Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I cannot keep quiet with this

I try to keep my politics on the inside. I respect persons on all sides of the issues. I try to listen with compassion to the pain and passion with which they speak. But there are times when even I can't remain silent.

I do not know the person in this share. I support this brave individual, though. It takes some soul searching and serious consideration to make this choice. While I do not agree with everything that is stated, I do support this family in the hard decision they have made.

My comments are not partisan/party based. I don't follow a party platform. I try to examine the issues as they develop. And in my opinion the Affordable Care Act is not a workable solution to the needs of the people. It does not accomplish what was hoped for. It does not bring the need for affordable health care to all people.

It will take hard choices like this on the part of many people to bring attention to an unbalanced and ill-conceived, poorly executed program. The political posturing has taken a legitimate concern in our nation and turned it into a power position.

I have believed that a revolution of some type was building among the people of this nation. There is so much tension between groups that only an event that allows the pressure to be released in a powerful way will turn the tide. My hope is that we do not have to come to physical ends to accomplish this. I would rather see non-violent means such as this to bring attention to the problems that lie under the surface.

I do not encourage everyone to do this. I encourage people to consider the consequences of their choices. I know plenty of people who must make a choice. And in some cases, there is no right and good way to go forward.

My family, for the time being, is in a position that we do not have to make a difficult choice like this and that may remove the authority of my voice. We have benefits and luxuries that the average citizen in this nation never get to take advantage of.

The Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church has provided us with adequate healthcare coverage for our needs. My family cannot complain about what we have had to experience. I bear in mind that the luxury my family experiences comes at the expense of the faithful and good people of the congregations I serve.

I also know, though, that in order to adapt to the system that is now in place under the Affordable Care Act, the churches of our Annual Conference will be facing some hard choices in the next few years.

My heart breaks that there are people suffering in this world from physical, mental, and emotional health issues. The fact that they cannot afford what is readily available in this nation is a travesty.

But I am equally heartbroken that families who have been able to afford health care (sometimes just barely) are now being put into a position where they will lose their ability to take care of themselves.

And it is not just, nor right, nor equal to levy fines against people who are able to financially care for themselves without the burden and hassle of the true problem with our healthcare system, health insurance companies.

I hope and pray that as a nation we could stop the ego-driven, hero-worshiping, blind partisan divisions in order to turn this crisis around. We as a nation have to work together to find a road forward.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Letters of Koinonia

The sermon today, When Koinonia Fails, included a reference to passages in the letters of Paul and Peter that emphasize how to maintain koinonia in a community of faith. Here are those passages:

Rom 12:6-21
6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:
9 Let  love be without hypocrisy.
Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be  devoted to one another in brotherly love;
give preference to one another in honor;
11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
12 rejoicing in hope,
persevering in tribulation,
devoted to prayer,
13 contributing to the needs of the saints,
practicing hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
16 Be of the same mind toward one another;
do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.
Do not be wise in your own estimation.
17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.
Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God,
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

1 Cor 1:10
10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

1 Cor 13:4-8
4 Love is patient, love is kind and  is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails

Eph 4
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
showing tolerance for one another in love,
3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as  evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood,SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you

Phil 2:1-18
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing;

Col 3:1-17
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and  abusive speech from your mouth.
9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,
10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him —  11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
13 bearing with one another,
and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father

1 Thess 5:12-22
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.
Live in peace with one another.
14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.
16 Rejoice always;
17 pray without ceasing;
18 in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit;
20 do not despise prophetic utterances.
21 But examine everything carefully;  
hold fast to that which is good;
22 abstain from every form of evil.

Titus 3:1-11
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities,
to be obedient,
to be ready for every good deed,
2 to malign no one,
to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.
9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned

1 Peter 3:1-10
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
3 Your adornment must not be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be  the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

2 Peter 1:5-11
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his  purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Hearty Hi Yo Silver

Who was that masked man?

Better yet, who was the goof ball with the dead bird on his head???

Yep, I broke down and went to see The Lone Ranger.

I remember in days of yesteryear, sitting in front of my Nanny and Pappaw's television to watch some of the great oldie but goody shows. The Lone Ranger was one of them. He was one of the earliest heroes I remember watching. I loved the black and white. I loved the shoot em ups. I loved the white hat. Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels are always going to be the only Lone Ranger and Tonto.

I remember there being a movie in the early '80's. I don't remember watching it until it came on television. I don't remember much else.

When I heard of the Johnny Depp version, my first thought was, "This is going to stink. But I'll go see it anyway." As the release date approached, my opinion never changed. As I watched the trailer, my opinion did not waver. When I walked into the theater to see it, I was resolute in my opinion.

But something weird happened. About 30 minutes into the movie, my mind played an interesting trick. I began to watch it as two movies running simultaneously. And I liked both of them.

One of the films was a typical Johnny Depp, bizarre character. I loved Captain Jack, Edward Scissorhands, even that weird Ed Wood (I haven't seen Dark Shadows, but want to). This was over the top, strange, and funny. Armie Hammer wasn't bad as Depp's straight man. He couldn't keep up sometimes with Depp's antics, though. And as a Johnny Depp movie, it was better than the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

But the other film was also really good. It was a modernization of The Lone Ranger lore. It was a little darker. The romance was a little more contrived. But you got a gritty telling of his origin. You got the core of his fight for justice. You see the essence of who the Lone Ranger is.

I can't explain why I began to watch it as two films. It was not a conscious effort. I just realized at the end of the movie that I had done it.

And for those who stuck around at the end to watch the credit extra, all I can say is - I hope you got it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The End of our Cub Scouts

In the last couple of weeks, our family saw the moving on from Cub Scouting. Andrew was promoted from Webelos to Boy Scouts. We are very proud of him because he was able to complete his requirements for the Arrow of Light. This is the only recognition of Cub Scouting that can be carried into Boy Scouts. It requires learning the basic meaning of the Boy Scouts including knowing the Boy Scout Law, Motto, and Oath. It was a big moment for him.

It was also a big moment for our family. We started working with Cub Scouts 8 years ago. It started with Nick as a Tiger Cub. It us required to attend regular meetings and going to see places. It led us to new relationships. It necessitated the purchase of three tents so we could camp in cold and windy places with bathroom facilities that were neither rooms nor allowed bathing. Cub Scouts allowed us to watch boys learn about qualities that good men  possess. They discovered the meaning of citizenship, responsibility, and imagination. Now, 8 years later, we have no more Cub Scouts.

As we prepare to transition to Boy Scouts with both boys, we are ready to see our boys become young men we can be proud of. We have hopes and expectations of what will happen as they move forward through the ranks.

The reason I love the boys' experience of Scouting is that I didn't get to experience Scouting myself. I wanted to be a part of Scouting. It just wasn't feasible when and where I grew up. I get to see some of what it means to be a Scout in and through my boys. I don't know what impact their time in Scouting will have on Nick and Andrew. But I believe it is part of shaping them into responsible, helpful, and faithful men.

That brings me to recent decisions within the Boy Scout organization. Recently, it was decided by the national organization to take a clearer position regarding the discussion of homosexuality. That decision is best summed up in saying that youth who identify themselves as homosexual are welcome to participate in Scouting programs. The decision of the Boy Scouts of America did not speak to adults who identify themselves as homosexual.

I know this decision doesn't please some people. There are strong feelings on both side of this issue. There is also a lot of misunderstanding. I can't possibly bring clarity to the larger issue. All I can do is clarify how I operate within a given circumstance.

I accept the decision of the Boy Scouts with respect for the choice they have made. Boy Scouts had been about accepting boys and young men and sharing with them qualities that help them become men of character with qualities that support our nation, communities, and families. Removing a barrier to acceptance only allows more young men to be so developed.

As a United Methodist clergy member, I have to look to our Book of Discipline for guidelines on ministry. We support that all people are worthy of our ministries without regard to how a person may identify themselves or be identified by others. The Boy Scouts are a vital ministry within the United Methodist Church. In churches I serve as pastor, I see that ministries should be open and accepting of anyone who seeks to better themsleves through those ministries. At this time I will continue to support Scouting and encourage its inclusion in the local church.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival

I have been chewing my way through this Leonard Sweet book. It has been a chore. And I wish I knew why.

The book hits on the subject of generational shift. The previous generation that Sweet calls "Gutenbergers" and the contemporary generation, "Googlers". As you can guess from the naming, it is the difference of the age of reason and the age of technology.

Sweet wants to point out the strength of both as well as potential character flaws that have relevance for the Church. But the book hits the Gutenbergers hardest. Sweet has adopted the Googler generation for his own and wants to drag the rest of his native generation forward.

Perhaps that is my greatest complaint and why I struggled with this book so much. I am someone is native in both worlds (see the title of my blog: Postmodern Renaissance Pastor). I am just as comfortable in the logical, objective culture of the past as I am with the technology driven, passion-fueled generation that is developing. I don't see a reason to draw the distinctions or to force the differences into the light.

But I am just as guilty of it on a weekly basis.

Viral refers to the natural networking relational style of the Googlers. And that is a boon for the Church. We can get back to "infecting" people with the Gospel. We can bring those we come into contact with into contact with the Living Word. It isn't forced. It is organic and natural.

And while I may have struggled through the book (twice), it is not because it is a bad book. Sweet is calling us to change our culture in order to effectively share the Good News in a new and developing world.