It’s Not About Me

It’s Not About Me

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”

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”

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”

Sunday Sermon: Sowing Discipleship

Sunday Sermon: Sowing Discipleship

I was here at the church the day after it was announced I was your new pastor. That was one of the unique aspects of this particular move. Our covenant team meets each week in the parlor, at least we did until the pandemic began, to talk about life and ministry.

On this particular day, however, I walked up the ramp to the sanctuary entrance, to go through the same door I walked into each time we met. I was with a couple of other pastors and we were talking about the uniqueness of walking in knowing I would be coming here to serve in a few months. It was at that moment I noticed something I had never noticed before. I looked down and I saw a row of bricks, each with the names and dates of service for the pastors who have served faithfully here with love. I looked down and couldn’t help but wonder if, one day, I would be placed along that row of bricks.

Lots have changed since that day. I am still walking up that same ramp, but this time to serve as your pastor. I will admit that this particular transition is not what any of us imagined back in March. I didn’t believe for a moment that on our second week together we would be gathered in our cars and online to worship. I never imagined we would be socially distant from one another unable to really meet and get to know one another except for the use of technology, which I am appreciative to have. None of us imagined this would be life, but yet we press forward with the hope of Christ knowing that God is with us, even when it is hard and challenging.

While this transition may not have the normal components to it, we still have the same hopes and desires for God to bring forth a blessing in this new season together. We still have the same questions of where will God lead us and what am I about as a pastor. You’re starting to get a sense of me, in a way, already. I am someone who loves the liturgy of the church. I believe in the connection of the Methodist movement and working together as one body. I believe in having a good laugh, even as we do hard and serious work together. I believe in being a servant leader who shows the way by my example, which I pray is one of humility, grace, and hope in all things.

In all of that though, there is one overarching thing about me that really guides me as a follower of Christ and a pastor. Our passage, this morning, from Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23 gives us an opportunity to reflect upon that and that is discipleship. Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: Sowing Discipleship”