A Week ago the world changed…again. Since then we have been inundated with media speculation and political pronouncements. We have gathered together and prayed for people whose lives have been shattered in many different ways.
Many of us gathered together this weekend and worshipped and proclaimed that we believe in a God that is bigger than any bomb or bomber.
I woke up this morning and I guess I expected something different. However, the world looks the same to me. The talking heads are back to partisan bickering. Social media looks just as it did 8 days ago as do our newspapers and television.
In other words, life is virtually back to normal minus some more fear and hate. So that’s it? After all we have been through and experienced over the last week we simply go back to the way it was? What’s the point?
Every day we are faced with choices and decisions. I stand before a group of people every Sunday and tell the greatest story ever and yet in so many ways it seems as if life remains the same. This can no longer acceptable.
You need to make a choice and that needs to happen now. Will you simply let the fear, bitterness, and indifference take over or will you choose another path. There is a journey we are called to take. This is the path spelled out in the Bible.
It is a path of Grace, mercy, justice, and love. This path is not an easy one for us but with God’s help we can make it. For me, the answer to the “What’s the Point?” question is always the same. The point is we need to be better than we have been. We can no longer live in a world where our first impulse to problems is to look for scapegoats. The point is that the only way we can do that is to foster community and the only way I know to do that is through the grace of God.
So God, take us where we can’t get on our own.
We need you.
Let’s face it… Fear sucks.
Reading through the Resurrection accounts in all four Gospels, we are left with a prevailing theme for both the women at the tomb and the disciples locked away in the upper room; fear. Whether they were staring at an empty tomb or faced with the assignment to spread the word of what had happened, the women were afraid. The men were locked in the upper room afraid of the Jewish leaders. The impossible had happened and those that should react with the most joy were instead paralyzed with fear.
I think fear is an emotion that continues to inhibit us in many ways in our lives. How many times have you allowed fear to stop you from doing what needed done? How many times have you allowed fear to stop you from making a decision? Why do we let fear have so much power over us? I believe these questions are things that we need to think about personally and in the life of the church.
Fear stops us from living out our God given calling. If the women remained filled with fear would the news have spread as it did? If the disciples remained locked in the upper room would that have changed the direction of the early church? What things have been delayed or stopped that would benefit the Kingdom of God because of our fear?
The cure to fear? Maybe it is as simple as saying yes to God. I think the church for too long has allowed fear of failure, loss, and even success to stand in the way. “Do not be afraid”, were the words spoken to the women. “Peace be with you”, were the words spoken by Jesus to the disciples. These words beg for a response of “YES!”
“Yes Lord, we will not be afraid and we will receive the peace you offer”. If we lived our lives with that mindset what could we accomplish in the name of Jesus Christ? If we lived out our personal lives with those words, how healthy would our relationships be?
Yes…fear sucks…but fear does not get the last word. God does.
Football season started last night, the Eagles start on Sunday. I love the Philadelphia Eagles
Baseball season is heading into playoff season. The Phillies are missing the playoffs. I love the Phillies.
Someone mentioned peanut butter cookies to me today. I love peanut butter cookies.
My youngest son started his senior year of High School today. I love my youngest son.
My oldest son is moving Saturday. I love my oldest son.
My wife works way too hard. I love Ginny.
Jesus died on the cross for us. I love Jesus.
Love is a funny word. This one little four letter word has so many uses in our lexicon. I remember in seminary learning about the Greek words for love. A different word to fit each situation or type of love. It made sense to me because honestly I mean all those sentences in the beginning but I am embarrassed using the same word to describe my feeling for peanut butter cookies and for Ginny let alone my feelings about Jesus.
Words are funny after all. They are just sounds put together that represent something. At the end of the day I suppose I could describe my feelings about my wife or cookies with any set of sounds what really matters are my actions. How do I treat the people I claim to love? How do I treat Jesus and how do I live my life for Jesus?
As a preacher this might be a silly thing to say but I want to be remembered for my actions way more than my words. I want people top think of me as someone who cares and is trying to make the world a better place. I want my wife to know how I feel about her by my actions more than my words.
I need to do better than I have but I am trying. So today I look around and recommit myself to God and the people in my life to show you how much I love you. I recommit myself to bringing the light of God with me to a world that so desperately needs it.
You have heard the expression, steady as a rock? Well how about steady as a sling?
For the last 4 days I have been walking around with a sling on my arm. I had a minor little procedure done to my wrist and the doctor wanted me to have the sling to support my arm/wrist. I have been trying to maneuver through my life the last couple of days and it has not been easy.
Every day things like washing my hair and brushing my teeth are now major projects. I feel helpless at times and I am growing increasingly frustrated with asking for help for the simplest of things. Yet through it all the sling remains.
The sling is there doing its job no matter how much or how little pain I am experiencing. It stays on my shoulder supporting my wrist even when I have forgotten it is there. The sling has remained there when I am in a bad mood or even when I am at my sarcastic “best”. Why? Simple, because that is what slings do.
It is really a reminder to me of how the church is supposed to be. In the community supporting those who need supporting no matter what. No matter what the circumstances people are in: rich or poor/ sick or well/ young or old/gay or straight/ black or white/ Christian or Muslim/ Atheist or Agnostic…
We are called to be the tellers of the greatest story and we are called to live that story out each day. Accomplishing this means that we need to GO! Go out into the world and shine light and hope into a world that so desperately needs it. We are not called to evaluate who is in and who is out and whether it is “worth” our time. Let’s let Jesus worry about the details and let us simply be faithful to the call.
Steady as a sling!
I sit in the office this morning and I am reminded of the Steve Martin movie, “The Jerk”. The most memorable scene in the movie to me is when the phone book finally comes out and he finds his name in it. He runs around screaming and yelling because in his mind this is the ultimate moment. He is an adult, it must be true, it’s in the phone book. The scene that follows is hilarious but HOPEFULLY has no further connection to my feelings today.
It has been a few months now of prayer, preparation, meetings(yuck), and packing and finally the moment is here. Today, I will stand before the First UMC in Glassboro and together we will officially we will begin our journey together.In so many ways this is like coming home, it is an area I am vary familiar with and in many other ways it is a strange new land.
Ginny asked me last night if I was nervous, I didn’t think so then and I don’t think so now. A lot of feelings are floating around but the main one is anticipation. Together we are about to set out on a journey to see where God is already moving and see how we, as followers of Jesus, can join in.
Should be exciting!
So last night as we settled into our new house in Glassboro we needed to heat up dinner. So my first attempt was to use a microwave until I realized that there was no microwave. No problem, I went to use the oven. As I went to turn the oven on I realized that the numbers on the knob to turn on the oven and set the temperature were almost completely worn away. Ginny and I looked at the numbers that were left and tried to decipher them the best that we could. It was not easy at all.
This oven has been used and used a lot over the years. It is about worn out it has lived out its life and we can honestly say it has done its job well indeed. In the age in which we live in it is a good thing to see a piece of equipment that has withstood the test of time and is getting close to ending its time. In the meantime we can use it and figure out ways to overcome the obstacles that the invisible numbers create for us.
As I begin my time at First UMC in Glassboro, my goal is to be like the oven in my house. Be as useful as possible for as long as possible. I want to do Kingdom work with my family and church until I too am “worn out” to do anymore.
The next part of the journey has begun and I can’t wait to see where God is going to lead us.
Now about that dial….
Sunday is coming! Often when I say this in church it is in reference to Easter Sunday. The thought that no matter how dark it gets on Good Friday, Easter is right round the corner. However, as I think about the reality of that phrase it means something else today. As i sit here this morning it simply means that this Sunday that is coming is my last one as the pastor of West Grove Memorial. It means that this Sunday is the last time that I will walk to the front of the sanctuary and deliver a message to that gathering of saints.
I guess it is finally starting to hit home. I have been looking at boxes strewn across my house for weeks now and even that did not make it real. I guess because there was always more left: more meetings, more visits, and more sermons. Now there are very few “mores” left.
So today as I sit here I pray that this weekend filled with activities and worship and other things will be a powerful time for all of us. Actually there is no doubt that will be the case. There is a movement of the Spirit happening. The people of God are moving and making a difference in their community and the power is present.
Someone told me at my luncheon on Sunday that I need to relax and be calm. He worries about me and doesn’t want to “read about me” in the paper one day. I assume he met in the obituaries! Well I accepted those words and I understand them but the reality is that my spirit is calm but I have such great news to share with the world that I can’t sit still.
Friends, Sunday is coming that much is true. However, just like every Sunday it is not about me or about you. This Sunday is about the empty tomb.
Jesus is Alive!