Click on the image above to hear Roger’s thoughts regarding these uncharted times.
Yes Facebook world, please breathe; we all are aware President Trump refused to shake Speaker Pelosi’s hand and Speaker Pelosi chose to tear up President Trump’s speech: two people with titles snubbed one another with symbolic actions. (No one was physically hurt). Just thinking we are better off not promoting either negative behavior, defending either choice, or slamming ‘the other party’. I think there is an alternative…In the next 24 hours, I am committing to another path, to find and do something that shows respect and kindness toward another human being.
Many years ago my wife and I were seated next to another pastor and his wife at a community fish fry. The other pastor’s Mom, a retiree who’d settled in the southern US, was visiting and at the table. The table-talk turned and the next thing we knew the other pastor and his Mom were talking theology. If I recall correctly he had to head to the office and go through the list to see who was eligible to take communion on Sunday. I still remember his Mom saying, ” Son, you may be a pastor, but you’re not qualified to say who can take communion. Only Jesus knows what’s in the heart.” The son retorted. The Mom said, “You know, the church I go too doesn’t do that anymore. It’s still the same denomination; Son, times are changing. You need to adapt.” I smile every time I remember the two of them–Mom breaking with generations of tradition, and the son holding fast to the past.
Within the United Methodist Church there are two sacraments (visible expressions of holy spiritual truths) that pastors are placed in charge of: baptism and communion. However, in the United Methodist tradition pastors are placed in charge of baptism and communion to make sure both remain open to all who reach out to experience God in the moment. Babies who can not affirm their own faith are baptized to remind us God chooses to love us even before we can respond to that love. Even when adults is baptized, the fact that we baptize babies reminds us part of baptism is surrounding and nurturing one another with Christ-like love. Likewise, pastors in the UM Church are placed in charge of the sacrament of communion NOT to decide who gets to take communion. Instead, we are charged with keeping Christ’s table open to all who seek–including young children mentally-impaired, those with dementia or any who may not fully understand. I like to say, “if we had to understand communion fully to receive it, none of us could receive. There is always more to learn and room to grow.”
This Sunday I will be part of a Healthy Church Consultation Team for Hillcrest, UMC in Bloomington. But, Grace will still have communion. The youth will serve. Tonight (Wednesday) I will bless the bread and juice–and use that time of blessing as a teaching moment with the youth who will serve on Sunday.
No doubt I will tell them that if I was asked to name three things I love about the United Methodist Church, always in the top three would always be: 1) the open communion table where all are welcome who seek to follow Jesus by loving God and neighbor. 2) the UM affirmation that God loves us and says, “Yes” to us before we can even say “Yes” to God. The theological term for God loves us before we even know it is “prevenient Grace.”
The devotional challenge of the open communion table and prevenient Grace is two-fold. First, we ask ourselves if we are blocking God’s grace in our own lives. Any day we ask if we are “good enough” we need to step back and remind ourselves God chooses to love us before we measure up and in spite of the fact that this side of heaven we’ll always be flawed. Second, we examine our attitudes to see if we are asking others to “measure up” before receiving God’s love. If so, we ask God to help us grow in grace and hospitality–and remind ourselves that God has chosen to love us before we “get it right” or “understand it all.”
That is “Grace” and it is “amazing” indeed.
Blessings, Pastor Roger
Many of us are familiar with the scene of Jesus walking along the shoreline calling fishermen to follow him. Among those fishermen was a man named Simon who Jesus renamed Peter–the rock, the person Jesus will use as a foundation for his church. The gospel of John has tells the story of Peter’s call a bit differently, however. John 1:40-41 says, “One of the two disciples who heard what John (the baptist) said and followed Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. He found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’ Andrew lead Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas (which is translated Peter).'”
As I ponder the account from the Gospel of John, I am struck by a few things in it. First, Jesus doesn’t seek out Simon Peter. Second, Simon Peter has an open mind and heart. Third, it answers a question I’ve always had with the version from Matthew’s account, “why did Simon drop everything to follow Jesus when he didn’t even know who he was?” In John’s telling, Simon Peter first put his trust in his brother Andrew. The way John describes it, Andrew lead his brother to Jesus. Andrew said, “we’ve been spending time with this fellow Jesus, and we are convinced he must be the messiah.”
Some people do have a spiritual experience where they kind of meet Jesus out of the blue–a vision, or a dream. Most of us, however, have had someone like Andrew, someone we already trust, invite us to trust Jesus. For me it was a Sunday School teacher, my parents, a college professor, a pastor and a handful of writers. Many of the times I’ve found myself growing in the faith, it’s been because someone I trust invites me to see faith or be faithful in a new way.
Who has been your Andrew leading you into Jesus presence? When have you been Andrew for another? Who trusts you that may be struggling right now? Perhaps it’s your chance to say, “Jesus helps me navigate life. I’d love to have you come with me to the place where I feel closest to him.”
“I’ve put my Spirit upon him to bring justice to the nations. He won’t cry out or shout aloud… . He won’t break a bruised reed; he won’t extinguish a faint wick, but he will surely bring justice” (Isaiah 42:1b.4) I remember occasionally watching Mr. Rogers with my children. For a children’s program he took on some hard issues–including bullying and death–always with a calm, non-anxious voice. A couple Presbyterian pastors I served with years ago assured me he did become anxious about “written tests;” they claimed he requested to take tests in seminary orally. I don’t know know if those reports are true. I do know he had a gift of communicating care with the spoken word. When I read the words from Isaiah 42 about how to recognize God’s chosen, Mr. Rogers, is one of the ‘celebrity’ leaders I think of.
There are many others I think of who have similar characteristics–they don’t should aloud and work hard to avoid extinguishing others light, especially if the wick is faint. As followers of Jesus, the church, we are called to lead the world into God’s arms by exhibiting the same traits. Today, the Scripture asks us, “Where can we choose to speak without shouting?” “Who is like a bruised reed that we are called to be gentle with?” “Where must we move carefully to avoid stirring the winds that will extinguish a faint wick of another’s hope?”
Isaiah says, The messiah may be gentle, but he will never be extinguished or broken. His justice will prevail. Today, take heart in being kind. Be strong in standing with the weary. God’s goodness and justice will prevail.