Monday, January 28, 2013

your facebook page a place of peace or gossip? a Lenten challenge

I was inspired by Jesus' actions after the death of John the Baptist in the Gospel of Mark version, and it let to this challenge.

Monday, January 21, 2013

These are such good times-- 1 Kings 19

My reflections on 1 Kings 19:1-21 are influenced by Wesley's sermon "Of Former Times" and his identification of rebuking sin as a means of grace.  Lovingly confronting sinners with their sinful behavior is a work of mercy, according to Wesley.  This means of grace does good to a person's soul and can be a means of communicating God's grace to the rebuker and the rebuked.

In Sermon 102 Wesley rebuked the tendency to glorify the past and denigrate the present.  He repeated his definition of religion ("By religion I mean the love of God and man filling the heart and governing the life. The sure effect of this is, the uniform practice of justice, mercy, and truth. This is the very essence of it; the height and depth of religion, detached from this or that opinion, and from all particular modes of worship.") and pointed out the ways in which his Methodist movement was presently promoting the revival of this expression of Christianity.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Spiky World and The Great Plains-- reflections on the Joint Clergy Session

Creative economy, mega-region in North AmericaThe Spiky World
It is a Spiky World.  The spikes are made more obvious by the Great Plains that separate them.  A Spike grows where wealth, innovation, and political power coalesce. People who are unwilling or unable to relocate to one of the world's Spikes will increasingly find themselves living in a Great Plains of limited government services.  

In the plenary sessions, Diana Butler Bass described church life in the Spike of Washington DC—tolerant, pluralistic, and inclusive.  In our small group we described church life on the Great Plains—sorrowful, stressed-out, and abandoned.

The Great Plains
The compassion evident in the members of my small group as they spoke about the collective grief experience of Nebraskans and Kansans living in small towns is my strongest takeaway from our discussions.
School and Post Office closings, business failures, property devaluations . . . such occurrences weigh down the spirits of folks on both sides of the State line.

A commitment to minister to these failing towns was expressed by everyone around the table.  A common realization that church must take a different form was also acknowledged.  The deployment of pastors to these depopulated spaces on the Great Plains will look more like the sending of missionaries whose ministry is subsidized by other churches.

Preferred Futures
Great Churches, Great Leaders, Great Disciples-- some in the Spiky World, some on the Great Plains.  We will need an organizational plan for the new conference that keeps churches in the Spikes connected to churches on the Great Plains.  Economic realities will require a sharing of resources; the wealth and political power of the Spikes serving the needs of the Great Plains without requiring those churches to adopt spiky innovations that do not fit their ministry.

The Church can not create a Transformed World of equal opportunity, however they can advocate for government policies that address everyone's needs and respect everyone's rights while the free market system produces higher Spikes and broader Plains.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sabbath Rest

Chapter 13 of The Story is about Solomon’s rise and fall.  In my sermon I contrasted the temple-builder with the 12-year-old Jesus visiting the temple.  A phrase from Hymn 358 influenced the final theme of the sermon, Sabbath Rest.  I tried to express what the term means to me—“relationship with God,” “spiritual life,” “an interior life,” “A regular practice of time spent alone in the presence of the true God,” “to rest their souls in the Lord of the Sabbath,” “a new inward relationship with God and it’s changing his outward behavior,” “to feel connected to that which is sacred,” “reach out to the Holy.”

Wesley used phrases such as “spiritual respiration” and “the life of God in the soul of man” (from the book of that title by Henry Scougal).  What term(s) do you use?  Do your conversation partners always understand what you are talking about or do you sometimes get blank expressions?