Ordinary Time: Faith

 

This weekend’s conversation is all about faith.

With a broad swath of lectionary readings we are able to see what  faith is lived out like.

Here are our readings for this weekend:

  • 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; (David learns about Saul’s death)
  • Psalm 130; (psalm of the temple dedication)
  • 2 Cor 8:7-15; 2 Corinthians 8:7 (CEB)  7  Be the best in this work of grace in the same way that you are the best in everything, such as faith, speech, knowledge, total commitment, and the love we inspired in you.
    Mark 5:21-43 (jesus heals the woman bleeding for 12 years and the 12 year old who was dead

In the lectionary we see a few things that we learn about faith

1. Faith allows us to Pause to see the bigger picture

First we take a look at David and his ability to step back in a time of potential personal gain and mourn with his people because of the bigger picture.  He is mourning, and telling his people to mourn.  This is tragic. Period.  This loss is crushing. Period! And we don’t need to fill the silence with anything but our sorrow and hurt at this point.  To do anything else would trivialize or take away from the current events and dehumanize the fallen king and his son.

David knows that there are times (more than he would to admit) where it is not about him.  David knows there is a bigger picture at play than simply his personal advancement.  Faith is committing to God’s plan over our own.  In one of the commentaries I read this week was one written by Walter Breggeman where he talks about our hardship to mourn publicly and the need to come together through faith to see the larger picture: 

the prospect of public grief is a scarce practice in our society, where we are so engaged in self-deception, pretending that everything is “all right.” Underneath that propaganda, however, we are a deeply troubled community with a great deal of unprocessed public hurt. We have no easy way to process hurt, but this poem is a model. For obvious starters, we have yet to finish with the residue of racial hate left from the Civil War. We have scarcely faced the ghosts of anti-Semitism made visible in the Holocaust. We have not yet tapped the horror of Vietnam. We have yet to acknowledge that our long history of wars is not a set of triumphs but an endless process of “bow against fat,” of “sword into blood,” of death for the lovely and beloved. The earth, like Gilboa, stands deeply cursed. The voice of contemptuous Philistines mock in their outsider status. The purveyors of haughtiness on the inside only go on shopping and consuming and do not notice. This text is a noticing, and its noticing places hard questions before us. What permits one to notice the grief and loss of life around us? How can we break in on our muteness? How can we acknowledge the triumph of brutality in our self-deception? When shall we find words, and who dares sing of intimacy broken, of loss unspoken that must be spoken, of greatness overwhelmed by the savage power of death? David sings about the poignancy of human anguish. These questions may find their buoyant answer if we join the song of relentless, candid faith.

Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Kindle Locations 4228-4238). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.

2. Faith Gives us grit Continue reading…

Ordinary Time: Story Resources

For the past few weeks I have been having a great time gathering materials for my messages. However, like so many other weeks there is so much good stuff and only tome for a little bit of conversation.  So, for the first post in a long time I am going to give a little outline of the message and some of the additional resources that I mention in the message as well as some others that I have been liking while researching and studying this week or while I have been prepping for the message.

We will see how it goes or what it feels like.  This week seems like a good fit because I feel like I have a story welling inside and I struggle at times with the best way to get it out.  This might be a way to get some of the floodgates opened up.

So, this past weekend my congregation continued a series called Ordinary time.  It is following the Lectionary and we are trying to lean into the time in the church year that is from the Sunday after Pentecost to the beginning of advent.  It is a long period that we are not getting ready for Christmas or Easter.  We are using an amazing book by author and pastor Erik Willits. Check it out from his website right here.

This is the 4th week in the series that will take us through the summer

The scripture readings for this weekend were: 1 Samuel 17:1, 4-11, 19, 32-49; Psalm 9:9-20; 2 Cor 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

Ordinary Time: Story Message Outline

We are called to be Spiritual Biographers.  We write (through our words, deeds and ideas) about the why God interactions with creation.  We share the grace and heartache of humanity.  The reality is that the story we are writing is the only Good News (gospel) others will be reading.

Ordinary time gives us an opportunity to get our story straight and prepare to write the next chapter.

The lectionary reading give us 2 guides this week 1. David and Paul.  From them we learn 3 critical things that a good spiritual biographer does.

  1. Know your story–Before Goliath David has a history of protecting the the sheep from predators. He also knew that God was with him and he was anointed to do great things.  In knowing his story, he was able to step-up to Goliath when no one else would.
  2. Set up camp in the discomfort zone–Standing before a giant David chose sling and stone over sword and shield.  He knew it was going to be risky, but he was confidently entering into unknown territory and setting up camp.  Paul understood what it was to be uncomfortable for the glory of God (see the 2 Cor reading).  For both of these men setting up camp in the discomfort zone meant that they would be able to make history.
  3. Write the next chapter–we don’t stay in the discomfort zone forever.  Either we are called to a new place or we face Goliath and that place is no longer uncomfortable.  But we do tell the story.  David kept Goliath’s sword as a reminder of the way God delivered him.  Remembering and writing the next chapter in our spiritual biographies allows us to set way points along the trail of more fully trusting God.

Monday Moment–So what? Why does this matter

We are the only gospel some of our friends will ever read. What does your story say about God? Is it Good News?  As Spiritual Biographers we want others to read our lives and know what God is all about.  This week try this:

Make a list of the 5 people who you have the most contact with, and then:

  1. Pray for them that they may be blessed by God’s grace this week
  2. Look for an opportunity to get into the discomfort zone and share (a little bit more) of your story with them.  This could be over lunch or coffee or just during a pause in your day.  Have meaningful conversation to get to know one another more deeply.
  3. Write the next paragraph: promise to continue the conversation or offer to do it again.  Write the story with your friends in it.  Faith is a team sport.

Some resources I came across this week:

Tell Someone: You Can Share the Good News: check it out on amazon

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants: Check it out on amazon

Face of America 2016

This April 22-24, 2016, I will be participating in the Face of America, an inspiring, two-day, 110-mile bicycle and hand cycle ride to the historic Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This annual ride from national non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports honors our injured military veterans and includes more than 170 veterans, active-duty military and civilian participants with injuries ranging from amputation to paralysis to blindness to post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

Held each year since 2006, the Face of America is one of the largest non-competitive bicycling events in the Washington, D.C. area. In 2015, 600 riders participated in the ride – many of whom came from across the United States and Canada.

I’d like to ask you to support me in this year’s ride through your generous financial donation. Each able-bodied participant is riding in support of the injured veterans, and raising money to cover the costs for the ride, and to support upcoming events from the non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports. Donations and sponsorship funding provide opportunities for military and civilian athletes with disabilities to join remarkable outdoor adventures – these range from the annual Adventure Team Challenge in the high Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Coastal Team Challenge along Long Island, New York, where developmentally-disabled teens and young adults paddle sea kayaks on a two-day journey. At all World T.E.A.M. Sports events, persons with disabilities participate at no cost.

As a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, contributions to World T.E.A.M. Sports are tax deductible, provided you meet the IRS criteria and maintain certain records. (A relatively simple explanation of IRS requirements can be found at IRS Tax Tip 2010-60). World T.E.A.M. Sports sends donation receipts to all contributors to aid in this process. For questions regarding the tax or legal aspects of your donation, I encourage you to contact your legal or tax adviser.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Click here to visit my personal page.
If the text above does not appear as a clickable link, you can visit the web address:
http://support.worldteamsports.org/site/TR?px=1024478&pg=personal&fr_id=1120&et=xtRxLXk4z53k8BxLe_GMZw&s_tafId=2310

Click here to view the team page for Team FaithPoint
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Faith Lab Ressurection

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A little talk about what I hope to do with the Faith Lab format.  Also just wanted to push out a podcast to get a feel for the back end workflow.  

Check out this episode!

Another Thought on Online Communion

The other day an article crossed my twitter feed “What’s so wrong about online communion?” As a pastor who recently launched an online campus this struck at the heart of what we are trying to do. To see the post that i am responding to please follow this link

After a time of prayer and thought the article still nagged at me.  So I wrote up a little google doc with the intent to post a response in the comments section yet there is no real place for further dialogue.  Adding to the noise on other social media doesn’t seem the prudent course either.  So where better to share my personal opinion on the matter than my personal (and seldom used) blog.  So, that being said, here are the thoughts that my little Google doc contained.

 

Thanks for your thoughtful article.  I admit that I read it because of the title and found myself drawn in and it gave me a lot to think about during a run and session at the gym.  It also has given me an opportunity to think about not just what I think about the sacrament of communion, but perhaps more importantly as a Methodist how I have gotten to where I am about my beliefs.  This being said I am come to see your response to Taylor W. Burton Edwards’ article as an open up of dialogue.  I feel that the role and “order” or the sacraments are central to faith experiences and should be examined over prayer and conversation by those commissioned to uphold such issues of Word, Sacrament, Service and Order.  In the case of the UMC this would be primarily the function of the fully ordained elders of the church.  

At first blush I found myself agreeing with the spirit of Edwards’ article.  I know that I would be more enthusiastic about it if I were writing a paper for seminary.  But like many well thought plans, my mind drifted to my ministry field and that of my friends.  

I know that my wife, a fully ordained elder, is currently serving her full-time appointment while serving as  elder in charge for 2 other local congregations who have no pastor currently.  Preconsicration is the only way that these 2 churches would be able to gather and share in the sacrament if they want to gather in their home church.  I guess the other option is for them to find another faith community to partake the sacrament. But there is something about being with those who are part of your faith community that adds dimensionality to the Holy Mystery.  When I think of the state of affairs that the church is in, we do run into a logistical problem of not having enough Elders.  The cause for this is not that our churches are growing at a rate  that we cannot keep up with, but many retire and young clergy are turned off or are not encouraged to do ministry in ways that are meaningful and relevant to those without a church home.  So we find a way, as our history of being practical theologians, so to speak – making it work.  Wesley broke from the Church of England and Asbury did what he needed to to get more pastors in pulpits.  

I don’t have much experience with “drive-through” communion so I cannot speak to that.  However I can say to use it as a basis against online communion is suspect (let’s do away with the word “virtual” we aren’t trying to consume pixels as if they are the host).  

That brings us to point #3; we shouldn’t practice online virtual communion.  As a pastor of a faith community that has an online campus I am conflicted about this.  I am not sure where I stand on the practice of the Eucharist with an online community, but I do know that the reasons that have been voiced don’t hold enough weight to forego thinking about how to faithfully have TRUE communion online.  I am willing to bet that those who are speaking out against the practice have not encountered an authentic online community.  For many, the possibility of celebrating the sacrament online isn’t even a concern. This is because for 99% of faith communities worship online is not an option.  

The argument that is gnawing at me is the assumption that there is no authentic connection or community online.  Sure, I will agree that we polish the things we place on facebook and other social streams, but Facebook is not the internet.  Let us not forget than the primary way we communicate is not face to face but via text, e-mail, snapchat, twitter, a phone call, Skype and many other over the air means.  To say we cannot have online communion because of a lack of authentic community online is like blaming the hammer for hitting your thumb when framing a house.  The web is a tool and the way we use it is up to us, #freewill.  To imply that we can’t participate in the sacrament for this reason, would mean that when we participate in the Eucharist in real life no one in our congregation is faking it or putting on a mask to hide their current state of affairs.  Online and in person we are a broken people in need of restoration.  

At our online campus we have been able to unite parents with their daughter who is studying in Ecuador, reconnect a number of young adults who have been absent from church for a while because of hurt, work schedule or because they cannot find a church that accepts them.  So, FaithPoint is the place they connect, it just happens to be our online campus.  A positive side of the web’s anonymity is that snap judgements based on appearance are not made.  We frequently have people who would NEVER worship in the same space together because of theological perspective differences coming together and engaging in healthy life-giving conversation.  It is amazing.  

Further, we believe in God who transcends time and space.  God is no more with me than God is with you (wherever that might be).  Online we offer prayers communally, and I don’t think that they are more or less effective than those offered under 4 walls of stained glass.  I do know that scripture does call us to not neglect meeting together, I feel strongly that the web allows us to do this in powerful ways.  Sure, all of my social media connections are not worshiping online with me.  But I have prayed with, had life giving conversations with and been blessed by the authenticity of those who are my community online.  Those who are worshiping together are gathering at a particular time, at a particular (web)address and worshiping to the same music and message at the same time.  I would much rather someone have the option to connect with a community online and become a deeper disciple than wander the wilderness of church shopping week after week without even so much as a greeting from the indigenous churchgoers.  I am not saying it have to be your cup of tea grape juice, but that doesn’t mean God cannot transform lives in powerful ways online.  If the Spirit can warm a heart after studying Luther’s introduction to Romans, the Son can be raised from the dead and the Creator can paint sunsets in fall, then isn’t there a possibility that we can encounter and be enfolded into the Holy Mystery as one body but in different rooms?

Like I said up top, I am still working though some of my understanding of this.  But to argue against an online community practicing communion because of authentic community just doesn’t cut it for me.  My intent is not to come across as another internet troll, but open this important conversation.  I would love to discuss this further over some coffee at a coffehouse or via Google Hangouts with a diverse panel to see how we may preserve the sacredness of communion while realizing there are powerful ways to do ministry that no one is doing, YET.  @CMBishop on the Twitter