And It Begins... with a new-to-us Recreational Vehicle, aka the "We-Haul." The lifetime journey we have shared leads us closer to a new season of relaxation. And it is exciting! Lots of video research led to the purchase. Lots more actual trial and error lies ahead. A shakedown overnight near home should yield some important information. Here we go!
Youth Mission UMArmy San Antonio 2023
Pop goes on a mission trip! At camp I asked to be called POP. Sure sounded good this last evening to hear many student mission campers walk up and say “Hey, Pop!” I am so very tired and sore, but all in a good way. I tagged along with our youth ministry summer mission trip as an adult work team leader on a ramp project. The 10 youth on our team came together in a fantastic fashion to implement a ramp plan, measure and cut wood, place and screw joists, posts, deck boards, and handrail. And they did this construction activity in 105 degree temperatures for four (4) days. Rebecca Oates teamed up with me as co-leaders on the Purple “C” team working for the Luna family. It was such a pleasure to be a part of this mission trip.
I certainly had more time to meet youth from five different churches and learn more about their lives. We worshipped morning and evening at the Alamo Heights UMC Sanctuary, our host church for the camp. We shared student-led daily devotional time on site as we ate our bag lunches.
We built a ramp for family use and wheel chair access to their home. See the photo.
Not only did we construct something visible and tangible on this mission service trip, we had opportunity daily to visit with Rosa, the matriarch of the home. On this day she called us to her new porch deck and told us about her adult grandson who is fighting for health recovery in a local hospital. Each youth and adult gave Rosa a big hug. One of our youth offered prayer. Not a dry eye. And thanks to Rebecca’s attention and compassionate in this situation. She modeled so well how to pause a planned activity and enjoin the Holy Spirit.
I’m sure our Manchaca team will be posting many photos to our Manchaca UMC Facebook group page. For me, I post this photo taken on our team project completion day July 20, 2023. Two of our clients from the Luna family are standing with us.
Another bridge moment for this older pastor who while sore and tired feels young and refreshed in the Spirit.
Along the Way
Hey Dad, "tell me a story." Some kids had to say that to their fathers while growing up. Not me. My Dad told me stories whether I wanted to hear them or not. For my whole childhood I heard his stories, mostly about growing up on the farm and helping his father while delaying his college and seminary experience. Lots of farm stories. You might say Dad was a harvest hand. For sure, he was and still is a story-teller.
Eugene Peterson's bible paraphrase The Message uses that term, "harvest hand" in a translation of one of my favorite scripture stories found in the gospel of Matthew. It's the story of when Jesus called the Twelve Disciples and sent them to do what Jesus did: heal, teach, preach, care, and to tell a story.
"When he (Jesus) looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. "What a huge harvest!" he said to his disciples. "How few workers! On your knees and pray for the harvest hands!" The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives." - Matthew 9:36-10:1
On this father's day week and weekend, I pause to give tribute to my earthly father. He is my Dad and I love him. Since my mother's passing, Dad has lived in my home with me and Laura. He moved from Hunt to Buda with us. He goes to church with us. He listens to my sermons. It is fun having him with us. Dad will be 98 years old in early July. We hope to celebrate that with him. And in that celebration, we will style the party with a harvest hand brand. And we will invite his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to tell their stories about him.
This morning Dad and I had time together outside on the back stoop-porch of the house we rent. As we sat and told stories, we felt the summer southerly breeze, we smelled the blooming crepe myrtles, we heard the white-winged doves cooing in the distance, we watched BotheDog come and go from our site to other parts of the yard, and we smiled at each other. I asked Dad to help me remember the cicadas and the sounds of summer at various parsonage homes we shared in south Texas. Dad thought for a moment and then told me of a time when he and his sister JoAnne caught cicadas by the family farm house. They tied string around the insects and then ran as fast as they could run around the house as the cicadas made their loud sounds. Torture? Kids being kids. Farm life. Harvest hands.
Back to Jesus and his twelve disciples. I learned much of my faith from my Dad. He was the primary point of instruction of the gospel. His care and compassion as a pastor was my primary source of understanding of what this call to ministry meant - to see with compassion the hurting ones and to be ready to go and care tenderly.
Certainly, there were times when I felt Dad was not sharing compassion with me. But those times were few and far between. In large measure, I am the beneficiary of a lifetime ministry in which my father heard the invitation and followed Jesus into the harvest field.
For this tribute and for this Sunday, I will preach from the words of Jesus and in the influence of my father, the Rev Boyd Harris. Happy Father's Day to you Dad. You Harvest Hand!
Along the Way
For more information, read Matthew 9:35-10:23.
This is Memorial Day weekend in the USA. While we remember armed forces personnel fallen in the line of duty to this country, many families also gather this weekend to celebrate ancestors and heritage. In Laura's family, there is a place that holds special significance in the history of Texas and its settlement. A very rural community in Milam County is marked by a Methodist Church and a cemetery. It is called Friendship.
On the first Saturday in June, descendants of early settlers to this area gather to remember their family members and have a memorial church service. A large pot-luck meal follows the worship service in the attached Fellowship Hall. From the porch of the hall, you can see the cemetery.
The cemetery is where the stories are told. On my first trip to Friendship over 40 years ago, my mother-n-law Loyce McCarson Ogle walked me through the cemetery with a printed guide and her childhood memories. Cousins, uncles and aunts, a brother shot down in the Korean conflict, her mother's lineage (which is important) in this cemetery containing now as many as ten (10) generations from those original settlers. Each family has its own unique stories. The one common denominator - a group of people who called themselves Methodist and a persevering faith in God and love for their neighbors.
Laura and I hope to make the drive to walk the grounds this Memorial. We won't be able to join the family reunion but we will make our pilgrimage to an important place of our history.
Along the Way
After posting this photo of the first page of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's 'Messiah' on my social media platform, the best response received so far is "That's a bunch of Hallelujahs!"
The Sanctuary Choir at Manchaca UMC will sing this chorus on Easter Sunday as will many choirs across the mainline protestant church community. I wonder how many languages it will be shared in this Easter and in how many locations. Rendered in English as Praise the Lord, this term hallelujah originates from the Hebrew and is found in psalms that we still read today. Early Christians used the term to shout out or express with great joy their love for the risen Christ. So to say "That's a bunch of hallelujahs" is not far from the true meaning.
Singing this kind of praise hymn requires some practice. And living this kind of joy requires a great blessing - GRACE. On Easter Sunday this year, I will do my very best to sing the bass part of this great piece of music with a fantastic group of singers. I will do it with great joy! And I will be able to do so because of the great love of God made known in Jesus of Nazareth. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!
Come and join us in worship during Holy Week at Manchaca UMC. The sounds of Lots of hallelujahs will be waiting for you. The grace of God is yours already.
Along the Way
It seems that while all the trees in our area are doing their thing, as in full pollen onslaught, thoughts of spring and new plant growth come to mind. In this season of Lent, we are invited to not only work into our faith through disciplined practices, we also make room for new growth in our spiritual lives. That new growth comes in the grace of God in our relationship with the risen Christ. That new growth also requires our involvement in the pruning, cultivating, or planting process.
Several springs ago when the pandemic began and we were all asked to stay home and keep "safe" distance from others, my household took on a backyard raised bed garden. I planted squash among other things. It grew and produced with abundance in that space and in that time. We had squash in every dinner meal for months! That vegetable garden and our back porch provided a place for conversation, hard work, and visible produce. We loved it.
So I wonder now what we are about in the planting stages of our faith as disciples of Jesus? In a recent conversation, I was reminded of the importance of gardeners - both those that produce food and those who cultivate faith. Thanks and blessings go to both. I would like to say more about those who tend to the gardens of faith.
I wonder who it is that is being called to teach and coach and mentor our younger disciples and families in this faith community. Particularly the mentoring. Teaching someone about gardening is one thing, but teaching someone while gardening with them is another thing. So it is with our faith in Christ. Many have been called to preach and teach about Jesus. But fewer are those that I can count in my life that actually taught me to know Christ while working with me, being with me, listening to me, loving me.
It well may be that one thing we can do in our church community is to spend more time together in the gardens of life. Building relationships was so important during the pandemic while we clustered with our families and small groups. Building relationships is also important now as we begin to vision new leaders, new paths, and new harvests for our churches.
Let me invite you to consider your mentoring gifts this season of Lent. Let me encourage you to invite another into your faith space to share your experience. Let me suggest that planting may be the most important work we are called to in these days. More soon on the harvest and those who are called to work as servants for Christ.
Along the Way
A gentle reminder is always welcome. At least that's what I tell myself. A colleague who lives near the church from which I serve recently pointed out that she often uses the spiritual labyrinth located on this church campus. I wondered aloud when the last time I had been in that space. It is the season of Lent and I invite you as I remind myself, this labyrinth is a wonderful space for contemplation and prayer.
The tree that fell across part of the labyrinth after the early February ice-storm has been cut and placed in pieces adjacent to the labyrinth. After this gentle reminder to utilize this space more often, I began to wonder if we should use some of that firewood to host an Easter Saturday evening vigil - "Ashes to Fire." That made me look in one of my liturgical resources for a service of worship to be offered. I wonder if you would join me? I wonder what we could do together to make a prayer walk meaningful for you and your family?
Saturday April 8th at 6:30 pm:
In a time of prayer, persons of the community are invited to wait together around the labyrinth at Manchaca United Methodist Church. This space can be used to walk the labyrinth, pray in silence, and wonder together around a small vigil fire.
At the intersection of Menchaca Road and FM 1626, you will find the church campus of Manchaca UMC. This intersection has been "Under Construction" since I moved here in June 2022. It is now February 2023. There has been progress made toward a wider road with better lighting and traffic control. Slow progress according to most opinions. Many in this church wonder if it will ever be completed.
When I inquire of our plans for the time after the construction ends, most answers are vague. It has taken so long, we have forgotten the previous plan. A Pandemic and a c contractor who had a hard time finding crews. Long delays have caused apathy: out there and in here too. I look at this intersection in the middle of my day with a cup of hot tea and the protection of an inside office. There are so many people driving through this intersection. I wonder where they all came from and where it is that they are going. I guess they could ask the same of us in the church.
When I get in these wondering moods, the best thing to do is walk next door to the neighboring restaurant. Many times over the last 8 months, I have encountered the road construction crews on their lunch hour. I quietly eavesdrop to hear the stories of working men and women as they quickly consume some food before returning to their work - out there on the road.
This intersection seems to have something to say today to us in this church. At least I think it is speaking to me. Oh I know what it is... It is Lent, at the intersection of Christ's love for all people and the call to be the church - out there on the road. During the season of Lent this year, we are utilizing the Adam Hamilton book entitled "Jesus and the Outsiders, Outcasts, and Outlaws." It uses the gospel of Luke as the basis for a small group study and series of preaching and teaching about disciples - out there on the road.
I invite you inside with us on Sundays at Manchaca UMC as we seek to be those disciples who are called out there into the world for the remaining days of the week. Come along with us as we read sections of the gospel of Luke each day beginning on February 22 and concluding on April 9. Prepare your hearts and minds for the intersections of life. Study with us. Rejoin your small group. Let us help you re-connect with others who want to learn together.
On the road and at the intersection,
Along the Way
What joy we experienced this month! Laura and I and many of our family traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia for the wedding of Rebecca Rainbow and Benjamin Harris. I was honored to officiate my son’s wedding! Pictured here at the rehearsal, I stand with two wonderful young souls who are so very dear to me.
As I mentioned to those gathered to witness this ceremony and all of the wedding party, Rebecca and Ben now count on “us” more than ever for continued encouragement and prayer. The wedding ceremony brings together two souls and so many more who fly standby in this marriage as saints, family, friends, listeners, walk along siders, and confidants. “We” are committed to them. In terms of commitment, I now have a daughter-n-love to care for as I do my son. His mother and I could not be more pleased with their marriage. I have to tell you now, the Austin to Richmond airways will see much more of our business. We hope to return in the autumn to check in with Ben and Rebecca and help with the grape harvest. Rebecca is a winemaker at a boutique winery near Monticello. Who knows, that trip might be my spiritual formation and Continuing Education for the year. Commitment to this couple shall be a lifelong endeavor.
Commitment seems to be the common thread here expressed in the joy I feel as a proud father and pastor. The energy enlivens my commitment to Christ and to the Church. I remember my baptism and give thanks. Adelante! Forward!
In service for Christ,
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year! In this last week of the 2022 calendar year, we are celebrating the 12 days of Christmas at the Harris house. Each day is a mini-celebration! It's also my birthday week, so you can see how easy it is for me to claim the whole week as a celebration. This Sunday, JANUARY 1st, we will have ONE WORSHIP SERVICE AT 10 AM. We will gather in the Sanctuary and share the story of the Magi and their search for the baby King.
(Read Matthew 2:1-12.) Come and join in worship with us!
In the story from Matthew, we read about the Magi who are nameless. Only later and from other christian traditions do their names appear: Balthazar, Casper, and Melchior. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It is not clear exactly when they showed up in Bethlehem. Matthew implies sometime after the birth of Jesus and sometime before Herod ordered all male children under age two to be killed. One thing is clear, God's light in Christ was a guide for them in their journey. And the direction of their travel was keenly directed by the light of a special star.
For me the message of the Wise Men has many nuances, none so inviting as the invitation to a direction for commitment. They had to make a large investment in their journey. Time, energy, resources. We hear about their gifts, but what about their entourage? After all they were nobility. Would they have been just three men traveling on camels? I don't think so. I bet there were baggage handlers, animal caretakers, tent crews, waterboys, star chart assistants, and a security detail. I believe they and their trail partners were fully committed to finding what they saw in their mystic revelation as something new. They were seekers of something new to be found in an unknown baby king. They came from the nations surrounding Judah. Part of the story is that they probably came from Babylon, Persia, and maybe even India. From the east they traveled following a star making a very long journey in search of Christ. They were committed. They were directed.
After the twelve days of Christmas, we celebrate Epiphany on January 6th. A manifestation of a divine being (Christ) to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. Epiphanies are triggered by a new piece of information causing a new understanding of some previous knowledge. If you make the leap with me here, let's go to Isaiah 60:1-6 and read about the prophet's vision of the restoration of Israel. "Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." "A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord." A vision of redemption is the prophet's hope. And we Christians claim that redemption in Jesus Christ, the Light of God.
Direction and Commitment are words I will use in my faith journey into a new year. I hope you find a sudden and striking manifestation, an epiphany of God's love and grace this new year. The direction we seek is provided. The commitment we make is up to each of us Along the Way.
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend