We are very excited to partnering with LifeTouch for a new photo directory! You can click on the link below to schedule your appointment. It is FREE to get your portrait taken, and every group or individual that gets their portrait done with get a FREE 8×10, and a FREE copy of the new directory. You will have the opportunity, of course, to purchase pictures, but there is no obligation.
If you are reading this, it might be because you are looking to learn more about our church before you come visit. Or you might be a regular reader of our updates because you find our pastor an amazing writer. Maybe you’re here because the United Methodist Church is in the news again, as we are just finishing our General Conference in Portland, Oregon.
Not to sound anti-media, but good news is not usually the first thing that the media likes to report on. What attracts the most interest these days is irony. So, while a lot of good news was celebrated in Portland, what drew the most attention was the disharmony among people who all claim to believe the same things.
For United Methodists, most of the disharmony revolves around matters of human sexuality, and the General Conference has moved to let our Council of Bishops take a broad and deep look at the issue, with the hope of bringing the United Methodist Church to a just resolution that allows us all to move forward in the task of sharing Jesus Christ with the world.
I know this lack of resolution is painful to many, and puzzling to others, who can’t understand why we haven’t just decided already (one way or another) like many other denominations. But just as every family resolves its issues in its own way, the United Methodist family is resolving it in its own. So if you aren’t a United Methodist, why not learn a little more about us before being too critical of the puzzling (even to ourselves, sometimes) way we work to resolve disagreements. And if you are a United Methodist, pray for our bishops as they begin work on this commission, and trust that, though we might not be where we want to be, we are where we need to be.
People who know me, know that the story of Jacob wrestling with God is one of my favorite metaphors for the church. Like Jacob before us, the United Methodist Church continues to wrestle with God and Humanity, and I believe like Jacob before us, we will ultimately receive God’s blessing, even if it comes with a dislocated hip.
And in the meantime, won’t you join us in serving God and serving the Oxford community?
Thanks for checking in, friends! Here is a brief rundown of upcoming events here at Oxford United Methodist Church
March 24 – Holy Thursday Service at 7:00pm. Includes the opportunity for foot- or hand-washing, and Communion.
March 25 – Good Friday Service at 7:00pm.
March 26 – Monthly Buffet Breakfast – 7am-10am.
March 27 – Community Sunrise service at 7:00am on the green (in center of town)
– Special music at the 10:55am service with the Quarter Ringers handbell choir. And our children’s choir. And our senior choir. And our band.
Today (February 25) marks the 22nd anniversary of the killing of 29 Muslims during prayer in their mosque in Hebron. Of course, I didn’t have to reach back 22 years to find an example of religious extremism. It seems to be in the news nearly every day. Acts of violence carried out in the name of religion are damaging to the very faith the perpetrators claim to be defending.
But in places of prosperity, comfort and relative safety, like the United States, the threat to the Christian faith is not either extreme violence done against us, or done in our name. It is something I’d like to call religious minimalism.
Religion minimalism is when we play down our faith to better fit in with the world around us. When we don’t say grace before a meal in a restaurant because we don’t want to stand out. When we allow every other commitment to take precedent over our faith commitments, because we don’t want to make someone else uncomfortable. Where religious extremists deliver the message that their faith is violent and crazy, religious minimalists deliver the message that practicing their faith isn’t really that important. And if we present the message that practicing faith isn’t important, how shocked should we be that others aren’t all that interested in trying it for themselves?
Paul, in Ephesians 6:20, describes himself as “an ambassador in chains.” To follow Christ and spread the good news, Paul is now restricted in what he can do. How often do we live in the opposite way? Rather than let our faith put limits on our behavior, we limit the practice of our faith to keep us free to do what we want, or at least do what doesn’t make waves.
If we want to carry Paul’s mantle and share the good news, we must embrace the restrictions, the awkwardness that comes with it. Whether it is saying your daughter has to come home from her sleepover in time for Sunday school, or declining to buy a fundraising raffle ticket, because your faith calls you to avoid gambling in all forms. We cannot always go with the flow: we must often swim upstream. How else will people see that there is a better direction to life than the one they are taking?
Many years ago, we were living the American Dream: two cars, the brand-new house in the suburbs, two kids, etc. Except, the American Dream came with a lot of debt. So much so that we were several months behind on our mortgage. We were still paying a mortgage payment every month, but we weren’t getting caught up.
Finally, we were late again, and we got the letter: get caught up, or else. We didn’t know what to do: we met with a credit counselor provided by the bank, and we met with a financial advisor we knew through church. There didn’t seem to be any option that didn’t involve losing our house, and hoping that we could find a place to rent that would let us keep our cats and dogs.
When we told my mother our problems, she suggested we talk to my Uncle Vin – it turned out we actually had a rich uncle like they always talk about in movies and books! He loaned us the money to get caught up, and we made regular payments to him until he was paid back. So we were blessed to keep our home, and not have to make any hard choices.
Many people are not so blessed. They don’t have an Uncle Vin, and a job loss, a car accident, a medical emergency is all that it takes to leave them without a home, without the stability of having a place of their own.
This month Oxford United Methodist Church begins partnering with other faith communities in Southern Chester County to host families that are experiencing homelessness and help them find their way back to stable housing. The name of the program is Family Promise. We are thankful to be able to provide hospitality and hope to children and their families in a season of struggle in their lives.
If you would like to be one of our volunteers for the program, please contact us. If you want to know more about the program as it works across Southern Chester County, please visit
We hope you will join us this Saturday, October 10th from 10am to 4pm for our Harvest Fair!
There will be great food, a parking lot (and sidewalk) full of crafters, and entertainment all day. Plus activities for the kids, contests, mums, pumpkins, etc. If you would like to enter one of our contests, click on the tab Harvest Fair 2015! for more information.
The Harvest Fair began as a way for the church to meet its commitments to our district and denomination: people harvested their talents to help others. We are proud to continue in that tradition, providing a great day for the community, and contributing to the ministries of the United Methodist Church, and supporting a local ministry as well. This year, 10% of our proceeds will go to Oaks Ministry (www.oxfordoaksministry.com).
Just as God sent Jesus Christ into the world not to live for himself, but to give himself for others, we believe that we are invited by God to live in the same manner: not for ourselves, but others. That is the narrow path that Jesus says leads to eternal life. So as we harvest what God has blessed us with, it is not meant to fill our own storehouses, but others’. Are you harvesting only for yourself? That might explain while you still feel empty.
While we were on vacation we had the opportunity to see the Perseid Meteor shower. We didn’t see the meteor shower on its busiest night, but it was still pretty amazing to watch the sky, and then see these streaks of light shoot by unexpectedly.
Here is how a meteor shower works: The Comet Swift-Tuttle orbits the sun every 133 years. It’s orbit takes it out past Pluto. When its orbit takes it through the inner solar system, the sun warms and softens the ice in the comet, causing bits of rock and ice to be littered behind it. At about the same time every year, the earth passes through the dust trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, and some of the rock and ice in the dust trail gets pulled into our upper atmosphere, and burns up as it is pulled in.
So these meteors that we get to see every year are bits of the comet that it left behind years ago. The comet was closest it gets to the sun in 1992, and won’t be back that close again until July 2126. That comet, just minding its business as it circled the sun, leaves a 135-year legacy.
For me, its a reminder that our lives are never truly in isolation from the people around us: we are all leaving a trail of something. Somebody somewhere is watching. The question is: Is it good, or bad? Is something that excites others? Or is it something others want to avoid?
It probably depends on what we’re orbiting. If we are being warmed by the Son (like that transition?), then we’re probably trailing something worth seeing. But if we’re keeping ourselves at the center, that ‘s another story.
Somebody, somewhere is watching, potentially being blessed by your legacy. If you follow the trail of Jesus Christ (living humbly, acting mercifully, loving your neighbor), the blessing for others is certain.
For more info on the comet and the meteor shower, visit:
When creative writing was my thing, the Slush Pile was where your work went at a magazine or publisher, if it was unsolicited. I assume the origin of the name has to do with how slowly the pile diminishes, the way that snow piles, mixed with all the dirt and junk take so long to melt.
Did you know that the last of Boston’s snow just melted yesterday (July 15)? Hard to believe, with all the hot weather we have had here. But, of course, that pile wasn’t just pure snow, but was full of all sorts of dirt and debris that kept the sun from being able to melt the snow back into water.
Hmm, sounds like a sermon illustration, doesn’t it?
If faith is letting Jesus Christ melt our cold hearts, then how much junk of the world do we let get in the way of that? Can we let go of all that stuff? It’s not easy: after a while we let all that we have accumulated define us, and we have trouble separating ourselves out. And in reality, we can’t separate ourselves out – could you remove the dirt from the snow piled at the end of your driveway?
As ugly as the snow piles look a couple of days after a snowstorm, they do look good again when the next snow starts to fall – they briefly look like crumb cake. Our path back to beauty begins the same way: not by trying to cover up our ugliness, but allowing Jesus Christ to cover us with his love. And then we must trust in Jesus, that if we allow Him to melt our hard hearts we won’t be separated from our true selves or from Him, but only from all the junk that we’ve been swept up in along the way.
Trust in the goodness of God enough to let the Son shine on you.
(Or: We Certainly Have to Live with Some Uncertainty)
I like certainty. Don’t tell me my frozen pizza is going to take 23 to 28 minutes – give me an exact number! I don’t want to have to check the oven again and again. And speaking of numbers, nothing makes me more anxious than being at the deli counter when they’re not using their take-a-number machine. How will I be certain to get my turn when I should?
Because we believe in an all-knowing God, I think we Christians believe that the answers for all our questions are there for us to find somewhere. But I think we need to manage our expectations when it comes to getting clear and definite answers from God. After all it was the tree of knowledge that God warned us against eating from. In all his covenants, God never says, “I want you to follow me, and I will tell you everything.”
God is an ongoing revelation to us. In Psalm 19 it says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” There is always new learnings for the community of believers.
So, there are certain things we can be certain of, yet other things we should expect to remain uncertain about, even if certain people say we should certainly know. And even what we think we are certain about, we need to take care how we demonstrate our certainty. There was only one person who could know all things with some certainty, and how did he act?
When Jesus encounters Zacchaeus, he knows that Zacchaeus is misbehaving – maybe not by the standards of his society or profession, but by God’s standards. And this is what Jesus does to convince him he’s wrong: he invites himself over for dinner. There is no scriptural recording of a lecture that Jesus gives him. All he does is be present with him.
We seek tangible knowledge of all things, definite answers to life’s thorny questions, when seeking knowledge rather than trusting in God is the original sin. We cannot set people right by telling them they are wrong, when we may be wrong ourselves. We can only bring Jesus Christ to them, and let the presence of Christ convince them of what they need to do.
Oh, and let the presence of Christ convince us of what we need to do, too. Because we might not be doing the right thing, ourselves.
So, the next time you are convinced you need convince somebody of anything other than the basic fact that Jesus Christ loves them, begin by telling yourself “I could be wrong.” Seek to be Jesus for them, and let Love’s revelation, God’s wisdom guide them.
When I went to VBS as a kid, one of our craft projects was an ashtray. An ashtray! To encourage smoking! We Christians do not always know what’s right. All we know for sure is that God loves everyone. Everyone.
It’s an inflammatory thing to call someone a racist, and we probably don’t have a shared understanding of what a racist is; but if you are a white person reading this post, you are probably a racist.
Please keep reading.
As a white male, I know the immediate response to the accusation of racism is to quickly categorize all the ways we are not: we have friends of all races and cultures, we treat everyone the same, we own a Chris Rock dvd, etc. But, set aside your defensiveness for a moment and hear me out.
Racism is a human-created evil that begins with one race or culture believing it is superior to others, and then using the power structure to establish and perpetuate that belief. For example, whites in America justified enslaving Africans by saying they weren’t as intelligent. Then whites, who had the power, limited African-Americans’ access to education, so that they would continue to appear to be less intelligent, to justify their continued enslavement. This is only the most obvious example: a close look at most of the structures of our society (housing policies, location of highways, etc.) shows a perpetuation of self-justified oppression.
And once evil has a foothold, it doesn’t need a lot of help to grow and entrench itself. It’s like a canal: once the opening is made to the river where it can draw water from, the water just flows down the canal on its own.
And that is where we find ourselves today: somewhere far down the canal, miles back from where some people ( scared and greedy, probably, who didn’t trust in God’s abundance for all) deliberately carved a path out of the river of life, where they believed they could ensure prosperity for themselves at the expense of others. We were born into a boat on this canal, and that isn’t our fault, but as soon we became aware that this isn’t the river of life, and we didn’t begin doing the hard work of carving a path back to the river to prevent the canal from going any farther; we became complicit in its perpetuation.
So, what is that hard work? Racism thrives on self-deception, so it begins with honesty. If you actually do have deep relationships with people of color, get to a place where those friends can share painful truths with you. In your relationships with other whites, do not permit untruths to go unchallenged: why is a crime or act of violence committed by a white person always “an isolated incident”, but any wrongdoing by a person of color is demonstrative of true nature of millions of people?
Honesty is just the beginning – it must then move us to action. We aren’t responsible for how and where we found ourselves in this world, but we are responsible for how we leave it for the next generation.
I learned a long time ago that we can be one of three things: an active racist who engages in actions to keep other races oppressed; an active anti-racist who engages in actions to help liberate the oppressed; or a passive racist, who does nothing and allows racism to perpetuate. There is no fourth option of being a passive anti-racist. To do nothing, to throw up your hands and say there is nothing you can do, is to allow society to continue to flow farther from life as God intended it.
And that makes you a racist.
So let’ s drift no further, but get out of the boat, that we might find our way back to what God intended, instead of what fearful man created.
If you still feel defensive, ask yourself what you are doing to actively end racism. If you are actually doing something, invite a friend to join you in that work. If you aren’t then this message was for you.