November 8, 2014

New Podcast: Generous God, Generous People @StMarkMobile #UMC



There are many words to describe God. One of those words is “generous”. And what an excellent word to describe the big-hearted and overflowing extravagance of God’s grace. We can be exceedingly grateful that God relates to us with a generous grace. But if God treats us with such generous grace, shouldn’t our lives be conduits of that grace to others? Shouldn’t we embody that kind of godly generosity? Doesn’t God desire that his people be generous as he is generous? Because he is generous? And as we grow in godly generosity, aren’t we then growing in grace? And if generosity is about grace, isn’t it also about joy? What if growing in generosity produces joy? And not just any joy. Deep joy. 

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November 6, 2014

Keep Up the Good Work: Criminal Mercy in South Florida

The governing authorities are the servants of God to uphold what is good and right. But sometimes the servants get wrong. Bad wrong. Crazy bad wrong. When that happens the servants need to be reminded who they serve and what their role is. Such is the case in Ft. Lauderdale where three people have been arrested for feeding homeless people. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently, one of the arresting officers instructed the culprit to "drop that plate right now." Yes, drop the plate and move away slowly...with your hands up! You have the right to remain silent.

How many passages of scripture flood to mind after the reading of this headline:
"I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink...just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it unto me. And these will go away into eternal punishment." -Jesus, Matthew 25:42,45-46
"In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak." -Paul, Acts 20:35
"When you give a banquet, invite the poor." -Jesus, Luke 14:13
"They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which is actually what I was eager to do." -Paul, Galatians 2:10
"Has God not chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom...But you have dishonored the poor." -James 2:6
"If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your own community...do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be." -Deuteronomy 15:7-8
I could go on. There are many, many others, not to mention the texts that curse those who oppress the poor. That's right, curse. The imperative to care for the poor is a chorus that rings throughout scripture. It cannot be missed by anyone reading with their eyes open. What is astounding is that this sort of tomfoolery must actually be named for what it is. Any clear-minded person should see the savagery in criminalizing ministries of mercy with the impoverished. Talk about having it backwards. 

In this case, Mr. Abbot and the pastors who have been arrested are the ones who have it right. And they should take comfort in the promise of Jesus, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:10). Well done, fellas, keep up the good work.

Photo credit: Associated Press

November 5, 2014

A Prayer for Those Who Govern

The government in the U.S. is in the midst of a significant transformation after yesterday's election. And it's a good time for the people of God to remember their responsibility to hold those who govern in prayer regardless of policy or party affiliation. So, I offer this prayer, which is a slightly revised version of one I said to open the Mobile City Council meeting last week, the light editing intended to extend it beyond the local level to all levels of government. 
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose kingdom is everlasting, whose power infinite, and who rules over all that is. You have established the governing authorities to uphold what is good and right and true. Have mercy upon this this land, and so rule in the hearts of your servants who govern it, that they, knowing whose ministers they are, may above all things seek your honor and glory. Look upon them with favor and replenish them with grace by your Holy Spirit, that they may be always motivated to do your will and walk in your way. Fill them with wisdom and courage; grant them wholeness and holiness. And grant that we, the people of this land, remembering whose authority they bear, may faithfully and obediently honor them. Grant that all under their authority grow in your grace and holy love, and attain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who reigns over heaven and earth. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 
Those familiar with the common prayer tradition should be able to do the source critical work quite easily, even if it is said with a Wesleyan accent.