Friday, May 27, 2016

Most importantly

I've been given to thinking lately. I know, I know the joke hidden there. But really, I've been doing some pondering on what we're going to do as a church in the coming year -- July 1 and on.

I pray that this will be a great year for these churches. We've had such difficulty in the past year. Sickness (my own and others), and a death. 

But I believe we're on to something. I believe we can do more, for those who want to count.

We continued a ministry called Sewing God's Love, even going so far as to obtain a house where many women can create things for those who are ill.

We have a dynamite worker named Ci Ann who volunteers all over the parish.

We have a Pizza Hut ministry where they give us pizzas each week and Mary heads up the delivery to those less fortunate.

The list is a good one.

But what if?
What if this was the way we approached ministry? This is from Acts, and it is Paul's way of looking at ministry.

"But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus; to testify about good news of God's grace."

Nothing is more important.
Pass the goodness, the light, the grace of the Lord Jesus to anyone who doesn't have a relationship with him.

Nothing is more important.
Seems like a plan.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wrapping it all up

      It’s been a week since the United Methodist General Conference closed. I let it sort of settle in my mind and heart before finishing it off with this blog.
      Understand, I’m not there. I will never be at a General Conference. I’m not allowed to be a voting member because I’m a Local Pastor.
      But here are the things that actually were passed last week that have, I believe, great impact.
    The United Methodist Church will withdraw from the religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a pro-abortion rights group. The conference also rejected a resolution titled “Responsible Parenthood,” which also supported abortion rights. I am ecstatic about these votes.
    Delegates called on their church’s mission agency to withdraw from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which critics see as more anti-Israel than pro-peace.
    Delegates approved “sustainable and responsible investments” in institutions, companies, corporations, or funds whose policies and practices align with the denomination’s Social Principles, but rejected proposals to divest from fossil fuel companies or companies that profit from Israeli military activities in the occupied territories.
    Africa, where the denomination is growing exponentially, will get five more bishops after the next General Conference as part of the Comprehensive Plan for Africa.
    Church agencies will raise awareness about the harm caused by sports teams that use mascots that disrespect Native Americans -- or names that depict them as violent and aggressive, such as the “Braves” or the “Warriors” — though the church will not go so far as to say its groups cannot meet in cities that are home to those sports teams. I’m stunned that a church agency would take this battle on.
    The conference updated a resolution that directs churches to “welcome newly arriving immigrants into our congregations” and pushes a path to citizenship. Yep. They did.
      The church announced a health initiative to reach 1 million children by 2020 with resources for ensuring safe births and preventing illnesses like pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria; promoting breastfeeding; and eliminating barriers to health and medical services. Abundant Health: Our Promise to Children builds on its largest-ever global health initiative, Imagine No Malaria.

      And then they all rested.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Haters hate, lovers wait

       What’s it take for us to slow down and stop the “hating?”
       Let’s begin by reading the following.
       "Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry." James 1:19 CEB
       Rudyard Kiplin’s poem, If, echoes this: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,    But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, and yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise ...”
       Let’s summarize the two this way…
1)    Listen to the other person
2)    Don’t get angry if they disagree
3)    Keep your head
4)    Make allowance for the fact they might be giving you a poor argument
5)    Wait for it
6)    Don’t lie or worry about being lied about
 Stop hating.
        I have the strongest of feelings that most will not care about this. Most will say they aren’t doing any of this.
        To that I say, uh, poo.
         What has caused all this anger?      
         We have lost all our ability to compromise, to think more of the other than of ourselves, and it’s getting worse.
          The American public is divided—over economic policy, social policy, foreign policy, race, privacy and national security, and many other things.
          And how have we gotten here?
          NBC News said this: Opinions vary. There’s the fight over Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination. Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract with America. Bill Clinton’s impeachment. The 2000 Bush v. Gore recount. The Iraq war and its aftermath. Or the more recent fights over the health-care law and the debt limit.
       “But the Cook Political Report’s Charlie Cook traces this era of increased polarization back to 1984, when Democrats and Republicans battled over the contested election for Indiana’s Eighth Congressional District – famously dubbed the “Bloody Eighth.”
       “In that close race, the GOP challenger was initially declared the winner by Indiana’s Republican secretary of state, but the Democratic-controlled House refused to seat him. After recounts, the House declared the Democratic incumbent to be the winner.
       “In no time, the House developed a poisonous culture,” Cook says. “This soon led to ethical headhunting, trying to get opposition party leaders forced out of the House and even prosecuted. Professional courtesy was dead.”
       And then there’s the rise of partisan media and the Internet. “You want a culprit for all this? The Internet, email and cable TV,” says political analyst Stuart Rothenberg of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “They have conspired to polarize the electorate and our politicians.”
       Where do we go from here? We need to do the above list. Often. It’s our only hope.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Can we disagree and love?

       Two quotes of importance to begin things this fine morning. 
       The Bishop of what we in Methodism call the Louisiana Annual Conference, Cynthia Harvey, said at the just finished General Conference last week, "We don't have to agree but we have to love each other."
       The Apostle Paul wrote, "Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other."
       Just asking: Has there ever been a time in our nation's history where we were so polarized, so apart? The Apostle Paul would have thought the worst of this. He wrote these words above. He MEANT this words above.
       What would this ol' world be like if we did either or both of those thoughts? 
       But that's not where we are. 
In a Pew research study, we find out just how separate we are.
 The study showed that the share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades, from 10% to 21%. As a result, the amount of ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished. The “median,” or typical, Republican is now more conservative than 94% of Democrats, compared with 70% twenty years ago. And the median Democrat is more liberal than 92% of Republicans, up from 64%.  
The share of Republicans who have very unfavorable opinions of the Democratic Party has jumped from 17% to 43% in the last 20 years. Similarly, the share of Democrats with very negative opinions of the Republican Party also has more than doubled, from 16% to 38%. But these numbers tell only part of the story. Among Republicans and Democrats who have a very unfavorable impression of the other party, the vast majority say the opposing party’s policies represent a threat to the nation’s well-being..
Differences between the right and left go beyond politics. Three-quarters of consistent conservatives say they would opt to live in a community where “the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away,” while 77% of consistent liberals prefer smaller houses closer to amenities. Nearly four times as many liberals as conservatives say it is important that their community has racial and ethnic diversity; about three times as many conservatives as liberals say it is important that many in the community share their religious faith.
Most troubling to me, perhaps is the fact the center has gotten smaller: 39% of Americans currently take a roughly equal number of liberal and conservative positions, down from 49% in surveys conducted in 1994 and 2004.
To those on the ideological right and left, compromise now means that their side gets more of what it wants
In other words, we’re not getting together on much of anything.

Jesus called us to be unified. We’re not. We’re not even trying any longer.
So, can we  "Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other." If we agree to disagree without name-calling, loving each other like members of our own families, perhaps we have a chance.