The Headlines tear us in different directions. The news of the day seems to provide a constant barrage of information which tends to divide us as a people. Choose one side or the other. Join our way because it is the "right" way.
I can say that this season of Lent has been a long and tiresome journey. I do not want to feel this way. And yet I do. And so what is next?
Hold on friends! Sunday is coming! And it is Easter Sunday! May the next three days be a season in itself for us as we make the final steps with Jesus along the Way. Soon we will feast at the Table. Soon we will lament the actions of the mob (and our own actions of disobedience). Soon we will wait in the Sabbath. And then... then, we shall experience resurrection as we hear the words of the first witness Mary when she recognizes the risen Lord (John 20:1-18).
If you are wondering about your own capacity to follow Jesus or wonder about our collective will as a people to follow Jesus, then I invite you to continue reading. Take a look at the scripture reading below. Listen to the sermon provided from the Wednesday service www.pauleharris2017.com/sermons and pray for the strength to continue in the journey of faith.
At last night's Wednesday evening Lent service of worship, the last of this season, we examined our discipleship and our willingness to follow Jesus. We shared the reading from the gospel of Luke 9:57-62:
Would-Be Followers of Jesus57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus[m] said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In all three of these encounters, would-be followers of Jesus preface their response to follow with question or need to prioritize something ahead of Jesus: location, position, and family. Jesus tells each - follow me to the kingdom. Do they follow?
The text does not specify the final response. We do not know if each chooses to follow. We know that Jesus had set his face to Jerusalem and was steadily walking ahead into the kingdom work he came to share on earth. Jesus was resolute in his direction. He was obedient to the Father, the Lord God Almighty.
I give thanks today for each of you who reads this note. I ask that Jesus would grant in the grace of God a means by which we can follow the Way of the Lord. I hope that each of us will make a decision to continue the discipleship path. And I long for Sunday.
Hold on friends, Sunday is coming. And it is Easter!
Along the Way
As new life springs forth in the Texas Hill Country, the signs of Easter are near. A recent road trip to Boerne and Fredericksburg included a side trip on the Willow City Loop. This is a great place to drive an old country road with an up close and very personal view of Texas bluebonnets.
The best part of the day was turning over my shoulder to see my mother leaning out of the backseat with her head and shoulder fully outside of the car. She was "experiencing" God's creative beauty and soaking in it all.
I wonder if that image will ever leave my conscious memory? I hope not. Because as these special days with my aging parents will not last forever, I have a hope that this kind of memory will last forever.
It seemed as if a slice of heaven had been transported to that drive and that view of the bluebonnets. A resurrection moment to say the least.
Thank you Lord, for special days in your creative beauty.
Along the Way
The Source of Promise
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:17 – 4:1
“Humans are meant for stargazing.” Now that is a statement that I can agree with. When Todd and Jennifer Pick introduce this week’s scripture readings in our UMC Discipleship series “With All Your Heart,” they invite us all to gaze upward and outward into the majestic creation of a very generous God.
The Picks suggest that while looking upward, we aspire to be the people God created us to be. Looking upward we long to know the source of our promise and to find that guiding star along the way of our faith journey.
Now I am not an expert stargazer. Some of you are certainly much more qualified to name the constellations and to recognize the ancient patterns in the sky. But this I know, when I look up into the brilliance of our galaxy – I see God.
This summer, Laura and I will join my brother and sister-n-law in a week-long Harris Grands Camp as adult chaperones and guides for Sydney, Landon, Luna, Hannah, Layla, and Nathan. Our great-nieces and nephews are a lot of fun when they are gathered together. And for a week without their parents, my brother, their grand-daddy, encourages them to be adventurous.
My camp assignment among others for this summer is to bring them closer to the stars in the sky. I believe that is my brother’s code for ‘do your preacher thing in a way that brings them to know more of God.’ So, I began to think about an adventurous experience with God for six children under the age of nine. And of course, utilizing a large blanket, a dark sky, and some stories of promise from old uncle Pop.
That is my context in approaching today’s scripture readings. What does our family have to say about God? And more to the point, what do we have to say about the promise of God in our children and grandchildren?
So join me in the preparation as we examine the readings for today. And join us Sunday in worship at Hunt United Methodist Church.
I am a United Methodist Pastor. And today it is more difficult to be a moderate (some would call me a centrist) in our denomination.
This week included a major international conference of United Methodist delegates called into session in St. Louis to consider A WAY FORWARD for the denomination regarding the church laws on human sexuality. A very close vote yielded legislation for the larger UMC connection that keeps current language in our Book of Discipline. It prohibits same gender weddings in UM churches and prohibits ordination of LGBTQIA+ persons.
Some would now consider the vote to have settled the matter. In fact, the vote 53% - 47%, most likely makes life in the connection very uncertain for the foreseeable future.
I feel the pain of friends and colleagues, of parishioners, who had hoped that UMC legislation would allow more contextual and regional interpretation of this issue. In other words, many hoped for a solution of BOTH / AND. That solution would have allowed progressive churches and pastors to move forward with same gender church weddings and progressive annual conferences to approve ordination of LGBTQIA+ persons into the clergy of the UMC. At the same time, traditionalist churches and pastors in the USA and overseas could retain the practice of heterosexual marriage and ordination according to their interpretation of scripture.
I must admit. I am a pragmatist. While loyal to the denomination and its legislative process and its Book of Discipline, I also believe that we can find ways to seek BOTH / AND instead of EITHER / OR. I wait to see what other leading centrists decide to do in light of the UMC General Conference of 2019.
My efforts to prepare for this Sunday and preaching on the Transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:28-36) have been difficult. I long to make the mountain-top journey with Jesus and to experience the brilliance of the glory of God. And yet, I know that the work of my calling leads me back down the mountain into the valleys and level ground of life in a local community.
I pray that God's love and mercy shall continue to travel in all directions and impact all of God's people. And I ask you to be kind to one another in the coming days.
Grace and Peace
Along the Way
It is 6:00 pm on a Thursday night in September and the bells are ringing at Hunt United Methodist Church. Beyond the bells I hear the sounds of young men and old men and women visiting over a table meal and sharing bible study. I hear the sounds of children playing and creating in the students room. I hear the little ones in the nursery crying because they are missing mom or dad. And I hear the parents speaking together or listening to computer audio in the computer lab. These parents come to this place because they choose to better their English speaking skills with other learning adults.
It is a new kind of Thursday evening at Hunt United Methodist Church. We have our ongoing outreach ministry with young men from 3H Pathways Ranch who worship with us on Sunday and come on Thursday night with staff and Pastor Roy to be treated to home made meals and bible study with men and women of this church who love them - just because.
And now we have begun an additional outreach ministry in our community offering Adult English learning classes with a citizenship learning group. Led by the seasoned ESL Team from Hunt School who now make their home here on Thursday evenings. Church members helping in the nursery. Church members helping by dropping off snacks and drinks. And Lisa and her team who have worked closely with our Wesley Nurse and church staff to make the office classroom complex ready for our neighbors.
I hear the sound of love. As all these sounds are ringing out, there are people in the sanctuary praying this week during our week long 168 prayer challenge. I am overwhelmed in the Spirit of God. To say that God is good is an understatement. God is making a statement in truth - that all of God’s people are welcome here.
Now to get up and check out the bible study and the games outside and the computer lab and the nutrition class and all that God is making possible in this Hill Country church on a Thursday night.
Gloria a Dios! Glory be to God!
Need your help today! Want to be a part of this week’s sermon? The topic is Sacred Spaces, Holy Places and I am continuing in the Psalms - Psalm 48.
As you can see, I am sitting at my favorite place to write, the breakfast table in the @HuntUMC parsonage. I have the map of Texas laid out before me. As I ponder the roads traveled and the sacred spaces, holy places encountered, I wonder can sacred geography really be mapped?
Maybe distance and direction are the keys to travel mapping? And maybe there are other factors?
For example, places where God was encountered in a special way. Spaces created by friends who stopped time and spoke truth through prayer that changed everything. Local churches who raised you up in the ways of Jesus and sent you with blessings. Congregations who nurtured you and your family along the way. Events or weekends of spiritual growth that provided clarity, purpose, and direction.
What do you say? Any special places you would like to mention? Any sacred spaces to be remembered with a stack of standing-stones?
My list is too long for this post or for this sermon. But one thing I know for sure today, the sacred conversation that I am blessed to share each week with so many folk I love dearly causes me to wonder and ponder the majesty and mystery of GodWithUs.
Be blessed today friends. Enjoy each moment along the way.
Along the Way
Evangelism is the theme for this week’s sermon. So I pulled this out from one of my favorites to reread...
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Movement, as described by Albert Outler in his book “Evangelism in the Wesleyan Spirit”, 1971, became an effective pastor and one who began to reach persons in his field preaching ONLY AFTER UNDERGOING THIS TRANSFORMATION:
1. When his dominant emotion changed from passion for truth to compassion for people.
2. When his expression as a harsh zealot of God’s judgment changed to a winsome witness of God’s grace.
3. When his faith was assured in and through the newfound faith of those who now heard the gospel.
4. When arrogance transformed into humility.
O Lord, may our voice in the Methodist Movement be one of compassion. May our hope in the resurrection be proclaimed as an evangel’s invitation. May we truly reflect our roots - evangelical, catholic, and reformed. And may our goal be the lives of our neighbors, transformed in your grace.
Along the Way
Pastor Paul Harris
Remember the song by Johnny Lee, "Looking for Love (in all the wrong places)"? I wonder today, as a society - where are we looking for the love?
Here is an invitation to search the Holy Scriptures for the love you and I most desperately need - the Love of God.
It is the Christian season following Easter in which believers in Christ celebrate the appearances of Jesus, resurrected from the tomb and yet to be ascended to the holy seat of Lord and Savior.
In the gospels accounts we read of those appearances (Matthew 28:9-10; Luke 24:13-35, 24:36-53; John 20:11-18, 20:19-29, 21:1-14).
From the appearances of Jesus to the disciples after the resurrection, we claim that a transformation of death and life has occurred in Jesus. From the dead, Jesus is raised to new life! And new life comes with forgiveness for all who believe.
The resurrection miracle is proof of God's action in the world. God sent his son in love to redeem and reconcile with the message, "Repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus!" So we shout Alleuia! Jesus is Alive! And we celebrate a risen Savior who comes along side in conversation with encouragement and direction.
This week we celebrate the ongoing connection of God through Christ Jesus. This connection is established and sustained in the love of God. Take a look at John 15 and 1st John 4 and read more about the connecting love of God.
"We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. If any of us confess that Jesus is the Son of God, then God remains in us and we remain in God." (1 John 4:14-15)
I am blessed to offer Christ as the source of love in which we will never be disappointed. And I hope that you will choose to follow Christ - come along the Way with us at Hunt United Methodist Church.
Grace and Peace
Along the Way
Pastor Paul Harris
So, I wonder about the awakening word. And by that awakening word, I mean the speaking of one’s name sounded deep into the recesses of one’s soul. Jesus said to her “Mary” - and in that sounding, the gift of new life was spoken into the heart and mind of this faithful woman. And that new life awakened her in such a way that she became the first witness of the resurrected Christ.
- from my Easter Sermon for 2018
Friends, my prayer today is that each person who is open to lingering at the cross and tomb of Jesus will hear their awakening word spoken into the depths of their soul - your soul and mine - that word of new life made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
And with new life, may we together live toward a world transformation which begins with each person’s witness - in Christ - so that others might hear their name spoken with the care, compassion, and mercy of the Lord of All.
John 13:34 “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
Matthew 27:39-40 “Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
(Scripture is silent here as it was the Sabbath. I imagine in my own heart remembering what Jesus taught: from John 15:4 “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”
John 20:11-16 “But Mary while weeping stooped into the tomb of Jesus and she saw... two angels who said to her, ‘Woman why do you weep?’ And then she turned around and saw Jesus (not knowing him at first)... (as she looked away) he said her name, ‘Mary’... She turned around to him (and recognized him) and said “Teacher.”
Much love and many blessings!
Your friend Along the Way
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend