7th Sunday after Epiphany/February 19, 2020
Just these lines, my friends …
… to say what a splendid morning we had with Bishop Will Willimon this past Sunday! He has been leading United Methodists for decades. I’m profoundly grateful for the impact he has had in my life. And what a challenging word to us! Why he even found something in our Resurrection stained glass window at the front of the Sanctuary to share with us in his message. I hope you’ll take the time to watch his message here.
Doing the Hard Thing
Since 1953, in our nation’s capital on the first Thursday of February, 3,500 persons gather at the Washington Hilton for The National Prayer Breakfast. It is a strange blend of power politics and prayerful platitudes that often seems like a religious version of the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner without the satire. At best, it’s an affirmation of the common ground of our shared religious traditions. At worst, it’s what Jesus critiqued when he talked about praying on street corners.
This year’s Keynote Address by Harvard professor Arthur Brooks is more than worth the 14 minutes it will take for you to watch it. As a “follower of Jesus,” he pointed to the words of Jesus, “who taught us to love God and taught us to love each other.” I have linked to his message at the end of this section. I hope you’ll watch.
Brooks named “the biggest crisis facing our nation” as “the crisis of contempt and polarization that’s tearing our societies apart.” But he also called this crisis “the greatest opportunity we have ever had as people of faith to lift our nations up and to bring our people together.”
Focusing on Jesus’ “subversive and counterintuitive” command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44) Dr. Brooks got personal.
“How many of you love somebody with whom you disagree politically? … make it personal, my friends … Jesus didn’t say, ‘tolerate your enemies.’ He said, ‘love your enemies.’ Answer hatred with love.”
He closed with this bold challenge for all of us:
“Ask God to give you the strength to do this hard thing, to go against your human nature, to follow Jesus’ teaching … Ask God to take political contempt from your heart. Sometimes, when it’s just too hard, ask God to help you fake it.”
I think I may need to come to the prayer rail and repent!
Brooks got it right when he called loving enemies “the hard thing.” It’s hard for all of us, nearly impossible for some of us. But being a “follower of Jesus” means that we at least accept Jesus’ words as the goal or vision toward which we are called to live. At the very least, we try.
So friends, I, as a deeply flawed follower of Jesus for whom loving someone with whom I disagree is hard, I’m committed to following Brooks’ advice. Join me in praying the following: Lord, give me strength to do the hard thing, to stand for truth and resist evil, but to do it without contempt in my heart. Help me learn to love people with whom I disagree. And sometimes, Lord, when it’s just too hard, help me to fake it. Amen.
Maybe this week you’ll be surrounded by people for whom it is easy to show love. But if not, I hope you’ll choose to love!
Dates and Opportunity Links
I hope you won’t miss these upcoming events and opportunities (info/registration links in bold): Mugs, Muffins & A Global Impact this Saturday at 8:15 am in The Commons with program at 9:15 in Sanctuary; Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper on Tuesday, February 25; Ash Wednesday Service on February 26 at 7 pm; Annual Men’s Retreat on April 24-26; Prayer for the General Conference of The United Methodist Church (May 5-15; please join me in praying this prayer that I’ve written); Questions We Hear Jesus Asking our Lenten Sermon Series beginning on March 1.
Next Sunday (February 23) in Worship
This Sunday we conclude our 10th Annual Global Impact emphasis with the opportunity to make our financial commitments for 2020. For 10 years we’ve been guided by these efforts in doing mission here at home and around the globe. I can’t wait to see how God is busy among us over the next 10 years. By the way, in the last few days, you should have received your commitment card in the mail. Please bring it with you this Sunday. Let’s make this our strongest year yet.
Also, in all our morning worship services, Rev. Gaston Warner will be with us. Gaston is the CEO of Zoe Empowers, a distinctive international development organization working through local leaders in seven countries to empower vulnerable children to move from life-threatening poverty to self-sustaining sufficiency. You can hear him as well this Saturday morning, February 22, 9:15 am in the Sanctuary to learn more of this unique mission organization. In preparation for Sunday morning you might watch Rev. Warner doing a TED Talk. Just click below.
This Sunday, our CCH community and Pastor Roldan will continue with the series, Follow Your Route, Adjust Your Routine. He will be teaching from Nehemiah 4:7-17, and the title of his message: Keeping Focus under Pressure.
By the way, have I told you lately how much I love the opportunity that is mine to walk in the Way of Jesus with each of you?
Following Jesus Together,
Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II
Did you know that 35% of our giving to the General Fund in 2019 was collected online, which saves the church time and money? Click here to give online, and if you don’t have an account…submit the amount for your gift with your email address, then continue as a guest. It’s that simple!
Did you know that Bishop Will Willimon (see first paragraph above) wrote the curriculum that our Confirmation Classes are using this year?
Did you know that Dave Smith has served on our Facilities Staff for 10 years? Thank you for ALL that you do for our church community, Dave!
Did you know that Pastor Chuck officiated at the wedding of Jane Daniels & David Sealey on Friday, February 14, in the Chapel? David is the son of Judy Barnes.
Did you know that 350 sandwiches were prepared and packed for Urban Ministry’s Operation Sandwich program by our Intergenerational Small Group that meets Sundays at 11 am in the Gym?