Weekly Worship Thought – TUNE UP Recap

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Thank you to everyone who attended the TUNE UP gathering on Saturday, August 5, 2017. Thank you to the volunteers and Messiah Lutheran Church for hosting us. Thank you to Larry Bose for capturing our day together with photos. This was our fifth year of TUNE UP and we are so blessed that you came and learned with us.

We had over 70 participants from 19 different churches all around the Houston area join us for this day of training and networking. The gathering began with opening worship and presentations from Brian Hehn, Clayton Faulkner, and Richard Birk. They covered the subject of diversity in church music with each presenting on genre, selecting songs pastorally, and why we should incorporate hymns into band-led worship. Then everyone divided into instrumental/vocal/tech tracks, and conceptual tracks. The instrumental tracks were divided by specific area (worship leader, acoustic/electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals, and sound tech). Conceptual track offerings included sessions on improving your worship band, running an effective rehearsal, increasing congregational singing, and using video technology. During the “Coaching for Bands” session a volunteer church band from Autumn Creek Baptist Church in Houston received feedback and help with their music from a panel of track leaders.

We want you to know about these helpful resources from some of our track leaders:

Thanks for a great event and stay tuned for future event announcements…

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Weekly Worship Thought – Vigil Against Violence

vigil-against-violenceLast week we held the Vigil Against Violence on Thursday evening. This event was in response to the shooting in West University Place on Monday, September 26, 2016, which is only a few blocks away from the church. We felt that the best way to respond as a church was to offer a place of peace and reflection, as well as lift up the idea of non-violence. Our culture has turned increasingly more violent. As followers of Jesus, we walk in the path of a Savior who willingly allowed his own execution in order to tear down systems that violently oppressed the weak and vulnerable.

If you didn’t catch the news interview you can see it here:

You can also take a look at the readings and prayers from the vigil as well.

Vigil Against Violence

September 29, 2016 / 7:00 PM

Welcome

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Song – ELW 721 Goodness Is Stronger than Evil

Reading – Psalm 37:1-9

Do not fret because of the wicked;

do not be envious of wrongdoers,

for they will soon fade like the grass,

and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;

so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD;

trust in him, and he will act.

He will make your vindication shine like the light,

and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him;

do not fret over those who prosper in their way,

over those who carry out evil devices.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.

Do not fret — it leads only to evil.

For the wicked shall be cut off,

but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

Prayer

Let us pray: God of peace, we come to you on behalf of our community. We are in need of healing. We grieve for those are killed and those whose lives are forever changed by violence. We ask for comfort for those who have lost loved ones. We pray for a change of heart for those who resort to violence. You desire peace in our world. Let it begin with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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Song – God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us, stanza 1

God of mercy, you have shown us ways of living that are good:

Work for justice, treasure kindness, humbly journey with the Lord.

Yet your people here are grieving, hurt by weapons that destroy.

Help us turn to you, believing in your way that brings us joy.

Reading – Studs Turkel

“Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say: This is my community, and it is my responsibility to make it better.   Interweave all these communities and you really have an America that is back on its feet again. I really think we are going to have to reassess what constitutes a ‘hero.'”

Prayer

Let us pray: O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace. Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to your church, peace among our neighbors, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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Song – God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us, stanza 2

On a street where neighbors gather, shots are heard; a young girl dies.
On a campus, students scatter as the violence claims more lives.
In a family filled with anger, tempers flare and shots resound.
God of love, we weep and wonder at the violence all around.

Reading – Kofi Annan

“It may seem sometimes as if a culture of peace does not stand a chance against the culture of war, the culture of violence and the cultures of impunity and intolerance. Peace may indeed be a complex challenge, dependent on action in many fields and even a bit of luck from time to time. It may be a painfully slow process, and fragile and imperfect when it is achieved. But peace is in our hands. We can do it.”

Prayer

Let us pray: Gracious and holy God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

 

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Song – God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us, stanza 3

God, we pray for those who suffer when this world seems so unfair;
May your church be quick to offer loving comfort, gentle care.
And we pray: Amid the violence, may we speak your truth, O Lord!
Give us strength to break the silence, saying, “This can be no more!”

Reading – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral; begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” (1967, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?. p. 67.)

Prayer

Let us pray: Gracious God, bless our cities, Bellaire, West University, and all of Houston, and make them places of safety for all people, rich and poor. Give us grace to work for cities where neighborhoods remain vibrant and whole, where the lost and forgotten in society are supported, and where the arts flourish. Make the diverse fabric of the city a delight to all who live and visit there and a strong bond uniting people around common goals for the good of all; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

 

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Song – God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us, stanza 4

God, renew our faith and vision; make us those who boldly lead!

May we work for just decisions that bring true security.

Help us change this violent culture based on idols, built on fear.

Help us build a peaceful future with your world of people here.

Reading – Matthew 5:1-16

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Prayer

Let us pray: God, our creator, by your holy prophet Jeremiah you taught your ancient people to seek the welfare of the cities in which they lived. We commend our neighborhood to your care, that it might be kept free from social strife and decay. We pray for our elected leaders and law enforcement, that they may be kept safe and allowed to serve and protect all people. Help us to be advocates for peace in our neighborhoods, working for that day when guns and weapons of destruction are transformed into instruments of healing. Give us strength of purpose and concern for others, that we may create here a community of justice and peace where your will may be done; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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Dismissal

(God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us, Tune: The Sacred Harp, 1844; attributed to Benjamin Franklin White (“God Whose Giving Knows No Ending”) Text: © 2009 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Prayers adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, © 2006 Augsburg Fortress.)

2014 TUNE UP Recap

_DSC6733On Saturday, August 9, 2014, the TUNE UP worship band gathering was held. Over 100 worship musicians, sound techs, and video techs assembled on the campus of Faith Lutheran Church in Bellaire, TX (Houston) for a multi-denominational training event. Hosting over 100 participants for the second year in a row, the event was organized by the Worship Excellence Team of the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod (ELCA) to improve the quality of band-led worship in smaller churches.

The assembled musicians and techs represented 20 congregations including Lutheran, Nazarene, Presbyterian, United Methodist, and Non-Denominational churches. Churches that participated were both from the Houston vicinity and rural parts of Texas.

_DSC6729The schedule included times of worship, instrumental/vocal/tech tracks, and conceptual tracks. A team of track leaders with main speaker DeAndre Johnson (Westbury United Methodist Church) led worship. The instrumental tracks were divided by specific area (worship leader, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals, sound tech, and video tech). Each group gathered together for training and instruction specific to that instrument. Conceptual track offerings included sessions on arranging hymns for worship band, multicultural worship, and renewing the arts in worship. Additionally, a “Coaching for Bands” track was offered in which two church bands received feedback and help with their music from a panel of track leaders.

_DSC6645One attendee commented, “Once again, my team and I have learned and grown through your gathering.” Another responded that the information they received in their track was, “Incredibly useful.”

After a second successful gathering, we will likely offer the event again in the future. Watch the event website for details: TuneUpGathering.org.

TUNE UP worship band gathering recap

Coaching for Bands 1aOn Saturday, August 10, 2013, the first TUNE UP worship band gathering was held. Over 125 contemporary worship musicians and sound techs assembled on the campus of Faith Lutheran Church in Bellaire, TX (Houston) for a day of learning, growing, and networking. The event was organized by the Worship Excellence Team of the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod (ELCA) to provide training in the fundamentals of music and worship.

The group that gathered represented 28 congregations including Lutheran, Nazarene, Episcopal, and Non-Denominational churches. Churches from as far away as Austin, TX and Chalmette, LA brought musicians to attend the event.

The schedule included times of worship, instrumental/vocal tracks, and conceptual tracks. A team of track leaders with main speaker Bishop Mike Rinehart led worship. The instrumental tracks were divided by specific instrument (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals, sound tech). Each group gathered together for training and instruction specific to that instrument. Conceptual track offerings included sessions on arranging songs for worship, choosing songs for worship, and principles for worship. Additionally, a “Coaching for Bands” track was offered in which two church bands received feedback and help with their music from a panel of track leaders.

1167394_1402084233343388_1413482869_oOne attendee commented, “It’s nice to attend an event where you get something you can actually use.” Another said, “Thanks for doing this. It helped to refocus me on being a lead worshipper instead of a lead guitarist.”

An overwhelming amount of positive responses suggest that we will likely offer the event again in the future. Watch the event website for details: TuneUpGathering.org.

There Are Two Marriages

2013-04-07 06.21.28These are my friends, Meredith and Anja. I officiated their marriage ceremony on Saturday, April 6, 2013.

In Texas.

I believe in marriage equality. I believe in love.

I am grateful for the words of Tony Jones, from whom I borrowed for my introductory remarks during the ceremony:

Actually, there are two marriages in America.

On the one hand, there’s legal marriage.  It’s sanctioned by the state, and it’s available to any two adults who desire to enter into a legally binding contract with one another (some states limit this contractual opportunity to opposite-gendered persons).  Legal marriage affords the married couple as many as 515 benefits that are not afforded to non-married persons, and it is officially incentivized by our government.  And legal marriage has nothing to do with sexual intimacy.

On the other hand, there’s sacramental marriage, which is defined by communities of faith.  This marriage accrues neither governmental benefits nor tax incentives.  However, sexual intimacy is of great interest to this marriage, since the sacred texts of all religions have lots to say about sex.  Sacramental marriage is about what God wants — and that is, of course, a matter of interpretation and debate among Christians.  Nevertheless, it is sacred in a way that legal marriage is not and, as such, it is the more important version of marriage.

 

Recap from "Exploring the Future Church" Session 2

“Exploring the Future Church” is a series of discussions around the question, “What does it mean to be in a faith community?” These sessions are the foundation of the ministry intervention for my doctoral thesis (Discerning the Meaning of Church Membership at Theophilus). If you’d like to follow along you can download the notes from Session 2 here: Session 2 Handout

Big Takeaway from Session 2: God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15) was meant to be a blessing for all people (Genesis 12:3). The fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all people is realized through the Holy Spirit working in and through the church (beginning at Pentecost, leading to today, and into the future). There is some difficulty in explaining ideas like “covenant” and “Kingdom” today. They are foreign terms for most people. God’s Kingdom and covenant can be simply understood as “God’s love working to bless all people and bring peace.” When it comes to the church, people are wary of joining institutions that are interested in their own preservation. The foundation of the church has to be authentic and genuine relationships.

Recap from "Exploring the Future Church" Session 1

If you’d like to keep up with the discussion from “Exploring the Future Church: an open discussion on what it means to be in a faith community” you can download the notes here: Session 1 Handout (.doc file)
Big Takeaway from Session 1: We had some significant discussion around the question, “Does church membership matter anymore?” We noted that the idea of “membership” has evolved from what it once was because people’s social needs have changed. One difficulty is that church membership rolls are never accurate. Some people will become a “member” of a church, but never participate or develop relationships. On the other hand, some people are highly engaged in the life and ministry of the church, but never officially become a “member.” Regardless of where people stand in their “membership,” it is essential that everyone feel welcome and invited. The conclusion the group came to was that “membership” as it has been known and experienced in most churches does not matter anymore. What does matter is “belonging to a community.”

Our future sessions will continue to explore this idea of how to encourage people to belong to our community.

Message from 5/22/11 (Stoning of St. Stephen)

Here is the video from Sunday’s message at Theophilus. Marcus and I had a great time “tag-teaming” the message.

We each had enough material to preach our own individual messages, so I left a couple of points out due to lack of time. Here they are:

  • If you’re going to follow Jesus, you might have to follow Jesus (even to death). Is it possible that I could be killed for my faith? Or one of you? I don’t know. The point is this: If we claim to be followers of a Savior who was crucified, should we expect any different? The question is, will we allow our own crosses and our own martyrdoms to be an opportunity to imitate Jesus, his compassion and mercy?
  • (Hat-Tip to Peter Rollins for this point, taken from his blog post)
    Anecdote – “One evening a guy is driving home after a long and tiring day at work and gets a call from his concerned wife, “Dear, be careful on the way home as I just heard on the news that some crazy guy has been spotted going full speed the wrong way up the freeway” The husband says, “Sorry honey, can’t talk right now… there isn’t just one crazy guy, there are hundreds of them!!!”

    This is funny, but this is the situation the Jewish mob that murders Stephen find themselves in. They don’t even consider that they may be wrong. This situation is sadly all too common. Now look at this story in your own life – put yourself in the shoes of the angry mob. How do we encounter people with different political, religious, and cultural values to our own? When we’re confronted with someone who thinks differently than us, how do we respond? Most people respond in 1 of 2 ways: (A) Consumption – attempting to neutralize the difference by changing them to our way of thinking (making them like us), or (B) Rejection – rejecting them from our group as a foreign agent that must be expelled (protecting the integrity of our group).

    But there is a better option. The better option is Communion. Communion can be described as eating with the other who thinks differently. Here the community seeks to sit down with the other and seek out places of convergence. Communion is saying there are places where we are both right, lets see where those places are, and move forward together.

    To be in Communion with someone means we put ourselves in the other’s shoes, we look at the situation through their eyes. This is an alternative type of encounter with people who are different than us. And it’s what Jesus came to show us. Jesus came to show us that there is a different way to treat people. We don’t have to change them and we don’t have to reject them. God can save us as we are, whether right or wrong.