You are Still Here Among Us – A Pastoral Prayer

20140213-213246.jpgIn the wake of this weekend’s tragic mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, there are few adequate words that can be offered. My soul aches. This is simply too much suffering. May this pastoral prayer bring you comfort and peace today…and may we all be moved to action.

Gracious and loving God, God of all blessings,

Each morning, whether we notice or not, you bring us new blessings. From the morning sunrise, the food on our tables, the roof over our heads, the security of gathering in this place… you give to us so generously. For each new day you have made, we have the opportunity to rejoice and be glad in it.

We confess that, all too often, we neglect to notice the blessings of the day. Instead, we focus on our fears and worries. We fret about the world we live in, discouraged by an overwhelming amount of pain, division and suffering. In our personal lives, we each know people who are hurting and lost. In this moment, we lift up the burdens that have been bearing down on our hearts and minds…(pause for silent prayer)

When we hear news reports, our souls hurt even more. This day in particular we lament and mourn lives lost in acts of senseless violence. We pray for peace and comfort. Wrap your arms around us as we try to process all of the utter brokenness around us.

In the midst of all of this, you are still here among us.

We praise you for the ways you hear our calls of lament. We cherish that you are a God who understands human suffering, a God who wept among humanity. We are assured in the knowledge that you love each of us infinitely. In the midst of this overwhelm, you steadily remain here for us to cast all of our fears and anxieties on you. Thank you for carrying our burdens.

As your followers, we fervently pray that you will lead us to be messengers of hope, grace and joy. Instead of focusing on our worries, help us to focus on your faithfulness. Fill us with a renewed sense of faith, an assurance of your care, and the courage to speak out against injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Our Burden Lifter – a Pastoral Prayer

June 28,2019_Opening EcumenicalHoly and loving God, the one who is rich in mercy,

So often we feel heavy laden with the weight of all that feels wrong in our life. We worry about our future, we worry about the suffering around us, we worry about our health and our finances and our relationships. We carry the load of this stress on our shoulders, often feeling alone in our struggles. Often feeling too proud to ask for help.

Yet you, God, are our burden lifter.

When we feel overwhelmed with stress and worry, when the baggage that comes with living this messy life feels like too much to carry, you gently whisper to us:

“Cast all your anxiety – cast all your cares – on me. I love you, my child, let me share the load.”

We lift up this morning the people who are struggling to hear your whispers of hope.

We pray for our brothers and sisters who are trapped in broken systems of injustice. We pray for our kindred who are mourning the loss of a loved one. We pray for children who have lost their parents, no matter their age. We pray for your whispers of hope and your arms of love to bring comfort and peace.

We do not need to be anxious about anything, but with our prayers we can bring our requests to you and you are faithful to mercifully help us with our burdens.

We pray that through all of our past, present and future suffering, we can remember that you call us to acts of mercy. As you are our burden lifter, you call us as your children to help others in need. Grant us the courage and wisdom to walk boldly and mercifully so that, in all we do, you may be glorified.

We pray this in the name of the One who carried our sins to the cross, Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name…

Preparing for Pilgrimage

trail in n ireland

This week I leave on a pilgrimage.

What is a pilgrimage, you ask? Pilgrimage is an intentional, meaningful journey to a spiritual place. It is retreat, renewal, prayer and worship. It is time away to process and reflect, to reconnect to God and to refill one’s soul. I will be joining fellow pilgrims from around the U.S. and U.K. for a week of spiritual community on the tiny island of Iona, Scotland. The organization leading our trip is the Missional Wisdom Foundation.

Preparing for pilgrimage in my external life looks a lot like making sure childcare is arranged, planning details ahead of time for work, looking ahead to make sure preparations are being made for Mother’s Day, a prom, a graduation, a confirmation. What are all the deadlines and responsibilities that need to be covered during the next couple of weeks? What must I do and what can I delegate? Do I have enough wool socks? Do I need to bring both walking sticks or will one suffice? When will I get to watch the next Game of Thrones episode? Who is taking me to the airport anyway?

Preparing for pilgrimage in my internal life looks a lot like curiosity about what I will encounter. The questions abound: Who will be my fellow pilgrims? Where will I see God? Will I feel God’s presence along the way? What will change within me? How will my renewed perspective impact me? I am praying for God’s spirit to open my heart and mind that I might be renewed.

As my life has moved and is moving through so many transitions and changes, I am full of gratitude for this time apart as a pilgrim.

I look forward to sharing more along the way.

I ask for your prayers for the journey ahead.

Shalom.

 

Gift – A Christmas Thought

I’m writing this just after midnight, technically Christmas Day. The house is peaceful, kids asleep while Dennis, my mom and I quietly visit. Probably because I had so much to prepare for preaching two days in a row, all of the presents have been wrapped and ready a while now. I can’t remember a Christmas Eve wrapped up so early before (pun intended).

The real gift is that we kept the holiday relatively simple. Our kids are pretty wonderful, so I’m looking forward to a fun morning of Lucas’s excitement and the rest of us keeping the magic alive. It is such a joy to be the parents of our kids.

Another gift was the chance to help lead Christmas Eve worship earlier tonight. I’m honored to be part of the staff at New World UMC.

And perhaps the biggest gift of all was seeing our family friend Allan in worship. He is part of the Kenyan family I mentioned in my sermon & I’m deeply grateful God placed his family in our lives.

My prayer for each of you is the gift of knowing that God is real, God loves you & you, dear reader, are worthy of love. May you find space in your heart and home for the holy.

Merry Christmas to all….and to all a good night!

Love – A Christmas Eve Reflection

We love because he first loved us.
“Love” and “because” showed up in bold because those were the search terms I used on Biblegateway. I think that pretty much sums up the call of Christianity – Love because.
Merry Christmas love from our family to yours!

Many thanks and much love to my friend Allison from Seven Arches Photography for these photos. Not only does she consistently make us look like we came straight from an Old Navy ad, she’s also one of my favorite friends.

Manger – A Thought to get you Centered

Incarnation - Erin Sloan Jackson art copyright 2018The scandal of the cross was preceded by another scandal – the scandal of Christ, the baby. The guy who died at the hands of humans also lived at the hands of humans, he was once a helpless, needy babe.
How does the incarnation help us think better about our bodies?
Notes from Texas Youth Academy lecture on Incarnation. (by Erin Sloan Jackson)
God loves you so much that God walked among humanity, fully human and fully divine. God finds power not through mightiness, but through humility, relationship and love. Merry Christmas.

Wreath – A Welcome Thought for the Day

My sermon on Sunday at 9:30 AM is called “The Wreath.”

Just like a wreath is a sign of welcome and hospitality, you are welcome to join me at church this Sunday to hear more! 9:30am at New World UMC in Arlington, Texas.

You’re invited to come wearing your Christmas sweaters or even Christmas pajamas! We’ll even have a hot cocoa station for you to enjoy.

All are welcome – and I mean all.

Angel – An Advent Devotional (Guest Post!)

My girls dressed as angels

Today’s devotional was written by special guest contributor, Rev. Gena Anderson. Be blessed today! ESJ

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
Luke 2:10-14 ESV

Angels, play a very important role in the Christmas story. An angel announced to the virgin Mary that she was going to bear the Son of God, then appeared to Joseph, telling him the very same thing. Finally, we see a group of them announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem. You might just get the idea that the main role of angels was to make announcements for God, and you would be right! The word for angel literally means “messenger” and they played a similar role as human beings who bore that title: acting as a king’s herald who made royal announcements.

Angels always point away from themselves and to God. During this Advent season, how are you being an angel for God?  How are you pointing others to Christ through the words that you say but more importantly through your actions?

Prayer: Jesus, we worship you as our Savior, our Messiah, our Lord. Help us to be like your angels, announcing the good news of your birth this Christmas. Amen.

Pastor Gena

Worship – Thoughts from Guest Kate Baird

kate baird pic from Levitt

My concept of worship has evolved over time.  For so long, as a musician, I thought it was about how we expressed ourselves through song—hymns and modern music.  I participated on praise teams who appeared to take 100% responsibility for every congregation member’s worship.  Are we trying to contrive a feeling of elation through music for everyone?  I don’t believe so.  Though, I love when I have that ‘feeling’.  This seemed too narrow a definition.

After much contemplation, it seems to me it’s about wanting to live our lives out of delight for what has been done for us.  Our daily work is worship and ministry.  You don’t choose between being a missionary or a teacher or a business person.  We are all on mission, we are all teachers by the example of our lives and we are all in business by how we steward resources.  Doing something for someone else out of gratitude and abundance is worship.  I give thanks to my dear friend, Dave Stone (founder and Chief Worship officer of First Rate), credit for expanding my thinking about that.  “Work is Worship!”  I will one-up him and say “Life is Worship!”

Also, I questioned, as C.S. Lewis did why we need to worship an all-powerful God.  Google his responses if that has puzzled you.  But, here was the personal revolution for me from C.S.’s book ‘Reflections on the Psalms’.

“The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. 

It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with.”

“The delight is incomplete until it is expressed.”  Selah.  The worship is FOR OUR DELIGHT!!  SMH!  Then, Lewis goes on to say, that Heaven will be a place where this resounding expression of delight will be with the fullness of worshiping God in spirit and in truth.  Glorifying the (triune) God by enjoying Him forever.   Sign me up for some ‘forever enjoyment!’

I wish for you a presence of mind & spirit this holiday season.  This is so that you can enjoy to the fullest your daily walk and those you share it with.  When you share that enjoyment, it becomes complete and is worship.  

I’ve included a picture ‘Paul Thorn with the Blind Boys of Alabama’ who were at the Levitt this summer.  Hearing live music is the where my husband and I find ourselves ‘expressing delight’ and making the enjoyment complete.

Glory – Thought to Get Through the Day

Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork. -Psalm 19:1

When I hear the word “glory,” I keep hearing a song in my head, but it’s probably not the Christmas song you’d expect. There’s a praise song written by Holland Davis but often attributed to William Murphy called “Let it Rise,” and the words go like this:


Let the glory of the Lord rise among us
Let the glory of the Lord rise among us
Let the praises of our King rise among us
Let it rise

Oh, let it rise

Let the songs of the Lord rise among us
Let the songs of the Lord rise among us
Let the joy of our King rise among us
Let it rise

Oh, let it rise

I love the upbeat rhythm, the way the song lifts us up. We sing this song at my current church from time to time, but I mostly connect it to many church youth group gatherings throughout the years. (You really haven’t heard the song done right until you’ve heard a few hundred youth singing it loudly, their voices and hands raising with the word “rise.”) 

There’s something about having music as part of worship that is deeply moving and spiritual. There are feelings and emotions that music can reach when words fail us. It’s like the glory of the Holy Spirit rushes in to that space, filling our hearts and uplifting us. 

Questions to consider: Do you have songs that lift your spirits? What is your heart song? How have you seen God’s glory this week?

Be blessed today!

Erin

This blogpost is part of a series based on the New World UMC Advent Photo-A-Day challenge. Feel free to jump in on the photo challenge whenever you’d like, no matter who you are! Tomorrow’s word will be “worship.”