“The Greatest Must be Servant of All”

“There’s something about kids and how they can make us stop in our tracks…a child changes our perceptions of a scenario or situation….”

This was a difficult sermon/homily to write in light of the ongoing crises in our world and how they disproportionately affect vulnerable people groups and children. This is my Homily/Sermon from this past Weds Night Worship on Mark 9:30-37 at Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University in Atlanta, GA on 2015.09.16.

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Good King Wenceslas

The moral of this olden tale is social justice and care for the poor: “Therefore, Christian men (people), be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, Shall yourselves find blessing…”

Earlier in the week here in Atlanta, Ga we had 4 inches or so of SNOW. This once-in-a-decade “Snowmageddon” or “Snowpocalypse,” as some have termed it, has, needless to say, shut down transportation in much of the city. SO, in lieu of a snowmobile or car that can handle snow/ice,  I’ve been hiking to work (literally) a few miles each way (2.3 miles) to Emory University to meet and work with the college students of the Emory Wesley Fellowship (http://emorywesley.org). The students are filtering in and doing well–especially since classes should have started YESTERDAY–needless to say, they’re enjoying their time of epic sledding and adventurously traversing the ice.

In my own travels through the snow and ice covered streets I’ve found myself enjoying parts of the neighborhoods I usually zip through in my car or on my bike. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the sidewalks (and for people who have been so kind as to scrape and/or salt their section of the sidewalk) and for walking in the snow and ice.

As I’ve been hiking through the ice I’ve found myself humming and singing a familiar carol that we used at Christmas in worship services with the Emory college students. Good King Wenceslas is an old, familiar carol that I’ve sung often (and even made up alternate lyrics on occasion). For our closing worship service for the Fall Semester last year, the Emory Wesley students offered up short meditations on their favorite Christmas carols as to why they liked the carol and some of its historical significance or origins. One of the students selected Good King Wenceslas and shared a brief history of it–of how it is the recounting of the benevolent actions of a Saint King (actually Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia in the 10th Century wikipedia here) and his page (assistant of the day). It is the story of a king looking out on the day after Christmas (the Feast of Stephen) and seeing a poor man gathering fire wood. The king and page then carry meat, wine, and wood to the peasant’s house through a brutal winter storm to “see him dine.” As they are going “Thro’ the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather” the page says he “can go no longer.” The monarch then tells the page to follow in his footsteps and as the page steps on the warmed ground where the Saint has walked!

The moral of this olden tale is social justice and care for the poor: “Therefore, Christian men (people), be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, Shall yourselves find blessing. It is not simply a 10th Century prosperity gospel, but a carol that reminds us to be a blessing to others–regardless of our social or economic status. Christ calls us to ministry with and for the poor–in serving and loving people we will discover the blessing of mutuality and understanding of others.

Below is my recording of an arrangement of the beloved Christmas Carol from the 16th Century. Again, the origins of this carol come from the stories of a Saintly ‘King’ Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia, who lived in the 10th Century in what is modern day Czech Republic (where he is now the patron Saint).

Words:
Good King Wenceslas looked out On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about deep and crisp and even
Brightly shown the moon that night though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight gathering winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me, If thou know’st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, Underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, Bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, When we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went, Forth they went together;
Thro’ the rude wind’s wild lament And the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now, And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer.”
Mark my footsteps, good my page; Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod,  Where the snow lay dented;
Heat was in the very sod  Which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men (people), be sure,  Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, Shall yourselves find blessing.

Good King Wenceslas chords here

All Saints Day: Remembering those who have shaped our lives

Many people have questions about death–about what happens afterward and about what things in our lives NOW will mean LATER. In this story, a group of religious leaders are asking Jesus about what happens in “The Resurrection”–about what it means for people later in light of what is happening now.

Many people have questions about death…about what happens afterward and about what things in our lives NOW will mean LATER. In this story, a group of religious leaders are asking Jesus about what happens in “The Resurrection”–about what it means for people later in light of what is happening now. All Saints Day is a time to remember those who have gone on before us and remember how they have shaped and are shaping our lives still. The scripture will be presented three times–each time will have a set of questions and a time to think, pray, and reflect.

the IntroThe group asks Jesus what becomes of one’s marital status after death and the supposed resurrection. According to Levite laws of the time, if a man were to die leaving a widower, his brother was then to marry the widower. This was practiced not only so the family of the deceased was taken care of and all property remained within the family, but also because they believed that the spirit and memory of the dead was carried on within relatives. Jesus says, as you’ll hear, that death is not the end—that God is a God of the living.


After the video
Today we affirm that the people who have impacted our lives—that they are alive and well in Christ through the resurrection and through our memories. Today we honor their memory through the lighting of candles—praying that they continue to impact our living Christ through remembrance of the impact they have had in our lives. I invite you to pray and reflect upon the memories of those who you consider saints in your life. May we continue to live our lives being shaped by and in their memory.

This video may be used (with permission) to help augment the reading of the Gospel text for All Saints Day (often celebrated the Sunday before or after Nov. 1). It was created by the Emory Wesley Fellowship and shown at our Sunday Night Worship Service on Oct. 31, 2010.

more info at emorywesley.org

Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas by Trinity/Martin Reardon

written by the worship team at Trinity Anglican Mission in Atlanta, Ga with worship pastor Martin Reardon

This song is written by the worship team at Trinity Anglican Mission in Atlanta, Ga where worship pastor Martin Reardon and other gifted leaders work and serve. Reardon is an excellent musician, writer, and a down-to-earth, genuine guy with a longing for worship music that connects to the liturgy of the service (more of Martin on youtube).

This song comes from the “Prayers of the Saints” CD that they put out in 2006. My good friend Jarrett Dickey (http://fiveriverschurchplant.blogspot.com), who worked at Trinity during seminary brought this song (and many others) to my attention. I have greatly enjoyed getting to know Marty, the good people at Trinity, and their carefully crafted music. (please check out excellent worship music site http://www.trinityworshipmusic.org )

At the Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University, we sing this song often during communion because of the simple, but profound words and melody and the meaning behind them. The worship team (cello, mandolin, piano, drums & guitar) have a great time with St. Thomas.

The text of this song is adapted from a Eucharistic prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas (12th century) and with its modern musical setting can used from a prayerful, solemn vibe to a medium tempo setting of simply offering thanks to God. There are much better recordings out there, but this should give you an idea of how it can be played and done.

National Student Forum: Dr. Eboo Patel

Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others.

This weekend (May 21-24) I’m here in Shreveport, LA at Centenary College attending the National Student Forum of student forum logothe United Methodist Student Movement–basically a gathering of United Methodist college students who are from all over the US. Also there are 50+ UM campus ministers and chaplains (I’m now one of those as the Emory Wesley Fellowship Director!) It is a pretty awesome gathering of people in the United Methodist Church who are deeply passionate about young people, the church, and the world. Our theme is breaking barriers and building bridges.

Today at the conference Dr. Eboo Patel founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core spoke to the students and later to the Campus Ministers about coming together despite differences, pluralism, and serving others. The Interfaith Youth Core, is an organization who “builds mutual respect and pluralism among young people from Eboo Pateldifferent religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others.” Patel is a young, energetic, extremely intelligent and well-read communicator.

He spoke to us about the importance of building the “beloved community” of which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke. Dr. Patel, a devout Muslim, shared his belief that MLK, Jr.’s vision of the beloved community consisted of and was informed/formed by two things: 1) his being deeply rooted in the Christian faith tradition, and 2) his relationships with people of other faiths. Patel encouraged and challenged the students and campus ministers to grow more deeply in their faith, noting that in deepening their own faith traditions they will encounter truths that resonate deeply with other faith traditions. He talked about the interfaith encounters and relationships of Martin Luther King, Jr. with Ghandi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel to demonstrate that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only a great leader for the civil rights movement and a great leader for the Christian movement, but that he was also a great interfaith leader.

Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others. His message was and is encouraging, insightful, and it is gaining momentum–one conversation and one interfaith leader at a time. May it continue.

mississippi bridge

Emory Wesley Fellowship

In case anyone who might read this is interested, I work with the students at the Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Minstry at Emory University. We’ve created an Emory Wesley Fellowship Facebook Group for the students to communicate what we do not do on LearnLink, Emory’s webmail and student connectvity client. LearnLink is somewhat dated–even after a recent upgrade–being mostly bland text and characters, but the students use it and it has a desktop client (from FirstClass, a company which designs and manages these sorts of things). One of our questions is how we can be better at communications as a group–not just a facebook group, but as a campus ministry. How can we be better at letting the students know about the good things that God is doing with us and through us at the Emory Wesley Fellowship?