Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Get Ready to Meet God

The Advent Season is about getting ready to meet God. It reminds me of those signs that we used to see on the mountains when I was a boy. We’d be going up the Saluda Grade (NC). The curves were so sharp that we often got sick. Round and round we’d go and then up ahead we’d see something painted on the side of the mountain: “Get ready to meet God!” Well, I tell you I felt like I was going to meet God and soon. The First Sunday in Advent started this year with that marvelous Luke 21 and talk about the end of the age and the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds. We are warned to stay alert and wait and pray lest we miss the Messiah when he comes. I often wondered how anyone could miss him coming in the clouds, but… Then, the next couple of Sundays the Gospel takes out to the Jordan River where we meet that wild prophet of Israel, John the Baptist. Some scholars tell us that John was probably a member of the Essene community that had moved out to the desert, away from the evil city, to wait on the coming of the Messiah. He preaches a repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It sounds strange to us mainline, modern, Christians. Repentance is something that you hear revivalist preachers preach, not cultured uptown preachers like me. But, the Gospel for Advent, preparing us to meet God, takes us out to hear John. John says that a new world is coming so you’d better get washed up. Repent means to change your mind. The word in Hebrew means to turn around, to turn yourself. You’re walking away from God which we all tend to do, and repent means to turn around and go back toward God. No one is spared in John’s preaching, the religious, the rich, the average person. All are brought face to face with the reality of life without God. John was so impressive they wondered whether he was himself the Messiah. Some asked him: “What then should we do?” If the Kingdom is coming in Messiah, then what are we to do? Now, you might expect that he’d say something that sounds high-minded and thrilling like: “Go, save the world!” Or that one that we hear all the time around here: “Go change the world!” Instead John says: “If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn’t have one. Don’t steal from anyone. Treat all fairly. Be content with your wages.” Just take care of the little things, the simple stuff, and you’ll get yourself ready. No grand sweeping requirements, just simple acts of human kindness. Jesus, the Messiah, will take care of the grand sweeping stuff. You do what you can where you are. This Season is about being alert to meet God. Last Sunday we met God in the Children singing and celebrating and sharing the story of the hymn “Silent Night”. Next Sunday, the pipe organ and the youth/adult choirs will give us the love of God. In our quiet services of vespers we meet God/Christ in Holy Communion. And, in the many acts of kindness that you will do for others: the angel tree, money for the poor. In all these things, keep alert, God/Christ is just around the corner. John the Baptist says: “Here’s Jesus.” In him, the kingdom of God is met. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Passion to Give

I’m finally getting around to writing the last installment of my Discipleship Series ending, of course, with pledges toward the 2013 mission and ministry budget of the church. We United Methodists define discipleship as uphold the church and each other with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. This is about gifts and giving. It’s appropriate, I guess, that I write about giving in this season of Advent/Christmas. More people give during this time of year than any other. During this season, even the hardest heart is softened to share and give to others who need. Our angel tree which bears cards for children’s gifts for Christmas is already empty. We are gathering supplies to make flood buckets for those affected by hurricane Sandy; others have already given money to this. Last week, our parking lot was full of people lined up to register for Goodfellows, which gives gifts of food to needy families. Monies are raised every year for this from the community of Spartanburg. Christians are by nature giving people. They give in many ways. They give their time, talents, and money to support the work of God’s kingdom. And, every year just before Thanksgiving we appeal to each other to pledge to the mission of the church for another year. This year as we approached giving and pledging toward the church’s budget, I said that I am not a fundraiser. When God called me to preach, he didn’t say anything about raising money. He never said anything to me about this time of year. All I heard was: “Follow me and preach the Gospel.” My calling is to preach the Gospel and then I rely on God and my congregation to do the rest. My wife and I give; we tithe. We lead by example. I don’t know what anybody gives to the church unless they want me to know. Some are not concerned about my knowing and will share it with me. I am grateful. However, if you don’t tell me, I don’t know. I could. As Senior pastor, I have every right to know, but I elect not to know. Charlie Graves, a former Senior pastor, whom I buried recently, had a great impact on Bethel and the Spartanburg community. He once said that he didn’t want to know so that he wouldn’t be tempted to treat people differently. I feel the same way. What I expect is that every family will contribute something. I expect that every family will pledge. Giving all of our resources together we do, In Christ’s name, an extraordinary ministry here. The downside of not knowing is that some people communicate their feelings with their money. If someone withholds their giving, I don’t know it, unless they tell me. So, someone can stop giving and I would never know. My hope is that each person gives out of their love for Christ and his church. My hope is that they give as a response to what God has done and is doing in their lives. Now, if someone is waiting on the perfect church to give to, good luck. Giving is a reflection of my faith, and God promises to bless us if we give him something to work with? What are you giving God to work with? It is an exciting thing to see what God will do with five loaves and two fish. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Passion to Witness

Several years ago the United Methodist Church (General conference) added to our membership vows the word “witness”. We now uphold the church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness. We added the word but it’s difficult to get a handle on. I grew up in Union, SC, a small mill town. In our county alone, there were 17 Baptist Churches and 13 United Methodist churches. That doesn’t add in all the others, including Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic, and Church of God, and Church of Christ, to name a few. It seemed in those days that everybody went to church, although I knew it wasn’t so. Some of my friends did not go to church. They were good people, but they didn’t go to church. Some of my own family did not go to church. I remember some cousins who would show up at our house on Sunday mornings as we were getting ready to go to church. My mother would say: “We are going to church and we would love to have you join us…or, you can stay here until we get back.” They never went with us but the invitation was always given. My mother wasn’t going to let anything or anybody keep us from getting to church. She was nothing if not hard-headed, I mean, committed. She stood up for her own faith. That’s the witness I grew up with. I also remember a young man who came to our door on a Sunday afternoon and sat on the front porch witnessing to my mother. He tried to tell her she wasn’t saved unless she had been immersed. My mother loved a good argument, and she gave him what for. It was fun to watch. I remember some Jehovah’s Witnesses who came by a couple of times and my mother was always ready for them. That’s what I remember as witness. That and the Mormon’s who rode bicycles and wore white shirts. Now, every once in a while my grandmother’s Baptist friend out the street would visit my grandmother, who lived with us. When she came to see my grandmother, we knew that the preacher at her church the Sunday before had gotten on them for not witnessing enough. And, though my grandmother was a good Methodist, she let her friend witness. Now, in some of the churches I have served, I have found that most of them were family. The only way to get into the church was to marry into it. I remember when I was a boy that a few times someone from the neighborhood would come to our church and they would get “run off” as my mother said by someone who didn’t want their kind in our church. Now, the culture is much different. You can’t even say God without getting into trouble sometimes. But, I live and work in a culture where there are large and small churches, and churches of every brand and stripe. It’s become a real competition for people in the community. Also, in our area Christians witness has been abused by those who almost attack and try to manipulate you into a decision. One nearby University sends out students to torment others. It’s part of the requirement to graduate. OK. I get it. Jesus has called us to bear witness, to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and all over the world. How to do it? Well, sometimes we have to use our mouths, though often we use our mouths to serve our own ends, not God. I often think that if we Christians would just refrain from gossip and talking negatively about others that would be a great witness. Or, maybe if we used our hands and arms for more embracing others in our community than judging and pushing away. Or, maybe if we used our feet to run to help others instead of running to watch a train wreck or something… It’s all about our lives, isn’t it? Any discerning teenager can tell you that. Let the one who has ears to hear, hear. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Passion to Serve

On last Sunday, we celebrated All Saints’ Sunday. We had sent out letters inviting the families of the honored dead to worship with us that day. We sang the great hymn: “For all the Saints...” And, people came to worship God and to remember their loved one. This is always a difficult service. We name the ones who have died in the last year; so, some of them have just died and some only died a year ago. This very public service is hard because none of us likes to cry in public. Well, most of us, maybe, don’t like to call attention to ourselves. And yet, what better place to cry than in worship? One of my professors used to say that church was where we go to weep in common. He quoted the great writer, Miguel de Unamuno, who said that life was at its best tragic. All of us are living in grief. Our one sole common grief is that no given moment lasts forever. It’s the truth that strikes you throughout life.. A mother goes through this when her child gets his first haircut. Or, it happens in experience when a father sends his child off to school the first day. A million times in our lives we experience the grief of life= that no given moment lasts forever. The only constant in life is change. We’d like it not to be so. Much of life is lived, I’m afraid, as if we could grasp life and hold it in our hands. We would love for some things and some moments to go on and on. And, then it all comes to reality in the face of death, our own, or the death of someone we love. I was 12 when my grandfather died. My father was gone when I was one year old; so, my mother’s dad, my grandfather, was my dad. But, I was thirteen when he had his third heart attack and died. It was devastating. I remember the pastor, who meant well, pulling over to the side and saying: “You’re the man of the house now…” My mother heard him and immediately took me into the other room and said: “You’re not the man of the house; you’re my boy.” It was tremendously freeing to hear my mother say that. I knew I wasn’t a man. How could I be responsible for anything or anybody yet. The grief was overwhelming; Life had been hard enough, but now. But, surrounded by a family and a church and a community of support, I experienced the God and came to see that God in Christ was my hope and the hope of the world. How much grief have you experienced? Some seem to have more grief than their share. But, all of us have some grief. It really is all about this: no given moment lasts forever. So, Sunday, we gathered and named the honored dead. We gave thanks for their lives, that God allowed them to pass our way. We also prayed that we might live by their example of love and commitment. I said in my sermon that none of the honored dead would like it if we tried to call them Saints, but they are Saints to us. They are servants of God whose lives were a reflection of God’s love in the world. It was hard to read the names; it always is. But, it was good to name them out loud and to acknowledge our loss. And, it was good to remember that in Christ there is always more love, and now for them, even more life. For all the Saints Who from their labors rest Who thee by faith before the world confessed… Blessings! Dave Nichols

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Passion to Worship

Last Sunday, we worked and prayed our way around the Christian practice of worship. Some say that worship is the most useless of all the Christian practices. Activists would rather be out working and moving things around. Worship seems like a passive and weak activity. In fact, if we let you sit too long and the mood is just right, some of you get a nap. Some of you have mastered the art of sleeping with your eyes open. But, God demands that we worship, that we spend time in his presence in community with others doing what we do: praying, singing, hearing his Word, offering our gifts and then going out to serve. And, we are to get you formed in Christian faith- all in one hour. A friend of mine went to an African American Church one Sunday. He had been invited. He was surprised at the length of the service. At the end of three hours or worship, my friend and the pastor were going out to eat. My friend asked him why they worshiped for three hours. The African American pastor said: “All week long our people live in a culture that tells them they are nothing. It tells them that they come from nothing and that they will never amount to anything. It takes me at least three hours to tell them that they are children of God.” Now, I guess, that many of us already are affirmed to death in the world around us; so, we don’t feel the need to worship for three hours. One hour is enough, thank you very much. It just seems like a waste of time. Well, think of worship as an appointment with God. Once a week you are expected to show up for your appointment, to give God some time, some gifts, some worship in song and prayer. You show up in worship to meet with God. The thing is: if you missed your appointment with someone else, you would likely reschedule. But, God? God is so filled with grace that he allows you to choose. God doesn’t want your worship if it’s out of guilt or out of “have to”. You really don’t have to worship. You are the one who misses out when you don’t worship regularly. You miss your appointment with God. Part of the problem with modern worship is the same problem that was the problem in ancient worship. The problem is that we often see worship as something we do out of superstition. We worship to keep in good standing with God- so we won’t get sick or let anything bad happen to us. And sometimes when something bad does happen to us, and it always does at some point, we may stop going to church thinking it wasn’t doing any good anyway. Ask yourself? Have you ever come to worship God simply because you love God? I love my wife and that means that I want to be with her. If we love God, then worship is one of the ways that God has given us to be with God. You see, it’s not about guilt or about superstition. It’s about love. It always has been. Sure, not every sermon is a stem-winder. Not every hymn is your favorite. Not every prayer stimulates you. And, the offering? Well, we could live without that altogether. But worship is one of the main ways that God gets at us. God will not force himself on you or make you do his will. No, you are invited. You are compelled, called, to come. And what do you get out of it? You get God, the all-loving, all-knowing, Lord of all things comes to you when you worship. Worship- it’s what Christians do. See you in church! Dave Nichols

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Passion for Prayer

We Methodists sort of define what it means to be a Christian, a Christ follower, by saying that we support the church (Christ’s body) with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. The last one was added just a few years ago, but it’s one that we Methodists ought to take heed of. Last Sunday, was the Sunday in our Discipleship Series when we look at prayer. There are so many ways to talk about prayer and to do prayer that it seems old hat. And yet, there is always something more to learn about prayer. I learn everyday as I pray that I can trust God more and more with my whole life. In the sermon I said three things. I said that when we pray we are saying that we believe: 1. God is here. When you say that you pray but it seems as if your prayers don’t get passed the ceiling, do you think God is on the other side of the ceiling. No, scripture, if it teaches us anything, teaches us that God is here, as near as your breath. Your prayers only have to get as far as you heart and mind. God is sitting right beside you. God is standing right near you. God is with you in and through everything that you face. When we pray we pray to the God of Jesus Christ who is never far away. 2. God is able. Many of us pray but we have trouble believing that God will or can actually do something about our prayers. Scripture teaches that all things are possible with God and it bids us ask, seek, and knock. Sometimes it feels like we’ve been knocking so hard that our knuckles are bruised, but we keep knocking. God is able to do far more abundantly than we can ask or think. John Wesley goes so far as to say that there are some things that God will not do unless we pray. A custodian friend used to say to me when I was a boy: “If you take one step, God will take two.” 3. God is good. That means that we believe that God intends our good. John Claypool once said in one of his books that Jesus Christ was God’s answer to a bad reputation. He says that we believed the devil when he whispered in our ears that God didn’t know what he was doing and certainly couldn’t be trusted. In Jesus, we learn that God is for us and if God is for us, who can be against us? The God who made the good and beautiful world and the God who made you wondrously (Psalm 139) is the God who means our good. It also means that when bad things happen to us God will make good come even out of evil. I am challenging Bethel people to take one step up in their commitment to pray. If you’re not praying daily, then start. Pray every day. Set aside a time, read a verse or passage of scriptures, and listen and pray. Are you praying for each other? Are you asking God to uphold the church, to make it strong in witness and service? Are you asking God to show you what your ministry is? I asked the church to pray the following prayer every day: DAILY PRAYER FOR BETHEL AND ME Dear Lord, we pray for Bethel Church. We pray that we may be truly the church where everyone is welcome, where no one is perfect, and where anything is possible. We believe that our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Give us the courage to fulfill our mission and to invite others, to join in nurturing each other in the faith, and to send others to bring Christ’s love to the world. We believe that Jesus is Lord and that you have called us to serve Christ where we are with what you have given us. We pray that you will do a great work among us and bring more people to Christ here. Double our attendance and give us the courage to do what we need to do to participate in fulfilling this prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen. If you’re a Bethelite, thanks for your prayers. If you’re not, use the prayer and pray it for your church. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Wedding

Weddings are wonderful experiences. Last weekend we had a wedding at Bethel and as always, the bride was beautiful and the groom, handsome. Some of my colleagues hate doing weddings, but I, on the other hand, love doing weddings. They are a wonderful occasions in which to become closer to the families, particularly the bride and groom. It’s an opportunity to bear witness to the meaning of marriage and our faith in counseling sessions, of course. Weddings are also occasions when emotions are running high and deep. If there are tensions in a family, they will likely surface for consideration during the wedding process. But, even under the best of circumstances, a wedding brings out deep feelings. It’s a worship service during which we invoke God’s presence. We don’t do anything without God around here, and hopefully in our lives. The wedding service begins by reminding us that marriage was God’s idea and that God made us male and female for each other. The service then reminds us of the story of Jesus presence at a wedding of Cana of Galilee, reassuring us all that Jesus does in fact do weddings. Then, the couple answers a question of intention. This goes way back to the time when you might come to your wedding day under duress. The questions make sure at the start that each one, the bride and groom, is entering in to this covenant of their own free will. Next, dad is asked: “Who gives the bride to married to him?” Now, the United Methodist service added in recent years a response for the whole family, and when I’ve used it is it good to have everyone’s blessing. But, still, the bride wants dad to have a part in the service, albeit brief. Dad, after bringing the daughter in, answers: “Her mother and I”, and then sits down, handing off the bride’s hand to the groom. Sometimes Dad kisses the bride before retiring to sit with the mother. This is a sad thing to see the Dad walking back to sit down. I’m speaking as a Dad of three daughters, of course. The service goes on with scripture. I give them several options, but most of them select 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter on love. Then, the service calls for a sermon. Some call it a homily to ensure that it will be short. I always keep it short, but it’s an opportunity to speak to the couple about the meaning of marriage. And, everybody listens in. This past weekend I said four things to the couple. I said that I hoped they would understand that marriage is about: 1. Leaving some things behind 2. Learning every day about love 3. Laughing a lot 4. A loving, lasting commitment Then, the couple follows me up to the altar to the kneeling bench. And, they face each other and say their vows. I tell them to look at each other, not me. Then, I get the rings from the maid/matron of honor and the best man. We finally learned that you don’t let the ring bearer (a child) have the real ring. You don’t know what they will do. It’s nice to have children as a part of the service but… I bless the rings and give them to be put on. Then, after all this I put my hand on theirs and announce that they are husband and wife together. What God has joined let no one put asunder. Then, they kneel at the altar for a prayer of blessing. Then, they say the Lord’s Prayer. Their first act as a married couple is to say a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. They stand. I give the benediction. I tell them to kiss and they walk to the front where I say: “Mr. and Mrs….” And, usually, the congregation applauds. That’s an altogether wonderful way for the congregation to show their support and blessing and love. Then, we sign the license and get some more pictures and then we party. Call me silly, but I do enjoy these occasions. I believe that Jesus shows up at weddings still. And, that when two people come to the altar of God and give their vows to each other it’s positively sacramental. This may be the riskiest thing that most Christians do. It’s a gift. In a few days, we will celebrate with a couple who is celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Love takes a long time. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Monday, October 1, 2012

Holy Communion

Next Sunday, October 7, is World Communion Sunday for mainline Protestants. Maybe I should say old-line Protestants for denominations that at one time were the main churches other than the Roman Catholic Church in America. Of course, we are living in a new day now, and have seen a proliferation of churches over the last four decades. World Communion Sunday was first invented as an attempt to bring all of us together for Holy Communion on the same Sunday. It represented our oneness in Christ, even though we felt different from each other. Sometimes our practices were different. It was all part of the ecumenical movement of the past. It signaled our need to work together rather than compete with each other. Unity is a good thing, especially for Christians, but not all Christians bought in to World Communion Sunday. Some were and are suspicious of anything called “unity”. Concerned about “purity” of belief and practice, and Biblical interpretation, some Christians did not join in with the ecumenical movement. We United Methodists have always been ready to get together with our fellow Christians whether for a community service or a common mission and ministry. So, we have always celebrated the “great” church, the whole church as one, on World Communion Sunday. We believe that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, after that there is plenty of room for disagreement and discussion. Today, of course, unity among Christians still remains an embarrassment to the church, all churches. If Christians can’t get along, then what hope is there for anybody else? Competition between churches has risen to a new level. It has become about winning and losing. But, that’s another discussion for another day. Sunday, is about Holy Communion. It’s about a the table of Christ being open to all people. It’s about receiving Christ in physical as well as symbolic terms. All I know is that when you come to communion, you meet Jesus. All who stand in need of the love and grace which it alone gives are welcomed to table. No one is barred except by their own choice. We, at Bethel, celebrate Holy Communion monthly. On the first Sunday, we have communion in both traditional services. Sometimes, we have Confirmation or something that prevents our doing Communion in the second service, but we always have communion at 8:45 in the traditional service on the first Sunday of each month. We also, have communion at Spirit Song on the second Sunday of each month. Every Christian believer hears Jesus say: “This is my body. This is my blood. Come.” John Wesley says that anyone may come to the table who hears the invitation and wants to come. Even a non-believer may meet Christ and be converted at the table of the Lord. You may miss hearing God’s Word preached, though I hope not. But, do not miss receiving Christ, taking him into yourself again, and experiencing his love and grace. We are indeed united to other Christians, and at communion we are united to Christ. See you at the table. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Thursday, September 27, 2012

IT'S BUDGET TIME - AGAIN

It’s budget time again. This will be my 38th year of preparing for Charge Conference. In the United Methodist Church, we have an annual meeting with the District Superintendent to hear reports from leaders about last year and to plan for next year. We will elect officers and set the pastors’ salaries for 2013. And, after some input from Staff-Parish Committee on salaries and Trustees on the property needs, and the apportionments (our share of United Methodist Church’s ministry), and other work and service ministries, the Finance Committee will compile a budget. They must pass it on as it is to the Church Council. Finance Committee may recommend changes but the budget as compiled must go to Council. Recommendations for any changes are made to the Church Council. Then, the Church Council adopts. At the same time that this is going on, the Stewardship Chair is informing the church about the ministries of the church and what they cost. All of this will lead us to a pledge Sunday on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It’s always a “touchy” thing to talk about money, even in good times, but it’s even more delicate in tough times. I’m sure my blood pressure is through the roof as we work through this. What happens if we don’t receive all that we need to meet the budget? Well, on the one hand, we just don’t make the budget. A budget is a goal toward which we aim, and we work to spend within the limits of the budget. Over the last several years, we have received something less than we needed. It got worse from 2009 onward. While the economy faltered, we still continued to lose to death members who were good givers. So, here we are. On the other hand, when we don’t make the budget we have to not spend in areas that we need to. So, why don’t we go in with a knife and just chop away? That would be one way to deal with it. But, you have to be careful. If you cut ministries and programs too much, you hurt more than help in the long run. The largest share of the budget by far is salaries and benefits, of course. Nothing new here. However, we are living in a time when benefits have skyrocketed. Each year we have to negotiate health insurance for our lay employees. And, nothing goes down. Then, there are the property needs, the next largest part of the budget. Utilities and other costs make it possible to do ministry here. Add to this the cost of repair and upkeep. Next in the budget amounts is the apportionments. These are set by our Annual Conference and sent to us. They support denominational ministries in our Conference and around the world, including missionaries. Then, come the ministries of worship, evangelism, fellowship and outreach- all of which serve the needs of the church’s ministries. So, we set a goal and give generously and work with what God gives us. I believe that we do the best that we can. And, truly with God’s help we do an extraordinary ministry and mission work here at Bethel. My blood pressure is still high. I am in the middle as Senior pastor. I have to see that staff and ministries here are taken care of as much as possible, and then on the other side is the Annual Conference which pressures me as the leader to make sure that we pay our Apportionments. I’ve only had a few times in my ministry when my church could not pay our Apportionments 100%; this may be one of them. I always do my best to make sure I’m doing all I can. This week we’ll be looking at Psalm 46 which begins: “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in time of trouble.” I have always felt and known God’s presence near me, especially in times when it’s most difficult. I know that whatever happens God is still God, and is still in charge. He gave his best for us; now we give our best for that great love in Jesus Christ. It’s worth everything to make his disciples. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Worship is About God

Worship has become a “battlefield” for some in the church, particularly mainline churches like ours- the United Methodist Church. I was trained in worship at Duke Divinity School back in the late seventies. Have you ever been to Duke Chapel? Wow! Duke Chapel has pipe organ and angelic voices every Sunday. Preaching is intellectual and scholarly. Worship has a mix of silence and speech or music. It is an altogether beautiful experience to worship there; at least that’s what I think. Now, for some, even United Methodists, it is a little too High-Church (formal) at Duke. People say things like: “That worship is almost Episcopalian.” I found it meaningful. But, while I was going to school at Duke, I was also serving two churches out in the country outside of Chapel Hill. Both churches had small organs and no choirs. Singing was quiet at best. Worship was less formal with someone making announcements and speaking up when they wanted to. Both of these were worship. I connected with God in both. I have worshiped where God’s Word was preached and we only had a piano and a few people. As Scripture says: “Where two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst of them…” I grew up in a church that was on the charge with another church. The other church was in the country. We were just in the city limits and thought we were citified. Truth was we were mostly mill workers with a few mill bosses. At times, the folks could be cantankerous. Arguments often happened. Worship was mostly formal, orderly, and we thought we were “uptown”. Back then all worship at least followed the same “order of service”. We had some common experiences across the United Methodist Church. Churches large and small followed and kept the same “order”. Somewhere along the way this changed. Some point back to what was known as the “charismatic” movement when people began to feel a movement of the Spirit and music started sounding more free-spirited. Worship was seen as something to participate in rather than just something to be done for us. Churches, in our denomination, split over worship. Some left and went to churches more to their liking in worship. They went to churches where the pastor didn’t read his sermons, where singers held microphones and music was loud. Now, I have always felt that worship could happen around a campfire or in a sanctuary with pipe organ. There is value in every setting when God is invoked and praised. Our church has traditional worship with pipe organ, choir, robes, acolytes and crucifer. We also have now a Contemporary service with praise band that worships in the gym. It’s easy to say that one kind of worship is legit and the other is not. Some still do this. Lovers of the traditional way of doing things sometimes make comments about those who want to worship in a contemporary style. Some even get angry about it. The idea being that we are all alike and should require that everybody be alike. Of course, the truth is we are not alike, even those of us who prefer traditional worship. God has made us with different needs. I say all that to say that the church of “today” is a church that offers a variety of experiences in worship. Worship is when God is praised, God’s Word is preached, our gifts are given, and people meet Jesus Christ. Come let us worship the Lord. And, may that worship be our beginning each week of serving and loving in Christ’s name. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Psalms

I am doing a series of sermons on the Psalms over the next couple of months. I am using as one of my guides a book by Dr. Walter Brueggemann. He is a great Old Testament Scholar, who is retired now from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. His book is The Message of the Psalms. The Psalms are the script for spirituality for the Jews and, by adoption, for us Christians. You want to learn how to pray read, pray, the Psalms. Many scholars believe that Psalms 1 and 2 are sort of a preface for the rest of the Psalms. The Psalms are, of course, divided into five sections, just like the five books of the law. Brueggemann says that Psalm 1 is about obedience to God. There are two ways to walk: one, the way of the wicked; the other, the way of the righteous. The one who meditates on the law day and night, the one who meditates on the whole story of God, the Torah, is like a tree planted by the water. The Hebrew word for plant is actually “transplant”. Like a tree transplanted by the water is the righteous one. He/she is blessed. He/she is happy, fulfilled, content. The Psalms begin with obedience and end with Psalm 150 in praise. We go from obedience to praise. There are seasons in life with things are good and right. Breuggemann calls these seasons times of orientation. These are seasons when it all seems to work. Everything is in order and working for our benefit. These are the seasons when most people love to come to church. We think: “I must be doing something right…” So, we worship and are satisfied with life. My friend says: “Life is good.” Then, there are seasons of disorientation. These are seasons when things are not working: sickness, pain, suffering, death, loss. Unfortunately, this is the time when people withdraw from church. Like a cat that gets wounded goes away and stays away until he/she gets better or dies. We are likely to think that God has deserted us in these seasons. We are likely to feel lost, alone, afraid. The Psalms of disorientation give us words to use to express these feelings. Often the Psalms are not about what we ought to feel, but they are about what we really fell: anger, fear, loneliness, despair. Psalm 107 is one of these. It’s one of the worst. Someone who has been violated prays, cries out: “Get the one who did this to me…” Then, says Brueggemann, there are seasons of New Orientation, times when we have come through the difficult times and God has kept his promise to do a new thing. So, we sing Psalm 150: “Halelujah”- “Praise the Lord”. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Were we able to come as we are to church, in the great congregation, and leave whatever it is that we have to bring (anger, fear), then we might be able with outstretched arms to raise them high and say: “Praise the Lord”. I release everything to you, O God, even my wrong feelings and ways. My dream would be of a church where all could come as they are. We could come here to cry and complain to God, and we would come to share all that we are going through, and be able in worship to give it all to God. And, with joy, we would open our arms and hands and release it all with our praise to God. We are standing on the promises of God. Praise the Lord. God can and does do new things with us. What season are you walking through right now? A season of Orientation? A season of Disorientation? Or, a Season of New Orientation? Blessings! Dave Nichols

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wednesday- Last Day of Annual Conference

Sorry to be so late getting to this. All of the business of Annual Conference was finished on Tuesday by dinner time. So, Wednesday was completely devoted to the Ordination Service and the Appointments of Pastors. The Ordination Service lasted two and one half hours. I always love the Ordination Service. Back in the dark ages, when I was ordained, we had SC Annual Conference in Spartanburg at Wofford College, but the Ordination Service was held at a local church. Of course, Annual Conference was not as big as it is now. I was ordained at the church I'm now service- Bethel UMC. I know exactly where I kneeled that night. It still gives me good bumps to walk into our sanctuary for that reason. To be ordained is to be authorized, set aside, for a specific role in the life of the church, pastor. We ordained deacons and elders. David Smith and I are both Elders. Elders are the pastors in charge of churches. Elders may do the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism and they go where the Bishop sends them. They do not choose their place of service. Deacons are pastors who serve in a number of different roles, from education to mission. They assist Elders in the Sacraments but may not do them alone. Deacons choose their own place of service and the Bishop affirms that as an extension of the ministry of the church. I still have my black and white picture of my Ordination Class hanging in my study at the church. There we are on the same stage that is in our Fellowship Hall now. Wow! Elders are authorized when the Bishop and other Elders put their hands on them and the Bishop says: "Take authority to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments. We believe that in all of our services the Holy Spirit is present in power. These who have been called to this ministry are now publicly recognized and given authority to do the work of ministry. I do regret that the service was held on a weekday morning. Many of the people who would have liked to have been there could not be because of work and other obligations. One of our own was commissioned as a Provisional Elder. Drew Martin serves as Associate Pastor at Clover First UMC in Clover, SC. Elders and Deacons are commissioned first and serve two years on trial, or probation, then they become Full Elders and Full Deacons. It is a moving and wonderful service. After the Ordination Service, the appointments are made of Elders and Deacons to their place of service. Copies of all the appointments are handed out and the Bishop then "fixes" the appointments for another Conference year. Sometimes, because of death or some other circumstance, an appointment will have to be changed. The Bishop may appoint a pastor at any time, and often does so in the middle of the year when necessary. As an Elder, it is a wonderful thing to be "sent" into ministry. We are called and the Bishop Sends us. The Bishop carries the authority of the church all the way back to the beginning of Methodism and John Wesley. The Bishop's office and ordination is an unbroken stream of ordination all the say back to the beginning of the whole church. It is a pleasure to serve the great church. What a blessing! Blessings! Dave Nichols

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tuesday at Annual Conference

Tuesday was a good day. We had two lectures by Gil Rendle who talked about the current cultural situation and the church’s response to that. I will talk more about that later. We spent much of the morning recognizing the Pastors who were retiring at this Annual Conference. Over 30 Pastors retired, among them was our own Rev. Harry Hays, who served Bethel here from 1998-2006. Each pastor and spouse was brought forward and congratulated by the Bishop. When they were all recognized, a video presentation was given in which each Pastor gave an answer to some questions. They all told of some significant or humorous moment in their ministry. They all were asked to give advice to young Pastors who are just starting out. And, all of them said they were grateful for the United Methodist Church and their opportunity to serve. We gave them a standing ovation. They represented many years of service. The Retired Pastors and Spouses were then taken to a huge banquet. This Retirement Service is always an important time at Annual Conference. It always is a time filled with mixed feelings. In one way, the call of God does not leave any of the retirees. They all continue to be servants of Christ, just in another capacity. We wish them God’s best and we hope to see some of Larry and Sally here, maybe. The afternoon started with the second of Gil Rendle’s lectures. Then, business was conducted and remarkably, we finished the business of the Annual Conference by dinner time. The budget was passed and nominations were made. In my more than 30 years of ministry, I cannot remember when things have gone as smoothly or peaceably. One moment on Tuesday stood out for me when Rev. Roger Gramling made a speech about the merging of the African American Conference and the Majority Conference in 1972. I was at that Annual Conference to see the merger take place. How much richer have been our relationships and friendships since we merged. Why did it take us until 1972 to finally come together? Blessings! Dave Nichols

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday at Annual Conference

Monday morning began with a Service of Holy Communion. We begin every day this way. Then, we spent some time organizing the Conference- electing officers, secretary, parliamentarian, etc. We had some courtesies welcoming us to Florence, SC. On this day, we spent some time presenting the recommended budget, and the proposed nominations of officers for another year or more. These are presented early in the week and then voted on the last day. We heard a report from a Task Force organized since last year to look at the possibility of re-organizing the SC Conference. We have 12 districts in the conference; we are in Spartanburg, of course. Economics, demographic changes, and other things moved some to think that we need to reduce the number of districts. The Task Force asked for another year to make sure they had all the information in hand before making a recommendation to the Annual Conference. The trend is toward reduction, I would say. Epworth Children’s Home made a report and we heard a few other reports and then adjourned for lunch. We came back at 2pm for our Memorial Service. This is the time when we honor and remember those who have died since last year: pastors and pastor’s spouses. Families of those who have gone on come to join in the celebration and memories. It is always a sad but victorious time. Over 30 persons were remembered. There is always someone whom I knew well on this list. The Sermon was preached by Dr. Charles Johnson, Greenville District Superintendent, who is retiring this Annual Conference. He preaching on the subject: “Their Works Follow Them.” We took a break to greet the families and others and then came back in session at around 3pm. Then, we heard a lecture/message from Gil Rendle, a church consultant who talked about the current situation that we are facing in the church. He talked about the way in which we have moved from being an established part of the culture to being on the fringe of the culture. That’s true of all Christian groups, but especially mainline Protestant churches of which the United Methodist Church is one. He talked about see the current situation not as a problem to solve but as an opportunity to work with. He spoke on Monday night and will speak again for us before we leave. I will share more of his thoughts, which are not unique to him, later. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Off to Annual Conference, Sunday

We left Spartanburg at 2pm or so, Phillip Stone and I. Our other Lay Delegates are Art and Jean Hartzog, and Shirley and Charlie Hudson. Phillip and I got here around 4:30 and we rushed to register. I went off to my Clergy Session at 5pm where we voted on pastors at all levels. Our own Drew Martin from Bethel, is being commissioned this year as a Probationary Elder. David Smith and I are Elders in the church. Drew will serve another three years as a PE and then he will be ordained Elders. Elders preach and administer the Sacraments in the church, and they go where the Bishop sends them. We do not make our own appointments (find our own work). We are sent. At a little afte six we adjourned for dinner and came back for the opening worship service in which Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor preached on the Conference theme: Invitation to a Changed Life. We sang as every Annual Conference has sung from the beginning the same song to open: “And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face; Glory and thanks to Jesus give for his almighty grace.” It is sung to the tune of “Blest Be the Tie that Binds”, and was written by Charles Wesley. That was it for Sunday. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Monday, June 4, 2012

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday is that Sunday that comes right after Pentecost. And, likely as not, if you’ve been around the church at all, you’ve sung to the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. You’ve worshiped and served, bathed in the beauty and wonder of the Trinity. I am always running into someone who will say: “Why don’t we just do away with Trinity and just talk about God; is it enough just believe in God?” No. That’s what our world wants us to do. They want to simplify everything down to its minimum, even God. In the world’s story, God is the creator who made it all like the great watchmaker and set it in motion, leaving everything up to us. It’s all up to us. God stepped back and let it run. Or, we worship the god of the philosophers. God is an idea, a concept. God is the “ground of all being”. God is “ultimate being”. Take your pick. In philosophy, which I love, God only gets to be an idea or concept. God is nice to think about. The idea of God is a concept around which we organize our lives and our world, but God, this god, cannot actually do anything. It’s, again, all up to us. The Trinity is about a God who is so big that we cannot get our minds around him. We cannot understand God completely. The Gospel for Trinity Sunday (year b) is John 3, the story of Nicodemus. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. Nicodemus, a teacher of the law, is supposed to know everything. But, he is in the dark and comes to Jesus, Mr. Light, to learn. Jesus tells him that he must be born again, from above, to see the Kingdom of God. It’s about the Spirit. It’s something God does in and through us. It’s God’s doing. Nicodemus asks: “How can this be?” Jesus says: “Now you’ve got it…God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” Augustine says that God has “plentitude”. God is filled full of love and grace. God is so effusive that the Trinity is always in movement in the world. Augustine sees this in flowers. He says that we would have been happy, maybe, with one or two flowers. Not God. God creates thousands of varieties of flowers. Don’t reduce this god down to something we can understand. No. C. S. Lewis says that when you pray you are seeking God, knowing that you are seeking God because God has moved you within to see God. If you’re a Christian, he says, you know that everything that you know about God was given to you in Jesus Christ, and that he prays for you and is standing beside you when you pray. You see, says C.S. Lewis, God is the thing he is seeking, and God is the one motivating him to seek. And, God is the one who stands close, painfully close, to the one praying. God is also the road, the way, to the future which is God, in all and through all. Got it? Not hardly. It’s just that God is so big, so large, so effusive that we cannot trim him down to our size. God has not left everything to us, but is alive and working in us, in and through the church, in and through the world, to do what he set out to do, to make the Kingdom of God. Thanks be to God. Dave Nichols

Saturday, May 12, 2012

He is the Good Shepherd

You might think that I, as a pastor, would know better. I work hard and do my best. I spend an inordinate amount of time studying and praying, pastoring, and loving, in an effort to lead a congregation, Bethel, to do God’s will. You’re probably saying: I’m confused; I thought that was what you were supposed to do as the pastor and spiritual leader of the church. OK. Fair enough. And, I am busy doing what I can, leading as best I can, preaching my heart out, running a church every day of every week. Thankfully, the church has provided me with an able staff, with whom I argue and plan and with whom I share all of my life. We are all busy doing something every day to make a difference. And, we are doing what we should do. On top of this, the lay people, are also doing all that they can to make a difference in the church and in the world where they are all the time. And, we are all doing a pretty good job of it. Lay people in Bethel Church are among the best people I know. We are almost always doing something that contributes to the good of our community and world. A few weeks ago was Shepherd Sunday and the scripture was Psalm 23. You know the text. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…he makes me to lie down…restores my soul…leads me in the right paths… Psalm 23 is the most requested scripture for funerals. We almost always read it because we have perspective at funerals that we don’t have any other time much. Worshiping God, we look up to the altar and there is someone we loved in a casket, and a family is wounded and crying over their loss. And, all of us remember the achievements and the good gifts of the deceased. Most of the people that I bury are people who have enormous gifts and achievements. Now, at the end, we give thanks to God for what he made of this person, for the ways that God was living in and through this person--- and in and through us. What I forget is that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. And, we are the sheep who make mistakes, and wrong decisions, and miss the mark, and love the wrong person, or don’t love the right person, or we mess things up. And, the Good Shepherd never gives up on us, just keeps on guiding, loving, taking care of us. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for us- the cross is forever our symbol of that love. I’m not saying that we ought not to work hard at this faith. I am saying that all that we do or mess up is in God’s hands. It’s not all up to us. Sometimes I wish it were. You know, you work hard and you get results. You take things into your own hands. You make it right. You save the world. You…you…you.. No, if we know anything about this in Christian faith, we know that our best efforts are likely to not be enough, and that we are dependent on God to save us and to save the world. I get frustrated ever time somebody who is a Christian say that we are going to save the world. Saving the world is not in our job description. We might work to make it better or to change some things, but Jesus Christ is the Savior. I guess the truth is that we don’t always like how he saves us. God is Christ is certainly not doing things like we’d do them. If we had the power, well… The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He knows the sheep and he still lays down his life for them. I don’t know any kind of love that is better than that. Do You? Blessings! Dave Nichols

Thursday, April 26, 2012

General Conference Meets

General Conference Meets As many of you already know the United Methodist Church is organized in Conferences. The local church is the Charge Conference- charged with responsibility to do ministry in the local community while being connected to other United Methodist Churches throughout by Conferences. In Spartanburg, we are located in the Spartanburg District which takes in most of three counties (there are 12 districts in SC). The districts make up the SC Annual Conference. Each Annual Conference is presided over by a Bishop. Annual Conferences are gathered into Jurisdictions. We are in the Southeastern Jurisdiction with our regional offices located at Lake Junaluska Assembly in Lake Junaluska, NC. One every four years, each Annual Conference elects an equal number of clergy and lay delegates to represent us at the General Conference. General Conference is meeting now in Tampa, Florida. The General Conference sets the agenda for the entire United Methodist Church. At General Conference there is much prayer, worship, and reporting. There is planning for the future of our great church. General Conference is the only body in the church that can speak for the church. After General Conference, our Book of Discipline is written and published for our guidance. Most of the Book of Discipline cannot change. Our doctrines and beliefs are not changeable. However, there is always some work to do in terms of structure and process and living out our faith in the world. This year’s theme is “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Over a thousand delegates from all over the world are meeting. They will entertain and act on over 1,100 petitions, set policies, approve plans and budgets, and handle other business. Simultaneous voice translation for delegates will be available in English, French, German, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Swahili. If you wish to follow the conference, you may do so at www.umc.org. This year the General Conference will look at some sweeping structural change. They will debate whether to do away with guaranteed appointments for clergy. They will deal with issues of pensions and health benefits, just like every other institution. They will send our missionaries. They will work and pray for the discernment of the Holy Spirit on issues that affect us all. I have always been proud to be a United Methodist. The challenge of our great church as all churches is to continue to do the work of Christ in a world where things are changing so fast that it is difficult to know how to move forward. So, I will be praying and I ask you to be praying also for your local church, for your pastors and staff, and for the delegates who represent us at General Conference. Pray that we will do whatever is necessary to continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ. That, after all, is our major task, our only task. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lent and Spring

It’s Spring around here. The trees are blooming; pollen in on all our cars giving them a yellow tint. And, the temperature outside is a round 80 something for a high. Last Sunday we met Jesus with Nicodemus at night. In the darkness, Nicodemus an enlightened teacher of all things spiritual comes to meet Jesus. Nicodemus is nearly blinded by the light of Mr. Light of the World.

And, we worked on John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” This verse is followed by: “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world…”

We, many of us, know these words by heart. People hold up signs at ball games with: John 3:16. Martin Luther says it is the Gospel in miniature.

This week at church we are dealing with air conditioning problems. After a warm Sunday, I asked that the heat be turned over to air on Monday. The air is working my building and office but is not working in the office building. Turns out that lightning struck a line to the compressor last fall. The AC people who had our contract then assumed they would still be with us in 2012 and did not inform us of this. They thought they could fix it in the spring but they lost their contract with us. The new people discovered the problem and we are working on insurance coverage, which shouldn’t be a problem. However, in the meantime, our people are hot in this old building. And, as we preachers say: “Sunday’s coming…” They tell us it will be fixed by Friday.

All this calls to mind something that happened to me at Clemson UMC. A wonderful young couple was to be married in the sanctuary, the old sanctuary which has not a window that will open.

On Friday around noon, I went into the sanctuary to see if all was well. The AC was running but it was hot as blue blazes. My first thought was: “Oh no; how can I tell the bride and worse, her mother, that we don’t have any AC.” I had been fussing about getting the unit replaced for the sanctuary, but we had put it off.

I had a meeting with the bride and mother and told them the problem. The Episcopal Church, which was new next door, had agreed to let us use their place. No, said the bride, I grew up in this church and I’m going to get married in this church, no matter what. Her father was in construction and had some huge fans and put them in the sanctuary. I said that night: “When you marry one of our daughters, we get you in here and crank up the heat, to see if you’ll go through with it…” It was a lovely wedding.

Lent and Spring bring warm weather and pollen. It’s all good. But, we remember that Jesus’ Lent didn’t go all that well either. For him, it meant the cross which he gladly bore for us.

During this Season of Lent, we’ve been trying to enter in to Jesus’ suffering and it’s meaning. We have been with Jesus as he told us: “I’m going to Jerusalem to suffer rand die….” We have been with Jesus as he stormed the Temple running out moneychangers. We were with Nicodemus in the night looking for Jesus, Mr. Light.

In a little while, Lent will move into Holy Week and the Last Supper and Good Friday. It’s hot outside; experience the warmth of God’s love for the whole world. The whole world.

Blessings!
Dave Nichols

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Transfiguration and Beyond

Sunday, Feb. 19, is the last Sunday in the first cycle of the church year. That cycle is Advent-Christmas-Epiphany. The Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday when Jesus appears to Peter, James and John on the mountain. Jesus is “high and lifted up” and appears with Moses and Elijah. The next week the second cycle of the church year starts: Lent, Easter, Pentecost.

Transfiguration means to change forms. The Greek word for transfiguration is the word from which we get metamorphosis. Every school child learns about metamorphosis.

It’s interesting to me that Jesus does not invite all of his disciples into this experience, only his closest three. If this were the modern day, and we had been left out of this experience, we would say things like: “Why was I not included?” or “I have a right to be there.” Or “I’m as good as Peter, James and John.”

Maybe the same kinds of questions came up with the other disciples- we don’t know. All we know is that Peter, James and John are there, and Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah. It’s not hard to figure that out. Moses, the first Lawgiver, the one who met with God as a man with his friend, the one who gave Israel the Law, is there. Elijah, the first of the prophets is there, the one who was used by God in mighty ways and then take up to heaven in a chariot of fire.

There bathed in dazzling light is the whole history of Israel. The disciples see and experience the glory of God. And, it is so dazzling, so amazing, so overwhelming, that they fall on their faces. Fear? Awe?

Peter says: “Lord let’s build three booths.” Peter wanted to house it, to frame it. The experience was so moving that he wanted to put it in cement and keep it forever. That’s why we build churches, to house our experience of God. You can’t really house God, says Einstein. But, you can house the experience of God. You can mark the spot where God appeared. Our sacred buildings mark the sport where God has been met with.

But, like any experience, this experience is fleeting. It doesn’t last forever. Remember the last time when something so good happened to you and you wanted it to last forever. The older I get the more I want a point in time to last forever.

We don’t know how long it lasted. However long- it passed. And, says Mark, the disciples were there all alone with Jesus alone.

Jesus was doing most of his ministry in Northern Galilee, now with this experience he is moving south. He goes down the mountain and immediately gets back to his ministry, but now his ministry is going toward Jerusalem. Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem.

So, the church moves with Jesus to the season of Lent. We all know what happens next.

This experience was a confirmation of who Jesus was and is. It was a affirmation of Jesus as the Son of God indeed. Now, he is ready for what is ahead. Now, with the light of God piercing his being, Jesus is ready for the cross. The disciples? Are they ready? Hardly? Are we?

Look at that experience and get one more sight of Jesus in dazzling light. You’ll need that in the days ahead.

Blessings!
Dave Nichols

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Appropriate Candidate for President

Someone asked me on Sunday: “Are any of the people running for President candidates that we as Methodists could support?” I think I know what he meant but I’m not sure. To be honest, nobody ever asks my political opinion about anything, at least to the point of what candidate for anything that I support. And, if they did I would certainly have to give a non-answer. It’s just easier not to take sides in an election.

However, just yesterday I got a personal call from someone in Greenville inviting me to a pastor’s brunch for one of the candidates. He is a Christian and wants the support of the clergy, as if somehow that will ensure the support of the churches. I was flattered, I guess, to be invited to anybody’s brunch. My wife says that I have probably already seen him as close as I would get to him at the brunch.

This particular candidate was in SC for the last debate in Spartanburg, and we happened to be out the same night that he and his entourage came to eat. I got a good look at him, but he spoke to no one and went right to his book where he was pushed to the inside by his people. We could see him, but we couldn’t get close to him. So, my wife thought that was as close as we could get, even at a pastor’s brunch.

Politics is an interesting thing in this country. I am old enough to remember when John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon had the first debates on TV. My mother certainly had an opinion about which way to vote, but things have changed since then. We don’t just get debates but we get 24 hour coverage of these people and their families. Every word that’s spoken by them or anybody connected to them is recorded and played over and over. And, you ever made a mistake, well, it will be mentioned.

On top of all this is the length of the political presidential campaign. Not to mention, the money that is spent is incredible.

It’s not that I don’t have an opinion; it’s just that any opinion will upset someone. People seem to care more about protecting their particular political candidate than almost anything. And, after all everybody has an opinion about everything these days.

In spite of all this, our system is still the most open system in the world. I would say that we ought always to be concerned and informed as followers of Jesus Christ, and we ought always to vote. Voting is a privilege that we should never take for granted.

I would say that there is good in all of them, and that no one of them is all evil. Sometimes I do think that they have forgotten that they are working for the good of all people and not just for a particular PAC. That said, followers of Jesus Christ know something about humanity that everyone seems to forget. We are all sinners.

Leslie Whitehead used to say that we get all worked up to vote in one group and throw another group out of office. He said we must remember that we are just throwing out one group of sinners and putting in another.
Whoever our President is, whoever our leaders are, we, as followers of Jesus Christ believe that no one is the Messiah except Jesus Christ. So, we pray for them all- that God will give them the wisdom to make right decisions for the good of all. We pray that God’s will might be done.

So, think it over, learn as much as you can, pray, and then vote.

Blessings!
Dave Nichols

Welcome

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.
Blessings!
Dave

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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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