The Older I Get

Forty years on, I have less to write.  I earnestly want to say something.  I want to have things that are important, or needed, or pertinent to living.  Maybe it’s because my age is getting the best of me.  It could be because I have two children and a rich life!  It could be because my brain is aging, thus making me less vital, less able, less relevant.  Perhaps it’s a smattering of all things above…

…wait…I’ll just go ahead and say it.  I have less to write because these last 15 years have been like nothing I could have ever expected…

…wait, wait…shifting gears a bit, can you all believe how fast things are shifting in the UMC?  I mean, WOW, in three years there will very likely be at least two more clearly defined movements of United Methodism.  I hope that on some level they will connect if only because Pan-Methodism, though honorable and right, is a weakened expression of connection…and I still believe connectionalism is something worth striving for if done with integrity (a significant delineator).  And when did Scriptural hermaneutic become a convoluted, two-way street amongst Wesleyans?  When did primacy of the Bible become optional?  I don’t understand.  Anyway, there isn’t must else to say.

…wait, wait, wait…one more shift…did you ever think that Christianity would be so passé in America?  I mean, when I was a child, my world view was surrounded by a community of Christ.  I, like my children, had no sense that there was any other way.  It seems the older I get, the wider my eyes are opened…

…and I have very little to say about any of this.  Except that I can’t imagine living without my beloved UMC…or, more importantly, Scripture and the Faith.

Nine Years On…

…It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint.  That cliché truly holds up in my life as a minister.  On the other hand, I have come far enough along the journey of ministry to look back and realize I have traveled a good piece thus far and it didn’t seem .  There have been days of struggle, though not too many.  There have been far more days of joy and triumph, though I haven’t relished them enough.

A marathon-runner I am not.  However, I have had the audacity and the good fortune to train for a few half-marathons (full disclosure – I am not much of runner.  Never have been; never will be).  What I like about running…okay, jogging…is that it forces me out of my comfort zones.  To get up and go out there puts me into a set of circumstances that my body and my mind do not always like.  The weather is always a reality.  My mind tells me, “Stop! It’s too cold” or “Really, in this heat?”  There is always that voice in my head that says, “You’re too weak, too slow, too….” That same nagging voice of insecurity says, “Stop!” But then, just a few more steps…and a few more.

Nine years into ministry in the local church as a minister, I’ve taken enough steps on the marathon to look back, and yet, I sure hope there are many more to come.  Sure, there will be changes in the weather and I am bound to need rest along the pathway, but I’m going to keep on going.  Recently, I have been taking inventory of where I am on God’s pathway.  I am amazed at where it has taken me to this point.  Here’s to many miles ahead in His Truth and Grace; just one step at a time.

I am greatly encouraged by the many saints that have gone before me.  I have been serving in this capacity just long enough to appreciate those who have made it down the road a little further, a little bit longer, a little bit harder.  I don’t know when one becomes a veteran in ministry, but I don’t think that’s me yet.  What I do know is that I have a greater appreciation for them now than when I started to go – they made the difference.  I still love what I do and I consider it a privilege, and so I shall keep jogging onward.

“Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:1-2.

Rules, Rules, Rules

“Rules are made to broken.”  As a child I was told that this was a bad, bad mantra.  As a result, I grew up every mindful of what the rules were.  I was likewise ever mindful of the consequence for breaking the rules.  To break the rules meant being punished by my parents or being shamed in the eye of the public.

But in a very public way, Jesus broke many rules along his journey to the Cross.  In this week’s text of Luke 13, Jesus breaks a biggie when he heals the woman on the Sabbath.  To do so carried multiple implications. Not only was he doing so on the day of rest, but Jesus was healing a woman – bringing a multi-faceted reality of scoff before the religious class of his time.  

Jesus broke the rules.  Jesus broke the rules in order to fulfill the rules.  Jesus broke with human rules to live out God’s understanding of those same rules.  In essence, Jesus gave fullness to the rules by breaking the people’s misunderstanding that had evolved over the course of thousands of years.  

Jesus takes our breath away by shining light on the rules…by breaking them…in the name of God’s unending love for all of his people.   I look forward to seeing you at Young Harris UMC this Sunday for worship at 11 a.m. as we proclaim God’s love for all and the rules that must be re-examined in our lives.

He’s calling us to this…

Last night I was introducing the imposition of ashes for Ash Wednesday and God warmed my heart!  As I was approaching the lectern at St. James UMC, the phrase “journey” came to my mind.  In a split second I decided I would say to the sturdy gathering “We are calling you to a journey this Ash Wednesday.”  Then, the Holy Spirit reminded me “God is calling us to a journey,” and that’s what I said: “God is calling us this day to journey with Him; to journey with Him toward the Cross.”

Whether this was a quick re-evaluation of right theology or a split-second word from God (I prefer the latter), the Spirit of God was present in the place.  The imposition of ashes is a discipline that we as a Church do together but it’s God that is calling us to journey.  God is calling us to repent and know the Gospel.  God is calling us to be reminded of the painful reality that we are dying a physical death; God is calling us to die in an act of glorious tribute to our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.

Our journey to the Cross this 2012 Lenten Season (perhaps the one journey with God that we love to avoid) is actually an inevitability for each of us.  We shall all die.  In Christ we shall die toward resurrection.

For 40 days (plus 6 Sundays), may we embrace our mortality, may we repent of our sinful ways (both individually and communally); and may we be enlightened to the Truth that the God of Creation is making all things new.  He’s making us all new in Him!  He is calling us to this journey!

In Christ alone.