Reunited

August_Dance

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 20, 2017
Scripture: Genesis 45:1-15

.... God sent me before you to save lives.
(Genesis 45:5, CEB)

Devotion

Genesis 37 contains a dramatic story with a beloved son, Joseph, who was hated and kidnapped by his brothers. The brothers hated him so much they plotted to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery, which was probably a death sentence of its own. Joseph finds himself in a revengeful position: he comes to hold power, has charge of food for the community, and ultimately holds his brothers’ lives in his hands. Brought on by famine, an encounter and reunion gives Joseph the opportunity to reconcile with his brothers, embrace them, and forgive them.

Relationships are vital to life, which is why the two greatest commandments are based on relationships: a relationship first with God, then a relationship with one another. These relationships are paramount for a fulfilling life. Joseph lets his brothers know that while they meant to harm him, God meant to prosper him and use him to save lives. Joseph shows us the key to being reconciled to those who have deeply hurt us, whether they are family members or friends. This key to reconciliation is submitting ourselves to God’s boundless love and mercy. 

God seeks us and calls us to touch lives in need of refreshment, wholeness, hope and forgiveness. The healing gift of music, the transformative power of drama, the clarity of the spoken word, and the freeing dynamic of dance – each and every art becomes a vehicle for reconciliation. 

Prayer

Reconciling God, guide us, through our varied arts in worship, to offer hope, and to be reflections of your grace and forgiveness. Amen.

Andrae AnthonyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music
Broadway United Methodist Church
Indianapolis, IN



 Photo: Members of the dance ensemble perform at Music & Worship Arts Week 2017 at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

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Give Thanks

August_Song

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 13, 2017
Scripture: Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b

... let the hearts rejoice of all those seeking the Lord!
(Psalm 105:3b, CEB)

Devotion

The words of Henry Smith ring clear and true throughout Psalm 105, “Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One ….” **

As we reflect on the psalmist’s words, we draw strength from the repeated passages, “Sing to God; make praises to the Lord; dwell on all God’s wondrous works! Give praise to God’s Holy name.”

We are shown how God uses painful circumstances to bless the people of Israel. We see the difference between a life of hope and one of despair. The psalmist moves us beyond trials and tribulations, using those situations instead as a way to bless us, and those we encounter. In pursuing the Lord, we recall wonderful things, marvelous works, and justice declared. 

God often changes our perspective and gives us new ways of seeing our situations. Our setbacks and disappointments are opportunities for God to renew, restore, and bless us. It is through these new “eyes” we join the refrain, “now let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us. Give thanks.”

How will you give thanks this week for the many ways you have been gifted to lead the worship artists in your congregation? “Sing to God; make praises to the Lord; dwell on all God’s wondrous works! Give praise to God’s Holy name.”

Prayer

Loving God, open our eyes and minds and hearts to sense and feel your presence in and around us. May your Holy Spirit guide us to turn our seasons of frustrations and challenges into days of hopefulness and seasons of thanksgiving. Amen.

** "Give Thanks," words and music by Henry Smith, © 1978, Integrity's Hosanna Music. (From The Faith We Sing #2036)

Andrae AnthonyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music
Broadway United Methodist Church
Indianapolis, IN



Photo: Kevin McBeth (center) leads a choir rehearsal at Awaken 2017, The Fellowship's Biennial Convocation, held in Little Rock, AR, last month.

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Embrace the Abundance

August_Table

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 6, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 14:13-21

... you give them something to eat.
(Matthew 14:16b, NRSV)

Devotion

During this season of Pentecost, we may find ourselves much like Jesus – at a table of physical and emotional exhaustion. However, it is at this table that Jesus shows compassion, heals the sick, and provides an endless banquet. We are confronted in scripture with the stories of God’s providential nature. It is in this account of feeding the 5,000+ that we truly learn the immeasurable abundance that surrounds us.

Where the disciples use a theology of scarcity, Jesus uses a theology of abundance. The disciples see only what they don’t have and what they’re incapable of doing. Jesus sees the resources they possess and their possibilities. Christ calls us to bring forth what we have, no matter how little, and assures us that God will do the rest!

Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, not to send them away. He invites us to be compassionate, resourceful, and generous in our ministry. We must never be so wrapped in our own problems and concerns that we withdraw from the world and refuse to provide help to those in need.

In practicing a theology of abundance, we open our eyes to the resources around us. We discover the ways in which we are the hands and feet of Jesus. As you consider your worship arts ministry this fall, will you open your eyes to the abundance of gifts and talents that are within those in your congregation? Will you trust in God to partner with you to create an abundant and generous ministry that shares God’s love through music and other worship arts this season?

Prayer

Open our eyes to see the abundance that surrounds us, open our hands that we may freely give, and open our hearts to show compassion. May this love and unbounded compassion be bread for a hungry world. Amen.

Andrae AnthonyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music
Broadway United Methodist Church
Indianapolis, IN



Photo: Carrie Wright (center) and Bodie Gilbert (right) serve communion around a table during the closing worship service of Awaken 2017, The Fellowship's Biennial Convocation, held at First United Methodist Church in Little Rock, AR, on July 27.

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Practice and Nurture

July_Practice

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 30, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed ... it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.
(Matthew 13:31-32, NRSV)

Devotion

There is a discipline we all share as artists. Writers, dancers, fine artists, musicians – we have had to spend countless hours at our crafts over many years. None of us came into this world prepared to design and lead worship; it was a process of nurture, encouragement, guidance, and practice. The potential is present but needs time to eventually grow and bear fruit. 

Jesus says God’s reign begins with a seed, developing from something very small. 

Sometimes I expect situations (and people) to automatically be mature and full-grown when in reality that is not how it works. Sometimes I need reminding to show the patience extended to me when I was a younger musician ... and still need now!

Prayer

Eternal Giver of good things, grant us patience with our craft, so that when the artistic gifts grow to maturity, they may be sources of comfort and welcome to all.  Amen.

Miller MarkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music
Christ Church
Summit, NJ



Photo: Participants in closing worship rehearse prior to the service at Music & Worship Arts Week 2015 in Lake Junaluska, NC.

Awaken 2017, this year's Fellowship convocation, continues through Thursday, July 27, in Little Rock, AR. Please keep our event and its leadership, participants, worship, and activities in your prayers this week as we wake up to the world around us, engage in transformative worship, and contemplate what's next.

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Without Judgment

July_Choir

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 23, 2017
Scripture: Genesis 28:10-19a

"Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the LORD is in this place — and I did not know it!'
(Genesis 28:16, NRSV)

Devotion

Have you ever been in the presence of the Almighty ... but not realize it?

In 2003, I led worship for a national ecumenical gathering and a guest choir was performing the prelude. I was supportive and encouraging, but I noted to myself this small group was singing off-pitch, weren’t staying together and barely in sync with their accompaniment compact disc! Having reached their final selection, I prepared to lead the congregation in some "real" worship. Then they began a song I hadn’t heard before. 

“I need you, you need me, we’re all a part of God’s body ... I pray for you, you pray for me, I need you to survive.” **

Tears started flooding down my cheeks. I couldn’t compose myself and had to leave the hall, sobbing like a baby into the arms of a dear friend who was weeping too.

The choir I had judged so harshly had become the face of Christ — God’s voice was literally speaking to me through their voices. The overwhelming awe, humility, and love I experienced because of them and their song was a miraculous gift I remember to this day.

Prayer

Forgiving God, release us from our judgments to see you in every person and place.  Amen.

** Hezekiah Walker, lyrics – "I Need You to Survive" (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/hezekiahwalker/ineedyoutosurvive.html)

Miller MarkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music
Christ Church
Summit, NJ



Photo: Mark Miller (at piano) leads worship with the Youth Festival Choir at Pathways 2015, the biennial convocation of The Fellowship held in Indianapolis. 

Awaken 2017, this year's Fellowship convocation, begins Monday, July 24, and continues through Thursday, July 27, in Little Rock, AR. Please keep our event and its leadership, participants, worship, and activities in your prayers this week as we wake up to the world around us, engage in transformative worship, and contemplate what's next.

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Sent Out in Joy

July_Joy

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 16, 2017
Scripture: Isaiah 55:10-13

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."
(Isaiah 55:12, NRSV)

Devotion

In his short but seminal book Beyond the Worship Wars, Tom Long writes about the "movement to a joyous festival celebration" at the close of worship, and names this as a characteristic of vital and faithful worship. I wholeheartedly agree! We tend to the sacred flame of worship and help stoke the liturgical embers into meaningful joy-filled praise.  

Towards the close of the service, the congregation is sent “out in joy” by words, actions and songs that quicken the tempo and build up the celebration. Whether through a sacrament, a ritual of holding hands for a sending prayer, a heartfelt benediction, or a spirited postlude, we are lifted up (literally out of our seats) and sent to go and serve the world.

This is one of the sacred duties of a worship artist: giving permission for people to have fun and experience delight in church. Thankfully the liturgy is capacious enough to hold both solemnity and playfulness in its arms. 

Both are essential experiences of the Divine.

Prayer

God of wonder and delight, may the joy I share with the gathered church be an authentic expression of the joy inside of me. Amen.

Photo: The worship team leads in a joyful celebration at General Conference 2016 in Portland, OR. (UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey)

Miller MarkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music
Christ Church
Summit, NJ

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I Will Give You Rest

July_Rest

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 9, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28, NRSV)

Devotion

Give me rest? Are you kidding? Please, Lord, have you seen my calendar? 

There are multiple choir rehearsals, a new youth orchestra, kids at home, school work to finish, bills to pay, and conferences to plan ... I just don’t believe it!

It’s ironic to hear these words sung every year, "Come unto me, all ye that labor," amidst the most hectic times of a church musician’s life. How can we find rest when we are so busy planning and leading worship? 

Early last year I underwent a serious medical procedure. In the month leading up to the surgery a profound deep peace settled over me. The sacred songs I had been singing my whole life had prepared me for this moment. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” to  “Santo, Santo” to “All My Days” — what a revelation to discover I trusted Jesus when he said, “I will give you rest.”

In the daily stress of leadership, remember to take a moment to let the art you're making, the bread you’re baking, the dance moves you’re creating be a sign to you that God, through your creative sacred work, is leading you to deep peace and rest, leading you home.

Prayer

Loving God who carries all burdens, lead us to the quiet waters of your peace.  Amen.

Photo: The lake water is still at sunrise at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

Miller MarkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music
Christ Church
Summit, NJ

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Heart of Hospitality

July_Hospitality

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 2, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 10:40-42

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
(Matthew 10:40, NRSV)

Devotion

How do I welcome people into the church on Sunday morning? Things are usually kind of hectic; I try to smile, shake a hand or give a hug in the midst of rehearsing the choir, huddling with the other worship leaders about last-minute details, or frantically hunting down the music for the organ prelude.

But maybe we can reach the heart of hospitality in the music we sing, honoring generations young and old with different genres and styles of songs. Perhaps we deeply welcome folks whose first language is not English by singing songs in other tongues. We foster a sense of belonging and inclusion by the diversity of faces we see at the lectern or in the media presentations on our screens, by the words we use in our prayers and our songs.

All of us were once strangers, but thanks to God’s grace shown through Jesus Christ, we have been welcomed into the oikos of God, the “household of love.”  

Prayer

God of the eternal welcome, help us to show hospitality not only in our personal greetings but also through our liturgical words and actions. Remind us that everyone we meet is a child of God. Amen.

Photo: A greeting is shared during the closing worship service at The Fellowship's Music & Worship Arts Week 2016 at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

Miller MarkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music
Christ Church
Summit, NJ

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Taking the Risk

Flowers_MWAW

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: June 25, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 10:24-39

... and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
(Matthew 10:39, NRSV)

Devotion

Becoming vulnerable and taking the risk to follow Jesus can be quite frightening. Often fear, especially fear of the unknown, can be an obstacle in pursuing God's call.

For years, Lillian had grown some of the most beautiful flowers in the community. Others urged her to use some of her flowers in the sanctuary for worship. Lillian resisted, fearing her arrangement would not be worthy enough to adorn the worship space. Yet, she kept sensing this intense desire to arrange flowers for the church. Her pastor helped her realize this desire was indeed a calling.

One week, she took a risk and prepared one of the most artistically creative and innovative arrangements ever seen. She faced the obstacle of fear, overcoming it to follow where Christ was leading her.

Whether singing a solo for the first time, taking the initials steps in a liturgical dance, or even playing an incredibly difficult organ prelude when you are not sure you are sufficiently prepared (no matter how much you practiced), these acts of faith are truly signs of a trustworthy disciple of Christ.

Prayer

O Holy Spirit, instill in us the courage to overcome fear when it threatens to hinder us. Spur us to action in faithfully following Jesus Christ. Amen.

Photo: Flowers adorn the walkway around Lake Junaluska during Music & Worship Arts Week 2015.

Journey 2017: Music & Worship Arts Week begins Sunday, June 25, and continues through Friday, June 30. Please keep our event and its leadership, participants, worship, and activities in your prayers this week!

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Healing

WeepingWillow_UMAR

Second Sunday After Pentecost

Week of: June 18, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

... gave them authority ... to cure every disease and every sickness.
(Matthew 10:1b, NRSV)

Devotion

Angels Watching Over UsNumerous studies indicate the importance of the arts in the healing process. One of the most incredible instances of this impact involves a middle-aged female participant in the UMAR Arts Center in Charlotte, NC. UMAR is a United Methodist agency that provides a home and support for adults with disabilities. At the UMAR Arts Center, residents engage in visual arts as a means of self-expression that has had a healing effect upon many participants.

Several years ago, one participant who could not communicate verbally, whom I shall call Mary, was barely able to pick up a brush and paint a line when she started. On one visit, the director enthusiastically showed me Mary's latest painting.

"Can you tell what it is?" she asked excitedly. "Of course," I replied, "I can see mountains, a lake and grass!"

This was the first piece of work that communicated to me some of Mary's thoughts. Healing was taking place! Though some observers of her work may tend to dismiss it as a juvenile attempt at painting, I thought it was the most beautiful painting I had ever seen because God was working through it in a miraculous way.

Prayer

Wondrous God, open our eyes to the miracles taking place around us each day. Amen.

MixedMedia300Top Photo: A painting titled "Weeping Willow," created by a participant in the UMAR Arts Center in Charlotte.

Right Photo: A mixed media piece titled "Angels Watching Over Us," created by a participant in the UMAR Arts Center in Charlotte.

Left Photo: A mixed media piece created by a participant in the UMAR Arts Center in Charlotte.

Special thanks to UMAR for sharing these pieces with us!

 

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I Am With You Always

Trinity_MWAW

Trinity Sunday

Week of: June 11, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20

.... and remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
(Matthew 20:20b, NRSV)

Devotion

From the time I was a small child, I seemed to be rejuvenated each time I engaged in an artistic endeavor. Whether it was singing, painting, creating with clay, acting in a play or even my attempts at dancing with "two left feet," I seemed to feel differently about myself and the world around me. As I grew older, I began to understand that art was a doorway to a deeper connection with my own spirituality and relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus' promise to be with us always became very real during these times. It was as if Jesus was right there with me enabling me to fully immerse myself in the artistic task at hand.

I still feel that blessed presence as I lead worship, sing with the choir, create an installation for worship or even sing an old hymn to someone in hospice who is transitioning to a new life. I truly believe creative expression through the arts is an essential component in fulfilling the Great Commission. And what makes it even more fulfilling is to know that by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is present in and through it all. Thanks be to God!

Prayer

O Great Creator, people come to know you in many different ways. Thank you for creative energy, which allows Jesus Christ to live through all that we do. May we always acknowledge you as the true source of the power and love that is manifest in so many wondrous ways in our work. Amen.

Photo: Children perform during a concert at The Fellowship's Music & Worship Arts Week 2016 at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

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Expressions of Faith

Pentecost_MWAW

Day of Pentecost

Week of: June 4, 2017
Scripture: Acts 2:1-21

... in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power.
(Acts 2:11, NRSV)

Devotion

Imagine the excitement and energy as the wind rushed through the house, tongues of fire rested upon those gathered, and numerous languages filled the room as the Spirit enabled. The variety of languages is a reminder of the diversity of the Body of Christ at work in the world today.

Just as spoken language communicates "God’s deeds of power," a myriad of artistic expressions communicate the Good News in worship. Imagine if there was only one medium used for communication. What a bland and boring world in which we would live!

Remarkably, God gifts us with a wide array of artistic manifestations through which we can impart God’s love and grace. As one created in the image of God, realize you are a co-creator with God in conveying beauty and love through incredible expressions of faith. May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire and empower you to do great things ... all to God’s glory!

Prayer

Holy God, it is humbling to use the artistic abilities with which you have gifted us. May we rely upon your Spirit to guide us in disclosing what you have done for humankind through Jesus Christ, in whom we pray. Amen.

Photo: Dancers prepare for Wednesday morning worship at The Fellowship's Music & Worship Arts Week 2016 at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

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The Master Creator

MasterCreator

Ascension of Our Lord

May 25, 2017
Scripture: Acts 1:1-11

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
(Acts 1:8, NRSV)

Devotion

How often have we charged ahead, forgetting to wait on the Holy Spirit? The creative process is effortless — sometimes. At other times, when nothing seems to go right, God may be saying to us, "Wait ... wait for my Spirit," because God loves creating.

What I've noticed is that God loves creating WITH us. Many times God's Spirit reveals what seem to be puzzle pieces, and I must ask: "Lord, what am I to do with these?" Then the Spirit nudges others who come bearing more of the picture until it is fully completed. It is wonderful what we can do if we welcome the Spirit-wind of God to use us as conduits for sacred artistry!

Jesus ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father, and just as Jesus promised, God sent the Holy Spirit to nudge and guide our worship work. Daily invite God — the master creator — into your creative process, into the very center of what you do!

Prayer

Holy God, thank you for the gift of your Spirit. With our eyes on YOU, guide and lead us, dance and sing over us, inspire us — so that your glory will shine through everything which is offered in Jesus' name. Amen.

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God Glorified

GodGlorified

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Week of: May 28, 2017
Scripture: John 17:1-11

I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.
(John 17:4, NRSV)

Devotion

The text of this passage from John are the words of Jesus' prayer, first and foremost. Yet, when it feels as though what I do is small compared to Jesus, I must remember that what I do, I do for the glory of God. Bringing God’s glory here on earth IS the "work."

In worship, imagine God listening, watching, and participating with God's own children rejoicing in the Spirit's presence. The work of worship brings God honor and glory. When God is put front and center in the design process and as the focus of our worship, then the singing, dancing, prayers, designing, preaching, ringing, strumming, and drumming all become instruments of glory to God — every time!

What we do matters, because worship is context for the sacred work which God has given us to do. What artists and congregation together create, prompted by the Spirit, blesses God's heart and moves others to join more deeply in the holy work of worship and discipleship beyond the walls of the church.

Jesus' words in John 17:4 are self-assured! I pray that God is glorified in what we offer in worship each Lord's Day, each season, worldwide!

Prayer

Creator God, may all that we do, through our gratitude and love for you, bring you glory here on earth. Thank you for our work here in this place and time — uniting people through the arts that are a small part of your wonderful design. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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Praise Out Loud

Sound

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Week of: May 21, 2017
Scripture: Psalm 66:8-20

Praise our God ... let the sound of His praise be heard.
(Psalm 66:8, NIV)

Devotion

A long time ago, I learned that the power of the Holy Spirit is ushered in on the wings of praise. It seems the stronger our praise, the better God’s Spirit rejoices in it.

This concept of out-loud praise may not be second nature to some of us. However, we might have reason to pray out loud in rehearsals, family meal times, during worship guided by a worship leader, as we awaken to a new day, or when touched by the beauty of creation. Sounding praise aloud is a goal worthy of practice!

I have seen great and mighty things happen when persons are moved to praise God out loud. Beginning every prayer aloud with “thank you” has become my regular personal practice. When remembering and expressing God’s goodness by the prayers we write, words and music we compose, images arranged or drawn, worship artists provide the whole assembly opportunities to express before God praise and thanksgiving, sorrow, or gladness with voice and body.

The practice of out-loud thanksgiving and praise will resonate outwardly into our daily living and our service in the world.

Prayer

Thank you, gracious God, for your great love, for your beautiful world, and for this day. Walk with me, beside me, in front and behind. Let your words and your thoughts resonate through me today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Greater Things?

GreaterThings

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Week of: May 14, 2017
Scripture: John 14:1-14

I am telling you the truth: whoever believes in me will do what I do — yes, will do even greater things ...
(John 14:12, GNB)

Devotion

I have often been personally challenged by these words of Jesus. Sometimes, I rationalize that Jesus was talking to his "chosen 12"; surely this does not mean that I could do greater things than him!

Jesus was so inspirational, wise, all knowing. He healed people — even raised them from the dead! He forgave people of their sins! And, I should do MORE than this?

Recently I went to the Art Institute of Chicago to enjoy a presentation made by a fellow parishioner and perused the exhibits afterwards. I was reminded that much of “art” speaks a truth, a social injustice, and emotions that otherwise might not be brought to our attention.

As a fine art minister, we create, or select and use, what speaks artfully and beautifully of Christian theology — a theology which calls people to social justice, to the need for kindness, compassion, understanding or simply a closer relationship to God. If many are called to this and other elements of ministry, then collectively we can accomplish more than Jesus did in his few short years of ministry.

I am a small part of something much greater than myself. Perhaps therein lies Jesus’ point.

Prayer

Holy Lord, thank you for life and an opportunity to serve you, to serve others, and be part of a voice that continues in your name. Amen.

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God's Artistic Design

ArtisticDesign

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Week of: May 7, 2017
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:19-25

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness ... now you have returned to the Shepherd, the Overseer of your souls.
(1 Peter 2:23b-25, NIV)

Devotion

Think back to the beginning of our story. Adam, creatively made in the image of God, made a terrible decision that cost him and us everything. The Garden of Eden was a work of art in worship and included direct fellowship with God, a body designed to live forever, all the food required, no disease or sickness. Adam sinned and we inherited the consequences.

But God didn’t give up. God’s next artistic design was sending Jesus, God’s Son, as atonement for the wages of sin. Now we can begin again without Adam hanging over our heads.

Jesus paid the price, and we are set free to make faithful decisions, beauty-filled decisions – as Christ would have us do. God’s ever-creating gift of grace enfolds artists and worship leaders in those occasions when our creative endeavors are misunderstood or challenged or, perhaps, taken for granted.

Prayer

Author of Creation, overseer of our souls, we entrust our lives to you - the one who judges justly and loves us so much. You sent your Son to accomplish what we could not. Thank you for giving us life and opportunities to create and to make visible and audible the good news of Jesus. Enable us, in our ministries, to persevere in the face of apathy or adversity, remaining steadfast as Jesus did. Amen.

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Seven Miles

Seven Miles

Third Sunday of Easter

Week of: April 30, 2017
Scripture: Luke 24:13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem ...
(Luke 24:13, NRSV)

Devotion

A lot can happen in seven miles. To a marathon runner, traveling seven miles is a piece of cake. For those of us slightly more asthmatic, seven miles is a very long distance. However, when walking at a conversational pace, seven miles offers time for relationship to begin.

When the disciples encounter Jesus, they don’t recognize him immediately. For them to see who he is, it takes more interaction - a journey, a conversation and a meal. We worship artists and theologians who work within the fourfold pattern of worship are grateful for this story because it provides the basis for the Service of Word and Table. We gather to begin a journey, we walk and talk, we eat, and we leave to tell "what had happened on the road" (Luke 24:35, NRSV).

Where are you leading your congregation in worship? Are you accompanying them on the journey, talking and breaking bread along the way?

Prayer

God, you meet us on the road as we encounter the risen Christ in this Easter season and throughout the year. May we always feel the presence of your Spirit in the journey, the conversation, the breaking of bread, and the eyes of our neighbors as we share the Good News. Amen.

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Peace Be With You

Peace Be With You

Second Sunday of Easter

Week of: April 23, 2017
Scripture: John 20:19-31

"Peace be with you." … Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you."
(John 20:19, 21, NRSV)

Devotion

Greetings were a high priority to Jesus, and I imagine he carefully considered the greeting he offered the disciples after his resurrection. When I prepare to visit someone I haven’t seen in a long time or who is not expecting me, I often find myself practicing and carefully selecting something to say that has the most impact: "Wow, I haven’t seen you in years. You look great!" or "What a wonderful surprise!"

Jesus chose the greeting that would give his disciples assurance when he offered them peace—not once, but twice! If Jesus greeted me that same way, I imagine I would reflexively say, "and also with you." But, I admit, I might just stand in shock had I just seen him put to death before my eyes.

When Jesus offers us that same assurance — "Peace be with you" — it is because death does not have the last word and the resurrection is still at work today. When you sing, when you dance, when you play, or when you create, how do you express peace to others? Does your creative role offer peace? How do you embody peace?

Prayer

Holy One, you have the power to bring about peace from conflict, courage from fear, and life from death. Remind us that death does not have the last word, and life rises from the depths when all hope seems lost. Amen.

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The First Day of the Week

The First Day of the Week

Easter Sunday

Week of: April 16, 2017
Scripture: John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed ...
(John 20:1, NRSV)

Devotion

Jesus is alive! We are joined and bound together in new life, and we have become the body of Christ. This is the Good News and the witness that connects us with Mary Magdalene and the rest of Jesus’ disciples. Resurrection is a daily occurrence, but do we see it?

As worship artists, our lives are often defined by the work we do on others’ Sabbaths. Because this holy work is a big part of who we are, we invest so much of ourselves in it that many of us do not experience Sabbath on Sunday or any other day of the week.

Part of discipleship is investing in our relationship with God. Otherwise, we won’t have the lens with which to see resurrection around us. Have we observed enough Sabbath ourselves to become witnesses of God’s grace? Don’t miss the presence of the risen Christ in between Sundays!

Prayer

Living God, you created enough time and space that we all might have a share in it. By your Holy Spirit, remind us to claim rest for ourselves, especially in busy and holy seasons, that we might witness the risen Christ in our midst. Amen.

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