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HOSEA 3 ~ Praying the Scriptures

Jul. 18th 2012

Devotional Reflection:

In reading vs. 2 of Hosea 3, I was moved to remember a ministry that we learned about at the United Methodist Church’s quadrennial youth gathering (Youth 2011): Loose Change to Loosen Chains. “Loose Change to Loosen Chains (LC2LC) is a student-led campaign for elementary to college students to combat modern-day slavery while learning about the reality of injustices today”. LC2LC learned from Real Simple magazine how there is $10.5 billion in loose change lying around American households. So, as they imagined a world with no modern -day slavery, they imagined what they could do even if they collected just a fraction of this amount. In partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM), LC2LC will use the money donated through this program to rescue victims of slavery and other forms of oppression.

While Hosea uses the metaphor of whoredom for Israel unfaithfulness, the metaphor breaks down when we come face to face with the realities of prostitution, human sex trafficking and modern day slavery, where vulnerable people are forced into situations we can’t even imagine for ourselves. In Hosea 3, the message is that God’s redeeming love is constant. I say, for us who believe ourselves to be beloved Children of God, why don’t we do more to redeem those whom society has forsaken. Why don’t we be on the move to bring release to the captives and to let the oppressed go free? LITERALLY.

There are several programs that are seeking to combat human and sex trafficking. If you simply google, “human trafficking” or “sex trafficking” you will get an immediate listing. For some statistics on human trafficking, you can do the same. You can do something; even with the loose change in your pocket.

In Christ, Pastor Shandi

 

A Daily Collect: “Redeeming God, your loving grace is surely unmerited and unconditional, for you freely offer us it in the midst of our faithlessness. Have your precious Spirit ignite in us an impassioned love for you, so that we may no longer seek you but know that, right now, we are in blessed communion with you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (based on Hosea 3)

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HOSEA 2: Praying the Scriptures

Jul. 17th 2012

A Daily Collect: “Merciful and loving God, you created us in your image and made an everlasting covenant with us; yet, too often we pursue false gods to our peril while you graciously bid us return. Remind us of your steadfast love for us and show us the life of faithfulness, so that we might come to know, for once, the way of justice and righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray. Amen” (based on Hosea 2)

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A Devotional Reflection – HOSEA 2

Jul. 17th 2012

It is day two of reading Hosea and already I am having a hard time moving beyond the very human dimensions of the metaphor Hosea uses to describe the Divine-human relationship. I feel compelled to comment on what is troubling me before I move to write my collect for the day.

In my very first pastoral appointment, I received a call from a couple from the community that wanted to get married. This would be my very first wedding to officiate. I was rather thrilled and nervous at the same time. I scheduled a series of pre-marriage counseling sessions with the couple, something I had never done and had only learned about in a couple of sessions at local pastor’s licensing school. When the counseling sessions began, I noticed almost immediately that something did not feel right. As I counseled the couple, I noticed that the woman seldom said a word. The man would speak for her and answered every question, even when I would address the woman directly. I even tried separating the couple, in one of the sessions, to conduct individual one-on-one sessions; but, even then, it felt as though I was hearing rehearsed responses to my questioning. I decided to proceed with the wedding, agreeing to officiate, even though something in my spirit was deeply troubled. I had not yet learned the courage to say, “No, I cannot officiate your wedding.” All I had for evidence were a few signs and the troubling in my spirit. To make a long story short, the story ended with the woman finally finding the courage to escape to a battered women’s shelter. The man was arrested and had a court appearance the last I had heard. I had spent one too many times with the couple after the woman had been hospitalized yet refusing to press charges.

Domestic violence is a reality all too common in our society. And what is often surprising is how seemingly good people can commit such heinous acts against people they purport to love. But, there can be no excuse for such behavior and acts of aggression. Sexual violence and domestic abuse is Sin and an evil that should not be accommodated. It is difficult for me to read scripture that portrays God as a jealous husband who can punish his lover for her unfaithfulness. I get it, that, we must understand the culturally conditioned context in which the biblical word is written; but, I can’t help but wonder why, in God’s infinite wisdom and illumining Spirit, God could not transcend culture by prompting the writers to do justice to God’s character.

Nevertheless, thanks be to God that, in my reading and interpretation of the same scriptures, I can appeal to the Holy Spirit to cause me to rise above the very human dimensions of the biblical text as I seek a Word from the Lord for my life today. I must confess that even I, a pastor’s kid now a pastor himself, am guilty of the propensity to Sin and violence. I am ashamed to admit that in a past relationship I argued with a girlfriend so terribly that, in my anger and the heat of the moment, I threatened her and wished her dead. Of course, I did not mean it, but just having the thought scared me to death. I allowed myself to lose control and let my anger consume me. Everyday I regret my loss of control and feel so ashamed that, I often feel like I cannot atone enough for my sin.

As I read and pray through Hosea 2 today, I am ultimately reminded of the greatest Sin I can commit: to fashion and portray God after my own image. While metaphors can be helpful to understand something about my relationship with God, I am cautioned against taking them and using them uncritically, for I may just be portraying God after my own image. I am not sure that the grace of the incarnation, of the Word becoming flesh, meant that I could now make God appear like me, not even like my best self. I am created to be in the image of God (not the other way around) but God is bigger than any metaphor I could use to describe who God is, even in relationship to me. And so, in the end, all I can do is to shrink before the mystery of who God Is and pray that God shows mercy (ruhamah) on me, and counts me as one of God’s own (ammi).

In Christ, Pastor Shandi

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WORSHIP in Christian Formation

Sep. 19th 2011

WORSHIP in Christian Formation and Discipleship

“God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24)

Can you describe a worship experience that was the most meaningful for you?

I have had many but one immediately comes to mind. It is the communion and memorial service we held at annual conference in 2006. It was the annual service the conference holds to remember all the saints, clergy and laity, who have died since the last annual conference gathering. The service included the reading of the names of all who have died, and the ringing of the bell for each of them. Family and friends of these dear saints would stand up as their loved one’s name was spoken. The scriptures, the hymns, and the Bishop’s message were all so moving, but none as moving as what we would do last: Holy Communion. As we sang the communion liturgy put to music and written by Pastor Linda Shevlin, tears became to stream down my cheeks. It was the first time I had ever cried in a communion service – I was caught by surprise.

There are many names to the sacrament (Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper, The Mass, Holy Communion), each emphasizing one important aspect of the sacrament. For me, I experienced and understood in that moment a greater power at work during this holy sacrament. I had always “known” that the sacrament of Holy Communion binds us together in Christ, making us “one with God, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world,” but on this day I felt it and, certainly, by God’s grace. God became powerfully present to me in that moment. God’s grace was so overwhelming I could not resist and but cry. I became powerfully aware of the God whom I worship and why I worship Him. I worship in order that I might be brought into the holy presence of God and be formed and transformed by His grace and love.

As a multicultural church, we acknowledge that people experience the presence of God in different ways. For me, it is often through music. When I sing, I feel like the Spirit sings to me and with me. For some it might be through silence, reflection, service, movement, or the spoken word. Believe it or not, there are spiritual types just like there are personality types. As a multicultural church, our greatest challenge is to provide worship that is meaningful to all types. Some like praise music, others like Taize. Some like dancing others like being still. All of it is acceptable to God, for God can take you where you are to shape and to transform you. And, through it all, we are united in the one Spirit.

Debbie O’Driscoll, our Lay Leader, hopes to lead a study to help us understand our spiritual type. I invite you to take advantage of that when it is offered. But, I also invite you to take advantage of the Taize services and the Hope and Healing Services designed to minister with persons moved by these different types of worship. Better yet, let God surprise you when you give it a try.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Shandi

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DEVOTION in Christian Formation

Sep. 19th 2011

DEVOTION in Christian Formation and Discipleship

 

“After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way” (Luke 10:1-3)

I believe that ministry is a partnered endeavor. We do not walk this journey of discipleship alone. Jesus walks with us, and we walk with each other.

When I was in Seminary I had a formative and transforming experience that taught me the importance of a partnered relationship in the journey of Christian formation and discipleship. I had an devotional partner, Kevin Watson, with whom I shared a journey in covenant discipleship. Kevin and I formed a covenant to hold one another accountable in our walk of discipleship. We began by simply covenanting to wake up each morning at 6am, droopy eyes and all, and spend one hour together in prayer and the reading of scripture. We each had felt a need to find individual devotion time of reading the scriptures that was separate from the times we had to read the Bible for class. By ourselves, we were weak and undisciplined. Together, we became stronger and disciplined. You have to appreciate how difficult this was for me at first. I am not a morning person. In college and seminary, I intentionally chose afternoon and evening classes so that I would not have to wake up in the morning for a 9am class. But, Kevin and I made the covenant and, for three years, I would wake up every morning at 6am to join Kevin for morning devotions. This became one of the most formative and transforming experiences I have ever had in my life.

We have said that a definition of Christian Formation and Discipleship in our Wesleyan and Methodist tradition is as follows: “Christian disciples are formed by shaping their lives according to the General Rule of Discipleship: ‘To witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.’” This month I invite you to think about your own personal journey of devotion to God.

How are you doing with your personal devotional time? What practices do you engage in to nurture your soul and spirit daily? What means of grace do you employ to draw you closer each day to the God who created you for a purpose? If the journey is difficult by yourself, try inviting someone else to partner with you in covenant discipleship; join or form a small group for devotions in your home, your neighborhood, in the church. I believe that discipleship is a partnered endeavor. We do not have to walk this journey alone.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Shandi

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Christian Formation & Discipleship in the Wesleyan Tradition

Jul. 18th 2011

“[The disciples] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need.” ~ Acts 2:42,45

Are you a disciple-making disciple? Long ago, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go and make disciples.” By this commission Jesus formed a community of disciples making disciples in themselves and in others.

In our Wesleyan and Methodist tradition, “Christian disciples are formed by shaping their lives according to the General Rule of Discipleship: ‘To witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.’[1] The time has come for Wesley United Methodist Church to claim its roots and live out its promise. That means YOU!

How will you live out your call to discipleship? In the coming weeks, I will be engaging you in this prayerful conversation. Join me in embracing the grace of God which is leading us to grow in faith and in spirit.

Pastor Shandi


[1] Definition provided by David Lowes Watson in the book “Forming Christian Disciples: The Role of Covenant Discipleship and Class Leaders in the Congregation.

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