We all live in an age of mass media, advertising, digitally enhanced everything. We are called upon to work more hours, produce more, eat more, buy more and most of all to participate virtually NON-STOP in what the world has to offer. There is no escape from the din that surrounds every possible way to make a buck. So what is the Christian to do? We are warned to keep our distance, to observe Sabbath rest, to participate IN but not be OF the world. Jesus spent much time telling us what the “Kingdom” is like because that is where we are to put our time and true effort. Unfortunately Kingdom work is not as fun and attractive to most people as the world seems to be. As a pastor I struggle with honoring people’s commitment to their families and work and at the same time watching the church struggle to get any meaningful ministry done with folks that are too busy with worldly things to even think about Kingdom things.
Setting priorities in our lives is the only way I know of to resolve this issue. This is a huge gamble on my part as a pastor because I cannot set your priorities or even suggest what they might be. It may very well happen that Kingdom work through the church is nowhere near the top of the list for most people. The church may have to muddle along being supported in the “if I have time” mode. Again, I know I am risking much here by possibly making people feel guilty about their choices. Unfortunately ALL Christian churches in this country (even megachurches) are experiencing declining in numbers. In Washington state church attenders are down under 20% and the number of “active” members is much lower. I apologize to all, but I don’t have time to worry about offending people. The Christian church has a great message of love and grace to share with the world. Our church here at All Saints is doing a good job of reflecting that love and grace and we need to do a better job of telling the community what we’re doing. There is no longer the luxury of time, people in our midst are hurting and in need of what we can share now. There is no better time or place to do the Kingdom work that we are called to. For us and for those we serve the time is now!
No one likes a hard person. In order to get along, fit in, be liked and respected, the world mostly demands that we be soft and flexible and anything BUT hard.
On the other hand … Life is hard. People get smacked around by all sorts of things from health issues to financial woes to harassment of various kinds, bullying etc.
So what are we to do in a hard world when we are expected to be soft and cuddly all the time? I think for me the challenge comes down to one of mindfulness and meditation and prayer. I try to be mindful of the situation I am in and act accordingly, I plan meditation time if only for a few minutes every day, centering thoughts and physical stretching and relaxation techniques help with this, and making time for prayer. For me daily prayer takes the shape of many moments of short prayer throughout the day, and hopefully some much longer times once a week or so. The challenging part is getting it all done within the confines of all the other things on the “to do” list, and of course the length of the list is mostly of my own making and I fear some things get lost or forgotten. You may find yourself in this position as well sometimes. If the prayer and meditation and focused thinking are there I can usually adapt my actions to the situations I encounter … so I can be soft most of the time and hard if needed. As an extrovert it’s difficult to be soft and cuddly all the time but given my role as a pastor it is more often than not the mode that’s called for. Therein lies my point for today … YOU need to find the mode that life calls you to … I’m guessing it will need to be soft more often than hard, but it depends on your life’s vocation and work, being flexible is the key. Understanding that you will make mistakes and blunders in all areas is a must to not getting smacked down TOO hard by life, and worrying about whether or not LIFE is fair … let me answer that for you … LIFE IS NOT FAIR, not now not ever … so worrying about which way to go and how to be is fruitless and frustrating. Life is HARD … GOD is GOOD. Live in the now, in whatever form you need to be … LOVE people no matter what they throw at you and try not to take it personally. You will be less frustrated and more effective in your day by day striving with work and play and relationships.
Hi everyone! Day two of my effort at daily postings, I know it seems like a long shot but I am determined to make the effort! If you visit the site daily you will hopefully get a blurb from me that helps your day or gives you some information about All Saints!
Today’s thought is of course on the passing of that well known child of God – Robin Williams. Facebook has had hundreds or even thousands of comments and videos and such already, so I thought I would go another route … Thousands of God’s children died yesterday … not one of them less important to God than the others. Like Robin Williams, many of those who died suffered a brain illness. Depression is, from what I have been told, one of the worst things to imagine. Sadness so deep and penetrating that it physically hurts, and drags you down into a state of catatonic nothingness. I have only experienced situational depression on a minor level, so I have no first hand knowledge of it except what people who do suffer with it can tell me. The stories about depression and other mental illness and the evidence I have seen over the years prompted me to be very interested when the opportunity to form a mental health chaplaincy in Spokane
came about. That was in 2010 and I have been slowly working on it since then. Recently I wrote, and received, a grant for the chaplaincy to do training and to try and get other faith based organizations involved in the chaplaincy. The plan will be to provide training so that churches and other faith based organizations can participate in a companionship model of support for mental health patients and to from a “circle of care” for as many folks as possible. Please pass the word if you have opportunity to do so, about this upcoming training and encourage churches to participate!
Construction is on schedule to be finished in Mid September. The Ramey Construction team has done a great job with a minimum of mess and disturbance. Stop by and see the progress!
After months of negotiating and delays and bids and re-bids it looks like everything is finally ready for the construction project to go forward. Ramey construction company got the bid and they estimate a starting time of around June 1. God blesses the patient ones!
So now that we are all gaining a new appreciation for our status as “Child of God” I though we would begin discussion on how that looks not only for us but for our brothers and sisters who live on the margins. I believe that one of the biggest hurdles for Christians is that of “worthiness”. What does it mean to be worthy of whatever it is that I have, and if I don’t have anything does it mean I am not worthy? Many programs designed to help the poor and homeless are taking stock of how they are going to survive the coming years, there seems to be no end to the needs and our government has promised more cuts in benefits like SNAP(food stamps) and the never ending costs of war keep most of our tax dollars flowing toward the Pentagon. Programs to help the poor are getting squeezed and so many are working on ways to change and cut costs or limit who they serve. A common theme is to ask that the homeless or poor receiving a benefit do some work to “earn” whatever benefit they will be getting. In other words by doing this work you will be “worthy” to receive the benefit. Now I guarantee that any of the agencies doing this would argue with me; determining worthiness is not the point, having the person contribute and do some meaningful work will help them feel better about themselves and by doing this we can start to break the cycle of dependency. No matter what side of this issue you are on, there remains the elephant in the room … why are there this many people in need of services in the first place? In this the richest of countries in the world, why do we have so many poor and homeless … people living on the thin edge of financial disaster? How did we go from having less than 100 food banks in the whole country in 1980 to more than 7000 in 2014? The disparity between the the richest and the poorest continues to widen and 80% of us go merrily on our way participating in an economy that has unashamedly crushed the lives and hopes and dreams of a growing portion of the population … to the point where charitable service providers feel is necessary to ask completely destitute persons, living on handouts, to “do a little work” to be deemed “worthy” to receive. The idea of ignoring the cause of the problem by shifting the focus to the poor … “see they’re not willing to do anything to get themselves out of the situation they so stupidly got themselves into so why should we help them … the deserve what they are getting and I am not giving of what’s mine to help those who won’t work”.
I am not trying to start a class war here … people wind up in need and desperate situations in any number of ways … some of their own making others just by being in wrong place at wrong time. The need remains … if someone loses their job due to drug use or due to unscrupulous business practices … doesn’t really matter since both are now in need of help. I think God is pretty clear on this … you help without judgement and without determination of worthiness. None of us is worthy of the great grace we have been given and if I must “work” for an hour before I receive the grace and forgiveness of God then I am doomed to fail .. .there is no amount of work. That is why God decided to “give” us our salvation through Jesus Christ, no work necessary no worthiness checkup … free gift of salvation. After receiving I can choose to live into that salvation by doing things to help others and to tell them about the great gift I have received. We must avoid the “transactional” trap …”if you do this then I will give you this”. That only works in the world’s economics and even there it is greatly abused, as is evident by the massive power and money struggles between nations that lead to war and great loss for all humanity.
I have said it many times, the system we have is broken, it works for less than a quarter of the worlds people. The remaining three quarters struggle to live, many do not live for long. We cannot compare our own life with someone we do not know, and ask of them what they may not be able to give, even if its a seeming small request. We cannot try to “fix” those who are different from us and who don’t seem to want to work. What we can do is form relationships and connectedness with all our neighbors and of course we are to love that neighbor as well.
As I mentioned in my sermon on January 5, 2014 it would be good for us all to take hold of what we believe and make it part of our daily life! I got the idea from David Lose, an ELCA pastor, teacher and writer who gives me regular inspiration through his blogs and articles!
Remember …. “I am God’s child, deserving of love and respect, and God will use me to change the world”
Repeat at least every day and more often would be great!
Peace and blessings to you !
We have run into another roadblock with the community center project. The bids for the construction came in much higher than anticipated … way out of our price range. So much prayer is needed as we re-group and try to get things back on track. Hopefully we can find a way!
The ELCA has 25 years together in Christ. Sunday September 8th is “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday … This is an opportunity to join other ELCA churches around the country in a dedicated day of service. Of course I am late with this note since September 8 is this coming Sunday … however I have never been a big believer in these kinds of events. The woo hoo look what we did today deal seems to marginalize the every day activity that goes on quietly. For example; Spokane has a well publicized food drive every year hosted by KREM television called “Tom’s turkey drive” and I know it raises lots of food for poor folks at Thanksgiving. I have never donated to it. Our food bank here at All Saints is open 4 days a week and distributes food year around to those in need. We don’t have a television personality or the means to promote ourselves like KREM TV does. I sincerely hope this does not come across as sour grapes but for me; these “one day” promotional things that come and go, do involve a large number of people … ONE TIME… The community in need cannot survive on one day events and promotions. We cannot expect people to turn their lives around when they see “normal folk” chipping in with a turkey basket ONCE a year or stepping up to help or clean ONE time a year. There are always those out there who consider this to be their total commitment and you don’t see them again for 365 days. WE MUST convince communities of people to commit time, money and talent to projects and causes on a sustained basis. We must have help, with donations, volunteer time and also with care and compassion for those who come there. We have become a nation of one time donators who are hit up every time we turn around to give to this that and everything and people go into shock and wind up doing nothing. Compassionate living and giving requires a fundamental change in the way we promote and talk about service work and donations and all the things that go into making society better. 20% of the population participating is a recipe for failure … we must engage all people. Each and every church in the ELCA has to formulate a plan to involve their neighbors in the place where they are … with the people whom they have to work with, doing the stuff that’s necessary in that place! This is not a one size fits all deal or a one time event or anything like that … it is asking a lot of questions of people and requiring answers and seeing who responds as true neighbors and community members and willing participants and players and partners in making the world better FOR ALL. Even those who cannot or WILL NOT play … HOW WE ANSWER THIS CALL WILL DETERMINE OUR LIFE TOGETHER
Wonderful day at church! The building was abuzz with the homeless coalition folks this morning, also we hosted the bicycle tour group raising funds for cancer, Bike4thecure, around 30 bicyclers spent Wednesday and Thursday nights at All Saints before heading out tomorrow for Seattle.