My Mornings With Thomas Merton

My Mornings with Thomas Merton: The Craft of Devotional Living

A Meditation on the book “Contemplative Prayer”

The Craft of Devotional Living

Devotion living is a craft to be learned, a connection to Christ, and a commitment to grow in Grace. While this article is a commentary on a particular book, I offer a starting point for forming your personal plan for spiritual growth that could use the Bible or any book that touches your faith.

One mark of the Christian disciple is to desire growth in intimacy with God. The process of growth takes time, intention, and faith in Christ. God provides the faith and we learn how to craft activities together that add spiritual muscle. A balance of prayer and meditation, described as meditation, prayers of the heart or contemplative prayer, are the foundation of devotional time and books are tools to build with.

TIMING!

Devotional living must be daily, at your most alert time of day, focused and guided. Time with God can too easily become talking to oneself or vacant naval gazing without a plan. Any appropriate book, whether a “Devotional”, a timely topic or a book of the Bible, can provide direction.

I want to know how to grow into the next level of prayer and chose the book “Contemplative Prayer”, written by Thomas Merton in 1968 as a guide. Contemplation/Meditation is not natural to me but is learnable and does fit my goals.

This is a brief writing with depth and it leaves you with the feeling that there is something more discover. It is also written in short chapters which fit nicely into daily readings.

My devotion time is in the morning on front porch bench. I am most creative in the early times of day and can imagine myself sitting with Merton in my prayer time, encouraging me onto a deeper relationship with God.  From that I have a conversation of sorts and journal my responses.  Here is my journey with Brother Thomas Merton.

Here is my devotional journey in brief bullet points:

• First, the goal is to grow spiritually and discover where contemplative prayer/meditation help? The start is with a simple plan-this post is a suggestion- a listening ear and GO!

• This article is about learning your devotional process more than a book review. Your process will differ and the only wrong way to spend time with God is NOT to do so. This is a starting place to trying new things. God honors disciplined action with faith.

• The Holy Bible is the obvious choice for a guiding book and the book of psalms is the foremost devotional guide and should be present in devotional living.

• “Contemplative Prayer”, by Thomas Merton, is my companion with scripture for this season and not a replacement. Check out my journal entries below for more content and LEAVE COMMENTS. Don’t worry if you have to look up a few terms in the reading. Fr. Merton uses a few technical terms that you may have to Google.

My daily rhythm is: BE SILENT AND STILL-Turn the phone off, Read the passage and then journal answers to: 1: What did I read? 2: What did I learn? and 3: What will I do with it? Leave your meditation with a Bible verse or Psalm. I allowed an hour a day with 20 minutes spent reading. Some chapters took more than one day and I missed a few too. Silence is critical. Don’t rush. Make the time! I had to get up early and it takes as long as it takes. Don’t have an hour? Give God what you have.

• Merton’s message overall is: The goal of the interior life is to pass through the spiritual desert to find that raw, honest and unhindered connection with God. Contemplation, a Christian based meditation, is where you invite these “dark nights” and form a genuine faith- connection by faith. The interior journey is a balance; empty self to be filled with God, find true humanity to know God’s divinity, silence to hear God’s voice, and experience dread to find eternal joy in Jesus Christ. He fleshes out numerous controversies within Christian contemplation and struggles with them to find balance.

• I learned that meditation is indeed a Christian principle and not owned by other world religions. Also, how important this emptying time is to healthy and productive living. Another is that the interior journey is not the domain of the pastor or other Christian vocations but ALL who seek to live in Christ. This is a skill for all honest and seeking Christians and is supported by scripture in the new and old testaments.

• My direct action from the readings is to take more time writing and creating prayer benches, which is “sawdust therapy”. I cannot stress enough that silence in the morning is more important than talking and reading. I learned to grow in comfort and fearlessness as I face contemplation’s darkness and “dread”. This is where faith is formed

I am better for the journey and wish you the same. Ready to grow in Grace? Set spiritual goal, assemble spiritual tools and set a time for disciplined, focused meeting with God. It’s really that simple. Find your own scripture and companion books. Start with the expection that God is meeting you on the way!

Journal Entries

Following are book details and a final reflection on how God grew my soul through this journey

** the journal entries are under construction**

This is my journey and you are welcome to travel with me and make comments while reading the book for yourself.

“Contemplative Prayer”

The foreword and Introduction:

Merton sets the stage for the reader to understand this book’s journey to know Christian meditation/ Contemplative prayer. “Prayer is to religion what original research is to science” (xvii) It is hard work and not the possession of the monastics. Mental or listening prayer must never be complacent or centered in oneself but quietly focused and genuine. This is the foundation for a life of prayer rather that just the act of praying. This meditation is never a “Psychological trick but a theological grace.” (XX). This grace is a call of God to devote ourselves to metanoia or conversion. This is done by emptying through solitude, fasting etc. and being filled with abandonment to God. Contemplation is simple really but can only be done with the beckoning of our Lord Jesus the Christ and keeping His name ever present.

Chapter 1: Contemplation creates “Flowers in the Desert”.

1. What Merton wrote; Prayer is a. “Twofold consciousness of sin and redemption, wrath and mercy. This is especially evident to those who dare to look at the internal life whether by Psalm, liturgy, Bible reading or personal prayers of the heart. This is not a communal act BUT we need a praying community to keep us invested.

2. What I learned; I learned of the importance of an accountability partner in this process of learning. I learned that the negatives of sin etc. are not failures but necessary to work through honestly in order to know the Grace.

3. What action I will take; I meet with another pastor each Monday morning and will keep my friend and accountability partner up to date on my journey. I will keep a silence each morning and at odd times throughout the day. Focused on Psalm 41

Chapter 2: The Way of Prayer and its Components

1. What Merton wrote; The Psalms, Readings, personal prayer and Contemplation are parts of the unified life of a praying Christian. It is the means and the end of the journey to seek God’s presence. Silence must be sought and is inseparably in unity with monastic prayer (5). It is more of a resting than a working. Contemplation is an Easter notion but these “Prayers of the heart” truly seek God and are rooted in the Christian’s being. Again, there is no division in the parts of prayer, they form a whole. Monks and laymen alike can share this simple, Bible based prayer life.

2. What I learned; I tend to complicate the process rather than keeping things simple and speak to build awareness rather than just being with God. I crave the silence more than I really thought and the depth of it all can be scary.

3. What action I will take. Force myself into silence in the morning and find odd moments in the day to be still. “KISS” (Keep it simply and sweet) is God’s way. I will begin this time before the news and not after. Psalm 37

Chapter 3: The System is not Meditation.

1. What Merton wrote; Rather than planning your method, simply “Cultivate and attitude, an outlook: Faith openness attention reverence, expectation, supplication, trust, joy”. (10) Ask for faith because faith is always the sufficient answer to prayer. Good intentions are not enough. We must meet God with humility and acceptance or Acedia/Spiritual apathy will be the poisonous fruit.

2. What I learned; Keep your plans separate from your devotional time. Go to devotional time with a Bible and a minimum of anything else-not even a pencil or coffee. Bring your faith or lack of it to God and expect to rise from prayer better than you sat down.

3. What action I will take; leave my work, prayer list and the usual stack of books inside. Go to the bench on the porch with empty hands and ask God to fill them up. This gets harder before it gets easier, It will not always feel this clumsy. Psalm 37

Chapter 4: The Obstacles are Real.

1. What Merton wrote; Many quit the prayer life due to a lack of confidence, discouragement, confusion, helplessness, and even cowardice. This can imprison you.The drier your inner life, the more likely you are to have a false start. “Meditation has no point and no reality unless it is firmly rooted in LIFE”. Faith is the way forward and a “cooperative submission to grace” the way. (18)

2. What I learned; This is the third time I have read through this book. The first two, I was illuminated by not touched in the heart.

3. What action I will take; I announce this project to my coach and congregation. I cannot “weenie” out now. It is time for a real follow through. Psalm 37

Chapter 5: Deep Silence is Deep Power

1. What Merton wrote; Prayers of the heart can run deep if you let them. Kept simple and will few activities or words you can become more receptive to the working of the Holy Spirit. Remember that God and taken you to the “darkness”. This is not a punishment but a guide. To work through a dark time is to know spiritual cleansing. The darker it seems, the brighter the light. Again, psalms, prayer, meditation, Bible reading and liturgy and ways to prepare for a brighter inner light. Obscure prayers come with pain. Receptive prayers a few simple words from a psalm bear fruit.

2. What I learned: There is much more to be experience in the life of Christ through contemplation/meditation. The Bible can indeed focus your mind on the way to roughing your heart.

3. What action I will take. Shut up before going to prayer and never take the sermon text to it for the sake of writing. Focusing on God will bear better words from me. This takes time.

Chapter 6: The tension that isn’t There

1. What Merton wrote; The early fathers and mothers of the church did not find conflict with public, private, liturgical and contemplative prayer. Modern Christians have divided and complicated prayer. Contemplation is the connection to all of them. It is good to prayer privately and even secretly but stay in your community/Church. Have a “Cell”/specific prayer place and use it but don’t hide from the world in it. Prayer should also be experienced in the work of our hands, whatever that might be.

2. What I learned: Prayer is not an excuse for not serving, serving in not an excuse for not praying. All things spiritual are inter woven-especially in the apostolic and pastoral callings. Before praying for others I must connect with God alone first. This is the root of distractions and a lack of fruitfulness.

3. What action I will take; Pray beyond the prayer bench and find moments of solitude in the day. Turn the car radio off and pray when my mind wanders and wonders about things that it shouldn’t. Find solace in God before initiating the vocational stuff.

Chapter 7: Prayer as Work, Work in Prayer

1. What Merton wrote; Is prayer better than service? Is service a distraction to the Christian’s calling to pray? St. Benedict prayed in the wee hour and then called everyone to work after morning prayers. This was the example of Christ at the cross, lived our in Benedict, and taught to other. Contemplation seem to be better than action but “prayer-with-work” is a way to achieve a balance and create a deeper connection with God. This applies to secular business, pastoring and other active pursuits.

2. What I learned; service is a part of the Christian’s prayer life. Action treated as prayer creates either contemplation or distraction. When God is the point you fill up as you act, when the work is the satisfaction you get dry and empty.

3. What action I will take: Pray before work and work as a means to a deeper relationship with God and not affirmation or job-satisfaction. Exhaustion is not a trophy. Find daily rest, weekly sabbath, monthly retreat and annual reflection. How often I have re-learned this lesson. This year has been must more disciplines.

Chapter 8: More on the Action-Prayer conflict

1. What Merton wrote; Action conflicts with contemplation. You can’t do both at the same time, yet you must do both in balance. Contemplation is a priori, “rest from exterior action”. This creates a conflict in our workaholic culture. Time apart in prayer yet “Alone with the alone” in community is essential and should be a part of church-life. Thomas uses the story of Christ with Lazarus the penitent, Martha the active and Mary the contemplative, to demonstrate that we must have all three in union within our life in Christ.

2. What I learned; It’s ok to crave some alone time and at the same time wish to be at a task with your people that is bigger than just working. I am neither extrovert nor introvert but what one writer calls “ambivert”. Lived in balance this can lead us to a deeper and more honest elation ship with God.

3. What action I will take. I cannot default to the work of ministry as the Christian life. Caregiver fatigue and burnout stem from a lost if intimacy with God. Pray then work, pray then work with others, picture God looking over your shoulder and examining your motives as you work. *

Chapter 9: Virtue Matters!

1. What Merton wrote; Using the example of the great monastic reformers, and Thomas’ personal heroes, we learn more of the interplay between Mental/liturgical or active-Prayer and Meditation/contemplation-or prayers of the heart. “without virtue there can be no real and lasting contemplation. Without the labor and discipline there can be no rest in love.” (37) God. Is a work in us best when we rest in Him. The conflict of “Active” and Contemplative is a false competition. These notions both work together. From John Chrysostom “It is not enough to leave Egypt, one must also enter the Promised Land.”( 38)

2. What I learned; Quit worrying about what you label things and PRAY. Don’t use prayer as an excuse to stay home while there are active pursuits to accomplish. Contemplation is not some badge of honor. Prayer at worship and in your words is still valuable-even necessary. Leave the old and enter into the new relationship with God through deepening both aspects of prayer.

3. What action I will take. Build more benches for others to pray upon but use them personally first. Separate the sermon texts from the morning readings with contemplation. I should start with readings for devotion, then pray, then study sermon and other pursuits. This is a proper privatization of God.

Chapter 10 :The Harmony of Liturgy and Meditation

1. What Merton wrote; Liturgy is active while meditation is contemplative but the two acts live in harmony. The conflict that meditation and action seems to bear is false.  When they come together, they form the foundation for the Christian life. Liturgy is less laborious while contemplation is more spontaneous and much more work. Both may “at any moment be illuminated by contemplative grace.” (40”) Sadly, structured liturgy can lose its soul and editation is too often seen as the curative by adding disciplined personal piety. Contemplation does not have to wait until the daily office is over to begin. “Actives” tend to be in charge while “Contemplative” tend to be heralded as more genuine. This deepens the false divide of these two stations of prayer. The Christian life requires both.

2. What I learned: Liturgy is genuine and a means of grace when embraced in the Spirit of God. Contemplation can and should flow from liturgical/shared prayer. Liturgy should be more effective when it flows from the quieted mind.

3. What action I will take. I will read and write liturgy. Some could be shared but all can be a point of focus for deeper prayer in general. Our shared worship has lost its taste for the shared word. Perhaps this should be reclaimed.

Chapter 11: The Purpose of prayer

1. What Merton wrote; The purpose of prayer-the sum of all of its parts is, “yearning for the simple presence of God.”(45). The outcome is 3-fold; A personal understanding of God’s Word, God’s Will, and the capacity to hear and obey. Prayer is about understand God AND understanding ourselves with God. Meditation penetrates our life to reach into God’s will and then live it. This is an “imitation of Christ” and not and “Impersonation of Christ.” Prayer renews God’s gifts of grace, mercy and faith. These are not ours to merely possess. Humility must be our attitude and receiving this grace our desire. God wants us to have these! (49)

2. What I learned: How humble I am not and how much negotiating I do with God while calling it prayer. My disciplined time is usually pretty focused but the busyness and overwhelming interruptions of the day can derail it quite easily. Thomas Merton is asking us to unmask our true and often hidden self (49) in prayer. This can only be accomplished my humbling ourselves in a time of prayer, silent and alone with God.

3. What action I will take: Daily re-commit my prayer time, Daily , create time for silence and seize control of my calendar by removing trivial-though good-things from it.

Chapter 12: The Discipline of Virtue as Freedom

1. What Merton wrote: The life of self denial and sacrifice are not sufferings for their own sake. Our is not a “cult of suffering”. These sacrifices are transforming. Allowing God to be ginger than our thoughts and desires requires and provides freedom. This is the freedom to put God first, relying on the Holy Spirit to convey the power of God. Self imposed sacrifices often become pretense and “Symbolic Gestures” (52). Interior prayer is both serious and humble but the external routine is not the point. The true sacrifice is that of ourselves-union of prayer and sacrifice-then letting God decide about our progress.

2. What I learned: How easy it is for the spiritual process to be the standard of spiritual progress. I have tried to focus my time with routine and have done so with some success. However, have I become prideful that I have done these thing more than I have actually grown in Christ.

3. What action I will take: Recommit secret prayer time and financial giving. I will do these as sacrifice for my awakening of the Holy Spirit rather than a sense of accomplishment.

Chapter 13: The Mysterious Language of Prayer.

1. What Merton wrote: Language about prayer is not “scientific” and precise. The goal is not understanding but “Unitive”. (53) “Aridity can almost be taken as a sign of progress” more than a richness of sacrifices of our own choosing. the unconscious takes Ofer and anxiety rather than peace is felt more acutely. In prayer we face darkness, fear and doubt. It is easy to find that we don’t know what we are doing. Don’t doubt God! In the dark, God is more accessible and not less. This is the field of testing and the win is finding God, to know that God is Lord.

2. What I learned: I do many spiritual activities so I may teach them rather than simply being with and unifying with God. Knowing the lingo is not as important as knowing the Son. By focusing on Jesus while in the darkness, I am more able to teach the lesson.

3. What action I will take: Add more silence into my mornings and mid afternoons. To seek God in times of anger and anxiety through silence rather than seeking human council and self wrought strategies. Fewer Books-More Time.

Chapter 14: Knowing God Beyond the Ideas of God

1. What Merton wrote;

2. What I learned

3. What action I will take.

Chapter :

1. What Merton wrote;

2. What I learned

3. What action I will take.

Chapter :

1. What Merton wrote;

2. What I learned

3. What action I will take.

Chapter :

1. What Merton wrote;

2. What I learned

3. What action I will take.

Chapter :

1. What Merton wrote;

2. What I learned

3. What action I will take.

Chapter :

1. What Merton wrote;

2. What I learned

3. What action I will take.

Chapter :

1. What Merton wrote;

2. What I learned

3. What action I will take.

_______________________________________________

[i] Ephesians 4:11-13. “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.

[ii] See Luke 10: 38-41 for the story and John 11-12 for more background.  This is very helpful to me!

[iii] http://www.talentsmart.com/articles/9-Signs-That-You’re-An-Ambivert-952454316-p-1.html   From the book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”, by Travis Bradberry, A spirit lifting read.

* The Emotional Intelligence of Jesus, Oswald and Jacobson, 2015, An application of relationships through the eyes of the Christ and His gospel. Look at effectiveness in Chapter 11

OUR KIDS: Robert Putnam asks “What is to be Done?”

Equipping Skill: reinforce your reading journaling by writing a brief book review. Share it in on your favorite bookseller site.

“Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” is Robert Putnam’s latest book and addresses our current crisis in public education. Better said, he takes a thorough look at the crisis of the widening gap in American classes with the defining characteristic being education.

Putnam’s book is well written with many anecdotes balanced by a thorough statistical analysis. The stories are relevant, interesting and impeccably documented with a 100 pages of notes and index. It is not an easy read and sent me scrambling for Google several times. It is written like a college text book but the message is bigger than a sociology or economics class. Like his best seller, “Bowling Alone”, this is a warning for our times and a call to action. We must rely less on the re-distribution of wealth and more on the re-distribution of opportunities. Education, higher and higher quality education are the most fertile fields for these opportunities.

I love the data, graphs and scissor charts. If you don’t, this is still an important read and worth the effort. The personal interviews and childhood stories are important, engaging, and make a forceful case for action without all number crunching. If you were to cheat and go to the end, Chapter 6, “What is to be done” gives a 45 page synopsis with sharp and practical conclusions directly from the data.

I read “Our Kids” through the eyes of the pastor. This is not a church-book but the faith community, especially the Christian Church, needs to take its message seriously. The schools especially the public schools, need full community support with informal mentoring, high quality extra curricular activities for the disconnected, community college support, paperwork coaching, resources for those in subsidized housing and a thousand other ways to close the opportunity gaps. The missing piece? Relationships-you and I have these.

Read this book. Find your place in the community and take action. You’ll be better for it and so will your community.

Ashes and Crosses: Lent as An Annual Season, a Daily Invitation

ash wednesday graphic
Lent is a 40-day season of preparation that reflects Jesus Christ’s 40 days temptation by Satan in the desert. It begins with acts of fasting and self-denial on Ash Wednesday.  The season is actually 46 days before Easter Sunday – the six Sundays in between are not counted, as they are “miniature -Easters” and feast days.  People follow Jesus’ example and give up something important to grow closer to God as Easter approaches.

The dates for Lent and Easter follow the Lunar Date of Passover.  We know from scripture that Jesus was crucified on the Friday of Passover.  Passover begins on the first full moon on or after March 21. (The Spring Equinox) That gives us the date of the Sunday for Easter. You then count back six Sundays for season of Lent and the Wednesday before the first Sunday of Lent is Ash Wednesday.  Before the glorious celebration of resurrection, we look at our sorrow and mortality, represented in the ashes, which makes the cross necessary.

The ashes are an ancient symbol of death and an expression of sorrow.  One of the earliest uses of them in worship is found in the book of Job.  The ashes used in worship are traditionally made from the palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.  Mixed with a little oil, they become a rich and meaningful means of grace.

The observance of Ash Wednesday requires fasting and “giving up” something for Lent that fosters spiritual growth.

The Ashes of Wednesday are placed on the worshiper’s forehead in the sign of the cross withAshes and collin the words, “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” The cross is worn until the next morning as a witness to the Work of Jesus

My prayer for you is that the season of Lent is more than just giving up Diet Coke or chocolate but provides a time to meditate on the deeper things of God.  Find that one thing that pushes your soul along that internal journey of salvation.  Rather than food fast, try a technology fast, give up a grudge or even a bad habit.  Consider giving up a block of time each day to devote yourself to searching the scriptures. It is between you and God what this sacrifice should be.

Where would Lent take you if it became a constant mindset and not a brief season on the calendar? May God speak to you through the skills you Lent daily. Let your living room and car become mini-monasteries . God will meet you there.

Success, Elusive Success…

What is success? The common answers are usually and emblem of success such as money or power. OK, but what is the essence of success and how does the Christian life inform it. Success will be our exploration for the January 2018 sermons at Cheatham Memorial UMC.

It is also a personal reflection from a personal struggle and would apply to anyone struggling to find success in their life.

I am turning 60 this year. For the first time, people are offering to give me the senior discount at restaurants! I feel fruitful as a Christian, passionate as a pastor, loving as a husband and grandparent, and a real part of my community. However, looking back, I really struggle seeing my life as a success. Do you ever feel that way? I would like to know what God’s definition of success is through scripture, witness and a season of prayer.

Please share the journey with me. Write a comment below with an answer to these questions: What is a picture, emblem or symbol of true success? Who is the most success person in your life and why? Finally, “what is success in your life and what does that look like”?

The four sermons for January will explore Christian success in four characteristics, through the witness of four Biblical Figures, These messages are:

  • January 7, in Communion Sunday and will explore, ” Success requires Focus: Peter’s success” from Mark 8:27-Peter grows from a bumbling disciple who is always tripping on his own tongue into the ͞rock͟ upon which the church is built. His influence is still felt today and his success transcends monetary success.
  • January 14 brings, “Success Requires Love: Ruth’s Success” from Ruth1:1–22. Relationships and family ties have more to do with success than money does. In Christ are the seeds to strong families and and influential faith.
  • On January 21 , “Success Requires Direction: Paul’s Compass to Success”” from Galatians 5: 13-25. Following the dollar is not enough. The spiritual compass is not always the easiest to follow and the life in Christ is hard to account for. We need to know how to read our scoreboard.
  • Finally on January 28, ” Success Overflows: The Wealth of the Christ. ” looking to Matthew 25:14-30. True success brings in the Kingdom of God-That means everyone’s lives improve. Success was never meant to be held but to overflow in ways that bring salvation .

I continue to look at these questions very personally. My answer? Success happens when my surroundings, family, church and community, are better because I am there. Faith in Christ is central to my definition of success but Jesus must be more than an excuse to explain any short comings. Journey with me as we find our way together. Success simply must be more than just driving a nicer car.

(Photo credit: Amanda and Jason Patzke)

TOUGH ENOUGH FOR TOUGH TALK

The church is the place to ask God the tough questions.  You know, the ones that you are either afraid to ask or the ones that you have given up on being answerable.  These can make faith hard to “nail down”. I won’t pretend to have all of the answers.  My faith is challenged just like yours.  I do know the source of them which is God and God is tough enough for us to ask the tough questions. Our savior is also tough enough to be yelled at on occasion. Join with me in searching for answers to salvation, death, injustice, suffering and more. The journey is the point here and not simply the answers. Come walk with us.

Here is our road map for the journey:

October 1 Pentecost 17 “OK, But Why your Son?”

Read John 5: 19-29.  The question: Why did Jesus have to die? Focusingg thought: God loves us so much that He would do anything to save us.
Couldn’t there have been and kinder way to do it than to allow Jesus to die so cruelly? We will explore
salvation, death and resurrection and look for answers to help us grow in faith. 

October 8 Pentecost 18 “But Why does it happen to the ones I love?”

Romans 5 , Why do people have to die? God is almighty and our creator. I believe in heaven and eternity but
still ask why the ones that I love have to die. We will address fearless living.  

October 15 Pentecost 19 ͞Why is life just too much sometimes?’

Job 1: Why do we suffer? Sometimes it just isn’t fair and I didn’t do anything to deserve it. Also, some people
just seem to have more struggles than others. Where is God in the hard times when it just isn’t fair.

October 22 is a special LAITY SUNDAY!

October 29 Pentecost 21 (Halloween is on Tuesday!) ͞Why didn’t you fix that͟

Genesis 3: Why is there evil in the world? God could have killed that stinking snake in the Garden? C’mon
God, why didn’t fix that. The theodolitic/Faith crisis. What happens when our faith has no answers and how that cripples some while increasing the faith of
others.

November 5 (Communion Sunday) “The Moses Seat”

Matthew 23: 1-12 Where is the source of the wisdom? I need better questions and answers!  “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, The scribes and the Pharisees sit onMoses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do notpractice what they teach.”Where are you practicesDO. 

Do you have questions about these passages or about the Christian life in general?  You are welcome to make a comment or contact me through our church website at www.cheathamumc.net.  I can also email you a pdf of our study guide if you wish.  Blessings to you my fellow traveller in Christ!  

On Hate:  One Christian’s Reflection

Hate is the enemy and not the remedy. The outbreaks of hatred in Charlottesville and Barcelona that have made all of the news cycles are a symptom of just how sick our culture is. The surprise and shock that people have shown over this show of racial supremacy is another symptom-we as a people are not paying attention. The notion that this was settled racism in the ‘60s and we have all joined hands to sing the Coca-Cola song has been shown to be a lie. 

Another lie- Hate is being misunderstood as social action. Hate is the central doctrine of highly organized, well funded and diverse groups preaching the lie that one person’s hate is morally superior to that of another. As such, hate is justified as a tool for creative change and promoted as a virtue of strength. I am too sick to be angry, too sad to be mad, and I suspect that you are not even surprised by these horrible events. They seem to be inevitable and we are losing our shock at them. Will we wait until it hits home before we do something? But, what can we do?

Some things I know for sure as a Christian. We are the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church is the engine of salvation and offers a remedy to sin. God does not hate and did not call us to these horrific events as ministry. God has the big picture but he has called us to specific action here and now. Finally, love and forgiveness are the keys to this action-Quoting Bishop Scott Jones,”Racism is incompatible with Christianity…I encourage all Christians and especially all United Methodists with whom I have a special relationship, to take steps to support people of color and condemn racist behavior.”   

By the way, I am a person of color-pale!

It is not my pale skin that is my identity though, it is the Grace of my savior, Jesus Christ. I intend to see others in that same light. My prayer is that we can be and become “Jesus-Colored” and see His grace in everyone, even those more hate filled, destructive people around us. “…unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together” (Ephesians 4) is God’s creative way of building community. Hate cannot build and racism is just another way to say hate.

God’s call on us is to love someone. The call on us is to love those who are scary or dirty or different. That does not mean we push safety aside, nor does it mean withdrawing from the world and living only with our own. We cannot fence off 100 acres, build in the middle, and still follow the call of an almighty and loving God. So what steps do we take. I cant speak for you but this is my stand and I pray you will join me. 

Step 1: Take our faith in Jesus personally and seriously by studying, praying, worshiping and serving. I will apply what I learn to my everyday living. I will not live in the naïve notion that I can change anyone else or that people will just naturally follow along. Before we start our day, faith has to be personal.

Step 2: Engage the Church and connect our gifts with other Christians to make a difference in our families and community. I will not tolerate institutional hatred and will reach out to others that claim Christ as the Way with proactive opportunities to work together. There are two projects with the potential to reach out today. Simply singing “we shall overcome” is inadequate. Before we start our day we need to pray for those who walk with us and those who ought to walk with us.

Step 3: Restrict our diet of media news and seek news of the good things going on. I will not be held hostage by the narrow focus of the 24 hour news providers. Some things need more time and attention while other don’t need any at all. 

Step 4: Allow God to be the majority vote and seek discernment over a popular vote. I know this takes real work, focus and courage. I am ready to step up by faith and grow in Christ rather than submit to hate.

How about you? How about us? Let the church arise and grow together and out-love the hate in Jesus’ name.