Whose Sin is the Greatest?

Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 5.34.11 PM

Recent events in Charlottesville and other scenes of destruction and death have produced in our country conflict and division about the rightness or wrongness of harmful actions and of any response thereto. No rational person I know approves of willfully hurting or harming a human being. Yet there are some on both sides who justify their side’s violent behavior in Charlottesville.

Can anyone in his or her right mind condone extreme ideology that leads to violence, whether in the form of vicious demonstration, vitriolic protest, or, even worse, suicide bombing or driving a vehicle into a crowd, in Charlottesville or Barcelona, that results in injury or death of innocent bystanders?

The actions of racists, Neo-Nazis, anti-Semitists, white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan, ISIS, and similar groups should be unequivocally condemned. The same condemnation is due any person or group who behaves violently for any reason other than genuine self-defense.

One related and causative issue that has developed into a highly emotional one is the endeavor to remove statues of Confederate heroes from the American landscape. The presenting reason is that these heroes condoned, endorsed, and practiced slavery and therefore their statues should be demolished or at least moved to a museum, out of sight of the majority of residents and tourists.

That begs a question. Where does one draw the line when determining whose statue to remove from public view, whose name to remove from a school building or street sign, and whose reputation to downgrade from hero to scoundrel on the basis of positions held or decisions implemented that now taint their historic heroic actions?

Is condoning and practicing the sin of racism in the form of slavery the only offense worthy of statue removal, school or street name change? What about other sins? Some United States presidents have had numerous extramarital affairs and children sired out of wedlock. Some were also involved in bribery, kickbacks, tax evasion, espionage, and gun-running scandals, to name a few less than godly activities.

So, whose sin is the greatest? The man who made his living on the backs of the slaves he owned or the man who found his pleasure in the bodies of the women he seduced?

Question: If statues of heroes are removed because they were racist, why we would not also remove any form of adulation of U.S. presidents who have committed adultery or any other grievous sin? Do we rename our nation’s capital because George Washington owned 317 slaves at the time of his death, even though he freed them through his will upon Martha’s death?

Whose sin is the greatest? Rom. 3:23 says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And Jesus says: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7.

Advertisements

Last Words

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 8.42.55 AM

This week’s quotes are the seven last words of Jesus from the cross:

  1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
  2. To a thief on the cross: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
  3. To Mary: “Woman, behold your son.” To John: “Behold your mother.” John 19:26-27
  4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
  5. “I thirst.” John 19:28
  6. “It is finished.” John 19:30
  7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46

As you contemplate these words and their meaning in your life, Terry and I express to each of you our prayers for a blessed Holy Week and a joyful Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord!

Reformation Courage

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-9-02-35-pmOctober 31 is the 499th anniversary of the Reformation, observed this Sunday. The blessing of the Reformation is the return of a distracted church to the truth of Christianity that eternal salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, through faith in Christ our Lord. Here’s a brief summary:

  • In the late 15thcentury the Catholic Church was afflicted by internal corruption.
  • The sale of “indulgences,” raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
  • Indulgences made people believe deceased loved ones could be released from purgatory.
  • The sales slogan was: “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
  • Onto this scene arrived a troubled man named Martin Luther.
  • Luther saw God as a God of justice and was tormented by fears over unresolved sin and guilt.
  • In a thunderstorm during which his traveling companion was killed by a bolt of lightning, Luther exclaimed, “Save me, St. Anne. I will become a monk!”
  • He survived, became a monk, but could find no peace with God through his own effort.
  • Luther’s discovery of God’s grace came from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  • Also Romans 1:16-17: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…The righteous shall live by faith.”
  • What happened next was an act of courage, motivated by the truth Luther had discovered.
  • He boldly spoke truth to power by posting his 95 theses, intended as an invitation for debate on topics of faith and church practice.
  • Pressure was placed on him to retract his criticism of church belief and practice.
  • He refused to do so and was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church.
  • Asked to retract his words, Luther stated: “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
  • Ultimately, Luther was excommunicated for refusing to retract his newfound beliefs.
  • Thus began what is known as the Protestant Reformation.

My Reformation question, to you and to myself, is this: If we were to conclude that a teaching or practice of the church was not based on clear passages of Scripture or was mandated by the church but not commanded by Holy Scripture or was not allowed by the church but not forbidden by Scripture, would we have the courage to speak our conviction?

Thank God for the Reformation courage Luther displayed in doing just that nearly 500 years ago!

A non-Mom speaks about Mother’s Day

Woman 1Late last night I saw this article. It’s worth sharing, even as a second Perspectives article on the same day: http://timewarpwife.com/open-letter-pastors-non-mom-speaks-mothers-day/

An Open Letter to Pastors (A non-Mom speaks about Mother’s Day) by Amy Young

Dear Pastor,

Tone can be tricky in writing. Picture me popping my head in your office door, smiling and asking if we could talk for five minutes. I’m sipping on my diet coke as I sit down.

You know that I’m not one to shy away from speaking my mind, part of the reason you love me (mostly!), so I’m guessing that internally you brace yourself wondering what might be next.

I set my can down and this is what I’d say.

A few years ago I sat across from a woman who told me she doesn’t go to church on Mother’s Day because it is too hurtful.  I’m not a mother, but I had never seen the day as hurtful. She had been married, had numerous miscarriages, divorced and was beyond child bearing years. It was like salt in mostly healed wounds to go to church on that day. This made me sad, but I understood.

Fast forward several years to Mother’s Day.  A pastor asked all mothers to stand. On my immediate right, my mother stood and on my immediate left, a dear friend stood. I, a woman in her late 30s, sat. I don’t know how others saw me, but I felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman.

Real women stood, empty shells sat. I do not normally feel this way. I do not like feeling this way. I want no woman to ever feel this way in church again.

Last year a friend from the States happened to visit on Mother’s Day and again the pastor (a different one) asked all mothers to stand. As a mother, she stood and I whispered to her, “I can’t take it, I’m standing.” She knows I’m not a mother yet she understood my standing / lie.

Here’s the thing, I believe we can honor mothers without alienating others. I want women to feel welcome, appreciated, seen, and needed here in our little neck of the body of Christ.

Do away with the standing. You mean well, but it’s just awkward. Does the woman who had a miscarriage stand? Does the mom whose children ran away stand? Does the single woman who is pregnant stand? A.w.k.w.a.r.d.

Acknowledge the wide continuum of mothering.

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Commend mothering for the ways it reflects the Imago Dei (Image of God) by bringing forth new life, nurturing those on her path, and living with the tension of providing both freedom and a safety net.

I know I might be an unusual one to be speaking about Mother’s Day; but maybe that’s why so many talk to me about mothering. I’ve got the parts, just not the goods.  Thanks for listening and for continuing to mother us in a shepherding way. Even though I’m a bit nervous to come on Sunday, I will be here. But if you make us stand, I might just walk out.

Warmly and in your corner,

Amy

This article is a wonderful reminder of the importance of pastoral sensitivity at all times, especially on occasions that may not be as joyful to some as to others. Thank you, Amy! God bless you!

Alcohol!

Beer 1Country and western singer Brad Paisley sings a song titled Alcohol. Here are some of the lyrics:

I can make anybody pretty, I can make you believe any lie; I can make you pick a fight with somebody twice your size. I’ve been known to cause a few breakups and I’ve been known to cause a few births. I can make you new friends or get you fired from your work.

I got blamed at your wedding reception for your best man’s embarrassing speech, and also for those naked pictures of you at the beach. I’ve influenced kings and world leaders; I helped Hemingway write like he did. And I`ll bet you a drink or two that I can make you put that lampshade on your head.

I got you in trouble in high school, and college, now that was a ball. You had some of the best times you’ll never remember with me! Alcohol! Alcohol!

Although I often listen to C&W music, that song is far from one of my favorites. Perhaps that’s because during my ministerial career I’ve seen havoc wreaked by and horrible results come from misuse and abuse of alcoholic beverages.

A headline from this past Sunday’s Austin American Statesman puts an exclamation mark on this topic. The article is titled Does Austin have a drinking problem? It was no doubt at least partially prompted by a drunken driving episode late last Thursday night in downtown Austin. Attempting to evade a police officer’s flashing lights, the driver plowed into a crowd of people, killing three innocent bystanders and inflicting serious injury upon a score of others.

This tragedy occurred during South by Southwest, a huge event bringing tens of thousands of people to Austin every year. Much good is received by those who attend the helpful parts of SXSW. While a significant percentage of attendees are not from Austin, lots of booze is consumed that week, adding to our community’s growing reputation as a city with a drinking problem.

To that point, the Statesman article states, in part: “In the five-county Austin metro area, almost $5 billion worth of alcohol was sold at bars and restaurants in the past 10 years … which doesn’t include sales at liquor or grocery stores. Statistics clearly show that no city in Texas spends more per capita for drinks than Austin.”

While the Psalmist praises God for bringing forth “wine to gladden the heart of man” (Ps. 104:15), the author of Proverbs adds: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (Prov. 20:1)

What’s the bottom line? “Do not get drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit … making music to the Lord in your heart.” (Eph. 5:18-19)

As some alcoholic beverage advertisements advise: “Drink responsibly!” Had the driver late last Thursday night in Austin heeded that counsel, the lives of innocent people would not have been ended. And his life would not have taken the irreversibly wrong turn it has taken as a result.