Our Peculiar Pilgrimage - Week 3

Strange things happen. And sometimes these events don’t seem quite fair.

Futurist Faith Popcorn approaches this subject from a different angle. She writes about the “Right, But” Club. The “Right, But” Club has as its members all the people who did the right thing, BUT life still didn’t work out for them as they had planned.
“I exercised BUT got heart disease;” “I took antioxidants BUT got cancer;” “I spent quality time with my kids BUT their SAT scores stink;” “I went to an Ivy League school BUT I’m stuck in middle management quicksand.”

Ms. Popcorn says, “It shouldn’t be surprising that life isn’t predictable, but our consumer society, the self -help industry and the media have all conspired to have us believe that we can actually micromanage our destinies.”

Consider Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson's twitter post last fall after dropping a pass: I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS IS HOW YOU DO ME!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! I’LL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!! It was just a dropped pass, but Steve Johnson unloaded on God. Johnson, of course, is not alone.

In his book Disappointment With God, author Philip Yancey interviewed a friend of his who had in a short time, found himself with his wife facing cancer, a collapse of finances and injury due to a drunk driver. When Yancey asked him about God being unfair, the friend responded: “I learned a long time ago and especially through this accident not to confuse God with life. Is life unfair? You bet. My life has been unfair. What has happened to my wife, what has happened to my daughter, what has happened to me, it’s unfair. But I think God feels exactly the same way. I think He is grieved and hurt by what that drunk driver did as much as I am. Don’t confuse God with life.” (1)

But the best example that life isn’t fair is the crucifixion of Christ. Never forget Peter's words that, “ Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins, we could live a life that has God's approval. His wounds have healed you. (25) You were like lost sheep. Now you have come back to the shepherd and bishop of your lives.”

But here is the Good News: We live on the other side of Easter. Resurrection faith is about living faithfully in an unfair world.

Unfair was Peter's forte: he had lived alongside Jesus and seen it in the days after the resurrection and experienced it himself when he too was crucified. He uses the word “anastrophe” 6 times in this letter which is more times than it is used anywhere in the Bible. Go back just a few verses where Peter sets this idea up: Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable,...(1 Peter 2:12) The word means conduct – how we live and face what is perceived unfairness matters!

Peter specifically looks at a slaves life. I didn't read those words but go back and you'll see Peter associates the life of a slave to that of the Christian. We may not like it but there it is. This isn't a call to right belief but a call to faithful living. If right belief was what was needed then all of us need to go Seminary and get Master's Degrees. It isn't and you don't. Faithful living in the face of unfair will be just fine. For that, Peter says, you need only look to Jesus.

Personally, I've journeyed this very road and willingly or not, you've been on it with me. I have in my time with God demanded justice like Job for his dealings with me and at the same time I have cried with David and the tax collector in the temple – Have mercy on me O God! I have learned from being a pastor and church planter, that indeed life isn't fair but God is faithful. I have experienced incredible highs and the lowest of lows in my life. I concur with Peter, it is our conduct that matters.

We need not be part of the “Right But” club. Don't fear UNFAIR! We live on the other side of Easter!

Now, in the body of Christ, what appears unfair and maybe the end is often a new beginning. Paul says it this way:
1Co 3:5-11 ESV What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. (6) I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (7) So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (8) He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. (9) For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. (10) According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. (11) For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

I have had the privilege of being the one to plant but Crossroads will take the Next Step of growth under another pastor and with leadership from this advisory team and all of you. It is going to be hard but it is going to be okay.

The North Georgia Annual Conference has chosen Crossroads to be one of two vital new churches participating in the NEXT STEP program for coming years. Rev. Brian Funderburke will be taking over the pastoral leadership as the UMC renews financial support in a significant way through salary and program support. Combine this with our new location and open invitation to help our community find ways to connect through our church's ministries and space, the stage is truly set for an exciting journey. Brian is joined by his wife, one child and one on the way!

For our family, we'll take our next steps up the road to Cumming First United Methodist Church where I'll be joining the staff as Associate Pastor. Our transitions to a new house, new school and new community have just started. For me, it is the next step on this peculiar pilgrimage. Through much time in prayer and suffering, spiritually, mentally, and physically, I came to see this spring that my time at Crossroads needed to come to an end for me and for you. The Bishop and DS agreed with that as well. Cumming FUMC will be in part a place of healing, further education and ministries.

The United Methodist Church is a connectional church and there will be a renewing of that covenant to see Crossroads become the Church we all envision us to become! This next Sunday, May 22nd, Tommy Willingham, Executive Director of New Church Development to help clarify and answer questions about the Next Step for Crossroads UMC.

There will only be one founding pastor of Crossroads, one planter. But being the second is equally daunting, Brian will be adding the water on this pilgrimage. Know that part of me will always be at Crossroads and Crossroads will always be a part of me.

NOTE: The Haglers last Sunday in worship with Crossroads will be June 12th. A reception will be planned and announced in the coming weeks. Ken will be on call as pastor in charge until June 24th when Brian Funderburke assumes responsibility for the pastoral leadership at Crossroads UMC.

1) A large portion of this sermon is taken from “It's Not Fair” by Dr. King Duncan.


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