29 August 2012

Celebration of the Ministry of Truitt Brinson and Bryan Clark


Sunday August 26 we dedicated a marker in the foyer of the church commemorating the ministry of Truitt Brinson and Bryan Clark, legendary members of the Oak Lawn Church.

Leader: We gather today to remember and celebrate the ministry of Truitt Brinson and Bryan Clark, who for many years welcomed people to worship at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church.
People: The Book of Romans says, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
Leader: Truitt and Bryan remembered names, introduced new people to established members and guests, and invited everyone to further their relationship with God.
People: The Book of Deuteronomy says, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers…”
Leader: Bryan and Truitt did not know strangers; they saw the potential each person had to grow in faith in Christ in this place.
People: The Book of Matthew says, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”; The Book of Hebrews says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Leader: May each of us, as we remember the ministry of Bryan and Truitt, realize our own potential as ambassadors for Christ and his church. May we welcome all in love and grace.
People: We dedicate this marker today in memory of Truitt Brinson and Bryan Clark. We are grateful for the impact they had on countless people, including each of us, and pray we may have the same impact on others for Christ.

09 August 2012

Welcome Cori Berg!


Dear Church Members and Oak Lawn CDC Families:

On behalf of Oak Lawn’s Staff/Parish Relations Committee, I am pleased to announce the hiring of Cori Berg as Director of our Child Development Center. After several months of prayer, discernment, research, and interviews, we are certain we have found the right person to lead our Center. Cori is the former Director of Christ Lutheran Child Development Center in Dallas. Before becoming a Director, she held teaching positions in early childhood development and elementary school. She is also a dedicated artist and teaches others to develop their artistic skills. Cori has a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre, Art and Philosophy (Valparaiso University), a Master’s Degree in Art and Theology (Union Theological Seminary), and did some doctoral work in Art and Theology (Graduate Theological Union and University of California Berkeley). Cori has a warm, engaging personality and a passion for creativity and we very excited for these and other gifts she brings to our Center.

I am very grateful for the work of so many who helped us through a difficult season. Our teachers and staff dealt with much anxiety about the future while going about their work with professionalism and dedication. Jeanette Watson and Markina Watson picked up extra administrative work during the absence of a Director. Mark Stevenson, a CDC parent, volunteered his time, sending us many resumes, including Cori’s. Our CDC Board faithfully interviewed many applicants, followed up on references, and patiently sought the best candidate for the position. Parents supported this process with positive feedback and encouragement.

Cori will begin her work as Director of Oak Lawn Child Development Center Monday, August 20. She is very excited to be a part of this great ministry, and I know everyone will want to welcome her to Oak Lawn. I ask your prayers for her as she begins this great task, as well as for the school’s teachers and staff, and, of course, its students. 

03 August 2012

On Chick Fil A and Silence


$601.97.

After a few mouse clicks on our financial software, I learned that’s the amount our family has spent at Chick-fil-a since 2006. I have remained silent on this “controversy” until this point, not out of fear as to what others might think—my blog is filled with sermons and commentaries on a wide range of topics that some would consider controversial. I have remained silent because this issue would not exist if we were not so tied to our Facebook and Twitter feeds. We would not know what certain employees of Chick-fil-a think about same sex marriage, what entities they support, if we were not so plugged in.

Chick-fil-a was targeted because of an executive’s opinion on one of the great social issues of our time. Chick-fil-a was targeted because they support financially an organization that has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. This week thousands or more people either showed their support or protested Chick-fil-a in a variety of ways, and in the era of instant communication shared their positions with pictures and commentaries for all to see.

I proudly serve a congregation with a significant number of LGBT persons, who, like every other Christian, seek to live their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. We worship, study, learn, gather, grow, and go into the world together as disciples of Jesus Christ, who calls us to share the love of God with our neighbors. Every Sunday we articulate for all present one of our central values as a church family, that we welcome and honor all people made in the image of God.

In the past I have supported Chick-fil-a, because of its decision to close on Sundays, offering their workers rest and an opportunity to worship and spend time with family. The fast food industry is notorious for its treatment of its employees, who are underpaid and overworked. Chick-fil-a also regularly supports Vacation Bible Schools around the country, offering free meals to kids who participate. In fact, June 29, the last time our family ate at Chick-fil-a, was on the way home from their last day at VBS.

This week I have seen too many posts, pro and con, about a fast food chain. We have expended too much energy about chicken sandwiches. I promise this whole “controversy” will be forgotten by the time school starts, if it even makes it that far. And what will we have accomplished? Some will feel they have defended first amendment rights by drinking a lemonade. Others will think they have supported their LGBT friends and relatives by eating chicken nuggets at McDonald’s instead. Many folk have said the issue of same-sex marriage and other rights for LGBT folk will not go away—and they are, thankfully, truthfully, correct. But making a fast-food chain the focus of our activity will not hasten those sorely-needed changes in society.

I have been silent about Chick-fil-a until this morning, but I have not been silent about the issue of marriage equality—in fact this spring at Oak Lawn we had a series on issues in the news and marriage equality was the climax of the series. You’re welcome to read the sermon, posted here May 20, or listen to it on olumc.org. The best part of that series was not the sermons themselves, but the dialog after worship, when a different speaker offered further discussion in a face-to-face, heart-to-heart manner—not the kind of clicking “like” or status updates we’ve seen this week. I have been silent about Chick-fil-a until this morning, but I have not been silent on the issue of gay rights because I treat same sex couples the same as I do opposite sex couples. I have been silent about Chick-fil-a until this morning, but I have not been silent on the issue of gay rights because I support LGBT persons for leadership in the church as much as I do heterosexual folk.

If we want to support our LGBT friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers—even strangers—let’s do it in a substantive way. Let’s lobby Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which almost certainly will be ruled unconstitutional very soon. Let’s lobby the State of Texas to change the constitution banning gay marriage in our state. Let’s go out of our way to stop bullying, end the enormous rates of LGBT teen suicide, provide shelter for the disproportionate numbers of homeless LGBT teens, encourage families to accept, not reject nor even tolerate their loved ones who come out.

My emotional reaction this week has been grief. Of course I grieve for those I care for who have shared their hurt. I share the confusion over what exactly other loved ones are professing by holding up their Styrofoam cups for all to see. But as I read those posts and saw those pictures, and I am sure there will be more to come for a few more days, my mind kept remembering two scriptures:

·         “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
·         “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)

$601.97.

That total most likely will never change, not as an act of protest but because with every sip of Chick-fil-a’s sweet tea I would think of faces I know and love who have been hurt by organizations the company has supported. I have been silent about Chick-fil-a until this morning, and now I shall return to my silence about Chick-fil-a. But I will not be silent about justice. Or mercy. Or love. Or forgiveness. When this “controversy” is gone in a week or two, forgotten by most, we’ll still be left here. There will still be work to be done to ensure every person is respected, loved, treated with dignity, and offered the same rights and protection under the law. There will still be the command of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves, and there will still be folk who question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer will have nothing to do with fast food.

02 August 2012

Of Surgery and THE TWILIGHT ZONE

Dear Church Family,

Thank you to everyone who offered support to me during my recent surgery and recovery. Many of you brought meals, sent cards, texts, and Facebook posts. For those of you who do not know, I had surgery to remove a fragment of a disk in my back that pressed on a nerve there for several months, causing pain, numbness, and weakness. Turns out the fragment was 3cm! It's a wonder things weren't worse. My recovery is ongoing; I'll start physical therapy soon.

I spent the two weeks following surgery resting at home- watching lots of TV. No, not the Olympics or even Rangers baseball, but mostly movies and reruns of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. I've always loved THE TWILIGHT ZONE. It's a wonderful reflection of American society in the late 50s and early 60s, a time of great anxiety and wonder. The space race was in high gear, as well as threats of global nuclear war. Episode after episode centered around individuals lost in their own struggles. They were often isolated and out of control. A classic example: a man, played by the legendary Burgess Meredith, is the lone survivor of an atomic explosion in his city. At first he struggles with loneliness and survivor guilt, but then he realizes he now has all the time he lacked before- he can read every book in the destroyed library. Then he drops his glasses and they break. Reality sets in.

 Time Enough at Last.jpg

My experience of THE TWILIGHT ZONE was very different this time. I was feeling much of the same loneliness and anxiety. The house was quiet- the boys were in Bay City, Christy at work. I was unable to do the simplest of activities. A big difference: I did not feel despair. I knew my family was near, my church family was praying for me, I was supported by friends, and my faith was strong. Jesus promised each of us abiding love, presence, and peace through our faith.

Isolation and despair make for powerful stories- real and imagined- and too often end in disaster. May the strength of our faith, realized in fellowship and connections with like-minded believers, give us the courage and hope we need to endure during the challenges we face. Remember the words of Jesus: "I will not leave you orphaned. I am coming to you" (John 14:18).