Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Does God Grade on a Curve?

Tests aren't so bad if you are ready for them.

In college, I took an Economics course my senior year.  I had studied for the final exam and I had the correct classroom and building for where it would be.

I made my way confidently to the room and found that I was the first to arrive.

I began to look over my notes for a little bit of last minute cramming.

I kept looking at the clock and my watch.  No one else was showing up.  I started to get a little nervous as it was getting close to test time.  Was I in the wrong room?

Was I even in the right building?

The time came and went and I was the only person there.  It is at this point that you get that sinking feeling in your stomach that all is not right with the world.

I sought out my instructor's office and found out that I didn't have the wrong building or the wrong room or even the wrong time.

I had the wrong day!

The exam had been given the previous day.  This was unfortunate in that I needed to pass this class in order to graduate which I was scheduled to do in just a few days.

I pleaded for mercy from the instructor and he allowed me to take a make-up test.

I was so thankful - it was amazing how fast that feeling of anxiety went away.

Testing is difficult in life.  Sometimes we face it well and sometimes we need a little help. Sometimes we are totally unprepared and we get the curve ball when we were expecting the slider.

As Christians, where does God enter into the mix on testing us?  In the lectionary reading for this Sunday, Abraham truly believes that God is testing his faith in a way that is beyond our comprehension.  Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar to God.

Since blood sacrifice is not something in which we participate on a regular basis, this doesn't fit within our regular view of how life works.  Sacrificing a child seems monstrous and someone who would do this would not be deemed faithful but rather insane.

Do you believe that God tests us in life?  If so, how?  I would be interested in your comments.  I'll be wrestling with this text this Sunday and if you are near the Edmond area, I would love to have you join us for worship at 8:30 or 11:00 am.

In Christ,


Photo By KF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wait Up, I'm Your Leader!

Have you ever been in a meeting that went on forever?

I've seen them last far longer than necessary and at the same time accomplish very little.

Most people are willing to follow a leader if there is clear purpose and direction set that is congruent with their own sense of identity.

One of the things I enjoy is hiking.  I especially enjoy hiking at our United Methodist Canyon Camp which is located within the Red Rock Canyon chain in Oklahoma.  This is a great setting to see and most people don't realize the beauty available to us for only about an hour's drive.

At our various church camps, I have become notorious for exploring while taking youth hiking.  We may get off trail a little bit.  We sometimes see things I've not yet encountered.  Sometimes it even seems as if we are lost.

That's the interesting thing about the canyons.  I don't always know where we are specifically.  But I always have a sense of where we need to be.

In other words, we may be hiking a new trail, alongside a cliff.  There is no way down that we can see.  I know that we need to be on the other side of this valley - on the cliff opposite of us.

Are we lost?

Yes and no.

We are lost in the sense that I don't know a way down the valley and up the other side - yet.

But we know where we are in the sense that we know where we need to be.  The adventure comes in getting there!

It is inevitable that some don't enjoy this dichotomy.  They usually ask me more than once, "Are you lost?"

The unknown is fearful and this "adventure" may bring more anxiety than serenity.

Others are comfortable in the journey.  They are able to trust in me as a leader and see the wonder of new parts of the canyon they haven't seen before.
Going down?  The way from the top of the cliff to the bottom is not
always obvious and when we find one, we try it out!

Some are a little of both. They may need to go with me on an outing or two before they begin to trust me as a leader. They realize that I've always brought everyone back. No one has ever died on one of my hikes even though some playfully refer to them as "death hikes".

Sometimes trust just needs to be earned.

This is very similar to our gospel reading for Sunday from the lectionary.
Matthew 10:24-39 speaks of not being anxious at the same time that it speaks of conflict within the family!  So which is it Jesus?  Are we lost?

Yes and no.

The Christian faith is a journey that requires trust.  If you are in the Edmond area on Sunday morning, I hope that you'll join us for worship at 8:30 am or 11:00 am as we share in the journey together through this particular scripture.  We also have a smaller, more intimate worship service at 9:45 am where we celebrate Holy Communion.  In this alternate service, we will continue to look at the Trinity as we see God expressed as the Son.  May God's blessings abound in your life this week and if you get lost along the way, we'll help you find your way back to the path!

In Christ,


Picture by Madison Harry from North Oklahoma City District Camp 2009 at Canyon Camp

Monday, June 9, 2014

Got Milk?

"I gave you milk to drink instead of solid food, because you weren’t up to it yet.  Now you are still not up to it because you are still unspiritual. When jealousy and fighting exist between you, aren’t you unspiritual and living by human standards?"
                 Paul of Tarsus, 1 Corinthians 3:2-3 (Common English Bible)

Some situations cause you to grow up faster than you might expect.  As a 7th grader, I had my left Achilles tendon torn up in a motorcycle accident.  This left me off my feet or on crutches for about six months as I went through several surgeries in recovery.   

At this time, hospitals put juveniles four to a room and parents didn't stay the night with their children.

I remember that first night when visiting hours were over and my parents left for home which was about 30 minutes away.  It seemed a little lonely even though there were other kids in the room.  I suppose it would have been worse if I had been by myself.

As I lived through this, I found that I was able to handle other situations that arose without too much difficulty.  It made me mature faster than I would have otherwise and I faced other things with the confidence that experience brings.

Unfortunately, this didn't mean that I was mature in all things.  We all have areas that we can improve upon.  I think that is what the Apostle Paul means when he is telling the church at Corinth that they were not quite ready for solid food in a spiritual sense.  They were jealous of one another.  They fought with one another.  They needed to continue to grow in Christ.

Got Milk?
A good question for us to consider is where do I need to grow the most spiritually?  What are my strengths and what are my weaknesses?  Do I love my neighbor as much as I love myself yet?  

As we look toward the lectionary passages, this Sunday we'll be focusing on the idea of the disciples inheriting the ministry that Jesus had developed in his physical time on earth.  Were they ready to face the challenge?  

Are we?

Photo by Keven Law (Flickr: Got Milk...) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Word, Sacrament, Order and Service

For the first time this century, I will be the pastor of a new United Methodist congregation. June 8th will be my first Sunday to preach at First United Methodist Church of Edmond although I had previously officiated at a wedding there.

As I consider this change, I've been thinking about my own call as an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church.  Elders are ordained to Word, Sacrament, Order and Service.

Of course, I started as a lay person just as any clergy does.  As I grew up in the church, I began to understand God's call upon my life to ordination - to allow the church  to set me apart for this important work.  I've always felt that this is a rare privilege to live into - the setting oneself apart for the good of the church.

Word is something that I've come to enjoy - preaching, teaching and writing are all areas that I love.  They are organic things that are dependent upon the community and I learn and grow through these from our interaction in worship, study and conversation.

Sacrament is my call to baptize and share in Holy Communion with the world.  I will be offering these sacred sign-acts of God primarily through the locale of Edmond First UMC. Baptism connects us to the Body of Christ in a universal sense.  Holy Communion nourishes us as the Body and pulls us back into service for Christ.  Both of these are joys in my life that I look forward to sharing in this new (to me) setting.

Order is my call to administer the unique Wesleyan heritage that we've embraced as United Methodists.  Our denominational name implies that we are methodical and organized.  Providing structure while allowing God's grace to move through us in this way can sometimes be a balancing act.  Order becomes more important for larger churches and I will be looking forward to growing in this part of my call as we grow together.

Service is not unique to ordination.  Our Baptism calls all of us to Christian service.  Yet, this is important for the style of leadership that elders are to embrace.  We are to hold up Christian service as a living illustration for all the congregation to see.  Leading by example is the clear expectation.  This is not an easy calling and it will be important for us to hold each other accountable as the Body of Christ.

Only by God's grace will I be effective in these four areas of my ordination.  As I come to experience these in a new setting, I'm confident that God will continue to work through the laity and clergy so that we all might grow more closely into the likeness of Christ.

One thing I've learned is that God is continually doing a new thing all the time.  I think we are about to be caught in the middle of one - how exciting!

In Christ,