Blogs

Homecoming: A Thanksgiving homily

Home-goings and homecomings. That’s what Thanksgiving is about for many people. Many will travel home or welcome family and friends home this week. The profound gratitude we feel for home and for reuniting with loved ones, are a big part of Thanksgiving’s timely importance to us.

There are many home-leavings, home-goings and homecomings throughout Scripture. And while some homecomings are happy occasions, many are not without challenges. Yet, somehow God seems to bring his people, especially his heroes, back home.

God sent Moses home to Egypt and to his people, after many years spent in exile. Out of a burning bush, God instructed and empowered this man of two worlds to bring his Hebrew people good news of God’s favor and God’s intention to rescue them from brutal bondage. God also sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to “Let my people go.” That was a powerful homecoming—a good one for the Jewish people; a bad one for their oppressors.

After many years of also hiding in exile, the Lord sent Jacob home to face his brother Esau, whom he had wronged. Jacob feared his brother’s wrath and prepared himself for defensive battle. But that was unnecessary, for Esau was ready to forgive his brother and welcome him home.

“Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives,” God tells Jacob. “I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3) Read More

Fulfilling our ministry ‘received in the Lord’

The Apostle Paul penned his letter to the Colossians as he sat in a prison cell.  People have a lot of time to think and pray while they are in prison.  Paul wrote inspiring words to edify and encourage early believers during his long periods of imprisonment.

His epistles typically end with a seres of personal greetings and admonitions. The letter to the Colossians is no exception.  But I was captured by Paul’s imperative words to Archippus: “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”

We don’t know much about Archippus. Paul was specifically calling him out in this letter, perhaps because he was procrastinating.  We believe that he did heed the Apostle’s words. Church tradition teaches that Archippus later became the first bishop of Laodicea in Phrygia and was martyred for the faith.

Paul’s words can be directed to all of us as well: “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”  Be it a church ministry or any service rendered anywhere for the Lord, your own unique call is a gift from God to be pursued and fulfilled.

This Sunday, November 25, churches will receive our annual United Methodist Student Day offering that enables many students to receive higher education and pursue their future careers in Christian leadership. Nothing could be more important for us as a church than to prepare our now and next generations of leaders. Read More

Quest for justice, mercy: One Size Fits All?

By Bishop Peggy Johnson
My son Gabriel appeared in a recent Facebook post donning a Halloween costume in which he is dressed as a cactus.  It is quite clever, and perhaps he chose this outfit because he works as a botanist at the Smithsonian Science Lab and loves plants.

When I asked him about it, he said he purchased it at Walmart, and it is labeled “One Size Fits Most.” He said I could borrow it anytime I wanted to dress up like a cactus.  This is likely not going to happen.

First, I don’t like plants all that much and secondly, “One Size Fits Most” never works for me. They are always too big. I can just imagine falling down steps in this unfitting cactus costume that my six-foot tall son fits into quite well.

Does one size fit most?  It is an important question to ponder as we consider our social issues in the world today. Is there a place for uniformity, or is it important to recognize our differences with respect and grace?  Yes and no. Read More

Believing and being there for domestic violence victims

October is Domestic Violence & Intimate Partner Violence Prevention Month
(Also known as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month)

By Bishop Peggy Johnson

She came to the United Methodist-sponsored DeafBlind Camp*, this young woman with a small child. Her husband dropped her off. She could neither see nor hear. But faithful volunteers interpreted for her, making tactile deaf signs in her hands. And they led her from place to place during the week of camp activities.  

I was running the camp; so I did not have much contact with “Audrey.”** The woman who served as her support service provider (SSP) sensed that she was burdened with something; but the nature of it was unclear.  

Being deaf and blind comes with huge daily challenges. God bless this volunteer helper!  After camp ended she went to visit “Audrey” at her home, and they formed a bond of friendship.  

It was through that bond that the terrible truth about Audrey’s husband came to light.  He would beat her and kick her and put things in her way, so she would fall and hurt herself. This was unbelievable cruelty behind closed doors.  

Thanks to much intervention and support, the volunteer helped Audrey escape from this abusive environment, move out of the state (with her young child), endure divorce and custody court proceedings, and begin a new life. It all started with a relationship and the simple fact that the volunteer believed her story and then did something about it. Read More

History Revisited

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.   (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV)

Every October when I was in grade school we sang the same song: “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”  I learned about this brave sailor, who challenged the thinking of the time that the earth was flat and if one went too far west they would fall off the map.

I marveled at his tenacity. When he could not get Italian supporters for his voyage, he went to King Ferdinand of Spain and his wife, Isabella.  (I especially liked hearing about Isabella since most of my history lessons in school had very few women of prominence. Betsy Ross sewing a flag in Philadelphia was the only other woman I remember.)

I was taught that Columbus “discovered” the new world and brought Christ to the heathens.  I actually wrote a newsletter once at my first parish saying that the name “Christopher” meant “Christ-bearer” and that he was spreading the faith to those who had never heard.  

Then I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and visited a large, modern museum of history, where I learned of Columbus’ brutality and the genocide of the indigenous Taino people. He instituted slavery and engaged in horrific acts of inhumanity.  

According to an article in the Philadelphia Tribune (9/2/18), “Council Must Stop Celebrating Columbus Genocide,” by Michael Coard, “the atrocities of Columbus were so bad that Governor Francisco De Bodadilla arrested him for his many crimes and sent him back to Spain in shackles.”  So much for my “Christ-bearer.” Read More