Las Vegas – We Stand With You

Las Vegas

We here are GCFA stand in solidarity and love with the people of Las Vegas, Nevada against the brutal violence perpetrated against humanity late Sunday night.  When one part of the body is hurt, the entire body suffers.  It is only in love that such wounds can be healed.  We send our thoughts and prayers to those hurt in this act of domestic terrorism.   Just as importantly, we stand firm in our Christian conviction that death shall not have the last word.  Our risen Savior has broken the bonds of death and set free all its captives.

Evil may think it has won this day.

Fifty plus are dead, over 500 are injured.  Firefighters had to wear Kevlar vests to the scene along with the police.  In today’s social scene, bullets made to pierce, not just flesh, but cement and plaster, are readily available for sale.  Military grade weapons pervade the American landscape–yet we still have faith and hope.

We have faith and hope that there is a greater power in this world that is a light against the darkness.  Love will always triumph over hate.  For every Good Friday, a resurrection is promised.  We hold onto that promise for ourselves, our church, our country and all the people as children of God.

We stand in any breach of faith and hope that has been cracked by this night of cruelty. “And let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,” 2 Kings 22:5b (KJV) We stand that those whose faith and hope is tested by this night of horror who can stand upon our shoulders for resolve until their hearts and bodies have been mended by the Holy Spirit of God.

We will continue to pray and do what must be done to challenge the circumstances that allow such acts of depravity to occur according to the Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church. (#3303, 3426)

Today is the day
God deplores violence in our homes and streets,
rebukes the world’s warring madness,
humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.
And so shall we.  (A Companion Litany to Our Social Creed)

A call to Love is a call to Love – EVERYONE. What?!

embracelove

On Facebook, I have seen some examples of people of color loving neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  In forming intimate friendships, they have been able to love the hate out of them and become friends.

If we are all made in the image of God, and thereby worth everything in God’s eyes, enough for God to send God’s Son to us, then is loving the enemy something central to all our lives as Christians?

Are we prepared to do this as a church?  Can we #embracelove around our neo-Nazi brothers and sisters?

In order to love we must first prepare ourselves.  How can we do so?

  1. Loving each other. We must be a living example of a people who love one another without conditions.
  2. Resting in the love of God and our fellow Christians. Learning to accept love will help us to teach others how to do so as well.
  3. Learn to listen. Truly listen to hear the other not to prepare a retort or comeback.  Listening to understand is not acceptance.
  4. Rely on hope. We will not always succeed.  Some will resist our embracing them with love.  We must never lose hope that God will touch their hearts in some way that lies beyond our presence in their lives. Only God redeems the irredeemable.

No one is beyond reproach from God or God’s followers.  While we as a church do not accept the rise of Nazism and we do not believe in one race’s superiority over another, we also believe that all are deserving of God’s love and healing touch, no matter what their sin.

Dear Lord, we live in troubled times.  Help us to see each other’s worth not in skin color but in the content of our character, the strength of our love for one another and the righteous grace You bestow upon us.  Amen.

The Last Word : A Response to Charlottesville

Virginia

 “I have decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems…. He who has love has the key to ultimate reality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I find myself in a turmoil this past weekend.  The events in Charlottesville, VA have disgusted and angered me in two ways.  Disgust for the vision of separatist hate that the fascist right proclaims and anger for the violence perpetrated against those protesting peacefully against these voices of hate.

It’s difficult to watch what happened in VA and not be troubled at how much our country has changed in the last decade and also in how it hasn’t changed very much since the 1950’s.  Hate and violence seem to be the answer to every problem. Or worse, indifference and dismissiveness.

Having seen what we have this weekend we must take a stand.  We must say “NO” to hate, “NO” to violence and “YES” to love and “YES” to nonviolence.  And we must do so in the face of abject hatred and terrible violence just as the protestors of the neo-nazi, white supremacy, alt-right groups were doing, before being mowed down by one of them.

“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16 CEB

Now is not the time to be lukewarm.  It is a time for passion and desire.  For what?  For justice, for righteousness, for equality, for love.

Those who hate have decided now is the time to reveal themselves.  Let us look them in the eye without hoods covering their faces and speak love to them, speak the gospel message to them, speak the coming kingdom of God to them.

Their time is limited.  Jesus has already vanquished hate and death.  In His resurrection, we have love abundant for all.  And that is the last word.

Dear God, you are almighty.  You are all loving.  Help us to love during this time of turmoil we as a country are facing.  Help our individual hearts seek peace from you.  Help the leaders of our country to speak peace and love not hate and violence.  Help us as Christians to lead in our Savior’s footsteps of nonviolence and righteous understanding.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Lent : Love

Love

Who do you love?  What do you love?

In Mark 10:17-22 we have the only reference in the gospel to Jesus “loving” someone.

What makes this man so special that we learn Jesus “loved” him?  The assumption is not that Jesus loved no one else but we aren’t told in the other stories so explicitly as we are told in this story that Jesus loved someone.  Why are we told that Jesus “loved” this man?

It is in his commands to the rich man that shows us the reader, that Jesus’ love extends to all he has encountered in his ministry – the healed, the called and the oppressed.

One translation for Mark 10:21 is as follow, “Get up, sell that which you have, give it to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven.  Come, follow me.”

“Get up” is used in “healing” stories.  This is a “healing” story as well.  It is a healing of the soul from the accumulation of stuff and wealth.

The second “sell that which you have” and last commands “Come, follow me” recalls the disciples and others who were asked to give up all they had and follow Jesus.

These two groups, the healed and the disciples, Jesus alludes to also have his love for they already have done what he asked of the rich man.  Even though ultimately the rich man does not do as commanded, Jesus knowing this, still loves him.

The poor are brought front and center with Jesus commanding the rich man to give all he had to the poor.  Jesus loves them enough to tell this rich man to provide for them.

Unfortunately, the man cannot obey and leaves.  While he has kept the commandments he has not acted in the spirit of the commandments.

Dear Lord, let us not just adhere to the letter of the law but the spirit in which you intended it.  Otherwise we run the risk of turning the law into an idol.  The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Valentine’s Day Gifts

Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day

Some say Valentine’s Day is a made up celebration by the floral and card companies in order to make sale in an otherwise devoid month of any “holidays” or “special occasions.”

I say any excuse to celebrate “love” is worthy.  Now how we choose to do so can be up for discussion.

Gifts

While gifts are one way to show love, they are not the only way or some would even say they are not the best way.  We can celebrate with gifts of all kinds like flowers and candy and cards as gifts for Valentine’s Day.  Even those are given with some thoughtfulness. It is more the thought put into a gift that provokes the most joy.

A handmade gift from my grandson is worth a great deal to me.  The effort and thought put into it by him is what counts as love in my eyes.

But we can combine gifts of cards, flowers or candy with something else.  Whether a purchased or handmade gift, we can also take the time to pray for them and then send a quick email or text letting them know you remembered them in your prayers.  It’s not bragging if done from a heart of servanthood to that person from a place of love.

It will show the other person that you were thinking about them and brought them before God with love and attention.  You shared your love for them with God.  You shared your time with God with them.

That, my friends, is a great gift.

Dear God, who is love, show us how to love more perfectly.  Help us to remember those near to us when we come to you in prayer.  Let our time be about others and not solely about us.  When sometimes thoughts and prayers can seem like empty sentiments, help us to revive the power of prayer. Amen.

Merry Christmas from GCFA

Christmas Love

Merry Christmas

It is with the birth of Jesus that something extraordinary happened in this world. As we go through the rest of the coming year, let us always remember that in Christ’s birth, love came down and took on human flesh, making it impossible for us to ever say, “We humans cannot love.”

In taking on the human form, Jesus made it clear to us that we can love as God loves us – unconditionally. Both our neighbors and our enemies who in the final analysis are both one in the same – our brothers and sisters in God.

This Christmas let us remember the infant born out of love, to love. Let us follow in His footsteps during the coming year and beyond.

God bless you and yours this Christmas season!

Meditation Monday: Family Values

family-values

Family Values

While families come in many and varied configurations nowadays, some “family values” are always present.

  1. Respect
    Despite differences of opinions as a family we respect one another. We believe in the best of one another. We hold in high regard the intentions of each family member.
  2. Patience
    An offshoot of respect, we practice patience with one another as people learn and grow in a myriad of ways.
  3. Love
    This is what makes the first two in the list possible. We love one another in a family and accept that it is what motivates other family members’ actions. Love make it possible for us to be patient with each other and live together under one roof or name.

God is love and as such is present in every type of family including church families.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus …” Philippians 2:3-5 (NRSV)

Dear God, help us to respect one another. To live with patience for one another and to love one another above all no matter what challenges may come. You are Lord of all. Amen.

Civility & the lost art of listening

civility

P.M. Forni, in his book The Civility Solution, writes that in today’s America, incivility is on prominent display: in schools, where bullying is pervasive; in the workplace, where an increasing number are more stressed out by co-workers than their jobs; on the roads, where road rage maims and kills; in politics, where strident intolerance takes the place of earnest dialogue; and on the Web, where many check their inhibitions at the digital door.

The Civility of Conversation

Conversations and discussions no longer exist. It isn’t even about who is right or wrong. Both sides know they are right. It is not a question of changing anyone’s mind. How can conversation happen when people are “YELLING” at one another with slogans and epithets on TV, in their “status,” and in their “tweets”?

In Jeremiah 29:4 – 7 (NIV), God tells the Israelites to pray for Babylon, the empire they have been exiled to from Jerusalem. God doesn’t tell the Israelites to stop believing as they had when they were in their own land even though now they are in a pagan, gentile land with its own prophets and diviners that God calls deceivers. Now God commands them to pray for the city they have been brought to as the spoils of war – that, in fact, their prosperity was tied to the pagan city’s prosperity.

The Civility of Prayer

Can all the sides of the ideological divide, pray for each other to prosper? Can viewers of network news with opposing sides pray for those with a different opinion? Can opposing teams pray for each other on the field of play? Can people on both sides of any issue facing The United Methodist Church pray for each other? In I Peter 3:15b, the Apostle Peter tells the followers of Jesus “Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it.” (CEB)

The followers are then told they must “… do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience.” (CEB)

In other words, talk – don’t yell. Be aware of your every word. Speak your truth. Listen. Comprehend.

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church are in prayerful discernment about ways we can be in dialogue about issues that face the denomination. Can we all pray for one another and have the Holy spirit move in our actions and decision making?

To understand is not to condone. It is an act of humility to say, “I will put aside myself right now and respect you enough to listen to you.”

These acts of civility are things our Savior would surely do and appreciate us doing.

Meditation Monday: A New Psalm

psalm

A New Psalm

Lord of Heaven and Earth

We stand before you vulnerable and confused.

We are overwhelmed by it all.

Lord help us!

Hear our cry, oh God!

Leave us not alone here.

 

We wrestle with all that is going on around us:

The persecution of our fellow Christians,

The bombing of families with children,

The trafficking of women into sexual slavery,

Floods and wildfires,

Large and small scale acts of violence and desecration.

There is so much to wear us down.

 

Yet we know you are God,

You are the Most High.

It is into Your hands we put ourselves and our brothers and sisters.

We pray and You hear.

We listen and we do.

And though it may seem our little acts have no effect,

We believe that a thousand ripples can cause a tidal wave

Of love that can wash away all that is not Your will.

 

Praise be to our God!

UMC Flood Relief

Flood ReliefOne Drop Of Water That Leads To A Flood

One drop of water is insignificant.

One trillion drops can stop an entire city!

In Louisiana, in a short time, millions upon millions of drops of water fell from the sky inundating the people, their pets and their homes with flood waters. Four parishes have been declared disaster areas because of this flood. There is much devastation and chaos.

Like snowflakes, individual water droplets are singularly beautiful, even innocuous and not all that forceful. But when they get together, their power becomes an overwhelming flood, sinking entire homes and killing people.

One Drop Of Grace That Leads To A Flood Of Love

Yet, just as much as drops of water coming together can wreak havoc upon a community, so too can United Methodists when we come together to bring grace and love to people devastated by flood waters.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with FEMA and other national disaster response organizations, including the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the umbrella group, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD). They are helping those affected by this flood with warehouse space, cleanup buckets, distribution assistance, and shelter for evacuees—opening hearts, minds and doors to those in need.

Banding together, United Methodists can take on the flood and show people how God is working their midst.

The best ways to help are to assemble and send cleanup buckets and to support the UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response Advance, #901670, with your donations.

And praying, always praying.

Dear God, we pray hope and peace to our brothers and sisters in Louisiana. We ask for your healing touch upon the land that is flooded. May the waters recede and the time of rebuilding begin. We will not forget them now or when the rains stop. Protect them especially the vulnerable. Watch over them. Amen.