Saturday, April 28, 2012

Just So You Know

This is the time of year when I start to hear folks telling me that the United Methodist Church did this or the United Methodist Church 'officially' did that.  I call these items of misinformation.  I think the real term might be 'rumors.'  Here's why.

The UM Church is in the midst of General Conference where groups from all over the world will be presenting petitions about issues that they believe relate to our church.  NOTE !!!! The General Conference is the ONLY body that is able to take an official position for the UM Church.  Not individuals.  Not congregations.  Not preachers.  Not Bishops.  They may offer (or have offered) a legislative request called a petition.  Individuals, conferences and pretty much everyone might offer a petition.  These are considered by legislative committees (which most will have a representative from our conference) and a very small percentage make their way to the floor of General Conference.  We are in the midst of this process and petitions get brought forward by such a range of people that few political, social or theological positions get left out.

When petitions make it to the floor of the General Conference they are voted on by the entire body ... which because of our neighbors from Africa, Australia, South America and our own conference tends to be pretty resistant to major changes, especially those that challenge what would be a pretty traditional Biblical perspective.

So ... when you hear one of these legislative rumors, please realize where we are in the process.  No votes have been taken yet on these social, theological or political positions.  Additionally, be in prayer for all of the delegates that they will be led by God's truth and Spirit.  And if they proceed by God's Word and Spirit and it differs with my tradition, my politics, my desires or my social views, who is right?  As always, Jesus ... God the Father ... the Holy Spirit that reveals and unfolds truth.  So ... I will be ready to change anything that is out of sorts with what God has said.  David said, "search my heart and change me if needed ... on God's standard."  I think if we took this stance, we would all be better off.  So ... don't spread rumors!  We are followers of truth, reality and a very living God.  Pastor Randy

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Orange Conference 3

Last post from the Orange Conference.  Sunday will be Youth-led ... so I am devotion this post to praying for them ... for their leadership Sunday and for the fact that they will be fasting during 30-hour famine prior to their presentation on Sunday.  So ... here goes:

Lord ... for our youth ... let them learn to live before they die ... let them be assured that they are fearfully and wonderfully made ... that they were not stamped out like plastic parts ... they are formed by a God that has made them for his special purpose ... and that purpose is good.  For our adults, let us be wise enough to not teach them our prejudice, our apathy, our intolerance, our know-it-all answers that strip away the mystery of a God that is complex ... let us show them the simplicity of a Gospel that is so much more straightforward than the mumbo-jumbo we sometimes teach.  Let us show our relationship to Jesus by loving God and people ... not just talk about it.  They are hungry for the truth of the Spirit and the lived-out story of a Jesus who came into our mess and calls disciples to messy mission.  May we teach them to boldly become people who will make their world better, being the salt and light of the Gospel.  Thank you, Jesus, for listening and for the miracles we call our kids!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Live From Orange 2

WOW, what a day at Orange in Atlanta.  Wish all of you could be here to get the teaching and the practical knowledge from these great teachers. Just want to prepare all of you.  The facts and the truth of our world, how to connect with people and our responsibility to tell the greatest story ever!  These questions compel us to construct our ministries based on the goal of reaching people for Christ ... whether it makes us comfortable or not.

Did learn another interesting "Essential" today as we had communion with 10,000 people from all over the world.  But before I share that, do you realize the amazing people we have working  (as called disciples) in Children's ministry? They are here investing themselves in the kids of Good News.  They put up with lots of mess ... and that is the essential I want to share with you.  Being a disciple of Jesus is messy!  Messy when the kids are sick or dirty.  Messy when our kids express the bad behavior learned from parents.  Messy when they are looked down upon by people who think kids are a nuisance.

You see ... ministry is messy because Jesus is messy.  We will unpack this the first Sunday in May when we look at a messy death, messy church relations and messy relationships that happened because Jesus stepped out of eternity into our mess.  Yet, we expect ministry to children, youth and adults to be organized, structured and easy.  It is not!  It is messy.  Come in May and learn about a God who took upon His back all of your mess.  And thank Him, worship Him, love Him and serve Him!  Pastor Randy

Live from Orange!

This posting is live from the Orange Conference in Atlanta.  Last year Dayna won 6 passes to this Children's Conference for Good News and we will be learning new things about ministry to children today.  Then, on Sunday, all of us will be treated to the ministry of our Youth as they present our 5th Sunday worship service.  Josh will bring the message, the kids will be doing music, praying, and pointing us to the reason for our worship, a true and living God.

The test for many of us this Sunday will be an examination of why we are here.  Why do we worship?  To whom is our worship oriented?  You see ... some of us will say, "That's not my cup of tea.  I will skip this Sunday because the music or the presentation will bring me discomfort.  I will wait till next week when things are back to normal."  If that is your mantra, I will ask you one question.  Are you worshiping your comfort ... your 'normal' service ... what 'tickles your ears' ... or are you worshiping God?  If you cannot celebrate our youth one Sunday per year ... rejoice that they are learning, that they desire to bring worship of God, that they believe in the God who was and is and is to come, what does that say about us?

It is a good question.  In John's Gospel, Jesus tells a Samaritan woman that one day people will worship in Spirit and in truth.  I think He was saying that one day our worship will be focused on pointing to God ... not the things that bring us comfort.  After all ... worship is for, to, about and being in love with God.  So ... a time to apply John Wesley's three (very traditional) rules ... do no harm, do all the good that you can, and stay in love with God.  Pretty good, aren't they?  Pastor Randy

Monday, April 16, 2012

Life Is Interesting

I have concluded that I have an amazing job.  I watch our staff passionately interact in their ministry settings every day (thanks Brenda, Leah, Trish, Bill, all the Beginnings Staff, Josh and Dayna).  I get to be part of life's milestones for our congregation.  And I get to be part of things that honor me, are special gifts from very special people, and even things that make me realize I am not 'all that.'

Today was one of those days that was so varied I had to laugh!  On one hand I am working on a major financial negotiation that can make a real difference to our church ... a lot of money is involved.  Then 'Mr. Big Shot' is called to rid the property of a 2' long blacksnake that is probably as terrified as those he has encountered.  From financial tycoon to 'Billy The Exterminator' (was actually called that today) ... now that's a pretty wide swing.

Jesus reminded us often that our task(s) are ultimately for God's glory.  If that means chasing a snake, I am there.  If that means creating a slick financial proposal, I am there.  If that means sitting on the floor talking to my friend Elanor B. who is a beautiful little girl, I am there.  And if it means being with someone who has lost their best friend ... I am there too.  All of those tasks are challenging, but are made doable and possible by a God who says that nothing is impossible for Him.  Thanks Jesus ... need to find that snake!

Monday, April 9, 2012

What Sholud Be

What should be the case?  We have heard the greatest story ever.  We have remembered Jesus' life, death, resurrection and victory over death.  We reflected on what that meant.  We heard (if you were at Good News) a message about what we should do if we remember.  To summarize, I suggested that maybe the resurrection should manifest itself in our devotion to the bride of Christ (His words) the Church.  Maybe the week after Easter should be the highest (instead of the lowest) attended Sunday of the year.  Maybe we, as the church, should devote ourselves to following the New Testament model of the Church which is relational, prayer-filled, giving, relevant, missional and ... filled with people so obsessed with Jesus that they can't wait to see what happens next.  So ... they come, participate, work, play, laugh, love and live together ... all in the unity Jesus' prayed for at Gethsemane.

Will there be a difference in what should be and what YOU do?  Will you change your measuring standards of 'good church' to what Jesus said?  Will you do what the family Baptizing the baby said they would do, "be faithful in your public and private worship of God through His Church?"  Will you place your heart and your hands in service to the one you say is your Savior, Jesus Christ?  Will you react to the Resurrection as if something amazing happened, or will you react as if something AMUSING happened?

We will see.  Because this week I will be looking for the faces that were there on Easter.  The family (I know them) with the little baby that was visually playing with my expressions (they were on the 2nd row, and you may have thought I had gone a bit crazy).  Another family with a little boy who will be baptized soon.  Older couples in the church who are always faithful in their attendance but may need to think about church differently than they did growing up ... after all, we follow Christ, not what we've always done.  Many, many people who seem to show up on 'Holy' days, forgetting that to God, all of them are Holy.  I will be looking, but more importantly, God will watch whether the message of Easter is amusement or obsession for you.

A 'plastic' Jesus will not help us, save us, strengthen us, grow us, give us a heart for loving/serving others, give us unity, and give us grace.  But the man who died on the Cross ... was buried in the grave ... rose again on the third day and sits at the right hand of God the Father ... is the way, the truth, and life itself.  I SHOULD see you on Sunday.  Hope you are listening!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Battle of Wills

Last evening at our Holy Thursday service we remembered the night Jesus gave himself up for us.  Today we remember how cruel and evil people, politics and power can be as all of these things play a part in bringing Jesus to Golgotha, the place of the skull.  I am never shocked, it seems, by the level of cruelty people can inflict on one another.  I am not surprised when people play politics, even in church, to impose their will while ignoring Jesus last fervent words for unity.  And I have watched people, who say they are doing good by gaining control of meaningless micro-details, exercise power that totally ignores the overall mission Christ outlines in Gethsemane.  All of this, and all of the story in Jesus' time, is motivated by the opposite of that prayer Jesus prayed when He said, "Not my will but thine (speaking to the Father.)"  It seems we pray "Not Thy will but mine" sometimes.

It is always interesting to see what is really going on in the church (what people tell themselves is happening) verses what is really happening.  For Jesus the outward story was a blaspheming, irreverent, Rabbi has been caught seriously disrupting the flow of the Jewish church of His time.  He must be stopped because, of course, their ways and traditions are primary, even if they totally miss the mark of God's Scriptural intent.  So He is accused, arrested, tried (falsely), convicted (illegally) and taken to the cross on that dark Friday.  Their (the establishment's) will ... not God's.  But God has a way of taking mistakes and (if we allow Him in our hearts and our lives) turning our upside-down attitudes right side up.  So this dark Friday becomes the greatest destruction of evil in history, for our sins are taken to the cross ... paid for in full ... buried in the grave ... waiting for Sunday's historical turning point where even death is defeated.  Total defeat turned to total victory.

For us I wonder ... why do we still cling to things that are dead when we worship the God of the living?  We still use divisiveness and disunity because we aren't willing to let God be in control of our church ... not His will but mine.  We still refuse to see the changes that have happened in ministry as church staff works to speak in the language and context of our culture the message of a God who is still on His throne, still (and always) relevant and still victorious ... so we try to pull them into our context ... not God's will but mine.  We continue to major on minor things when we nitpick the everyday ministry decisions of our church leaders, much more worried about those things than hungry children, teens overdosing on OTC medications, parents failing to parent, a culture that places recreational opportunity above meeting together regularly (God's good idea, not my words), and all of us being worried more about the next best notepad than the spiritual condition of our neighbor (pointing the guilty finger right at me) ... not Thy will but mine.  During this past week I have been observing why we are so much more caught up in process than we are in the end product ... follow the rules rather than follow God ... not God's will but my will.  We are living in opposition to Jesus' basic commands and I hear every day that we are 'losing' our country, 'losing' our children, 'losing' our youth ... 'losing' our nation of faith.  Maybe it is time ... this Resurrection Day ... to stop, think, listen and realize that the problem is not that person across the road or on the other side of the Sanctuary.  The problem is me ... my battle against God's will as it tries to lift me from this present darkness.

OK ... I will stop this rant with a final observation.  As I watch people, hear what they say and hear their observations about our church, I see and hear frustration that our church leaders (locally and nationally) are known for standing on orthodoxy vs orthopraxy (the practice of faith).  I am not even talking about the big things here ... I am speaking about attitudes of negativity, inconsistent positions on issues, and the rampant use of power/politics inside the church ... I could go on.  One young woman said to me "Are these (power, control, micro-management, nitpicking) the things that are important?  People (including youth, adults and even some children) are suffering right down the street."  I propose a solution.  How about trusting God for our finances, our direction and pray for, with our staff?  How about (rather that be critical) jumping into those ministries with which we have concerns and see what is really going on?  How about all of us saying (in unity) "not our will, but yours, Jesus."  It is about God's will ... not Randy's will.  That's my take.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Do You Remember?

Matt Chandler reflects about the Resurrection and how the events of Easter unfolded. In his reflection he reads the passage about the disciples recounting Easter events and then says "then they remembered."  They remembered what Jesus had said would happen.  They remembered His life and maybe began to understand how things pointed to that moment.  They remembered who Jesus said he was.  They remembered that though He was God's Son he was humble.  They remembered the last supper (we will celebrate this at 6pm on Thursday, April 5th) and that Jesus had some things to say that evening.  They might have remembered falling asleep while Jesus prayed in the garden ... oddly, a prayer for His disciples, for unity, and for His people to become a force that would be different than any movement in history, not by might but by their love and their expression of the Holy Spirit.  They probably remembered (with horror) Jesus being nailed to the cross and dying there as they stood by helpless.  Maybe they even remembered the emptiness as they walked away thinking "That's that.  It's over.  We will never know the answer."  But they certainly did remember that Jesus said He would be arrested, beaten, crucified, buried and, on the third day, rise from the dead.

I can't imagine that moment of hope.  That moment when they said "It was ALL true!"  That knowledge that brings the reality that nothing would ever be the same again.  History, the entire creation (now beginning a beautiful cycle of redemption), and broken people ... all being redeemed (John Wesley would have said the process of sanctification is in full force).  Do you remember?  Pastor Randy