Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New GBGM website!

I'm a bit busy today, as I will be traveling to the Midwest tomorrow- I will see many of you soon! :o)

So I thought I'd leave you with a great video from the General Board of Global Ministries from their new website devoted to ministry with the poor. The video plays automatically when you go to the homepage.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

First-World Problems

This week I'm crazy-busy getting a sermon ready to preach in two Sundays, so I'll make a proper blog post next week. For now, check out this video of the First World Problems rap. It's funny, but the reason why it's funny is that we all share in the little annoyances of life in a developed country. It really puts things in perspective.

Hat Tip: Jeremy over at Hacking Christianity

Thursday, July 14, 2011

God and Harry Potter: the Invisibility Cloak

OK, I'll admit it right off the bat: I am so excited about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 coming out tonight! I've got Potter on the brain. :o)

A Catholic writer over at The World is My Cloister caught my attention this week with a post about an icon of Abraham and Sarai welcoming an angel. My minor in undergrad was in art history, so I loved her analysis of the shapes in the icon and how she talked about the Genesis text. What really caught my attention, though was her statement about Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak:
Do you remember the invisibility cloak in Harry Potter? I think I know where she got the idea from. The blue of this figure can only be seen in snatches beneath his ethereal robe. Perhaps I found the reason that God is so elusive? He has an invisibility cloak? God the Father rests his hands on a staff, a symbol of authority. Behind him is a house, a dwelling place for God.
I find it interesting that she thinks that God is elusive. My experience has been that God is always to be found- in fact, God wants to be found by us.

Actually, when I think about it, when Harry dons the Invisibility Cloak, he is almost always found. Sometimes he is found by a friend and sometimes by an enemy. In Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, he uses the cloak to sneak into Gringotts, the wizard bank, an is almost caught by the bank guards. The cloak is really a temporary fix to the scrapes in which Harry finds himself. Harry is still detectable when he has to sneeze, bumps into something, or is around an animal that can smell him.

In a sense, God is like that too. Perhaps you can't always see God, but you can still detect God's presence. You know God is with you when you are touched by a song. you hug a longtime friend, or you are going through a hard time and still find the strength to go on. 

Perhaps it is not God who is elusive; perhaps it is our God-awareness that is elusive. It can be difficult to maintain the awareness of God in the everyday... it's a learned discipline. It would be nice to have a Marauder's Map to help us see where God is at all times. But if we did, we would always see God's footsteps moving along beside us. We don't need to build a house for God because God is here; God's home is with us. We just need to know how to be aware of that.

Have you ever had a hard time finding God in your everyday life? How did you find God again?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

JOSHUA team 2011 deaprts!

This week, members of our church departed for the JOSHUA mission in the Ohio Valley District of our conference. Steubenville is in the southeast part of Ohio, so it is located in the Appalachian foothills and it serves the people there. Appalachia is known for having the worst poverty rate in the US, and the people there are in deep need of education and public health assistance.

A significant amount of our annual JOSHUA team is made up of Youth Group members, but plenty of adults go too. I remember working for a few days at the JOSHUA mission when I was a youth. At that time, the kind of work I was doing was totally new to me, and I had a hard time getting my mind about why I was doing it. Unbeknownst to me, I was participating in social justice ministry.

At the time, I wondered, "If we really want to make a difference with these people, why aren't we sharing the Gospel with them?" This week I discovered an article that addresses this concern, "Social Justice vs. Evangelism." Maggie Canty-Shafer explains that they are really two sides of the same coin. They both contribute to what she says is "holistic ministry." She quotes Dr. Ron Sider, who wrote a book about this topic, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger:
Sider says that without social works, evangelism appears to be all talk. But without sharing the hope and good news of the Gospel, ministry lacks the Holy Spirit’s transformative power. Neither side of social justice ministry is complete without the other.  “People are both spiritual and material beings,” Sider says. “Addressing only half the problem only gives you half of the solution.”
Social justice ministry is the arm of evangelism through which we care for the physical and emotional needs of our neighbors. It isn't just a prelude to a carefully-prepared rendition of the Romans Road. In social justice ministry we become the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus Christ. We are Christ's presence with all who are suffering. Just as Jesus communicated God's saving grace in his gentle touch and kind words, we do the same here and now. While some Christians get the idea that God will judge them based on how many people were saved because of their witness, Matthew 25:31-40 tells us that God will also judge our lives based on how we treat those whom society casts aside:
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Jesus' ministry included proclaiming God's love with his mouth and showing it with his hands and feet. We are called to do the same. Our Christian walk with God is not only about our relationship with God; it's about how we relate to all God's children. Social justice ministry is one of many facets in our relationship with God.

JOSHUA is a great chance for our youth (and young at heart!) to learn about social justice ministry. Please join me in holding our team in prayer during their spiritual and physical journey.