Monday, September 24, 2012

Whose wisdom?

Most of you know I’m not too great with computers.  This week I learned two new phrases that are old hat to most of you—UI and OS
UI is user interface.  It’s the stuff facing me that I use: icons, apps etc (like I know what an app is!), shortcuts, mouse arrows, user friendliness etc.   It’s the level at which most of us operate on a computer, some better than others.
OS is the operating system.  It’s the stuff at the core that drives the computer and makes it function so that I can understand and use the UI.  I haven’t a clue how that works, but I know I can’t do my work without it.
It’s the same at church and in our lives.   We spend time on bulletins and committees, obsess over the sermon, and click click click on buttons to get stuff done.
But what’s at our core?  What drives us?  What’s our OS?
James would say its divine wisdom, gentleness, and harmony…right relationships with God and each other.
James is really not a letter, it’s wisdom literature from Jewish understandings given a Christian twist.  Jewish sources saw wisdom as God’s companion, who visits earth seeking people in whom to live.  To them it was how God comes to earth.  Christians saw Jesus as the Word of God as how God comes to earth – and wisdom, or sometimes the Spirit,  as the way we learn to embody God.   Hence all this wisdom talk in today’s reading.  James wants us to be clear whose wisdom we use as our OS….divine wisdom, or human wisdom.  What voices have priority in my life, your life, our life together?
Human wisdom centers on self and individual, so it’s marked by envy and ambition, and eventually is chaos-causing.
Divine wisdom centers on relationships, so is marked by peace-making, gentleness and flexibility, and eventually is community building.
Human wisdom is about winning; divine wisdom is about harmony.
We can see examples all over the place:  in the US political arena and in international places of conflict.  We see politicians outdoing one another in bellicose poses toward enemies, and partisans decry compromises that might alienate their core supporters (AKM Adam online).
We see it in our political and personal  stances: we tend to think divisively, even as Christians: us and them, God on our side and against theirs.
We know it in our communities and our families—our sports teams value winning over teamwork; our families prioritize sleep on Sunday over sleep on Saturday and church on Sunday.  And then complain about the negative consequences on our lives.
Rather than taking a Sabbath from what enslaves us, which was one of the original intents of Sabbath, we fill our days with busyness and noise and UI, and fail to nurture our OS.
Whose wisdom do we live by?
Wisdom comes from whoever we spend time with.
Divine wisdom comes from God, from spending time with God and God’s people and God’s creation, from holy listening to God and one another.
James says that divine wisdom reveals itself in action.  For four weeks now, we’ve been coming to understand that ours is a faith based on a theology of integrity.  So our words and our actions need to match our beliefs.   Our OS is what’s driving our UI. Hopefully, it’s the Wisdom Operating System. 
We need to always be asking ourselves what God would want us to do – with our prioritizing of time and activity, with our responses to co-workers or co- worshippers, whose wisdom do I follow?
So when talking a walk in the woods, or reading or praying, be listening for God….and learn wisdom
when in a conversation at work or in a church committee or outreach, be listening for God…and learn wisdom
We can tap into this Operating System with simple questions:
Is this loving, is this true, does this fit with what we say we believe?
when making a decision, individually, as a family, or as a congregation, tap into divine wisdom
When disciplining your children, tap into divine wisdom
When choosing which of their activities  match your value system, tap into wisdom 
When voting this November, tap into divine wisdom                                   
One of my daily reflections this week from Joan Chittister said, wisdom listens first, and always to the Word of God. (and remember that scripture says that JESUS is the Word of God, not scripture). She goes on and wisdom is obedience to the greater law of love.
So always be asking, does this path, action, word, candidate, obey the law of love? 
May all we are, and all we do, operate out of divine wisdom, not our own.   Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

small groups at Fairport UMC

Small Groups at FUMC—we have about 8 groups meeting regularly, weekly or twice a month, involving about 75 people in a broad age range from high school to 90s!  All groups welcome newcomers, though sometimes specific start dates are recommended.
“Becoming the People of God”
This small group meets on Wednesday or Thursday evenings, twice a month. We use the Affirmation of Faith we recite in Sunday worship service as a foundation for reviewing the weekly Scripture Message and discussing the Questions for the Journey in the Order of Worship. Not limiting our discussion to a Bible Study format, the group will devote a large amount of time to current events and personal observations of a spiritual nature. In doing so, there is a strong sense of community among the group members, which helps to guide and nurture our spiritual journey. The conversations are lively and fun!   Contact: Steve Taylor
“Heart Listening”
This group of women, both from our church and others, gather each Friday morning 10:30-12:15 (ending with midday prayer in the sanctuary) as a Monastery of the Heart, an online program of Benedictine sisters of Erie Pa.  Currently we are reading and reflecting on the book of the same name, and seek to know God particularly through considering the Rule of Benedict.  Contact Jane Stava  Although we happen to be women, our group is not so restricted.
“Men’s Monday”
This group of men meets on Monday evenings at 7pm at church for spiritual growth and mutual support.   Contact Dave Dupont
 “Midweek Break”
 This group meets in the Renfro home on Wednesday evenings at 7pm, currently to reflect on Richard Rohr’s daily devotional material. This is a Laugh Out Loud group who really enjoy being together!  Contact Mark or Pam Renfro or
“Senior Breakfast”
Also meeting at Renfro’s home, high school seniors, from church and not,  meet weekly on Thursday mornings before school.  Contact
Spiritual Lunch Break”
This group, mostly retirees, meets each Tuesday 11:45am to 1pm to look ahead at the upcoming Sunday’s assigned scriptures.  We do some background Bible study, discuss its possible implications for today, and close with a time of prayer for each other, those on the prayer page, etc. and the world. Contact Margaret Scott
“Tuesdays at Ten”
A group of women who meet each Tuesday 10-11am for reflection on the past Sunday’s sermon and bulletin Questions for the Journey.  We end each session with personal prayer requests, as most of us are more used to praying for others than having others pray for us.  Contact Margaret Scott
 “Star of my heart”
This group of women of all ages meets Tuesday mornings, twice a month in members’ homes.  This is a book-based group who seek spiritual growth together, with a goal of offering a women’s retreat next spring.  Contact Sue Golembeski
New possibilities
Pastor Chris hopes to engage some of our young married people in considering what they’d like to form, and Mark Renfro is working on young adults (post high school, pre-marriage).  
Anyone with ideas for groups, let us know and go for it!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

mind, mouth and ministry

090912         James 2:1-17

Our worship series from the book of James kicked off last week with Chris’s challenging us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger….to be both hearers AND doers of the word, the Logos, the Christ within us.  I may as well warn you, today it’s more of the same.
This is a very practical little book, written to Christians who are new to living in a faith community within the larger secular community. Just like us, they need help in listening, discerning, speaking in ways that are uniquely Christian, ways of people who try to live the Jesus way, not the Fpt way, not the democrat way, not the republican way…
And the author keeps it pretty simple –there ‘s not a lot of deep theological mumbo jumbo in his writing.  And he’ s pretty hard hitting  too.
Here’s what I think it boils down to: practicing what we preach is important.
 What we believe or think in our minds, what we say with our mouths, and what we do in our day to day life (which is all ministry), should all match up.  You’ve heard of 3M, this is a 4M sermon.
If you’re a homemaker, or a doctor or a secretary or a garbage collector or an engineer or  retired and volunteering – you are called to be a Christlike one—your ministry isn’t just what you do in or for church (not even if you’re the pastor!).  Being a follower of Jesus is a 24-7, 365 attitude and lifestyle.  That’s what makes Christianity a movement—the church stuff is the support structure for the movement that happens in society when Christians act like it.
To illustrate this, James takes a couple of simple every day examples—our attitudes and prejudices based on appearance for one, and our half hearted wellmeaning words for another.
We all do it.  Make assumptions immediately in our minds, make mistakes with our mouths, and fail to act out what we say we believe.
The other day, there was a news item on TV about a child mauled by a dog, and her parents came on the screen, obviously distraught and deeply loving of their daughter.  But what did I see?  Tattoos. And what did I think first?   A prejudicial thought.  Shame on me.  I had to get away for a bit and pray that one away, for it was not befitting a follower of Jesus.  Thoughts matter.
Later that day I stopped at a traffic light, where a young man stood with a sign: homeless, please help.  It was warm and sunny and my window was down, so I smiled and said good morning to him then drove off on the green light. 
I used to have a stack of McDonald gift cards for such an occasion, and I know more than one place he can get food and shelter and a shower and so on.  But I had let that slip, so I wasn’t prepared to be as Christ to him.  James would say  I’d got sloppy and lazy in the works department—my faith might be fine, but it’s worthless if it’s not acted out.  Mouth matters and must match ministry.
You see, our faith is not personal spiritual massage – altho our faith does comfort us when we need it.  Our faith is a daily, hourly, moment by moment commitment to the inner journey and the outer care for the world.   One without the other is pointless, and most of us err a little heavy on one side or the other….lots of good works, lots of churchy stuff, maybe serving beyond these walls, but spiritual babies on the inside, neglecting the development of our spirits.   Or we spend hours in prayer and spiritual growth groups, meditation, teaching or preaching (!),  but unprepared to actually be helpful to that homeless man, either in personal action or political influence.
Mind, mouth, ministry matter.
James asks us, do your mind, and mouth, and manner match?
As our new program year begins at church it’s a good time to get this balance redressed. We’ll take a minute or two of silence to reflect on our own 4Ms, and listen with our hearts for God’s guidance for us….