Monthly Archives: April 2013

Sermon: Jesus saved a seat

This was my Maundy Thursday sermon this year.  It was largely inspired by an insight I received while watching Adam Hamilton’s 24 Hours That Changed the World DVD study.  In it, he asserts that Jesus and Judas must have been sitting next to each other at the last supper.  As the story is told, it was Judas that was seated at a position of honor, even as he was the one that was to betray Jesus.  Knowing Judas’s heart, what did Jesus do? He broke bread with him.  This was an incredible act of grace, and forms the heart of this sermon.

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Sermon: You are the light of the world.

I wonder in this world, how many people have never been told that they are the light of the world.  How many people, how many children?  How many adults have lived their whole lives and no one has ever said to them, “You are the light of the world.  You are the light of my world”? How tragic that is.  There is somebody out there, maybe sitting right here. Maybe its a neighbor or a co-worker.  Maybe it is someone that comes to our community dinner, or someone that we serve at The Wardrobe.  Maybe there is someone you sit next to on an airplane or someone you see at the grocery store, or the waitress you will have at lunch after church.  There is somebody that has never been told, “You are the light of the World.”  There are people out there in the world living that have never been told that they are the light of the world.  But I’m here to tell you, every single one of you, that you are the light of the world.  But its not just my words, no one cares if I think you are.  Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High thinks you are the light of the world.  You.

For the full sermon, click here.

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Light of the World: Be the Change

A portion of the poem, “Light of the World:Be the Change”

Our world was left smudged, marred and despondent
Until…..
Mercy ran back into carnage and extended its human hand

Read the rest of the poem at the Queen Book Buff blog

Light of the World: Be the Change.

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The Queen Book Buff is a book lover. She is a Mom, a reader, a Christian in ministry, a writer, and a wee bit royal. She blogs about her joyful journey with books. It is a beautiful blog. She is one of the people in this world that calls me “pastor,” and every time she does, I am humbled. And it pleases me to call her friend.

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You are the light of the world.

Part Two of my story of Godspell. Read part one here.

Click here to go to the full sermon, where I talk about our experience with Godspell, called “You are the Light of the World.”  From 11:30-20:00, I talk more extensively about the salt and the light as found in Matthew 5:13-14.

Our Riverside UMC "Godspell" cast

Our Riverside UMC “Godspell” cast

“You are the light of the world,” I sang. And then I went home and reflected on the amazing thing we had just done. Godspell had forever changed me, but in the hours after the show I don’t think I had any idea just how much.

“You are the light of the world,” we all sang. Dino Hayz, director of the Center for Living Arts and our Jesus, went out into the audience. He grabbed someone and had them stand up so we could all sing to that one particular person, “You are the salt of the earth.” Then quickly to another man he dashed. He got him to stand up so we could point to him and sing, “You are the city of God.” Finally, he found one last woman. She was sitting near the back, and we sang one more time, “You are the light of the world.”

It was the last song before intermission. We left the sanctuary rocking. We were half way home, and we all sensed that things were going well. None of our rehearsals suggested that the show would go as smoothly as it had been. At the end of the show, after singing the beautiful refrain “We can build a beautiful city, yes we can. Yes we can. We can build a beautiful city. Not a city of angels, but finally a city of man,” I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

After the show a woman approached me. She told me that she had a great time. She loved the music, and she was so glad she could come. For years, she told me, she had a Playbill from the original Broadway production. She also had an album she had never played. For years she had kind of wondered what Godspell was, and when she saw us in the paper, she decided on a whim to come check it out. I told her how happy I was that she was there, and invited her to come again to worship with us.

The next day I was talking to our head usher about what a great experience the show was. We were marveling at the amount of people that came, and how many people came that were not a part of our church. I told him about the woman I talked to after the show, and he quickly realized that he knew who I was talking about.

“Yeah, I was talking to her at intermission. She seemed like she was looking for something, and I wanted to help her. I saw her and said, ‘You are the light of the world,’ she was one of the people that you guys sang to when Dino got her to stand up.'”
She kind of laughed when I said that,” Tom told me. “And then she said, ‘No one has ever called me that before.'”

I got goosebumps when he told me that, and I thanked Tom for telling me about their exchange. Then I went back into my office and was overwhelmed. Something washed over me that I can only describe as the Holy Spirit as I prayed “Thank you God.” Tears started to flow, and my efforts at standing became feeble. I literally fell to my knees in tears as I was struck at once with an overwhelming sense of awe, wonder, sadness, joy, and purpose. “No one has ever called me that before,” she said.

There were so many moments that made Godspell a memorable experience. If it were not for Tom’s story, I would have counted it as a great memory. I would have remembered the impromptu rehearsals in the kitchen with my wife and daughter as we sang and danced together. I would have remembered Molly gently nudging me into the right place so I was ready to be one of the priests in the Good Samaritan parable. I would have remembered the prayer we shared before the show. I would have remembered hugging Dino during the farewell song, and whispering to him. “Thank you, brother.” With or without that conversation with Tom I would have relished in the glow of accomplishing something as a team.

After hearing the story of the woman that had never been told that she was the light of the world though, I had something more.

“You are the light of the world,” is not just a catchy line in a pretty song in an upbeat musical.
“You are the light of the world,” are Jesus’ words to his followers. They are words from what we call The Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew 5-6. It is a small part of Jesus’ dissertation about what it means to live in this world.

“You are the light of the world.” It is a claim on those that had gathered. It is an assurance of what Jesus’ followers are, and what they shall be.

“You are the light of the world,” Jesus said so long ago.

“You are the light of the world,” Jesus declares today. You.

So let your light so shine. There is a light that is within you that is good. There is a light within you that is of God. There is a light within you that needs to be seen. I think for a moment of the children in this world that have never been told that they are the light of anyone’s world, and it breaks my heart. I think for a moment of people stuck in abusive relationships, allowing their light to be crushed, and I want to scream. I think for a moment of youth that want only to hide and be as invisible as possible so as not to draw anyone’s attention, and it kills me to know that they have never been told, “You were created in the very image of God. The light that God created at the very moment of creation. That is in you. Hear Jesus crying to you, ‘You are the light of the world.'”

That little musical gave me a lot of things. It gave me memories. It gave me friendships. It gave me knowledge about myself. And it gave me a renewed sense of purpose. It gave me a way to think about my mission as a follower of Christ.
I will strive to never allow another man, woman, or child pass me by without letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that they are the light of the world.

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I love it when a plan comes together

PART ONE of my story about GODSPELL
My wife and I during rehearsal.  In the show, this became one of the little bits of magic onto which I will forever hold.  Every time we rehearsed this, 'Jesus' cuts in and stops us from dancing.  And I was supposed to say, "Yeah, but she's so, so..."  Every time in rehearsal, I said something different to end that line.  Nothing I tried ever felt right.  Then during the show, I looked at her and our eyes met, and my heart melted again, and I finished my line perfectly "she's an angel."

My wife and I during rehearsal. In the show, this became one of the little bits of magic which I will forever cherish. Every time we rehearsed this, ‘Jesus’ cuts in and stops us from dancing. And I was supposed to say, “Yeah, but she’s so, so…” Every time in rehearsal, I said something different to end that line. Nothing I tried ever felt right. Then during the show, I looked at her and our eyes met, and my heart melted again, and I finished my line perfectly “she’s an angel.”

I messed up my line every time in rehearsal.  I only had two lines, and mine was the first line of the song.  There was no warm-up.  No lead-in.  No chance to find my way in the song.  No chance to start slow and pick up momentum.  It was just cue music, grab mic, and sing.  Sing.

I’ve held a mic on “stage” before hundreds of times.  I’ve given sermons, speeches, toasts, and prayers in front of large crowds and small gatherings.  I’ve even sung in front of people before, but always as a member of a choir.  I had not been nervous in a church in years.  Yet I knew my line was coming.  From the moment the previous song started I was already thinking about it. My turn to clutch that mic and sing was coming.

Every time in rehearsal I had messed it up.  I came in late.  Or I was way off key.  Or I botched the wording.  Up until the show I was ‘ofer.’  I should have been terrified.  It thought I was going to be terrified, but here’s the crazy thing, when it came time for my two-line solo, I wasn’t nervous.  I sang it.  “You are the light of the world,” I said as I pointed to one of the people in the audience.  And then the ensemble came in behind me  “You are the light of the world.”  I felt good, so I kept going.  I don’t know if I was off-key or not.  I knew at this point the only mistake I could make was to hold back.  “But if that light’s under a bushel, it’s lost something kind of crucial,” I sang. And for a moment, if only in my mind, I was Donnie Osmond as Joseph or Michael Crawford as the Phantom.  I was hooked.

A few months ago I sat in a coffee shop and met with the Director of the Center for Living Arts, Dino Hayz.  The Center is one of those little gems you find in old cities.  It is not a big theater, but it has a lot of heart.  Focusing mostly on youth theater, the Center specializes in doing quality shows quickly.  Before there was a Center though, there was Dino and his wife and friends that put together a company to do Godspell in churches.  They have been doing Godspell in churches for over ten years.  They consider it their life’s ministry to spread the message of love and community that is a part of Godspell to as many people as possible.  “It’s not so much a musical,” he explained to me, as it is an experience.  “I want people to experience Christ’s love through what is happening all around them.”

We sat together and talked about an idea.  It was an idea hatched by our children’s minister months (years?) before.  What if we did Godspell together at our church?  What could we create if we took a few of the experienced members of Dino’s company, and did Godspell with the talented and willing people from our church?  What if, instead of them doing Godspell at our church, we did it together with our church?

I left that lunch knowing that we were embarking on something good.  I had no idea just how magnificent it would become.

On the day of our placement auditions, I wondered who would come.  On the first night it was clear that we had created something special.  20 people came.  There were two kindergartners, a handful of junior high and senior high youth.  There were a couple of adults who had never been in a show before.  There were a few remarkably talented singers.  There was a senior member of our church choir, and regular singer from our praise band.  We ranged in age from 5-65(ish).  We were men and women, boys and girls.  Some brought members of their family in the journey with them, others came with friends.  Some came eagerly.  Some came only because they were dragged, almost literally, from other tasks.  We were scared, excited, and willing.

We supported each other.  As each person took turns singing a few lines a capella from a song of their choice  we cheered.  At least one youth simply had someone standing next to her for support, so she wouldn’t have to stand alone.  The truth was, none of us were alone.  On the very first night we were creating the community that Godspell is about.  From moment one, we were living the musical.  On that night, each one of us put a pebble in our shoe and called it “dare.”

They say live theater gets in your blood.  People talk about it in the same way they talk about addiction.  Intellectually, I accepted that it must be true, but until the word “crucial” left my lips, I had never experienced anything like it.  

Being a part of this production Godspell changed me.  I’m not even sure how exactly yet.  I know I want to be a in another musical.  I know that I want to have that 10-minutes-to-showtime excitement again.  I know that I want to have that it’s-almost-my-line sense of calm confidence again.   I want to look out into an audience and see their smiles, read their expressions, bask in their gripped silence.  I want to look into the eyes of a cast member in the midst of another show and whisper, “we’re really doing it,” with the same mix of fun and terror that I had last Saturday.  I want to put my arms around a group of friends after a show well done.  I want to crash into bed, emotionally spent, and dream about the songs I just sang.

When I think about the journey that started with a lunch in a coffee shop in October, and ended on a spring afternoon… Well, I have to stop myself.

This journey is going to keep going.  There are going to be more shows.   There are going to be more rehearsals.  There are going to be more chances to sing about love.  Nothing ended that night.  It turns out that something was sparked.  Relationships have been forged.  Dreams have been shared.  A vision has been caught.  There’s more to come.  The show will go on.

And if you’re looking for a ensemble to “do” Godspell in your church, I know just the group.

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