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”

A Time to Repent, Reflect

A Time to Repent, Reflect

Did you hear the sounds as you entered the sanctuary tonight for worship?

Perhaps you heard the sounds of familiar friends and family members as we walked into the church. Perhaps you heard the sounds of paper rattling, the echoes of the heater blowing air through the sanctuary, or even people placing their items on the pew. Perhaps you heard the sounds of the organ as the music began to be played to alert us that our worship was about to begin.

But, did you hear the sounds of the trumpet?

At first glance, we are probably wondering if we missed something. We likely cannot recall someone standing before the sanctuary and blowing out the sounds of a deep melody. Yet, did you hear the trumpet? The proverbial sounds of the trumpet that blew out throughout this holy day calling us into this time of worship. The sounds that penetrated our hearts that called us to gather for this important time of holy reflection as a community of faith as we prepare to begin this season of preparation and renewal.

The trumpet sounded today in our hearts to call us to be renewed in our walk and life with God. We gather, as a body of faith, to reflect upon our lives in Christ’s love, to be renewed in our journey of faith, and to set our face towards the cross and the empty tomb. We have gathered to begin this important season of reflection on this Ash Wednesday evening. Continue reading “A Time to Repent, Reflect”

Yes, Love Your Enemies

Yes, Love Your Enemies

Today is Transfiguration Sunday. It is an important day in the Christian calendar. We studied it, this week, in our Bible Study, but for everyone we’ll give you a brief introduction into what this day is about.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each describe what took place on either Mount Tabor (near the Jezreel Valley) or Mount Hermon (in the Golan Heights). The event is where Jesus’ appearance was magnified before Peter, James, and John and they were able to see the fullness of his divinity. It comes after Peter confessed Jesus as the long-expected Christ, Savior, near Caesarea Philippi and serves as a pivot point in the gospels. From this point forward, Jesus is solely focused on the cross and resurrection that will take place in Jerusalem.

Before they leave the mountaintop, though, there is a voice that comes from a cloud. It is the voice of the Father. In a scene like what took place at Jesus’ baptism, but this time for all to hear, the Father identifies Jesus as God’s son. The voice also says, “listen to him.”

To listen is a command of obedience. To listen is to do more than just be quiet and hear what someone is saying. To listen means to hear what is being shared and apply it into your life. To listen to Jesus means to not just hear what he says, but to put into practice his very teaching.

We might understand that, but there is no place where we have more trouble listening to Jesus than what Christ teaches in Matthew 5:43-48. Once again on the shores of Galilee, Jesus speaks to the disciples and gathered crowd. He calls those who would follow him to do something that is, both then and now, challenging. He calls those who would follow him – seek to walk with the Lord – to love their enemies. Continue reading “Yes, Love Your Enemies”

Why So Angry?

Why So Angry?

Have you been paying attention? There has been a common theme, these last few weeks, of raising the stakes and expectations upon what it means to be a follower of Christ. It began as we joined the disciples and crowds who gathered along the shores of Galilee to hear these teaching statements when they were first delivered. We gather, today, to reflect upon what it means to live for Christ.

Throughout this study of Matthew 5, we’ve talked about some difficult and challenging passages and how they apply to our lives. If you remember, we said Jesus gathered this group together to express what the kingdom of God was all about. This was after people were curious about Jesus after he began preaching and healing throughout Capernaum and Galilee. As the crowds gathered around him, Jesus wasn’t interested in creating a popular movement that gave people what they wanted to hear. He wasn’t there to please the people.

He came to raise the expectations by expressing what it means to follow God and live out our faith. Jesus does not desire disciples who merely just show up or claim a faith in God but never put it into practice. He is interested in disciples – followers of Christ – who seek to become less of their own self and more like Christ every day. Continue reading “Why So Angry?”

Reversing Church Decline

Reversing Church Decline

Noah loves balloons. Every so often, we will purchase some for him, especially around his birthday, that he can enjoy and play with.

Sometimes it is my responsibility to blow up the balloons. With my asthma, I don’t always have the lung strength to blow them up myself. I am thankful for the ability to purchase small tanks that allow me to blow up the balloons that, in turn, give Noah some joy and pleasure.

One of the things about balloons is that over time they lose air. You don’t always notice it happening, but air can seep through the balloon and, thus, shrink its size. Sometimes, it takes a while to notice that the balloon doesn’t have the same amount of air that it did before.

I believe sometimes the church is just like a balloon. Sometimes we don’t always recognize issues or periods of decline until it is entirely noticeable. When we begin to notice issues or decline when it is reached the point that ignoring it any longer would harm the long-term operational structure of the local church.

The truth is that the church has often struggled with issues. As well, in many ways, we have been in decline, as a Methodist movement, for a more than just a handful of years. By percentage of the population, by some accounts, we have been in a state of decline since the 1880s. It was easy to miss for a long time, because the church was able to maintain its funding and support levels.

That isn’t the case, currently. Continue reading “Reversing Church Decline”