What Would Jesus Do on Black Friday?

We’ve hit the crazy season again. On Black Friday one shopper  went mad in Wal-Mart and allegedly pepper sprayed adjacent shoppers make sure that she didn’t miss out on the bargain she wanted.

In a local store in West Virginia an elderly woman was seriously injured after being trampled underfoot in the shopping stampede. Crazy is an understatement.

As Christians we’ve just begun our journey through Advent. We are already focusing on Jesus and his birth. It’s a time of expectation, a time of yearning. It’s a time of patience and reward. In just a few short weeks Jesus is born into the world and we are reminded once again that God lived as one of us, incarnated as a human being.

God became human! God became flesh! If Jesus was alive in the flesh today I wonder what he’d have to say about the events of black Friday? I wonder what he’d make of our world.

Being human means living in a specific time and place. Human’s don’t see the whole picture, we see a snapshot of the world from a specific angle. Jesus was no different. He cried when Lazarus died. He despaired at the corruption in Jerusalem. He got angry when the disciples were pig headed, and he forgave when someone made a mistake. The world he lived in was very different to ours, but the core emotions that he felt, and the kind of problems that he faced, were not so very different to today’s.

Money problems. Relationship problems. Work problems. Family problems. Political problems. Religious problems. Personal problems. Jesus faced them all. However, Jesus always brought God into the picture. For Jesus a picture was never complete if God was missing.

I think it’s a good lesson to learn, and a god habit to adopt. Bring God into every situation.

I don’t mean bring religion into every problem, or even bring someone’s interpretation of scripture into every problem. In my experience that’s often where the real problems begin! No, bring God into every situation.

Don’t ask “What would Jesus do?”, rather, prayerfully decide for yourself what to do and ask Jesus to walk with you through your decision. In that way the decision is yours, the results are yours, and you can learn your lessons through it all. Asking Jesus to be with you, to help with you with your decisions, helps to ensure that Jesus is at the center of everything.

Problems aren’t going to go away, they’re a part of what it is to be human. However, knowing that we don’t face them alone, knowing that it’s OK to make mistakes, knowing that we’re going to get some right and some wrong helps us to relax and enjoy the journey. It helps us to live an abundant life, rich with self-expression and love.

Jesus was flesh and blood – just like you. He knows how important it is that you become all that God has called you to be, and wants to walk with you through that process.  No pepper spray required. No shopping frenzy needed. The sun shining through an otherwise ‘Black Friday’

Veteran’s Day

This coming Sunday in England is Remembrance Sunday. At eleven minutes past eleven there will be a nationwide minute’s silence to honor those who gave their life in the service of their country. Around the United Kingdom poppies and wreathes will be laid at memorials, and the names of those lost read aloud.

Wikipedia online notes that the First Two Minute Silence in London (11 November 1919) was reported in the Manchester Guardian:

The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect. The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition. Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of ‘attention’. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still … The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain … And the spirit of memory brooded over it all.

During the early days of the first world war, a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed by an exploding German artillery shell. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as a friend of his, the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae. As the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis because a chaplain wasn’t present. John said a few gentle words in remembrance of his friend and noted how the fields around him were red with poppies that had seem to spring up over the night. In response to his experience he wrote the famous poem In Flanders fields.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.
Short days ago We lived,
felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved,
and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

However you decide to mark Veterans Day this coming Friday please take a few moments to reflect upon the effects of war, for its wounds upon humanity are all around us. They can be seen in those that went before us, making the ultimate sacrifice. In those still with us who have served their country well and been ever changed by their experiences. In those families who lost loved ones and have been changed forever by their loss. In those who every day risk their lives serving their country.

It is our responsibility to remember what went before so that it is not repeated. It is up to us to show our veterans the respect and gratitude we owe them for their generous service. It is up to us to be the conscience of the government so that our military are never placed in harms way in the service of someone’s ego or a business interest. It is up to us.

I pray you remember that the freedoms we enjoy came at a price, and be grateful for those who helped to create them. Some are still with us. Many are gone. To all we are deeply grateful. I pray that this weekend, wherever you are, you are blessed.

Thank God for MCC

Do you remember when you first walked into an MCC?  For me it was June 1991, MCC North London. I remember being so nervous going there. I was sure that this would be a great big bunch of misfits playing church.

Turns out that it was a great big bunch of misfits, but they weren’t playing church, they were church; and at my very first MCC service I met Jesus.

I can’t really explain what happened. It was during communion. I was praying hard, hoping for some kind of enlightenment that would reveal what the motivation of these people really was. (I couldn’t believe they were genuine).  Folks went for communion, both young and old, straight and gay, lesbian and Trans, and many came away crying. Crying. I couldn’t work it out.

Then suddenly, I was in the presence of Jesus. Nothing had changed, but everything had changed. The people were all the same but somehow they’d all changed. God’s Spirit filled that room and Jesus was present in a way that I’d never felt before.  And I knew it was Jesus. It wasn’t just some ‘nice’ feeling that connected me to those around me. This wasn’t some emotional high brought on by carefully orchestrated music (in fact, if I remember rightly, the piano player hadn’t showed and the congregation sang all the songs a cappella – and badly). There was nothing I could see that was special about this group of people, this room, this service – that I could put my finger on. But this was Jesus. No mistaking him.

My life would never be the same. There’s been some ups and downs. When Pastor Gill Storey left MCC North London I was devastated. When folks said I should be a minister I laughed. When God called me to go to read theology at Kings College I was perplexed. When I moved to New York for Chris I didn’t expect to be running an MCC emergency shelter for queer youth. I certainly didn’t expect to get called to this wonderful little church near the Mason-Dixon line. If I’d not gone to my first MCC service life would be very different indeed.

Today we celebrate 43 years of MCC, and I wonder how many folks out there are getting ready to visit an MCC for the first time? Some in Russia, some in South America, some in Malaysia, and some right here in Hagerstown. They have no idea that Jesus is waiting for them. They have no idea what’s going to happen.

I don’t know how the MCC experience will change them. Some a little, some profoundly, but every single one will be changed in one way or another, all because of a bunch of folks, living on the margins, who dare to go to Jesus and offer themselves in worship. All because of this strange group of people who dare to step out in faith when prejudice and hate demands they cower in fear. All because of the love of our Awesome God. Thank God for MCC!!!

Love

Rev. Michael