Tuesday, July 14, 2009

“I Know Your Kind…”

“I thought I knew your kind…” These words of the gentleman who approached me at the Cokesbury book table one Annual Conference caught me off guard.

The man had watched the United Methodist Hour for many years and admitted that had liked the program until I started hosting it several months before. It wasn’t my theology or even my sermon topics that upset him about me but, rather, the fact that I wore a beard.

In fact, my first program as host, the man saw my unshaven face, turned off the program, and vowed never to watch again.

His boycott lasted several weeks until he determined, as an avid “Hour” supporter for many years, not to let my “unkempt” appearance keep him from watching the program he had loved for so long. Besides, as he later recalled, if he “closed his eyes”, my sermons “weren’t too bad”.

Several weeks later, I shared from my personal story how years my face reacted sensitively to one of my medicines and a rash broke out around my mouth, chin and neck. The rash was not only uncomfortable but embarrassing.

To offset the appearance, I grew a beard to cover the splotches from the reaction. And, being a hemophiliac, the beard provided much less face to cut or knick.

When the gentleman heard me tell the story that morning on the program, he became embarrassed and ashamed of his first impressions. In fact, the gentleman was so upset that he drove four hours to the Annual Conference to meet me and say he was sorry-- which he did.

He waited in line at the book table for almost thirty minutes, then, after placing his books in front of me, told me his story and asked for my forgiveness. I got up from behind the table, told him that he was most certainly “forgiven”, and gave him a hug.

Mr. Charlie, as he now prefers to be called, continues as a regular fan of the program, but, more importantly, as a new friend of mine.

His words that day struck me, “I saw you and immediately made a judgment call” he said, looking down. “I thought I knew your kind.” He paused and then looked back at me. “But, what I really saw was the ‘kind’ of person I had become… and I didn’t like it.”

We know the rules. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” or a “face by its hair”--- okay, I made that one up. But, you get the picture. There is always more to the situation than we know or presume, and it will always benefit us to hear the rest of the story.

As Christians, we have a special duty to NOT jump to conclusions. Paul, Peter, John…. even Jesus warns against making assumptions about our brothers and sisters before we know the whole truth.

The Body of Christ should be the one place where everyone is truly welcome regardless of who are or where we have been. And, not because of ourselves, but because of what Christ has done for and in us.

My challenge for each of us is to know the whole story before we presume on someone’s intentions and to ask questions before we assume of someone’s purpose. It will save us much grief in the future, and bring us, ever quicker, to the real business of living as the “hands and feet of Jesus” in this world.

Trust me, the world “knows our kind”— we either live like Jesus or we don’t. And, the difference matters.

Worship Matters

This week at GBUMC Fairpoint and Soundside, we continue our Blockbuster Sermon Series with “Spiderman” (Fairpoint) and “Forest Gump” (Soundside).

Herb Sadler, as mild mannered as Peter Parker ever thought of being, will discuss the power of responsibility in Spiderman, and I will discuss what the Bible says about the importance of the shoes we wear in this world. As Forest said, “You know mama always said you could tell a lot about a person from the shoes they wear.”

At GBUMC Worship @the Water, Jack continues his powerful and beautiful series on “How Great Thou Art” discussing the intersection between the love and sovereignty of God.

Check out The LiFE Plan at www.gbumc.org

Our EnVisioned Future:
Report from the 2008 Visioning Process

“So much is changing at GBUMC.” I know you have heard someone say this, or, possibly, you have thought it yourself. Yes, there is a lot of new directions and happenings at GBUMC. But, with all of the new ideas and information you have received, most are a result of conversations you, the congregation, began last year in the 2008 Visioning Process. Much of what we are experiencing now are the ways GBUMC is “hitting the ground” with ideas, programs and initiatives to fulfill what you described as the “Envisioned Future” of our congregation in 2009 and beyond.

The following list includes the five ministry objectives for GBUMC established at last summer’s visioning roundtables and approved by the Administrative Council. However, along with each objective is one idea or initative by which GBUMC envisions “living out” this ministry objective in the coming year. We did not want to simply “dream” without making an effort to move in “real directions” for the congregation.

Of course, we crave your feedback, prayers and support for these efforts. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at lsstanford2003@yahoo.com.

These objectives included:

• One Church with one mission, in multiple locations—Worship @ the Water Winter Season, and the Gulf Breeze Global Media and Resource Development (a virtual church available anywhere around the globe)

• Diversity in worship styles, evolving with the needs of our community, relevant to all ages—New worship opportunities including The Table Saturday Worship Service, Video Venue Café Service, The Vibe Service for Young Adults, Axis Service for Deeper Spiritual Walk. These will compliment the already wonderful worship opportunities offered at all three campuses.

• God’s love offered with hospitality, hope and healing to all—Congregation Elders Program for pastoral care and spiritual guidance and support.

• Clearly defined paths for Christian Education, Fellowship and Missions--- The LiFE Journey Program for Discovering, Developing and Deepening our Walk with Christ and our Connection to the Church, as well as increased focus on ministries to Children and Youth.

• An environment of faithfulness to God and His Church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness—A twelve month program designed for developing our covenant witness as members of GBUMC called Loving Jesus… Loving Like Jesus to be launched this fall.

Again, all of these “new ideas and initiatives” evolved from the vision set by the congregation over the past year. God is doing an amazing thing in the life of our Church and we look forward to all He has in store.

I love you all.

Be Salt and Light… You matter.

1 Corinthians 15: 58

No comments: