We Honor Forever

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15.

Earlier this year I was preparing to take my youth on the Confirmation Retreat. But there was a problem. I had a seventh grade young man that wanted to attend…and no male chaperone. My youth director and I decided to make an appeal to the congregation. We did not want Liam to miss out on this experience. And we refused to believe that a gentleman from the church family would not step up to answer this call.

Two days later I learned that a man in the congregation responded to the call. It was learning his identity that blew me away. He was a man I had offended with one of my sermons the summer previous. He stopped attending worship for a while yet remained in relationship with his small group and volunteer area with the church. Slowly he reintegrated into worship. He would stay for the music and depart before the sermon. At the time I made this appeal for Liam he had only been back in worship perhaps a few weeks. And it was him. He answered the call.

And y’all, Dan was fabulous. He was sixty years senior to the youth in Confirmation and he was the one that set the pace for the retreat. He slept on a bunk bed, ate food cooked en masse, romped around a camp, had early mornings on the coattails of late nights. He was a champ! I credit Dan for the youth showing up on time, thoughtfully engaging our shared work, and cracking the best dry humor I have heard in a long while. We even had the opportunity, in a round about way on the retreat, to touch on the subject that, for a time, drove a division between us.

The subject was gun reform and responsible gun ownership. Dan opened my eyes to a wider perspective. He spoke with intelligence, humility, honesty, and grace. He spoke as a veteran and as the father of two sons active in service to their country.

After the retreat I asked Dan why he volunteered. He said it was the right thing to do. He said he felt responsible for supporting Liam and the other students in and on their faith journey. He said God stirred his heart and it was a call that would not let him go.

I am grateful for Dan answering the call. His presence made way for Liam’s presence. I am also grateful for the privilege to learn from Dan, and more importantly, to reconcile with him. He reminded me that what I say as a fellow follower of Christ and as a pastor will not be agreeable with everyone. What I say will not “be well” with everyone’s soul. He took the space that he needed to sort out his feelings without removing himself entirely from relationship with me or the church. And when the time was right, God led him in the next level – the next avenue – of service.

Thanks be to God.

I cherished the many months of greeting times I witnessed after that retreat. The youth that attended the trip took special care to cross the sanctuary to speak to Dan, even if they had already seen him that morning. His service left an imprint on their hearts. Dan will always be a friend in faith to those young men and women.

This week I remember, celebrate, and honor Dan and all our veterans. Our veterans know well the call to serve, know well the perseverance needed in difficult circumstances, and know well that doing the right thing may draw them out of their comfort zones and into the unknown. I am in awe of their bravery. Their commitment is an example to me. To all of us.

Join us this week in worship as we honor veterans through special music, slideshow, and sermon. I look forward to this time with our church family.

Prayer: “To God be the glory, great things he hath done! So loved he the world that he gave us his Son, who yielded his life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice! O come to the Father thru Jesus the Son, and give him the glory, great things he hath done!”* Amen.

*”To God Be the Glory,” The United Methodist Hymnal 98.

Faith and Works: C – P – R

Sunday’s Scripture ~ James 5:13-20

What? A sermon/blog titled C-P-R with Scripture from James? Is this where the medical community first got the idea for cardiopulmonary resuscitation?

Alas – no.

But there is some definite life-saving and life-giving business marinating in this passage of Scripture.

C – P – R

Confess – Pray – Reconcile

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Last week I spent my vacation serving as a member of a mission team with Surfing the Nations in Wahiawa, Hawaii. It was an incredible week of service and community building – not only with the students and adults from St. Luke’s UMC Orlando (the church Andrew serves) but also with the people of Hawaii.

We hosted a surf-n-swim party for children and families living in a transitional shelter. We fed 3500 people in 5 hours in a “supermarket” that we constructed from set up to serve to tear down under an overpass of one of Hawaii’s busiest highways. We entered and found solidarity with the working poor by spending a day walking – and riding the bus – in their shoes from looking for work to paying bills to buying groceries to seeking a safe place of refuge for the night.

As my friend Jed said, “It was a good hard week with eyes tired from holding back tears.” Tears of joy for the happiness the children shared for us, tears of restoration for the families that would have food to eat that day, tears for the healing of complacency, tears crying for justice.

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A week ago today our mission team was invited to join the StN staff in their day of Sabbath. We fasted. We worshiped. We experienced what the StN-ers phrased “speaking truth into one another’s life” – and that speaking truth came through C-P-R.

Confess – Pray – Reconcile

Confessing – Praying – Reconciling will help bring the wanderer back. These acts are our road map. These acts sustain us in this life. These acts draw us close.

To God.

To our neighbors.

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I presently find myself in a dry spiritual place. I spend so much time planning and preparing for the life of the church that I, at times, cast off – or eliminate – my faith presence in the church. That’s when what I do becomes a job instead of a calling – something to do rather than a true vocation.

I confess my wandering.  I don’t like where I am. I need a spiritual resuscitation. Confess – Pray – Reconcile are these steps I need to get there. God will lead me. Loved ones and accountability partners will walk alongside me.  But I have to first engage these practices.

If you find yourself in a dry place, consider what it is you have been doing or not doing. How can C-P-R aid you? How can C-P-R revive your spiritual life? How can C-P-R put an end to your wandering and guide you back to a sure course that is led by God?

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Prayer of Confession: God of creation, giver of life: we confess our anxiety about this very day, which you have made. Forgive us. Lord Jesus Christ, bread of life: we acknowledge our refusal to receive the grace that sustains us. Have mercy upon us. Holy Spirit, giver of new life, we declare the limitations of our energies; our resources; our gifts. Grant us your peace.

Words of Assurance: Hear the good news: God leads us beside still waters and restores our souls, and in God’s presence there is sanctuary. Let us give thanks for the eternal presence of the One who is life and peace. Amen.*

*”Self-Sufficiency and Pride” from Prayers and Liturgies of Confession and Assurance, Kenneth H. Carter, Jr. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009), 25.