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”

Odd Being a Pastor During a Pandemic

Odd Being a Pastor During a Pandemic

That was odd.

A feeling of oddness was about the only one I could muster after watching myself preach and lead our Easter Sunday worship. It was odd being able to worship with my family who, admittedly, were either half awake after being up all night with our newborn or were too interested in the tablet to watch. It was odd seeing myself preach on Facebook. I hate the sound of my own voice, by the way. That was odd being at the cemetery, before the sun came up, to prepare for our sunrise Facebook live feed.

This whole thing has been odd.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is like to lead during a pandemic. Odd is about the only word I can use to describe what it is like, for me, to be a pastor this moment. There is no rule book or guidance on how to do what we are doing. We’re all trying to make the most of it and proclaim God’s name through new and unique means, which I believe is taking place. Continue reading “Odd Being a Pastor During a Pandemic”

New Life, New Creation

New Life, New Creation

Throughout my life and ministry, I can remember several unique and memorable Easter celebrations. I remember the first time I served as a lay reader on Easter Sunday. Not only was I to read the lectionary passages for the day, but I was also asked to help serve communion, So, there I was with the assistant pastor, a friend of mine, when someone tried to take the cup and drink out of it. I lost it. It wasn’t how we did things around there, though in other traditions that would have been acceptable.

There have been times, too, as a pastor that have been joyous. My first Easter Sunrise as a pastor I remember smelling the food coming out of the kitchen and getting hungrier and hungrier as I spoke. There was the time at Claylick that people thought I had forgotten the service when I wasn’t there at my usual 30 minutes before the service. And there was a couple years ago at my last appointment when we were planning a 200th anniversary a few weeks after Easter and wondering if we had the strength to do both well.

What I remember, as well, are the moments of tension of wanting everything to glorify God, and, as well, to make people happy. Much of our Easter services are a pageantry of the holy name of God. A show on our biggest day of the year, because we believe the grandeur of the importance of an empty tomb requires all the bells and whistles. Too often, I get lost in those elements, making sure everything is right, to the point that when I get home on Easter Sunday I am not filled with hope, but overwhelmed with exhaustion.

We approach, then, what will certainly be a memorable Easter celebration in our lifetimes. Not since the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 have churches closed their doors in order to provide safety for their people and others during a health crisis. We will continue to be closed until such time that it is safe to be back together. This is a unique time, and perhaps we are wondering if we can really celebrate Easter without the bells and whistles and, truly, without being in the church.

Perhaps, just maybe, the lack of the bells and whistles, the full regalia of the day, will allow us the possibility to hear the story of Christ’s resurrection in a new way. A way that will relaunch us into being Easter people, filled with the hope of the resurrection, and confident in knowing that Christ is alive even in times like today. Perhaps, just maybe, we can give our full attention not to the grandeur, but to the simplicity of the message and the mission that is before. Continue reading “New Life, New Creation”

Hope for Today

Hope for Today

This past week, it seems like our current situation and the health crisis we are experiencing has become more real. We have experienced a lot of changes over these last few weeks, but for some reason, this week, it has sunk in that we are in for a long battle and not a short-term halt to daily life.

We’ve seen confirmed cases, based upon testing, of the coronavirus top the triple digits in West Virginia. We’ve heard of the first confirmed case in Cabell County. We’ve heard stories of nursing homes in Morgantown with multiple cases. We’ve heard of hospitals in our region running short on necessary supplies. We’ve seen orders for non-essential businesses to close for an unknown period of time. We’ve seen school closures extended. We’ve seen phrases like “stay in place” and “social distancing” become part of our common vernacular.

Life does not seem normal. When we travel out and about, we witness an eerie quiet that is symbolic of where we are today. Walking to the store becomes a challenge of trying to stay six feet apart. We’ve seen our lives changed and we’re not sure when any semblance of normal will return. We’re looking for a day, perhaps even a particular day to return, yet deep down we’ve come to realize life is going to be altered for longer than we had expected as we seek to provide care to the most vulnerable among us. Continue reading “Hope for Today”

One Week of Grief and Lament

One Week of Grief and Lament

As we begin our time of reflection upon the Gospel, this morning, I am mindful of the fact that our Lenten sermon series is a little disjointed. We took a week off, last week, to reflect on how we can be the people of God in the midst of these difficult times. At the same time, I recognize that, because of the nature of how we are worshiping today, that many of you are coming into a sermon series that is a few weeks old. With that in mind, I want to take a moment and get everyone caught up on where we are.

Our series, called One Week, is focused on the events of Holy Week. It is the week where we commemorate the Jesus’ activities in Jerusalem that lead up to his betrayal, death, and resurrection. What we describe as Holy Week took place during the Jewish festival of the Passover, which remembers God’s redemption of Israel from Egyptian slavery. In this series, we have wanted to tell the stories of the events during that fateful Passover that do not receive the attention of sermons, Bible studies, and conversations.

There have been some key moments in the series. We began three weeks ago, which seems like a year ago in a different time and place, by looking at how Jesus expressed holy frustration in the Temple for it becoming consumed with things not of God. From there, we looked at how Jesus cursed the fig tree in a call for those who would follow him to seek to live out our faith in Christ. Last week, had we not focused on the realities of our current world, we would have seen how Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the religious elites for saying one thing and doing another. Tensions are picking up, especially now as Jesus expresses his grief and lament at what he sees in Jerusalem and the people of faith. Continue reading “One Week of Grief and Lament”