I just recently finished a 3-week New Member Inquiry class in which I ask individuals and families what drew them to our local church; give the history of our local church; cover expectations they should have of our church; what the church expects of them; and the history, beliefs, and structure of The United Methodist Church. In our last meeting together I ask them for any questions they might have specifically regarding our beliefs or anything they have heard United Methodists “believe.” Almost without fail the perception that an individual can believe anything and still be a United Methodist gets addressed.
There seems to be a common yet inaccurate perception that United Methodists don’t actually believe anything (or believe everything). That somehow, “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” became a statement of faith rather than a marketing campaign. Recent conversations on orthodoxy and the lack of a Wesleyan voice within church culture and broader culture in general, highlights this confusion. This is the first in a series of posts talking about this stereotype.
I remember walking out and saying to my concert buddy (@bhsmith1), “I think I just went to church.” I had just experienced seeing The Avett Brothers live for the first time and found it was just that, an experience. That was now two years ago. Their mix of bluegrass and folk rock with vocal harmonies that only brothers can provide is powerful, add to this lyrics that are both passionate and vulnerable, as the chorus to Slight Figure of Speech suggests, “I cut my chest wide open,” and their music quickly becomes a spiritual experience.
The events of yesterday’s Boston Marathon bombing serve as a tragic reminder of the presence of evil. Events like this bring the questions of why evil exists in this world and where is God in the midst of it to the forefront.
I have no doubt that God was not only present, but the first one to shed a tear as the bombs ripped through the crowd yesterday. I reject the notion that God caused this tragedy, or others like it, in order to carry out his plans or as some form of punishment. Instead, I hold to the belief that God mourns with those who are hurting and is able to bring good out of evil. That is God’s plan. Did God need these bombs to accomplish some greater good, no. Do I believe he will use them to bring good out of chaos, yes. Like God spoke into nothingness to bring about creation, he works within the chaos to bring about a plan for good.
“Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
It is often said that death and taxes are the only two guaranteed things in life. The idea of paying taxes has been around for thousands of years, continuing to this very day, April 15th “Tax Day” in the U.S. Jesus was presented with this very same issue during his public ministry in Jerusalem. Was it right or wrong to pay the “occupier” tax to the Romans? This was not a tax levied on every individual in the Roman Empire, only those who were not Roman citizens.
Over the past year or so I have become a HUGE fan of Twitter. There is something about the concise, 140 character limit that creates a sense of weight for each word, not to mention a streamlining of one’s wit, that I really like. In this same amount of time I have taken a big step back from Facebook, simply because I found it to be less interesting and engaging.
With all that being said, I’m excited to have the opportunity to expand my Twitter interactions through Nestivity, a space where further conversation and community can flourish. Nestivity has just launched its public beta and so I have a lot to learn about how it works but I would invite you to join me in learning together. I have created a “Nest” at mattlipan.nestivity.com and hope you’ll join me there. I’m looking forward to another way to connect with you using Twitter.
Sometimes I find the use of words like vision, mission, values, purpose, inspiration, meaning, etc. to create confusion on which direction an organization should go when they are actually designed to bring clarity. Sure, on paper the difference between vision, mission, and purpose makes sense but how often do we lose their meaning when we attempt to translate them into action.
The cry “It is finished” was not the mere gasp of a wornout life; it was not the cry of satisfaction with which a career of pain and sorrow is terminated; it was the deliberate utterance of a clear consciousness on the part of God’s appointed Revealer that now all had been done that could be done to make God known to men and to identify him with men.
~From Footsteps in the Path of Life by Marcus Dods
As part of the Fruitful Congregations Journey (read about the first parts of the process here) that our church continues on, we are starting a Daniel Fast tomorrow evening at 7pm for 21 days. The basis for the Daniel Fast comes from Daniel chapter 1 where Daniel tells the king’s chief official to “Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” (1:12-13).
We made it through the emotional roller coaster of Holy Week remembering Jesus’ betrayal, violent crucifixion, and miraculous resurrection, and sometimes find ourselves with a sort of post-Easter blues. The death and resurrection of Jesus are a big deal but now what? What does an empty tomb some 2000 years ago mean for us today?
The days after the empty tomb tell us…when dealing with the promises of God, death is never the end. There is much more to life than fearing death (not just physical death but death of our relationships, careers, reputations, faith, etc.), especially when the empty tomb reminds us that we can claim victory over death through Christ. We must be reminded of this as we try to “daily take up our cross and follow [him].” The disciples struggled, as do we sometimes, to see past death.