Recently I read a report from United Methodist Communications titled, “What Does It Mean to Be United Methodist?” This report summarizes the results of a survey conducted of 1250 United Methodists, including 400 lay members, 350 lay church leaders (i.e. past or present committee members), and 500 pastors. The respondents were asked in the spring and summer of 2014 to rate 22 values on a scale of 1 to 5, “not important” to “very important to you.” Not surprisingly, there are diverse opinions about what is important to us as individual United Methodists and there is no substantial agreement about core values. However, there are two values that consistently ranked near the top levels of importance across the spectrum of respondents: “Emphasis on God’s grace” and “Open table – Communion open to all.” That should not be surprising to us. If there are any values that distinguish United Methodists or Methodists in general from other Christian groups, it would be these two values. [Read more…]
(This sermon was titled “Dependence to Service” and coincided with Plainfield’s Big Serve:Change the World, a community-wide effort to serve through numerous projects. The scriptures were Isaiah 5:1-7 and John 15:1-8.)
The last time the lower 48 states experienced a total solar eclipse was February 26 of 1979. The path of totality, as it is called, crossed the Pacific northwest that Monday afternoon and then had its maximum totality in western Ontario at about five o’clock. A solar eclipse can be experienced within thousands of kilometers of the path of totality. I have fond memories of the ’79 eclipse. I was in fifth grade and remember how our classroom teacher, Miss Kappel, on whom I had a huge crush, prepared us for the experience by making pinhole projectors. The school also set up a telescope to project the image of the moon crossing the sun. I was utterly fascinated. Ever since then I have wanted to experience “totality.” [Read more…]
If you’re not currently looking for Jesus Christ, then you should know that he is looking for you … Easter Sunday is not a day to memorialize Jesus or even to simply proclaim the fact of his resurrection.
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.” This is how the Easter story starts in the Gospel of John. Remember, the Jewish day starts at sunset and the text implies that Mary likely arrived at the tomb before sunrise because “it was still dark.” She “saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” And later, after running to the disciples, she said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” [Read more…]
Recently advocates of LGBT rights, like lovable and fierce advocate of justice George Takei, focused their ire on the state of Indiana and Governor Mike Pence for passing and signing into law Senate Bill 101, Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Allegedly, RFRAs will enable religious folks to discriminate against others, namely people who are LGBT, which will preserve the former’s First Amendment rights to practice freely their religion. John McCormack of the conservative The Weekly Standard wrote, “Meanwhile, activists are calling for a boycott. The CEO of SalesForce, a company that does business in China, is pulling out of Indiana. The NCAA has expressed concern about holding events there in the future. And the city of San Francisco is banning taxpayer-funded travel to the state.” McCormack ended his piece with these words: “The point of RFRA is not to discriminate against gay Americans. It is supposed to prevent the government from discriminating against religious Americans.” In the time it took me to research and write this post, the internet news stories grew exponentially with statements from corporations about how they welcome and serve “all” people and that many of them are pulling out of Indiana. [Read more…]
We saw in the compressed 4½ minutes of The Shawshank Redemption that not much changed in those 20 years. In all three scenes the room is the same room, with exactly the same drab curtains and blinds, with the same amount of sunlight shining through, with the same number of hearing board members, five. Red is the same Red he has been for decades. Three different chairmen of the parole board ask Red the same question: “You feel you’ve been rehabilitated?” Red gives essentially the same rehearsed speech. After 20 years in prison, Red answers: “Oh, yes sir … absolutely, sir. I mean, I learned my lesson. I can honestly say that, I’m a changed man. And … I’m no longer a danger to society; that’s the God’s honest truth.” Rejected. Ten years later, after 30 years in prison, he answers: “Oh, yes sir … without a doubt … and I can honestly say I’m a changed man … no danger to society here … God’s honest truth … absolutely rehabilitated.” Rejected. [Read more…]