Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A FLAG AND A WALL

The terrible tragedy in Charleston has brought up again the debate about the Confederate flag. If I remember rightly, it was Governor Beasley who worked on a way to get the flag down off the Capital dome and I think it lost him the next election. Congratulations to Gov. Haley for stepping forward, into the fray, to call for the flag to be put in a museum. I know you’ve heard all the arguments for and against, but allow me a few words as a pastor. I was at Clemson UMC when it was discussed during Beasely’s reign. I remember that the lectionary text that Sunday was from Ephesians 2: 11ff. This passage talks about Jesus as our Peace who has broken down the “dividing wall of hostility”. Jews and Christians would have known that this the wall in the temple which was acted out in their lives. It was about Jew and Gentile being brought together in Christ in the same church. Christ is a wall-breaker. I used the poem from Robert Frost called Mending Wall. It says: Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…that’s wants it down. The poem is about a wall between two neighbor’s houses made of stones. Each year, the weather works on it and it has to be repaired. There is something in creation that doesn’t love walls. I paraphrased it: Someone there is that doesn’t love a wall; that wants it down. In my sermon at Clemson I talked about the Confederate flag debate and said that one day it would come down because Christ doesn’t like walls. And, it did come down, and it will be brought down and put in a museum. Theologically, I have to say that God doesn’t love walls, walls that separate and divide. Walls that stand between neighbors, friends, families. Wow! It just all seems to go that way, if we pay attention. And we needlessly, put up walls because Jesus Christ, our Lord, is a wall-breaker. If we worship Jesus, it’s hard to justify anything that separates us from one another. End of Sermon. So what if it doesn’t bother you. It bothers Jesus, and it bothers those who feel excluded from a country and a state that is theirs too. I am grateful to all of those who are stepping out to remove the flag and put it in a museum. There’s something important at stake here: the integrity and respect for all God’s children. Someone there is who doesn’t love a wall. I think you know who that is. Everything, I tell you, leans toward God’s great creation of a new world, a new creation, if you will, where all are valued and loved. God must surely love diversity; he made a lot of it. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Thursday, June 18, 2015

WHEN STORMS COME...A Charleston Church

She wrote an email this morning saying: “My heart is heavy…” She then went on to say that she was praying for us all. Today the news blared out the news that some of our brothers and sisters at an AME Church in Charleston, SC, were gunned down at a prayer meeting last night. A white man entered, stayed and hour, and started shooting. Officials are calling it a “hate” crime, and it is. All crimes of murder are in one sense the working out of hatred, but when race is part of the mix, it’s hate indeed. Our hearts are heavy. We like to think that we are past all this race stuff, but this just reminds us that we have so much work to do in our world, our culture, ourselves to put aside prejudice and hatred. How? Why? What? I’m reading through the Psalms for my prayer time daily. I’m in Psalm 119: 57-64 today. In this the longest chapter in the Bible, verse 57 came out at me today. It says: “You, O Lord, are my portion…” Verse after verse proclaims the law as the highest good. The law of the Lord is perfect…but today it says: “The Lord is my portion…” Not the law alone, but God. The law is the way in, the way to, the way through. Obedience brings us nearer to God, but God chose us as his portion, his share. Not, to make us as a people better than anybody, no, but to make us his light in the world, shining. O Lord, you are my portion. One scholar says this means that God is enough. God is my life, my being, my hope, my love. The law is about God, but God is my portion. God is the one. So, what are we to do? We have to do something about this. But what? We pray. We cry out to God. Can’t you do something? Where are you? We pray for the ones who are affected by this tragedy- families, children, parents, Christians, a church, a people, a community, a city, a state…We pray. We voice, put into words, our own pain and hurt. We ask for forgiveness for all that is in us that causes us to hate and hurt. Forgive us, O God, my portion. Heal us. And, in this time, move us to see the utter nonsense of this act of violence. We seek peace. Jesus says: “Blessed are the peacemakers…” The hymn says: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…” With me. Let it begin with my own heart. “Let us examine ourselves…” Where am I on this journey of love and grace? Where am I on this journey toward peace and reconciliation? What is holding me back from being as loving as God made me to be? What is standing in the way of my own peace? What is the obstacle that is standing in my way when God is calling me to love all as brothers and sisters? We act. We live out that peace as best we can for others. We live it out in our own families. Family is messy business, if you haven’t notices. We love all our children, don’t we? In our own community, am I reaching out to those who most need my help? Am I treating all fairly and faithfully as children of God? Am I refusing to be a channel of hate and learning to be a loving partner with others in the world? A simple cup of cold water for a stranger or a loving gesture toward someone of a different race goes a long way on the journey. Can we listen to the pain and try to understand? I can’t think of a more vulnerable place to be than in church. As followers of Jesus Christ, we follow Christ alone. There he goes again, in to the storm, into the heart of the pain. And so do we. 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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