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Order

Recently, I had an experience that brought up the subject of order. About a month ago, I joined an international prayer room on a social media platform. My impression was that it was a place of peace, where people could go to listen to and pray for each other. Then, the talkers started creeping in. What was a prayer room became a platform for people to teach whatever they wanted for as long as they wanted. Fortunately, order has since been restored.

The administrators of the prayer room learned the hard way that rules and boundaries were necessary to keep the room going in the direction they had intended. Otherwise others would take over. We all like the idea of being laid back and going with the flow. The problem is that without order, people have a tendency to go off in all kinds of directions. This is the point of 1 Corinthians 14:40, “…all things should be done decently and in order.” We all want to be heard. We all have opinions. What if we all expressed them however we wanted whenever we wanted? There would be chaos.

With orders of worship, our church services are able to include a variety of experiences that help others feel closer to God. We can worship by singing, praying, giving, and listening to the Word together. With an order of worship, you know what is coming next. It is in the context of order that we may experience the beauty found in worship services and sacraments. Worship services, weddings, baptisms, and funerals are ordered to provide a foundation on which beautiful, meaningful, and healing experiences may be built. So, while I am in favor of freedom of expression and others sharing their gifts, everything must be done “in order.” In this way, we respect each other more fully while giving honor to God in all that we do.

After Graduation

Psalm 37: 23-24 says, "Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand." (NRSV)

While we were in school, we complained and struggled with the constant onslaught of projects, difficult classes, uncommunicative teachers, the hell that is group work, worry about maintaining our grade point average, and wondering if we could even finish the work.

We dreamed what life would be like when we finally had time. We dreamed about what we would do, places we would go, the people we would see. In our few spare moments, we did what we could to care for our current responsibilities. We woke early and stayed up late to study so we could work and serve during the day. Sleep was minimal and caffein was our constant companion.

Then, one day graduation came. At 57, I finally have a Master of Divinity. All the hard work finally paid off. We have all overcome many barriers to achieve something. We celebrated, posted pictures, and put up diplomas. We soon realized that the free time we thought would come was just an illusion. We realized that no matter what we accomplished, we had to make it happen. We had to intentionally set aside time for study, project completion, family, ministry, work, and self-care.

After graduation, we go from one season to the next. We realize that the nature of time does not change. We come to know that time must be directed intentionally. Productivity and growth in our ministries, work, and relationships do not just happen. These things are directed and positioned. Self-care and Sabbath does not just happen either. They must be scheduled and carried out.

I have heard retirees say they became busier in their retirement than when they were working. This happens because we choose to redirect time in each season of our lives. As our bodies, minds, and spirits give us ability, we are always able to do that which we truly desire.

My prayer for all of us is that we not be pulled in different directions at once. May we not be overwhelmed, nor constantly busy and trying to keep up with it all. In all of our seasons of life, may we be intentional to work and serve in areas that give glory to God. May we be intentional to connect more deeply with God, family and friends. May we be peacefully productive and ecstatically employed. Graduation has come and gone. As we await our final graduation to glory, may we study well, work with integrity, and serve with joy as God guides our steps each day.

God bless you,

Pastor Don.

Wearing My Call

Recently, I started wearing a clergy shirt and collar during the work day and when I serve in ministry settings outside of the office. Since this is no longer common among Protestant pastors, I thought it might be helpful to explain my reasoning to those who might wonder. The first thing I want to point out is that this practice is Protestant in origin and started with a pastor named, Rev. Donald McLeod from Scotland in the late 1800s. Though we share the same first name and heritage, those are not the reasons I follow the practice. 

The primary reason is for quick and clear communication of my pastoral role. This is particularly helpful during hospital visitations and emergency situations. While the St. Luke people know who and what I am, others in the community and those who may be attending a funeral may not know until I go forward to speak. The secondary reason is because I have lost 60 pounds in the last couple of years and I do not want to buy a bunch of new clothes.

It is my hope that by wearing the clergy shirt and collar, I may clearly present a pastoral presence in dark and difficult places to those who are in need of pastoral care. I will stand with those who need reassurance of God’s love. I will stand in protest against social and racial injustice. I will stand for our Wesleyan traditions of holiness, love, and grace in Jesus’ name. Though I am flawed, I am God’s. So, I will stand up, I will stand out, and I will reach out in Jesus’ name.

Pastor Don

Hosanna!

We awaken to worship.

The evening fog lifts

We arise with hope.

New light radiates within our souls.

We cry, “Save US!”

We are made new by His love

Washed in His blood

Filled with His presence

Embraced by His essence.

Hosanna!

Living By The Spirit

Gal 5:25-6:10

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher. Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

Living by the Spirit is a great challenge because we are made up of flesh.

We are prone to conceit, competition, and envy.

When speaking to the Christians in Galatia, the Apostle Paul assumes the Christians there are not only able to detect others transgressions. Detection is not judgment. It is a statement of fact. But, once detected, we must do as he said in Chapter 6, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

May we be able detect our own sins, to be open to others helping us find our blind spots and to bear one another’s burdens.

Summer

Summer

Summer on the verge of fall

Lingers beyond its time to leave

Holding on to its dying days

Like those who taste the end to come

Anxious for just one more ride

Another taste of stolen time

A touch, a word, a song, a note

Just once again, another line

What Are You Missing?

Blindfolded

Scripture Reading: John 10:22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Devotional Note: Many are looking for something. Whether it be a better job, the weekend, a new mate, another child, or a new purchase. We see God’s works all around us but don’t recognize God in them. We see miracles of life, birth, and provision, but we don’t really see the miraculous. Like the Pharisees, all we can see is our city, the weather, our church. We let ourselves get distracted by our desires, but miss the Shepherd’s voice. I challenge you to take time to look around. Stop and listen. Slow the world down long enough that you see Jesus in the people next to you. Pay attention to the miraculous. Listen for the Shepherd’s voice. He is always speaking. Will you listen? Will you see?

God bless,

Pastor Don

Fish, Fire, and Fellowship

Image result for jesus fire fish

John 21:1-9 (NRSV)

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin,[a] Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards[b] off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.

Jesus keeps revealing himself to us. Even when we are not looking for him, Jesus Christ comes to us in our darkest hours and in our deepest times of need. After Jesus’ death, the disciples went back to fishing because it was easier to go back to what they knew than to face the unknown. After trying all night, they came up empty. But Jesus tells them to do try another way and they hit the jackpot. Yet, when they join him on the shore, they find he already has fish cooking on a fire. He also has some bread.

As we look upon the fruit of our labors, we may look at our empty nets and wonder where God is in all of our doubts and wanderings. But Jesus is on the shore, waiting with everything we need. He has the power to fill our nets to overflowing and we have the opportunity to just join him by the fire and rest in the provision he already has set before him. We can run off and try to find satisfaction in our own work. Or, we can join with Jesus in fellowship and rest in his presence and in what he has already provided.

This week, open your eyes to what God has already provided for you. Look for Jesus on the shore. He waits for you with a warm fire. He waits to give you warmth, provision, peace, and fellowship.

God bless you, 

Pastor Don.

The Tomb is Empty

Empty Tomb

This Sunday is Easter Sunday

Scripture Reading: John 20:1-8. “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.

One thing that struck me in this week’s reading in this section of John is that the first disciple to reach Jesus’ tomb did not go in. But, Peter, who ran up from behind ran past and directly into the tomb. For his questioning faith to be satisfied, Peter had to see that the tomb was empty. But, the joy of the empty tomb could not come if it had not been for death. We have to confront death before we can experience life.

Before we rush to the hope of the resurrection, we need to take time and recognize the necessity of suffering and death. If Jesus had not suffered and died for us, we would be lost. If we do not suffer within ourselves and die to the sins we commit, we will not be resurrected to new spiritual life in God through Jesus Christ.

Death must be confronted. Sin must be met with mourning. Yet, just when we are ready to rush into the tomb, we find it empty. We find that Jesus Christ is risen and so are we. In our death, we find resurrection and power through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God bless you,

Pastor Don

According to the Common Lectionary, this week’s readings are: John 20:1-18, Lk 24:1-12, Acts 10:34-43; Ps 118:1-2,14-24, and 1 Cor 15:19-26