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.
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend