It’s More Than Selfish

Note: The video of this commentary can be found at: https://youtu.be/R7cfHs15CNQ


 

It’s More than Selfish

 

For the last few days, we have all been watching people go crazy.  While society hasn’t broken down, it has certainly proven to itself that Agent ‘K’ in the “Men in Black” movie was absolutely correct when he said:

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.”

And, when people are scared, they are the most panicky, dangerous animals in the planet.  It seems obvious to everyone, whether you are a Christian or not, that there is something horribly wrong with what is going on around us.  But for those of us who have spent some time in church, or in reading scripture, we have a pretty simple name for it. 

Sin.

In Matthew 22:36-40 some Pharisees asked Jesus which commandment he thought was the most important.  To which, Jesus replied that there were only two important ones.

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The second, of the two great commandments, is for us to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves, and this is, fundamentally, a condemnation of selfishness.  It’s okay for us to take care of ourselves, and it’s okay for us to be concerned for our own welfare, but it’s not okay for us to be so selfish that we no longer care about the needs of our neighbors, and indeed take so much for ourselves, that there our neighbors cannot meet their most basic needs.

There’s no way that any one family, let alone any one person, really needed to go out and buy a hundred rolls of toilet paper or several gallons of hand sanitizer.  I’ve seen a large bottle of hand sanitizer, out in a public place at church, last through three or four entire flu seasons for our entire congregation.  I’m sure that there is no good reason that anyone really needed to buy an entire case of them for themselves.

If you’ve been shopping this week, or if you’ve seen the photographs of your friends who have, you probably noticed that the shelves are empty of almost anything remotely edible.  Sure, we’re going to need food to eat, but you know what?  Since those stores normally provide the food that most of us need week in, and week out, year in, and year out, it seems obvious that people are not only stocking up, but that, in their fear and panic, they have almost certainly bought more than they can possibly use and my bet is that, while some of our neighbors are going hungry, much of that food is going to spoil and go to waste.

And that bothers me.

Folks, I’m not going to mince words here.  This kind of behavior is not only selfish, and not only tragic.

It’s sin.

 

 

 


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What We’re Doing about COVID-19

Many of you don’t follow me, or my church on Facebook and, although you probably don’t worship with us either, I thought I’d pass along a message I sent out that describes what we’re doing as a local church about the Corona virus/COVID-19.  There are, so far, only four official cases in Ohio, but statistically, that means that there are, at least, hundreds of people infected.  And, since many of our members belong to vulnerable populations, we need to take steps to keep everyone safe.  In any case, I thought that by posting our list here, some of you who attend churches, synagogues, or other houses of worship, Rotary Clubs, etc. might find something useful. 

Stay safe everyone.


Christ United Methodist Church *will* be having church on Sunday. But, while we refuse to give in to panic, we do want to be prudent and act with caution. Toward that end, we are making a few minor changes to keep everyone safe.

We hope that everyone will wash their hands before they come, and after they get home, but hand sanitizer is available in the lounge. Please use it.

We will not be shaking hands, but feel free to bump elbow, bow, curtsy, wave, or share the Vulcan sign for “live long and prosper.”

We have removed all of the registration pads from the pews so we won’t be passing them hand-to-hand.

Similarly, during Sunday’s offering, we won’t be passing the offering plate. Instead, our ushers will bring the plate to you (as much as possible). In the weeks ahead, we may just have the collection plates at the door at the end of the service.

We ordinarily spread out across the sanctuary, but we ask that everyone consider doing this even more than usual. We have plenty of room, so we ask that worshipers keep some space in between one another.

And finally, although this is always good advice, we feel it is important to emphasize this, if you feel ill, or have sniffles, or a cough, or are sneezing, please stay home. Many of our members belong to vulnerable populations and we must all do our best to keep everyone safe and healthy.

If you belong to a vulnerable population, or if someone in your home is vulnerable, and you feel that you need to stay home, we completely understand. My wife, Patti, is immune suppressed and we are taking particular care to keep her safe.

These are difficult times. No one needs to panic, but we do need to be prudent. Please do what you need to do to stay safe and healthy and care for one another as best we can. We *will* get through this.

 


Also note that since I’ve posted this, I’ve seen recommendations  against fist bumps, elbow bumps, or any kind of physical contact at all.

Further, although we have already put video of our services online on YouTube (see the link below), we are taking a good look at how we can do it better, livestream, etc.  Hopefully, we will begin implementing some of those options in the next few weeks even if we don’t have to cancel church in the months ahead.

Again, stay safe out there everyone, and take care of one another.  Check on your neighbors and your friends who are elderly, on chemo, are immune suppressed, or who belong to other vulnerable groups.

 

Blessings,
Pastor John

 

 

 


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Come with Us to Africa

Harrisburg Liberia High School
New school under construction in Harrisburg, Liberia.

As many of you know, Patti and I recently announced that we will be returning to Liberia in July of this year.  Although this will be my third trip and Patti’s fourth, this trip will be a little different because this time we will be the leaders of the team.  But there’s something else that we would also like to be different.  We would really like to take some of you with us.

But first, let me back up and offer a little history.  Several years ago, when we went on our first trip, we announced to our congregation (which at that time was Trinity UMC) that although we were familiar with the Farmer to Farmer mission and knew several of the people involved, our first trip was one of exploration.  We wanted to see the mission of Farmer to Farmer in Harrisburg, Liberia for ourselves.  We wanted to see what Farmer to Farmer was doing, to meet the people of Harrisburg, and to understand better what was being done and why they needed our help.

What we saw changed us.

We became friends with the people.  We understood the deep need and we understood why they needed help to move forward from where they were to where they needed to go.  But we also understood that our mission had to be a partnership and not just a means of moving money from the United States to Liberia.  The people of Harrisburg needed more than money and they needed to take ownership of what they had.  That understanding is what drove Farmer to Farmer to organize with a both a board in the United States and an equal board in Harrisburg.  We didn’t, and we don’t, want to tell them what they need.  We want the people of Harrisburg to tell us what they need, and we work together to find ways to accomplish those goals.  At the same time, the over arching goal is to reach a place where the mission in Harrisburg is self-sufficient and we aren’t needed at all.

Last year, Farmer to Farmer launched its first capital funds campaign to address one of Harrisburg’s greatest needs, a new school.  While there are already three elementary schools, the nearest high school is three hours away.  As a result, almost no one continues their education beyond the ninth grade.  But, with the success of that capital funds campaign last year, the first phase of construction for the new Farmer to Farmer agricultural high school has already begun.  And, while Farmer to Farmer has provided the funds to buy raw materials, it is the students, teachers, parents, and other volunteers in Harrisburg that are mixing cement, pounding the cement into forms to manufacture bricks, and offering other labor as their share of ownership in this new school.  More than that, the students and families of the St. John’s elementary school raised the money, and the labor, to build a new building just down the hill from the site of the new high school almost entirely without our help.

There are many more stories that I could tell, but I wanted to share this much to say that, obviously, Patti and I were convinced by our first trip of exploration.  As a result, we returned together in 2018, and Patti went again in 2019, and we are also now members of Farmer to Farmer’s board of directors.  This year, we are returning again to continue the progress that is being made, to paint classrooms, to sing, to pray, to play games with children, to encourage, and whatever else that we find to do that will move the dream of self-sufficiency closer to reality.

And we want some of you to come with us.  We hope to depart on July 21st and return home on August 4th.  We know that if you come with us, meet our friends, experience Liberia, and share the joy of the people of Harrisburg, you will be forever changed, as we were.  But your two-week investment will also change the world for the children of Harrisburg. 

Won’t you join us?

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Ashes Mark the Beginning

crocusOur season of Lent begins this coming Wednesday, February 26th.

But what does that mean?

The season of Lent is a time that we have set aside on our church calendars, to remember and to reflect.  We know that Spring is coming.  And with its arrival, we will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at Easter.  But in order to better appreciate Easter, to fully participate in, and to better enjoy the celebration, we set aside time to prepare.

If you think about it, we go through this sort of preparation for many things.  Of course, we could do things on the spur of the moment, but many things of importance in our lives deserve more thought.  We plan for vacation by buying tickets, reading travelogues, buying a good summer book to take along,  as well as sunscreen, snacks for the car or the airplane on our journey, and other “essentials” so that we are prepared, both mentally and physically, to fully enjoy our holiday.  We do the same thing was we prepare for scout camp, or for back to school.  We spend time and effort to prepare so that everything will go smoothly and be as enjoyable as possible when the time for those events arrives.

And since Easter is the biggest event of the church year (bookends with Christmas) we do the same thing.  For us to arrive at Easter as spiritually prepared, mature Christians, we shouldn’t try to cram all our preparations into one hurried trip to Wal-Mart the night before.  Instead, let us commit to a season or preparation so that we will arrive on Easter morning renewed, refreshed, equipped, expectant, and joyful.

Join us, so that we can journey together during this season of anticipation.

 

Blessings,

Pastor John

 

 

 

 


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Quit Talking. Start Walking. Guest Blogger – Aubray Sco

Amid the discussion about the sexuality of the Superbowl halftime show, I read a post from the perspective of someone who understands human trafficking in a way none of us (hopefully) ever will.  It is both powerful and thought provoking.  With her permission, I want to share it with you.  I encourage you to not only read it, but to give it some serious reflection. – Pastor John


 

Aubray ScoMy thoughts on NFL
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The number one thing I think of is how Americans are the biggest keyboard warriors in the world. I imagine people who literally run to grab their phones and start tapping away so they can be the first to give their opinions. So much talk and very little walk.
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The truth is I am so SICK of seeing your words because they have never carried any weight. You sit there, thinking you’re opinion matters but the truth is, it doesn’t. You know why? Because it’s an opinion and there has been no work, no going out to the arena, no going to war, or stepping on the battlefield with you.
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If you believe your keyboard is the battlefield, it’s not. Anyone can sit in the comfort of their own home, wearing their pajamas, and stating their opinions. That costs you NOTHING. So here are some things that need to be read, said, and written. I hope you take something from this.
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Human trafficking is very real. There are currently 20-40 million modern day slaves because of human trafficking. Human trafficking is directly correlated to the Sex Industry. Yep, the industry that has been around since Jesus. The same industry that tells us to “bare it all” but does not tell us what that costs.
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The Sex Industry has leaked into every single outlet in the world. Marketing statistics have proven that women wearing less SELLS. Because sex sells. These are just the facts. But it’s just a cheerleader, she’s just a singer, she’s just this, she’s just that. In the world we live in today, we have been taught that objectification is tolerable. That baring it all is acceptable. And if we don’t, we will somehow get left behind.
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Half of you may be eye-rolling and that’s fine. The truth is I worked in the Sex Industry. I know what it’s like to wear less and less. I know what it’s like to want to cover up, but there’s less money, less influence, less power in those things. That is what we are told. So we hand over our souls on a platter so that we can stand on a stage and receive an applause. But they never tell you the cost.
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This goes far beyond the women at the halftime show. This is for the women who have been trafficked into an industry against their consent. It is for the children who have been taken from their families to be pimped out. This is for the four year old boy who went missing because of a fetish or to the girl who does not know her worth and chose to sell herself. The Super Bowl is one of the number one days of the year for the Sex Industry.
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And you might be ready to say “Oh but many people are working women, it’s consensual.” Let me just repeat. I’ve been here. I have lived this life. I have worked with women from all backgrounds. I worked Super Bowl in 2011 and hung out with many of the women who flew in from all over to make the “big bucks.” Regardless if we chose to be there or not, regardless if we got paid, it still costed us more than we would have ever imagined. Sex is not just sex. It is a mingling of the souls and that will ALWAYS cost you something.
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So… to the keyboard warriors who just want to complain about the half-naked women singing? Go teach women what modesty is. Show women they don’t have to bare it all despite what societal and worldly standards have taught us. Disciple women, show up for women, and love them regardless of the life they’ve lived. And don’t judge every woman who’s wearing a midriff top – *cough Barb cough.* We need more love, not criticism, hate, and condemnation.
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To the keyboard warriors who think there’s no consequence for the halftime show. I hope you tell the women in your life, that they’re beautiful despite what attire they can still fit into. I hope your little girl knows, that she does not have to dress a certain way, dance a certain way, or sell herself in someway, in order to be accepted. And I hope you remember that the little ones are always watching. And they’re constantly looking for someone to look up to. Let’s make sure to be someone who’s worthy of that.
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And to the men. I hope you guard your hearts, protect what you watch, and that you teach the young men in your lives that women are to be treasured, respected, adored, and fought for. Disciple men. Invest in men. Eat at the table with your sons. Speak life into your son. And show him what a real man looks like.
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The very thing that God ordained and created within a covenantal relationship for us to enjoy “SEX” is the very thing that the enemy has worked so intently at perverting. Sex is beautiful. It is supposed to be enjoyed. It was created by God. It was made FOR us. And the enemy will always try to destroy God’s greatest gifts. I hope you realize that.
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And to every keyboard warrior out there. If you really want to make an impact, put your money where your mouth is. Quit talking and start walking. Disciple. Serve. Get your hands dirty. Raise awareness for human-trafficking. Put your phones down and go do some work. Put your boots on, go stand in the arena, and be prepared for war. Oh, and love your neighbor as yourself. Let’s start with that. It’s time to show up!

 

 


Aubray is the storyteller and treasure-hunter behind Table and Tide. Her hope is to help you to turn some of your biggest tragedies into triumph. To create a community that embodies bringing our mess to the table, finding our voices, and as a result, walking into the freedom of who God’s created us to be.

Please visit her website, Table and Tide, at https://tableandtide.com/.

Two “Top Ten” Lists for 2019 – Part 2

Two “Top Ten” Lists for 2019

Part 2 – Top Ten Blogs of 2019

Yesterday, I published my Top Ten” (actually Top Five) sermons from last year.  What follows is the list of my most “popular” blog posts.

#10) “Fear” (February 21)

Writing before the Special General Conference on issues of sexuality in the United Methodist Church I shared a few words for those who were worried about the outcome and the future of our church.  Although that conference is over and the future is slightly more in focus, my opinion hasn’t changed.

#9) “So, What Do We Do on a Mission Trip?” (September 25)

After our team returned from our latest trip to The Joy Center and Red Bird Mission in Kentucky, I explained a little about what happens there.

#8) “One Year In” (June 20)

A few words on my first anniversary at Christ Church

#7) “Pastor’s Report 2019” (October 28)

My summary of our year written for our official Charge Conference report.

#6) Confession and Pardon for Scout Worship (July 28)

Here I share my contribution to a Protestant worship service at the World Scout Jamboree in the event that that others might it useful for future scouting events.

#5) “What Happens When We Die?” (November 1)

One of my friends asked this question online and I shared it here because I know others have asked the same question.

#4) “Cutting the Baby in Half” (October 24)

Regardless of its apparent necessity, I don’t think that dividing the United Methodist Church will end well for anyone any more than Solomon’s proposal to cut a baby in half.

#3) “I’m Not Going” (March 25)

I explained to my congregation, and to anyone who cares, that regardless of how our denomination may, or may not, divide, I have no plans to leave this local church.

#2) “Do We Need a Catholic Order of Methodists?” (October 30)

While I doubt that anyone cares what I think, this is my proposal for how our denomination might stay together.

#1) “A Jamboree Honeymoon” (July 31)

While I was at the World Scout Jamboree, I met a young couple who were so passionate about scouting that they were spending their honeymoon sleeping in separate tents and working as staff so that scouts from all over the world could have the experience of a lifetime.  This post was read almost eight times more than #2 and ten times more frequently than #3 because it got picked up by both our Annual Conference and our denominational web pages.

Honorable mention

“Changing the World with Muddy Boots” (July 23)

While this is officially my least read blog of 2019 (and probably the shortest), it’s still has an important message and is one of my favorites.

 

 

 

 


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