Monday, May 28, 2018

Breakin' the Law

Lectionary Scripture: Mark 2:23-3:6 (NRSV)

A statue of Robin Hood in Nottingham
One of the oldest vigilante characters in literature is Robin Hood.  In his story, he was forced to go outside the law when injustice was prevailing by those supposed to uphold the law.  We remember that he robs from the rich to give to the poor.  While later legends make him nobility that takes the cause of the commoner, the earliest legends make Robin Hood an outlaw not of royal blood.

Every age seems to tell his story and a new movie is set to be released in November.

There is a romance about someone finding justice outside the law.  It is no surprise that people often feel that they have been treated unfairly in life.  We look to someone to right the wrongs.  After all, what can we do if the system fails us?

Unfortunately, romance aside, vigilante justice often circumvents the rights of people and mob rule often isn't interested in due process.  Innocent people are often hurt and killed when people go outside the law.  So when should we circumvent the law and when should we uphold it?

Jesus finds that the religious law in his day kept people from being helped as they should.  He gives a kind of priority to helping people over and above the religious observance of the Sabbath.  He wants to make sure that the leaders understand this priority and makes an example of a man with a withered hand.  But taking the law into one's own hands is often seen as subversive.  Jesus was breaking age-old traditions and when this was thrown in their faces, they were mad enough to kill him.

This reminds us of how seriously people resist change!

On Sunday, I hope to explore how Christians seek to bring justice to a hurting world.  We do what we can because Jesus did what he could to alleviate suffering.  The difficulty is when systems are set up to allow people to suffer needlessly.  How do we respond and what is the right thing to do?

I hope you'll join us this Sunday at 8:30, 9:45 or 11 in the sanctuary or 10:50 in Wesley Hall!

In Christ,


Photo by Arran Bee via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Monday, May 14, 2018

What if You Threw a Party and Nobody Came?

There are tons of sad stories online about inviting people to help celebrate a birthday and no one shows up.  It is a social scene that causes anxiety – after all, no one wants to live in isolation from friends.

Eeyore as depicted by Disney is one
of the saddest characters written for children.
I try not to emulate him too often!
Some of the reactions are chastising to those that didn’t come.  I don’t think a nice application of guilt will solve the friendship problem.  Others seek to commiserate with an online community that will give sympathetic anecdotes of similar circumstance. 

There are also usually helpful people that give out advice such as: if you are throwing a party, you should make sure you have some guarantees – people you are sure will show up – before you send out invitations.  These should be contacted ahead of time.  While this is sound advice, I’m not sure people who’ve felt abandoned by their friends are ready to hear it.

As we celebrate Pentecost this Sunday, it is the birth of the church.  We remember that Pentecost was the beginning of the gift of the Holy Spirit among the faithful who heard the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ.  It was marked by the baptism of those who came to believe that day.

The church has gone through many changes since that time.  Not all of them have been successful.  I have tried various ministry ventures in my career and some of them have not survived.  There are times we’ve prepared and hoped and prayed and found the turnout was not quite what we expected.  While disappointing, this is not the end of the line.  We continue to strive for a way of communicating the good news that will be effective for a new generation.

This particular year is the 50th anniversary of The United Methodist Church (when the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church combined).  Some would point to the overall numbers in the United States now in comparison to when it started and declare that this has not been the success for which we had hoped.  I would say that we have done a good job of trying to adjust a very large organization of people to a new time.  While the overall numbers may not be up, there are many fresh and faithful expressions throughout the denomination that are very effective in reaching new people.  I believe First United Methodist Church of Edmond is one of them.

This Sunday, we will explore Ezekiel 37:1-14 which is the story of the dry bones that come to life.  This is a reminder that the people of God have previously felt that their brightest times were behind them.  God takes a longer view of working with us!  I hope you’ll join us as we celebrate the birthday of the church this Sunday.  And we would like to count on you being one of our guarantees!
In Christ,


Monday, May 7, 2018

Whoever Does Not Have the Son of God Does Not Have Life

Today’s title is straight out of the lectionary.   1 John 5:9-13 is the Epistle reading for Sunday and verse 12 makes this definitive statement.

John is not beating around the bush here.  He is telling it like it is.

Truth and lies are important themes that run throughout the letter and we see it in this reading.  It seems rather bold to say that if you don’t believe in Jesus, you are calling God a liar but that is what John says in verse 10.

If you combine that with the title, it seems to draw a line in the sand between believers and non-believers.

It is easier to deride someone
than to love them but it is
not as Christ-like.
This is written to the faithful for assurance in their faith as verse 13 attests.  But the faithful know the whole story – or at least we should.

In our soundbite culture of 140 characters or less, it becomes too easy to pick out verses like these in order to browbeat someone who doesn’t believe the way we do. 

Yet, John’s letter is richer than merely today’s reading and as the faithful, we should take these verses in context with the entire work. 

In the second chapter, verse six states that those who claim to abide in Christ “ought to walk just as he walked.”  Of course, Jesus walked in humility and pulled the outside in and sometimes pushed the inside out.  He turned the world upside down and he was willing to die to do so.  If we are dividing the lines so easily between believer and non-believer in order to hold the latter in disdain, the irony is that we are no longer walking as Jesus walked.

John’s letter also identifies God as love in the fourth chapter.  As we understand spirituality in broader terms than today’s verses indicate, John states clearly in verse 16, “those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”  Even atheists have loving relationships.  Does this mean they approach God as they exemplify love even though they would not name it as such?

If we understand spirituality in this larger sense, we could say that God is most clearly seen when love is on display.  So in this sense, if the Son of God is also understood by love as we see his love for us, then when we do not love, we do not have life as today’s verse states. 

Loving seems to make up life as this epistle defines it.  Those who are not loving are not in Christ.  This seems to be the true meaning of today’s reading whether someone professes faith in Jesus or not.  As those who look through the lens of Christ, we are free to define the world as we see it. 

The faithful abide in God and so we start all conversations concerning truth with love.  This is not a sappy, undefined love but one that is sacrificial and challenging.  It is difficult but when it is realized, we see that eternity has already begun.

In Christ,


Photo by philippe leroyer via  Used under the Creative Commons license.