Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Cowboy's Prayer

One of our Nomads shared this during their daily devotions, and I thought I'd share it with you.

Jake The Rancher
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, callye upon him
while he is near: Isaiah 55:6

Jake the rancher went one day
To fix a distant fence.
The wind was cold and gusty,
And the clouds were gray and dense.

As he pounded the last staples in,
And gathered tools to go,
The temperature had fallen
And the snow began to blow.

When he finally reached his pickup,
He felt a heavy heart;
From the sound of that ignition,
He knew it wouldn't start.
So Jake did what most of us would do,
If we would have been there---
He humbly bowed his balding head,
And sent a heart-felt prayer.

As he turned the key the last time,
He softly cursed his luck;
They found him, three days later,
Frozen stiff in that old truck.

Now Jake had been around in life,
And done his share of roamin'
But he was shocked when he saw heaven,
For it looked just like Wyomin'.

Of all the saints in heaven,
His favorite was Saint Peter;
And when Jake got to heaven,
Well, guess who was the greeter?.

They set and talked a minute or two,
Or maybe even three;
There wasn't no one keepin' score---
In heaven, time is free.

"Ive always heard," Jake said to Pete,
"That God will answer prayer.
But the one time when I asked for help,
Well, He just plain wasn't there."

"Does God answer the prayers of some,
But not the prayers of others?
That don't seem exactly right---
I thought all men were brothers."

"Or does He randomly reply,
Without good rhyme or reason?
Or maybe it's the time of day,
The weather or the season."

"Now I ain't tryin' to act smart,
It's just the way I feel.
And I wondered could you tell me,
Just what the heck's the deal?"

Peter listened very patiently,
And then when Jake was done,
There were smiles of recognition,
And he said, "So you're the one!"

"That day when your truck wouldn't start,
And you sent your prayer a'flyin'
You gave us all a real bad time,
With hundreds of us tryin' "

"A thousand angels rushed to check
The status of your file,
But you know, Jake, we hadn't heard
From you in quite a while.

And though all prayers are answered,
And God ain't got no quota,
He didn't recognize your voice,
And started a truck in North Dakota!"

~ Bill Jones, Cowboy Poet~

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Musings of a Methodist Minister: Thoughts on Palm Sunday and Holy Week

Musings of a Methodist Minister: Thoughts on Palm Sunday and Holy Week: In the United Methodist Church, as well as other liturgical churches that use the lectionary, a three year guide of scriptures for ministers...

Thoughts on Palm Sunday and Holy Week

In the United Methodist Church, as well as other liturgical churches that use the lectionary, a three year guide of scriptures for ministers to preach from, we celebrate Palm/Passion Sunday, and have since 1969. Many believe the reason for this is concern that people will not come to Holy Week services during the week, and that it is important for people to have an opportunity to remember the passion of Christ that led to the resurrection. I've found that whether or not that was the reason for the change, the reality was often that attendance was much lower, or even nonexistent, when the services were held during the week, so I used Palm/Passion Sunday as a means of keeping people from going straight from Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem into Jesus' resurrection. However, I want to change that for this year.

Let me begin by saying that as I was trying to research the subject, I found few cited references as to why we should or should not celebrate Palm/Passion Sunday, from the argument that I lifted above to the argument that we are simply going back to following the Ancient Church's tradition of beginning the service with the reading of the passion, followed by the liturgy of the palms. If I can find better information with references as to where the information came from, then I will consider changing my thinking.

From a theological point of view, one of the greatest concerns I have with Palm/Passion Sunday is the concept that every Sunday is considered a mini Easter, a time for remembering the Resurrection. In fact, the 40 days of Lent does not count the Sundays of the season as part of the 40 days. While the 40 days of reflection is based, in part, on Jesus' temptations in the wilderness after having fasted for 40 days, we do not have the ability to go that long without being reminded of the Good News of the empty tomb. 

Another concern I have is that by combining the two, we loose focus on one or the other. The church will either read the Passion narrative first, followed by ta focus on the Palms, or by reading the story of the triumphant entry, followed by the more overwhelming reading of the passion. Either way, it is hard to adequately address both in one worship service.

This Sunday, therefore, I am focusing on Palm Sunday. We will have the palms. We will sing "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna", and other songs of joy. However, I want to challenge people to come to our Maundy Thursday service the Thursday before Easter, so we can remember Jesus with the disciples the night he was betrayed. I want to encourage you to come Friday evening to remember the day of the resurrection, a service that will move many to tears, as we reflect on our own role in the crucifixion story. I want to invite you to come to worship Easter morning, as we move from death on a cross to an empty tomb and Jesus' revelation to Mary.

Let us make this week a week of true reflection, as we consider the gift of the Palms, the Passion, and the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Healing of the Ten Lepers, Texas Style

Once there were ten college football quarterbacks who had lost their ability to play. They were shunned and off by themselves, wondering what, if anything, the future held for them. The quarterbacks were from all over; University of Texas, Texas A&M, Southern Methodist, Baylor, Houston, etc.

One day, the late great John Heisman appeared at a distance. "Mr Heisman, have mercy on us! We've lost our abilities as quarterbacks!" the group cried out! Heisman told them to return to their teams and to tell their coaches they were to be starters again. As they left, they were tossing the ball around and found that they were once again able players.

One of these, upon realizing he was healed, ran back to John and threw himself at Heisman's feet. Now, he was from Oklahoma! Heisman looked at the young man and said, "Did I not save 10 of you? Where are the nine? Today I tell you that this year you will win the Heisman trophy."

This story tells us about the outsider's life of gratitude. Through Jesus Christ we have salvation. We are to live our lives in response to that. If we truly understand the magnitude of this gift from God, then we cannot help but to be grateful people.

What do people see when they look at you? Do they see someone who is grateful for the gift of God's salvation? Do they see you as someone who, no matter the situation, is joyful in all things? The leper who returned was a Samaritan, one who was despised by the Jewish people, yet he was the only one to return to Jesus to give thanks.

Let us live our lives in response to Jesus' mercy on us. Let us live as grateful and joyous people!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Today, January 6, 2016, is the 12th day of Christmas, also known as Epiphany for Christians. It is the day we recognize Mathew’s account of the Magi coming to see young Jesus, bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is the time we recognize that Jesus came not only for the Jewish people, but also for the Gentiles, as represented by the wise men. According to the United Methodist Book of Worship, “The Epiphany (Manifestation) of the Lord (January 6), an even more ancient celebration among Christians than Christmas, originally focused on the nativity, incarnation, and baptism of Christ. Today we celebrate the coming of the three wise men (magi), who brought gifts to the Christ child. For this reason, in Puerto Rico and in most Latin American countries this day is observed as Three Kings Day or Dia de Los Reyes. It marks the end of the Christmas Cycle, which began the First Sunday of Advent.[i] It is interesting that we have some misconstrued information about the wise men based not on Scripture, but on tradition. Most Christians, if asked, will tell you that there were three kings (or wise men or magi, depending on the way the word is translated). Even our United Methodist Book of Worship says that Epiphany is to “celebrate the coming of the three wise men.”[ii] One favorite Christmas song is “We Three Kings.” And in Latino churches, Epiphany is know as Dia De Los Reyes, or Three Kings Day.[iii] Tradition has actually named the three wise men as Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar.[iv] However, Matthew 2:1-12 only tells us that there were wise men, without names or numbers to clarify. Why has tradition suggested there were three? Likely, because they brought three gifts.

Another misconception about the magi is when they visited Jesus. Many assume they appeared the night Jesus was born. However, this does not match up with Luke’s Gospel, as Luke has Jesus born in a stable, but the magi visit Jesus in a house. The magi, likely astrologers from modern day Iran, would have had to travel some 800 to 900 miles to get to Jesus, indicating they could have been following the star that led to him for months, even years![v] In fact, I did not put the magi in our Nativity scene until this morning, and even then it was with some feeling of disappointment that my Nativity is a stable and does not include a house.

I find it interesting that Matthew’s account of the three wise men is not found in any other gospel, and that Luke’s account of the shepherds coming to see Jesus is also not found in any other gospel. Each of these gospels was meant to appeal to a different audience. As such, the way the story is passed down in different faith communities allows the aspects of the story most relevant to the community to be remembered. For Luke, it is significant that Jesus be remembered for serving the “least and the lost,” i.e., the shepherds. Matthew, on the other hand, wrote to a community that was being persecuted, or at least ridiculed by Jewish leaders. His gospel focuses on Jesus coming first to reform Judaism (he was, after all, the son of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), but also reaching out to the Gentiles, or non-Jewish people (hence the magi or wise men). In the end, the two gospels point out that the gift of God’s son, Jesus Christ, was intended for all people; that anyone, regardless of upbringing or tradition, can receive salvation through him. In other words, God’s son is as much meant for us as he was for the shepherds and the magi long ago.

So celebrate Epiphany, the time we recognize the arrival of the magi, but more important, celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ coming into your life for your salvation.

[i] United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992) 295
[ii] UMH BOW, 295
[iii] UMH BOW, 295
[iv] http://www.gotquestions.org/three-wise-men.html
[v] http://www.gotquestions.org/three-wise-men.html

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year Resolutions

Have you ever thought about where the concept of New Years resolutions come from? They date back at least as far as the time of the Babylonians, who saw the new year as a time to return things borrowed and to fulfill their debts. In Medieval times, after Christmas, knights were to lay their hands on peacocks and vow to be more chivalrous. Many religious groups, especially Christians, make resolutions at the start of the new year to become more perfect in their faith by becoming more aware of their imperfections and trying to improve upon them. John Wesley, the Father of Methodism, developed a Covenant Renewal Service to be used, at the very least, on January 1. Wesley felt the service should be used regularly, and led congregations in the service whenever he visited them but insisted that all Methodists should participate in the Covenant Renewal service at the first of the year. The purpose of the service was to make a commitment to reaffirm our faith in, and service to Jesus Christ.

While we will not be having a Covenant Renewal service this January 1, I am reprinting part of the service for your consideration. I'd like to suggest that we make a new tradition in our homes by starting each year reading the covenant renewal, and considering how we will respond to it. But I also recommend that we remember this covenant renewal at other times o our lives, as well.  Perhaps we remember as we celebrate birthdays, or as we mourn deaths. Perhaps we remember when we receive an unexpected blessing. May we often reaffirm our covenant with God.

If you are alone on New Year's day, read the service aloud. Hear the words and let them come to life for you. If you are with others, choose one person to lead the service as others respond. Again, read the service aloud and pay attention to the words. Let them come to life within you, challenging you to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ.


Commit yourselves to Christ as his servants. Give yourselves to him, that you may belong to him. Christ has many services to be done. Some are more easy and honorable, others are more difficult and disgraceful.
Some are suitable to our inclinations and interests, others are contrary to both.
In some we may please Christ and please ourselves. But then there are other works where we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.
It is necessary, therefore, that we consider what it means to be a servant of Christ.
Let us, therefore, go to Christ, and pray:

Let me be your servant, under your command. I will no longer be my own. I will give up myself to your will in all things.

Be satisfied that Christ shall give you your place and work.

Lord, make me what you will.
I put myself fully into your hands:
     put me to doing, put me to suffering,
     let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
     let me be full, let me be empty,
     let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
     give it all to your pleasure and disposal.

Christ will be the Savior of none but his servants. He is the source of all salvation to those who obey.
Christ will have no servants except by consent;
Christ will not accept anything except full consent to all that he requires.
Christ will be all in all, or he will be nothing.
Confirm this by a holy covenant.
To make this covenant a reality in your life, listen to these admonitions:

First, set apart some time, more than once, to be spent alone before the Lord; in seeking earnestly God's special assistance, and gracious acceptance of you; in carefully thinking through all the conditions of the covenant; in searching your hearts whether you have already freely given your life to Christ. Consider what your sins are. Consider the laws of Christ, how holy, strict, and spiritual they are, and whether you, after having carefully considered them, are willing to choose them all. Be sure you are clear in these matters, see that you do not lie to God.

Second, be serious and in a spirit of holy awe and reverence.

Third, claim God's covenant, rely upon God's promise of giving grace and strength, so you can keep your promise. Trust not your own strength and power.

Fourth, resolve to be faithful. You have given to the Lord your hearts, you have opened your mouths to the Lord, and you have dedicated yourself to God. With God's power, never go back.

And last, be then prepared to renew your covenant with the Lord. Fall down on your knees, lift your hands toward heaven, open your hearts to the Lord, as we pray:

O righteous God, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, see me as I fall down before you. Forgive my unfaithfulness in not having done your will, for you have promised mercy to me if I turn to you with my whole heart.
God requires that you shall put away all your idols.
I here from the bottom of my heart renounce them all, covenanting with you that no known sin shall be allowed in my life. Against your will, I have turned my love toward the world. In your power I will watch all temptations that will lead me away from you. For my own righteousness is riddled with sin, unable to stand before you.
Through Christ, God has offered to be your God again if you would let him.
Before all heaven and earth, I here acknowledge you as my Lord and God. I take you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for my portion, and vow to give up myself, body and soul, as your servant, to serve you in holiness and righteousness all the days of my life.
God has given the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way and means of coming to God.
Jesus, I do here on bended knees accept Christ as the only new and living Way, and sincerely join myself in a covenant with him. O blessed Jesus, I come to you, hungry, sinful, miserable, blind, and naked, unworthy even to wash the feet of your servants. I do here, with all my power, accept you as my Lord and Head. I renounce my own worthiness, and vow that you are the Lord, my righteousness. I renounce my own wisdom, and take you for my only guide. I renounce my own will, and take your will as my law.
Christ has told you that you must suffer with him.
I do here covenant with you, O Christ, to take my lot with you as it may fall. Through your grace I promise that neither life nor death shall part me from you.
God has given holy laws as the rule of your life.
I do here willingly put my neck under your yoke, to carry your burden. All your laws are holy, just, and good. I therefore take them as the rule for my words, thoughts, and actions, promising that I will strive to order my whole life according to your direction, and not allow myself to neglect anything I know to be my duty.
The almighty God searches and knows your heart.
O God, you know that I make this covenant with you today without guile or reservation. If any falsehood should be in it, guide me and help me to set it aright. And now, glory be to you, O God the Father, whom I from this day forward shall look upon as my God and Father. Glory be to you, O God the Son, who have loved me and washed me from my sins in your own blood, and now is my Savior and Redeemer. Glory be to you, O God the Holy Spirit, who by your almighty power have turned my heart from sin to God.
O mighty God, the Lord Omnipotent, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you have now become my Covenant Friend. And I, through your infinite grace, have become your covenant servant. So be it.
And let the covenant I have made on earth be ratified in heaven.