“It’s A Matter Of Vision”


A Mediation for 5 July 2015, the 6th Sunday after Pentecost (Year B) based on 2 Samuel 5: 1 – 5, 9 – 10, 2 Corinthians 12: 2 – 10, and Mark 6: 1 – 13


I have always said and thought that one of the hardest messages to prepare is the one for the 4th of July weekend Sunday. At a time when the country is celebrating the beginning of a revolution, it is sometimes very difficult to talk about peace.

Granted, when our founding fathers gathered together in Philadelphia that fateful summer of 1776, their vision of the coming months was undoubtedly one of war and not peace. Even Patrick Henry, in his memorable speech of March 23, 1775, noted “The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!”

A couple of years ago I came across a quote that said,

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”

I initially thought that the author Arthur C. Clarke had said it. But I found out that it was an individual named Joel A. Barker. I have never heard of this individual but I discovered that his claim to fame is that he took the notion of the paradigm shift, first proposed by Thomas Kuhn in relation to the idea of scientific ideas, and applied it to business models (“What’s The Next Step?”)

Borrowing from my doctoral notes on the nature of scientific philosophy, a paradigm can be considered the boundaries that define our practices. There comes a time, however, when our practices cannot meet the needs of the system and there needs to be a paradigm shift, the development of new practices and possibly new ideas. Such changes come with great difficulty and much fighting (from “The New Paradigm”). Intellectually, this comes about when our thinking processes make a radical change, when we stop trying to apply rote memory for solving problems (trying to solve a problem that we have always done so) and actually solve the problem.

It goes without saying, I suppose, that our founding fathers understood this point very clearly; that they needed to take action to make the Declaration of Independence a real document and not just words on a piece of parchment. But is the same true today?

How do we effect change today? Can we change the world without resorting to the gun or the other countless weapons of mass destruction that we have at our beck and call? Are we to understand, as Chairman Mao once stated, that “Political power grows out of the barrel of the gun.” If that is the case, then there is no answer except for war and violence. And, it would seem to me, that if that is the case, then it isn’t necessarily a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong but whoever has the most destructive weapons. I am not willing to accept that as the the future for this world or society.

And so we are at a point where we can continue operating under the same system as before or we can create a new paradigm.

What was Jesus trying to do when he sent the 12 out on that first mission described into today’s Gospel reading? Wasn’t he trying to show them (and the others identified in the other Gospel readings) what was possible? Was Jesus not offering a new vision for the future instead of the one that everyone currently had?

Paul writes about his own personal transformation, of being a different person than the one many people knew. Again, Paul was offering the possibility of a new vision, something unexpected.

The interesting thing about this change, this transformation, is that one has to be personally involved with the process. It does not come automatically, nor does it come from simply reading about it or even perhaps acknowledging it. You must become actively involved in the process.

As I have recounted numerous times in the past, my own involvement in the anti-war and civil rights movements of the late ’60s and early ’70s (limited as they were) stemmed in part from the thought that my works would get me into heaven. Of course, it is granted that it is only by God’s grace that we have such access but does that mean that we are not to do good works, only accept Christ?

If you do good works and expect that by doing so, you will gain that coveted access, I think you will be sorely disappointed. Because you did not do the works for others, you did them for yourself. On the other hand, you might find yourself in a situation similar to the one John Wesley found himself in.

Immediately it stuck into my mind, “Leave off preaching. How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?” I asked [Peter] Böhler, whether he thought I should leave it off or not. He answered “By no means.” I asked, “But what can I preach?” He said, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” — John Wesley, Journal, 4 March 1738

I think this is also what Paul is pointing out to the Corinthians; his salvation was not of his doing and perhaps his doing may have been leading him in the wrong direction. But that moment when he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus was a life-changer, in more ways than one. For us, today, Paul’s conversion allowed us to gather together today. His efforts in telling the world about Christ, no small task in itself, created changes that resounded through the world.

Our task today is very similar but I think we need to see it in a different way. It is clearly evident that telling people about Jesus and doing so in a way that literally forces them to believe is wrong. Did not Jesus tell the disciples that if they were welcome in a town to continue walking?

Second, we have to understand that not everyone has the same sense of Christ that we do. So telling them about Christ has no effect, since they haven’t got a clue what you are talking about.

But, if we do that which we have been asked to do, to do what the disciples did on that first journey of their own, we can show what it means to be a Christian and what Christ has done for us.

If we see the world as it is, we cannot change it. And if we try to force the world to change by the same methods we have been using in the past, then we will destroy the world.

On the other hand, if we have a new vision of the world, a vision in which we help others, in which we reach out to all the peoples, then perhaps we will see change. We will not see change overnight but it will come. Our vision of the world has to be the vision Christ had; otherwise we will not have a vision.

The Next Big Chemistry Challenge


In the process of doing some file cleaning, I came across a question that I had set aside.  In light of the recent Supreme Court announcement concerning pollution and issues related to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), I thought it might be a good time to post it again.

In your opinion, what is the biggest chemical challenge facing this society in the coming ten years? Why?

Monthly Clergy Letter Project Newsletter


The new issue of Clergy Project Newsletter is now available on-line at http://www.theclergyletterproject.org/Resources/June2015newsletter.html. I urge you all to check this out as it has information related to the teaching of science and academic freedom.

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

“It’s Not About A Piece Of Cloth”


Note added on 6/28/2015 — Chosen as one the noteworthy posts on “The Methodist Blogs Weekly Links of Note“!  Thanks to Allan Bevere!


On more than one occasion I have said that I am “Southern born and Southern bred, and when I die I will be Southern dead.”

But I have also noted that doesn’t mean that I hold onto many Southern traditions. I supposed that is because, even though my roots are in the South and I was born in Virginia and went to school in the south, I have lived in other places as well.

And in living in those other places, I have had the chance to compare how it is to live in all of the places. And somewhere along the line, probably about the time I began the 7th grade, I began to sense and see that some things were not quite right.

Let’s be honest, we are not going to see how are lives are different or the places where we live are different if we have nothing to compare them to. If we are not aware there is a difference between life in, say New York, and perhaps Alabama, then we will think that life is the same.

I remember when I first moved to New York and everybody was thinking that being the Governor of Texas was like being the Governor of New York. And while, politically speaking, the Governor of New York is a very powerful political person, there are four individuals in Texas with more political power than the governor of Texas (see “The Differing Voices Of Truth”). Because I had lived in both states, and because I had read Molly Ivins, I knew this; it came as a shock to many people who naturally assumed that all governors were essentially the same.

And while I was growing up, living in four different locations before elementary school and then going to five elementary schools for six years (because my father was an officer in the United States Air Force), I probably didn’t notice anything. But I probably wasn’t old enough to comprehend any differences there might have been in the places I lived.

But that all changed around the time I was twelve. Twelve is that age when we begin to notice the world around us and begin to think about what is happening. And one of the first things that I remember is an incident that took place when I went to the movies with my two brothers in Lexington, North Carolina. Lexington is my mother’s hometown and we had gone there to visit her parents, our grandparents. It was in the early 1960s and while the theater where the move was showing was a public theater, it was still segregated.

And somehow, my two brothers and I ended up in the segregated portion of the theater. What I remember most about that was trying to get back into the “whites only” section but having my way blocked by a gate that only swung one way, preventing blacks from going into the white section. It would have been easy enough to think to pull the gate instead of pushing on it but when you are in the dark with two younger brothers and you aren’t much older than 12, such thoughts aren’t easy to come by (I first described this in “Lexington, North Carolina”).

And when I began the 7th grade at Bellingrath Junior High School in Montgomery, Alabama, I found that my parents had to buy my school books instead of my getting them from the teacher at the beginning of school, as had been the case in all the schools I had attended before then. I know that the reason for this didn’t immediately sink in but when I went to school in Colorado and Missouri and got my books from the school, I had to ask myself why that was.

Maybe that year at Bellingrath was an anomaly but when we moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1966 I was reminded that there were people who still did not want all students to have a fair education. Oh, this time, I got the books I needed from the teachers but I found out that the band only got $50.00 for music, supplies, uniforms, and instruments (as did the choir). And if the band wanted or needed additional funds, they had to come from the Parents’ Association. That meant that schools in the higher income sections. of Shelby County had better equipment and more music than did the schools in the lower income sections.

Now, understand that this was all very, very legal. The law said that all schools had to be treated equally so you just limited what you gave to each school. But understand this, whether you call it segregation or not, when you do something to affect one group of people, it will affect other groups as well. But no group is going to understand this if they never find out that they are being mistreated, abused, or limited in some way. It will only become apparent when you have a chance to compare what is happening to you to what is happening to others.

And those who are in power will do whatever it takes to keep the system that gives them power in place. And that is as true today as it was fifty years ago when I was living in Alabama.

There are those who have the Confederate battle flags taken down with one or two given to museums and the others put or thrown away. And while that is a good thing, we have to remember that it is a symbol of too many bad things. And removing a piece of cloth from public display does nothing to change the beliefs or actions of those who used that cloth as their symbol; they will simply find another symbol to use.

The challenge we are faced with today is one that we have been faced with from time immemorial and that is to see that racism, sexism, ageism, and all other forms of discrimination are merely attempts by some individuals to do whatever it takes to gather all the power and wealth that they can. Until we understand that all individuals have the same rights and that our task is to work for that equality, then nothing will change. Taking down a flag will not remove the centuries of teaching that taught there were differences in people because of the color of their skin.

But we must begin to seek the changes that will allow everyone, whomever they may be, to have the same rights and privileges as everyone else. We have to begin with one simple note – when you do something that keeps someone else back, others will be affected by it as well. And when you spend all your time working to keep someone back, you cannot be moving forward yourself. Do you remember the conversation Alice had with the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass?

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

We will not see the effects of that changes we must make immediately; the causes of discrimination are too deeply ingrained in all that we say and do. But if we do not begin to seek the changes that are really needed, then no change will ever occur.

Children Learn What They Live


I thought that, in light of what happened at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last evening, this was appropriate .  There was a time when I thought we were making progress but now I am not so sure.  But I do know that whatever is wrong with country that allows hatred, anger, and violence to be dominant will not be changed overnight.  It will take time and the learning process must begin today.

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, PhD


If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.