"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Collect of the Day: Pentecost
O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
In addition to inspiring worship services, the ordination of Deacons and Elders, the approval of the conference budget, and times for learning and growth, Bishop Bruce Ough will preside over our legislative meetings. This year, we have nine recommendations to consider as an Annual Conference.
Please keep Faith Community's representatives, Joyce Smith, Mary Carol Short, John Sherer, and me in your prayers as we prepare to participate in this year's Annual Conference.
Each day leading up to the beginning of Annual Conference, I am providing a recommendation so we can all begin praying and think about these issues that are before us. You are welcome to make comments on this blog regarding these issues.
2 No Casinos In Ohio!
4 Those who exploit the poor blaspheme their Maker,
5 but those who are kind to the needy honor Him.
6 Proverbs 14:31
8 WHEREAS Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as God has loved us; and,
10 WHEREAS the Bible further compels us not to put stumbling blocks before others; and,
12 WHEREAS Paul reminds us that “if one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of
13 our body is honored, the whole body will be happy. Together you are the body of Christ. Each
14 one of you is part of his body”1; and,
16 WHEREAS the Evangelical Ethic compels us to become activists for God because we are called
17 to treat others like people whom Christ gave his life for on the cross2; and,
19 WHEREAS our United Methodist Social Principles state, “Gambling is a menace to society,
20 deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic and spiritual life, destructive of good
21 government and good stewardship3; and,
23 WHEREAS the field research indicates that nationwide you stand to lose 1.5 jobs for every job
24 the casino creates…for every dollar that legalized gaming interests claim is contributed in taxes,
25 it really costs the taxpayer $3 to address the increased socio-economic costs to society4; and,
27 WHEREAS about 60% of the 4.2 million Americans addicted to gambling have annual incomes
28 below $25,000”5; and,
30 WHEREAS a Mississippi State University study found that in counties with casinos, those
31 earning less than $10,000 per year lost 10% of the family income to casinos; and,
33 WHEREAS Penn National and the Ohio Race Tracks have presented two different proposals to
34 bring casinos and slot machines to Ohio within close proximity to communities living in poverty;
36 THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That congregations and members of the West Ohio
37 Conference stand firm in their opposition to gambling through education and public witness; and,
39 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that members of West Ohio congregations actively engage
40 friends, colleagues and family members around the negative impacts of gambling; and,
42 BE IT FUTHER RESOLVED that members of West Ohio congregations actively communicate
43 with their Ohio legislators to defeat the Ohio Race Track proposal which would place slot
44 machines at the 7 race tracks without a vote of the people; and,
1 BE IT FUTHER RESOLVED that members of West Ohio congregations actively write letters to
2 their newspapers opposing Penn National’s proposed constitutional amendment and the Ohio
3 Race Track owners’ proposal; and,
5 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that members of West Ohio congregations actively and
6 consistently pray that gambling interests will not be successful in their efforts to bring casinos
7 and slots to Ohio; and,
9 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that members of West Ohio congregations remember our
10 neighbors living in poverty who would be harmed by casinos and slot machines.
12 Submitted by: Anti-Gambling Taskforce and Let Justice Roll Lead Team
15 1I Corinthians 12:26-27 CEV 2Jackson Day, GBCS Consultant
16 3United Methodist Social Principles 163G, 2008 4Professor John Kindt, University of Chicago
17 5National Institute on Mental Health
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Resolution on Healthcare
WHEREAS, Concern for health and health care has been central to the Jewish and Christian faiths from their beginnings. The Hebrew Scriptures address issues of sickness and healing. The Gospels report the ministry of healing by Jesus Christ, for whom healing, like salvation, was an expression of deliverance from sin and death. Jesus' message emphasizes wholeness as the will of God and encourages humans to seek and accept God’s gift of spiritual, mental, and physical health (Matthew 10:7-8).
WHEREAS, Holy Scripture makes the claim that actions required to achieve the goals of health involve both personal (Exodus 24:3; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) and social (Ezekiel 34:4) responsibility. St. Paul, in turn, identifies "the cosmic powers of this present darkness" (Ephesians 6:12) as a source of much that is ill in this world, and encourages Christians to side with God against these powers. In all these times, the provision of health care has been an expression of the duty of hospitality (Matthew 25:36). Through the ages the Christian Church has expressed this duty through personal deeds of service and the creation of healing institutions.
WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church through its Social Principles (¶162V) has expressed its commitment to health care for all. John Wesley was always deeply concerned about health care, providing medical services at no cost to the poor and emphasizing preventive care. The first Methodist Social Creed (adopted in 1908) urged working conditions to safeguard the health of workers and community. Through its many hospitals and health-care facilities around the world, as well as public-policy advocacy for health, the United Methodist Church continues to declare its commitment to quality and affordable health care as a right of all people. (UMR 113)
WHEREAS, Access to quality affordable health care has reached crisis proportions in the world, impacting the well-being of God’s children of all ages, everywhere, but especially the most vulnerable, including the poor, the children and the aged. Today, health care is a major issue globally for the world's population. Key indicators of child mortality, poverty, environmental degradation, maternal health, the spread of communicable diseases and access to medicine constitute 6 of 8 United Nations Millennium Goals and tell of a world that is sickening to too many and brings the end of life too soon.
WHEREAS, In the United States, the number of persons without access to health insurance is 47 million and regrettably continues to grow; those who do have such access face a health care delivery system of increasing cost and diminishing quality.
And, WHEREAS, In Ohio, the economic downturn has led to an increased proportion of low and middle income citizens who cannot afford the cost of healthcare. 1.4 million Ohioans have no health insurance and 62% of Ohioans had some experience with being uninsured either through their own experience or through the experience of a household or family member. Millions more with health coverage are under-insured or reluctant to use their coverage because of high co-payments, deductibles and other cost sharing requirements.
The West Ohio Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is compelled, based on our faith and in honor of our Wesleyan tradition, to act in the midst of this crisis.
THEREFORE, may it be resolved:
1. That as individuals we challenge ourselves to make a commitment to live healthier lives and work toward health care for all, and we encourage our clergy and lay employees to model health and well-being for our local church members, including keeping Sabbath rest.
2. That as members of West Ohio Conference, we call the General Agencies to work together comprehensively and strategically to insure that health and well-being are a priority both in the work that we do for members of our denomination and also for citizens across the world.
3. That as members of West Ohio Conference, we call upon our congregations to conduct Health Care Justice Sabbaths during the first weekend of January or another weekend of their choosing in which the theological, political, economic and medical issues involved in health care can be raised in sermons and discussions. A range of health care related works of mercy, from blood pressure screenings to blood drives, can benefit the community and should be offered.
4. That as citizens of the State of Ohio, we call upon the Ohio Legislative bodies to introduce and pass legislation to address health care for all in Ohio. We anticipate and support that a variety of regional approaches may result, and that this will provide an experience base that can be replicated in other regions of Ohio as well as the country as a whole. The Conference will offer opportunities for gathering as West Ohio United Methodists for legislative visits and for conversation around the relationship between advocacy and faith.
5. That as citizens of the United States, we call upon the United States Congress to introduce and pass legislation which will move us to universal health care on a single payer basis, consistent with UMC Resolution #3201 and to the extent this cannot be immediately achieved, to introduce and pass legislation which will move us toward this goal in increments, such as effective means of providing health care coverage to seniors, to the poor, to those who are employed but cannot access coverage, and to children; and to support state-level initiatives toward expanding healthcare coverage.
6. That as citizens of the world and advocates for the Kingdom of God, we call upon the United Nations, its constituent agencies, such as the World Health Organization and World Trade Organization, and member nations, to determine actions that will address the United Nations Millennium Goals and increase the quantity of health care services, particularly preventive and village-based health care services, throughout the world.
West Ohio Healthcare Ministries Team and Let Justice Roll Team
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Here are the highlights from today's session:
- Part of the novel focuses on the inclusive nature of God and how it borders on universalism (the belief that all will eventually be saved.) The novel emphasizes that we sometimes have a narrow view of who is in and who is out regarding salvation.
- One example of scripture which supports this more inclusive view of salvation include John 10:16 in which Jesus says, "And I have sheep that are not of this fold."
- The novel tends to have a negative view toward organized religion. While not discounting the several examples of how churches can be dysfunctional, I take issue with any attempt to differentiate our spiritual lives from church structure/politics. A church needs both the missional component as well as the structural component for long term health. Sure, we sometimes get these out of balance, but I also don't think that it should be either/or.
- The author of "Finding God in the Shack" takes issue with the novel's lack of emphasis upon the role of the church in the life of the Christian. People in my bible study pointed out that since the novel isn't meant to be a systematic book of theology, that just because references to the importance of the church are absent doesn't mean that it is not important to the author of the novel.
- There are good reasons and bad reasons for not participating in the church. The author of "Finding God in the Shack" states that too many people leave or quit attending a church for inadequate reasons. Most of the time, people leave simply because the church doesn't meet their needs in the way they expect. However, the role of the church is to help us to serve and be involved in ministry. The primary purpose of the church isn't to meet our needs.
- Part of the reason why our culture (and the novel) seems to deemphasize the role of the organized church is because western culture prides itself in individualism.
- The main character in the novel, Mack, had a really negative experience with the organized church. One of the problems of the novel is that it doesn't speak on behalf of Christians who have and/or are part of healthy and functional churches. Maybe this is why I am uncomfortable with the novel's attempt to differentiate between spirituality and the organized church. It's because my experience with the church has for the most part, been very positive. Sure, there have been examples of Christians behaving badly in the church here and there, but I'm positive that my faith wouldn't be as strong as it is today if I didn't have positive experiences with the organized church over the course of my lifetime.
Next Thursday, we will conclude our study on "The Shack."
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Collect of the Day: Memorial Day
Lord God Almighty, who has made all peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and peace: Grant to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Sermon - "Loud and Clear"
Features - Pentecost & Graduate Recognition
Scriptures - Acts 2:1-21 & John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
Theme - This is the day of Pentecost, the fiftieth and last day of the Easter season. On Pentecost we remember the birth of the church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the gathered community. We will focus our worship celebration on the role of the Holy Spirit in overcoming barriers to communication. A special emphasis is placed on Peter who received mercy after denying Jesus and is now boldly sharing his faith with the world. He sets an example for us to accept all into the church who desire Christ.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
1Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy.
2For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.
3He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.
4He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah
5God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
6Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.
8God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
9The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted.
Friday, May 22, 2009
- Methodism is built on a three legged stool - Doctrine, Spirit, & Discipline.
- Methodism at its best provides a system to help all people grow in grace. 1) Small groups for seekers that meet in a neutral site away from the church. The church needs to be present in the public domain! 2) Small groups for people who are willing to grow as mature Christians. 3) Small groups for people who are serious believers and who are seeking to become leaders in the church.
- The big question Dr. Tom Albin asked of us pastors is, "Does your church have an intentional process to help people move into deeper levels of discipleship?" Most local churches offer a wide array of groups/activities but they are often not presented in a methodical way that can help people on their road of discipleship. It's often "hit or miss" in local churches. We need to be much more intentional in our disciple making process.
- For Wesley and the early Methodists, it wasn't just about having the right information on how to be a Christian. It was about having other Christians in a small group setting help them stay accountable in moving forward and on to perfection and holiness.
- The goal of transformation is for men and women to be fully alive. Wesley liked this quote from Irenaeus, a 2nd century early church father, and he adopted it for his Methodist movement. For Wesley, being fully alive meant 1) not being afraid, and 2) having joy.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Here are the highlights from today's session:
- The novel explores theological thoughts of sin, evil, & salvation. Evil is interpreted as the absence of good, much like darkness is interpreted as the absence of light.
- We talked about two theological issues that are often in tension with each other; the sovereignty of God and human free will. The author of "Finding God in the Shack" believes that the novel goes a little too far in emphasizing free will and neglecting the doctrine of "prevenient grace" which is the grace that makes it possible for humans to have free will.
- We spent a lot of time discussing the issue of forgiveness and it's relationship with salvation. Just because God forgives someone doesn't mean that person receives salvation. Again, humans can choose or not choose (thanks to God's prevenient grace) to be in a relationship with God.
- The author of "Finding God in the Shack" references the 2006 shooting involving an Amish school and how the Amish were willing to offer forgiveness soon after the shootings. We were reminded of how difficult it is to live out the Christian faith when we are called to forgive people for doing terrible things. Perhaps the author of the novel could have emphasized our need to depend upon God's power to offer forgiveness. Like Ezekiel 36:26 points out, we need a new heart and a new spirit in order to be a forgiving people.
- The author of "Finding God in the Shack" raises the troubling but important question if we are able to envision an eternal life in which people who have done terrible acts of evil and who have repented and accepted a relationship with God through Christ, will be alongside of other people of faith who haven't committed such terrible deeds of evil.
- We also were reminded that God takes sin and evil seriously and that there will be a day when God will offer judgement. Our Judeo/Christian faith is a faith in which unrighteousness will be finally judged and defeated. This is when heaven and earth will become one.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
They are harbingers of spring.
They usher in each new morning
with song and winged flight.
They prance upon the lawn
as they search for nesting supplies.
And they are killing me.
Many await their arrival each spring
as a sign of fairer weather and temperatures.
I view it as an invasion..
And unfortunately, I am hopelessly outnumbered.
It was a pristine day,
perfect for a dinner on the deck.
It was the kind of day you would like to freeze frame.
The temperature was perfect,
the sky a majestic blue.
The air offered a cleansing aroma of springtime.
It was a great night to entertain friends.
The grill was sizzling,
music was softly playing in the background,
and laughter was in full supply.
It was then that they made their presence known.
Not by the renditions of their songs,
nor by the beauty of their flight.
They decided to let us know that they were present
when they released their droppings into my friend's ceasar salad.
"Would you like some more cheese on your salad?
"No thanks, the bird droppings are just fine!"
It doesn't stop there.
Every spring during nesting season
they cover everything with reminders
that they lord over the skies.....
Nothing escapes their attempt
The deck is splattered......
the pool is bombarded.....
the freshly washed windows become speckled,
and the car looks like a work of Picasso,
on one of his bad days.
Try scrubbing down the house,
and by next morning it all mysteriously reappears.
Try power washing the deck,
and watch our feathered friends
plan their next assault.
I could take a chain saw and cut down all the trees that surround my property,
or I could shrink wrap my home until nesting season has passed.
Give it to them,
they are persistent as well as beautiful.
People can be like robins.
Beautiful in many ways,
but prone to verbal droppings that can splatter........
You look great......... for your age.
You just need to have more faith.
I know exactly how you feel.
Shouldn't you be over this by now?
We all say things from time to time
that leave marks on the people around us.
Sometimes we just fly away,
totally unaware that someone is left
to scrub up the mess.
Sometimes, we are so busy with building our own lives,
that we don't realize we have the power to discolor people's spirits.
Robins have an excuse.
They have been given very small brains.
We don't have such an excuse.
"Teach me to do Thy will,
For Thou art my God;
Let Thy good Spirit
lead me on level ground."
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Sermon - “On a Need to Know Basis”
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Here are the highlights from today's session:
- The author points out that "The Shack" does a good job of keeping the reality of evil and the Christian future hope of new creation in tension. I like his term for this - "optimistic pessimism."
- "The Shack" affirms the doctrine of total depravity which says that all of humanity is infected with sin and we are totally dependent on God to rescue us. My bible study spent some time discussing how reformed theology emphasizes predestination and how Wesleyanism allows for free will with the understanding of God's grace as prevenient. Prevenient grace is the grace that God stirs within us which invites us to accept God's offer of grace/salvation. The key difference with reformed theology is that Wesley didn't believe that grace was irresistible. Even though God stirs prevenient grace within us to provoke a response, we still have the choice to accept or not accept God.
- I loved the G.K. Chesterton quote that says, original sin is the only empirically identifiable doctrine of the Christian faith. LOL!
- We also discussed that to help us think about the problem of evil from a Christian understanding, we need to see the bible as a whole story which includes five parts: 1) Creation 2) Corruption 3) Covenant 4) Christ 5) Consummation. A big thanks to a bible study member who helped us think of the word "corruption" to keep us consistent with words that begin with the letter "c!" In other words, this overall look at the biblical story of God's salvation history helps us to see that while evil is a real and present reality in our world, God will eventually judge evil once and for all and God will renew all of creation when heaven descends upon earth completely.
- One of the good points made in "The Shack" is that we can't point to one experience or person in placing the blame for evil. Evil is woven throughout all of humanity. I shared with my bible study the famous line that says, "throw a rock in the air and you're bound to hit someone guilty."
- "The Shack" helps us to not see God as angry and filled with wrath as some people have been known to portray God. Jesus helps us to see who God is. If Jesus was willing to die on a cross for the world, God must be filled with a lot of love, not anger!
- We talked about hell as being a place for people who refuse to be the creator God's image bearers in the world. When we fail to be God's image bearers in the world, (that is people who are filled with love, mercy, and righteousness), we fail to be human.
More on "The Shack" next week.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
It was a beautiful spring day.
The sun was shining brightly.
There was a soft breeze moving.
It was the kind of day that would make you
wish that you were at the park or the beach.
It was a cotton candy day.
Even though it only a grocery store parking lot,
it still felt like a cotton candy day
for the 3 year old and her mother
as they approached Mr. Horsie.
Mr Horsie is strategically positioned
just outside the entrance to the grocery store,
beckoning all who seek adventure and fun
to climb onto the saddle,
for a very reasonable 50 cents.
His shiny saddle and stirrups,
along with his bright blue leather work
can't help but attract the attention
of any fun seeking child.
And so it was with this little girl
who eagerly asked her mommie
if she could ride Mr Horsie.
A wise parent,
the mother knew that it was better to ride Mr Horsie before entering the store
rather when exiting.
After all, a lot of ice cream can melt during a three minute ride.
And so, the little girl climbed into the saddle
as mommy dug into her purse for two quarters.
The little girl's face was filled with glee and happiness
as the coins clanked their way into Mr Horsie's coffers.
And then it started..........
Oh yes, Mr Horsie began to rock back and forth gently.
But it was the sound.
It was abrasive,
It appeared that Mr Horsie's spring action
was in serious need of a lube job
Every rocking motion of Mr. Horsie
created this bone chilling, scratching sound
that sounded like rusty old farm machinery
trying to get started.
Store patrons were looking to see
from where the grating noise was emanating.
Small children were covering their ears.
The look of glee fled from the little girl's face,
as she realized that her dream ride with Mr. Horsie
had turned into her worst equestrian nightmare.
Soon the tears began to flow
as mommie lifted her off the saddle.
The only problem was
Mr Horsie wasn't done.
50 cents worth after all is 50 cents worth.
Sometimes three minutes can seem like an eternity.
And sometimes, things look a lot better than they really are.
When my brother was a child,
he decided to eat an entire stick of margarine.
Take him to an IHOP to this day,
and watch his still nauseated expression
as the unmelted margarine gleams at him from atop his pancakes.
When I was a child,
I decided that gasoline smelled really good.
My mother remembers me staggering to the house in my little cowboy boots.
To this day, whenever I smell gas fumes
I vividly remember that dizziness I experienced that day.
As adults, we aren't much different.
We might realize that margarine and gasoline
are not to be ingested and inhaled,
but there are other things that entice us.
Cars with payments more than we can afford.....
Credit cards with interest laced debts that we can't repay......
Foods laden with enough calories to feed a small nation......
A drug or drink that offers escape from our problems.
Name your temptation.
Name that which looks pleasing to you at the outset,
but over time, reveals its ugly painful side.
Then look past the immediate pleasure,
and look to the one who was tempted in all things,
yet kept His gaze upon the Father
Sometimes, things look a lot better than they really are.
but with God, it's even better than you can imagine.
"For we do not have a great high priest
who cannot sympathize without weaknesses,
but One who has been tempted in all things as we are,
yet without sin.
Let us therefore draw nearer with confidence,
that we may receive mercy and may find grace
to help in time of need."
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
- Tritheism is a heresy that claims there are three gods and that the Christian faith is not monotheistic. Modalism is a heresy that denies that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God simultaneously.
- The Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 is the orthodox understanding of the Trinity in which God is one divine substance and three distinct persons at the same time.
- The novel seeks to tear down popular images that God is a static being. Instead, God is a dynamic presence in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit enjoy community and unity.
- Roger Olson thinks the novel goes too far in saying that all three persons of the Trinity were present at the cross of Good Friday. This comes dangerously close to "patripassionism," which is a heresy that claims the Father suffered and died along with Jesus. I suppose this heresy allows for the resurrection of the Father, however, the point is that in order for someone to die, they need to be human which of course, is the whole point about Jesus becoming flesh. The Father in the Trinity didn't become human.
- There are three traditional perspectives on the problem of evil. 1) God is the all determining reality and nothing happens a part from God's plan and purpose. 2) God limits his control to allow for free will. 3) Process theology claims that God is not all powerful. The novel takes a fourth approach that claims that God limits himself because he does not want to control us.
- Deism teaches that God created the world and is now distant from creation and expects humanity to continue the care of creation without depending on God much since God isn't active in the world or rarely is. Deism would explain why God didn't intervene in the holocaust for example but it doesn't make room for the more biblical view of God being dynamic and constantly interactive with creation.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
- In the passive approach – one might ignore a person’s spiritual dangers.
- In the aggressive approach – one might attack or be insensitive to the person
- In the passive aggressive approach – one may look to draw a person out through inappropriate remarks
Monday, May 4, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Sermon - “Though I Walk Through the Valley of Grief”
Saturday, May 2, 2009
- Radical Hospitality
- Passionate Worship
- Intentional Faith Development
- Risk-Taking Mission
- Extravagant Generosity
If you want to learn more about these five practices, go to United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase's web blog. Our plan is to share our brainstorming ideas at our next Council on Ministries and Administrative Board meetings.
In addition to a lot of praying, reading scripture, and brainstorming around these five practices, we also were able to take walks, enjoy wonderful meals, share in worship, and enjoy our time together.