January 30 2019
For the last month as we’ve been celebrating the season of Epiphany, we’ve also been studying the meaning and purpose of worship on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. One of the key aspects of worship I’ve wanted to highlight humorously, although it’s serious business, is the nature of our gathering. In Christian worship the first thing that transforms us and teaches us what it means to follow Jesus is the gathering itself.
The gospels show us that Jesus called to himself all kinds of people. Sinners and saints, rich and poor, religious leaders and the culturally unclean all found a welcome at the table with Jesus. This practice of radical inclusivity is what shaped the early church from the first days of Pentecost, and led to Saint Paul’s bold proclamation to the church in Galatia: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. This radical welcome, this call to community that is deeper than our differences, is what we practice every Sunday morning in worship. Every Sunday here in Somerville we, like Jesus, invite all kinds of people! Republicans, Democrats, conservative and progressive, highly educated and not, politicians and the politically unsure. We have men and women, young and old, Memphis Tigers and those who can’t help but “roll tide.”
This simple act of gathering together with folks who don’t look like us, dress like us, act like us, or hold all the same beliefs and opinions that we do, is in itself a miracle, an act of God, every time we come together in worship. This simple act can transform our hearts and minds when practiced with intentionality and through us one day transform our greater community. We practice loving others as brothers and sisters in the midst of real differences on Sundays, so that more and more Monday through Saturday we learn to do the same.
The United Methodist Church as a global denomination of 12.5 million members is one of rich cultural and ethnic diversity. Any given Sunday you can walk into a Methodist church and see amazing differences, but just like here in Somerville, we have one anchor that binds us: The love of God made known to us through Jesus, and the calling to let that love transform us and the world through us. Across the globe our church is one of all kinds of people, a testimony of the Spirit’s movement.
Our connection as a whole is a sign of grace, but it is not without its challenges. One of the major challenges facing our denomination is our differing views on human sexuality. This conversation has in some ways been a constant debate since 1972. At the 2016 General Conference it was decided to call a special general conference to discuss only these topics and to hopefully chart a way forward for our global church. This special conference will be held February 23-26 2019 in St. Louis.
If you are interested in more information about the upcoming conference and some of the many plans and proposals being voted on please check the links below. As pastor here in Somerville, I will be holding some special informational gatherings in the coming weeks for folks who are interested in the called general conference coming up.
On February 10th from 4:30 to 6:00 I’ll be hosting a gathering to simply explain the history and some of the key proposals in place. My hope is to share information that will help better understand the process that has led us here. In some of the upcoming weekly blog posts I will also try to offer helpful resources with this purpose in mind.
On February 17th from 4:30 to 6:00 I’ll host a second gathering that will be focused more on discussion. This will allow those interested to express concerns and their own thoughts on the subject matter. This topic is quite sensitive, and I have found that it is difficult and exhausting to discuss sexuality at all. My hope is that in these sessions we can try to hear each other and understand the challenges we face as a denomination, and what this practically means for our local church here in Somerville.
Every Sunday we gather, with all kinds of people; a sign of God’s grace on the move. My hope for the future of our church, and for these upcoming conversations is that we can learn from each other, express honest differences, but also find a way to maintain the unity that the Spirit has revealed to us through Jesus.
Grace and Peace be with you all,
January 22, 2019
One of the things we as a church are working on this year is clearer communication. My hope is that through this weekly blog, I can do my part in helping us grow in this area. This weekly blog will be emailed out to the church, posted on our website, and linked to our Facebook page. The posts will range from topics I am learning about, posts of a more devotional nature, as well as highlighting information relevant to news in our local church as well as our United Methodist denomination. Our church in Somerville, TN is but one small part of a much larger global movement seeking to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That’s one of the many things that gets me excited about sharing the riches of our history, theology, and current mission in the world with you all.
In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing information and my own understanding of our denomination’s structure, our local church’s theme of worship, the small shifts in organizational life as a church in Somerville, and the upcoming called General Conference at the end of February.
My grandfather Richard always used to tell me, “No matter what you do in life, Kyle, keep learning. Keep reading. Keep your mind sharp.” I have tried in my life to take this advice to heart, and delight in learning. The apostle Paul urges us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Jesus’s call to repentance is first and foremost a call to “turn around, come home and learn new ways of thinking.” To follow Jesus then, means to commit to being lifelong learners, students of our humble Rabbi. My prayer is that these posts help us all continue this journey of learning to follow Jesus together.
Grace and Peace