Outside My Own Little World

Last week we made our transition to fall.  Sunday School began a new year of learning together.   Public schools welcomed back students.  And we began a new worship series by Marcia McFee, “Outside My Own Little World.”  As we move through the fall we’ll be exploring some of the big questions like “Why am I here?”  “What’s my purpose?”  “Why does the church exist?”

This Sunday, we’ll hear the story of Eutychus, a young man who falls asleep in church and falls to his death.  (And you thought ushers with feathers and poking sticks were bad.)  Spoiler alert: the story has a happy and miraculous ending as Paul revives him.  The story lets us laugh a little, and also consider our own sleepiness.  Have we fallen asleep to the needs of our neighbor?  Perhaps it’s time for us to wake up and notice the world around us.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Check out the song that inspire the series,  Outside My Own Little World by Matthew West.

End of the summer

For some, the end of the summer means back to school.  For others, Labor Day Weekend is a warning to avoid the terrible traffic trying to get off Cape Cod.  The change of the seasons can offer a return to the rhythm of fall or the whisper of cooler temperatures coming.  For us, it means the end of our Discipleship by the Sea series.

Throughout this summer, in Sunday worship and Bibles at the beach, we’ve delved deeply into the gospel of Mark, following Jesus from one seashore adventure to the next.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.  Thanks to your questions and insight, special music, worship leadership and individual conversations I’ve read these familiar stories with new eyes.  It’s been challenging and fun for me.  I hope for you too.

This week, while so many leave our beautiful cape, we’ll leave the gospel of Mark, but not the sea. We’ll find Jesus once more by the sea of Galilee, but this time in the gospel of John.  We’ll watch as Jesus feeds his disciples breakfast and commissions Peter and the movement that will become the body of Christ.

Why fight the traffic?  Join us for worship.  Come and be fed by Jesus.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Every Sunday is Easter Sunday!

As a kid, I remember our church choir singing, “Every Sunday is Easter Sunday from now on!” I did not receive this news with joyful anticipation. Rather, at the time, I thought, “Does that mean I have to wear my Easter outfit, every Sunday?  Hat and tights too?!”

This Sunday, our journey through the gospel of Mark takes us to the end of the gospel.  We jump all the way to the end, or maybe it’s the beginning, of the story.  Jesus is not dead.  Jesus, the crucified is risen and has gone on to Galilee, just as he said.  It’s a powerful story, a story of hope and promises kept.

It feels out of season, to hear this story at the end of the summer.  No Easter lilies, no Easter dresses, no Holy Week observances.  But maybe, just maybe, hearing it at a new time of year will help us to hear it in a new light, or as if for the very first time.

Come, hear the story again, of Jesus’ promise to return, and how he lives into that promise.  Come, encounter the Risen One, for every Sunday is Easter Sunday.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

PS. Just for fun, here’s a church choir singing, “Every morning is easter morning from now on.”  I didn’t remember the words quite right, but it should get stuck in your head all the same.

 

When you pass through the waters…

This week is Vacation Bible School week for our church.  Each day we gather for the “Rolling River Rampage,” to sing, dance, craft, and learn about the love of God.  Each day, I call out to our children, “When you pass through the waters…” and they respond, “I will be with you.”  And “who is I?” I ask.  And all these young voices yell out, “God!”  “Jesus!”

Ah, but the cynic and the skeptic out there, and frankly, right within me, cries out, “they don’t know what that means.”  Maybe.  But each day, our children are hearing that God is with them, always.  That God loves them, always, no exceptions.  And they see this love lived out in the stories they hear, and the adults who lovingly lead them through the day.  To me, that’s beautiful and powerful.

Each night, I go home and the songs of the day are on a repeating loop.  I listen to anything else, just to hear something else.  But I hope, indeed I pray, that our children are hearing these same songs as they go home each night.  I hope they’re remembering the one where God says, “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”  I hope it gets stuck deep down in their memories so that when life is hard, painful, sad, awkward and embarrassing, some part of them remembers God is with them, right in that awful, awful moment.

Vacation Bible School is fun, silly, exhausting, humbling, funny, and so, so important.  We’re telling kids each and every day that they are loved, always and everywhere.  We’re telling them that whatever they face, they don’t face it alone.   And that’s good news.

Who hasn’t forgotten from time to time, how loved we are, or that we’re not alone?  Even the disciples forgot, in the middle of a storm, that God was with them.  That’s the story we’ll explore this Sunday as we continue our journey through Mark.  On the sea of Galilee, in the middle of a storm, we find the disciples freaking out, and Jesus asleep.  What happens next?  Come and find out.  Come and be reminded, “God loves you.  God is with you.  And there is nothing you can do about it.”

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

To the sea…

There is something special about being next to the water.  It reminds us that we are small, in the very best way, in the vast beauty of creation.  There is solace in the sounds of the waves and the feel of breeze.  And, this time of year, the feel of the water, soothing both body and soul.

When we were looking to purchase a home, our realtor wisely took us first to Dowses Beach, to see the water.  While I was anxious: to see what was available, to see what would become our new community, our realtor was calm and assured.  The first thing he did was pause.  He reminded us, no matter what we saw or didn’t see that day, to remember the sea.  “Remember this.  No matter where you live, this is here.”  As we drove away from the sand and water, we discussed the power of water to remind us who and whose we are.

Perhaps that is why Jesus spent so much time next to the sea.  Did it soothe his soul, as well as his disciples and the crowds that followed?  As people brought their deepest needs to him, they gathered in crowds.  Can you imagine the anxiety in waiting your turn, not knowing what to expect, what he would do, how he would be changed?   Can you imagine the depth of surprise as people found Jesus had so much more to offer?

This Sunday, we again meet Jesus by the sea.  This time, he’s surrounded by a crowd, hungry for healing.  What are you hungry for?   What are you seeking:  healing, inner peace, hope, comfort, answers?  Let’s join the crowd, bringing Jesus our deepest needs, and allow him to change our hearts, and live.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Looking for an excuse to spend time by the sea?  Join us Wednesdays at 6pm, at Dowses Beach, for Bibles at the Beach.  We’re working our way through the gospel of Mark.

Guess who’s coming to dinner!

Who do you want at your table?  You know the game.  If you could have dinner with any three people living or dead, who would they be?

Familiar friends and family? A new acquaintance?  A work colleague?  A neighbor?  Or, are you drawn to the exciting, the dangerous, the exotic?

Perhaps you yearn to sit with the saints.  Or maybe you want to hear from history.  Or it’s your table, perhaps you want to sit and hear from the notoriously sinful, who live so loudly everyone knows their colorful story.

This Sunday, we hear the story of Jesus, eating with tax collectors and the friends of tax collectors. An interesting table to be sure…  I imagine good food, better stories, and lots of laughter.

Our journey through the gospel of Mark continues as we, like Levi the tax collector, practice, “Discipleship by the Sea.”

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

So, tell me, if you could have dinner with three people living or dead, who would they be?

 

Following Jesus…

This Sunday we begin another Marcia McFee worship series, Discipleship by the Sea.  Throughout the summer, we’ll work our way through the gospel of Mark.  Mark is the shortest of the four gospels and the story moves quickly.  We’ll follow Jesus from his baptism and as he travels from town to town.  We’ll watch as he performs healings and miracles.  We’ll eavesdrop as he preaches to crowds and explains himself and his ministry to the faithful twelve.  We’ll watch his triumphant entrance to Jerusalem and stay with him through the crucifixion.  We’ll even scratch our heads with the mysterious way Mark ends his story of good news.

This Sunday, we witness the baptism of Jesus and his calling of the first four disciples.  What made them drop everything and follow?  We’ve had thousands of years to heed his call, and still, we struggle.  These four fishermen just left their lives behind to follow.  Why?  What was it about Jesus that created such urgency and immediacy of response? Let’s discover that together, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, again and again.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

PS.  Dive deeper into the gospel of Mark.  As we work through the gospel, we’re also offering a Wednesday night 6pm, Bibles on the Beach. Each week we’ll explore one thing about Mark: one word, one verse, one chapter, one parable, one character and so on, though not necessarily in that order.  Bring your Bible and something to sit on to Dowses Beach, in Osterville.  We’ll be within sight of the big red umbrella.

 

Happy New Year!

July 1 is the start of the new year in the United Methodist Church.  New pastors begin their relationship with a new community July 1.  And those of us being reappointed begin another year of shared ministry.

I don’t know about you, but I love having multiple new years: Jan 1, July 1, the start of the school year, the start of the liturgical year.  Each one it seems provides an opportunity for reflection and self-examination, and an invitation to try again to live as our very best selves.

As we begin another year as United Methodists, we have the opportunity to consider our vows of baptism and membership in the United Methodist church.  Are we living into them, or are they words long forgotten?

Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has  opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries
by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness?

United Methodist New Year is another opportunity to resolve to live differently, to follow Jesus more faithfully, to pay attention to our lives of discipleship. It’s an invitation, not to immediate perfection, but rather to try again, to draw closer to God, and one another.

July 1 is also very close to another new year in our shared lives.  July 4th we celebrate the birthday of our nation.  More than picnics and fireworks, this important holiday invites us to reflect on our commitment to our neighbors and our country.  How are we living as citizens? Are there ways in which we need to get more involved in our local, state, or national community?

So what will you resolve in the New Year?  Will you make time to spend with God?  Will you regularly volunteer?  Will you find creative ways to live generously?  Will you vow to vote this year, or engage with your representatives?  Will you renew practices of personal or social holiness?  (Among other things, I’m resolved to get back on track with a weekly blog post.)

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

To read or not to read…

Earlier this month, GQ published an article, describing the Bible as “repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”  Not surprisingly, there have been some reactions from Christian organizations and publishing. Pastors, scholars, and theologians have rushed to defend the Bible, protecting God and God’s word from the editors of GQ.  I’m not sure either needs defending.

In fairness, the Bible can be all of those things.  The Bible is made up of sixty-six different books.  Some of the stories contained within are deeply disturbing, painful, heartbreaking, and frankly, some are boring.  But, it can also be beautiful, powerful, comforting, challenging, and provoking.  The reading of scripture can be revealing, showing me something new in the world, God’s dreams and visions, and my own heart.

Each week, when we gather to worship together we turn to one or two texts from the Bible.  I believe this text has something to say about what God intends for our lives, our community, our world.  I believe the Word speaks to our unique experiences as individuals and to us as a community of faith.   I believe that one hundred people can hear the same text, but experience it differently, depending on where they are in their lives and circumstance.

This week our lesson is the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch or the story of life-changing Bible study.  The editors of GQ may feel that the Bible isn’t worth reading anymore, but I beg to differ.  In my reading of scripture, I am challenged, comforted, and changed.  I won’t be done studying this living word until it’s done with me.

 

Finding Your Power: Listening for Healing

Is there anything that leaves you feeling more helpless than being really, really sick?  The only thing worse is when your children are really, really sick or in pain that you cannot ease.  Ok, maybe ranking our moments of despair isn’t all that helpful.   But, consider for just a moment the times you’ve felt helpless, hopeless, alone.  No matter the cause, in times like that, my prayers become simple, direct, and often, mono-syllabic, “Please? Please! Please…”

What does it mean when we pray, and we don’t get better?  Is it lack of faith?  Is it lack of quantity or quality of prayer?  Why do some get the miracles and others just wait, as if no one is listening?  I don’t know.  I don’t know why some are apparently cured while others suffer.  I don’t know, but I trust.  I trust that miracle or not,  God is right there in the midst.  In the suffering, in the pain, in the yearning, in the pleading, in the disappointment, grief and anger, God is there.

This week we ask,what does it mean to say “prayer works”?  Or for that matter, how can we know we’re being heard?

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather