Sunday, June 19, 2016

Building a Better Christian

What kind of long-range plans or goals do you have for your life?

Savings usually come to mind.  People may be saving for retirement some day.  Or saving money to help put children through college.  Or saving money just in case hard times hit you and your family.  For some it is to simply pay down their credit card bills.

Some of our "fruit" may be riper than others!
Others have goals to finish college or to obtain a certain job.  The goal may be career oriented.  Some people have their lives so mapped out that a deviation from the plan seems like a failure rather than a change in direction.

Some people may have unspoken expectations for their children.  Marriage (to someone respectable who will fit in with the family) and grandchildren are usually at the top of the list.

How many do you suppose have religious goals?

This Sunday, we will be looking at the fifth chapter of Galatians that feature the Fruit of the Holy Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  These are generally the characteristics that a person who is growing in their faith in Christ should exhibit toward others.

As we think of these, would the average Christian say, “I expect to be more patient by this time next year?”  What about more joyful?

These may be hard to measure.

Faithfulness and generosity might be measurable if you set goals for attendance or giving and then kept track of how you did.

If our goal as Christians is to become more Christ-like, can we incorporate exhibiting these fruits on a more regular basis?

We'll be looking at these on Sunday as we consider our discipleship as it relates to our behavior!

In Christ,


Photo by Colin via, used under the Creative Commons license.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Responding to Tragedy

I must apologize to my congregation.

I failed to acknowledge or respond to the deadliest mass shooting in US history which happened in the early hours Sunday morning.  I was preparing for worship and simply failed to read any news before our services.

At a minimum, we should have prayed for the families of those who had been killed.

As I've explored the reports, I have seen responses diverge into two basic camps.

Left-leaning people are calling for more gun control in the United States.

Right-leaning people are calling for a more substantial response to radical Islamic terrorists.

We have people in our congregation which fall into one camp or the other.  Sometimes, people of one political persuasion automatically oppose what is put forward by the other side.  There seems to be a mentality that if "they" are for it, then I'm against it.

This shutting down of any openness to contrary opinion is a part of our divide as a nation.

As I've spoken with reasonable people in our church who do put forward these two ideas, pastorally, it makes me pose the question, "could both be correct?"

There are reasonable gun safety measures that most Americans would probably favor if the issue weren't so polarizing.

Radical terrorists - Islamic or otherwise - are difficult to negotiate with.  If someone is convinced that God is on their side and they refuse to acknowledge your humanity, this is a dangerous mix.  To ignore it is to leave our neighbor at risk.

We grieve with all those who are hurting.
Unfortunately, as we get caught up in the various responses, we neglect the dead and wounded in Orlando.  There are families in mourning right now who may not care about the political or philosophical responses to this latest tragedy.  They may just be in shock.

How do we rally around them?  How do we support them?

How does the church declare that the categorical hate of any group of people is anti-Christian?

As we look at our Christian story, when great violence was done to Jesus, God does not respond by outdoing the violence.  God responds with resurrection.

It transformed the world then and we pray that as followers of the resurrection, it will continue to transform the world today.

I invite you to take a moment and pray for our hurting world.

In Christ,


Picture by Cathy Baird via, used under Creative Commons license.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Categorical Christians

"As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise."

                                                                         Paul's Letter to the Galatians 3:27-29

In human history, we have a need to create status and hierarchy.  It is one way that we measure ourselves against others.  How am I doing?

In elementary school, it became apparent in many different ways.  For some it is grades or being put into different levels of reading or math.  For others, it comes in athletic prowess.  And then others rely on their looks, their wit or their social game - how many friends do they have?

Wolves determine status and order through play and
we are not so different.
These can all become measurements of success or failure.

I wish that I could say that we mature and set them aside in adulthood but we don't.

Adults begin to measure themselves against one another by their jobs and their possessions.  What kind of home do you own?  What kind of car do you drive? What kind of clothes do you wear?  What kind of social scene do you frequent?

Of course, status is set aside once we enter the sanctuary, right?

Paul in his letter to the Galatians seems to be reminding us that these expressions of status are merely our way of maneuvering through life with one another.  When we are in Christ, these symbols melt away - at least in God's estimation.

Before joining United Methodism, my family of origin was a part of the Assemblies of God when I was a child.  Within that denomination, there is a strong emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as speaking in tongues.  The critique of this emphasis (made by Paul to the Corinthians) is that those who exhibit the gifts may feel superior to those who don't.  It is as if God must favor me over you.

The need to compare and measure ourselves - even within God's favor - is not easy to set aside.  Yet it seems to be Paul's vision of what we should attempt as the church.

Sometimes we interpret this to mean that all categories are bad or unnecessary.  I don't think this is what Paul is saying either.  For instance, in order to transcend racism, some people make the statement that they are colorblind.  How do we celebrate who we are while not holding ourselves as superior to one another?  As we explore Galatians chapter 3 this week in worship, we will be delving into these questions and more.

In Christ,


Picture by _paVan_ via  Used through the Creative Commons license.