Is it Worth It?

Is it Worth It?

One of the hardest decisions I ever had to make was the one we are living into currently. Moving back to West Virginia was never a no-brainer discussion for myself or my family.

We were established in Kentucky. I was ordained in Kentucky and was becoming confident in my leadership and place within the structures there. Abbi and Noah, though familiar with West Virginia, had never lived here. To be honest it was a decision we went back and forth on for months, even going as far as submitting a letter to turn down the opportunity to come home.

What helped me to think through the decision was to make a list. Do you ever do that? Sometimes I’ll get out a sheet of paper, or just think it through in my head, and consider the positives and negatives of a certain decision. That process helps me to think through all of my options before making a major decision. It is a process that helps me to weigh the cost.

I wonder, did you do something like that before committing yourself to being a disciple of Jesus Christ? Before you said yes to following Jesus, did you take time to consider what this life meant, what was being asked of you as a follower of Jesus Christ, and truly wrestle with if you were willing to commit ourselves to this life? A disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who makes a commitment to follow Jesus and who seeks to live out the desires Christ places upon us. Did you consider what that meant and its implications for your life? Continue reading “Is it Worth It?”

Quick Fixes Don’t Always Happen

Quick Fixes Don’t Always Happen

I went to McDonald’s yesterday. It was a fundraiser for my son’s school. Proceeds of every purchase would be donated to his school to be used throughout the year.

As always when I go to McDonald’s or any other fast food establishment, especially when I am just going in and out to get my food, I spent more time in the parking lot than I did in the actual restaurant. I was in and out of the store in two or three minutes, even with teachers running a system they did not have complete knowledge of and a crowded restaurant.

It was a quick experience.

We all know that story, right? We go to a fast food restaurant wanting quick service and results. A quick fix, if you will, to our desire to end our hunger with a hamburger, fries, and a drink. (In my case, it was fries and a drink for my son.) We’ll grab the meal and eat it in our cars, the parking lot, or anywhere else for the convenience of having a fast meal. As a result, we are spending nearly $300 billion a year on fast food in the United States. This is up from $187 billion in 2004.

There are a lot of reasons for this. We have reduced the family meal to being unimportant to our belief that every minute of the day needs to be planned out. We look for convenience when we are tired. Sometimes, though, we just want something quick for comfort and ease.

I’ve been thinking about if any of this relates to the local church. How often do we desire a quick fix to whatever issue or struggle that we face as a community? We expect an instant turnaround and immediate results, because that is what we have grown accustomed to in society. Need a meal quick? Go to McDonald’s. Need to find out about something? Go to your phone. Need directions? There is an app for that.

Is the attitude of wanting a quick fix and instant results helpful in the church? I think it is a mixed bag. Continue reading “Quick Fixes Don’t Always Happen”

The Open Table

The Open Table

Do you know what the most important piece of furniture in our homes might be? No, it is not the TV stand or the recliner. The most important piece of furniture in our homes signifies more than what we often recognize it is capable of doing. I am thinking of the table extender.

This great and important piece of furniture is often hidden away in some closet. Why do I feel like it is the most important piece of furniture that we own? Why would I say something that seems outlandish? It is hidden away and, sometimes in our home, it is the thing that allows Abbi to extend her desk, since she works from home and at the dining room table. Yet it is a piece of furniture that allows us to be hospitable and invite people into our homes and lives.

When the table extender comes out, it often means we are preparing to host a large feast and need the extra space. Perhaps some of you will need it tomorrow for your Labor Day celebrations. We like to host people in our homes and celebrate with food and good conversations. The table extender comes out when the family comes in for the holidays, when friends have come over for a special meal, or some other moment when we are hosting people. The table extender is a physical representation of how we have made room in our lives for people to join us in fellowship and relationship.

I wonder what it would look like if the kingdom of God had a table extender. Have you ever wondered about that? I’ll be honest, it is something that has been on my mind as we reflect upon our passage from Luke 14:7-14. If the table extenders from our dining room tables are a metaphor for how we like to entertain and welcome people into our homes, what would a table extender look like in the kingdom of God? Perhaps it’s more important that we should ask, who would God welcome to dine with him at his table? Continue reading “The Open Table”

Healers Wanted

Healers Wanted

One of the things I have appreciated throughout my ministry is how many of you are amazed that I can stand up here without looking at my notes. Please know that this doesn’t make me special – many pastors do not bring their notes with them into the pulpit or what I call “the Holy Circle” – but it is part of what makes me who I am.

There is a lot of work that goes into this 20-25-minute time of deep discipleship each week. In fact, a good rule of thumb is that for every minute of a sermon, there is about 30-60 minutes of prep. That includes prayer, studying, reflecting, writing, and, of course, banging my head against the wall.

Among my favorite aspects of sermon prep is examining the context surrounding a specific passage. By context, I mean looking at what takes place within the story beyond just the words written on the page. We forget sometimes that the Bible was written in real time, focusing on real people, who lived in real space. Studying the situations, history, and ways someone would write at the time helps us to understand more about what is going on in a verse or passage of Scripture. Continue reading “Healers Wanted”

Living Our Commitments

Living Our Commitments

One of the things I love about introducing myself to a new congregation is that it gives you an opportunity to reflect on what is important to you. Each congregation wants to learn what I focus on, what is important to me in ministry, and where I believe God is leading us. That is important for the congregation to live into, but it is also important for me, as a pastor and follower of Christ, to reflect on and share.

There are many things that I value and hold as important in ministry. Among those is my belief that living sacramentally enables us to grow as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. This is more than just making sure that the church is celebrating communion and baptism. It is about living into their meaning and how they apply to our spiritual lives.

At our baptism, whether as an infant or an adult, we make a commitment to the witness of Christ, the church, and our fellowship with one another. Baptism is about entering into a covenant with God and other believers where we are identifying ourselves with the promises of God and desiring to live into a transformed life in Christ’s love.

In the United Methodist Church, we make a promise to be faithful to God as a response to God’s grace at work in our lives and desire to share God’s love in the world. That promise is lived out in specific ways through our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

What do those commitments mean? How do we live them out? Continue reading “Living Our Commitments”