As I promised yesterday in the worship service, I am offering another listing of the texts and topics for this sermon series on Ephesians, “Geared Up for Life.”
7/11 Ephesians 1:3-14 Setting Our Hope
7/18 Ephesians 2:11-22 He Is Our Peace
7/25 Ephesians 3:14-21 Rooted and Grounded in Love
8/1 Ephesians 4:1-16 A Life Worthy
8/8 Ephesians 4:25-5:2 Speaking Truth
8/15 Ephesians 5:15-20 Giving Thanks
8/22 Ephesians 6:10-20 Armored
Beginning August 29, we will begin following a lectionary based series on the book of James that should take us through the end of September.
I also want to emphasize my suggestions for how to study scripture as I mentioned in worship yesterday using a modified version of an ancient practice known as lectio divina (or divine reading):
- Read through the entire book in a source like “The Message” that gives an easy to read overview of the text in a thought for thought manner. Then set it aside for a while. (Note that you can read through any of the New Testament Epistles in less than 30 minutes.)
- Read through the entire book again, this time in a word for word translation like the NRSV, NIV or CEB and set it aside. If possible, even try reading through in several different translations and note the differences. If it helps, I will be using the Common English Bible (CEB) translation in this series.s
- When you return to the text, return to the specific text that you are studying. Read it through once. What words or thoughts stand out to you? Make note of them. Then read through the text again and ask God to help you understand what you are reading. What insights do you have? Is there anything about the text that pricks your conscience or challenges your preconceived notions? Read it one more time and ask God to open your heart and mind to what the text is speaking to you at this time in your life journey.
Our Sunday morning worship schedule has returned to a more “normal” schedule – at least in the sense of timing. Our Adult Sunday School is meeting in the Crusaders classroom and the group is seeking to discern how they wish to proceed. It appears that the group is leaning more toward a “group facilitator” model where facilitated discussion is the norm rather than having a teacher lecture the class. This should open up opportunities for more people to move into the rotation of facilitating discussion. We are looking at having the church council approve who the discussion leaders would be. Regardless, training will be available for those who are interested in leading the group. We are currently on hold with our children’s class as we are waiting for our children to return – and unfortunately, this may take a while.
It was so good to have a small choir assist in leading our worship this past Sunday for the first time since March of 2020. This is another small step toward “normalcy” whatever that will mean for us going forward. The choir is meeting on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary to rehearse. At the present time, as we are seeking to build up the group, the concentration of effort is on leading the congregation in singing the hymns in worship. If you feel led to sing, you are invited to join with the group to rehearse on Wednesday night at 7:00. The group will gather together on Sunday morning at 10:45 to warm up for the 11:00 a.m. worship service.
As you know, we have been together for in-person worship since October 11, 2020. We have followed the order of worship that we began using when the COVID-19 restrictions were placed in effect. This order of worship is based upon a modified version of the Order for Morning Prayer as found in our United Methodist Hymnal and it favors a remote worship experience. This has been a good fit for us during the pandemic response because the focus on the visual worship experience places the sermon toward the front end of the service. But now that we are restarting the choir, we are needing to re-evaluate our worship order so that the needs of the folks who are present in-person are balanced with the needs of the worshippers on-line. I would note here that our on-line worship group consisting of those who are either watching online or listening in via SermonByPhone has averaged about half of our in-person attendance. Our video online worship has allowed us to reach our shut-ins and others with the full worship experience that they have missed.
That being said, I am beginning to think in terms of temporarily moving away from the video implementation of online worship in favor of audio only. The video component as we have shared it so far has utilized the camera on my laptop and a condenser microphone that I own to provide a limited video production recording of the entire worship service. That video recording would then be uploaded to Vimeo and Facebook (and the website using the Vimeo feed) and I would edit the audio recording from the video to produce our audio only recording for the website, the podcast feed that can be shared through the Apple Podcast and Google Podcast applications, and our SermonByPhone application. From a technical standpoint, an audio-only recording of either the entire worship service or just the elements surrounding the sermon can be easily accomplished without my intervention and would require only a few additional tasks by our sound team at the conclusion of the worship service to accomplish.
Another issue is that we are currently seeking estimates for a functional upgrade of our sanctuary audio systems with the addition of the visual component. We want to be good stewards of our funding sources as we look at these upgrades to happen in the near future. So far, we have been producing online worship with a duct tape and bailing wire solution. Our goal is to seek a solution that meets our needs without breaking the bank. To be good stewards of our resources, it may be in our best interest to upgrade the audio portion while delaying the video to a later date.
As we enter into this new Conference year, I am thrilled to continue as your pastor. As I enter my fourth year here at McFarland. I thank you for your dedication to fulfilling the mission of the church “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” and for your commitment to meet our financial obligations to support that mission. I look forward to what God has in store for us as we seek to fulfill his calling here in Rossville.
Love to you,