Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gifts of Compassion

Sermon for June 29, 2008 from Matthew 10:40-42

By the way, if you listen to it, this was "Hat Sunday." We all wore different hats and mine was a fedora (just so this part makes sense to you.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Worship v. Experience

With the decline in mainline denominations and the rise of the .tv churches, I have to wonder, "is this really the direction God wants us to go?" I am not saying that the mainline denominations are all right or that the .tv churches do not have a valid ministry, but I am wondering if in our enthusiasm to make Christ compete with culture we haven't gone too far.

Case in point: I saw a sign on a .tv church yesterday that read, "Experience times: _____" and then listed the times for their services. The typical "worship" times of a traditional church was replaced with the word "experience." Let's look at this closely. We are not coming together to 'worship' God, we are coming together to experience something (presumably God.) Well, that's all well fine and dandy, and I hope those in my congregation are meeting the living God in our worship services too, but what's the main point? Are we there to get something for ourselves? Or are we there to worship God?

This simple wording is taking the focus off of God and placing it squarely on the people. We are such a "me" generation and culture. Does this really have to be all about us too? I guess, they would say, 'yes.'

Not only as a pastor, but as a Christian I was offended. It isn't about us. The world does not revolve around us. And if they want to use the word "experience" then it should be about us coming to God and God having the 'experience' of us there to worship. But of course, that was not the connotation.

We experience God everyday, whether we recognize God working in our lives or not. Don't you think it is right that we give God our devotion, our time, our full attention at least one measley hour a week? Does it always have to be about us?

I know they are trying to reach people, but the early church was persecuted, met in dark, damp catacombs and other un-pretty places, and it grew ten-fold. They were not out canvassing neighborhoods and offering times of "experience." They were telling the people coming that they would have to "take up their cross." And they still grew. The message of Christ is enough for that culture and ours.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Father's Day Sermon

This is the sermon I preached on Father's Day. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest

I will publish a new post tomorrow. (Hopefully, or as my mama used to say, 'good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise!')

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What's the World Coming To?

My husband and I were having a conversation yesterday about movies. We love movies and watch old movies all the time. Thanks to cable television, he watches one or two almost everyday! I made the comment that the older movies were much more satisfying to watch than the newer moves. Not that I don't enjoy newer movies, but I have a feeling when watching the older ones that is the equivalent of 'comfort food.'

We then began discussing why, and this is what we came up with; the older movies didn't seem to leave you morally empty inside. Of course, we are selective when watching movies, and when I say older, I mean anything from the 40s, 50s, or some from the 60s. Not that newer movies cannot have a good message and meaning, but there is always something that if they had just left on the cutting room floor, would have made it a better movie!

It seems that the newer movie producers and directors feel a need to put in some gratuitous garbage. I know some of the older movies have sex and scandal in them, and loads of smoking and drinking. But it seems to be set in a certain innocence that we have now seemed to have lost and are intent on our children losing as well.

To be fair, not everything about the older movies were perfect - my favorite - "Breakfast at Tiffany's" has two main characters who are so jaded they have sold themselves to the highest bidder or are content to live a half life never expecting anything more. Then there is a moment of redemption at the end. You know, of course, there is a lot of baggage there, but it leaves room for the happily-ever-after ending in our minds. Yet, even in the pre-redemption setting sex is only alluded to, never shown, drinking may be rampant, but it doesn't really look like a lot of fun, and smoking, well...smoking is what it was back then. Everyone then thought smoking was no more harmful than drinking coffee.

Why don't we have filmmakers who make movies like "That Touch of Mink" anymore? Or maybe the original "Father of the Bride" or any one of the Spencer Tracy/Kathryn Hepburn movies! Anymore we have bad things portrayed as good. Some examples on television are a cop that is bad, portrayed as a hero; a serial killer forensic scientist; and of course you have to mention the new series Swingtown, seriously people!

So is the moral decline in our viewing leading the moral decline in our world, or is it the other way around?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In Honor of My Daddy

I generally don't get to see my Daddy on Father's Day considering it is a Sunday. I generally try to call him, but this Father's Day my Daddy went into the hospital a few days before and getting him to answer the phone is a near impossibility. See my Daddy is 90 years old, and isn't really doing too well health wise. This time it is some kind of infection in his arm, but he has had a couple of strokes, and broken bones leaving him wheelchair bound. He can stand long enough to transfer himself, but that's about it. If he couldn't do that, he would have to go live in a nursing home, because Mom couldn't take care of him.

In any event, I got to go see him today. As I stared at him while he tried to talk to me through lips that no longer form the words his mind intends, and his faded eyes set deeply in a sagging face, I realized the absolute love for the man that filled my heart. I also realized that if it was his time to go tomorrow, I would be happy for him. You see, sometimes when he says he wants to go "home," I don't always think he is talking about the apartment he lives in with my Mother.

He is a good and decent man who worked hard all his life. He quit public school in the sixth grade to help support his family in the Great Depression. He was the oldest of 12 children, and he helped to provide for them until he was an adult and moved out on his own. He married my Mother when he was 31 and they had my sister and brother in fairly short order, but I didn't come along until he was 47!

He worked hard all my life, mostly working two jobs to provide for us. He retired the same summer I turned 18. I am sure he was thinking - Yeah! I'm done! Woooohoooo retirement! But when you have worked hard your entire life, retirement isn't easy. My parents decided to buy a house in Texas and move down there and did so shortly after his retirement. He enjoyed piddlin' around in Texas, but Mom was burning up the road to see the grandkids! She surely couldn't have done it with gas prices today, but anyway, they soon moved back to Oklahoma.

He took up watching the grandkids, particularly my children, and when my son was three, my Daddy fell while mopping the kitchen floor. He broke his hip and he believes that was the beginning of a downhill slide for him. "I never was sick before that," he'd say, and it is pretty much true.

As he lay there, little and frail, in the hospital bed today, he told me how he felt he was of no use anymore. I told him it was nonsense, considering that he can still talk about Jesus and tell others. I told him I thought he was pretty wonderful.

You see this is new for me. Daddy was never frail or old, even when he was 65! And as I sat there examining all of his fading and wrinkly features, I noticed he still has quite a bit of black mixed in with the gray of his hair. And his whiskers are pretty dark too.

And yet it isn't new for me, as Daddy has had his health deteriorating for some time now. Maybe not the 18 years it has been since he broke his hip, but for a while nevertheless. Yet when I think about him, I see that man in my youth. The one who, if an ant dared bite me or a wasp dared to sting me, he would set fire to them and their whole family! He was the one who at the age of about 53 cleared a chain link fence in one bound when I fell and cut my head open. Daddy was the one who woke up with me in the middle of the night when I had nightmares to make everything all better. Daddy is who I saw pray and live out the Scriptures.

And it is Daddy who I want to be at my ordination next year (good Lord willing) but I also know, he may not be there. My husband told me that Daddy would be there in spirit if he wasn't alive, and that he would probably enjoy it more. While I know these things, I don't think so. My Daddy will be having too much fun in heaven to worry about silly little things here on Earth. But maybe...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Adam Hamilton Sermon Series

I just watched Adam Hamilton's sermon entitled "Sex in the City" as part of his "What's Love Got to Do With It?" sermon series. I highly recommend taking the time to watch this. It is approximately 43 minutes, but worth every bit. Parents, it would be good to encourage your teenagers, or even pre-teens to watch this.

Sex permeates our culture in television, internet and movies and many Christians feel the way to combat this, is to avoid it; however, it is in our daily lives as well. We tend to not teach our kids anything or simply to avoid all issues thinking that will be a quick fix, but it seems to create more of a problem as things that are taboo are often the most desirable. On the other hand, we sometimes are too permissive with our attitudes. Adam address the issue of sex in a beautiful and biblical way.

He also chases a "rabbit trail" on dealing with sin in the church. We all know of things that go on in people's lives and it is generally handled in church settings in one of two ways - gossip or ignoring. Both are wrong and harmful. I believe he gives an excellent response to dealing with the issue of immorality in the church with the love of God.

Don't miss how sex is like duct tape!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

New Item on the Blog!

You may notice at the link to your right is a list of sermons on podcast. I will upload this each Sunday I preach (not next Sunday!). If you are interested. Let me know what you think of having this option available.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Love the Sinner - Hate the Sin? How's that Working for Us?

Kudos to Mr. Bill Mefford, director of civil and human rights of the General Board of Church and Society! And may God continue to bless him as he gives voice to the multitude of silent people who simply want to live for God in God's love and sharing that love with others. He wrote the article, "Love the sinner, detest what they do? Not a proud moment for this evangelical" for the UM Reporter. He is also a self-proclaimed evangelical, people I generally shy away from for the very reasons he stated in his article. Specifically,
The truth is that too many evangelicals deny the power of Christ to redeem and transform all of us who have fallen short of God's glory, by denying homosexuals the right to fully serve and contribute in the United Methodist Church. The truth is that too many evangelicals do not love homosexuals and do not wish to see homosexuals experience the love of Christ. Otherwise, they would view homosexuals attending and serving in the church as an exciting opportunity and not as a threat.

Way to go Mr. Mefford! For too long we have stood behind the theological and poliltical labels that woeful fall short of describing the beauty that God created in the divine image and called "good." To paraphrase Galatians 3:28: There is no longer conservative or liberal, there is no longer evangelical or progressive, there is no longer democrat and republican; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

The truth is, if any of us was as all-fired perfect as Rev. Eddie Fox seems to be, then there would have been no need for Jesus to come, because apparently there are other Messiah's already here! My question for Rev. Fox is what sins do you hide in your closet? "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23) Where would we be if we needed to be perfect before we could go to church, serve in the church or go into the ministry.

Don't you think its about time we quit the bickering and began reaching out with the love of Christ?

Hats Off!

Last night the ladies from our church had a "hat party" for a friend who is going through chemotherapy treatment. I thought it was a fabulous idea! Some of them have been hitting me up about having a Sunday in which we all wear hats to church. I have been trying to go through my mind on ways this applies to scripture...probably in some way other than the "helmet of salvation," although that could work....

My girls and I thought surely there would be duplicates, but apparently God came through on the various shopping experiences. There were floppy sun hats, baseball caps, bucket hats, cozy snug beanies to keep her head warm, and even a beret. But my favorite hat came from Hats of Hope. Inside the bill of the hat is the word "h o p e." And on the inside are several sayings, my favorite being "Sigh. Sob. Scream. Laugh. Repeat." It just sounds like something I would do!

It was a time for us to come together, for a time, and laugh at the ugly things in life while we go about trying to prettify them. I was a little worried that it would become a morbid thing (and I think my daughter thought that as well, as she is asking if we were just going to sit there and look at her open all the packages), but it wasn't. The guest of honor handled it with grace, and it was really a lot of fun. I would recommend it if you know someone going through treatment.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rainy Days on Mondays

Okay, so now that the power is back on, I can get back online. The power went out Sunday evening around 7:30 p.m. I figured it would be back on pretty soon, but by 10 o'clock, I decided sleeping through it would be better. Only, it wasn't back on the next morning, and by that time, the phone was out as well. Ugh!!!

Since there was no power or phone, I decided it would be a good day to run errands somewhere there was power and phone, so off I went to Enid. While I was gone, my girls began playing board games. By the time I got home, they finished "Lord of the Rings" Monopoly. They pulled me into the games and we played Parcheesi and Trivial Pursuit. By the time that was finished, the power was back on...something like 22-23 hours later.

We are so dependent upon electricity, it isn't funny. But if we are given the chance to have no internet, no television, no telephone, just family. We seem to get along pretty well, and have a great time. Oh sure, we had the obligatory, "I'm bored," but over all we had a great time.

Why do we have to have a power outage, to take time apart for our families. To stop, slow down, and read a book, play a game, think about life.

I know everyone wasn't without power, but I would invite you to turn off the computer, the cell phone, the television, and spend some time with your kids, your spouse, yourself, your God.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Back from Camp!

I know it has been awhile since my last post, but between Annual Conference and JH District Camp, I am pretty much wiped out! I had a great time at camp, and I think all our campers did too...okay, most of them did! I got a chance to see some amazing things in their lives, that I otherwise would not have the opportunity to see. What a blessing!

I really didn't start out having a great time though. I have an old injury (broken ankle) that can cause me a lot of pain and this is the reason I haven't worked District Camp since it happened. (Elementary Camp has a lot slower pace!) Anyway, I thought that maybe it had been enough time since the injury (6 years) that maybe I could hang in there and keep up. I was wrong. The first day of camp I twisted that ankle and the resulting pain made me...well....a bit grouchy. In any event, I swore off ever going back to camp after this week was over.

Now, I told the camp deans that I had this injury prior to agreeing to work and they went out of their way to accommodate my needs. But unless you have had an injury like this that is chronic, you really don't think of how it completely and totally alters your life. Particularly when you see someone like me who refuses to allow such an injury to rule their life. (I tend to "fake it" a lot, and few people outside of my family know how much it really does stop me from doing things I would really like to do, or causes me pain when I do them anyway, which is quite a bit.)

The morning communion worship was in what is known as Serenity Canyon, which isn't too far away, but having to walk on anything not paved is EXTREMELY tedious for me, and by Tuesday morning (when I was in grouchiness from pain) I was less than serene. I was also less than moved by God's inspiring words pouring forth from the speaker. I was pretty much withdrawn into myself and my pain. I felt worthless and broken and crippled, both physically and spiritually. Worst of all...I felt old. And I'm really not, but these kinds of injuries age you quickly, because suddenly you do not have the physical ability of most people your age, and most people of all ages do not understand why you don't, even if they know. An injured body part wreaks havoc on the rest of the body which is trying to compensate for the injury and is causing stress on the rest of the body not made for or not accustomed to this extra duty.

Things did get better for me at camp. I took a nap Tuesday afternoon and I greatly needed that time for my body to heal (as much as it can during a nap) and my spirit to be renewed. I also began to get rides to Serenity Canyon which alleviated that stress. Of course, the general pace of the week was exhausting and to a degree painful. By the time I got home both ankles were extremely swollen, but after laying around last night and keeping them up the healthy ankle is back to normal and the other one is working on it.

But through this I learned a couple of important lessons: First, I would not consider someone with a physical disability to be of no worth and value, but immediately that is the place I go myself. I just have to do what I can. I can teach and share the love of God, which is of great value, especially to those kids who might not otherwise feel love at all. And if someday the camp deans get tired of accommodating me, I will find another way to connect with the youth and share God's love.

But the second lesson I learned was very important to us all. We are the body of Christ, when one of us hurts, we all suffer. When one body part is incapacitated, stress is put on the rest of the body. Sometimes this stress can be absorbed easily and we can learn to accommodate. Sometimes the injured part cripples the whole body and we are limited in our ability to carry out Christ's commission to go and make disciples. But in working together, being refreshed when we need to, allowing God to give us divine strength, we can continue on.

I cannot speak from the point of view of the body that would just stop doing these things altogether, because this is not my personality. I might have had to change my life because of this injury, but I did not stop living, nor did I really stop doing things I want to do, like work camp. I might have to make a few accommodations, as do some of those around me, but I do not stop doing things like working camp.

I do not know how the body of Christ could simply choose to lay down and quit being the body, or to choose to quit serving those whom Christ came to serve, to quit making disciples, but I suppose that concept is possible. Have we as the body of Christ been so crippled by the pain, division and factions carrying on in the body that we are no longer useful as the body of Christ? What are your thoughts?