Sermon: Life All Around

flower crocus snow“Life All Around”

(April 5, 2015 – Easter) Life is all around us, and death never has the final say! (Mark 16:1-8; John 20:1-18)

I was without my direct mic wire– sorry for the poorer quality recording; I think the point comes across.

Sermon: “Heart-Deep”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Heart-Deep”

(March 22, 2015) God promises to write God’s covenant on our hearts, but what does that mean? What does it really look like to learn God’s love and grace by heart? (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

This sermon describes an event from early in my ministry that was challenging and disturbing. Trigger warnings: death, murder, violence, fear of hell, questions of forgiveness.

Sermon: Subversive Salvation

404908_10200695914301791_1257083917_n“Subversive Salvation”

(March 15, 2015) God’s grace has a mysterious way of turning upside-down our expectations and subverting the things of pain and loss into opportunities for transformation. Rather than take from us the pain of life, God transforms pain into hope. Where are we in need of that promise today? (Numbers 21:4-9)

Sermon: Prohibitions and Promises

flower fence freedom“Prohibitions and Promises”

(March 8, 2015) Not only do we tend to resist being told what to do, but we strip faith of its power when we reduce it to a series of do’s and don’t’s. What if, instead, we viewed the Word of God as a promise and a vision of who we are called to be? Might we see it not as something that constrains us, but as something that helps us grow and flourish? (Exodus 20:1-17)

Sermon: When All is Lost

fire big use

A fire consumed the building in February of 1992

The original structure of LUMC

The original structure of LUMC

“When All is Lost”

(March 1, 2015- 23rd anniversary of the burning of Lebanon UMC) Church member Jeanette H. remembers the burning of the church more than two decades earlier, and the congregation that worked together to rebuild afterward. As we reflect on loss, we hear again God’s promise of hope– sometimes the hardest promise to hold on to in the face of loss. Can we see the promise of the future in one another? (Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16)

 

Sermon: The Valley of Transfiguration

valley1 sm“The Valley of Transfiguration” 

(Feb 15, 2015) The disciples encounter a revelation of who and what Jesus is on the mountaintop, but this is not the only story of God’s revelation in Jesus? Can we expand our understanding of God and of ourselves by hearing and telling multiple stories? (Mark 9:2-9)

This sermon (preached with a substantial cold) is based on the Huffington Post piece “Forsaking the Whiteness of the Transfiguration” by Keith Anderson, and the TED Talk “The Danger of the Single Story” by Chimamanda Adichie.

Reflecting on the Social Principles Consultation

My notes on the "Nurturing Community" section.

My notes on the “Nurturing Community” section.

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to the offices of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church. There I participated in a Consultation on the Social Principles, one of eight planned meetings “to consider a process about how to make the United Methodist Social Principles more succinct, theologically founded and globally relevant.”

At these consultations, participants looked at the Social Principles– statements The UMC makes on various topics (read the text online here) in small groups and asked:

  1. What role do the current Social Principles play in enhancing the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church?
  2. How much or how well have the current Social Principles served to empower mission and ministry in your geographical area?
  3. What might globally relevant Social Principles look like?

The consultations in Washington were live streamed and recorded, and you can view much of them online at this channel. I can’t find the place where we discussed marriage, sexuality, and abortion, so I can’t link directly to that. If you’d like to hear me rattle off on some other stuff, you could jump to 57:00 in the 1/16 11 am session (ecology), 19:55 in the 1/17 morning session (corporate responsibility), or 28:55 in the 1/17 afternoon session 2 (restorative justice). Although for my money, the winner for the whole consultation was Sunny’s “Social Principles for Texans” in that same video, 34:30.

It’s actually fairly easy to summarize what our group in particular and I believe the consultation overall thought about these questions.

1. What role do the current Social Principles play in enhancing the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church?

On almost every issue, we felt that the ministry and mission of The United Methodist Church were enhanced by the Social Principles because they indicate that our church says something about important challenges in our world. We gave thanks that ours is a church that clearly and emphatically opposes the death penalty, that defines abuse as verbal, psychological, and sexual in addition to physical, that calls for just economic practices and so on. However, in nearly every social principle, we found ways in which the ministry and mission of The UMC was harmed by either not being strong enough on a position, by being too United-States-centric, or by using language and upholding positions that are hurtful and inflict harm on people.

2. How much or how well have the current Social Principles served to empower mission and ministry in your geographical area?

Again, on almost every issue, individuals could point to examples of using the Social Principles to educate and advocate in their contexts. We heard from one another about opposition to gambling, calling out usurious lending, advocating for organized labor, and on and on. We gave thanks for the 1908 Social Creed of The UMC, and the rich history of our denomination in the struggle for justice in labor and economics particularly. Again, however, we also heard examples of places where the Social Principles have undermined local ministries, most notably and predictably, by driving away and harming LGBTQ persons in our communities and circles of beloved ones.

3. What might globally relevant Social Principles look like?

Our first and simplest answer to this question: SHORTER. Our group felt that in order for the Social Principles to be relevant worldwide, they would need to

  • Be shorter— less is more
  • Name values (principles), not behaviors (positions)
  • Be positively worded— state what we believe, not what we oppose or fear
  • Be statements that incorporate theology and human dignity we can’t just re-state a universal statement of human rights, but say something unique to us as people of faith
  • Contain only that which is applicable cross-culturally or world-wide

We do feel that this is possible, and that there is much The United Methodist Church specifically can say about most or all of the issues named in the Social Principles. In addition, the current Social Principles contain specifics about living out these principles (where we manage to articulate them) in ways that are contextual. As I describe at 32:45 in this session, our group suggests that we have this shorter, worldwide set of principles and then hopefully many books of resolutions (The UMC currently has one Book of Resolutions), specific to different contexts and cultures, including United States’ culture(s), which are contextually written, time-specific, and give relevant examples.

Finally, it is important to note that the goal of these Consultations is not to amend or re-write any of the Social Principles. The feedback from these Consultations is being summarized and crafted into a proposal to the next General Conference (in Portland, OR, in spring of 2016), to then develop a plan for how to update, amend, or re-write the Social Principles. Yes, we all just love the glacial rate at which institutional change happens. Fortunately, nothing stops any United Methodist anywhere in the connection from writing and submitting their suggestions for re-writes and changes. My experience at the Consultation convinced me of the need for shorter, values- and theology- driven, positively stated, world-wide relevant re-writes to each and every Social Principle. 

So I’ll be over here, working on just that.

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