Sunday, June 28, 2020

"I have finished the race..." - 2 Timothy 4.7

Today I conducted my final Sunday services under full-time appointment. The first was at Gideon UMC, the second at Greenbrier UMC, both in Greenbrier, Tennessee.

After 23 years of full-time pastoring in the UMC, preceded by retiring as an artillery officer from the US Army, plus two years of employment in a BTB Information Technology compay, I will enter retired status for good this coming Wednesday. 

Here are some photos from this morning.

Serving Communion at Gideon. We used prepackaged, individual cups with the wafer and the wine (grape juice) wrapped together in one unit. I served with tongs so no one's hands ever touched the cups but the communicant's.

My final benediction at Gideon UMC.

When Cathy and I arrived at Greenbrier UMC, this sign awaited us near the front entrance.

Beginning my final service at Greenbrier UMC. 

Consecrating the Communion elements.

My successor pastor, beginning there July 1, is the Rev. Jason Wilkerson, whom I have known since I moved to Robertson County three years ago. He is a very fine Christian gentleman and minister. I invited him and his family to attend today to introduce him to the congregation. I also asked him to assist in serving Communion.

Our Communion steward, the wonderful Donna Watkins, prepared Communion with the bread (the "chiclet" style) in trays of cups and the wine in other trays. She prepared these entirely in keeping with proper C19 protocols so that neither the bread, the liquid, nor the cups were ever touched by anyone but the recipients.

Rev. Wilkerson and I were both masked while serving and we donned new sterile nitrile gloves first. We removed each cup from the tray and handed it to the communicant so that no unprotected hands ever touched anything but their own serving.

In the photo above, I am serving Rev. Wilkerson at the end, just after he served me. This was one part of our ritual of me passing the pastoral care of the congregation to him - leaving him with the  place of honor in the Methodist tradition: last. Hopefully, this helped the people understand that there is an orderly, grace-filled and indeed sacramental continuity of pastoral care of the people of God. 
Then we proceeded with a litany of passing of the pastoral ministry from myself to Jason. We each led the congregation is responses and prayers for one another and the church itself. 

Our closing hymn was, "Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore," number 344 in the UM Hymnal. This hymn was requested by a church member but coincidentally (or not!) it was also the thematic hymn of the service of Annual Conference in which I was ordained. So the hymn has always been deeply meaningful to both Cathy and me. 

My final benediction to the people of Greenbrier UMC, which I basically ripped off from Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth, chapter 4. But I meant every word as if I had written them myself, although I could not have done so nearly as well as Paul did.
To the church of God that is Greenbrier UMC, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 
I give thanks to God for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The church hosted a "walk-thru" reception for Cathy and me after the service. It would have been outside had weather permitted. 

A wonderful lady of the church made this for me - Wake Forest was my undergrad school. I already had a Vandy bottle. I earned my M.Div. there.

That Cathy was also in ministry with me at the churches was a real fact and the people said so! This was given to her because everyone knows (I mean really knows!) that Cathy loves to cheer for Duke basketball.

This fine family of four are special to me for two reasons. One is that I baptized all four of them when they joined the church. The other is that he is also retired from the Army and is the only other person in the church who speaks the language of acronym as I do. So we could have whole conversations without anyone else understanding a word (except probably our wives)!

The church gave us this laser-etched crystal plaque as a gift. We are deeply moved by this thoughtfulness!

The people of Greenbrier UMC very kindly made this video for Cathy and me.

Cathy and I are thankful beyond description to all the people of Greenbrier and Gideon UMCs for the past three years. A finer and more wonderful group of people with whom to come to the finish line neither of us can imagine! What is next for us? Love God, love neighbor, and leave the rest up to the Lord. 

May the love of God, the mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord, and the strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Secularists require an enemy

Mark Tapscott wonders why do, "... secular/humanist movements seem to create enemies, evil oppressors, that must be totally eradicated?"

There are two specific groups of people who will always become the target of secularism's ire. First of course are Jews:

Holocaust Survivors Memorial Toppled At California Cemetery
A fountain dedicated to Holocaust survivors was toppled into pieces at Santa Rosa Memorial Park, where police are investigating the act of vandalism to determine if it is a hate crime.

As if there is a real question about that . . .

Exhibit two: this happened in Nashville, only a 30-40 minute drive from my home: "Nashville Holocaust Memorial desecrated with antisemitic messages."

The other enemy is Christianity, which cannot be tolerated by atheistic humanism because Christian faith simply contradicts not only that atheistic humanism is correct, but that it is even possibly correct.

And so we have anarchist race warrior Shaun King:

So, did Jesus have a northern European appearance? Of course not. In fact, we do not know what Jesus looked like. Over the centuries since his day, Christians around the world have created art showing a Jesus who looked like them:

There are thousands of similar examples in countries around the world. Are these wrong, also? When Chinese Christians portray Jesus with Asian features, are they guilty of Chinese supremacism (and that definitely is a thing)? Are African Christians' portrayals of Jesus as an African guilty of cultural or racial appropriation? 

Or is it only the whites whose Jesus must be destroyed? To ask the question is to answer it. 

Not all mainly-humanists are atheists. But whenever Christians begin to consider other persons, either other Christians or not, mainly as enemies who must be defeated, well, that is when they have in their hearts denounced Christ and have embraced the powers and principalities of the world. 

Understand this: "white Jesus" is not the real target at all. It is only a beginning point. Anyone of any race who renounces the call to violence and carries out the commandments of Christ is the real target.

Jesus is served

John 6.5-14 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people t...