A great deal of life is simply waiting around for one event or another. In some churches all the talk is about waiting for the Lord’s return. Of course, if one were in the first century, as were those who read Mark’s Gospel, waiting for the final curtain of history to drop was part and parcel of what it meant to believe in Christ. Yet, Luke takes a longer view of the God’s timetable because Luke recognized that God’s time and our timetables may differ somewhat.
We bear in mind that Psalm 90:4 relates about God’s time: “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past or like a watch in the night.” Other people too have a perspective on waiting. For example, the late George Carlin, comedian (d. 2008) once quipped: “Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.” Regardless of what we think about waiting, we all do it.
To be faithful to our task as Christians is to encourage one another in the faith while we wait for the Lord’s return—whenever it may come. My friend Rod Wilmoth: from an unpublished sermon tells us a story about people’s worth and how they spend their time—in the meantime:
There is a story of a king who wanted to honor the greatest subjects in his kingdom. He sent out his advisors, and they found 4 persons to be so honored. The day came for the presentation of the awards. The first man to be honored was a man of great wealth. He was honored because he had used his wealth to benefit so many worthy causes in the kingdom. The second man was a physician. He was honored for his assistance to so many who were ill and dying over the years. The third honoree was a judge. She had acted wisely and carefully in many cases which came before the courts of the land.
The fourth person to be honored stepped forward. She was an elderly woman, bent with age, wearing very plain clothing. “Why are we honoring this woman?” the king asked in some confusion.
Came the reply: “Your majesty, this woman was the teacher of the other three.
The way we spend our waiting time may matter a great deal to God—perhaps?
Sincerely, your friend,
David N. Mosser
Nostalgia is a common noun that characterizes either “a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past” or “the condition of being homesick; homesickness.” Nostalgia is a tricky thing. It sneaks up on us when we least expect it. Perhaps, an ordinary experience serves to transport us in time back. We arrive via our memory to a cherished or often overemotional remembrance of the way our life used to be. Science purports that the sense of smell is the most powerful of the five senses for jolting an individual’s memory. Perhaps for you the stimulus to harkening back to the nostalgic old days is hearing on the radio an old Hank William’s song or for those with other tastes—Billye Holliday.
Each of these examples offers an impression of what nostalgia is. Most of us cling to these memories because they convey to us feelings of a more simple and less complicated time. Now and then it seems pleasant to remember days when we had few distinct responsibilities other than to simply being who we were.
Thanksgiving is relatively easy to contemplate in terms of our past. Thanksgiving brings back familiar memories in a jiffy. Yet, Thanksgiving is also an attitude that projects into the future. For example, we might say, “I will certainly be thankful when . . . I get that promotion or that good paying job . . . or when the children are out on their own and I don’t need to worry about them so much.” We are good at pondering when we WERE thankful or when WE WILL be thankful. But about thanksgiving NOW—this is a difficult concept to abide in the present.
Having a “Thanksgiving Song” in our hearts has much to do with celebrating God in the immediate moment. In a letter to William Allen White, General Douglas MacArthur wrote these heartfelt words about warfare that are appropriate today:
The history of failure in war can be summed up in two words: Too late. Too late in comprehending the deadly purpose of a potential enemy; too late in realizing the mortal danger; too late in preparedness; too late in uniting all possible forces for resistance, too late in standing with one’s friends (William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, Little, Brown & Company, 1978, pp. 182-183).
Don’t let your thanksgiving in life be “too late.” Let there be a song of thanksgiving in your heart and in your life today. Authentic thanksgiving includes the past and the future, but most of all it celebrates the PRESENT!
Sincerely, your friend,
The most creative minds I have ever encountered are those people who look at what everyone else looks at—and yet they see the unusual, odd, or the uncommon. This “gift” I would call a knack for noticing. A few have it; many do not. It all begins with a question: “What Do You See?”
As a minister, I like to boast, to use a Pauline word, about how our church connects people. Our congregation is a progressive faith community and mission minded. Furthermore, we are Christians guided by a rich faith tradition. We like to think of ourselves as hands-on people who try to live out our Christian faith in the “nickels and dimes” of life. A question we like to ask is simply: What Do You See? How can we best capture the spirit of our home churches? One way is to ask: What Do You See?
Take, for example, a large vacant lot in your community. What do people see when they look at it? Some see a park complete with swings, teeter-totters, and places for families to barbeque together. Read more ...
Recently I was talking to two young friends from the church and one of them asked me about a movie I had referenced in the sermon. One thing led to another and the person asked me what ten films would I recommend to more well round one such young person with respect to cinema. It was a thought-provoking idea until said person said: “Please, when you give me the list, don’t make more than five of the movies “black and white.” Jeez?
Candidly, I could not stop at ten films. There are just too many good/interesting or historical films from which to choose. So, I decided as best I could. Read more . . .
This weekend as our culture celebrates Halloween, the church remembers and celebrates All Saints Day. It is a sacred day and time for the church to remember. Elaine Pagels writes in the introduction to her book Beyond Belief:
On a bright Sunday morning in February, shivering in a T-shirt and running shorts, I stepped into the vaulted stone vestibule of the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York to catch my breath and warm up. Since I had not been in church for a long time, I was startled by my response to the worship in progress—the soaring harmonies of the choir singing with the congregation; and the priest, a woman in bright gold and white vestments, proclaiming the prayers in a clear, resonant voice. As I stood watching, a thought came to me: Here is a family that knows how to face death (Beyond Belief, Elaine Pagels, New York, Random House).
Indeed, we are a family. Although none of us wants to face death, yet we do so without blinking because, as Paul writes, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Our worship space is where we face death as the household of faith. This worship space is also where we sign on to bear one another’s burdens and afflictions. We gather on All Saints Sunday to remember and because we want to pay our last respects to those we loved and those who loved us.
Sincerely, your friend, David Mosser
As many of you know I am an avid admirer of Bishop William H. Willimon who presides over the North Alabama Annual Conference. Recently he wrote about his investigation of “growing congregations in order to learn more about why they are thriving.” Bishop Willimon was perceptive enough to notice that in the dynamic and growing congregations they had one thing in common. The familiar thread was that the growing congregations had the gift of hospitality. They knew how to make new persons feel welcome. Of course, we do not do what we do to grow. Rather we as a church grow because of what we do.
One instance that Bishop Willimon put forth was that ushers, for example, did much more than simply hand out worship bulletins. Of course, they did that, but what he noticed was that ushers in vibrant churches were “people whom God had given the gift of hospitality.” Pastors who were asked about this each said that that visitors and guests early upbeat contact with ushers and people in the pews made faithfully growing church a piece of cake!
I too visit a lot of churches and in the churches that people want to be a part of is the difference between faith for the exclusive benefit of “insiders” and an avid and loving concern for the “outsiders,” that is those who have yet to hear and to respond to the gospel. Our congregation has the art of Christian hospitality down pat. Yet we can always improve our service in Jesus’ name. Read more ...
If you think these times are frightening for adults, and certainly they are, we might wonder about how alarming the past six months’ events have been for our children’s experience. Bombarded by news and images of too many things to mention. Yet, sometimes we forget that little eyes inevitably see and hear what adults see and hear. Modern children listen to and witness more information than any previous generation. It is also problematic in 2020 to be a child. Our children need our help in working out the baffling and complex world in which we live.
We have nurtured this generation of children on television. For the most part it is impossible to shelter children from the seamy side of life that in earlier days most of us never had to face until we left home. Thanks to satellite and cable TV, and __________ fill in the blank) most children witness images and hear messages long before they are mature enough to disregard them. For many American children there is no one to interpret or explain what all this violence means or to set it in context. And when a child sees violence on the television screen, depending on the age, he or she does not necessarily know that it might not be happening right down the street.
The American Psychological Association provides parents with some concrete tips on how to help children survive under the distress of modern images of aggression, cruelty, and destruction.
Question: How can parents best help their children cope with a traumatic incident?
We observe World Communion Sunday on the first Sunday in October. This day calls the church to be the universal, inclusive Church. Presbyterians in 1936 first celebrated the day. Later, the Federal Council of Churches in 1940 adopted the day. Shortly thereafter Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches celebrated it.
If you are like me, you probably never paid much attention to World Communion Sunday. When I was growing up, our pastor would help our congregation celebrate this particular day by recounting one or another story about Christian mission from around the world. At the conclusion of the service, our pastor admonished us to be more world mission minded because, as Christians, we had symbolically celebrated the Lord’s Supper with Christians around the world. Perhaps, I thought this was a nice idea, but it never really stirred my imagination in any significant way. That all changed, however, ... Read more
“That’s not fair.” There are few parents, living or dead, who have not heard these words if they have multiple children: “That’s not fair. He got two cokes and a candy bar and I only got one coke and a candy bar.” The search for human justice and equity is forever with us. We hear it from labor unions, we hear it from the schools, we hear it in homes, churches, and service clubs around the nation. They got more than we did. If we are in tune with our culture, then we know the pain of this Matthew text. It is patently unfair, especially when we pride ourselves on equity and justice. This parable exposes our contemporary sense—although it must have been around since the time of Cain and Able—that other people have gotten more than we have and that we have not gotten what we deserve. Read more...
Please do not misunderstand me; I love the 23rd Psalm and the shepherding imagery. I use it often in my devotional life. I also understand the biblical context well enough to recognize the power of the shepherding image in an agrarian culture. The pastoral picture of the good shepherd is a valid one, no doubt. Still, I have enough experience with sheep to know that a human being likened to a sheep is not a compliment. Do I like someone comparing me with a sheep? If you are like me, and you understand Jesus as the good shepherd, then we also realize that we are like sheep. I am not sure I like that, no matter how important it is as a biblical image.
The good news is this: although the analogy of scripture comparing human beings to sheep may be a bit unflattering, we are all in need of a shepherd. Accordingly, God provides Jesus for us—the good shepherd. In the paraphrased words of the book of Hebrews, God provided for us “a pioneer and perfecter” of our faith. Jesus comes to us as a good shepherd. The shepherd binds up our wounds. This shepherd protects us and makes us to lie down in green pastures. This good shepherd leads us beside the still waters and restores our souls. As a biblical image, it is one many of us cannot do without. That is, we cannot do without a shepherd, if we face our human existence with open eyes and hearts.
Hear Anthony de Mello’s parable:
A sheep found a hole in the fence and crept through it. He was so glad to
get away. He wandered far away and lost his way back.
And then he realized that a wolf was following him. He ran and ran, but the
wolf kept chasing him, until the shepherd came and rescued him and
carried him lovingly back to the fold.
nail up the hole in the fence (The Song of the Bird, Anand: India,
1982, pp. 200-201).
As I mused on the beginning of a new school year here in Salado, TX, I remembered a story of a professor which might inspire us all.
In 1947, the University of Chicago had scheduled Dr. Chandrasekhar to teach an advanced seminar in astrophysics. He was a professor at Chicago and a Cubs fan. At the time, he was living in Wisconsin, doing research at the Yerkes astronomical observatory. As an aside, Yerkes is near Kenosha, WI. Chandrasekhar planned to commute twice a week for the class, although it would be during the severe winter months.
Registration for the seminar, however, fell short of expectations. Only two students signed up for the class. People at the school expected Dr. Chandrasekhar to cancel the seminar, lest he waste his time. But for the sake of two students, he taught the class, commuting 100 miles round trip through backcountry roads in the dead of winter.
His students that semester, Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee, did their homework. Ten years later, in 1957, they both won the Nobel Prize for physics. So did Dr. Chandrasekhar in 1983.
For effective teachers, there is no such thing as too small a class.
As John Claypool reminds us on this Labor Day: “When we offer up our daily work to the glory of God and the benefit of our families and communities, we proceed to play our roles in the daily struggle to make God more visible in the world and bring God’s realm into fuller realization.”
Labor Day is a day to celebrate the work we do in the world. Often, our work is one of the ways we define our lives and thereby celebrate our lives. I suggest that this week and in preparation for Holy Communion that we use the following prayer from Reinhold Niebuher, who offered it up to God and for us:
O God, you have bound us together in this life.
Give us grace to understand how our lives depend
on the courage, the industry, the honesty,
and the integrity of all who labor.
May we be mindful of their needs, grateful for their faithfulness,
and faithful in our responsibilities to them;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May this Labor Day be a day of thanksgiving for our honest work in God's Realm.
Sincerely, your friend,
 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?  Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?  But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:27-31).
[14:1] Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:1).
 What should be done then, my friends? Read more ...
In light of the shape of our American society today, I want to lend my blog space to Rev. Tom Butts, Pastor Emeritus at FUMC Monroeville AL. His article answers the question: Why Should I Care?!
Many of us find it quite easy to take a cavalier attitude toward the problems of other people
when those problems do not affect us. Oh, we are usually civil enough to offer superficial
sympathy—“I’m so sorry that’s happening to you; the Lord will not give you more than you can
bear; just trust in the Lord and keep going; you will be in my thoughts and prayers.” We do not
come right out and say: “Hey, that’s your problem, not mine,” but
you can sense that spirit in some people’s attitudes.
Retired Air Force Chaplain, Father Vern Schueller, recently sent me a parable that reminded me of
how we tend to view the problems of others, and how our unfeeling attitude can come back to
haunt us. Here it is. Read more ...
During the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us pastors been under tremendous pressure from some inside our United Methodist congregations. They want us to do some things that we may feel uncomfortable doing and resent us for not bending to their will. Of course, it is only a few, but it stings, nonetheless. Our natural inclination is to strike back.
Instead, may we retreat to Charles Haddon Spurgeon to calm our “worse angels.” Here is what Spurgeon expressed to his students in his book Lessons to My Students. It is a good remainder to all of us, laity and clergy, who from time to time have “soul trouble.”
The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience. Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him. Read more ...
One of Western Civilization’s eminent literary geniuses was St. Augustine. Several weeks ago, I recommended his The Confessions to someone who asked about the inner struggle of good versus evil with which s/he contended. Each of us, even the least introspective will, from time to time, confront our own demons. Perhaps, Augustine’s own struggle will help clarify our journeys of faith. Augustine wrote The Confessions in the form of a prayer of self-confession. As a result, it may be good for our own souls to read and ponder it.
Our appreciation of The Confessions has suffered from the fact that it has become a classic. As Mark Twain said in a speech in New York, 20 November 1900: “A classic is something that everybody wants to have read, and nobody wants to read.” Read More...
Although I used this story below in a sermon 18 months ago, I deeply believe it is worth repeating. I will let you draw your own conclusions as to its value and meaning.
Ernest Campbell’s story is one of risky redemption. He thinks it is safe to tell now—over 57 years later. Days after president John F. Kennedy’s Dallas assassination in 1963, a member of Campbell’s Ann Arbor, MI church called. She suggested that one thing the church might do to partially redeem the tragedy would be to provide Marina Oswald an opportunity learn English. Mrs. Oswald had expressed a desire to stay in the United States and learn its language better. Because it would have been politically foolish to bring this mission idea before the entire congregation, a few who represented the church’s executive committee got in touch with Marina Oswald in Dallas.
In due time and in cooperation with the FBI and others, Marina Oswald came to Ann Arbor. She slipped into town at night by train while a battery of reporters was waiting militantly at the airport. She lived with an unpretentious family that takes seriously its devotion to God and its love for people. When pressed to finally do so, the church joined the University of Michigan in issuing a modest press release.
Then the mail began to come in. Some were quick and hot to say that what the church did was unpatriotic. Others commented that the action was unwise, others unfair. (One woman said that she had belonged to a church for forty years and what it had done for her in all that time she could write on the back of a postage stamp.)
Campbell answered every letter, rightly or wrongly, feeling it the obligation of his ministry to do so. He wrote in effect to each person who criticized, “The one thing you haven’t shown us is that what we have done is unlike Christ” (E. Campbell, in A Chorus of Witnesses, ed. by Long, Eerdmans, 1994, p. 169).
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882) once said: “All things must change to something new, to something strange.”
Well . . . I am changing my practice of how I usually pick biblical texts for both the bi-weekly Bible Study and for use in worship. I have taken an assignment for Abingdon Press to write a quarter of the Abingdon Bible Study Teacher’s Guide (ABST). I do this about every other year and will be writing this study between August and November 2020 for the Spring 2022 issue/quarter.
I also know that very few people care about where the study texts for Salado UMC come from. Yet, for the 3 or 4 that will notice, I am going to write our studies from the below listed texts along with the dates for each. As this is a 75,000-word assignment, it will take considerable time, energy, and work.
I just want you to know.
Click here for the list of days and text from the ABST (International Bible Lesson Series).
From time to time we hear a phrase that rings so true that we wonder why we didn’t coin the phrase ourselves. A valid anonymous quotation concerning our modern way of life states: “We Americans are people who spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t want to impress people we don’t like.” Welcome to the 21st century culture of materialistic consumerism! Read more...
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, American churches are becoming valuable resources from a public health perspective. Most of us know that life-saving decisions can come down to valuing people over money, prioritizing humility over ego, and listening to the vulnerable over the powerful. These three values should be at the heart of the church’s mission. We have practiced these ideals through ritual and through conversation throughout our life. A public health crisis is simply a point in time in which these values become visibly practical, rather than simply countercultural.
Other church habits—such as in-person meeting weekly, participating in Holy Communion, and passing a donation basket—might need to shift temporarily in the interest of the most vulnerable among us.
Earlier, this summer we have also had another new experience as a church. Via volunteers and staff people, we have pulled off a wonderful on-line version of VBS. I have heard some pretty hilarious stories about the adventures of doing such. But we do them because we know our children are worth our time and effort!!!
Why does the church do these things (VBS, youth missions, etc.) and why should many adults who have already raised their children care anyway?
John Adams, second president of the United States, was determined to live until the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence— 4 July 1826. At dawn on that day a servant awakened him. The gentleman asked Adams if he knew what day it was. Adams replied: “Oh yes, it is the glorious Fourth of July. God bless it. God bless you all.” He then slipped into a coma. In the afternoon Adams recovered consciousness briefly to murmur, “Thomas Jefferson lives.” These were his last words. Unbeknownst to Adams, Jefferson died earlier that same day.
On the evening of July 3rd, there appeared a report that Thomas Jefferson was in bed and his life ebbing rapidly. Jefferson whispered to a young friend who was watching by his bedside: “Is this the fourth?” The man could not bring himself to say that it was not yet, so kept silent. Jefferson repeated the question and this time the friend nodded. A look of deep satisfaction came over Jefferson’s face, he sighed deeply, lay back, sank into a deep sleep. Jefferson died shortly after noon on the fourth.
It is remarkable that these two brilliant leaders, whose resolve had so much to do with laying the foundation of our republic, were able to keep death away until they could celebrate that date so precious to them both. If you are a student of the philosophy of “life after life,” and/or if you use your imagination to put some content into your Christian understanding of life after death, or if you have any wonder about what happens and who we see when we die, then you will enjoy thinking about John Adams’ comment, “Thomas Jefferson lives” as he left this world. Jefferson had preceded Adams in death by only a few hours. Did these two meet up as they left on the “long journey?” Just saying . . . .
As you commemorate Independence Day, think about these American leaders. We might all pray to God to reproduce their kind and do so quickly.
Sincerely, your friend,
In view of all the falderal (disturbance, uproar, tumult, ruckus, clamor, brouhaha, furor, hue and cry, palaver, fuss, stir, to-do, storm, maelstrom, melee, turmoil, or disorder—you pick the descriptive noun of your choice) going on in our country now, I want to share an article from The Monroe Journal, 11 August 2011, by my friend Tom Butts, pastor emeritus at FUMC, Monroeville, Al.
It is interesting, and sometimes frightening, to see how the past keeps casting shadows over our lives. There are patterns and responses that we learned as an adaptation to circumstances that are no longer with us. The responses we learned as a means of coping with and relating to life in the past may become detrimental to us if not altered after the circumstances that gave rise to them no longer exist. There are images from the past that we hold in common, but some of them are highly personal, and we can only understand these images in the light of our personal history. Read more...
I have a former pastor friend who wrote something weighty in a sermon on 22 December 1996—many years ago. Yet it still holds value for me. I hope it comes across as articulate to you as it was to me.
I admire my father. He is now approaching his 80th birthday and he has decided that he is going to learn to use the computer even though I have always known that he is technologically challenged. The laptop computer is a gift that my brother in California gave him.
Unfortunately, the computer has a modem in it and so, for the last five weeks or so, my father has been trying to learn how to use e-mail. We have three sons in our family and all of us are familiar with e-mail and so he will shift in getting advice.
First, he will make long distance phone calls to California, then he will talk to my other brother in New Albany, and finally, if he is really desperate, he will call me for advice. “How can you help me make this e-mail work?” Occasionally, we will get messages through. More often, the phone rings and he says, “There is something wrong here.” I say, “You have to turn on the machine, Dad.”
He said something recently that I found very provocative. He said, “You know, this gift is a wonderful gift if I only had a son that came along with it.”
There is a lesson about Father’s Day here. The most important thing about our gifts to others is the self we include with it.
Sincerely, your friend,
As we move into June and have been more or less sequestered since March, many of us have learned more about our families than we ever dreamed. We, a month ago, celebrated Mother’s Day/Festival of the Christian Home and now we near Father’s Day. Because of the situation we occupy, I, of late, began to muse about families.
The first sentence in Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina reads, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Reading this sentence, we wonder: “What does Tolstoy consider a happy or an unhappy family?” Cleverly, Tolstoy grabs our attention, thereby arousing our interest. Tolstoy lures readers into the story by ingeniously suggesting we ask ourselves whether our own family is happy or unhappy and by what measure.
This writer’s technique is what good journalists do—they call it “the hook.” It is also an appropriate description for how the Bible arrests our attention. Unsurprisingly, some contemporary folks are not interested in the Bible because they think it is an old book that has little to say about human life today. Yet, if you feel lust or envy or if you slander the good name of other people through gossip—or ponder adultery, greediness, wickedness, deceit, decadence, pride, or even folly—then this Bible/book has something for you. Or if you tell white lies to put others in a bad light, then this book we call the Bible may be right up your alley.
So, because some of us have a little more time in our new domestic routines, perhaps spending more time at home during this season of Pentecost, I invite you to get re-acquainted with the book that knows you better than you know yourself.
Sincerely, your friend,
Trinity Sunday (7 June 2020) is a day that helps us try and understand Trinitarian theology. The doctrine of the Trinity is an attempt to come to grips with God’s mystery. As St. Augustine once wrote: “A God without mystery is not God.” A priest at Clonard Monastery in Belfast, in trying to help his congregation understand the Trinity wrote:
Jesus didn’t sit down with his disciples one day and say “Today I’m going to explain something very complicated; I’m going to try to explain it in the simplest language possible.” He didn’t say that nor did he do it. Instead what Jesus does is that he points to a few different things. And the first thing Jesus points to is the fact that “God speaks.’ God actually talks. And that’s what makes our tradition, Christianity, totally different to other religions. God speaks. Remember that great line from Christ—“He who has seen me has seen God the Father.”
Romans 5:1-5 reveals that the Holy Spirit is the means by which God pours God’s love into our hearts: to comfort and strengthen us in times of hopelessness and trial. Read more
Have you noticed that frequently it is the snares of people’s own making which entraps them? Someone once told a student that s/he was not too bright. Yet, despite the judgment’s inaccuracy, even the smartest people move through life under such a misapprehension. Entombed by the misconceptions of others is plainly a tragedy.
Did you know that an African impala can jump to a height of over ten feet and cover a distance of greater than thirty feet? Yet zoo-keepers secure these magnificent creatures in zoo enclosure with only a three-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall.
Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see. Freed by faith from the flimsy enclosures of life we might remember that only fear allows entrapment. As we move into summer may we renew our spirits as we wait in prayer and patience for us to physically gather for worship and praise God.
As Paul writes in Romans: “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24). As we wait, we know that in due course we will return to Sunday school and study together in the fellowship of the spirit! God makes us strong when we willingly participate in God’s great plan for us.
Sincerely, your friend,
Do you know what Aldersgate Day is? If not, don’t feel bad, many Methodists probably can't say exactly what it is. 24 May 1738 was the day John Wesley experienced a spiritual transformation that led to the earnest start of the Methodist movement. Wesley's faith had pretty much lived in his head, but not his heart. Wesley devoted himself to “Scripture, Tradition, and Reason,” but what was missing was personal experience of Christ in his life. The important thing I want to bring up is that at the time of Wesley’s Aldersgate experience—John Wesley was in no way famous.
Not long ago one of my colleagues from another part of the country telephoned with a question. Read more
When I was about eight years old, I saw an episode of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone.” The program began with a burglar running down a back ally fleeing from the police. As he attempted to vault a cyclone fence, not heeding the police directive “to halt in the name of the law,” they shot him—dead. The television program next “flashed forward” to a heaven-like scene. Everything was beautiful. The burglar had a guide who was the picture of sophistication and class. He even had a British accent like Sean Connery.
The next fifteen minutes of the episode of “The Twilight Zone” showed this criminal-type reveling in his new home. He ate all the food he wanted and never gained an ounce. In front of him was a constant banquet table filled with all his favorite foods. He went to the gambling table and never lost. Whether the game was cards, dice, roulette, or pulling the handle on a slot machine, the guy never lost once. The stocked bar had any and every beverage this man could have ever desired. Naturally, young and beautiful nubile women constantly surrounded him. His every wish was his host’s command—no one withheld anything from the burglar.
But after a while he became bored, what with winning every time and having every wish fulfilled only by speaking. So, he asked his host: “Say, my friend, when I lived on earth, I was nothing but a rascal and never thought of anyone but myself. Now I have come here and everyone treats me like a king. What gives? Why did I get to come to heaven?”
His host only replied: “What makes you think this is heaven?”
Sincerely, your friend,
Reflecting on Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday offers us a chance to ponder the commanding influence of mothers. While that influence is not always positive, it is always powerful. Let’s face it, the more distant we get from childhood, the more we idealize our mother. Perhaps that is natural—and positive—unless we push it too far. Nothing helps that process develop more than the death of our mother. My mother died back in July of 1995, and that is 25 years to absorb that loss.
The death of a parent is always a watershed event in life. In a sense, it leaves us emotional orphans when our second parent dies. It severs an extended emotional umbilical cord by which God has formed our identity. It takes what has always been an evolving image and freeze-frames it into place. Mother becomes a still-life in the museum of memory. Some of us know about that from experience, and if our lives run their natural courses, all of us will eventually undergo such an experience.
As I reflect upon my mother’s life this Mother’s Day, I grasp that she was not perfect. Of course, she had faults, (we all do), but for now I need not recollect any of them. I see her at this moment in my idealized memory.
Mother’s Day is a good time for all of us who lost mothers to revive that idealized image of “mother” and draw strength from it. It is also a good time for us whose mothers are yet alive to intentionally add positive experiences to important and treasured memories for our children.
Mark Twain once quipped, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”
Who said that mothering couldn’t be fun?
Sincerely, your friend,
As I talk to people in our congregation and other various caucuses, I have noted how many people just look at our time now in sheltering in place (the “recent unpleasantness”) as marking time until real life begins again. Yet, real life happens when one is alive regardless of the outward circumstances.
Many inconveniences occur to us that are unexpected, some of which are the consequence of our own action or inaction; some of which are for reasons beyond our understanding, and some are completely beyond our control—such as the world-wide pandemic. We each spend time and effort dealing with the unexpected. Not all of it is bad, but all of it requires adjusting and rearranging our lives to accommodate what has happened. Our life’s quality depends, not so much upon what happens to us, as upon how we respond to life events. Read more...
Recently, in and around Salado, there has been a lot of talk about our village’s future and my guess is that for people of faith this is a staple. During the relaxing summer months that will soon be upon us, perhaps it is a good idea for us to mentally prepare for the future in and around our church as a people of faith.
We are already doing this with our SUMC Discernment/Long Range Planning Committee. Of course, much is up in the air with COVID-19, but that should not deter us from planning and mapping out about where we go next as a church. The idea of preparing, planning, and mapping the future reminded me about a vacation-type idea I once read about.
There is an ancient sea superstition that, inevitably, one wave comes along to a beach that is greater than any waves that have preceded it. Some people call it the “Ninth Wave”—and this is the wave that surfers wait for as they just seemingly sit on their surfboards. The Ninth Wave is the culmination of the sea and wind. There is not greater force. To catch the Ninth Wave at the crucial moment requires a special knack, the timing of movements to mount it at its peak. This is why I admire surfers—their timing has to be perfect. Anyone who has tried surfing knows it takes a special skill!
I pray that we as a church can continue our spiritual work as we try catching the Ninth Wave that is no doubt approaching Salado, Texas over the next few years. It is a wave which we will either ride or fall into. Either way it is now on the horizon.
Perhaps God can transform us inside SUMC so that we can help others see God’s kingdom.
Sincerely, your friend,
Most people are weary of social distancing and sheltering in place, but my question is: “If we are released too soon, what happens if the virus makes a comeback and we have to start all over again?” Just saying.
When in high school I had a prized possession, a Waterman fountain pen, from a generous relative. I have long lost track of that Waterman, but wish I still had it for it was a very good pen.
A few years ago, I heard a story (or maybe read one) that made me miss my Waterman pen even more. Read More
In the midst of self-isolation and the day to day problems it raises, there is something fundamental that we all might remember: Life is not always fair—even to us!In her book, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Amy Kelly quotes William of Tyre following a particularly crushing defeat. "Surely", he said, "no one may question the acts of God, for all God’s works are just and right. But it remains a mystery to the feeble judgment of mankind why our Lord should suffer the French, who of all the people in the world have the deepest faith and most honor him, to be destroyed by the enemies of religion." Read more
In a sense the whole of our Christian year points toward Easter. It seems like a long an arduous journey for only one day that emerges as a whole liturgical or worship season. However, as we might ask a mountain climber “Why do you climb mountains anyway?” they would no doubt respond when asked— “Because it is there!”
Several years ago, on television I watched a National Geographic program about the climbing of Mount Everest. [As an aside, Neil and I heard several lectures while on our ship from the first woman to scale the peak! She was British.] What struck me most about the television program was that the expeditions had a lot in common with the building of God’s realm through the ministries of the church. Leaders make mistakes and the followers get both tired and discouraged. Yet, the result is worth the price. We participate in the Kingdom or Realm of God because that is why God created us.
The Easter may we sing and praise God for the gift of Easter—and the resurrection!
Sincerely, your friend,
An older movie I like is Out of Africa. It is based on the writings of Baroness Karen von Bliksen-Finecke (under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen) and her life in Africa. In the film, Meryl Streep as Karen, says “when the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.” Funny thing is until the COVID-19 outbreak I had heard many people say things like: “I sure wish I did not have to go to . . . school, work, etc.” The inference was “I would just like to stay home today!” Read more
Sometimes as I go back and read random notes, I discover something that was especially delectable as a slice of human behavior. Recently I ran across one such note.
Lloyd Steffen wrote in The Christian Century how when King Frederick II, an eighteenth-century King of Prussia, visited a prison in Berlin, the inmates tried to prove to him how they had been unjustly imprisoned. All except one. That one inmate sat quietly in a corner, while all the rest of the prisoners protested their innocence.
Seeing him sitting there oblivious to the commotion, the king asked him what he was there for. “Armed robbery, Your Honor.”
The king asked, “Were you guilty?”
“Yes, Sir,” he answered. “I entirely deserve my punishment.”
The king then gave an order to the guard: “Release this guilty man. I don’t want him corrupting all these innocent people.”
Every now and then, one understands the truth and the truth will set that person free.
Doris Mortman once wrote, “Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.” I can’t say as I have ever heard of Doris, but I think I would enjoy visiting with her. When Paul was writing out of deep gratitude to the church at Philippi, this is one of the things he wrote:
“I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress” (Philippians 4:11-14).
It takes integrity to finally be able to say who we are. Of course, that does not mean we stop trying to grow or do what Wesley urged when he wrote and spoke of “going on to perfection”—that is “being made perfect in love in this life.” The integrity comes by finally and simply making a stake in life that says “I stand for these things.”
In this vein, and as we begin a new year striving to be what God created us to be, Socrates’ words have a ring of helpful truth about them: “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
As a continuation of last week’s blog message share that I once asked a twenty-something year old what I could write about in my blog. The twenty-something said: “Anything but religion!”
This was an interesting way to frame the content or anti-content of a blog— “Anything but religion!” I was somewhat vexed by the response as the question was absolutely in earnest. Yet the more I thought about it and looked around, listened to people, and read things in the newspaper, I realized that many of the issues that hang up “religious people” have little or no interest for college age students. Read more...
On Monday, 20 January 2020 we as a nation will observe Martin Luther King’s birthday, although he was in fact born at noon on 15 January 1929. Many folks deeply appreciate this day and how it shapes our best inclinations as human beings. Of course, when we celebrate the civil rights struggle that Dr. King led America through in the 1960s, it also brings to mind Jesus’ words in the first century. In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount we read: ….read more
As many of you know, I will leave with my son Neil on 9 January 2020 to travel by ship from Southampton, England. We are sailing basically to Australia and back—with many stops along the way. Some of you have asked where exactly we are going and what follows is a rundown. To be painfully detailed, and among other locales, we will go to Malaysia, Jordan, Vietnam, Egypt, Mauritius, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Australia, Italy, Singapore, Indonesia, Spain, Namibia, South Africa, Hong Kong, and England—not in that order, of course.
It is a journey, no doubt, and we are using some of my vacation time unused from the 1980s and 90s, believe it or not. Thank you for your prayers.—dnm
Type the content for this list item here. This is just example text to show you what it will look like when you enter text content into this list item. Your unique, authentic, and appropriate text will be filled into this section. Once you click into this text area, you will see the filler text disappear.