Yesterday, Patti Williams gave me permission to share this with you —
KMOX radio in St. Louis is sponsoring a trash pickup in Ferguson this morning, and hundreds of people are showing up. They have been interviewing people, asking “Why are you here today?”
The first person they interviewed (and by far the most eloquent) was Monica Something, who said she was Senior Pastor at St. Andrew’s UMC. She said something like, “Our church is all about service and involvement, and how can we make a difference, if we don’t get out and work in the community.”
Yes! At it again!
— Those Christians. They’re at it again. Making a difference. This time in Ferguson. And right in the middle of it all are those United Methodists.
We’re celebrating Christmas in July in our church this weekend at all 3 services (Sat., Sun. & Mon.).
We do this up big: Christmas Carols both old and new, Christmas liturgy, and my sermon was Christmas is Not a Spectator Sport.
Several people have already asked for copies of the poem I read at the start of my sermon, and I’m happy to share: from her book Kneeling in Bethlehem, here is Ann Weems’ poem —
If there is no cross in the manger,
there is no Christmas.
If the Babe doesn’t become the Adult,
there is no Bethlehem star.
If there is no commitment in us,
there are no Wise Men searching.
If we offer no cup of cold water,
there is no gold, no frankincense, no myrrh.
If there is no praising God’s name,
there are no angels singing.
If there is no spirit of alleluia,
there are no shepherds watching.
If there is no standing up, no speaking out, no risk,
there is no Herod, no flight into Egypt.
If there is no room in our inn,
then “Merry Christmas” mocks the Christ Child,
and the Holy Family is just a holiday card,
and God will loathe our feasts and festivals.
If there is no forgiveness in us,
there is no cause for celebration.
If Christmas is not now,
if Christ is not born into the everyday present,
then what is all the noise about?
“Come now, let us reason together,” God says in Isaiah 1:18.
Where, and when, and with what small group will you do that today, this week?
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of God. Day after day they pour forth speech and night after night they reveal knowledge.”
Wish I’d written that.
But that’s how Psalm 19 starts.
When I took Martin The Puppy Who Lets Us Live With Him outside last night, I looked up. There were all these stars.
Doing what they do.
Imagine: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of God. Day after day they pour forth speech and night after night they reveal knowledge.” Whoa.
What’s being revealed to you today…in unexpected ways?
Let’s remember to look up and around and really see.
After all: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of God. Day after day they pour forth speech and night after night they reveal knowledge.”
It hurts to hear so many people hurting. Most of the time it’s over relationships, who they’ve let in their lives.
Sometimes we need to assess the people we surround ourselves with.
Really ask ourselves, are they a blessing in our lives or a distraction, do they uplift and encourage us or do they tear us down? Do they constantly put us down, gossip about us when we’re not around? (We know they do, because we hear it from from others). When you walk away from them, do you findyourself feeling less than who you are, feeling you don’t measure up, or feeling like a failure after spending time with them or talking with them?
Then maybe we need to take a moment and assess who we are hanging around and letting into our lives.
The Bible does say, iron sharpens iron. Truth may hurt sometimes, rebuke is never fun. God will place loving people in our lives to challenge us, to speak the truth in love, to bring correction when we need it. But if they are not willing to come along side of us, to encourage us, to help us get through the hard times with us, to love us enough to help us in our weeknesses to grow stronger, then it’s time to pray new people in our lives.
This life is hard enough without hearing a bunch of gossip, criticism, demeaning comments from people who make us feel like failures or that we’re just not good enough and they want or feel the need to control us. Those are toxic people to have in our lives.
Pray for new friends, people who care enough to correct you , but also encourage you. People that may see a weakness but will come along side to help strengthen you until your strong enough to run the race in that area. People that will speak life into your life and are truly happy to see you succeed. Those that will honestly listen to gain more understanding and that will cry with you, laugh with you, people who you can share things with and know it will stay just between you, them and God and to find those that want to help but don’t push their own agendas on you, to control or threaten you.
It’s time to make healthier choices in whom we surround ourselves with.
God loves you and there are people who do appreciate and cherish each and every one of you. xoxo
— Like every other prescription, her advice will only help us if we take it. I know what that means for me…how about you? Pray that we’ll have the strength to take our necessary actions.
Bishop Ken Carter serves our denomination in Florida. Our paths crossed pleasantly in days gone by, and it’s good to read things like this from him earlier this week —
Three years ago today I was consecrated for the work of a bishop. I will always be grateful for the church that called me to this; it is a work in progress, and I am still learning. Almost daily I remember the wisdom of my friend Larry Wilkinson, a long time ago: it is a consecration, not a coronation!
Increasingly, I do sense that people want bishops to punish someone (choose your side of the aisle). There is accountability without punishment. I also sense that people want the accountability to be public (when it is the other) and private (when it is themselves or someone they love).
I remained convinced that there is a great deal of grace within our discipline, that there is a profound diversity within the generously orthodox Christian tradition (in which the Wesleyan stream flows), that secular perspectives on the church do not “get it”, since they are not of the spirit, and that the church media, including social media, is generally conformed to secular media, regarding the church. So don’t believe everything you read about the church on HuffPost or Fox.
I have stood amazed at the presence of the living Jesus in local church after local church (I have been in several hundred over these three years), and I am in awe of many elders, deacons and local pastors who give their lives to this work. I am especially excited about the younger clergy I know, and believe they will have extraordinary resources and opportunities to serve and lead. And we could not have imagined a better place to live or work than in the Florida Conference.
I am more hopeful than ever about the United Methodist Church. We will look very different in 7-10 years, and this has little to do with social issues—there are demographic shifts, and we are being pruned (John 15). But there is life and vitality, and, yes, to retrieve a phrase, “a future with hope”. I am blessed to be a part of that, in this way.
— Please celebrate leaders like him with me, and let’s keep all church leaders, laity and clergy alike, in our prayers.
I am making everything new.
— Christ Jesus, Revelation 21:5
We began this series several days ago thinking together about this: “What would you like to have made new today?”
Let’s conclude this series by asking what specifically about yourself do you know you need to have made new today?
Christ’s promise is still true today: I am making everything new.
Our Lord is still in the new-ness business.