Thoughts On Pentecost Sunday

A Meditation for 15 May 2016, Pentecost Sunday (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 2: 1 – 21, Romans 8: 14 – 17, and John 14: 8 – 17 (25 – 27.

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the time when the Holy Spirit came to those gathered in Jerusalem some two thousand years ago. And on this Pentecost Sunday, 2016, representatives of the United Methodist Church are gathered in Portland, Oregon, for the 2016 General Conference. I cannot help but think that, from all that I have read and heard, what is taking place in Portland cannot be, in any sense of the thought, be comparable to what transpired in Jerusalem two thousands years ago.

On a day when those gathered were united by the Holy Spirit, why are we so intent on dividing the people? Are we, as it is written in Genesis, all created in the image of God? Why is it that some people, who insist that some people do not fit that definition.

And why, when the Holy Spirit opened both the minds and spirits of the people, are so many intent on closing minds and diminishing spirit?

Why, when Jesus pointed out that He was the fulfillment of the Law, are so many people intent on maintaining the law, even when it is clear that the law is both discriminatory and out-of-date.

On this date, when the church became the church, why does it look so clearly that the United Methodist Church is soon to be simply a footnote to history.

Is it more important to maintain what we have or is it more important that we look at how to make the Gospel message reality in today’s and tomorrow’s society? Shall we deny the reality of today simply to maintain an illusion of reality?

We who have answered the call of Christ to walk with Him and who have opened our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit are challenged today to not simply keep the Spirit that we celebrate today alive but to take it out into the world. Our task is not to shut the door on those unlike us but, as Jesus outlined it when He began the Galilean ministry is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the stranger, the widow, the orphans and relieve the wants of the world.

Election year economic issue questions

I do not pretend to be an economist so the only part of economic theory that interests me is the part that allows me to know if I can pay my bills and live a reasonable (important adjective there) life.

In terms of that thought, I have the following questions:

  1. Is there a minimum living wage?

  2. Do employers have an obligation (moral and economic) to pay such a wage?

  3. What are the responsibilities of the worker?

  4. Is health care a necessity?

  5. Who should pay for health care?

  6. Should health insurance companies be private or public corporations? Should they be “for profit” or “non-profit” corporations?

It has been said that John Wesley opposed the rich and the powerful. I know that he wasn’t happy about the power structure of the church that seemed more interested in self-preservation than spreading the Gospel but I am not sure that he necessarily opposed the rich.

I do know that he was not opposed to anyone earning the maximum that they could. Often he said earn as much as you could. But I think that he would have also add, just don’t earn your money through the exploitation of others. He also encouraged everyone to save all that they could and, give all that they could.

John Wesley wanted to make sure that everyone understood that poverty was not a condition of sin. It is unfortunate that this lesson has still not been learned. Too many people today still feel that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and poverty a sin of God’s damnation. For such, charity is a non-engaging task, designed to sooth their own consciousness. But should we not consider that, as I think Wesley did, put our faith into action. (adapted from

Wesley also said,

Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?” (from

I do not wish to interject religion into a political debate (we have enough of that as it is) but if a politician is going to say that they are a Christian or if they believe in God or if they hold onto a humanist view of the world, don’t you think that their actions should reflect what they believe?

Monthly Clergy Letter Project Newsletter

The new issue of Clergy Project Newsletter is now available on-line. I urge you all to check this out as it has information related to the teaching of science and academic freedom.  

There is a section in this month’s newsletter for you to sign up for the 2017 Evolution Weekend.

No matter whether you are clergy or laity, I urge you to check it out and get involved in the project.

A New Vision Of The World

A Meditation for 24 April 2016, the 5th Sunday of Easter (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 11: 1 – 18, Revelation 21: 1 – 16, and John 13: 31 – 35.

Here are my thoughts for this past Sunday.  Got a little bit behind in my work and struggling to catch up.

Let’s begin by expanding on the thoughts behind Peter’s refusal to eat certain foods. Peter was undoubtedly an observant Jew so he had grown up obeying those dietary laws, rules, and regulations.

But it was very likely that he and everyone else at that time what those laws, rules, and regulations were the way they were. There were foods that you could not eat with other foods and there were foods that you could not eat at all and that was they way it was. The reason or reasons for these laws, rules, and regulations was lost in the passage of time but were based on the early days of the Exodus when food storage and preservation were at a premium. The people who began the Exodus understood this but this understanding got lost over time.

How many of us hold onto attitudes and behaviors that we grew up without understanding why we do? How many times do our actions towards others reflect “old” thinking?

The problem for so many people today is that they remain locked in this “old” way of thinking, often times without realizing it. There are those who read the words of John the Seer in the Book of Revelation and see a fulfillment of the past, of the actions of a vengeful and hateful God. But the Seer’s words are a new vision of the world, a new beginning, an opportunity to begin anew and not a continuation of the old. The Seer’s Revelation was never, as President John Kennedy said in the concluding part of his speech to the nation on 22 October 1962, a victory of might but a vindication of what was right. The Book of Revelation is not a justification of the old ways but the knowledge of the new ways.

But how do we achieve the Kingdom the Seer foresaw? How do we establish the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth as Christ so many times proclaimed He had come to establish?

Do we create military armies that will destroy our armies? Do we create laws, rules, and regulations that echo our prejudices and hatred, which reap vengeance on those we hate and despise?

Or do we do as Jesus told those who heard Him that day two thousand years ago that we are to love each other as He loved us? Are we to act in such a way that when others see us, they will see Christ?

It is very hard to throw away the old ideas, the old ways. We heard that in Peter’s thoughts written in the Book of Acts. But Peter understood what he had to do.

The assurance and presence of God through Christ gives us the same comfort and strength that Peter received so that we can cast aside the old and claim the new, so that we can have a new vision of the world.

The Power Of The Holy Spirit

Here are some thoughts on the nature and power of the Holy Spirit.

When you go to a sporting event of some type today, you might see someone holding up a card with a reference to a Bible verse (such as John 3: 16 or Luke 23: 34) that challenge the observer. Or a player may acknowledge God in some manner when he or she makes an outstanding play, hits a home run, or scores a touchdown.

But I remember one display in 1968 that speaks to the power of the Holy Spirit and its ability to change the path of history. Only there were no signs with Bible references nor where the players kneeling in prayer. Oh, two of the players involved in this display had their heads bowed but for a different reason than in reverence to the Lord.

It was during the 200-meter medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. The three individuals were Tommie Smith from the United States, who had won the 200 meter race and received the gold medal, Peter Norman from Australia, who had finished 2nd and won the silver medal, and John Carlos from the United States, who had finished third and received the bronze medal (I first spoke about this in 2008, see “Which Way Will You Go?”

Look carefully at the photo of the moment when the national anthem for the United States began to play.

1968 Mexico City

Gold medalist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200 m race at the 1968 Summer Olympics; both wear Olympic Project for Human Rights badges. Peter Norman (silver medalist, left) from Australia also wears an OPHR badge in solidarity to Smith and Carlos.

You will notice that Carlos and Smith are each wearing one glove. When they planned this protest, they had planned to both wear gloves but John Carlos had left his pair behind. It was Peter Norman who suggested that Smith and Carlos each wear one glove.

So why would an individual from Australia join two individuals from America in a protest for Human Rights? Because Peter Norman was a child raised in the ways of the Salvation Army, an off-shoot of the 19th century Methodist Church. And while he may have disagreed with some of the precepts of the Salvation Army (such as competing on the Sabbath), he understood what it meant to be a Christian. It has been written that Carlos and Smith asked Norman if he believed in human rights, which he said he did. They asked if he believed in God and Norman replied, quite naturally, that he strongly believed in God. And Norman told the duo that he would stay with them in their protest. Carlos said that he expected to see fear in Peter Norman’s eyes but instead saw love.

Paul wrote to Timothy at the end of his career saying that he had run the good race and kept the faith. And in the end, that was all that mattered. So too would it be for Peter Norman. He would tell you that he knew Christ from almost the first day of his life. And he probably understood that following Christ is not always easy. But there are times when you must show the presence of Christ in one’s life and that is what Peter Norman did that October evening in 1968. Powered by the Holy Spirit, which was, as Carlos and Smith found out, part of his life, Peter Norman with his compatriots to stand against injustice and intolerance.

The only sign you need to carry is the one that shows Christ in your life and you carry that sign through your thoughts, your actions, and your words.

Can I Get a Witness? (sharing your faith)

Here are some thoughts on the idea of evangelism.

When I saw the title/theme for this piece, I heard in my mind Bonnie Raitt singing “Can I get a witness?” Marvin Gaye first recorded it with a Gospel harmony in 1963.

This song is not a traditional Gospel song nor would it be sung in a church setting, but it does echo the call of many pastors to bring forth those who can speak to the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

A witness is one who can describe what occurred at some place or at some point in time. Eyewitness testimonies are not always accurate. The Old Testament required two or more witnesses to give testimony.

There are those today who say that Christianity is false or based on a myth.

Our duty is not to make people believe in Christ but to show how His presence in our lives has changed our lives and saved us from a life that ends in slavery to sin and death. People want proof. In the days following Easter and the Resurrection, Thomas refused to believe others unless he could touch Jesus and feel the wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet. And when he saw, he believed.

Jesus said that there would be countless others in the future who would believe because of what others would do and not because they could see the resurrected Jesus as Thomas did.

When we accept Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit changes our lives, it is what we do that shows others around us that the change has taken place. Each generation receives the power of the Holy Spirit from the previous generation and passes it onto the next (think of the song, “Pass It On”).

You cannot command others to believe; rather you must show them through the deeds and actions of believers. It isn’t enough to say that we are Christians; it is what do in the name of Christ that will convince them. What makes us seek the Lord and accept Him as our personal Savior?

And when Jesus told Thomas that others would come to believe because of the actions of others, we understand that Jesus was speaking of what we should do today and tomorrow.

My journey with Christ began when I was a freshman in high school. On Saturday mornings, two friends and I met with our pastor for Bible study to prepare for confirmation. In addition to Saturday mornings we also had to serve as acolytes on Sunday mornings.

But the journey did not end after that year of study and service. First, ten individuals, who had watched us for that year, decided there must be something to what we were doing and they began the process of study and service. I do not know what happened to my two friends or the ten that followed us. All a witness for Christ can really ever do is show the way; each person who follows has to make their choices.

After some twenty years I came to realize that my life really had changed and that I needed to be doing things that showed the change in my life. This changed the direction of my life.

And so I now pass onto you what I hear, not just as a song on the radio or a call from the pulpit, but the words of Christ to be a witness, to show by not only by my words but by deeds and service, to the next generation, to invite them to accept Christ as their Savior.

So Jesus today asks, “Can I get a witness?”