Tuesday, September 30, 2008

All Creatures of Our God and King

Yesterday while I was working in my office I heard a gun shot. It's an unmistable sound. I looked out my window and there were police officers everywhere. A crazed deer was injured and made its way to Bethel Church. It kept trying to jump out of the breezeway and kept hitting a wall. Officers relieved him of his misery.

Today the newspaper had a picture of the whole thing. One member commented that the Baptists had maimed the deer and it came over to the Methodist Church to seek refuge and, well...

Another emailed me that he would miss Wednesday night's meal but understood the menu had been changed to venison. Everybody's a commedian.

Just a few years ago, before I arrived, a deer broke through a window and ran down the main hall where it entered a Sunday School Class. The Youth Minister then commented to the Senior Pastor that he should preach a sermon to the deer and put him to sleep.

Today, all is well at Bethel Church. Everyone is a little shaken at the prospect of gunfire near us, but we'll survive.

This all reminded me of an something that I did when I was pastor at Clemson UMC. One Sunday I was preaching away about God's elusiveness. And, I told a story about hunting with these church members. They deposited me on a dirt road with my shotgun. They said: "Keep an eye out for the deer. We'll run any that we see this way."

A bit later, they all came running up in their trucks asking: "Did you shoot the deer." I said: "What deer?" I never saw a deer. They said: "It came this way."

I realize the obvious problem of talking about shooting a deer and shooting God. On the way out of church someone told me that in Sunday School that morning they talked about the National Park System and protecting wild life. Some days you can't win.

It is usually safe around here as we celebrate the gift of all creatures of our God and King.
Blessings on you!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tell them to Go Forward

This Sunday is my Sunday to preach in Spirit Song, our Contemporary Worship Service.  I will be using the lectionary text from Exodus 14, but I will specifically use verses 1-18.  And, I will focus on what God says to Israel.  God tells Moses: "Quit your complaining and tell the children of Israel to go forward."

"Going forward" sounds easy enough, doesn't it?  To go forward in your automobile, just put the gear in drive.  Or, walking you know to go forward means to walk toward something or somebody.  

In the text, Israel is caught between the Egyptians who are behind them and the Red Sea ahead of them.  I will say, in my sermon, that there were first some who wanted to go back, back to Egypt, and back to slavery.  Now, out in the desert they're saying things like: "Slavery wasn't all that bad.  At least back in Egypt we had jobs and a place to stay."  Nostalgia is a wonderful thing.  Israel asked Moses: "Why did you bring us out here in the desert- to die?  We told you to leave us alone and let us serve the gods of the Egyptians."

Sometimes as a pastor I'm out front telling the church that God is saying: "Go forward..."  And, I hear a faint refrain: "Just leave us alone and let us serve the way we're doing.  That's enough."

Some would go back if they could, to the past, to the way things used to be, to times gone by.  Of course, times gone by are not as good as we remember them.   Still, going backward seems a good idea.

Others want to stay where they are.  They say things like: "Let's just stay in the present and enjoy the moment.  Everybody's in such a hurry.  Just let us be here and now."  

But, the text says that God says: "Tell the children of Israel to go forward."  Of course, the reality is that many of God's people do live in the past, or the present, but God is always calling us to move on, to go forward, toward the future that God has prepared for us.

I know the older I get with much of my life behind me that it gets more difficult to talk about the future.  But, I also know that the God is Israel, the God of the Church, is calling us to keep moving into his future.  "Tell them,"  says God, "to go forward."

Are you going foward or backward on your faith journey?  Are you stuck in the past or present, unable to see the future?  Or are you trusting God to move us into whatever future God has for us?

Dave Nichols


Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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About Me

A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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