Categories
Blogging

Political Responsibility

“The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust.”

When reviewing the Social Principles, I was surprised that the Church challenges us to be not only concerned, but also involved with the application of public policy and ideological discourse. So many times have I heard the maxim “Don’t talk about religion, money, or politics”.

It’s fascinating, however, that the UMC would want us to become invested in a sphere of influence in society that, in American culture, outright seeks to reject us.

By no means do I believe this section of the Social Principles asks us to proselytize, but to use our social capital to give voices to those who have been muted by unlawful legislation, a platform for those who would seek equity when there is none.

Our Wesleyan understanding of God’s grace, love, and justice must extend into those taboo areas- from the dining room conversation to the front steps of the capitol.

Faith is political. Religion is political. God is political.

We must rally and use our privileges as a longstanding institution of charity, education, and justice to advocate for the oppressed; to aid in liberating those who cannot see God in their laws and their leaders.


cody

Cody C. Robinson is a Cherokee scholar from Tahlequah, Oklahoma and student at Phillips Theological Seminary. When he isn’t trying to make disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, Cody spends his spare time taking too long to order at familiar restaurants and seeking the perfect grilled cheese.

Categories
Beardcast

Beardcast for 3.1.18 The Nurturing Community

Beardcast for 3.1.18 The Nurturing Community

 

This week on the Beardcast we reflect upon the Nurturing Community found in the United Methodist Social Principles.

You can listen to the audio version of the Beardcast here

Apple Podcast 2.0

Subscribe on iTunes

google-play-podcast

Subscribe on Google play

Categories
Beardcast

Beardcast for 2.22.18 with Rev Neal Christie

Beardcast for 2.22.18 with Rev Neal Christie

This week on the Beardcast we spent some time with Rev. Neal Christie who is the Assistant General Secretary for Education & Leadership Formation at the United Methodist Church and Society.

You can listen to the audio version of the Beardcast here

Apple Podcast 2.0

Subscribe on iTunes

google-play-podcast

Subscribe on Google play

Categories
Blogging

Sin?

I find the concept of sin very confusing.

I’m a pastor, you would think I should have this down, but I don’t.

I can tell you all about the definition of the word and I can teach you about what the word actually is in Greek. I can exegete (fancy church language for interpreting) some Scriptural passages for you. But it all seems to be lacking.

There are religious people who will attempt to give you lists, even Paul, author of a lot of those New Testament letters, loved his lists of things Christians should not do. The problem with these lists being the sole definition of sin is that it limits the discussion to behaviors and contexts Paul or any other list maker is familiar with.

Let me suggest another possibility that’s about half-formed in my mind. Somewhere between reading ch 5-7 of Matthew’s Gospel, The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute, and I-Thou by Martin Buber, this idea began to come together for me.

Sin is any behavior, word, thought, or feeling that moves a human, including ourselves, from human to object.

Let me give you some of my building blocks and we’ll see if you agree:

  • In the ch 5-7 of Matthew, Jesus lays out the best Christianity 101 ever. Part of His message is a list of laws that He then takes to a different place.“You have heard it said…but I tell you,” is His formula. The laws He’s referring to deal with behaviors, but Jesus takes us to a place of intention behind the behavior. Law = cheating on your significant other is bad. Jesus = the bad starts with lust. Lust is not attraction to another human being that could lead to a life-giving relationship, lust is ONLY about physical attraction and what one wishes to do to another human being.
  • In Buber’s book, Buber lays out two basic words/concepts that are at the heart of all human experience and understanding. I-You is pure experience found at the heart of human to human relationship. (Buber actually includes the possibility of an I-You moment with a tree, but we’re going to stick with people for this topic.) I-It is when analysis and manipulation jump in. Let’s just continue with our example above. I-You would experience the whole person as beautiful and would be completely present with that person for however long the encounter lasted, even if it was just momentary eye contact. I-It leaves the experience of relationship to make judgments about desirability and what it would take to advance the encounter to something physical.
  • Last piece, once we move a person from I-You to I-It, it does not matter how we treat the other person or what our behaviors are, they will be able to read our intention on some level and it will alter the relationship. Back to the lust. It does not matter how sweet and noble we act if all we’re thinking about is how to use the other person. Our thoughts will change the dynamics toward the sexual somehow.
  • You could put any example in the above points: anger, impatience, the need to control, etc etc etc.

Back to my proposed understanding of sin:

Sin is any behavior, word, thought, or feeling that moves a human, including ourselves, from human to object.

How the hell do we fight that??

I have thoughts on that and they are pretty straightforward to understand. I am stealing/modifying this from The 12 Steps.

  • We have to be aware of this tendency of ours to I-It people and admit that we cannot control it. (Romans 7:13-20 speaks to this.)
  • We have to believe in a higher power. The Triune God is my jam, particularly since Jesus enters into humanity to show us: that He gets us, how life without sin could be, and to change our relationship with God. (John 10:7-17 is my favorite but there are SO many passages about Jesus being the path to life.)
  • We have to allow God to take over our will through the power of the Holy Spirit and teach us the better way. (Back to Paul! 2 Corinthians 5:13-21)

Lists of behaviors are too easy to misinterpret and manipulate. My understanding of sin is far more challenging in a lot of ways but may actually go further in helping us heal the big problems we are facing. (Not to brag.) Imagine all the ways the world (yes, world) would be different if none of us ever lost sight of the beautiful humanity of every person? Children wouldn’t be allowed to starve, rape would be inconceivable, and the cost of war in terms of life lost would be unbearable. Not to mention the health brought to friendships, co-workers, marriages, parent-child, etc, etc, etc. The way we treat our own bodies would have to change. Even care for creation would have to change because unsustainability is deeply connected to the objectification of other people and future generations.

I am always game for a lively discussion. Thank you for reading my initial thoughts on sin.

Blessings.


image1

Alexis Johnson is a mom of two, married to a seminary student/new clergy, an Ordained Elder in the Iowa UMC, and feeds three furry mammals. So busy. Alexis is busy. But she is passionate about God and passionate about people. She is always up for good conversations and connecting, especially if there is coffee or wine involved.

Categories
Blogging

Little By Little

I don’t know about you but my life seems chaotic.  Work, kids, church, school, commute, activities;  it seems as though I wake up each morning and run a marathon for that day, crash in my bed then start it all over the next day.  I feel I am always in a constant state of catching up.  I yearn for a rare Saturday with a clear schedule and nothing to do but “be” and enjoy the company of our family.

Sometimes I feel as though I am doing nothing well.  I reflect on my busyness and wonder what I have really accomplished other than surviving each day.  Furthermore, I ask myself, “Could I be doing this better, if I give this or that up?”  Yet, perhaps but by God’s grace, in my retrospection, there are so many wonderful things that happen despite the messiness.

Though now I am a mission’s director at a church, I received a bachelor’s degree of science in biology.  One of my favorite classes in my academic career was an ornithology class.  Our lab was simply to observe birds in their natural habitat, identify them and to journal on their behaviors.  Despite predawn class gatherings, which no college student wants to endure, it was the most memorable and fascinating course.  My professor, Dr. Fisher was a wacky, near retirement age, self-proclaimed “king fisher” and a lover of birds.  He once almost ran off the road because he spotted a red-tailed hawk in route to a nearby park.  Thankfully, I was following behind in the college van.

In one our class observations, my lab partner and I sat near a bluebird box and watched the activity.  Busily, a bluebird flew into the box through the tiny hole bringing waded up hair twigs and grass, would stay inside for a short time, then would fly away to return with more building materials.  This went on for a long time.  As activity ceased, my lab partner and I lifted the latch on the bird box to observe a neatly twisted, perfect nest prepared to protect the precious eggs of the bluebird.

In my position as mission’s director,  I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Haiti to be in ministry with my brothers and sisters of this beautiful yet challenged land.  On a recent trip, I learned a Haitian proverb I keep close in my thoughts.  “Little by little the bird builds its nest.”

God takes the seeming twisted up chaos of my life and is able to make something orderly, comforting and safe for me and my family.  Little by little, keep going.


20914502_10213579990432051_8763911014608651388_nBrian Mateer is the Missions Director for a UMC in North Carolina, where he and his wife raise their beautiful girls.  Brian is the salt of the Earth dedicating his life to serving those around him.  He is also a Carolina Panthers fan… (the beards offer their prayers). In Brian’s free time he likes long walks on the beach and makes jewelry out of the beach treasures he finds.