Sunday, June 17, 2018

Further Reflections

In addition to the blessings we enjoy we also realize that we are surrounded by sin, evil and pain.  Last week we learned of the triple murder and suicide here in the Northland.  It touched us close to home as one of the victims was one of our members and volunteers.  Her granddaughter, who escaped the tragedy, was connected to our youth ministry.  Another victim attended here.  We held Maggie's service on Friday and will have Sharmalee's Monday.  We all grieve.
Some blame mental health issues and our lack of support for many who struggle with these issues.
Some blame easy access to firearms and the resultant gun violence that has become a regular part of our lives.
Some blame pure evil for these destructive acts that claim and mar human life.
There is plenty of blame to go around regarding any and all of these issues. 
I truly wish I had the answer.  If I had unlimited resources and resolve there would be plenty of help for everyone struggling with mental illness. 
If I could snap my finger and eliminate all weapons, even guns, I would.  But clearly that isn't going to happen.
Perhaps we could begin with ourselves.  What is our responsibility regarding the issues of the day?  As followers of Jesus what are our responsibilities with guns and any weapons? 
I have to think that if my dad would have caught my friend and me trying to shoot each other with bb guns when we were kids, he would have had something to say about it.  It would have gone something like, "that bb gun requires responsible use.  Since you used it irresponsibly I think we better put it up for awhile."
Sadly there are many in our society who are irresponsible with guns - not bb guns but the kind that do real damage.  We may model responsible use of guns just like we are expected to be responsible citizens in all areas of life. 
We know that Christians are like good leaven in the world.  Our responsible actions and ways of living will have an impact.  So we pray and work and live and love. 
steve

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Today our kids came up for church and then we gathered for lunch celebrating Father's Day and our son-in-law and daughter-in-laws birthdays.  So thankful for these moments and times to reflect and remember.
After they headed home Cindy and I went to see mom and dad.  Took dad a card, a gift and some banana cream pie.  (He likes that.)  Sat and watched the ball game and visited for awhile.  Pretty amazing to have both parents living into their late 80's.  Once again, feeling thankful.
I gave some thought to some of the influence my dad has had in my life.  I think of him being thoughtful.  He has taught me thoughtfulness.  I have this tendency to say what comes to mind and often find myself processing things out loud.  Dad is not like that.  He might not talk a lot but when he had something to say people tended to pay attention.  That is a great lesson.  Thoughtful.
My dad has taught me things like loyalty. (That's not as big a thing today, it seems.)  Dad stayed with the same company for 40 years.  He was loyal to the Church.  He has always been a good friend to people.  Even in a time when loyalty seems to be out of vogue, I find myself grateful for that trait being instilled in my own life.
There are so many life lessons.  So many times I can still see dad at the ballgames, at church, at work, or showing me how to throw a ball or shoot a basket.  I am thankful my dad is in my life.  Would love to keep living the lessons and passing on some of those traits instilled in me.
Happy Father's Day.  God bless.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Just back from Springfield and our Missouri Annual Conference.  The bottom line: a good time of learning, fellowship and encouraging our Methodist ministry in Missouri. 
We ordained 8 new elders and recognized the orders of 2 others.  It is a very promising class. 
We commissioned a number of young people, including our own Britton Fields.  A great group.
There were more local pastor licensed than I could count! 
Basically, it seems like we have a very hopeful future with strong, principled leaders coming up.
There were a couple of side notes.
First, I got the best parking spot ever!  We arrived and I parked, front row next to the building.  Wouldn't move!  Until Cindy needed the car on Saturday.  But it was a good parking space.
Secondly, on Saturday night I got a text from a friend who had visited the conference.  He simply said, I forgot my clothes at the hotel.  Could you get them and bring them back for me?  Done.  Actually Cindy picked them up while I was in a session.  My take-away from that.  I feel great that someone considers me a good enough friend to make that request!  It is a joy.
Basically, annual conference offers time to make new friends, renew old friends and celebrate our shared ministry.  Along the way we note some small blessings and even some pretty big ones.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Monday, June 4, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Conference: "A meeting, often lasting a few days, which is organized on a particular subject or to bring together people who have a common interest.  A meeting at which formal discussions take place."
This is "conference" season in the United Methodist Church.  The Missouri Annual Conference will meet in Springfield with United Methodist's from all over the state gathering.
In the past few years our conferencing has changed.  When I began ministry Annual Conference was primarily a legislative and business meeting.  We did worship and we did other church things, like ordain people.  But what seemed to stand out were petitions and resolutions, debate and vote, winners and losers. 
Things have changed.  This week we anticipate focusing primarily on learning, worship and recognizing people in ministry.  There will be some business.  We have a budget to approve and conference leadership to elect, but the primary focus is on equipping people for ministry.
We may be an exception to the rule.  I sense that in many places annual conference is still more of a legislative meeting.  Frankly, I cannot imagine John Wesley gathering his preachers together for debate, vote, and making rules.  He would have gathered the preachers together to give them books to read, tell them doctrines to preach, and discuss furthering the revival movement. 
I see annual conference as a time to see friends I do not see at others times in the year.  There will be some business and discussion but those will not be the highlight for me.  Ordaining new clergy stands out as a highlight.  Seeing United Methodists from every corner of the state being equipped to go home and serve is a highlight.  These are the things I anticipate.  When I get back I can give you an update and we will see how my hopes are fulfilled.
Steve

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Today at church between services, a lady introduced herself to me.  She has recently begun coming to PWC and wanted to know how to volunteer for Vacation Bible School!  That made the day. 
We have been thinking about how to best evaluate our participation at church.  When I began in ministry we based things on membership.  Even our apportionments heavily factored in membership to the equation.  Some years back we decreased the emphasis on membership and focused more on average worship attendance.  Today it becomes increasingly difficult to know what to count.
Statistics tell us that people attending church one out of six weekends consider themselves regular attenders.  When I was growing up fifty-two weeks a year was considered regular.  (Of course we always walked to church, in six feet of snow, uphill both ways!)  Anyway, times change.
Today we are learning to look for ways to evaluate "engaged participates".  We still do membership and we count attendance, but here is a different way to look at our involvement.
An engaged participant is one who attends worship a minimum of eight times a year.  An engaged participant is one who is "learning in groups".  An engaged participant is one who serves.  An engaged participant is one who practices generosity.
This is certainly not fool proof but it does offer some indication of who is growing in grace and pursuing Christian Discipleship by following Jesus.
We still have much work to do but we are learning some things. 
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Today we looked at a fascinating video, "How Wolves Change Rivers".  I was at a recent meeting with leaders of Conference Board's of Ordained Ministry and Lisa Greenwood shared the video (check it out on uTube) to spark our discussion of seeing change in the Church.
Basically deer had grazed most of the vegetation away in Yellowstone Park.  After a seventy year absence wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone to thin the deer.  What happened totally transformed Yellowstone.  The deer population thinned and re-located to different areas.  The vegetation come back.  Some trees grew five times as high in six years.  Plant life increased.  New species of animals returned.  Eventually even the rivers changed!  It is a fascinating story. 
Here is the what if...
What if we were to see the re-introduction of the Holy Spirit into the life of the church.  (Why not make that your church?)  Some unexpected things might ensue.  For instance, the activities that consume our spiritual and temporal resources might be "consumed" and re-allocated.  With that new work and ministry emerges.  The environment changes.  Love prevails.  Holiness returns.  Jesus is living in our midst.  People return.  New people arrive.  Influence spreads.  Like the wolves change rivers, the Church changes the culture. 
Imagine the transformation the Spirit-filled Church makes.  A culture of death (no more school shootings!!!) is transformed by the Living Lord.  Picture a world turned upside down by the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.
The original Pentecost in Christian tradition empowered eyewitnesses to the resurrection to share the Good News with the world.  A "Today Pentecost" will do the same.
Here is our prayer.  Come, Holy Spirit, fill my life, fill your church.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Reflections From Sunday Evening

Happy Mother's Day - to all mothers, but especially to Esther Lou Breon, my mom, and Cindy Breon, our kids mom. 
We had the opportunity to all be together for lunch today.  What a gift.  It is a gift not to be taken for granted. 
There are some popular call outs to moms.  Do you remember when Kevin Durant won the NBA most valuable player award and in his acceptance speech gave the credit to his mom.  Google it - worth watching.
We could take note of any number of stories and recognitions.  Personal ones are best.
I can say thanks, mom, for good humor.  She passed that trait on to me.
Thanks for the value of education.
Thanks for the example of serving the church.
Thanks for support - especially when not deserved.
Thanks for giving opportunities.
Thanks for love - the unconditional kind.
Thanks for everything.
It's been a good day.  I hope you've had a good day too.
steve