Heritage Sunday

This Sunday on the liturgical calendar is “Heritage Sunday.” There are many different ways that congregations commemorate this special day. Sometimes, as was the case at MUMC last year, congregations honor long-time members. Sometimes important historical happenings and moments in the congregation are recalled in a spirit of thanksgiving. Sometimes former pastoral leaders return to share memories from the past and offer hope for the future.

This year we are going to celebrate the day by remembering and rehearsing our essential mission and reason for being here in the first place. The morning message, entitled: “Missouri United Methodist Church,” will focus on our primary purpose as a fellowship of Christ followers here in the heart of “The District” in downtown Columbia, MO. The message will have four points: “Missouri”, “United”, “Methodist” and “Church.” Each word in our congregational name speaks volumes about who we are and why we are here. 

With our true identity and essential mission in mind, I share the following humorous collection called, “You Might Be A United Methodist If…” Here’s a brief sampling: 

You Might Be A United Methodist If…

…you don’t take Rolaids when your heart is “strangely warmed.” 

…you know that a circuit rider is not an electrical device.

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…the “Upper Room” is considered essential reading.

…names like Aldersgate, Asbury and Epworth are vaguely familiar.

…you consider the church potluck the third sacrament.

…you accept the fact that the hymn, “O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” has almost as many stanzas as tongues. 

…you’ve ever owned a pair of “Cross and Flame” boxer shorts.

…you know the Wesleyan Quadrilateral isn’t a trick football play involving four lateral passes.

…you realize that the Book of Discipline isn’t a guide to effective parenting.

…you know that “UMW” stands for United Methodist Women, not United Mine Workers. 

…you realize that sprinkling, pouring and immersing are not ways of seasoning food, but rather, acceptable modes of baptism.

…you understand that an “appointment” has nothing to do with keeping a lunch date.

I think it’s healthy to laugh at ourselves and at the idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. I also believe that it’s important for us to pause, every once in a while, to take a more serious look at ourselves. We will do just that this Sunday. 

We are truly a blessed people in this branch of the Body of Christ we call United Methodism. I hope you’ll be here in worship as we celebrate that blessed calling and rich heritage.

The Balcony People

By Fred Leist, Lead Pastor

This weekend in worship two special commemorations will coincide - Mother’s Day and Senior Recognition Sunday. The morning message, entitled, The Balcony People, will help connect those two commemorations.

On the one hand, we’ll talk together about how faithful mothers are “balcony people” who lift us up and call forth the highest and best from us. On the other hand, our graduating High School Seniors will be challenged to avoid the “basement people” who drag out the darkest and lowest instincts and impulses in us…linking themselves instead, to the balcony people who seek to raise them to a higher and more noble level of living. It will be a great Sunday in worship together. 

With mothers and the influence others have in our lives in mind, I want to share something that I came across in my files this week. It is a letter that a woman wrote to her parents in celebration of a milestone wedding anniversary for them. Seeking a perfect gift for the occasion, she decided to write this: 

To my parents on their Anniversary: How do I say thank you for all the love and caring over the years? How do I repay all the nights you stayed up when I was sick, and all the floors you walked when I was late coming home? What can I give you for all the times you supported me in my triumphs, and provided a shoulder when there were losses? What present is there for all the times we just sat together and shared our warmth? How do I say thank you for the guidance when I was unsure of my way, and your restraint to allow me to find it myself? You nurtured my growth yet allowed me my independence. How can I measure the worth of your love? What gift is enough?

The answer came to me today. No box can hold it, no wrapping can cover it, nor can a ribbon tie it. No store had it on a shelf. My gift is not to you, it is to my children. I promise to care for them when they are sick and walk the floors when they are late. I will share with them their victories, and comfort them when there are losses. I will help them grow, yet let them choose their own path. I will be there when they need me, and step aside when they must go alone. And someday, maybe, they will come to me and say, “How can we thank you for all you’ve done for us?” And I will tell them, “Don’t thank me. Thank my parents. For I am the product of their love, and you are my greatest gift to them.”

A Faith Worth Singing About!

By Fred Leist, Lead Pastor

The longer I live, the more I experience of the world around me, the more I am hushed and humbled by the wonder of life. Even this word-merchant has become aware that there are things simply too big for words. There are experiences and encounters that go beyond our ability to intone in any fullness. 

This will come as no surprise to you, but the Christian faith has always been too big for words. When we try to communicate what is thought and felt and meant and required as a result of being God’s children and followers of Jesus, it is just not enough to talk about it. Hence, from the beginning, committed men and women, youth and children, have tried to express and share their faith in all kinds of creative ways. We preach it. We teach it. We paint it. We sculpt it. We dramatize it. We symbolize it. We say it with banners, buildings and bells, puppets, poems and prayers, clowns, creeds and choreography, fabrics, films and photography. We say it with instruments. But most of all, we SING it!

O how we love to sing our faith. And it’s always been so. After the Exodus, Moses’ sister Miriam broke into a song of thanksgiving to God. David played his harp, wrote and sang songs of praise. Jesus and his disciples chanted hymns in the Upper Room. The early martyrs, as they were being burned at the stake, fed to the lions or led away to prison, sang. The great reformers like Luther and Calvin believed music to be important to both their work and their well-being. And to be sure, music was absolutely central for the Wesley brothers of early Methodism. John and Charles wrote hundred of hymns that are still being sung all over the world today. Like those throughout the ages, we are a singing church because we have a faith worth singing about.  

MUMC is richly blessed with loyal and gifted singers and instrumentalists who greatly enrich our worship of God each week. This would be a great time to offer words of thanksgiving and appreciation for their artistry and dedication. Their ministry among us is so vital in expressing our faith, and the gifts they offer in worship bless us and glorify God. 

This weekend we will host another Joy and Jazz Sunday during our 9:15 and 10:45 worship services. The Tim Whitmer Consort will be with us and will lead us in the praise of God through music and song. Of course, you’ll be invited to sing along in joyful praise!

See you this Sunday at the SINGING PLACE!

Holding the Faith

By Fred Leist, Lead Pastor

This past week I read a wonderful article in The Christian Century, written by M. Craig Barnes, president of Princeton Theological Seminary. Craig told the story of gathering recently with family and friends in celebration of his mother’s 90th birthday. They gathered at a restaurant called “The Abbey.” He thought that was probably appropriate since his mother had spent her entire adult life as a “church lady.” 

    His mother had suffered a stroke and dementia would frequently overwhelm her. Craig said that his mother, a genteel southern woman, who was once a pastor’s wife and who always had exactly the right and gracious response, struggled as she attempted to be the hostess for her own birthday party. 

    At one point she stood behind her walker and offered, what appeared to be a well-rehearsed one-minute speech. It pained him to hear her offer, what he called some “bad theology” that presumed we serve an unyielding God who always keeps a record of “when we say we will pray for someone, but do not.” She finished her speech with the words, “We’re supposed to do what we say we’ll do.”

    Craig said that it was painful because it did not reflect the spirit in which she had raised her two sons in the faith. She had always taught them that their faith in a God of grace was “as true as the sky above us.” As their first theology teacher, she always spoke of a merciful Savior who forgets our sins. That was then. Now, she clearly struggled to articulate the faith in which she raised her sons.

   Reflecting on that experience, Craig said he remembers how his mother always “held the faith” for them as children. She presented them for baptism, took them to worship and Sunday School, taught and modeled faith in God through her own love and devotion. Craig said that his mother had held the faith for them during times when they were unable to fully do so themselves. Now, he imagines that it is his time to hold the faith and embrace the grace of God for her. He says that’s the way a family of faith works, and that’s why we have the church. 

    I think he is absolutely right. When parents and congregations affirm the vows at infant baptism, we are holding the faith for those children. When we offer Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Christian camping, spiritual formation events and Confirmation Classes…it’s all our way of holding the faith for them, even as they are learning to hold the faith for themselves. It’s what we do and who we are.

    With that in mind, I think of our upcoming Confirmation Sunday this weekend. Fourteen fine young people will make their own profession of faith in Jesus and affirm their vows of membership into the Church. We have loved them, prayed for them, invested in them and trusted God’s promises for them. Now, THE story of God’s love and grace will become THEIR story of faith in Christ. Theology (thinking and reflecting about the reality and nature of God) will become Biography (their own experience of holding the faith that holds them). It will be a great celebration. I couldn’t be any prouder of these young people. And I hope you will be here to support them.

    The great faith belongs to the church, and we’re always holding it for someone.



Lateral Thinking

By Fred Leist, Lead Pastor

You may have never heard of Edward De Bono. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and is the founder of the “Edward De Bono Thinking School.” He made quite a name for himself, traveling around the world giving seminars and training people how to think more creatively. He is a proponent of something he calls “lateral thinking.”

Basically, he believes that no matter how good you think you are at tackling a problem or dealing with a difficult challenge, you should rarely face a problem head-on. Instead, he proposes that you should first step back and survey the bigger situation, looking for alternative possibilities. For De Bono, lateral thinking is thinking outside-the-box. Instead of moving head-long into a situation, take a deep breath, step back, move sideways, widen your lens, until you see a new door…a way forward, that nobody suspected was open.

Why do I bring this up? Because, this Sunday we are going to look at one of Jesus’ best known and most beloved stories. We know it as the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is an excellent example of how Jesus sought to shed new light on a troubling situation, not by tackling the issue head-on, but by making a lateral move that totally caught his audience by surprise. In the process, he opens our eyes to seeing ourselves…and our neighbors, in a totally different light.

We continue our journey to the Cross this weekend with the message, “QUESTIONS ON THE CROSSROAD: Who is my Neighbor?” I promise that our time in worship together will challenge us deeply and offer new insights on our call to more fully follow Jesus. See you Sunday.