Thursday, October 28, 2010

God's love

In response to the recent teen suicides and bullying in connection with homosexuality the Hanover College Chapel Community came together in order to stand against hatred.  I along with a few others wrote a statement to read during our commitment service.  We were asked to write a statement about what God's love is and what that means for this community.  So here is my statement about God's love and how it can and will transform this community.  For all of those who have been bullied, tortured, unloved...God is love, and God does love, and God's people will love.


God’s love is a gift for all people that tears down the walls hatred has built.  It is in each and every person represented here today for we have all been created in the image of God.  God’s love is exemplified when we as a community refuse to be an exclusive group catering to our own needs. God’s love holds all of us together in perfect unity.  God’s love stands against bullying and hate to say you are worth more than anyone can imagine for you are created in my image and loved by me. God’s love pulls a community together to say that those who hurt others are wrong, and it calls the community to commit to being the voice that pierces the silence, being a light in the darkness, being hope to the hopeless, and a friend to the lonely.  God’s love is not just for me, or just for you, but God’s love is God’s love because it is for all of humankind.

When this community stands together in God’s love to proclaim to our brothers and sisters that hate speech and bullying are unacceptable in this place, on this campus, and in our presence then the world will come to know what God's love really looks like.  When this community refuses to be silent all will feel welcome, all will know they have a place at the table, and all will feel included in the great mysteries of our faith.  When this community says enough is enough to our world and claims itself as God's love in this place we build a bond that cannot be broken by hate. 

God's love does not simply allow us to be silent but instead God’s love calls us to stand up and stand in opposition to hate. God's love puts an end to childish ways of excluding those who are not like us and who do not agree with us.  God's love opens our hearts and our minds to see the world from someone else's perspective.  God's love rejoices here and now as we stand together against hate, against treating human beings with disrespect, and God's love moves the mountains of injustice that we have seen in our world. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"God works where God's people are gathered"

I just spent 3 days with 14 young preachers ranging in age, sex, and theological backgrounds.  We came from various Christian traditions, educational backgrounds, and preaching styles.  This morning we split up into 3 groups to go to 3 different services in the Louisville area.  The group I was in went to Journey Community of Grace, a new church plant.  I have to be honest that a couple of us were a little worried because we knew that this wasn't going to be our typical worship experience.  We have a love for our hymns, pews, pulpits, and some of us our liturgy and we went into this worship not expecting any of those things and wondering how we would experience worship in a new and different setting.

Now I have been to many different types of churches and most of the time (not all) I leave services that are out of my comfort zone still hungry and longing for worship as I know it.  So my fear was not having that sense of worship this week.

When we walked into the building we were warmly welcomed (not the uncomfortable church welcome to our worship have a seat) by people who wanted to know us, where we were from, what involvement in the Academy of Preachers meant to us and how they could support young people just like us.  They had a breakfast where people ate together, caught up with one another, and welcomed visitors.  

Then we went into worship.  The band played 2 contemporary songs and then Dr. Moody interviewed the four of us from the Young Preachers Leadership Team that were with him.  After he finished his questions he opened the questions to the congregation there and one individual was very curious about how they could be relevant to the younger generation in their midst.  This was very refreshing to hear someone ask us how they could be relevant to us instead of telling us what they had to offer.  

After the panel discussion one of the members of our Leadership Team shared his journey of faith with everyone, partnering that with Paul's letter to Timothy speaking to keeping the faith, finishing the race, and fighting the good fight he challenged the congregation to keep being hospitable to visitors, to keep reaching out to young people, to come to the festival, and to pray for us.  After his sermon he asked that the congregation join around us and lay hands on us to pray for us.  Folks lifted up affirmations, shedding tears of joy for being inspired by those they were inspiring and encouraging.  They prayed for us, for other young preachers who are discerning a call to preach, and we all realized that something my good friend Winterbourne had said during the panel discussion was very true.  Winterbourne had said that something we have learned through the Academy is that God dwells where God's people are gathered.  Here we were four young preachers sitting in a worship service that was unfamiliar to most if not all of us, skeptical and hesitant going in but stepping out in faith, trusting God, and feeding off of one another.  

After they prayed for us we sang the following words: 

Savior, he can move the mountains 
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever, author of salvation 
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

Shine Your light and let the whole world see
We’re singing
For the glory of the risen King
Shine your light and let the whole world see 
We're singing, for the glory of the risen king

The energy in the room after the prayer and while singing this closing song was amazing.  The encouragement that we received from a community of believers who are committed to serve, encourage, and inspire young people, the welcome and hospitality, the pure love of worship that these people shared with us was amazing.  We left hungry, but it wasn't because the worship service wasn't what we were used to, we left hungry to fulfill our calling as young preachers.  We left inspired, filled, and excited about what God was doing through us and through the Academy.  

As our work continues, as the Academy continues to identify, network, inspire, and encourage young people to discern their call to gospel preaching I pray that more congregations will step up and show genuine hospitality to young people, that they will continue asking what they can do to be relevant and encourage us, that we can continue to work together across generations, genders, denominations, and theological differences to stand on the common ground of Christ.  

I am looking forward to the Festival of Young Preachers in January.  I look forward to meeting new young preachers to network with.  I look forward to opening myself up to listen to brothers and sisters who are very different than I am.  I look forward to meeting up with old friends and catching up with where they are and what they are up to.  I look forward to encouraging fellow young preachers who are discerning a call to preach and have no idea what that looks like or what that means.  I look forward to seeing God at work and being a part of the work.  I look forward to being a part of something as powerful and as transformative as the Academy of Preachers. 

January 6-8 will be here before we know it and 104 young people from all across the nation will gather to celebrate gospel preaching.  It will be exciting, it will be a unique event, and it will be worth attending.



Friday, October 8, 2010

See, Hear, Feel...

Last year I made a statement that has been one that I keep coming back to as I continue to live and learn in this world. The following is the statement that I made:

I see God the most in people, I hear God the loudest in scripture, and I feel God the most in nature.  

With a little guidance I hammered this out a little more today and it was really cool to see the pieces fall in place. 


I feel God the most in nature because I see the detail in God's creation.  I see the different leaves, and barks on trees.  I see the birds of the air and hear the sounds of nature all around me.  But most of all I feel the wind that blows freely, gliding the birds, blowing in the trees, carrying the sounds, and even touching me.  I take in a breath and the wind becomes a part of me, then I exhale and that wind leaves me.  What I realized today was that when I go out into nature it is usually because I am stressed or upset or something is weighing on me, but when I come out I am at peace, I am light and a new creation.  In Genesis 2:7 we find this verse, "then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being."  God breathed life, the wind that surround me and becomes a part of me in nature becomes like a new life and it makes me aware of the life that is around me when I am being in creation.  And so when I am in creation, I feel God's presence not only around me but also in me and through me. When I breathe in this breath I have this tension, stress, and weight built up in me and when I exhale that leaves me.  That breath that is life comes in and the life that isn't really life leaves me and is no longer in me.  So that tension is exhaled and room for new life is made.


I hear God the loudest in scripture.  This has been true for most of my life.  When I see the darkness of the world, when I hear stories of hate, injustice, war, and oppression it is very easy to be discouraged and have little hope.  BUT when I read scripture, when I open my Bible and spend time studying what God has to say, I hear a God of hope and reconciliation and I am filled with hope and become passionate about working for this reconciliation in the world.  So many people I know constantly ask where is God in this world?  Why don't I see evidence of a God of hope and reconciliation? I think the place to start is in scripture.  In order for me to understand how God is working in the world now I have to turn back to scripture and study to understand how God was at work in creation and with God's people.  There I find stories of hope and reconciliation (along with other things).  I hear God speaking to us as a world through scripture, often times crying out for us to be working for reconciliation and bringing hope, light, and life to others.

I see God the most in people.  The imago dei, the image of God is what we were created in.  When I look at Bryley (my just over a month old niece) I see God.  I see the work of a creator in how everything works, in how she is attentive, in how she grabs a hold of her bottle, in how she squeezes my fingers, and even in how she cries to tell me she is hungry.  I see God in how Bryley is continuing to learn as she goes along in this life, just like we are always learning and becoming more aware of the presence of God.  When I look at this child of God and see God, I remember that I too am a precious child, learning to live in the world, and being drawn closer and closer to the one who created me.

So there it is...I hope to continue to have my eyes, mind, and heart opened to where God is leading, what God is teaching me, and what God would have me see in this crazy world.  

Tomorrow I will go and spend time out in nature and I can't wait!