Perseverance Required

Perseverance Required

If you haven’t noticed, yet, I love to watch sports. Baseball is probably my favorite, because it is a cerebral game that forces you to think three or four batters ahead. Football, though, is probably the sport that gets me the most animated. I’ve been told that I can get a little loud and crazy when we’re not winning or the referees make a call that I do not appreciate.

Most of the time, though, I am watching the games in my home office and with the door closed to give some protection to the family. We don’t go to as many games as I would like, primarily because of cost and the challenges of taking Noah to an event with a large crowd. The last time I went to a home college football game was probably 2007. I probably haven’t been to a college football game, in general, since West Virginia last played Louisville at Cardinal Stadium in 2010.

The one thing that I miss about going to games in person is the pageantry. You don’t get a good feel for the crowd noise, especially before a game, by sitting on your recliner with a Diet Coke and a bag of chips by your side. Those moments before a game are special. You have the band playing. You have the anticipation from the crowd for what will come. You have the players getting ready and jumping around in the tunnel. All of this rises to a point that it runs over with excitement and jubilation when the team runs out onto the field.

I love that moment. It gets you excited. Now, can you imagine if the pregame ritual was kind of “eh.” Imagine what it would feel like if you sat in the crowd and the entire stadium was discouraged or despondent. Imagine if the band stopped playing. Imagine if the team walked out with their heads down believing that there is no way they could win. How would we respond? We probably wouldn’t be too excited about the game, and probably would turn the channel or go home early believing that there is no way our team would win.

Imagine if that is how we treated our faith in Christ. Imagine if instead of players running out on the field, it was us going into our mission field of Huntington. What if we were despondent, discouraged, and detached from it all? Would we be growing in our faith in Christ? Would we be able to share the love of Christ with others in such a way that it would encourage people to come along side us? Continue reading “Perseverance Required”

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What Will We Do?

What Will We Do?

One of the highlights of my ministry has been to go to the Holy Land. I’ve gone twice now either with the encouragement of the church, or this last time, with 20 people from my previous church and community.

Each trip has been holy and have included some breathtaking moments. They have included teaching adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, preaching sermons in Israel, and offering communion to pilgrims in Jerusalem. They have also included some hilarity in what I call my classic “Clark Griswald” moments. I had a stress fracture during my first trip for stepping off the bus wrong. In February, I spent the entire trip with both food poisoning and asthma issues.

And I want to go back. I want to go back, because every time I have gone it has opened my eyes more to the life within Scripture. The pages are no longer just words, but are lived out places of life, hope, and struggle. My preaching is better because of my experiences in Israel.

Our passage today, from Luke 10:25-37, is among those that I have a different appreciation for after visiting the Holy Land. The story takes place somewhere between Jerusalem and Jericho. This is same area Jesus would travel throughout the majority of Luke’s gospel on his way to the passion. These two historic cities are separated by almost 20 miles and a vast arid desert.

That desert includes the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The same valley cemented in our minds through the words of Psalm 23. It is a rocky and desolate place, but also features several meandering roads. Those roads were regularly traversed by people wanting to go between Jerusalem and Jericho. It was a dangerous road, because robbers and bandits would hide in between the valley’s ridges waiting to attack unsuspecting travelers. It would not be uncommon to see someone lying on the road left for dead.

So, with all of that, and knowing all of that, what would you do? Continue reading “What Will We Do?”

Christmas Eve Message: Ordinary Day and Extraordinary Hope

It was just an ordinary day in the City of Bethlehem.

The population, in those days, was around 1,000 people. That is a little more than double the latest Census estimate for Salvisa. All of those 1,000 people and more were gathered in Bethlehem on that day. The people were under the authority of the Roman Empire, which had no problem throwing its weight around. On that particular day, the people under Rome’s authority were required to return to their hometown in order to be counted. This was an ordinary occurrence for the people in Bethlehem, because Rome made it a habit of doing things to reminded people of their authority and power.

It was also an ordinary day for those outside of Bethlehem. Residing around the hillsides outside of Bethlehem were a group of shepherds. The shepherds were doing their job. They were keeping watch of their sheep to make sure they stayed safe from intruders. Shepherds were not the most beloved group of people. Some tolerated them as those who performed a needed task in society, but the people had little use for them. Others viewed them as thieves, because they would do what was needed in order to survive even if it meant taking from others. On that day they were just trying to live and survive. Continue reading “Christmas Eve Message: Ordinary Day and Extraordinary Hope”

Keep Persevering

There is nothing better than baseball in October. The thrill of the playoff chase. The tradition of the World Series and hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of the season. The tradition that the Cubs will lose.

At least, that is my yearly hope. You see, I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan which means that cheering for the Chicago Cubs is one of the worst thing you can do in sports. Some friends of mine who share my opinion have gone as far as to say we are “NeverCubs.” My few Cubs friends tell me this is the year. That this is the year the curses will be lifted and that a championship will return to Wrigley Field for the first time since 1908 William Taft was preparing to make William Jennings Bryan the Chicago Cubs of presidential politics. Look it up and you’ll see what I mean.

My few Cubs friends tell me that all their troubles center around a goat named Murphy. Legend has it that a storeowner, Billy Sianis, tried to bring his goat to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series. When he was asked to remove the goat, Sianis became irate said that the Cubs would never win another World Series. The Cubs were up 2-1 in the series and would eventual lose the series.

Truthfully, though, as much as I cannot pull for the Cubs I do admire the perseverance of Cubs fans who continually believe, “This is our year.” Even when things seem too difficult to believe or the season does not go as they would hope they never give up. They continue to believe that something good, another World Series title, is coming their way. Continue reading “Keep Persevering”

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”

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?”