Monday, December 29, 2014

Good Riddance 2014

Ephesians 1:3-14    (NRSV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.



Christmas in Ferguson

I don't know about you --- but I cannot imagine what Christmas was like in Ferguson --- Or New York for that matter.

But what I do know, is that when I went home following the 11pm service on Christmas Eve --- and as I sat on our couch looking at the Christmas tree I thought of both places.
Trying to find peace in my own heart

My mind kept focusing on those who feel disenfranchised --- often, systemically by our society --- which is what Ferguson has come to mean to me.

But my mind kept battling with the dichotomy of the events that have taken place in New York these last days.
First, the death of Eric Garner

Followed by the murders of two innocent police officers

What has really ripped me apart is way we have responded to these events.

A couple of things have really gotten to me

1)       Our lack of sensitivity for people
We seem to believe that everybody experiences life like we do

That everybody has the same opportunities that we do

And failure to live like us --- means that they are thugs, lazy, you can fill in the word you wish

Part of the reason we believe that is that at some core level we thing the world revolves around us (personally)

2)       The lack of willingness to suggest that anybody but the police officer is correct.

I am not suggesting that police are bad people.

Rather, just the opposite, I believe that police officers have one of the most challenging jobs and that we need to stand beside them.

HOWEVER, they need to not pretend that they don’t make any mistakes.
Just like we have struggled to who clergy responsible for their pedophilia, we need to hold our police officers accountable for their actions.

The police departments response in New York at the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos is just plain wrong. 
By turning their backs on Mayor de Blasio, they made a statement that they are above reproach --- above accountability.

They certainly have the right to voice their complaints that people were allowed to peacefully protest and that the Mayor allowed that to happen.
But, so do the people who wished to protest peacefully

That is what makes our system of government great
          That we can disagree with one another --- without threat

If it was the other way around --- how would we respond?

The biggest problem --- sin, if you will, is what we might call White Exceptionalism

The problem is, that for many of us --- for many Anglo's we believe that: If the situation were reversed, we wouldn't act like that.

This is not just about riots or even black anger --- although we can't rule that out.

What I am talking about is a deeply held --- you might even say a sub-conscious belief that we would have never let ourselves be enslaved in the first place, and if we had, we would have outsmarted our black captors and liberated ourselves.

If the rolls had been reversed --- there would have not been Jim Crow laws, or lynching's or even deteriorating ghettos in urban cities.

The truth is --- most white folk just can't imagine themselves in the shoes of black people --- and the reason being that we find it inconceivable that whites would have ever been so oppressed in the first place.

Think about how insidious this is. 

It suggests that human beings do not react to the same situations in the same way no matter what their race;
that black people react in a black way and white people react in a white way. 

I think this is where the disconnect between the races really happens.

Blacks quite naturally think: "You would feel exactly as we do in the same circumstances." 

And it bounces right back off the Teflon wall of white arrogance.
"No, we wouldn't," is the unspoken response.
"We're different than you are. We would never have found ourselves in the same situation."

Eric Garner pleaded 11 times: "I can't breathe."
          Eleven times his pleas were ignored. 
That deafness does not belong to that officer alone.

It is the mass deafness of our white culture to acknowledge black humanity as equal to our own.

There was a powerful article written by two Master of Divinity students at Union Theological Seminary.

It shared their experiences at a protest in New York City

This is what they wrote:
On Friday night, we participated in a peaceful protest march calling for change. Together we lay in Macy's, in Grand Central, and on the wet, cold ground of Bryant Park. Together we marched through the streets of our city, demanding that justice be served against those sworn to protect and serve when they so egregiously violate this promise. The march ended on the FDR when we stood together, arm-in-arm, as riot police charged.

We linked arms to show that neither of us stood alone. We linked our arms to show our solidarity in the fight against injustice, police brutality and the slaying of black bodies. We loudly proclaimed that black lives matter.

But then their story takes an interesting twist.

As a line of riot cops approached, two officers broke off and headed directly toward us. Both of them went after the black one of us, Shawn, forcefully ripping us apart. A few seconds later an officer grabbed Ben, the white one of us, and threw him to the ground.

Then the officer leaned over and whispered in Ben's ear, "Just get out of here."

No such offer was made to Shawn. Ben stood up, suddenly and bewilderingly free, and saw Shawn being dragged off towards the police vans.

The story goes on, but I think you know where I am going with this

They found that while:
Justice may be blind, but the officers who enforce it are most certainly not.

My biggest frustration was when I tried to engage some of the United Methodist Churches in our area, to at least dialog about what was going on --- but at the end of the day --- everyone was too busy with Christmas preparations to deal with the pain and injustice that is going on around us --- but not effecting us personally.
          White churches
          Black churches
                   It didn't matter

I am not even going to talk about the Torture report that was released earlier this month.

OK, I will say this --- I don't think it is possible to be a follower of Jesus and condone torturing anybody.

Jesus would tell us --- the end NEVER justifies the means.

Wrong is wrong!

But not only was 2014 a frustration for me from a social level --- it was also extremely frustrating spiritually.
Because in case you have never noticed --- I can’t separate the two

For the first time in 30 years of ministry ---- I was ready to move on and do something else.

I am sure my physical issues played a huge part in it
·         Vertigo last winter
·         Herniated disk this fall

Dealing with these physical issues made me really question . . . is this what I am supposed to be doing.

While Ferguson, New York, Cleveland and now Milwaukee have all torn at my soul --- I feel like I am standing all alone on an island.

Nobody seems to care

I fell prey to believing that I could not do anything --- that I could not make a difference.

Alice Walker once said:
"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."

I understand that, because that is exactly what I did.
          That is what I am struggling with

I became convinced that I was unable to effect change in the world --- and when that happens --- one is in deep trouble.

I am doing my best to avoid the regret of the Anglican Bishop that I quoted from on the cover of your bulletin:
When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.
But it, too, seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.”

I can only change me

And I refuse to go back and ignore the injustices of the world.

Call me na├»ve if you wish --- I don’t mind

One of the challenges for me --- is figuring out how God wants me to spend the rest of my life.

I say good-bye to my complacent self --- the one who believes that I am different from my black brothers and sisters --- the one who thinks they are BETTER than my Palestinian and Afghani neighbors

Good riddance to the past --- and hello to an uncertain future.

Let me close with these words from Mother Teresa --- because this I do believe!

There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.


I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.


http://thetrashwhisperer.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-tenacious-myth-of-white.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-shawn-torres/post_8722_b_6316726.html



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bringing Joy

Bringing Joy

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24   (NRSV)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.




I have come to the conclusion that I am not a very joyful person.
I struggle with just letting go and being joyful
My inner child is kept pretty closely guarded and hidden away

I don’t know why I am that way ---
          I don’t always like that I am that way
          But it is just the way that I am

Sometimes I am afraid to be too joyful --- wondering if people will like me or respect me if I am?

When I try to force myself to be joyful --- I feel phony and dishonest.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of great joy.

Remember how the angels sang:
“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”

Yet for many people, Christmas is anything but joyful.

All kinds of factors can make this a most difficult and challenging season.

·         Loneliness
Our society makes the holiday season all about families and getting together

That can be very difficult for those who have no family or whose family lives a long way away

·         Illness

Think of Erin's mom Peggy who is having major surgery on December 23rd

Can you image the anxiety at their household

Erin shared this with me:
The best outcome includes loss of hearing in left ear, facial paralysis for up to 18 months and radiation. The worst case scenario is not necessarily life threatening, just effects her quality of life. It would include a feeding tube and some kind of tracheotomy. 

I cannot fathom how difficult this season is for them.

·         Loss of a loved one

On Saturday Dec 17th, 2011 Nancy's Dad, Ed Hollowell died after a long battle following multiple strokes.  We got the word of his passing during rehearsal for the children's pageant that morning.

We left following church on the 18th, swinging by to pick up the girls, to make the long trip to the North Carolina coast

His funeral was three days later, December 20th --- and I had the privilege of presiding over it.

You can imagine how Christmas was at our house that year.  We got home, on Dec 23rd, just in time for me to get the final preparations for Ridge's Christmas Eve service done.  I wasn't in the most joyful spirit that year!  I think I was just going through the motions

Later that year --- somebody told me how terrible my sermon was that Christmas Eve --- I wasn't surprised --- it was a hard time

·         Divorced families

Scott McClellan in an article he wrote for the Storyline blog tells a powerful story. 
He writes:

It’s Christmas 1989, and my dad’s black Chevy Beretta is idling out at the curb. Time is up at my mom’s for my sister and me, and now we have to shuffle off to another destination on the other side of town, on the other side of this fractured family tree.

We’d woken up early that morning and tried to rush through the presents and breakfast. We’d packed the night before and hurried to change out of new pajamas and into new sweaters and jeans.

But we still ran out of time.

I wanted to stay, to soak in the sense of place and the blessed carnage of scattered boxes and shredded wrapping paper, but no one blocked off space for that on the calendar.

We had to leave right then — that was the agreement — so we could get over there for the early thing, then onto the lunch thing, then back for the later thing after that. Dad was waiting. We had to get onto his things so that we could get through those things and back later for Mom’s things. So many things, but none of them felt sacred.

I was only seven.

But even then I knew Christmas wasn’t supposed to be that way. Movies, TV, songs and commercials told me so. They spoke of magic and meaning, togetherness and tenderness.

Instead, we found ourselves working out the tense implications of a newly minted custody arrangement. . . .

And here’s the thing: Scrooges like me aren’t born; they’re made. One year at a time, one conflict at a time, one fa-la-la-la-la-la-la at a time. Eventually, anticipation gives way to dread. Excitement gives way to anxiety. Revelry gives way to humbuggery.

I am willing to bet, that there are quite a few Scrooges here at Ridge church --- made one circumstances at a time ---- that sometimes seem beyond our control.

So what do we do?

How do we find JOY?  Especially during this season . . .

I came across a fascinating article this week about CS Lewis. 

Recently a letter that he wrote to a Mrs Ellis on August 19, 1945 was found inside a secondhand book. 
          What a treasure to find.

This letter was written three years before he wrote his memoir: Surprised by Joy

Lewis tells Ellis in this letter that “everything is going well”, but goes on to explain that he does not mean “joy” by this. “In fact I meant by ‘things going well’ just that security – or illusion of security – which you also regard as unhealthy. Real joy seems to me almost as unlike security or prosperity as it is unlike agony,” he writes.

“It jumps under one’s ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’ nights. It shocks one awake when the other puts one to sleep. My private table is one second of joy is worth 12 hours of Pleasure.”

Lewis goes on to write of how “the physical sensations of joy and misery are in my case identical”, and of how “just the same thing happens inside me on getting the good or the bad news”. He adds a short postscript to the letter: “Don’t you know the disappointment when you expected joy from a piece of music and get only pleasure: Like finding Leah when you thought you’d married Rachel!”

Joy, he would write in his memoir, later, “must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again … I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”

Joy is never in our power --- Lewis wrote.

Joy --- "jumps under one’s ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one sleepless (at) night. It shocks one awake . . . One second of joy is worth 12 hours of Pleasure.”

Our text this morning from Paul is a letter that he wrote to the church in Thessaloniki, Greece (Macedonia)

Paul is challenging us in some very specific ways.

He tells us:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances

It is a great idea --- but it isn't always very easy

Eugene Boring in his commentary on Mark notes that:
Christian faith embraces the whole of life and is not a matter of moods or 'giving God his part.'  All of life can be a joyous celebration of the presence of God.  This is not a matter of how one feels but of what God has done for us.

I think most of us make the mistake that Paul, Boring and Lewis are trying to correct.  We connect joy with pleasure.

The quote from the front of your bulletin: (Daniel Clendenin)
Joy is more elusive, more subtle and more nuanced than happiness, a predisposition to cheerfulness, persevering with emotional extra effort, or the luck of good fortune. . . . joy is entirely gratuitous. You cannot earn it, buy it or deserve it. It is a divine gift to receive rather than a selfish goal to pursue.

Joy is entirely gratuitous ---- it is a divine gift!

The problem is we think the opposite of joy is sadness or sorrow --- and that is just not true. 
          The opposite of joy is anxiety.

In other words, the only way we can find joy is to put our trust in God.

Luke 12:22-25   (NRSV)
 “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. . . . Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your . . . life?

John 15:11   (NRSV)
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

The world celebrates the "joy" of Easter and Christmas, but it's not really JOY.

It is more a warm and fuzzy feeling that we connect to the holiday through our memories with family and friends.

Real joy comes only after we allow God to deal with the brokenness in our lives.

We light the candle of JOY today because we want to recognize that Jesus is the climax of all history --- and apart from Jesus we can never find real joy.

Joy isn't something we can make --- joy is something that we are given by God.

We have to quite equating please with joy --- real Joy --- God's joy is a gift for each of us --- if we will slow down long enough --- open our eyes --- open our hearts --- and let God's JOY wash over us.

And when we have that joy --- God wants us to know that we cannot hoard it for ourselves --- it is meant to be shared
And God invites us to be agents in sharing that Joy

We do that by inviting them into that life changing relationship with Jesus

On Thursday this past week I was installed as Chairman of the Board of the Munster Chamber of Commerce. 
Seven years ago I served as President of the Munster Rotary Club
And was a member of the Lake County Library Foundation
As well as the Munster Education Foundation
          And chaplain of the Munster Police Force

All of those happened because somebody shared with me.

Over ten years ago, I walked into People's Bank to move some bank accounts because the bank we started with when we moved here (Pinnacle Bank) had been bought out and we were not happy with the new bank.

While I was in there I met the Bank Manager (Mike McIntyre) and we began to talk.
          He INVITED me to attend a Rotary meeting
                   And when I didn't show up, he called and offered to pick me up

He INVITED me to the Munster Chamber of Commerce, as well as nominated me for the Muster Education Foundation and the Lake Country Library Foundation

All because he invited me

Who is God nudging you to invite the Christmas?

Share the JOY, share the GRACE, share God's UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

------------------------------------------------------------
CS Lewis article: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/09/unseen-cs-lewis-letter-defines-joy-surprised-by-joy

Scott McClellan article: http://storylineblog.com/2014/12/09/when-you-cant-find-joy-in-the-christmas-season/


Daniel Clendenin, Journey With Jesus blog for January 15, 2007, journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20070115JJ.shtml

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Two years later . . .

I don’t know if you have seen the article in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor that reported that for the first time since the Sandy Hook tragedy, more Americans support gun rights than support gun control.  This is a big switch that has taken place less than two years following the shooting that took place at Newtown in which 27 people (and the gunman) were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The figures come from a Pew Research Center report.  Some other interesting findings from the study suggest that 6 in 10 Americans believe that gun ownership does more to protect a person from being a victim of crime and 4 in 10 believe that it does more to endanger personal safety.

This caught my eye today since there was a report in the Chicago Tribune that said that there have been 95 gun related shootings on school properties since Sandy Hook.  Half on K-12 campuses, the other half on college campuses. 

That equals almost one incident per week.  You can, and some will, argue over the statistics and if they are “really school shootings” but I think that is missing the point.  We have become an increasingly violent society and believe that a bullet is the way to protect what “is ours.”  That is clear in the gun buying frenzy that took place in Ferguson following the decision by the grand jury not to seek prosecution against officer

CBS news reported yesterday that 80% of whites believe that their local police force makes them feel mostly safe, but that number drops to 52% in the black population.  It also reported that 43% of the black population report that they local police make them feel mostly anxious.

We are standing at a precipice.  One that we haven’t stood on since the 60’s the only difference is that this time it seems to be more violent and vitriolic.  The CBS poll really shows the disparity on how the white and black population view the role of police, deadly force and even race relations in general.

The good news in all of this is that Eric Garner’s death seems to have struck a chord in many white churches.  While Michael Brown’s death was disconcerting, the circumstances surrounding it are very murky to many people.  However, Mr. Garner’s death and the video of it, leave little to the imagination and have become a rallying cry against excessive force.

Players in the NBA and even the Georgetown University Men’s Basketball have been wearing shirts that proclaim Mr. Garner’s cry: “I Can’t Breath.”  This groundswell has touched the hearts of many Americans (on all sides of the racial divide) and has helped many of us to have the courage to stand up and begin to seek solutions to the insidious side of prejudice in America.

I confess, that I often stereotype, and thus prejudice myself against people I do not know.  I am struggling to become more aware of those (way too often moments) so that I can put them in their place.

And I am committed to crossing the divide that we (I) have made --- psychologically and physically that keeps me from getting to know my brothers and sisters.  And I refuse to believe that peace is found at the end of the barrel of a gun, instead I have chosen to put my trust in the Way of Jesus.  A Way that offers love, and hope to all --- not just some.

I hope you will join me in praying for a more just society, and a less prejudiced world.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

What The World Needs Now!

I had an interesting conversation with one of Munster's police officers this week.  He stopped and asked me a rather interesting question.

He wanted to know if I was planning, or knew of any protests that might be planned in response to the recent grand-jury decisions.

I told him, NO --- and before I could say even another word --- he launched into a diatribe against Father Pfleger and St Sabina's Church in Chicago that has been at the heart of many of the protests in Chicago this week.

He went on to tell me how religion shouldn't be engaged in that kind of activity --- and he hoped that there would not be any protests in Munster.

Today is the second Sunday of Advent.

And our scripture this morning is all about John the Baptist and his role in preparing the way for Jesus

Mark 1:1-8   (NRSV)
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

John, in our Gospel tradition, has only one purpose and that is to announce the coming of Jesus.

That seemed to be the extent of his ministry --- at least as far as the author of the Gospel of Mark is concerned.

John wants to let us know --- that something was coming
          Something radical
                   something that would change the world
something that would change you and me

The real question that John was asking each of us is --- are you ready?

Are you ready for Jesus to come with this radical message?
          Are you preparing the way?

On this second Sunday of Advent our focus this morning is on love.

Certainly something that the world desperately needs!

Let me ask you:
What is the craziest thing you have ever done for love?

What lengths would you go for the one that you love?

We hear stories all the time of people who go to great lengths for people that they do not even know

·         Someone donates a kidney
·         Bone Marrow Transplant

And think of the stories of what parents will do for their children

·         drive all night to be home for a school play
·         jump out of an airplane

WHAT WOULD YOU DO FOR LOVE?
          I want you to think for a minute and try to answer that question . . .

Maybe that isn't the right question ---- maybe the real question should be: WHAT WOULDN'T YOU DO FOR LOVE?

The truth is --- we say we will do lots of things --- but words can become empty phrases if they are not backed up by action.

Love songs are filled with images of the tangible ways people have acted on love --- ways that they want the whole world to see.

·         Love is the yellow ribbons tied on oak trees all over a community
·         Love is Marvin Gaye proclaiming that there "Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough" to keep him from his lover
·         Love is Todd Rundgren going from shore to shore to remind us all that Love is the Answer

Do you remember that beautiful song from A Chorus Line: What I Did For Love?

The actors are reflecting on the often painful sacrifices that they have made in their quest to be successful on Broadway.

They remember all that they have had to endure

Did what we had to do
Won't forget, can't regret
What I did for love

They were willing to do whatever it took
          endless rehearsals
                   late hours
                             hard work
                                      travel away from home
Whatever it took was an acceptable offering for the love of the stage.

Did what we had to do
Won't forget, can't regret
What I did for love

Advent is about God's love for us
God is willing to do WHATEVER it takes to show us love

This kind of love that God wants to show us requires courage

I think we all know where God's love is leading us.
This love started in a manger
Angels singing
Animals lowing
Stars shining
But it ends on a cross

God's love for us does not run away from the pain and realities of life.

If anything --- God's love follows us into those painful valleys reminding us over and over:

That there ain't no mountain high enough
No valley low enough
No river wide enough
          To keep God's love from washing over us

And John today is reminding us --- ARE YOU READY --- BECAUSE JESUS IS COMING!

And as I re-read the story of John crying out in the wilderness

'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,' . . . “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

or in even more simple language, I love Peterson's translation from THE MESSAGE

'Prepare for God’s arrival! Make the road smooth and straight!' . . . “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”

I am struck by the assumption that the police officer was making about Christianity in our discussion.

He saw Christians as people who kept the status quo. 
          Who protect what is. 
Who turn their backs on injustices (if those injustices were not affecting the majority group)

But that is not the One whom John was clearing the way for.

Jesus didn't come to protect those who were in authority.

Jesus didn't come to keep the status quo.

Jesus came to turn the world upside down and offer a new way.

A way of love.  PERIOD

Not a way of love for some.
          Nor a way of love that blessed some and damned others.

Jesus came turning the world on its head because he sought to turn over the tables on anything that prevented love.

I don't know how well you follow the news --- but last Monday was World AIDS Day

If you are not familiar with World AIDS day let me quote from their website explaining the purpose of the day.
World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.

Last Sunday, a Baptist Pastor in Tempe Arizona preached a sermon that has gone viral on the internet.

The sermon isn’t going viral because Pastor Steve Anderson preached the good news of Jesus Christ. The sermon is going viral because the pastor called for the murder of every LGBT person as a solution to end HIV and AIDS.
          Seriously

His sermon was titled:" AIDS, The Judgment of God" and he quoted from Leviticus and argued that "gays should be killed."

Pastor Anderson said:
“Turn to Leviticus 20:13 because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS,” he said as his congregation laughed. “This is the cure for AIDS. Everyone is talking about ‘let’s have an AIDS free world by 2020.’ Look, we can have an AIDS free world by Christmas,” which evoked more laughter.

Leviticus says:
Leviticus 20:13   (NRSV)
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death

I don't know about you --- but to preach that bothers me greatly.

And we can disagree over the use of Scripture and passages like that --- but I found his sermon reprehensible

To watch on TV --- the police officer put a choke hold on Eric Garner in New York, an unarmed black man who was selling cigarettes illegally.
Watching the video --- and watching Mr. Garner die in front of us all --- to me is appalling.

I don't know what to do . . .

But John says we are supposed to prepare the way for Jesus, and in light of Pastor Anderson's sermon, and Eric Garner's death and Tamir Rice's death --- I wonder what John would want us to do --- to make ready for Jesus.

I wonder what Jesus would want me to do if I really loved unconditionally like he loves me.

How far would I be willing to go?

What would I do if I really believed that:
That there ain't no mountain high enough
No valley low enough
No river wide enough
To stop me from loving ALL of God's children

I have to do something . . .

This sitting around on my hands is driving me crazy --- it is ripping a hole in my soul.
I can no longer just sit around and ignore the injustices that are going on around us.

I am in contact with some of the other United Methodist Pastor's in our area --- and am looking at having a gathering sometime this week --- hopefully in Gary.

What do I hope to accomplish?

I hope to prepare my heart for the advent of Jesus!

Not by getting my shopping done
Not by getting my stockings hung

But by living the LOVE of Jesus

I asked you earlier --- what you would do for love . . . What will you do with the love that Jesus has given you?

Come and receive his love and prepare for his return

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Mary Russell Novel

I am a huge fan of Laurie R. King and her Mary Russell Novels.  If you have never read any of her books, and you love a good mystery you need to.  She picks up the Sherlock Holmes tales and introduces Mary Russell who is Holmes’ young wife.  The stories are engaging and fun, yet like the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels, full of twists and mental challenges.

I have just finished her newest book, having secured an advanced copy of Dreaming Spies.  I don’t believe that I am supposed to review the book before it is published, so let me just say --- it is great!  Even though I have written my comments, I will wait until February 24th to post them.


What I will say is, if you are looking for a great Christmas present for somebody who loves a good story --- pick up some of the Mary Russell novels.  I have now read eight of them and have found that I can’t put them down.  I look forward to reading the others in the series.  I promise, you won’t be disappointed.