10Q10Q -- faith, life, rethinking church, following Jesus...stuff

Come join in the discussion of faith at the Koinonia Page where scripture and life intersect in conversation and exploration. Visit on Facebook, Twitter, and Dave's Web Page too! I'd welcome your company at Palmyra First United Methodist Church, where I hang out, too, come and see!

Thursday, December 15, 2022

 Why I Believe in Love1

  Why I Believe in Love1

    Professor Richard Beck2 posited that justification (what sets us right with God)  is past oriented, what Christ has done, and judgement is future.   Intrigued by the distinction, I wondered if Beck’s use of justification was similar or addressing the same territory as John Wesley did with Prevenient Grace, God’s help before we even know need or ask for help.  Beck further speaks to judgement as a responsibility and accountability to live out love given that justified, God has given us a fresh start with Christ, and help in the Holy Spirit, allowing us the choice to live with love or not. (And ultimately be accountable for our how we do or don’t love.)

      Then, unrelated I was reading Michael Williams, Spoken Into Being3 and he suggests that God-truth (my term, not his) is bigger than any one story.  Williams sees the possibility that juxtaposed stories, even when appearing conflictual, can provide a fuller perspective on that God-truth.

      Now enter an unfolding conversation with a retired pastoral colleague at Cornwall Manor about the justice of Jesus' message as both important and perhaps more important than love alone thoughts are swirling in my head.  Fear not, I like to think out-loud.  I value honest, respectful conversation, even when its an opposing point of view, indeed, iron sharpens iron.4

      I wonder how God-truth is best expressed in varying contexts and circumstances with integrity.  Unsurprisingly, followers of Jesus, even preachers, speak only a fragment of the Good News when there is a pressing need, curiosity, transgression, or circumstance.  We intuitively know that waxing theological about salvation (soteriology) with someone freshly facing deep grief is not only inappropriate, but unfruitful, perhaps even damaging.  So, how do we faithfully make those distinctions?

     What if justice, love, judgment, justification, love, and more are all in the mix?  What if they are, as much, our momentary point of view as they are definitive theological concepts?  I know that my theology professors probably just cringed, shaking their heads about how they failed me as their student, but stick with me a moment...  philosophical level theological (all head with little heart) endeavors generally feel disconnected from experience for many of us.  Further, historical records tell a story of Christendom making theological sub-point litmus tests that later are understood as off the mark.  Even further, it is often the theologian with the effective life-connecting-story-line that gains the broadest hearing.  Maybe rightly so, because theology seeks to understand experience, and in that understanding consequently shape it.  Theology, our beliefs, don’t often come out of nothing, but rather experience reflected upon. 

      That all comes home for me, that when I focus on love then other things happen too.  Focused on love I am discontent to stay inactive and silent about injustice.  Focused on love I'm hungry to learn the nuances of theology, history, philosophy, sociology... you get the point.  Focused on love I'm passionate about communities of audacious love and thriving life--aka the Church (or at least the Church playing a central part). Focused on love the stack of theological points in my head and belief statements in my head take on hands and feet in very practical, God-truth ways.

      I remain open to learning, curiosity and all the places it may lead.  My own thinking about God  

has been and continues to develop, blossom, adapt, and grow as God works and as I get out of the way.   I confess I've become, in this season, a bit more focused on a loving orthopraxy (right and good practice) in contrast to an orthodoxy (right and good belief).  In short, whatever eternity looks like, I'd rather stand before the Creator of All having erred on the side of grace and love, than judgement, and rigidity.  How about you?  Let's keep learning together.

1-OK, caught!  I can’t tell you everything about “Why I Believe In Love” in this short article, but I’ve taken a run at a brief intro to that task.


3-Spoken Into Being: Divine Encounters Through Story, Michael E. Williams, 2017 Upper Room Books

4-Proverbs 27:17

Thursday, October 13, 2022

UMC Updates 10/14/2022

 UMC Updates    10/14/2022   first published in October PS. Update

If you are United Methodist, you may be aware that a conservative break-away group formed, the Global Methodist Church, in May 2022.   This, along with some inaccurate information in circulation, has prompted many questions, such as:

Q—“Do all UMC’s need to vote?”

A—No.  Right now there is no need to vote, unless a congregation is entertaining immediate disaffiliation(leave & either be independent or aligned with another denomination) from the UMC.

Q—Will the beliefs of the UMC change? (i.e. those in the historic creeds, such as, resurrection, or virgin birth.)

A—No. The only anticipated change is that the language about homosexuality, it will likely be adapted/removed/edited so that congregations & pastors will be able to follow conscience on this matter. (Historically true to the UMC pattern on issues with big disagreement.)

Q—What questions do you have?  

A—Ask and I'll see what I can find.   You may find more in the links below.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the Adam Hamilton videos responding to the GMC’s Rob Renfroe, check it out here on #proudtobeUMC.  Here are links to  histories (another here), Q&A’s, & more. Thanks for reading.

Hope in the Noise Oct.14, 2022

Hope in the Noise  Oct.14, 2022   
First published in PS Update

“Let us consider how to provoke one another to love & good deeds”-Heb.10:24NRSVUE 

“...what does the Lord require of you but to do justice & to love  kindness & to walk humbly with your God -Micah 6:8bNRSVUE


Is it hard for you to hold on to hope in the noise of news, people, events, & politics?   You’re not alone.  Soundbites swirl around us promising certainty in place of honest engagement.  Problematically, certainty that diminishes others is arrogance, not confidence nor truth.   This then oozes into our being, polluting what was once kind talk, formerly open to the possibility of learning from & compromising with one another. Then hope is hidden.

These encounters hold anger, fear, control & sometimes hatred, instead of hope, mutual care, & shared interest in building up one another.  These are not elements of a strong community, faith, individual, or conversation. Yet we feel stuck with the present state of affairs.  Some react with defensive assurance that certainty is our duty.  Most ache as life-giving hope ebbs.  

What shall we do?  Is there hope?

Yes!  My faith teaches me that truth comes with a forbearing, patient love.  Good communication teaches deep listening as a prerequisite to being heard.  Strong business & negotiation skills speak of the sweet spot where we all leave with something of value—no one departs feeling deceived or disadvantaged.  I could go on with education, psychology, research methodology, journalism, health & wellness…. Suffice it to say domination deals death; mutuality nurtures hope.  This truth is multidisciplinary.

There is a better way! 

¨ “I’m going to show you an even better way.”-1Cor. 12:31 (intro to the famous “Love chapter” in the bible, 1 Cor.13)

¨ “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul- & sings the tunes without the words - & never stops at all.” -Emily Dickinson

¨ “Hope is patience with the lamp lit.” -Tertullian (2nd Cent. African Christian author)

Hope’s power comes from a foundation far greater than any one of us.  It’s power embraces a now-into-the-future positive perspective that there is more than what we see in the moment.  Hope is big enough to be framed with faith, wisdom, or spirit, yet is not limited by any one individual or group’s understanding.  Hope is available to all.

There is hope amid the noise of 24/7-confirmation-biased news.  There is hope beyond the deluge of negativity & hostility.  Hope is found in faith, friendship, learning together, honest sharing.   Hope need never fade away when firmly grounded.  There is hope amid the noise.

Allow me to offer two things:  First, my faith links my hope to Jesus Christ. And (this is very important) my understanding of Christian faith offers a broad, inviting, & including possibility;  one that some of the broader Christian family would take issue with.  For me all I’ve written is grounded in that faith & finds expressions in broader places.

Second, just this week I had a discussion worth sharing.   I sat down with a friend who holds a more conservative perspective, than do I, on faith & all that’s going on in the United Methodist Church.  (That is tensions about sexuality, biblical authority, & the nature of our heritage.)  I knew I needed to have the discussion but was a little uneasy at the start. But, we sat down to talk. An hour later, it turns out that we share more in common than we differ.  We both value the authority of scripture, our sacred text.  We both deeply desire to faithfully follow our God & share God’s love.  Where we differ is in details.   What we left sharing was common ground, mutual respect, & practical ideas of how we could support one another.   I left feeling lighter, encouraged, connected...HOPEFUL!

Hope comes in connection, community, honesty, courage… all elements of my world view & faith.  I hope (& pray) that you would have: the courage to connect even when it’s hard; the grace to forgive when the connection isn’t reciprocated; the honest wisdom to know that you are not in charge of the world or of fixing others (I’m not either!); & the gift of a loving community that both heals the wounds of the journey, & celebrates  the hope that is ours.

Go prepare for a conversation with reflection.  Go engage with honesty.   Go listen to others with deep attention & patience.  Go claiming hope. You’re not alone!


Prayer-  Hope of the World surround us with a higher purpose that draws together, makes whole, includes, & restores.  Forgive us when we feign so great a confidence that we diminish our neighbor.  Teach us of the ways of love, kindness, learning, & faith that build up Hope in each of us.  Finally, may we rejoice in that possibility as we care for one another, grow stronger together, & seek a deep & lasting peace.  May It Be So.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

UMC Questions

("UMC Questions" first published 9/16/2022 in "PS Update")

“See I’m making all things new”-Rev.21:5 

For I the Lord do not change.” -Mal.3:6a

       What’s up with those Methodists?  The answer is that churches & culture have grappled with some questions for decades. These conversations have reached a pivotal moment.

First—God is unchanging; God is love; God renews, & remakes things.  All of that is true for the United Methodist Church (UMC).  UMC core beliefs are not being changed.

I know that here at Cornwall Manor we are from many backgrounds.  I also know that UMC questions around sexuality, & interpreting scripture (the key issues at hand) are raising questions for United Methodists and they also ripple into conversations with neighbors.

Here is a word of information about all this.  The UMC continues to affirm & believe what it has for decades.  A new traditionalist denomination formed, the “Global Methodist Church” (as separate from the UMC), as a different voice in the conversation.  With that genesis comes the tacit query, “With whom do congregations & pastors align?”  In truth, UMC congregations can decide by doing nothing and their familiar church home will not be altered from the core beliefs or general governance.

Wow that’s a lot!  And that’s what’s up with those Methodists.  If you need details ask Chaplain Dave, he’s got histories (another here), Q&A’s, & more. Both of your chaplains are happy to talk further.

What I encourage for ALL engaged in any unsettling or difficult conversations, is to engage the other with the goal to better understand their thoughts & heart, before sharing yours.  When we converse to prove a point, to fix a position that we believe is wrong, or to attack, it helps no one & rarely changes anyone’s mind.  Additionally, it often polarizes further.

One thing I know (among the myriad that I don’t know), is that God’s got this.  I know we’re richer & happier when we learn about one another.   I know that hard topics don’t have to create losses of friends, security, or convictions. We can do this! Let’s talk.  Peace

Prayer-  Loving God, teach us how to love in our differences;  to build one another up in love; to learn from one another through love; & to seek redeeming ways in love. Amen.

 *Added after 1st publication -- Another resources  Proud to Be UMC--6 Adam Hamilton Videos

Let’s Talk

 Let’s Talk  [First published 8/26/2022 in P.S. UPdate]  (UMC & local congregation decisions)

“...let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger .”-James1:19bNRSVUE 

“If one gives answer before hearing, it is folly and shame. “ -Proverbs18:13NRSVUE 

We can have better conversations. More life-giving & loving conversations. We know how. It starts with respect, a shape that love takes. It includes patience. Good conversation involves humility, “I may be wrong about some of this.” Better talk means listening first until your partner feels heard.

Webster defines hearing as the “process, function, or power of perceiving sound; specifically: the special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli.” Listening, on the other hand, means “to pay attention to sound; to hear something with thoughtful attention; and to give consideration.” A good conversation require listening.

“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.” (Jane Goodall)  A conversation is about respect not winning, learning not debate, cooperation, not domination. I invite you to intentional listening. Then, let’s talk.

Prayer- Attentive Creator, teach me to listen deeply & respond only with love. Amen.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Loved & Effective

I want to share a story with you today.  But it's bigger than that.  It's for everyone.  Too often I can be inattentive to the holy in life.  I'm hoping this story is a moment of listening, of breakthrough.  You get to decide.  Here it is:

I was running into the sanctuary to put my microphone back where it belongs, on Monday of this week.  (FYI I'm a pastor and Monday is clean-up-from-Sunday day.) I was literally running, I was in that kind of hurry.

When I got half way across the front of the church, up by the pulpit, I heard words, "sit down on the steps;"    I would call it God speaking, but I can work with me thinking to myself, or maybe you could say "I had a sense of", you pick the language comfortable for you, but I had a clear sense of the direction, "sit down on the steps."

I sometimes have thoughts out of the blue. When that happens I pause, think about them, and my mind spins off in a hundred directions trying to make sense of it all.  I dismiss the chaos. I move on figuring it to be my own thoughts. On Monday my brain just landed on the words, "sit down on the steps." No spinning. No extra stuff.

So there in the sanctuary I sat down on the top cold stone step of an empty church in a dimly-lit, sanctuary. and I said "now what?" (I not sure, but I may have even said it out loud.)

What followed were more words, "tell the people two things:"  (Remember  I'd say it was God speaking, but I understand if you're more comfortable with other language, like me thinking to myself, or maybe saying "I had a sense of", you pick the language comfortable for you.  I hope you're getting the drill by now.)  Those two things were clearly:

         1.  "I love you"   and

     2.  "You can make the difference."  

Sitting still, curious, and bewildered I looked up.  (I don't know why, but my eyes had been on the steps to this point.)  Now, no words came, rather a clear sense of the room feeling full of life and an exciting presence of audacious, life-changing love that  I can only express as God.  Maybe you have another word, but it's the kind of feeling I get working with a community of people to change the world, only to find myself changed.

I needed these affirming words on Monday.   I don't know if you need their invitation or encouragement today.  They are here for you if you do.  

One thing is clear to me.  I want to make sure you hear those two inviting affirmations from God. God loves you and intends to use you to make the difference.  Pass it on. 

10,000 Joys in Christ

Friday, May 12, 2017

Planning, Potholes & Pit Stops -- It's All here!

16 God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. 17 God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them! John 3:16-17 (CEV)

  The story of God's strategic plan is in all of our holy story from Genesis' creation to Revelation's new Jerusalem.  We know it didn't always go smoothly, remember the Garden of Eden--oops, the Israelites wandering in the wilderness--oh my, and the disciples scattering after the crucifixion--yikes!  We also know the powerful success of God's strategy of Love at the empty tomb--yes, the Holy Spirit's fire at Pentecost--wow, and the power of the Body of Christ infectiously Loving through the Church--amazing.

Palmyra First UMC is beginning a strategic planning process, and to be sure it will parallel the ups and downs of God's story.  We'll get some things right the first time, and we'll make a few humbling stumbles.  We'll enthusiastically embrace where God leads us, and we'll rebelliously grumble in our discomfort and discontent.  Perhaps, most importantly, God's redeeming grace will shine through in the end, when we choose this  journey.

Strategic planning will stretch us personally; God will call and nudge us to new places.  Sometimes we'll say "Yes" easily.  Most often we'll doubt, dodge and ditch God's invitation for a while.  We'll need one another for honest feedback, loving challenge, and mutual support, while we adapt and love on.

Strategic planning will stretch us as a church; God will call and nudge us to new ministry, forms, neighbors and places.  Sometimes we'll embrace the new with excited hard work.  Frequently we'll avoid, forget, and distort God's invitations to us.  We'll need much prayer, holy conversation, and Jesus-inspired boldness, so that we can adapt and love on.

Strategic planning will stretch us in our resources; God will challenge us beyond what we can see.  Sometimes we'll step out faithfully with generous choices.  Anxiously we'll act protectively, territorially, and selfishly--both as a church and as individuals.  We'll need God Moments told joyously, personal faith lived entrepreneurially, and administration lived transparently, assisting us to adapt and love on.

Saved and stretched, stretched and saved, is the story of God's Love in Jesus, the holy story, the Bible's story.  This timeless invitation and challenge starts from the inside-out, "Will I trust God and go where I don't choose, can't see, and quite possibly am not comfortable?"  My prayer, as pastor and follower of Jesus, is that we all help one another answer, "YES!" because we trust the life transforming, world changing, soul saving Love of God in Jesus Christ.
10,000 Joys in the Way of Jesus Christ, Pastor Dave

   *All bible story references and genuine conversation about them available from  dave@pfumc.us