Sermon: True Christian Community

This was one of those weeks that brought forth all the emotions of life out of me. I’ve been sad. I’ve been happy. I’ve been nervous. I’ve been pleased. I’ve been anxious. And I’ve been relaxed. That seems to be the state of a Methodist pastor during General Conference season.

If you followed my posts or seen the news, this week, our tradition of faith has seen better days. The world unfortunately saw us at our worst. We focused on our divisions between conservatives and progressives. We became disinterested in doing ministry together. We lost our way. Yet, in the news of the discord over issues that have defined our nation – such as human sexuality, which we will talk in more detail about on Wednesday – came word that approximately 70 percent of our congregations did not have a profession of faith or a baptism in recent years.

We are a church that is struggling. We are a church that has lost its purpose. We are a church that is dying. Continue reading “Sermon: True Christian Community”

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A Letter to Young Clergy

Dear Fellow Young Clergy,

I write you, today, in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who was, and is, and is to come. My prayers are with you. The purpose of this letter is to express my anguish of how we often relate to one another and my hope for us going forward.

Perhaps I should begin by expressing how I to becoming a clergy since many of you likely do not know me. I am a lifelong United Methodist. Born in Beckley, W.Va., I was baptized and confirmed at Perry Memorial United Methodist in Shady Spring, W.Va. I left when after high school on what I thought would be a long career in journalism. My own “warm heart” moment at Christ UMC in Chapel Hill, N.C., led me to a life of ministry which has taken me to where I am, today, serving in the Kentucky Annual Conference.

That’s the short story of a longer story. As I entered ministry, I sought to learn from and build relationships with many of you. I believe the more we build relationships with one another the better our ministry together can be. I also believe this not just about our work in our own churches, but our shared ministry with Christ that we have a part in. We need each other. Continue reading “A Letter to Young Clergy”

A Prayer for Unity in Restless Times

One of the joys of being a United Methodist pastor is leading my congregation towards a deeper appreciation and understanding of the sacraments of communion and baptism. I firmly believe that each time we celebrate the sacraments of communion and baptism that it gives us a time to reflect on what they mean for us and how they call us to live today.

Our liturgy helps us in this. Each time we gather to celebrate communion, for instance, we do so through a prayer we call “The Great Thanksgiving.” It is a beautiful prayer that reminds us of God’s faithfulness, Christ’s passion, and the power of the Holy Spirit that equips us to be the church today.

There is one portion of the prayer that always seem to move me. A portion that reminds me of the difficult and challenging life that God calls us to in this time we find ourselves.

By your Spirit make us one in Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet. Continue reading “A Prayer for Unity in Restless Times”

The Apostles: Where Are You Looking?

We continue, today, our journey through the Books of Acts by picking up right where we left off last week. To refresh your memory, we looked at how Jesus called the Apostles, the group who had followed him throughout his earthly ministry, to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit. We even said there are times when we need to wait on God as we go out to share the message with others.

We pick up the story still as the Apostles and Jesus are still in Bethany at the Mount of Olives. Jesus is giving his final instructions, but he is preparing to leave them soon. This Sunday, which we affectionately call Mother’s Day, is, this year, also the day we celebrate as Ascension Sunday. It focuses on an event 40 days after Easter when Jesus ascended to heaven to return to his place at the right hand of God the Father. This day anticipates the celebration of Pentecost, which is next Sunday, when we will celebrate the church’s birthday when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles.

For now, we are on the mountaintop receiving these last words from Jesus. He tells them that they will receive power from God and that they would be the witnesses of God’s love to all people. And then he ascends into the clouds.

After this moment, the Apostles cannot help but to stare into the sky looking at the clouds. Maybe they are thinking to themselves that the cloud is a sign of both the heavenly realm and God’s presence. But, most likely, the Apostles are staring into the clouds waiting for Jesus to return. Continue reading “The Apostles: Where Are You Looking?”