Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Another Shooting

Pause with me a moment as we let sink in the enormity of the news yesterday about another school shooting, this time in Uvlade, Texas. 

Sigh......................

I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said. On one hand, I feel like I need to say something, as a pastor, isn't it expected of me? Yes, what happened yesterday was wrong. No, I don't believe God had any role in causing it. It wasn't some punishment for the sin of this country or any other reason. It was NOT God's will that this happened. It WAS God's will that those 19 children had a chance to live their lives. It WAS God's will that the gunman used the gift of free will to not go through with his plans. But that isn't what happened. 

I'm feeling a lot of things about this as I am sure many of you are as well. Anger, sadness, confusion, frustration, and even a little numbness. But mostly just uncertainty as I try to make sense of things. 

In my community, today is the last day of school. As I scrolled through my Twitter feed this morning, I saw pictures of kids running down the hallways of school celebrating the end of another school year and celebrating all that they have accomplished. I couldn't help but wonder if they knew about what happened a thousand miles away, and if it was on their minds. I am certain that it was on the minds of the teachers. 

As it has been said before, thoughts and prayers, though really important, only go so far. I believe God works through you and me to answer those prayers. Solving the problem of gun violence in this country is no easy matter, but we must do something. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I do know that we can't put our heads in the sand, which is what we are oftentimes tempted to do when the troubles of the world seem so big. So what can we do?

First and foremost, we can pray. Prayer is the first step but can't be the last. I think we need to repent from our love of guns, which only serve one purpose, to kill. Whether it is to kill an animal or to kill another person intentionally or in defense, this is the only purpose they serve. The Jesus I read about in the gospels is a God of peace and love, not death and violence. Though I am not opposed to guns for hunting, we have made owning guns in this country an idol that we need to repent from.

Other things we can do are to have conversations with one another about possible solutions as to why young people feel that shooting up a classroom full of students seems like a reasonable solution to whatever it is they are going through. We need to be informed about the issues and hold our elected officials accountable. Did you vote? Have you made your voice heard? Right after I post this blog article, I will be writing my elected officials and asking that they do something, anything, to prevent our children from dying needlessly. If they really want to be pro-life, they can start there.

That's all.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

"ReMission"

As I write this, I am flying back home from Richmond Virginia where I spent three days at the Fresh Expressions National Conference called "ReMission." If you aren't familiar with the Fresh Expressions movement, "Fresh Expressions makes space for denominational leaders and pastors to use both traditional services as well as innovative forms of church to live out Christ’s mission. One does not replace the other, but rather creates a mutual benefit for both—a 'mixed economy of church.'" ^1

The conference was called "ReMission" to signify that we are in the midst of changing times, and we must begin to take stock and re-evaluate the way we do ministry if we are going to continue our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. The pandemic has accelerated the decline of the church and has forced us to adapt and change in ways faster than we normally might have otherwise.

It was a great conference filled with engaging speakers and powerful worship. I came away from the conference with a ton of ideas and notes. I am still reflecting and thinking about what to do with it all, especially in light of the fact that I am being re-appointed this year and really can't start anything new. There are three things I took away from the conference though; three things that I think are important for all of us to remember as we attempt to live into the great commission.

  1. We are living in a changing world that is ever more divided and complicated. Often times we don't know what to make of the changes we are seeing. We have had to explore new ways of doing ministry; Facebook Live, Zoom, Youtube, TickTock, and even virtual reality worship. But in the midst of all this change, there is one thing that has stayed the same. We are called to love God and our neighbor. We are called to make disciples for Jesus Christ, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything that Jesus commanded. (Matt. 29:19-20) Even though the world and method may change, the mission and calling stay the same.
  2. God is already present in the world. God is already working in the world. We have an obligation to pay attention, to listen, and be on the lookout for what God is already doing. Ministry is contextual. What works in one location may not work in another because circumstances and people are different. Just because a Fresh Expression at a bowling alley works in one place, doesn't mean it will work every place.
  3. Finally, and just as importantly as the first two, is that we need to go TO the people. Jesus didn't say wait for people to come to us so we can make disciples. He said, "GO!" Studies and statistics have been showing for awhile now that the church has been in decline, and people are seeing the church as less and less relevant in their lives. This is largely our fault for not practicing what we preach. The pandemic has only accelerated this. We keep hoping that people will come back to in-person stuff at the church, but the reality is: some may, but most won't. They got used to not coming, they liked worshiping from home in their PJ's with a cup of coffee on their couch or in their recliner. Some realized that their lives really didn't change all that much by not going to church, so why go back. If we are going to be true to our calling and mission, we must begin practicing what we claim to believe, and GO TO the people, so they can see the light of Christ shined through us.

St. Theresa of Avila said that Christ has no body but ours. No feet but ours, no hands but ours, no eyes but ours. If we aren't out in the world acting on God's behalf, God will find someone else. I am looking forward to having conversations with the congregation I serve, and the one I will be serving come July 1. May God's Spirit ignite a fire within us.

^1: https://freshexpressions.com/about

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Advent Reflections 2021

As I contemplated what to write about this year's Advent, I came across some of my journal entries from last year. It's incredible how things have changed and how much has stayed the same. Last year at this time, we were fully online for Sunday worship at my church. We were also doing an outdoor drive-in service where folks could sit in their cars while the worship team and I led worship from the fellowship hall. In one of my journal entries, I wrote that we were in the high orange on the COVID Risk Dial, and yet again, this year, we find ourselves in the same place. But with the vaccines being available, we are not in lockdown anymore. I guess that is progress. 

In many ways, we have learned to live with COVID, and for myself, at any rate, I feel kind of numb to it. This morning I went in for my COVID booster shot. I didn't feel the urgency to get this one as I did the others, not because I didn't think it was necessary, but because it's an old hat now. I wonder how many others feel this way?

What I am finding of this Advent season is that I have felt like I can genuinely live into what Advent is supposed to be about in ways that I haven't before. Advent is a season of reflection and preparation for the coming of Christ. It's a season of anticipation as we await the reconciliation and renewal of all things. Much like we await the presents under the tree, we await the gift of the coming Christ. Wait, reflect, anticipate, and prepare; this is where I find myself this year amid so many uncertainties about our future. 

I don't know what the future holds. There are so many unknowns. How long will we have to deal with COVID? Will the divisiveness in our country continue to get worse? How can we begin to find common ground and trust one another again? What does the future of the church look like in a post-COVID world? I wish I had concrete answers to these questions. In the meantime, I wait and reflect on where we are as a people and do all I can to listen to and obey the Spirit who continues to lead and guide us into a future that I anticipate with all my heart; the coming of Christ. 


Monday, December 6, 2021

Blog Update

I wanted to share a bit of an update about my blog. I recently moved from WordPress over to Blogger. Why? Because the company hosting my site before jacked up the price of hosting to three times what I was paying before. So, needless to say, I will not pay for that. So since I made the move, even though I exported all my previous posts, I am unfortunately having a hard time transferring them over. So, until I can get it figured out, I guess I am starting this blog from scratch. Please subscribe so you can get notified when I post something new. 

 Blessings, 

 Curt