we see in Disney movies.

But the point of the hymn is that saints run the gamut: they are extraordinary people and they are common folk like you and me.

Look in the dictionary; there are four primary definitions of a saint: 1. A person officially recognized, especially by canonization, as being entitled to public veneration and capable of interceding for people on earth. 2. A person who has died and gone to heaven. 3. A member of any of various religious groups, especially a Latter Day Saint.  4. An extremely virtuous person.

That covers almost all of us, does it not? None of us may be up for canonization and we’ve yet to die, but we do belong to a religious group and (some of us) may be extremely virtuous.

A single dad, who was new to a particular community, decided to take his seven-year-old son to church one day. It was a church he had never been to before. He did not know when church school was or anything else that was on the calendar, so his son sat with him in worship.

The minister came to the pulpit and preached a sermon about the saints. He talked about the history of the church, people like Peter, and James, and Mary, and Martha — people who knew Jesus personally.

He talked about the early, fledgling church: people like Tertullian, Irenaus, Augustine and his mother Monica — people who helped clarify the faith amidst confusion and controversy; people who laid the foundation of the church.

He talked about people who lived over a thousand years later — people like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Saint Teresa of Avila who challenged us to look at the faith differently and find a deeper relationship with God.

He talked about modern day saints, such as Mohandas Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King who struggled for the rights of all people.

While all this was going on, the little boy was fascinated by the stained-glass windows that lined the sanctuary. It was a very bright, sunny day, so he was overcome by the colors. It was as if a rainbow had shattered and covered the congregation with radiant shapes of red, green, gold, blue, and purple. The colors that were reflected by the people in the windows — some of the same people that the minister mentioned in his homily — the colors were beautiful and they filled the church.

After the service, when they were driving home, the father asked the son what he thought of the church service.  “I liked it,” he said.

“Were you listening to the minister’s sermon at all?” the father inquired.

“A little,” the boy admitted.

“Do you know what he was talking about?” the father asked. The boy confirmed that the sermon had something to do with people called saints. Testing how awake and attentive his son was, the father then asked, “And who are the saints?”

The boy said, “They are the people who the light shines through.”

The saints are not just those who have done dramatic things in history: defending the faith against heresy, fighting for the rights of all people. They are those who have helped us open our eyes to see God in our midst when we were blinded by other loyalties or stale ways of thinking.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of deepening my own spirituality, breaking my inner eye open so that I can see God better, clearer, closer. As usual, I have turned to Scripture and immersed myself in the Word. The problem, though, is that I have read this stuff so many times that I find myself glossing over the words on the page, because I know what’s coming next.

I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to read the Bible again for the first time, to borrow that title from Marcus Borg. Once a poem or a song becomes your favorite, it loses the magic of being discovered by you for the first time. So I decided to read a version of Scripture not so familiar to me: Eugene Peterson’s The Message.

The Message, as it states, “is a contemporary rendering of the Bible from the original languages, crafted to present its tone, rhythm, events, and ideas in everyday language.” It is a fresh approach to Scripture. You get to hear the words of Jesus as if you are listening to them for the first time. For example, most of you have heard the Beatitudes (which we read today) many, many times before.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Listen to how these same verses are translated in The Message:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You have to think about it. Before, you would gloss over “the meek will inherit the earth,” because you’ve heard it countless times before. It is sort of like saying “The Lord’s Prayer”: do you actually think about what you are saying each week when we offer those timeless words to God or do you just go on automatic pilot?

Is Eugene Peterson a saint? Maybe? Why not? He has enabled a new generation to experience God’s Word anew. The saints are legendary — and they are common people like you and me. Anyone who lives by the Gospel and tries to help others do the same falls into the “sainthood” category. As the little boy so astutely observed, the saints are the ones who the light shines through.

God sent you here to make a difference, to make the world that much better, to be a saint. Contrary to public perception, that does not mean that you have to be canonized or immortalized in a statue in some cathedral. Sainthood is more ordinary and dirty than that. It is more profane than it is sacred. It is every day. It is going into this dark world and making it just a little bit brighter. This can be accomplished by word, by deed, by simply following God’s call and letting the radical, other-affirming, liberating message of Christ’s Gospel guide you and flow through you.

Embrace the task, my friends. Go into the world and let God’s light shine through you — and it may it rain the Gospel’s beautiful rainbow of truth across every road you take and upon everyone you encounter on this sacred journey. As one of my favorite songwriters has said, “Each small candle lights a corner are the dark.” Be that candle, my friends, so that others may see. Amen.

All Saints Day will be celebrated at Heritage UMC on November 6.  Please share information about your loved ones with us by November 1.  Send a bio and picture to info@heritageumc.church 

 

about the author ...

John Tamilio III is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, an accomplished guitarist, and a nationally published author. His first book of poetry, Blind Painting, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters in 2003. He and his wife, Susan, live in Lakewood, Ohio with their children: Sarah, “Jay” (John IV), and Thomas.

Prayer Power

Posted by Loren Boyce on 02/15/16 @ 4:04 PM

 

Coming out of our series on prayer and now in Lent, I want to share a great article I found poignant for our introspection and prayerful journey.  These are not my words, but are focused well toward our Lenten experiences. 

 

Moving Mountains: Praying with Bold Authority 

by John Eldredge, from Moving Mountains

Why do we pray, “in Jesus’ name”?

The phrase gets tacked onto the end of many prayers, but I think it has about as much meaning to us as “amen.” Amen does not mean, “That’s it . . . I’m done now,” the little period at the end of my prayer. Amen (ah-mane) is an ancient Hebrew word that was transliterated (kept virtually intact) into New Testament Greek. It is a pronouncement, firm and authoritative: “Yes! So be it! Let this be done!”

Amen is a declaration; in that sense it is like a command. Or it once was; now it has the emotional force of “talk to you later” at the end of a phone call.

“In Jesus’ name” is even more of a command—far, far more declarative and final, like the drop of a judge’s gavel. We are using the authority of the ruler of all galaxies and realms to enforce the power of what we have just prayed. We have been exploring the way things work in effective prayer; as we look deeper into the spiritual realm, we discover that the whole thing runs on authority. It is the secret to the kingdom of God, and one of the essential secrets to prayer that works.

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” — Matthew 8:5–10

I’m guessing it took something pretty remarkable to “astonish” Jesus (he was astonished). Did you notice what it was? The centurion understood authority.

Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed! I know, because I am under the authority of my superior officers and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, “Go,” and they go, or “Come,” and they come. — Matthew 8:8–9 NLT

Remember—there is a way things work. If you run your hand along the grain of a 2x4, you’ll get a splinter. If you approach an elk upwind, you’ll spook him. If you turn a canoe sideways in the current, you’ll flip it. There is a way things work in the physical realm and we must learn to live with it; reality is one of the great tools of God to grow people up. (And he is deeply committed to growing us all up! Don’t forget that.) Children learn all the hard ways; the scraped knees, the burnt fingers. Wisdom is largely cultivated on encountering the laws of the physical world and adjusting our lives to accommodate. Better still, we learn to use those laws to our advantage—we cook with that heat; we build with that lumber.

The same holds true in the spiritual realm—there is a way things work. Like the children in a fairy tale, we have been thrust into a collision of kingdoms. Kingdoms are realms that are governed by a ruler (the king), and they operate on the basis of authority. Back in the story of Daniel and his three-week fast, the angel finally showed up and explained he would have been there sooner but he was blocked by the territorial spirit that held sway over the Persian kingdom. He eventually got through, but did you notice how? He brought in a higher-ranking angel:

“The prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come . . .”
— Daniel 10:13–14

The messenger got through the blockade because the mighty archangel Michael came and used his greater authority (and no doubt power). That is what we are doing when we use Jesus’ name—we are using his authority. A quick overview might help bring clarity:

God made the earth. He then gave it to Adam and Eve, along with authority to govern it:

The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to man. —Psalm 115:16

The first man and woman—lord and lady of this earthly kingdom—forfeited their authority through their disobedience. That is how Satan became “the prince of this world” (John 14:30). When the evil one slithered up to Jesus in the wilderness and tried to tempt him out of the cross, he offered him the kingdoms of this world, as if they were his to give:

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” — Luke 4:5–7

It was his to offer because we turned it over to him at the fall of man. “Prince” of this world means ruler of this world. And he has brought ruin and devastation through his malevolent reign, as Stalin did, as Pol Pot did. When an evil ruler comes into power, it allows evil into the kingdom. A man I knew was in Washington, DC during the inauguration of one of our less respectable presidents of the last century; he said that he could see demons rushing into the White House from all directions. Authority had shifted to darkness.

The epicenter of the tectonic shifts I keep alluding to was the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of the living God—who became the Son of Man—to win it all back. He won it all back. Because the abdication of the throne occurred through the sin of Adam, it could only be undone through the atonement for those sins. Through his life of total obedience to the Father, through his perfect atonement for our sins by way of his cross and death, Jesus totally disarmed Satan and all those fallen angels like the Prince of the Persian kingdom:

[God] forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
— Colossians 2:13–15

God the Father, in partnership with God the Son, “disarmed the powers and authorities.” The Greek here for “powers and authorities” is arche and exousia—the exact words Paul used to refer to foul spirits of various rank:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers [arche], against the authorities [exousia], against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. — Ephesians 6:12

By the cross our Father and Jesus caught the enemy totally off guard, undermined his claims, disarmed the authority of his stolen throne; the evil one and all his allies have lost their right to hold dominion, and that right has been given to Jesus:

[Who] humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. — Philippians 2:8–11

All of this—the victory, the overthrow of Satan’s right to rule, the transfer of authority, power, and dominion to the Son of God—this is what Jesus was referring to when after his resurrection he said,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. — Matthew 28:18

Let that sink in; the relief of it will lift a mighty weight off your shoulders. All authority in the “heavens”—the spiritual realms—and all authority on this planet has been handed over to Jesus Christ! Think of the redemption that can now take place because of that one fact.

“Yes—that is my point,” you might say. “I believe Jesus won. So why don’t prayers work better than they do? Isn’t Satan defeated?” Stay with me now, because this has staggering implications for you and the way you pray. The invasion of the kingdom of God is something that is still unfolding, right now, today. Jesus is not merely seated upon a throne somewhere up in the sky:

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. . . . Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. — 1 Corinthians 15:20–21, 24–25 (emphasis added)

That “until” gives us a very different way of understanding how Jesus is reigning at the current moment (and why world events still seem so chaotic). Are all his enemies under his feet? Clearly not; the verse says not, and the evening news illustrates it. Jesus, Son of God, Lord of angel armies, is “reigning until” he has finished what he began. The image that comes to mind is the terrible battle for the South Pacific in World War II. Island by island, bunker by bunker, tunnel by tunnel, a bloody battle had to be waged until the enemy was thoroughly and completely rooted out. Yes—we took the beach at Iwo Jima, and the airstrip. The enemy was defeated, but still he fought on; subduing the entire island was an unspeakably savage undertaking.

Much as you see in the world today. Oh yes, Jesus has won. But his kingdom has—obviously—not fully come on this earth. Which brings us to the famous model for prayer, held high by the church down through the ages, the “Our Father,” the “Lord’s Prayer.”

Held high, repeated ritually, but rarely understood. Have you ever wondered why the Lord’s Prayer begins with us praying, “Your kingdom come . . .”? The man who knew best how to pray is telling us to invoke his kingdom. We are, after all, partners in this mission. And this is what he wants us to begin prayer with. The obvious implication is that his kingdom is not always come, his will is not always done on earth as it is done in heaven—or what a ridiculous thing to tell us to pray. Why would Jesus urge us to pray for something that has no meaning? He does not tell us to pray that the sun rises tomorrow; we are never urged to pray that the sun will rise again each day. God’s will is going to be done, every sunrise. You can rest on that one; nothing to pray about there. But you are told to invoke his kingdom, from heaven to earth.

Excerpted with permission from Moving Mountains by John Eldredge, copyright John Eldredge, 2016.

 

Advent Reflections -- The Gift of Worship

Posted by Loren Boyce on 12/06/15 @ 5:14 AM

Folks, as we venture together through these days of expectation, preparation, justice, and peace, I read one of my favorite blogs and want to share her words -- 

 

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 
Matthew 2:11 

It has been popular to intermix the story of Jesus' birth with the coming of the Magi and their presentation of gifts for him. While some scholarship has depicted a time frame that may bridge two years between the events, other support sets them just weeks apart. 

What is clear from the scriptures is that the visit of the Magi was, by their own words, precipitated by the birth of the "King of the Jews" and their desire to come and worship (Matt 2:2). Thus, these two important storylines have been connected in the history of Christendom ever since.

The Christmas season is often lost in commercialism, shopping and busyness. Even our well-intentioned family agendas can sometimes obscure the focus from the celebration that is God coming to dwell with man- Emmanuel, Christ with us. The foundation of the Christian Christmas celebration is the acknowledgement and honoring of first of all, God's gift to us in the person of His Son, Jesus. But wrapped within the story is the response of those people who left their own lives, countries and palaces to journey to see the true King. To hear of distant wisemen traveling to see Christ seems noble, but the above scripture should gather our attention.

The first response to being in the presence of Jesus was to bow down and to worship him. No pleasentries, no asking questions. Some of the wisest men of the ancient world could do nothing but fall down and worship in the presence of Jesus. This is the profound and honest response of the human being to the encounter person of Jesus.

The second response is also important- "Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts". What is your treasure right now? What do you value most?  It is from that place of that we dare to draw forward our gifts to God.

As we think of worship, and of coming before Jesus, we can see that this bowing our wills and making an offering of love are both components. The token (or gift) we bring is less important than the heart from which it is offered. Still, have you considered whether or not your token of love truly represents your offering of humility and affection towards Christ?

Perhaps a lackluster token represents correctly a lackluster attitude towards Christ and what worshipping him really means. Perhaps we need to examine our hearts and be challenged by the example of the wise men that, though meeting Jesus for the first time, gave him gifts of incredible value. Their hearts, likewise, matched those gifts. They spent 2 years (most scholars believe) traveling in search of Jesus.

May our hearts be ready to worship Jesus with everything we have, for as long as we live!

Selah! 
Kim Gentes

Sleepless in Pine – A Paternity Leave Reflection

Posted by Loren Boyce on 06/17/15 @ 10:38 AM

So, thanks to the New York Times for the inspiration of this blog post …

Today begins the last 10 days of my paternity leave, so I wanted to share a bit of the experience. When I tell people I'm on a 6-week leave, the initial response is typically surprise that my SPRc would offer such a generous benefit.  That's typically followed by surprise that I'm actually taking it -- why would I want to subject myself to torture – “Do you really want to change diapers?” (from parents), why would I want to sit around and do nothing for 6 weeks (from non-parents).  Paternity leave policy is unusual, but I hope it becomes less so. It's good for gender equality in the workplace and it's good for families with fathers.

The first days of paternity leave were harder than I thought. Caring for my son was physical work that required being constantly alert. With Jess and I were both home I thought we could easily handle this little human.  I had thought his few naps each day would serve as breaks, but instead that time was mostly used for showering, feeding myself, washing bottles, and doing tasks around the house that would be more difficult when he was awake. I was constantly exhausted and so was Jess as she had the hardest part – she feeds him!

Each day was almost identical to the last: wake, change, feed, play, feed, change, nap, change, feed, play, feed, change, nap, change, feed, play, feed, sleep. The fact that my day was interlaced with palindromes didn't make it any more exciting.

But things shift and I have had some time to catch up on that reading I have meant to do.  I have been good about not constantly checking my email like I do when I am working.  But, there have been a few things I have had to attend to.  The treasurer decided he had enough and resigned, so I have been making calls to find a replacement.  Have received a few notes about worship attendance and declining giving in my absence – I suppose I have that to deal with soon.  Also, I had a funeral for an unchurched family, because everyone deserves to have a funeral.  Went to Florida to see Grandma and just got back from Annual Conference.  None of which helps Xander to get a better schedule.

The experience has taught me a few things:  

1. Patience – Dad’s plan and Xander’s plan almost never are the same. 

2. Similar to number one, Allow for Ample Time – Things take longer than you expect and frankly, most of this life is a rush and on a timeframe planned by us or dictated from the chain above us – so, enjoy the ride, take the time it takes, and bring others along fro the ride. 

3. Nature abhors a Vacuum – No matter how much you plan, every detail covered, every possible scenario thought through, people are still people and they have the opportunity to inject a different direction into the best laid plan.  Life still occurs in my absence and the work that was there when I left will still be there when I get back. 

So, finally, 4. Patience – Seems only appropriate to end the lessons where I began.  Life takes time and when others are involved, I must remember to be patient and listen and collaborate.

When I return to the pulpit on June 28, I will be preaching from Mark 5:21-43 about our need to share our experiences in life with others.  We need to share our faith and journey with the world around us.  We need to “Reach out and Touch someone.”  I hope that HUMC will hear the beginning of the next phase of our time together with open ears and open hearts.  In the words of John Wesley, “the world is our parish.”  So, it is time to take the church into the world and invite others to be a part of the love that we have found in Christ!  It is our calling and our mission, for us, for the world, and for the next generation, like Xander!  But this will take patience, ample time, and collaboration as we will always have this mission.

So with mixed emotions I go back to worship and office work next Sunday. I love that church and those people, so I'm excited to get back into it. But I also know that I'm going to miss my son terribly, and I already feel guilty that I'm a bad parent for spending so much less time with him.

For now, though, I need to put that on hold, because gotta go, baby just woke up and mom is catching a nap!

 

Now What?

Posted by Loren Boyce on 04/16/15 @ 11:31 AM

So Christ is Risen (again), now what? Easter has come and gone, now what? We are working through our communication processes, now what?  Pastor is teaching a class on “A Wesleyan Way of Living”, now what?

Well … one thing has not changed. Jesus is STILL alive. He is as alive today as He was yesterday. And He will be as alive next Sunday as He was on Easter Sunday. So in a very real way, EVERY Sunday is Easter Sunday! Every single Sunday, our church gathers to worship our LIVING Savior!

Days like Easter are great. They are mountaintop experiences. And they are days that present huge opportunities. We seized that opportunity this year, as we saw an annual record attendance. It was awesome! But it brings us back to my question…now what?

That answer can be found in two simple words: follow up.

One of my core values for our church is found when people find people. We are serious about connecting more people to Jesus. And it showed with the way we stepped up and invited people on Easter. Which brings us to the follow up.

Did you invite someone on Easter who didn’t show up? First of all, please understand this. That does NOT mean you failed. You planted a seed, which is all that God has called you to do. And one simple way to water that seed is to follow up. Check in with them. Tell them you missed them, and that the invitation is always open. Who knows? Maybe their kid got sick. Maybe something else came up. You never know. And a simple follow up conversation may be all it takes for them to accept your invitation.

Did you invite someone on Easter who did show up? Awesome! Follow up with them. Thank them for coming with you. Ask about their impression. Do they have any questions? Anything that you can help them understand more clearly? But more than anything, just communicate how thrilled you are that they joined you and that the invitation is open again this week.

This isn’t about pressure or coercion. This is about showing someone that you care about them, not just on Easter week, but every week.

If you stepped up and invited someone to our Easter service, THANK YOU! You’ve already made an investment in this person. A little extra follow up just shows that you care.

And if you didn’t invite someone to Easter, there is no better week than THIS WEEK to invite them. Jesus is still alive, and we’re still ready to introduce people to Him!  Let’s seek, serve, and transform the world around us.

Loren

Giving Up and Taking On for Lent

Posted by Loren Boyce on 02/26/15 @ 1:20 PM

Here is an interesting piece that I saw on ministrymatters.com. It is a great piece to make us think during this Lenten season. Enjoy.



Lent is the time of year when we look at our lives and do the hard work of being honest about things that might be keeping us from growing deeper in our relationship with God. Now many use it as an excuse to deprive themselves of chocolate or caffeine or dessert. I say that’s fine so long as those things are hindering your faith life. If they’re not and you still want to give them up as an act of endurance for the next 40 days, then fine, at least add something new to your life that will help you grow deeper in your faith journey.

It occurs to me that while the church asks individuals to do this critical and honest work, maybe we should spend some time as the church doing it too. In other words, how can the church practice what it preaches about self-denial and transformation?



Here are five things our church could think about giving up for Lent:



1. Stop working people to death. Too often we associate discipleship and service with being busy at the church. Churches should really slow down and think about what it means to people when you ask them to spend two, three or four days a week busy in a church building. Maybe it’s time to free people up to serve for the sake of others outside the walls of your building? Maybe it’s time for busy-work ministries to take a break? Maybe we should spend this season in prayer and maybe even in rest in order to actually be with God and one another instead of making those things one more item on a to-do list? Remember the wise advice of the Apostle Paul who said it’s by grace alone that we are saved, not by the busyness of our church programs.




2. Quit viewing visitors, especially young families, as investments for the future of your church. We do it all the time. Someone starts visiting our church and we get excited about the potential of what they can give the church. If it’s a young family, we foam at the mouth with anticipation of how they will bolster the size and vitality of our children and families programs. Stop it. Just stop. It’s selfish to view newcomers to your church as commodities to use for your own purposes. If a family is visiting your church, don’t find ways to make them busy (see above), find ways to connect them with God and other people. If a new person graces the doors of your church, don’t ask what they can give before they get to their seat. Give them time to connect with God. Let God’s Spirit do its work. Remember: While it’s important that people serve and become involved in the local church, it’s double important that churches don’t exploit them for their own gain in the process.




3. Avoid thinking young clergy are the key to bringing in younger members. As a young pastor, this is a real struggle. On the one hand, you can’t help but become the face and voice for “all young people everywhere.” You share a life stage with other young people who might be visiting your church. And you act as a sort of interpreter for those who struggle speaking and understanding the language of young adult. On the other hand, it’s a burden to be expected to become a magnet for other young people. If churches think a young pastor is what will bring in younger people, they’re wrong. It’s the job of the whole church, not just the pastor, to reach out to others and engage them in the life of the church. Give your young pastors a break from this burden. And for God’s sake, give your more mature pastors a break from the guilt of not being a young adult anymore! You might be surprised how young adults can connect with people of all shapes, sizes and ages if a church is committed to things like hospitality and serving others.




4. Try not being so inwardly focused. This is a tough one. Any church of any size or age eventually has to deal with this temptation — it’s not all about us. We need to take stock of how many ministries are geared to serve those who are already members of our churches. We need to be critical of how much effort we expend worrying about paying our bills, maintaining our buildings and serving the needs of those sitting in our pews. That’s not to say we don’t watch over one another in love and care for each other through life’s ups and downs. It simply means part of that care is lovingly reminding each other that we are called to love and serve others, even above ourselves. It’s sort of what Jesus was all about.




5. Don't be petty. We don’t mean to do it. But sometimes in the wonderful meaning we find in being a part of a church, we become petty. We inevitably put too much meaning in a piece of furniture, a building, a room, the color of the carpet or a certain pew, etc. because these things are symbols of how much a church means to us. That deep love and meaning is a good thing. But being petty, sensitive or argumentative over these things are not. Sometimes it’s not about winning an argument as much as it’s about reacting the way Jesus might. And that requires we remember Jesus had no place to lay his head, no sacred pew to sit on and no sacred piece of furniture bought in memory of a family member to guard like Fort Knox.




As we "add on" things in our lives during lent, let's continue to think through how we do church, together!


~Rev. Loren

Live from Heritage UMC in Littleton: It's Sunday Nite!!!

Posted by Robert Downs on 02/10/15 @ 4:15 PM

Lent will begin this year with our Ash Wednesday worship observance on February 18 at 6:30 p.m. Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday, and rubbing a tiny bit of ashes on the foreheads of participants to the accompaniment of the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.  Lent is a time of repentance and introspection in your walk with Christ.

The day prior to Ash Wednesday is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.  This year our Common Table meeting is on Mardi Gras, and I thought it might be fun to revel a bit before our meeting.  Our fellowship folks and others have devised a plan of serving gumbo (or jambalaya), and dare I say it … more pancakes, as well as a King’s Cake, and playing some great family games prior to the meeting.  So, on Tuesday, February 17, at 6:00 pm, we will gather for Mardi Gras and then continue on to our Common Table meeting at 7:00 pm.  Our Common Table agenda will include: Capital Stewardship Campaign kickoff, a few worship time change options, and a continued conversation around our “blue sky” visions.

Okay, back to Sunday Nite Live!  Throughout the 6 Sundays of Lent, beginning the evening of February 22nd, our community will gather at 5:30 pm for a lite supper/snack of soup and bread (and maybe a salad).  After the snack (approximately 6:15 pm), we will venture into the Sanctuary for an evening of culture and a lot of fun.

So here is that information again:

February 17 — Mardi Gras / Common Table — 6:00 pm / 7:00 pm (Fellowship Hall / Sanctuary)
February 18 — Ash Wednesday Worship Service — 6:30 pm (Sanctuary)

Sunday Nite LIVE:
(Lite Supper/Snack at 5:30 pm in the Fellowship Hall, program at 6:15 pm in Sanctuary) on the 6 Sundays in Lent:

  • February 22 - Introduction to Lent:  A Lecture with music — Revs. Loren and Jessie Boyce
  • March 1 - An Evening of Jazz — Jeff and Terri Jo Jenkins
  • March 8 - Bluegrass BBQ — All Church BBQ for Capital Stewardship Campaign  — music by: Lineage Music Project
  • March 15 - The Ides of March:  A Shakespearean Soliloquy — with John McDonald
  • March 22 - “You Might Be a STAR!!!” — ALL CHURCH Talent Show
  • March 29 - Waning Moments:  Lenten Music — Heritage UMC Music Ensembles 

It is going to be a great Lenten season.  Plan to join us for any and all of the activities!

Rev. Loren

The season of Lent is upon us!

Posted by Robert Downs on 02/10/15 @ 4:01 PM

Lent is a season of the Christian Year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God.

Lent is the forty days before Easter  (not counting Sundays) which goes this year from February 18 (Ash Wednesday) to April 5 (Easter) 2015. Lent excludes Sundays because every Sunday is like a little Easter. Basically, it's about one-tenth of a year (like a tithe of time).

Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday” is the day before Lent starts, which begins with Ash Wednesday. It's called "Fat" or "Great" because it's associated with great food and parties. In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Since they didn't want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they cleaned out their cabinets. They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available. It was a great feast!

Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras, begins with a worship service where we recognize our mortality, repent of our sins, and return to our loving God. We recognize life as a precious gift from God, and re-turn our lives towards Jesus Christ. We may make resolutions and commit to change our lives over the next forty days so that we might be more like Christ.

In Jewish and Christian history, ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Mortality, because when we die, our bodies eventually decompose and we become dust/dirt/ash, whatever. Repentance, because long ago, when people felt remorse for something they did, they would put ashes on their head and wear "sackcloth" (scratchy clothing) to remind them that sin is pretty uncomfortable and leads to a sort of death of the spirit. This was their way of confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness.

We create ashes for Ash Wednesday by saving the palms from Palm Sunday from the prior year, burning them, and mixing them with a little water (like tears) or oil. It's symbolic.  And so on Ash Wednesday, we are invited to come forward to receive the ashes.

Are you searching for something more? Tired of running in circles, but not really living life with direction, purpose or passion? It's pretty easy to get caught up in the drama of classes, relationships, family, and work. Our lives are filled with distractions that take us away from living a life with Christ. We try to fill the emptiness inside us with mindless TV, meaningless chatter, stimulants, alcohol, too many activities or other irrelevant stuff.  Lent is a great time to "repent" -- to return to God and re-focus our lives to be more in line with Jesus. It's a 40-day trial run in changing your lifestyle and letting God change your heart.

On Ash Wednesday and extending throughout Lent, we will journey together in a sermon series called “Holy Vessels.” Each of us is created as a precious vessel of God’s love. Each of us has experienced hurt in some way, bringing a sense of brokenness. To move toward healing is to offer the gift of life and wholeness not only for ourselves but also for others as we come to see each person as a Holy Vessel and as we come to desire that wholeness for all of creation. The image of a vessel in the form of a beautiful glass container and the image of broken glass in the form of tumbled beach glass is a visual metaphor upon which the message of healing out of brokenness is developed.

As we seek to be whole vessels, you might try one of these practices for Lent:

FASTING: Some people have been known to go without food for days. But that's not the only way to fast. You can fast by cutting out some of the things in your life that distract you from God. Some Christians use the whole 40 days to fast from candy, TV, soft drinks, cigarettes or meat as a way to purify their bodies and lives. You might skip one meal a day and use that time to pray instead. Or you can give up some activity like worry or reality TV to spend time outside enjoying God’s creation. What do you need to let go of or "fast" from in order to focus on God? What clutters your calendar and life? How can you simplify your life in terms of what you eat, wear or do?

SERVICE: Some Christians take something on for Christ. You can collect food for the needy, volunteer once a week to tutor children, or work for reform and justice in your community. You can commit to help a different stranger, co-worker or friend everyday of Lent. Serving others is one way we serve God.

PRAYER: Christians also use Lent as a time of intentional prayer. You can pray while you walk, create music or art as a prayer to God, or savor a time of quiet listening. All can be ways of becoming more in tune with God.

As a community of faith during Lent we will gather on Sunday nights and have a light dinner (soup/salad, etc.) at 5:30 pm.  Around 6 pm after dinner, we will move to the Sanctuary for an intentional time of education, community building, entertainment, and fun!  Sunday Nite Live will feature a little Shakespeare, a little jazz, a few games, a movie, a few lectures, and ultimately culminate in a night of music on March 29 provided primarily by our Chancel Choir!

So, join the community to kick off Lent with worship on Ash Wednesday evening (February 18) at 6:30 pm in the Sanctuary.  We will learn and grow together toward wholeness as individuals and as a community.  This year, put a little bit of Lent back into your diet!

See you soon!
Rev. Loren
 

The New Year is Coming!

Posted by Robert Downs on 12/18/14 @ 10:32 AM

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me—Epiphany! We all know and adore the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song. We enjoy the challenge of trying to remember every part. Children especially enjoy singing it. This beloved song brings to mind the tradition throughout the history of the church to celebrate twelve days of Christmas, beginning with Christmas Day on December 25 and ending on the day of Epiphany, traditionally celebrated on January 6 (although we will celebrate on January 4 in worship this year). On that day, the Christmas tide flows into the season of Epiphany.

Epiphany comes from two Greek words epi and phaino. Together the two words mean “to show forth” or “appear.” In the Epiphany season the church focuses on showing forth or making known to the whole world the newborn Christ as “God in the flesh.” Epiphany uncovers who Jesus is and so forms the foundation for understanding what he has done for us, the focus of the Lent and Easter seasons. 

Four events from Jesus’ life are highlighted through the readings during Epiphany: the visit of the Magi to Jesus sometime after his birth (Mt 2:1-12), the baptism of Jesus (Mt 3:13-17; Mk 1:4-11; Lk 3:15-17, 21-22), the miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding of Cana (Jn 2:1-11), and the transfiguration of our Lord (Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-9; Lk 9:28-36). The theme of “making Christ known to all nations” is found in the account of the Magi and continues to show itself in the other readings during the Epiphany season.

HUMC intends to make Christ known in 2015 and in the years to come. SPRc (the Staff Parish Relations committee) has recently reorganized how we are staffing our efforts of making Christ known and transforming lives.

Effective January 1, 2015, SPRc has hired a new Director of Worship and Musical Arts (DWMA) as well as a new Director of Ministries with Youth and Their Families (DMYF). Our new DWMA is Lisa Steward who will transition from her current role of Director of Youth Ministries and Director of the Elevation praise band. Lisa will work, with the Worship Committee and me, to enhance our total worship experiences across all aspects of worship and worship services.

Also, effective January 1, 2015, SPRc will see Scott Hunter tackle the role of DMYF. Scott brings a plethora of youth and young adult experiences to HUMC. The best part is that he and his wife, Amy, are already working with our youth and know each and every one of them. Scott plans to reach out into our community to serve the needs of youth in the area and will seek to incorporate all of our youth’s families into the total youth ministry!

Please note as well that Charlie Boyer will continue to serve as the Director of the Chancel Choir to provide the quality musical experiences that we have seen over the past few months. BIG KUDOS to Charlie and the choir for a great cantata on the past weekend, December 14.   Also, thanks to Regina Garrison as she continues to serve as our traditional accompanist. I would like to mention as well the work of Pam Lowdon as she picked up the reigns of the Chancel Chimes to help the bells with their work in December and Christmas Eve. We are looking forward to continued great work from our musical ensembles and I am so thankful for ALL the work!

As we look forward to making disciples for Jesus Christ and transforming the world, together, let us also continue to find ways to make Christ known in all we do in 2015 and beyond.

 Your partner in ministry,

Rev. Loren

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