NovemberNovember 2, 2011
Dear Friends of Centenary,
On the coasts of Scotland and Ireland there are certain sites that the locals call "thin places." Thin places are not so named because the altitude is any higher or the air any thinner there. Rather, they are called "thin" because it is believed that in these places the distance between heaven and earth shrinks, and the veil between the two worlds is so "thin" you can actually perceive something of heaven itself.
The ancient Celts—sensing the deep spirituality of these sites—built many of their worship places on them, some still marked by circles of stone. Later Christians built churches, monasteries, and cemeteries there. People who visit say they lose a sense of time when visiting these "thin" places. The boundaries of time and space fade away.
"OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW." These are the very last words uttered my Steve Jobs as he encountered the ultimate thin place, according to Mona Simpson, his sister. The Wall Street Journal noticed a parallel between Jobs' final words and those of inventor Thomas Edison. Edison emerged from a coma, opened his eyes, looked upwards and said "It is very beautiful over there." In my mind that is simply another way to say "OH WOW."
Worship at Centenary is a thin place for me. It is a place where the line between earth and heaven becomes blurred. Admittedly it does not happen in the same way every single Sunday, but there are times when something happens and we are swept into a place where we stand on holy ground. The thin place confirms the quote from Julian of Norwich in the 1300s: "All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of thing shall be well." This statement by Julian is not a wish... it is an affirmation of what is absolutely and already true! OH WOW.
I write these words on Tuesday, November 1. Today is All Saints Day. All Saints Day occurs the day after Halloween, October 31. The two are connected. Halloween is jovial, fun-loving, and ancient. Many ancient traditions (including Christianity) come together (mixing and intermingling) in Halloween. November 1 is a day of remembering those who have died... saints long gone who have blessed our lives.
I am reminded of a wonderful hymn titled "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God."
1. I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.
2. They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus' sake
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there's not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn't be one too.
3. They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.
Thin places. Death. Life. OH WOW! All Saints. This Sunday is All Saints Sunday. Let's gather remembering those who have blessed our lives. OH WOW! OH WOW! OH WOW!
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++A "Bring Your Questions" Class begins on Sunday, November 6, and will run for 3 Sundays. The study will be lead by Ginny Hathaway and Stacey Harwell. This is a discussion group for those who want to know more about Centenary or about the United Methodist Church in general. If you have been considering what it means to sink your roots at Centenary with intentional commitment, then this is the group for you. The "Bring Your Questions" Class begins at 9:45 on November 6 in a classroom below the sanctuary.
Stars Over College Hill ---- Saturday, November 5, 7pm – 9 pm
Centenary has partnered with the Museum of Arts and Sciences and Mercer to bring the universe down to Tattnall Square Park! If the sky is clear, see fascinating objects through several telescopes. Enjoy fun, space-related activities in the park's gazebo and then take a journey through space in the Discovery Dome at Centenary.
Let There Be Lights – We are up to $10,860! That is super! If you have not made your gift to replace the old knob and tube electrical wiring in the sanctuary, please bring it with you Sunday or send it to Centenary Church, 1290 College Street, Macon, GA 31201
Grace and peace.
November 10, 2011
Dear Centenary family,
I am proud to say that The Rev. Hamp Watson is my friend, father-in-law, mentor, and on top of all that, he is an inspiration. Hamp's life is an examined life. (Remember that Plato said that "the unexamined life is not worth living.") His ability to reflect on life is a call to all of us.
Years ago, Hamp and Day Watson decided they wanted Centenary to be their church family. Certainly, part of it had to do with the fact that Susan and I are here... however, there was something much deeper that drove the decision for them. They loved what Centenary was and saw their involvement as a way to strengthen a new way of understanding what it means to live in a faith community.
Hamp is a retired United Methodist pastor who has served various pulpits for 58 years. In his retirement, he has written and compiled nine books for various service agencies in the United Methodist Church. He has raised more than $150,000 for agencies like The Methodist Home for Children and Youth, Wesley Glen, Macon Outreach, Wesley Community Center in Savannah, Open Door Ministries in Columbus....along with others. It is an amazing ministry.
And now... Hamp has written a book for Centenary. The title is The Centenary Inclusive Ministries. The book is a compilation of sermons from Fred Craddock, Bill Hurdle, Stacey Harwell, Hamp Watson, Bill Mallard and Tim Bagwell. The theme of all of these sermons is the inclusiveness of the Gospel. These sermons reflect the heart of who we are at Centenary. So... we want you to have one of these books. In fact, the book is free for you. (Of course if you are able to give a gift to help defray expenses, that would be welcome. But given the inclusive nature of Centenary, we did not want to charge for the book.) This Sunday, November 13, we will have the book available after worship. Hamp will be sitting at a table in the round room where he will sign a copy of his book for you. Also, copies of all of his books will be available for $10 each. (Remember that the money goes to mission agencies.)
If you don't live in Macon and want a copy of The Centenary Inclusive Ministry, please send a $13 check made out to Centenary UMC and mail it to The Rev. Hamp Watson, 149 Cambridge Way, Macon, GA 31220. Hamp will mail a copy of the book to you. You may contact Hamp at email@example.com
So... this Sunday is one to be anticipated! Hamp will be signing his new book for Centenary. Hope you will be here for the celebration!
A "Bring Your Questions" Class begins on Sunday, November 6, and will run for 3 Sundays. The study will be lead by Ginny Hathaway and Stacey Harwell. This is a discussion group for those who want to know more about Centenary or about the United Methodist Church in general. If you have been considering what it means to sink your roots at Centenary with intentional commitment, then this is the group for you. The "Bring Your Questions" Class begins at 9:45 on November 6 in a classroom below the sanctuary.
I will be preaching this Sunday a sermon titled "We Cannot Measure How God Heals." I hope that you will be present for a healing word!
Grace and peace.
Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. Serve.
November 16, 2011
Dear Centenary Friends,
Could it be that every bush is burning? Let me explain what I mean. The story of Moses and the burning bush is well-known. Moses fled Egypt because he, in a rage of indignation, killed someone. He is tending sheep when he sees this sight of a burning bush and God introduces Himself/Herself as YHWH... in English, Yahweh - which means "I am". "Take off your shoes because you are standing on holy ground, Moses."
Thus, there is a divine encounter. Prior to this event was God not hanging around? Where, exactly, was God? The stories and oral tradition of Abraham pre-date the Moses narratives. God speaks to Abraham and says, "You are my friend." Now that is a radical concept! Prior to that moment, the concept of God in human minds was that a god was something to be feared and even avoided, if at all possible. One did not want to incur the wrath of a god. The radical change we see in the story of Abraham and God is that they are chummy and even visit and talk together. There is reciprocity. Abraham's identity, then, is "I am a friend of God." You and I are too. We are friends of God.
So God was around before Moses and had even revealed himself in a variety of ways. This brings us back to the burning bush. Rarely do we see or experience burning bushes --- or do we? Could it be that God is seeking to connect with us in all situations, at all times, in all places? Is it a matter of our perception or lack thereof that either enables us to comprehend and experience the presence of God or to feel the absence of God? Moses was not a particularly holy person--- not by a long shot. Yet God visited him in the metaphor of the burning bush. When was the last time you saw a burning bush? May I submit to you that you saw one today! And you will also see one tomorrow! And I can guarantee that you will see one the day after tomorrow! And the day after that!
Every bush is burning because God has claimed us as His/Her friends. Wow! If God is a friend, does God not want to connect with us? Of course! So, could it be that because of our hard-headedness, lack of sensitivity, callousness, stony hearts, unwillingness to see, addictions, blindness, and busyness, we simply fail to experience the burning bushes which are aflame around us? Surely God did not choose just a few people to whom to give a burning bush experience! I believe that your name is on God's list for experiencing a burning bush on a regular basis!
Jesus seemed to indicate that God is present all around. The Spirit is ubiquitous. Consider the lilies of the field. I will be with you always. The wind blows where it will. Those who have done it unto the least of these have done it unto me. There is an all-encompassing presence of God in the world for Jesus. Holiness is all around. And, there are many burning bushes. Sometimes the bush may bring an "Aha" moment. Other times it may be more subtle – like a twig or two are burning. Nevertheless, a burning bush is a burning bush whether is has been doused with gasoline or is a small scrub bush that smolders. Yes – a burning bush is a burning bush. The problem is not the lack of burning bushes. The problem lies in our ability to comprehend what we are seeing and experiencing.
Whisper this truth: Every bush is a burning bush because God is my friend.
Be a part of the "Bring Your Questions" Class this Sunday, November 20. The class will be lead by Ginny Hathaway and Stacey Harwell. This is a discussion group for those who want to know more about Centenary or about the United Methodist Church in general. The class begins at 9:45 in a classroom below the sanctuary.
Hamp Watson's book, The Centenary Inclusive Mandate, will be available again this Sunday. This is a gift to you from Centenary Church! The books will be available in the windowsills at the back of the church. Feel free to pick up one!
This Sunday is Thanksgiving Sunday. I hope that you will be present in worship this Sunday. Bring a friend! My sermon is titled "Living Beyond the Circumstances".
Grace and peace,
Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. Serve.