Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A thank-FULL people

This week marks the US celebration of the Thanksgiving Holiday. Its a day about family, friends, and giving thanks, but do we really practice these values that are suppose to be so important on this day? I don't think we really know how to as a nation of mostly over feed, under paid and hardly grateful people. Sounds harsh I know, but it's the truth. America's not a bad place, in fact it's the greatest nation on earth, other than the Scandinavia, Canada, Australia...well you get the point. Really though, there a lot of positive idea's and values that stem from American minds, it's just that so many of them go un practiced in America.

There really is a lot to be thankful for in our nation. Our dysfunctional, broken and often useless government is not one of them. Our sub standard minimum wage, over priced healthcare system and  failing education system are also all hard to be thankful for. Especially when the stock market is soaring, corporate profits are at an all time high and conservative tea party politicians complain about the $36 per person, per year that welfare cost Americans verses the $6000 per person per year that big business subsides cost Americans. Those things are all difficult places to find thanks in. But really when you look at the big picture things are good. Unless you're gay, black, hispanic, female, or a non-citzen, then things are still pretty tough. Given the continued resistance to comprehensive immigration reforms by Tea Party Republicans, the continued targeting of Black and Hispanic Americans by conservative state governments, the assault on voter rights for these populations and places like Oklahoma being willing to simply cut out benefits all together rather than provide them for gay couples, there might not be a whole lot to be thankful for.

Perhaps I'm being to hard, perhaps I'm being unpatriotic and un American, after all what's more American than gluttony and over indulgence, of which both we engage in at their finest over the thanksgiving holiday, i.e stuffing ourselves full of turkey, potatoes and pie on thursday and rushing to the store (now on thursday evening) the next guy to buy, buy, buy!!! This Holiday was never about family, friends and thanks. It's about them in theory, but in 1941 when the government made it a national day of thanks, it was about setting up the Xmas holiday season and the economic push that comes from it. Really if we wanted to celebrate the harvest we'd do it when the Canadians do it in October, when stuffs actually being harvested. By the end of November much of the nation is blanked with snow, ice and cold weather and the harvest has been over for about two months.

So does this mean this is all for not, all at a lose, just big and fabricated attemped to trick us into the holiday spirit so that we can buy, buy, buy? Is it only a contrived sense of being thankFUL so that we can have an excuse for being so FULL on food and stuff while 2/3 of the world lives on less than $1.25 a week? I suppose we could continue being that critical about it and get nothing out of it at all, but what good would that do? I propose that we take the GIVING part seriously and reflect on our God given opportunities to Give to those in need this year, and be full of giving and not just full.

St. Paul tells the Corinthians in 2nd Corinthians 9 that giving and generosity, charitably and graciousness are all gifts from God and that they should be thankful that they have the chance to give. It is a blessing to be able to give, both of resource and of hearts. As we enter into the holiday season lets consider how we can be thankful about our opportunity to give (those of use who have been blessed with more than we need.) This thanksgiving please be considerate of the other and try being full of thanks giving and not just simply FULL.

Happy Holidays,
Pastor Josh

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Right or wrong...you agreed: Issues of convent within United Methodist clergy vows

I'm a pretty moderate guy. I think myAssemblies of God, LCMS Lutheran, and evangelical friends would say I'm a bit left leaning, while my Main line buddies, i.e ELCA, DOC, UCC, PCUSA, etc would say I'm a little more conservative than they're comfortable with. So I think with them both being uncomfortable with many of my positions it makes me a good candidate for being a moderately progressive evangelical :) lol. Truth is I like to play both sides of the fence. Not to be controversial or "wishy washy", but because I think the heart of a truly reflective reformer wrestles with societies major issues and treads lightly within them.

The big issue trending within UMC Facebook groups and the religious media world is the trial of the Pennsylvania UMC pastor who, several years ago, married a gay couple. This is against the rule and Discipline of the United Methodist Church. It is a crime, a chargeable offense, which ought to result in the defrocking of any clergy who willing violates this rule. As is the case with most political, social and religious issues, I have an opinion...and so does everyone else. :)

As a UMC pastor, a role which I love and cherish, I am bound by covenant to up hold the doctrines and standards of the United Methodist Church. Let me preface any further statments with this: I love the UMC. If it were not for the UMC I would not have any faith to speak of. They came into my life when I was fed up with an empty, theologically bankrupt and socially irrelevant church. With that being said, all this fighting and arguing and the very real possibility of schism saddens me greatly as it should all peoples called Methodist. As sad as I am about the fighting and stuff, I'm even more saddened by other UMC clergy and their willingness to openly violate and disobey the rules and covenant they vowed to up hold. Thats what its all about...the total disregard for order and covenant.

I have always been a supporter of Gay rights, gay marriage and LGBTQI inclusion into the the life of the church...FULL INCLUSION, but I refuse, and so should all clergy, to willingly violate our covenant with the the church to further our own ideals. Do we not believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in our times of Holy Conferencing? General Conference has ruled since the late 70's to not allow Gay marriage and openly gay clergy. This is the body that speaks for the church, the world wide collection of United Methodists being led by the Holy Spirit...right? If we do not believe this than whats the point? Either we believe the Holy Spirit is active and working in Holy Conferencing or She's not, but which is it?

I whole heartedly believe that there will come a day where the church will have to move forward and fully accept LGBTQI persons, both into the ordained ministry and into the Sacramental act of marriage, but that day is obviously not today. Not only will we have to, but it's the right thing, but not like this. The Holy Spirit will speak through Holy Conferencing when the time is right. He has in the past, She will in the future. Until that day we need to hold the lines, remain faithful, and up hold the doctrine and Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Death and Resurrection

I have, unfortunately, been around a lot of death over the past 6 weeks. Two funerals with church members, the untimely death of a young girl who is the cousin to one of my parishioners, the death of an 18 month old, and an uncle from each side of my family. It's been hard and emotional. I have had some form of connection to each one of these people who have died, if not directly then indirectly through friendship and such. It doesn't really matter how well you know a person when they die, I mean it does, but what's really difficult is watching the survivors try to sort it all out, that makes it painful, that makes it tough for everybody.

The Onaway Church two of it's greatest, most supportive and patriotic saints in Clarence and Tom. Both these men were life long Methodist who worked hard to see that the work of the church continued. Their deaths we unfortunate, but not untimely and not sudden or out of place. I was fortunate to celebrate the lives with their families. One of my favorite waitresses from the local restaurant lost her Grandpa this week and one of my parishioners, a young mom, lost her 17 year old cousin to a tragic car accident over the weekend.

My Uncle Keith died in October. He overdosed on Oxy. He had no children that we know of, he was a life long addict and never could hold a job. But he was my uncle, my mothers baby brother and it's hard. He died for no real reason, he died young (54) and he died without having accomplished much in life. Despite all that he will be missed and there is loss associated with his passing, if only it's experience by my mother, its loss and it's significant.

My other uncle, from my fathers side, died after a very brief (3 months) battle with lung cancer. We was my dads baby brother. I never have seen my father cry, not even at grandpa's funeral, but when Rick died...he sobbed. I was not close to Rick, but I am close to his sons, my cousins, who are like brothers to me and whom were estranged to their father for the past two years. I'm sad, because they (cousins and dad) are so impacted by this sudden passing. He also was and most likely will be the last owner of my families business in Northville, MI, the Asher Citgo/76/UniCal/Pure Oil gas and service station, circa 1948. All those memories, my grandfathers legacy, a life time for multiple generations died with Rick that day.

As sad and tragic as all those things are they are hard pressed to compare to the loss that my colleagues Mike and Bri have expereinced. Their 18 month old son Carl recently passed away after a long battle with lukemia. He died last week at his home in his mother arms. TRAGIC. I only know Mike and Bri through various district and conference events, but of all the deaths I've been around the past 6 weeks, even the ones in my own family, none have touched my heart, made me cry and just simply stopped me in my tracks like the death of baby Carl. I hope and pray they find peace and hope in their faith that sustains them through this thing which no parent should ever have to experience, the death of their baby.

With all that sadness and death and stuff it's had to look up, it's hard to see straight and to keep moving forward. The one thing that provides peace and hope is the promise of resurrection. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians puts it this way, "We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’- I Corinthians 15:51-54

Because of Jesus we win. Death is not an end as it aspires to be, but a beginning, an eternity of peace and rest. God rest the souls of all who have died over these past weeks and may the peace of God which transcends all understanding grant those who are left behind hope.