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Hand, Foot, and a Running Mouth

3rd Sunday after Epiphany Second Reading 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” – 1 Cor 12:12

Sometimes I read Paul’s letters in scripture, and I think “what on earth was he thinking”. Other times, like with today’s reading, I can’t imagine how words written a few thousand years ago could be so prophetic.

The early church was struggling with one of its most common problems, thinking some people were better than others. I’m so glad we don’t have that problem anymore…

Oh wait, that sounds awfully familiar. How many times have we thought “at least I’m a better christian than him” or “man she really needs to get it together”. Even while we might be cordial and polite to others, its easy to let that feeling of superiority creep in.

Or sometimes its the feeling of inferiority that gets us. That feeling that someone else has it all together. That they are such a better christian because they always post pics of their daily devotion on Instagram (because if they don’t post, does it happen?) Or because they participate in worship differently than we do. But Paul warns us all about that in this letter to the church in Corinth.

Paul argues that no part of the body is better than another, therefore no member of the community is better than another. My favorite part of this passage is about the organs. The fact that the organs are kind of gross (like I don’t need anybody showing me pictures of their surgery, mkay thanks) but our body covers them and protects them because they are vital to our survival.

Sometimes I think of the people we might find least important in the church like those vital organs. Kids. I know, I know, kids aren’t a lung, but hear me out. You might think “my kids are super valued in my church, they have their own space, their own worship, and the love being there!” And you would be correct, I’m sure churches value children in many different ways.

But churches aren’t always good at accepting children for what they are. Which is children. They are loud, they don’t always behave themselves, and they run their mouths at inappropriate times. But so do some adults I know… Just because kids don’t always have it all together doesn’t mean they aren’t one of the most valuable pieces that makes our churches whole.

So think about ways your kids are part of your church. Do they help lead corporate worship? Do they have roles in mission and outreach? Do they help with set up and clean up from events? Do they have input on what they’d like to see happen in the greater life of the church?

How do you show your kids they are a vital part of the church? Celebrate those ways, encourage the people who make them happen. If you can’t pinpoint the ways you value kids, what could you or your congregation do differently?

Kids are literally the future of the church, and I know its getting trite to say they are also our present, but we have to remember it. But they aren’t like a savings account. We can’t just put them away till they become adults. They need adults willing to walk with them, mentor them, and show them what it means to be part of the body of Christ now, so they are ready to take their places as the hands and feet… or inappropriately running mouth, of Jesus.

Great Gifts

2nd Sunday after Epiphany: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

“Now there are a variety of gifts but the same Spirit” – 1 Corinthians 12:4

What is the greatest gift you’ve ever been given? And I’m not talking about any of those noble answers like, the love of my child, or my amazing spouse… save it. When I say greatest gift, what comes to mind?

(Just to be clear, the love of my children and my spouse are both amazing gifts, but that’s just not what we are talking about right now)

I am an only child, and holidays were not a huge deal at our house, so I know I got great gifts as a kid, but I’m not sure I remember a lot of them. Although there was this one year when my mom wrapped up figure skates that I had been wearing for a few months, because those suckers were expensive, and when she said they were my Christmas present, she meant it!

One Christmas when my oldest child was about 5 and his brother was just a baby we were visiting family, and my oldest’s Godfather came over with presents. If ever there was someone who’s love language was gift giving, it would be his. Everyone got great gifts, and I got a laptop. It was such a huge deal for me, because it wasn’t something I would have been able to get for myself, and was something I really needed.

That’s sort of what its like with our Spiritual gifts right? Oftentimes we feel like our spiritual gifts probably don’t matter that much, like the time we got socks when we really hoped we were getting that new bike. But we needed those socks, and people around you need your spiritual gifts. Sometimes your spiritual gifts will be like my Christmas computer, big and bold and desperately needed. Other times your Spiritual gifts might seem more like socks, needed but not necessarily noticed.

But your gifts are unique to you. Even if you and another person both have the gift of hospitality, you are uniquely created and your gift will look different than theirs. That’s the beautiful thing about spiritual gifts, all of them are needed within the church, and outside its walls. Someone is waiting for your gifts to be used, for you to welcome them, talk to them, sing with them, or just sit with them. So take some time to think about what your gifts might be, and how you can best use them to serve your church and the world!

For more information on Spiritual Gifts (definitions, quizzes etc) check out these links:

http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/spiritual-gifts-online-assessment

https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Faith-Practices/Spiritual-Renewal/Assessment-Tools

People Pleasers

Baptism of the Lord

Luke 3:15-17,21-22

“You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

I’ve always been a people pleaser, especially people in authority. I wanted my teachers, coaches, pastors, anyone in charge really, to be happy with me. If I’m being honest though, it wasn’t just wanting people to be happy with me, it was for them to like me best. I needed to be better than other people, I needed to be the favorite. (If you get a copy of the Linganore High School yearbook from 2001 you’ll find my picture next to the title of Teacher’s Pet, and yes I am appropriately mortified about that now)

Perhaps that desire to please others, stems from a real desire to please God. And since we don’t generally get to hear the voice that Jesus hears at his baptism “with you I am well pleased”. We don’t always know if what we are doing is pleasing to God.

Or do we? I think we have a pretty good idea of what pleases God. We know Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest we can do is to love God and love others, so if what we are doing is truly loving God, and truly loving others, and not our own self interest, its probably pleasing to God.

There are countless examples in scripture of things that people over the centuries have found to be pleasing to God, from offerings and prayers, to fighting for justice for the marginalized. We don’t have to look hard to find what pleases God, when we shine the light of Christ to others, God is well pleased.

I pray that you can continue to live in the light of Christ, and remember that people are flawed, and that even in all of our brokenness we are pleasing to God. That’s the mystery of Grace, that God loves us in the midst of our flaws. We don’t follow Jesus because it saves us, we follow out of the joy of salvation. And with that, God is well pleased.

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

2nd Sunday in Advent, Year C

Luke 3:1-6

If you want a great ear worm listen to Prepare ye the Way of the Lord from Godspell. Go ahead, google it. I’ll wait. Done? Ok. Its a great song, even if it just repeats the same words over and over again for 2 minutes. Any time this story of John the Baptist is told, I can’t help but sing this song.

What are we preparing for? Its the season of Advent, a season of waiting and preparation. The secular side of Advent pulls us in a million directions preparing for Christmas. There is china to pull out to reflect the season, decorations, lights to hang, and a million parties to go to.

The church side of our lives has its own pull. There might be extra services, concerts, cleaning, decorating, and its own parties to add to our advent preparation. Sometimes the preparation gets a little out of hand, doesn’t it.

We didn’t decorate this year. The tree is staying in the attic, along with the lights, ornaments, and other signs that my house would be “ready” for Christmas. We didn’t skip the decorating because I’m a grinch or anything, we just have a toddler and a new dog and I really don’t want to add “clean up the mess” to my list of things to do this month.

Not decorating has slowed things down a little bit. But It doesn’t stop the busyness of a season like this. Perhaps its time for all of us to take a moment to slow down and figure out how God is calling us to prepare the way for Jesus, in our homes, in our Churches, and in our hearts. 

Lead Me Lord

First Sunday of Advent Year C Psalm 25:1-10

25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

Leadership is a funny thing. We train up our children to be leaders, but sometimes we forget that we are also called to follow. Called like the disciples were called out of their careers and families to follow a man who would turn their world upside down. But in a world focused on increasing our leadership skills, how do we learn to follow?

Listen

It may seem sort of obvious, but one way we learn to follow is we start listening. We listen to the message scripture holds for us, or the spoken word delivered on Sunday morning. We listen to the ways God has been active in the lives of those around us, so we can participate in God’s action in our world.

But this listening isn’t always the same as the way we “listen” in our every day lives. We tend to listen with the intent to respond. We need to listen and hear those around us, without injecting our own opinions and prejudices into their stories. God may be trying to lead you through the stories of others, listen.

Learn

We may think that our learning was over when we stepped out of whatever our last school was. For some of us that was somewhere in the middle of high school, for others it feels like the journey of traditional education will never end, but we are called to learn throughout our life. Don’t just listen to scripture, learn about it. Go to Bible studies, challenge things you don’t understand and do the research to back it up. Talk to people who have studied the Bible and theology and ask them for help. Always be learning so you might also follow.

Lead

Lead to follow? Ok this doesn’t make any sense, but it may be unavoidable. Everyone leads someone. Children, friends, spouses, co-workers, people in a faith community, someone may be trying to follow you or your example. So help them listen, learn and lead to also follow Jesus. Remember you lead so you can follow, not so that others can follow you.

25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees

Games for Youth Ministry

I love games. Card games, sports, board games, silly messy games, love all of them. Growing up we played mother may I, red rover, freeze tag, and anything with a jump rope. As I grew older I can still remember late nights with my youth group friends playing card games, trivial pursuit, and even a crazy round of hide and go seek when we were snowed in Sophomores in college!

Games are sort of a universal language. I used to teach children who spoke languages other than English, and one of our favorite games was silent ball. There was not one kid, from those who were born in America, to those who were just of the plane from Iraq that didn’t love playing silent ball. Games transcend language and cultural barriers and create atmospheres of cooperation and joviality. I’ve watched students become best friends, with no common language, over a game of checkers.

Games are a huge part of what I do in ministry. Some people probably see my job as only games, especially the people who see the broken doors and muddy footprints that occasionally follow some of our more rowdy escapades. But games are important for ministry, not because we see our jobs as youth ministers as only ensuring our students are being entertained, but because games are a way in which we learn. Games can illustrate a theme for a lesson, set a mood for an event, or change a person’s perspective on a topic. They can also serve the purpose of creating community where we least expect it.

Recently, at an all church inter-generational event, I was asked to come up with a game for all of the attendees, which can be hard with limited space and a crowd of people all sitting at dinner tables, so I decided we would play a quick game of heads or tails. For those unfamiliar with the game it is about the easiest thing ever. Everyone in the room stands up at their seats, and one person is designated as the coin tosser. Before the coin is tossed, everyone in the room either puts their hands on their heads, or on their rear ends, signifying on which side the coin will land. All those who were correct keep standing, and the rounds continue until there is but one person still standing.

For my group of youth and their younger siblings, who don’t always interact with the adults of the church, it was great for them to see adults laugh and just enjoy playing a game. It created an atmosphere where everyone was in something together, breaking down some of that youth vs adults mentality.

I can thank my mother for my love of games as part of education. She was a public elementary school teacher for 25 years, and taught middle school math for the following five. She has always valued games, both for recreation (she was the kickball pitcher at recess my whole third grade year) and for retaining information. Her students played the games the children in early America played to learn about life in the colonies. They played around the world to practice math facts, and played set or 24 challenge to work on other math skills.

I am forever grateful to the people who taught me how to play, and I hope to be a youth minister  who allows space for play. Below are instructions to some of our favorite games we play in our youth group. I hope you find a new favorite, or if you have a different favorite, I’d love to hear about it. We are always on the lookout for new games!

 

Eye Tag

Ninja

The Question Game

Psychiatrist

King of the Lily Pad

Human Bowling

Four on a Couch

Duct Tape Hockey Mask

Scatter Ball

Family

SPUD

Crazy Kick Ball (messy game)

Paint Twister

 

 

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