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!

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Questioning Easter

"They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. They didn’t know what to make of this."  Luke 24:2-3

 We celebrated Easter with singing and shouting about our risen Lord, but like the women and the early disciples we struggle with what to make of new life on an ordinary day. We sing hope, yet look live in fear.  The disciples saw the empty tomb and were amazed, but didn't believe until later.  We celebrate promise and live limits.  What I'm getting at is that certainty is the opposite of faith.  We celebrate a gift, a path, a direction, a love, an experience.  We celebrate a mystery that is barely expressed in any one account, or accounted for in any one expression. We celebrate a faith that includes both doubt and confidence.
Don't despair.  Do what those first followers did, ask fierce questions:  Who took Jesus?  How can I believe unless you show me?  How could we possibly feed this crowd?  Put those question alongside the celebrations, the stories, the testimonies, and the truths, then take a step.  Take a step in any direction, but take a step.  That's a step of faith.  Yes it is, because it's mixed with all that other stuff, God stuff, life stuff, YOU stuff!
OK, I may not have the whole thing down in a perfect formula.  There's probably a flaw in my argument somewhere, there usually is.  But I'm taking a step into a conversation with you.  I'm leaning into my experience of new life this Easter, of Jesus, of Love and tip-toeing forward.
How about you?  Yep, I sang "Christ is risen..." and I shouted "He is risen indeed!"  I also did all of that with questions, hurts, hopes, opportunities, struggles and so much more swirling in my life.   It's usually a bit of a jumble.
Yet, it's my jumble, my story and because of Easter (at least as a key in a bigger story/truth/promise) my hope.  So, I'm singing, hunting eggs, chowing down with family, and telling my story.  Not because I've got it all together, but because something bigger's got me.  The words I have for that are Jesus, Love, God, and Easter. My experience of God is a Love that won't let me go, a dependable Love.
Now, I'd love to hear your celebrations and laments.  I want to hear your story, struggle, hope, and the words you have for them.  You see, Easter means to me, that there's room for all us to look at the situation and not know what to make of it right now.  Let's have a meal and talk it over.  I'm confident there's more possibility to be found. 
That's why I celebrate Easter.  Why I say "Christ is risen."  And why I'm still wrapping my mind, heart and life around all that means.  Happy Easter.  Christ is Risen Indeed!

10,000 Joys in the Love of Jesus Christ, Pastor Dave

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I'm Following Jesus with Questions

Today I was listening to a Science Mike and Mike Gungor Lost & Found Podcast 1 & 2. (2 here).  I was reminded just how my faith in God is foundational for me, and yet so much of church, theology and what is raised up as Christianity in this time is, at the same time, open for discussion.  I found Science Mike's (his nickname)  axioms to offer intriguing perspectives for me as my faith grows and matures embracing God's Love and mystery.  

 Here they are:

  • Faith is AT LEAST a way to contextualize the human need for spirituality and find meaning in the face of mortality. EVEN IF this is all faith is, spiritual practice can be beneficial to cognition, emotional states, and culture.
  • God is AT LEAST the natural forces that created and sustain the Universe as experienced via a psychosocial model in human brains that naturally emerges from innate biases. EVEN IF that is a comprehensive definition for God, the pursuit of this personal, subjective experience can provide meaning, peace, and empathy for others.
  • Prayer is AT LEAST a form of meditation that encourages the development of healthy brain tissue, lowers stress, and can connect us to God. EVEN IF that is a comprehensive definition of prayer, the health and psychological benefits of prayer justify the discipline.
  • Sin is AT LEAST volitional action or inaction that violates one's own understanding of what is moral. Sin comes from the divergent impulses between our lower and higher brain functions and our evolution-driven tendency to do things that serve ourselves and our tribe. EVEN IF this is all sin is, it is destructive and threatens human flourishing.
  • The afterlife is AT LEAST the persistence of our physical matter in the ongoing life cycle on Earth, the memes we pass on to others with our lives, and the model of our unique neurological signature in the brains of those who knew us. EVEN IF this is all the afterlife is, the consequences of our actions persist beyond our death and our ethical considerations must consider a timeline beyond our death.
  • Salvation is AT LEAST the means by which humanity overcomes sin to produce human flourishing. EVEN IF this is all salvation is, spiritual and religious actions and beliefs that promote salvation are good for humankind.
  • Jesus is AT LEAST a man so connected to God that he was called the Son of God and the largest religious movement in human history is centered around his teachings. EVEN IF this is all Jesus is, following his teachings can promote peace, empathy, and genuine morality.
  • The Holy Spirit is AT LEAST the psychological and neurological components of God that allow God to be experienced as a personal force or agent. EVEN IF this is all the Holy Spirit is, God is more relatable and neurologically actionable when experienced this way.
  • The Church is AT LEAST the global community of people who choose to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. EVEN IF this is all the church is, the Church is still the largest body of spiritual scholarship, community, and faith practice in the world.
  • The Bible is AT LEAST a collection of books and writings assembled by the Church that chronicle a people group's experiences with, and understanding of, God over thousands of years. EVEN IF that is a comprehensive definition of the Bible, study of scripture is warranted to understand our culture and the way in which people come to know God.

I share these both as a window on my faith and in deep interest for how these work or don't work from your perspective.  

I find these axioms more on the At Least side to resonate and find I go further.  For you they might be more helpful on the Even If side.  And perhaps you can challenge my thinking as you push back for more or less.  It is in the conversation that we all grow.

 In this Christian season of examining our lives of faith, Lent--getting ready for Easter, I find myself reflecting.  What are you thinking?

P.S. My explorations and sharing are all a part of asking myself, not only why my faith in Jesus is important to me (and what it looks like), but also how or if it holds value for others.  I have friends and acquaintances who come from questioning places and I genuinely want to listen, understand and explore.  Thank you all for being a part of my life.