Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Bookface and the Tweeters...So long

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Yesterday was dark. Not on a lighting level…more on a emotional, mental, spiritual level I guess. I think it was a culmination of the past few months more so than any single event from yesterday – though yesterday saw its share of grimness.

I was depressed – is what I’m trying to say.

That has led me to a decision. I’m taking a break from Facebook & Twitter. I’m deleting the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone. I’m getting rid the bookmark to facebook.com. I’m deleting the Twitter reader extension on my browser.

I’m taking a break from the arguing. The bad news. The rumors. The separated families. The anger. The possible dismantling of a denomination. The stories of murder. The sex scandals. The “I’m right. You’re dumb.” The “I’m righteous. You’re evil.” The suffering dogs & cats in need of adoption. The sick kids. The dying parents. The missing teenagers. The “Let me convince you how perfect my life is” posts. All of it. I’m taking a break from all of it.

I know it doesn’t make any of those problems go away. I know it won’t solve much if anything, but I think I will be happier. And that’s my goal – happier.

So, that’s that. I’ll be gone from the Bookface and the Tweeter for a while. Enjoy the bickering. I hope you eventually convince everyone else you’re right and they are stupid.

p.s. – In the middle of writing this I got a call from a congregant that made me smile and laugh more than I have in quite a while. Thanks for the stories, Lawrence.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Take this job and Chevette!

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The current political climate is what I would term antagonistic. It seems like every speech, every action by one side is meant to antagonize the other. And the people eat it up! Washington DC (and Montgomery for that matter) reminds me of the back seat of my mom’s 1980something Chevette.
I’m on one side. My brother on the other side. My poor sister stuck in the middle. We ride along a little then one of us boys pokes the stuck-in-the-middle baby sister (accompanied by a little mischievous giggle). If there’s no reaction, well, you poke a little harder. And again. And again. Until….
“Stop!”
“I didn’t poke you.”
(from the other side) *poke* *giggle*
“Stop poking me!!!”
*giggles*
Mom’s eyes very nearly burn a hole in the rearview.
The cycle repeats – poke, giggle, “stop”, daggers. Poke, giggle, stop, daggers.
After the third or fourth cycle comes the threat. “If you three don’t stop, I will pull this car over on the side of the road, pull you out of this car, and….”
Now there’s a mile or so of silence until… *poke*
“I SAID STOP!!!”
Now the coup de gras – a poke from both sides at once.
Then the crying, and the wailing. Then the threat.
“I will pull over and make you walk home!”
Some more giggles. Maybe a “I’m not touching you” finger hovering over my sister’s knee.
Sound familiar? One side gives a speech about immigration - *poke*
The other side spouts sound bites on the news about how evil the others are – “Stop!” Or maybe the sound bite is more like “They are out of touch” – *poke*
*poke* “STOP” *poke* “STOP” *poke*
The same cycle continues over and over and over. And nothing ever gets done. Because our goal is not to operate a government, but to denigrate the other side, energize our people, raise money, and get re-elected.
It seems like the same thing is taking place right now in the United Methodist Church. A poke here. A poke there. A poke from the left, a poke from the right. The key is to get the other side to react in such a way that you can make them look bad, thereby proving you are right and they are wrong. “They don’t believe in the Bible.” “They don’t love their neighbor.” “You’re not orthodox.” “You’re driven by hate.” Poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke…
You know why my brother and I poked my sister? Because we knew she was going to yell “STOP!” and eventually, she would cry. We knew that my mom would threaten to pull over. We knew that she would threaten to make us walk home. So we poked our sister. And laughed and laughed and laughed because she did it every time. She fell for it every time.
I’m tired of the poking. I’m tired of seeing the pokees fall for it.
Eventually, our little “poke, stop, threaten, poke again” game would lead to my mom’s arm reaching around from one side of the backseat to the other searching, searching, searching for a leg to pinch. She’d pinch us…we’d scream. Then we’d blame our sister….we’d stop for a while.
Then – *poke* – because we were children.
I’m ready to see our political leaders stop acting like children in the backseat of a 1980something Chevette and actually do something about some of the problems we face as a nation, as a state – for the UMC, as a denomination.
Antagonizing those who think differently will never lead to compromise. It will only ever lead to hurt feelings. It will only ever lead to stalemate.
Let’s be better. Let’s act like grown-ups.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Responding to Suffering...and terrible theology

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I attended a prayer vigil at a local high school recently. I was not there in any official capacity – just as a show of support for our community in a very difficult time.
I hesitate to be too specific, because…well…
Anyway, at this vigil I heard some terrible theology. Not just run of the mill terrible theology but damaging, twisted theology. I’d call it downright heresy. Taking the name of the Lord in vain. Bastardizing the gospel. Whatever you want to call it.
A local youth pastor spoke and I expected some “Everything happens for a reason” sorts of platitudes. But what I heard went far beyond any innocent twisting of a text to help young people deal with horrible tragedy.
Long story short – There was a traffic accident last week. One car. 5 teenagers from two different high schools. 3 died. 2 (driver & 1 passenger) were severely injured but will survive. The vigil was to offer support for a bunch of hurting folks, to remember those who lost their lives, and to show support for the two young ladies who survived.
So, the youth minister – He began well. “This is an awful tragedy.” “Kids cut down in the prime of their lives.” “Two lives that will never be the same.”
So far, so good.
He followed that with sort of what I expected. “God has a plan.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “All things work together…”
I disagree with his interpretation, but OK, nothing I’ve not heard before.
Then came the “Whammy.”
He went into a bit of “Don’t question God. Don’t ask, 'Why?'" Again, I disagree, but nothing new. He continued, “But if you do ask, 'Why?' I think God is looking down and saying, 'Why not?'"
What?
“Why not take two or three if I can gain 200-300.”
At that point my jaw dropped. I looked over at a Presbyterian pastor friend. His hand flew to his mouth. I honestly could not believe what I was hearing.
Did he really just say that?
He said it again. “Why not?” I cannot describe the explicatives that raced through my mind. He kept going, but the noise in my head was too loud to hear much of what he said after that.
I thought about the families of those three boys – one of which was in attendance, I believe. Did they believe God killed their son? Did they believe that God would answer their question with such a crass, sarcastic statement? “Why not?”
I thought about anyone in the huge crowd who was not a Christian or who had turned their back on the church. What must they think?
I thought about going and wrestling the microphone away from him. To scream until I was tackled by law enforcement, “NO! That’s not God’s response! God’s response to your tears is tears! God’s response to your heart being ripped from your chest is empathy and compassion – not ‘because I said so’. When we scream out, ‘God, I’m hurting!’ God does not answer, ‘So what? My plan, your pain.’”
Today, I picked up a book I’ve not read in a while. Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Lament for a Son. It is a beautiful, heart-wrenching glimpse into the heart and mind of a grieving father. It is a real-time look at a father trying to come to terms with the death of his young, adult son. It is one man’s wrestling match with God and God’s goodness and God’s omnipotence and his pain, as well as the pain and the wounds that each of us experience just by being human.
This quote stood out to me: “The wounds of humanity are an unanswered question” (p. 68). We don’t like questions with no answers.
We want meaning. We want answers. We want the end of a young, vibrant life to mean something – for there to be a reason. We want to ask – to scream – “Why, God, why?!?”
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know why. I don’t know why three died and two did not. I don’t know why three young, beautiful boys are no more and two young, beautiful girls will carry physical and emotional scars for the rest of their lives.
I do know this; God did NOT kill those kids. God did NOT cause a car to skid into a tree to teach a lesson or to prove a point or to punish or to “gain another angel” or to “win more kids to Jesus” or to advance some sick, greedy agenda. I know that God did not DO this.
I also know that God was and is there in the tragedy – in the suffering.
I found another quote from Nicholas Wolterstorff – “Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it” (p. 81). God does not see our suffering as some sort of investment or as a means to an end. Wolterstorff again:
God is love. To love our suffering sinful world is to suffer. God so suffered for the world that he gave up his only Son to suffering…God is suffering love…But the mystery remains…Why does God endure suffering? Why does he not at once relieve his agony by relieving ours? (p. 90)
God’s answer to our “Why?” is not a gruff, distant “Why not?” I believe God’s answer is “I’m sorry. I’m here. I love you.”
Let your response to suffering be the same. Don’t respond with platitudes or definitive declarations. Just say, “I’m sorry. I’m here. I love you.” Then be sorry, be there, and love. It’s what Jesus would do.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Lifespan of a Sermon

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I’m trying to relearn the discipline that is a regularly updated blog... we’ll see how it goes. I posted this earlier today on an old blog site. I decided to consolidate things.
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I often wonder, as I’m sure other pastors do, if a sermon lives on past Sunday morning. Preaching is a curious thing. I spend about 15-20 hours (give or take) a week on sermon preparation – reading, researching, studying, praying, making notes, outlining and, ultimately, writing and reading and editing. All for a sermon that lasts about 20 minutes. 
So, I wonder…does the sermon live on past those 20 minutes? Does it live past Sunday afternoon? Monday morning?
Every now and then I get a little affirmation that, yes, God does in fact continue to use the words I write and speak. Every now and then someone will say something like, “Remember when you preached about…” or “I remember you said that in a sermon.” 
More often I hear things like, “You should preach about that sometime,” just a couple of weeks (or days) after I did in fact “preach about that.” Those are the moments when I wonder, “Does the work – the prayer, the study, the wresting – make any lasting difference?”
Today I got a little shot of affirmation. 
A few weeks ago an elderly couple attended worship at NWUMC. They are members of another church but worship with us from time to time. After the service on this particular Sunday, Mr. Noselew (not his real name) was very complimentary of the service and the sermon. 
He asked if I write them out word for word or if I write an outline and fill in the rest in the preaching. I told him I do write them out, and that I actually preach from a manuscript. He then asked if I ever printed them out (I preach from my iPad). No, I had not before – except on the occasion when my iPad was on the fritz. 
He then told me that if I printed it, he would love to have a copy. Well, I was over the moon. I told him, “Of course.” And I left church that morning with a little spring in my step. Honestly, I thought he probably wanted a paper copy because his hearing is not good and he didn’t actually hear the sermon. Regardless, I printed a copy and left it at the church for him to pick up.
This morning, Mr. Noselew called me at the church. He, again, complimented the sermon. I preached on “hope” that Sunday. He talked about how much he needed to hear that and that so many others did as well. 
He said he went to visit a cousin who has been ill for quite some time. On his visit, knowing that his cousin needed a word of hope, he gave him a copy of my sermon. He went on to ask if he could copy the sermon and give it to others. 
Wow! I have never been so flattered. 
So I say all of that to say… it is wonderful to know that, yes, the words God inspires in me do in fact live on and make an impact beyond Sunday morning. 
By the way, if anyone wants a copy of my sermons, I’ll be glad to print one for you.
I am ever grateful for the opportunity, the privilege, of proclaiming Gods word to God’s people. Thanks be to God!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlottesville Solidarity Vigil

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Tonight (August 14) I spoke at the "Solidarity with Charlottesville Vigil" in Florence, AL. My remarks were an adaptation of my "sermon" from our prayer time yesterday. (I essentially preached two sermons yesterday - one addressing the events in Charlottesville that led into our prayer time and the other as planned and previously written.) Here is the manuscript from which I spoke. 

Spoiler Alert - I used more than one musical theater reference. 

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The Social Principles of the UMC includes this statement – Racism is the combination of the power to dominate by one race over other races and a value system that assumes that the dominant race is innately superior to the others. Racism includes both personal and institutional racism. 

It goes on to say this – Racism plagues and cripples our growth in Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself. Racism is sin. Racism is evil. White supremacy is racism.

Racism leads to attitudes of the superiority one race over all others. Racism leads to hate.
Both of these are antithetical to what it means to follow Jesus. Jesus calls us to equality, not an attitude of supremacy. Throughout the gospels, Jesus teaches by word and example the value of all people. Jesus stands up time and again for the vulnerable, the marginalized, the ignored and the pushed aside. Paul writes in two of his letters that when we are in Christ – when we clothe ourselves in Christ – there is no longer Greek or Jew, male or female, slave or free – I imagine if he wrote this today, it would include “there is no black or white, no hispanic or Caucasian” – in Christ we are all one. We are equal. Each person is created and loved by God. Each person is of sacred worth.

I heard someone say recently that equality of all people is a byproduct of love. Jesus calls us not to love one another – to hate, but to love. Over and over again Jesus tells us to love one another. When someone asks him the greatest of the commandments, he says love. In fact, we read in 1 John – Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God.The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love.

Racism is hate. Nelson Mandela once said that no one is born hating other people because of their skin color or their religion. We learn to hate, he says, we are taught to hate. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote a song for their musical “South Pacific” called “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” It says this –

You've got to be taught To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught From year to year,
It's got to be drummed In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught! 

One of my favorite versions of that song is a medley along with Stephen Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen.” “Careful the things you say. Children will listen. Careful the things you do. Children will see and learn.”

Mandela said people are taught to hate. “But,” he said, “if they can learn to hate, they can learn to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” We have done too good a job, for far too long, of teaching our children to hate. It is time to teach them to love.

In our Baptismal vows we are asked – “Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?” Do you? You were asked, “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” Do you?
Notice what those questions ask, and what they demand. Do you renounce wickedness? Reject evil? Those both mean more than just not doing bad things. To renounce wickedness and reject evil means that you speak out against it. It means, in this case, that when you see racism, you call it out. You identify it for the sin that it is. You reject it. You decry it.

It means that you don’t laugh at the racist joke, but not only that, you point out the wrongness of it. It means that you don’t tolerate racial slurs or hurtful stereotypes. It means you speak out when you hear such things.

Our Book of Discipline talks about the destructiveness of the sin of racism. It divides and marginalizes. It is destructive to our unity – the unity of our community, the unity of our nation. It is destructive to our very souls. Our call to love means we are called to wholeness and togetherness. We are called to reconciliation and peace. Our official statement on Racial Justice affirms that the United Methodist Church commits itself to healing and wholeness. It says we, as a church, will seek to eliminate racism in every facet of life and in society at large.

And like so many other things...it begins with me. My heart.


I invite you to take an inventory of your own heart. To search your own life for the hate you’ve been taught. As our Bishop suggested in an email this morning, “Ask God to show you ways you unknowingly contribute to the sins of injustice and racism.” Confess. Repent. Then act. Speak out. Let us all commit ourselves to moving toward a more just and, dare I say, more loving society. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rules for Living: Do Good

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18 months ago I posted the first sermon in a series on John Wesley's "General Rules". I realized today that I never posted the other two sermons. Here is #2. #3 will come in a few days.
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We are continuing our series on John Wesley’s “General Rules”. Wesley said that everyone in the Methodist societies should show evidence of “their desire of salvation.” They would show this evidence, he said, by holding to these three rules. 1) Do no harm, 2) Do good, & 3) Attend to the ordinances of God.[1] In these three rules we find a guide for what it means to live a life of discipleship.
Last week, we looked at the first rule: Do no harm. And looked at what it means to do no harm to ourselves, to others, and to God. I hope you used the affirmation I gave you last week. I hope you made an effort to “do no harm” this past week. If you did, I’m sure you realize it is not an easy thing to do. It takes a conscious effort to do no harm. 
You have to pay attention. You have to begin to see past stereotypes and prejudices. You have to actually see people that you may typically ignore. As you pay attention and “love your neighbor as yourself” not only do you avoid doing harm, you also notice opportunities to practice the second rule – Do good.
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James 2:14-18
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.[2]
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How important do you think it is that we do good? There were several verses and passages I could have chosen for this particular sermon. In Acts 10:38, Peter is talking to a Roman centurion, named Cornelius. He is telling him about Jesus. He told him, “Jesus traveled around doing good and healing everyone oppressed by the devil because God was with him.”[3]
In a letter written to Gaius, the author, thought to be the Apostle John, wrote of doing good. He wrote, “Dear friend, don’t imitate what is bad but what is good. Whoever practices what is good belongs to God. Whoever practices what is bad has not seen God.”[4]
And there are more. I chose to use this passage from James. Because it gives at least one example of what it means to do good. It shows us that what we, as disciples of Jesus, are called to is not simple good thoughts or good feelings. We are not called just to pray for those who are oppressed or less fortunate than us. We are called to DO good. “If you say to someone, ‘Go in peace; stay warm and eat your fill,’ but don’t meet their needs, what good is it?”
We are called to DO good. Doing no harm is only the beginning. Saying to someone , “Peace be with you; stay warm and get plenty to eat. Jesus loves you” Is nice. But what good does it do? Wesley says that we show “evidence of our desire for salvation” by DOING good. Not by thinking good thoughts. Not by being good. But by DOING good.
In his published General Rules, Wesley says we show evidence of our desire of salvation “By doing good, by being … merciful, as they have opportunity of doing good of every sort… to all men.”[5]
That included, he said, doing good to their bodies – giving food to the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison. In other words, we are to take care of the physical and emotional needs. This sort of doing good is what John Wesley would call works of mercy. It is seeing the needs of someone and acting to meet those needs.
This comes directly from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew’s gospel. “I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.” “When you have done it for the least of these, you have done it for me.”[6] It is, as James writes, “meeting the bodily needs” of those around us.
Wesley also said we are to do good to the souls of others – by instructing, reproving, or exhorting. In other words, we are to teach and guide one another in discipleship to hold accountable and to encourage others in their faith. How many of you have or had someone in your life that you view as a mentor in your faith? Someone who teaches you? Who encourages you when you struggled? Who cheers you on when you were doing well? Someone who holds you accountable?
How many of you have someone who you mentor? I encourage you to find someone – find a mentor and find someone to mentor. Find a small group of people who want to learn from one another and help hold one another accountable.
Those are a couple of ways Wesley says we should do good – physical and spiritual good. There is a quote that is often attributed to John Wesley, but likely came from someone else – but it sums up this rule of doing good pretty well. “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
I mentioned Ruben Job’s book, Three Simple Rules, last week. In that book, Job says that doing good is a proactive way of living. It is not simply helping someone when we see them in need, it is how we should live – seeking to do good. We don’t have to be, and shouldn’t, wait to be asked. Job wrote, “[We] do not need to wait until circumstances cry out for aid to relieve suffering or correct some horrible injustice.”[7]
Living out this rule of doing good is a choice we make. It is how we choose to respond to the world, but it is also a way of living. Job wrote, “I can decide that I will choose a way of living that nourishes goodness and strengthens community.”[8]
Living to do good, means living a life of love. It is loving God and loving others. When we seek to do good, we let God’s love guide us. “Every act and every word must pass through the love and will of God and there be measured to discover if its purpose does indeed bring good and goodness to all it touches.”[9]
We can think of this second rule as kind of a continuation of the first rule. When we live in a way that does no harm, it puts on the right track for doing good. Not saying or doing things that cause harm makes room for words and actions that do good. “Words and acts that wound and divide will be changed to words and acts that heal and bring together.”[10] Doing no harm also means that we do not participate in oppressive systems or agencies – that’s why John Wesley mentioned slave holding as one of the ways we do harm. Racism, classism, sexism, governments that deny their citizens basic rights. Doing no harm means we do not participate, but doing good means that we actively stand up to and speak out against such systems. Remember Jesus in the Temple? The economic system of the Temple was oppressive to the poor and Jesus spoke up and acted against that system.
            We have to remember that when we seek to do good, we do good to everyone. Bishop Job wrote, “[D]oing good is not limited to those like me or those who like me. Doing good is directed at everyone, even those who do not fit my category of ‘worthy’ to receive any good that I or others can direct their way.”[11]
            In fact, Jesus told us to love our enemies. He said, “do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.”[12] We are called to love and to do good to everyone. Jesus continued, “If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended?”[13] Anyone can be good to people who are good to them. Anyone can do good to those who do good to them. We are called to be kind and do good, just as God does. Jesus says, that God is “kind to ungrateful and wicked people.”[14] As followers of Jesus, doing good should be a way of life.
            We don’t do good because we expect congratulations. Or because we expect some reward. We do good because we are followers of Jesus – because that’s what we do. Because God loves us and as followers of Jesus we are called to share that love. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t benefit us or that we don’t enjoy it or that we don’t get thanked. We like to see people doing good. I wish we would celebrate the good a little more regularly.
This past Friday, I couldn’t help but watch some of the TV shows commemorating the events of September 11, 2001. It is easy to get sucked right back into the tragedy of that day. But I spent some time Friday watching shows about the heroes of that day. Some who lost their lives, some who didn’t. Of course, there were countless police officers and fire-fighters who gave their lives trying to save others. There are also stories of civilians who gave their lives helping others.
Welles Crowther was an investment banker in one of the towers. He reportedly entered and exited the building 3 times urging people to evacuate, carrying injured people, getting people to safety. He gave his life doing good – helping others.
We will probably never be in a situation like that – that sort of “doing good” will probably never come our way. Hopefully. But we can still do good in our own context. So how can we do good?
First, by living out the commandments Jesus gave us. Love God with all of your heart, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Of course, that’s difficult. Loving people. Some more so than others. Some people are difficult to love. But it is our calling, it is our job as disciples of Jesus to love as he loved.
Doing good doesn’t have to be something big and grandiose. It can be as simple as being kind to someone – offering a kind word, a smile, a card. Small gestures matter, just as big acts of love matter.
North Wood has opportunities for you to do good. By helping or contributing to our food pantry. We distribute food to families and individuals in need almost every week.
We’re getting ready to help with Room in the Inn in a couple of months. That is a ministry that hosts people who are homeless or do not have adequate shelter during the coldest months of the year. This year we will, again, welcome guests who need a place to stay warm. You can help out by providing food (dinner and breakfast), by staying overnight, by providing transportation, or just visiting with the guests.
You can help with one of the ministries that are just getting started. Providing rides to church for people who cannot drive or have trouble driving. Visiting with our shut-ins or those who are sick.
You can volunteer at the Help Center. They always need people to help distribute food and clothing. Or to sort items that are donated.
There are countless ways you can do good. It is in your control. Living life in a way that does good. Rueben Job wrote, “My desire to do good is in response to God’s invitation to follow Jesus, and it is in my control.”[15]
This week, look for opportunities to do good. Look for ways you can actively live in God’s love. It may be small it may be huge. But watch and you will find our chance to do good.




[1] United Methodist Book of Discipline, 2012; ¶104, p. 76
[2] New Revised Standard Version, 1989
[3] Acts 10:38 – Common English Bible, 2011
[4] 3 John 11 – CEB
[6] Matthew 25:35-56, 40
[7] Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living; Rueben P. Job; loc. 310
[8] Ibid., loc. 317
[9] Ibid. loc. 323
[10] Ibid. loc. 361
[11] Ibid. loc. 298
[12] Luke 6:27-28
[13] Luke 6:32
[14] Luke 6:35
[15] Job, loc. 342

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Violence, Evil, & the Power to Resist

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I read/prayed this in both worship services this morning. Adapted/borrowed from Justin Coleman on Ministry Matters.

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Last Saturday night and early Sunday morning, the world experienced another violent act of evil. I don’t think you can call the murder of 49 people anything but evil. As a part of our Baptismal vows, we promise to “accept the freedom and power God gives [us] to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”

Today, we lament the loss of 49 of God’s beloved. Today, we cry out to God in grief, in anger, to seek understanding. As the Psalmist wrote:
“I cry out to you, Lord. 
You are my rock; don’t refuse to hear me. 
If you won’t talk to me, 
I’ll be just like those going down to the pit. 
Listen to my request for mercy when I cry out to you, 
when I lift up my hands to your holy inner sanctuary.” (Psalm 28:1-2)

I believe that God cries out as well. God mourns the loss of those men and women. God mourns the hate that perpetrated this awful act.

Today we pray for those killed. We pray for their families. We pray for those injured, traumatized, and terrorized by this tragedy. We pray for Orlando as they seek to heal. We pray for our nation, for our world that we would all accept the freedom and power to resist evil – the evil within each of us.

We pray for the eradication of hate. Hate and violence are products of evil.  They must be resisted like any other evil. With Christians and people of other faiths in the US and all the world, including Muslims, we unite against hate and violence toward any group. We pray that we may be witnesses to God’s love, mercy, care, and healing as we resist evil, as we continue Christ’s work of reconciliation, and as we seek to heal this broken & hurting world.

Lamb of God, 
you take away the sins of the world. 
Have mercy on us. 
Grant us peace.
For the unbearable toil of our sinful world, 
we plead for remission.
For the terror of absence from our beloved, 
we plead for your comfort.
For the scandalous presence of death in your creation, 
we plead for resurrection.
Lamb of God, 
you take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us. 
Grant us peace.
Come, Holy Spirit, and heal all that is broken in our lives, in our streets, and in our world.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

— from Common Prayer

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Confess

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Wow, I haven't done this in quite a while....

I'm watching General Conference (the UMC's quadrennial meeting to determine ministries, polity, etc.). Bishop Swanson preached this morning. It was not your typical UMC sermon. Here's my favorite quote - "Get on up in here, Holy Ghost! Get on up in here, Jesus!" The sermon was many things, but at least part of it was a call to confession and repentance. It was a call to renounce evil. There was more, but that is where God spoke to me. "Any Christian is susceptible to evil." "While you will 'Go' (the theme of GC), evil is going also."

Confession is an important, if overlooked, part of any worship experience. Sin & evil is that which separates us from God. Confession is a chance to "clean away the clutter" - to draw ever closer to God.

As I listened to Bishop Swanson, I thought about the "factions" present in that worship. People of opposing viewpoints who view one another as the "enemy." And I wondered...again... how many are thinking "I'm so glad he's preaching to those people. He's right 'THEY' are evil."

How often in times of confession - especially corporate confession - do we think, "I hope all these sinners are confessing." Or, "I'm glad we offer a chance for these sinners to confess." How often do we take that time to think about and "see" evil in others? All the while ignoring the evil/sin in us and, I think, the true evil around us.

Jesus told us how ridiculous it is to reach for a speck in someone's eye when we have a log in our own eye. How true. Here's the thing - evil blinds us to true evil.

When you have a log in your eye, you can't see. You have no idea what is around you. Let me rephrase - you have no idea what the things around you look like. You can hear things. You know they are there...but you have no idea what they look like...or exactly where they are.

Our sin blinds us. It blinds us to true evil in our world. Evil masks evil. Our sin distracts us. We can't identify evil, so we just reach for whatever sounds evil - because it sound different.

General Conference is bringing out the finger-pointing. Everyone wants to point out what or who is evil or wrong or sinful. "Progressives encourage evil!" "Conservatives are hateful!" "You're prideful!" "He's manipulative." All the while, logs are firmly planted. "I'm orthodox." "I'm loving." "I'm accepting." "I'm biblical."

Our logs don't just blind us from seeing true evil. My logs keep me from seeing the evil/sin in me.

There is evil in this world. True evil that we, as Christians, have to speak against. Hate and oppression of marginalized people. Violence against the helpless. Children (and adults) dying of starvation. Countless people with no access to clean water. Those in power exploiting those who are powerless. The list goes on...

But we don't talk much about those things. Our logs are too big.

Here's my hope. I hope for true confession and true repentance....  Not for "the world". Not for sinners. Not for society. Not for the church. I hope and pray for true, honest confession and true, honest repentance.... for ME.

God, forgive me, I pray.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Rules for Living: Do No Harm

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18 months later, I realize I never posted the other two sermons in this series. I'll take care of that. - Scott (3/21/2017)

Time for a new sermon series. This 1 of 3 in a series on John Wesley's "General Rules".
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Today, we are starting a new sermon series. Over the next 3 weeks, we are going to look at something called the “General Rules”. These date back to John Wesley and the Methodist societies in England in the 18th century. They are still a part of our theological beliefs as stated in the Book of Discipline.  
Wesley said that everyone in the Methodist societies should show evidence of “their desire of salvation.” They would show this evidence, he said, by holding to these three rules. 1) Do no harm, 2) Do good, & 3) Attend to the ordinances of God.[1] In these three rules we find a guide for what it means to live the life of discipleship.
For these next three weeks, we will look at these rules, why they are still relevant, what they mean for us, and how we can live them out in our lives. 
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Galatians 5:13-21
13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.[2]
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Today we are examining the first of these three rules – Do no harm. In this passage, Paul gives us a glimpse of what it means to Do No Harm. Don’t serve the sinful nature, but serve one another in love. Paul tells us, though that these two things are in a constant struggle against one another.
Our selfish, sinful nature is in perpetual conflict with the Holy Spirit. We desire to be led by the Spirit, but the sinful nature fights back. The Spirit leads us to follow the command that Paul says sums us all the law – “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
But our response is not always love. Instead, we respond by biting and devouring one another. We respond to the world with words and actions that bring pain and division. We spend more time destroying one another rather than loving one another.
Of course, that’s not true of all of us all the time. It’s not how we respond to everyone around us. We are all guilty of harming others – probably this week.
So, our first rule is, do no harm. What does it mean to “do no harm”? In the publishing of the General Rules, John Wesley gave several examples of what it means to do no harm. We do no harm “by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, such as: Taking the name of God in vain. Profaning the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein or by buying or selling. Drunkenness. Slaveholding (which may have been added later); buying or selling slaves. Fighting, quarreling, or brawling. Returning evil for evil. Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation, particularly speaking evil of magistrates or (this is the one I really like) ministers. Buying or selling goods that have not paid the duty. Giving or taking things on usury – unlawful interest. Borrowing or buying on credit without probability of paying. Laying up treasure on earth.”[3]
That is just part of the list. Now obviously, some of those things don’t apply to us. When is the last time you bought or sold something without paying the duty? And I know that thing about speaking evil of the minister doesn’t apply today.
But the list also includes things like not fighting or quarreling. Not speaking in a hurtful way. Not returning evil for evil. Those absolutely apply to our modern world – and they definitely speak to our current culture. They also show us that we are not doing a great job with this rule of doing no harm.
When we think through that list of things and what it means to do no harm, we can think about it on three levels.
First, do no harm to yourself. Do you ever think that in those terms? I will do no harm to myself. How do we harm ourselves?
By eating and drinking things that harm our bodies – or eating and drinking too much of things that harm us. Not taking care of ourselves. We harm ourselves when we listen to those who demean us, objectify us, or treat us as less than them. We harm ourselves when we see ourselves as less than others. We harm ourselves when we think of ourselves as anything less than God’s child, cherished by God, deserving of love and respect.
Maybe a good way to do no harm to ourselves is a little daily affirmation. You may want to write this down and repeat it every morning – “Today, I will love myself. I am God’s child, loved and cherished. I am deserving of love and respect. I will not harm myself and I will not allow others to harm me.” What would it do for your day? For your self-image to say those words every day, and mean them?
Second, we are to do no harm to others. Think of the ways you have hurt others in your past. Think of the times you have spoken carelessly. The times you have acted with only your interests in mind. The times you have intentionally said hurtful things. We have all done it.
As I look around the world, I don’t see this rule practiced very often – do no harm. Instead, I see people who say and do things, often intentionally and purposefully, that cause hurt. Often it comes down to selfishness.
“This is what I believe, this is what I want to do, and if you don’t like or if it hurts you, tough! You need to get a thicker skin.”
We focus so much on our own interests, our own ideas, and our own agenda that we leave a trail of hurt and anger in our wake. And that hurt and anger usually leads to more hurt and anger.
We, as a society, maybe as a species, don’t disagree well. At some point, we began to believe that anyone who disagrees with us to be our enemy. At some point, it became accepted, even expected, that if you disagree with me and you are my enemy, I can say anything about you, do anything to you, to prove you wrong and me right – to prove you to be lesser and me to be more.
Bishop Rueben Job wrote a book a few years ago on these General Rules. He wrote about this tendency we have to tear down those with whom we disagree. He said when I seek to do no harm, “I will guard my lips, my mind, and my heart so that my language will not disparage, injure, or wound another child of God.”[4]
We don’t like to guard our lips, hearts, or minds. We’d rather just speak our mind. Doing no harm means that we consider the impact our words and actions will have on others. Bishop Job wrote, “When our words and actions are guarded by this first…rule, we have time and space to think about consequences before a word is spoken or an action taken.”[5]
Maybe this is the pessimist in me, but we seem to be getting more and more divided as a society. Whether it’s politics or social issues or foreign relations – racism, nuclear deals, police shootings and shooting police, marriage certificates, white and gold or black and blue. (You remember that dress, right?) They are issues that separate us, that divides us, that cause passionate debate.
There is nothing wrong with disagreeing. There is nothing wrong with a difference of opinions, but when we let those differences divide us to the point that we lash out at the other side – when we let differences push us so far apart that the other side becomes a stereotype or a punch line – we lose sight of our purpose.
When we let differences push us so far apart, we fail as disciples – we fail as the church. Bishop Job says this, “Our witness to the redeeming love of God loses its authenticity and its power as our unwillingness to be reconciled continues.”[6] As followers of Christ, we are called to build relationships, not destroy them. We are called to reconciliation. We are called to bring healing.
That healing and reconciliation can start when we commit ourselves to “do no harm.” Actively seeking to do no harm can lead us to reconciliation. It can lead us to disagreeing well. To relationships of mutual respect and admiration. Then we begin to listen to one another to hear the concerns of those who disagree with us. Job writes, “When I am determined to do you no harm, I lose my fear of you; and I am able to see you and hear you more clearly.”[7]
Henri Nouwen says that when we love and follow Jesus, “we cannot do other than bring healing, reconciliation, new life, and hope wherever we go.”[8] Doing no harm we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to lead and guide us in ways that bring nothing other than healing and reconciliation and hope. And to convict us and lead us to repentance when we bring hurt and agitation and despair.
Maybe we need to add to our morning affirmation. Maybe we add this, “Today, I will do no harm to others. I will love others as I love myself. My words and my actions will echo the heart of Jesus and reveal God’s love. I will bring only healing, reconciliation, new life, and hope.”
Doing no harm means doing no harm to ourselves, doing no harm to others, and, finally, doing no harm to God. Doing no harm to God, means doing those first two. When we harm ourselves and we harm others, we harm God. When we treat or think of ourselves and others as less than cherished children of God, we hurt God.
Wesley used the example of “taking the name of God in vain” – which is more than a curse word, by the way. When we use the name of God to justify injustice, or to condemn others because they don’t believe exactly the way we believe, we take God’s name in vain and we do harm to God.
Let’s add one more sentence to our affirmation. “Today, I will do my best to do no harm to God – to God’s children, to God’s creation, to God’s kingdom.”
Why do we want to live in ways that do no harm? Because that’s how Jesus lived. When you read the gospel, notice how Jesus treated others. Notice how he talked to them. Nicodemus the Pharisee came to Jesus and Jesus treated him respectfully. Zacchaeus, the tax-collector, came to Jesus and Jesus went to his home to eat with him. A woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus and he didn’t condemn her, he saved her and invited her to a life of freedom.
How do we live in such a way that we “do no harm”?
Pay attention. Pay attention to what you do and what you say. Think about the consequences of what you say and do, before you say or do anything.
Practice seeing the good in others. Practice seeing them as cherished children of God – even those with whom you disagree – even those you might consider evil or no good – God loves them the same as God loves you.
Remember the words of Jesus – “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” Treat them how you want to be treated. “Take the log out of your eye before you worry about the speck in someone else’s eye.” Worry about you. When we honestly examine our behavior, we can’t judge others too harshly.
As Paul wrote to the Galatians, live “led by the Spirit.” Let love be your guide. Let love be the lens through which you see everyone.
And maybe a little daily reminder. “Today, I will do no harm. Today, I will love myself. I am God’s child loved and cherished. I am deserving of love and respect. I will not harm myself and I will not allow others to harm me. Today, I will do no harm to others. I will love others as I love myself. My words and my actions will echo the heart of Jesus and reveal God’s love. I will bring only healing, reconciliation, new life, and hope. Today, I will do my best to do no harm to God – to God’s children, to God’s creation, to God’s kingdom.” 


[2] New Living Translation, ©2013
[3] Book of Discipline, 2012; ¶104, p. 76-77
[5] Ibid.; loc. 185
[6] Ibid.; loc. 123
[7] Ibid.; loc. 203
[8] In the Name of Jesus; Henri J.M. Nouwen; p. 41.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Do you love me?

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I’m re-reading Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus. There is some really good, powerful and timely stuff in there.

“Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begins to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God”

Knowing God’s heart means knowing Jesus – “God’s heart as it has become flesh.” To know Jesus is to answer Jesus’ question – “Do you love me?” – in the affirmative.

When we love Jesus, “we cannot do other than bring healing, reconciliation, new life, and hope wherever we go.”

How many of us leave only healing, reconciliation, and hope in our wake? I’d say none. I try. Oh, how I try. But I have left more than a little hurt, agitation, and despair in my wake.

Does it mean I don’t love Jesus? It means I don’t do it quite right or every moment of every day.

Does it mean that Jesus doesn’t love me? Absolutely not. As Nouwen reminds me, God’s love is “unconditional and unlimited.”

And it is that love that keeps me moving toward true love of Jesus and true salvation. In the mean time, I hope to, as John Wesley says, “continue to evidence [my] desire of salvation.”

How? By allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through me to lead and guide me in ways that bring nothing other than healing and reconciliation and hope. And to convict me and lead me to repentance when my ways bring hurt and agitation and despair.

What does this say about the current state of our world, our nation, our community? When I see the news out of Illinois, Kentucky, Montgomery...well, just about everywhere... I see that we have a long way to go. 

Jesus asks, "Do you love me?" Maybe our best answer is: "I try. Oh, how I try." Or maybe a better answer is "Jesus, I love you. Please, help me love you." 


Monday, August 31, 2015

This Holy Mystery, Part 4

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This is the 4th and final sermon in my series on Communion. Let me know if you have questions, comments, etc.
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We are finishing our series of sermons on the sacrament of Communion. By now, I bet you could tell me what a sacrament is. In a sacrament, God uses ordinary, physical things to point us to and give us the gift of divine love and power that we call grace.
Today’s sermon is the hardest of the series. There are certain things I want to make sure we cover. There are other things I wanted to include, but I know we will not have time for.  I also want to answer your questions. So let’s get rolling and see where we end up.
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John 6:56-69
56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”
66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”[1]
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One of the reasons I wanted to do this sermon series is that Communion is often misunderstood – or just not understood at all. In some ways, Communion has lost its meaning. It has become, for many, a burden. Something extra that makes us get out of church late.
So with this series, I wanted to broaden your understanding of what Communion is and why we do it. I wanted to help you see the benefits of the sacrament and to gain a new or renewed appreciation. It is my hope and prayer that through this series of sermons, you know that God’s grace is available to you in the sacrament and that you have a hunger for that grace.
Part of helping us better understand Communion is answering questions we have. So I want to do that first. One of the common questions that people have concerning the Lord’s Supper is who can take Communion. I received a couple of questions along these lines last week. Can an unsaved person take Communion? Is Communion always open to non-members of the United Methodist Church? Another common question is; can children take Communion?
We practice an Open Table. That means that, as This Holy Mystery says, “All who respond in faith to the invitation are to be welcomed.”[2] Our open table means that children are welcome. It means that non-members are welcome. It means that those who are not saved or are not Christians are welcomed. It is our faithful response to Christ’s invitation – to God’s grace – that brings us to the table, not membership, or a certain age, or any other distinction.
As for those who are not saved, or those who have not accepted the call to discipleship, Gayle Felton says, “The sacrament might provide the first opportunity for a person to recognize their sin and ask for forgiveness.”[3] In fact, a pastor friend of mine told the story just this week of her own conversion through Communion. As she heard those words, “This is the body of Christ; this is the blood of Christ,” and heard her name called, she decided to accept God’s gift of salvation and begin her journey of discipleship.
Another question I received was, “If you never take communion will you make it to heaven?” A similar concerned not taking Communion. Is there anything wrong with not taking Communion? I’ll say it this way, not taking Communion won’t keep you out of heaven. John Wesley said this: “The first reason why it is the duty of every Christian [to take Communion] is because it is a plain command of Christ.” The second reason, he says, is “because the benefits of doing it are so great.”[4] Communion is a matter of obedience, and it is beneficial. It is how we receive God’s sanctifying grace that helps us grow on our journey of salvation.
Communion is important in our salvation, because it is a means of grace – by which we break free from the power of sin. Someone asked how we might respond to those who don’t believe in the importance of Communion as it relates to salvation. I think that is two-fold.
One, they probably have a different understanding of salvation. Our understanding of salvation is that it is a life-long process. It is not a single moment. It is not a one-time event. We are delivered from the penalty of sin in an instant, but true salvation is God’s grace breaking the power of sin.
The second part of their not considering Communion’s role in salvation is their understanding of Communion. For many traditions, the Lord’s Supper is not a sacrament, but an ordinance. Something ordained and commanded by Jesus. You do it, not because of any spiritual benefit, but because you are commanded to do so. We believe Communion is more than an obligation. It is more than something we do because we’re told to do it. We believe it is one way we experience God’s saving grace.
The next set of questions I received deal with the elements themselves. What kind of bread should be used – leavened or unleavened? We use grape juice instead of wine, could other liquids be used? Why are you supposed to dispose of the elements in a certain way?
At the Last Supper, Jesus used unleavened bread. That meal was, according to Luke’s gospel, a Passover Seder, at which unleavened bread is used. In Communion, either leavened or unleavened is acceptable. Our official position is that the bread, “look and taste like bread.”[5]
As for the cup, we use grape juice instead of wine. This practice goes back to the late 19th century temperance movement. Wine and, for us, grape juice are the traditionally accepted drinks used. But we are not limited to just those. This Holy Mystery says this, “Variations may be necessary in cultural contexts where the juice of the grape is unavailable or prohibitively expensive.”[6] For example, some areas use coconut water, because it is cheap and readily available. Several years ago, the church I attended used water on World Communion Sunday as a sign of solidarity with those impoverished areas.
As for the proper disposal of the elements, we are to treat the consecrated elements with respect. This Holy Mystery says, “We respect the elements because God is using them for holy purposes.”[7] We don’t believe they have undergone any physical changes, as I talked about last week, but they are set apart for sacred use. Because of that, we don’t want to simply throw them in the trash.
Proper methods of disposal include the pastor or others consuming the leftovers, “returning them to the earth” by pouring, scattering, or even burying them. Another is by taking them to share with shut-ins or those who are ill and unable to attend worship.
This morning, we are gathered as one worshipping community to celebrate one of the purposes, meanings, and benefits of Communion. One I have not talked about yet. In our scripture this morning, Jesus tells the gathered crowd that those who eat and drink abide in him and he in them. In the Lord’s Supper, we commune with Christ. But there is another aspect.
In Communion, we are joined to Christ and we are joined to one another. After this teaching, John tells us that many of those following Jesus left. But the 12 remained. Peter’s answer to Jesus was, “Lord to whom can we go?” They knew that they were joined to Jesus, and in that, they were joined to one another.
One of the meanings of Communion is fellowship, community. Swiss theologian Ulrich Zwingli said that Communion is “a sign of Christian fellowship.”[8] In the Lord ’s Supper, we come to the Table as one community. It is a shared experience. A shared experience of thanksgiving, of healing, of reconciliation – of community.
It’s even in the name of the sacrament. Communion means community – coming together as one body to partake of the grace of God. It is in the sacrament, the gathering at the table, that we are the Body of Christ fully realized.
One of the liturgies in our hymnal paraphrases 1 Corinthians. “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body.”[9] As we come and we share in the bread and the cup, we are joined together, and in some cases re-joined.
The table is a place of healing and reconciliation –a place of love and redemption. It is a place where differences are set aside and amends are made. It is a place where the Holy Spirit makes us “one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.”[10]
At the table we are joined with one another and joined to the church universal as the Body of Christ. We gather with those present, with the Communion of saints, with other Christians around the world – through the body and the blood of Christ, we are made one.
One of the ways we can express community and fellowship is something I mentioned earlier. By taking the elements to those in our faith community who cannot attend worship, we extend the table and the community. That may be a ministry one of you would like to take on. I know it would be meaningful to you and to those you serve.
As we come to the table today, we come to be joined to one another by the Holy Spirit. We come to celebrate Community.
I’ve told this story so many times that I know Abby is tired of hearing it. When she was 3 or 4 years old, she loved Communion Sundays. One Sunday, as we drove to church, I hear this booming voice from the back seat – Abby never had a tiny voice – “Dad, are we having community today?” Misty and I looked at each other and laughed and thought “Aw, how cute.” At the time, I sort of blew it off. But as I thought about it – yes, that’s exactly what we are doing.
We are having community today.


[1] New Revised Standard Version, 1995
[3] Felton, Gayle – United Methodists and the Sacraments; p. 71
[4] Wesley, John – The Duty of Constant Communion; I.1
[5] This Holy Mystery; p. 30
[6] Ibid; p. 31
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid; p. 4
[10] Ibid; p. 10
 

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