February 21

This upcoming Sunday most of the slides with the message will be filled with light.  Even the bulletin cover has tulips glow with the sunshine radiating through them.  Light is often a metaphor for holiness.  So, as we draw near the dark valley of the church year we call Lent–we celebrate light on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday.  The Scripture for the day describes Jesus bathed in light, “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.”  As a cloud arrived in the picture even it was “a bright cloud that overshadowed them.”  (Matthew 17:2 & 5)
 
     Think of the stuff that brightens your world.  Is it the kind words of a friend, perhaps a handmade card, maybe sitting at a table drinking coffee with a few of your favorite people.  All these things are filled with the holiness of God.  Yes, it’s an everyday-type holiness, but that doesn’t make it any less holy.  
 
     Recently, an actress by the name of Valerie Bertinelli was “shamed” on Twitter for not being the weight someone thought she should be.  I don’t do Twitter, but I do read news articles.  The article I read described Kelly Clarkson chiming in to defend Valerie with these words:  “True power is recognizing the projection of others’ negativity and punching it square in the face with all the positive, remarkable, intelligent, beautiful light that seeps from your pores.”  I think the risen Christ loves that quote and may have sent the Spirit to inspire it.  You and I are created in God’s image.  At our best, we let the “beautiful light (of God’s image in us) seep from our pores,” flow forth our words, and radiate blessing through our actions.
 
     Today, remember you are Christ’s brother or sister; God’s light and love is meant to shine through you just like it shined through Jesus.  Today, let the light of God shine through you to bless another.  
 
Blessings,
Pastor Roger

February 6

I opted not to watch the State of the Union address.  However, I did sign in to Facebook later that evening.  I regretted it.  My Facebook feed was filled with negativity.  I knew I had to process the barrage of anger in some way.  So, I took a deep breath and decided to chime in.  I wrote:

Yes Facebook world, please breathe; we all are aware President Trump refused to shake Speaker Pelosi’s hand and Speaker Pelosi chose to tear up President Trump’s speech: two people with titles snubbed one another with symbolic actions.  (No one was physically hurt).  Just thinking we are better off not promoting either negative behavior, defending either choice, or slamming ‘the other party’. I think there is an alternative…In the next 24 hours, I am committing to another path, to find and do something that shows respect and kindness toward another human being.

In Matthew 5:13-14 Jesus says to his followers, “You are the salt of the earth.  But if salt loses its saltiness how will it become salty again?  It’s good for nothing… .  You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill can not be hidden.”  Our world desperately needs salt to preserve basic values like kindness and respect.  Our world desperately needs light in these dark and divided times.  Frankly, some days I need salt and light to get me through.  Those are the very days I need to find ways of being salt and light. 
 
So, I did go out of my way to share a couple of kindnesses in the 24 hours following witnessing the state of our division.  Jesus said, “let your light shine before people so they can see goo…and praise God” (Matthew 5:16).  Sunday we’ll be exploring ways we can be light, and salt, for one another in this world.  In the meantime, take a look at the “Here’s What’s Cool” image that began this devotion.  Prayerfully do anyone of these things today.  The world will be brighter and you will feel lighter for it.  
    
God’s Blessings, Pastor Roger

January 30

Many years ago my wife and I were seated next to another pastor and his wife at a community fish fry. The other pastor’s Mom, a retiree who’d settled in the southern US, was visiting and at the table. The table-talk turned and the next thing we knew the other pastor and his Mom were talking theology. If I recall correctly he had to head to the office and go through the list to see who was eligible to take communion on Sunday. I still remember his Mom saying, ” Son, you may be a pastor, but you’re not qualified to say who can take communion. Only Jesus knows what’s in the heart.” The son retorted. The Mom said, “You know, the church I go too doesn’t do that anymore. It’s still the same denomination; Son, times are changing. You need to adapt.” I smile every time I remember the two of them–Mom breaking with generations of tradition, and the son holding fast to the past.

Within the United Methodist Church there are two sacraments (visible expressions of holy spiritual truths) that pastors are placed in charge of: baptism and communion. However, in the United Methodist tradition pastors are placed in charge of baptism and communion to make sure both remain open to all who reach out to experience God in the moment. Babies who can not affirm their own faith are baptized to remind us God chooses to love us even before we can respond to that love. Even when adults is baptized, the fact that we baptize babies reminds us part of baptism is surrounding and nurturing one another with Christ-like love. Likewise, pastors in the UM Church are placed in charge of the sacrament of communion NOT to decide who gets to take communion. Instead, we are charged with keeping Christ’s table open to all who seek–including young children mentally-impaired, those with dementia or any who may not fully understand. I like to say, “if we had to understand communion fully to receive it, none of us could receive. There is always more to learn and room to grow.”

This Sunday I will be part of a Healthy Church Consultation Team for Hillcrest, UMC in Bloomington. But, Grace will still have communion. The youth will serve. Tonight (Wednesday) I will bless the bread and juice–and use that time of blessing as a teaching moment with the youth who will serve on Sunday.

No doubt I will tell them that if I was asked to name three things I love about the United Methodist Church, always in the top three would always be: 1) the open communion table where all are welcome who seek to follow Jesus by loving God and neighbor. 2) the UM affirmation that God loves us and says, “Yes” to us before we can even say “Yes” to God. The theological term for God loves us before we even know it is “prevenient Grace.”

The devotional challenge of the open communion table and prevenient Grace is two-fold. First, we ask ourselves if we are blocking God’s grace in our own lives. Any day we ask if we are “good enough” we need to step back and remind ourselves God chooses to love us before we measure up and in spite of the fact that this side of heaven we’ll always be flawed. Second, we examine our attitudes to see if we are asking others to “measure up” before receiving God’s love. If so, we ask God to help us grow in grace and hospitality–and remind ourselves that God has chosen to love us before we “get it right” or “understand it all.”

That is “Grace” and it is “amazing” indeed.

Blessings, Pastor Roger

January 17

Many of us are familiar with the scene of Jesus walking along the shoreline calling fishermen to follow him. Among those fishermen was a man named Simon who Jesus renamed Peter–the rock, the person Jesus will use as a foundation for his church. The gospel of John has tells the story of Peter’s call a bit differently, however. John 1:40-41 says, “One of the two disciples who heard what John (the baptist) said and followed Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. He found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’ Andrew lead Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas (which is translated Peter).'”

As I ponder the account from the Gospel of John, I am struck by a few things in it. First, Jesus doesn’t seek out Simon Peter. Second, Simon Peter has an open mind and heart. Third, it answers a question I’ve always had with the version from Matthew’s account, “why did Simon drop everything to follow Jesus when he didn’t even know who he was?” In John’s telling, Simon Peter first put his trust in his brother Andrew. The way John describes it, Andrew lead his brother to Jesus. Andrew said, “we’ve been spending time with this fellow Jesus, and we are convinced he must be the messiah.”

Some people do have a spiritual experience where they kind of meet Jesus out of the blue–a vision, or a dream. Most of us, however, have had someone like Andrew, someone we already trust, invite us to trust Jesus. For me it was a Sunday School teacher, my parents, a college professor, a pastor and a handful of writers. Many of the times I’ve found myself growing in the faith, it’s been because someone I trust invites me to see faith or be faithful in a new way.

Who has been your Andrew leading you into Jesus presence? When have you been Andrew for another? Who trusts you that may be struggling right now? Perhaps it’s your chance to say, “Jesus helps me navigate life. I’d love to have you come with me to the place where I feel closest to him.”

Blessings,

Pastor Roger