Thursday, December 23, 2010

My 2011 Christmas Wish List (Dialogue column 12.21.10)

(This piece was originally written for The Dialogue, the newsletter of the church where I serve, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of St. Joseph, MO.)

In last week’s Dialogue I took a look at my Christmas wishes for 2010; some came true and some did not. Here’s what I wish for in 2011 (we’ll check back in on them next December):

A Better Economy—This Christmas it is heartbreaking to talk with people out of work, to learn of charities dependent upon holiday donations struggling and to read about cutbacks for programs that help “the least of these.” I wish for better economic news in 2011.

Financial Stability at FCC—Speaking of money, I wish that our church could reach a place of financial stabil-ity in terms of its annual operating budget. We have been blessed by estate gifts that are helping us in the short-term, but financial gifts from members continue to drop. I wish for our finances to be stable so we can do the work God wishes us to do as a church.

No Celebrity Cell Phone Pics—I don’t care if you’re Brett Favre or a mistress of Tiger Woods, I wish for a year where I don’t have to hear about anyone getting in trouble for taking a picture of a body part with their cell phone and sending it to someone else. In this case, technology is not our friend. (This wish also counts for non-celebrities.)

Play the Christmas Victim Card and Pay Up—I wish for every person who complains about the so-called “war on Christmas” to quit pretending you’re a victim and go out and make Christmas better. I want a new rule that says if you complain about someone saying, “Happy Holidays’ rather than “Merry Christmas” then you have to make a donation to the nearest Salvation Army kettle.

More Children at FCC—On Dec. 14 at First Christian we had a stage packed with kids performing a Christ-mas program and standing room only to watch them. I heard from many people how good it is to have children again at our church! I share the sentiment and wish for more in 2011.

Chiefs in the Second Round of Playoffs—I know it could still happen this season, but as a long-time Chiefs fan I have to temper my expectations. Last year I just wished for the Chiefs to have a winning season, little did I know that playoffs were a real possibility. So, next year I’m wishing for them to make it past the first round of the playoffs—who knows maybe they’ll exceed my expectations again?

Long-Term Thinking in St. Joe—I wish for a year where the majority of people in St. Joseph think about what is best in the long-term for the community rather than what is best in the short term for their wallets. If our town is going to face the challenges of poverty, crime, unemployment, hunger, etc., investments have to be made in things like schools and libraries.

New Missions at FCC—I wish for new ministries for our church. Over the past year, I’ve heard discussions about an adult mission trip, selling fair trade items to help people in developing countries and after school pro-grams for low-income kids. I wish for these dreams and more to become reality in the life of our church.

No Burning of Holy Books—I wish for 2011 to be a year where nut job fringe elements of whatever belief sys-tem fail to get free publicity for staging a book burning of their “enemies’” holy books.

Same Time Next Year-- I hope that next Christmas I am still here doing a job that I love, serving a community of faithful and wonderful people here at First Christian Church of St. Joseph.

Grace and Peace,
Chase

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry QUACK-mas!

My church members know that I have a collection of tacky Jesus things on a shelf in my office.  I do so, because it suits my sense of humor and also because I have to believe that Jesus would choose to laugh at much for what passes as "Christian" in our culture.  (It's either laugh or cry.)

So, I was very pleased when my church's Children's Minister (and fellow tacky Jesus collector) bought me a rubber duckie nativity set.  You can see it in the picture, along with my Jesus action figure and Jesus bobble head in the background.  Alas, the rest of the collection is not visible--also alas! the huge amount of dust on the shelf is also visible!

If you are looking for future tacky Jesus gifts to give me, check out this column by Maureen Dowd where she describes her brother's collection of creches--take note of the picture of the mermaid nativity set!!!

The Longest Night--St. Joseph Homeless Memorial Service

Last night I attended the memorial service for homeless people in our community who died in the last year.  This service is put together by the Continuum of Care, a network of agencies that work with homeless people in St. Joseph and is one of hundreds of such services that take place on the longest night of the year across the country.  (See the KQ2 news story.  Read the St. Joseph News-Press story.)

Like most such events, my spirit is willing to make time for them but my flesh is weak and focused on the busyness of my schedule and the many balls I'm trying to keep in the air.  Yet, last night I did make it to the service and it was deeply moving.  We remembered five individuals who died in 2010 whom dedicated, overworked and underfunded social service workers tried to help break the cycle of homelessness.  A homeless man I'm acquainted with who struggles with an alcohol addiction sang a very moving song and representatives from the agencies that work with homeless people in our midst spoke movingly of those they work with. 

I was reminded anew of the needs of people who walk the streets outside my church and thankful for the many dedicated people in our community from the YWCA, InterServ, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army and more who do their best to care for them.  I am in awe of these folks who serve "the least of these."

Grace and Peace,

Chase

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thanks to the News-Press for publishing my letter

The St. Joseph News-Press published my letter today, and even though I didn't stick to their word limit at all, they did not edit it for which I'm thankful.  I've already received some encouraging feedback from church members and folks from the community.  Of course, when you look at comments on the N-P site, not everyone is a fan.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Letter to the Editor of the St. Joseph News-Press

The following is a letter I've sent to the editor of The St. Joseph News-Press and published in the newsletter of the church where I serve, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, MO. 

Dear Editor,

Each December brings complaints about how Christ is being taken out of Christmas (e.g. Dec. 3 Letter to the News Press: “’Holiday’ program should be about Christmas.”) Whether it’s a school program that sings songs about winter rather than traditional carols or a major retailer’s employees saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” the outrage is the same: political correctness has run amok! These complaints are as predictable as they are misguided.

As a professed Christian and a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have to ask, “What’s the fuss all about?” It was never the job of Wal-Mart and Target or school principals and administrators to spread the good news of the Christ child born on that first Christmas long ago. No, it has always been the job of the church to demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas. No selective nostalgia of the past or revisionist history about our nation’s founding can change this reality. I suspect what really has these folks upset is the loss of a more homogenous culture. The rapid changes in our culture have thankfully exposed the shallow nature of bygone Christmas observances that had more to do with a shared cultural background than honoring the teachings of the one born in a manger in Bethlehem.

One of the many things that makes our country great is we each have the freedom to hold whatever religious beliefs we choose or even none at all. Even if the majority in our nation holds to a particular set of beliefs, it still cannot impose its religious beliefs on the minority. Religious pluralism is not political correctness out of control but rather a testament to how great of a country we live in. Unlike so many other places in the world, here we can live together in peace even though we are a nation of many different faiths.

As a Christian, I believe my greatest obligations are to love God with all my heart, soul and mind and to love my neighbor as myself. Loving my neighbor means wanting for him or her the same rights of religious freedom that I want for myself. Just as I would not want my children to be compelled to participate in a religious program at school different from my family’s faith, I would not want the children of a family who practice a religion different from mine forced to sing Christian songs. I have great sympathy for school officials who must deal each year with thin-skinned Christians who vent their outrage in very un-Christian ways, but I applaud them for refusing to be intimidated as they protect the rights of children who come from families holding minority religious beliefs. Furthermore, I could care less whether store employees say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” I won’t begrudge them trying to make a buck off of customers from any and all religions.

Here in St. Joseph, we may have more self-professed Christians than people of other religions or none (although how many of those Christians actually worship each week at a church and support its ministries is another matter). I believe it is a strength of our community not a weakness that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Baha’i, atheists and others can live together peacefully. The same diversity that allows others to celebrate Christmas however they wish (or not) allows me to celebrate Christmas as I believe is proper. The Jesus I will worship this Christmas does not need the support of corporations or compulsory school Christmas programs. Instead, I believe Jesus longs for people of goodwill to live together in peace, to care for those whom society considers “the least of these” and to love others even when their religious beliefs are different from one’s own.

Rev. Chase Peeples

Great Letter to the Editor by Rev. Tom Russell

Yesterday's St. Joseph News-Press, contained a letter to the editor by  former FCC St. Joseph minister Tom Russell.  In it, Tom responds to a previous letter complaining about a school music concert at one of the local elementary schools  because it was not explicitly called a "Christmas" program.  It was a typical complaint about how society keeps "taking the Christ out of Christmas."  Tom rightfully points out that the poor are not concerned about such things and as Mary the mother of Jesus sang in Luke 1 God is concerned with he plight of the poor and the lowest in society.  Our focus at Christmastime and every time should be upon the children of God who have less than us rather than on superficial Christmas celebrations.  this letter is well worth reading, because it speaks the truth of the Gospel.

Way to go, Tom!  My only complaint is that you stole much of the thunder from the letter I sent to the editor of the News-Press today. (see my next post)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Giving Women in Bangladesh Lives Beyond the Sex Trade

In October, we were privileged to have Robin Seyfert as a guest at our church.  Robin is the niece of one of our members and also has been serving with the Mennonite Central Committee in Bangladesh for the last three years.  (You can read about her work with the MCC here.)  While there, she has been working to help women forced into the sex trade to begin new lives by supporting themselves and their families by making clothing and crafts.  She shared incredible and moving stories of how these women (many of whom were forced into the sex trade at the age of 12 or 13) transform from being beaten down and disenfranchised into glowing and vibrant women with exciting futures. 

Robin has now finished her term with the MCC and is gathering support to return to Bangladesh in order to set up a new business to employ more women.  She is working to find designers, buyers and markets for the items these women can make.  You can view some of the items the women make Hand and Cloth, and you can keep up with Robin at her blog.

By the way, we currently have at church Christmas stockings made by the women in Bangladesh.  Why not purchase a stocking and change a life at the same time?

Why I am Thankful for FCC St. Joseph in 2010 (Dialogue Column 11.30.10)

I originally wrote this for The Dialogue, the newsletter of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of St. Joseph, MO

I realize Thanksgiving has passed and Advent has begun but there is never an inappropriate time for gratitude. Those present on Annual Meeting Sunday heard my sermon in which I laid out my perspective on where First Christian Church of St. Joseph is at this stage in its 165 year lifespan. I shared my conviction that FCC St. Joseph has made a decision to live and carry out the work God has for it rather than choosing to decline and die like so many other churches have done. Despite the many good signs of life in our church, there remain several key challenges our church must face if our faith community wishes to have a vibrant role in our community in the 21st century, namely loss of older long-time members to illness and death as well as concerns about having enough financial giving from the congregation to maintain our ministries at their current levels.


Laying out that perspective took up the available time in the service, so I was unable to include in my sermon some of the things I am thankful for that have occurred over the last year at FCC St. Joseph. In no particular order, here they are.

• We made the courageous decision to declare our church an Open and Affirming congregation. Despite some anxiety on the part of some members, the membership overwhelmingly decided to “go public” with what it has already been doing for some time—welcoming all people, especially those who have been excluded or condemned at other churches.

• We made the wise decision to allow for “Dual Membership” which means people can join our church while maintaining membership at another one. This will allow individuals and families to make FCC their local church without asking them to break longstanding relationships with previous congregations and denominations.

• 15 new members joined our church since Annual Meeting 2009!

• We recommitted ourselves to remain in our current location and minister out of this historic building by holding a successful capital campaign which raised almost $250,000 to be given by 2013.

• Thanks to Sandy Hamlin’s leadership (and Ken’s too) we had another amazing year of Royal Family Kids Camp where abused and neglected children experienced the love of God.

• We gave over $1000 to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti

• We had a successful series of education events on Wednesday nights both in the spring and fall. In the spring we studied Claiming the Promise: An Ecumenical Welcoming Study Guide on Homosexuality, and in the fall we had a series on faith and film.

• We raised over $1200 to fight hunger via the CROP Walk—making FCC the participating church which raised the most for the event.

• We had a successful VBS where we dressed up like superheroes and taught church kids and neighborhood kids about Jesus being their true hero.

• We scraped, prepped and painted a garage belonging to a low-income resident as a part of St. Joe Serve

• Thanks to Andrew Kar we worked with other downtown churches for a combined youth group this summer.

• Thanks to the leadership of Suzanne Shay we had 350 kids and parents here Halloween night at Fall Fun at First.

Of course this list is not exhaustive, merely illustrative of the important ministry of our church. I am always grateful for all the work of our dedicated staff, the grunt work provided by our Administrative Board and committee members who do the often thankless tasks that are necessary for a church to live for God, and for members and non-members alike who give of their time, abilities and finances to sustain the ministries of our church.

These things are only the tip of the iceberg of what we can accomplish together in Jesus’ name if we choose to live for our hopes and not for our fears. As our church continues to change, we must continually choose to stretch ourselves to invite in people who may be different from us and who may have their own ideas about what being church means, because if we choose to turn our backs and turn our attention only upon ourselves then our church sill die. Worse yet, we will have chosen to miss out on the grace and joy God wants to provide to us and our community through FCC St. Joseph.

Grace and Peace,

Chase

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thoughts From a Former FCC Pastor by Rev. Bill Shoop

This coming Sunday, the church where I serve will be voting on whether or not to become what is called "Open and Affirming" in our denomination, which means accepting all people into the full life of the church, including LGBT people. Over the last few months, people in our church have been sharing their perspectives on why we should do this, and I've been meaning to post them here, but I just never got around to it. With a little less than a week to go, however, here they are. This one was in our church newsletter on November 16.

The Administrative Board has approved the following change to the church by-laws that outlines what our church means when it seeks to welcome all people. This by-laws change will be voted on by the congregation at the Annual Meeting on November 21.



“First Christian Church of St. Joseph is open to and affirming of all people whatever their gender, race, age, culture, ethnic background, sexual orientation, economic circumstance, family configuration, or difference in ability. All who seek to follow Christ are welcome into our community to share fully in its life and ministry.”


The statement, if taken seriously, is a challenge to our church as we seek to welcome all people as Christ welcomes us. Such a welcome may mean moments of discomfort, changes to policies or even facilities and potential for misunderstandings as we seek to welcome the groups of people mentioned above, but such a welcome also offers us possibilities for joy as we experience the grace of Jesus Christ in new ways. This week Rev. Bill Shoop offers his thoughts. Rev. Shoop served as pastor of FCC from 1963-1974.

Thoughts from a Former FCC Pastor
By Rev. Bill Shoop

Forty Seven years ago I accepted the call to be Minister of First Christian Church, St. Joseph, because it had the reputation of being a “liberal” church in a conservative town. Even now, when liberal has become a bad word, I cherish the thought of First Christian as an open, confirming, generous, loving and hospitable community.

The dictionary defines a liberal as “one who is open-minded and not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional or established forms or ways.” So maybe it is time for First Christian to openly and honestly put into writing and make official in the by-laws what it has always practiced. I trust that no one feels this is some new direction or a radical change for the church.

Of course, if you think it will open the door to some people you would rather not have in the church, then you will have to devise a method of excommunication. That is a sight I would love to behold, because over the years I have known a few people, in my judgment, who should have been excommunicated. But we Disciples never did have a very good way of excluding people from the church.

If you believe that First Christian has always been an “Open and Affirming” church, then say so with courage and conviction. Then after you have said it—LIVE IT!

I Wish She Were Here by Reva Fields

This coming Sunday, the church where I serve will be voting on whether or not to become what is called "Open and Affirming" in our denomination, which means accepting all people into the full life of the church, including LGBT people. Over the last few months, people in our church have been sharing their perspectives on why we should do this, and I've been meaning to post them here, but I just never got around to it. With a little less than a week to go, however, here they are. This one was in our church newsletter on November 9.

The Administrative Board has approved the following change to the church by-laws that outlines what our church means when it seeks to welcome all people. This by-laws change will be voted on by the congregation at the Annual Meeting on November 21.



“First Christian Church of St. Joseph is open to and affirming of all people whatever their gender, race, age, culture, ethnic background, sexual orientation, economic circumstance, family configuration, or difference in ability. All who seek to follow Christ are welcome into our community to share fully in its life and ministry.”


The statement, if taken seriously, is a challenge to our church as we seek to welcome all people as Christ welcomes us. Such a welcome may mean moments of discomfort, changes to policies or even facilities and potential for misunderstandings as we seek to welcome the groups of people mentioned above, but such a welcome also offers us possibilities for joy as we experience the grace of Jesus Christ in new ways. This week, life-long member Reva Fields reflects on what her mother, Virginia Magner, would say about this by-laws change. Virginia, who died in early 2007, was a member of FCC since 1946.
I Wish She Were Here
by Reva Fields

I wish she were here. I miss her. I miss our conversations. My mother would know what to say. She had such a way with words that I don’t possess. Many of you knew, respected and loved Virginia Magner for her gentle wisdom, her strength, her devout faith and her generous loving nature. Those of you who may feel uncomfortable or afraid, I wish that you could speak with her. I will try to share with you some of the thoughts that she shared with her family. This is her journey and what I believe she would say if she were still alive.

“I was surprised when my daughter told me that she was a lesbian. I didn’t know what to think. At first I doubted myself. I wondered what her father and I had done wrong. I thought back over the years, searching for a sign that we were at fault. I concluded that we did nothing wrong and that she was raised in a loving Christian family. I knew that she was the kind and compassionate person that she was raised to be. I knew that she loved Christ and considered herself one of God’s children. I knew that I loved my daughter dearly and always would, but still I knew what I had always been told.

“As the title of one book puts it, I began asking, ‘Is the homosexual my neighbor?’ I found myself in a quandary. I said to myself, ‘Look, Virginia, you are an intelligent woman, you can handle this.’ So I began to study. I went to my Bible and read the scriptures. I prayed. I read everything that I could find on the subject of homosexuality. I returned to the Bible. I pondered the words in my heart. I prayed. In the end, I discovered that yes, ‘the homosexual is my neighbor.’

“Those of you who are uncomfortable or afraid are not alone. With this decision, we as a congregation move into unknown territory. However, we have done this before. As a congregation, we have taken difficult stands on poverty, the nuclear arms race, the death penalty, and other issues. We have spoken out for world peace, racial equality and human rights. Let us continue as a congregation and disciples of Christ to read, listen, discuss and pray about our fears and discomforts. The homosexual as the stranger, the outcast is also fearful and uncomfortable. However, if this stranger is our neighbor, we are required to share God's radical hospitality with him or her.”

I am confident my mother would have embraced the by-laws change for First Christian Church. She was open to and affirming of my sister not only because she loved her, but also because she understood that was the right thing to do, just like this by-laws change is the right thing to do. This is an opportunity for our church to stand up for who we are and for people who need to know we accept them for who they are. Please vote yes for this bylaws change.

I'm Glad I Found First Christian Church by Bev Grienke

This coming Sunday, the church where I serve will be voting on whether or not to become what is called "Open and Affirming" in our denomination, which means accepting all people into the full life of the church, including LGBT people. Over the last few months, people in our church have been sharing their perspectives on why we should do this, and I've been meaning to post them here, but I just never got around to it. With a little less than a week to go, however, here they are. This one was in our church newsletter on October 12.


The Administrative Board has approved the following change to the church by-laws that outlines what our church means when it seeks to welcome all people. This by-laws change will be voted on by the congregation at the Annual Meeting on November 21.



“First Christian Church of St. Joseph is open to and affirming of all people whatever their gender, race, age, culture, ethnic background, sexual orientation, economic circumstance, family configuration, or difference in ability. All who seek to follow Christ are welcome into our community to share fully in its life and ministry.”


The statement, if taken seriously, is a challenge to our church as we seek to welcome all people as Christ welcomes us. Such a welcome may mean moments of discomfort, changes to policies or even facilities and potential for misunderstandings as we seek to welcome the groups of people mentioned above, but such a welcome also offers us possibilities for joy as we experience the grace of Jesus Christ in new ways. This week Bev Grienke shares her thoughts:

I’m Glad I Found First Christian Church!
By Bev Grienke


Since coming to First Christian Church in the summer of 2007 and joining it later that year, I have been so happy to be a part of such an open-minded community of faithful people. I am glad we are voting on a change to our by-laws that explicitly states whom we will welcome. I am especially glad this change states clearly our welcome of gay and lesbian people. I am hopeful that we will vote as a church to be welcoming and inclusive in such a wonderful way.

I know gay people who feel they must keep their sexual orientation a secret because of the judgment and persecution that would come with openness. I also know people who are part of the LGBT community who are open about their sexuality and I hear the derogatory comments and see the prejudice shown against them by some who do not accept their openness and honesty. One of my best friends has a wonderful son who is gay. She has shared with me her fear for his safety because of the hatred many people have toward gay men.

At this point in my life, I could not be part of a church which did not reach out to and fully accept males and females of the LGBT community. And by this, I don‘t mean a church which tells gay people, “We accept you in your sinfulness.” That does not go far enough. I want to be part of a church which believes all people are created by God and each person is the sexual orientation that God made him or her to be. We are all children of God. We are all equal. We are all who and what we are supposed to be.

I'm glad that I found First Christian Church in St. Joseph!

A Message to the Church I Grew Up In by Millie Magner

This coming Sunday, the church where I serve will be voting on whether or not to become what is called "Open and Affirming" in our denomination, which means accepting all people into the full life of the church, including LGBT people. Over the last few months, people in our church have been sharing their perspectives on why we should do this, and I've been meaning to post them here, but I just never got around to it. With a little less than a week to go, however, here they are. This one was in our church newsletter on

October 5.

The Administrative Board has approved the following change to the church by-laws that outlines what our church means when it seeks to welcome all people. This by-laws change will be voted on by the congregation later this fall.



“First Christian Church of St. Joseph is open to and affirming of all people whatever their gender, race, age, culture, ethnic background, sexual orientation, economic circumstance, family configuration, or difference in ability. All who seek to follow Christ are welcome into our community to share fully in its life and ministry.”


The statement, if taken seriously, is a challenge to our church as we seek to welcome all people as Christ welcomes us. Such a welcome may mean moments of discomfort, changes to policies or even facilities and potential for misunderstandings as we seek to welcome the groups of people mentioned above, but such a welcome also offers us possibilities for joy as we experience the grace of Jesus Christ in new ways. Millie Magner, sister of Reva Fields and daughter of Jim and Virginia Magner (both now deceased), shares her thoughts on a church being open to all people. Millie grew up in FCC and now lives in Seattle.

A Message to the Church I Grew Up In
By Millie Magner

It was just like any day in Seattle; I was driving home across the Fremont Bridge. But that day, the acrid taste of a gun barrel filled my mouth. It was not real - even though it tasted real. I was terrified. I actually tasted it as though the gun were there between my teeth. I thought I was going to die. It was my very soul crying out for help; my wake-up call. Thank God I never got to the point that I put a real gun in my mouth. I survived. I got help.

I had grown up in a loving family; though we never knew a lot of financial security, we knew we were loved. Beyond my family was a church, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, that taught me a loving, questioning theology. Even still, I had heard loud and clear society's voices long before I heard the word "homosexuality" or knew the meaning of "queer." I knew being a lesbian wasn't acceptable.

For years I denied who I was and shut down that part of me that would someday help me flourish. Then finally, at 45, that self could no longer remain buried; it became life or death. I chose life, and therapy strengthened my acceptance. I was one of the lucky ones. When I came out to my family, I was embraced. My friends near and far surrounded me with love and acceptance. But all around me, I still heard "Not acceptable." Under the stress, I left teaching. However, change had begun. In 1992, University Christian Church, Disciples of Christ voted to become "Open and Affirming." I began hearing the positive messages within my own congregation and denomination. I became a part of GLAD Alliance (Gay, Lesbian, Affirming, Disciples Alliance). Still, it was some time before I comfortably came out to my own church. Years of societal messages of unworthiness had to be undone before I moved from simply surviving to thriving.

It is imperative that churches today "come out." Just being nice and friendly to all isn't enough. The messages of hate are too strong. Kids are killing themselves and being killed - if not physically, spiritually. When churches declare themselves to be "open and affirming," they send out a true message of love. Oh, it's difficult, risky and scary to side with those on the outside, but being a Christian was never supposed to be easy. Christ didn't say "Bring your 'Lazy Boy' and relax with me." Churches pronouncing themselves "open and affirming" save lives - literally.

Beyond the Christian imperative, there are many reasons for churches to be open and affirming of people of all sexual and gender identities. Churches who refuse to do so deny their communities the opportunity to experience the depth and breadth of God's Creation.

Why should churches become "Open and Affirming?"

• To experience the process - Discussion results in new understanding.

• Conflicts once dealt with create deeper relationships.

• To deepen the understanding of God's creation and gifts

• To increase the vitality of the church's community - experiencing the gifts of the spectrum of God's creation including all gender and sexual identities.

• To be the Church prophetic

• To heal the wounds of exclusion

• To experience the love of God

I hope First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, the church that taught me about God’s love as a child, will choose to demonstrate God’s love to people who are literally dying for the church to accept them.

One Youth’s View of First Christian Church by Theo Tushaus

This coming Sunday, the church where I serve will be voting on whether or not to become what is called "Open and Affirming" in our denomination, which means accepting all people into the full life of the church, including LGBT people.  Over the last few months, people in our church have been sharing their perspectives on why we should do this, and I've been meaning to post them here, but I just never got around to it.  With a little less than a week to go, however, here they are.  This one was in our church newsletter on September 28.

The Administrative Board has approved the following change to the church by-laws that outlines what our church means when it seeks to welcome all people. This by-laws change will be voted on by the congregation later this fall.



“First Christian Church of St. Joseph is open to and affirming of all people whatever their gender, race, age, culture, ethnic background, sexual orientation, economic circumstance, family configuration, or difference in ability. All who seek to follow Christ are welcome into our community to share fully in its life and ministry.”


The statement, if taken seriously, is a challenge to our church as we seek to welcome all people as Christ welcomes us. Such a welcome may mean moments of discomfort, changes to policies or even facilities and potential for misunderstandings as we seek to welcome the groups of people mentioned above, but such a welcome also offers us possibilities for joy as we experience the grace of Jesus Christ in new ways. Theo Tushaus, a junior at Savannah High School, offers his perspective.


One Youth’s View of First Christian Church

by Theo Tushaus



There’s no other way to say it. I’m leaving. I’ll be in college soon, and my involvement in our congregation’s activities will steadily diminish. I’ll move somewhere else. At first I’ll visit often, every summer, on holidays, and the occasional three-day weekend. But as I get older, I’ll visit less and less, until I’m basically gone for good. I won’t have much impact at all on the church that I have grown to love over the past decade. I’m starting a new chapter in my life, and moving on. For that reason it may seem odd that I’m giving the congregation advice, but as a member of our church’s youth, and someone looking at the church from this new perspective, I feel as though I have valuable input that can benefit the congregation as a whole.

Let me start by saying that I have always loved one thing about our church. Something that has been apparent from the day I first walked in. It is not only that I feel welcomed in this group of wonderful people; it is that I feel more than welcomed. It has always seemed as though our church would welcome me no matter what race, gender, social status, or sexual orientation that I was, or what creed or disability I possessed. If anyone entered into our doors, that person would feel welcome, safe, and secure. That, I think, is the primary reason I absolutely love our congregation.

With that said, I have almost no doubt in my mind that a majority of members, old and new alike, share my sentiments. I think that though many of our members differ greatly in doctrine when it comes to theological or political specificities, we all share the common notion and spirit of nonjudgmental welcoming.

As I view it, our church is a departure from the conventional Bible belt place of Christian worship. To me, most of the Christian religious presence in America seems cold, uncaring, bigoted, and discriminatory towards people who defy conventions of any sort. What may or may not be surprising is the fact that I am only one of the many in my generation who think so. A recently conducted nationwide analysis of Americans aged 16-29 done by the Barna Institute reveals some surprising statistics. It found that 91% of people within this age range that were outside the church, saw the church as anti-homosexual. Of those who attended church, 80% agreed with that sentiment. Furthermore, 87% of church outsiders thought Christians, as a collective group, were judgmental overall, while over half of those inside the church agreed. Let me reiterate that last statistic. Over half of the 16-29 year olds who actually attend church in America, think Christians as a whole are judgmental.

Because of this, I feel that it is a necessity that our entire church embraces the recent open and affirming statement, which will publically announce our congregation’s acceptance of all people. My generation’s views on Christianity are dismal at best. Many of us are looking for a church that isn’t like the rest of them. We’re looking for a congregation that won’t judge us for who we are. If this congregation fails to adopt this statement, then in the eyes of young people, it becomes just like the rest of Christianity, judgmental, unforgiving, and unwelcoming.

I know that this church is accepting. I know that it is loving and caring. Adopting this statement proves that not only to the world, but also to ourselves. As I have already said, I’ll be leaving this church soon. Wherever I decide to go, I hope to be able to say that when I was young, I went to a church that didn’t judge people. I want to be able to say that believe it or not, there is a church in small-town Missouri that accepts people for who they are and that somewhere in America, there is a congregation of Christians who care for people who are different than them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Countering the Hatred of Fred Phelps

As the Supreme Court considers whether Fred Phelps and his family have the right to protest the funerals of soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's worth considering the hate-filled beliefs of Phelps himself.  I tend to dismiss him and his folks as buffoonish caricatures who are so over the top that they are hardly worth thinking about, but doing so, I realize, has risks.  Not only are their some who agree with this group's hatred towards LGBT people and many other groups, but there are also people--especially young people--who are struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality who take seriously his declaration that all LGBT people are going to hell.

With this in mind, Religious Dispatches has a fascinating reflection from a gay man who grew up in Topeka, KS in the shadow of Fred Phelps and who thought he was evil because he was gay. The piece offers reflections from a MCC minister and a UCC minister who are respectively serving in Topeka and are pro-LGBT. Their churches get picketed regularly by Phelps’ crew.


Even more interesting are the thoughts of Nate Phelps, Fred’s son, who left the fold and spends his life trying to reach out compassionately to LGBT people who are condemned by religious people like his father.  He tells of the physical and emotional abuse suffered at the hands of his father and believes his father's hatred towards the world outside his own family is an extension of his father's abusive personality.  Here’s a taste of Nate Phelps:
“Too many Americans cling to this idea that homosexuality is a sin against God, but because they aren’t cruel and evil about it like Fred Phelps, they’re okay. I say bullshit. Most folks don’t have a freaking clue how hard it is to be gay in America today,” he says, citing disproportionate suicide and addiction rates for gay youth. “The people and groups who stand up and fight for gay rights, they’re the real heroes,” Nate says.

Nate Phelps has a website and a blog that are worth looking at, especially if Fred Phelps' message of hate seems at all reasonable to you.   Nate is now an atheist.  Go figure.
 
Grace and Peace,
 
Chase

What the Qur'an Really Says About Killing Non-Muslims

On a regular basis when I try to argue against misconceptions of Muslims by my fellow Christians, often I will hear that the Qur'an tells Muslims to kills all non-Muslims.  So I'm very thankful for this article that offers a very helpful explanation of verses in the Qur'an that seem to call for violence against non-Muslims and explains how you can only hold to such a view by taking them out of their proper context. 

Of course, Christians NEVER take verses of the Bible out of context to justify violence or hatred.  (Note I type this last sentence with a heaping helping of sarcasm that perhaps may not be apparent in two-dimensional text.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

FCC St. Joe Members in the CROP Walk

Great pic in the paper today of FCC St. Joe members walking in the CROP Walk yesterday. We had a goal of 10 Walkers and raising $1000 to fight hunger locally and internationally. We ended up with 15 walkers and raising over $1200!!!!  All funds raised are split between Church World Service, Interserv's Mobile Meals and the Open Door Food Kitchen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Love?

Currently, the church which I am proud to serve, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, Mo, is having an interesting discussion: What Do We Mean By Welcome?  In the coming days and weeks I'll be publishing here on my blog thoughts from FCC members on the subject in hopes that it will reach a wider audience not only in the church but also in our community--and who knows it might prove helpful to other people and congregations who are working through what it means to welcome all people in Jesus' name.  These articles or essays are being shared with the authors' permission and they were also published in our church newsletter.

Love?
By Dr. Elizabeth Hendrix

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most im-portant?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (NIV, Mark 12:28-31).

Often, I ask myself why some Christians interpret Jesus’ words here (and the greatest commandment) as “Love your white, straight neighbor as yourself”? We are called to love everyone, even our enemies, as Christians. However, in the year 2010, we still seem to have a problem loving our neighbors—gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals—as our-selves. Most churches are not loving and accepting of everyone, and they truly are not “open” either. Heterosexism (the “ism” that gay, lesbian, and transgendered people face) is rampant—especially in the “church.” One easily can observe this heterosexism in the “Christian” actions of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas and its leader, Fred Phelps. Members of this church protest at the funerals of gay community members, and in-stead of comforting and loving those who are grieving, they add to their pain. Supposedly, that is what God wants them to do and supposedly that is His commandment. I disagree. Jesus commands us to love all of our neighbors and not just the white, straight ones. Whether or not you agree with everyone’s lifestyles, as Christians, we are called to “love” and not to judge.

One of my nephews is gay, and one of my nieces is a lesbian. I would hope that in-stead of discovering hate and pain in church that they would find love and compassion. Also, I would hope that grieving families could find comfort from Christians in their times of need instead of more pain. Now, our church is deciding whether or not to be an open and affirming church. I would hope that we decide to be open and that we choose to love our neighbors as ourselves and not to be a part of another “ism” (heterosexism) as a church. Does Jesus ask us to love or hate our neighbors? In my opinion, gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals find more hate than love now—especially from Christians, and we have to change this. We have to learn to love ALL our neighbors.

An Open and Affirming Stament for an Open and Affirming church?

Currently, the church which I am proud to serve, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, Mo, is having an interesting discussion: What Do We Mean By Welcome?  In the coming days and weeks I'll be publishing here on my blog thoughts from FCC members on the subject in hopes that it will reach a wider audience not only in the church but also in our community--and who knows it might prove helpful to other people and congregations who are working through what it means to welcome all people in Jesus' name.  These articles or essays are being shared with the authors' permission and they were also published in our church newsletter.

An Open and Affirming Statement for an Open and Affirming Church?
by David Tushaus

The First Christian Church Board has approved our Welcoming Task Force's proposal to amend our bylaws to include an Open and Affirming Statement. You will now be asked to vote to approve this amendment at a Congregational meeting to be held later this year. With your approval the Open and Affirming statement:

"First Christian Church of St. Joseph is open to and affirming of all people whatever their gender, race, age, culture, ethnic background, sexual orientation, economic circumstance, family configuration, or difference in ability. All who seek to follow Christ are welcome into our community to share fully in its life and ministry.”

will be included in the bylaws of our church at Article III: Membership, as a new Section 2, with Section 2 becoming Section 3, etc.

Why should we adopt such a statement? 

Christ makes the Good Samaritan the hero of his parable because his first-century Jewish listeners would have recoiled at such an idea. Christ did this to challenge them and us to love our neighbor who we may not traditionally think of as “one of us”, who we may fear could do us harm, or who would not expect us to love and accept him or her. The proposed Open and Affirming statement embraces

Christ’s message of love and justice toward all people who seek God.  Church is intimidating to many. People fear they will not be accepted, or that they may be judged harshly. Single parents and interracial couples fear a church only wants white families with two kids. Low income people assume a church only wants people with means. Black people assume a “white church” is not for them.  Disabled persons wonder if a church is willing to accommodate them (and indeed our church does not have a handicap-accessible rest room).

Worse, the “Church” has condemned rather than welcomed many “who seek to follow Christ”. Those in different family configurations (e.g. divorced) were openly condemned at one time. They still feel unwelcomed in many cases. As for race, much of our society has become more integrated than our houses of worship.  Sunday is still the most segregated day of the week in America.  Those with different sexual orientations continue to be shunned and condemned by the Pharisees of our day. Issues of sexuality may present the most emotional response today. Family, friends, and sympathizers of the LGBT community have turned away from the church because it could not recognize the inconsistency of its own message. Traditional churchgoers may fear they won’t recognize their own church if it embraces such diversity, but all of us must resist our fears for the sake of those people who feel excluded from the church.

Since the Welcoming Task Force has been formed I have heard from some that First Christian Church is already “Open and Affirming”, that we welcome all who come inside our doors. But if this is true, then why do we not even want to whisper such acceptance. Why wouldn’t we want to shout from the mountaintop what Christ proclaimed so many years ago – that our God is a loving and accepting

God of inclusion, not condemnation?

If we do not stand with the churches that single out homosexual and transgendered persons for condemnation, then we should say so. The Good Samaritan calls on us to be bold and reach out to people in need. Our silence opens us up to the assumption that gays and transgendered persons are not welcome at our church. This is an assumption not only the LGBT community may make, but their family, friends and sympathizers too.  First Christian Church lays claim to providing a unique and important voice in our community. I know there are some fine examples of that. But there is so much more we can do, and we can start with the adoption of the simple Open and Affirming statement above.

Our Congregation has worked through some important issues in the last two years. We came to a consensus on adopting a resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty, approved building repairs that were daunting at the time, and conducted a successful capital campaign to help pay for them. Now is the time to come to a consensus again, to stand together as a community of believers for the way forward.  We have a significant number of new members who have joined FCC in recent history. Many have claimed that a gospel of inclusion is important to them, even if they are not members of a group that is being singled out for discrimination. These new members and others like them are eager for a church that embraces Christ’s gospel of inclusion. We can be that shining light in this community. I urge you to prayerfully consider and ultimately support this Open and Affirming statement for adoption into First Christian Church’s bylaws.

Please come and talk to me or anyone on the Welcoming Task Force if you have any questions or comments about this bylaws proposal.

David Tushaus, Moderator
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), St. Joseph, MO

Louis C.K. on Father's Day: All Fathers Should Watch This!

Worth reading from the St. Joseph News-Press

Neither of these pieces is all that recent, but it has just taken me some time to post them here. 

  • A few weeks ago, there was a great column in the News-Press by Alonzo Weston.  Here's a taste: "To truly restore America’s honor, we must help the least of us. That’s not socialism, that’s compassion. We need to make education, social services, mental health and unemployment our priorities, instead of worrying about whether Obama is a Christian."  The comments on the web site and the nasty notes in the paper have not stopped since!
  • Here's the most recent article I've been quoted in from tne News-Press

Some more stuff that's worth reading

Here are a few more articles, essays, op-eds, etc. that I've found to be worth reading lately:

Scholar Anthea Butler offers good advice on the value of doubt and accountability in religious groups.
Sorry folks, the Rapture is not in the Bible.
A nice reflection on how Facebook can help us to face broken relationships we thought we'd left behind.
A great perspective on homelessness in St. Joseph, MO.
Wow! This is a great example of a progressive church showing Christian hospitality to and allowing dialogue with a far-right protest group. I'm humbled and challenged by their decision to allow dialogue to occur, even though the prospects of the two sides agreeing were dim. Interestingly, a more conservative church in the same community refused to meet with the group.

Some worthwhile thoughts on same-sex marriage, "don't ask don't tell" and the place of homosexuals in society

I'm continuing to post links to articles here on my blog that I have shared on Facebook in recent months.  I've come across several articles and essays about same-sex marriage that I think are well-worth taking a look at.

First, here's a helpful perspective by a career military chaplain re: rescinding the "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy in the US Armed Forces (he is for rescinding the policy by the way).
I love Sarah Vowell and this is a great essay. Although she expresses support for same-sex marriage, this is really a defense of her right to stay single. (WARNING: the other articles on this site may not be suitable for younger readers or homophobic ones either)
Here's a different take on the issues of marriage and how we often choose to live by spiritual legalism rather than by the spirit itself offered by a UUA minister.
A very helpful article by Diana Butler-Bass on the shift taking place in CA (and elsewhere) regarding homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular. It's a shift from understanding homosexuality as a choice to understanding it as something a person is born as, a shift from condemnation to understanding.

Liberation and Post-Colonial Theologies

Remember way back when Obama was running for president and the pastor of the church he attended in Chicago (the buffoonish Jeremiah Wright) caused so much controversy?  In addition to Wright's really arrogant media appearances, many Obama critics questioned the theology of the church (Trinity United Church of Christ) and of Wright because of their theology--specifically what is often called Liberation Theology.  Well, Liberation Theology is back in the news largely due to criticisms against it lodged by cable news talk show host and all-around demagogue Glenn Beck.  This has raised Liberation Theology's profile from something taught in American seminary classrooms to something to be bantered around in the culture wars.  This is unfortunate, because Liberation Theology and a related movement called Post-Colonial Theology are important systems of thought about God, and I would argue important challenges to white European theology that has served for centuries to justify all sorts of sins and crimes. 

Here are a few helpful articles that provide concise introductions to these types of theological work:

Perhaps the best, most concise, most accessable overview of Liberation Theology I've come across. Susan Thistlethwaite's explanation sounds like my understanding of Jesus, and if Obama reads the Gospel this way too I'm thrilled--although I believe Liberation Theology would find much to criticize about the Obama administration's policies.
Brian McLaren (best-known for his writings about the so-called "emergent church") provides an excellent and accessible article explaining the need for so-called "post-colonial" theology and the problems with any theology that has an adjective in front of it. You need not be an academic to read it, only someone who cares about religion not being used to oppress people.
Although not directly speaking of Liberation or Post-Colonial Theology, Jim Wallis offered a response to Glenn Beck's Labor Day rally in Washington, D.C. that lays out in a civil and insightful town the case for faith perspectives that embrace social justice.  If only Glenn Beck would respond in the same civil tone.

Links Worth Reading Re: Recent Islamophobia


Keeping this blog going is at times an effort for me with everything going on in my life, and posting thoughts and links on Facebook has proven not only easier but also often instantly gratifying.  I get more comments and responses on Facebook than I do here (unless you count spammers).  That being said, there is good stuff I've shared on Facebook that is now lost in the ever-changing flow of status updates.  So, I'm going to post some links to articles, op-eds and essays I've liked in the last few months here on the blog.  We'll see if I can keep more up to date with similar items from here on out>

Here are some things I've found helpful regarding the recent flurry of Islamophobia in America, such as the almost burning of the Qur'an by a Florida minister and the opposition to an Islamic Center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.

  • Nice op-ed by Nicholas Kristof re: the double standard against Muslims recently in America--he makes his point without ignoring the extremes within Islam, Christianity or any other group
  • As the deadline for the Qur'an-burning in Florida drew near, word came of a Muslim organization in South Africa that prevented a local Muslim leader from burning a Bible in retaliation.  Why didn't this make it on to the cable news talk shows?
  • Good news! Not all Christians are xenophobic hatemongers. (Of course, some of us have know that all along.)
  • An excellent explanation for why the threatened Qur'an incited such a global response from all sides AND great thoughts about why burning books (esp. sacred books) is such a powerful symbol--by Laurie Patton a professor I was fortunate enough to have for a class in grad school
  • Jim Wallis' reflections on what we have learned and not learned since 9-11, with special attention paid to recent bigotry and xenophobia towards Muslims by Americans in general and Christians in particular
  • From the National Council of Churches, USA  (I put this as an insert in our Sunday bulletin a few weeks ago)--a great statement on how Christians should love their Muslim neighbors on the anniversary of Sept. 11. Well-said by Michael Kinnamon who is both a leader in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ and in ecumenical work.
  • Mixed in with all the bad news about Christians displaying bigotry towards Muslims was a very encouraging story about a church in Memphis which allows a local Muslim congregation meet in its building and both groups have benefitted from the dialogue and relationship.  (This particular story comes towards the end of the video from MSNBC)
  • Another op-ed from Kristof at NYT: For me, this demonstrated the meaning of words like grace and peace. THIS is how we should respond to 9-11.  It's the story of two women whose husbands were killed on 9-11 but who chose to respond by fighting poverty and lack of education in Afghanistan. (from the op-ed) "So at a time when the American government reacted to the horror of 9/11 mostly with missiles and bombs, detentions and waterboardings, Ms. Retik and Ms. Quigley turned to education and poverty-alleviation projects —  in the very country that had incubated a plot that had pulverized their lives."
  • New York is unfortunately not the only place where bigotry towards Muslims has resulted in protests of a planned Islamic Center.  Murfreesboro, TN has also had a isappointing outbreak of ugliness.  The Daily Show with Jon Stewart took a look at the whole sordid affair, and the people of Murfreesboro can feel proud of how small-minded they appear.  (warning: you have to wait through some Comedy Central commercials and the first third of the episode, so be prepared for off-color language and jokes.)
  • A recent episode of NPR's On the Media demonstrated how words matter in the reporting of news (and most forms of media are too lazy to choose their words carefully)--especially in the case of an Islamic center in lower Manhattan--or should I say "Ground Zero Mosque"?
  • What's the most dangerous religious group in American history? It's not Muslims, rather the most violent religious group in American history has and continues to be. . . white, male Protestants! (You should be afraid of me.)
  • A nice piece about the origins of the controversy regarding the Islamic Center in New York at Salon.com: It appears conservative talk show hosts were FOR the Islamic center in lower Manhattan before they were AGAINST it. I guess Obama is not the only one who  flip-flopped on this issue.
  • Jim Wallis declares that American Muslims are not responsible for 9-11 and tells about trying to make this point on Fox and Friends.
  • The so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" is actually 2 blocks away. What else is within a 2 block radius of Ground Zero you ask? Take a look at these pictures--much of it is anything but "hallowed".
  • Lost in all the attacks levelled at the Islamic Center in lower Manhattan was the fact that it is being built by Sufi Muslims who have a demonstrated track record of interfaith dialogue, peacemaking and bridgebuilding.  They couldn't be further from Al Qaeda.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Books mentioned last Sunday

This past Sunday, I preached on Luke 16:1-13, often called the Parable of the Dishonest Steward, considered by many to be the most difficult parable of Jesus to interpret.  I chose to offer two perspectives on the parable.

The first came from Richard Swanson's book Provoking the Gospel of Luke.  Swanson  interpreted the master's praise of the manager/steward's forgiving of the debt owed to the master (essentially praising his employee for ripping him off) as a case where the master is happy that his employee finally knows how to play hardball.  In other words, the boss finally believes the manager/steward has learned how to be cutthroat when it comes to business and is therefore only now worthy of being employed.  Thus, the parable is meant to urge disciples to be as shrewd and determined in their pursuit of the goals of the Kingdom of God (of course it's not an endorsement of dishonesty).




The second perspective came from Robert Farrar Capon's book Parables of Grace.  He understands the story to be about the "grace" demonstrated by the manager/steward (albeit for selfish motives) flowing upwards and inspiring the master to be gracious as well.  Under this interpretation, the manager/steward is a "Christ-figure" who is rejected and lowly, and whose gracious actions seem small but have much larger effects.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Two Books Mentioned Last Sunday

In my sermon last Sunday on Luke 12:49-56--particularly verses 51-53, where Jesus says:

"Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

First, I mentioned When Religion Becomes Evil, by Charles Kimball--a really helpful and accessible book that lays out what the title says.  One of the chapters speaks about blind submission and gives examples such as Jim Jones and David Koresh.  Certainly these verses from Luke would prove helpful to such a charismatic religious leader who wishes to isolate his/her followers from their "non-believing" families.  As I read Kimball's chapter again, I had to admit to being a little startled at how Jesus himself--as Luke pictures him--could be viewed as an apocalyptic leader of a sect who demands obedience from his followers.

As I stated Sunday, however, I believe the urgency behind the words of Luke's Jesus has more to do with his impending suffering and death.  For Christians in our context, the demand for placing allegiance to God above all other claims on our lives remains a necessity but leaving our families is not a part of that allegiance.  On the other hand, following Jesus may demand disagreement with and even conflict with our families if they do not share or understand our beliefs.  Furthermore, I think Jesus demands a critical and open-minded faith that is open to debate, doubts and a variety of viewpoints.  Such a faith means that we listen to the perspectives of those who know us best--including our families.

The second book I mentioned helps put Jesus' words in their first-century context.  In Bruce Malina's book The Social World of Jesus and the Gospels, Malina describes how loyalty to one's family was paramount in a manner we in twenty-first century America can scarcely understand.  Family determined a person's identity, and family was also a matter of survival.  In an economy of limited goods, there is only so much to go around.  If another family gets more, then that means your family gets less.  Yet Jesus' declaration that his followers will face conflict with their families has much to do with the demand to "love your neighbor" transcends those familial constraints.  Furthermore, in a world where honor and shame determined the satus and success of your family, becoming a Christian would most likely shame your family rather than bring it honor and prestige.

The question for us today is not about whether Jesus wants to break up our families, but rather whether we are willing to make God our greatest love and highest priority--above all of the other demands upon our lives.  Inevitably, that will create tension and possibly conflict, but in return we are promised grace, joy and peace.

Grace and Peace,
Chase