Posts filed under ‘Methodist’

Walk to Emmaus

I had an incredible time at the Walk to Emmaus this weekend. It was really interesting going back as an Assistant Spiritual Director on something that had such an incredible impact on my life several years ago. Believe it or not, I think this retreat really has some important connections with the sensibilities of the emerging movement. It is ecumenical, eucharistically focused, and embedded in faithful practices such as prayer. It also features experiential worship and table fellowship. Sounds emergent to me…heck we even have lectio divina. Perhaps these central practices and one of the reasons it has such a profound impact on the men and women who participate.

So, you might ask, after such a spiritually challenging and renewing weekend, what am I doing now? Working on Charge Conference stuff for my churches! Oh well, didn’t Jesus say, “The paperwork you’ll have with you always,” or something like that. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong!

October 3, 2007 at 7:42 am 1 comment

Ordination Questions: Kingdom of God, Resurrection, Eternal Life

9.) What is your understanding of (a) the Kingdom of God; (b) the Resurrection; (c) eternal life?

Although there is a great deal of variety in United Methodist worship, I have yet to attend a United Methodist Church that does not pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Each week, the congregations I serve petition God asking that, “Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  So what are we asking for when we ask for God’s Kingdom to come?

One of the central themes of Jesus’ proclamation was that of God’s Kingdom and its entry into our world.  In fact, Jesus seemed to suggest that in some very real way, God’s Kingdom had already appeared on earth in and through his ministry.  Still, Jesus urged us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.”  God’s Kingdom, therefore, is located somewhere in the tension between what has already arrived and what is not yet here, or as N.T. Wright once wrote, “an ‘arrival’ with Jesus and a still-awaited ‘arrival’ which would complete the implementation of what he had already accomplished”.[1]  Unfortunately, the language of Kingdom is not as immediately clear as it was in Jesus’ day.  After all, as Brian McClaren points out, “where kings exist they are by and large anachronisms…” and, “When people hear Kingdom of God, we don’t want them to think ‘the anachronistic, limited, ceremonial, and symbolic but practially ineffectual rule of God’”![2]  Instead, we want to communicate the powerful, earth-shattering, life-changing existence of God in our world!  McClaren goes on to suggest some alternative possibilities to translate the meaning of Kingdom: God’s dream, the revolution of God, the mission of God, God’s dance, and God’s party.[3] If McClaren is right, then we need to search for new metaphors to talk about the way God definitively entered our world in Christ and continues to invite us to participate and join in with God’s purposes.  Whatever language we use, what began in creation and continued in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is still happening in our world and awaiting its fullness in the future.  We both anticipate and participate in God’s activity on earth when we follow the command of Micah 6:8 to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

            The resurrection is the basis of our future hope as Christians.[4] I believe that resurrection is far more than someone living in our memory or the appearance of someone being lifted up as an example in some spiritual sense. Instead, resurrection is in a very real way a bodily event.  The preponderance of evidence in the first century and before suggests that resurrection was the word used to refer to someone who had died only to be found alive again.  Of course, we must state that there is both continuity and discontinuity between the body before resurrection and the post-resurrection body, as seen in the confusion of Jesus with a gardener at the tomb (John 20:15). After Jesus’ resurrection, this incredible event was interpreted by early disciples as the very turning point of history, pointing forward to the resurrection of the dead at some future point in time.  Christ’s resurrection was the entry of the end of history into first century Palestine. Bishop Tom Wright helpfully speaks about the theological implications of resurrection for Christians and the Church, “Tyrants and bullies try to rule by force, only to discover that in order to do so they have to quash all rumours of resurrection, rumours that would imply that their greatest weapons, death and deconstruction, are not after all omnipotent.”[5]  Therefore, resurrection is the power of God and the hope of the Church, which gives us the strength to carry on, even in the face of those who might injure us physically.  We may therefore submit ourselves to the One who holds the power of resurrection even in the face of great evil.

            In the New Interpreter’s Bible commentary on the Gospel of John, Gail R. O’Day writes about the famous verse, John 3:16, “Eternal life is not something held in abeyance until the believer’s future, but begins in the believer’s present.”[6]  O’Day’s comments are helpful in that they remind us that eternal life is not simply living forever on clouds and strumming harps.  It is far more than the authors of such works as the Left Behind series suggest, because our hope is not reserved completely for the future.  Our participation in the kingdom of God and faith in the resurrection give us glimpses of the eternity that lies beyond our vision and a share in eternity in the here and now.  While it is certainly important not to discount major themes of the Bible, which suggest an eternity beyond our earthly lives, I also believe this is a great mystery (a phrase that we shouldn’t be afraid to use!) which calls us to be faithful disciples as we live in hope and expectation of something we cannot easily grasp. 

[1] Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 568

[2] McClaren, Brian.  The Secret Message of Jesus. (Nasvhille: W Publishing Group, 2006), p 139.

[3] ibid., pp. 144-147

[4] Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 737

[5] ibid., p 209.

[6] The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX. 1995 by Abingdon Press

September 18, 2007 at 12:11 pm 4 comments

Franchising United Methodist Churches?

I don’t know how comfortable I am with the franchising language used here, but I do wonder if this might be a real possibility for United Methodist congregations? Can you imagine this happening in your conference? Would people attend and grow as disciples at “Windsor Village UMC, Oklahoma City?” What about “Church of the Resurrection, Tulsa?” Is this already happening in an informal way when churches pattern themselves after these larger congregations in other conferences?

I know this might sound strange or even too “commercial,” but I’ve often heard the idea that denominations are based on the idea of “local franchises” of the mother denomination. Let me know what you think. Is this a dangerous idea? Is this catering to crass commercialism? More pragmatically, would it work? If so, what are the theological concerns we need to think about?

September 12, 2007 at 10:36 am 9 comments

Weird Name…I Know.

Gavin Richardson over at The Methoblog asks, “How did your blog get its name?” (h/t John the Methodist)

This question spurred me to update my “About” space, so I thought I’d also post that information here with a few minor additions.

Catching Meddlers comes from an obscure old saying I first remember hearing from my Grandma and Grandpa. I would find something interesting – a piece of metal or some other kind of junk – laying around their place and I would ask, “What is this?” Many times they didn’t know what it was or couldn’t explain it to me, so they’d reply, “It’s a layover to catch meddlers.” Being a curious kid, I heard this all the time!

One of the things that kept me from blogging for a long time was the lack of a good name. Finally, I gave up looking for something cool and decided to go with something unique! When I was trying to think of a name for my blog, I wanted something that captured something about who I am while describing something about the blog as well. This obscure phrase became a way to capture a little of both. As an adult, I’ve come to realize that many of the sayings I thought everyone grew up with are actually either indigenous to my family or to the place I grew up in rural Southeastern Oklahoma. So the obscurity of the phrase became a picture of my family, my life, and my curiosity which I hope is apparent at times on the blog. On the other hand, it describes the fact that the blog began as something I had a hard time describing!

So there you go – the story of Catching Meddlers. That’s all there is to it.

September 11, 2007 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

Ordination Questions: Nature & Mission of the Church

8.) Describe the nature and mission of the Church. What are its primary tasks today?

The Church is the global Body of Christ formed for the salvation of the world.  The United Methodist Book of Discipline helpfully reminds us of the nature of the local church as: 1.) a place of disciple-making, 2.) a community of true believers under the Lordship of Christ, 3.) the redemptive fellowship where the Word of God is proclaimed, and 4.) the place where the sacraments are administered to the people of God.[1]  The Discipline then breaks these tasks into three distinct activities: maintenance of worship, edification of believers, and the redemption of the world. 

One of the congregations I serve has been transformed by the answer to this question.   Over the last few years, we have been involved in not one, but two mission trips to Rio Bravo, Mexico.  Although this is a fairly common occurrence for some congregations around the Oklahoma Conference, it has been extremely significant for our congregation.  Not only had our congregation never been to Mexico on a mission trip, they had never participated in a Volunteer in Mission experience in the history of the congregation!  The difference in the congregation has been profound, and I believe the reason relates directly to the nature and mission of the Church.  As we participated in these two missions, we have received far more than we have given.  The mission experiences have been far more than simply going to build homes and serve others; they have been opportunities for deepened discipleship, a testimony to the Lordship of Christ, the very proclamation of God’s word, and active participation in the redemption of the world.

As we have been formed by God’s true story of creation, fall, and above all, redemption, we have been much more sensitive to God’s claim on our lives and our community.  Worship of the Living God is no longer simply “going to worship;” it is training for our missional life together as God’s people.  Christian formation becomes far more than simply memorizing Scripture and learning historical facts about a dry and dusty faith; it becomes learning about a living and active God that we have seen working in our midst.  Redeeming the world is no longer something we hope and pray for as though we are simply wishing for something impossible; it is something we have seen on the ground, incarnate in Christ, and lived in our experience. 

As we are caught up in the passionate pursuit of God in our lives and world, the community of faith becomes the primary place where we grow as disciples, challenging one another, encouraging one another, and learning to embrace God’s guidance and grace.  Although each of our Churches are imperfect and flawed, God has entrusted us with the call to carry out the mission of the Kingdom as God’s vision made known in our world.  We receive a picture of this vision in Luke when we hear how Jesus initiated his mission as he read from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).  As followers of Christ, we can expect no less than full participation in this mission and God’s vision: preaching good news to the poor, proclaiming release and recovery, releasing the oppressed, and proclaiming the Lord’s favor.  This vision and understanding of the nature and mission of the Church is profound. As we move from an understanding of Church as “the place we meet on Sundays” to “an essential means God has given for redemption and salvation,” we will begin to live a different way.  If live a life of faithful response to God’s call and vision for the Church, our congregations, our communities, and our world will never be the same.

[1] United Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶201

September 11, 2007 at 7:51 am Leave a comment

Can You Hear Me Now?

Rebekah Miles has a great commentary over at the UM Portal (h/t John Meunier). I’ll let you read this article and withhold comment for the time being. I wonder if anyone is listening…

August 28, 2007 at 6:54 am 1 comment

Wesley 2.0

Lately, I’ve been reading several things on the flattening of the world and the technological revolution that has taken place over the last few years. The two I’ve read most recently are The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman and Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Dan Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. All of this has me thinking about possibilities for the Church. How can we faithfully use the latest techno-cultural developments to help make disciples of Jesus Christ?

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, because there are some really smart folks who have discussed these issues (eg. Tall Skinny Kiwi’s post on Church 2.0). There are several others within this link that have some good thoughts as well.

So, how could this work for we United Methodists? What about Wesley’s small group accountability systems? Could we use technology to form groups of like-minded clergy and laity into accountability groups via the web? Privacy might be the biggest issue here, but it would allow methodists from all over the world who take discipleship seriously to take part in a group.

What about communication? Could districts communicate more effectively through blogging? A recent communication through my district has made me think about this. Our district superintendent recently sent out an email on an important social issue (torture, to be more specific) with some of his thoughts on a resolution that was voted on at Annual Conference. Some people have carried on an ongoing debate by replying to all of the people on the email list. If this communication took place via blog, it would probably encourage more effective debate and interactivity on all things communicated through our district office. In a rural geographically spread out district like ours, this could be an excellent source of community as well.

What else can we think of? On this note, I know our youth are far more cutting edge than we are with their involvement in interactive relational networks, something Gavin Richardson has spoke about in the past.

OK, what about our conferences? How should our communications departments be handling Web 2.0? What about web visionaries for each conference who could lead the way for our congregations?

Let’s think about this – where can we be on the edge of technology instead of catching up?

June 8, 2007 at 7:36 am 4 comments

MethoBloggers and Darfur

Sometimes it feels as though there is little we can do in large scale problems such as those in Darfur. See how your representation scores on fighting the injustice in Darfur here, and then contact them with encouragement or concern. I just finished emailing my congressional representatives and encourage you to do the same. If enough of us show our concern, we MethoBloggers will make a difference.

May 2, 2007 at 11:05 am Leave a comment

United Methodists, Southern Baptists, and War

I thought it might be interesting to look at statements on war from United Methodists and Southern Baptists.

Here first is the statement from the United Methodist social principles:

We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ. We therefore reject war as an instrument of national foreign policy, to be employed only as a last resort in the prevention of such evils as genocide, brutal suppression of human rights, and unprovoked international aggression. We insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them; that human values must outweigh military claims as governments determine their priorities; that the militarization of society must be challenged and stopped; that the manufacture, sale, and deployment of armaments must be reduced and controlled; and that the production, possession, or use of nuclear weapons be condemned. Consequently, we endorse general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

This is from the Southern Baptist’s document, The Baptist Faith and Message, and I suppose we could see this as a Southern Baptist statement on war.

XVI. Peace and War

It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.

The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 5:9,38-48; 6:33; 26:52; Luke 22:36,38; Romans 12:18-19; 13:1-7; 14:19; Hebrews 12:14; James 4:1-2.

Although I’m sure there are differences in the way each denomination views the documents here, I find it interesting that the SBs give no possible excuse for war, whereas we UMs suggest war can be employed as a last resort.  What differences do you see?

April 30, 2007 at 1:26 pm 4 comments

So…How Inclusive are We?

This article made me think about inclusivity. How inclusive do we really want to be? Even the most ardent supporters of Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors sometimes hesitate when faced with including those from a different theological perspective.

April 25, 2007 at 1:24 pm Leave a comment

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