Monday Meditation – Social Media

Social Media

First of all, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because the news about your faithfulness is being spread throughout the whole world.  I serve God in my spirit by preaching the good news about God’s Son, and God is my witness that I continually mention you  in all my prayers. I’m always asking that somehow, by God’s will, I might succeed in visiting you at last.  I really want to see you to pass along some spiritual gift to you so that you can be strengthened. What I mean is that we can mutually encourage each other while I am with you. We can be encouraged by the faithfulness we find in each other, both your faithfulness and mine. Romans 1:8-12 CEB

A friend of mine, Neelley Hicks, executive director at Harper Hill Global, who does work in Africa but lives in Tennessee, posted on Facebook last week that prayer was needed for a 6-month old infant in the Congo who was suffering from malaria.

Within hours, people from all over the world were praying for this small child.  She received responses from the Philippines, the United States, the rest of Africa and Europe.

There are many things wrong with social media nowadays.  It tends to isolate people and has elevated taking pictures of one’s self to an art form.  It can be very insular and closeted.  Yet even mobs of bullies and trolls can form online and bring real hurt to people and events.

And yet …

In this instance, all that makes social media a risky endeavor makes it possible for large crowds of people to come together and pray for one small baby in the middle of the Congo.

While the problems remain, there are also bountiful opportunities to do good with the tools we have at hand.  As much as social media can try to affect national opinions, it can also be used to start a revolution against oppression.

The prayers and instruction that took Paul hours to write and days to send to the various congregations he founded and watched over would take now but a second to be sent all over the world to every Christian with a cellphone.  Imagine the Apostle Paul with a Twitter account?!

Social media is a tool that we, as the church, can and does use to spread the gospel story of our Messiah.  It allows us to tell the story of Christ to all who would listen.  It allows us to “write” our own “good news” about our relationship with God and to share in the opportunities and responsibilities of that telling.

BTW, after only 2 weeks, the baby is out of her coma and doing much better!  Praise be to God!

Dear God, You are the great Architect.  Help us to use wisely all You have brought to life.  Endow the tools we have to be filled with Your Holy Spirit and used to share Your love.  Amen.

A Fire, A Flood and Help

Home Depot

Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Philippians 2:4

In conceiving of the Ministry Partners program for The United Methodist Church, our first priority was to make sure that local churches would receive meaningful help for their ministries.  As we vet these partnerships, we constantly ask how does this support local churches and the work they do in their neighborhoods and communities?

We want to always keep in the forefront the many people that our UM churches interact with on a daily basis.  They are the mission fields that Christ has called us to harvest.  They are the purpose of the Church.

One ministry partner, Home Depot, has helped not only build up the Church’s physical edifices, but it has also helped local churches to save money on necessities that thereby bring a cost savings to the church budget which can be reinvested into ministries.

One such team was able to help rebuild after a wildfire took the home of a family in the mountains of Tennessee.  The ministry partner was able to provide funds to buy supplies.  In Houston, the same ministry partner helped to create cost savings for the many churches there in need after the flood.

Calvary UMC team to ASP

“In the middle of December 2017, a devoted team of four spent a week in Sevier County, Tennessee, not sightseeing, but working with Appalachian Service Project (ASP) to rebuild a home destroyed in the 2016 Gatlinburg fires.  With supplies funded in part by a gift from Home Depot, the four men from Calvary United Methodist Church in Nashville, TN joined with ASP to make the season a little safer, warmer and drier for a household that had lost nearly everything a year before.  Home Depot’s generous gift made that work a little easier during this latest Advent season.”  Bryan Brooks, Pastor Calvary UMC

After the Flood

In 2017, the Home Depot worked with Texas Annual Conference churches and Parsonages in need of repair following the devastating storms.  To date, the Home Depot has been able to provide 250 gallons ($6,500 worth) of Concrobium for mold and disinfectant treatment. Ministries of the churches that have been helped are back and serving the members and communities where they are located.

How can you participate? We encourage you to invite your church or United Methodist affiliate organization to help support ministry by signing up for The Home Depot Pro Loyalty Program.

  1. Visit HomeDepot.com/ProLoyalty
  2. Sign in to the UM Account using:
    Username: Sponsorship@gcfa.org
    b. Password: gcfasponsor1
  3. Follow instructions to sign up!

The External Relations Team at the General Council on Finance and Administration has created many relationships benefiting ministries of our Church. If you have questions, please contact: ExternalRelations@gcfa.org.

Monday Meditation – Genealogies

Genealogy

You have, no doubt, seen or heard the many ads for genetic testing on TV, social media and radio.  The rise of these sites to trace one’s ancestry has led to the creation of genetic testing kits.  The commercials for these kits proclaim you receive intimate knowledge of where one’s ancestors are from and hence one’s own record of their past.

In the bible there are several genealogies.  In Luke’s and Matthew’s gospel, we have two genealogies for Jesus.  While similar, there are differences.  Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to Adam. Matthew only goes as far back as Abraham.  Luke takes Jesus back to the beginning of time; Matthew takes Jesus back to the father of Israel.  Both are trying to tell a story.

Just as Adam fell, Jesus, a direct descendant of Adam, rises from the dead to wipe away the sins of the first man.  Jesus as a direct descendant of Abraham, puts him squarely in the family of Jewish leaders and brethren through his legal father Joseph.  Matthew provides Jesus’ bon fides as a Jew.

Sometimes genealogies are used to prove one person is superior to another because of where their ancestors originated.  While we all have a story, no one is better or worse than another’s.  A royal bloodline is still red like everyone else’s blood is.

What matters is how one is grounded in the story of one’s past ancestors.  One is given a place to stand and a foundation from the past, which are important.  One can learn a lot from the past.

However the past can never be a sword used to cut away whole swaths of people as “less than” because of one’s ancestors.  We all have a story and we are all valuable.  Pompously claiming one’s story above all others is wrong.  It is not something Jesus did nor should we do as His followers.  He welcomed everyone into His family and genealogy, Jews and Gentiles, sick and healthy, poor and rich, men and women.  How can we do any less?

Dear God, You knew from where You came and drew upon Your ancestor’s memories to form a more diverse “family” within the love of God.  Help us to do so as well.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Love Your Enemy

Love Enemy

“But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either.  Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them.  Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you. Luke 6:27-31 (CEB)

How can I love my enemy? They have done me wrong and they have hurt me.  How can I muster up love for them?

Luckily, God shows us the way.

To love one’s enemy is not an emotion – at first.  However, for those of us “who are willing to hear,” the latest readers of Luke’s gospels, in order to love our enemies we must “do good” (verse 27).  To love your enemy is primarily a verb, an action, a thing to do, whether or not you feel like it.

Second, to love one’s enemy is to speak to them.  “Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who mistreat you.”  Blessing and praying are active verbs. When they are spoken, they are potent and effective.  God created the world out of words, speaking it into existence.  As God’s creation and the vessel of God’s own breath, how much are we allowed to speak words of righteousness and grace powerfully to those who come against us?

Third Luke tells us to again “do” love. “If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either.  Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them.”

And somehow in all the doing, comes the feeling.  The feeling of treating others as you would want to be treated.  Out of love and grace, justice and righteousness.

To love our enemies is first and foremost an action.

Almighty God you command us to love our enemy.  Thankfully, you show us how to do that.  Help our actions precede our feelings and in the end perhaps bring about that love in thought and emotion, as well as deed.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Doing Good

Do good blog

Why are we good?  Is it because we act “good?”  Is it because we are good?  Is it because we calculate that if we are good, others will be good towards us too?  Do we reason ourselves to good behavior?  Are we inherently good?

As it is written in Luke, Chapter 6:36-38, reason nor character is why we must behave well.  It is our relationship with God that should determine what we do specifically, be compassionate, do not judge, do not condemn, forgive and give.

A more exacting translation of the passage would read as follows,

“Become compassionate (to others) as your father is compassionate (to you).  Do not judge (others) and you will not be judged (by God).  Do not condemn (others) and you will not be condemned (by God).  Forgive (others) and you will be forgiven (by God).  Give (to others) and it will be given to you (by God).  (Luke Johnson, Gospel of Luke, pg. 113.)

Our behavior toward one another is dictated not by what we want or feel but by what God will do for us for our good behavior toward each other.  “A truly radical notion, that God adapts for the judgment of humans the standard they use is their relation with each other.” (Luke Johnson, Gospel of Luke, pgs. 113-114)

Dear God, help us to remember to be good to one another even though we often try to calculate our goodness.  Remind us to do good because you ask us to do good.

Yet you do more than we could ever do for each other.  Your grace knows no bounds.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – About My Father’s Affairs …

Temple

In Luke 2:41-52 we have this curious story about a teenage Jesus.  It appears only here in the canon of gospels.

Again, we read of a very Jewish family that makes the pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year for Passover.  The implication is that Jesus went as well.  They traveled with a large group of family and neighbors.

One year when Jesus was twelve, the text tells us, he went “as usual”.  Evidently, he was given some freedom on this trip.  He was not tied to his mother or father as they celebrated the Passover festival.  It was only in the return home that Mary and Joseph notice that Jesus is not with the group.  He is lost.  He could be dead for all they know.  For three days they searched for him, afraid of the worse I’m sure.

Finally, he is found in the temple among the teachers.  He is listening and questioning them.

His mother gives vent to the fear and anxiety his parents have felt at losing him for three days.  What was Jesus’ response?

“Why is it that you have been seeking me?  Did you not know that I must involve myself in my Father’s affairs?”

Why use “my father’s affairs” and not the better known translation of “my father’s house?”

“Luke never has Jesus call the ‘Temple’ ‘my father’s house’ and although the Temple plays an important role in his narrative, it is a place of activity.” (Luke Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, pg 61)

The Temple building is defined more by its activities – or lack thereof – than as a place of God’s presence.  It is the holy acts within the Temple that Jesus has come to participate in among the teachers.  The place is only as important as its interactions with the people specifically, the poor, the widows, the orphans and the unclean.

Dear God, help us to be Temples of your Holy Spirit in motion.  Let us be temples of holy activity.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Beyond Judaism

Jesus Judaism

Even as the author of Luke’s gospel shows us the countless ways that Jesus and his earthly family are quintessentially “Jewish,” he also shows us that Jesus had come not solely for the Jews but also the rest of the Gentile world.

Eight days after his birth, Jesus’ parents bring him to be circumcised, something that distinguished the Jews from all others.  Yet even as Jesus is placed squarely in the rituals of Judaism, Simon, another Jew, beyond reproach, prophesizes over the baby.

“You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and a glory for your people Israel.” Luke 2:31-32 CEB

Luke’s Jesus is Jewish through and through and also going to be a conduit of God to the Gentiles.  Luke places Jesus at a crux between the distinctive and the malleable.  Jesus is both Jew and beyond Judaism.

Why this need to put Jesus rooted in Judaism but also open to those beyond its borders?  Because the movement Jesus began moved to a more open rendering of the community boundaries as it grew and expanded beyond Palestine.

We take for granted the Jesus movement going into Gentile areas but at its insemination, it was considered a “Jewish” movement that went beyond its tribal, cultural and social boundaries.

Thank God!

Dear Lord, we take for granted Your presence in our lives.  Yet there are some who do not know You.  Help us to spread Your gospel long and wide throughout the earth as you intended it should be.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Happy New Year!

Happy New Year blog

After a tumultuous and sometimes painful year, we have survived to live another day!

Thank you, God!

In a time when it seems our thoughts and prayers were sorely tested by the evil of the day, we clung to the hope implied within them.

Thank you, Jesus!

While we have lost some loved ones this past year, new ones have come into our lives.  We celebrate the beginning of new relationships and endeavors for the coming year.

Thank you, Holy Spirit!

As the year ends, we remember the good and bad times that came and went.  We saw great devastation but we also saw and knew great love triumphing over hate in every occurrence of evil.

To this we cling to – love.  The love upon which our thoughts and prayers are grounded surely still matters and will always have victory over indifference and evil.  It provides the impetus to do more.  To feed the hungry.  To seek out the lonely.  To visit the imprisoned.  To quench the thirsty.

Let us begin this New Year acknowledging what has gone on before but looking forward to what will be waiting for us in the coming days.

Thank you God for another day!

Amen!

Monday Meditation – A Known Story

Third Sunday in Advent

We all know the story.  We’ve heard it a thousand times and again every year around this time.  And in case we might have temporarily forgotten it, we are retold it by tv programs, Christmas pageants and choir cantatas.

Charlie Brown in frustration asks who knows what Christmas really means.  Linus takes the stage and paraphrases Luke.

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14 NIV

There is a familiarity to the story that makes us feel secure and rooted.  We can count on it to order our lives.

Yet familiarity can dull anticipation.  It may not breed contempt but it does lack a sense of expectancy.  Children find comfort in reading the same storybooks every day but this sense of looking forward to the books is hardly dampened by the repetition.  Let us take a lesson from our children and not lose our excitement no matter how many times the cow jumps over the moon.

The story we have to tell is no fairy tale.  How much more inspiring is the Truth?

How awesome is our God?!

Dear God, while You reign from heaven above, You live and love in the midst of Your creation.  Never leave us alone.  We need You too much.  Amen.