Every book written, every movie ever produced, every television show ever to make it onto a streaming service has a pivot.
That moment when the story, and its cast and players, have been introduced, the plot line has been developed, but now the action will turn towards its climax and final moments. No longer will the story be focused around developing themes and introducing you to who and what is taking place. With that important work accomplished, the focus can turn towards setting a course to the final chapters and how the story will come to its end.
This is where we find ourselves, this morning, in the Gospel of Matthew. Everything from Matthew 1:1-16:20 has introduced us to the players in the gospel. We’ve read the long genealogy that introduced us to the story. We’ve been with Joseph as he welcomed, along with Mary, the newborn Jesus. We’ve gone to the Mount of Beatitudes and heard Jesus teach. We’ve seen him gathering around him followers who would learn deeply and passionately from him what it meant to follow the Father. We’ve seen him heal people who were sick. We’ve seen him be challenged by the religious elites of the time. Continue reading “It’s Not About Me”
Every so often during this pandemic, I have used this space to offer some reflections on what it has been … Continue reading Reflections of a Pastor in Challenging Times
We make a lot of assumptions. I’m not sure if we are always aware of how many assumptions we make on a regular basis.
We assume people know what we are talking about when we share about something we are interested in. We believe everyone is aware of the background when we talk about a past moment or a reality that defines who we are or, even, our connections with one another. We believe everyone is on the same page, so we don’t take the time to define the background or to give the information that people need to truly make people aware of what we are talking about.
If we do this in our conversations with one another, imagine how much we do this within the church? Have you ever noticed how many assumptions we make about our shared life with one another. We drop more acronyms than I care to admit and assume everyone knows that UMCOM is United Methodist Communications or SPRC means Staff-Parish Relations Committee.
More than that, we’ll assume that people understand what different areas of the church mean or represent. We put out a green cloth on the altar and expect everyone to know what the color signifies. Quick question: Do you know why we have a green color on the altar table? It’s not a trick question. The green symbolizes creation and recognizes how we are called to live for Christ in the ordinary moments of life.
We don’t give a lot of attention to these things in our shared connection. Perhaps we should focus time on explaining these things. Maybe, though, that just scratches the surface of a deeper conversation about assumptions in our shared connection that we need to have with one another. How much time do we really spend talking about what the church is all about?
Don’t get me wrong, we spend plenty of time talking about the church in different context. We’ll talk about the church as a mission. We’ll talk about the church as a family. We’ll talk about the church as a place of discipleship. In many of our expressions about church, we veer upon an understanding that could be, at best, described as a voluntary organization of like-minded Christians who have gathered together. Continue reading “Building the Church”
The general election season is about to begin.
In the coming weeks, the Democratic and Republican national conventions will commence in modified fashion due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Presidential and gubernatorial debates will look different, as well. By late October and, of course, on November 3, millions will go to the polls to register their vote.
It is anticipated that this election, much as in 2016, will be divisive and highly partisan. If you recall, the election in 2016 was among the most heated in American history. Perhaps only the contests between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams could compete with and, even, exceed the visceral nature of the previous election.
As we prepare for the election, we will hear rhetoric from all sides that will attempt to shape the outcome. Advocates will talk about the character of one over another. We’ll hear about policies and how they are what is needed for America, and the world, to thrive. As well, we’ll hear how the refusal to vote for one candidate or another is an affront to our faith and connection to God.
One of my passions is public theology. That is the study and discernment of how faith intersects with our public life and, yes, political discourse. It is not a study of how to get the nation to become a theocracy. Instead, it seeks to examine how we live faithfully as citizens of God’s kingdom within our connections and activities in the public world. And, yes, that includes how or why we vote and how we engage the election process.
With the dawn of the fall campaign upon us, the question that I am wrestling with is this: how can we be faithful to God in the political process? Continue reading “Being Faithful During an Election”
This story is like the second half of an unbelievable tale. Almost like the next episode on your favorite television program after the previous show ends with a cliffhanger and you’re waiting to find out what comes next.
When we last met with Jesus and the disciples, we were with them along the shores the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had just fed the 5,000, which, if you remember from last week, was probably more like 10-20,000 when you include women and children. Before that, he had met their needs and cared for the large crowd that gathered around him.
The scene came in the context of Jesus needing to get away for some prayer and reflection. This after he had received news that John the Baptist, his cousin, was beheaded. So, we left the story in the midst of wonder, awe, and celebration.
We pick it up, however, with Jesus ready to send everyone out. That need for rest had not gone away for Jesus. There is no time to stay along the shores. He is desiring that long-yearned-for rest that has, so far, evaded him. The crowds are wanting to stay. The disciples are wanting to stay. Jesus, on the other hand, wants everyone to leave, so he can go to the hilltops around the Sea of Galilee to pray, contemplate upon the mission, and rest.
Jesus doesn’t let everyone stay, even though they wanted to remain with him. He sends them away. The crowds he sends out to return to their communities and homes. The disciples, on the other hand, were sent out to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Most likely, they were sent to go to another port stop upon the western shoreline of that massive lake. Regardless, Jesus sends them out into the sea and into the storm that was brewing. Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: Faith Over Fear”