Pastor’s Corner: March 2016

I planned on sharing some thoughts about language; the words we choose and how we choose to use them, but I felt a little like, ‘Who am I to say how someone should express their thoughts, ideas and feelings?’ I suppose I expect a certain level of civility and respect based on my experiences growing up, my personality type and norms passed on in institutions of learning and workplaces. Is it being self-righteous to expect that others would/should live into ‘My’ expectation of language usage? I don’t believe so.  Not if my expectations are normative (that’s part of the normal range) where the norm has grounding outside of myself – say like the larger culture or the words and actions of Jesus.

I am disturbed by the number of people in this country who seem to equate verbal attacks without any real substance as a sign of leadership. That somehow unfiltered language aimed to demonize or demoralize another is what this country needs. I, too, am frustrated and angry about our broken politics and the disenfranchisement of the ‘middle class’ – I’m one of them.  But I see no need for the acceptance of ‘Hate Talk’, for the elevation and almost glorification of ‘Hate Talk’. ‘Hate Talk’ = ‘Strength’ is wrong.

Would Jesus have supported ‘Hate Talkers’?  Jesus’ message was right on point and He held leaders (religious and political) accountable for their decisions, laws and actions.  Scripture says He even went as far as calling the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” – which was a description of their actions and not an attack of character. But I cannot find anywhere in the Gospels that show Jesus in a constant rant demoralizing every person or group that doesn’t agree with Him.  

To say we are Christian is to study and follow the actions of CHRIST – whom we believe is/was in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  There are leaders who claim to be Christian – some very ‘famous’ religious leaders who lay claim to speaking for ‘Christianity’ whose choice of words and language is anything but Christ-like. Where is their compassion? Where is their willingness to walk in another’s shoes to gain empathy and understanding? Where is their humility?  

I am far from perfect in these Christ-like attributes but I do try. I don’t always get it right but I always ponder and consider my words before speaking or writing. And like Rev. Michael Piazza’s reflection below, I sometimes feel like I’m “Faking It” because I truly don’t know it all and I don’t have it all figured out.  And maybe that’s the point. And maybe that’s how the Spirit wants it.

Enjoy Rev. Piazza’s reflection – I sure did. 

Oh, and just for the record, I DO get nervous every time I preach.

Peace to us all,
Pastor Chellie

From: Liberating Word-Agile Church  February 23, 2016 

Today I am teaching a Doctor of Ministry class at Hartford Seminary. I think I must be crazy. Actually, I think the folks who signed up to take my class are crazy. What on earth were they thinking paying good money to take a doctoral course from a preacher from South Georgia? That isn’t false humility. That is exactly what I feel. Don’t you? Please say yes! 

Surely I’m not the only one who feels like they have gotten where they are in life by faking it at least half the time. I realize that I know some stuff, and I know I’ve accomplished some things. At least one-third of this, however, really has been luck, and one-third was just showing up or standing up when others didn’t. The other one-third MIGHT have been the stuff I knew or at least thought I did. Is that how life really works, or have I just been lucky to get away with it thus far?

That is what I thought for the first half of my career. As I was walking to the pulpit the first time that nearly 4,000 people showed up for Easter Sunday at the Cathedral of Hope, I thought, “This is where my luck is going to run out.” Then I thought, “This is where the Holy Spirit is going to abandon me and say, ‘Hey big boy, let’s see what you’ve got on your own.'” I don’t get nervous preaching, no matter how big or small the crowd, but there are moments in life when I do get afraid that everyone will suddenly discover that I really don’t know what I’m talking about … because lots of times I don’t. 

There are times I listen to what I’m saying or read what I’m writing and ask, “Do you really believe that?” The answer almost always is, “I think so,” or, “At the moment I do.” I’m just being honest. I hope you can be, too. That is what faith really is. If you are CERTAIN, you are fooling yourself, but you ain’t fooling God. The Bible says, “Without FAITH it is impossible to please God.” It isn’t given to us to be CERTAIN. It is given to us to preach, and teach, and live by FAITH. That means we sometimes live out of a place of simply trusting and not knowing. So, I guess I’ll keep showing up and standing up and “faking it,” trusting that the One who is really making it will keep showing up, too, and that will be enough. It has worked out pretty well so far.

Rev. Michael Piazza

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