Saw this on facebook…
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No matter how this Christian wants to stay away from politics, it seems as if politics refuses to stay away from him and leave him alone! I should either stop reading papers, political blogs, watching news on TV, reading news in the Internet and be a totally “fool on the hill” (as if I am not a fool everywhere else), by simply avoiding current affairs or, I have to engage lest I will be as a man with a terrible bowel discomfort who cannot find a bathroom nearby! The comparison may be crass but it is exactly the picture of me, in view of all these political things going around, attempting to stay silent and aloof.
The events of this weekend in Nevada where functionaries of the Government oppressed for whatever reason, just, unjust, fair or not, a family of cow ranchers are really something that more than butterflies in my stomach, cause me to see imaginary gigantic vultures swooping over the head of the freedom loving people of this country (the few of us, I guess) just waiting for them to die and degust on their carcasses. Tortoise or not, revenge from Mr. Reid for the opposition these cattle ranchers demonstrated toward him in the last election, the secret dealings of the government with environmentalists while still negotiating with a certain solar panel manufacturer to “donate” the piece of land in question so they can build their factory, or for whatever reason, the government is not supposed to treat citizens who, for ages, have been doing the same thing all over again, through generations, and were never bothered by the government which passes laws creating crimes that weren’t crimes ere the current public figures were elevated to high levels of government office. No, the government simple does not create an army-like force, with snipers, heavy weaponry to collect a civil debt from a cattle rancher who reasonably questions the debt in the first place and disputes about who the genuine owner of that land is. No sir! The government cannot treat its citizens that way no matter how long it has negotiated with the citizenry! As much as I try to shut up, we have due process, a Constitution to which to resort to find out who is on the right without leaving to activist judges and agencies of the government who work against the constitutionally prescribed citizen’s rights under the guise of environmental issues.
Besides all that, we keep hearing of the National Security Agency spying on its citizens, the proposition, or even the mentioning that immigration laws, although in the books are not to be enforced, that no one sent the a Bureau Land Management like force to defend the ambassador in Benghazi, but were quick to send it to harass cattle ranchers, and that the IRS has worked as a Gestapo kind of force persecuting citizens and abridging their right to have a voice in the electoral process, that the conscience of religious people is being trampled, and that the “gay-stapo” is now deciding who has a job and who does not based upon their opinion which has only one alternative: submit or else.
Have I listed enough items? Man, should I continue to speak about the impunity on the issue of Fast and Furious, of the Black Panther voter suppression and aggression, that were never investigated, or better, it was not something that the Justice Department saw fit to investigate? May I add the lies told by our own president about his trademark program, which are still being told under the guise of 7 million people who no one know whether were uninsured who became insured or insured who became uninsured thus resorting to buying some that they prefer not to have but had no choice in having? Why my government is bragging of reaching an unproven goal when it passed a law that everyone had to signup for its product under the penalty of a fine? Is it not easy to be the government, compel people to signup for something and then brag that the people who was compelled to signup signed up? Why are they bragging if they promised to insure 30 million people and only 7 million signed up, many who had insurance before, and still 30 million people continue without health care?
In Brazil there is this story about a Pentecostal, a very poor man who after moving out of his town, could not find a Pentecostal church and the only Church he could find to attend was a Presbyterian one with a formal and purely liturgical service where every line and every word was planned and orchestrated to the level of a Broadway act and this man could not hold his shouts, better shrieks, of Hallelujah Praise the Lord thus breaking the formality of the service and waking up some pew warmers. One day the minister of the Presbyterian Church noting the man was so poor that had no shoes, and at the same time worried about the frequent disruptions from this poor man approached him and asked him please not to scream at Church anymore and that next Sunday they would have a distinguished guest preacher and if he should be quiet just for that Sunday the congregation would give him a pair of shoes. The man agreed and Sunday came. The man tried to shut up and control himself the best he could, exactly was I was trying to do with my political issues, and in the middle of the sermon upon hearing the guest preacher mentioning the oceans and the seas, this poor man could no longer control himself and shouted: “I may go home barefooted, but Hallelujah, Praise the Lord; the preacher said Oceans, and I just happened to remember that my sins are in the bottom of the oceans, so, tough on your shoes, Hallelujah Praise the Lord”. That’s exactly the way I feel today; I may not lose a pair of shoes because I don’t need one and have none promised to me, but I may lose a lot of friends, but, I can no longer be quiet! Hallelujah, Praise the Lord the Constitution gives me the right to say these things!
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.
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.
As I was trying to sort my thoughts out to write something similar to this, it was emailed to me. After reading it, I have decided that I really couldn’t say it better.
This 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.
The news has broken that several conservative church leaders met, via conference call, to discuss many matters. I don’t suspect that any of them will actually read this, but this is my letter to them…will it do any good? Probably not, but it will make me feel better and maybe some who do read it will understand.
I am concerned over those who have chosen to act outside of the discipline. I am also concerned that there has been no consistent action taken. I agree that these actions have caused some damage to the church and it’s witness in the world. Something needs to be addressed and I am glad that you are meeting to try and do just that. I hope that your discussions were fruitful and Spirit led as this is a difficult time and place for the church.
I understand that there will be a smaller working group formed to bring suggestions to the larger group. This is also not a bad idea, and I hope it will prove fruitful. Included in said discussions are to be the idea of withholding funds. I pray this discussion goes something like this: “Should we hold funds back?” “No, it only further damages the church and only serves to hurt those who need those funds most.” As to the discussion of forming two or more denominations I pray the discussion goes like this: “Should we split?” “No, our greatest strength, save for God Himself, is our diversity. By splitting we limit that diversity and we discourage any deviation. That is stagnation and stagnation leads to death.” The third part of the discussion I see some hope in. Please ask and suggest not only a greater enforcement from the bishops, but establishing a set penalty so that it is known to all and can be enforced upon all equally.
When this discussion group is done, I pray that you will meet with those on the other side of the issue at hand. I pray that you will present your ideas clearly, concisely and lovingly. I pray that they are presented as idea and not an ultimatum. I pray that after, the more liberal groups will consider them and follow a process similar to the one that you have begun.
You, those who have met via the conference call, are people we look to to lead. That is a big part of what ‘the connection’ means to us lay people. You are the people we look to model faith to us, to show what a life lived out is to look like. We know this is a difficult, frustrating and confusing time for all of us who claim to be United Methodists. As this is Lent though perhaps the lesson here is that even Christ, on the night he was to be betrayed, welcomed His betrayer to the table. He welcomed him into fellowship and to share a meal. If Christ can welcome the man who would betray Him, can we not welcome those with who we disagree, no matter how fervently we disagree, to the table to work it out? Speaking of the table of communion, aren’t we instructed to work out our issues with our brother before we come? Let’s first be reconciled to our brothers before we try to discern what would be a proper offering so to speak in this difficult time. No matter the outcome and future of the UMC, in this one thing let us follow the teachings of scripture and be reconciled to each other before we make any decisions.
A hopeful layperson
I said it once and I will say it again! Those who devise non bibilically prescribed customs and feasts to the Christian faith are the ones who are “doing the work of the devil” reducing Christianity into a “fairy tale” with Santa Claus, Eastern Bunny and, of course, egg hunts, and certainly a few other childish parties.
Oh, of course these are such innocent things that they will hardly affect anyone, or any child’s forming faith, right? Wrong! You talk to your children about the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, along with teaching them about Jesus, then you expect that they will grow up and filter off the childish things and realize that none of these characters are real and for some miraculous reason, you hope that they will keep Jesus as a “truthful” character… What a hope!
Before you say it, as an avowed Calvinist I shouldn’t worry because after all God will preserve his own. It is right there in the “P” of T.U.L.I.P, or, “perseverance, (also preservation) of the saints, right? Wrong again! Yes, God will preserve His own but that doesn’t relieve you of your parent responsibility in raising your child in the most pure form of Christian faith!
Oh, I am all in favor of enjoying our liberty in Christ and I am all against legalism in any subtle or conspicuous form it rears its ugly head (and legalism’s head is in the rear), so, I am not talking about turning your child into an outcast, devoid of contact with society, and not participating in some “innocent” play, although such an “innocence” is debatable. What I am talking about is this militant stance in defending these types of activities not prescribed in the Bible as if they were somehow to be revered as something directly from heaven’s throne room! And how some do that? Answer: by calling anyone who opposes to such celebration a “anti-Christian” waging a “war on Christianity”, especially if one is not a Christian.
I said it before and I will say it again: God has used anyone to speak for Him, including a donkey, and God will also use those who are currently the enemies of His Gospel if that is what it takes to remove the attention from a stupid egg hunt that, in my view, a Church should not be promoting, and make the Church really turn their attention to what we are celebrating that day, that is, if we indeed celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. When a Muslim is outraged because of something that he was told is a Christian thing, read that outrage as perhaps God speaking through a donkey preventing us from turning the Gospel into a fairy tale sort of nursery rhyme, devoid of its meaningful and sacred and eternal meaning, and the ever changing power that it has been through the ages. Think about it!
So, Sunday I went to the theater to see the newest Captain America movie. I highly recommend it. It has some humor, it is genuinely fun to watch and is even a pretty good piece of social commentary on the dangers of mass data collection and to much power in the hands of to few people. A good watch and worth the price of admission. I remembered a few things about Captain America and reading the comic books as a child that I had forgotten as well. Things that actually matter and, oddly enough, lessons that helped shape the ideas and attitudes of a young boy.
The first thing that I remembered was Captain America’s greatest power. It was not the shield, even if he is the only person to be able to make a shield look cool, it wasn’t the training or even the super soldier serum. It was, simply, that he believed. Captain America believed that the world not only could be better than it was, he believed that it should be. He didn’t just fight the notorious super villains, he fought bigotry, racial injustice, drug addiction. He helped soldiers deal with PTSD, he saved prostitutes being victimized, he helped criminals who wanted to reform. He did the right thing no matter the cost. Most importantly, when he made a mistake, he didn’t just say he was sorry, he made amends and made things right. He believed that everyone around him could be more than they knew, then he inspired them to be.
The second thing I remembered, is that when he corrected someone, it never seemed condescending, it just seemed like he cared. One of my favorite lines in the comics has Captain America falling on top of an F-15 fighter jet canopy. The pilot exclaims “jeezus!” Captain says, “Just keep flying son and watch that potty mouth.” That is just who Captain America was. He wasn’t nasty, he wasn’t mean, he just reminded you to that you could be better and encouraged you to be better.
The last thing was that he knew what he was fighting for. He had seen and experienced things that caused him to be driven and not to give up. “Ninety percent of the casualties of World War I were soldiers. But half the people who died in World War II were civilians… Half of sixty-one million. I know why I’m fighting, I don’t want to see World War III.” and “There’s a difference between fighting against evil and fighting for the common good. I’m not always able to choose my battles… but effective immediately, I’m going to make an effort to choose the battles that matter. Battles against injustice, against cynicism, against intolerance. I will still serve with the Avengers. I will continue to defend this nation from any and all threats it may face. But as of today, I am not a “super hero.” Now and forevermore, I am a man of the people. Together, you and I will identify and confront America’s problems. Together, we will figure out what we are and what we can be. ” Captain America.
I really do encourage you to go see the Captain America movie. Like I said, it’s a fun watch. While you watch it though, don’t think of Captain America so much as a superhero, think of him as an idea. An idea of what we can be, and should be. A reminder that we can be better than we are. A reminder that, even if we don’t realize it, there is much more at stake than us and what we want. A reminder that we should be so dedicated that we could say the following: “These are dark and desperate times. I know that some of you are afraid. It’s alright. It’s perfectly natural. But I want you to know that I am not. I am not afraid to die this day because what we do here is necessary. It may seem impossible, our enemies may appear to be endless, but that doesn’t matter. Because there is no one else. Look at me. I believe in an idea, an idea that a single individual who has the right heart and the right mind that is consumed with a single purpose, that one man can win a war. Give that one man a group of people with the same conviction, and you can change the world.” Captain America, Let’s be a people with the same conviction. Let’s stop talking about changing the world, and actually go and do it.
It is interesting to watch the debates rage in other denominations. I know that the UMC had women pastors and view women as equal to men in everything, including the call to the Gospel. It did take some getting used to, however.
When the EC essentially split over the ordination of LGBT persons, with conservative groups forming their own communion with Canterbury, the debate over women’s ordination in the American Anglican church arose once more. Granted, there are differing views allowed but how long before these differences become new grounds for schism?
Take a moment and read what is happening in the Southern Baptist Church:
In his talk, Platt speaks about four gospel truths, ironically all taken from Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, not from the Gospels of the New Testament which detail Jesus ’actual words and actions. Watching his sermon, Platt’s gospel truths seemed more like opinion and conjecture, as he repeated his claim that, “We flee sexual immorality in our lives and we defend sexual complementarity for the sake of the gospel in the world.”
I’ve asked other UMCers what they think will happen to women’s ordination. Most believe the matter is settled or would be of little or no consequence. Yet, what I predict will happen is that any conservative UMC group (if a schism occurs) will have to revisit this matter. There are plenty of UMCers who believe that the UMC started to go downhill when women were ordained.