Pastor’s Corner 11/24/19

         Dear Friends,
                Jesus’ invitation to “Follow Me” is ultimately a call for us to follow in his footsteps and patten our lives after Him. This applies not only to our individual lives as Disciples, but also to our life together as a community of faith.
                For us to follow the Prophetic Jesus means that we are called to be a Prophetic Church. What does that actually mean?
                The prophetic vision Jesus lifted up over and over again was the Kin(g)dom of God being realized on earth, fulfilling the hopes and dreams of generations. We are invited to share in this dream and equipped by the Holy Spirit to help realize it.
                This means SEEING the world differently than it currently is. This means looking at “reality” and not glossing over the rough spots or ignoring the pain of our world or the people in it. It means recognizing the truth and the gap between “what’s so” and the blessings of goodness according to God’s intent in Creation.
               We are meant to follow up Gospel-oriented clear sightedness by SPEAKING. We are challenged to speak truth to power…naming what is missing or misshapen in our society…despite any fears of causing discomfort or conflict.
              Finally, our speaking is meant to call forth ACTION…yes, from others, but even more importantly, from ourselves. How are we BEHAVING our faith? What steps are we taking to address the wrongs we see? Hand-wringing is not enough. We are called to join together to BE the Good News for and with our neighbors as we seek the fulfillment of Jesus’ vision. 
Let us be Prophetic Church, beloved!  

Pastor’s Corner 11/10/19

The Secret Life of Progressive Christians

         One movie that holds a place in my heart is the 2013 movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It is about a man that lives his life in daydreams instead of speaking up and stepping out to discover what the world has to offer until a snafu at work forces him to do so. Walter is shy, clumsy, and self-conscious.           I urge you to watch the movie if you haven’t. It has beautiful music, and I would go as far as to say that it could change your life. Sera Maddingly reflects on the story: “Every time I watch the movie, I start to tear up. Life goes so fast sometimes, and things can end or go bad within seconds. It’s terrifying. Many of us are hoping and wishing we’ll do something wonderful or groundbreaking. It’s sad to say many of us stick to the wishing, dreaming, hoping, and daydreaming for fear that we’re not good enough to live out our dreams.”

       We Christians are really good at living in our daydreams, too. The word “evangelical” has been hijacked, and for a lot of the last few decades, mainline Protestants and centrist/progressive Christians have leaned on the culture intertwined around Sundays and church. We have rarely invited our neighbors to church. We rarely tell people about our beliefs. We love to read about theology and social justice and daydream about “one day”. 
      I struggle with this as well. Ask me about weightlifting, and I will talk your ear off. Ask me about work, and I will be guarded with worry about what someone will assume about me. But, it’s time to change that. It’s time for us to share and be prophetic about what kind of God we believe in! Some of my best connections with people, who are unchurched (and probably plan to keep it that way) are when I DO share about my job, my dreams for the Church, and what we believe. 
What is your dream for the Church? How are you doing to live that out?

Pastor’s Corner 11/3/2019

Pastor’s Corner

     When I was in seminary, one of my Church History professors was a treasure trove of quotes from John Wesley. One that he repeated to us often (appropriately, given that we were students) was Wesley’s admonition to the people called Methodists that one of the most important characteristics of a Christian is that we be “teachable.”
     Dr. Meadows emphasized the need for us to hold our convictions lightly and to be humble enough to have minds open to new ideas and different interpretations of ideas we were familiar with. 
     I don’t consider myself to be someone who is particularly attached to being “right.” However, even for me, this discipline was sometimes difficult to maintain in the face of beliefs and faith practices that were contrary to what I entered seminary with. The need to defend my heart and what I “knew” (or desperately wanted) to be TRUE was at times overwhelming.
     In our sermon series on the Prophetic Jesus, you may find yourself similarly challenged. Oftentimes, our preaching and worship skirts around uncomfortable ideas and avoids pressing points that hit too close to home. This means we might not have as much practice as we need in allowing Jesus’ teachings to confront or disturb us.
     If you feel pushed this month, I invite you to remember the idea of being “teachable” and try it on for yourself. May this give you space for new contemplation! 

Pastor’s Corner 10/27/2019

Pastor’s Corner

                Reverend Wade Watts was a civil rights activist and head of the Oklahoma NAACP in the 1970s. One day, while sitting in a diner, he was accosted by a group of Ku Klux Klansmen, who told him this: “think very carefully about what you do to that piece of chicken in front of you, because whatever you do to that chicken, we’re going to do to you.” Watts leaned over, picked up the chicken on his plate, and gave it a kiss. I love this story; instead of reacting violently or cowering in fear, Watts responded humanely, while still forcing his oppressors to recognize his dignity.
               This week, we are looking at Jesus’ command to love our enemies as part of our Prophetic Jesus sermon series. Many find this teaching difficult to swallow. No one likes to be a doormat, after all. But as we will see this Sunday, loving one’s enemies isn’t just a warm, fuzzy ideal…it can be a radical act of protest. Walter Wink writes about the famous passage in Matthew 5, where we find both Jesus’ command to love our enemies and Jesus’ instruction to  “turn the other cheek” when we attacked. Wink Jesus’ cultural context: the “turn the other cheek” piece refers to the ancient custom of hitting someone with lower social rank with the back of your hand to avoid having to look the person in the eye. If the other cheek was turned, you would make the aggressor look at you, as if to say “if you’re going to hit me, hit me like an equal.” Jesus is telling us to oppose injustice in a nonviolent, subversive way, not asserting a quiet consent to injustice, but asserting our humanity. 
             In a world powered by hate, Jesus’ call to peaceful resistance is crucial. Often, the most radical and courageous thing we can do is love our enemies…by seeing and acknowledging their humanity while still insisting that they acknowledge our own. My prayer is that we find a way to strike a balance and that we can love all of our neighbors, and to “be perfect as God is perfect.”