This week's "Jim's Place" brings a special message from Bill White, Director of Music Ministries
Music, drama, and dance can often add to the spoken word to make your Sunday experience a moving one. On August 23rd we will be having a special music Sunday at Forest Hills UMC. Anyone who has any musical interest and talent is invited to connect with me to prepare a musical piece to share in worship that morning. If you sing, play a musical instrument, are a part of a musical ensemble, or want to get a musical ensemble together, this is your opportunity to share your gifts and talents with your church! I am expecting lots of phone calls/texts/ emails from the talented and dedicated people of the Forest Hills congregation. There has been very good response to this and I am anticipating a fun and meaningful worship service on the 23rd.
Our hope is that this Sunday will also give people the opportunity to consider how they can use their talents in worship throughout the year, perhaps by joining one of the choirs or musical groups already established, starting a new group, or by providing special music during worship. The possibilities are endless. Let me know what you can do for Forest Hills. You can text or call me at 615-420-0287 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your time, talent, and consideration.
A good friend sent me the following story—it’s funny, but it also makes a good point:
“A Lexus Mechanic was removing a cylinder head from the motor of an LS 460 when he spotted a well-known cardiologist there in his shop. The cardiologist was waiting for the service manager to take a look at his own car and to diagnose a problem. The mechanic shouted across the garage, “Hey Doc, want to take a look at this?”
The cardiologist, a bit surprised, walked over to where the mechanic was working. The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag asked, “So Doc, look at this engine. I opened its heart, took out the valves, repaired and replaced anything that was damaged, and then put it all back together again. When I was finished, the car ran as good as new. So how is it that I make $40,000 a year and you make $400,000 doing basically the same work?”
The cardiologist, without missing a beat replied, “Try doing it with the motor running.”
I once heard a similar story about a guy who locked his keys in his car and called a local locksmith. The locksmith arrived at the place where the car was and opened the car in a matter of minutes. He presented the man with a bill for $50. The man was incensed and said angrily, “you only worked for 5 minutes—and you’re charging me $50?? I’d like an itemized bill, please.” The older man went back to his truck, took a pad and scribbled a few words. He handed the piece of paper to the man and it said, “Unlocking the car door--$5.00. Knowing how--$45.00.”
I spend quite a lot of time in hospitals. Seeing those of you there before you are scheduled for a surgery or seeing you as you recover is important to me. I find that most of us feel pretty anxious about having medical procedures and what better time than to be in prayer and ask God for healing? Those of you who have been “found” by me before those procedures know that I always include a prayer for all those in the hospital who “know how”—for those who have been extensively trained to “tear the engine apart while it’s still running”. It might surprise you how often one of those doctors or nurses will thank me for having included them in the prayer.
God works in many ways. We pray for healing quite often, for ourselves or for someone we love. I tend to think most of God’s healing—not all, but most—comes through the hands of those who have been trained and have acquired the skills. They aren’t perfect, but thank God for all of those who were called into the healing arts. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.
I was away when the tragic shootings at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church took place. There have been periodic “warnings” from various officials and others over the past few years that churches could become a “soft target” for terrorists or extremists, but fortunately those warnings had been overblown—until a few weeks ago.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about these shootings. It appears the young man who committed this crime had become a proponent of extreme racism. How did that happen? Who knows? But it is clear that he went to this Bible Study intent on doing harm. 10 were shot, 9 were killed—including the Pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who also happened to be a much-respected State Senator.
I’m pretty sure I met him once at a conference some years ago. His death offended me.
I feel anger at such a heinous act. I have to temper my own anger because it would be all too easy for me to want to lash out and exact some revenge. Revenge would make me feel better—somehow superior—but only for an instant. It won’t solve anything—it would only serve to drop me into the same league of undistinguished people. Like the young man who pulled the trigger.
I am brought back to a place of hope by witnessing the reaction of the City of Charleston. Family members offered a public act of forgiveness for the shooter. Nobody looted or vandalized or burned anything. Thousands of citizens—black, white, brown and others—joined hands to grieve and begin the process of healing.
Charleston’s reaction as a city has been well-documented by now. It has been held up as a beacon for all to see—as opposed to what happened in Ferguson and Baltimore and Cleveland and other places. I don’t know that such comparisons are fair to make—I’ll leave that for others to judge. And I don’t know how much it might have to do with the nature of the people in Charleston. It has been suggested that they are somehow “better people” in Charleston than these other cities where unrest has emerged. I’m not sure how true that is.
I have an idea that the events of Charleston and their aftermath have something to do with another factor. The events in Charleston took place in a church, among people who were simply trying to follow the way of Jesus. It even included the leader of that congregation, a man who was well-known for his work among the poor and his attempts to make Charleston a better city. I tend to think that the witness of those ten shooting victims—especially the nine who died—put the city on alert. I believe that city recognized that any other response to this tragedy would have been an insult to the memories of those who died. They were simply trying to be better disciples. Burning down buildings would only have served to tarnish their memory.
They lived as humble followers of a man who believed in love, mercy and forgiveness of enemies. What else could the city do but honor them by doing the same?? It is a powerful witness to those around us when we do our best to also act as humble followers of Jesus.
It has been an extraordinary past week. The United States Supreme Court decided in a close vote to lift the ban on same gender weddings. This has been a highly contentious issue in our country and the decision by the High Court was met with cheers from many and anger by others. Social change is very difficult for any society. Our nation has undergone periodic upheavals with regards to Civil Rights, women’s rights, abortion, etc. We survived because in the end we all know that we are stronger together than we are apart.
This doesn’t mean everyone will embrace the decision. But as in those other instances, we will adjust and we will move on.
The United Methodist Church has long been conflicted around this issue. We have stated for a long time that our church is one of Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors. We have been clear that we will be a welcoming church to all persons regardless of their race or sexual orientation.
At the same time, we have also been clear that we will not sanction marriages between same-sex couples. Bishop McAlilly sent a “pastoral letter” to all the churches and clergy this week reminding us that even with the Supreme Court Decision, our clergy may not officiate at a same-sex wedding. Here is his letter to us:
It is my hope that our great church may one day eliminate the conflict that exists in our hearts on this issue. Until that day, we owe it to one another to continue to learn from one another and above all to respect those with whom we disagree as we do with those with whom we agree.
If you’d like to talk to me about this, I’d welcome those conversations.
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.