One Thursday afternoon, as I was leaving the church, I struck up a conversation with a man in our parking lot. He was in the neighborhood when I arrived in the morning, now he was sitting in the shade of our building, enjoying a respite from the afternoon sun. After visiting for a few minutes, I realized I left my face mask in my study and explained to him that I needed to go back in to get it. I told him I needed to walk around the building to the front door. He asked me, “How many doors does a church need?” I asked him back, “How many walls does a church need?” (more…)
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:1–11, NRSV)
Romans 8 is the high point in Paul’s Epistle to Rome. It begins with this remarkable statement, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
These are beautiful words and they provide a good summary for us, on why we find the gospel such good news. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If you hear nothing else I say today hear this, because it is good.
But to really get the force of what Paul is saying, we need to read these words as the culmination of everything he has been trying to lay out for us in Romans so far. Here is my quick 50 cent tour of everything that I think Paul has been saying so far in Romans:
“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So, I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:15–25, NRSV)
This is not the way that I envisioned my first sermon for Klamath Falls United Methodist Church. When I first started talking to the Church Council about our July 5th service, we envisioned a return to corporate worship within safe parameters and with limits but with us being together. I have not met most of you yet, though I’ve spoken to several of you and I am conscious that in uploading today’s service, you are meeting me but I have yet to meet most of you. Uploading my first sermon and service to YouTube sort of feels like I’m uploading a profile to an online dating site with the hope that you all swipe right.
It is a strange time for a pastoral transition. A few of my pastor friends have called the last several months in the life of the Church, Covidtide. And indeed, the pandemic has marked this season of church life. We have been kept from gathering and our services have moved online. Even as we plan to reconvene for corporate worship as we know, it will be different. For the moment, our bishop and conference has constricted our large gatherings to outdoor worship, with masks and social distancing and no singing. This will be quite different from the church you gathered in, way back in mid-March. And on my first couple of Sundays with you, we will be worshiping online again, and so you will meet me, but I will not have met many of you.
But Covidtide is not a season on the Church’s Calendar. When our cessation of worship began, we were midway through Lent. Then came Easter and Pentecost and now, the season we are in is called “Ordinary Time” or “the season after Pentecost.” I think both ways of marking time are instructive for us. After Pentecost is our Ordinary Time in the church. (more…)
When I was in high school, one of my favorite singers was Joni Mitchell. She had a song, The Circle Game, that was a particular favorite. The refrain was this “they tell you it won’t be long now till you drag your feet to slow the circle down.” I knew it to be true then, but really know it to be true now. I cannot believe we are approaching a year of my being your pastor. It has been a year filled with joy and sorrow, a year that I feel privileged and grateful to have walked with you. Transitions are always filled with joy and sorrow as well.
I will continue to preach and provide communion once a month. While KFFUMC waits for a full time pastor to be appointed, one who would maintain the existing church half time and do a new church start the other half time (very unusual skill set, so this takes time), you will have a quarter time pastor to help you navigate the next phase of your journey. You will hear more from your council about him. Your council will need your help this coming year. Many of them have served for years, and the task of filling those other two Sundays should not fall on just them. You all have wonderful faith stories to tell and share with one another. Stop hiding them under a bushel, lol!
May you trust that God is doing a new thing in your midst, and may you join with God in helping that new thing come to fruition.
From Wikimedia Commons
Citation: Delton Franz Papers, 1952-2000. Photographs, n.d. HM1-012 Box 2 Folder 30. Mennonite Church USA Archives – Goshen. Goshen, Indiana.
Grocery Cards for Families in Need
When the closures due to the Corona virus first started happening, our Crater Lake District came up with a way to help families in need. The District Extension Society offered each church in the district $2,000 to purchase grocery cards that would be distributed to the schools. Here in an email from our District Superintendent, John Tucker, the program is explained:
“The idea for Grocery Gift Cards originated from Leroy Barber as a way of responding quickly to a need in a way that shifts our narrative from being concerned about our own congregations to giving ourselves away to vulnerable people. The cards are meant to empower people and give them the dignity to use the cards as they choose. The school districts are the conduit that gets the cards to qualifying families. We are the generous resource with connections to schools. Schools are the vehicles of distribution. Recipients of the cards control how they are used. This is not primarily about giving free food. Many areas are providing meals but people need other supplies that school districts will not provide.” (more…)