Guest Post: Dusting of Control

by Rev. Megan J. Saucier

Read Psalm 95.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comThere’s nothing like a nice big snow to throw off your schedule.  Yesterday, Lynchburg received just that.  The weather report shared that it would just be a “dusting” or that it would “only stick to the grass,” but that is not what happened.  The snow kept falling and falling and eventually covered the roads, parking lots, and cars.  I had gone to work to prep for worship and get some other things done.  By 11, I was getting nervous that this was way more than I was comfortable driving in.  It just kept snowing and snowing.  I decided it was best if I went home and finished my work from there.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had snow this winter in our town.  In fact, we’ve had an unusual amount of snow.  Each time it happens, schools are cancelled, work is delayed, and some of us (myself included) rejoice in a quiet day at home.  But those snow days have added up.  All the delays mean that the work or school must be completed at a different time.

Psalm 95 invites us to worship God and acknowledge that God is in charge.

“In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it,
    and the dry land, which his hands have formed.” (v. 4-5)

The mountains, the valleys, the sea, the dry land, the snow, the rain are all GOD’S.  Like Psalm 95, snow in the south is a reminder that we are NOT in control.  We are NOT in charge.  Our reactions are evidence of how we feel.  Typically, that means complaining.  “It’s not supposed to snow in the spring.”  “I’m tired of the snow.”  “I’m behind in my work.”  “This means more school days.”  What we are saying is that things aren’t going OUR way.

Psalm 95 reminds us who is really the boss of the universe.  If we really think about it, this is a relief!  Thank goodness we are not responsible for it all.  Thank goodness God has things taken care of.

Today, let your heart be turned to praise as you remember that you are not in control.

Rev. Megan Saucier is the Associate Pastor at Heritage United Methodist Church, and Jason’s wife.

Christmas decor 2012

This year, I had grand visions of decorating my front door for Christmas.  Once you spend a few minutes hours on Pinterest, you tend to get a little ambitious.  Honestly, I was tired of the same old thing and wanted to do something different than the traditional red bows on green garland. I decided to use teal as the primary color with gold, silver, white, and mossy green accent.  I added other elements as I went along.  I made a sheet music (old hymnal pages) tree using a tutorial on Pinterest, so I picked out some music note ribbon for the project as well.  I found teal glittery magnolias, which acted as a nod to my Louisiana roots.

To create the garland for the door, I used:

-three strands of wired garland (while it required extra work to twist the three strands together, I already had this garland on hand)

-mossy green burlap table runner (used for our wedding in April, bought from save-on-crafts)

-4″ gold deco mesh

-2″ music note wired ribbon

-floral wire

I began by measuring my door.  Because we have a screen door, I had to measure far enough outside the screen door so that the door would not hit the garland when opening and closing.  I measured about 25′ and used this as my guide.  The garland ended up laying on the ground about a foot on each side, but I like that look, so it all worked out.

I laid out my supplies running down our hallway.

I first gathered and twisted the three small strands of wired garland together, simply pinching the wiring together.  I measured out the center of the garland and began attaching the burlap so it would make a nice header.  To attach the burlap, I would fold it back and forth and then run a piece of floral wire through the holes, wrap the wire around the garland and twist to secure.  I  made sure to gather the burlap and wire at the corners so it would fall nicely and frame the door.  It is important to leave some poof in the burlap to get desired effect.  I then crisscrossed the deco mesh over the burlap puffs attaching with floral wire.

It looked like this…

photo

The hard part at this point was deciding what and how  much to add.  I tend to stick to simple, so I really had to push myself on the embellishments to get the look I desired (aka, the one in my head).  I decided to add the 2″ music note ribbon which lightened up the green and added some dimension.  After both ribbons were on, Jason and I hung it outside using coat hanger wire.  Because we have a brick house, we hung the wire from the soffit.  We secured the sides with command hooks to give it more stability.

I added glittered teal magnolias, ornament clusters and glittered teal pine cone clusters- attaching them with floral wire and gold ribbon.

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Our front porch greyhound also got a fancy magnolia collar with gold ribbon.

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I also made a wreath out of the burlap, 4″ music note ribbon and deco mesh.  I used a wire wreath form as the base and bunched and wired the burlap to the frame.  I made a simple bow and added it.  Only small problem with this wreath- is is so big that it barely fits between our door and screen door.

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I planned to decorate our mantle as well.  The teal went well with our blue heron print above the fireplace as well as my vase from Willow House.  I bought this faux icy garland last year at Michael’s.  I attached it below the mantle this year with command hooks.  In these pictures you can also see my sheet music tree, and filled vases with ornaments.

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Our first Christmas together

This cross with an angel in the center was a wedding gift.  It is paper mache’ and the distressed quality worked perfectly with the look I was going for and it fit our giant new tree.

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I was really happy with how everything turned out in the end.

Merry Christmas!

Guest Post – Come to the Manger, The Heralds of Christ: A Sermon

A sermon preached on Sunday, December 16, 2013 at Heritage United Methodist Church on John 1:1-18.

Lord Jesus, I know that I do not have all the answers. But you, gracious God, sent your Word, to teach us and make us new. You give us your Spirit so we can understand what you have to say to us. Come to us now and shed light on your word that we may be filled with grace and truth. Amen.

The world is often a dark place. Friday we were reminded of this darkness by a devastating school shooting that left 26 dead. This violent action taken against children, teachers and family leave us with many questions. Why did this happen? What are we supposed to do now? And in the words of the Psalms, “How long, O Lord?” These questions can leave us feeling lost in the darkness, not knowing which way to turn or how we can recover from such a wound. And there are no easy answers.

Sadly, this darkness is nothing new. We have experienced it before. From shootings in other areas of the country to war around the world, violence destroys life each day. There are places where genocide is still common place, where women are raped and abused and simply walking to the grocery store is not safe. We come to these moments not only acknowledging our own losses, but also remembering that our world is in pain and suffering. We are crying out for someone to rescue us from this destruction and terror.

And in the midst of this darkened world, God made a choice. God chose to send Jesus, the Word made flesh, to a people lost in darkness. John 1:14 says, “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” This living among us is a word that means tabernacle, literally, “pitched his tent.” This word tabernacle reminds us of how God dwelt with the people in the desert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Jesus also made his home and dwelling place among the people. He is God incarnate, embodying the love and knowledge of God. The truth that we find in Christ brings us ultimate freedom. And in times such as these, we need to see and hear the truth. We need to hear that because the Word became flesh- lived, died, and rose again, that we can also have new life in Christ, freeing us from the bonds of sin and death.

In John 1:6 we hear, “There was a man sent by god, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” John the Baptist comes to proclaim that Christ is coming in more ways than one. Not only will he baptize persons later in the gospels before Jesus begins his full time ministry, but John testifies to Christ even in the womb. When Mary visited Elizabeth, the Baby John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb in the presence of Christ. Elizabeth is the first person in the gospels to claim aloud that Jesus is Lord, affirming her son’s excitement and making a way for Christ in the world. John the Baptist points to Christ with his words and actions. John was saying, it’s not about me, it’s about God. It’s not about me, it’s about the Messiah. After all, he himself was not the light, but he was a witness to the light.

A witness is one who testifies to an event or the truth. Those who herald Christ announce God’s presence in the world in Jesus Christ by testifying to his life and ministry. During advent we are all invited to proclaim that Christ is coming into the world. We each have a choice to point to Christ, or to point to something other than Christ- which will we choose? And when we choose to point to Jesus, we are saying that it isn’t about us, but it is about a greater truth that exists in the world. The truth of the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ.

There were others who testified and proclaimed Christ’s coming, such as the angels. Angels are messengers of God. An angel named Gabriel is the chief messenger in our advent texts. This angel appears to Zechariah in Luke 1 saying, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” Gabriel visits Mary with the words, “Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you” and “do not be afraid.” Another angel appeared to Joseph in a dream saying, “do not be afraid.” Can you see a pattern? God is with you, do not be afraid. And when the angel came to the shepherds in the fields, the angel said, “Do not be afraid, I am bringing you good news, of great joy for all the people.”

Can it be good news? Can we be joyful? But it is the truth, it is the good news. God is with you, do not be afraid. Christ is coming! We desperately need to hear this message this year. Hurricanes? God is with you. Floods? Do not be afraid. School shooting? Christ is coming. Death? Jesus is the light of the world. Destruction? Jesus is Lord. You see the good news is still good. The good news is still good. Repeat this after me, The good news, is still good. I want you to turn to your neighbor and say “the good news, is still good.” Our job is to proclaim this good news from the roof tops, in our homes, in our places of employment, to our friends, and even to ourselves. And we need to hear it often.

Jesus Christ is coming into the world to make everything right. Christ comes to shed light on our fundamental need for God and to invite us to join in the work Christ is doing in the world. We can join in that work by offering love, peace, and hope to a desolate place. We can join in Christ’s work by joining in solidarity and prayer with those who suffer and with those who mourn. We can join in that work by using our power to serve others rather than oppress. We can be a part of Christ’s life by washing our neighbors’ feet and speaking up for those who have no voice.

You are Christ’s heralds. You are the ones who announce that Jesus is coming to release the captives and set at liberty those who are oppressed. You are the ones who have come to this sanctuary to receive light that you might hold out a candle for another.

Today, you get to carry the light into a dark world and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to a hurting world. You get to tell the world that the darkness will never overcome the light. You get to speak the truth- that the good news is still good. Amen.

Resources:

Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: Year C. (2012). Allen, Andrews, Ottoni-Wilhelm, Editors. Westminster-John Knox.

Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 4. Bartlett and Taylor, Editors. Westminster-John Knox.

where are the warm fuzzies?

Read Amos 8:4-12.

One of the aspects of Advent and Christmas we often forget is how God’s birth and reign turn the world on its head.  We want to think of Christ as bringing love and happiness- which he certainly does.  But Advent is also a time of repentance, a time to consider the ways in which we have not acted in holy and just ways.  In passages like the Magnificat, we hear that the hungry will be filled and the rich sent away empty (Luke 1: 53).  At this time of year, we also hear words from the prophets who warn us what will happen if we refuse to take care of the poor.

Amos warns us what will happen if we “trample on the needy” (v. 4).  Our harvest will not be plentiful and we will all go bald (hey, it’s in v.10) if we take advantage of the poor.  These prophecies and warnings are reminders that there are consequences for our actions.  Our faith is lived out in what we do and we are called to live in love, not greed.  As easy as it is to give at this time of year to a Christmas Angel, Salvation Army and other charities, it can also be easy to ignore the reality of poverty.  It is all too easy for us to shut our doors in our warm homes and look at our beautifully decorated trees, enjoying our hot cocoa and say- wow, isn’t this great?

During Advent, we are also waiting on the second coming of Christ, when God will fulfill the promise to make the world right and reign forever.  In that new order, we will have no oppression, sadness, or hungry people.  All will be good and we will experience God’s fullness.

There are many things to consider in response to the warnings from the prophets.

-What is God warning us about today?

-How are we living out the gospel and preparing for Christ to come again?

-What systems of oppression are you participating in and how can you find ways to change the tide?

Something from Nothing

Read Isaiah 35:3-7.

Image courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com
Image courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com

During this Advent, the images and sadness of Hurricane Sandy keep coming to mind.  I can see all the victims standing outside their destroyed homes wondering what will Christmas really hold this year?  As they look out on the land they call home, it probably appears pretty desolate.

Praise God there are signs of the kingdom all around.  There are glimpses of people reaching out in love and hope to tell of God’s goodness.  In disaster relief it is important to remember that there is more work to be done.  Although the initial storm has passed, there are many other storms that threaten the livelihood of the people: access to food and clean water, money to rebuild, schools where children can learn and transportation to get to work.  The problems are complex and require us to keep them in mind.

Today, remember the promise of God to sustain you and bring renewal to all the earth.  Although the landscape looks desolate, God promises to bring new life.

Pray

Creator God, help us to be strong and not fear the days ahead.  When I am weak, help me to claim the promise of new life in each day.  Continue to give me signs of your reign that I may live in abundance.  Amen.

Life of Roux, part 1

Roux:  I have my big purple ball!  My ball makes me happy!

Jason: Roux, do you need to go outside?

Roux: I like to run around with my big purple ball…

Jason: Roux, do you need to go potty?  Do you need to go potty?

(Jason runs to back door, and opens back door.  Roux goes to her bed.)

Jason:  Roux!!  Ugh.

Roux: I will not obey.

Jason: Megan, she’s your dog!

Megan: She’s a feminist.

Pat Robertson: confused?


I was floored.  I was floored as I often am with Pat Robertson’s comments.  Truthfully, the question and answer portion of the 700 Club is my favorite part of the show.  I like to see the questions people ask, because they often seem contrived.  I like to hear Pat Robertson act as if he is the expert on everything from eating right to toilet cleaners.  I find it funny the things he thinks of to share, but sometimes, I wish they would bleep him out.

I find it hard to believe that in this day and age, someone would actually condone beating their spouse.  Beating someone into submission can’t possibly be a healthy solution (not to mention the fact that it doesn’t work).  I would see that as a clear sin.  Would Pat Robertson argue that her behavior warrants a beating?  Would he say that the woman should submit to her husband?

He characterizes women as rebellious and unruly.  Women need to be “tamed.”  It is the same thing that men have said for centuries when women have had any power at all.  Their fear is that they will lose their own privilege and find themselves in a place where they are no longer in control of it all.

Sin is a wound we pass on.  It is the damage we do to one another.  Robertson is promoting a very sinful practice- harming another human being for your own personal gain.  This type of behavior will only promote more sin and hurt, passing on the wounds for generations.  Pat Robertson’s comments only remind us that he is a sinner, he is one in need of God’s grace.

Life in the City of Churches

As most of you know, I live in the City of Churches now: Lynchburg, Virginia.

The circumstances of my arrival here were all too surreal.  When I arrived to meet with the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, we went through the standard questions and stories.  Afterwards, I got a tour of the church- a massive piece of real estate on a hill, that stretches far back on the property.  And when you stand looking towards the back of the property you can see mountains in the distance- is this real?  Is this happening?

After the tour we slipped into the sanctuary to stand in the back as there was a service going on that evening.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, when i saw it.  A gigantic wooden Jerusalem cross hung from the ceiling right over the altar area.  My heart was filled with joy and I knew I was in the right place.  In college, I was in a very special program called “church careers.”  Now, the program has changed it’s name to the Christian Leadership Center.  One of the main reasons I attended Centenary College of Louisiana was to be a part of this program.  The symbol of this program is the Jerusalem Cross, which at the time, was a little known symbol of faith to me.  At the retreat at the beginning of the year, a senior gives a freshman their cross and hangs it around their neck as a gift and commissioning of service.  After four years as a part of this Christian community, I grew deeper in spirituality and faith.  So when I saw that cross hanging in the sanctuary of Heritage United Methodist Church, I was filled with joy and the knowledge that this was the place I needed to serve.

It was only a couple of weeks later that I was officially appointed to the church by our Bishop.

The city of churches is an interesting place- people drive “nice,” something I have gotten used to not experiencing in the last few years.  People wave, smile, and say hello.  People open doors for one another.  It’s a much more courteous place than some cities.

When you go places, you always see someone you know or who is in direct relationship with one of your parishioners.  You walk into a coffee shop and you sit down with church members for lunch.  You walk into the gym and get a few waves from the people in your congregation.

And it makes you wonder, are there any non-Christians in the city of churches?  Is there anyone who needs me, this church, this Word?  Where is the opportunity in a place with churches on every corner and a Methodist Church every mile or two?  The good thing about these questions is that it causes you to work and think harder about who a Christian really is and how we are sent out to live in the world.  It’s much more than being “nice” and smiling at people.  It goes beyond opening doors and exchanging pleasantries.

In Kenda Creasy Dean’s book, Almost Christian, she explores the idea that we have taught our children the faith of “moralistic therapeutic deism.”  A faith where being nice and generally good gets you into heaven.  A faith where God makes me feel good and gives me self-esteem.  She argues that our children have learned this, because it’s the type of faith we possess.  What do you think?  Are we passing down a faith where we simply do a few good things and that’s enough?  Are we creating a world where the City of Churches is a competition of members?

Passing on our faith to children and to one another requires more than waving at everyone, as lovely as it feels to be waved at.

This was originally written August 15, 2011.