The Church Could Learn From a Beer Commercial

unity

Wow!  I was just watching a new Heineken Beer Commercial on Facebook.  It is running with the #OpenYourWorld.  It was an experiment where they would introduce two people to work together on a project.  The people running the experiment knew that the two people they introduced had a difference in their understanding of a social and or political issue.  The pair were tasked with putting together two stools and a bar like table.  Then they were told to place two beers on the table.  An announcer came on that asked them to watch a short video.  It was a video of themselves introducing their thoughts on a particular social or political issue.  These people who had worked together and helped one another and were becoming friends suddenly realized they were on opposite sides of issues such as; climate change, sexual orientation and equality of the sexes.  Then the announcer stated, “You may now leave or sit down and discuss you differences over a beer.”  Everyone of them sat down and talked.  They talked; not yelled, not corrected, not lectured but talked.  How cool is that?  If a beer commercial can help people to realize we have more in common than we have differences should the church not be able to do so much more?

As United Methodists, as Christians we know we are not of one mind when it comes to certain issues.  Sadly we may never be.  But we are of one mind and one body when it comes to our faith that Jesus Christ is Lord and that we are called to continue His work in this world.  We need to come together to the table over the body and blood of Jesus Christ and discuss our differences.  Perhaps some of us will change our minds, or we will agree to disagree but keep the lines of communication open.  Jesus made friends with the outcast, He ate dinner with those on the opposite side of the political scale and He blessed sinners.  If Jesus could be open to all people can we be any less.  We have more in common than we have in difference and we can do so much more together than we can apart.  Christians, let us keep the conversations going and our hearts and minds open.

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Allowing for Differences

lion-and-lamb

As Christians we are called to live and act in ways that help to bring into this world the Kingdom of God.  When Christ returns He will bring to fruition His kingdom on earth; a kingdom of peace where earthly power will lose its value and where peace will be the order of the day.  Until Christ’s return we are living in the midst of the “already and the not yet”.  When God sent His Son as a beautiful baby the kingdom began its in-breaking into our world.  As followers of Christ we are to continue this work.  This means we are called to lovingly engage people, all people, just as did Jesus.  What does this mean?  Does it mean we all must agree on everything?  We know that isn’t going to happen.

No, we do not all have to agree.  Differences of opinion, differences in gifts, differences in how we look and how we live, even how we worship are what makes us who we are.  We are individuals, all created by God and all loved by God equally.  But what we must do is treat one another with civility.  Let us show love, care and compassion for one another rather than hatred, anger and disdain.  To often people today seem to respond first with defensiveness or anger and it doesn’t matter what the situation.  I am on the road a lot; visiting with folks or just driving to and from church.  The amount of road rage and impatience I see is disheartening.  I talk with people all the time who do not speak with family members because of some differences between them.  If you read the conversation page in the paper you will find families divided for fairly silly, selfish reasons.  A mother who wants her married son to always be with his side of the family on holidays.  A bride who un-invites her cousin to stand up for her in her wedding because she is pregnant and that would not make for a pretty picture.  Then there is the constant argument of politics.  It doesn’t matter who you voted for we can still stand together and respect one another.  We can express concerns, joys and different ideas and not tear each other down personally.  Yet this seems to be a hard lesson to get across.  In all these areas and in many others we must find ways, as Christians, to reach across these deep divides that have separated us.

We do not have to see eye to eye in all things.  We just must agree on one thing and that is we are all children of God, valued in God’s eyes and as such we should treat one another with respect.  We are given ways to do this in the Bible.  James 1:19 tells us to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.  We need to make sure we listen to one another.  Too often while someone is speaking instead of listening we are preparing our response.  How can we respond fairly if we do not first listen.  When we listen we find we are better able to understand the other person’s actions and words.  This doesn’t mean we will agree only that we are more open to allowing for differences.  Matthew 7:12 tells us that we should treat others as we want them to treat us.  We are called to love one another, to treat one another with love.  If love is our first response than our differences will not divide us.

Our children are watching, those who do not yet know Christ are watching, those who have been hurt by the church and have left are watching.  Let us give them a glimpse into the Kingdom of God where the lion and the lamb will lie down together.  Now that will be good news.  Amen.

The Jetsons vs The Flintstones

Jetsons

As you can tell by the cartoon above we live in a Jetson world.  I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons and The Jetsons was one of my favorites.  They made the future look like so much fun.  Everything was going to be easier; they walked their dog, Astro, on a moving sidewalk and they had Rosie, their robotic maid, to do all the housework.  By watching The Jetsons we could see what our future had in store for us; video phone calls, online news and talking appliances.

In contrast to The Jetsons I also enjoyed watching the “modern stone age family” The Flintstones.  They worked hard in the rock quarry, drove around in cars propelled by their feet, and when they took a photograph it was a bird inside the camera that was carving the image.  Both of these shows, in one way or another make fun of modern day society and the problems that pop up from day to day.  Both shows also play on our wishes.  What we wish we had, or wish we could do to make our lives easier.  Even though the Flintstones work hard they play hard as well.  there is something carefree about their lives and their friendships that all of us wish we could tap into.  At the same time The Jetsons offered us the hope of a carefree life as technology became better and better.  “People lived in housing in the sky, worked a three-day workweek, drove aero cars that looked like flying saucers and had incredible conveniences that left them with plenty of leisure time.”

Well, we don’t live in the sky or drive aero cars just yet but many of the modern conveniences predicted by The Jetsons have come to fruition.  The problem is, we don’t have plenty of leisure time.  It seems as if our “modern conveniences” actually cause us to have much less leisure time than when we were living in a Flintstone kind of world.  This lack of leisure time is causing people to never disconnect from work and the busyness of the world.  it has more folks using medication for stress, high blood pressure and ill health.  And, we spend less time off the internet and with our families than ever before.  I’m as bad as anyone in these modern day times.  I’m always checking emails, always thinking about what we need to do at the church, and how I can work better.  Look, I am writing this during vacation.  But the fact is we must break away.  As Christians we should know how important it is to take time away to spend with God and to  take time away to serve our brothers and sisters around the world.  “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Eph. 2:10.  Especially in light of all that has been taking place around our world and our country we need to spend more time searching for direction from God and caring for those around us.

As I said, I am on vacation this week and we decided to move, somewhat, away from our Jetsons lifestyle and enjoy a little Flintstone time.  We are camping in the middle of the north Georgia woods.  No, we aren’t sleeping on the ground and we have many modern conveniences but it is an amazing time to remember what is important, to catch our collective breathes and to be reminded of the beauty God has placed around us and the blessings God gives us.

As I sit outside among the trees, listening to the birds call back and forth I just seem to be able to breathe better.  Although we have our cell phones and do check them from time to time, my husband, my mom and I take the time to take hikes in the woods, really talk with one another and play games together.  There is time in this Flintstone world to talk with God, to be thankful and to recognize our blessings.  We can’t always leave our Jetson world and take a refreshing break for days on end.  But, we should remember God is always with us ready to be that refreshing, renewing, re-energizing place to be for us anytime we are willing to spend a few moments with Him.  I want to encourage all of us to put down the cell phone, t.v. remote, video game and computer on a daily basis and spend time with God.  Share with God your stressors, your concerns, all those things of the world that weigh us down.  As we do this we will begin to feel more relaxed and to find that carefree life with which The Jetsons used to taunt us.

It isn’t technology that brings us freedom it is the love of Christ Jesus that frees us from life’s burdens.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  ” Galatians 5:13

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Now that my friends is good news.

Shalom,

Rev. Daph

 

Peace Must Begin With Each of Us

I awoke, along with most of you, this Sunday morning, June 12, to hear of the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history.  There was very little information as to what had taken place when we gathered for worship.  As the day developed more information came out; 50 were dead and 53 were injured.  My heart breaks for the pain and loss so many are going through.  Perhaps by Monday we will have more understanding as to why this tragedy took place.  The questions fly back and forth; is it terrorism or a hate crime? The truth is, it is probably both.  What is certain is that this was a calculated act by a man filled with hatred.  I was proud to see so many step up in areas where blood was being collected for the injured.  In Ebor City, in Miami and in other areas people gathered together in solidarity with the victims.  Support for the victims has come about from all around our country.  When will all this hatred and violence end?  How can any of us look at the pain, the hurt and the fear we see in the faces of all those we have seen on the news and still continue the hate, the judgment and the condemnation that has become so prevalent. None of us live out our lives in the same way as does everyone else.  We may not understand the lifestyles of those who are different from ourselves but, as Christians we are not called to understand one another, we are not called to judge one another, we are certainly not called to hurt one another.  We are called to recognize all persons as God’s precious creations, we are called to recognize that God created us all equally and we are called to share God’s unconditional love with all people.  Let us all work together to share the love of Christ through word, action and deed so that all might come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.  It is only when all have had a heart transforming experience with Jesus that we will truly have peace.  But, this transformation must begin with each of us as we show Christ’s unconditional love and as we share what God has done for us.

Building Up One Another

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”                                                                                                                       Romans 14:19

I was so frustrated the other day when, while I was watching the Today Show, they reported on “Mom Shaming.” Apparently a celebrity gave birth to a baby and then when the child was two weeks old the parents went out on the town. They left the baby at home. The next thing they knew it was all over social media about how terrible that mom was to have left her child at home to go out. The shamers were people who didn’t even know the couple. They just didn’t like their choices. Now, as near as I can tell, that beautiful new baby was not in any danger; it wasn’t left at home alone it had a sitter. It wasn’t left at home with nothing to eat; it wasn’t left in the car. That little baby was safe and sound and being cared for and its parents went out for dinner and perhaps some dancing, I don’t know. Some new moms can leave their children at an earlier time in life than can others. Isn’t it okay to be different, to have different needs and different ways of recuperating?

I have spoken with new moms who for a multitude of different reasons have chosen to bottle feed their new infants rather than breastfeed. Some chose this because they just do not feel they can breastfeed, it is not something they are comfortable with doing. For some this choice is forced upon them because they really cannot breastfeed; either their bodies are not prepared for this particular job or the baby, for whatever reason is not thriving. These moms often already feel guilty. Then there are moms out and about who have adopted children and of course, cannot breastfeed. Yet they are stopped by strangers in the store or on the street and are chastised because of their “choices.” They are told they are not doing what is best for their child. The strangers lecturing these parents have no idea what real and possibly painful reasons are behind their choice.

Who made us judge and jury of everyone else around us? Where do we get the idea that our thoughts and opinions are greater or better than those who chose to do differently? Why do we feel the need to shame someone else?

My children are all grown up now. I am very proud of them and I enjoy them very much, I always have. But, I remember days when they were younger, days when I wondered if I was doing the right thing, days when I would be in tears thinking I might not be making the right choices for my children. Parenting is hard. There is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect family. We all make mistakes. So shouldn’t we support one another? Shouldn’t we want to build someone up instead of tearing them down? I feel, as someone who has been there, I should be even more compassionate and encouraging. I know a few kind words would have meant the world to me at different times in my life of parenting.

It isn’t just parenting that is hard, life itself is hard and we all need some support from time to time. As Christians we are told we should be building one another up. Ephesians 4:29 states: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

 We should give grace to those who hear. Far too often, even within the walls and programs of the church, I hear people tearing one another down. Instead of building one another up they feel as though they are in some kind of competition and if someone else is getting the acknowledgement or if someone else is getting their way, etcetera then the other strikes out. This type of action not only hurts those involved but it turns others away from the Good News of Christ.

As Christians others should be able to see a difference in the way we act, in the way we relate to one another and to the world. We should be showing God’s love through our actions and our words. I want to encourage all of us to check our words before we let them out of our mouths or before we write them down on paper and especially before we hit send or post. Let us make sure that we are not shaming someone but that we are building them up for the kingdom of God. This, my friends is what we are called to do. It isn’t always easy and it is not always the first thing that comes to our minds but it is the way of love, it is the way of Christ and that path is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Blessings,

Rev. Daph

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.    Hebrews 10:24-25

POWERBALL WINNERS – ALL

I had a lot of fun watching all the craziness that went on around the PowerBall ticket sales.  What I found fun was listening to people discuss what they would do IF they won.  As a United Methodist clergy person I do have my reservations about the lottery.  If I was sure folks were just foregoing an expensive cup of Starbucks coffee to play I wouldn’t worry about it.  Unfortunately I have seen men and women alike line up and spend their week’s paycheck to play the lottery.  I think about the odds of their winning and I worry  how they will pay their rent or buy milk and diapers for their children.  Still, whether you play or not everyone plays the “What if” game.

When talking with people who play regularly most will say, aside from a free ticket here and there or $2, $3 or $4 they haven’t ever really won.  But everyone enjoys possibility — in this case “What would I do if?”  It didn’t really matter if it actually happened, its just fun to daydream.  But, to me, what was even more interesting was what people were daydreaming about doing.

Of course they listed the normal stuff; a sporty red convertible, a large house, an amazing cruise.  Then there was he family responsibilities; college accounts for their children, pay off their mortgage, pay off credit cards, take care of their parents.  But, what pleased me the most was that almost everyone wanted to be charitable.  The would be winners wanted to share their blessings; giving money to a homeless shelter or a domestic violence shelter, helping sick children or giving large sums to their churches to help keep ministries strong.  At first I was amazed at how important this was to so many people.  I was pleased to see God working in the hearts and minds of so many.  Oh the possibilities, the ministries we could support if we became a millionaire or, in the case of the PowerBall, a billionaire.

As I was thinking about the possibilities of generosity I thought of something else.  Many of us see this as an all or nothing proposition.  “Wow!  If I won a million dollars I could give $100,000 to the church.  To bad I didn’t win.  Maybe I can support ministry next time.”  There is definitely something wrong with this thinking.

We are all winners, maybe not of the PowerBall, but we are winners none-the-less.  We are all children of God, offered salvation by His amazing grace, forgiven of our sins, loved unconditionally and filled with endless possibility.  We don’t have to be able to give $100,000 to the church to make a difference, we don’t have to be able to build a new wing on a hospital in order to show God’s love to those in need.  It would be nice if we could but we don’t have to.  Whatever we can give from what we have is all God asks.  Give as you have been blessed.  Each of us can give in differing amounts.  Each of us are winners, imagine the possibilities if we all shared our winnings as we are called to share.  Brothers and sisters, don’t wait for that illusive winning PowerBall ticket, claim your winnings God has fore, share your blessings and imagine the possibilities.  Now that will be good news.

powerball

May The Force Be With You!

 

Long,

Long ago,

In a galaxy

Far, far away…

Well, maybe not that long ago or that far away but in 1977 the first Star Wars movie came out and since that time Star Wars has become an American epic. I remember seeing the first movie right here in Clearwater at the old Sunshine Mall theatre. Every one was in love with R2-D2, C-3PO and Chewbacca. We all knew that anything that was spoken by Yoda held all wisdom. The movie takes place in a make believe galaxy and centers around the life of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker. It becomes a battle between those who use the Force for good and those who use it for evil. They describe the Force as an omnipresent energy that can be harnessed by those with that ability. The Force is “an energy field created by all living things that surrounds us, penetrates us (and) binds the galaxy together. “

Since that first movie there has been six more movies made and now, on December 18 the eighth movie will debut. This isn’t just a movie that one generation fell in love with, it is a series of movies that have spanned over three generations and has a following that is almost cult like. As I was watching another advertisement for Star Wars the other day I began to wonder what it is about this movie that has caused it to have such a following for all these years? But then I began to think that perhaps it is because we see a little of our own struggles in the struggles of Leia and Luke; Obi-Wan and Hans Solo.

As we deal with the difficult choices we have in our lives we long for a Jedi Master like Yoda who can give us wisdom and help to point us in the right direction. When we watch the movie we think how nice it would be to have someone cute and sweet and helpful around like R2-D2 and C-3PO. They don’t ask for anything, they are just there to help, they would have our best interest at heart. Well, if they had a heart. We wonder if we could ever reach the heights of being a true Jedi. A Jedi is patient, committed, serious, calm, peaceful, benevolent, joyful, passive and wise. These are definitely virtues that we could use in this world. Watching Star Wars allows us, for just a little while, to escape into a place where we can defeat the darkside, where we can accomplish the wisdom of the Jedi and have the force be with us. But then, as we leave the theatre we must once again, come back down to earth; back to the tough decisions and the heavy responsibilities that face each of us. The movie can only give us what we need for a short amount of time.

But,

A long, long time ago,

In a land far, far away,

Something amazing happened …

A child was born, a child who would bring us salvation, a child who would teach us how we should live, a child who would bring us the wisdom we need and the ability to chose between the forces of good and evil. We do have a force that is with us. It is not a force that has been created by all living things but it is a force that created all living things. It is a force that penetrates us and can bind us all together. That force is God. God has created us and loves us and wants what is best for us. He offers us his wisdom and he calls us to follow him. God’s presence can work within us to create fruit; and his fruit is much like the virtues of the Jedi but they are even better. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the things we can attain as we become followers of Christ. We will find that we are not alone but that God is always with us; ready to help us find the “bright” side.

Enjoy the new Star Wars movie but remember we don’t need Yoda, we have a greater Force that is with us at all times.

For unto us
a child is born,

To us a son is given,

And the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Will Peace on Earth Ever Happen?

As I watched the news reports of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California on December 2 my heart just hurt.  It hurt for all those who were killed, for all those who were traumatized, for those families who were grieving.  It hurt for the folks who lived in the area whose security was shaken, it hurt for all of us who wonder if this is what our future will look like; always fearful of what is around the next corner.  it hurt for those who do not know God and who might think this is what it means to follow God.

I wondered how I needed to address all this violence that feels as if it is closing in around us.  I did a lot of praying; my prayers were for those who had been injured or killed but they were also for our world and for direction as to how God wants us to respond.  A little later as I was watching the news I saw a tearjerker of a story and how some folks stepped up and helped a family in need.  A few minutes later I saw a wonderful news story of how a whole town had reached out to give a young boy with autism a chance to play football like his brother and other boys his age.  All this started me thinking; I don’t believe we will know complete peace on earth until God’s Kingdom comes to fruition but as the body of Christ it is up to us to continue the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom.  We cannot stop all evil from happening but we can bring peace to the world one kind act at a time.  We can show those who do not know God what it truly means to follow a loving, merciful and compassionate God by our actions.

My heart still aches for those who are caught in the midst of terrorism and war.  But, I won’t allow fear and anger and hate to change how I respond to people and how I live out my life.  Jesus taught us that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We are to spread God’s love and to give compassion and mercy to His creation.  When will peace reign on earth?  We do not know the hour but as followers of Christ we are called to bring God’s peace to this world in any way that we can.  “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Terrorism in Paris

It has happened again.  On Friday, November 13, 2015 Paris was attacked in six different places simultaneously.  A concert hall, a soccer match and restaurants were surprised with bombers and gunmen.  So far, 129 innocent people have died; over 300 injured and 100 of those in critical condition.

Senseless death and violence has taken place upon innocent people just out on the town to have a good time.  Those who led the bombing and shooting were shouting “God is great.”  But the terror they released had nothing to do with God and God’s will.  God is crying along with the world at the senselessness of the violence that humanity has released upon humanity.

It is our responsibility, as Christians, to continue teaching those who do not know God that this is not at all what God is about.  our God is a God of peace and love.  God walks along with us through this violence and tragedy.  God will not leave us alone.

Lord, Help us to hold out for peace.  Help us to work hard to bring your kingdom to fruition on this earth.  Let us not become paralyzed by fear but instead fueled by Your love.  Amen.