Being Faithful During an Election

Being Faithful During an Election

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”

Sunday Sermon: Faith Over Fear

Sunday Sermon: Faith Over Fear

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”

Stop Looking Backwards

Stop Looking Backwards

My family and I are planning a trip to the old homestead of Shady Spring. We are wanting to go to my old home one last time before my grandmother moves and we sell the house.

It is going to be a weird experience. The home has memories of family gatherings, Christmas celebrations, and moments spent on the porch with my grandfather. Not to mention the fact that it is my last real connection to where I grew up.

I know that when we go down to the house, as I like to say, that I will do what I often do on our journeys to Shady Spring. I’ll make constant references to what was and what is not.

I’ll bemoan that Rick’s Friend Chicken has long been closed and that the building is in disarray.

I’ll get upset that the car wash is barely recognizable.

I’ll get frustrated with homes that were once pristine that are not a shell of that former beauty. Continue reading “Stop Looking Backwards”

Sermon Follow Up: Meet the Needs

Sermon Follow Up: Meet the Needs

I remember when I sat in the pews as a lay member that often by Monday morning I would forget what was proclaimed on Sunday.

There were many reasons for this. Partly it was because I would get so distracted with things on Sunday evening that I never took the time to reflect upon what was said, but, too, there was seldom an opportunity to take the sermon beyond what was proclaimed and carry it forward.

That limits our ability to be the church and share the love of Christ beyond Sunday morning, or at least it did for me.

So, how can we carry forward the message and truly apply it into our lives and missional activity? Let’s think about it through the lens of what we reflected upon Sunday.

In our sermon, we focused on the story of the feeding of the 5,000. We looked at how Jesus had compassion for the large crowd that gathered around him, even to the point of meeting their needs for food when the hour was late. At the same time, he called the disciples to meet the needs, themselves, by using the resources they had to bless others. Jesus calls us to do the same and meet the needs of the people around us with what we have.

How do we do this? Continue reading “Sermon Follow Up: Meet the Needs”

Ways to Engage Worship

Ways to Engage Worship

Worship, today, is modified from what we’ve been familiar with, but it is still worship.

We’ve moved to different expressions of worship – from parking lots and online services to some in-person activities – as a response to the current health crisis affecting our community and world. Worship is not what we are used to, but that doesn’t make it less holy or impactful to our walk with Christ.

At its core, worship has never been about us or what we like. It’s not about the music, the style, or the oratory skills of the pastor. Worship has always been about a community coming together to give praise and adoration to God for all that the Lord has done. It centers us as a community, but also calls us outward to continue the worship through our acts of love and grace in the world.

In leading in this modified time, we have all made difficult choices on how to give honor and worship to God in a safe and healthy manner. There are aspects of worship that are central to who we are that we have refrained from in this time. There are other aspects that we have continued doing.

No matter what the function of worship may be, we have to remember that worship is never about us. It is always about God. When our administration and, even, evaluation of worship is based upon our preferences and desires, then we are missing the true nature of worship. In this way, worship becomes a form of entertainment that is about pleasing the masses and not celebrating the name of God.

How do we keep the focus on God in worship, regardless of whether we are in the parking lot, online, or in-person? Continue reading “Ways to Engage Worship”