Do You Hear It? Thoughts Before The Talk

In thinking about this week's message I'm struck by the image of listening. As a dad with two pre-teens there is plenty of miscommunication that takes place in our home. Rarely does it stop there. In our world of information, too many take too little time to listen to voices around them. Sure we can point fingers at others and even at ourselves but that leaves little of the issue solved.

This word from Jesus speaks, I think, to our soul's own voice which we largely ignore. We feed it the passing snack when it growls and rumbles. We pause for a warm fuzzy moment in church, a song the sends a chill up our spine, gaze at a beautiful sunset, and giggle when our favorite fuzzy friend gives us a wet kiss on the nose. They are intended to be the seasoning on the main course - not the nourishment we need. 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.' Matthew 11:17

In the games played by children, there is a permission given to experience the range of emotion. Is there not lessons to be learned for the children of God?

May I Ask: What has happened most recently that caused you to pause and connect with God? What emotions did it bring out? Did you fight it or let it flow? Why?

May I Suggest: Once a week for the next four weeks go to a different place, listen to a song, look at a picture and read an article or blog on God. Take note to listen for what you hear God saying.

Are we (clergy) children with nothing to do?

"But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.'" Those are the opening words of Jesus in Matthew's Lectionary reading this week (11:16) and as I prepared for this week's sermon, I ran across this piece of history...

George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin on July 26, 1856. He left school at an early age and was largely self-taught. In 1876, Shaw moved to London to become a writer. He became an active member of the Socialist Party and wrote pamphlets to further that cause. He went on to write the plays Pygmalion, Saint Joan, and Candida. In 1925, he won the Nobel Prize for literature.

He was an outspoken and controversial atheist. He was a showman, satirist, critic, and at times an intellectual buffoon trying to coax people to believe in socialism and in to reject God.

In the autumn of 1950, Shaw fell off a ladder while trimming a tree at his home outside of London. He died a few days later of complications from the injury at age 94. While on his deathbed, Shaw said: "The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, have led directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions. And now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith."

This isn't so much to get into the debate of atheism today but it in regards to the secularism or pluralism in our churches especially my own UMC. It also is not about being against anything either BUT it is about an acceptance of a diversity that is slipping away. I do care deeply for all voices to have a place, no one deserves to be shouted or ridiculed into silence. Let us all both dance and mourn and not seek to shut up anyone.

And it is for this reason I have to share this e-mail from my friend, Jim Hogan. I have known Jim for a while. He is a scientist and an engineer. He is United Methodist, a founding part of Crossroads UMC and true Jesus-follower. We don't always agree but we do always listen to each other so when Jim raised concerns about the UMC position on evolution and the clergy letter project (see links below), I knew I needed to listen carefully. I'm not a scientist and don't pretend to be one, I am pastor and I think Jim carefully words a response that we clergy need to respect before we do become children with nothing to do...

------------Beginning Jim's E-mail--------------

Just two days before I sent the e-mail to which this is a follow up, I had sent another e-mail entitled, “Links to Some Interesting Audio Files.” The first link was to a recording of John Lennox speaking on “Myths Christians Believe,” and one of those myths he spoke of was, “Everything a scientist says has got the authority of the hard sciences,” or “Everything a scientist says is science.” And then I quite unintentionally came across the commentary by Al Kuelling on THE UMC web site entitled, “It’s Time for People of Faith to Accept Evolution” ( which led me to The Clergy Letter Project web site (

I understand that many of you are probably not as interested in this topic as I am, and may not have even read this far. I certainly have no hard feelings over that. But perhaps you might keep this as it may prove to be a useful reference at some future time when the subject may be of more immediate importance to you.

For those of you who read on, I hope that your trust in me is justified in that I provide you with factually correct and interesting information which may both benefit you now and prove useful to you in the future should you have the opportunity to discuss this topic with anyone.

Even those of you who are interested may not read all of it. As you have no doubt discerned by now, my writings tend to be a bit on the long side. That is because I like to be thorough and precise. I am sorry if that bores or frustrates you. I have not yet learned how to combine thoroughness, precision, and brevity.

So, let me get to it.

As my first point, I think it is necessary to clarify the term “evolution.” I think the author of the UMC commentary (Al Kuelling) provides a false and deceptive definition when he claims that evolution simply means, “change.” That may be a succinct dictionary definition, but it does not come within a country mile of capturing the scientific meaning in the context in which he is addressing the topic.

A better definition is provided by Michael Behe in the preface to his book, “Darwin’s Black Box (10th Anniversary Edition)”. Michael Behe is Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University. He holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and his “… research involves delineation of design and natural selection in protein structures.” (Quote taken from “About The Author” in his book.) Michael Behe is clearly qualified to speak authoritatively on the topic of evolution in the scientific sense. Michael Behe writes the following:

“In its full-throated, biological sense, however, evolution means a process whereby life arose from non-living matter and subsequently developed entirely by natural means. That is the sense that Darwin gave to the word, and the meaning that it holds in the scientific community.” (Emphasis is Behe’s)

That is why I believe that this issue is vitally important. In the scientific community, life occurred spontaneously through nothing more than natural (physical) means. In the view of the scientific community, there is no such thing as the supernatural (meaning, literally, beyond the natural or physical world which we can directly observe and measure). There is no Creator. As Stephen Hawking claims in his latest book, the universe created itself from nothing.

Those are the claims of the scientific community. Many scientists, and many more people who simply believe that “everything a scientist says has got the authority of the hard sciences,” think that science has disproved creation and thereby disproved the entire Bible. Take a look at attacks on the Bible, and those who hold to its Truth, from this “scientific” web site:

While I agree that the Bible is not a science book, when it does speak on matters of science, it is correct. Take a look at Job 26:7, which (speaking of God) says, “He … hangs the earth on nothing.” (ESV) Job is considered by many Bible scholars to be the oldest (in terms of when it was written down) book of the Bible. Compare the idea in the Bible that the earths hangs “on nothing” (i.e., it is by itself in the void of space as we now have evidence) with the other religious or superstitious writings of the ancient world. You will read of theories such as the one that states that the earth rests on the back of an enormous elephant which, in turn, is standing on the back of an even larger turtle that is swimming in an endless ocean.

(By the way, I think it interesting to see how common the idea is that the world started in a large ocean or that there was only water before there was earth. Isn’t that what you would expect based on the story of Noah’s ark?)

When Darwin proposed his theory, the scientific belief at the time was that the cell was the smallest divisible unit of life, and that a cell was a homogeneous entity. It was believed that cells were akin to Legos® in that they could be assembled in such a fashion as to form any living thing. Techniques of observation had not progressed to the point where anything smaller than a cell was visible to scientists. It was just a “black box” upon which Darwin built his theory.

Tremendous advances have been made in the area of molecular biology in the last 50 years or so. Biologists now know that highly sophisticated molecular “machines” control every cellular process and are nowhere near the homogeneous blobs of life that Darwin thought they were. Untold thousands, if not millions, of scientific papers have been published in the field of molecular biology. Michael Behe write that, since it is widely stated that the theory of evolution is the basis of all modern biology, then one would expect that the evolution of biological structures would be the subject of a significant number of papers in the scientific literature. Behe writes that, “… if you search the scientific literature on evolution, and if you focus your search on the question of how molecular machines – the basis of life – developed, you find an eerie and complete silence. The complexity of life’s foundation has paralyzed science’s attempt to account for it.”

Michael Behe puts forth the ideas of “irreducible complexity” and “minimal function.” “Minimal function” means that a system must have the ability to accomplish a task in physically realistic circumstances. Irreducible complexity simply means that all the pieces of the system are necessary for it to perform its intended function, and that function cannot be performed if even one of the pieces is not present. Michael Behe points out that Darwinian evolution encounters major obstacles in light of those ideas.

As an example, he discusses the cilium, which is a structure used by some cells to “swim.” Michael Behe notes that, “In the past several decades, probably ten thousand papers have been published concerning cilia. … One might … expect that, although perhaps some details would be harder to explain than others, on the whole science should have a good grasp of how the cilium evolved. … In the past two decades, however, only two articles even attempted to suggest a model for evolution of the cilium that takes into account real mechanical considerations. Worse, the two papers disagree with each other even about the general route such an evolution might take.”

Michael Behe further points out that the first paper :… does not even try to present a realistic, quantitative model for even one step in the development of a cilium in a cell line originally lacking that structure.” In the end, Michael Behe concludes that this paper is really more of an attempt to get others to do work to come up with a model. Likewise, the second paper, “,,, is a simple word-picture that presents an underdeveloped model to the scientific community for further work.”

Michael Behe concludes, I believe correctly, that the, “… amount of scientific research that has been and is being done on the cilium … lead many people to assume that even if they themselves don’t know how the cilium evolved, somebody must know. But a search of the professional literature proves them wrong. Nobody knows.” (Emphasis is Behe’s)

By the way, Michael Behe is not a creationist.

So that’s it then. Science has not even put forth a plausible explanation for how an existing cell can wind up with a cilium, much less how an entire cell can come into being from non-existence. After an immeasurably huge investment of time and resources into scientific research on cilia, the best that has been done in terms of substantiating the theory of evolution is apparently to put forth a wholly inadequate model and then submit a plea for others to propel (pun intended) the idea beyond the stage of laughable sophistry.

My point in all of this is that Al Kuelling (the author of the commentary posted at the UMC web site), along with a lot of other people, assume that scientists have “the authority of the hard sciences” behind everything they espouse. In this case, they fully submit to the theory of evolution as defined by the scientific community.

It is frightening what the authority of the label of “science” can lead to when science has been deified as it has been in this culture (and indeed most of the civilized world). Following is a link to a heart-breaking and utterly horrifying example of that. Before you visit the web site, I would caution you that some of the material (words, not pictures) is shocking and vulgar. The article is rather long, but I found it quite compelling, and certainly enlightening.

In his commentary on the UMC web site, Al Kuelling makes not the first attempt to present a case for theistic evolution. What he does do, and what the Clergy Letter Project does, is state that “people of faith” must accept Darwinian evolution since science has “proven” it is true. They attempt to completely divide science and religion – a task I regard as impossible. I would point out that The Clergy Letter obliges me, and shoots itself in the foot, by providing a prime example of a failure to practice the separation they claims to be so necessary when they write that they, “… believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests.” How does having “Christian clergy” endorse a scientific theory fit into their mythical separation?

I do not think the import of The Clergy Letter will be lost on the scientific community. I think they will count it as another defeat of religion at the hands of science. And I think the world will see it that way, too. The church is not pushed out of a position of relevancy but, instead, once again chooses to be irrelevant. How tragic.

Make no mistake. Ideas have consequences. The efforts of mankind to throw off the moral constraints given by God in the Bible will be further bolstered. Man will believe even more firmly that he is the supreme arbiter of right and wrong. Consider this horrifying video clip of Virginia Ironside on British television:

It is bad enough that I have to battle against the secular world to demonstrate the evidence for the reality of God, the Glory of His Christ, and the Truth of His Word in the Bible. But now I have to battle “Christian clergy,” too?

------------End of E-mail-------------

It wasn't lost on Jim either that our ad campaign of "Open Minds, Open Hearts and Open Doors" was not in the least bit felt. My prayer is for clergy to read this, not for fuel to add to a fire but to get fired up about the Gospel message we have been called to carry to the nations, for the care we are called to give to the needy and for the love we are to show for our enemies.

It seems to me we continue to dilute our influence not because we share about the Way, the Truth and the Life but because we've tried to dictate OUR way, OUR truth and OUR life.

(My thanks to Jim for his years of friendship and permission to post his e-mail)

Finding A New Medium For My Voice - A Pastor Says Goodbye

Sometimes people surprise you and sometimes, inadvertently, we find God in the midst. One of those days came a few years ago at a staff meeting where my good friend Brandon Reeves reintroduced us the poetry form of haiku. You'll have to friend Brandon on Facebook and ask him about his haiku of pickles, I couldn't hope to do it justice.

I remembered studying the haiku form when I was in eighth grade. I didn't remember much so I decided to research it some more as I knew there was more to it than just 5-7-5 syllables. What I found was a form of poetry that didn't need to be 'poetic' or 'sappy' or even have to rhyme. While there is certainly a wider understanding, it is intended to connect our senses and experience with the natural world around us.

As someone who finds the outdoors to be a centering place and location of reverence, I realized I had stumbled across a 'light bulb moment.' I have found an expression to emotion and my peculiar journey with Jesus that seems to make sense.

I have written many over the past few years but have shared few. There have been a couple that have been wanting to get out, and today, with some time to catch a glimpse of God, they did. Where words and emotions have failed, I sense God in the midst. To all of our Crossroads family, know that the memories of these days will always be held tight.

A Peculiar Pilgrimage Week 6 - GOD SPEED!

1 Corinthians 12:1-13 NASB Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. (2) You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. (3) Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. (4) Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. (5) And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. (6) There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. (7) But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (8) For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; (9) to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, (10) and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. (11) But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (12) For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. (13) For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

I ran across the story of Maria and the events at Aldersgate Church. In her church, there occurred a day like what was recorded in Acts 2:1-21. That day was the day we call Pentecost, one where God poured out His Holy Spirit to all believers in Jesus Christ. But on the day that the Spirit came through Aldersgate, it did not seem to touch the life of Maria Smith. Maria had been a faithful member of Aldersgate all of her life. She was baptized there, confirmed there, married there. And yet, when the Spirit blew new life into the lives of so many in the parish, Maria felt excluded.

The other members of the church prayed for her but the prayers did not seem to work, however. Maria Smith did not speak in tongues. She did not prophesy nor interpret prophetic utterances nor acquire new and greater faith nor experience new healing power. All the prayers seemed to be in vain. Maria Smith experienced all of this as a source of great guilt. What was the matter with her? What was wrong with her faith life? Why couldn't she speak in tongues? In the company of her "spirit-filled" friends she could only see herself as a spiritual failure.

One day Maria's aunt came to visit her. Maria knew her Aunt Carmen to be a woman of great faith. Maria told her aunt of her experiences with her spiritual friends and of her own despair over God's lack of presence in her life. Aunt Carmen heard Maria's story of pain and replied in great wisdom. "The Holy Spirit has been at work in your life ever since you were baptized," Aunt Carmen began. "It is the Spirit that has taught you and brought you to have faith in Jesus. It is the Spirit that has given you your many gifts for the common good of God's people. The Holy Spirit doesn't have a copy machine. Only you have been given the gifts that you have. The Spirit doesn't want you to be like anyone else. The Spirit gives each one of us a different assortment of gifts. Our spiritual task is to use the gifts the Spirit gives us for the Body of Christ.” (adapted from Lectionary Tales For The, Richard A. Jensen, CSS Publishing, Lima, Ohio, 1994, 0-7880-0081-0 )

Had Paul written it in our age, I think he would have concured with Carmen, the Holy Spirit doesn't have a copy machine and that is a good word for today.

Brothers and sisters, we have journeyed together in the building up of this church known as Crossroads but Crossroads does not stand alone. We are part of a church known as the United Methodist Church and part of the Body of Christ known as the church with the big capital “C.” Your gifts are needed in the big C, you have a purpose in the big C and the big C needs all the gifts of the churches. There are gifts in Korea and Nigeria and India that the Spirit has given and vice-versa.

And among us as individuals, gifts are given and gifts are needed and used and sent. The Holy Spirit doesn't have a copy machine. Brian Funderburke will not be a copy of Ken Hagler. The Church and the church doesn't need that type of system. Methodist clergy are not interchangeable in that way and it isn't what the Church needs and it isn't what the Bible says we need to look for in others.

Changing will be hard but it will be okay. Things will be different but different is neither better or worse – just different. The Spirit is here, the gifts are here. The same Spirit that is here at Crossroads was the same Spirit that called me to ministry. This Spirit was the same one who has been at work in you on your faith journey and ultimately made our time together possible. There will never be a church like Crossroads for me, God doesn't copy churches that way either.

Brian has the gifts and the calling to be your pastor. On June 23rd, that calling is entrusted to him and I will no longer be your pastor. Help him, encourage him, support him and follow him, just as you have done me. His cell number and e-mail will become common place

Crossroads will always have a place in me and part of me will always be here. I speak for Heather and Logan and Jillian when I say this. There is nothing quite like being a clergy family where work and life go hand in hand.

Even as we grieve our separating, it isn't goodbye, it is God-speed on this our peculiar pilgrimage that will end for us all at the Throne of Grace! You follow Jesus and I'll follow Jesus. Use the gifts the Spirit has given you and I'll do the same. But there is one thing more.

The Spirit I believe led me to this. It comes from this past week at Cub Day Camp. In the Backcountry program we have a phrase of the day to remind us of our lesson. The one that sticks the best is the first one of the week and it applies, I think, to this peculiar pilgrimage. I'm going to say, “It's the PHRASE OF THE DAY!” and you'll respond back, “It's the PHRASE OF THE DAY!” Then we say, “The right gear, in the right pack, for the right trip ensures a RIGHTEOUS experience!”

I pray that in our time together these past years, you will recall the right gear and carry the right pack on this peculiar pilgrimage for it is THE righteous experience! God-speed to you my friends on our RIGHTEOUS EXPERIENCE!

Our Peculiar Pilgrimage - Week 5

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.4:14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 5:8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 5:9 Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 5:10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 5:11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

"Sometimes Christians deserve the ridicule they get and it is easy create one's own alienation and rejection by inappropriate and insensitive behaviour.” Those words of retired professor William Loader seems more than appropriate sometimes. What we say and what we do as Christ-followers are unfortunately, in the realm of absurd at times.

When Jesus said in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces,” I'm wondering if Jesus ever intended for Christians throw out our mistakes to them as well? The predictions of Harold Camping and the end of the world didn't miss us even here in Paulding if you drove on Hwy 120, you'd have seen the billboard proclaiming the May 21st day which has now come and gone.

The conclusion reached by editorialists in the Washington Post seemed to nail the point home: Christian leaders have a responsibility to remind people that we cannot know the “day or hour” ... They should also emphasize, however, that Christians should not seek to escape the world, but to embrace and engage it instead. (Washington Post Article ).

Orthodoxy is the word for RIGHT BELIEF. Orthopraxy is unfortunately a little known cousin and it is the word that means RIGHT ACTION. In the first century of the Church, it is important make note that persecution came from what both Christ followers believed and what they did. Christians DID NOT BELIEVE in the Imperial-cult of worshipping Ceasar (much as the Jews wouldn't worship Pharoah of Egypt) so they DID NOT PARTICIPATE.

Unlike the Jewish leadership who attempted to remain neutral, Christ-followers did just that – they followed Christ. They preached a message of liberation that is they preached good news to the poor, freedom to the imprisoned, sight for those blinded, and liberation to the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19) and then they went beyond it – they did something about it. Read the Book of Acts, it is the book that outlines the history of the early Church.

As we've looked at Peter's letter we've seen this movement of Right Belief and Right Action that we've been called to for it is our peculiar pilgrimage. It is a way Peter says, that shouldn't surprise us when we are facing difficulty or persecution. We should not even expect that in this lifetime that we will find ease.

But ease is not rest. Jesus promised us we would have that. But here is the way:
Be humble – the word meaning humiliated. Not God doing but you and I choosing it.
Cast anxiety – literally, THROW it on God.
Be sober of spirit – be calm, reflective, attentive to God's presence
But be alert – on your guard → there is an enemy, don't doubt it.

The way of Jesus is not merely one way among many but the way contrary, the way perplexing, the different path, the peculiar path. Don't take that because there are church buildings on every corner that our peculiar pilgrimage is part of culture. When Christianity was ruled to be the Religion of the realm by Emperor Constantine, it didn't make the way of Christ the way of the world.

The peculiar pilgrimage of Christ followers continued in the out of the way places, in the shadows, not in the popular stream of things. Today it continues and it is in that way, that I challenge you to live and walk. In that way, you will know sufferings as others do around the world but you will also know what it will be to have Jesus himself, “restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.”

Don't look for the Kingdom to come – look for it around you, in you and being built by those who follow the peculiar preacher from Nazareth on His peculiar pilgrimage.

A Peculiar Pilgrimage Week 4

1Peter 3:13-22 NASB Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? (14) But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, (15) but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; (16) and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. (17) For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (18) For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; (19) in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, (20) who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. (21) Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (22) who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

Approximately 92% of American households own a Bible, yet the majority of Americans never bother to read it. Even fewer of us try to do the hard work of understanding it.
In one of Jay Leno's street interviews he asks a lady on the street to tell him one of the Ten Commandments. She thinks for a moment and replies, "Freedom of speech." Leno asks her friend to complete this sentence, "You without sin..." The lady responds by saying, "You without sin, have a good time." A man passing by is asked, "Who, according to the Bible, was swallowed by a whale?" The man thinks for a moment and says, "Pinocchio." The best seller is not always the best read book of the world. And for those who read it, it isn't always readily understood nor is agreement easily reached.

This doesn't mean we don't have a reason to hope for unity. Creeds such as the Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed readily make available to all the Church's unity across denominational lines. To say, as some do, that you can believe anything and be a Methodist is disengenuous to say the least. It is flat out wrong.

Peter's message is very much targeted to the Christians of the day who suffered at the hands of persecution from other religions and from government. Often today, I get the sense that mainline denominations face a level of persecution from within the church. The UMC has been at the forefront of denominations that include Presbyterians, Lutherans, the Quakers and others. But what makes a mainline denomination? We consist of those protestant churches who hold to a conviction of holiness and justice.

It was the mainline churches who stepped forward in leading the charge for the end of slavery as well as Women's rights and Civil Rights. The advent of Sunday School was a social justice movement for children who worked in factories. As a United Methodist Christian and pastor, I have experienced being reviled by culture for being a person of faith and I have experienced being condemned by other Christians for caring deeply for justice.

This, I sense, is part of our peculiar pilgrimage. Peter says we ought to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts – Sanctify meaning HOLY, set apart and Lord meaning the one in charge. But too often we stress to often a heavy handedness of this holy ruler and Peter reminds us of the “gentleness and reverence.” We need only look to John Wesley's experience and the day we celebrate called Aldersgate Day every May 24th...

On that day, John went very unwillingly to a Bible study on Aldersgate Street and as he says it, "About a quarter before nine, when the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ and in Christ alone for my salvation and an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. No longer was I a servant, I became a son."

I went very unwillingly into the pulpit as an ordained United Methodist minister. But in doing so, I too came to understand that I was no longer a servant but a son. This is who I am called to be and what I am called to preach. I have been adopted into the family of God. Not only Jesus Lord...he is my brother and yours by his gift. He showed us the way of justice and love. Today, with over ten million United Methodists in 165 countries around the world, who gather for worship in 41,000 churches, we have reason to hope even if we suffer for doing right. We have reason to celebrate in that suffering. We have reason to serve even in that suffering. And we have reason to continue on our pilgrimage no matter the struggle, storms or celebration – for our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.

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