Sunday, May 02, 2010

What Kind of Country Will We Become?

The recent law regarding undocumented immigrants in Arizona raises a significant question; what kind of nation will we become?  We are living in a time of deep, systemic change.  In my life time our nation will become a country where whites are no longer the majority.   The way we make this transition will speak volumes to the kind of nation we wish to become.   Will we become a nation where a minority hangs onto power, instituting apartheid style laws to ensure control?  Or will we become a nation that embraces the principle that all men and women are equal.   

Nobel prize winner, Desmond Tutu, knows what it is like to live under an apartheid system.  He also knows about transitioning to majority rule with peace, reconciliation and hope.  I found his recent commentary on the Arizona law to be insightful and illuminating.  What kind of nation will we become?

I hope you will read it and reflect on his insights as well.

 Grace & peace,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Who Will Go To Them?

Check out this video of Michael Frost:

What do you think? How do we respond to all those folks who are not interested, turned off or repelled by your church?

It seems to me we have a choice. We can be defensive and say there is something wrong with those folks. Or we can ask how can we reach them? If we can't reach them, who can? And how can we help them in their mission to those our church will never reach?

I believe the church of the future is not an either/or proposition. It is neither simple church as we know it nor something radically different. In fact this polarity gets in the way of a more deeper issue. The church of the future will at its heart live a very simple idea; we exist for others, particularly and primarily those outside our church. That simple idea shapes everything else. It changes all the questions. In that simple shift all we do becomes focused outside of ourselves. The kind of faith community we build together, the way we live our individual lives, and what we do with our resources will all be shaped by that simple idea.

Maybe this is too simplistic. Or just maybe the answer to our struggles is that simple.

What do you think?


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Saved by a Trucker

I was driving my friend’s pickup, pulling a heavy trailer load along interstate 78 in New Jersey. I think I am a pretty good driver. But I have limited experience pulling a heavy trailer As I accelerated onto the highway, the trailer started gently fishtailing back and forth. The more I corrected, the worse it got. Finally, a trucker pulled up beside me and motioned me to pull over. Just a simple gesture saved the day. I pulled over thinking there was something wrong with the trailer. But the problem was behind the steering wheel.

By stopping, I was able to talk it through with my friend. I realized I needed to adjust my driving to address the new situation. My driving reality had changed. Instincts for driving a passenger car would apply differently to pulling the trailer. I would need to be more attentive and vigilant to my driving. I was able to restart and drive on without further incident.

I thank God for the trucker who motioned me to a stop. He made all the difference.

Is there someone like that in your life who challenges you to stop what you are doing? Can you be that person for someone else, even a complete stranger?


Shoe Leather Prayers

My friend and colleague, John, called me Thursday afternoon with an incredible offer. “Mike, I’m headed to Mission Central to pick up 500 flood buckets. Want to come along? I’m leaving in a couple of hours.” Mission Central is in Mechanicsburg, PA, about an 8 hour trip from here. It is a central warehouse distribution center for United Methodist Committee on Relief, sponsored by the Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference. It houses relief kits, representing thousands of persons putting prayers and caring into the form of health kits, flood buckets, birthing kits and more. As John puts it, we are putting shoe leather to our prayers. How could I turn down such an offer?

Good Friday morning, 1 AM, found us outside the warehouse, dropping off health kits assembled in New England (another story), and loading 504 flood buckets into a trailer and pickup bed. Eric, the director of the center, and another helper, were there to greet us and help us load. I couldn’t help but be inspired by their willingness to come out in the early morning, on their day off, to help out flood victims in New England.

By the way, a flood bucket contains things like trash bags, bleach, rags, detergents, gloves, and more in a five gallon pail with a lid on top. It won’t make everything alright for a flood victim. But it will help them get a start on the hard task of clean up. Just maybe it might also say that someone cares. (Prayers with shoe leather on them)

After a couple of hours sleep, we were off that same day to deliver the buckets to a food bank in Providence, RI and a Salvation Army church in New Bedford, MA. They would continue the shoe leather prayer, passing the buckets to persons in need.

All this made me wonder, what if we made shoe leather prayer a primary sign of following Jesus? What if Christians became known primarily is those persons who put flesh to their prayers?

Here’s hoping we all find ways to pray with our hands and feet.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Followers of the Way

"The desire of the early Christians to experience and include Jesus in their daily lives explains why the very first Christian creed was “Jesus is Lord.” Clearly, the earliest Christians considered Jesus to be the object of their love, devotion, and life itself.

The best way they new to incorporate his teachings into their lives was by remembering how he lived and trying to reproduce it. Christianity was about a relationship, not a set of propositions or doctrines. They saw in Jesus a life worth watching. Thus, Christians were first called “followers of the Way.” The goal of Christianity was never about learning or teaching the Scriptures. It was about living like Jesus lived.” A Second Resurrection, Bill Easum

Followers of the Way. What if we began to describe ourselves as Followers of the Way? What if we understood following Jesus to be first about what we did, how we lived, not so much about what we believe?

Something this simple, following the Way, will change the church and transform our communities and world. It will change you and me.

I wonder who we will choose to follow?


Friday, January 29, 2010

Ugly Paint by a Wide Brush

What is an average Christian to do? How do we respond when a "prominent Christian" makes outrageous statements like some made about the earthquake in Haiti? While there are some Christians who may believe the earthquake was an act of punishment by God, I doubt it is even a strong minority. Unfortunately, all Christians tend to get painted by this wide brush and the color is repugnant.

So how can followers of Jesus offer another view, another example of response to this tragic event? Already many churches are responding with an outpouring of concern embodied in financial generosity and the gathering of needed supplies. On our behalf, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has already shipped much needed health kits. Around the country congregations are assembling new kits to replenish the supply. They are partnering with schools and community organizations to collect even more. In so doing they offer another tangible way for individuals to offer assistance. And they offer a counter to the ugly remarks of persons claiming to speak for God.Each individual who gives of their time and resources witnesses to the love and compassion of our Creator.

Our actions speak loudly, but so can our words. When we find opportunities to explain how our actions connect to our faith in Jesus Christ, we provide a powerful alternative view of Christians. It is often this second part of acting we neglect, particularly in the mainline church. Our motivation matters. We don't gather health kits because we are good people. We act in this way because it is the will of our Savior. This is how followers of Jesus follow the example of Jesus. It is not that we are better than others, or earn anything from our actions. To act with compassion and mercy is simply the way of following Jesus. Sharing our motivations is a powerful witness.

Ultimately, each individual follower of Jesus repaints the public image of Christians. You and me together make the reality of the Gospel apparent and true in our living and our sharing. So get out the paint remover, scrub away the negative and let the colors those committed to serving Jesus shine through.