Thursday, November 01, 2012

Election Day Communion

"I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you…
For it has been reported to me that there is division among you…
What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I belong to Barack’ or ‘I belong to Mitt’...
Is Christ divided?
Was Obama crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Romney?...
therefore, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast of the Lord.’”
- adapted from 1 Corinthians 1

On November 6, voters across our nation will select a President. It is an important day for America and for the world, and we should not take our responsibilities as voters lightly. The Presidency is an extremely important job, and all Christians should be in prayer for both major candidates and their families during this time.

Sadly, during election seasons, Jesus' disciples are often not at their best. While there are important matters of justice and freedom which are at stake in this and every election, we should never allow our political opinions to give us permission to mistreat or belittle others. After all, the most intensely political statement a Christian can ever utter is "Jesus Is Lord", and if that statement is believed, then we need to find ways to offer redemptive love even to those with whom we disagree.

At Slippery Rock UM Church on Election Day, we will share an opportunity to experience the unity of the Holy Spirit in the midst of chaos and division and proclaim to the world that our bond in Jesus is far, far more important than any political disagreements we may have.

At 12 PM – the middle of the voting day - we will celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion along with sisters and brothers around the country who have made similar pledges. The Election Day Communion movement is one which the Church needs at this time in its history, to clarify who we are and, frankly, who we are not. We pray that Jesus will be made known in the breaking of the bread.

You are invited to join us at noon to thank God, hear the word, pray, and celebrate the sacrament. We will be joined by the Rev BT Gilligan of Harrisville UM Church, who will co-preside at our celebration. Hope to see you on Election Day!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prayer after Violence in Libya & Egypt

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- from The Book of Common Prayer

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

NFL Picks 2012


Division winners: Patriots, Steelers, Texans, Broncos
Wildcards: Ravens, Chiefs
Championship: Broncos vs Patriots


Division winners: Giants, Packers, Saints, 49ers
Wildcards: Falcons, Lions
Championship: Saints vs Packers


Packers over Patriots
Game MVP: Aaron Rodgers

I also think that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger may actually win the NFL MVP with the new offense in place.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Themes of General Conference 2012

* The rise in influence & power of the Central Conferences makes the UMC a truly global church... finally.

* The great mistrust in the UMC involving bishops, clergy, laity, agencies & the various political/theological factions dominates conversations.

* The debates & decisions on sexuality were not hateful but examples of tough love; we ought to be able to disagree in love without impugning those who disagree with us.

* The UMC's inability to agree on definitions of words like holiness, inclusion, justice & love prevents real, meaningful unity.

* The Holy Spirit was present but often moves in ways which we find confusing or disappointing; we should learn from the ways in which the Spirit moved unexpectedly rather than discounting any divine presence.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

CEB review

Ken Collins has run one of the best Christian websites for years now; his site is filled with fine resources and challenging thoughts. I visit it often.

He recently posted a rather scathing review of the Common English Bible, a 2011 translation published by Abingdon Press, the publishing arm of The United Methodist Church. I always appreciate Ken's insights and opinions on Bible translations, a field he takes very seriously as both a pastor and a scholar. His language in opposition to the CEB is strong and invites serious reflection. I confess that I have not been particularly comfortable with the CEB, and don't use it often; perhaps Ken has narrowed the rationale for some of my discomfort.

I also encourage folks to peruse Ken's reviews of other English Bible translations, which are excellent summaries.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

RIP Davy Jones

Thanking God today for the musical & comedic legacy of Davy Jones (1945-2012).

Giving Up for Lent...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jukebox Hero

When one is growing up, one dreams of all manners of futures. There were moments in my young life when I thought of becoming a doctor, a missionary, a teacher, a writer, a history professor, a hermit, even a traveling hobo. Some of those dreams seem laughable to me now; others make me occasionally wonder about roads not taken.

Perhaps no dream interested me as greatly, however, as being a rock & roll musician. Sure, stardom carries its own allures which many people have desired. I never desired the stardom as much as I dreamt of the possibility of making music for a living. Yes, that future inevitably included hanging out with Paul McCartney, Bono, and probably a supermodel or two. But I can honestly say that the most important part of that dream for me was making the music, recording it, hearing it on the radio, and playing it before crowds of at least mildly interested fans.

I wasn't very old when God looked at that dream and said, "No, Keith. That's not what I want for you." Part of that was simply because I wasn't very good; part of that was that the Lord had another calling on my life. I am now in my 16th year of pastoral ministry, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have received to share the good news of Jesus with many people. It is a humbling yet exciting life.

Jefferson church has recently begun a ministry to and with a personal care home in urban Clairton. It is a place which serves people of lower economic stations, many of whom have mental health issues or drug-related issues. I am hopeful that this ministry continues to bear wonderful fruit, as I think it's been a true blessing both for the care home and for our congregation. I hope it grows into a true "symbiosis", and we rely on one another as family.

Part of our ministry includes worship on the first Thursday of each month. During that time, we sing, pray, hear the word read & proclaimed, and share the Bread & Cup together. It has become a wondrous time of confession and renewal in the Spirit.

As I have at other ministry events and worshipful times, I play guitar and lead singing. I confess that my skills are rusty and I'm always tempted to jump into a song by the Beatles or Creedence Clearwater Revival or Tom Petty, but God has enabled me to adequately accompany our praises and joyful noises. Recently, something wonderful has happened. The Spirit has worked through me...not to help me play as well as George Harrison or Scotty Moore or Eric Clapton...but to bring a particular tiny group of the Body of Christ into moments of true worship, not only with a real experience of the presence of God but far more importantly a sense that our praise is real, authentic, sincere and welcomed.

These are difficult emotions to describe. While I have felt similar feelings in my preaching ministry, the sense while playing guitar and singing at the personal care home rings "you've come full circle" to me, as if my weak gifts are being used in the most appropriate way. I am grateful for the journey.

This isn't to say that I'll never sing or play rock & roll again; it remains somewhat of a dream. I remain absolutely convinced that rock & roll is the greatest form of music ever devised by humankind, and that most of what passes today for "pop" music or even contemporary Christian music pales in comparison to the best of rock & roll. But I am thankful that a passion of mine has found a way to be of service to Christ's Kingdom, even in a limited fashion. God is truly good.