This coming Sunday, January 12, 2019, is “Baptism of the Lord,” a day when we celebrate Jesus’ baptism. We’re going to push that observance back to January 19 and instead focus on a passage known as “The Flight into Egypt” found in Matthew 2:13-23. This episode only comes up once every three years in the lectionary, and we missed it due to the Service of Lessons and Carols. Chronologically and canonically, it follows last Sunday’s reading from Matthew and so it makes perfect sense to turn to it now.
This coming Sunday (December 8, 2019) we’ll have the Children and Youth Christmas Pageant at both services. (We’ve cut the sermon and a few other things, and the service should still come in at an hour.) We’ll also have special music from some of our friends at the Great Plains Theatre: O Holy Night by Mitchell Aiello, Kimberly Camacho, Natalie Szczerba, Layne Roate, Ryan Scanlon, Melissa Ford (Hometown Girl and First UMC Member), Michaela Moore, Brian Baylor and Susie Jolink.
Update/Clarification: O Holy Night will only be preformed at the 10:30 Service.
Today I was asked about the fact that Joe Biden, a practicing Roman Catholic, was denied communion in a Roman Catholic church because of his pro-choice stance in his public life. I’ve always found it interesting when a priest has done this to a pro-choice politician, because, as far as I know, it’s never been done to a politician who is pro-death penalty, even though both of those positions run contrary to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis was in full accord with the teaching of the United Methodist Church when he wrote:
“The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.” 
Jenny and I try to make sure we state the United Methodist requirements for receiving communion every time we celebrate the sacrament. The only requirements are contained in the words of invitation:
“Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another. Therefore, let us confess our sin before God and one another.” 
If you want to receive the sacrament, Jenny and I don’t have the authority to deny it to you. In line with United Methodist teaching, everyone who presents themselves (United Methodist or not, baptized or not) for communion will be given the bread and the cup.  Want to learn more about how the UMC understands communion? We’ve getting ready for a study on that, let me know if you’re interested.
 Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel (New York, NY: Image, 2014), Kindle, 38-39.
 The United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992), 35.
 I’m sure that I can’t even begin to imagine the fallout if we refused communion to someone and I have no desire to find out. This is less for fear of the consequences than out of a deep agreement with the sacramental theology of the United Methodist Church.
Next Sunday, November 3, 2019, we will hold our annual Vintage Years Celebration and honor the “gift of years.” There will be a time of recognition for those members of our congregation who have reached 80 years or more, with special recognition for those who have reached 90 years or more.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve been making an awkward transition in how the altar candles are lit, or more accurately in what happens after the service. Traditionally, following the service, the acolytes light their candle lighters from the altar candles, snuff the altar candles and then walk out to symbolically “carry the light of Christ into the world.” But if that’s the theological meaning, what does it mean that we snuff the altar candles? Does it mean that God has left the building (as the Glory of God left the temple in Ezekiel 10)? Another problem is that our candles are hard to snuff correctly, and when it’s done incorrectly, it damages the candles and candlesticks. To the Worship Design Team, it seemed like both problems could be solved by leaving the altar candles lit through the end of the postlude, and so that’s the new practice we’re trying to live into. And if you’ve made it to the end of the article, I admire your persistence.
It has not been a good day. I’ve been bitter, upset, and angry at slights real and imagined for much of the day. Nonetheless, I went to the 6:00 p.m. Communion Service. I left feeling much better, having encountered God in sacrament and fellowship. I would encourage you to try it.
It has come to my attention that not everyone knows we have a communion service (only about ten minutes long, but inclusive of all the essentials) at 6:00 p.m. every Wednesday. We do this for the simple reason that Jenny and I want to receive communion every week and it’s both fair and good theology that we open the sacrament up to the entire congregation and not just ourselves.
Next Sunday Morning, August 18, 2019, we’ll have the blessing the backpacks. All children are invited to bring their backpacks up to the chancel with them during the children’s time. The backpacks, and more importantly, the children they belong to, will be blessed for the new year of school. School personnel are also encouraged to bring their work bags to worship and participate, but even if you don’t, we’ll be praying for you.
Jenny and I went to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat last night at the Great Plains Theatre. It was an excellent production.* (Although I am biased as Liz is playing Rachel.) It also gave me another reason to look forward to the 10:30 worship service tomorrow. Layne Roate (who plays Joseph) and Natalie Szczerba (who plays one of the brothers) will be singing How Great Thou Art with Natalie accompanying on the ukelele. It promises to be a great, one-of-a-kind performance.
On a much less important note, I received a big box of chocolates from the Russell Stover parade entry on Thursday, and I plan to share it at the after-service coffee time.
*Shameless promotional plug: it really was a great production of a beloved musical. All the kids in it came through a special Bootcamp held in our basement. It’s not cheap, but they do offer $20 tickets ($10 for students) on Thursdays.
A friendly reminder that tomorrow is church T-shirt/Fair/Jeans Sunday. Feel free to wear an old church t-shirt if you don’t have a new one. You can, of course, wear any shirt on any Sunday (including this one), but tomorrow we’ll wear them together.
On Sunday, July 28, 2019, we’ll be having T-Shirt/Jeans/Fair Sunday to celebrate the new church t-shirts and the start of the fair. Feel free to wear an old church t-shirt if you don’t have a new one. You can, of course, wear any shirt on any Sunday (including this one), but on July 28 we’ll try to wear church t-shirts together.
We have some extra t-shirts in the office (as well as some t-shirts that people forgot to pick up). You can come in during the week or pick one up today.