Archive for June 2020

Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Sometimes people send you things that you know that you just have to share. As we engage with the ongoing question of racism and racial unrest in our nation, one of our church family, Shannon Randolph, sent us a prayer that expresses powerfully how I feel. I asked her if I could share it with you:

Reconciliation

We acknowledge our part in this time – our responsibility in this season. We come, with heavy hearts. On our watch, we have abdicated our duties with the sins of omission and commission, choosing not to see what is clearly in front of us. The foundation of Your throne, righteousness and justice, has not been upheld by Your people who know this. Now the fruit of our apathy, denial, disregard and ignorance is manifesting. We plead guilty to it all. We have not stewarded Your heart expressed in diversity. Every human is our brother. Though our hearts cannot truly comprehend or feel the weight of this egregiousness, still we come and repent. We want to change our ways. We fall on Your mercy, asking for help for our weak flesh. We can do nothing apart from You. We are Your people, called by Your name. We humble ourselves and seek Your face. We turn from our wicked ways. We know You hear from heaven and will forgive our sins. We repent of any participation in racist words or actions that we have fed the beast that has led us to this place in history. We take on this lifestyle and present our lives to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Holy Spirit pierce us until we practice every ‘one another’ in Your word. Lead us and show us how to do this. Heal our wounded hearts so we can do what’s in Your heart to heal our land. Have Your way.

Psalm 60:2-3
You have made the earth tremble, You have broken it. Now come and heal it, for it is shaken to its depths. You have shown Your people hard things and made us drink the wine of bewilderment. 
Acts 17:26 Lord, You have set the boundaries of peoples and nations, even appointing our time in history.

Lord, increase our sensitivity.  We bow in Your grace, that our words would become appropriate actions, that we would face correction, own our mistakes, apologize for wounds inflicted and represent You well.
Jesus, You came to reconcile ALL things to Yourself, the things of earth and heaven, making peace through Your shed blood on the cross. We focus on the triumph of the gospel. Let the redemption of reconciliation begin in this arena. Bind us together with cords of love that cannot be broken, that we may be made one, as You prayed, that the world would know You are love
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Decree: Our current national pain of racial injustice will become the burning wick of revival and justice, fanned into the flames of the Great Awakening.

Posted June 23, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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In a Hurry?   Leave a comment

I have written often in the past weeks about the impact COVID 19 is making on the epidemic of busyness and hurry that has been infecting our culture increasingly in recent years. In many ways this epidemic far more subtle and dangerous than the current pandemic and threatens to last long after our current hardships are a thing of the past. Unless of course we decide together to take steps to make sure it does not!

It would seem the strategies that must be adopted to conquer this sickness are far more difficult to articulate. There are no vaccines or antibodies, there are just choices and decisions. These choices however may be strange and difficult for those around us to understand. If we find it difficult to wear a mask for the safety of others how easy will it be to resist the temptation to over schedule and allow the joy of family time to be squeezed out once again?

This short passage from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin explains the challenges of setting and implementing effective strategies to slow down and trust God and His word.  

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually— let them grow, let them shape  themselves without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you. And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete                                            Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

The time to begin thinking and planning patterns for the future is now so we are as ready as we can be as we move forward. Have you any ideas you can share with us?

Posted June 20, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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Whose Life Matters?   1 comment

If you read what I wrote recently about” generalizations and assumptions” the content of this blog should not surprise you. I am getting increasingly frustrated with the steady flow of reminders that “all lives matter”

Of course they do! What line of thinking leads you to the assumption that when someone says “black lives matter” that somehow the implication is that other lives do not? 

Recently I read a couple of things which respond to my frustration very powerfully and since I have a pathological aversion to entering to social media “ discussions” I wanted to share them with you to make it clear how I feel.

Firstly I was reminded of the story Jesus told in Luke 15:3-7 where he tells of the shepherd who has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost. He immediately leaves the ninety-nine and goes in search of the one.

Does that imply that Jesus did not care about the ninety-nine? Of course not but it was the one who in danger that he needed to give his full attention to until they were safe.

Right now we are being reminded that the lives of our black brothers and sisters are at risk in ways that we may have been overlooking for a long time. ( if you think I am wrong take time to watch the documentary “13TH” and form your own opinion).

The second was this almost amusing analysis I saw on Facebook ( yes I look at it sometimes !) It was shared by Kevin Dodd who I do not know but to whom I am very grateful. It may not have the authority of scripture but its simple logic is powerful:

‘When the Boston marathon was bombed everybody’s profile picture went to “Boston Strong”. 

Nobody said, “ All cities are strong!” 

When the shooting took place in Las Vegas everybody changed the profiles to “Stand with Las Vegas”

Nobody said, “ What about the people who were shot in my city?”

Have you ever seen someone counter a breast cancer post by “ what about colon cancer?”

But for some reason when someone posts that “black lives matter” it turns into the all-inclusive ‘all lives matter”

It is not an either/or a proclamation. When there is a crisis we have always rallied around that particular group. It does not diminish or discredit any other group. It just brings awareness and support to the group that needs attention”

So that is where I stand. Disagree with me in any way you like but please do so on the basis of a thought-through opinion based on facts. Please avoid using the absurd assumption that because I assert that something matters it automatically implies that nothing else does.

Thankyou.

Can We Change?   1 comment

Generalizations and assumptions infuriate me! People assume they know which political party I would support just because I am a Christian. When assumptions are made about what I believe or don’t believe about a range of ethical or moral issues. All this without asking or listening to what I might say.

Recently I have been learning some very challenging lessons about some much more fundamental generalizations that are deeply embedded in the culture of our society. It is hard to realize that because of these, often unconscious, assumptions, people that I love sometimes experience life very differently than I do. Confronting the idea of “white privilege” that I never realized I had but that is a very painful and sometimes daily reality for many of my friends who live without it. It is also hard to find some of my friends seem not to be able to see these things and find the very idea of them offensive. Perhaps they, like me, have not yet really listened to the life experiences of some of those close to them. 

I had never considered what it is like to feel genuine fear for my children when they leave home; to dread what the consequences might be if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and say the wrong thing. I have never wondered if my neighbor of more than twenty years might greet me in my driveway and suggest I “go back to the islands” again! I have never left the supermarket to have someone pass me and accuse me of bringing COVID 19 into the country. These are real experiences of real people! I could go on… But neither have I been the family member of a committed and caring policeman or woman who, because of the reprehensible behavior of a few who wear the uniform, feel judged and alone. Each of these completely unacceptable experiences are the consequence of unacceptable generalizations.

 At the risk of being accused of an oversimplification of these incredibly complex issues, I want to make a couple of suggestions for some small steps forward and be part of change. I suggest we all take some time to listen and learn about those we know who are different than we are. That we make time to ask them about their experiences that are different than ours.  Being a man of course I want to “fix everything today”! I know this is not possible and the journey forward is long but taking these steps is certainly changing me and that’s a start. I feel sure it can be for you as well if you take the risk! 

No longer silent   Leave a comment

These are times when we must not keep silent! I am publishing this lament,  which I shared during our Sunday service this week because I believe these are issues on which we must persevere relentlessly until we see change. (If you prefer to see/ listen here is a link to this part of our Sunday service)

I feel greatly privileged to be the pastor of such a gloriously diverse church. However in recent days I have been challenged. Many of my closest friends are ethnically different from me and because I do life with them on a regular basis I have found it easy to overlook the fact that often they and their families experience life in a different way than I do. That although the news reports of lost lives that we have had recently in Minnesota and Georgia and incidents like the one in a park New York bring deep sorrow to me, they touch their lives in a far deeper and personal way. Although there is no way as a white male I can fully enter into their pain I want to find a way to stand with them. 

As a pastor in a place that is populated primarily with people like me who experience white privilege through accident of birth I have a strong sense that we should take some action to stand for what we believe and  stand in unity with all our brothers and sisters. Please resist any attempt to politicize what I am saying or respond in any way that does anything other than unify us in these difficult times.

Recently I have been learning about lament and so this morning I am going to lead us as  a church in a prayer of lament. We we see laments in many of the psalms and in other parts of scripture. We begin by turning towards God in our pain and not away and we cry our complaint to him. We follow that by begging Him to fulfill the promises He has made and finish by expressing our trust in Him as our only refuge and strength. 

Heavenly Father, we come to you in deep sorrow over recent events that cause some of our brothers and sisters to live in fear. events that seem to repeat themselves with such regularity that there is little time for recovery. Events that cause many of our friends deep grief, fear and sometimes isolation. It has been so easy for us to say this is not us. But it is us this is our country,  these are our communities and our people. We stand with the prophet Isaiah and confess “ we are a people of unclean lips. ( Is 6:5) Like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane our souls are overwhelmed with pain. 

All of this comes when we are experiencing unprecedented chaos all over our world thousands are grieving the loss of loved ones and many more remain sick. All around us are those with passionate and diverse opinions about the way forward. Often they express these perspectives in ways that have an increasing tendency to divide rather than unite. Our minds are flooded with questions as to  why these things happen? How could you allow it ? Where are you, and have you forgotten us?

We plead with you Heavenly Father to forgive us for times when we have not spoken or acted when we should, and for those times we have said or done things we should not have.  Forgive us for the times we have not “learned to do good, we have not sought justice or helped the oppressed when we have failed to defend the cause of the orphans or to fight for the rights of widows.”( Is 1:17) Bring the judgement you promise. Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24)  Bring the healing and comfort you promise to those in deep sorrow and restore the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). Fulfill your promises to redeem and restore our devastated and broken world that we may experience the peace that passes all understanding you promised and the perfect unity you prescribed. As the Psalmist says “ send [us] a sign of your favor, then those who hate [us]] will be put to shame, for you O Lord help and comfort [us}.(Psalm 86:7)

Heavenly Father we know that despite what we see and feel You are our refuge a strength a very present help in trouble. We know you are King of Kings and Lord of Lords.   We know that even what the enemy plans for evil you turn it for our good and we long for your return in glory when you will wipe away every tear and until that day we ask that you will give us strength and courage to be your hands and feet to each other and the world around us. Show us how to stand for truth and justice while remembering that vengeance is yours and yours alone. We ask all this in the powerful and mighty name of our risen Lord Jesus 

Amen