Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thoughts on “Leaving Neverland” by Lacy Ngo

The sermon today was about where we are “rooted” in life.  Of the “roots” mentioned, one was definitely a “root” of mine and that was pleasure.  As a mostly stay-at-home mom, at the beginning of each week, I often think about how am I going to keep my child and family entertained this week.  What are we going to do fun this week along with all of my daily errands?  Not that we shouldn’t enjoy life, have fun, and “smell the roses” so to speak, but shouldn’t my everyday focus be on serving God.  As a Christian, I feel that life is not about the pursuit of happiness, but our focus should be more on serving God selflessly as Jesus did.  We should be living for God.  I would guess that most of us are not reaching our full potential as Christians or most of us have a long way to go before becoming “mature” Christians, as described in todays sermon.  I would say I am still a very immature Christian on a daily basis. 
Second, I am always amazed how the music and sermon are not planned together, yet they seem to go together so often, particularly the song directly following the sermon.  The sermon also mentioned how we should focus on truly seeing the real God instead of wanting to make God fit our lifestyle so that we don’t have to change.  We try to make God like us instead of being like him.  Today the song, “Until the Whole World Hears,” reiterated the sermon when saying, “And see the world through Your eyes, I want to be your hands and feet; I want to live a life that leads…And I pray that they will see, More of you and less of me, Lord, I want my life to be; The song You sing.”
            After the sermon, our Sunday school teacher shared a few thoughts on our sermon as well.  He said he feels like he has some fruit “rooted’ in his garden, but weeds keep popping up as well.  Our teacher also mentioned that, he does keep trying to pluck up the weeds instead of letting them take over.  Thanks to God’s grace we keep plucking weeds, and God keeps forgiving and giving us a “clean” start over and over. 
            My next question to myself is how do I mature as a Christian?  If I am really honest, I should probably focus each week on how am I going to serve God this week instead of how am I going to entertain my family this week.  I should also concentrate on thinking of God in every move I make throughout the week.  I need to talk to Him more regularly throughout the day.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sing For Me by Pastor Debra

     It is likely that this is something you already know about me: I am a lover of music and I deeply appreciate the hymnody of the Church.  I grew up encouraged daily, by loving, musical, Christian parents to identify a song for every occasion and circumstance in life, and, as a result of their love, I find great meaning in songs which express our existence as lived in the presence of a creative, loving God. Music helps me to dig deeper into the ashes of life’s disappointments and pain and discover hope which renews my confidence in the One who inspired yesterday, and inspires still today, the greatest hymn writers and composers.
As one of your pastors, I am privileged to be made aware of and to pray for many painful situations in the lives of God’s children.  As I reflect on the many concerns of each of our hearts, as I pray for you and for your families, it is no surprise that God’s assurance of hearing and healing comes to me in song.  I have shared, from the pulpit, the beginnings of the “prayer songs” which I offer each Sunday as a portion of the message which God, through the Holy Spirit, places upon my heart each week. For those who may not remember or who may not have been present on that particular Sunday morning, let me briefly describe the origin of the prayer song offertory prior to each sermon.
I began the path of ministry when still very young, (I was 18), it is only as we grow older that we realize how very young we once were, isn’t this true?  My first assignment in ministry was while I was still in college as I served as assistant to our college Chaplain, and in a number of churches through music ministry and Bible Studies with youth and children.  While a student at Yale Divinity School, I served as an Associate Pastor in a Congregational Church. (My Divinity School encouraged us to work ecumenically.) I served with the Chaplain of the University through Rutledge Chapel and had really amazing experiences while still a student intern. Music was an integral part of my education and focus through the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale, and the Masters of Divinity degree I have represents a full music and divinity curriculum during my years in New Haven.
All of this is to say that when I arrived in South Carolina, for my first appointment as a full-time pastor, I wore my warm “New England” black robe (in July, in churches which had not yet imagined air conditioning) and I preached my 3 point sermons from a 5 page, double-spaced typed manuscript, just as I had been taught to do in my divinity school homiletics courses. The ironies of my Yale education, in the midst of my first appointment, are many, and most I will save for another reflection, but for the purposes of today’s thoughts, let me assure you, I did not speak the language of the very poor, mostly illiterate congregations, who surely didn’t want a “woman preacher” in the first place. It did not matter to the people I was sent to serve that I was their first preacher to have a “seminary education”, an attempted selling point of my faithful District Superintendent, in 1977. I was lost in a culture which I did not understand, and I had no idea how to “speak to their longing hearts”. I had been assigned for only one week when, as I prayed at the altar of the largest of the three churches, I heard within my own heart the Holy Spirit speak, “Sing for me, and sing for these children of mine. Music will reach their hearts and minds, when just words are not enough. Music really is my universal language and through it you will also come to understand and appreciate one another.” In light of God’s guidance in the early portion of my years of ministry, and even to this day, please let me share these personally meaningful song lyrics (written by Rolf Lovland and Brendan Graham in 2002) in the hope that you will be comforted by them, as I am.
    “You Raise Me Up” - When I am down, and oh, my soul’s so weary. When troubles come and my heart burdened be, then I am still and wait here, in the silence, until you come and sit awhile with me. You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains, you raise me up, to walk on stormy seas. I am strong, when I am on your shoulders, you raise me up to more than I can be.  There is no life, no life without its sorrows, each restless heart beats so imperfectly, but then you come and fill our hearts with wonder, it’s then we know we glimpse eternity.
                          God’s Love in the journey,  Pastor Debra