I am a white, straight, male pastor in the United Church of Christ. From 2008-2014 I was the only one in the entire state of Utah. All the other UCC pastors were female, minority or LGBTQ. Among UCC ministers it is not unusual that the white, straight, male is the odd one out and I enjoy the ride very much. If you are uncomfortable by now, you know I am writing this for you. The important issue of skin-color and race I will have to address another time. Lately I have had multiple people ask me about “the gay question”. Sometimes it’s worded, “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?”
My initial reaction is usually: “The Bible” doesn’t say anything. Because the Bible is not a book but an entire library with dozens of books in it. They were written over the course of 1,000 years in three different languages on two different continents. The Bible has contributions from nomadic peasants and highly educated scholars. There is no way they all can possible give one and the same answer to a single question.
Overall biblical authors are not very interested in questions of homosexuality. There are a few examples that are told in a matter-of-fact way without raising an eyebrow: King David addresses his lover Jonathan saying, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” (2 Samuel 1:26) The author of the Gospel of John tells of his affection for Jesus, “One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him.” (John 13:23) Yes, the Bible tells stories of men loving men without question.
Then there are negative voices from times when God’s people were under attack. The Holiness Code commands, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22) And the Apostle Paul mourns, “And in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:27)
The Holiness Code was written by priests who were deported during the Babylonian Exile. God’s people were afraid they couldn’t keep their cultural identity alive. It is during this period that circumcision and the Sabbath become identifiers of the Jewish people. Deviation from the norm seemed scary because those were anxious times. Similarly, when the earlier church was a minority in the largely hostile Roman Empire, Paul warned to not live like the Romans. Instead he asked the early Christians to remain distinct in their practices.
Today in North America God’s people are not under attack. We are not in a situation where we need to be afraid of the culture that surrounds us. We don’t have to hide our worship services in the Roman catacombs but can be open about our Christian faith. We don’t have to develop a rigid corporate identity because religious freedom is protected. Literally hundreds of times the Bible says: “Do not be afraid”. The Bible says that we need to tell stories of all kinds of love and celebrate them.
At the beginning of a new school year Beloit College publishes a Zeitgeist list. The incoming class will graduate in 2020. They are mostly 18 and were born in 1998. On the 2020 Mindset List that makes them stand out in significant ways. As a pastor the following three points stand out from the original sixty:
8. Cloning has always been a mundane laboratory procedure.
I remember back in the 90’s cloning felt like rocket science. When sheep Dolly was cloned the whole world seem to shift. Anything was possible now. As revolutionary as advances may have seemed, the reality is much less grandiose. The Clone Wars that eventually lead to Star Wars remain science fiction. Medical advances based on cloning a real and save lives every day though. Young people entering college this fall have never lived in a world without cloning technologies. The ethical questions surrounding human reproduction remain complicated. But for the most part cloning has been unquestioned mainstream practice their whole lives. There is nothing scary about reviving endangered or extinct species – unless of course our Jurassic Park fears from the 90’s are revived as well.
15. They have never had to watch or listen to programs at a scheduled time.
I am old enough to remember that you had to go the the living room at a set time and sit down and watch a program that was running at that point in time. If you are entering college this fall, this was not necessarily the case. This generation could always stream or DVR whatever they wanted to watch. Everything is on demand. For one reason or another the church still thinks it is wise to make everybody sit down in the pew at the same time and share an experience in the same space. With school being mostly online these days, church and movie theater are about the only places you have to attend on a schedule. That is a very high expectation.
24. Catholics and Lutherans have always been in agreement on how to get to heaven.
Radicals have always used nuances of their believes to fight each other. The great in-fight of Christianity started in 1517 with the beginning of the Reformation and ended in 1999 with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Since then there has been permanent peace between the two major branches of the church universal. New college students have never known a world where Christians had major disagreements on how God’s love reconciles us. They are not old enough to remember that warring fractions wanted to be better than the church next door. In their world it makes no sense that people would kill each other over issues of faith. And they are right about that: Persons of all faiths want to live in a peaceful world. Religion that focuses on being different from or better than another does not make sense.
Helping Hands‘s mission is to feed and clothe those in need that live in West Fort Bend County. We have been a charter church since its inception in 1985. Every year we conduct food drives in February and August to help stock their warehouse. Every year we give 9% of our benevolence gifts to help cover overhead and make additional purchases.
Last week we had a group of twelve volunteers bringing their 24 helping hands. Some had a great time bagging peanuts, beans and sugar. Others were sorting through clothing donations. Then we had people conduct intake interviews and put together grocery orders.
This warehouse is buzzing and especially on Tuesday and Thursday mornings they can always use your Helping Hands when new deliveries come in.
For more information on how to volunteer, please call (281) 232-4904
Our congregation just had a meeting where the entire membership approved financial reports. That’s the way we conduct ourselves as a church. There is no higher authority than the gathered congregation. Did you know that that is true particularly as it comes to preaching? Here is how that works: The congregation builds its own pulpit. Then they hire a pastor and she or he is then in charge of preparing and delivering sermons on behalf of the congregation.
Who decides what is preached every Sunday?
In too many churches pastors decide what they want to preach about. That way you usually end up with her or his favorite passages and topics. Or they are trying to please their church but telling them what they want to hear. As a liturgical church we follow the Revised Common Lectionary. The lectionary provides the biblical readings for each Sunday and Holiday. In most mainline Protestant churches you will hear a sermon on the same passages of Scripture on the same Sunday. When you are travelling or moving you fit right in and can pick up where you left off.
With the new school year right around the corner I want to bring these two strengths of our tradition together: On the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at 6 pm our Bible Study group will be discussing the lectionary texts for one of the following Sundays. Everyone is welcome! Just because you are reading this invitation here today you are qualified. It means you care about what is going on at the church. That also makes you responsible for its preaching. So please join the conversation. It all starts on August 23 at 6pm.
Written by Anthony Moujaes
Thousands of young people are returning home after a week of education, fun, sun and worship during the United Church of Christ’s National Youth Event 2016, inspired to believe in faith, kindness and service. More than 3,000 attendees converged at Walt Disney World for five days from June 26 to June 30 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. This was an NYE unlike any other, as it marked the first time the event took place at a location other than a college campus, and the first that was co-hosted by the UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Hadiqa Bashir’s keynote, as one of three teenagers to speak at NYE, underscored the importance of standing for what you believe in — even when faced with danger. Bashir’s life is threatened because of her stance against early marriages of children in her native Pakistan, but she still believes in change. “I told my [family] I would fight a child marriage case against them in a court if they married me,” she explained to the crowd. “I did not want to live like a slave and get beaten like an animal.” Bashir, a recipient of the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award, now advocates for the right to education for young girls in Pakistan and around the world. She also speaks on the importance of protecting religious minorities and the LGBT community in Pakistan. “I believe real change is when all girls can get an education, not forced into marriage,” she said.
Two other youth speakers took the stage during NYE. Innovator Trisha Prabu works to confront cyberbullying in adolescents, which led her to create ReThink — a tech product that stops cyberbullying. Aidan Thomas Hornaday, who uses music to inspire those around him, spoke about the path of purpose he walks. He told the crowd to continually and relentlessly seek out those in need and help them.
As part of the NYE service projects, youth and young adults went to a dozen Orlando-area nonprofit agencies or churches, sorting donations of food, clothing, furniture, and toiletries and helping with landscaping and painting. Others donated their hair at the Locks of Love on-site salon, which will be used to create hairpieces for children who lose their hair during medical treatment.