Thursday, August 17, 2017

CHARLOTTESVILLE and US

God shows no partiality! This verse is taken from that material in Acts in which the early church is working out what to do about its diversity. God send Jesus into the world as Messiah but he sent him primarily to the Jews, God’s chosen people. OK. We get that. All the images that Jesus used to define himself and his ministry were Old Testament images. You wouldn’t understand them unless you had been totally immersed in Judaism. For instance, in Luke 4, Jesus defines his mission by quoting from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…” But, primarily this word and message came to the Jews. Or, maybe it’s better to say that God in Jesus started with the Jews. There are all kinds of examples in which others from outside of Jewish faith came to Jesus for healing and grace. This Sunday, we have that great story of the Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus; her child is sick. Jesus, rather harshly, says that he has come to Israel and it’s not right to give food to the dogs. “Dog” was a common word for Gentiles. But, the woman persisted, and Jesus responded. Jesus was running in to people outside Israel who had great faith. So, now in Acts, in this New Testament community of faith, the Holy Spirit was breaking out of Judaism and moving Gentiles. The early church was a mix of people and had to work it through. How do Jews and Gentiles get along in the church as followers of Jesus. Peter has a vision and out of it says: “I am now convinced that God shows no partiality.” We know that, right? All people are made in the image of God, made of one blood. We are all whether we know it or not related to each other. God shows no partiality, but we do. I understand it when people partiality or unfairness in society or in their family and react to it. But, God shows no partiality. The church, you see, is that body of believers who are baptized into Christ. And, in baptism, says Paul, there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek. And, we can add: there is neither black nor white. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Charlottesville and the recent events that happened there have reminded us that we are not there yet in our country. The deep wounds of the civil war are still there. The deep wound of slavery and race in our culture continue to dominate our common life. We know, we have always known, that God shows no partiality. Racism and hatred and dead wrong. And, anyone who professes Jesus Christ knows this. In this age and every age, we fight racism by teaching our children in church and in our families that all people, every single person, if God’s child, and deserves respect and the right to life and liberty and love and food. The Kingdom of God is made up of people of all ages, nations, and races; that’s what our baptism ritual says. And, we believe that. We stand up to crass jokes and snide remarks about race. We don’t make them and we challenge anyone who does to stop it. At work, or play, or church, we reach out to people of all races and seek to make peace with all. We wish all people well. We pray that God will intervene in this, sort of, mass hysteria. We pray that God will forgive us when we have failed at this love business and will give us new ways to love and include all. God shows no partiality. Blessings! Dave Nichols

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

IN A TIME OF FEAR...

It's a time for fear, at least that's what we hear and see and breathe every day. There is always this rush to claim that the end is coming.

I remember once when I was in middle school. It was a dull, gray day outside and I was at recess with a good friend. I was a seriious child (well, mostly so) and I said to him, looking at the day, the end is near. He laughed and said: "You're nuts!" Of course, you know that he was right about that.

What's funny is that I was the religioius one; he never went to church. I had been trained in faith and love and church and worship and all the rest, and I was living more in fear than he was. What's that about?

In someone's scenario, the sky is almost always falling. Now, I don't want to downplay your pain or sorrow. I don't even want to downplay mine. There is plenty to be concerned about, plenty to mourn, plenty of suffering. There always has been.

A friend of mine commented on those movies/tv shows about vampires and the walking dead. Or, there are plenty of movies about annihilation, and coming asteroids, etc. We have this fascination with death in our culture and with crisis. You can't look at the news on TV or cell phone and not hear or read about the hourly crisis.

But, we are the religioius ones. The only crisis that we know about is the crisis of those who have given up on faith or given up on life or despaired about the world as we know it. I worry that we live too much in fear, too much with fear. We lose ourselves and the moments that we have in fear.

God knows there's plenty to be afraid about. But, what if fear is a bigger problem and will kill us way before whatever we're afraid of will.

Jesus calls Peter out of his boat to walk to him on the water. You know the story. Peter is overcome with fear. There's a storm, for God's sake. Peter sinks in the water. At the last moment, Jesus reaches out and brings him back. Jesus says: "O Ye of little faith!"

That's you and me. Faith in Jesus and the God who sent him, and the God who sends the Spirit now, is the basis on which we live. WE do not have to be so afraid. There is One who is with us in the storms who is greater than the storms.

1 John says: "The one in you is greater than the one who is in the world...". I don't know about you, but I think that we're the Christians here, the religious ones. And, the claim of faith on our lives is greater than the claim of anything else. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Right?

I believe it!
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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