Jenny and I are putting the finishing touches on the bulletin for Ash Wednesday (February
13 14, 32018). There will be two services, one over the lunch hour from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. and one in the evening from 5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. There will be communion at the evening service.
I’ll be preaching on 2 Kings 2:1-12 tomorrow. This is the passage with Elijah, Elisha, a whirlwind and the chariot and horses of fire. We will, of course, be singing the hymn Days of Elijah.
We’ll have Ash Wednesday services at 12:15 pm and 5:30 p.m. on February 14, 2018. We expect both services to last about thirty minutes or less. The second service will include communion.
I’m continually amazed by how many people listen to the service on the radio. This is just a friendly reminder that if you find yourself away from church on Sunday morning and want to follow along in the bulletin, you can find it at: https://abilenefirstumc.org/bulletin/.
From what I heard, the Covenant Renewal Service this past Sunday was well received. (Please continue to let me know what you think, I would only ask that you “smite me gently”  if you didn’t like it.) Unfortunately, the extremely cold weather meant that many people were unable to attend. To that end, I want to share the core of the covenant service, A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition, with you here:
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,
Praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely give all that I am and all that I have to you.
And now, O wonderful and Holy God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. 
 I have a strong memory of finding this wonderful turn of phrase in the writing of John Wesley, but I don’t remember where, Google isn’t as helpful as it could be, and it’s not worth a lot of effort one way or the other.
 There are numerous versions of this prayer floating around in books and online. Because of that variety, I’ve felt free to choose the phrases I hold best suited from several different versions. The closest thing to an authoritative version is found in The United Methodist Hymnal as number 607, but the language is somewhat dated.
If you want an idea of the Covenant Renewal Service for this coming Sunday (December 31, 2017), you can check out the bulletin at: https://abilenefirstumc.org/bulletin/.
This coming Sunday, January 31, 2017, we’ll have a service of Covenant Renewal. Jenny and I have not done one of these in a while and pretty sure that we’ve never done one here; nonetheless, it’s a very meaningful service that has been well received by previous congregations. This old Methodist tradition is a great way to launch yourself into the new year.
This morning’s worship services of Lessons and Carols are finished. This evening (Sunday, December 24, 2017) we’ll have two traditional Christmas Eve Candlelight services. One at 7:00 p.m. and One at 11:00 p.m. Hope to see you there.
Below you’ll find some background information, from The United Methodist Book of Worship, that I normally print in the bulletin for the service of Lessons and Carols. I forgot to put it in this year, so I’m posting it here:
In 1880 E. W. Benson, then Anglican Bishop of Truro, England, composed a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, based on ancient sources, for Christmas Eve. In 1918 it was adapted for the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, by its Dean, Eric Milner-White, who also wrote The Bidding Prayer. The Blessing after The Lord’s Prayer, added by Milner-White, was first included in its present form in 1930. The service has been edited for United Methodist congregations [and further adapted for this congregation]. 
 United Methodist Church, The United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville, TN: United Methodist Publishing House, 1992), 284.
We’ll have four services this coming Sunday (December 24, 2017). We’ll have a service of Lessons and Carols at our regular times (8:15 a.m. and
11:00 10:30 a.m.). Then, in the evening we’ll have two traditional Christmas Eve Candlelight services at 7:00 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Several weeks ago, I announced that we would be substituting the Ecumenical Text of the Lord’s Prayer for the version we have traditionally said to help us think about what we were actually saying instead of praying it by rote. Apparently, not everyone heard me when I said that this change was not permanent. But I did say that. We’ll be switching back very soon.
In the meantime, I need your help. The version of the Lord’s prayer we normally use includes the line “lead us not into temptation.” The idea that God would lead us into temptation is problematic; it implies that God is tempting us to sin. This translation runs face first into James 1:13: “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one” (NRSV). The good news “lead us not into temptation” is not at all what Jesus meant. The translation “save us from the time of trial” of the Ecumenical Text far more accurately communicates the original sense.
My question: is there a way to convey this more accurate meaning while using our traditional version of the Lord’s prayer? Is there something we could put in brackets on screen, etc.? I’m asking in earnest and would be grateful for any suggestions you have.
We’ve been asked why we use four purple candles in the Advent wreath instead of three purple candles and one rose. That’s a good question. The following explanation is taken from The United Methodist Book of Worship which serves as a source of authority in matters of worship.
The Advent wreath is a simple circle of evergreen branches, a sign of life without end; its four Advent candles encircle a central white Christ candle. Some traditions use the color rose on the Third Sunday of Advent and for this reason use three purple candles and one rose candle. United Methodists, however, encourage purple for the whole season of Advent and therefore use four purple candles. 
 United Methodist Church, The United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville, TN: United Methodist Publishing House, 1992), 261.