Wethodism April 29, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Congregational Life, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, The United Methodist Church
It is time to take the “me” out of Methodism and replace it with “we”. Somewhere we lost touch with the fact that this is God’s church and that each of us is fortunate and blessed to be allowed to be a part of it. The church does not exist to serve our individual needs. It doesn’t exist to make us happy. It doesn’t exist to make us feel good about ourselves. It exists to do God’s work and will in the world, and we are invited to be active participants in the glorious creative miracle of God’s unfolding vision. We have got to get over ourselves. At the very limited extreme, church may be about “us” as a whole, but never about us merely as individuals. The whole “me and my buddy Jesus” mentality that pervades our culture has virtually nothing to do with church, Christianity, or the Bible. Our boiling everything down to a personal and private religion has a historical name — heresy. It isn’t all about me — and our denomination is suffering an acute case of “me”-thodism.
Vegetables of the Spirit April 26, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Congregational Life, Core Values, Devotional Reflection, spiritual practices.
Tags: Christian Community, Christian discipleship, spiritual practices
Growing up, fruit was often the core component of dessert after our meals. My grandmother tended a wonderful orchard, full of luscious delights — crisp, sweet apples; juicy pears, plump cherries, amazing berries, grapes swelled to bursting. We supplemented Midwestern fare with citrus fruits and bananas. Fruit was a sweet treat that took the place of cakes and candy (though it promoted pie to primary prominence). Whenever I hear the metaphor of fruit from scripture – especially as used by Jesus and Paul, my mind takes me immediately to the bountiful fruit of my youth and it fills me with nostalgic joy and hope. However, as with many house rules, the path to dessert always ran through the somber and difficult terrain of the vegetable. “You can’t have dessert until you finish your vegetables,” was spoken in my home no less than 24,357,615 times. I am not sure any other phrase was declared more often. No one ever had to talk me into eating fruit, but vegetables were a different matter. It made little difference how “good for me” vegetables were, I enjoyed but few — corn (almost as sweet and juicy as the finest fruit), asparagus, crisp lettuce, snap peas, and cauliflower. I could gag down a raw carrot or two, but never cooked. Brocoli seemed (then and less so now) like a bad idea. Popeye could keep his spinach. Brussels sprouts? Zucchini & squash were unpalatable then (though I have grown to enjoy both). No, most vegetables were a challenge, and those I disliked ever seemed to outnumber those I liked. It is no wonder that our scriptures never refer to the “vegetables of the Spirit.”
The First Last Supper April 21, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Congregational Life, Devotional Reflection, Lent, worship.
Tags: Christian Community, Christian worship, holy week, sacraments
I know I am in the minority, but in a culture crazed for Christmas and Easter, my two favorite church holy-days are Pentecost and Maundy Thursday. I’ll get to Pentecost in about six weeks, but for now I want to think about what makes Maundy Thursday so significant for me.
Farewells are often tricky, especially with those closest to us. I wonder if modern men and women can truly relate to the farewell between Jesus and his closest friends? Certainly we have close relationships — friends, families, coworkers, neighbors — but they are very different from the premodern, primitive culture of Jesus’ day. Depending on the gospel source, Jesus and the boys were together morning, noon and night for somewhere between six months and three years. They ate together, slept together, washed together, worked together, learned together, fought together. Jesus trained his followers each and every day of their relationship, and the day came to hand the reins over to the disciples. There is absolutely no evidence that any of them were ready to assume leadership; in fact, it wasn’t clear that any of them yet understood who Jesus really was.
Holy Week-Lite April 18, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Devotional Reflection, Easter, holy week, Lent, Religion in the U.S., U.S. Culture.
Tags: Easter, holy week, Lent, spiritual practices
Like many things in our modern culture, Holy Week has become a muddled grey paste of a religious experience. Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter all get jumbled up together in an atheological hodge-podge that leaves the veteran confused and the novitiate clueless. I have already sung, “He Lives!,” “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” “Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus,” and “‘Tis Finished! The Messiah Dies,” and it is the day after Palm Sunday. In the past couple weeks, Jesus has already instituted the Last Supper, has been before Pilate and Herod, has been scourged, both Peter and Judas have played their respective screw-up roles, Barabbas has been released – as well as Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass with crowds waving palm branches and shouting Hosanna. Talk about anti-climax. It feels like someone dropped all their index cards with their speech notes and they shuffled them together in random order and proceeded to launch into their talk. Welcome to Easter 2011 A.D.D.
Souled Out April 15, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, Integrity, The United Methodist Church, Vision.
Tags: Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Values, Vision
When will we get tired of playing the numbers game? We have been misled to believe that the answer to all the problems of The United Methodist Church is more people. We don’t care about who these people are or whether they will benefit from being United Methodists — we just want them to swell our rolls and pay our bills. We assumed that new people won’t have the same theological immaturity as current members, that they won’t fuel the senseless squabbles we waste so much of our time and energy on, and that they will be significantly more committed and generous than those we already have. We are doing a less-than-mediocre job with what we’ve got, then we whine that we can’t have more. There is a real sensible value in getting our house in order before we invite new people to come live with us.
Walking in the Light April 13, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church Leadership, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Vision.
Tags: Christian Community, Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church
There is an unnecessary tragedy associated with our current obsessive-compulsive fixation on death, decay and decline. The tragedy is that we are living a lie. We are walking by sight, not by faith. We are choosing to accept darkness as truth, and in so doing we create a self-fulfilling prophecy. We embrace secular values, slap a coat of piety-paint on them, and pretend that we haven’t sold out. We buy a billboard, put a cute phrase on it and call it “witness.” We create a smaltzy ad to manipulate the emotions and call it “evangelism.” We develop a bumper-sticker slogan and call it “vision.” We look and act less and less like the Christ and call it “The United Methodist Church.” It is time to look in the mirror (and wipe off all the grease paint that make us look clownish and foolish). Time to turn on the lights and take a good look at ourselves. You know what? If we will do this we will find a huge surprise. We don’t look nearly as bad as we think we might.
Dead, Or In Exile? April 11, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church Leadership, Core Values, Identity & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Vision.
Tags: Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Values
I watched some of the Global Leadership Summit videos over the weekend and have to admit they depressed me. It felt like another missed opportunity. Hopeful rhetoric infuses a blurry and misdirected vision for a limited and inwardly focused future. It is all about us — and not all of us. Transformational mission is off the table; we want to focus on increasing the number of “vital” congregations (with the definition of vital being “big and busy”). Evangelistic scriptural holiness is replaced by inviting people to The United Methodist Church. The fundamental practice of the means of grace is reduced to institutional accountability. Spiritual leadership is limited to clergy. Unleashing the potential of the denomination is hinged to making dysfunctional agencies cost less and work more. If we can just preserve our institution we will somehow figure out what we ought to be doing…
Three Little Words April 4, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Congregational Life, Core Values, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Christian Community, Communication, Values
You know what The United Methodist Church needs? A Day of Atonement. A good old-fashioned nation-wide, denomination-deep day of saying “I Am Sorry!” — to God, to each other, and to ourselves. For a vast number of reasons, we United Methodists have seemingly lost the capacity to apologize, to humble, and to take responsibility for reconciliation and restoration. Our church is rife with senseless and toxic conflict, generally grounded in immense egos unwilling to compromise on any issue, large or small. We are CHOOSING to be broken, divided, contentious, and petty. This is our witness to the world of what it means to be Christian.
Oh, I know, it’s not our only witness. Look at the amazing things we are doing in Japan and Haiti and in a handful of congregations. We put positive spins on things (ReThink, Change the World, etc.). It is not all conflict and division. But it is certainly more than necessary, and I would say it is more than tolerable. We simply do not have time to waste being immature, selfish, small-minded and indignant. We must get over ourselves, and quickly.