Maundy Thursday (2014)

In 2011, I wrote –

I hope that you and yours begin this Resurrection season with the appropriate memorial.

This will be a different season for us, seeing that this will be our first Maundy Thursday. We will be attending service this evening, and the next for Good Friday, and I am looking forward to it.

This holiday must be larger than Christmas, and one which lasts throughout the Church year. Christ is the center of the Christian life, and if He is the center there, and then in our congregations, then this must be the moment for a celebration in our ecumenical spirit. Let those who love Christ celebrate one with another.

Remember John 17.

Now, it is 2014. Maundy Thursday is no longer new to me, but a day on my calendar I look forward to. It is part of the Easter weekend, as it were.

As a scholar, or rather, as one who has scholarly pretensions, it is difficult to quantify, or qualify, my faith by academic standards. There really is no need for such a labor, I would offer — since there are times that we simply have to echo John Wesley in saying, “I choose to believe.”

So, today, I choose to believe Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil give away to the a-historical* Resurrection of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. We begin our time of reflection with a service harkening back to John with the washing of the feet. It was a sign not just of humility, but of unity.

As many in the UMC work to tear her apart, today I will join in prayer with those who are working to remember not just the foot washing of John 13, but so too the prayerful lament of Jesus in John 17.

Again, in 2014, I write: Remember John 17.

*Because I believe the Resurrection, while a moment in history, also transcends history.

The Starbucks strategy

In 2012 there were about 11,000 Starbucks in the United States. If you add in other chains as well as mom and pop shops, the number climbs to about 20,000 total coffee shops. In that same year there were about 300,000 protestant churches. If we add in our Catholic brothers and sister, that number gets much larger. 75% of US adults drink coffee from a coffee shop, 58% do so daily. With far less availability, the coffee shops have managed to saturate the country with lovely caffeine. Why can’t the church saturate the country with living water?

A coffee shop has advertising and a marketable product that people want. Consequently, people actually go to the coffee shop. The church does not really have that luxury in this climate. While the church does have the living water to offer that all people need, there is little conscious desire in people to go seek it out. To be fair, part of the problem is a society that does not seem to value moral standards, part of the problem is the reputation that the church has- both deserved and undeserved. Such a big part of the problem though is that the church is largely still waiting for people to come and get a cup, not going and giving one.

I think that the answer can be found in John chapter 4 with the well known story of the Samaritan woman at the well. I am not going to recount the entire story, here but rather bring up a pivotal verse in the exchange of the woman and Jesus. In John 4:25 the woman says “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” ”  She knew that the Messiah was coming. She had no thought that she would go to Him, but that He was the one coming to her. There is a lot more to the story and it is worth a read again for any of us. The point is that Jesus went to where she was.

Perhaps there was a day when people came to the church to find Christ, if so, it was before I was born and today is not that day. The church should not be the primary source of people hearing about Christ, it should be the place where people come together in worship and to grow. It is a wonderful thing when you get to witness a “come to Jesus moment”, but it should not be counted upon. We need to be spending more time going to the well (or to Starbucks or wherever), because there are people there waiting for the message of the messiah.

What I learned at the egg hunt

At my church, as in many churches I suspect, there is an Easter egg hunt. It occurred last Saturday. I’m rather happy to say that before the hunt, the story of Easter is told so that the children and their parent s get to hear it. It’s always a delight to hear the story. I freely admit that I am not normally a fan of the church Easter egg hunt, but this year was a bit different.

The eggs were placed in separate areas outside for differing age groups. My step son was in the kindergarten group. The kids were lined up behind the streamer, and before long it was cut and they were set loose upon the unsuspecting plastic eggs. The kids all took off running to get their sugary surprises…except Thaddeus. He just strolled casually picking up the eggs that the kids running had left behind them.  After all the eggs had been discovered and the kids were going over their haul, Thaddeus was walking around and giving eggs to those who did not get as many as he had.  Of course after all this there were cookies, kids running, playing and doing those things that children are wont to do.

It’s Lent and time for thought and reflection. At the Easter egg hunt I reflected and learned that while some of us are busy arguing about what to have for Easter dinner, stressing over what to wear to church, worrying over who will cause the family fight this year, etc. that there are five year old boys who are not worried about such things and are just busy living out faith as best as they understand it. That is something worth reflecting on.

Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana (NASA, International Sp...

New Orleans, Louisiana (NASA, International Space Station Science, 11/18/06) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)

I am in Louisiana for a few days and then to a rather special place in Alabama.

Traveling always puts me into a sort of reflective mood, or mind-set. Maybe it is the destination. After all, I left Louisiana years ago. I left for a variety of reasons and excuses, but more than anything, I just wanted to get away from all that Louisiana was and is in my life. Bad family, bad religion, and just bad.

Leaving West Virginia, the place and I am unnaturally attached too… if you aren’t attached to a geographical locale, I cannot tell you what I mean. But West Virginia represents more than just an unexplainable attached to the land…but good family, good faith, and (believe it not) progressive change.

I got to see the same roads and the same places as I once did. But, they aren’t the same. Things change. Things grow. Cities grow. White people move. What was once pasture is now a hotel and McDonalds. What was one the first “mountain” we saw leaving Louisiana is now a Sam’s Club and a parking lot.

It is a good time to reflect on where I am and where I am going. When I left, I never thought I would be able to return. It is an expensive trip. I’m not saying I can go every week, but I am able to go at least once a year. I have become much closer to my Great Aunts – and great in every sense of the word. Other things, as you know, have changed.

Still, the only thing I really miss here is the food… and I’m not even sure that is the case anymore. Last night, we stopped at Don’s Seafood, a local eatery who I have only later found out has been purchased way from the family owners. The food was… less than stellar. It tasted plastic. It was…boring. But, I still get my Community Coffee – shipped up from Amazon.

And this morning…I get to go to a Southern Baptist Church.

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Hope

OnceYouChooseHopeThis Sunday is Palm Sunday and also the Sunday that I will join my local UMC. It is technically a transfer as I have moved, but that does not make it any less momentous for me. It is really the perfect day to join the church I think. Palm Sunday is, of course the day that we celebrate Christ riding into Jerusalem to set into motion the events that would change everything. It is the Sunday that we are reminded that our purpose is to continue to change ourselves through the continuing conforming to the likeness of Christ and also through our service to a world in need. This Sunday, it is also the reminder of hope.

Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. That is, I think, what the local church is at its best. The expectation and desire for our own transformation, for the transformation of our neighborhoods because of our transformation and so on and so on. The expectation and desire for the return of Christ and the new heaven and earth that we are all desperately in need of. The expectation and desire of the unity of the body. The expectation and desire that not only can it be better, that it will be better so long as we remain in that perfect hope that Christ brings. 

In the world today we are constantly reminded of all the reasons that we should lose hope. The 24/7 news cycle making sure we are aware of every evil that exists, of the conflicts in the protestant and catholic church. The personal struggles and failings of pastors played out on a national stage, etc. The local church and its reminder of the hope in Christ seems to be the best, and perhaps only option, to not be consumed by all the other things we see and hear.

Coming up is Palm Sunday, then holy week and eventually Easter. The promises of this time are many. The promise of resurrection, the promise of salvation, and the promise that there will come a time when the world is as it should be. Those promises are for the future and are wonderful and comforting to hold on to, but don’t forget the gift of hope. That gift is what allows us to all hold on until the promises are fulfilled.

 

Perspective

It’s been a rough day, so just a short example of how the ways we choose to view things affect how we see the world an circumstances around us. “God is nowhere” and “God is now here”. See, it’s all in how you look at it. Take a breath, step back, give the struggle some space and then make a decision on how to respond. After all some space can make all the difference.

When Christians love theology more than people

http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/01/22/when-christians-love-theology-more-people

I really wish that I could claim writing this particular blog. (I also wish I knew how to make the link clickable, sorry for you having to copy/paste in the browser) It is insanely insightful and relevant to the practice of a lot of Christians in this day and age. Oddly enough, my evangelical and conservative Wesleyan brothers and sisters would say that this is a very liberal approach etc. I would say that it is actually the very nature of who we are called to be, and the very tradition that we sprang from. This is how I try to deal with people in general, and I think the point the above piece is trying to make. If someone doesn’t know Jesus, that is all I am going to try to show them. After all, theology didn’t die on the cross, Christ did.

One of those days…

This took place a few days ago (the 17th I think) and had a profound effect on me. I have probably missed several lessons in this experience, but perhaps it will affect you, and perhaps you can help me with the lessons I inevitably missed:

I don’t maintain a blog as there is not often a time when I have something particularly profound to say, but today I do, so pardon the length and indulge me for a moment if you will. So far, this Lenten season has been difficult at best. It has been filled with personal and health difficulties, issues with the apartment management where I live, car troubles, and financial challenges that have unexpectedly cropped up. This morning I had a meeting with the manager of the used car lot and the manager of the service department to deal with an ongoing issue with the car that has not been solved…check that, several issues. Filled with frustration and the conviction this was going to be unpleasant at best, and an argument at worst and most likely, I woke up early to go over the warranty, technical details of the issues and the notes from my conversations with other service departments, including the corporate KIA technical advisers. I was as prepared as I could be and ready to commence the fight that was certain to ensue. Upon arrival, I found out that the service manager was unexpectedly out for the day, so they would not be attending. My hopes sank immediately as I was now certain not only would it be a fight today, but I’d have to come back another day to fight as well. As I stepped into the lot manager’s office, an odd thing occurred as a sudden peace and calm washed over me. As I opened my mouth to begin my arguments, I found myself instead saying “thank you for meeting with me and all the work that you have done.” As I prepared to rail against the repairs that had been done and not solved the problem, I found myself saying “I am especially thankful that these repairs were done as they will assuredly head off future problems.” As I was reaching what I was certain to be my peak of frustration and anger going over what the corporate people had told me, I instead found myself calmly explaining things and expressing my concern and frustrations rationally and with a calm head. The service manager thanked me for my humility in approaching the problems. He took diligent notes and came to a more than reasonable solution to the issues. I thanked him and shook his hand and he said “Don’t worry, I will take care of you in this.” Today God protected me from the biggest enemy I often have, myself. That is worthy of Lenten reflection. Today I heard the voice of God and it didn’t come as a still small voice, or in the storm ala Job, it sounded a lot like Jeff, the used car lot manager, and it said “Don’t worry, I will take care of you in this”. I think that is worthy of Lenten reflection as well.

Sunday Morning Sermon @Ravenswood1UMC

I… I just got here. To the United Methodist Church, I mean. I didn’t survive the time the conservatives split to support slavery while the progressives supported abolition. I didn’t survive the battles against women ordination when conservatives threatened women pastors, ridiculed them, and left the UMC because of it. I didn’t survive the rounds of talk about divorced and remarried clergy and how we should affirm a call rather than a mistake.

I believe Scripture, however, therefore I do not believe anyone should leave. As a matter of fact, progressives need conservatives to provide a Scriptural foundation. Conservatives need progressives to provide them a heart and grace.

My sermon is based on Genesis 12.1-4. It is about the move from one place to another, from fear to faith. It is essentially a “why the UMC” sermon. The first sermon was for inspiration and authority of Scripture but against inerrancy, infallibility, and being locked into a “bible only” or a “bible must” mentality. The second was about Grace. So, it was a build up, a lead in series.

Anyway, here you go.