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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Speaking Stones

Speaking Stones

Palm/Passion Sunday

Week of: April 9, 2017
Scripture: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
(Psalm 118:22, NRSV)

Devotion

South Korea is a mountainous peninsula; its rocks date to the Precambrian era. Visiting the studio of a famous sculptor, Chang Gon Kim, was like looking into the heart of these mountains. Gigantic pieces of marble and granite dwarfed the massive cranes and bulldozers, making the machines look like toys. Located near the DMZ, the ground of the studio was salted with discarded pieces of stone that glittered when the sun touched their surface. How did the artist know what to keep and what to cast away?

His answer was simple, as translated: “He listens.” How do we prepare for the One who comes in the name of the Lord? Listen. Listen through the deep silence of prayer. Shelter in the shadow of the Rock in the Wilderness. We must learn to listen or our songs of praise will be easily twisted into chants of hate. 

Out of the many forms in this stony place was one that I could clearly recognize. Measuring over 15 feet high, two gray granite figures were outlined against the fading light on the horizon. One standing. One kneeling. No faces with human expressions were evident yet, but they were holding on to each other for dear life. I could see that. I could hear that. The stones were speaking. In Korean or English, it was the same. “Prodigal, welcome home.”

Palm Sunday is when God sends the Holy One into a far country, be that a nation’s capital or a pig farm, to find “we who have gone astray” and bring us home.

Prayerfully consider ...

Engaging your worship artists in experiencing worship through stone.

Consider giving a small stone or pebble to all of your choir members, dancers, ringers, and other worship artists during Holy Week. Invite them to carry the stone with them and to hold it at least once a day to remember that as they prepare for Holy Week and Easter worship services they are called and gifted by the one who is the Chief Cornerstone.

Prayer

Holy One, Rock of Ages, teach our stony hearts to sing Hosanna! Amen.

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Play With Blood

Play With Blood

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Week of: April 2, 2017
Scripture: Romans 8:6-11

But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
(Romans 8:10, NRSV)

Devotion

In the series “Mozart in the Jungle,” Rodrigo, the conductor of the New York Symphony, implores his musicians “to play with blood.” His metaphor translates to “play with passion” but when he was young, he would practice his violin till his fingers blistered and then he’d practice, practice, practice, till the music was played with blood.

There are powerful gospel songs about being “washed in the blood of the Lamb.” Those songs give us insight into Paul’s meditation on the relation of flesh and Spirit. The Spirit does not hate what God created. We are Spirit-embodied flesh and flesh-shaped spirit. However, the flesh is “in the beginning” difficult to shape; it’s hard to do what we hope to do. We are not angels whose thoughts are instantly transmuted into flawless action. Any artist, any preacher, has experienced the difference between intention and performance.

But we can, with grace, learn to play with blood. When we pick up our violin, brushes or pens for the first time and try to play a C or draw an eye, or write a verse, we experience the resistance of the flesh. We slide our fingers to find the right note, we mark and then erase and then try a new line, shade or word. We may doubt that we will ever accomplish what we’re called to do. But in light of Christ’s resurrection we can practice, practice, practice. It takes time and trouble, sweat and certainly blood to materialize our life in Christ.

Prayerfully consider ...

Engaging your worship artists in experiencing worship through the affirmation of the work of practice.

As your various arts groups move into the last weeks of Lent, help them reflect on these many weeks of practice. How has their practice transformed their faith? Engage them in a conversation about what phrase, movement, or art form has helped them understand more about the life-giving love of Jesus.

Prayer

O God, may we continue to bear our flesh until it is filled with Spirit. Amen.

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Antidote to Blindness

Antidote to Blindness

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 26, 2017
Scripture: John 9:1-41

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?"
(John 9:40, NRSV)

Devotion

Watching me repeatedly stop to take photographs while hiking through a national park, a friend remarked, “I want to see your pictures. I want to see what you’re seeing.”

Taking photographs helps me see better. The camera lens narrows my focus and helps me see details of the world around me – the shadow of a leaf on a boulder; the crab spider at the center of a flower; the moon seemingly cradled in the bare branches of a tree.

It’s easy to rush through the woods – or life – blind to what, or who, is around you. The Pharisees in John’s Gospel were blind to the miracle of a blind man’s healing and the good news it proclaimed. They couldn’t see the details in front of them.

It’s easy to dismiss folks, such as the uniformly garbed women I visit at a New Jersey prison, as “sinners.” The key is to slow down, look closely and see who is really there. Some inmates committed awful deeds, but they are also women of unique talents and stories: mothers, poets, singers, scholars, immigrants. Viewing photographs can help us pause to share those stories and connect with the Divine held in the images and each other.

The incarnate Jesus sees us – all sinners, all God’s children – in the unique details of our lives, calling us to see and embrace one another as individuals as well.

Prayerfully consider ...

Engaging your worship artists in experiencing worship through photographs.

Ask your choirs, dancers, ringers, and other worship artists to take a photo whenever they experience or “see” Jesus during the week and to send them to you. Post a montage of the pictures in your rehearsal spaces and gather around the montage as you pray together. Perhaps some will be willing to share the story of the photo as a part of your closing devotion. Consider continuing this practice through Holy Week.

Prayer

God among us, open our eyes to see your wonders in the world around us and your face in everyone we encounter. Amen.

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A Hunger for the Holy

A Hunger for the Holy

Third Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 19, 2017
Scripture: John 4:5-42

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work."
(John 4:34, NRSV)

Devotion

Did you ever stop to think, when you felt pangs of hunger or thirst, “What is it that I am actually craving?” Sometimes it is simply for things that will nourish our bodies, such as water, or a cheese sandwich. Other times what we crave is much deeper than that.

Jesus was thirsty. Jesus was refreshed by his experience with the Samaritan woman. The unnamed woman from Samaria was hungry. She was both nourished and transformed by their conversation. Jesus, living into his call, shared with the woman about “living water.” The woman was willing to engage the experience with the Messiah and had her hunger forever transformed.

Each time we engage in the creative process with our Creator we are preparing a feast. When we create, we remember that our artistic gifts are from God and they help fulfill the will of God on earth. When we offer our art, we feed others as we are fed. We transform and present opportunities for others to be transformed as well. May each of us be nourished by our Creator’s living water and able to spread the Gospel to others through the experience of it.

Prayerfully consider ...

Engaging your worship artists in experiencing worship as a feast.

Consider how you can use the image of a feast as you lead your rehearsals this week. Engage your artists in reflecting how they are fed as they feed others through their art.

Prayer

God, you give us the gift of creativity to help satisfy our deepest hunger and thirst. Help us to do your will as we offer our gifts to this creation. Amen.

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Showing Glory

Showing Glory

Second Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 12, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 17:1-9

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.
(Matthew 17:2, NRSV)

Devotion

The intake person for the temp agency was visibly upset as she told me the news. After having passed all their required tests, the company I interviewed for had overestimated their need for more workers, so the offer of employment was withdrawn. She stared at me, then asked if I was OK. I said yes, wondering about her question.

What I couldn’t see was what she was seeing; there was light shining through my eyes. It was not what she expected to see. What she didn’t know was that I had been praying. Her news was all right with me because I was trusting God to provide.

When Jesus revealed his true nature, his disciples saw who he really was. As believers, we must let the glory of God shine through us for others to see. God daily transforms us by his glory. 

As those who follow Jesus we pray: “Oh, that You would show us your glory! Oh, that You would envelop us that we would see differently with our eyes, and know differently with our hearts!”

May we who lead worship, dance, and pray, and preach and sing: with swaying bodies in motion, with up lifted hands and uplifted voices resoundingly declare:

“I need your glory. I want your glory.
Less of me and more of you, it’s what I need.
I realize I need you more and more each day.” *

Prayerfully consider ...

Engaging your worship artists in experiencing worship through movement.

Consider adding hand movements to a refrain or prayer as a part of your rehearsals and worship. How can our bodies reflect the need for Christ?

Prayer

Oh, God of Heaven and Earth, may the touch of your Son on our lives transfigure us to be transformative agents of your love. Amen.

* "I Need Your Glory," Words and Music: James Fortune. © 2011 Black Smoke Publishing (BMI) and Pughspen Music Publishing. 

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Not By Bread Alone

Not By Bread Alone

First Sunday in Lent

Week of: March 5, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

But he answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 
(Matthew 4:4, NRSV)

Devotion

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about a transgression I had committed in my youth. Her response was, "Sounds like you had a human moment." Yes, yes, it was a human moment. I crossed a boundary because I wanted something for myself. I was feeling the temptation in its presentation and took the bait.

In this scripture, Christ reminds us that we are all tempted. We have human moments; we are not infallible, impervious to the human needs which often present themselves in our daily journey.  We experience Christ’s empathetic gift of resisting that which does not provide true sustenance. In moments of weakness, strength comes from our desire to remain true to God’s word over and above that which takes attention away from the Creator’s purpose for life.

So when we next encounter a distracting "human moment," let us use Christ as our guide to rise above the din of earthbound, temporary happiness. We do not live by bread alone. We live in the knowledge that God is permanence and offers the promise of eternal life.

Prayerfully consider ...

How to engage your worship artists in experiencing worship through bread.

Filling a sanctuary with the smell of freshly baked bread for this Sunday will communicate the human temptation of hunger that can become Holy Communion with the Bread of life. Distraction becomes inspiration when Christ invites us to the table and helps us rise. 

Prayer

Everlasting God, help us to remember Christ’s strength in the face of temptation.  Let it be the inspiration when we struggle in our daily walk amongst distractions.  Amen.

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A Clean Heart

A Clean Heart

Ash Wednesday

March 1, 2017
Scripture: Psalm 51:1-17

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
(Psalm 51:10, NRSV)

Devotion

I hear my mother’s hope in the words of this psalm. Hope that I would become a better person; hope that I would use kind words, have compassion and clean up my act. I do not think that she was hoping to get me to change my language, or my thoughts, as much as she was trying to create a clean heart within me that would result in changed behavior. I have discovered that only God can truly do that. 

Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our own rebellion, our speaking against God when we use harsh words against another person, group or even ourselves. Ash Wednesday reminds us that  our actions or inactions adversely affect others and the world around us.  As the season of Lent begins we are reminded of our sinful nature and our need to ask God for forgiveness and to create a clean heart within us. When we repent, our hearts are cleansed and the true joy of our salvation is realized. .

Prayerfully consider ...

How to engage your worship artists and congregation in experiencing worship through ashes.

The Ash Wednesday burning of dried palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday connects a congregation in time as well as space. The cleansing fire of Love reduces human sin to dust and ashes. We are marked by our mortality by this cross of dirty ash, and paradoxically our hearts are cleansed and joy is realized.  

Prayer

Forgiving God, may our rebellion cease, our hearts be cleansed and our joy through Jesus Christ be full.  Amen.

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