Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Whale's Tale

The lectionary for this Sunday, Epiphany 3, has Jonah as the Old Testament Lesson. Jonah has to be one of the most humorous books in all of the Bible. A reluctant prophet, you remember, is sitting about the house when a voice calls. He isn't sure but thinks it might be God. The voice calls him to go to Ninevah and preach. Ninevah, that huge city in Assyria,that people who were so brutal to Israel, that people so hated by the Jews.

And, rightly so. Hate is always one of those things that we think we have a right to, isn't it? I have a right to hate you if you do me wrong. Hate is also just an emotional response to hurt and pain. The hurt may be minimal or it may be terrific. Hate is that destructive wish for ill.

This text is used in the Jewish lectionary for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). This is the day in Judaism when the people of God confess and expect to be forgiven. One Jewish writer said that she was not happy with this. She says that every time she hears anything about forgiveness and mercy she thinks of the Holocaust.

I certainly cannot understand the depths of sorrow and suffering that were visited on the Jewish people and others during WWII. That is an evil that is beyond my imagination.

The call on Yom Kippur is to enter into this kind of pact of mercy. And, we Christians hear it later from Jesus: "Love your enemies." It is this remarkable revelation that God is merciful. And, as an old teacher of mine used to say: My enemies are not God's enemies.

That's a tough word for anybody who has been hurt by someone or some people who have been abused. So, Jonah after a brief stint in the belly of a fish, preaches and Ninevah, in the tale, turns around and accepts God's terms. Jonah is angry at God. For what? He says: "I knew you were a God of love and mercy, steadfast love. And, it makes me sick."

Is there someone or someones who have done you wrong? And...I told you it was humorous, didn't I?
Dave Nichols

Friday, January 16, 2009

MLK Unity Prayer Breakfast

On yesterday morning, 7:30am, some 1,000 of us pastors, business leaders, police and fire responders, school officials, and citizens joined together in a prayer breakfast for MLK's birthday celebration. Anyone my age and older remembers the events of the sixties and civil rights. I remember as a boy asking my mother, who worked at the courthouse,why it was that there were two water fountains and two restrooms, one for whites and one labelled "colored..." My mother responded with: "It's stupid." She meant it and it stayed with me.

As we watched the events, marches, etc, on television my mother would say: "It should have happened sooner..." I watched and listened as Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I have a Dream" speech. It was compelling and deeply moving to me. (watch it at the following link:

Now, many years later in Spartanburg, SC, we were there, people of all colors, nationalities, diversity at its best. It was a dream fulfilled. The Mayor gave a very moving speech himself about our working together for the betterment of our city and world. I am grateful to our mayor for his leadership in the midst of our differences. He reaches out across the proud lines of separation.

And, while we are not yet all that we would want to be. As a Christian pastor, I know that this is not yet the Kingdom of God, but I also know that this is moving in the right direction. This is an image of what God wants for us.

Other events to symbolize unity in community will be celebrated over the next few days. Our prayer is that all wars may cease, violence may diminish, and love may grow. In the name of the Prince of Peace, we make our prayer.

Dave Nichols

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

City Wide Prayer Breakfast

It's a busy week with meetings every night. Thanks God every week is not like this. But, it's the first of the year and we need to meet all of the administrative committees to get things organized for the new year. In addition to the night meetings I have two Prayer Breakfasts.

This morning I attended the City Wide Prayer Breakfast for those who love and serve Spartanburg, SC. This is the eighth year of this United Methodist Women's sponsored event at Bethel.

The speaker was Mayor Bill Barnet who gave a challenging and graceful speech. He is a good leader and we are fortunate to have him in our city. A group from Silver Hill United Methodist Church sang beautifully. The fellowship hall was filled with people who were joining in prayer for all those who serve: first responders, protectors of the city, all who love and serve often without recognition.

Everybody there was aware that difficult times are ahead. The mayor warned of 14% unemployment, maybe. That means that suffering will be extended to many who will be out of work.

We prayed for God's help as we seek to do God's will in Spartanburg. May God use our diversity and our likenesses to help move this city forward. May we reach out even more to those in need. And, may we with faith reach out even more to each other.

Dave Nichols

Monday, January 12, 2009

Prayer in Troubled Times

I have learned sometimes that prayer is as meaningful in worship as the sermon. It is also just as spirit-forming. Sometimes rather than preaching at people praying with them does more. In prayer before God, the congregation is open, and sometimes more vulnerable, less able to resist.

Last Sunday, I took the opportunity to pray about our times and about our new president. Many commented that it was a helpful prayer. I hope it is helpful to you. Here it is:

O God of all creation, whose love is over all his works, whose will is ever directed toward his children’s good. We are praying, and we are listening to you, for you, for your word. We come to worship this day with some concern.

The last six months we have watched things spiral downward. Some of us have lost our jobs; some have lost their homes; some have lost their savings; some, their retirement. We know that you have always taught us that money is a fickle lover; you taught us not to put our trust in riches, not to look to money for fulfillment or for security.

And yet…here we are. Afraid that things will get worse; afraid that things will not turn around…afraid…Can you hear that, Lord?

We know that you can make things different and new. You turned water to wine, you set slaves free, you sent your son into the world…We know you can, but what will you do, O God?

Into and out of this kind of world we come and go. Remind us, O God, that everything belongs to you. Remind us that we can trust you to bring us back, to restore, to heal.

O God, our country is about to inaugurate a new president, one different from all the rest. You, who came, not as a white man but as a Jew, open our eyes to the wonders that are doing among us still. We pray for Barak Obama, for his family and for all who will be a part of his new administration. We pray for him safety and success.

We ask your care for President Bush as he moves back to private life. We give thanks for his willingness to serve, his courage in 911, and his love for our country.

Now, in this moment, let your Holy Spirit come, with power, with joy, to lift our hearts again in faith. Be with all who are sick or in need. And, guide us as we seek to do your will.

In the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us all to pray saying…Our Father...


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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