| Some of David's Thinking |
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Radical and hospitality are not words we usually put together. The word radical means “root.” Radical hospitality goes beyond being friendly. It means to excel in how we relate with people both within our community of faith and those who visit us as our guests.
We begin by addressing our own growth in personal discipleship. We seek to grow in grace and the knowledge and love of God by discerning what the Spirit is saying to us in worship, intentional growth by participation through learning in community, and by practicing compassion and generosity in practical and concrete ways.
We relate to persons in ways that are visible, real, and life changing. We hold a mirror up to our ministry and mission and ask: How are we doing in living into these qualities in our classes, choirs, small groups, mission, and leadership? How are we living and growing into our personal discipleship? How might we do better?
We risk a sense of awkwardness and inconvenience when we are invitational. However, God goes before us in any endeavor we take. People may be more ready than we realize to accept the invitational initiative that comes through gracious hospitality.
Think of your own experience. Who first invited you or brought you to church? Where did you become involved and what kind of experience did you first attend? How did you feel about your earliest encounters with the church? What made you feel welcome? What difficulties did you have to overcome?
In most communities, forty to sixty percent of people have no church relationship. A majority of our neighbors on the streets where we live do not know the name of a pastor to call when they face an unexpected situation.
I have heard any number of people who have worshiped with us say, “Yours is the friendliest church we have visited.” However, hospitality is more than simply politeness to newcomers. Hospitality is a quality of spiritual initiative, the practice of an active and genuine love, a graciousness unaffected by self-interest, an opening of ourselves and our faith community. How are we doing this? How can we improve?
If we continue to do what we’ve always done, we’ll continue to get the results we’ve always gotten. In other words, we are perfectly aligned to receive the results we’re getting.
A church challenges its culture on person at a time. Our response is not “they ought to…,” but, “I will…”
Gil Rendle of the Texas Methodist Foundation describes the difference between friendliness and hospitality this way: He says that friendliness is inviting someone over to watch television with me. Hospitality is inviting someone over, giving them the remote control, and saying, “What do you want to watch?”
Friday, 17 February 2012
Ash Wednesday, the first day in the Christian season of Lent, is February 22. There will be three worship services in the Chapel on Ash Wednesday: 7:30 a.m., 6:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The second is a children’s service led by Pastor Katie.
Purple is the color of Lent. Lent is forty days before Easter, not counting Sundays. During the season of Lent, beginning on February 26, I will be preaching a series of sermons on the cross. What happened on the cross and what significance does it make in human history, in the cosmos, in the heart of God, in your life and mine? There is no one understanding of the significance of the cross in the New Testament. There are multiple understandings.
Palm Sunday, April 1, is the beginning of Holy Week, which culminates on Easter day, April 8. Palm Sunday is the day Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem. Maundy Thursday, April 5, is the day that Jesus and his disciples celebrated Passover, when Jesus changed a supper into a sacrament, the last meal they shared together. There will be a service of Holy Communion in the sanctuary at 7:00 p.m. The following day, Good Friday, April 6, is the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. There will be a worship service in the sanctuary at 7:00 p.m. with special music offered by our Chancel Choir.
Lent is a journey, for the church and for us as individuals. It is a journey of intense self-examination, of penitence for estrangement from God and all creation, and for preparation for restoration to a right relationship with God, one another, and all creation. It is a journey that requires facing the cross. Jesus gave himself in complete trust to God as he submitted to crucifixion. When Jesus prayed on the cross that God would forgive his executioners and those who betrayed him, he gave us a model for unconditional love. As those who betrayed Jesus, or left Jesus in fear, returned, they were forgiven, even as we seek forgiveness and restoration.
There are no short routes to Easter. The experience of Easter goes through Lent.
Wednesday, 01 February 2012
Two weeks ago in worship, I gave this definition of a Christian: someone who hears the story of Jesus Christ and is drawn to it and who responds by turning toward this story. I wonder how each of you who heard that sermon or are reading this definition right now would respond if I asked you what that definition meant to you. I wonder what your own definition would be and how you would explain its meaning to others.
I also gave the following definition the purpose of the Church: to be a people who seek to immerse ourselves in as many ways as we can think of in the story of Jesus Christ so that it will form our lives. I wonder how each of you would talk about the purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ given that definition. I wonder what you own definition of the purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ would be and how you would explain it to others.
Our Holy Conversations team is looking at foundational understandings of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, what it means to be the Church, and formulating three or four questions that will be asked of each of you, hopefully, before the end of the summer. You are an integral part of the process. They will also be forming three or four questions to ask of people in the community: shop owners, persons who work at coffee shops, businesses, schools, government offices, and other places. All of the responses the team receives will be compiled to help discern the way forward into God’s future for us. The Holy Conversations team is seeking what God wants Kessler Park United Methodist Church to be and do in 2013 and into the future, our purpose as a congregation.
Gil Rendle says it well in his superb new book entitled Back to Zero: The Search to Rediscover the Methodist Movement:
The question that is most important for congregations and denominations to answer is the question of call, of purpose. Rather than ask how we get more members or more dollars to sustain the life of the congregation, we need leaders to ask what difference they are called to make in the corner of God’s kingdom where they are placed…
…Effective leaders must be able to identify the difference their organization or institution is called to make, then also be able to identify and focus on the most essential activities of the organization, the core process, that will best accomplish the outcome.
This is an exciting time for KPUMC. Just ask Hollis Stuckert, Julie Lennon, Veta Redmond, and Angela Marlin who united with our church last Sunday morning.
Wednesday, 01 February 2012
Imagine Jesus speaking, calling his hearers on the Mount, and us, his readers of that sermon – folks who tend to do the right and wise thing, but only after all other alternatives have been exhausted. Imagine Jesus calling us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Has ordinary humanity ever received such a compliment from so high and informed a source?
You are the sale of the earth: Christians are to life what salt is to food – that which preserves and seasons life. God is no frowning diety. Even in a world abounding with issues as our own, we experienced the joy of life. When the earth offers us its fullness, we are wrong not to desire it, we are wrong again not to take it, and we are wrong not to share it as widely as we can with as many human beings as possible. How have you expressed your Christian discipleship this week? What have you done? Just as a pinch of salt seasons far beyond its proportion, so a handful of really joyful Christians can radiate gladness in all directions.
Christ also calls us to be the light of the world. Whether it be to guide or to illuminate, the point of any light is to be seen: A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
With rare exceptions, secret discipleship is a contradiction in terms. Either the secrecy destroys the discipleship or the discipleship destroys the secrecy. Let your light shine before people that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven. It’s not a question of being humble. As all light streams from the sun, so all goodness streams from God. If you can accept your goodness not as an achievement but as a gift, you are much freer to enjoy it. When someone appreciates your good works, you don’t have to get flustered and say, “Aw, shucks!” You can just say, “Thank you,” both to the person who appreciated them and to the Spirit who inspired them.
You are the light of the world. If God so loved the world to send Christ to brighten our darkness, let us not fear to carry the light. Let us comfort the poor, shelter the weak, and, with all our might, fight for that which is right against that which is wrong. We cannot do everything, but we can all do something. Faith can place a candle in the darkest night.
This blog is written by Senior Pastor David Carr, (email,
214.942.0098 ext 25).