Advent Devotional: Dec. 22, 2020

by Gabbi Pohlman

Matthew 2:11-14
An angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying “Get up! Take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.” So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt.  

This is not the first time an other-worldly messenger has appeared to Joseph in a dream. One chapter before this passage, in a dream, Joseph is instructed to keep Mary as his wife. Reason granted him the idea of a quiet divorce to avoid public shame. However, in both instances, Joseph allows divine intervention to alter his plans, even forgoing temporal logic. 

Over the course of this year, it has grown increasingly harder to dream (and I don’t mean sleeping at night). Even dreaming about the next year or next day is hard. Logic says that any dreams or plans are probably going to be altered, so why even do it? However, I think God is inviting us to dream with him, to hope and be radically optimistic that he is still moving and working in the world today. How can you let yourself dream big in this season? 

What strikes a deeper cord within me about this passage is that Egypt, formerly a place of great oppression for the Jewish people, becomes a place of refuge for the Christ Child. God is a master in the work of redemption. Everyone has an Egypt in their life – a place or thing that traps us in the shadow of our former self. What would it look like for your Egypt to become a place of refuge? To cultivate the redemptive work of God in ourselves, we must look to the least favorite parts of ourselves and invite God in. When we allow a healing work to occur within us, we then invite everyone in our sphere of influence to receive their own healing. 

God, would you give us the strength to dream big with you in this year where dreaming seems silly. Help us to hope without ceasing and invite you into the places within ourselves that we think are past redemption. Thank you that hope does not come from the condition of the world and there is no place where you are not. Amen.

Dec. 13 Online Service

Oconee Street UMC Online Service
December 13, 2020 • Third Sunday of Advent

Full Service Stream

Play to stream entire service

Call to Worship

Amanda Martin

Welcome

Pastor Laura Patterson

Prayers of the People / The Lord’s Prayer

Greg Etheridge and Sam Neely-Etheridge

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 61:1-4

Greg Etheridge

Gospel Reading: Luke 1:46-55

Sam Neely-Etheridge

Sermon: “Proclaim Joy”

Pastor Laura Patterson

Anthem: Magnificat

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Lighting of the Advent Wreath

Carrie Neely, Greg Etheridge, Sam, Willa and Lucy Neely-Etheridge

Closing Hymn: “Canticle of the Turning”

Gary Daigle, Rory Cooney & Theresa Donohoo

Benediction

Pastor Laura Patterson

Postlude: “A Day of Joy and Gladness”

Maxine Easom

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Sept. 27 Online Service

Oconee Street UMC Online Service
September 27, 2020

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Welcome

Pastor Laura Patterson

Prelude

“Go Down, Moses”
Maxine Easom, piano

Invocation

Joe Dennis

Opening Hymn

“How Firm a Foundation”
Grace Community Church (Sun Valley, California)

Reading: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Joe Dennis

Sermon

Pastor Laura Patterson

Anthem

Every Time I Feel the Spirit
The Moses Hogan Singers

Prayer / The Lord’s Prayer

Joe Dennis

Closing Hymn

“Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness”
St. Andrews Evangelical Lutheran Church (Ames, Iowa)

Benediction

Pastor Laura Patterson

Postlude

“Here I Am, Lord”
Maxine Easom, piano

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Sept. 20 Online Service

Oconee Street United Methodist Church
Sept. 20, 2020 Online Service

Entire Service

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________________________________________________________________

Welcome

Pastor Laura Patterson

Prelude

“Go Down, Moses”
Maxine Easom, piano

Invocation

Katie Calkin

Opening Hymn

“Morning Has Broken”
Pershore Abbey

Readings

Exodus 16:2-15 & Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Katie Calkin

Sermon

“How Free Do You Want To Be?”
The Rev. Laura Patterson

Anthem

“Holy Manna”
Performed by Cantus

The Lord’s Prayer

Katie Calkin

Closing Hymn

“Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken”
BuPyeong Methodist Church

Benediction

Pastor Laura Patterson

Postlude

“God Leads Us Along”
Maxine Easom, piano

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Sept. 13 Online Service

Oconee Street UMC Online Service
September 13, 2020

Entire Service

_____________________________________

Welcome

Pastor Laura Patterson

Prelude

“Go Down, Moses”
Maxine Easom, piano

Invocation

Amanda Martin

Opening Hymn

“Come Ye Faithful Raise the Strain”

Old Testament Readings: Exodus 14:19-31, Psalm 114

Amanda Martin

Sermon: “Big Enough Faith”

Pastor Laura Patterson

Anthem

“Rescue” by Lauren Daigle

Prayers of the People

Amanda Martin

Closing Hymn

“Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah”
Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church, Cardiff

Benediction

Pastor Laura Patterson

Postlude

“Wade in the Water”
Maxine Easom, piano

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

July 12 Online Service

Oconee Street UMC Online Service
July 12, 2020

Prelude

“Hymn of Praise” by Natalie Sleeth
Performed by Molly McClure Stanley, violin, and David Stanley, piano

Welcome

Pastor Laura Patterson

Invocation

JoBeth Allen

Opening Hymn

“We Know That Christ is Raised”
Performed by First Plymouth Church (Lincoln, Nebraska)

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 43:18-21; 2 Corinthians 5:17

JoBeth Allen

Sermon: “New Things”

Pastor Laura Patterson

Anthem

“You Are the New Day”
Written by John David, arranged by Peter Knight
Performed by The King’s Singers

You are the new day. You are the new day.
I will love you more than me and more than yesterday.
If you can but prove to me you are the new day.
Send the sun in time for dawn. Let the birds all hail the morning.
Love of life will urge me say, “You are the new day.”
When I lay me down at night, knowing we must pay.
Thoughts occur that this night might; Stay yesterday.
Thoughts that we as humans small could slow worlds and end it all.
Lie around me where they fall before the new day
One more day when time is running out for everyone;
Like a breath I knew would come I reach for the new day.
Hope is my philosophy; just needs days in which to be.
Love of life means hope for me. Borne on a new day.
You are the new day.

Prayer / The Lord’s Prayer

JoBeth Allen

Closing Hymn

“Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters”
Written by James Abbington
Performed by the Morgan State University Choir

Wash, O God, our sons and daughters where your cleansing waters flow.
Number them among your people. Bless as Christ blessed long ago.
Weave them garments bright and sparkling; Compass them with love and light.
Fill, anoint them, send your Spirit, Holy Dove and heart’s Delight.

We who bring them long for nurture; By your milk may we be fed.
Let us join your feast, partaking; Cup of blessing, living bread.
God, renew us, guide our footsteps; Free from sin and all its snares.
One with Christ in living, dying; By your Spirit, children, heirs

Oh, how deep your holy wisdom; Unimagined all your ways
To your name be glory, honor; With our lives we worship, praise
We your people stand before you, Water-washed and Spirit-born
By your grace our lives we offer; Re-create us; God, transform!

Benediction

Pastor Laura Patterson

Postlude

“Children’s Medley” by Hugh S. Livingston, Jr.
Performed by Maxine Easom

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Sermon: Tears of Sorrow

Through Jeremiah, God was trying to reconnect with his people, who lost touch with God. Through tears of sorrow, God was showing his sincere sadness that people were forgetting about God. They were not heeding God’s call to serve others, to take care of our planet, to put God at the center of all our actions.

Is God crying tears of sorrow today?

“Tears of Sorrow” • Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett

“Tears of Sorrow”
Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett
Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Oct. 6, 2019

Lenten Devotional: Monday, March 25

God the Pipe Bomb
by Alys Willman

You thought God was an architect, now you know.
He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow
And everything you built that’s all for show goes up in flames
—Jason Isbell, “24 Frames” 

You thought God was an architect.  Isn’t that what most of us are taught? We bring God down to our size, try and fit God into the limits of our own understanding. The Great Creator of the universe is reduced to a dude with glasses hunched over a drafting table. The power of the One who surpasses all understanding is focused on helping me secure a nice parking spot.

The truth is, most of probably never stop to consider how powerful God actually is. And that means we reduce our idea of God’s work to the things we consider reasonable.

This Lenten season, I am coming to believe in a God who is capable of things I cannot even begin to understand, a God who is waiting to create through me. I am coming to believe in God the Pipe Bomb. 

On Ash Wednesday, I taped a piece of paper over my prayer space. It says, “What if God is capable of anything?” When I sit with this prospect sometimes, I hear a voice whispering to me, saying things so crazy, so impossible, and yet so tantalizingly exciting I can barely stay still. What if you spent today writing poetry instead of working? What if you learned to juggle? Auditioned for a band? 

Inevitably, these whispers are met with a clamor of protests from the other voice in my head (the one who sounds like my mother, if I’m being honest). Who’s going to pay for this? Are you really going to sit around writing mediocre poems, or playing guitar, instead of picking the kids up from soccer practice? What will people think? These voices sound suspiciously to me like the ones who tempted Jesus in the desert. This Lenten season, I am trying to tell those nagging, critical voices to get behind me.  They have served their purpose and now, well, time’s up. 

I am beginning to believe that my wildest dreams and talents might just be  a gift straight from God.  I am asking myself how I would spend my time if I really believed that. Maybe, just maybe, chasing my dreams could be an act of worship. Maybe writing, singing and creating would be acts of service instead of  guilty pleasures that must be earned and negotiated. 

As we move into spring, my heart is restless at the prospect of a second chance. The resurrection is coming. May we be open to it, ready for God to burn away everything we have built that’s all for show, and trusting that something amazing  will rise from the ashes. 

Prayer: God, I confess I put limits on Your power. You send me gifts, and I send them right back. I am sorry. Obliterate me with Your love, burn away my small self and flow through me, that my life may be a prayer to You. 

Lenten Devotional: Tuesday, March 19

by Daniel Malec

Mark 12:30-31 (NIV):  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

As I reflect on this scriptural reference from Matthew, I am struck by the order that Jesus has laid out these commandments.  Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength comes first. I am coming to realize that these commandments are likely laid out in this order for a reason.  Too often in my life, I make personal commitments to forgive and move on, yet my heart and mind seem to hold on and not let go. This leads to more pain and resentment and it seems the cycle goes on even though my intention is to let it go.

I find myself in the midst of this cycle now. Since we moved into our house over a year a half ago, we have been embroiled in conflict with our next- door neighbor. Throughout this journey of discord, pain and resentment, I have experienced tests to my faith like almost none other.  What does it mean to love our neighbor when it feels like she is constantly attacking us and making false accusations against? How do I practice forgiveness when what I really feel is resentment? Why am I still holding on to so much pain and anger when I keep trying to forgive and move on? This conflict has cut to the core of who Alys and I strive to be.  We desire deeply to be good neighbors – to help build a healthy and loving community. Instead it seems that our life commitments are an insult and an affront to our neighbor.

In my conflict resolution work in schools, I often encounter students that appear to be dripping with resentment.  I often share with them the saying that is attributed to the Buddha: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”  My expectation often is that they will grasp the harm they are causing to themselves and then let go of the resentment. I have found through my own journey with pain and resentment, that this is far easier said than done.  I have gained more compassion and empathy for my students and their burden of carrying resentment.

While I have been trying to forgive and move on from this conflict with our neighbor, I continue to be caught holding the burning coal in my hand.  I can’t seem to let it go. I believe what is happening is that I am trying to do this according to my time and not God’s. My focus should be on recognizing the pain and resentment that I feel and to offer it up to God.  Once I do that, then I believe my duty is to focus on the first commandment so that God can show me how to forgive and love my neighbor according to God’s plan and not my own.

One thing we have known for sure throughout this journey, is that God is in the midst of all of this.  God did not lead us around the country for a year and have us settle next to this particular neighbor for nothing.  There is something in this that is far bigger than us, but I have not been able to understand it yet. I think that is a bit of the point.  God has invited us to trust, period. God has not provided us with the answers to all of our questions, but if I truly believe God and God’s invitation to mercy and justice, then I have to believe that the answers will come according to God’s time.  God is faithful … all of the time 🙂

Prayer:
Dear God,
During this Lenten season, I want to make room for you in my heart and mind.  I want to make space for you, but I want to be honest that you will be sharing space with some unsavory thoughts and emotions.  I offer those thoughts and emotions to you as well. I patiently wait for you to transform them into instruments for your peace and justice.  Transform my heart and mind into a sanctuary for you and your divine light. In Jesus’ name I pray.

Lenten Devotional: Thursday, March 14

by Sarah Sumners

Corinthians 12: 9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

In the wake of general conference, I find myself experiencing two disparate, yet confounded emotions: loneliness and vulnerability.  Feelings of hope, safety and security have been giving way to exposure, sadness and disappointment — manifesting as uncontrolled weeping and uncomfortable weakness.

But these feelings crowd my thoughts, serving to distract and distance me from God and from those around me, spurring on my discontent. My loneliness persists when I create barriers that separate me from God and from others. Instead, how powerful might I be if only I can risk showing my weaknesses as an offering of love?

The words of Paul and Timothy in 2 Corinthians offer me the instruction I need to understand God’s love for me, telling me to be content in my weakness. If I can delight in hardship and remain vulnerable in the eyes of God, then I can truly receive God’s love, freeing me from my unending search for love from others.

Today I will risk exposure, venturing to love others as God loves me, fully and unconditionally.

Prayer: Heavenly One,
We ask for Your forgiveness for ways in which we have filled our time and thoughts with human endeavors. Guide us towards Your salvation and use us to create space for others to join us so that they may experience the bounty of Your unending grace and mercy. Help us to expose our weakness as a witness to Your unconditional love. In Your name we pray, Amen.