Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Heart of Compassion

I've been thinking about compassion today...or more accurately, my lack of compassion.

This morning, in Bible Study, we read about Jesus feeding 4,000 people in Mark 8. The way the story goes, Jesus and his disciples had been with these people for three days in some unspecified, rural location -- and now, they're hungry. And there's no McDonald's Big Macs to run and grab, no freaky-fast Jimmy John's delivery service, or grocery store to get bread and peanut butter for sandwiches. They're stuck and starving.

Then, as Mark tells the story, Jesus had compassion on them. He felt sorry for them. He was with them in their suffering. He cared.

And I'm quite convinced that Jesus cared about EACH and EVERY one of those 4,000. In Mark's telling of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (a few chapters earlier in the gospel), after feeding the masses, Jesus sent his disciples away in a boat while he dismissed the crowd. He cared about EVERY person in that massive group, and he continues the same spirit of compassion in Mark 8.

Which is just incredible! I don't think I would have felt the same. 

The scene would have been loud and chaotic, and you couldn't blame him had he quickly slipped away without feeding his followers. But Jesus, like always, chooses to be present in people's lives and care for their needs with a spirit of compassion. I'm sure he was exhausted after three days of ministry. I'm sure this massive meal was an administrative nightmare. But, regardless, Jesus shows up in people's lives in a substantial way. 

May we be challenged and encouraged by the compassion of Jesus, may his compassionate heart beat strongly within us, and may we be people who daily display the love, care, and compassion of Jesus to all in our path.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Fine With Failure

This past Sunday I tried something a little different with my sermon—a bit theatric. For those who weren’t present, it was a bit risqué!! I preached on a passage in Colossians where Paul invites us to strip off the harmful, sinful ways of life we too often wear and to clothe ourselves with the values of Jesus’ new kingdom. So, to make my point, I literally stripped off about 8 layers of bulky, sweltering clothing and replaced them with new clothes, labeled with the values of God’s new way.

I don’t normally do stuff like that, though. I don’t consider myself overly creative and my sermons are normally pretty straight forward. There’s nothing terribly cool about our church, my ministry, or my preaching.

Sometimes, however, a passage of scripture is just begging to be proclaimed in a different, more creative manner. Some passages feel more visual or tactile than academic and cerebral, and demand a more visual and tactile presentation.

And when those passages arise, I’m so pleased to be pastoring a church that allows me the freedom to be playful with scripture. I think my sermon from Sunday went well, but my point is, even had it not, you all would have extended massive amounts of grace and understanding. I love the liberty you have afforded me to try some unusual things from time to time, even if they crash and burn.

The freedom to fail is an important element of success in all forms of life, including ministry. So, let’s continue to try new things, work hard to make them successful, pray that God would use our efforts mightily. But then, if failure results, let’s shake it off and keep trying to minister to and bless our church and our community.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Faithfulness of our Guests

[this was a short article I wrote to and for my congregation in my most-recent weekly email to my church. feel free to read, but it may or may not interest you or be helpful to you if you're not part of our little group]

Maybe we’re not special. Maybe every church has the same thing happen. But, for one reason or another, our church gets a lot of guests that walk through our doors on Sunday mornings. Maybe it’s our downtown location. Maybe it’s that we are a Baptist church. But there’s rarely a Sunday where we don’t have a few first-time visitors for our weekly worship gathering.

And in the summer, it’s even more frequent. It’s tourist season!

I’m always amazed, however, that tourists would take time to find a church to worship with on a Sunday morning. Partly, I want to say to them, “It’s okay to miss a Sunday; just go enjoy Yellowstone or Glacier.” Some of those guests are likely showing up for worship out of duty and obligation to church attendance, even while on vacation.

But I also really appreciate and respect the faithfulness of our vacationing guests.

They wouldn’t have to show up. They have a pretty legitimate excuse for missing church. But they faithfully attend. They’re committed to the routine of faithfulness, they refuse to allow anything to interrupt this significant weekly practice, and that faithfulness is to be celebrated.

So, cherished vacationing guests (who will probably never read this): THANK YOU! Thank you for your presence with us. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for reminding us of our need to always make worship and church community a priority. You are appreciated and we have much to learn from your devotion to your faith.