Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Beware the "Summer Slump"

    Memorial Day is behind us and June will be here before most of you read this message.  After a winter that trapped us for weeks at a time, we’ve already had days hot enough to run the air conditioning and hide inside.  

So now what?

    Our children are thrilled that summer is finally here and that they will have a break from school.  Many of us share that feeling.  After being cooped up all winter we look forward to getting out and doing things.  Many of us will work in the garden, go for hikes in the park, walk the dog, go camping, attend outdoor concerts, or just sit on the porch and enjoy the day.

But beware of the “Summer  Slump.”

    With all that free time it’s easy to let things slide.  Our children are runners.  Good ones.  I’m not bragging.  I’m saying that all them could run circles around me during the best of my youth.

But they have all stumbled into the Summer Slump. 

    It’s easy to say, “I’ll run this afternoon when it’s not so hot” or “I’ll run tomorrow.”   And then suddenly, despite intending to run every day, they discovered that they hadn’t run for a month.  By the time they returned to practice, several of their fellow athletes had, through persistence, surpassed them.

Our spiritual life is no different. 

    Nearly every church in North America will face the Summer Slump.  This slump will affect us both personally and corporately.  Despite our best intentions to read the Bible, have a quiet time of prayer with God, and to grow spiritually, most of us will get busy with other things.  We’ll say, “I’ll do it this afternoon when it’s too hot outside,” or “I’ll do it in the morning” and then discover that it’s been weeks or months since we spent time with Jesus.  We promise ourselves that we will try to attend church at least twice a month, but get so busy enjoying the weather that we don’t. 

Your spiritual life is important.

    Most of us would agree, but we don’t act like it.  If I told you that I was so busy enjoying the weather that I had forgotten to eat during June and July, you would think that I was kidding, or seriously ill.  If I was so busy that I neglected to eat for weeks at a time, you would, correctly, worry about my health and well-being.

But spiritual food is just as important.

    When shepherds hear that members of their flock haven’t eaten in weeks or months, we worry about their health and well-being.  Poor nutrition makes us weak and vulnerable to illness, shallow thinking, and bad theology.  If your children said that they skipped school for weeks at a time you would fear for their education.  Your pastors have the same concern.  If we neglect our spiritual lives, how can we be healthy or grow?

    A healthy, balanced, spiritual life requires regular feeding, exercise, and education.  In our physical lives, none of those things happen without regular attention and deliberate care.  Staying healthy spiritually will require the same effort and attention.

As school ends and summer activities begin, I urge caution. 

Stay healthy.

Beware the Summer Slump.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Coffee As Ministry?

     Over the last few months we have begun a new ministry at Trinity that might seem a little odd to some folks.  It is a ministry of coffee, and perhaps one day, chocolate.  And the question that presents itself is, “So how can coffee be a ministry?”   Here’s how:

    When you buy coffee at the grocery store, you are almost certainly buying coffee from a multinational corporation whose primary interest is in selling as much coffee as possible at the greatest profit.  While that isn’t necessarily bad, the pressure to make a profit does several things.  First, these large corporations want to control the cost of production so they consolidate smaller farms into larger ones and pay laborers as little as possible.  Both of these drive out small family farmers and make it harder for those farmers to make support their families.  Second, these large coffee plantations often plant fast growing, high yield varieties of coffee that require full sun instead of the standard varieties that grow in the shade of the jungle canopy.  Growing these high-yield varieties requires the native jungle trees to be cut down as well as the application of commercial fertilizers and pesticides.

    Through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), our new coffee ministry now offers Fairly Traded, Equal Exchange coffees.  These coffees are grown by local, worker-owned, cooperatives run by family farmers using sustainable, organic agriculture practices.  By buying coffee, tea and, eventually, chocolate, direct from these cooperatives, you will pay a little more, but the bulk of the profit will go to the farmers who grew it, and not to a nameless multinational corporation.

    A variety of coffees and teas are on display in our upstairs fellowship hall.  Feel free to stop by anytime, look them over and choose your favorite. 

    Who knew that you could make a difference just by drinking your morning coffee?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

One Small Act - (A Challenge)

    On Palm Sunday, I challenged everyone to do “one small act” for someone else and then report back to me.  Everyone had a sheet of paper and wrote down my “homework assignment.”  So far only two people have turned anything in.  Although I am a little disappointed, I also understand that in the midst of our preparations for Easter something like this might easily be forgotten. 

So today I am reminding you.

    We make a thousand decisions every day, from which toothpaste to use, to which car to take to the grocery store, and all sorts of other things.  Our choices don’t have to be big ones to make a big difference.  Many times in history the world has been changed simply because one person did something remarkably simple.  We believe that God is in control.  We also believe that God has a plan for our lives and for the world.  That means that even our smallest choices, our smallest acts, can be used by God to make an impact in the lives of others.

In the hands of God, one small act can change the world.

    And so, my assignment still stands.  As spring finally arrives, our weather finally improves, and we begin to come out of our winter hibernation, please be aware of the needs of the people around you. 

    On Palm Sunday I threw out a few suggestions: Volunteer an hour of your time to visit someone who is lonely.  Buy an extra can of food for someone that is hungry.  Smile.  A kind word or a friendly face can change the course of an entire day.  Donate blood.  Cry with a friend or offer a shoulder to cry on.  Share Jesus with a neighbor.  Take a casserole to a neighbor who has health problems.  Offer to watch the children of a young family that can’t afford a baby sitter.  This may sound small, but others did this for us when our children were small and trust me, this was a generous and amazing gift.  Invite a single friend to dinner.  Did you know that for singles away from home, as well as many widows and widowers, family holidays like Christmas and Easter are the hardest to get through?  What’s one more chair at the table?  Buy a box of diapers or a can of formula for a single parent.  Do you know how expensive that stuff can be?  Offer to wash an elderly neighbor’s car or shovel their walk in the winter.

    I am certain that you can think of many more than I have.  I am even more certain that God can give us some truly awesome ideas if we listen.  Please accept this three part assignment:

              1) Pray.  Ask God to lead you to a person that needs your help and to show you what you can do for them.

        2)      Do it.

        3)      Report back.
    I hope that next month I will be able to write an article about the many “small acts” that the people of Trinity have been doing.