Inside the boundaries of New England, Bill Belichick is viewed by many as the greatest coach of all times. Winning five Super Bowls and leading an impressive team, he has shown his ability to lead a team to victory. One of his famous sayings in post-game interviews is, “on to next week.” This phrase is used multiple times, whether the team has won or lost, whether a player has done well, or made a mistake.
As I sit at my desk, blankly staring at my screen on the Monday after Easter wallowing in the events of a frenetic week of Easter services, I am stuck in the reality of that phrase, “on to next week.”
Easter Sunday is by some measures the “Super Bowl” of the church year. We want to pull out the best for our regular attenders, and for visitors. As pastors we want to make sure every detail is cared for, every service carefully planned to ensure maximum impact upon people who attend. All church ministries are put on “high alert.” We try to create special promotions to attract people; and we spend much on advertising, decorating, promotional events, breakfasts and anything else that can be thought of to make our services stand out. We try to construct messages that we hope will engage, without offending, challenge, without having people tune out- and are tempted to see ourselves as marketers rather than messengers of the truth of the resurrection.
On Monday, reality sets in… the reality that many who showed up over the weekend have smiled, waved and we will not see again until the snow comes. Family schedules, team schedules, and school schedules settle in for many, and as pastors, we recognize that Easter has happened, our church resources are recovering, and we still need to be “on to next week.”
This year I would hope to be different. This year I would hope that somehow the reality of the resurrection would so impact people that they would be drawn back to learn more, discover more, follow Christ more. That it would not take clever marketing, gimmicks, message titles or slick programs to draw people back. That the power of the resurrection has captivated people and it draws them to live in its power daily.
I know that can happen. It takes a true movement of God’s Spirit to enable people to change and reorient life priorities from our personal ones, to His. Can we say that the true measure of the “success” of our Easter services is not who we attracted on Easter, but who God draws back the next week? Have I (we) done enough in prayer to ask God to intervene? I guess that answer will come over the weeks to come.
Meanwhile, Easter is over, Sunday is coming; it is “on to next week.” Another opportunity for God to show up. I guess a part of me still wants to dwell on this week- sorry Bill.
It is one of the most recognized and mocked accents in our country- those true Bostonians.
I was watching a program on hiking and as soon as the host opened his mouth, I knew where he was from. The litany of botched Boston accents is cringe worth and the Waterloo of many actors. More than just a few dropped “r’s” here and there, actors will tell you it’s how people from the area walk, enter a room and carry themselves that sets them apart from the rest of the country.
While the title of this is slightly tongue and cheek, (no Jesus did not come from the North End of Boston), it was how He spoke, what He said and did that set Him and His followers apart.
In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ final days, we have Peter sitting in the courtyard alone after all the disciples have fled. Just one of several faceless people, warming himself by the fire, until a servant girl corners him, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” Her identity of Jesus goes to where many people thought he came from- the rough and everyday blue collar fishing region. The identification of Peter came not by his appearance, but by something else- “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Peter’s manner of speaking associated him with Jesus. Someone who sounded like Jesus must be close to him.
During this Easter season, I have to confess that several times I have found myself tempted to run a program rather than reflect on the person. After many years in ministry, you have a checklist of “things to do, items to cover” to ensure a successful Easter schedule. On the surface, that list could appear no different from if we were planning a birthday party, or scheduling a successful business meeting.
If someone were looking at our programs, ministries, our lives from the outside, could they know us “by our accent?” Would they know who we are, what we are doing- and more importantly that we come from the same place Jesus comes from? Is what we are planning different from other plans because Jesus- His person, plans and purpose- are evident?
During this Easter, may we make sure that what we are doing in our lives and ministry is clearly marked by the presence of Jesus. Let each of us guard ourselves of simply going through motions, of executing a ministry plan; and make sure that Christ is known in what we are doing.
Jesus did not have a Boston accent. Let’s make sure that our “accent,” our plans, clearly associate ourselves with Him.
Drugs are decimating a generation of 20 year olds. For years we have been told, “Help is On the Way.” National slogans and strategies have been with us for more than 50 years and we are still waiting for a solution.
As a culture, as communities, as families, we need to finally take a stand together and fight back. We must get beyond rhetoric and posturing and humbly and intentionally link arms and say, “Not here, not now.” What will it take to get all the stakeholders in our communities together? Sacred and secular, can we take back our communities together?
To create a web of recovery in our communities, we need a long-term vision as well as immediate help for those struggling now. To launch that vision we must ask, “In ten years, how can our community become drug free?”
We need law enforcement agencies equipped with the adequate tools, resources and staff to detain, contain and channel addicts to the appropriate place for the help they need. To make that happen, we must embrace the idea that a one-size solution may NOT fit all.
We need public servants with the courage to rise above political expediency and associations of all types to lobby boldly for funding for resources not just for “Safe Stations” and detox, but also for long-term care facilities to rebuild lives. We need politicians and citizens who will worry less about current popular trends like legalizing “recreational” drugs to advance “personal liberty.” It is at best reckless, and worse, potentially lethal. Both need to just stop and listen and be moved by the grief of families.
We need schools to acknowledge that the lure of experimenting with and using drugs will always be with our children, from elementary through high school and on into college. To focus on successes and imagine we are making progress and then ease up is not realistic and not an option.
We need churches and faith communities to open honest dialogue within their communities of faith, and claim a seat wherever the community is seeking solutions. Addiction recovery is a physical, emotional and spiritual journey that can be successful if all sectors of society seek solutions together. Faith communities can help reestablish the moral compass in an individual and community that values and elevates life rather than degrading and diminishing it.
We need more business leaders who will promote a “zero tolerance” policy within the workplace, but also help employees get treatment and hold their jobs until they return.
We need adults and parents to be adults and parents to kids, and not their friends. This is about the next generation. Adults need to own their past, and move beyond it. You survived. Your kids may not. Know their friends, where they are, what is on their phones and devices. Demand real time with family. Build them bridges to help them get to their future.
If each community decides as a community that being drug free is a priority, and acknowledges that the drug problem does exist as close as next door or perhaps even in one’s own home, then groups like Raymond Coalition for Youth, and other coalition groups will thrive and succeed beyond current expectations.
If you think that any of this is too harsh, too unrealistic, or not necessary, then I ask you to stand with me as I did recently when in one short week, I stood before two different sets of families and friends and conducted memorial services as each mourned the loss of a 20-something they knew and loved. Look into their eyes as they ask, “Why?” Their grief will last far beyond many people’s attention span to the problem. These lives and others like them could be different. It is up to you. It is up to all of us.
If not now, when?
Last week we had a young man honestly tell his story of struggling with drug addiction. It became real because it was not an anonymous face from an outside group, but one of our own. It was an honest story of struggle and it struck home when he shared some of the advice he received was simply, “Well just stop it.” “Really? Wish I thought of that.”
We have heard for months now the epidemic of opioid addictions in our area, and the statistics are frightening. But for some in the church, it is thought of as an “out there, not us problem” when the reality is that it is a crisis for many families in the church. Why don’t we hear more about it? For some, it is the lack of acknowledgement that the issue just could be present here within our walls. For others, it is not wanting to break the image of being an “all put together” person we want to portray to others. For still others, it’s the fear of how it will be received.
One recent survey taken of why millennials are turning off to church stated (my paraphrase) “Millennials don’t want to hear about vision statements and mission goals. Jesus said, ‘Love God, love others.’ Can we just do it?” In many ways they are right.
Loving others includes, but is not limited to, being in a safe place where people can share not just the high points, but the low points- the struggles, the realities, the untidiness of life, and know that they will be heard, loved and welcomed. Jesus was a master of never affirming sin, but also by being approachable by those with struggles.
As Jesus’ body today, we need to do the same. People should see us as a place where they can be honest with the untidiness of their lives. Whether it’s drug addiction, abuse, gender identity questions, or whatever the untidiness of the day is, the church – Jesus’ body (us) – will let them know that they are welcome to come… and they can, along with Christ, and our help, walk through life together.
What gorilla is sitting next to you each week?
It struck me again the amazing peaceful transition of power between two people who hold opposing ideologies, and within a minute, power transferred. Contrast that to the most recent presidential elections in Gambia, where the defeated president refused to leave and the military intervened. Regardless of our political leanings, we have to appreciate the inherent strength in our system.
It caught me that President Trump used the Biblical passage, “How good it is when God’s people live together in unity.” I do not want to assume his intent on using the passage but what I heard was a call to the church.
The complete passage is from Psalm 133, “How good it is when brothers dwell together in unity, it is like precious oil that is poured down upon the head… for there the Lord bestows His blessing even life forevermore.” I thought, “What a tremendous call to Jesus’ church to live out our faith together!”
Our nation is divided in many ways; socio-economically, politically, ideologically. What an opportunity for the church to be able to stand together and demonstrate how people from different backgrounds can live together in peace through the reconciling work of Christ.
Paul says, “(in Christ) there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free…” We have a platform to model and enact what so many look for- reconciliation and peace. We can do that in our words, actions and attitudes. We demonstrate the Spirit’s power of unity in our ability to care for the poor, lift up the disenfranchised, welcome the stranger and bring hope to many who have lost theirs. The president may have thought he was speaking to a larger audience, but in his message was an inadvertent call to action to Jesus’ church to stand up and be different- and do so with courage.
This call to action is not dependent upon political leanings, but dedication to Christ.
In four years, we will witness another inaugural with a person yet unknown. They in turn will call the nation once again to stand up and be different, but be lacking in the power to make that happen. We have the opportunity now; we have the power now by Christ to effect change.
Let us take our call, and put it into action.
“Peace on earth and goodwill to men”
It’s that season of the year when you may hear this phrase used. Yet when we look around we see peace a very scarce commodity.
People have various definitions of peace.
- Military folk may define it as “Peace= My weapons – your weapons + luck”
- Politicians may see it as a piece of paper signed by people whom they trust will keep their word.
- Families may see it as one less relative at the table.
- For some individuals, it may be trying to forget details of their lives.
The one true tragedy of this season is that far too often, people desperately want peace but will try to find it in every other place except in the central player of the season.
“The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.”
“Christmas Kingdom” – words you don’t usually put together this time of year. We use words like; love, joy, peace, presents, etc. but very rarely “kingdom.” Yet it is very appropriate to cut through the holly and lights and see God’s kingdom displayed.
This year, people have seen the kingdoms of their worlds collapse: economic, political, social and others. Kingdoms throughout history rise and fall. God’s kingdom never fails.This Christmas season, why wouldn’t you want to put your trust in a kingdom and a King that will always be there to offer you hope and power to overcome all others that have failed.
Christmas is described in many ways. This year, add the vocabulary of “God’s Kingdom” to your hearts and lives and know that, “He shall reign forever and ever.”
Hi, Kevin McBride here for Raymond Baptist Church.
Well, it’s finally here. It has been circled on your calendar for months. Your phone has been reminding you it is coming. Some have been dreading this day for weeks.
No, I’m not talking about your colonoscopy. Funny that every doctor thinks when you turn 50 the perfect birthday gift is a colonoscopy. “Hey, your life is half over-bend over!”
No, I’m talking about Thanksgiving. For some, they would rather have the colonoscopy, it’s less invasive.