More Smokescreens

smokescreen

In a previous blog post I claimed that most of the social justice issues facing our country are smokescreens. I want to revisit that claim a bit. I do not want to be misunderstood. The fact that the issues are smokescreens does not diminish the importance of those issues. Racism, same sex relationships, sexism, and many other isms are real issues. These issues and the decisions that are made around them have real life consequences for people who identify with those groups. I am not trying to minimize their suffering or goals or access to justice. What I am saying is that while these issues are real they are also smokescreens. They keep us focused away from what we should be doing. The interesting thing is that we all have smokescreens just like we all have sin in our lives.

Anything can be a smokescreen. We use smokescreens to our advantage. We create a smokescreen to distract from our own sins, shortcomings, and transgressions and focus attention on what others are doing, which we deem as wrong, sinful, or horrible whether or not that is true. We spin it in such a way that people don’t seem to notice what we are doing. On a side note I find it fascinating that when the smoke clears we are often involved in the some behaviors at which we were pointing fingers. Why do we find it so difficult to face our own shortcomings without looking for a distraction?

I wonder if we try to distract or create smoke so that we are not forced to change. When we discover that we are doing something wrong are we not then obligated to change the behavior? Good mental health would dictate that we need to rid ourselves of maladaptive behaviors or frankly sin. Of course this is easy to say but we are comfortable with our sin. It has become part of us and we are used to them. Change on the other hand is uncomfortable. We don’t know where change will lead us but it will be toward the unknown, new, and unfamiliar. Ridding ourselves of sin is scary! So instead we distract with smoke.

I challenge all of you (and me) to investigate when we start deflecting attention onto someone’s shortcomings. Look into why we begin creating smoke. What are we trying to hide, even from ourselves? What behavior causes us embarrassment? What is it at that moment that we find shameful? Why focus on others’ behavior? We cannot change what others do or do not do. We can only change our own behavior. So when we start creating smoke we need to ask ourselves what we are avoiding or hiding from view. Once we understand and see our own shortcomings we can begin to change those behaviors so that we can be more Christ like in our actions. As we work through our sin, with the help of others and Jesus, we begin to be more and more authentic witnesses to Christ.

That is this pastor’s opinion, what’s yours?

Blessings,

Pastor Tom

Summer of Transformation

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAK9AAAAJGM0NzM3NDg5LTEwOTgtNDA3Zi05OTIxLTc4M2YzMDdlMGYyMwI am excited! This is an incredible time to be a Christian. The work is rewarding, gratifying, and plentiful. The work is so plentiful that one person cannot possibly even make a dent in the needs around them. The work is so plentiful that one person would be tempted to quit being overwhelmed by the struggle. The great thing is that the workers are not alone, being surrounded by God. One would think that the workload would diminish as time went on but like God’s other gifts the workload seems to grow as we work. Are we doing something wrong? Did we not read the will of God correctly? Is something amiss in the way we behave as Christians? Probably.

We tend to allow ourselves comfort. We get comfortable and forget that we are a called people. We forget that we are living in exile. We are simply sojourners here on earth. We wrongly think that becoming Christians and being baptized is the end. Becoming a Christian, becoming aware of the salvation that awaits us, being baptized is only the beginning! We are called to live for Jesus Christ. We are not called to a life of comfort, for that is not life abundant. Life abundant includes others, others that have not yet heard the Good News! So what are we to do? As a church we are called to lead people to Christ but how can we lead if we don’t know where we are going? We must leave our comfort zones, try new things, and mature as Christians.

If Not Now? WhenThis summer I challenge each of you to try something new. Add a spiritual discipline into your faith walk, participate more in church activities/leadership, and resetting your focus on how Christ desires for us to live. To that end Westview is having a Summer of Transformation! We will be offering financial classes, a new version of Vacation Bible School, and a Bible Study based on the book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” by Martin Thielen. As we deepen our relationship with God we will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the gifts that are showered out upon us. I hope that you can attend but if for some reason you cannot attend, like you live far away and are reading this on my blog, please examine your relationship with God. Read, study, and immerse yourself in God’s love for you. The benefits of growing in our faith far outweigh the pains of change and growth.

Transformed-slide-titleI pray that each of you find the deepest of relationships with God and all of the people God came for and to. This is this pastor’s opinion, what’s yours?

Blessings,

Pastor Tom

 

Dude, Where’s My Church?

I am a cradle Methodist. Had I been born several years later I would be a cradle United Methodist. I have found memories of going to church. It was a place that seemed perfect to my childhood self. It was safe, inviting, and nurturing of people. My church was as diverse as my school which was in Denver after desegregation. Everyone it seemed was loved and cared for, valued and respected. Maybe I was simply enjoying the benefit of childhood naivety, maybe I still am.

Last week the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church (UMC) met in regular session. For non-Methodists reading this, the Judicial Council is my denominations highest court. The rulings are not punitive but rather indicative of whether an action by a part of the UMC is consistent with our Book of Discipline. The Book of Discipline is our rule book by which we’ve agreed to abide. The Judicial Council heard the case of Bishop Karen Oliveto. She is an openly gay woman in a committed relationship with another woman. A group within the church charged that she should not have been consecrated a bishop.

The Judicial Council ruled that she was a clergy person in good standing at the time of her election but that it was a violation of the Discipline for her to be a “practicing homosexual.” She remains a Bishop because she was in good standing and would need to be charged with an offence to be removed and that is not the scope of the Judicial Council’s role.

I’ve taken a long path to return to the question posed. Dude (or Dudette) where’s my church? Both sides of the issue have failed to give the Commission on a Way Forward time to come up with suggestions for keeping unity within the denomination. Both sides have amped up actions and rhetoric. Where is my church? Where is the church that tries its hardest to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ? Where is my church the United Methodist Church? Why do we keep letting ourselves get sidetracked by smokescreens?

The Methodist Church has faced many issues over the years. Temperance, women’s suffrage, slavery, equal rights, and racism to name just a few. Some of these issued caused division within the church but all of them were smokescreens! Don’t misunderstand me. These are real issues, with real people getting hurt or potentially hurt. These are important issues but in terms of the church they are smokescreens.

smokescreen

You see smokescreens distract us in a couple of different ways. First a smokescreen makes it hard for us to acknowledge our own shortcomings, problems, or sins for we are busied worrying about someone else. Second smokescreens distract us from what is most important. Keep in mind some of these issues and terribly important but not as important as what the church needs to be focused on.

Jesus told us that the greatest commandment was to love God. We are not to just love God, but love God with our whole being. We need to be all in! Our love for God needs to be reflected in everything we do, everything we say, and everything we are. Second we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are to love our neighbors without hesitation without holding back. We are to love our neighbors, whether we know them or not, whether they’re like us or not, and even if they don’t like us. We are called to love all the people God loves remembering always that God placed a spark of divinity in each of us.

When we love radically and fully the smoke begins to drift away. You see when we live to love and spread God’s love we no longer have time to hate. We don’t have time to judge someone’s lifestyle, race, or creed because we are busy treating them as a person of value. We won’t have time for racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. We cannot love God with our whole being and disregard, minimalize, or outright hate God’s creation! It cannot be done!

You may think that this is optimistic pie in the sky drivel. You may think that there is absolutely no way in the world everyone will drop their prejudices and start loving each other. You’re right. That probably is too optimistic, at least at first. I’m thinking that we can start by dropping our own prejudices, as best we can, and begin loving as God wants us to love.

For those who are wondering where I stand on the same-sex issues you’ll have to wait. I have many people in my life that I love dearly that are on both sides of the issues. I love them all and I try not to judge the people on either side. I chose to love people as they are, who they are, and how they are. As for determining the right path through life I’m too busy trying to keep myself on the path God is leading me down that I don’t have time to condemn others. What say you? Join me in dropping the prejudices and loving everyone in our paths.

This is this pastor’s opinion.

Blessings,

Pastor Tom