General Conference…Acts…Hypocrisy

I’ve spent this week, working from my camper at Kiptopeke State Park. The Chesapeake Bay somehow connects me to life, to the earth and my soul to God. This was a good week to  be in a place of peace.

I have spent the last six months heartily avoiding the realities of General Conference. I attended the day of Holy Conferencing and I voted for delegates, I know several of them personally and share a covenant group with Martha Stokes, the leader of this year’s delegation. So  I knew what it would be about, but I didn’t really let it sink in. Then, in my usual style, when it started I just kind of grazed by the information and goings on. I knew the headlines, felt some stress, retreated to my own to-do-list.

But this week, it all seemed to come crashing down. I’d like to blame it on Twitter…if people couldn’t tweet it would be more civil…but that’s a lie. It’s really just a matter of how much I’m aware of. I heard the stories from four years ago and fours years before that; I know how people act and I’m certain from the way our world is behaving otherwise that General Conference wasn’t likely to be a place of great respect and consideration.

So this week our General Conference drove the United Methodist Church to the brink of schism. The progressives and conservatives pulled so hard on their respective edges, they came close to ripping it all asunder.

Ripping a church apart is sin. Not listening and treating one another with respect is sin. Name calling is sin. So there was a lot of sin.

Hypocrisy is deliberately looking like something you are not. Posing. In church we do a lot of posing when we talk about human sexuality. We pretend we are listening and understanding and really grappling with the other’s viewpoint but really we are just waiting to re-state what we think. So both sides just talk and say the same things over and over and sometimes bother with pretending they are trying to work together.

The United Methodist Church is too beautiful for all of this. For the last four days, I’ve been able to see clearly what it would mean if this great beast of a church disappeared…shattered into two or three or sixteen pieces. What about UMCOR? What about the schools and universities and hospitals we’ve built? What about our brothers and sisters on the pew beside us, down the road in another church, across the country, around the world? What about all the things we hold in common…an open communion table, Wesleyan theology, grace!, Hark the Herald Angels Sing!? What about all of that?

As a country and a church, it is time we placed a great deal of value back in compromise. Working together through disagreements, loving those on the other side of the aisle, seeing God’s amazing creative work in every single human being…let’s get back to these values! The world around us is changing in a thousand ways and most of them can feel so scary. But we are allowing our fear of the changes that are relentless to drive us to destroy the very institutions and structures that offer real hope and real security.

When Christianity was a baby it went through a short time when it was all things good. For awhile, everyone worked together, everyone shared, everyone had good days. But that didn’t last. And God never said, “Well, ya’ll just go your own way.” God never said, “Let’s make a bunch of different bodies of Christ so everyone can have their own kind.” God left them all as one. We believe in One Faith, One Baptism, One God, One Hope, One Spirit, One Church…ONE!

So now, let’s get on through Acts, learn some more about the early church and let’s PRAY!!! Our Council on Bishops has asked us to figure out how we can go forward with our disagreements. PRAY! How can we have people who believe homosexuality is sinful and should be repented of at the same table with those who would ordain all on the LGBTQ spectrum. PRAY! How can we be United Methodists and allow for these different beliefs? PRAY! It’s not about who is right and who is wrong, it is about how can we continue to do church together. PRAY! Neither side is going away. PRAY! No one is changing their mind. PRAY! This can be a win-win together or a lose-lose apart. PRAY!

Read Acts. PRAY. Send me a message.PRAY! Let’s talk. And let’s PRAY!

The Story Continues…The Acts of the Apostles

At the very beginning of our faith, the Christian population numbered a few thousand, measuring only one percent of the world population. Today a single mega-church can boast a comparable number, and together, Christians now number more than two billion people.

It all began with this little body of believers who knew a secret that needed to be shared. How did they do it? And what can we learn from them?

Join us in worship as we consider best-selling author and beloved pastor, J. Ellsworth Kalas’ exploration of the book of Acts. During this series we will attempt to uncover the ministry motivations of the first followers—ordinary people who accomplished the extraordinary and who can serve as a guide for today’s believers to carry on. Because the work is not done. The story continues…

This series begins May 1 and will end June 26. You can read and study along. The book is available online click here. Genesis class will be studying the book. There will be an online discussion as well. Join us!

So what? – Hebrews 13

Sometimes I wonder if it really matters. I may wonder about mundane stuff – cleaning floors, cooking dinner, doing yard work. Sometimes I wonder about bigger things – you help someone or listen to them or give them advice and nothing really changes. Sometimes you do a really big favor, really do something that is good and it all turns out wrong and as a problem. So what? Why bother? Does anything really matter?

The same can be said for a life of faith. What difference does believing in Jesus really make? The sun comes up on the wicked and the good. Bad stuff happens to good people and good stuff happens to the bad ones. So does following Christ really matter?

Notice, I changed from believing in to following. There’s a difference.  Jesus changed eternity and humanity’s relationship with God, but does that change my life, like now, today, tomorrow? Does it matter in any significant way?

What if I’m wrong? What if there is not salvation through Jesus the Christ? What if the Bible isn’t true and there is no God?

So what?

If it’s all a lie, I’d still follow Jesus. I’d still read the Bible and try to focus on God’s love, mercy and grace. It’s a good choice for structuring my life. It’s a good way to find and know purpose in life. It’s this belief, this following of Jesus that transforms me from a selfish, judgmental person into a person who sees my own faults and allows for the faults of others. It is through receiving God’s love, real or not, the perception of receiving God’s love, though I do not deserve it, that makes me able to love others.

Without that transformation, my life is pretty negative and my days are filled with scorn for the world.

Maybe your story or need is different. But it’s pretty likely, human beings are naturally self-focused and self-absorbed, without following the self-sacrificing-major-loving-forgiving-Jesus, it’s pretty likely you, like me, would just stay wrapped in yourself and filled with scorn.

So what? A meaningful life is what. And that’s a big “So what!”

Then & Now…Hebrews 12

Running a race to win…it’s really not something I’ve ever done. For starters, I have never been a runner. I’m just slow. And then there is this problem of not being very competitive. Fortunately for me and some of ya’ll too, Hebrews isn’t really talking about “running” or “winning”.

Following Jesus sounds way easier than it is. It sounds like you just say your following, get a t-shirt, listen to a song or too, maybe even buy a Bible and your set. If you listen to the media, it appears you mainly just scream your opinions at others and that makes you a follower of Jesus. But none of this is very true or complete.

Following Jesus is compared in Hebrews to running the race to win because to run a winning race takes a clear focus on the finish line. You get it in your head where you are going and you head in that direction without letting anything distract you. To follow Jesus, is to become like Jesus. To prepare for that race we need first to be able to see the finish line. To know Jesus enough to imitate him means you have to read the Bible, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You read about Jesus and pray for God to show you what that means in your life. Then you come to church and work alongside others who are racing toward Jesus.

This week, we’ll be talking about how to get the focus clear and to run the race…what is sin and why do bad things happen. Join us on Sunday or feel free to email me with your thoughts, questions and comments…pastor@enonumc.org

Camp Hanover Day Camp

Looking for a Day Camp experience closer to home? Camp Hanover’s Traveling Day Camp will be offered at Enon July 23-27 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  At Enon, Camp Hanover staff will provide campers with a signature Camp Hanover “small group” experience: bible studies, singalongs, nature activities, arts & crafts, camp skills, campfire cookouts, s’mores and more! The cost is $100 per child. Register online: click here.

Happening NOW!

 Blood Drive

May 1 from Noon-5:00
Please sign up to give blood…www.redcrossblood.org
After you are there, just enter the zip code 23116 and scroll to May 1 at Enon United Methodist Church. Then you can sign up for your blood donation appointment. Please share this opportunity with your family and friends.

The greatest thing we can do for Marilyn and others being treated for cancer/lymphoma is to give blood.

He-Brews

New Worship Series…February 28-May 1

He-Brews: Coffee, dessert, Fun

This is a dessert & coffee kind of study. You know those times in life when you talk, deeply and thoughtfully, across the table, sharing coffee and dessert with a friend…well, this is one of those. So each week, there will be a recipe for dessert, a coffee type to enjoy and the story of God as shown in the Old Testament and completed in the new.

Coffee and sweets available each Sunday morning as we study Hebrews.
Coffee and sweets available each Sunday morning as we study Hebrews.

About the series…

It is not clear who authored Hebrews, nor is the identity of the intended audience clearly spelled out. In this series you will learn why Jesus and the salvation He offers is better than that offered to the Hebrews of antiquity through the Old Covenant. Your heart will be tender as you consider Who Jesus was and the great sacrifice He made for you. You will be encouraged by the faith journeys of regular men and women we consider to be heroes of the faith. Along the way I hope you will find encouragement to walk out your own faith journey in a more committed way because of Who Jesus is and what He has done for you. Our study of Hebrews may not be easy, but it will bring forth beautiful results as you faithfully apply it to your heart and life.

So, pour yourself a steaming cup of coffee (or tea, if perchance you are not a coffee drinker), help yourself to a warm slice of coffeecake, and let’s get started. It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to HeBrews: A Better Blend.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book this series is based upon and do the daily readings and reflections, it is available at Amazon.com.  To purchase the book just click here and a new page will open.

Address: 6156 Studley Rd., Mechanicsville, VA 23116