Monday, July 31, 2006

More than Corn

Theme parks were invented in Indiana. The world's first theme park opened on August 3, 1946, in Santa Claus, Indiana. Santa Claus Land opened a full nine years before Mr. Disney opened his park in California. Today, Santa Claus Land is called Holiday World, and includes The Raven - voted the #1 Wooden Coaster on the planet in 2000. Holiday World continues to be owned and operated by the same family that got it all started more than half a century ago.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fred Phelps gets hit on

Fred Phelps Jr.'s Comeuppance

I expected a different reaction. He did well with this guy.
Funny stuff.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Additional thought on patriotic thoughts

Not being privy to the details of your relationship with the parish, past words exchanged on this issue, behavior and conduct by both parties, etc.... I still want to voice support for your principled stance. It's an important issue - one which few churches or clergy are willing to deal with. A pox on impotent clergy! And a pox on will worship! You have raised an issue that few would even question - much less vocally challenge. In principle, I support your position and your conviction to speak out. -- Anonymous

More than Corn

I thought I would try and lighten this blog up a little by adding this new feature.
“More than corn” will be little fun facts about Indiana. I hope you enjoy!

The name "Indiana" was created by Congress in 1800 which means "the land of the Indians."

Final patriotic thoughts

Some may wonder why they have not heard this theological understanding from previous pastors. Having talked with a pastor who served this church recently, it is my understanding that he feels similarly. In our conversation he revealed that he moved the flags to the side in his first few months of pasturing this church for ten years. According to my research, at least since this church has had the current hymnal, The Star-Spangled Banner has never been sung and only once while last pastor was here did the congregation sing America the Beautiful. I cannot explain why other pastors have never directly addressed this issue; I can only assume that the theology held by other clergypersons was a civil religion with which they grew up. As difficult and confusing as you find all of this to consider, I find it devastating that preachers have never spoken up before.

I can share that in the first few months of my ministry at this church, I told the Staff-Parish Relations Committee that I follow the Christian Calendar and will not shape the focus of the worship service based on the civil or Hallmark calendar. Perhaps Christians in America can in various ways affirm their loyalty to the state. But not in the holy space that is sanctuary. Not in lieu of—or even in addition to—the Creed. And certainly, not in place of gathering around the Eucharistic table, at which people of all ages, nations, and races bend their knee and experience God’s presence and grace.

In conclusion, as your pastor, I have been given the awesome responsibility to lead you in worship and in ministry to the One True God. I am called by God to preach the Gospel and ground my ministry in Scriptural authority. I believe our gestures and words matter to God. Therefore, in spite of the pressure I have felt to do otherwise, I made a conscious decision to maintain our focus solely upon our Triune God during the worship gatherings around these civil holidays. Being aware of the possible consequences it is always difficult to make these types of unpopular decisions. I respectfully disagree with those who feel I should have acted otherwise. In fact, I have even attempted to bring about compromise by moving the American and Christian flags to the front of the sanctuary and by having a July 4th Prayer Service. I have made these compromises in attempt to bring about peace amidst the recent conflict. Yet in spite of my efforts some remain displeased and others have left our fold and may not return. I am greatly saddened by this response. Yet, I will point out that this only proves the evil and divisiveness that is perpetuate by having split allegiances. It appears that some have more passion and desire to give allegiance to other symbols than to come along side us in worship of the God of the Ages. Everyone has the benefit of worshipping wherever they desire. If some desire to find gatherings in which they can offer gestures and words to ideals and symbols in addition to Jesus Christ that is their prerogative.

While it is my hope that this letter and other contact will bring about peace and understanding in our congregation, I fear that these spiritual battles and ideological differences are too big for some to overcome. I am more than willing to discuss these matters with any who desire. In the end, it is my wish that we forge ahead and not live in amidst these storms any longer. My intentions are not to divide our congregation. I do not plan on letting this one issue shape neither my ministry nor preaching. May we not let these disagreements distract us from doing the ministry we can accomplish together. I am confident that as we continue to focus on Jesus Christ, the Lord will bless our Church and the world around us.

I am excited about our future together. I continue to pray that God will use us all to reach the lost and needy of our surrounding area. I continue to seek God’s Will for us in how we can live out our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. As long as I am pastor I give you my word that when you come to worship on Sunday you can be assured that you will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Biblical Truth loudly proclaimed. I appreciate and need your continued prayer and support.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thoughts on patriotic thoughts

Below are some comments people made about my two below posts regarding patriotism and conflict at the church I serve. It is good to know I am not alone.

“Last year, at our old church, we had a group that visited our church. One of the songs they sang was "Proud to be an American." Personally, I have no issue with the sentiment, but I took issue with the way everyone (except for me) did the old stand up at the proper moment in the song; this, for people who will not stand during music worship, or when they do stand, they do so with arms folded and mouths closed. Hang in there, you're not alone in your thoughts. Gutsy move on the letter...bold stands are called for.” – John, a youth minister from Cedar Rapids, IA

“my church is VERY into patriotic services. its mostly headed up by the music people -- not by our pastors preaching. I am the editor of our newsletter. In July I wrote an article saying how much i love the 4th of july, but that if you look into history... you will see that the founders picked what of the BIble they liked and what they disregarded. I brought of the whole Enlightenment thing. I slammed Thomas Jefferson. The next Sunday my pastor started his sermon my quoting all the founders and Lincoln on the area of respect of the Bible. he made them all look so good. You have to look at the context and the other quotes. I know it was his way of responding to my article. Respect doesn't always translate into Belief.” – Kyra Joy from Warwick,NY

“The church I attend also gets very patriotic. Honors the vets and sings the patriotic songs...this does bother me. It DOES NOT bother me to honor the vets or sing the songs per se but maybe we could sing them in the fellowship hall, or gymnasium, or parking lot... Some people actually come to church to hear Gods word and worship Him. To me it would be good to abstain from this practice so as to NOT offend someone. (edited the 'go kill 'em accusation. If I offended you please forgive me) Very close to idolatry if it isn't.” – Anonymous

“That's an awesome letter” – David Mitchel from VA

“It's impossible to judge the pastoral merits of your letter (whether it was too harsh or appropriate) without knowing your congregation and its life and culture. I respect your position, but whether or not you proceeded in a pastorally wise manner should be a judgment made by your elders and the Lord. My $.02.” – Jason from NH

“I agree with much of the substance of the letter, but bringing up the issue of idolatry in the first sentence is probably not setting the right tone. I would be more positive about pledging allegiance to our nation. Talk about the good things about our country, then say why we cannot place this country above our Lord. If you have trouble with the pledge of allegiance in and of itself, that is fine, but doesn't need to be mentioned in the letter, and won't be winsome to your cause. That said, I cannot believe so many churches exercise patriotic services. Praying for our troops I can understand, but I was completely unaware of this practice before I came to this board.” – Kevin S.

“Is the letter a little harsh, you wonder? I think so. Is it harsher than it should be? I don't think so. You are absolutely correct that the singing of songs to the USA in church is outright idolatry. (Saying the pledge crosses the line as well, in my opinion.) Many Christians are clearly worshiping the United States of America, and are even doing so in their church services. And idolatry deserves a very strong rebuke. It seems to me that we should worry less about hurting people's feelings and worry more about their worship of false gods.” – Travis White from Lubbock, TX

“Sticking by the Word of God does not always come easy, but you are doing a fine job. People are not always comfortable having to look inside themselves and weed out idols such as patriotism, but that doesn't mean its not the role of spiritual leaders to point them out. I know I am certainly not a theological expert and no experience in church leadership, but I certainly support you. Oh and BTW, who ever would come up with saying the Pledge of Allegiance in church?? That's bad. But then again, it is a UMC full of old people stuck in tradition. – Steph from KS

“I don't think just because leaders are to be honored it should be done in a church service. So maybe you can skip over the "whether not they should be honored debate in your church" and just ask if the church gathering is the appropriate place. That may be less offensive to your congregation, I think it would be easier for them to just agree with that, and then the other issue becomes less important. The older folks in America really did grow up in a different country than we have now, and sometimes I don't think they realize how much has changed...and I am not arguing with you, but I don't know what the proper attitude toward our leadership should be right now. But I can see honoring an office, without honoring a man...but that really doesn't have anything to do with this. Anyway, I wish you the best, and at least you are a Methodist Minister, so don't you get to move on soon?” – Anonymous

“This MUST be addressed. Biblically. But I would assume that these folks did not get to 'this point' over night. So definitely lead them out of the shades of idolatry but it may take as long to lead them out as it took for them to get where they are. And if I was a bettin' man it has been quite some time for this mindset to develop. Maybe not. God can do whatever at the pace that He sees fit. Praying for you.” – Anonymous

Even More Patriotic Thoughts

In Acts 17, Paul preaches the Good News of Jesus at the synagogue in Thessalonica and persuades a few. Upset, the Jews bring the Christians they could find before the city officials and make this claim: “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also… they are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying there is another King named Jesus.”

Today, this is rarely a charge made against the Christian. We no longer turn the world upside-down. Christianity has been assimilated into the predominate culture. We, Christians, are tolerated as long as we “play by the rules.” Further, our efforts to “play by the rules” and impact the political landscape through the world’s means are a far cry from the sacrifice of the martyrs who shed blood in service to the Lord of Lords. Instead, we have settled to become one of many options on the pluralistic buffet table of ideas. It seems that the Lordship of Jesus Christ is neutered in the modern world. Though we may not realize it, true service to Christ and recognition of Him as our one and only Lord continues to be risky business.

In 21st-Century America we often choose to abandon our Christian heritage and play it safe. Many churches reduce the radical, counter-cultural Gospel to motivational speeches and self-help guides. The Gospel is boiled-down to “seven practical tips to raising a healthy family,” or “an everyday guide to your personal finances.” This is not the reason our Jesus died for us; this is not what it means to claim Jesus Christ as Lord. The Rulers, Authority, and Powers should be threatened by a Church which claims Jesus as Lord. Satan himself should quake in his boots. Today, in the richest nation in the history of the world, Christians are in the position to break out and serve our Lord to the fullest. Yet, we guard our personal freedoms and uphold the economic and political systems we have come to rely upon for our stability and income. We put our trust in modern day “chariots and warriors” for protection of “our borders.” We give allegiance to pagan idols and symbols. We sing songs of worship, even in our churches, to ideologies which support oppression and violence. Yet, we, like the early Christians, face the challenge of declaring our loyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ and denouncing the Lordship of Caesar.

I am hopeful that in a post-Christian world, we may one day soon have to cling to the exclusive message of the Gospel. We may soon take seriously what our Lord meant when He spoke of the cost of discipleship: “If you want to find your life, lose it. Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Maybe we will better understand why our Lord more or less discourages people from becoming His disciples when He speaks of the sacrifices involved. Jesus said that even “foxes have holes and birds have nests” but those who follow after Him must be willing to give up everything. Undivided loyalty is required, as Jesus may require us to “let the dead bury the dead” and “hate [our] father and mother, [our] wife and children, [our] brothers and sisters—yes, even [our] own life” to be His disciples. Jesus wants us to count the costs. Of course, in requiring such things of us He declares that there would be costs for claiming the exclusive Lordship of Jesus Christ. If we are faithful to Scripture and the faith it expresses to us, then we will know that in claiming Jesus as Lord we too will have a price to pay and that price includes our loyalties.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More patriotic thoughts

While there are many Biblical examples I could offer, allow me to point to two examples from our Christian heritage. In the Book of Daniel, I might remind you of a very subversive and political story you learned in Sunday School. In this narrative, we read about a young man and his friends who lived in a hostile nation, under a ruler who demanded strict loyalty and allegiance. The emporer of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, built a giant symbol of himself to represent his sovereignty and the sovereignty of his nation. However, Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were slaves in exile, worshipped the One True God. On the day of the revealing of this symbol, everyone was expected to bow their knee and pay respect to the nation’s symbol. Yet, even under pressure, these boys refused to give their allegiance to anything or anyone but the One True God. Rack, Shaq, and Benny understood the significance of their words and gestures. The consequence of their actions cost them a trip to the fiery furnace. In the end God honored them for refusing to pledge their allegiance to anything or anyone but Him as He showed up amidst the fire they faced and protected them. We too as Christians in America have a lesson to learn from this story. But perhaps the greatest message we can derive from this story is that when we too are under great pressure to give our allegiance to the nation’s symbols and we refuse, God will be with us when we face the heat from those who will disagree.

A second illustration comes from the early church. The ancient Christians were not persecuted and killed because they worshipped a dead man named Jesus. The Romans, not unlike the American state, were perfectly content to let those living under their rule worship whomever or whatever they wished—so long as their ultimate allegiance was to Caesar, a loyalty they were required to demonstrate only once a year, by participating in a seemingly innocuous “pledge of allegiance.” But the Christians, taking seriously the admonition of Jesus that “you do not give to Caser that which belongs to God” refused. Like Daniel and his friends, they rightly understood that in a world whose existence is based on the rejection of the Lordship of God, even the most apparently innocuous words and gestures speak volumes about where our ultimate loyalties lie. They “render to Caesar that which was Caesar” when they could, and respected and submitted to the authority of the government. But they refused to do anything that remotely suggested, even for ten brief seconds, that the course of human history was controlled by anything other than Jesus Christ. Freedom was not found in the symbols of the nation; freedom was found in the eternal symbol of the cross of Jesus Christ.

In the past, the Christian faith and worldview, and in fact the church itself, were closely aligned with the American state. This view understood that the nation-state would be at least vaguely under girded by the Church and a monotheistic “Christian” religion and piety. This assumption remains in many pockets of our society; some are entrenched in this assumption. However, this situation cost the church her prophetic voice. No longer could the Church question the nation if the Church was side by side with the nation. The Church lost her ability to call into question the violence and oppression perpetuated by the nation. At least this was the case until the mid-1900’s. During the civil rights movement and protests of the Vietnam War, the church recovered some of her prophetic voice.

Unfortunately, many parts of the Church, particularly in the mainline denominations like the United Methodist Church, compromised their ministry by accepting a “Social Gospel” theology and swung too far the other way. In this liberal theology, the mission of the church to make disciples was compromised by a completely politicized faith which sole purpose was not to claim Jesus Christ as Lord but to use Jesus Christ as a prop for certain political agendas. In the past 25 years, this model was tailored by the “conservatives” to mix politics and religion creating a new force in the nation. These “conservatives” are entrenched, not in Biblical and Christ-centered theology, but instead in an ideology of “God and country.” It is these who are most upset by the church’s loss of influence within the government. In response, they have rallied the troops and created a political movement which seeks to not only influence morality on the nation but to legislate that same morality. Of course while there is no Biblical basis for this way of acting, it has allowed politicians on both sides of the aisle the leeway of abusing and misusing the subversive and counter-cultural faith of Jesus Christ. Again, all of this is called civil religion, despite whether it comes from the left or the right.

Therefore pastors who grew up with this civil religion probably taught and perpetuated this same civil religion in the churches they served. There remain pastors, some very popular—as this is the popular things to say, that continue to share this inaccurate presentation of Gospel Truth. As I said, this can be very confusing for those who have been taught the regrettable mixing of God’s story and America’s story. Yet among some Christians today there is a call for the Church to regain her prophetic voice. We are discovering that in spite of politicians who have Bibles under their arms and preachers who have flags in their Bibles, our world and this nation remain unreceptive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Patriotic thoughts: pastoral or too harsh in dealing with church conflict?

So some of you may know that lately I have dealt with some conflict in the church. This conflict climaxed around memorial day as some of the older folks wanted me to make our only worship service more patriotic. I refused and have had hell to pay ever since... some have even left the church. In my attempt to clear this up I have meet with some key leaders.

I have formed a letter in regards to the conflict and to explain my thoughts. Since this issue is not an easy one to grasp (for the average lay person who has been given God-and-country theology for many, many, many years by previous pastors) this letter is very long. So I have only given the opening paragraphs, which my some have said are too harsh.

Yes, they are direct, but... what do you think?

That is what I want to know. So here they are (and there is some borrowed language from a friend in ministry who recently dealt with the same issue).
***
Brothers and Sister in Christ,
In late May and early July, Christians across the nation gathered in their sanctuaries and engaged in acts of collective idolatry. That most Christians neither intended to be idolaters, nor were even vaguely aware they were doing so is not the issue; quite apart from what they intended or understood, many Christians gathered together in acts of worship directed toward a false god. Our blissful ignorance, far from being an excuse, is simply a sign that we have lost the capacity rightly to name the deity upon whom we are ultimately dependant.

I refer, of course, to the fact that Christians around both the Memorial Day and July 4th civil holidays recited the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the American flag and sang songs in honor of America. In some churches on Sabbath days around these dates, Christians stood for the flag and presented gestures and words of allegiance to the symbols of and directly to the American nation-state.

My writing this will almost certainly elicit strong reaction. In fact, some members of the congregation have already been made aware of my thoughts and feelings regarding these matters and some are so upset about this that they have decided to leave our congregation. I have a feeling that I have been misunderstood. If the members of this church, like yourself, are to be angry, let them be angry for the right reasons. My objections to what happens on these Sundays have little to do with my objections to war, or with loving America, or with supporting the American government in a time of national crisis. They have everything to do with the proper worship of the Triune God, the One in Whose name we ostensibly gather on Sunday mornings.

Like all Christians in America, I live daily with the tensions—and with the confusion—created by living as a member of a state that demands my allegiance. My daughter attends a local church's preschool and during their chapel time, unfortunately, they are instructed to say the “Pledge of Allegiance.” My wife and I have explained to her that her duty to “God and country” includes first of all reminding her country that it is not her god. For us, that means not pledging our allegiance to anything other than Jesus Christ, including America or to any of its symbols. Other faithful Christians may think this is a bit much. They may question the analogy between worship and pledge, arguing that the two activities belong in two different realms. They may claim that it is quite possible to worship God and pledge allegiance to America. I respectfully disagree. Words and gestures do matter, and the words we speak and the gestures we perform in Church matter most of all.

While there are many Biblical examples I could offer, allow me to point to two examples from our Christian heritage. In the Book of Daniel, I might remind you of a very subversive and political story you learned in Sunday School...
***
I will post more tomorrow. I back off later in the letter, which is five pages, single-spaced.

What are your initial thoughts? Is this too harsh? Are you the average lay-person who has never thought about this... What did you think? What would you think if you got a letter that opened like this from your pastor?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Understanding Generations: Millennials

Millennials aka Mosaics: 1980 – 2000
Formative Experiences: Internet, The Clinton Administration, Columbine shootings, 9/11, War on Terrorism, post-modernism

Characteristics: Determined work ethic, hopeful, polite to authority, leadership by teamwork, diverse and inclusive relationships,

Church characteristics: desires divergent thinking from Bible, Neo-traditional and interactive worship, truthful and communal evangelism, need mentors, inspired by compelling stories

The job of this age group is: preparing.

Understanding Generations: Gen-X

Generation X aka Baby Busters – 1964 – 1980
Formative Experiences: Technology, Berlin Wall dismantled, Challenger disaster, AIDS, Oklahoma City bombing, Gulf War, MTV

Characteristics: balanced work ethic, skeptical, unimpressed by authority, leadership by competence, reluctant to commit to relationships,

Church characteristics: desire answers to questions from Bible, authentic worship, friendship evangelism, want life skills and short term commitments

The job of this age group is: promoting.

Understanding Generations: Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers aka The Me Generation – 1946 – 1963
Formative Experiences: cold war, television, economic affluence, civil rights movement, assassinations, space race, political scandals

Characteristics: driven work ethic, optimistic, love/hate relationship with authority, leadership by consensus, personal gratification in relationships,

Church characteristics: desire “how to” approach to Bible, casual and pragmatic worship, supportive of “causes,” seeker-sensitive evangelism, vision oriented

The job of his age group is: prevailing.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Understanding Generations: Veterans

Veterans aka Builders – 1924-1946
Formative Experiences: WWI, Roaring 20’s, Great Depression, WWII, Korean War, rural lifestyle, family, school, and church were center of life.

Characteristics: dedicated work ethic, practical, respectful of authority, leadership by hierarchy, Personal sacrifice in relationships/loyal

Church Characteristics: desire Biblical content, worship reverence, supportive of foreign missions, crusade evangelism

The job of this age group is to be informing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Understanding Generations

I finally finished One Church, Four Generations by Gary Mcintosh. This book helped me fully understand the importance of knowing about the different generations when doing ministry. It is good for me to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of particular generations. While generalizations about generations are not always on target, often they can capsulate at least part of a person from that generations. As a trail-end member of Generation-X, it is good for me to understand the older generations in my church (and it would be good for them to understand what make my generation tick). So I thought I would take some time and share some thoughts this week from McIntiosh’s book as well as from other sources, like Bishop Coyner’s presentation at the North Indiana Annual Conference this year.

In early 1900s, when life expectancy was under fifty years, only three generations were interacting together in most situations. In the 21st Century, life expectancy is approaching eighty years, which means at least four, sometimes five or six, generations are interacting in our communities and in our churches.

Determining a generation involves span of years as well as connections of a common mindset, common character, and common shared events. These generalizations account for a majority of the generation. However, generations are influenced by upbringing. Further, overlap often occurs on the edges of the generations. For example, since I was born in 1977 I am technically part of Gen-X, but I feel that I have more in common with many Millenials/Mosaics than early Gen-Xers.

Tomorrow: Veterans aka Builders – 1924-1946

Friday, July 14, 2006

Is there a better place?

Stephen Colbert and Congressman Lynn Westmoreland


Really? Constantine would agree.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

With the Confessing Movement this week


So this week I am at Epworth Insititute which is sponsored by the Confessing Movement. So far it has been a great week with wonderful teaching and preaching.
Classes are conducted each morning by the most highly-acclaimed professors in America; afternoons are open for recreation and family activities; and an inspiring worship service is held each evening. The faculty in 2006 includes Dr. Elmer M. Colyer teaching "Wesley's Trinitarian Vision of the Christian Faith," Dr. William R. Bouknight teaching "The ABC's of Preaching" and Dr. Randy L. Maddox teaching "Wesley's Holistic Theology of Salvation." Preaching each evening will be Bishop James Swanson.
This has been a great week of spiritual renewal, learning, andn etworking with like-minded United Methodists. If I get the chance I will post more later.

For those who don't know:
The Epworth Institute is primarily for United Methodist clergy under age 45 with a minimum of two years full-time ministry under appointment, however all are welcome.
The purpose of the Epworth Institute is for young United Methodist Clergy to be...-- grounded in solid Wesleyan theology.-- educated in the sound academic foundations beneath Wesleyan theology.-- afforded the opportunity to develop networks of mutual support.-- provided high-quality continuing education.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

What’s so hard about “Love one another”?

Love is central to Christianity.
You might not know it when considering some of the Christians you know. Christians are often divided and divisive. The Christians that go on cable news shows are chosen particularly because they are extreme. I am often embarrassed by what some people say in public “in the name of Jesus Christ.” I am tired of making excuses for “Christian celebrities.”

But even on a local level, Christians are conflict-ridden. Churches split for some of the silliest reasons. I don’t know what your experience has been in a local church but I am willing to guess that at some point you have been aware of some kind of trouble or division. It’s deplorable.
On one hand, this contradicts our mission: to love others and offer others the chance of being part of God’s family. But on the other hand, it just goes to show that we are still human. While the Church follows a perfect Lord and Savior, we who make up the Church are far from perfect. Certainly, there are some Christians who do many great things. I hope you know some of these Christians as well. But as a whole we are often understood to be petty and awkward. In a recent poll only 44 percent of non-Christians had a positive view of clergy and only 32 percent had a positive view of born-again Christians. This is sad.

If only we could love like Jesus loved. Jesus taught his followers that one of the greatest commandments is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus loved those everyone else ignored. Jesus loved the rich and poor alike. Jesus even went so far as to command His followers to love their enemies.

What Jesus commands is no easy task. We have a hard enough time loving our neighbors much less our enemies. We often find it difficult to be kind to our neighbors (co-workers, friends, associates, and strangers at the supermarket or in the car behind you). Though Jesus said “love one another,” many times we aren’t even pleasant to the people who sit in the same sanctuary.

Loving our enemies is an even greater challenge. To love people who look, think, act, and vote differently is not something that comes naturally. It is abnormal for a person to show kindness to someone who has deeply wronged him or her or caused him/her harm. To forgive and wish well someone who has caused physical, emotional, or spiritual pain is quite peculiar. To do this is super-human, divine; it is something only Jesus, the son of God, could suggest. Jesus sees both sinners and the sinned-against, both the perpetrator and the victim as deserving of love, forgiveness, and grace. And, he commands us to see others this way as well. To love is not an option; it is a requirement that can only be met by yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit.

So, with God’s help, may we overcome our bitterness and strife. For those who have not wanted to associate with us because of our failure to love, I don’t blame you. I hope that you have not felt too uncomfortable while attending church. Yet, I fear there are some of you whom we have run out the door and may never see again. I pray that you will return. I pray we will learn together how to love and how to forgive. I pray that we, the Church, will learn to do better as we are given the opportunity to do so.
Cost of the War in Iraq
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