I find myself wandering this week in and among the sacred spaces of a new appointment in the United Methodist itinerancy. Being one of your pastors is a great joy! Being your new senior pastor is an honor. In six short weeks this summer, you have learned more about me and my family as we listen carefully to your family story when we meet more and more of you on a personal level. Praying with some of you at the altar rail this past week was truly a gift to me.
As we continue to get to know each other, maybe it would help us all if I share what I mean about the sacred spaces of a new appointment. It is much like walking or sauntering through a labyrinth. The photos included show a 6 stage pattern that is very common and is the design of our labyrinth on the Manchaca UMC campus. As a person enters, there is a straightaway of welcome that appears to lead directly to the center and the cross and seating stations. Eureka! If it was only that easy to get to know all of you and the mission of this church! But wait, before too long in the labyrinth, there is a diversion and the pathway veers left and away from the center to make its way around the edges of the labyrinth. The center is in plain sight, but the pathway suggests the journey will take some time to get there.
The center - the spiritual center for a seeker, the mission for a disciple, the calling and longing of all believers to be closer with God and in sync with God's spirit is always visible. And yet the path does not lead directly to that place, to that sacred space. Much traveling and physical work is required to reach the center. One thing I have learned Along the Way is that "the center" and its being in sight is enough for most days. When Christian vocation leads to many different places, conversations, dreams, ideas, failures, and successes, the pathway becomes an important revelation of the journey.
The good news is that while we travel together toward the center which is Christ, I get to meet you at the bends and the curves of the labyrinth which is daily life. Some of you will call me seeking vision for a ministry or an idea for a small group. Some of you will reach out to me in the office of pastor for crisis care. Some will come alongside in small group or cottage meeting conversations Some of you will simply stop, pause, smile, wave, and continue your daily activities. In all of those sacred spaces and situations, I hope that we will allow the Spirit of God to be our friend and guide.
We hope that you will join us this Sunday for in-person worship at 9:00 am or 11:15 am at Manchaca UMC. For those tuning in on www.facebook.com/ManchacaUMC, please let us know how we can join you in prayer.
In all of the Sacred Spaces, Jesus Christ is Lord!
Thanks be to God!
Along the Way
Be Strong in the LordRead Now
Vacation Bible School week has used this teaching scripture verse in the Knights of North Castle theme:
“… be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” - Ephesians 6:10
I was VBS age in the 60’s. I honestly can’t remember the themes or scriptures used to teach me and my elementary-aged friends. What I do remember is the teachers. I can name several by name and I regularly do state their names in prayers of thanksgiving. Being strong in the Lord was something I learned from each of them. When I observed their way of being in the world, the way they carried themselves, the words I heard come out of their mouths, that is what taught me to be strong in the Lord.
Discipleship in the way of Jesus is often described in how or what we do in the community of faith. We meet one another and describe our functionality in the Body of Christ as an identifier as to who we are and why we are here. That helps a new pastor hear about the flock of a new congregation. And these days as a new pastor here at Manchaca UMC, the functional descriptors help me remember faces and names.
But what I long for is knowing people by who they are in their time with Christ simply being who they are created to be.
Sunday is coming! And this week we will examine the text from Luke’s gospel (10:38-42) which describes an encounter with Jesus and two sisters. Mary and Martha. Unlike the parallel scripture in John’s gospel where Jesus meets Mary and Martha in Bethany at the raising of their brother Lazarus, this text from Luke has five verses to describe the encounter. Somewhere Along the Way in the travel narrative of Luke, Jesus has time to make a Home Visit.
What is described often leads us to speak of comparisons between Christin service (our functional roles like Martha’s obsessive need to demonstrate hospitality) and Christian faith. In different words, we contrast doing and being. Martha was distracted in her doing while Mary was engaged in holy listening at the feet of her rabbi and Lord.
There seems to be strength in the Lord in both of these positions, in both of these sisters. Could it be that one way of being or doing is better than the other?
Come along with us Sunday July 17 and let us talk about Jesus and being strong. Our lives are made better in the learning. See you Sunday!
Along the Way
Coming Alongside in Faith, Hope, and Love
I pray that the faith, hope, and love that this congregation already exhibits continues to grow and flourish in the days and years to come. In between unpacking boxes, finding our way around the area, discovering new friends, and remembering those we have known before, the Harris family is eagerly praying that we may serve in such a way as to build up the Body of Christ at Manchaca UMC in fruitful ministry. Week three is underway and Sunday is coming!
To illustrate in our family what it means to build up the body of Christ, I am including a photo of my brother David with his grandchildren at GrandCamp. My brother is one of the most patient people I know. As a parent and now as a grand-parent, he is invested in the growth of his family in ways that lead to a pathway of peace. He teaches calmly. He corrects with compassion. He listens... wow, can he sit and listen. I admire him and his love of family.
Laura and I get to go to GrandCamp every summer with my brother and his wife Kathy. This year will be the first time back together since 2019. As family chaperones, we help love, care, coach, cook, fish, hike, and tell stories. This year we will take along a new telescope and provide some stargazing after the nightly campfire. As the young ones look at the stars, they then get to participate in the nightly Star Chart. Each child gets to affirm and confirm acts of kindness and encouragement experienced during the day. Stars are awarded and a chart is kept. And prizes are involved; incentives for being the children that this family wants to help shape as they grow into responsible adults with good habits and sound decision making skills.
From our family to the church family: we want to be with you in such a way that all of us together are encouraged in faith through the teaching of Jesus and the sharing of the scriptures, emboldened in hope as the Spirit of God leads us to new days and new opportunities, and encompassed in the love of Christ in all the time we share together.
The Apostle Paul came alongside many church families. He started many of them and then wrote letters to the churches as a teacher and coach. This week we will read from Colossians 1:1-14 and hear Paul's greeting and blessing to the church at Colossae. I will attempt to speak about what it means for a church community to receive and share blessings, the kind that lead to growth and fruitfulness. I may even share a time when a blessing changed my ministry horizon.
So, join us in worship this Sunday July 10th as we bless the volunteers who will launch into the work of teaching and caring for children at our Vacation Bible School (begins July 11th). And then you all are invited to pray for and with the VBS team, its families, and its dreams... for the blessings of the Lord surely will flow from and among this community of faith.
Along the Way
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend