Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Learning Our Roots

by Dr. James R. Brooks

I detest exclusive groups.  I have a visceral reaction to communities that exclude others.  Yes, there are times to ban folks.  Serial murders lose their right to freedom amid the larger community.

My roots lead me to detest exclusive groups.  A painful, passionate, pointed reaction have I to those who exclude others based upon their race, creed, orientation, etc.  

We could chalk it up to my academic training, but that would not provide the energy for my guttural response.  We could explain away based upon my status as a mainline Protestant, but that would never reveal the depth of my fervor.  We could stand upon the biblical mandate for inclusion, but that would not touch the depths of my soulful response to the “isms” that divide us.

My earliest learnings were inclusion.  The people who diapered me loved me regardless.  The congregation that baptized me loved me regardless.  Church camp modeled a community of wholeness.  My peers embraced me despite my humanness.  While my formative years were spent in the midst of some who would discriminate, I was afforded the experience of inclusion rather than exclusion.  Love that includes is the tap root of my life.

Let me ask, when you see another denied the love you have enjoyed all your life, how do you respond?

More so, when you witness another denied the love you crave, how do you respond?

As I read the Bible, the only times I read Jesus upset are those times when others are denied access to the faith community and or when God’s house is deviled.  

We can be a faith community that include.

What will you do this weekend?  Will you affirm a church nursery that welcomes all regardless of race, creed or orientation?  Will you baptize all who love Jesus regardless?  Will you embrace the new Christian despite their humanness? 

With whom have you shared the Good News so that the tap root of their faith bears fruit?

In Jesus, the kingdom of God came near.  Don’t miss it!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

For a Friend

A friend of mine left me

before the number of her years

before I could say good bye.

A choice she made

wise beyond her years

in response to pain beyond her tears.

Regret we are left

no remedies to assuage

no response to my call.

What if, why now, how about

too late the queries

too late the salve.

Grace abounds for her

suffering replaced by rambunctious joy

sorrow by the plentiful feast.

May her smile shine upon me,

and her love surround me,

and her forgiveness touch me.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Solution

by Dr. James R. Brooks

[before dismissing this missive as naiveté, please reflect upon the source of your success.]

My son is blessed that his bus stop has been very diverse.  My son knew Joey, Ethan, Taylor.  He seemed not to know asian, african-american, caucasian or the other ethnicities represented at our bus stop where he was one among many rather than one of the many.

Recently, friends and I had a spirited conversation regarding the welfare state.  We did not say “the welfare state” but we did spend much energy attempting to solve the issue of those who live on the “dole” from generation to generation.  The solutions were creative and humble and thoughtful.  The love for our neighbor was inspiring, and none of us agreed with every solution.  I am blessed to have friends willing to discuss in such depth with me.

As I listened, I felt compelled to offer a solution.  

The state / government can only, at best, prevent the riots.  Whether through force of arms or opiate of a check, prevent some from entering the homes of others to obtain what they need.  I reserve for another time the opportunity to explore the many facets of that statement.  Onward to a solution…

Given the limits of the state / government, a solution to the welfare state is “relationships.”  Stay with me during a couple of leaps …

When we discuss “a solution to the welfare state” we typically talk in macro terms which too often leads to a polemic.  The conversation includes frequent use of “they” or “we” or “them” or “us”.  It is painting a picture with a whisk broom.  

When we discuss the relationships of our life, we use proper names.  Each name has a story.  With the name comes a series of connections.  So and So is related to So and So or was a roommate with or a classmate to, etc etc.

If Jane Doe or Juan Valdez had a flat tire, would you stop and help the “macro person” or the “relationship person”?   Would you help the caucasian, hispanic or african-american?  Would you be more likely to help Jane or Juan because you know their name before you know their ethnicity?

You may not agree with the lifestyle of Jane or Juan.  You may think that Juan or Jane takes advantage of the system.  You may never want Juan or Jane to come to dinner or be your friend.  But if you have a relationship with Jane or Juan, you are more likely to help them. 

If you know the story behind Jane or Juan, you might help.  If you know the family of Juan or Jane, you might help.  If you see Jane or Juan in church, you are more likely to help.

As long as our national discussion lives at the macro level, you and I will never solve the welfare state.  We will merely pray that the country of our flag will prevent the riots.

Jesus said … to the least of these so you did to me.  We remember these words when we offer water to the thirsty.  What of these words when we ignore the thirsty, hungry, homeless, disadvantaged … generationally on welfare?

Abraham Maslow wrote of a hierarchy of needs.  Maslow postulated that it is impossible to fashion meaningful love relationships if the basics of life are in question.

“meaningful love relationships” are talked about often in the Bible.  From Abraham’s relationship with God to Jesus and the woman at the well to Paul and the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13.  

You have the power to solve the welfare state in your neighborhood and community.  You need not wait for the “macro solution” to take effect.  You can change the world on your block today!  

As a bonus, you will have new friends, you will feel more safe about raising your children in your community, you will trust that your spouse will be welcome, you will discover a brave new world.

Jesus performed an experiment.  It is recalled in the book of Luke chapter 10.  Jesus sent out his followers in pairs, to share the Good News and to build relationships.  Those in the experiment returned with tales of amazing happenings. 

You can enjoy those happenings.  You can tell those tales.  Replace the stereotype with a name.  Ask the stereotype to know your name.  You need not be in full agreement to be friends / neighbors / acquaintances.  You need only to know a name and there begins a solution. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Faith on Holiday? on Vacation?

We are heading into a season of holidays and vacations.  From Mother’s Day to Memorial Day, from Father’s Day to Fourth of July, we are heading into a season of relationship.  I pray that you and your family / friends will celebrate these days in a way that brings you rest and renewal.

More that, I pray that these days will be an opportunity for you to grow your faith.

How do you honor your relationship with Jesus in this coming season?

On Mother’s Day, as you honor your Mom, what if we remember when Mary responded to the announcement that she would give birth to God’s child.  God called and she said, “Here I am”.  Where are you with God’s call?

On Memorial Day, as we honor those who gave the most to protect the freedom our country affords, what if we remember those who gave the most to pass along the faith we share?  The martyrs of the faith gave their life as a witness to their relationship with Jesus.  What if we teach this to those we love?

On Father’s Day, as we honor those who have been Dad to us, what if we honor our heavenly Father?  What if we recall the one who created us all and all we know?  What if we remember the One who sustains and redeems us, who is the author of all true justice and mercy?  What if you allowed yourself to be embraced by our heavenly Father’s love?

On the Fourth of July, as we honor the founders of our country and their claims of freedom and justice for all, what if we remembered the claims of our ancestors of faith?  What if we honored our relationship with Jesus by celebrating an open communion table?  What if we allowed God to set us free of the bondage we too often carry each day?

What if Jesus went on vacation with you?  You know the Jesus who made wine at the wedding in Cana.  You know the Jesus who called Zacchaeus from the tree to share a meal.  What if Jesus joined you on the beach or the mountain or the stay-cation?  

At a well, Jesus gave a woman life giving water.  In the wilderness, Jesus gave a crowd more than enough to eat.  On the water, Jesus stilled a storm that scared the disciples.  

When we invite Jesus to join us on vacation or holiday, we are renewed in ways beyond imagining!  If you want the address of our nearest sister church to your trip, contact the office.  If you want prayer and worship resource material to take with you on your vacation / holiday, contact the church office.  If you want prayer / worship content for your stay-cation and or every day, contact the church office.

Blessings on your in your travels may they be safe and may the journey provide more memories than the destination.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Shine the Light

by Dr. Brooks

Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

I want to thank everyone who made our Easter celebration such a meaningful morning of worship and praise.  I am so thankful for the ways that God walked with us as we journeyed through Lent and Holy Week.  Even more am I thankful and humbled by God’s love for us as we know it through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Many thanks to you who provided worship leadership, flowers, music, and other service to our worshipping communities.  What a glorious morning of baptisms and communion shared well.  The sounds of our praise from our chancel choir and band and soloist and congregation were uplifting.  

Jesus calls us to let our light shine so that other may give glory to God.  Every word we share, every song we sing, each time we set the table of the Lord, each bulletin we hand out, and so much more is an opportunity for us to let our light shine.   Our brothers and sisters of faith, our guests are encouraged when you share the light of your love for Jesus.

Living in the light is healthy for us.  In the light we benefit from the vitamin D from the sun.  In the light we find reconciliation for the brokenness experienced in the dark.  In the light we see more clearly how God loves those with whom we share ministry.  

As we journey from Easter into the summer months, let us be resolved to shine our light.  The bushel basket of brokenness need not dim the brightness of our community.  Though our formal, corporate confession in worship ceased with Lent, let us each continue to be humble in our prayers in the hope that we will be pleasing to God and a hope for others.

Be alert and aware for among us are many lights to illumine the way forward.  Thanks be to God for gracing us with mercy and justice.  Thanks be to God for the love we know best through Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Maundy Thursday: Loving You

For me to love you, it has to be about more than political correctness or being morally right.  I am too weak and whinny, too selfish and shallow to love you.   I need something more.

Growing up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I cherish communion.   I am shaped by worship that weekly revolves around the Lord’s Table.  A table of such radical love as to be open to everyone who is curious about Jesus regardless.   The reconciliation and renewal of the bread and wine are of grace, mercy and justice enough as to be for all God’s creation.

Maundy Thursday is a high holy day of sorts in my tradition.  A celebration of that time when Jesus shared the meal with his followers.  Reading the words of institution from the sacred texts.

This year, we read from the gospel of John 13:1-17, 34b-35.   
And there I read the “more” I need to love you.

Jesus washes the feet of the disciples … master serves the servant in a way the servant can never serve self.  Jesus foreshadows the making clean only the Risen Savior can provide.  Jesus then tells the followers to love each other as Jesus loves them.

I love you because Jesus told me to love you.  That would be enough for the faithful.  Yet there is more in this glimpse of heaven.

Jesus shows us love that is more than hopes and dreams.  By washing the feet of his followers, Jesus demonstrates an active love.  It is the thought that counts yet we are called never to settle for so little for our brothers and sisters.  We are called to demonstrate such a love for each other that the world will know who we follow.

The “more” I needed to love you is the thankful life of response.  When I love you, I am responding with thanksgiving to the table of the Lord set for us before our enemies.  When I love you, I am responding with thanksgiving to Jesus’ washing our feet.  

Living my life in response to Jesus saves me from my shallow and selfish, weak and whinny way.  Though no promise this will be easy, loving you makes me a better person, with a more joyful experience of life.  

Am I ready for the Risen Lord on Easter if I love you?  If I live in thankful response to Jesus found at the Lord’s Supper and at the washing of feet?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Points to Ponder
Minister’s Musing on Ministry & Misc.
by Dr. Brooks

What is the winning strategy in your business?  

I once read a management book based on the practices of Genghis Khan.  I was fascinated!  His brutality was matched by his organizational skill.  The accomplishments of Khan are historic.  However, I would struggle to call them a winning strategy.

The 4-way test of Rotary International (of which I am a member) is a good critique of those who practice a style as ruthless as Khan.  The 4-way test asks … Is it the Truth?  Is it Fair to all concerned?  Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?  Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?  This reads more as a winning strategy.

Recently, I was confronted with a thorny business problem.   I wondered what the Christ-like way would be to handle the issue?  Admittedly, my emotional response to the problem had not encouraged me to think first of the Lord in my life.  My emotional reaction to the Christ-like solution was very affirming.

In addition to managing my emotions by attempting to channel Jesus’ call upon my life, the more I considered the end game of the problem, the more I found a Christ-like response to be a winning strategy.  It is tempting to avoid a Christ-like strategy because we think it too soft or too weak.  If we are honest, this temptation is born from greed, selfishness, or other brokenness.  

Keeping Jesus as the priority in my life helps me keep the puzzles of daily life in proper perspective.  My engagement is more creative and confident.  My fear of failure is lessened because I am working to please Jesus who loves me unconditionally.  As well my goal of “winning” in the problem is redefined.

Though naive in places, a Christian classic “In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon is worth a read.  It is a feel good book.  Inspiring for the faithful.

Winning strategies in business (and life generally) thrive with discipline and consistency.  Might I recommend the life-giving strategy of taking Jesus to work with you every day?