Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another Sign I Am Growing Older

Last week, some of you may have noticed something. I was preaching out of a different Bible. The reason for that was while I was on vacation, I found a GIANT print translation of the New Living Translation and let me tell you, you can see the font print from across the room. It sure makes for easy reading--without having to squint.

And here I thought having bifocals would be the end of my aging process. ;)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Gift of Hope

Here is an amazing video with a guy without arms playing his guitar to the Beatle's tune, Let It Be.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Obesity: A National Concern

When it comes to actually naming national concerns, it is often easy to overlook those that are no longer considered in fashion. Sure, murder and socio-economic injustices rank high as any simple reading of Isaiah or minor prophet or Jesus might explain. But what of those concerns that involve the person? I am usually very careful not to point and say, "You're a sinner," because when I point one finger I usually have three more pointing back at me. Yes, it is true, I am a sinner too.

So I offer my idea of a national concern simply as a matter of information. We, as Americans, are growing so large that its tearing us apart...quite literally. According to a new study released today from Johns Hopkins University, it is expected that roughly 86% of Americans, or nearly 9 out of 10 Americans will be classified obese by 2030.

When one thinks of obesity, the conversations aren't about being 10 lbs. overweight or needing to get out and exercise more often. Sure, there are also many people whose bodies are simply larger than ours. Genetics and heredity play a role in many people's body shapes. However, the national problem of obesity is about being way overweight, whereas one person who is obese does not have to be so. And to this point, where we are growing larger, not because we're wired to do so but because of our lifestyle choices, this is where our national diet and lack of exercise puts us at risk. Given the meteoric rise of Insulin-related illnesses such as pancreatic cancer and Diabetes, obesity will be affecting us in ways both horrific and costly. And, given the challenges in healthcare reform and insurance coverage, we're a nation that does not need nor can it afford this kind of healthcare crisis.

The Apostle Paul told us that our bodies are a temple--that in it resides the Spirit of God. Should we not care for our bodies as temples? The way we go about doing that has a lot to do with not only exercise but what we put into it. From the way we eat to what we eat, we need to take serious our health responsibilities. Otherwise, the sins of doing otherwise may prove the prophet's warning that the sins of the parent visits their children and their children's children. Let's change how we eat and how we use our bodies--and how our children learn to eat and do as we do so that we can do our best to curb the obesity problem before it ravishes our nation, our communities, and ourselves.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Great Book Worth Reading

As you may remember during my sermon this past Sunday, I told you about a new book that I am reading called, I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church, by Paul Nixon. Let me tell you something, this book is simply incredible.

The book came recommended to me by the new pastor at my former church, Broadway UCC. The new pastor, James Campbell has since led a small group book study of the book and his church is now blossoming, or growing like a weed!

As many in our church might be offended to imply that we're dying, in truth, we're not. As you can testify (and as others continue to do so), we're actually thriving. Worship attendance throughout the year has quadrupled over the past two years and everyone can feel the energy and aliveness. We're raising money, donating money, creating new programs, and reaching out in some ways to our community. However, I am convinced that we're at a precipice. While great things have been happening, we've actually only been preparing ourselves for the magnificent journey that awaits us. That journey will be about reaching out--and as a result, growing our faith and congregation in new and surprising ways.

Just look what we've accomplished in this past year: We went through the Open and Affirming discernment process and voted to declare ourselves an Open and Affirming congregation; We reviewed and approved our new Constitution and by-laws, thereby radically changing how we organize ourselves and do ministry; We've remodeled and updated the church building; We approved the formation of a new Board called the Board of Outreach. In all the areas of change we've worked on--now we're more prepared than ever to begin to apply our faith, impact our community, and grow our congregation. How we accomplish this will begin with a vision, an identity, and a purpose. Let me invite you to read Nixon's book and see where it leads you and how it inspires you.

As you rest this summer, let me encourage you to also daydream. Let this time be one of reflection and focus as we determine how we can promote the Good News in ways that are not confrontational and yet, are also transformational at the same time. I believe this book will help us begin the conversations necessary as we find ways to grow.