March 4, 2010
Dear Centenary friends,
Just when I think the news cannot get any more disturbing and disconcerting, another headline grabs my attention and brings a new low: ?Dodge County Couple use sex with daughter as payment for van ? Parents trade teen for car payments?. How much lower can you get? So that worm of cynicism works its way into my psyche and I wonder, ?What has happened to the world??
Annie Dillard, author extraordinaire, wrote this about our leapfrogging cynicism: ?There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but ONLY US, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers and mothers are all dead ? as if innocence had ever been. We consider ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and we have grown exhausted. But THERE IS NO ONE BUT US. There never has been.?
I call on us to step back - to reflect - to be - and to understand that our call is to interface with the world in redemptive ways. Being paralyzed by the various crosscurrents in the world is not an option. In the face of seemingly overwhelming difficulties our call is to be faithful - to make a difference here and there? with that person? and that one? and that one. Rationalizing our lack of ability to stem the tide is not an option. Really.
Our points of celebration may be more singular than corporate. I recall that there was a young adult, born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, who seemed to pay attention to people as individuals. He called them to faithfulness ? whatever happened. ?Follow me? was his directive. He seemed to be saying ?Follow me ? Now figure this out.?
So? I call myself and you to a new energy of living affirming that the way we live makes a difference. Why should depression, failure, fear, and cynicism sit on the throne of your life?
The response to the ?Who is Jesus ? Really?? series has been incredible. Please know that you can join us at any time as the series unfolds. Here is where we have been and where we are headed:
Jan. 31 ? Who is Jesus - Really? Misconceptions of Jesus
Feb. 7 ? Jesus the Jew
Feb. 14 ? The Politics of Jesus
Feb. 21 ? Jesus the Healer
Feb. 28 ?David Dark and Buddy Green ? A theological and musical conversation at Centenary
Mar. 7 ? Jesus and the Message ? Parables
Mar. 14 ? Jesus and the Message ? Miracles
Mar. 21 ? Jesus and the Cross
Mar. 28 ? Palm Sunday - Jesus and the Kingdom of God
April 4 ? Easter ? Jesus and Resurrection
April 11 ? Jesus and Doubt
April 18 ? I Love to Tell the Story ? Final sermon in the series
This Sunday I will be reflecting on how Jesus chooses to communicate his message concerning the Kingdom of God. I hope you will be present!
The Dark-Greene event last weekend was GREAT! Many have communicated that it was an outstanding opportunity to celebrate together. I agree. Thank you to many who labored all day Saturday and Sunday to make sure everything went smoothly.
Grace and Peace.
Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. Serve.
March 18, 2010
Dear Centenary Friends,
If you saw this one particular picture, you would say, ?Is that Helen Willoughby?s mother?? The resemblance is uncanny. Helen is, no doubt, her mother?s daughter. Sarah Lee Shelley, Helen?s mother, was buried yesterday in George Washington Carver Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama.
Several of us made the trip to be supportive of Rogers and Helen during this time of grief. For years, Helen?s mother has been in a nursing home in Birmingham. There have been times when Helen has wondered whether her mother even knew her. But Helen has been faithful, travelling back and forth to check on her mother and the extended family.
I discovered much about Helen?s roots at the funeral. Upon arriving at McDonald Chapel, the area just outside of Birmingham where Helen was raised, I pulled into a gas station to ask the way to the church. The elderly African American man to whom I addressed the question looked me up and down and said, ?You going to Mrs. Shelley?s funeral?? ?Yes, Sir?, I replied. ?We are friends of her daughter, Helen, and have come from Macon to be present for the funeral service.? He looked at me again. ?Well, my name is McDaniel and I am Helen?s second cousin.?
?Where can we grab a quick bite to eat before the funeral??, I asked McDaniel. ?Follow me?, he replied. Jerry Elder and Talisa Hanson were with me. We made so many turns to get to a McDonald?s I thought we would never find our way back to the church. I assumed McDaniel was showing us where to eat and would leave us there. But no? his style is one of radical hospitality. McDaniel came in and sat down with us. ?Let me buy you lunch,? I offered. ?Nope. I was here this morning. I meet a group of guys almost every morning here to eat and drink coffee. I want to tell you that this morning we solved ALL the problems in the world and we are nearly finished with solving all of the religious questions in the world.? His eyes sparkled.
After we ate, McDaniel said, ?follow me? and he took us back to the church in time for the funeral. I could not help but think of that wonderful Jesus quote, ??and if anyone asks you to go one mile, go the second mile too?? (Matthew 5:41). McDaniel took that quote seriously in terms of his hospitality to strangers.
We found out that McDaniel is 70 years old, fought in the Vietnam War, was in the Navy for 9 years, has worked in mines, and has had several other jobs. ?Are you going to the funeral??, I inquired. ?Yep ? I just don?t believe in dressing up?, he said as he eyed me with a coat and tie. I smiled on the inside.
I met Helen?s brothers and sisters. Her parents were married for 63 years before her father died several years ago. How wonderful it was to see the family gather, and smile, and hug.
We are blessed by Helen and Rogers Willoughby. They give themselves in remarkable ways to the Centenary faith community. We lift them up during this time of grief.
Grow and Swap ? Saturday, March 20 ? 2:00 until 4:00 pm - 1080 Magnolia Street. Dr. Carolyn Yackel is coordinating this effort for Centenary and the entire community. What is a Grow and Swap? The Grow & Swap is simply a plant exchange. People bring bulbs and perennials divided from their own gardens and the extras from vegetable six-packs that they only needed to plant part of in their own gardens. It's an opportunity for us to share with one another what is given to us by Mother Nature. All left over vegetables will be donated to the Centenary Community Garden.
Jack Castle is teaching ?Difficult Bible Passages? on Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m. The class is in a room below the sanctuary. You are welcome to attend!
This Sunday we continue the series ?Who is Jesus ? Really?? My sermon will focus on Jesus and the Cross. I hope that you will come be a part of worship!
Grace and peace.
Love God. Love others. Love yourself. Serve.
March 30, 2010
Dear Centenary Friends,
The view from the foot of the cross is traumatic, disgusting, bloody, messy, confusing, nonsensical, violent, nightmarish, convicting, communal, disturbing?. And yet it is hopeful.
All of humanity stands at the foot of the cross, for in our various ways we nail God to a tree by using politics as a hammer, by disregarding the worth of others, by abusing some in our lives, by hurting the environment (a gift from God), by hoarding what we have? you name it. But then there are those incredible words: ?Father, forgive them because they don?t know what they are doing.? Can any statement be more inclusive? Hope is interjected into despair and despair crumbles.
This word of hope and forgiveness occurs prior to the resurrection. It is like a prelude, signaling that which is coming.
We are a forgiven people. Thanks be to God.
Thursday at 6 p.m. in our sanctuary we will be remembering The Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples. Come share in this Maundy Thursday service.
Bring flowers on Easter! The cross in the sanctuary will be prepared to place all sorts of flowers all over it. You can pick whatever you wish and it will be incorporated into the incredible work of corporate art. Bring some flowers and come early to Easter Worship so that your flowers can be placed on the cross prior to the service.
This Sunday I will be preaching ?A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance?. Spread the word and bring family and friends with you to Easter Sunday services.
Grace and peace.
Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. Serve.