Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Shaking Off the Dust

When our kids were shooting off fireworks last weekend, it reminded me of my own childhood.  Bottle rockets (now banned) were among my favorites.  Some of the best things to do were to blow up the little green plastic army men.  Of course, all boys of that era had access to some.  Those toys have probably endured quite a bit through the years.
I never had a lunchbox like this one but I'm sure there
were kids at my school that did.

I remember our nation's Bicentennial back in 1975 and culminating on July 4, 1976. We had a lot of things around town painted red, white and blue to celebrate such as the local fire hydrants.  Quarters had special backs with the colonial drummer on them and a lot of my friends saved them because they were going to be worth a lot of money some day. Unfortunately, the book value today is still 25 cents!

On Saturday, we'll celebrate 240 years of independence.  It's hard to believe that it has been forty years since all of that excitement but there you go.  If you are in Edmond at the parade on Saturday, be sure to look for the church float that our Evangelism Committee put together!  The fourth of July is an important time to reflect on our independence as a nation and what we are doing with our freedom.  What kinds of things continue to define us as a country?

This Sunday, we'll continue in the Gospel of Mark for the lectionary as we examine 6:1-13.  This passage speaks of Jesus being rejected in his hometown.  Then as he instructs the disciples to go out into the villages and minister to them, he invites them to shake off the dust from their feet if they are not received by a town.  This custom was for Jews who left the Holy Land and returned.  When they were returning from a foreign area, they would shake off the dust from their sandals so as not to contaminate the Promised Land with unclean soil.  As Jesus instructs them to do this, he is making a declaration about those villages that do not show hospitality.  

Hospitality is a part of their identity.  Father Abraham was remembered as showing extravagant hospitality to strangers and it turns out that he was entertaining angels unaware!  This story became a part of their identity and when they refuse to minister to the stranger, they are the ones that miss out.

As we think about our identity as a nation, we can also reflect upon who we are as a church.  Do we show the kind of hospitality to strangers that Jesus would have us?  Do people feel comfortable coming in among us if they don't know us? 

I hope that there's not a lot of dust build-up outside our sanctuaries!

In Christ,


Photo from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Seeing Further

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
                                                                Isaac Newton, 1676

The church is a difficult entity to define.

It is a community of believers.

It is the bride of Christ.

But it is also the body of Christ.

The church has been described as the Communion of Saints.  It is also a hospital for sinners.

The church is united through the Holy Spirit and its members are baptized into the faith.

This baptism is a covenant where we seek to be accountable one to another.  I help you and you help me.  Individualism falls by the wayside in the church and that's okay.

At annual conference, I received the Denman Award for Evangelism.  This was given to me as an individual largely for the growth the church experienced in Piedmont while I was the pastor there.  While I am proud and honored to be the recipient, I also recognize that many others went into this growth.  Staff members ran programs that helped with discipleship.  Committees oversaw important ministries that met community needs and allowed us to be on the radar of the unchurched.  Laity set the tone for friendliness and hospitality when visitors walked through our doors.  The church grew not because of any one individual but because we were willing to put aside individual needs and look to the mission of what God is calling us to do.

I'm reminded of the Apostle Paul's word to the Corinthians when he said, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." (1 Corinthians 3:6, NRSV).

We're stronger together than we are apart.
Even in the midst of decline in the church as a whole, we see places where the church is thriving.  I believe that these are churches that are allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them. Sometimes this means allowing the church to move in new directions for the sake of the Gospel.  Sometimes it means giving up being territorial or having it your way.  But it also means building something that will last beyond your life.  It means making an impact for other people in profound ways.  It means transforming a world that begins to look and act more like we would imagine heaven to be.

I'm excited to start my second year in a church that is also on the move.  As we celebrate the successes we've accomplished this past year, I believe that we have tremendous potential for continuing to live out God's call on our lives.  This Sunday, we'll explore the faith of the church through the image of the seed found in Mark 4:26-34.  We'll see what God does with us together!

In Christ,


Photo by Mike DelGaudio (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons