Offertory Prayer

Each month's Offertory Prayers includes an "Invitation to the Offering" (see below) along with a digital image for those who might want to use it. We hope you will find this a helpful way to remind the people in your pews that their offering travels to many places to make a powerful difference in the lives of people they may never meet. You can find great stories of the difference our giving makes at http://umcgiving.org.

nvitation to the Offering
The offering you made last week empowered ministry within our congregation and in response to the needs of our community. It also helped support the work of ministries beyond the local church, such as Camp and Retreat Ministries that not only touch and shape the lives of children and youth, but adults of all ages as well. While these ministries happen within the boundaries of our annual conferences, resources and training come through a variety of networks, coordinated through the office of Camp and Retreat Ministries at Discipleship Ministries. This office is working to make leaders better prepared and helping those committed to these ministries see the challenges the future might hold. This ministry happens, thanks to the way the people of The United Methodist Church live and give connectionally. I invite you to give generously as we worship God through sharing our gifts, tithes, and offerings.

May 31, 2015 – First Sunday After Pentecost/in Kingdomtide/Trinity Sunday

Holy Lord, the whole earth is full of your glory! We are in awe of your majesty. In great kindness, you reveal yourself as the One who forgives us. You give us gifts and invite us to go into the world to tell your good news. Help us to respond in faith and go where you lead us each day. We dedicate our gifts so that our community will draw closer to you. Amen. (Isaiah 6:1-8)

Learn more about the Camping and Retreat Ministries at: www.umcdiscipleship.org/leadership-resources/camp-retreat-ministries.

May Offertory Prayers were written by the Rev. Rosanna Anderson, Associate Director of Stewardship Ministries at Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church.

Friday, May 29, 2015

An unclean prophet, a Reflection on Isaiah 6:1-8

Verses 1-4 describe an overwhelming sense of God's glory and the appropriate response to it. On a throne. A high and lofty throne. So large that just the hem of his robe fills the temple. Heavenly beings attend him. They sing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts."

Verses 5, in contrast, describes the great contrast with this glory with the human condition. Isaiah realizes that he is unworthy.

Verses 6-7 give us reassurance. Since we are not worthy, God has a way of redeeming us, of overcoming our sin. Isaiah's guilt was removed.

Verse 8 reminds us why we need this redemption. We have a task. Isaiah accepted his call.

(much of this from or inspired by Isaiah 1-39, by Walter Brueggeman)

How much of this is repeated in a typical church service? Do we recognize an overwhelming divine presence? Do we recognize our own sinfulness? Can we receive redemption? If so, what are we prepared to do with it?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Eternal Life, a reflection on John 3:16-17

Surely, all football fans have seen that sign in the stands saying John 3:16. Please don't stop with that verse. God's intention is that this eternal life is for us all.


Jesus said that those who believe in him may have eternal life; also see, John 3:36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:27: and 17:14 (with thanks to The New Interpreter's Study Bible).

What is being promised? Not just heaven later after we're dead. The word we translate as eternal carries the meaning of a different quality of life, a new life free of the worldly, temporal concerns of the old life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Still True, a Reflection on John 3:10-15

Jesus has been talking to Nicodemus, but now is speaking to a plural you.

Jesus says to his hearers, "The Son of Man must be lifted up so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."

We take "lifted up" to mean the crucifixion or the resurrection or the ascension, or all of these. He is in Jerusalem at the beginning of his ministry yet his words will be understandable after his death, resurrection, and ascension.

Or, will they be? Nicodemus had seen signs as had the other Pharisees but he was unwilling to come publicly to Jesus. The audience for John's Gospel had seen even more signs; were they able to believe?

Since we are now approacing Trinity Sunday, I'm adding a paragraph from Fred Craddock's contribution to Preaching Through the Christian Year B, who explains that Jesus Christ reveals the truth about God and that the Holy Spirit is the active presence of God. Then, he stresses:
But the overall affirmation of the text is that God is a life-giving God. This is no new word, as though God had ceased to be a wrathful judge and had now mellowed into forgiving love. The Hebrew Scriptures had declared God's grace in the story of the brazen serpent in Numbers 21:4-9 (vv.14-15). Our text proclaims, then, what has always been true of God, and what is comforting to hear again: God loves the world; God desires that none perish; God gives the Son that all may live; God has acted in Christ not to condemn but to save. To trust in this is to have life anew, life eternal.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Who is Everyone? a reflection on John 3:3-9

After being asked about how anybody can have a second birth, Jesus answers him by asserting the necessity of the Spirit.

"What is born of the Spirit is spirit....The wind blows where it chooses..." Remember that the Greek word translated as wind also means breath or spirit. God breathes on us; a force moves us like the wind moves us and that force is as invisible as the wind as it is as potent as the wind.

"So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Who is this "everyone"? Who has been born of the Spirit? Am I reassured? insulted? puzzled? grateful?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Risk v. Safety, a Reflection on John 3:1-2

Jesus has been upsetting the insiders. One of them, Nicodemus, comes by night. I am told by Bible commentators that "night" implies more "not understanding" than a time. I had always taken "night" as literal and read that Nicodemus was hoping not to be seen by anyone important when he approached this trouble maker. After thinking about it for a moment, I've decided to keep both meanings.

Nicodemus asserts that the miracles they have seen Jesus perform have been persuasive. Yet apparently not completely so. It's night after all.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Group Groaning, a Reflection on Romans 8:22-27

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now," Paul writes to the Romans.

In labor pains? Creation was not complete in a week? I'm making a connection between this verse and Psalm 104:30, "When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground."

A difference--in Psalm, the Spirit creates, but there's no mention of pain.

So, I'm back to the word "groaning." I looked up the word in my Aland dictionary and my Thayer's lexicon and learned that it implies not only groaning but groaning together.

All of creation is groaning. And, according to Paul, even we who have received fruits of the Spirit are also groaning. Groaning while we wait for adoption.

As I read this, I don't think Paul is talking about some life after death, but is talking about a life here on this earth, a life in which the Spirit lives in and through and around us--and we are aware of that presence.

More groaning--in verse 26, the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Allen & Williamson in Preaching the Letters expand on this verse by saying:
The Spirit helps our praying. That the Spirit (roughly interchangeable with God or Christ in Paul) "groans" indicates that God is affected by us as we are affected (and effected--created) by God. God's passions can become our prayers, and our prayers can become God's passions.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How Manifold Are Your Works, a Reflection on Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Don't fall into the error of modalism--that at different points of history, God appeared in different forms. That is, God was Father during the Old Testament times, then became the visible Son, then at Pentecost became manifest as the Spirit.

The lectionary choice of Psalm 104 for Pentecost Sunday reminds us that God as Spirit was present at creation. Verses 24 through 28 cite examples of what God has created--the earth, ships, Leviathan.

These created things need the Spirit:
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground (29-30).
We have been through Lent and through Eastertide. In the church calendar, we are now entering what is called Ordinary Time. We, in the Scriptures and in our lives, have seen and will see pain and blessings. Verses 33-34 will be a good prayer for us this week and weeks to come:
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

Friday, May 22, 2015

What do Strangers Have to Say to Us? a Reflection on Acts 2:14-21

Here is part of the poem, "Pentecost," offered by Jan L. Richardson:
....
and I am not persuaded
that if we look alike
God will love us more.

I believe God loves the languages
of those struggling to speak
the words embedded in our flesh
of every shape and hue.

And I believe God blesses
every space where we are welcomed
to speak with tongues of fire
and hear with hearts aflame.
I found the poem in her book, In Wisdom's Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season.

Her thoughts have forced me to rethink the Pentecost message. Have I been too restrictive in my definition of language?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reactions to the Pentecost Surprise, a Reflection on Acts 2:1-13

The Holy Spirit appeared suddenly, loudly, and effectively. The reaction was mixed. Some were bewildered, amazed, astonished.

Even when they found themselves able to understand in their own languages what the recipients were saying, the first witnesses either didn't know what was happening or made up a reason that seemed reasonable--they must be drunk.

Miracles or any exciting phenomena do not necessarily generate faith.

Peter responded to the lack of understanding and the rude remark by preaching a sermon.

Nonbelievers will not agree with our explanations. At least right away. After all, why should they? Allowing experience to explain phenomena is not unexpected.

Be careful with those sermons. They don't always help the unbeliever. At least right away.

I'm wondering what fraction of the people listening to a sermon on any Sunday are unbelievers. I'm wondering what they think about what they see happening that we explain has come through the Lord.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dry Bones, Reflection on Ezekiel 37:1-14

Here we are, a bunch of individuals grouped together, yet not accomplishing anything. Economic times are tough. Where will the money come from to satisfy our needs? our wants? 

A bunch of bones lying in a field. Even when connected, they're not getting the job done.

God says, "I'll put my breath into you and you shall live again."

This Sunday on the Day of Pentecost, church congregations, fearful of their present and for their continued future, will celebrate receiving God's own breath into their midst.

O Lord, lift us from our fear.