Building the Church

Building the Church

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”

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”

Share the Love

Share the Love

I have to admit that I have always loved these words from Paul and Romans 8. They have comforted me in times of trial, and encouraged me to keep the faith when things seem difficult in both life and in the ministry. They are a “go to” when I need to be reminded of God’s love.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Those words comfort and provide hope immediately once we read them and reflect upon their meaning. They are, perhaps, words we need to hear this morning.

Perhaps, too, words I need to hear as we gather for worship in our parking lot and online. You see, there are moments when I wonder how could God love someone like me. I look at myself and wonder what is there to really love. I am the product of childhood trauma from, at best, a neglectful step-father. My first marriage ended in divorce, which led to a period of deep despair and financial struggles. I have long believed that people expect perfection from me, and so it is easy for me to find my faults and criticize who I am and what I do. I have often asked how could God love someone like me? Continue reading “Share the Love”

What Do I Miss?

What Do I Miss?

I love the first song in the second half of “Hamilton.” It is a hilarious song that transitions the show, and many of the cast members, into a new portion of the story of Alexander Hamilton and his work in the administration of President George Washington.

The song, called “What Did I Miss?,” introduces Thomas Jefferson to the story, but with some humor since it is played by the same actor who, in the first half, portrayed the Marquis de Lafayette. In the song, though, the conversation is in the past tense. It describes things that Jefferson has missed while he was in France and moves the story along past the Revolutionary War. To be honest, it is the celebratory dancing that make the song. If you don’t believe me, access Disney Plus and watch for yourself.

While the song may be sung in the past tense, I believe for many of us in the church we are living out the song. There are things we miss as we continue to exist in a socially distant expression of worship in response to the current pandemic. I hear these things expressed in conversation and, recently, as we have transitioned to a modified form of worship in our parking lot. We are missing the people, music, and worship as a body.

I can understand that. I feel each of those things in my soul. Continue reading “What Do I Miss?”

Living with Weeds

Living with Weeds

I was raised in Shady Spring: population of 1,000 and now with its regionally-famous traffic light and Dollar General. It is a small town on the outskirts of Beckley, but has always been home for me.

I was what you would call a nerd. My focus was on studying presidential history and being part of the journalism staff at the junior high and high school. I also worked for the local paper. I wasn’t athletic, even though I tried about every sport and loved to watch them all.

My favorite sport to participate in was wrestling. I loved the sport, and was average, at best, at it. When I moved more into my journalism career, it was always the most enjoyable and complex sport to cover. I still enjoy it today. What did I enjoy about it? You were part of a team, yet you were responsible for your own actions. You had to think on your feet and consider how to achieve your objective in a limited time and space.

Now, I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t just enjoy freestyle wrestling as a youth. I also enjoyed professional wrestling. There is something humorous about watching two people bark about how they are the most impressive talker and fighter all while wearing a feather boa and a mullet.

That love of professional wrestling has led to the creation of a line that you may hear from time to time. That line is this: This is feeling a lot like WrestleMania. It was a line, and its variations, that I started to say in the lead-up to General Conference last year. I was responsible for covering the event for the Kentucky Annual Conference. As I covered the event, I actually felt like I was at WrestleMania. For me, the phrase is used to describe an event that has become filled with anger, talking, and divisiveness, especially in places you would least expect it. Sadly, I use that phrase a lot in the life of the church. Continue reading “Living with Weeds”