30 May 2011

I'm a Pepper, Wouldn't You Like to Be a Pepper Too?

This got me thinking about the church.  In communities of faith everywhere, there is always tension between yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  I remember serving in England many years ago, seeing pictures of hundreds of children dressed in white for a Sunday school anniversary, and hearing people long for the past.  Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  Over our 4+ years in Prosper, I could not begin to count how many times I have heard folk comment about the Sanctuary feeling like a return to home, the past, a place that may only exist in memory.  Years ago we said our niche would be traditional worship, and that emphasis has worked well for us.  But we always must be careful to remember why we offer what we offer-- not to manipulate people longing for something missing, but offering the truth of God.  The church is so much more than marketing and packaging.

The advertising industry has some of the most talented people anywhere.  They know that nostalgia is powerful.  We may feel challenged and even in despair about events around us, but repackaging our favorite drinks or snacks in familiar ways of a different era can immediately evoke a positive feeling (and a sale!).  Inside the package is something that may be delicious, but it will be temporary and fleeting.  The church can bring back the same feeling: stained glass windows, the Apostles Creed, the Lord's Prayer. But inside is an opportunity to learn and grow, to surround oneself with caring, loving, positive people who love Jesus and others, who covenant together and hold each other accountable to do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.  No matter how it is packaged, the gospel is truth-- the good news of the One the writer of Hebrews referred to as "the same yesterday, today, and forever."

13 May 2011

Change is the Only Constant!

Wednesday of this week started as any other: making breakfast and packing lunches for the boys, etc.  As I left the house to bring Linus to school, I noticed a missed call and a message on the phone.  I checked it.  It was from our District Superintendent, Milton Guttierrez.  I returned his call and learned that I would become the new Senior Pastor at Oak Lawn United Methodist in Dallas.  Needless to say, I was shocked at the news.  This was most unusual.  Normally appointments are pretty much set by the first of May.  In an ordinary year, I would have received this call in March or early April, and it would have been a consultative call in nature.  I'd discuss with Christy and the boys, pray about it, and make a decision, knowing that PUMC and our family had both wished for us to return as pastor for another year.  So many wonderful things are happening in Prosper right now- I just last Sunday shared some of our vision and excitement.  

Yet Christy and I value and affirm our United Methodist heritage of itineracy.  At my ordination I agreed to serve as I was appointed at the pleasure of the Bishop.  Christy and I have strong ties to Oak Lawn, having served there as intern and Associate Pastor several years ago, and the Bishop and Cabinet of our Conference know that.  The church has experienced very difficult circumstances in recent years, and things reached a critical boiling point early this week.  Late Tuesday they agreed that because of our existing relationships there we could bring both needed healing and leadership to Oak Lawn, and last night we were introduced to their Staff/Pastor/Parish Relations team.  Now begins the process of finding a place to live, deciding on the best school for the boys, determining a moving schedule, consulting with the incoming pastor here (we won't know anything for a week or so), and everything else that must happen between now and July 1.  I invite you to pray for Prosper UMC, Oak Lawn UMC, the staffs and SPPRC teams of both churches, PUMC's new parsonage family, as well as ours.  

One of my favorite scriptures is 1 Corinthians 3:6: "I planted you, Apollos watered you, but God gave the growth."  It was written by Paul, a church planter, who moved on to a different place and whose role was taken up by Apollos.  There were factions within the church: "I belong to Paul."  "I belong to Peter."  "I belong to Apollos."  Paul's response: "Are you kidding?  We all belong to Christ! God gives the growth!"  So it is at Prosper UMC, Oak Lawn UMC, and every other congregation in the world.  Our prayerful allegiance is with the Lord of the Church- its Cornerstone if you were in worship last Sunday- not with any individual or group.  I am grateful for whatever watering I have done as your pastor.  I am excited to share some water at a different congregation, as I am excited for whomever the Bishop and Cabinet see fit to appoint here.