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The Work of the Spirit – Rev. Andrew Shull – FBC Woodruff, SC

First Baptist Church in Woodruff, South Carolina, where I serve as pastor, has a long and very interesting history.  Tariff Acts were passed in 1828 & 1832 that adversely affected the economy of the southern states.  Under the leadership of John C. Calhoun, South Carolina voted to “nullify” the federal tariffs.  President Andrew Jackson threatened to send federal troops to SC to enforce their collection.  In Woodruff, loyalties in our church were split between the federal government and the state government.

  1. B. Woodruff describes “a terrible convulsion that shook the church to its very center, and came very near breaking it into atoms. The difficulty grew and increased until the church was literally torn into two distinct factions.  Hard sayings were indulged, bitter feelings ensued, and the future of the church was exceedingly dark.”

After numerous attempts at resolution, the Bethel Association asked the church to hold a day of fasting and prayer to “lay aside all party spirit and hardness, to forgive one another and unite as a band of Christians in the spirit of meekness.”  The day ended with the members forming a line in front of the church.  While hymns were sung, they went up and down the line giving each other expressions of forgiveness, fellowship and love.  It became “a time of general joy.”

  1. B. Woodruff ends his account by stating, “This was the settlement of this mighty difficulty, but like the ocean after being swept by some grand storm continues to lash and foam and fret long after the storm has died away, so the angry passions that had been raised in this tumultuous strife yielded slowly but steadily to the pressure of brotherly love which was re-occupying the hearts of those Christians. Satan was vanquished, but he retired muttering and sullen from a position he once thought was impregnable.”

It is natural to nurse hurts, flame the fires of bitterness, keep track of any offense or slight, hold grudges, keep wounds open and occasionally throw in some salt.  But we do ourselves great harm when we chose to live that way.

There is a better way to live.  It involves swallowing our pride – regardless of who is right and who is wrong, humbling ourselves, extending mercy and forgiveness, and receiving the healing that comes through the Lord.  Christians are commanded to: go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41); settle disagreements and disputes quickly (Matthew 5:23-25); be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9); love and pray for those who mistreat us (Matthew 5:44); forgive (Matthew 6:14-15); speak “only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29) and entrust themselves (their injuries and hurts) to God who judges justly (1 Peter 2:21-23.)  Christians are people who know what it is to be forgiven –  for they have experienced God’s incredible grace and mercy.  And they are people who know how to forgive – because you can’t really experience God’s forgiveness without it changing your heart.  Jesus said, “He who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47.)

From our earliest years, we learn, often the hard way, the right things to say and the right things to do.  We learn what is acceptable, what will allow us to fit into our families, have friends and keep our jobs.  We learn how to monitor our words and behavior.  Whatever your job, there are some things you just won’t do.  Not because you don’t want to, but because of the consequences.  But sometimes we surprise ourselves and we say something or do something we thought was uncharacteristic.  Where did that come from?  It comes from our heart.  Jesus teaches us “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34.)  We may learn to monitor our words and actions but we often let things like anger, hurt, jealousy, pride, resentment and selfishness get lodged in our heart.  We let things that happened years ago control us for they have been allowed to grow in the darkness.  Solomon writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23.)  Your heart affects everything.

Jesus, the Great Physician, can change our hearts.  His grace can work in us from the inside out.  He can take what is broken and use it for our good and for the good of others.  He can address not just the symptoms but the root causes.  Because of His great love for us we can become people who genuinely love others and reflect that love not just in our choice of words and actions but also in our hearts.  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26.)

 

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COVID-19 Makes It Crucial to Be More Thoughtful with Your Words

This tongue-in-cheek question reveals the perils of constant contact with the same person or persons. Before COVID-19, the complaint was that I do not have enough time for my family.

The pandemic has brought extra urgency for “Say Something Nice Day” on June 1, and “Say Something Nice Sunday” on June 7.

We need to be extra considerate with those with whom we share the same space.

Little annoyances we would hardly notice when rushing about following our daily pursuits get more annoying when we are spending day and night with the same people for weeks.

We need to be more careful with our words. Words are powerful. Words can bring hurt or healing.

During this unwanted pause in our lives, we need to take care that our words are comforting and healing. We do not want to contribute to further anxiety or stress.

Remember that noise, especially loud noise, increases tension. Loud voices sound angry. We want to avoid both.

Conspiracy theories raise anxiety levels, so be sure to review carefully all of the information you are sharing. People are already on edge about their jobs, their investments and their future employment.

This is a time for contemplation about what our future looks like. We know it will not be the same. There is no going back to yesterday and so much feels out of our control.

Yet, we always have the power to choose our words with care. Say kind things to those around you. Don’t pick a fight out of boredom. It is easy to do. This situation is no one’s fault.

We will get through this and will be better because we will have developed new skills, found new ways of doing things and experienced new ways to worship.

However, we must continue to believe in one another and keep the common good in mind.

Speak words of encouragement; speak them with sincerity and speak them often. We will overcome. You will be amazed at how helpful kind words can be when someone who cares speaks them.

No one is urging you to be insincere or dishonest. We are all being urged to be our best selves. These days are tough, but we have been through hard times before. We are stronger than any situation.

One day at a time might give way to one hour at a time or even one minute at a time.

Somewhere I read that we can tell ourselves, “I’ve got this moment. I don’t know about the next one, but I’ve got this one.” We are resilient.

Scripture tells us over and over, “Fear not.” Arthur Caliandro, the late pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, was fond of saying, “Be kinder than you think it necessary to be because the other person needs it more than you know.”

Our situation calls for us to be kinder. Our words are so important.

The pandemic has shown us once more that we are dependent on one another. The air we breathe connects us.

Let’s vow not to poison our air with hateful speech. Once ugly words are spoken, they cannot be recalled or erased. They are out there doing harm forever.

Why do we have “Say Something Nice Day” and “Say Something Nice Sunday”? We have them because we need them now more than ever.

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Influence others like Eleanor Roosevelt – Rev. Margaret Marcuson

Margaret Marcuson

March 18, 2020 – The Christian Citizen

What does an American First Lady who died in 1962 have to do with leadership in 2020? She was never elected to public office. Yet she was the most well-known woman in America for years. She was both loved and vilified. Eleanor Roosevelt faced challenges and shows us today ways to step up to leadership in anxious and difficult times.

She is one of my heroes. She survived a difficult childhood, a challenging marriage to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the many restrictions on what women could and couldn’t do during her lifetime. She was cripplingly shy, yet became the most well-known woman in America. She was a visible First Lady from 1933-1945. During and after that time she spoke publicly, wrote a column and books, and played a key role in the first U.S. delegation to the United Nations (1945-1952). Eleanor Roosevelt’s story is compelling. And her own words and example are inspirational and challenging.

Here are three ways that we can lead as she did, with her own words to reinforce them.

  1. Face up to difficult tasks. “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”[i]

Leaders must speak and act in ways that are frightening and difficult. It may be standing up to a bullying staff person or church member or making a public statement about a controversial issue. Sometimes it’s just getting out of bed and going to work when you are discouraged and exhausted. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

  1. Immunize yourself to criticism. No doubt the pace of vicious criticism has accelerated in our day. But Eleanor Roosevelt faced her share of it, both before and after her husband’s death. Many people thought she was too bold (perhaps including her own husband). They tried to put her in her place. In this regard, she said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”[ii]

To lead is to invite criticism, condescension and worse. It requires a strong sense of self to handle the barrage that can come your way when you lead, and to hold on to your clarity about who you are and what you are called to do.

  1. Act according to your principles. “In political life I have never felt that anything really mattered but the satisfaction of knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed, and had done the best you could.”[iii] She also said, “If silence seems to give approval, then remaining silent is cowardly.”[iv]

Here’s one example: The African American singer Marian Anderson was refused the right to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned in protest. She worked behind the scenes to see that a massive outdoor concert took place instead.[v]

In politics, at church, in our wider world, there are no guaranteed outcomes. Be clear about your principles and assess your actions in their light (sometimes with the help of others). Then do what you can and let go of the rest.

The Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources.

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An Interfaith Prayer in a Time of Pandemic- The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson

Washing my hands, reminds me of the waters of Chautauqua Lake,
Which reminds me of the majestic tolling of the Miller Bell Tower,
Which reminds me of the many kinds of music that fills the air and our hearts,
Which reminds me of the laughter of children and the beauty of our gardens,
Which reminds me of the beauty of different faces, complexions, generations,
and faiths,
Which reminds me of dance and art, being challenged by different perspectives,
and the restorative power of prayer.
Which reminds me of how sacred everything feels at our beloved Chautauqua,
Which reminds me to give thanks to the Holy One for all these blessings we share.
Be with us, Divine One, in this time of anxiety,
Comfort those who are infected, soothe all of us who are affected,
Strengthen and protect the medical caregivers,
Embolden our leaders with strength and wisdom,
Give us holy permission to do what is best in each moment, even if that’s
“hunker down.”
Renew our hope for a world —
With less anxiety and more joy,
With less “me first,” and more “no, please, after you!”
With less fear, and more love.
And bring us safely home, back to the Chautauqua which was, and is,
and will be.
Amen.
—The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson
Vice President of Religion and Senior Pastor
Chautauqua Institution
March 18, 2020

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