Thursday, October 27, 2011

Found on CNN

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is being confronted with what it's stance will be on the issue of homosexuality. The issue is coming or already here. The church I love is already split on so many issues: women in ministry, drums in church, religious drama, coffee, etc.

I found the following on CNN...and though I didn't read it all...it is a good overview of the issue for our day that is staring my little branch of the Christian church right in the face.

My Take: Why Christians are embracing their LGBT neighbors

Editor’s note: Ross Murray is director of religion, faith and values at GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

By Ross Murray, Special to CNN

America is embracing its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. Don’t believe me? Just look at the progress being made in faith communities.

The Christian church was once considered the final holdout for those who oppose equality for LGBT people. Staunch believers could gather in worship with people who thought just like them to hear sermons affirming the anti-LGBT beliefs they held in common.

For those of us who identify as LGBT, church was a place of fear and secrets. We had to figure out how to hide ourselves or how to find a more welcoming community.

But that is changing.

Although there is still a variety of scriptural interpretations, an increasing number of Christians are reading scripture and understanding that God’s design for the world includes LGBT people. It follows, good Christians believe, that if God made them, then I am called to love and support them.

Whole Christian denominations have accepted and embraced the reality of LGBT believers within their ranks and in their leadership. Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, the United Church of Christ and Unitarians have formally accepted LGBT people within their denominations.

Even within denominations and faith groups whose policies don’t fully welcome LGBT people, there are growing numbers of people who have learned to love and accept their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.

The Public Religion Research Institute found this year that as many as 71% of Catholics in America support lesbian and gay people, even up to the point of civil marriage, despite the Roman Catholic hierarchy telling them otherwise.

Of course, there still are Christian groups who work actively against equal protections for LGBT people and their families.

Indeed, as more Americans get to know and love their LGBT neighbors, the messages and vocal misinformation of anti-gay activists become even more shrill.

And yet more and more Christians are now living out the message of 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

How did this happen? More Christians now know someone who is LGBT. They probably even know someone from their church. There are countless faithful Christians who identify as LGBT.

These are folks who have found their faith in God to be stronger than the opposition of vocal anti-gay activists.

These LGBT Christians have shared their lives and their stories that build up love and break down fear, leading to tangible progress, especially with young people.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, there is at least a 20-point gap between those ages 18 to 29 and those ages 65 and older on every public policy measure in the survey concerning equality for gay and lesbian people, with younger Americans gravitating toward equality.

Even Christian-identified young people increasingly support protections for lesbian and gay people, the same survey found.

Those who oppose equality can call it what they like, but the reality is that we are living in a society that has learned how to value LGBT people as they would others.

That attitude doesn’t rely on fear or lies, but on caring relationships and trust. It lives out the apostle Paul’s wish for the Corinthians that someday we will know fully, even as we are fully known. It is a biblically informed reality that is helping to make the world a better place.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ross Murray.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oh, To Be Like Jesus

We all want to be like Jesus, and yet we so often fall short. Recently I saw a list, and thought I’d modify it and add to it…by reflecting on the many differences between Jesus’ ministry and my own.

Jesus of Nazareth * Pastor Kris Widmer

Born in Bethlehem * Born in Loma Linda

Son of the Everlasting Father * Son of my father, who died in 2007

Baptized in the Jordan * Baptized in a baptistery

Walked on Water * Often "skating on thin ice."

Rebuked the Wind * Wears a windbreaker

Changed Water to Wine * Changes Water into Lemonade

Welcomed Strangers * Is occasionally strange

Cursed a fig tree * Kills house plants

Fed 5,000 people * Attends potluck, dish in hand.

Saw Nathaniel under fig tree * Sees the world through CNN

Healed servant at a distance * Can use the remote control

Prayed, instead of sleeping * Sleeps, instead of praying.

Stomped the serpent’s head * Has a snake as a pet

Cast out the darkness * Relies on a night light

Gave sight to the blind * Worked at blind camp

Raised a man, dead for 4 days * Planned a funeral in 4 days.

Overturned the money tables * Sets up foyer tables.

Anointed with costly perfume * Wears cheap cologne

Cast demons into pigs * Believes pork is of the Devil

Friend of tax-collectors * Was audited in 2003

Cleansed lepers * Has changed dirty diapers

Stands at the door and knocks * Got locked out of own office

Observed the Widow’s mites * Picks up pennies in parking lots.

Was falsely arrested * Was “unfairly” ticketed for speeding

Preached a Sermon at Olivet * Preached a sermon, all of it!

Died on a cross * Is occasionally cross

Saved the World! Serious!* Watched the World Series

As you can see, I still have a long ways to go in my Christian life. I fail miserably at the goal of being like Jesus, in many more serious ways. That’s why I need to hang around other sinners in the church, so I can set a good example of being a poor example…and perhaps be an encouragement to others who are trying to muddle along through life too.

So…be gracious to yourself and those around you. Nobody’s perfect.

I can’t wait for the day when Jesus will come and change this flesh and blood into perfection.

Be Positive and Encouraging,

O. Kris Widmer

Pastor

Monday, October 24, 2011

First Person Sermon

Last Sabbath, I had the joy of preaching in the "First Person, Dramatic Narrative Homiletic Form", which is just a technical term for "Role Play" Sermon or "Story" Sermon. For the brief moments of a sermon, instead of talking about the Bible...one gets to see the Bible come alive...hence my working title for these sermons as "Bible Alive."

For 27 years, I've had the joy (and sorrow) of working at the craft of writing and presenting these special forms of preaching. Rather than the usual "three points and a poem" type of sermon, these sermons draw in the listening into the Bible story through the verbal material that is story in content and from the perspective of the Bible Character.

The first sermon I can remember writing is one that I still do. Nicodemus, on the morning of the Sabbath, when Jesus lay in the tomb. It continues to be one of my favorites, one that I've preached many times to this day. At first, these sermons were delivered behind the pulpit in a suit and tie. Later, in 1993, through the encouragement of friends, I added the costume element to the sermon form.

To date, there are are over 50 first person dramatic narrative sermons that I've had the joy of presenting...at least once.

Last Sabbath, October 22, 2011, I had the joy of doing a "History Alive." For the first time, presenting a historical character, this time being Hiram Edson, a person from the early days of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was such a blessing reading, writing, figuring out the different scenes that suggested themselves, buying costume elements at Goodwill stores, selecting songs to sing during the presentation, and finding the props needed to tell the amazing story of "The Great Disappointment." The Morning After.

For this presentation, rather than working alone, I included 3 of the youth of my church as well: Robell Nyirendah, played the part of the Daniel 2 Image, Emil Samuel played the part of King Nebuchadnezzer, and Augustin Cordaba-Chang played the part of Daniel. They did a fantastic job being the "eye candy" illustration while "Hiram" preached his revival "sermon" within the sermon.

I praise God for the successful creation and presentation of this message, and for a wonderful facility to present such worship offerings to God and the church...and for a wonderful church family that values creative...out of the box...ministry.

Love to All

Poem - The Storytellers

The Storytellers O. Kris Widmer Based on Matthew 27:51-53 Fulfillment of a Poetry Game…with Stephanie Haddad.   Thanks for Writin...