We are all Thugs, Protesters, Police, and Pigs

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Today Scripture : Romans 14:19 (MSG)

So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.

Yesterday morning, I had the privilege of being a guest lecturer in an Intro to Sociology Class in a local community college. I was brought in as a “religion expert” to talk about the institution of religion and faith. As I looked over at the class, I felt the conversation needed to be more.

We talked about words. We talked about perceptions. We talked about what it meant to be part of something. We talked about Baltimore and Ferguson and what happens when we stop talking. We talked about the power of words as well. In the midst of that class, I was reminded of something.

We all are looking to connect with something. We all want to belong. We all want o be valued. We all want to matter. If we do not make an effort to really listen to the young adults in our midst we are missing something important. I know there are deep reasons why things like what is going on in Baltimore now happen. I get it. Yet, sometimes we make things more difficult than they need be.

We look at the news and we want to label people; thugs, protesters, police, or pigs. By labeling them we can begin to dehumanize them and start to assign blame. The scripture from Romans 14 points us to something bigger. It points us to being better. Let’s not bring each other down, let’s lift each other up. Let us make room for each other. No labels, just love.

In one of my favorite movies, “The Breakfast Club”, a group of misfit High School kids share in a Saturday detention. They come from different social groups but through their time together they grow. They are forced to hear each other and it changes them. The movie ends as they all leave. The  essay that they were forced to write becomes a group letter written by Brian. Today, I end with that letter.

brians-essay-from-the-breakfast-club

How long must we wait?

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Today’s Reading: Galatians 3:23-29

I watched CNN last night for about an hour and just was speechless. I could not believe what I was witnessing again. We are witnessing something tragic and we just don’t know what to do. The solution is not as easy as we would like it to be. We can’t just stop the violence, the protests in Baltimore were non-violent…at first. We can’t destroy property and expect change, the damage caused will take millions and years to fix an already devastated community.

We are watching the results of broken systems and years of turning the other cheek. We are seeing people respond out of a feeling of hopelessness. Yet, what we also see is brave men and women standing up and trying to make a difference. The police and other first responders are there. Local Black fraternities are there. The Nation of Islam standing with pastors and churches in the gap trying to unite to stop the violence.

We see reporters flooding the streets and looking for answers to the problems. We see politicians calling for inquiries and promising answers. We see community leaders promising control and peace. We see police officials promising change and or answers. It all leads me to ask one simple question.

Where was all this before?

     Why wasn’t the church and the Nation of Islam already working together in the community to bring change? Where were the reporters beating down the doors trying to get a real handle on what is going on in Baltimore and other inner cities? Where were the police officials when the community had concerns? Where were the community leaders when problems happened in the community?

Where were we? 

I have an answer for that I think. We were watching a Bruce Jenner interview. We were watching the latest news about Beyonce or the Kardashians. We were focused on trying to find the latest way to insult the President, Hilary Clinton, or Ted Cruz. We were simply taking the time to pick bad guys and good guys without knowing the reality. We let the city burn. It was us.

Today’s scripture reading is a reminder to me. It is a reminder that we are all the same. In the eyes of God, these differences we have created mean nothing. Over the last 3 weeks in church we have been looking at the Resurrection appearances of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Jesus calls us to healthy living. Healthy living filled with shalom, community, and mission lived out as a response to love of God.

We need to live out our call to be people of peace, community, and mission. Living in such a manner we move beyond labels and systems of injustice. We work together, black, white, blue, gay, straight, rich, and poor. How  much longer will we wait? How much longer will God have to wait?

Amen.

Tomorrow- really-maybe

Spongebob-Procrastination

Today’s Reading Romans 5:1-21

I have been staring at my Thesis for about 3 weeks. It is filled with quite a few formatting issues to be corrected. It won’t take long to make the changes. I have to go onto Youtube and figure out how to do some things in Microsoft Word that I have not learned how to do yet. I then need to set some time aside and then get the work done. It is the last thing left. The one obstacle standing between me and walking down the aisle for graduation. Yet, it still sits there…waiting.

I constantly tell myself that there is time. I will get to it tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and then there is a visit that needs made or a sermon that needs worked on. There is a meeting, conference call, or training. Something always comes up. My paper still sits waiting. I have taken the art of procrastination to a new level then there is Jesus.

In today’s reading in Romans we are reminded that while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us. Very cool indeed. Now later. Not when I got my act together. Not waiting around until “his jam” was over…. but while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us.The good news for us is that Jesus loved us that much.

For me, that is a wakeup call of sorts. There is no time like the now. What have you been putting off. Is it forgiving someone? Is it starting a bible reading plan? Is it prayer? is it going back to church? Is it getting involved in a small group? Is it getting back into shape?

Now is the time. Today. This moment. We should be emboldened by the actions of our savior. Jesus did not wait for us to clean ourselves up. Today, this very day. Make one change and start now.

I would love to hear what it is when you do it. Share it with me.

Peace.

Do you know me?

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Today’s Reading John 10:11-18

This morning we celebrate a Baptism in worship. It is always a fun time and a great moment of worship. The family will bring their beautiful little baby up and share in this moment with the gathered church. We will thank God for the work being done already in her life. We will be amazed at the Grace that we experience together. We will make a commitment before God and each other to help raise and nurture this child in the ways of the Lord. But what does it all really mean?

Today’s reading, for me, is a reminder of what this is truly all about. This child we will pour water on is known by Jesus. She is cared for by Jesus and she knows Jesus. Maybe she can’t talk yet. Maybe she is still growing and will not understand what is happening. Yet, I believe, she knows Jesus already. She feels and experiences love of parents and her family. This love she knows. It is the love of God.

Jesus tells us in this passage that we can’t hide. We don’t need to hide. He loves us. He cares for us. He KNOWS us. There is nothing we can do to change that. Our great shepherd wants to protect us. Our great shepherd loves us.

So what is the voice of the Great Shepherd telling you this morning?

Are you listening?

Spiritual Weakness Inventory

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Today’s Reading  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power[a] is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. 

We visited with a friend last night. Her husband, our good friend, died in December. It was good catching up with her and her family. It was a wonderful feeling to share some memories and to look forward to life ahead. I have been thinking a lot about my friend who died recently so this was good therapy for me. It was a short visit but a good visit.

I was reminded of a time when my friend asked me to run a Spiritual Gifts workshop for his church many years ago. It was a day long retreat and he wanted me to present and walk the church through what Spiritual gifts are and how we determine them and what we can do about them. I remember how I panicked as I prepared for that day. I had not done any of this type of leading outside my local church since I went into ministry. The day went well and I think I was able to add some value for the folks gathered.

Recently, I heard Len Sweet talk about Spiritual Gifts inventory and he was suggesting it might be time to rethink the whole process. Once we identify a gift given to us, it is ours. We can then “boast” on how we have used it or the difference that it has made for us or someone else. We can focus the attention on us instead of the provider of the gift.

Len suggested we develop a Spiritual Weakness inventory. We then focus in on those things we are weakest at and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us and to make those weaknesses strengths. There would be no doubt at that point where the real power comes from. I love that thought.

For me, that is exactly what Paul is talking about in today’s verse. God has provided everything that we need. If we turn it all over to God, we can see amazing things. Our weaknesses can be used to glorify God even more. Trust God.

I love this. I really do. So about that Spiritual Weakness inventory…What would that look like?   What say you?

Peace.

Set apart for what?

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Today’s Reading Hebrews 12:14

 Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. NRSV

I am heading out this morning with my youngest son. He has a procedure this morning. Today my role is to be the doting father. I am to make sure that every need is met and to make sure that I do all I can to keep him safe. Today, I am putting aside all other roles and focusing in on him.

There was a discussion on twitter the other day about holiness and how it is not discussed often enough in the church. While it was on twitter, so the arguments could not be very lengthy, it was very deep. Have we as the church ignored the call to holiness? I would think we are in deep trouble if that were true.

I believe, however, that we need be careful when talking about holiness. When talking about holiness we often talk about it in the realm of being set apart. I believe that being set apart is in fact the key part of the definition of holiness but the question would be for what? There must be some reason for this set apartness.

I think it is pretty clear to figure that out by first focusing in on what we are not set apart for. We are not set apart to judge. We are not set apart to condemn, We are not set apart to make people’s lives more difficult. We are not set apart to make people feel as if they are not important.

Instead, we are set apart to obey. Jesus’ Great commission in the Gospel of Matthew tells us to obey EVERYTHING that he taught the disciples. This is some heady stuff. We are set apart to live like Jesus. We are being set apart to feed, clothe, heal, and bring life.

Holiness is what we do, it is what we bring. It is the key to our relationship with God. Are you living a life of holiness?

But I did it too – Gardening and Church

garden

Reading today 1 Corinthians 3

Gardening is a funny thing. There are so many pieces that go into getting a garden up and running. The area needs cleared out. The soil needs prepared. The seeds need to be planted and watered. Weeding needs to happen. Finally the harvest must happen.

I was “helping” out the other day in the community garden that the church has. Dave has been making great progress in there. He has cleared it and prepared the soil. I got to go there for the planting and watering piece. It was fun and I got to participate but then…I got to leave.

Gardening is really not my thing. I do not have the patience required or the desire to take a project like that from beginning to end. I am more than happy to show up every now and again and maybe water or weed. However that is enough for me. Anymore would be too much for me.

Yet that is exactly what is needed for a successful community garden. People who are willing to come by and do a little bit. Everybody can do a little bit and the work will get done. We each will own a stake in the garden.

Paul’s words in chapter 3 talk about this a bit. Paul was dealing with people who just didn’t get what church was all about. They wanted to take credit or give credit to Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and others. Paul was trying to get them to understand that each played a part. Sometimes you may not even know the part you play but it matters.

Be faithful to what you are called to do. Uplift those who have been entrusted to uplift. Let God handle the rest. Work together and focus on finding God’s will for your life. Live out that vision.

Credit? Who cares about that. Live out a faithful life and taste and see the goodness of the Lord (and the Garden).