In my devotion on Sunday morning, I was reading from Isaiah 58 where God speaks through the prophet to call the people a life of both personal and social holiness. The prophet tells us that the type of devotion (fasting) that God desires is that we address injustice and oppression, that we share our food, provide shelter for the poor wanderer, clothe the naked, and not turn away from our own flesh and blood (v.6-7). He goes on to call the people of God to honor true Sabbath saying:
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the Lord..”
I got stuck on the call to not speak “idle words”. Too often in our day and time, we see events like mass shootings or the crisis of migrants in inadequately prepared detention centers at the US/Mexico border and we offer “thoughts and prayers”. These words, while sincere and truthful, are a form of idle words, personal holiness that does not move into social holiness (i.e practical action on behalf of the suffering). For most Christians, this idle response is not because we are unwilling to do something to help but rather because we don’t know where to start or what to do. We should not, however, let that make us give up!
One of the beauties of the United Methodist Church is our connection in a big, global church body. That means we have mechanisms in place of getting word out about what is needed and getting resources to the places that can offer the answer to “thoughts and prayers” in real tangible ways to those who are suffering. We do this when we make flood buckets and send funds to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) after natural disasters and the UMC can help us to know how to turn idle words into action in the crisis at the US/Mexico border as well.
UMCOR is at work to help migrants in need at the border and those agencies that are addressing the humanitarian crisis we see happening. They do so “guided by four principles: the right to stay and flourish in one’s country of origin; safe passage for those with no viable alternative but to leave; welcoming and belonging, a process wherein migrants, refugees, and receiving communities work together to meet the needs of new arrivals; and support for the returned to help them reintegrate with dignity into their home countries after deportation.” Politics of immigration in the US aside, we know that where people are fleeing for their lives, where families are separated, where children are exploited, and where people are suffering, Jesus calls us to move closer, not further away. So, the UMC invites us to:
a. Putting together hygiene kits https://www.umcmission.org/umcor/serve/relief-supply-network/hygiene-kit
b. Calling our representatives https://www.umcjustice.org/news-and-stories/what-you-can-do-right-now-to-end-child-detention-859
3. Give through the Global Migration Offering addressing migration around the world. https://advance.umcor.org/p-525-global-migration.aspx
As part of our commitment as a church to love our neighbors in Harrisburg and around the world in tangible ways, we want to offer our wider community a means of response whether they worship with us and like us or not. To that end, we will be collecting hygiene kit items and donations during the 4th of July Parade as we hand out free water to our neighbors and welcome them into our church home to park and use the facilities. We hope you will share this opportunity with your neighbors (in person or via Facebook) and that you will consider helping yourself.
Jesus said, “Whatever you have done for the least of these who are members of my family, you have done for me.” (Matthew 25:40). May we find delight and joy in the Lord as together we take action to witness to God’s love here at home and around the world.
Pastors Wes and Toni Ruth
Surprise the World, Chapters 1 & 2
For those of you who skipped the first 2 chapters of Surprise the World, we’re giving you a short recap of those chapters in blog post form. If you’ve read those chapters, this will be a slightly redundant review of how Michael Frost sets up the rest of his book. Either way, it’s (hopefully) a helpful and succinct look at the foundation of the 5 habits we will be exploring as a church in 2019.
In chapter 1, Frost puts our minds at ease a little bit when it comes to evangelism. The prospect of having to be an “evangelist” makes most of us a little nervous. Or a lot nervous. Frost draws a helpful distinction between being an evangelist (a person with the spiritual gift of evangelism) and being evangelistic. Being evangelistic basically means being a person whose life is shaped by the good news of the reign of God through Jesus Christ.
Frost encourages Christians to lead “questionable lives” – meaning that our lives should lead other people (neighbors, co-workers, friends and family, etc.) to ask questions about why we live the way we do. And when they ask questions, we should be able “to speak about Jesus conversationally”. Frost gives us some historical info about early Christians in the Roman Empire whose acts of compassion, hospitality, and kindness was “stunningly different” from what most people had ever seen. This caught the attention of the Roman world all the way up to the Emperor. Frost says that “our challenge is to find what similarly questionable lives look like in the twenty-first century.”
In chapter 2, we learn that a questionable life will not arise from church programs and meetings, nor will it happen if we’re simply attending worship a few times a month. The questionable lives Frost is encouraging us to live comes from habits that we form intentionally. Our challenge is to find “regular rhythms or habits that transform our everyday lifestyles.” These five missional habits will make our values a daily reality in our lives and in the life of our church. In Surprise the World, ‘missional’ is defined as those things we say and do “that alerts others to the reign of God”.
Frost closes chapter 2 by reminding us of the importance of being mindful about our habits, so they don’t lose their power and meaning. He suggests three ways to be mindful about these 5 habits: (1) listen to those who are gifted evangelical leaders in our church; (2) remember that these habits “propel us outward, beyond ourselves, into the lives of others; and (3) connect with one another in the church by developing relationships of accountability so that we can help one another foster these habits and grow deeper in our own discipleship.
Over the next year, we will dive deep into the five missional habits outlined in Surprise the World: Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn, Sent. Our prayer is that God will lead us to live questionable lives that announce the reign of God in our world, sharing the hope and light of Jesus Christ.
A little girl named Ivey changed my life. I met her in Kindergarten; she was 5, I was 30. I had volunteered to be a mentor through Communities in School in my county and was assigned to be Ivey’s tutor. I remember meeting this precious girl with wispy blond curls and a sweet, shy face. The first year we spent together she didn’t talk much, in fact many days when I arrived I was told she was out sick again. By the end of Kindergarten, I came to understand that constant ear infections and poor health care meant she had trouble hearing and thus trouble reading. We hung in there together and by the end of the year she managed some small smiles when I came to see her.
This is a tough question for me. Christmas has always been a go, go, go time in my life, especially when your parents are divorced and remarried!
Most Christmas’ seemed to be making sure we saw all of the families, which for me and my sister was doubled. My fondest Christmas memories as a child come from before my parents split up. I remember being at my grandmother’s house, with my aunt, uncle, cousin, and great aunt. It was nothing special, except for the fact our family felt whole and close. It was warm and full of love. I loved the smells the came from the kitchen. Playing with all her old school wind up Santas that rode their tricycles across the kitchen floor. We would always eat a large meal then of course there was present time, which one of the kids could wait for!
Getting sick at Christmas is the worst.
A week or so before Christmas in 1992 (my sophomore year), I felt a cold coming on. Sore throat, stuffy nose, sinus headache. Nothing to worry about – it felt like a normal cold that typically passes in a day or two. Around day 3, I started running a fever (ugh) and had to miss my mid-terms at school (cool!)…and then things got real.