We are living in a "Gutenberg Moment"* that dwarfs other such moments by it’s breath-taking power to change life on earth.
In the past, such moments end up disrupting everything. Nothing is the same. Everything before is changed.
The digital revolution is well on it's way to be such a disrupting force. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is the next wave that has already begun to buffet our economic, social and technical worlds.
The future appears turbulent and uncertain to a young adult workforce that is begining to navigate the gig “piecework” economy and the uncertain future of many industries.
But this is not the only major disruption in our society.
In the midst of the the “Love, Peace and Rock n’ Roll” season of the 1960’s & 1970’s, another major revolution in human behavior was unleashed that was completely unprecedented.
The birth control pill came into widespread usage during those years and for the first time in the history of humanity, sex was no longer linked to lead to pregnancy.
“Recreational Sex” became possible. People could emphasize the pleasure and rush one gets from genital intercourse and not worry about producing a child that needed decades of care. Pornography has become a major industry on it’s own right, changing how men see women and how people use each other.
And the change agents didn’t stop there.
The first effects of climate change were mere theories in the 1960’s and 1970’s, ...projections of energy supplies and the health effects of unchecked industrial pollution. All that has coming into focus and more as the harsh realities of scientific study provide clear evidence that human activity is the significant contributor to the rising sea levels, the spread of plastics in the oceans and the frequency/intensity of major storms (among many other ecological changes.)
We are in the midst of a tri-fecta of technological, social and environmental tsunamis. And our traditional faith structures, democratic process and social constructs are failing us.
No wonder so many people are angry, confused, anxious and rude with each other. So much change in such a few short decades has never, EVER happened before.
We are adrift in a huge, storm sea of change, with very few moral, spiritual and social resources left to navigate by.
As Christians, we claim the God of Israel to be a global, cosmic God. The God of all creation, who flashed the universe into being with a word, and called it “Good” (Genesis 1:1-27).
In Christ we recognize a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17) that changes not just our hearts but our relationship to everyone and everything around us.
When we accept Baptism into the body of Christ, we affirm that we are given “immigration papers” into the very presence of God, the realm of Heaven, as a free gift of unconditional love.
Our honest repentance unlocks all the power of “loving God and loving neighbor” needed to address each and ever one of these major changes.
With the great and boundless forgiveness, wisdom and encouragement found in God’s grace, we can begin to call ourselves and all around us to a new relationship with creation, with each other and with ourselves.
The world as we know it (and as we’ve modified it), is changing and morphing at a blistering pace. It is only in the rock solid, unconditional love of God, found in the life giving sacrifice of Christ, that can guide us, heal us, save us.
It’s not too late.
Grace and Peace,
*“Gutenberg Moment” was the term coined by T. Scott Plutchak, a librarian who first applied the term to the effects of the digital revolution to libraries.
“Blurred Lines” would make a great theme song for the 2019 Special UMC General Conference in February.
What we about to witness is a full throated, post-modern deconstruction of our United Methodist association. We are asked to choose between cutting the child in half or shattering like glass into millions of pieces.
Despite the deepening political positions, any shared understanding and common truths about sex and sexuality has been lost in the forty year fray. There is no serious survey of the field, no coming together for prayerful theological reflection on any deeper issues. We’ve lost the real issues, as a church we are unfocused, or worse yet, MIA: Missing in Action.
We are ignorant of the reasons why we are at this deadly crossroads. Yes, there are been discussions ad nauseum of the “Seven Clobber Verses.” But any serious, shared engagement with the whole Gospel, the arc of Creation-Sin-Reconciliation-Redemption has been absent.
We cannot see below the surface of our oft repeated views to the quicksand that often hides under a mirror layer of water, to the huge, amorphous and undefined conflict in society. And it will not go away simply because we ignore it and tear ourselves to pieces in the process.
On one hand we have the New Testament call and commandment to “love one another” and to “love our neighbor as yourself” along with the 300 to 600 references to love, (depending on your translation). At the same time there are many warnings and clear deadly consequences for not having a faith that is clear headed and mindful about sinful practices that separate us from God.
This is the quicksand we have been mired in for over 40 years.
And now we are at a point of throwing up our hands and saying “ENOUGH! Let’s at least do something!” Even if that something leads to gracefully inviting each other to leave part of our heart and/or mind behind.
It’s like two third degree burn victims embracing in a hospital ward. They desperately need to embrace, but that very act causes them great pain. Separation of any kind solves our immediate pain but ignores what’s really happened to us and the world around us.
We urgently need to pause and prayerfully consider togetherwhy the Greek new testament never uses any form of “eros” when it talks about love, …or even “storge” for that matter.
These two shadings of love are the Greek words most often used for physical love and family love, the very kind of love at the heart of our often-emotional disagreements.
In contrast, “agape” occurs 259 times as a verb or a noun and “phileo” occurs 54 times. These words for Godly, unconditional love and deep committed friendship love are the very heart of the Christian message. It’s a revelation to realize that Eros and Storge are completelyabsent! (Go ahead and google it, I’ll wait.)
Even since the birth control pill started the sexual revolution, we, as a church, have been mostly absent in the culture -shifting discussion of sex and sexuality EXCEPT in the area of intimate homosexual behavior and whether it is a fundamental part of Christian life.
When did Godly love = Physical love?
Now, in little over a month, without any biblical, comprehensive, and prayerful church wide- study on the understanding and effects that this sexual revolution has had (including behaviors such as trafficking, pornography, mental and physical sexual diseases, etc.), we are careening into a vote to dismantle our 300 year old, uniquely United Methodist “covenant connection”.
My heart weeps and is broken into uncountable pieces.
We all know that our world is in great turmoil and change. The news is upsetting and people easily get riled up and angry with each other.
Many are unhappy with their lives, with society around them and with what they see as the future. So often all we hear about is painful and tragic news.
Perhaps you are also aware that many people are praying for another revival in the spirit of the great American revivals of the past. (1730’s-1743, 1800-1840, 1850’s-1900 and late 1960’s – early 1970’s)
If such a spiritual renewal were to happen today, it will be because churches and other similar gatherings will be filled with people of good faith and love, and who take seriously the task before them.
Across the board, such groups need to work together and overcome the forces of chaos and mistrust with the power of faith and God’s love.
It’s clear that our society as a whole will not have the wisdom, strength or vison to make this renewal happen. Only people guided by a higher power, focusing on God’s love and reaching out with Christ’s forgiveness, grace and hope can see it through.
Most of all, it will require all of us to take seriously the critical role that we will need to play in rebuilding our fearful and angry world into God’s Kingdom guided by wisdom, trust, understanding and love.
Such a great undertaking starts with prayer. For it is not by our efforts that such a renewal will occur.
It is only by aligning our hearts and minds with the love and wisdom of God will such a holy thing happen.
We know beyond a doubt that God wants to reconcile the world to his loving purposes:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16 & 17 NIV
And so, my brothers and sisters. There is nothing more important for the future of the world we leave to our children, our neighbors and all the people around the world, than to listen to the word of God, and live our lives filled with the Holy Spirit.
As Christians, we are baptized into the realm of God’s heavenly kingdom. We are immediately made citizens of that heaven by virtue of God’s great love for us and our willingness to be led by God’s full grace: Jesus Christ.
We pledge allegiance to God’s kingdom every time we pray the Lord’s prayer. We live out that citizenship with every step we take, every thing we do, and every word we share with our family, our neighbors, and even strangers.
Join us in the worship of our loving God over the next few weeks as we touch on some of the high points of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
Strengthen your faith, expand your prayers, and work together with people of all good faith and love in a new and powerful way.
Let us join together for the rebuilding of our society around the eternal principles of our loving lord, Jesus Christ.
We affirm that God has no hands but our willing hands, no feet but our ready feet. Let us encourage the best in us and in all those around us.
We are in the midst of an exciting time in the life of our church and our world. We can become part of what God is doing in the midst of difficult times.
We continuously pray in the power of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Creator God for we know that God is trustworthy and will never leave us.
What scripture has stayed with you this week?
What have others learned about Jesus Christ because of you?
How goes it with your soul?
Grace and Peace,
p.s. Don’t forget: The “Real Discipleship Survey” found on our website; www.LancasterUnited.org It is anonymous and is a great help in deepen your discipleship journey. Try it out!
Like many others, I have agonized over the issue of Homosexuality and the United Methodist Church (UMC) for a long time. I believe we can unravel, not cut, this Gordian knot.
Is it possible for the 2016 General Conference next Spring to consider two completely unconsidered initiatives that are based on the reality that “Sex" does not equal “Love.”
One side talks about “love" as being inclusive of all sexual behavior. The other side seeks to uphold the biblical mandate that some sexual behaviors are “incompatible with the Christian lifestyle” yet paints it with such a broad brush that leaves many hurting in it’s wake.
Unless we make the above distinction of “sex" not being equated with “love" we shall always be talking past one another. (I’ve noticed that Eros love - physical love, and even Storge love - family, protective, are not mentioned in the New Testament, only Phileo love - Friendship and Agapé love - Godly love.)
2016 General Conf. Recognition of Covenanted Families
…Blessing the formation of families comprised of spiritual people who deeply love each other, but without intimate sexual activity.
In other words, is a “21st Century Monastic 'Small Group' Family Possible?”
Can we study ways to affirm “Covenant Families” of same sex families who choose to live in a close, caring, Christ-centered and nurturing relationship that refrain from certain sexual behavior?
Were not the classic Monastic orders basically same sex families?
Can we recognize the deep need we all have for family without being overwhelmed by our completely sexualized culture?
In other words, is this a way to recognize the “same sex love” that faithful people are feeling and choosing for each other without compromising a clear standard of behavior and our Book of Discipline?
Initiate a Gen. Conf. comprehensiveTheology of Recreational Sex in the 21st Century over the next four years.
What are the biblical, theological, traditional and experiential threads that could be woven together to provide wise and faithful guidance concerning sexual behavior in our turbulent and over-sexualized society?
What do we as a church have to say about
Adultery, the Divorce Rate and Multiple Remarriages,
Internet Pornography and Soft Porn in TV/Movies/Entertainment
Non-married living/sexual arrangements,
Sexual abuse of children and adults,
Sex Trafficking and casual sex among strangers,
Teen and younger sex,
(and other related topics)
...that can bring healing and wholeness in Jesus Christ to those caught up in these tragedies?
Perhaps these two initiatives can steer us away from the rocky shoals of division and estrangement of the "peculiar people" of the UMC who love so.
Last week the Pope shared historic speeches to the U.S. Congress and the United Nations.
To me the most moving words were spoken in the context of worship, reflecting Jesus Christ and proclaiming the hope and power of the Resurrection.
Especially powerful was when the Pope declared in Philadelphia (at the World Meeting of Families): “Family is like a factory of hope - a factory of the resurrection.” Families have, he continued, “a citizenship that is divine.”
These words resonated with me deeply.
They come as a powerful corrective to what’s heard so often: “It’s all about me!”
Our self-centered emphasis on whatever feels good has destroying our families. Sacrifice, honor and commitment to others is out of vogue. “Do it for yourself,” “You deserve it” and “You only live once” have replaced concern for others, authentic community and loving relationships.
So these words of Pope Francis are both refreshing and “counter-cultural.”
A little history….. I often describe our United Methodist Church (UMC) as “half way between the Roman Catholics and the Baptists/ Independents.
We affirm that all those following Christ in the historic understanding of Father – Son – Holy Spirit (The Trinity) are close and spiritual brothers and sisters to us.
When we baptize, we baptize into the universal body of Christ, accepting the baptisms of other Trinitarian churches and praying that they accept ours.
We work together “Ecumenically,” with other Christian organizations to advance the cause of Christ and the love of God in the world, even if we have some differences on doctrine and practice.
(We also work with other religions of the world to promote shared good words, understanding of our differences and basic respect. But that’s another column.)
But as Protestants, we did not always regard the Pope so highly. Our “Protestant” origin came from “protesting” the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church hundreds of years ago.
We are in the tradition of Martin Luther, John Huss, John Calvin, John Knox, Thomas Cranmer and others who severely criticized the Roman Catholic Church and it’s hierarchy that was directed by the Pope.
In those days, the Roman Catholic Church was seen as corrupted and false. The Protestant Reformation called everyone back to the Bible and to have a personal, direct relationship with God through Christ.
And even today, in some circles of the Christian movement, Catholicism and the Pope are highly suspect.
Rev. John Wesley, the founder of our own religious tradition, warned us of things that were “pope-ish”. (Partly in response that Methodists were seen as trying to re-establish Catholicism in England. We got it from both sides.)
Likewise, in Latin America, our Methodist movement very clearly stands in the middle of the religious landscape with the Roman Catholic church on one side (often still seen as suspect and allied with rich landowners) and the more charismatic protestant churches on the other.
Owing to our roots in the Church of England we celebrate Holy Communion and Baptism in ways close to the Roman Catholics. We observe Advent, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week and Pentecost, We often use robes, candles, an altar table and a baptismal font in worship.
But we also have the congregational freedom found in the Baptist, Independent and other protestant churches. As a congregation we decide where our funds are spent, the style and music of our worship, the programs to support and the missions to promote.
We have no Pope or Vatican City. We do have Bishops, but they are primarily to provide spiritual inspiration and teaching, upholding our “Discipline” and the care and nurture of the clergy, assigning them to the churches as needed.
No one in the Methodist movement is seen as infallible, we are all sinners, ones who are self-centered and often fall away.
To be a Methodist means that grounded in the Holy Bible, all are challenged to think and reason, learn from our traditions and experience the Holy Spirit in the presence of God.
So it is with joy and the recognition of a long history of relationship in the body of Christ that even as “Protestants,” we welcome and celebrate the visit of the Pope and the words he has for all of us.
We don’t agree with all the social and theological positions of the Roman Catholic Church, but we do affirm that Christ is present in the Roman Catholic Church and in all the churches of the Christian movement.
And that is why his proclaimation that “Family is like a factory of hope - a factory of the resurrection.” and that we have “a citizenship that is divine” is important.
This means that because of the Resurrection of Christ, we are all given accessibility to God and God’s love. The presence of Christ makes heaven on earth a reality.
In Jesus, we gain a foretaste of eternal life, eternal love. We are given the opportunity to live as ones already acceptable to God.
And the place that this heavenly gift becomes most real is in the family. Families can be the place of Godly hope, of forgiving encouragement, divine inspiration and the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
And sadly, families can also be places of dysfunction, pain and tragedy inflicted on one another when we stay focused on ourselves.
We have the choice as to what our families will be.
We have been given the power to transform what the world wants us to be (self centered and entertainment seeking) into families of deep grace, filled with forgiveness and hopeful love.
Is your family one filled with this “Resurrection Love?”
Do you want it to be so empowered?
Then join us every Sunday. That’s what we’re here for.
After both services (9 and 10:45 am) on Sunday, Nov. 21, you'll have an opportunity to purchase gift cards that indicate a gift has been given in a person's name to a powerful and helpful project around the world.
For hundreds of years the more traditional/liturgical churches have celebrated "Advent" as a time of waiting in anticipation and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ.
The Twelve Days of Christmas were the great feast time of celebration from Christmas day to Epiphany day (Jan. 6).
Society now moves by a different schedule. For 99.5% of us, we start planning Christmas in October and November, (...sometimes September or earlier!).
By Thanksgiving our plans are set and we begin parties, gift shopping, TV shows, Christmas shows and activities and Family get to gethers.
On Dec. 26, we pack up the decorations and move on to thinking about New Year's activities, year-end sales and a little vacation time, putting all the Christmas thoughts behind us.
The traditional quiet and reflective Advent (the four weeks before Christ eve), is overwhelmed by all the flurry of Christmas. By the time Advent gets to Christmas, there's only one day left, Dec. 24, to tell the story of the birth of Jesus.
To counteract that, we need to recognize that by Thanksgiving, people have their Christmas plans pretty well set and are ready to do things in the "Christmas spirit."
So we need to talk about Christmas - the birth of Jesus and it's profound meaning to us, starting in late in November, even starting now!
Posted in thought by nakedpastor on the August 26th, 2009
my vacation I met with many people who have left the church. They are
people I know and love. So from the start I want to say that these are
generalizations. I do realize others might have more positive things to
say. But what I hear from the people I talk with is pretty consistent.
This is not my opinion. I’m not making judgments. This is just what I
When they’ve been gone from church for a while and return they are
all shocked by the strange lingo that people talk. It is a coded and
getto-ized language that no one else understands but insiders.
When they go back more than once, suddenly there is a huge feeling
of expectation that weighs down on them. They know that if they commit
at all, they are going to have to meet certain expectations.
Although few admit it, shame is an important and powerful tool used
to keep sins, weaknesses, struggles and differences concealed.
One quickly learns that although indulgences ended officially many
years ago, money is still an effective means to earn rank, privilege
and allowances within a community.
One discovers almost immediately what the belief system to be
embraced is. Critical and inquisitive thinking is generally not
Although it is rarely ever explicit, competition and the disdain
for other religions and even other churches percolates through the
attitudes, language and actions of the community.
Orientation, condition and status (examples: divorced, single mom,
living together, gay, addict, etc.) are the equivalent of brands that
are accepted or not.
If you come and go, in the end no one really seems to notice or care.
You are expected to grow only if it enables conformity.
Even though, if you keep going, you feel you are being knitted into
the community, there is a strange feeling that there is something
conditional about your acceptance and membership.