Every once in a while, when I sit in the sanctuary during worship on Sunday, I find myself looking around at those who are gathered in the pews and asking myself, “What has brought them to church today? Why did they choose to come to church?”
We know that many people make a different choice each week. Instead of going to church, they choose to read the Sunday paper; others choose to sleep late, or play golf, or go to brunch, or wash the car. I say “many,” but the truth is it’s “most.” Recent polls indicate that 36% of Americans report that they attend a church service weekly, but studies show that only 20% of them actually do so. Given their penchant for stretching the truth, the other 16% would doubtless benefit from going to church.
Why do you choose to come to church on Sunday?
On a hunch, I Googled the phrase, “loneliest day of the week.” Of the 116,000 results, it looks like at least 115,000 of them agree that it’s Sunday.
I don’t think we come to church because we are lonely, but I do think that some of the loneliest people in the world are those who do not go to church. I’m reminded of the words of the late theologian, James Luther Adams, who wrote, “There are two necessary things in life: a sense of ultimacy and a sense of intimacy.”
I think we come to church for these two necessary things in life: a sense of ultimacy and a sense of intimacy—that is, a desire to find God and to find our place in God’s family. I admit that I may be wrong. Maybe it’s the coffee and donuts. But I like to think that it’s because, in worship, you draw near to God and neighbor, and you find profound meaning and friendship in each.
See you in Church,
This week marked the 50thanniversary of the Children’s Crusade against racial segregation.The march through downtown Birmingham was led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and ended with Eugene “Bull” Connor unleashing fire hoses and police dogs on the demonstrators.More than 2,500 youth were arrested, but public outcry helped spur the passage of the Civil Rights Act a year later.
In our current age of deep division and polarization, marked by what many have called “the end of civility,” it’s important to remember that day in Birmingham fifty years ago-to acknowledge the bigotry and violence of our past as a nation, and to be reminded once again of how lasting, substantive change ultimately dawns in our society.
The Civil Rights Movement grounded itself in the principles of non-violence, and it held to the notion that our words can be as violent and destructive as our actions.Dr. King’s “Six Principles of Nonviolence” are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago:
- Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
- Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
- Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
- Nonviolence holds that suffering for a cause can educate and transform.
- Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
- Nonviolence holds that the universe is on the side of justice and that right will eventually prevail.
If you were to live out these principles in your daily encounters with people-especially those with whom you disagree, or even your adversaries-would it change how you act when you are with them, or how you speak to them, or how you speak about them?
This week, we read a passage from John’s Gospel in which Jesus offers a final prayer for his disciples before he leaves them.”May they be one,” he prays to God, “as you and I are one…and may the love with which you have loved me be in them, and I in them…” (17:23-26).
Jesus believed that only by that unity with each other, rooted in the radical love of God, would the world come to believe the Gospel.In other words, our unity is our witness.Such unity doesn’t mean that we must or will agree on every issue, or any issue at all.It simply means that beyond the issue is a real person whom God loves, and for whom Christ died.
See you Sunday,
Last November, Rev. Martha Wingfield wrote a congregational letter stating that she would be leaving our church effective June 30th to join her husband, Myron, who now works in Nashville, TN. In the intervening months, it has become apparent that a suitable ministry position for Martha is not currently available in Nashville. In light of this, Martha requested of Bishop Carcaño that she receive an appointment in this Annual Conference for the coming year. The Staff/Parish Relations Committee is pleased to announce that Bishop Carcaño intends to reappoint Martha to San Dieguito United Methodist Church, as Associate Pastor, for another year, beginning July 1, 2013. We are grateful for the ministry of both of our pastors and believe that their appointment to SDUMC will provide continuity as we continue to grow in faith and service together. We look forward to another fruitful year of ministry in our community.
Chair, Staff/Parish Relations Committee
Who do you turn to when you need sound advice, or words of wisdom or comfort, or motivation or inspiration? Maybe that person is a parent, or a best friend, an old teacher, a spouse or a pastor. Maybe they live just a short walk or drive away, or perhaps they live half a world away. You meet them over a cup of coffee, or you call them on the phone, and at some point in the conversation, you ask them, “What would you do? Have you ever gone through this before? If you were in my shoes – if you were me – what would you do?”
For the disciples, Jesus was the go-to guy who always seemed to speak the right words or ask the right questions at all the right times. He was their teacher and trusted friend, and one night he told them that the time had come for him to leave – forever. He said, “You’ll come looking for me, but I won’t be there for you – at least not in the same way I am here for you right now.”
The one person on whom they had leaned for more than three years would be gone before the night was over. “What will we do now,” they wondered? Who will be there for us now?”
That’s when Jesus promised to send another in his place – kind of like a substitute, only this one would be permanent. He called it the Holy Spirit, and he told them, If you love me and keep my commandments, the Holy Spirit will come to you, and abide in you, guiding you in all truth, just as I have guided you. Don’t worry, I will not leave you as orphans with no one to turn to. The Holy Spirit will stand by you, and walk alongside you, just as I have.
Jesus called this substitute “the Advocate.” The word advocate means, “to call alongside.” The Holy Spirit is that presence of God that walks alongside us every day of our lives, calling to us, encouraging us, challenging us to walk by faith and to strive for the Kingdom of God.
We are not alone. God’s Holy Spirit has made a home in us.
See you Sunday,
I’ve heard many people over the years try to boil down the Christian faith by saying that, in the end, it’s all about the Golden Rule – that is, doing to others as you would have them do unto you. They usually mean well, but in summing up Christianity this way, they miss the mark.
It’s true that Jesus, on at least three occasions, commanded us to practice the Golden Rule. But he never intended for this principle to be the distinguishing characteristic of how a Christian ought to treat others. As far as I can tell, thirteen other world religions follow, in some form, the principle of the Golden Rule. This ethical code of conduct, based upon the principle of reciprocity, is actually a pre-Christian concept intended to maintain the peace and ensure fairness and justice within communities.
For Jesus, the Golden Rule was far better than the Iron Rule (do unto others before they do unto you) and the Silver Rule (do unto others the way they’ve done unto you, as in “an eye for an eye”). But Jesus taught his disciples to live by what you might call the Titanium Rule, named after the strongest and most enduring of all metals: “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13).
This kind of love knows no boundaries or limits, and is willing to go to great lengths in order to redeem what would otherwise be a lost cause. It calls us to live a life that transcends reciprocity. The Titanium Rule says, “I will do unto you as God has done unto me.” Because we have been redeemed by such a love, it’s how we ought to love others.
See you Sunday,