Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Shepastor: "Reflections on Gun Violence..."

Have respect unto the covenant; For the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of violence. Psalm 74: 20 ASV

Recently, our friend and brother, The Reverend Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, President, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester New York, posted a blog entitled, “Guns, guns, guns!” It appeared in the print edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Below is an invitation from Vice President Thomas McDade Clay (Institutional Advancement Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School) to share the post with others and to encourage dialogue on this extremely important topic.

Today, in an effort to do just that, Shepastor invites you to read Dr. McMickle’s powerful insights and share in the discussion…

Good morning,

Dr. McMickle’s most recent Unite Rochester blog appeared in yesterday’s print edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To read the article on the Democrat and Chronicle site, please click the following link:

For your convenience, I have also copied the blog post into the body of this e-mail (please scroll below the signature line).

Please feel free to share this post with others and to encourage dialogue on this extremely important topic…

Thomas McDade Clay
Vice President for Institutional Advancement
Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

Guns, guns, guns!

By Rev. Marvin A. McMickle, Ph. D.

Late one night in 1958 when I was 10 years old, my father was coming out of an Elks Lodge in Chicago when he was confronted by a gunman who demanded my father's wallet, watch and rings (including his wedding band). My father complied, believing that would be the end of the matter. That is when the robber placed his gun against my father's head and proceeded to pull the trigger.

The gun jammed and would not fire. The gunmen tried to shoot my father a second time, but again the gun jammed. Without a functioning gun that had bolstered his courage the robber tossed the gun aside and ran away. When the gun hit the pavement where it had been thrown the gun fired. Thankfully, no one was hurt!

The scourge of guns that is so much in the news today has marked and marred American society from its beginnings. The NRA declares that the "only answer for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Short of arming every single American who would need to possess a weapon everywhere and at all times, most people shot and killed by guns are innocent people up against a coward made brave by possession of a firearm. Most of the time there are no "good guys" around to protect innocent people. It is madness to continue this argument about guns in America.

This is about a bravado culture more informed by John Wayne than by common sense. This is especially true when it comes to military style assault weapons used in all of the recent mass killings in this country. No one hunts or has target practice with an AK 47 or A-15. These weapons were designed to kill human beings on a battlefield, and thanks to the NRA and its indefensible interpretation of the Second Amendment, the battlefield has become the streets of Orlando, San Bernadino, Paris, Brussels, and a classroom in New Town, CT.

Perhaps when one of the US Senators who voted four times this week against gun reform has a gun held against the head of one of their loved ones they will think and vote differently. As for Donald Trump who thought it would be a good idea for people in the Orlando nightclub to mix alcohol with guns I can only hope that people see how truly dangerous his ideas are for our country.
(End Quote)

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Shepastor: "Blameless..."

I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, LORD, I will sing praise.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
3 I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.
Psalm 101: 1-3 NIV

“Who is to blame?” In today’s society, finger pointing happens in epidemic proportions. Certainly there are injustices and systems that need to be addressed, "righted" and changed. However, there are still questions we must ask ourselves. There are lessons we can learn from the words of this psalm. The Psalmist began not with pointing fingers but to personally strive to live blamelessly before the Lord. The Psalmist named specific things that he would not do…things that he would be careful to avoid…looking with approval upon wrong things, embracing and condoning deceit, refraining from keeping company with slanderers, not reveling in or tolerating haughty and prideful behaviors.

While the scripture says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), we, like the Psalmist can determine to guard our hearts, eyes, lips and behaviors against that which will cast blame and shame upon us.

What decisions do you need to make today to be blameless? What activities do you need to avoid? What behaviors do you need to embrace? What choices do you need to make? What words do you need to silence? What thoughts do you need to resist?
May we, like the Psalmist desire and prayerfully strive to live a blameless life.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Shepastor: "Casting Stones..."

1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
John 8: 1-11, NIV

“Caught in the very act!” These damning words were hurled at Jesus concerning the guilt of a broken, bullied and shamed woman. Surely Jesus would quote some Old Testament law and agree with the accusations of the crowd. But Jesus flipped the script.
He did not join into the fast and furious kangaroo court that assembled with the intent to do more than convict a defenseless woman, but ensnare Jesus in a trap they believed was air tight. But the ways of the Lord are far above the ways of man.

Rather than engage them on their own terms, Jesus simply stooped down to the ground and began to write in the sand. Some have conjectured that Jesus was writing the names of those who were themselves involved with the adulterous acts! We don’t know what Jesus was writing, but we have the record of what Jesus said…“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Pivot to 2016…the worst shooting massacre in U.S. history in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, there are those, who like the Pharisees, are railing against the victims, suggesting that their lifestyle (LGBTQ) brought down God’s judgement upon them. Could Jesus still be writing names in the sand?

This is not a season to engage in theological debates about sin. While Jesus did not condone the life style of the woman, He also did not condemn her. Jesus exhibited love, mercy and compassion. He gave her a word of direction and change after he protected her from vicious accusers and murderers.

God’s word calls us to speak words of truth in love. Jesus shows us how to live that out. As we seek to minister to those who are broken, grieved, struggling and disillusioned, may we do so with the heart of Jesus. May we be found on the right side of the lesson.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Shepastor: "What Time is it?"

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV

Time is a funny thing. As humans, we are obsessed with time. When we are bored, time seems to crawl like a turtle. When we are having fun, time seems to fly. Yet time remains the same...the same 60 seconds in 1 minute, the same 60 minutes in 1 hour, the same 24 hours in 1 day. However, life circumstances seem to "color" our interpretation of time.

I can remember when my parents were my age. When I observe my children, I often think to myself, "Wow, they are looking at me like I looked at my parents." Funny how time has a way of shaping, molding and changing our perspectives. Suddenly, I understand many of their "Sayings," "No's!" and "Because I said so!!!" My father had a saying, "After a time is another time." Certainly, time waits for no continues to march on. As we look over our lives, we tend to view time in "seasons." Depending upon what's happening, we may view our season as "winter, spring, summer or fall."

The "Winter" of life may be a cold, barren, frozen experience...nothing seems to be moving. Seeds planted look a lot like death. We may even battle depression. We want that season to quickly pass, but like actual winter, it may take its time and drag on, even beyond what appear to be normal parameters. The once white, beautiful, glistening snow gets dirty and we develop a disdain for what we once adored. Winter can be a tough season. But it too has its purpose...
it forces us to get closer to the fire.

The "Spring" of our lives bring new growth, but also rain, wind and mud. We are excited for the beauty of flowers emerging, but in order to get the flowers, we have to deal with the rain, wind and mud! In a spiritual sense, this sometimes translates into tears, "winds of adversity," and unwanted challenges, "mess..." mud! But at the end, God sends the life...revealed direction...greater opportunities.

In the "Summer" of our lives, things finally seem to come together. Beautiful sun rises, walks on sunny beaches, shedding big heavy coats, flip flops and painted toe nails, sleeveless garments, sun glasses, cool breezes and lemonade. Summer can also be scorching hot, sweaty and uncomfortable...dusty fans blowing around hot air! The summer of life can be mixed...great times, but just enough aggravation to remind us that this world is not our home and perfection does not exist on this planet!

Finally, there is the "Fall" of our lives. I personally love the Fall - it is probably my favorite season. The vibrancy of colors from changing leaves, the cool yet warm air, the orange, lilac and yellow sunsets...the romanticism in the atmosphere. It can almost make you forget that the vibrant colors are signaling the death of that year's blossoms. Fall reminds us that some of our greatest accomplishments happen at the end, rather than the beginning.

Indeed, God makes everything beautiful in its time. What time is it for you? Look for the beauty in every season. Avoid allowing the worst of the season to cancel out the joy and gladness nestled between the ebb and flow of the challenges. Remember, there is a time for everything...

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Shepastor: "Same Song, New Understanding..."

I Corinthians 13:12Common English Bible (CEB)

12 Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known.

This past weekend my family and I took a road trip to visit an ill family member. Praise God we found her healing, improving, glad to see us all. On the way there we broke the trip up into two days, but coming home, we needed to travel all in one day due to obligations back home.

Our current "travel" vehicle is smaller than our older car that is no longer "highway" ready. Therefore, we were somewhat cramped in the space. In order to make seating arrangements more bearable for our growing and "grown" bodies, both my husband and I took turns sitting in the back, and letting our young people take turns sitting in the front and driving. As I sat next to our 11 year old daughter, once she got beyond complaining about being squished between my older son and I, she began to share her favorite pictures with me on her tablet. We laughed, smiled, slept, ate snacks and held hands.

Out of the blue, she turned and looked at me and said, "Mommy, you are going to be so beautiful when you get older." Puzzled, (and frankly wondering where this was coming from)I said, "Aris, am I not beautiful now?" To which she responded, "Yes, Mommy, you are beautiful now, but not as beautiful as you are going to be. I can't wait to see you!"

In that moment, her words felt prophetic. I didn't question her about the origins of her line of thinking. We just smiled and my thoughts drifted into a kind of meditation as we looked out the window at cornfields, windmills, and highway.

Later, a song from about 30 years ago came on the radio...a Gospel song that I didn't particularly like during my teenage years because I could not understand the words - literally, the enunciation of the singer was not clear to me. The song did not make sense to me. It had a good beat, but I could not understand the words. I remember making up my own words when the singer sang the words I did not understand.

But for some reason, for the first time, when the song came on the radio that day, I understood the words! I not only understood the meaning of the words, I understood the singers enunciation of the words! All of a sudden, the song took on a new meaning for me. I didn't need to make up words to go along with the song. The song made sense to me!

As I pondered these two experiences, it occurred to me that my "future beauty" and my new understanding of a 30 year old song had a has a way of calling us back to things that previously made no sense and then speaking new revelations to our hearts. The light of that revelation brightens our "dim sight" and casts a beauty over our countenance that only time can bring.

Could this be the "beauty" that the prophet Isaiah declared the Lord would give us for ashes (Isaiah 61:3)? "Dear Lord, open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for my eyes illumine me, Spirit divine."

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris