Dear Friends of Westview UMC,
It is amazing to me that whenever I get caught up in my own issues and problems and begin feeling sorry for myself something happens that makes me realize the smallness of my issues. I woke up Wednesday morning feeling tired having just finished Annual Conference in Brentwood. While the conference was great and I got to see friends old and new it was still three full days of conferencing. I then woke up and realized I still had all of the responsibilities of planning worship and facing issues of the church. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed then I turned on the news; another shooting.
Our society has taking a sharp turn over the last twenty or so years. There was a time that people could settle their differences through compromise or even agreeing to disagree yet remaining cordial. Over the last twenty years that has changed dramatically. The vitriol and rhetoric coming out of elected officials, televisions, radios, and seemingly every aspect of our society is slowly turning to violence. Why are we surprised that people begin to use violence when society has been demonizing groups of people. Our words have created a climate of us versus them not only in our leadership but in our culture. We have gone astray! Whether we were led astray or charged forth in the guise of righteousness we have gone forth from the straight and narrow that God wishes us to follow.
I truly hope that this situation does not get politicized. People will surely throw stones back and forth, name calling, demanding gun control, or better mental health. However at the core of the problem is our behavior, our dislike, and our having gone astray. It is time that everyone did something to curb the plague of vitriol and violence facing us. Let us get back on the path and behaviors in which God wants us to engage.
We are having a Summer of Transformation at Westview UMC. We are looking at ways to address our own sins, having Financial Peace classes, and doing a book study on Martin Thielin’s book What’s the Least I Need to Believe to be a Christian? The Financial Peace classes will begin in August and the book study will begin the second week of July.
Let us take this opportunity to investigate our lives to ensure we are following the path that God desires for us. Let us delve into deeper relationship with our Savior so that we can help others see Christ (at least glimpses) through our actions.
Blessings in Jesus Christ,
I have been talking a lot about smokescreens of late. Some my say I’m talking too much about smokescreens and not paying enough attention to the major issues facing society. I believe that most if not all of these major issues are smokescreens. Remember a smokescreen is anything that keeps us from doing what God has asked us to do. That is love God and our neighbor and to do that we must repent of our sins and strive to be in deeper and deeper relationship with God. I am not saying that the issues facing society are not important nor am I discounting the people in the various groups or their struggles. I’m claiming that if we got rid of our smokescreens and focused on doing what God has asked the people in the various groups wouldn’t have to struggle for the love God is pouring out would shine upon them and the need for the struggle would be solved.
We use smokescreens quickly and we think effectively. The smoke we use spans more and goes deeper than the major issues facing society. We use them in our local churches and even in our daily lives. If we are up in arms against someone else’s issues than maybe people won’t se our sins and issues. The smoke divides and separates us into us who are good, righteous, and worthy and them who are bad, evil, and unworthy. Smokescreens make us judge both them as unworthy and us as worthy yet we are told not to judge. I’ll save judging for a different blog post. The smokescreen is used to divide us into groups. Us that are worthy versus them who are not. That is a false statement. God’s grace is poured out upon us precisely because we are not worthy! It’s grace and mercy. The smokescreens blind us to this truth that negates the reasoning behind our division.
The smoke we create makes us think that if we could only rid ourselves of them, the sinful and unworthy, all would be right with the world. Thus the division created leads to schism. Bishop Bill McAlilly stated at our Annual Conference that schism is the lowest fruit on the theological tree. Schism destroys and rips apart. Schism in the face of smokescreens is ineffective. Smokescreens don’t work. You see we divide into the two groups of us the worthy and them the unworthy and we work to make them go away. We celebrate briefly as they leave only to find we are faced with the problem of our own sin. Since we are unwilling to look at ourselves as flawed we create another smokescreen because we need the them who are unworthy to distract us from the fact we are not following God as best we can, loving God and everyone who God loves the best we can. Once the smokescreen is back in place we again work to make them go away and the process repeats. It will continue to repeat as long as we refuse to acknowledge our own sins and flaws. For it is only when we work on our own stuff that we no longer need a smokescreen and are freed to fully follow and trust in God and God’s love!
In a conversation with a colleague I was struck by how passionately he demonized certain people. I realized in that moment that a smokescreen had been created and he needed to ask himself a question. What makes whatever “they” are doing worse than what “we” are doing? The answer to that question is found in James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” No sin or flaw is greater than another. We really need to love the sinner and hate our own sin for only in dealing with our own sins and flaws can we be truly free to do the work God has for us to do!
This is this pastor’s opinion and I welcome yours.