Tag Archives: Jesus

Parenting on Lockdown

Parenting on Lockdown
By Nathan Decker
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountain and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.”
-Matthew 5:1-2a

With the COVID-19 virus pandemic, possibly the most amazing and horrifying things are happening at homes all across our world. Parents are spending time with their children. Whether as substitute teachers doing homeschooling lessons or as activity directors on a cruise to nowhere – kids are getting much needed time time with mom, dad, etc. One meme I saw says it all: “Homeschooling is going great! Two kids suspended and one teacher fired for drinking on the job.” Being a parent while social distancing can be very difficult, but here are some tips to help make our time of self-captivity in the snowless blizzard of 2020 better.
Go Outside. No matter what age the kids are, sign them up for a family team sport. No matter what classes they think they are enrolled in – make time for PE. Make memories by taking a walk and actually talking with the little humans who live in your home.
Do a Project Together. This doesn’t have to be hard, but it does have to be something in which the kids take interest and ownership. My boys like easy science experiments, so recently we grew some crystals. We have plans to do a little woodworking together. All of this will not only grow our fondness for one another, but it also may save us from killing each other.
Unplug. Turn off the television. Take away the cell phones. Pull out some board games. Find a deck of cards. Throw a football or shoot some hoops. Any of these will relieve your stress and theirs.
Don’t compare yourself to other parents on social media. So when you see the Jones family doing something amazing with all this time with their kids, do not guilt trip yourself. You are not as bad a parent as you say you are. And people rarely show their worst family moments for all the world to see and share. Sure they’ve been eating breakfast together after their morning family walk, and this afternoon they’ll be flying kites just as soon as they finish doing that amazing project no teacher has even assigned. Don’t stress yourself out competing with people who are trying to make themselves feel good about their lives by sharing it with strangers.
Breathe. Give yourself time to just be. Take a Sunday drive, even if it isn’t on Sunday. Park down by the river with the windows rolled down and just listen to the blackwater roll on downstream. Everyone is under unique stress right now caused not only by the virus and fear but also by grief over lost events and perhaps even lost loved ones.
Lastly, Love. Our love as moms and dads is a reflection of God’s deep love for us. During times like these, that love can be eroded by pet peeves or hidden behind anger, frustration, and sorrow. Love helps us keep passion in our work and play. Love defends us from the detrimental disease of apathy or rash tempers. Love gives understanding and a second, third, and even seventy-seventh chance. While we are all cloistering ourselves away to lower the curve and beat COVID-19, remember to love. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

“I came to parenting the way most of us do – knowing nothing and trying to learn everything.”
-Mayim Bialick,Neuroscientist

Prayer in the Time of COVID-19

Creator who’s Spirit hovered over the chaotic waters of the deep:

The shifting landscape of our sand castles of security fades,and each day the waves of bad news raise our anxiety and panic.

Hear us as we call out to you: “Master!  Don’t you care that we might drown!”

Jesus save us.

Save us from fear.

Save us from spreading an infection of panic.

Save us from the virus.

Jesus heal us.

There are so many around the world who are reaching out for the hem of your garment.

There are so many grieving, impoverished, and out of work.

Heal us in your love and power.

Jesus guide us.

Guide us to new ways of connecting and being the church.

Guide our medical community to find a cure and vaccine.

Guide our President and Congress to care and compassion.

Jesus remind us.

Remind us as you stand and calm the wind and the waves, you are God.

Remind us as you walk upon the waters, our focus needs to be on solutions not problems.

Remind us of your promise to wipe every tear as we sit with you by the crystal sea.

Because of who you are and what you are already doing, we give you praise, Amen.

Don’t Leave

Don’t Leave…

By Nathan Decker

 

“There is something wrong… when people are leaving the church to find God.”

-meme on eisakouo.com

 

If you haven’t thought about it, then you are not serious about your belief in the faith.  To care about church is to care about an institution I want to disassemble, a tradition I want to change, and a group of people who irritate me far more than my own flesh and blood family.  Loving the church causes heart ache and pain, and yes – sometimes we just want to leave.  But don’t leave.

Currently within the United Methodist Church there is a proposal to allow churches and pastors to leave.  Many who have a traditional view of marriage and who believe God intended for sexual relations to only be between a man and a woman are seeing this as a path to freedom.  Like people who change political parties often say, “I didn’t leave them, they left me.”  After all, the self-describing term traditionalist implies a commitment to a path and not a veering off to find a new one.  Finally, we can purify the church and return to orthodoxy.

Some self-described progressives also see this as a victory and an opportunity to finally ‘fix’ everything that is wrong with the church.  Finally we can move beyond ‘how we’ve always done things’ and into a new thing.  Perhaps because they can’t hear over their own applause, both groups don’t realize that in their excited passion, breaking fellowship doesn’t fix anything.

Don’t leave.  I say this because I am selfish.  I see myself as being a centrist on this particular issue.  If you are in the center and those to the right of you leave, you become the new right.  I don’t have any desire to be wake up one morning and find myself on the fringe of a church I love.  There are folks who relish being on those edges.  I’m not one of them, but I love having conversations with them.

Don’t leave.  Again, I’m selfish.  I need perspectives around me to help me interpret what God is saying in the Word.  Without the voices to the right and left, I do not believe we can fully hear God’s diverse and wonderful voice.  When the only voices we hear are reinforcement of our own beliefs, we become self-congratulating fools.  We need one another.  In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis used the piano as an illustration of ethics.  There are no wrong keys on the piano, only wrong notes played at the wrong time.  How can we play music without the full 11 octaves?  What sharps and flats are we going to exclude simply because we don’t like how they sound?

Don’t leave.  It’s a sin.  Raymond Brown wrote a great commentary on the literature of the community of John’s letters and Gospel.  They were going through a schism.  Gnostics and Ebionites argued the divinity and humanity of Christ.  He interpreted 1 John 1:6-7 to say that breaking fellowship was the ultimate sin for the community of John.  Disagree, discuss, debate… but don’t leave.  Leaving dismembers the Body of Christ.  Leaving diminishes the light.  Leaving leaves us lacking in perspective and strength.

There are reasons to leave a church.  If you are being abused sexually, emotionally, physically, or spiritually, then leave.  If you are forbidden from serving, encouraged to be stagnant, and find condescension and cynicism at every turn, then leave.  Not getting your own way or finding yourself in the minority- don’t kid yourself for one moment that is permission to go start a new denomination.  And even if you do, that new shiny denomination is going to have the same flawed DNA that led to the break-up in the first place.

We’ve all been hurt.  Those on the left, center, and right have all pushed and bullied for power.  We’ve used truths and scripture verses like knives and hand grenades.  Our leadership has left us with a minefield without a map.  The thought of leaving sounds so comforting, so promising, so tempting…

Christ prayed that we would all be one.  Jesus wasn’t even trying to leave the Jewish faith behind and start a new one among the Gentiles.  Jesus was interested in us being koinonia, fellowship, community.  Don’t leave.  After all, it’s not what Jesus would do.

“If we claim that we share life with him, 

but keep walking in the realm of darkness,

we’re fooling ourselves and not living the truth. 

But if we keep living in the pure light that surrounds him, 

we share unbroken fellowship with one another,

 and the blood of Jesus, his Son, continually cleanses us from all sin.”

-1 John 1:6-7 TPT

Split or Splinter?

Split or Splinter

By Nathan Decker

 

“I don’t care what they say as long as they talk about me.”

-Tallula Bankhead, Film Actress

 

No news travels like bad news except when the bad news is only partially true.  Recently The New York Times and other news outlets announced that the United Methodist Church had reached an agreement to split.  Nope. Not yet. This is just a preview. Only a half-truth. The only body that can speak for the UMC is the General Conference which will meet in May.  A small unofficial group did meet and create a plan for blessing differences and parting ways, and even they are one among many.

In fact, I’ve seen at least 4 plans submitted, and some folks have even suggested there are over 26 plans for how to separate.  Yes, we Methodists have a method to the madness. Because of the inclusion of so many perspectives and diversity of regions represented at the table, the recently released plan will most likely be the plan adopted by General Conference to allow those who no longer desire to be a part of the connection to part with a blessing.  If we accomplish this, we will be the first denomination in history to split while trying to be civil to each other.

Except it won’t be a split.  When I was a kid, I split logs.  We had wood heat which required summers filled with cutting down trees and splitting the wood in halves or thirds to fit into the hungry furnace fire during the winter.  Split makes it sound like we are going to cut the current church into neat even halves or thirds of perspectives on human sexuality using the terms traditional, centrist, and progressive.  But we aren’t.

Folks in churches resist changing what pew they sit in and what songs they have in the hymnal.  They aren’t going to bail on a denomination that easily. UMC Leaders like Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter have said as few as 6% and at most 20% of churches will leave.  And not all of them are going to be of the traditional perspective. Many progressive churches may choose to leave as well. More a splintering than a split. A lot depends on the current pastor and how she or he leads the local discussion about the dividing issue, homosexuality.  

Except human sexuality isn’t really the issue.  The issue is really about power; power over interpretation and ordination.  This was true with the Southern Baptist church in her splintering over interpretation of the Bible and ordination of women.  It is true of the United Methodist Church today. Both sides have an interpretation which leads to differences on who can and can’t be ordained or serve in leadership in the church.  Let’s be clear, this is about power.

Except we aren’t supposed to be in power.  When the Apostle Paul faced his ‘thorn in the flesh,’ he prayed to God three times to remove it only to hear our Lord say to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Throughout history, the church has often been seduced by those in power.  Christ shows us that humbly following the path of sacrifice and compassion is the way forward.  

Our focus should not be on how we win political battles or forcibly reshape society to be more just.  God has placed our focus on Christ. In Christ we encounter the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And we are given the Good News of redemption, salvation, and the Kingdom of God to share.  So, I ask you, share the Good News instead of worrying about splinters and splits. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

 

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

-Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:11-12

Prayer based on Matthew 6

Morning Prayer:

O Father in Heaven, 

we gather today lifting up your name,

     attempting to live life on earth as it is in heaven,

     and striving to bring your Kingdom here.

Give us enough.

Forgive so we can forgive.

Lead us to salvation,

     and help us avoid temptation.

You are God, and we worship you today.  Amen.

-(C)2019 Nathan Decker worshipswake.wordpress.com

Our God-Given Rights

God Given Right

By Nathan Decker

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

US Declaration of Independence

 

Occasionally I’ll hear someone use the phrase, “It’s my God-given right.”  Our Founding Fathers used this as a part of their argument justifying their right to revolt, declare independence, and set up a new government.  Immediately following the American Revolutionary War, the phrase was again invoked by the Anti-Federalists who would not ratify the Constitution without the promise a Bill of Rights would be added to it to again protect our “God-given rights.”  Today, I hear people who don’t even seem to believe there is a God using the phrase as a defense of their own policies, behavior, life-style, and tendency to buck the system.

What are our “God-given rights”?  At first glance, the Bible doesn’t seem all that interested in the rights of humanity.  The context of the Bible was the experience of generous kings, despotic tyrants, and a Roman Republic that had devolved into an empire.  But a deeper reading shows that God is indeed interested in human rights.

In Genesis, God creates us male and female in the image of God.  This sets up a God-centered ethic on how we treat one another.  Treating each other as God-inspired individuals of equal and divine worth changes our behavior.  As Jesus would later illustrate, when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and help those in need – we have done it to God.

In Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, God’s people are given the Ten Commandments and a long list of instructions or laws about building a community and relating to God and one another.  In many ways this part of the Bible is the story of a God’s people trying to figure out how to live out what it means to be God’s people.  The emphasis here was “be holy as God is holy” or put another way, “be different than everyone else.  In Christianity, the Apostle Paul called this sanctification or the way that God’s grace continually reshapes us to be more Christ-like again returning us to the image of God.

What then is our God-given right?  We have been given the awesome responsibility to treat all human beings the same way we would treat our Lord and Savior, and to be treated in no less than the same divine light.  We have been given God-like dominion and power over science, medicine, and the environment; we are called to take care of this garden as a way of taking care of one another.  We have been given one another, and we are called to develop a sacred trust as a community.

As a people of faith, Christians don’t belong to any one nation or tribe.  Our allegiance is always first to our heavenly citizenship.  That’s why we are always so difficult.  As faithful disciples, we have a God-given responsibility to look out for humanity.  It doesn’t matter how you vote, whether you are pro-life or pro-gun, or even what side of the border you were born.  Because you are a human being, you are the image of God and deserving of certain God-given rights that we have the God-given responsibility to protect.  So often our arguments are about what we can take from each other, let’s not forget to focus on the rights and responsibilities God gave us.  After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

“Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.”

Jesus teaching in Luke 6:31

Tears into Rainbows, Congregational Confession

There are two versions.  One for all to say the confession together, the other parsed for differing contexts of a diverse congregation.

 

Version 1 – as a congregational confession

 

God through painful rain and redeeming light:

Have mercy on us.

 

We bring our tears in our hands.

 

Tears wept upon the middle passage where humanity was ripped from us.

Tears wept in cotton fields, on bridges and in diners,

     in court rooms and in dreams the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

 

Tears wept by those who long held power.

Tears wept out of recognition

     the world we take for granted was built on the whipped backs of our enslaved brothers and sisters.

 

Tears because in order to gain freedom, some returned to a land they never knew as home.

Tears because we all are still seeking home today.

 

Tears wept in a repeating unrepentant history of blame, arrogance, hatred and apathy.

 

We have not loved You, Jesus.

We have not loved You in one another.

We have not loved You beyond skin, beyond language, and beyond borders.

 

Forgive us, we pray.

Shine your redeeming light through our tears

     so rainbow sight might come into our blind eyes

     so we can see the promise of Your presence

     so we can see You in everyone.

 

Children of God,

Christ came in the midst of our broken skies as light.

God has made his home among all people,

And God, himself, will wipe away every tear.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

 

In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

 

Celebrate visions of God in each of us!  Amen!

 

©2019, Nathan Decker.  Worshipswake.wordpress.com

 

 

Version 2 – as separate confessions

 

God through painful rain and redeeming light:

Have mercy on us.

 

(all)

We bring our tears in our hands.

 

(descendants of slaves)

Tears wept upon the middle passage where humanity was ripped from us.

Tears wept in cotton fields, on bridges and in diners,

     in court rooms and in dreams the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

 

(descendants of slave-owners)

Tears wept by those who long held power.

Tears wept out of recognition

     the world we take for granted was built on the whipped backs of our enslaved brothers and sisters.

 

(descendants of those who came from other lands)

Tears because in order to gain freedom, some returned to a land they never knew as home.

Tears because we all are still seeking home today.

 

(all)

Tears wept in a repeating unrepentant history of blame, arrogance, hatred and apathy.

 

We have not loved You, Jesus.

We have not loved You in one another.

We have not loved You beyond skin, beyond language, and beyond borders.

 

Forgive us, we pray.

Shine your redeeming light through our tears

     so rainbow sight might come into our blind eyes

     so we can see the promise of Your presence

     so we can see You in everyone.

 

Children of God,

Christ came in the midst of our broken skies as light.

God has made his home among all people,

And God, himself, will wipe away every tear.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

 

In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

 

Celebrate visions of God in each of us!  Amen!

 

©2019, Nathan Decker.  Worshipswake.wordpress.com

 

Rainbow Prayer

Holy God of Noah,

Whose love brought salvation to all from the floods of chaos and hatred:

In the Rainbow you gave your promise to all your creation-

A promise of love for the animals tall and small, spots and stripes, lion and lamb,

A promise of acceptance for the diversity and variety of your creation,

A promise of affirmation, belonging, and grace.

Like light shining through the prism,

Refract us to be the rainbow promise of love to the world.

Refocus our lives around your Gospel message of hope.

Redirect our vision to be the reflection of You, Jesus.

For you are the one who rises

Above the crowd’s violence,

Out of death’s dark tomb,

And to bring the rainbow light of resurrection, Amen.

-©2019, Nathan Decker, worshipswake.wordpress.com

Communion focusing on Justice for Women, Minorities and LGBTQ

Jesus, Lord of Love, we hear your invitation.

All are Loved by God and welcomed.

This Love changes how we see one another.

This Love embraces broken hearts and creates peace.

 

Encountering you, Great Love, causes us

to admit where we got it wrong

to own our part actively or in apathy allowing evil to thrive

to see how we have hurt you.

 

Great Love,

                We have not loved you,

                and we have not seen the image of your Love in one another.

                We have stripped humanity from one another in language and action.

                We have put our brothers and sisters in slavery

making them things to be owned, used, sold, abused

instead of siblings to be embraced.

                We have discriminated against your diversity of being.

                We have weaponized shame and minimalized the gift of difference.

                We have violently attacked the beauty of the Creator’s creation

                                with cat calls slandering women as the weaker sex

                                and turning acts of intimacy into rape and power.

                We blamed the Gays for AIDS while we beat them bloody at Stonewall Inn.

                We have not loved you in one another.

Lord of Love, have mercy on us.

Forgive us, we pray.

Free us to see your Great Love in each child of God

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Amen.

 

Beloved, hear the good news:

Christ died for us while we were still captive to hatred and apathy.

This proves God’s Great Love toward us.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!

Glory to the God of Love!  Amen.

 

God’s Great Love is with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your broken hearts that God might heal them.

We lift them up to the Lord.

Give thanks to the God of Love.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

 

Holy Love,

You are other, different, and unlike anything we will ever encounter.

And yet, you created us in your image.

We hear you in the dream of Martin Luther King.

We see you in the rainbow flag of Harvey Milk and Gilbert Baker.

We are shaped by your Words of Love

from Marjorie Matthews, Leontine Kelley, and Karen Oliveto.

You, Love, just won’t stop.

You, Love, continue as a persistent wind of prophetic change.

Our love is fickle, flagrant, and fails.

You, Love, have never failed.

 

You, Love, travel across the cosmos on the lips of your prophets,

the songs of your peoples, and all the saints of glory as they sing:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Love and Beauty,

Heaven and Earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the Highest!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the Highest!

 

Holy Love,

You are among us as Jesus Christ, Word in Flesh.

You came welcoming the outcasts and scorning the in-crowd.

You kissed the leper, helped the lame to walk, the blind to see.

You, Jesus, broke human traditions to teach the Divine Traditions:

Compassion, Mercy, Grace, Jubilee.

By your own life, suffering, death, and resurrection

You gave us Love as community, as fellowship, as church.

You delivered us from hate and apathy.

You made with us a new promise of life in water and Spirit.

 

On the night in which Christ gave himself up for us,

he took the bread, gave thanks, broke it,

and gave it to his disciples, saying:

“Take eat, this is my body given for you.

Do this in remembrance of me.”

When the meal was over

he took the cup, gave thanks, gave it to all of his disciples,

and said:

“Drink from this all of you;

This is my blood of the new covenant,

Poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

 

Love makes us remember.

Love causes our hearts to change.

Love awakens in us a spirit of giving.

So we offer ourselves to you, to be a part of your selfless giving,

as we proclaim the mystery of faith:

 

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

 

Holy Love,

Come among us as the Holy Spirit.

Come as the great Comforter.

Come as the great Sustainer.

Come, make this bread and this cup be for us the body and blood of Christ.

Come, make us be the body of Christ, diverse in grain and united in love.

Come, redeem us by the blood of Christ, crushed in suffering and poured out in love.

 

Give us the vision, the perspective, and the dream of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Reveal your presence as we take each other’s hands and join in one voice.

Unite us all in You, Great Love,

in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Guide, Amen.

(C)2019 Nathan Decker, Worshipswake.wordpress.com

Call to Worship Jesus Dreams

Jesus shared the dream:
The Kingdom of God come down on Earth.
Jesus saw a world where all had enough
Give us this day our daily bread
Jesus saw a place of reconnecting the broken
Forgive us as we Forgive
Jesus cast a vision where love overwhelmed hatred and delivered us to a new beginning.
Lead us.
Jesus share your dreams today.
Amen.
(C)2019, Nathan Decker