29 June 2016

Finding Forks

Dear Church Family,

Boxes. And packing paper. And more boxes. And more packing paper. Moving is exhausting, isn't it? Christy and I have had our fair share of moves over the years. Strangely enough, I could argue our easiest move was from Dallas to England. It involved stuffing as many clothes into four large bags as possible, then placing all of our belongings into a storage unit for a year.

The move to Sherman was easy enough, and I think we have made good progress in unpacking, but there is a real sense of unease until everything finds its correct place. And there is always that one thing that is necessary from the first moment of arrival but somehow remains hidden until we are at the breaking point. This move it was forks. For three days we ate our food with plastic forks- until I found our stash of proper silverware yesterday. It's amazing the joy one feels when the simplest mystery is solved!

I haven't seen FINDING DORY yet- I'm guessing it'll finally happen Sunday afternoon so don't spoil it yet. As far as I can tell, the movie is about Dory the fish searching for her family. Assuming she finds them, I am sure she will feel joy far beyond what I felt when the forks were rediscovered.

The idea of searching for things lost always reminds me of God. In Luke Chapter 15, Jesus tells three parables, back to back to back, dealing with the theme of seeking and finding the lost. A lost coin. A lost sheeep. A lost son. It is God's joy, and the church's privilege, to seek and find the lost. Every person is searching for something, and our hearts must be tuned in such a way that we see and hear those persons and show them the love and grace of Jesus Christ. This will be the theme of our sermon series, "Living a Jesus Life," which begins Sunday at 11:00- one service only this week!

Thank you to everyone who has already made us feel so welcome as your new parsonage family. Many of you have brought meals, we had a fun evening with other families, and even received a brand new dishwasher!  I look forward to many years of exciting ministry together.

All grace is amazing!
Peace and Joy,
Pastor Frank

14 June 2016

Scapegoat the AR-15

Yesterday I signed and shared on Facebook an online petition to ban the AR-15 semi automatic wespon, used to kill so many Saturday night in Orlando. Others signed and shared as well, and of course it garnered discussion between folk who disagree on the issue of gun control. Those who oppose limiting access to weapons like the AR-15 seem to come down to this: banning this particular weapon will not curb mass violence. One friend offered that actually other weapons are used more frequently in mass shootings; another shared a chart showing the assault weapons ban of the 90s had minimal impact, because weapons not included in the ban were used. Those arguments are fair enough, but they actually argue in favor of broadening a ban on guns. I'm focusing on the AR-15.

Just a couple of weeks ago the HBO series REAL SPORTS aired a discussion of the AR-15, the assault rifle used by the military in war (known as the M16 in military parlance). Over the last decade or two it has been heavily marketed to consumers, even youth, as a hobby, such as competitive shooting events. This civilian access has also resulted in the AR-15 being used in mass shootings like Sandy Hook, San Bernadino, and Sunday in Orlando. Here's a link to a portion of that segment, an extended interview with a lobbyist from one of the primary gun advocacy groups:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4ksHGaIoG4

The entire segment also included a discussion with one of the original designers of the M16. He spoke about how the weapon and its ammunition are designed for maximum destruction of its targets- again it's been the primary weapon of choice for the military since the Vietnam War. There was also an interview with a mother of a child murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. If you can find the entire segment it's worth watching, though obviously emotional.

It is absolutely true that banning the AR-15 will not solve society's evils, and that folk determined to do mass harm to innocents will still find ways to do so. I also concede that the government cannot, and should not, be the only way to mitigate violent behavior. But neither should government do nothing to protect its citizens. Somebody must do something. The AR-15 must go.

In the Bible there is a way for the community to deal with its collective sin and guilt. Leviticus 16 describes the events for the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. The High Priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses, brings two goats into the Tabernacle. One goat is sacrificed on the altar on behalf of the people's sin. The other goat is left alive:

"Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness" (16:21-22).

That living goat, carrying the sin of the people and sent into the wilderness, is called the scapegoat.

It's time to scapegoat the AR-15. In many ways this is a symbolic gesture- the gun and the goat. There is a reason Yom Kippur is an annual observance. People are sinful. Sin destroys our collective, and individual, relationship with God. We sin again and again. Neither the sacrificed nor the released goat inoculate the people from future sin. But it was important enough to make things right with God. Banning the AR-15 will not solve our gun violence problems. But it is a necessary start.

Tomorrow my family is going to Chicago on holiday for several days. I will be thinking of gun violence during that trip as well, as Chicago is one of America's most violent cities. Here's a great NEW YORK TIMES article chronicling the recent Memorial Day weekend in the Windy City, when 60+ were shot and six killed:

http://nyti.ms/1Xrk5iE

Gun violence has to be addressed- and not just with prayers and blogposts. We have to act. I once heard Dr John Ed Mathison, then the lead pastor at Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery, AL, say this:

"Prayer doesn't change things. Prayer changes people, and people change things."

I'm not sure how, or why, that stuck with me, but it did, and if we are going to do anything about gun violence we must act. So pray. Not just for comfort for the victims and families of tragedies like The Pulse in Orlando or Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech or the streets of Chicago, but for people to be changed. That our leaders will have the will to do what is right. That they will be so changed that they will change things. Starting with the AR-15.

It has to go.

10 June 2016

Summer Plans

My buddy Rodger did this last week and I thought it was fun:

Let the summer begin!
Week 1: Annual Conference for me, Cousins Camp with Mom for the boyos
Week 2: Family vacation to Chicago
Week 3: VBS at Custer Road, move to Sherman
Week 4: Miles' boy scout camping trip to Georgia
Week 5: Try to find that one thing that always gets lost during a move
Week 6: VBS, Grace UMC
Week 7: Bridgeport camp with Miles and Linus
Week 8: James making the daily drive to Plano for choir tour rehearsals (could use some buddies to come through with sleepover invites!)
Week 9: Christy and James on choir tour
Week 10: Marching band practices for James + Youth week at CR, including a certain guest preacher Monday night
Weeks 11 and 12: more marching band
Week 13: celebrate the return to school with a Lyle Lovett concert at the Bass in Cowtown with my favorite date