Thoughts of the week 4

Pastor’s Thoughts February 25, 2019
As we are half the way through the Special General Conference from February 23-26, 2019 to vote
on issues regarding homosexuals in the pulpit as well as officiating gay marriages in the United Methodist
Church, we have a backdrop of issues that take the spotlight. Whether it is the Vatican trying to do something constructive about years of sexual malfeasance by their priests, our President negotiating with Korea while his former attorney goes in front of Congress, or the “bling” news of who won Academy Awards last night, we are here; here with each other, here with God, and here in history, at a time when pastors like myself wonder how to help all who will be hurting come Sunday. I am happy to say that Bishop Carter’s remarks from his opening sermon yesterday were of great comfort
and I would encourage all people to read the sermon for themselves at https://www.flumc.org/blogdetail/bishop-carters-general-conference-opening-sermon-12759761
What I would also encourage all people to do is  test themselves for tolerance and understanding. Change, however it comes, means loss to someone and when it comes to religious changes that humans bring about, loss is deeply personal and cuts into family traditions of belief. It can shake people to the point that evil wins. Evil wins, my friends, when we try to stop the hurt by deciding to just not believe in God any longer. So I encourage you to step with me into a self-testing. Go to the NIV, the NRSV, or another translation of the Bible that is well translated, and read 3 times the verses of Psalm 40:1-5. Read them slowly, set them down, then read again, and once more later in the day. Take in what you feel, see, hear, and are experiencing from God as you read, and then pray that you are interpreting the words correctly; from God’s perspective, for you, for today, for guidance. I can easily take these verses and find comfort and fill a sermon on them if the vote goes one way in St. Louis. I, less easily, but still with a measure of understanding in trying to put myself into a friend’s shoes who sees it the opposite way, can preach these same verses ‘in her direction’. The similarities of my friend and I are great. We think almost exactly the same on every other topic we talk about. The similarities are that both of us are heterosexual pastors that have homosexual friends that we love dearly and wish to be advocates for in the areas of human rights, legal standing for equality under the laws, etc but she has a deep belief that marriage is a sacred right, when in front of God, that is between a man and a woman. So I come back to scripture. The Bible has been used for wrongs and wrongs that we cannot deny, such as slavery and the oppression of women. The Bible has also been used for aiding people over centuries to see humankind’s “humanness”, for lack of a better term, to summarize all that we are and what we seem weak about. It aids each of us to come to better decisions in our lives and to discern what is God’s way and what is not, but not without mistakes being made by us. I am not saying that my thoughts have changed. They have not. I stand firmly with the fact that as a pastor, and an attorney, I can argue a stance that is Biblically sound and factually accurate, for where I stand. At the same time, I do wish to echo Bishop Carter and to remind us all, in times of the hardest of heart-strings being pulled, God loves us all. God wants unity for all creation. God brought Christ Jesus
to, and for, us all. We are in God’s story, my brothers and sisters, but if we recall that God wishes us to love God, love each other, and to love each other with actions that show that love, so that the world will know we are Christians and will turn to hear the Good News of Christ, then we will conquer evil. Let’s go forward as Christians with a deeper heart and deeper understanding of each other, our world here on Earth, and of Almighty God.
Go and test yourselves. See how you would preach Psalm 40 this coming Sunday, depending on the few outcomes that seem most plausible to the ending results of these days in St. Louis. Then pray that God comes into your heart, my heart, and the hearts of the delegates to bring what God wishes, above all else to be: unity and love of God’s people, under the loving care of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!

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