Beloved Community

Last week I had the chance to lead a conversation for the online campus of my church with some amazing educators.  We were doing it as a part of a special worship experience about living our faith in the ordinary time of life.  We have been going throughout the summer hearing from people who live their faith out in amazing ways.  

In essence, it is the spirit of living into the small things of the Mother Teresa quote, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  

These educators represent the heart of most teachers, but they are an undervalued/heard voice.  They are amazing people who will tell you to talk to those responsible for the education of the students.  They want to be on the learning team so that each child can find success with as mean cheerleaders surrounding them as possible.  

But just sharing this link is not the reason for the post….

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Ordinary Time: Real

This past weekend we took a look at the lectionary readings and connected them to the word “Real” as prescribed in Erik Willits’ book Common Time.

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13; Psalm 51:1-12; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35

The readings start off with 2 readings centering around David’s taking of a woman named Bathsheba.  After realizing that she was pregnant while her husband Uriah was off to war David tried to scheme and think about how he could make it look like Uriah’s child and when all else failed he had the man killed on the battle field.

Oh did I mention that we also had a baptism this weekend?

So there is that where we have scripture about the fallout after a rape and murder, help and then we have to talk about how we might come to the waters of baptism.

My church is all about being real.  Our mission is that we are “Real people living Real lives encountering a Real and life-changing faith in Jesus Christ.”  The hope is also that we are able to be real and honest with one another.  We try to reach out to those who have been hurt or alienated by the church and in doing so we strive to be authentic and open.  You don’t have to wear a mask at FaithPoint, and even if you do, there are people that will love you when you decide to take it off weather that be on Sunday morning, in a life group or serving in another ministry, or even in a pastoral care exchange on Facebook Messenger.

We often get off track however or imagine a different reality than the one we live.  Think about someone trying on VR goggles for the first time.  There are times when reality meets your virtual construction of reality and you will trip over a chair or couch in the throws of battling aliens or pretending that you are base jumping.

Before there was VR and AR (augmented reality) there was our imagination.  You have seen AR in action while people try to catch invisible Pokemon on the streets of your neighborhood. Imaginatoin is still around, but you have to look a little harder to find it at times.  We imagine what our first day of class is going to be like, weather you are a teacher or student.  We make plans for our future, or what we think others will say when we tell them big news.

Then when that virtual reality that we have constructed meets reality there are some things that change and unexpected variables crop up.  But from the lectionary readings this weekend we learned a few things about Reality.  Continue reading…

VBS Connections

This past week was FaithPoint’s Vacation Bible School (VBS). It was a week filled with surf themed fun.  We talked, shop showed and sent home God’s love to the kids, cialis “surfers” who were entrusted into our care.  We gad great teachers, viagra buy “lifeguards” and directors that made this week really special.

The thing that got me was the connections that were made.  We partnered with 2 other churches in order to offer something better and more sustainable than we could do alone.  We have partnered with these congregations in the past, and the ministry partnerships like this just make sense.  We are all working toward the same goal, and we are three vital congregations that each have something unique to offer our community.

We also had amazing connection within our campers/surfers.  Each of our groups looked like a divers little school.  It was really neat to truly see the diversity of our community reflected in the groups as they connected and went throughout the day.  This was a little glimpse of the Kingdom.  Really cool!

Finally, there was a powerful connectional system at work in our mission project for the week.  We spent the weeks before VBS collecting school supplies.  At our mission station, we told the kids about the devastating flooding in West Virginia and the need for school supplies and that these kids who lost much would need things for school very soon.

One of FaithPoint’s members made fabric bags that we would then be able to place items in for the school supply kits as outlined by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).  Beautiful! (more info here about UMCOR and the school kits https://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies/Relief-Supply-Kits/School)

The kids had a great time learning and filling dozens of bags for this project.  However, when it was all said and done getting the bags to those in need in WV hit some bumps.  Collection and distribution centers seemed to be in short supply in our area.  There or some possible leads that migth get the kits to the affected area at some point, but no firm promises were made.

Enter Carlee! Woot!

Carlee is one of my former youth, amazingly faithful, a stand our journalist and FaithPoint Online community members.

At the wedding of a good friend of ours, we were talked about when she had to go back home to Charleston, WV. She said she was planning on going back Sunday afternoon. Perfect.  I asked if she would be our transporter of bags.  Absolutely!!! She said.

Not only is Carlee going to take the school kits into the heart of those hit hard by the flooding, but she has a school picked out.  Elkview Middle School.

Here is an article from Carlee’s paper about the devastation the floods did to a nearby high school: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news-education/20160715/hoover-damages-equal-70-percent-of-wv-schools-value

Some of our #surfshack surfers praying over our mission project school supplies

A post shared by Faithpoint Umc (@faithpointum) on

The picture above is Jillian and some of our VBS students praying over the bags during worship as they were getting ready to make their journey to the Elkview Middle School.

What a cool connectional system and a reminder of the power of people coming together in the name of God and making our community better.

Please continue to keep our students, churches and those impacted by the floods in your prayers.  Think about how you might help and respond to being the good in your community.

 

Just moments ago I received a message from Carlee that the supplies were delivered.  Mission Accomplished.  Way to go team.  Lets keep up the great work.

Ordinary Time: Fear

 

At the beginning of the week and throughout the weeks leading up to the topic of Fear I thought I had a plan.  I thought I had a good idea about what to talk about, but then news broke early in the week about two police officer involved shootings of men of color.  Then many officers were killed in Dallas during a rally with others injured.

Needless to say, there were some plans that were changed as the stories developed.  With each story my heart broke, and I asked over and over again the question “Who am I to have a voice on this?” “Who am I to deliver some insight to my faith community about situations that I have so little experience.”

I am just ordinary, me.  Maybe that is the point that through this ordinary time we are able to see that in the ordinary we are able to find a voice and action to make an impact in combatting the things our world would have us fear.  It is not hard to find the brokenness, but joy and empowerment is something different.

My hope, at the end of the day, was to encourage us to name God for God and then realize our (each of us) role in pushing out the fear around us with the love that comes with knowing our gracious God.

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Ordinary Time: Virtue

This past weekend was all about virtue.  Not a word that we use too much today, but one that is critically important.  Our Lectionary readings for the day were:

  • 2 Samuel 6:1-5; (the ark is brought into Jerusalem)
  • Psalm 24; the glory of God (connect to the ark and exalting God)
  • Ephesians 1:3-14;’believer’s blessing Ephesians 1:14 (CEB)14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment on our inheritance, which is applied toward our redemption as God’s own people, resulting in the honor of God’s glory.
  • Mark 6:14-29 death of John the Baptist

N.T. Wright says virtue is a revolutionary idea that we need to embrace in his book “After You Believe” (you can pick up a copy on Amazon here.  You will not be disappointed)

Here is a word about what virtue is from Wright’s book:

Virtue, in this strict sense, is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to do something which is good and right but which doesn’t “come naturally”— and then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what’s required “automatically,” as we say. On that thousand and first occasion, it does indeed look as if it “just happens” but reflection tells us that it doesn’t “just happen” as easily as that.

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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