Rev. Laura Hewett Becker

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August 20, 2021

Rev. Laura Hewett Becker

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24 – NRSV)
 
Dear Ones,

I have found myself in a season of lament. Even as I preached last Sunday about gearing up with gratitude, the Taliban moved into Kabul, a college friend’s husband died of kidney cancer, and everyday a text reminder comes from my child’s school of another positive COVID case. My heart is heavy for soldiers and their families intimately connected with Afghanistan and the trauma still in healing progress. My heart aches for the women who have known education and freedom that are vulnerable once again. My heart grieves every jab directed at those deemed wrong or less informed; and, only guilty of having a different perspective and wisdom not shared. It’s a lot!
 
So, I turn to Lamentations for a word from God for me and for you. It’s commonly believed that the prophet Jeremiah wrote Lamentations since he was an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem when the Babylonians invaded the city. To understand Lamentations, it’s important to understand how seemingly impossible it was for such a military feat to occur. Throughout scripture when destruction fell upon Israel, the prophets pointed to such demise because of unrepentant sin. The belief was that God removed his hand of protection and allowed the inhabitants to experience a vulnerability they didn’t believe was possible. The only proper response was grief. The rawness in Lamentations is matched by its realness and followed by a sincere call to repentance. It is scripture that reflects a heart that is processing immense devastation, and it gives us permission to bring our sorrow to God, who can take the chaos of tragedy and lead us to a place of wholeness and restoration.* Devastation has a unique way of laying bare our sin as well and enables access to the sadness created by such individual and corporate sin.
 
No matter what causes us such lament, in my experience it wreaks havoc on my ability to sleep and get good rest. Finding myself in this kind of dark place is scary and frustrating, even embarrassing, especially in my role of helping others in the midst of struggles and faithfully ‘holding it together’. What I have also found in my experience is that when darkness presses in and seeks my flight or fight response, the act of surrender works best. I surrender to the sleep and trust that God will keep the vigil. It’s true that the world and all its pain will be waiting in the morning, but so will God.

Every morning is a new day, a new start. We open our eyes and God’s mercies are brand new. One of those mercies is that sorrow will not last.
I hope you will look for the mercy that each morning gives and be thankful.
 
Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness. I think: The Lord is my portion! Therefore, I’ll wait for him. (Lamentations 3:22-24 – Common English Bible)
 
May the grace and peace of Christ be with you.

Pastor Laura

 
* (in)courage Devotional Bible p. 1098

June 25, 2021

Rev. Laura Hewett Becker

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

It is summer-time and I work with teenage human beings. Conversation gives way to such topics as ‘what is love’ and ‘who do we want to spend time with’. Frankly, I love these conversations that allow questions about healthy relationships, true friendship, God’s hope for us, and so much more. It not only gets me to pull books off the shelf and dust them off; these conversations prove to remind me that every young person needs help navigating the difficult territory of relationships which always includes an element of self-discovery and identification.

I believe John the Apostle in his letter to the Church gives us the ultimate starting point for identity and relationship. God is Love. John’s understanding has been a foundation for widening grace in my own life. When love is present and comes from a person it is born out of God and therefore a knowing of God exists where love is present. I believe whether God is acknowledged or not. The knowing is deeper and possibly subconscious yet present. I find this very hopeful when looking for common ground in the midst of division. Love binds us together and binds us to God.

C.S. Lewis in his book The Four Loves is a great resource for definitions about varying manifestations of Love: Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity. Even more contemporary is Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages which defines categories of personal expressions of love. I was delighted the other day when a youth claimed their ‘love language’. You may have other resources that are your go to reservoir for help and direction. Hopefully, the scripture is one of them as well. Jesus is Love in the flesh. Everything Jesus does and speaks through the scripture points to LOVE.

Summer may classically be a time for love but I think God intends for every day to be an opportunity for expressing it. So if we are going to do anything this summer let it be LOVE. Love God, Love yourself, and Love your neighbor.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.” (1 Cor. 13: 4-8a)

May we be filled with love. It is the best use of our freedom that delights God. Come, Lord Jesus, fill us with your spirit of love in all our relationships. Amen.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Laura

In Christ’s Love, 

Pastor Laura

June 4, 2021

Rev. Laura Hewett Becker

The Cracked Pot

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” – Luke 21:1-4

I have to admit that the past 12 months have felt like a season of poverty. Poverty of resources like energy, positive attitude, financial security, time with others, and hopefulness. Still, God has been faithful and provides all that is needed and celebrates the offerings that we can muster out of our poverty. The above scripture is an important reminder that our faithfulness is about trusting God with all that we live on.

As summer begins and opportunities to participate in ministries are presented, I want to encourage you to pray and respond out of God’s abundance not the perception of our lack. I have found the following parable a helpful reminder of what God does with our offering and efforts toward faithfulness. It is called: “The Cracked Pot”

A Water Bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and one half pots of water in his master’s house.

The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the Water Bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.” “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

The Water Bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologizes to the bearer for its failure. The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

Each of us has our own unique flaws and points of poverty. We’re all cracked pots. The beauty and grace is revealed when we continue in faithfulness trusting God to bring something of which we have no awareness. In God’s great economy, nothing goes to waste. So, as we seek ways to minister together, and as God calls you to tasks appointed for you, don’t be afraid of your flaws, poverty, or even emptiness. Acknowledge them and allow God to show you what Christ can do with you, through you, and even beyond you. Go out boldly, knowing that in our weakness we find Christ’s strength.

I’m certainly looking forward to a summer in the strength of God’s Spirit.

In Christ’s Love, 

Pastor Laura

April 16, 2021

Rev. Laura Hewett Becker

Do All to the Glory of God

Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. (1 Corinthians 10: 23-24, The Message)

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other.(1 Corinthians 10: 23-24, NRSV)

“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is beneficial. “everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. No one is to seek his own good, but the good of the other person. (1 Corinthians 10: 23-24, Christian Standard Bible)

I believe this scripture is one of the most difficult to apply in living out our faith with grace. In a world and culture where personal choice is highly valued, protected, and fought for, Paul writes this wisdom for the church in Corinth and us. Paul has been addressing the rights of Christians, warning of idolatry, and confronting divisive behavior. He finally lands his teaching in verse 31, “so, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”

That’s the difficulty! For us humans to figure out what the FOR the glory of God is. As Christians in the Methodist tradition, we use phrases to help us stay focused on that which we believe glorifies. You may have heard or seen these: ‘Do Good, Do No Harm, and Stay in Love with God’ or ‘Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors’. When you add the daily circumstance of racism, global pandemic, oppression, privilege, and liberty, you have the perfect mix for growth or destruction. Each of us will have to make individual choices in matters of faith and we are called as a faith community to make choices that are based on the good of the other. I am so glad to live in a community with a diversity of voices and perspectives because I believe when we listen to each other and seek a way together then we are more fully the body of Christ.

I need to know from others what is experienced as harm so they might stay in love with God. I need to find what is good to do so that I might be one who points others to God’s glory. I need to recognize that just because its permissible doesn’t mean it is beneficial, efficacious, or strengthens the community of faith. I think Paul invites us to the endeavor of faith and grace in action.

As we continue to make steps toward relaunching ministries and further opening the facilities for ministry functions, I am hopeful that our community will continue to hold each other with the honor and respect that builds our community witness to God’s glory. To that end, the Covid Response Task Group will review protocols and update the plan for summer months.

Currently, we are offering two worship services and as we reach in-door capacities a third worship time may be added. Small groups are beginning to ask to be on the room schedule/calendar as well. Our protocol has set room capacity based on social distancing guidelines which will be limiting to some of the sizes of classes we have in our church family. Several groups are already meeting on-site.

Relaunching is a huge experience of change, accommodation, and self-sacrificing action. If you are open, interested and ready to serve, we can find a place for you to offer your gifts. It will take many of us to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we welcome people back into our spaces. Your hospitable hearts will be the mortar that builds up our faith family. Even as you let us know your readiness to serve, I would love to share areas of need such as: Audio/Visual Worship Tech, Livestream Host/Greeter, Fellowship Hall Tech Attendant, Clean-up Pew Crew, Ushers, liturgist, office volunteer, HVAC filter attendant, and so much more.

May God give us the mercy and grace to be the church!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Laura

March 5, 2021

Rev. Laura Hewett Becker

Do you know the “Jesus Prayer”? Which one?

“Our Father, who art in heaven…”

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Or maybe, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.”

The “Jesus Prayer” to which I’m referring is one that has developed as a mantra through storytelling. The Lenten Study with JD Walt begins with his learning and practicing this prayer he discovered from Franny, a character in a book called Franny and Zooey, who refers to The Way of a Pilgrim as introducing her to a mantra known as the “Jesus Prayer.”

I hope to introduce it to you as a practice for this Lenten season as we lean into listening to Jesus.

The prayer has three simple phrases with one aim, and one aim only. To endow the person who says it with Christ – consciousness:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a son/daughter/child.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a saint.

I suggest praying it when your feet hit the floor, while brushing your teeth, or any other time of the day when your walking. Pray it as you step toward Easter Resurrection. Let the words sink in and wonder what it is to be a sinner, child, and saint. Let this core identity speak as God defines you.

“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:15-17 NRSV)

I look forward to seeing you in worship and sharing more about how this prayer transforms us and helps us to look at life in light of God’s mercy.

May God grant us mercy!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Laura

February 19, 2021

Rev. Laura Hewett Becker

Anyone looking for the ‘control-alt-delete’ command for 2021 this week? I have sensed a frustration this week as we have been weathering the epic, unprecedented, never experienced in Texas Winter Storm. All of life seems to be stuck, frozen, and the uncertainty once again stirs within searching for which program or process is not responding. It dumbfounds.

I find myself looking for a sign from God as to what this mess needs to do with me. Here it is: The season of Lent designs to interrupt the business-as-usual pattern of our lives. It begins with Ash Wednesday and the in-your-face-reminder, “From dust you have come and to dust you will return. Repent and believe the gospel.” (J.D. Walt, Listen to Him)

One of the many aspects of life is ‘interruption’. In the context of ministry, it is imperative for ministers (that’s all of us who believe in Christ) to learn that ministry often happens within the interruptions. Jesus is often seen in the scriptures teaching, healing, praying, sleeping, and eating. Inevitably someone or something comes as an interruption. A desperate father pleads for his help for a dying daughter, a mother is concerned about wine shortage, friends are caught in a storm while he is sleeping, a woman at a well engages in a long theological debate; all are moments where Jesus sets aside himself for the sake of being present with those in need of it.

Laying aside our agenda, convenience, and patterns of daily habit is not an easy task. It is however a task of love. Over a lifetime of watching people in crisis I can attest how crisis can become the entire focus of one’s life. I’d suggest that it is quite natural and necessary to set aside many things when crisis arise like a death in the family, a debilitating illness, a devastating loss of job or relationship, a natural disaster, and especially when more than one is occurring.

I think it is most appropriate to allow time for a ‘reset’ as that cursed rotating circle on the computer screen of Life sometimes demands. I think that is one of the ordinary signs that God has used with me. Take a breath. Drink a little water. Pray. And then take the next step you can. The interruption is likely to become the very place where you experience the grace of God working in your life.

I pray that as we continue through the winter storm aftermath (for I know a little secret – it’s the little disasters after the Disaster that will need our care and attention too) we will be open to the interruptions that draw us closer to each other and God. I pray you will interrupt your day with prayer, listening to God’s Word, meal-time with others, and helping a neighbor. These are the basic, essentials for a merciful grace-filled life.

If Jesus can be interrupted from his heavenly throne responsibilities so that we might experience and know what Love looks like then whatever interruption comes today can humble us to a place where we can show that same love to others.
Let’s listen to Jesus.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Laura

February 12, 2021

Rev. Laura Hewett Becker

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. Colossians 1:15-16 (NRSV)

A few weeks ago a preschooler proclaimed during chapel time God is dead. She further explained that God isn’t real because God can’t be seen. Well, this pastor couldn’t pass up a teaching opportunity. So, I left my other lesson plan and fixed my eyes on her. I asked her and the whole class to take a deep breath, then another. I asked them to put their hand on their chest and breath again. Do you feel your chest move, can you feel your lungs expand and blow out air? Next, I asked the class to notice the air coming out of their mouth and nose. Can you see it? No, but you know its there because it comes in and out of us. God is like air in that way. We can’t see it, it is invisible however we know it is there because there are visible signs of it moving – when trees bend when the wind blows, that is air moving unseen and seen at the same time. God is like breath little one. God is not dead. God is certainly real and is close as our breath moving in and out.

Whether you are a preschooler in the faith or an ever-growing adult, we live with that same question every day. It’s okay to admit that we struggle with trusting in that which and whom we cannot see? How do we trust in the Invisible and Visible God? How do we believe that all things have been created through and for Christ?

The scripture says Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; in him all things were created, through him and for him. The notion of Christ’s action in creation should astound us, cause an awe that stirs us first to worship and then to submission. Why submission, you might ask. The verse says Jesus is the firstborn of creation which presumes that we follow in being born of creation. Acknowledging the supremacy of Christ is critical to understanding the work of God in creating everything. It sets a foundation for us to understand that we too are a work of God and so participate in making visible God.

One of my favorite presentations of submitting to God’s creating process is from the Skit Guys in their “God’s Chisel” dramatic-comedy skit. https://youtu.be/AhfUzodLRvk I hope you will give it a look. I was introduced to their ministry while attending a United Methodist Gathering of Youth in 2003. Their visual always reminds me of the difficult and beautiful work that is constantly happening around us and especially in us.

For us to be created anew as we have heard in the previous sermon series, we will definitely need to cultivate habits for listening to him. Listening to Jesus will be our focus as be move through the forty days that culminate with Easter. I look forward to your participation in worship online or in-person as we step on a road to resurrection together.

May God continue to create us anew and bring us to new moments of resurrection.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Laura