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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Now Playing: Sunrise

Almost shyly, she makes her grand entrance. Although once she peeks above the horizon she rushes in with a flourish of gold and pink. It is easy to see, as I watch her, why some in ancient times chose to worship her. It is hard enough to comprehend the fullness of her magnificence, let alone contemplate the glory of the one who must have created her. I watch others as they watch her and notice that at just the moment before she peeks into view many stand still in anticipation. We stand together and wait for what we know will happen, what should be so commonplace that we hardly notice, and yet we don't want to take for granted and miss it - sunrise.

I peek behind me and notice the darkness is fleeing from her arrival and I smile. I look back at her and see her rainbow of colors streak across the sky and I think of the promises of the one who created her. Those promises are as sure as the sunrise every day. New and fresh each morning is God's promise that the light will defeat the darkness - that beauty will overcome the blackness of despair.

Yes, it is easy to see why some would worship her for one cannot help but feel hopeful in her presence and healed by her arrival. I want to applaud the performance but I figure others will think I'm strange if I stand on the beach clapping my hands at the sun. Instead I say a prayer of gratitude and praise to the one who puts on this show every single day without fail. Some days I don't take the time to stop and observe the show. Other days there are clouds and obstructions that keep me from seeing it and yet I know it is happening - it always happens.

God happens! Every day God's glory streaks through the word without fail. Every day there is hope to be found in the presence of a steadfast God...even on those days when we can't see it or feel it doesn't mean that God isn't there providing it. As sure as the sunrise so is the faithfulness of God.

Rejoice in this new day and in all God has in store for it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Becoming a "Home Depot" Church

Words...phrases...campaigns...mission statements...they look great on paper don't they? Words meant to inspire us with a common goal. Phrases and campaigns to rally us around a unifying theme. Mission statements to make clear the belief we have in our purpose. Words are important, but what good are they if they stay words on a page?

I have been preaching a sermon series from the book of James in which he implores his readers to be more than hearers of the word but instead to be doers of the word. When it comes to Scripture, those words are mean to come alive into activity. This past Sunday, Bishop Larry Goodpaster delivered a sermon to the newly formed Yadkin Valley District of the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. He used words from Luke - who used words from Jesus - who used words from Isaiah...

Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 

Bishop G went on to explain that Jesus took apart this old scripture and put it back together again in a new way - creating a new kind of mission and mandate for those that would become His followers. Our mandate is to Follow Jesus - Love God - and Love our neighbors in the way that Isaiah describes. Do we see who those neighbors are? The Poor - The Captives - The Blind - The Oppressed. We could spend all day unpacking who those folks are in our neighborhoods: the working, single parent that cannot earn a decent wage that will put enough food on the table for the family; the young adult captivated by a world of addiction; the person who cannot yet see that their actions are creating terrible consequences and hurting themselves and others; the one who is not allowed a chance to become more and earn more because they live in a society that says they are not worth our effort.

Words matter - Jesus' words matter - Isaiah's words matter - so do those of us who hear those words and those for which those words were meant to inspire love and assistance. We must notice, however, that Isaiah's words were action words - bring...proclaim...release...recover...go. Isaiah's plea is not an idealogical one - it is mean to be lived out, not simply thought out.

Bishop G compelled us to remember the words of scripture are meant to be lived out in action but they are also meant to be proclaimed. As we do the good in the world we are called to do, we must SPEAK the good news of Jesus Christ to those we encounter. Our help of the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed is material and temporary if we do not take the step to introduce them to our Jesus who is the only lasting solution to their real need: salvation. With that, he invited us all to become "Home Depot" churches.

At first I thought he meant offering a wide variety of tools to fix a wide variety of problems - but then he pointed us toward Home Depot's advertising catch phrase, "More Saving - More Doing." (I wonder if James is in heaven saying, "Why didn't I think of that?"). Bishop G went on to say the church doesn't have a mission, it IS a mission. Our mission lies in DOING the words of our faith - and in SAVING the souls of the lost by inviting them to hear about Jesus.

Words matter...not just speaking them but doing them. In Luke's Gospel Jesus tells the story of The Good Samaritan - a story inspired by the question "Who is my neighbor?" In the story an injured man is passed by two people who most would expect to offer aid, but they had not. Instead, it was someone from outside the social barriers of the day - a Samaritan. It was the Samaritan that acted in mercy and treated a complete stranger, and potential enemy, as a neighbor. "Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." 

Go and do....More Saving - More Doing. Let's get started shall we?