FROM THE LEAD PASTOR
Science, Faith, and Raising Children in Church
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Throughout January, our sermons engaged the topic of faith and science. The sermons have been enjoyable to write, as have the conversations with some of you that have come out of these sermons. I have been blessed by our dialogue.
In concert with this sermon series, I have been interviewing members of our church whose education and vocation are in the sciences for a series of podcasts, and I have to say, I have enjoyed these conversations as much as anything I have ever done in pastoral ministry.
Ever since I was ordained, I have wondered how people of science hear my sermons, how you experience the scriptures, the miracle stories, and the sacraments. To actually sit down with scientists and discuss these topics has been such a tremendous blessing. What I am learning is that those of you with a science background seem to wrestle with the same texts that I do and are blessed by the same scriptures that especially bless me. The community aspects of church are important to you, and you are moved by the pursuit of truth incumbent upon all disciples of Jesus Christ. You are open to mystery and wonder, and you are not hindered by the fact that there are some aspects of scripture that we may never be able to fully explain from a scientific standpoint.
Having said all of that, there is one vitally important trend that I noticing in these interviews, one we ignore at our peril. My conversations have been with diverse people from a variety of the sciences, people with varying experiences of God, what each person who has spoken to me has in common is that they were raised in the church from childhood as regular church attenders.
This may seem minor and obvious and yet it is of the utmost importance, for I am learning just how important it is that these women and men had a firm foundation of faith to build upon as they became adults and faced both the blessings and challenges of adult life as well as how they experienced their academic experience.
I know how difficult it can be to get children to church, especially on an early Sunday morning. I know this because my wife tells me so (this is something she has to do since I arrive at church before sunrise). And yet, this sometimes challenging labor is not just a weekly activity; it is an investment in our children, one that pays great dividends in the kind of adults they will become in whatever vocation to which God calls them. While we may seldom see the fruits of our labor right away, they are there, and the fruit of our labor is what Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit.”
These podcasts are still being recorded, so if you are interested in participating, let me know. I will make them available shortly, and I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I am enjoying making them.
See you on Sunday,
With All Your Mind
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, ’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:34-40
What does it mean for us to love God “with all our minds?” The older I get, the more I wonder how to faithfully answer this question. Does it mean that I have to believe in creationism or evolution? Does it mean that I have to read scripture literally or more metaphorically? Am I allowed to question the core tenets of the Christian faith, or will God punish me if I wrestle with these matters because my faith is feeble?
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) famously remarked, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” I love this quote because it reminds me that my mind wishes to ask these important questions is a mind gifted to me by the same God with whom I sometimes wrestle. Since our God wishes to be in relationship with us, our God welcomes our questions. Furthermore, if God is God, then God is powerful enough to withstand even our most ardent, persistent questioning, and if this God is the compassionate God we have seen revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, then we can trust that our wrestling with God can be a means by which we actually grow in our faith.
Our first three sermons of 2020 will explore the relationship between faith and reason. We will examine the topics of creationism versus evolution, the story of Noah and the ark, and finally, the scripture above. It is my prayer that we can use this time to deepen our understanding of what it means to approach the Christian faith as thinking people, so that we may truly love God “with all our minds.” Join us.
Grace and peace,
Four Perspectives on Advent
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of the living God. I pray this note finds you full of God’s richest blessings as we move into this holy season of Advent. I would like to take a moment to share with you plans for worship during this season of anticipation and preparation for the coming of the holy child.
This year, our four Sundays of Advent will offer us the opportunity to explore four different perspectives on this liturgical season: the prophet Isaiah with his vision of justice and peace, John the Baptist on change and repentance, Mary the mother of Jesus will tell us of an upside-down world order, and the angel who appeared to Joseph who will provide us with reasons to live and believe with courage.
As always, Advent is a time when many people will visit our congregation, some for the first time. It is incumbent upon each of us to embody God’s gracious welcome to each person we meet. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
As we prepare for a holy time of shepherds and angels, let us not neglect the angels in our midst as we gather to prepare our hearts and minds for the advent of the God of life. As such, never be afraid to extend a hand, learn a name, even make a new friend, for we never know how God will use our relationships to bless others. It is how the gospel is spread, how good news is made known, and how the living Christ is present in our midst, even here, even now.
See you on Sunday,
Through the Eyes of a Child
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
A recent sermon at the beginning of our stewardship campaign afforded me the opportunity to tell the following story:
My youngest daughter is named Claire and she turned eleven on October 7. For the better part of two years, she has been dealing with severe abdominal pain that a bevy of doctors has been unable to conclusively diagnose. It has been a long, hard, slog, one that at some points made it difficult for Claire to even make it through entire school days. There were nights when the pain would be so great that all I could do was to hold her in my arms while she cried and cried out like the psalmist “Why won’t God help me? I keep asking him and he doesn’t help!”
Yet this school year has been better. The attacks of pain are much less frequent.
After a recent Wednesday night Evensong service in our chapel, with its contemplative worship in the candlelight, and she said to me from the back seat, “I like coming to church. I really do.” “I am so glad to hear that,” I told her.
She said, “I feel like for so long, that I kept asking and asking God to make me better, but now I am better, and now instead of asking him over and over and over again to make me well, I can come to church and just thank him for helping me so much.”
This is a story brought to you by God’s grace manifest in your faithful generosity. Your giving truly changes lives for good and for God, something that week after week you make visible in our midst.
It is time for us to again prayerfully complete and submit our estimate giving cards, our best prediction as to what we will contribute to God’s important work here at Reveille in 2020. You can learn more about how to bless your church, its leaders, and its ministries by going to www.reveilleumc.org/stewardship.
Most importantly, please allow me to say “thank you” for all you do to make Reveille such a special, unique place, an outpost of God’s kingdom on earth that truly transforms communities and changes lives. You are making a difference.
What is your Reveille story?
What do you love about Reveille? Over the summer, I asked nine people to reflect upon that question, to put their thoughts in writing, and to send them to me. You will be able to hear these reflections in worship as we move through the month of October.
As these written reflections come to my inbox, I am so touched by what I am reading. Reveille is the place that helped Richmond become home for you when you moved here. Reveille is, as the old hymn says, “the tie that binds” for you. It is the place that enabled you to hold it together during days of heartbreaking grief. The people of Reveille are the people who are your extended family, the people whose witness continues to enable you to grow in the knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In my five years as your lead pastor, I have been blessed to hear so many of your stories of what Reveille has meant to you. Everyone, it seems, has a Reveille story, and the stories are as diverse as the people who comprise this wonderful and remarkable congregation of God’s people.
In our October worship, we will be reflecting upon our Reveille stories in a sermon series called “The Four Virtues of a Joyous Life: Gratitude, Faith, Persistence, and Humility.”
In this stewardship series, we will examine ways in which faith in Christ enables us to live lives characterized by a sense of joy that can only come from God’s gracious love operating in our midst. Together, we will consider the virtues that frame our lives and enable us to live the kind of abundant life that Christ gives his life to bring, and how that kind of abundance sometimes differs from the abundance of the world around us.
This month, I pray for as many opportunities as possible to speak to you about your life, your faith, and your Reveille story. Together we move into God’s future with the sure and certain hope that God is with us, writing and rewriting all of our stories and the story of our life together, until the day comes when Christ is revealed in his fullness and all the world sees.
See you on Sunday!
A Summer of Blessings
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you. I pray you are well. As I sit to write to you this month, all I can say is, “Wow! What a summer!” It is amazing to think that in a few short months, we had our wonderful youth production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a youth trip to the Lake Junaluska Music & Worship Arts Week, another successful medical mission trip to Honduras, a fantastic middle school mission trip to West Virginia through the Jeremiah Project, and another wonderful youth and adult trip to the Eastern Shore to help construct a house through Habitat for Humanity.
But that is not all! We also offered beautiful outreach into the community through Vacation Bible School (where we traveled to Mars!) and Kids Camp. Both ministries engaged a number of children from outside of our congregation.
We also brought onto our staff Scott Reams as our financial administrator and Andy Glascott to direct our youth ministry. We received three new members, and we celebrated a Juneteenth cookout with our partner churches from Love Center of Unity and Koinonia Christian Church. Furthermore, our former pastor Bishop Kern Eutsler turned 100!
This summer we were blessed by so many people. Churches rise and fall on the commitment of their people, and your commitment was evident throughout this summer. Not everyone can attend a mission trip across Virginia or around the world. Not everyone can help lead a ministry like Vacation Bible School. Not everyone can perform in a musical. However, without God’s blessing of our combined prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness, none of these ministries would happen. It is by your generosity of talents, finances, and time that we are able to be in ministry in so many places to so many people, and for each of you, I give thanks to God.
The word liturgy comes from the Greek leitourgia, which means “public service” and “worship of the gods.” I find it fitting that the word we use for our worship is a word that combines our service and our God. When we work and worship together, we become a sign-act of God’s kingdom on earth and agents of nothing less than God’s transformation of the world.