Archives for posts with tag: religion

In my quieter moments I realize how blessed I am. When I think about it I marvel at the richness of my life. Each year has grown better than the last.

On this National Day of Thanksgiving there are more things to be thankful for than I can begin to imagine but below are a few.

I AM THANKFUL FOR…

A warm and dry place to sleep at night.

A safe neighborhood.

Good friends.

My good wife of 50 years (come December 28).

My three wonderful children and their equally wonderful spouses.

My two exceptional grandchildren.

The call of God on my life and God’s willingness to let me serve in the Church.

The opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

The privilege and freedom to vote.

People who allow me to disagree with them without demonizing me.

Teachers.

Clean water.

Retirement.

Good health.

Freedom of religion.

A good sermon- and I hear one every Sunday at my church.

A good church choir- and I hear one every Sunday at my church.

The opportunity to travel and experience this great big wonderful world.

The amazing advances in modern medicine.

Music that entertains, inspires, and instructs.

Technology- when it works.

A reliable automobile that gets me where I want to go.

Folks who do what they say they will do when they say they will do it.

People who say “You’re welcome” instead of “No problem” when I say “Thank you.”

Ice cream.

A winning season for the Braves and Atlanta United.

Coffee in the morning.

Volunteers who serve with no expectation of reward.

The forgiveness of my sins and the grace of God to keep on forgiving.

The following Prayer of Thanksgiving was offered during last Sunday’s worship service. I share it with you today.

Gracious God, creator of all things, you have given us much to be thankful for: this place of worship, the blessings of this day, the world around us.

Apart from you we can do nothing. With you we can do everything. By the power of your Holy Spirit we live and serve you at home, at work, and at play.

We remember how much we have, in the face of a world that says we need more. We are reminded of your graciousness as we see those who go without. Yet in the face of little, you give us much.

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Give us the courage and the strength to put our hands to plow your fields. As we do, help us to remember the laborers who first shared with us the Good News.

As we prepare to gather with family to give thanks and feast upon the blessing s of a day set apart for rest, Bread of Heaven, Water of Life, fill us until we want for nothing. Pour out yourself for us. Let us take, eat, and see that the Lord is good.

With grateful hearts we give thanks. Amen.

Jamie Jenkins

 

people,administration,group,crowd,cavalry,soldier,stock exchange,war

In the late 18th century many European countries were engaged in violent revolution. England was not one of them. Some historians credit a religious movement in that country with creating a climate that prevented such upheaval.

The Methodist Movement, spearheaded by John Wesley and his brother Charles, had its origins in the academic environment of Oxford. They were joined by a small group of other students in rigid religious rituals. Because of their methodical approach in their devotional and charitable activities they began to be called the “Methodists,” a derisive term.

This small group of people became known as the Holy Club. They rigorously practiced the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, fasting, and accountability but their religious fervor was not limited to such acts of piety. They regularly visited the prisons and hospitals. They established schools for poor children, offered basic medical care for those who could not afford it, provided housing for poor and elderly widows and their children, and much more.

The long term effect of this movement was due largely to the well-disciplined organizer, John Wesley. To what did he owe his strong faith, persistence, and tolerance?

Much is known about the impact of John’s mother, Susanna Wesley. She has been called the Mother of Methodism. “Her example of faith and religious reverence she set for her children inspired them to become powerful spiritual leaders and to launch the Methodist Movement.” Her constant devotion and strict discipline to the education and spiritual formation of her children certainly impacted John, the 15th of her 19 children.

Adam Hamilton* says, “If John learned about his faith from his mother, he learned how to deal with disagreements from his father and grandfathers.” His grandparents on both sides of his family were dissenters from the established Anglican Church but his parents were committed Anglicans. John “adopted a posture that is often called the via media- a middle way- that found truth on both sides of the theological divide.”

In one sermon that is among John Wesley’s most famous he said, “Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart? Though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.”

Hamilton suggests that this spirit of Wesley leads us to “give them the benefit of the doubt. We assume the best in others, not the worst. We speak well of others, not poorly. We treat them as we hope to be treated. We listen more and talk less. We walk in other people’s shoes and try to understand what they believe and why. This does not mean we give up our convictions, but it does mean we test them.” The focus is intended learn what we have in common and to build bridges not walls.

It was this humble, listening, catholic spirit supported by a strong resolve to follow Christ wherever He would lead that transformed the religious practices and daily routines of people across England in the late 18th century. This helped to create a climate where social changes could be accomplished without widespread violence. One does not have to be a Methodist to see the value and to follow the precepts of Wesley but in doing so we just might make a better world.

Jamie Jenkins

*Revival: Faith As Wesley Lived It, Adam Hamilton, Abingdon Press 2014

 

I have become increasingly concerned over the “Us vs. Them” attitude that I see and hear regularly. Too many groups and individuals operate on the basis that anything different is bad. “We” must oppose “them.”  More than that, we see “them” as the enemies of “us” that must be stopped or destroyed.

I understand that there are people who espouse harmful philosophies and I know that all ideas are not for the benefit of the larger community. However, I find it impossible to believe that “we” are always right and “they” are always wrong. Whoever the “we” or “they” are.

There are many people who subscribe to the “Us vs. Them” approach to all matters. I am not one of them.

Some folks see anyone whose culture or language as different and probably dangerous. I am not one of them.

Many people believe that everybody is out for themselves. Wanting something for nothing. I am not one of them

Many politicians and John/Jane Does propose that Red/Blue States have the right perspective on all political issues and the other will lead the country to ruin. I am not one of them.

The attitude of a lot of people is that if your skin color is different from mine, I have to keep an eye on you. I am not one of them.

According to conversations I hear and read from individuals in leadership as well as common ordinary citizens, it seems that it is alright to use demeaning terminology and derogatory words to describe others. I am not one of them.

It is common for people to assert that anyone who holds a different position on religion, politics, social issues or virtually anything is your enemy. I am not one of them.

Us vs. Them

Sports fans often depict fans of an opposing team as bad people to be avoided. I am not one of them.

Someone always wins and someone always loses. That is the attitude that I sense in many people. I am not one of them.

Old Way and New Way signs, Life change conceptual image

I know people who always see change as bad. It is better to keep things the way they are. I am not one of them.

There are Christians who believe that they alone interpret the Scriptures correctly and know the mind of God  I am not one of them

Jeff Chandler, writing about working relationships says, “On the surface, we discuss compassion, empathy, and understanding but down at a personal level, there are grudges, alliances, and interactions that are the complete opposite. There is a growing contingency of US vs THEM which doesn’t seem like a good way (to work together).”

“Unless we are very, very careful,” wrote psychologist-turned-artist Anne Truitt, “we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves.”

Loving and gracious God, help us to see our fellow human beings as brothers and sisters and treat everyone with respect. Enable us to understand that “we” might be wrong and “they” might be right on some things. Help us to work side by side with each other to  “guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.” So that others “may know we are Christians by our love.”

Jamie Jenkins

Occasionally it is good to be in situations where you are a minority. In my career I grew accustomed to being with groups where the majority of folks were not of my gender. As I grew older I often found that senior adults were a minority. There were times when my profession was not equally represented in the demographic of a particular activity.

The county I live in is majority non-white and my small neighborhood is very diverse. But most of my life has been spent in situations where the majority of people were of my ethnicity. I realize this is not the case with many. Recently I have been reminded of that and experienced a bit of what it feels like to be in the minority.

My wife and I attended an 80th birthday party for a friend and we were two of five people in a crowd of 50 who were not African American. Although we were treated with respect and dignity, there was a sense that most of the people present had experienced life very differently from us simply because of their skin color.

Being a minority is not limited only to racial distinctions. A few weeks ago I attended a 50th wedding anniversary celebration. Everyone there was caucasian/white/Anglo (it is often hard to know the politically correct term) but my wife and I have a different religious background. Although everyone present spoke English, our language was different. The structure of our separate religious organizational structures provided fodder for conversation and accented our differences. I found myself interpreting and explaining things that I said because they were so foreign to the others present.

Last weekend I was in California for my daughter’s birthday and we attended a baseball game at AT&T Park in San Francisco. As we waited for the ferry to carry us across the San Francisco Bay to the ballpark I could not miss the fact that just about everyone but my wife and me were wearing Giants apparel. Everybody but the two of us. And my Atlanta Braves cap made it more obvious that I was an outsider. It might have been because of the current sad state of the Braves team that everyone was courteous to me. Whatever the reason I was grateful.

I certainly do not pretend to know how it feels to be a racial minority. As a Christian in the United States I am sure I cannot fully understand what it is like to live where you are a part of a religious minority. There are other things that cause people to feel like they are mistreated or disrespected because they are a minority in that setting.

There are many instances in the Bible that makes it clear that God treats everyone the same and expects us to follow that example. I wish it was easy but it is not. I would like to say that I always treat people equally but I do not.

My recent experiences have reminded me that no one is an outsider. No one is less than any other one. We are all God’s special creation and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. God help me to see all people as Your children and treat them as my brothers and sisters.

Jamie Jenkins

Last Sunday the preacher at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church suggested to his listeners that they have a lot in common with people all over the world. He emphasized the opening words of The Lord’s Prayer are “Our Father.” When we say those words we acknowledge that we are a part of God’s family which includes many siblings who don’t all speak the same language, have the same skin pigment, or practice their religion the same way.

Bishop Woodie White

The preacher was retired United Methodist Bishop Woodie White and he urged us to seek common ground with all of our brothers and sisters.

The bishop reminded us that the measure of one’s love for God was determined by one’s love for others. His biblical text said that if a person “does not love persons whom he has seen, he cannot love God, who cannot be seen.” (I John 4:20-21). No exceptions!

I agree with Bishop White. I wish I had never read these words because as he said, once you have read them you can say you don’t understand them, you don’t like them, or you don’t believe them. But once you have read them you cannot say you don’t know.

I find it hard to love some people, even those who are “like” me. When it comes to people who are not like me, the task is much more difficult. In fact, at times it seems impossible.

C.S. Lewis says it is very simple (Oh, yeah?). He instructs us not to “waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; [but] act as if you do.” In other words when you behave like you love someone you will soon find that you have actually come to love them.

My life would be much easier if the Bible had not told me that if I love God I must love others. Love for people and love for God cannot be separated.

Love One Another 2

Loving in the abstract is not difficult. Loving “up close and personal” is a bit harder and it is not optional for those who follow Jesus. He left us no choice when He said, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other” (John 13:34-35).

OK, I can probably find it in me to love those with whom I share common values and goals. It is not always easy but I can do it. Although it is a struggle at times, I can love my family and friends. It is a different story with a lot of other folks. But when you read the scripture you understand it like Bishop White said in his sermon- “there is no wiggle room.”

Love One Another 1

Oswald Chambers puts it this way: “(Jesus)  is saying, ‘I will bring a number of people around you whom you cannot respect, but you must exhibit My love to them, just as I have exhibited it to you. This kind of love is not a patronizing love for the unlovable— it is His love, and it will not be evidenced in us overnight. Some of us may have tried to force it, but we were soon tired and frustrated’.”

In the late 1960s the Youngbloods, an  American folk rock band, was a “one ht wonder” with their song “Get Together.” The lyrics called on us to “Come on people now smile on your brother. Everybody get together; try to love one another right now.”

Love God. Love people. It is not easy but I am going to try harder.

Love One Another 4

Jamie Jenkins