Jarrod Johnston

Author's details

Name: Jarrod Johnston
Date registered: March 16, 2013
URL: https://plus.google.com/116262322368847600588

Latest posts

  1. The Liturgy Nerd: Salvation Doesn’t Trickle Down — December 23, 2014
  2. The Liturgy Nerd: 2014 Advent to Christmas Series "The Promise" Worship Helps — November 18, 2014
  3. The Liturgy Nerd: Advent to Christmas 2014 Worship Series: The Promise — November 4, 2014
  4. The Liturgy Nerd: Good Reasons Why I Haven’t Written Lately — October 20, 2014
  5. The Liturgy Nerd: The One Where We’re Adopting a Baby — August 5, 2014

Author's posts listings

Dec 23 2014

The Liturgy Nerd: Salvation Doesn’t Trickle Down

Original post at http://www.liturgynerd.com/2014/12/salvation-doesnt-trickle-down.html

Last night I wrapped up our latest online/season/pastor's Bible study with a great group of young adults.  The scripture was The Annunciation, Luke 1:27-38, the fateful passage where we learn of Gabriel's approach to Mary and her acceptance of the Lord's will to bring Jesus Christ into the world.

We were reflecting last night on what it meant that Christ, the Son of God, would be born into such humble circumstances - by God's own choosing.  It's a topic that's been mined for meaning for centuries, and at times it's been avoided by the church (the empire, rather) altogether.

In my prep for the message on Christmas Eve I've gotten fairly stuck on this topic.  What does the humility of the holy birth mean?  Better yet, if Christ came today, what people would he be born into?

I think a lot of American Evangelicals assume Christ would be born in America.  Because, why not?  Right?  So, think about how Christ came the first time ... He came to the Hebrew people.  The Hebrews weren't exactly well-to-do folk in the Roman Empire.  For sure, there were wealthy among them - but they would always be under subjugation to the Romans.  So, they were second class.  And Mary and Joseph were Jewish AND poor.  Poor folk among poor folk.  Doubly poor then, to get to the point.

Who would that be today?  For sake of the American argument, you gotta go for the poorest demographic around here.  In Texas, where I'm from, you'd be looking at illegal Hispanic immigrants.  There are wealthy among them, there are educated among them, especially those able move into citizenship.  It stands to reason that Christ might come from somebody such as them.  Or perhaps a Cuban family that has come in under the radar in Cuba?  Or an African American family in Ferguson still trying to overcome a world that ignores white privilege?  Or from a Native American family in Oklahoma?

I wonder if we expect Christ to come again today the same way as those who were originally waiting for the Messiah ... As a triumphant and conquering king.  When are we gonna learn?

Something that we came up with in our study last night just really took me by surprise ... Why did Christ come to the poor of the poor?  Maybe because God knows a lot about how the world works from God's vantage point.  If Christ had come to the rich, would the salvation message have trickled down to the masses or stayed at the top?

Yes, salvation does come from above, from God's glory to us.  But the humbleness of the Holy Birth tells us that in the world, the message bubbles up from the bottom.  It tells us where we should be looking for Jesus now.  Because God is for everybody.  This is the good news of the Incarnation.

Mmmmmhmmm.  And Merry Christmas!

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/salvation-doesnt-trickle-down/

Nov 18 2014

The Liturgy Nerd: 2014 Advent to Christmas Series "The Promise" Worship Helps

Original post at http://www.liturgynerd.com/2014/11/2014-advent-to-christmas-series-promise.html

As promised, here are the candle lightings, calls to worship, and corporate or pastoral prayers for our 2014 Advent to Christmas Series "The Promise".  Everything is designed to get the point across for each particular Sunday and is free to use.  Let us know me the comments if any of this is of help to you!

This year, I decided to go with the traditional names for the Advent Wreath Candles (perhaps for the first time since I started writing original lighting liturgies).  I'll have a graphic for worship guides in the next couple of days!

November 30 (Advent 1) - “A Promise and a Plea” Isaiah 64:1-9

Lighting the Candle of Hope
Long ago the prophet Isaiah cried out for God’s mercy to be shown to God’s children – all of us.  God heard that prayer, though God came in God’s own time.  Even though God may not move in the way we expect or as quickly as we would sometimes like, God still keeps the promises that God makes.  God hears our cries for mercy, even today.  This morning, as we light the Candle of Hope, may this small light be a symbol to all of us that waiting and hoping for God to come to us again.
Let this fire remind us that while we wait for the Lord, truly the Lord is already here.  Hope is here!

Call to Worship
Lord, hear our prayer!
Listen to your children praying!
Hear your people crying out for mercy this morning, God of our Salvation.
May the hope of Jesus arise in us this morning!

Prayer of Confession
Merciful God, we have much to confess.  We lose our focus.  We forget the reasons we’ve had for the holiday season.  We get caught up in being busy, caught up in ourselves, caught up in the world.  Help us to focus on you, and in so doing becoming more like you.  The world around us needs you, needs people focused on you and ready to meet the needs of those that are hurting and lost around us.  Focus us God, lead us with your Holy Spirit, so that when the Hope of the Nations does arrive, we are ready.  Amen.

December 7 (Advent 2) - “Passing the Baton” Mark 1:1-8

Lighting the Candle of Peace
John the Baptist’s ancient words, calling us to prepare the way of the Lord were more ancient than he was.  He learned them from Isaiah.  But in John’s time, Jesus did finally arrive.  The Hope of the Nations walking among the people.  This morning, we light the Candle of Peace.  May we carry the Lord’s peace with us this holiday season, as we remember that Jesus was, and is, real.
Let this fire remind us that while we wait for the Lord, truly the Lord is already here.  Peace is here!

Call to Worship
Peace of the Lord be with you today!
Peace of the Lord be with you!
We have work to do to prepare the way of the Lord!
May Jesus make his true way into our hearts, today.

Prayer of Confession
Everlasting Lord, we confess that Advent is not a peaceful season, and that it is our own making.  We forget that your incarnate love in Jesus Christ wasn’t just meant for the church or the people that call themselves ‘Christian’ … It is for everyone.  Can you help us be peace-bringers this season?  Can you open our hearts and minds to those that need us to bring your healing touch?  To those that need to be introduced to your son, Jesus Christ?  To those that need the way to you made plain?  Calm our hearts and steady our minds, dear God, that we may find your peace and show it to others.  Amen.

December 14 (Advent 3) - “A Mother Sings” Luke 1:46b-55

Lighting the Candle of Love
Mary’s song reminds us that God’s love is truly for everyone, that we are all God’s children, and God’s mercy is equally given.  Mary helps us to remember that God’s view is different from ours– that those we might consider the lowly, the outcast, are equal in God’s eye to the powerful and the strong.  This morning we light the Candle of Love, reminding ourselves that God’s love is without boundary, it is timeless, it is free to all.
Let this fire remind us that while we wait for the Lord, truly the Lord is already here.  Love is here! 

Call to Worship
This morning, we are called to sing!
To sing of the Lord’s everlasting mercy!
To sing of the Lord’s faithfulness!
Thank you God for keeping your promises from generation to generation!

Prayer of Confession
God on high, we know you love us, but we confess that we forget to return that love.  You give us everything and we squander our resources.  We spend on ourselves, we pour extravagance on ourselves, all while those around us, in our neighborhoods, communities, and families struggle just to keep healthy food on the table.  Let us hear Mary’s song anew this morning, may we be reminded that the ways of the world, where the strong forget the weak, are not your ways.  Your ways are higher, God.  Help us to bring your Kingdom more fully onto this earth.  Amen.

December 21(Advent 4) – “Yes!” Luke 1:26-38

Lighting the Candle of Joy
As the angel tells Mary not to fear, we hear that call on our own hearts this morning.  Because we know that the promise of God, delivered by an angel, and received by Mary, is true.  When the world cried out for a savior, that savior did come to us.  Not as a king, but as a baby.  As we light the Candle of Joy this morning, may we be reminded, with joy, that the Lord loves us so much, that the Song of God came into the world like one of us.
Let this fire remind us that while we wait for the Lord, truly the Lord is already here.  Joy is here!

Call to Worship
The Lord is with us this morning!
Yes, indeed.  The Lord’s joy is here!
Are you prepared for miracles?
Nothing is impossible with God!

Prayer of Confession

God of Compassion, we are a fearful people.  We carry so much with us … hurt, pain, disease, strife.  We confess that we forget that you are with us, often in the hardest times.  We confess that sometimes this season of joy is less than joyful, because we lose track of you.  We need you to heal our hurts God, we can’t make it on our own.  Heal us God so we can be prepared to say “Yes!”, as Mary did.  Yes, to your call to lift up each other, to carry each other and lift burdens for one another, not just for our friends and family, but to everyone.  Help us to receive the gift of your healing, and joyful, love in Jesus Christ.  Amen.

December 24 (Christmas Eve) - “The Promise is Kept” Luke 2:1-20

Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light the Christ Candle, we remember that long ago God’s promise to us was kept!  We called on the Lord for salvation, and not only did the Lord bring it, the Lord Our God appeared to us as a baby.  A baby to be loved and nurtured in a human family.  A baby Messiah that would grow up to preach the good news that all are welcome and loved in the Kingdom of God.  Today, we welcome Jesus Christ!
Welcome to you, Lord Jesus!  May this light remind us of the hope, peace, love, and joy that can only be found in you!

Call to Worship
Let heaven and nature sing -
Joy to the world!
Oh come, all ye faithful –
Joyful and triumphant!
The herald angels sing –
Glory to God!
Jesus is here!
Jesus is here!

A Christmas Prayer
God, we welcome you here.  We have been waiting for you, anticipating your arrival, expecting you to visit us today.  We need you God, and we are so grateful that you love us so much that you came to us in the form of a child.  You place so much trust in us, even trusting a humble family to raise your own son.  On top of that, you gift us with care over one another.  Yes, it’s a care that we often fail to give.  Thanks be to you God that no matter how often we forget to take care of each other, to love each other as you love us, your forgiveness knows no end.  Forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love that became incarnate in Jesus Christ.  A promise of salvation that is kept.  Welcome to the world, Lord Jesus.  May singing your songs, sharing in your gifts, and looking to your earthly life bring heaven closer to us this Christmas.  Amen.

December 28 (1st Sunday After Christmas) - “Seeing Salvation” Luke 2:22-40

Call to Worship
In our church, today it is still Christmas!
Merry Christmas!
The angels are still singing!
Glory to God, and peace on earth.

Prayer for After Christmas
Lord Jesus Christ, another Christmas Day has come and gone.  How did we celebrate your birthday?  With family and friends?  With food and gifts?  Did we remember that you are the true gift of Christmas?  You are the agent of our salvation, the light in our darkness, a fulfilled promise of God.  And we, whom you would call friends, are called to share these great gifts, that only you can give, with the world. Remind us that the gifts we’ve been given aren’t ours to keep.  Remind us that there’s more than enough food for none to go hungry.  Remind us that through you everyone we meet is now a brother or sister.  Thanks be to God for the family of faith that began on Christmas Day and continues to grow into the future.  Amen.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/2014-advent-to-christmas-series-the-promise-worship-helps/

Nov 04 2014

The Liturgy Nerd: Advent to Christmas 2014 Worship Series: The Promise

Original post at http://www.liturgynerd.com/2014/11/advent-to-christmas-2014-worship-series.html

This Advent season at FUMCA we're following the thread of messengers, the people who prophesied and proclaimed the good news the culminated in a fulfilled promise with the birth of Jesus Christ.

Our Advent journey will take us from the heartfelt prayers of Isaiah, to the rugged preaching of John the Baptist.  Then to the tender joy of Mary, mother of Jesus, as she sings her song of thanksgiving after the angel Gabriel gives her the news that God has chosen her to bear the Son of God into the world.  Finally, after the long wait, the promise of God, Jesus the Messiah, comes to us at Christmas.  A promise fulfilled.

Here is an outline of our plan, with liturgy resources and graphics to come.  This is all shared freely, but if you use it within your faith family, just do me a favor and share that in the comments!

Advent to Christmas 2014 Worship Series:

The Promise

November 30 (Advent 1) - “A Promise and a Plea" - Isaiah 64:1-9

Isaiah prays, "Oh, that you would tear the heavens and come down ..."

This lesson is a heartfelt plea for mercy, which is unlike many of the iconic Advent scriptures we pull from this prophet's deep words.  Where is the Holy Mountain, or the Great Light?  Isaiah is speaking for a world that needs a savior, a messiah, a rescuer.  Do we not cry for this still today as we wait for Christ to come again?  We wait still for the great intercessor to appear.

We remind our people though, as evidenced by the Incarnation, that God does hear our prayers.  That God does move towards us.

December 7 (Advent 2) - “Passing the Baton” - Mark 1:1-8

John proclaims, "One who is more powerful than I is coming after me ..."

A rough and tumble prophet, John wasn't into the pretensions of his time.  He wanted to get down to business, declare a season of repentance, and get people right with God.  However, he wasn't the Messiah, he wasn't the endgame ... Jesus was/is.  John, the way-maker, is preparing the people to meet Christ, for real.  John starts the race, but Jesus finishes it.  So, the question may be, still today, how are we making the way for Jesus in people's hearts right here, right now?

December 14 (Advent 3) - “A Mother Sings” -  Luke 1:46b-55

Isaiah had cried out to God for mercy (as had many Israelites), and here mercy is, gifted to Mary to bring into the world.  The special thing, though, is that God is buying into the human experience.  Not only will God come down to earth and to our rescue, but God will do so by coming into the world the way all humans do.  You might say, "God has skin in the game."

And, of course, this is Mary's song.  It's a riff on Hannah's song from the First Samuel, but Mary makes it her own.  She's prophesying in a way, singing the themes that are the Gospel of Luke's central message: the world as we know it is upside down from here on out.  That is, God's heart is for the lowly, the tread upon, the outcast, the ill, those who have no way out in society.  Mary is one of those people, and here she is, soon-to-be Mother of God.

December 21 (Advent 4) – “Yes!” - Luke 1:26-38

"Nothing is impossible with God ..."

God makes it happen for God's children.  The world needs a savior, and a savior is sent.  Not on a flaming chariot with an angel army as backup, but as a child.  However, the approach to Mary needs to be made, and Gabriel gets to make it.  Angels in the OT aren't bringers of joy, on the whole.  The Israelite history with angels is pretty scary stuff, so it's no wonder that Gabriel first tells Mary not to fear.

The Lord is with us, we don't need to fear.  Do we fear things this time of year?  Loneliness?  Money problems?  Brokenness in our families and relationships?  Are there things in our lives that we find impossible?  Is God there to help us find a break through?  The Incarnation is proof to us that God is ready, willing, and able to work miracles.  Mary was brave enough to say "YES!" to God, what about us?

December 24 (Christmas Eve) - “The Promise is Kept” - Luke 2:1-20

This sermon is so easy, but so hard.  How do  you bring something new to the Christmas story?  Do you even need to?  The awe, wonder, and praise wrapped into these twenty history-changing verses are timeless.  The joy of the angels, the shock to the shepherds, the love of the holy family.

But perhaps the greatest thing of all: God was always on the move to bring us Jesus, and God is still on the move in the world today.  Karl Barth wrote of the incarnation, not just that Emmanuel means "God with us", but also that "God does not want to be without us."

That is the Good News of Christmas!

December 28 (1st Sunday After Christmas) - “Seeing Salvation” - 2:22-40

"My eyes have seen your salvation ..."

The Song of Simeon rounds out the three songs that open the Gospel of Luke (Mary's Magnificat and the Song of the Angels being the other two).  Most people may know the Nunc Dimittis, 'Let your servant go in peace', set to music, but it doesn't give much of the scriptural context.  Simeon had been waiting, and waiting for the arrival of the savior, having a witness that he would meet the Messiah from the Holy Spirit.

What a gift Simeon received - to have tangible proof that God's promises are true.  We humans, some 2,000 years later have to take to these stories on faith.  However, the point should be made more often that while we don't see the Human One in the flesh before us, we, the church, are the Body of Christ - baptized to love and serve others as Christ did.  In other words, others should be able to see Christ in us.  In the aftermath of Christmas and before the New Year, what can we do to better show people that we know Christ was/is real?  Do we bring good new to the poor?  Let the oppressed go free?  Help people shake off their spiritual blindness?  Proclaim the time of the Lord's favor on the whole wide world?

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/advent-to-christmas-2014-worship-series-the-promise/

Oct 20 2014

The Liturgy Nerd: Good Reasons Why I Haven’t Written Lately

Original post at http://www.liturgynerd.com/2014/10/good-reasons-why-i-havent-written-lately.html

Friends, ministers, nerds,

It's been a crazy few months!  This school year we made the decision to go full-time at Perkins.  Nine whole hours of big work.  Systematic theology, moral theology, and evangelism are on the menu this fall, with a Jan-term class on soteriology, followed up with more systematics, Old Testament, and maybe, I dunno a little world religions or preaching for a little flavor.

It all adds up to crazy town for my family, because, hey, I work full-time in pastoral ministry as well.  I'm not complaining, I'm certainly not the first person to do this, and we aren't the first family to go through it.  But we're trying to wrap things up - we see the light at the end of the tunnel, where all daddy has to do is ministry.

However, this isn't even the biggest thing that has kept me from writing at the pace I had been for so long in this space for nerds of liturgy.

This happened as well:

One of the best days ever.  That little girl being held by a happy judge?  She's officially ours, as of that blessed day.  Four months earlier than she had to be.  I've come to think of our short fifteen minutes in court as something very sacramental ... Other adoptive parents would probably feel the same.

I don't remember all of the questions our lawyer asked us under oath.  I remember her asking us that we knew we were waiving a six-month waiting period that was there for our protection as much as the child.  Yes, I said.  She's been ours since she was two minutes old (literally, the cord was cut and she was brought straight to us, kicking and screaming ... one of the best moments ever, ever, ever).  We were never going to give her back if we had a choice in the matter.

I remember her asking me, first, if I would love our daughter always and forever.  Covenantal language, if there ever was.  I answered in the affirmative, as well as other perfunctory questions.  Leanne also answered them.

It was so short and sweet,  And she was ours, for real, forever.  Little man has a little sister, and things couldn't be more beautiful and God-blessed.

Having two kids has dramatically changed our family ... In amazing ways.  But writing for fun has gone down the list to be sure.  Unless people want to start reading portions of my impending Credo for systematics?

Didn't think so!

However, because it's my favorite thing I get to do in ministry, I do have a couple of fun sermon series I'll be throwing out here for Advent/Christmas, and for Epiphany and the following Sundays.  Those will arrive here shortly, complete with graphics and worship helps for Advent.  It's always fun to share!

So, that's the news and I look forward to adding a little more here as I get a chance!

Grace and peace to you all, my fellow nerds!  

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/good-reasons-why-i-havent-written-lately/

Aug 05 2014

The Liturgy Nerd: The One Where We’re Adopting a Baby

Original post at http://www.liturgynerd.com/2014/08/the-one-where-we-adopted-baby.html

It's been quiet out here, and for good reason ... In the middle of summer school (six weeks of intensive Methodist-centric study at Perkins), our baby girl was born.  We've been in the adoption process for about a year now and were about to pause things for a little while when a family was brought into our lives, just after Easter, with a need we were called to meet.  Our baby girl is now six weeks old (she's been with us since she was about two minutes old) and it is just amazing to have such a tangible witness in our home to God's goodness.

God has blessed us every step of this journey.

On July 6 I intended to offer a sermon, but it ended up being more of a testimony on the amazingness God worked to bring us our baby girl.

July 6, 2014 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/08/the-one-where-were-adopting-a-baby/

Jul 15 2014

The Liturgy Nerd: Visions and Dreams

Original post at http://www.liturgynerd.com/2014/07/visions-and-dreams.html

"Responsible change is a far more faithful pattern of obedience to Christ than the most devoted immobilism can ever be." - Albert Outler, "Visions and Dreams", sermon at the Uniting Service, April 23, 1968.

It's been a while since I've been able to write here in this space.  I haven't even had time to check in ... It's been a crazy summer.  I just finished the UM History/Doctrine/Polity block of classes at Perkins.  A pretty intensive run of course work, four hours a day, four days a week.  It was like moving to some foreign, Methodist country, learning a new language ... The Way of Salvation ... Boards and Committees ... MEC to MPC to MECS to EUB to UMC to ... to ... to ...

Am I supposed to have a mind like Christ Jesus?  Or John Wesley?    Board of Ordained Ministry here we come.

Annual Conference was in there.  An amazing full-time pastoring job was in there.  A grace-filled family that understood the level of data daddy was loading into his brain causing things around the house to just 'not compute' sometimes.  More on that particular facet the of craziness later.

It was a fascinating journey this summer.  I think I love our UMC a lot more than I did before.  I certainly understand it better.  Of all the things I read (and there was a ton, as you might expect), perhaps that most engaging and challenging read was Albert Outler's sermon at the the uniting service that created the United Methodist Church out of the union of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren in Dallas, TX on April 23, 1968.

Entitled "Visions and Dreams", Professor Outler made a few bold statements towards the future of the church, comparing this new (at the time) UMC to the new Christian church at Pentecost, not so much as there was a specifically brand-new thing beginning - but that it was time to start a brand-new way of doing ministry in Christ's church.  A call to be a church fully catholic, fully evangelical, fully reformed.

The meanings of the terms catholic and evangelical are well-known.  By catholic, Outler called for a fully 'inclusive' and 'open' church.  Dialogue in our church today suggests we aren't there yet.  The call to be evangelical was to be a church "radically Christ centered", to spread the word that the "Gospel is the good news that is God’s love that pardons, heals, and reconciles, God’s love that demands that we be fully human and opens up this possibility, for us, God’s love that can sanctify our memories and our hopes."

It's when Outler gets to being a church "truly reformed" that makes me pause and reflect.  He's not telling us to be Luther or Zwingli or Calvin.  He means something different and entirely relevant to us today:

A church truly reformed is one that is open, intentionally and on principle, to creative change of every sort (in teaching, discipline and administration) – not haphazard or reckless change but not timid and grudging either.

Ah, so a church that is truly reformed is completely open to being re-formed.  Get it?

With the debates going on in our church today over human sexuality this single statement calls me to wonder: do people think that the Church of Jesus Christ, the United Methodist Church in particular, has arrived?  That we are as a church body entirely sanctified as we are today?  That we are as inclusive as we need to be?  In Outler's time, the church was struggling through the real matters of desegregation.  It was stipulated in the union of the new church that the segregated African American central conference in the US would be dissolved into existing conferences.  That was a real struggle for the church that would mostly be done by 1972.  It actually wasn't until 1972 that any Book of Discipline had a statement on homosexuality.


This isn't to belittle either side of the debate in today's church.  I just think we have bigger fish to fry.  It's time to move towards the vision set back in 1968.  Can we still be a fully catholic, evangelical, and reformed UMC?

This week the lesson in worship will be on the often told encounter at Bethel between Jacob and God - in a dream.  A dream where God lays out the plan for Jacob and his descendants, a prosperous dream whereby all of the people of the world would be blessed by Jacob's descendants.  It's an awe-inspiring text, but it wouldn't be until Jacob would wrestle with God at Peniel (much later) that Jacob would accept God's plan for him and his family.  I just wonder, are we following God's dream for this church?

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/07/visions-and-dreams/

Older posts «