Pastor’s Blog – A Guide to the Worship Theme for Sunday, February 24th

Scripture: Luke 6:27-38

Scripture for March 3: Deut 26:1-11

 

Black history month is coming to a close.  It almost slipped past me this year as my mind was deeply focused on beginning doctoral classes and leading a mission trip to Colombia.  I’m thankful that Ray Wheeler, our choir director, mentioned that he chose hymns written by Black composers for every worship anthem in the month of February.  He awakened me, opened my eyes, to events happening outside my little world.

There are many people who do not understand why we need something like Black History Month.  Slavery was a long time ago in their perspective.  In America, everyone just needs to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  We are all equal, right?  Well, on paper.  In reality this is not true.  For example, post WWII soldiers were given low interest loans to spur housing development and drive the economy.  White soldiers that is.  Banks openly discriminated and were given federal approval not to lend to black soldiers.  This has fueled economic disparity that is still powerfully felt today.  And this is just one small example of massive systemic discrimination that has made it all but impossible for Black families to, “Pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”  There were 540 billionaires in the united states at the end of 2018.  .005% of them or 3, were Black.  Three!  This disparity is not because there is any ability difference whatsoever between people with different skin colors.  This difference is the result of systemic discrimination.  I did not believe this was the case until a few years ago when I began to actively research the situation.  The truth made me sick.  If you want to begin the exploration yourself, check out the book, America’s Original Sin, by Jim Wallis.

 

“Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return (Luke 6:37,38).”

Unfortunately, we judge ceaselessly.  We condemn without speaking to people to get their side of the story, and we keep instead of giving.  This behavior keeps us from receiving God’s good measure.  God’s good measure is love and relationships.  Loneliness is epidemic in America, yet we still, far too often, keep our focus inward.  There are people who need compassion all around us, the opportunities for giving abound.  That is easy for me to say because I am a pastor and I am immersed in a way of life that exposes me to the deep needs within our congregation and community.  I realize these needs are not so easy for others to see.  So, I am offering a way to open eyes.

I would like to help members of our congregation see in two specific new ways.  First, I would like to help them see how they are miraculously gifted and talented by God to make a difference in the world.  Perhaps we can’t change massive systems all by ourselves, but we are gifted and talented to make a difference, and we are empowered by God.  Second, upon recognizing and beginning to understand those gifts, I will facilitate sessions in which we discuss ways to put those gifts and talents to work in our community.  We will not just envision ways to give.  We will give our gifts of talent away.  If you want to experience the good measure of God, this just might be your opportunity!

Here is the plan:

  1. Register here for the Strengths Assessment Training Session.
    1. The registration tab is called “Discover Your Strengths” on the Ministries/Adult tab of our web page.
    2. This next part is Important! Please register by March 1st.
    3. You will then be given a code to take the Gallup Strengths Assessment on-line. We will discuss the results on March 9.
  2. March 9th, from 9am to Noon we will meet in the Gathering Room at FUMC Bentonville to learn how to develop our strengths.
  3. We will form small groups of those who would like to meet regularly to develop their Strengths, develop their relationship with God, and work to transform lives, our community, and the world.

If are not able to join us, perhaps you could take some time to reflect upon our scripture today.

  • How have you been judged by others fairly or unfairly?
  • What were your responses to those situations?
  • Have you ever been condemned by people who never even spoke to you? How did you respond?
  • Has anyone ever given selflessly to you? How did it make you feel?  Were you thankful, embarrassed, moved to pay it forward?  Something else?
  • What is one way you could give an overflowing measure of goodness to someone this week?