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Monday, April 21, 2014

An Easter Prayer

Risen Lord, we come today to celebrate
to lift up our praises for what you did for us,
for the love that you've shown us and for the hope that it gives us for the future.

God we might not all feel like celebrating this morning,
we might not all be to that resurrection in our own lives, 

but regardless, we join together today because we believe. 
We believe that you lived, you suffered and died and that your rose again and that your story, the story of resurrection and redemption and restoration will be our story too.

This morning as we stand in awe of the ways that you redeem us, we remember the journey that we took to get here. 

We remember how you came to us, 
you came and you were like us, 
you met us where we were, 
on our own terms. 
You lived and walked among us and taught us about God's desire for this world, 
what it looks like for God to be among us, 
how things would be different.
We remember our excitement just last Sunday that you were with us, Hosanna!
that God did indeed have a plan to save us. 
We remember the confusion, the sin that separated us from you on Good Friday, 
the hopelessness and shame and heaviness that we felt in that day. 
The waiting, the suspense the uncertainty of Saturday, 
the fear that maybe, just maybe you had abandoned us.
All of that, all of those parts of your story that we live out in our lives too, 
all of that to find ourselves here in this place today.
God we fall before you with relief, with joy that Friday was not the end, that Saturday didn't last too long and that all along, your plans was better than we could have imagined. 
We bask in the light of Jesus resurrected, 
we bask in the hope that evil, that sin, that pain and death do not have the last word, 
that there is more for us. 
Thank you God, thank you for this time to remember all of those things, to open ourselves up once again to the mystery and the power and the awe of Easter.

We claim this story this morning, 

we say that yes, we believe, evil does not have the last word. 
We claim that promise for us here today, we claim it for those in our lives who are experiencing suffering, pain, addiction, loneliness, hopelessness, death. 
We pray for all those who need to know that those things are not the end, 
we pray that you send your Holy Spirit to remind them of that today, that they would feel your presence and know that this is true.

We pray for our church, for our community that we will remember that we are an Easter people, that evil does not win here and that we are a part of your redemption. 

Show us the way to be your church, 
a church that lives in hope,
 that gives others hope, 
that makes the world around us look more like your kingdom. 
God we want others to know that joy of Easter too, we want to be part of the work that you're doing in and through and around us.

This morning God we know that you meet us where we are, 

whether we're still on Friday or fully present to your resurrection today. 
Meet us where we are God and continue to guide us, 
to be a part of our story,
 to weave the resurrection through our lives.
 And as we claim your promises of hope and new life and resurrection we remember those disciples that went before us, 
the ones that got to ask Jesus face to face, "how are we supposed to pray?" So we join together as God's family in that prayer saying:

Our Father
Who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom 
And the power
And the glory forever

Pastor Jen Hibben

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Service

Easter Service sermon at West Des Moines United Methodist Church on April 20, 2014 by Rev. Dr. Wesley SK Daniel.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Stations of the Cross

Listen here:

The name “Good Friday” really seems like a misnomer, the name doesn’t match what it is. Because on Good Friday we come together as a community to remember Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, suffering, death and burial. The purpose of Holy Week is to experience the story of Jesus; about putting ourselves in the place of his disciples, of the people in Jerusalem, the people who witnessed the end of his life. The Journey of Holy week is a journey of preparing ourselves for Easter, of remembering Jesus’ final days, of feeling the joy, the pain, the suffering, that knot in the pit of our stomachs, those things that we imagine those who were there might have felt.Notusually things we associate with the word “good”. But I’m here to tell you today that this is good news for us, that Good Friday is good because it makes Easter Sunday possible. That through Jesus’ death, God set in motion all that we would ever need for our sins to be forgiven and for our relationship with God to be restored. But we’re all aware that we still sin, that we’re still in need of God’s forgiveness so tonight we’re going to take our sin on a journey to the cross. Tonight I want to invite you to think of something in your life that’s separating you from God, because that’s what sin is, it’s something that separates us from God. That thing could be a habit or a behavior or an attitude that keeps distance between you and God, it could be a hurt or a fear or a distrust of God, it might be just plain not knowing what’s between you and God. You’ll find in your bulletin a piece of paper; we want you to take a moment to write down that thing that’s separating you from God right now. Write it down and fold it up, this is for you and God we’re not sharing these. I want you to hold that thing, that sin in your hand as we take this walk together tonight.
This walk we’re taking is traditionally called the stations of the cross of the via dolorosa which means “the painful way.” Christians throughout history have taken time to stop at these 14 stations to remember these parts of Jesus’ story, to give them a chance to feel what it might have been like, to prepare themselves for Easter. Tonight we’ll be projecting on the screen artistic representations of each of the stations, take your sin to each of these stations tonight, spend a moment reflection on the image and responding to Jesus.

(Please click on the individual pictures for source information)

Mount of Olives (Luke 22) When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”"

Jesus betrayed by Judas (Luke 22): While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?”

Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:66-71): All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

Peter denies Jesus (Luke 22:54-62): Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!”

Jesus judged by Pilate (Luke 23:13-15): Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted.

Jesus crowned with thorns (Luke 22:63-65): And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.

Jesus takes up the cross (Mark 15:20): After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus (Luke 23:26): As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23: 27-31): A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 

Jesus is crucified (Luke 23:33-4; 47): When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.

Jesus promises his kingdom to the good thief (Luke 23:39-43): One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus on the cross, his mother and his disciple (John 19:25-27): When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Jesus dies on the cross (Luke 23:44-47): It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,  while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Jesus in placed in the tomb (Luke 23:50-54, Mark 16:1-4): Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph…He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.  This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning.

Friends, Jesus went on this journey for our sins, for that very sin that you wrote down, so that you don’t have to live with it anymore. During this time, you’re invited to come forward with that piece of paper and nail it to the cross, and leave it there. You’re welcome to spend some time at the kneelers if you’d like and I’ll be available over here to anoint you as you leave, but only if you want. In the United Methodist Church we believe that anointing is an act of invoking God’s healing love, it’s an act of asking for God’s love to make us whole: body, mind and spirit. This is an outward sign of a spiritual grace through Christ.

Pastor Jen

(c) Jen Hibben 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Triumph and Tragedy

Sermon at West Des Moines United Methodist Church on April 13, 2014 by Rev. Dr. Wesley SK Daniel.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Can Christ Count on You?

Sermon at West Des Moines United Methodist Church on April 4, 2014 by Rev. Dr. Wesley SK Daniel.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mary & Martha

Listen to the full sermon here:

Well I don't know about you, but I've had a very Martha-y week. I started the week with leftover to-dos from last week, a full schedule and as you can see, I'm preaching this week. And you all know what happens when you have that kind of week don't you? Meetings get changed, you realize you have meetings you forgot about, people come visit, people want to chat, nothing gets done, you kid doesn't sleep and somehow the sermon you typed up gets deleted, twice. Now I'm not complaining per se, let’s just say that it was a very to-do heavy week, and I wasn’t getting stuff done. By Friday I realized that I was embodying Martha in this story, I was distracted, anxious, pulled in a bunch of different directions. That’s not to say that the things I had to do weren’t important, that they were part of living out God’s call for my life, that they weren’t good things to be doing, they just got me all worked up. And let me tell you friends that it took me until Friday to finally hear Jesus' words. Friday! I've been working on this sermon since Monday at least! All the time I was trying to prepare this sermon, reading about these two sisters, one who was so busy and distracted, and I continued to let myself do what Martha did, to continue to let those to dos become really important things and then even drag me away from the most important things. Let me tell you I was literally near tears when I lost my sermon for the second time on Friday, but I also really got the sense that God was still trying to get my attention, very dramatically I might add and I didn’t exactly appreciate it. And let me tell you I can empathize with Martha today, because unfortunately I didn’t find away to let it go, I typed this sermon 3 times instead of taking a big step back and listening to what God was saying. So I’m up here today to talk to you about this from the position of someone who didn’t get it right this week. Who knows very well how Martha must have felt and who despite this week and despite my failures, still heard God speaking. 

Now I'm sure many of you are familiar with the story from the scripture today. So just a quick show of hands, there's no right answer here, if you had to choose, how many of you would say you're more of a Martha? How many would say you're more of a Mary? Like I said, no right answer here. Unfortunately I think the church has encouraged us to pick sides here, to value Mary over Martha, to take what Jesus said as universally applicable.  I was stuck in that rut this week, I think I made things worse by beating myself up for not being more Mary. That's a no-win and that's not what Jesus wants us to do, I don’t think that mentality empowers us to be true disciples.

So one of the things I do every time I preach is comb through the scripture in hopes of finding something interesting, so I think it’s of value for us to go back over what’s happening in the scripture lesson for today. Jesus and his disciples show up and Mary and Martha's place on their way to Jerusalem, obviously no phone ahead here, this was probably a little unexpected. And when they show up, the text says that Martha welcomed them into her home to them, other translations say that she opened her home to them or welcomed them as guests; she made them feel at home. She’s doing the hospitality thing, which was an extremely important part of this culture. So Martha is busying herself making these 13 people feel at home she was doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing and we can't forget that Jesus was her guest, he's basically the most important house guest ever. So she's doing what a host should do and at some point realizes she's doing it by herself, her sister isn't doing her share, in fact, Mary is sitting on the floor listening to Jesus. Now we need to take a brief pause to give Mary a high five because she took the position reserved for men during that time, for her to sit on the floor wasn't just making her sister mad, it was challenging the gender hierarchy of the time. Many scholars would argue that the important thing that Mary did was challenge the status quo for women and made more room for women at Jesus' feet. But that's lost on Martha, she is really upset that her sister has left all the work to her and that no one seems to care. Really, I think she’s jealous, she wishes she could be right there too, but she’s doing her darndest to take care of her guests. So while she was doing a great job as the hostess, she kind of loses her cool her and asks Jesus to intervene, not really a good hostess move. I can imagine that she’s been seething in the kitchen, cursing her sister under her breath until she can’t take it any more! She says to Jesus: "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work?" and if that wasn’t enough then she tries to tell Jesus what to do: "Tell her to help me!" Can you sense her frustration, her anger, the sense of injustice? I'm not sure I blame her really. But I'm guessing she wasn't anticipating Jesus' answer to her: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." Jesus calls her out, he corrects her, he tells her she's wrong, probably not what she was looking for, not the justice she was hoping for. 

So often though we get to the end of the story and we conclude Mary is right, Martha is wrong, we should be like Mary, we should try not to be like Martha. But I'm not convinced that’s the point of the story. I don't think it's that black and white. I'm afraid that if we end with that conclusion we either feel smug because we're "right" like Mary or we feel like we're never good enough because we're like Martha. The truth is that if we praise Mary too much, she'll never get up off the floor and if we criticize Martha too much, she'll just quit serving; I don't think that's what God wants to say to us this morning. 

And I'll tell you why. One of the most interesting things I read this week about this passage is that we really shouldn't read it without connecting it to the story before it. Anyone know what story is right before this one? The story of the Good Samaritan. If you think back about that story Jesus is helping a young lawyer understand how to live the life that God wants us to live, and uses the story of the Good Samaritan. If we look back at that story, there is nothing about sitting at Jesus' feet. This is not a story about being contemplative. The words Jesus uses are action words, take care of him, go, do! So when we consider that these two stories are placed together, we can see that both of these are required for us, that Jesus says that the most important things are to love God and to love others, to spend time in devotion AND action. With Mary and Martha, we see Mary, loving God, and Martha, loving others; Mary in a time of devotion and Martha in a time of action. Now the problem here isn’t the fact that Martha is doing things, it’s the focus of her heart, she’s distracted and worried and pulled in too many directions. That’s why Jesus does say that one thing is needful, but he doesn't say that the one needful thing is sitting at his feet. He says that Mary has chosen the better part, not the only part, not the better thing, the better part. Jesus calls us to more than sitting on our rears. I wonder if what's needful is different at different parts of our day, different parts of our week, even different parts of our life. Ecclessiates 3 says: "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" A time for prayer and a time for serving, a time for meditating and a time for marching, a time for resting and a time for wearing ourselves out. Our lives are not so one dimensional that we can say clearly that there is only important thing, God didn't create us that way. So I think what the real question is this week, what God is asking us through this story is "what is the one needful thing in your life right now? Can you hear me calling you to get off your rear, or stop doing things and sit down with me?" Are you doing good things, but you’re distracted and worried? Are you spending lots of time with me, but failing to hear my call to DO something about it? There are times in our life when what is needful is sitting down with Jesus and there are times in our lives when we need to take action, we need to put into action the teachings of Jesus. 

You know this Sunday is UMW Sunday and when I chose this scripture for this Sunday, I was reminded of how the United Methodist Women's organization embodies this lesson. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the UMW organization, but one thing that they do is meet in circles, or small groups, where they study together, they share with each other, the eat together, the grow closer to each other and to God. But they don't just sit around in circles, that time in those circles empowers them to go out and take action. You might be familiar with the Annual Cookie Festival where they bake a ton of cookies and sell them to raise money for the mission and ministries of this church, and organizations in our community. They support and share the values and mission of the United Methodist Women organization as well, UMW promotes the empowerment of women, children and youth, anti-racism and multiculturalism,  inclusion and equity, fair labor practices, economic and environmental stewardship and sustainability. They’re not just sitting around, they take action to make our world look more like the kingdom of God, they fight for the needs of those less fortunate locally and around the world. They encourage all of us to think about what's needful in our lives, in our community and around the world, to spend time with God, to be connected to God's purposes and to do something about it. So today I encourage you to take some time, figure out where you might be right now, is the one needful thing right now for you sitting at Jesus’ feet? If so we have LifeGroups that are meeting to study both the Bible and other topics, we have a 24 hour prayer chapel that you can access from the parking lot, we have ways to help you be Mary. But maybe you’ve got that stuff down, maybe you’ve been spending lots of time just soaking up Jesus’ presence. That’s great, but what’s he telling you to do? We have plenty of ways that you can put into action your faith, by helping with things here at the church, by getting involved with mission projects here as easy as buying plants, and there are plenty of local organizations that would love for you to live out your faith in service. Today the good news is that God is calling us to do both these things, to love God and to love others, to worship God and to serve others. Amen.