Every Day Is Election Day

The conventions are over, and we have three months of…something to look forward to. It is probably going to be very ugly, and I pray we will do our best to rise above our fears. If you are a registered voter, you have the opportunity to vote for the president. Between now and November we will hear and read about many polls, and some of us might even be polled to see whom we are voting for. Now polling is often pretty accurate, but here’s the thing: until you actually step into the voting booth and cast your vote, you are not a voter. You are just a person with an opinion. Your intention to vote for someone doesn’t help elect them: only your actual vote does.

Jesus doesn’t need our votes – he is King. But, every day it is our choice whether or not to demonstrate our support for his kingship. And just like our support for a political candidate isn’t real until we step into the voting booth, our support for Jesus Christ’s kingship isn’t concrete until we move from feeling and opinion to stepping into the world. Love Jesus? Then help your neighbor. Love Jesus? Then gather with fellow believers and worship him.

Every day, the world is wondering: who are the people who believe Jesus Christ is their king? We “vote” for him not with our intentions or opinions, but with our hands and feet. Step into the world, step into God’s world, and offer a caring hand. That makes your love for Jesus real to the world.

The Dark Freedom of Feeling Powerless

We read or watch the news, and we feel overwhelmed and helpless.  What can we do in the face of senseless violence, or oppression in communities that we are not a part of?  In the face of such struggle, our actions could not possibly make a difference.  In seeking justice, we are frustrated at the feeling of powerlessness.

But, here’s the thing:  we are not powerless.  The dark truth is choosing to believe we are powerless gives us the freedom to do what we want, rather than what God would have us do.  There is a difference between being powerless, and not seeing immediate results from our actions.

At the end of his earthly life, Jesus Christ appeared to be powerless as he fought for justice, leaving this world crucified on a cross.  Jesus set aside his power to be in solidarity with those harmed by sin in this world, and was arrested, tortured and killed.  And what was the immediate result?  Was the emperor overthrown?  Did Pilate lose his job?  Nothing appeared to change, but we know everything did.

It might not appear to make much of a difference, but we always have the power to love our neighbor, which Jesus defines in the parable of the Good Samaritan as actively engaging ourselves in the life of someone who is hurting – showing mercy.  The battle for justice is long, but it can begin for you with acts of mercy.  Who is hurting in your world?  You have the power, and Christ calls you, to cross the street and enter into their hurt with them.

From Benedict of Nursia:  “However late, then, it may seem, let us rouse ourselves from lethargy.  That is what scripture urges on us when it says: the time has come for us to rouse ourselves from sleep.  Let us open our eyes to the light that can change us into the likeness of God.  Let our ears be alert to the stirring call of his voice crying to us every day: today if you should hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

Put on Your Best Smile for New Photo Directory!

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.

https://www.securedata-trans14.com/ap/oxfordunitedmethodist/index.php?page=10

Family Feud?

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?

SUPER SATURDAY!

Look!  On the corner of Market and Addison!  It’s a plant sale!  It’s a yard sale!  It’s a chicken barbecue! It’s…

SUPER SATURDAY!

Join us on May 6 for our Super Saturday.  The plant sale and yard sale run from 8am to 2pm.  There will be plenty of great Mother’s Day gifts, and attic treasures.  Yard sale space is free!  Contact the church office (610-932-9698) for availability (tables are extra).  Chicken barbecue will be available after 11, until sold out.  (call the office for tickets).    If you reserve your chicken ahead of time, the meal is $10.  Walk-up meals will be $12.

 

 

Schedule for Holy Week

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.

 

Religious Minimalism

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?

 

There Are No Small Parts…

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Luke 4:14-21

Jennifer and I were both involved in the theater department in college, so every time the cast list would be posted for a production, we were sure to hear at least one friend or classmate consoling another by saying “There are no small parts, only small actors.”

I always wondered about the origins of the quote. It sounded like the sort of thing someone’s mom said to them after they auditioned for the part of Hamlet but got the part of guard #2 instead.  Actually it was said by Konstantin Stanislavsky, a Russian actor and theater director, whose work was very influential both in his own country and in England and the U.S..  His famous quote is something he told his wife when he failed to cast her as Lady MacBeth, but as the maidservant.

I just made that last part up. Except now this has been posted on the internet, so now it’s true.

While we live in a celebrity culture that focuses on a certain few people, Stanislavsky’s statement is certainly true. As much as we might love George Clooney or Nicole Kidman, we’d get tired pretty quickly of seeing only them in a movie.  And they can’t run the camera and edit the sound all by themselves, either.

There seems to be particular trouble at the church in Corinth where there was an idea that certain people were considered more important than others. The wealthy, as usual thought that was true of themselves, but also people who had demonstrated certain spiritual gifts.  Rather than be humbled that God was using them in a special way, they used their gifts to demand places of privilege within the church.  Into that situation, the apostle Paul brought something to the people’s attention (and our attention as well) that was as plain as the nose on their faces.

In the human body, the parts must all work together for the body to function as it is meant to.  As Paul says, no part can claim superiority, because it can’t do what other parts can; and if all the different functions aren’t carried out, the body doesn’t work.  The toe shouldn’t feel bad about being a toe, because without it, the body has difficulty balancing.  And the brain shouldn’t feel  superior for being the brain, because without lungs, it won’t have the oxygen it needs.

It is often noted that when Paul lists spiritual gifts, he always puts speaking in tongues at the end. Scholars think this is probably because it was the people with this spiritual gift who were claiming superiority over other believers.  If Paul was to talk to you today, would you need to hear that humbling word from him?

Probably not, because if you felt superior about your spiritual gifts, you wouldn’t think you needed to read anything I had to say. No, more likely is the scenario that you don’t feel you’re anything special or that you offer anything of importance.  But the church isn’t healthy – the world isn’t healthy – until everyone recognizes that their gift, whatever it is, is truly a gift that is needed for a healthy functioning of the whole.

Humility is a great trait to possess – Jesus Christ has loads of it – but if the foot says to the body, “Aw, you just go on without me,” the whole body stumbles. We need you – the world needs you – to claim the gift that God has given only you, to develop that gift and share it freely.  As one, we are alive in a way we can never be if all our parts don’t come together with pride in the work that only they can do.

Family Promise

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

Family Promise of Southern Chester County

Praising. Caring. Serving. Sharing.