It breaks my pastor heart to see how divided we are in our world today. We gravitate to the things that separate us and focus on how we are different, often at the cost of meaningful relationships and potential connections. I wonder how many opportunities for sharing the transformational love of Christ we miss because of the divisive nature of our world?
Christina was reading Malcom Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers a few weeks ago and it proved to be a source of healthy discussion in our family about how we engage with those that we don’t know and the nature of our modern society built around areas of trust and distrust. Have you ever examined yourself for how you engage with those you don’t know or who are different than yourself?
It has been encouraging for Mark and me to see and hear the conversations at the various home gatherings over the last few weeks. First-Centenary is a congregation that has a storied history and is comprised of a variety of theological views. It is that diversity that allows us to be a voice and leader in the Chattanooga area. Breaking bread in different homes with different groups of congregation members has reminded me of the practice of Jesus to eat with strangers and enter into intentional relationship with those around him.
Our Clergy team continues to keep our congregation in our prayers as we move into a divisive election year and a tense time of denominational identity, it is my hope that we would seek out both intentional relationship within the Body of Christ and developing intentional relationship out in the community in order that all might come to know the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
In Christ, Will
Published on Friday, February 14, 2020 @ 2:23 PM EDT
For many of us, as we frame the Christian year, it is Christmas and Easter that are most significant. Although there are many other important days in the life of the church, now with Advent in the rear view mirror, it is Lent we are anticipating. Likewise, in the sweep of the Bible, for many Christians there are two big events. Especially for many of us who have lived much of life in the Bible belt, those two mega events are, one, sin and two, salvation...or the fall and redemption.
As critical as sin and salvation are to our life as followers of Christ, a two part perspective of the Bible is incomplete. Theologians far more knowledgeable than Clark, proclaim that the biblical narrative, from Genesis to Revelation, is best seen through four parts...creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.
The creation account of Genesis 1 and 2 are so important because it answers the big questions of: who is God, who does He say I am, and why do I do what I do? Since we are not beamed up to heaven when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the restoration narrative provides light on our lifetime of work.
Think of the work you do after becoming a Christian. Do not think of work narrowly as what you do for financial compensation. Rather think of work as contribution, i.e. stay at home parent, family caregiver, student, retired, as well as being in the marketplace.
God at this very moment, right here in river city, wants to use your contribution to help renew this old planet earth.
Take time to pray about how your work, as contribution, is aligning with God’s great restoration initiative. Until Christ’s second coming, the biblical narrative tells us, in every season of our lives, our contribution through ‘work’, should be helping renew the kingdom of God, here on earth.
Published on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 @ 3:36 PM EDT
Many are continuing to pray for the future of the United Methodist Church and our First-Centenary family. Home Gatherings are scheduled and YOU ARE INVITED! You may contact Cindy Ruff, [email protected] to confirm your plans to attend one of these meetings.
In preparation for this time, you might want to consider this and other questions: “Since we believe that God loves all people, how do we as the Body of Christ share His unconditional love and intentionally develop relationships with our neighbors?” A great follow-up question is: “Who is our neighbor?”
The following excerpt from a prayer for Solidarity and Justice is provided on the United Methodist Church website, www.gcorr.org, by the General Commission on Religion and Race. There, you may read the entire prayer to go along with any personal concerns you may have.
“Let us seek world peace, social justice and environmental balance, which begins (sic) with our own breathing. We breathe in calmly and breathe out mindfully…We try to expand our understanding with love to help build a more nonviolent world. We vow to live simply and offer ourselves to the oppressed. By the grace of the compassionate ones and with the help of good friends may we be partners in lessening the suffering of the world so that it may be a proper habitat for all…to live in harmony during the next millennium.”
As we continue to pray for one another, let us especially pray for environmental healing and for places around the world.
Published on Friday, January 31, 2020 @ 9:04 AM EDT
I wanted to give you further information about our Home Gatherings. I wonder if you have some of the following questions:
Who is leading the gatherings? Rev. Will lauderback and myself
Why are we having these Home gatherings? The answer is simple. At the end of twelve weeks of prayer and discernment, a representative group of congregational members developed a question to help us continue to focus on who we are and who God has called us to be. The intent of these Home Gatherings was primarily to discuss the traveling question that you see below. However, with the news of the new proposal for General Conference it appears the UMC is headed for big changes that some will applaud and others will dislike. After the General Conference in May, the United Methodist Church will be different. Therefore, these Home Gatherings are one of many opportunities you will have to gather more information about the upcoming General Conference, discuss the traveling question, pray together, and offer your thoughts. We are considering having Wednesday evening studies, Sunday school sessions, and gatherings on Sunday afternoons or Wednesday evenings leading up to and after General Conference.
Who can come to these Home Gatherings? Anybody and everybody is welcome . We tried to arrange meetings in different parts of the city. Check the list and sign up with Cindy at [email protected]
What can we expect to happen at these meetings?
One of the clergy persons will offer a devotion and time of prayer
The Clergy will provide information of the proposed plans going to General Conference "
Participants will have opportunities to ask questions. We will enter into small group conversation to discuss the following question: Since we believe that God loves all people, how do we as the body of Christ share His unconditional love and intentionally develop relationships with our neighbors? We will spend time talking about what it means to develop intentionally deeper relationships with the LGBTQ community and with neighbors of different racial, economic, and cultural backgrounds. This question will help us address the immediate concern before us but this question will also lay groundwork for who we, as FCUMC, desire to be in the future. I believe these Home Gatherings are laying a foundation of hope and vision for us to build upon for the future.
No matter the outcome in May we still have a calling to be light in a world that often feels so dark. May we always remember the mission in these uncertain times is to make Disciples for the transformation of the world.
I also believe I serve with a group of people committed to God, to each other, and to the mission of Christ! One of our most senior members is always saying to me, “This is my church. I’m not going anywhere! ” As we gather, I humbly ask that you continue to be in prayer for the UMC and especially for FCUMC. I also ask that you remember at all times and in all ways you and I are followers of the living Christ who calls us to love one another and be peacemakers.
I leave you with the words of Paul to reflect on and pray over in the following days: Ephesians 4:1-6 – I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Published on Friday, January 24, 2020 @ 10:24 AM EDT
An old Jewish proverb states, “If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.” Then Bono, the leader of the band U2, comes along and says, “it’s not about charity, it’s about justice.” I get the pleasure of writing this article as I still reflect on an offering of $103,000 by this congregation to build community centers/places of worship in two Gypsy villages. It is almost to the penny the amount that is needed to complete these facilities. First, I want to thank everyone that gave toward this offering. It shows that when we as the body of Christ keep our focus on the things that He called us to do, we, working together, can accomplish much.
Most of you will never get the privilege of seeing the faces of the kids that will be tutored in these buildings, or the ladies that will come together to wash clothes. Seems like a small thing, washing clothes . . . but most Gypsy kids will not go past the 8th grade – a big reason is because of the inability their families have to provide them with clean clothes. There are already six young men that are going to high school from one village because of your generosity. I think of the impact that this will have on their families and their village. Now who knows how many more kids will have the confidence to go on to further their education just because of clean clothes.
That brings me to Bono. It is not just about charity, but about justice. So many things are withheld from the Gypsy people, I won’t go into all the details. But, for so long a place to worship has been withheld from these folks. I think of all the ways we might use that money for our purposes at First-Centenary, or what you might have used it for in your own family. Thanks for “doing justice.” That is what God says in Micah 6:8 “do justice.” This offering is far more than charity. It is a means of bringing justice to at least 2 villages filled with people that justice is often withheld from. Honestly, thanks just doesn’t seem to be enough to say.
Geaux Tigers, Barry
Published on Thursday, January 16, 2020 @ 3:55 PM EDT