nathanjhill.com

writing, reflecting, and hoping for a transformed world

This is a #calltoworship from a recent Celebration Sunday, reminding our church on its 60th anniversary that God was still creating and giving us reason to worship.

One: In the beginning… Many: God created the heavens and the earth One: In the beginning… Men: God created plants, animals, and life. One: In the beginning… Women: God created human beings, young and old. One: In the beginning… Youth & Children: God created families, churches, music, art, and laughter! One: I wonder, is God done creating? Many: No! God is still creating! God still gives life! So let us worship God together!

This is a #calltoworship appropriate for current events along the border as well Elijah's visit to the widow and her son in 1 Kings.

One: Holy God, You are our Mother All: Making a feast out of a little Weeping alongside us Refusing to abandon us One: Holy God, You are a Truth-teller All: Challenging us to keep marching Letting us know when it is time to let go Encouraging us to share the load One: We worship You and offer You praise! All: Praise and honor to You!

Paul gets tired of her shouting – and maybe in a bout of frustration – he calls the demon out of her. And suddenly, the girl is freed. She is freed in such a way that she no longer has value to her bosses, to her slave-masters, who cannot control or rake profits from her. Suddenly, she is not a product to exploit but a fully human being, a full child of God, who cannot be manipulated or abused or used. I am always amazed at the way the New Testament stories remind us that liberation was not really good news for those on top with all the power – but for women, children, low wage laborers, those who were exploited, those who were seen as a means to an end. Salvation was a pathway to freedom in all aspects of life.

Read it over at the UCC website: http://www.uccmd.org/blog.cfm

One day, I'm having exciting conversations about the future, planning, dreaming, listening, and exploring future possibilities.

The next day, I'm planning funerals, shepherding people in their grief, and finding ways to honor lives.

This is really sacred work, but the bounce back and forth can be dizzying and disorienting to say the least. And most days, I go home pretty tired.

I coach soccer twice a week with a bunch of awesome kids from my neighborhoods. It's incredibly life-giving, even if my youngsters struggle to put their skills together in the weekend matches. Coaching is not a skill I'm particularly good at, but I've grown over the past few years. My love for the sport has grown too.

Here are a few things that soccer can help people in leadership and ministry think about.

Total Football was an innovative approach to the game that trained players to be ready to play in any position on the field. If a defender found himself up the field, they were ready to play like a winger or striker, slotting in a goal or playing in a cross. Many small churches are forced to run Total Football approaches to their ministry. People wear different hats. If someone is away from worship, you may get tasked at the last minute to help worship unfold. Rather than make this a stopgap, why not make it a feature and build a church culture that encourages everyone to step in and be ready to fill-in to keep the mission moving forward? It's a cool thought, right?

Positive works better than negative. In this current season, the players on my team have struggled in their Saturday matches, and at moments, I've felt like expressing my frustration with them. But they are kids. They know they are struggling and aren't always sure what to do with those emotions. Instead, I continue to make every effort to encourage them. Cheer them on. Tell them they are stars and are capable of incredible things. Because, actually, that's the truth. These kids are awesome. I think many struggling churches have heard a ton of negative – statistics, declining numbers, funerals, financial issues. Can we (pastors and leaders) find ways to encourage our churches and point to the positives, even if they are little things?

We need teams. Like most sports, soccer is a team sport, and it's the most beautiful when players link together, passing and communicating and making something awesome happen. When I have players who are great at scoring and dominating, I always encourage them to take the next step and figure out a way to help their teammates score. It's hard – but when it happens, it makes my day as a coach. I find as a pastor that I am still falling into the trap of going at it alone instead of relying and trusting my team. Sometimes, it hurts them when I make decisions and move forward out of my eagerness to get things done. I have to figure out how to bring them and help others get the successes, because when it happens, it really is the beautiful game.

It's global. I love soccer because it is truly international. Most of the kids in my team are from communities of color, many from immigrant families. It is a privilege and honor to work with these kids and learn from them. Some of their parents show such passion and skill – it's fun to include them in practice and pick up things that I don't know. In church life, especially when we are clouded by dominant cultural narratives in North America, we lose out, time and time again, on other stories, ways of being church, and bits of wisdom that can offer us new insights to the challenges we face. How might churches, whatever your background, take time to listen to what others in your neighborhoods are dealing with? How can we remind ourselves that church is a whole lot bigger than our little building or part of town?

I am going to link to some specific reflections and articles here.

Here's a video I was interviewed in for The Washington Post, reflecting on how churches are dealing with COVID-19 crisis.

You can find some of my music at nathanhill.bandcamp.com

I will link to sermons that I have written here.

During the pandemic, many of my sermons are now posted at the church Youtube channel. Please subscribe and help us out: UCC Youtube

You can also find some at uccmd.org

I post quite a few worship resources on this blog – Calls to Worship, Litanies, Prayers, and so on. I'm working on tagging them, so you can easily search them out. In the future, I hope a search function will make this easier.

On Usage

You are free to use any of the worship materials I write, modify them for your context, and share them widely.

Note: I wrote this simple #calltoworship for Youth Sunday in the Easter season.

One: Do not let anyone look down upon you - Many: Because you are young, because you don't have it all together, because you are beginning again somewhere in life One: But set an example for all believers - Many: Speak the truth, love courageously, offer compassion, and be faithful. One: Christ is risen! Many: Christ is risen indeed!

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