Monday, January 26, 2015


When I was in school learning about municipal planning and other governmental functions, I learned that when a government is doing something major or enacting new rules a public hearing was required.  I learned that proper notice of the hearing and a lucid presentation of the proposed action were two of the components of a successful public hearing.  I and my fellow students assumed that when we did these things properly, the public would be peachy and agreeable about what we were proposing.  WOW, was this a mistaken assumption.

When I observed a real public hearing ( a demonstration) I was shocked at the contentiousness, the thoroughness and the tenaciousness of the attendees of such hearings.  Some people were mean, some were argumentative, some were just plain boneheaded and some presented issues and problems all of us "smart" planners had overlooked.  The demonstration was much more educational than the information we received in school.

Disciples gathered in an upper room knew it was Passover.  They knew the tradition and how this had been done for centuries.  They awaited the usual Passover Seder and all of the usual liturgy that went along with it.  Then Jesus shocks them with a demonstration of a new idea ... a new thing the Bible had predicted and prophesied.  It was the beginning of a New Covenant through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Nothing would ever be the same as Jesus demonstrated what He expected of His followers and continued the acting out of that visual demonstration with a very physical demonstration with His blood on a wooden cross.

Jesus ... we remember you this week.  We will again give thanks (that's what Eucharist means) and we will again come to the altar in unity with you and our brothers and sisters in Christ.  May we demonstrate who you are in our lives so others might see You, follow You and live in You.  Amen

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I don't know about you but I hate to be pushed.  Let me know what is expected and let me know the deadline and I will do my best to meet it ... but pushing just makes me passive aggressive and less likely to joyfully start something I need to accomplish.  Pushing is ineffective for a couple of reasons:

     1) If the project requires the participants to be pushed it might not be a project that needs doing.  The issue here is motivation.  If external motivation is required then one should examine the task.  Why are people balking?  Do they see something that might need to be changed?  Every year we pastors have the tasks of doing the Charge Conference Reports which are immediately followed by the year-end reports (actually due in the next two weeks).  We report similar information on both reports which has confused and obfuscated many congregations and caused membership records to get out-of-kilter.  While it is probably a good idea to keep good records (Sally does an excellent job), I wonder about  the value of the reports and the time expended on report preparation.  Every year the conference has to "push" pastors to do these reports.  Maybe there is a disconnect.

   2) The other reason pushing might not be effective is that when someone is pushed into something it causes an internal attitudinal change in the person.  They become a subordinate instead of part of a larger team.  I know that sometimes pushing is needed, especially in cases where people have no desire to be self-motivated.  But when we try to "push" on Spiritual issues, people become disassociated from the real heart of the faith.  They begin to act out of duty and not out of love.  This created huge issues for Israel and the Jewish faith in Jesus' time as the duty and the law became hard as stone.  So did the hearts of the religious leaders.  "Follow the rules ... do the law ... and you will be saved."  They forgot that the heart of the law was loving God and God's people, and that salvation was from God and by faith ... not works.

I hope I can follow the great leader Jesus in drawing others closer to Him.  His methodology was to lead from the front.  Hebrews tells us about our great high priest who goes before us in life and even in death, drawing us to Him and showing us the way.  May He draw you close today!  Randy

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Our Teacher

The New Year can be the same-old-same-old or it can allow us to think about new things and new directions.  I have been doing some personal research into a new approach that I think might be very applicable to the church.  It really started with Jesus' applying the approach and us "discovering" it thousands of years later (we are so arrogant when we find out something God already knew) so here goes.

The "new" thing is called Human Performance Technology.  The basic premise is this.  We look at what is happening ... we think about what we would like to happen ... we see the gap between the actual and desired ... we look at interventions that we hope will bring the actual closer to the desired ... we apply the interventions ... we assess the impact of our interventions and we adjust accordingly.

Jesus made a group of judgmental people go through this thought process.  They were about to witness the stoning of a woman caught in adultery. The current practice was stoning the woman to death.  The desired result was judgment/punishment.  Jesus reminded them that maybe their desired result had issues (like each of them had done things worthy of being stoned).  So Jesus casts out a new vision ... maybe the desired result was grace/forgiveness and a change of behavior.  He then asks them if their current intervention achieved that result.  He and they knew it didn't.  So He gives them a puzzle ... "If you have not sinned, cast the first stone."  None could cast that stone under the new/desired paradigm.  So they all walked away and Jesus tells the woman "Go and stop doing what you are doing!"  He changes a paradigm of judgment/punishment to one of forgiveness, redemption and change.

Maybe this year we should look at allowing ourselves to be "taught" by the Rabbi of this story.  Maybe we should look at where we are ... where we desire to be ... the gap between those two things ... what interventions can be made to bring us to the desired place ... and (this is very important) apply the interventions.  Go ahead and jump in!  It won't kill you, it probably will change you.  And God's plan just might be lived out in you.  Randy

Monday, January 5, 2015


On Sunday we will think about the leadership quality of delegation, one use by Jesus in a mighty way.  Let's just think about it ... Jesus prays for the unity of the church in the last chapters of John ... He is killed, buried, resurrected and He ascends to the Father.  But He does something before He ascends ... He delegates the mission to His Church (that's us).

What could He be thinking?  Doesn't He know who we are?  Dingy, bumbling, sinful, imperfect, broken people!  The Biblically-correct answer to this question is ... YES!  The Bible says He searches and knows everything about us (Psalm 139).  As I pondered this last weekend while attending a planning session for an Emmaus walk (pray for my part in this walk at the end of January) I looked around the room.  There is no way that group of messed up people could possibly pull off the work needed to make this walk happen.  I know some of those folks, and I know myself.  So what gives?  Why would Jesus leave such a daunting task in the hands of people who could not possibly succeed in the task at hand?

Then I thought about the message of Christmas ... God with us and God's Spirit IN us.  Maybe Jesus knows something I do not know.  Maybe He sees past our flaws and into our possibilities.  Maybe Jesus knows more of our capabilities (ably led by the Holy Spirit) than we do.  Maybe He knows EXACTLY what He is doing!

Happy New Year!  Randy