Forgetful Faithfulness?

These past few weeks have been somewhat hectic with all the helter-skelter of packing, moving, and unpacking, but I can official say I settled in my new place and I am anticipating the beginning of classes which happen exactly one week from today. Over the past couple of weeks, I can honestly say my faith has been tried. I have worried if I made a mistake moving five hours away from home, if I got myself in too deep, and if I would have a job to somewhat support myself. I began taking a lot of things for granted. I forgot all about the call that I was heeding and what purpose I was serving for being here.  Since moving in, just two short weeks ago, I have gotten a job, settled in, and realized how great our Creator is.

I believe there are many times in one’s life when he or she forgets to have faith and trust in God.  I know the past couple of weeks or even months, I have forgotten to have faith or give thanks where thanks is due.  I have been blessed with such a glorious opportunity to attend divinity school. In addition to this, I have been given such great parents, family, and friends that have helped this process move along smoothly. I believe the Creator has placed each and every one of you in my life for a purpose. To my family, especially my parents, who have provided an immense amount of financial and emotional support during this move, I say thank you. To my friends who have text or called to check on me or even responded to a couple of late night texts when I was homesick, I say thank you as well. I have truly allowed the stumbling blocks (which were not really ‘stumbling blocks’ at all) in life to foreshadow the many blessing in life. And foremost, I thank our Creator who has allowed me to get where I am at today, and making this transition and new journey in my life possible.

May each of us learn not to take the ‘small things’ in life for granted. May we learn to cherish each moment and blessing in life; through good times and bad. May we live each day to the fullest, and learn to praise God through every trial and every success.

A Call to Love

This morning I had the glorious opportunity to speak at Woodington United Methodist Church. For those who were unable to attend and wanted a copy of my homily, I have posted it below; and for those of you were there this morning, I say “thank you!!”

I would first like to thank each and every one of you not only for this opportunity to stand before you and share my calling’s purpose, but to also thank you for the opportunity that this church has given me to minister alongside of you for the past two and a half years. When I was hired in January 2010, I felt our Creator was calling me to be a minister of music. Since ministering with Woodington, I have learned a great deal about myself and I have come to realize that my calling has begun to lean closer to that of pastoral ministry or teaching in a college setting. I owe a great deal of appreciation to this congregation for enabling me to serve with you, along with completing my undergraduate degree in religion. You all have been, by far, one of the most understanding and hospitable congregations that I have worked with. There has never been a time when the Christ within me, did not see the Christ within Woodington’s congregation. From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you. Thank you for your kindness, your love, and your compassion. I wish each and every one of you the best. May God show God’s blessings upon each of you here at Woodington United Methodist Church.

I was asked several weeks ago to present my testimony or whatever was laid upon my heart. Through weeks of contemplation, discernment, and prayer, I feel I should share the mission behind my calling into the ministry; what I hope to promote to whomever I come in contact with. That mission being Christ’s love and the ultimate example of humanity Christ has shown each and every one of us.   Our Scripture text this morning comes from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, chapter thirteen, vv. 1-13. Paul writes,

1 If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or clashing symbol. 2 If I have the gift of prophesy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever. 4 Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, 5 it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, 6 it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. 7 Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end. 9 We all know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become an adult, I’ve put an end to childish things. 12 Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way I have been completely known. 13 Now faith, hope, and love remain–these three things–and the greatest is love. (CEB)

This pericope is known as one of the greatest love hymns in the Scriptures. When reading these verses, one finds, perhaps, one of the most beautiful and poetic phrases on the subject of love. The first word Paul uses for “love” is, ἀγἄπη. Christians of this time defined agape, as, “a sense of love that confers value on its object, which may otherwise be quite unlovable.” (Achtemeier, Green, and Thompson, Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology, pp. 348) Therefore, it is believed by some scholars that God’s love for humanity confers the value on them which may otherwise be dissolved by sin; this is what some believe Paul is addressing in I Corinthians 13. Love is a critical factor in spiritual communication. Without love, there can be no perception of God, who is love; therefore, persons cannot understand each other in relation to God and humanity without a valid understanding of love.

The basic theme of this pericope is the characteristics of love. Paul uses descriptive statements that are extremely helpful in understanding one’s call to help humanity. In vv. 1-2, it is evident that one who claims to prophesize God’s word, but does not have love in his or her heart is like a “noisy gong or clanging cymbal.” Their words are not heard by others, because love is not present. Therefore, love must be present not only within one’s ministry, but in faith as well, because without this, what one claims to do in the name of Christ, is essentially useless. Paul addresses in v. 3 that if this is not done in a loving manner, then one gains nothing. Therefore, if one gives to the poor for their own self benefit, and not through the love and compassion they have for others, then his or her charity is useless. In v. 4, the word “patient” refers to the willingness to receive whatever is thrown one’s way Patient love can withstand hardship, burdens, and injuries.  Kind love gives support to others by easing pain, anxieties, fears, and hostilities. This type of love also helps support the happiness of others. This kindness leads to caring for others, which is evident in the phrase, love is not jealous. In the phrase, “love does not rejoice in wrongdoing,” it is believed that Paul does not want to ignore evil, but instead he wants love to absorb evil without charging it against another person. Love wants truth to outweigh evil, so it can rejoice in goodness. When examining love “bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring,” Paul probably means that love, which has been given from God, overcomes fear, despair, and hate. The gift of love is grounded in God’s own love; therefore, it can only be discovered through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Another key issue Paul addresses in this passage is the permanence of love. The main phrase that supports this idea “is love never ends.” Love will never cease to exist, nor will it become invalid or obsolete. This is because love is the purpose and nature of God and love is the only relationship by which humanity can exist together. Further along in this passage, Paul looks at a list of spiritual gifts, such as “prophecy, tongues, knowledge,” and of course, “love.” He states that all of these will cease to exist except for love.  Paul concludes this pericope by acknowledging the gifts of “faith, hope, and love.” He goes on to explain that the greatest gift is love, which one may argue to be the heart of God’s nature, made known through God’s son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus Christ becomes the ultimate example of humanity.

In ministry, it is crucial for one to follow the lead of Christ. Christ was sent to this earth by the Creator to live as an example for all of humanity. Christ did not hate or discriminate. Each of us are called to love and treat equally one another despite gender, age, race, or religious beliefs. Christ did not put another member of society down because of who they were or where they came from, and it is our duty as Christian believers to follow that call. Therefore, by following the ultimate example of Christ we can strive to live into the full humanity in which we were created to be.

Every person in this room has a different calling. There are those who are called to sing in the choir, clean the church, cook meals for those who are sick, or cut the church’s grass. Each of us have something we can do within this body of believers to help promote the love and compassion that Christ has showed each of us. However, there is a common calling that we all share. We are all called to love.

That is the mission behind my calling to the ministry. I strive to minister in way that promotes the love of Christ. I strive to teach this love that knows no gender, race, or social status.  It is my prayer that each of us can leave here this morning and go out into the world and show love, compassion, and kindness to all persons. I hope we can all stand together and show every man, woman, and child of every race, religion, and nation an equal amount of love, just as Christ and the Creator has shown all of their children.

May we all strive to live in a manner that promotes equality, love, compassion, and kindness. May we not judge those around us and accept all persons for who they are.  May we live in a way that is pleasing to our Creator. May we love others, as Christ has loved us. As we close this service, I ask that you join me in the responsive confessional found on page 893 of the United Methodist Hymnal. May this be the motto of your life, may you strive to live in the footsteps of Christ, and may you show love to every person you come in contact with.

Leader:   Lord, we confess our day to day failure to be truly human.

People:   Lord, we confess to you.

Leader:   Lord, we confess that we often fail to love with all we have and are,  often because we do not fully understand what loving means,  often because we do are afraid of risking ourselves.

People: Lord, we confess to you.

Leader:   Lord, we cut ourselves off from each other and we erect barriers of division.

People: Lord, we confess to you.

Leader:   Lord, we confess that by silence and ill-considered word

People: we have built up walls of prejudice

Leader: Lord, we confess that by selfishness and lack of sympathy

People: we have stifled generosity and left little time for others.

Leader:   Holy Spirit, speak to us. Help us listen to your word of forgiveness, for we are very deaf. Come, fill this moment and free us from sin. AMEN.

Another Journey’s End

This month marks an end to yet another journey. My youngest sister and final student of our home school, Holly, has completed high school. In lieu of her graduation homily, I would like to dedicate this blog post to her.

Today, we honor a milestone. A milestone that one should take pride and joy in; a milestone that should bring happiness and anticipation for the future. Holly, you have achieved one of the greatest accomplishments of one’s lifetime. Graduating from high school is not an easy task. This journey has been one that has been full of learning, strength, and hard work; and for that, you should be proud.

Proverbs 31:25-27; 29-30 (CEB) states, “Strength and honor are her clothing; she is confident about the future. Her mouth is full of wisdom; kindly teaching on her tongue. She is vigilant over the activities of her household; she doesn’t eat the food of laziness. ‘Many women act competently, but you surpass them all!’ Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” From this moment on, you are an adult. You have been raised and taught in a manner that has equipped you to go out into the world and live in Christ-like manner. Always remember you are strong. Use the strength that God has instilled in you as a means to be kind to all people, regardless of who they are, their background, or what they stand for. Use this strength as a means to work hard in whatever you do. And also remember, in all your training, knowledge, and growth, to put God first in your life.

Jeremiah 29: 12-13 (CEB) states, “When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me.” Establish an intimate relationship with the Creator; grow spiritually, and reach out to your surrounding community. May the theme of your life be, as found in the book of Psalms chapter 42, vv. 1-2 (CEB) be, “Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves for you, God. My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.

You did indeed work extremely hard, but it is crucial to remember the hard work of our parents. Mom and Dad, today is your day as well. Proverbs chapter 22 vv. 6 states (CEB), “Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it.” Today marks a close of one of your chapters in life as well. You two can indeed take pride in knowing that you have raised, taught, and facilitated knowledge into your children in a manner that promotes love, compassion and kindness to others. You both have raised your children to represent Christ. Horace Bushnell, a nineteenth century theologian stated, “If a child is raised in a Christian home, there is not a time when they do not know they are Christian.” Indeed, this has been seen throughout our childhood.

Your hard work and dedication has brought us this far and will continue to follow us throughout our lives. On the behalf on my sisters and I, we say thank you. With three high school diplomas and five college degrees earned; two college degrees and one graduate degree anticipated within the next four years, it is truly evident that your hard work has paid off. Without you both we could not be where we are today. Words cannot express the amount of gratitude we owe the both of you. Though it may have gone unspoken and we might not show it every day, your hard work, late nights, countless hours sitting at the kitchen table, and working out of town is greatly appreciated. We would not be where we are today without the two of you, and for that we say “thank you.”

Another Milestone Accomplished

I can now, officially say that after months of hard labor, strenuous work, tears, stress, and dare I say, heartache my final drafts for my SRP (senior research project) has been sent in for final grading. I know I joke about all the angst this project has brought to me, but in all honesty, I can say I have learned a lot about myself, my life, and my spiritual relationship with Christ through this year-long journey. After six chapters, three appendices, ninety pages, 204 footnotes, 862 paragraphs, and 27,699 words later…this truly is a bittersweet moment. This project has been one that has had an enormous amount of learning, growth, and knowledge. This truly makes the past two years at Mount Olive College seem totally worth it.

Thank You

This week has been somewhat of a tough one. As graduation nears, only three weeks away, I am reminded of the kindness showed by so many people in my life over the past few years. The ones that are the dearest to my life would have to be the parishioners at Woodington United Methodist Church.

Yesterday, I sat down to write my resignation letter for the church I have been working with for the past two years. I have to say that was the hardest letter I ever had to write.  The congregation at Woodington has been more than kind to me.

I owe a great deal of gratitude to Woodington UMC. They enabled me to serve with them while completing my undergraduate degree in religion. They have been, by far, one of the most understanding and hospitable congregations that I have worked with. There were times when I had assignments due and I could not make it to our weekly choir practice, and they had no hesitation when I asked to cancel or postpone our normally scheduled meeting time. They have been supportive, caring of my school work, and willing to help out in any way possible. There has never been a time with the Christ within me, did not see the Christ within Woodington’s congregation.

So, from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you. Thank you Woodington for your kindness, your love, and your compassion. May God show God’s blessings upon each and every member at Woodington United Methodist Church.

Holy Week

I received this prayer via email today. It was too meaningful for me not to share. As we go into this Good Friday, may we remember these words of Jesus as they are found in the Book of Common Prayer,

“Peace is my last gift to you,

my own peace I now leave with you;

peace which the world cannot give, I give to you.

By this shall the world know that you are my

disciples:  That you have love for one another.”

A New Chapter

This is a blog that I have decided to write as I go on my new journey as a Divinity School student. In exactly one month from today, I will officially be a Mount Olive College alumni. This has been a wonderful journey full of growth, changes, and illumination. Though I have learned a lot at my time here, I still have a long way to go. This blog will be based upon the new chapter of my life as I set off on a new adventure. So sit back and enjoy this crazy ride I call my life.