FAMILY ~ Lead From The Heart

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 28:16-20

The final class standing between me completing my undergraduate dual religion and philosophy degree was Logic. And all I can say is this:

I wish I had taken a course in Logic before I took tenth grade Geometry. Proofs would have made SO much more sense.

For me the goal of solving any logic problem is arriving at the three dots in the shape of a triangle at the end of the problem. These three dots in the shape of a triangle represent the therefore that immediately precedes the logical consequence – or result – of the logic problem. These three dots in the shape of a triangle also mean the end of this logic problem is at hand!

Some logic problems are quite simple and therefore quite brief. Given that each of the following premises are true…

  1. All schnauzers are canines.
  2. Samson is a schnauzer.
  3. Therefore Samson is a canine.

Or

  1. All A are B.
  2. C is an A.
  3. Therefore C is a B.

Other logic problems, however, involve an entire soup worth of alphabet letters in order to get to the therefore.

For this reason logic equations always seemed a little one-sided to me. All the work was on the front end of the therefore. By the time I arrived at those three dots in the shape of a triangle, true, I was ready to execute my logical consequence…but that was where the work ended. The equation concluded. No more work was to be done.

In some ways Jesus provides an alphabet soup worth of letters before arriving at his Great Therefore – or Great Commission – in Matthew 28. As in logic equations, all our evidence, instruction, and examples precede the therefore. Teachings. Feedings. Healings. Miracles. Declarations that Jesus is God’s Son. Foretellings that Jesus will suffer, die, and rise on the third day. Witnesses to the resurrection.  And then we reach the long awaited therefore only to find the sequence continues.

Thereforego.

  1. Go and make.
  2. Go and baptize.
  3. Go and teach.
  4. Go and obey.

Not therefore go. as in we stop at the period that follows the o. Rather therefore go and actually go. Move. Respond. Serve. Do all of these things. And in doing all of these things – making, baptizing, teaching, and obeying – you will be anything but stationary and God’s Kingdom will be anything but stationary.

Jesus’ therefore leads into a consequence that calls us into action. Through our service we continue his service. Through our witness we strengthen his witness. This is a privilege. This is an honor. This is holy work. And this is our work.

Jesus has delivered his therefore. How will you live into your go?

Prayer: “Go, make of all disciples.” We hear the call, O Lord, that comes from thee, our Father, in thy eternal Word. Inspire our ways of learning through earnest, fervent prayer, and let our daily living reveal thee everywhere.”* Amen.

*”Go, Make of All Disciples,” The United Methodist Hymnal 571.

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Prepare for the Sculptor

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 64:1-9

This Sunday Christians are invited to shout “Happy New Year!” as we enter the Season of Advent, which is the beginning of the Christian Year. During the Season of Advent we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. We prepare our homes with decorations. We prepare our stomachs to eat tasty food! We prepare our budgets so that we remain faithful stewards throughout this and every season, striving to live within and not beyond our means. We prepare our hearts by joining God on an introspective journey. Is my heart ready to receive the Christ child? Are other things – idols, ideas, grievances, jealousies – squatting in his rightful place? The Season of Advent invites us to dwell in the midst of this question and rightfully order our internal house so that we are ready to receive our King.

As I prepare to welcome the Christ child I am struck by these words from the Isaiah contained within this week’s text, “We are all the work of your hand” (Isa 64:8). We are all the product – the creation – of God’s sculpting. We are all God’s children, but not all of us have access to the same resources – education, medicine, nutrition, shelter, fresh water – as others, simply because of where and to whom we were born.

During Advent I commit to pray daily for my brothers and sisters in Africa who are impacted by malaria. Malaria is caused by a parasite, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of the female anopheles mosquito. This mosquito flies and feeds at night. When an infected mosquito bites a person, the parasite enters the bloodstream and heads for the liver, where it multiplies. It then re-enters the bloodstream, attacking red blood cells. Typically, someone with malaria experiences a high fever, chills, joint pain and headaches. Left untreated, symptoms eventually advance to organ failure.

Malaria is a global health problem, with over 200 million infections and killing more than 600,000 people every year. Every 60 seconds a child dies of malaria. Malaria disproportionately affects young children and pregnant women. The people of The United Methodist Church – and furthermore people everywhere! – have the unique opportunity to put discipleship into action to make a difference in the lives of our global neighbors.

Making a difference requires an integrated strategy to fight malaria. As a life-saving ministry, Imagine No Malaria aims to empower the people of Africa to overcome malaria’s burden. INM fights malaria with a comprehensive model that includes prevention (insecticide-treated bed nets, draining standing water, residential spraying), treatment (Rapid Diagnostic Tests, geographic-specific medication), education (what malaria is and why you must protect your family), and communication (UMC radio stations and mobile technology spreading information about malaria).

We are all the work of God’s hand. We all deserve healthy lives. If we work together, then we can make healthy lives – that seem like only a dream to our brothers and sisters in malaria-stricken lands – a reality.

I invite you to join me in praying for our brothers and sisters in Africa. And if you feel so led, please consider adding your financial support to help end malaria. A gift of $10 saves a life by providing prevention, treatment, education, and communication. A gift of $10 gifts life. I am inviting the Tuskawilla congregation to support this global health initiative through daily prayer and the gift of $1/day for a total of $25 during the Season of Advent. I invite you as well!  Gifts can be made by visiting ImagineFlorida. Please join us in prayer and giving during this season as we celebrate Christ’s gift to the world and join him in gifting health to our global community.

November 30 – For those longing to make a difference

December 1 – In celebration of our connection to our sisters and brothers all over the world

December 2 – For inspiration to join Jesus in his mission to love and to heal

December 3 – For boldness to act and respond like Jesus

December 4 – To dream of a world with no more malaria

December 5 – For our imaginations and resources to create such a place

December 6 – In gratitude of our God who offers life

December 7 – For discernment for how God will lead us to offer his abundant life to others

December 8 – For our healing

December 9 – For those who long to be healed

December 10 – For our sight to focus on God’s vision

December 11 – For those with sight who cannot see past sadness and sickness

December 12 – For knowledge that will become a resource to conquer fear

December 13 – For those with many resources and fearful viewpoints to be opened and transformed

December 14 – For our stewardship to be a blessing to others

December 15 – For those with money and solely practice self-centered spending

December 16 – In gratefulness of our God who unites people of all ages, races, and nations

December 17 – For those who do not believe that what happens to one will happen to all

December 18 – For God’s mercy and compassion as we become better neighbors in our global community

December 19 – For empathy as we learn the plight of God’s people devastated by malaria

December 20 – To participate in joyful giving and big-hearted involvement

December 21 – For the parents who nurse ailing children

December 22 – For the children who nurse ailing parents

December 23 – For the communities that claim God’s hope despite their crippling by a curable disease

December 24 – For the gifts of the doctors, nurses, scientists, and faith leaders committed to the health and wholeness of all

December 25 – In celebration of all that has been stewarded to eradicate malaria.

Be Still: Dealing With Noise

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Kings 19:8-15

What frustrates you? Those things that frustrate me are incredibly petty and small…yet in the heat of the moment they seem like giants. For instance…I am not known to stroll. I walk with a purpose. This is probably the product of my subconscious harboring the learning from a math course in college (marked especially for religion and philosophy majors!) where I spent half the semester studying the theory of the travelling salesman problem: You are a travelling salesman and you have five sales to make in a specific amount of time. What is the shortest distance between all of the sale-stops without retracing your steps? So when I walk – I walk! And my greatest frustration while walking – someone stopping directly in front of me – totally throws off my groove!

Needless to say – I am tons of fun to take to a theme park…

One interpretation of our Scripture lesson this week is that Elijah is quite frustrated with our God. Perhaps he is frustrated because he feels completely alone, believing that he is the only faithful person to the one true God left on the planet’s surface. Or perhaps he is frustrated because God has changed how God communicates with the prophet and with the world. Elijah is accustomed to the God of Moses who communicates with creation in fantastic ways – earthquakes, fire of the mountain, and mastery over the elements to part the waters of the sea to name a few. And now God selects a new way to communicate – by saying nothing at all. That is a game changer. That is akin to God and Elijah walking along and then God pulls up short in front of Elijah, completely throwing off his groove.

When God finally speaks to Elijah the words are not what Elijah expects. God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” implying that Elijah’s current environment is not the environment Elijah should be occupying (v.13). After the question God gives Elijah a directive, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus” (v.15). Haywood B. Spangler says that God tells Elijah “to go back to work” and in going back to work “Elijah does not have to give up his frustration, but God will not let him give into it.”*

Our God will not and cannot be contained. We do not set the terms of our relationship with God – when we encounter our God or how God encounters us. That can be incredibly frustrating…but we cannot give into our frustration. God is eager to send us on our way, to be God’s hands and feet in the world. How we hang onto or release our frustrations will determine how fruitful our service is as God’s hands and feet.

This week I am changing my pace. I am changing my serving environment – from the local church to the connection. I have the privilege to serve with my dear friend Melissa and her fabulous staff at one of the Florida Conference Camp and Retreat Centers as the pastor in residence for Grandparents and Me Camp. The tempo at camp is always different. Schedules are not set in granite and flexibility is key. Walking with a purpose is replaced by strolling. The agenda items are these – just be and be with one another. I may be frustrated with that at first…but I wait and walk in great anticipation for how God will speak to me in the change of pace this week.

Try this on, friends. Change your pace. Lean into a frustration. See what God reveals and commit it to your life.

Prayer: “Dear Lord and Father of humankind, forgive our foolish ways; reclothe us in our rightful mind, in purer lives thy service find, in deeper reverence, praise. Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease; take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace. Breathe through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm; let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, O still, small voice of calm.”** Amen.

*David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting On the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008- 2010), 151.

**”Dear Lord and Father of Humankind,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 358.