How great it was to see this blogpost from Transylvania University highlighting one of our very own, Richard Stinetorf. The art is powerful as is the intent behind it. Thanks Richard for helping to illuminate a path for us to follow!
The month of August was one of learning and listening across the First United Methodist Church of Lexington. The Downtown community had 50 persons participate in a wide-range of small group experiences about what it means to have privilege based on skin color; how our country’s history includes lynching as a means of so-called justice; and how our point of view shapes so many things in terms of beliefs and actions. We’ve also taken time to be reminded by God’s word that unity is not simply a goal but it is a powerful witness. In addition to the small groups, even more took time to listen to a group of podcasts about First UMC’s history, Wesleyan theology, and the United Methodist Church’s role in racial reconciliation.
What a wonderful beginning response. There is a true desire to be a part of the solution. And an intentionality to take seriously the ministry of reconciliation to which the Apostle Paul says was handed to us by Christ (2 Cor. 5.18).
The events of the past few weeks have shown us once again the need for us to do just this. Like a recurring nightmare, we awoke to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And we are again reminded that equality and justice are not in our rear view mirror as if they have been accomplished but rather in our windshield inviting us to pay attention or be faced with continual loss and despair as a community. One of the most poignant statements in recent days was given by Doc Rivers, L.A. Clippers Head Coach, who said, “It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.”
So here we are…and the path forward is out there somewhere if we dare not look away. And we won’t. Let’s continue to seek to be a part of the solution. Thank you, Richard, for using your gifts to remind us of just that.
3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.
Exodus 12:3-4 (NRSV) emphasis mine
I dare not say how much I enjoyed living in an apartment. It was partly about the no maintenance or lawn mowing that made it so much fun. Susan and I lived in our share of apartments and multi-family houses in our marriage. I still remember the two-family in Cleveland, Ohio about 2 blocks from Lake Erie we lived in early in our marriage. Did you know that snow can stay on the ground for months at a time and that Lake Erie freezes over until March? Yeah…me either. Talk about a cold dose of reality (pun intended) for this southern boy who owned nothing but a jean jacket until age 22. Suffice to say that changed quickly!
The Lectionary reading from the Old Testament this week is the narrative of the Passover. It is the singularly most important moment of Israel’s history. This night will be remembered and practiced in perpetuity. And in the big middle of it is a word from God about sharing. One that is a practical word about stewardship and conservation. Share the lambs! Come together in such a way that makes your resources go as far as possible. Do not bite off more than you can chew (literally) when others might benefit from some of what you have.
While we can see the implications for tangible resources, I also believe there is much to learn how to share our spiritual resources as well. Sharing our strength. Stewarding our hope. Passing along our joy.
It’s Monday…and my guess…no it is more than a guess…it is a fact that someone around you needs a portion of your spiritual resources to make it through the week. If the Israelites could come together to share lambs for the Passover, how much more can we share the fruits of the Spirit.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal 5:22) are the very building blocks of community. They are not given to us by the Spirit to hoard. They are not meant for building up our lives as if they were single family residences with garage door openers and privacy fences. Rather God wants to knit our lives together to be like apartment complexes with shared walls and common spaces. Oh, it’s messy and loud and way uncomfortable at times. But, what if that is the price we pay for being God’s people? Are we willing?
Our sermon series for the first three weeks of September is about community. Or as we will discover Communicating for Unity. The focus will be remembering how God designed the church to live together in such a way that our weekly prayer of “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” becomes answered right in front of us.
And let me give you a hint. The prayer won’t be answered through strategies or will-power but through the grace of forgiveness and accountability. While it is true that our faith is personal – it is never private. We have been given to each other for each other.
We will also be reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together to help give us additional perspective from one who understood the need for community was a matter of life and death.
And there could not be a better time.
Here are a few things I have been reading and thinking and praying about recently.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?Romans 8:31–32 (NRSV)
These are the words of promise that can turn our days into hopeful ones regardless of the circumstance we find ourselves.
Too many of us walk into Christian community looking for it to be a reflection of ourselves. But what we really need is for our communities to be a reflection of Jesus. A reflection of His love, service, power, and sacrifice.– Austin Wofford
I think the thing most missing in our communities from the final sentence above is power. You find a great deal of love, service, and sacrifice even. And I am grateful beyond words for this. There are a lot of faithful followers.
What I am praying for, in addition, is the manifestation of power by the Holy Spirit to heal sickness of body and mind, reconcile estrangements, and bind evil in every form. I am praying for the miraculous movement of the Spirit like in the book of Acts to flow through communities of faith. I’m starting to pray as if it will happen and then not attributing answers to prayer as mere coincidence but as acts of God.
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”— Soren Kierkegaard
Great reminder to not give up our routines especially in the times of stress. We’ve been reminded even today that we are no where near done with the Covid-19 pandemic. May we be committed to routines that help our mind, our body, and of course our soul.
I prayer journal every morning. It is a practice I have been doing for a long while and almost exclusively just for me. As someone who struggles with focus, it is so helpful to write my prayers and remain on task! But I wanted to share this morning’s prayer as it continues to speak to my heart.
I am grateful for you Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You created me from dust and redeemed my life from the pit. You carry me through this day and prepare a place that I’ll call home for eternity. By your grace, I am a new creation and part of a new creation that eagerly waits and serves until you return. The fullness of what we will be is not yet revealed but we are assured because of your presence.
Your way is the cross. By giving, even unto death, your grace is released and your power invades.As I share in your suffering you bring me into solidarity with you and those who are blessed by you.
And it is these blessed ones that form a beachhead point for your kingdom against the powers of this world. This church of yours is your body in action and the ever present reality of your kingdom of forgiveness and justice which is breaking forth.
And it always begins with you. Your will. Your wisdom. Your love.