Pastor's Blogby Rev. Kevin Miller
Feel free to read and comment as I share my thoughts on a variety of topics that I hope you find interesting or uplifting.
REMEMBERING 9-11 September 11, 2019
Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
Let’s be honest. It’s easier just to go about my day as usual. To cover the things on my to-do list and not think about what happened 18 years ago today.
But the reality is, the wounds are still open and raw. The reality is that we owe it to those who were murdered at the Twin Towers in New York City, at the Pentagon and on Flight 93 that crashed in a Pennsylvania field, as well as their families, friends. We also remember the 23 New York Police officers who were killed in the attack, as well as the 241 members (so far) of the NYPD who have died of 9-11 related illnesses. We also remember 343 members of the Fire Department of New York who died in the attack, as well as 202 (so far) FDNY members who have died of 9-11 related illnesses.
Out of respect to the countless family members and friends…we have an obligation to pause and remember. And more importantly, never forget!
I well remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news of the attacks on September 11. But in retrospect, I also think about where I was the Saturday before. My wife’s parents were returning from a trip and we picked them up at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. We arrived early and met some friends who live just north of Chicago. We ate at a restaurant in the terminal and then walked over to the gate to greet my in-laws as they came off their flight.
You can’t do this anymore! Everything changed after 9-11. It’s a small thing, really, but it points to the reality of freedoms and innocence that was lost because of what happened.
For many people who lost loved ones on this day, the memories and impact are very different and very real. I also remember in the days after, President Bush encouraged Americans to “get back to normal.” This is very difficult to do when “normal” has changed.
Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “Be very careful, then, how you live…” If this day reminds us of anything, it is that we really have little control over what happens in the world.
Despite all the technological advances, meteorologist’s still cannot fully predict the path of hurricanes and tornados. Even though we’ve beefed up security, shooting sprees still happen. In the last 18 years, medical science has made amazing advances, but the mortality rate is still 100 percent.
Remember this day and that our lives together were forever changed. But, as Paul writes, make the most of every opportunity. May you “be filled with all the fullness of God,” (Eph. 3:19) and give control of your life to the only One who is really in control.
AN OPEN LETTER TO WHOEVER HAPPENS TO READ THIS…
From: Kevin T. Miller, ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church since 2006, currently serving as Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Valparaiso, Indiana
The United Methodist General Conference held last week in St. Louis has come to a close, and the last few days have gone…well, I hate to say it, but I told you so:
If you are not aware, after much debate – which was rarely civil and often embarrassingly contentious – the delegates (representing churches on five continents) voted to adopt the “Traditional Plan” which maintains the language of the UM Discipline that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and prohibits self-avowed homosexuals from being ordained as clergy as well as our sanctuaries being used for same-sex weddings. Clergy are also prohibited from officiating in such ceremonies.
This section of the Discipline has been debated with passion and conviction at every General Conference since 1972 (the UMC was created in 1968 by a merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church). But, regardless of where you fall on this particular issue, what has never been debated is what we still hold to be a non-negotiable truth: All persons are of sacred worth, created in the image of God.
If in any way, this decision has hurt you or made you feel that you are “less than” anyone else, know that your value to God through Jesus Christ has no boundaries; know that you truly are a person of sacred worth and you matter to God; you matter to the church, and you matter to me. No matter what decision is made in any area of General Conference, this will always be non-negotiably true.
One of the challenges that comes with being the Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Valparaiso, Indiana is the wide diversity of theology and thought in the pews. Since the decision, I have had conversations with some who enthusiastically support the vote; with some who strongly disagree with the decision, and with a few who are personally devastated and are rethinking their commitment to this church.
Interesting factoid: The diversity of this church – more so than any church I’ve been connected with – reflects the diversity of the global United Methodist Church. And to me, that is a strength. If General Conference proved anything, it is that there is a wide diversity of deeply held opinions. We are a small part of a global church, which includes the growing church in Africa, where homosexuality is a crime in 37 countries. I’m not saying this is right; I’m pointing it out as a reality. We are part of a world-wide ministry which means we stand with and support churches doing ministry in completely different contexts than our own.
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, is often (incorrectly) attributed with writing, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things love.” This thought didn’t originate with Wesley, but it is powerful and applicable for us in the church in 2019. So what is essential? I believe four things are absolutely essential in today’s church:
This should define us as a people and as a church. Let us continue to be about the essential work of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
In a spirit of collaboration, peace, unity and love,
“May you live in interesting times.”
Legend has it that this quote was originally a Chinese curse. One of a trinity of curses; the other two being, “May you come to the attention of those in authority,” and “May the gods give you everything you ask for.”
Well, we find ourselves living in interesting times, and I would propose to you that, in the church, this not a curse but an opportunity. In the midst of the rhetoric and chaos defining our time, I am finding people who have never sought after God are seeking. People who have never stepped inside a church are looking for truth and civilized decency, and thus the opportunity.
“Interesting times” are not unique, but when we study history, we find time and time again the church has been a force for God’s truth. The Dark Ages received its name honestly.
After the Roman Empire fell, chaos ruled. Factions developed, barbaric war broke out and an entire continent seemed lost. But one force prevented it: the church.
Instead of conforming to the barbaric culture of the time, marked by destruction and confusion, the medieval church was countercultural. As the chaos spread, thousands of mission houses opened all over Europe. They were characterized by discipline, creativity and order lacking in the world around them.
Monks opened schools and shelters for orphans, widows and paupers. Hospitals and farms were established as well as roads cut and bridges built. People were drawn not so much by the hospitality and compassion, but by the discipline and dedication of these religious missions.
By holding fast to the basics of a civilized society – faith in Christ, education and civility – the monks and nuns brought light into the darkness of the age, and eventually Europe emerged from the Dark Ages into a renewed time of cultural creativity, education and art.
Today’s “interesting times” are just as dark, and the world seems more sophisticated than when Rome was destroyed. But today’s barbarians wear pinstripes instead of animal skins, and pretend to entertain while, in reality, enabling divisions, lies and darkness.
Like the mission communities of the Middle Ages, is it time for the church to serve as mission outposts of truth, decency and civilization in the darkening culture of our “interesting times”?