Monday, October 27, 2008

I learned a valuable lesson this week from my extended family. Don’t discuss politics with the Henegar family. In an exchange of comments to one another about political issues, comments made in fun political banter were rebutted by mean hearted angry attacks. Something that started out so innocent as a joke and fun turned badly very quickly. I was also reminded if you win the argument but lose the relationship no one wins. When the rhetoric died down and cool minds prevailed we really agreed on most of the essential issues. We just disagreed on the path to get to the place we all want for our country. Communication is the key to any relationship. Constant communication is the value essential to any health relationship. We communicate in many diverse ways; with our speech, with our actions, with our lack of actions, with our works, emails and texting. If our communication with anyone is taken out of content or used as not our intent it is up to us to make corrections, apologize and bring clarity. This same principle is even greater in our communication of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul was in constant communication with the early church about ministry. He sent words of encouragement, love, and support. He partnered with them in the essentials of our faith. Spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important thing we are to communicate as the church. It is the key component of any ministry. If the minister does not know someone is ill and needs a visit, pastoral care can not take place. If someone is in need of prayer and does not communicate that to others, prayers are not lifted up on their behalf. If there is confusion, it most always leads to frustrations. Our sole responsibility as Christians is we are required, called, requested, demanded, obligated and asked by God is to communicate His message of love, mercy, forgiveness and grace to anyone we meet. We must communicate freely and be a witness to Christ working in our lives. We must be open to trust God as we open up our true self to others. To share the gospel is to share our struggles and our success. Is there a risk in being hurt, taken disadvantage of, or being misunderstood? Yes, but without the risk God’s activities will not be communicated. Let us all join together to take up the challenge to communicate God’s activity in our lives and the lives of others. Tell someone what God has done in your life. We just can not afford to just wait for someone else to do it. Doing nothing is not an option for Christ’s church.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Run In With The Law

I got pulled over one day by the cops. Flashing blue lights in my rear view mirror, I in a daze of confusion pulled to the side. The officer approached and asked if I knew why I was being pulled over. “No Sir.” I replied nervously. “Do you know how fast you were driving?” he asked. “Yes sir, I was going 45 mph.” I said timidly. “Well, it is 45 about four miles back but it changes to 35 about ¼ of a mile back.” He informed me. “I am sorry sir, I had no idea I must have missed the sign.” I replied. I handed him my driver licenses, insurance information, and registration. He slowly returned to his car and after a long wait returned with what I presumed was a ticket. He proceed to give me a lecture about: ignorance of the law is not a legal defense or excuse, how I needed to pay more attention, and that since the fact I didn’t slow down when I passed him, I must not have known the correct speed limit. He then handed me a warning because my intent was to obey the law. Every time I traveled down that street, I was very conscious of my speed, I even told my friends about my run it with the cops, and reminded them that the speed limit changes from 45mph to 35 mph.
The religious leaders had derived 613 commandments from God out of the Pentateuch or the five books of the Law. Two hundred and forty-eight of them were prescriptive or things that God told them to do. Three hundred and sixty-five of them were prohibitive or things that God forbade them to do. Six hundred and thirteen laws in totality, each one of them carrying the truth of a divine imperative, each one of them are carrying the authority of a divinely appointed leader “Moses” each one of them having the historic sanction of religious tradition and the full endorsement of the faith community. That is too much for me to remember so Jesus broke it down to just two. Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as your self. Sometimes it is easier to love others than love ourselves. Depression, low self esteem, insecurities, doubt, reservations, illness and mistrust all hinder us from truly loving ourselves. It can keep us from viewing ourselves as God created us. It robs us from our full potential as God’s children. Other times it is easier to love yourself than love others. Arrogance, pride, self gratification, selfishness, egotism, and even busyness can keep us distracted from loving others. It hinders our ability to love, serve, and help other children of Gods. Maybe the mission of the church is to help all of us to work on both: loving ourselves and others. This is not new news but a reminder, a warning of such, to slow down and recall Jesus’ two.
See you in church but until then love of yourself and one another.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Belongs to God?

The political campaigns are in full swing. The candidates are beginning that big push to the end. November 4th is in sight and advertising, debating, stumping is at full throttle. You can not go an hour without someone or something reminding or suggesting to you to whom to place your vote. The thing that is unsettling is the fact that each candidate uses fear and trust to win your vote. The basic ingredient in our decision to vote comes down to fear and trust. Do you trust this person? Do you fear your future if this person is elected? Through all the rhetoric this is the two core values we are looking for in the leaders of our government. Fear and trust seem to drive our decision and feelings of hope for the future. During this time we have also been bombarded by issues of the economy. Experts are all over the news media telling us how bad is it, how the future looks hideous, and we are in desperate times. We hear words like Bailout, tax plans, and economic relief. We are flooded with news of Acorn, voter fraud, and disenfranchised. Each story is again more innuendoes of trust and fear.
Jesus was confronted by the chief priest and Pharisee’s when asked should one pay taxes. Their intention was to trap him by this trick question. If Jesus said no he was in violation of the law. He could be arrested for treason against Caesar. If he said yes then he would be labeled as one who was loyal to government not God or the church. Jesus answer was simple and brilliant. He asked for a coin. Asked who picture was one it. And said if Caesar picture was on it, it must belong to him, so give back to Caesar what is his and give God what is God’s. So what do we have that is God’s? If money doesn’t matter to God, why is it so important issues in elections? Does God care who is president?
When I think about my personal inventory and search for things to give to God I have along list. I can give to God: my time, my talents, my joy, my devotion, my soul, my words, my actions, my compassion, my service, my grace, my identity, unity with others, my integrity, and last on my list my money. When I look at my list am I giving all I can to God. Not really, as I have much more to give. I give by giving the things on my list to others. When I begin to give to God what is God’s, I ironically find the things that are driving the campaigns. I begin to place my trust in God and God removes all fear from my life. I can trust that God will take care of me and my family, which removes fear from my future. I find hope, peace, and joy from my investment of God. I begin to value myself as God values me. What Belongs to God? All of ME…

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Excuses to avoid A Wedding

Weddings are strange occasions. I have performed many weddings, attended many weddings, and honestly enough avoided many weddings. The wedding ceremony is intended to a beautiful worship experience, a time when love had called a couple to join together in the presence of God, and make vows to each other, and to God to love each other to the fullest. It is to be a joyous event for the whole community when two families are joined together. It is awesome when God is put first in the wedding ceremony.
But that is only in theory.
Here is the reality of most weddings: The parents of the couple are stressed out. Maybe it’s the cost, planning, or disagreements over control of the whole affair. The bride has had a dream of this day in her head her entire life. The groom rather attend a sporting event with his buddies. The wedding party usually is made up of friends of the bride and groom who owe them a favor. They are dresses up in outfits they would normally not pick out themselves. There is usually some kind of conflict of who actually will and who will not be in the wedding party. Most weddings determined by the look on the faces of the wedding party there is always one that looks like they would rather be anywhere else but there. The day of the wedding is stressful as the women work hard to look their best and the men work hard on entertaining themselves while they endure. Always one piece of clothing is usually left behind or no longer fits. One family is also concerned about that one family member who might show up. That one family member that usually has one too many and embarrasses all. As I perform each wedding and look out over those that are gathered I can actually hear what is going on in their minds. The women are critiquing the fashion, the decorations, and the flow of the service. They are comparing and contrasting it to every wedding they have attended, will attend or plan on their own. The men are just wondering how much long is this going to take and wondering what they are going to serve at the reception. Parents are both filled with joy and sadness. Joy that their children have found true love, sadness that they have grown up, moved on and matured. Sometimes the joy and sadness are reversed for exactly the same reasons. Weddings full of emotions, nervousness, and anxiety. No too are the same and they are no indications on the strength, happiness, or longevity of the couple relationship. Weddings are the weirdest events of human rituals and Jesus uses it to tells us a parable about the God’s kingdom.

Matthew places this story right after Jesus has thrown out the money changers in the temple. Jesus has gathered at the house of the richest Pharisee, with many people gathered round listening attentively to his every word. The parable is about a King who has a wedding reception for his son’s wedding. He invites the guest, they do not come. He sends the servants again to invite, the invitees kill the servants. In anger the King kills everyone and burns down the city. When everything is ready he sends his servants to the streets and invited anyone and everyone. The hall was filled the celebration under way. The King enters and notices one person is not dressed for the occasion. He instructs his servants to kick him out, and Jesus says, many are called but few are chosen. That’s a bummer of a wedding.
What was Jesus trying so hard to teach all that have heard this parable?
It seems to get more complicated as we look closer. Although the original invited guest were to merely just show up the second group were welcome but had somewhat higher expectations. Every guest off the street was welcome, but they were expected to be prepared, dressed, and changed for the banquet. In other words, there was an expectation of change from the time the new guests were picked off the street to the time they came into the presence of the king.
For us that seems strange in the context and customs of our weddings today. Remember in Jesus time weddings lasted weeks not hours. People were told about the wedding and invited on one visit. When everything was cooked, prepared, and ready to serve, they would be invited again to come. It was expected as guest to be ready to go, when the second invitation arrived.
It is clear that Jesus was speaking about the Pharisee’s as the first guest. Those that would reject him, murder him when He comes to invite them to salvation. But what concerns us are the second set of guest. That is us, you and I. We have been invited as Christian, I believe that God meets us wherever we are, and desires our presence in the kingdom no matter our pedigree or background. As a matter of fact, we had the phrase “come as you are leaved changed” as the invitation on everything we printed at our church. It was Christ invitation that we accepted everyone as they were; all they had to do was show up and plug in. If they showed up God would be the one to transform their life.
Come as we are. God wants us however we are.

But we all have excuses don’t we. We have many excuses on why we can not attend the banquet. I don’t have enough time. Church does not fit into my schedule. I am too tried on Sunday mornings or Wednesdays evening. I’m too old. I’m too young. You don’t offer anything for young people, old people, rich people, poor people, all churches want is your money, have you heard how bad the economy is? I be there next week, I have to get back into the habit? I have a new boyfriend or girlfriend and they are Catholic. People there are not friendly or welcoming. I work all week. The kids have soccer, baseball, basketball, softball, swimming. I don’t have the energy. My teens are really busy; they have a lot of things going on. Excuses, that what they are. Excuses, we all have them, creative of not. Jesus tells us we are invited and to invite others. When in the presence of the king, we should be changed. Yes, God wants us as we are imperfect sinners in an imperfect world. When we accept the invitation, however, there are some things that we need to change to prepare ourselves for God’s presence. We can all have excuses on not accepting the invitation of the king, or we can show up off the streets as we are prepared to be transformed, or we can give our excuses on how to avoid the wedding. Jesus gave no excuse to avoid that day on the cross. The choice is ours. Amen.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

From My Window

I once had an office on the second floor of the church. One spring day I noticed some leaves and branches sitting on the ledge of my window. Perplexed I was about to brush them off, when the next day I noticed a bird was building her nest. My first reaction was to destroy it. Remember I don’t like birds; I categorize them with weird clowns and Brussels sprouts. But something deep inside me told me to stop. I watched daily as she methodically built her nest and laid her eggs. Each day when I can in my office I would check on her. When it stormed I found myself wondering about her safety. When the wind blew hard, I worried if the babies were alright. I witnessed her feeding, tending, and taking care of the little babies until one day they were big enough to fly off on their own. I realized I got an up close seat to witness nature just as God intended. I was an observer of the balance miraculous circle of life that most people miss. It was an awesome thing to be a part of even if I was only a bystander. Long after the babies flew off and the mother left the nest, I kept the nest untouched on the ledge. As people would enter my office and notice this pile of leaves and sticks, all would suggest I needed to clean off my window. I realized that they did not get to witness what I saw. They only viewed the pile of trash. I was the only one that saw God’s creation and circle of life because I viewed it each day I was in my office. For me it was a reminder of God’s activity in all of life, everyone else saw a pile of trash.
I also have realized the same hold true in our church. I get the awesome privilege each day to see God working in the lives of people in our church. I get to hear statements like “what are YOU going to do” be transformed by the Holy Spirit into “what are WE going to do.” Most of Gods work goes unnoticed by most because they do not get to look out my window. I get the sacred opportunity to meet people at their bedside, homes, or my office, and hear their prayers. I catch sight of their pain, frustration, and struggles. I get to see God’s healing in lives of people but because of trust and confidentiality I can not speak about them. I get to experience how scripture can play a prophetic voice to sermons and things that happen around us. The way the Holy Spirit moves us, how God is transforming us, and how Christ is influencing the lives of people in our church are intangible facts or data. They are not numbers, or something we can add up to find a sum, an answer, or hard data. They are the reflection of Christ in the lives of us. I forget that most of the time most of the individuals of our faith community are not there on Sunday evenings to feel the energy of CYRCLE, hear the prayers and concerns of our Elders, work weekly with the Visioning ministry team, see kid’s playing soccer with FCC on their uniforms, or witness God’s physical healing on people. There are many more to list, but God is doing miracles in our community, the fire of the Holy Spirit is burning brighter, and Christ love is exhibit even if EVERYONE is not their to observe it themselves. All they see is a pile of trash on a window sill; I am reminded of God’s active in His creation, that’s something to think about.
Peace & Grace,