By the time you read this, you will have seen and heard a great deal about the senseless shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Let me offer perspective somewhat different from what you may have encountered until now.
This past week, I was reminded how important it is to keep the essentials of the Christian faith in mind. Too often, we Christians get wrapped up in tussles about the non-essentials. And it is precisely those non-essentials that often make the news, which keeps those outside the church from appreciating the essence of the faith.
Those who know me and have seen me walking around occasionally in orange and blue are aware that my undergraduate degree was from the University of Florida. If that troubles you, please be comforted with the knowledge that all my children have gone to the University of Georgia, and I have sent much more money to Athens than I ever sent to Gainesville.
The legacy of Bishop Marion Edwards was enhanced May 17 when Springfield United Methodist Church dedicated a new education and conference center in his honor. Edwards was a pastor and Springfield native who ascended to the highest ranks of leadership within the United Methodist Church before his death from cancer in 2011.
Nearly 81 years ago, Scotsman Eric Liddell refused to run a heat in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris because the race was scheduled on a Sunday, which he understood from his faith to be a violation of the Sabbath.
This past Monday, a young man came to see me at Armstrong. He was referred to me and my department in the College of Health Professions because he had been essentially kicked out of the professional health care program in which he was enrolled, and he was looking for a new major. He was simply told that he wasn't cut out for that job.
If you ask a local pastor the phrase he is most likely to hear when counseling a couple struggling in their relationship, my bet is that somewhere in the top three is the statement, "he (she) has changed."
In the book of Acts, chapter 8, we find the account of St. Peter witnessing to an Ethiopian eunuch, baptizing him and presumably sending the faith back with this new Christian to Ethiopia. Regular church-goers know the story. We can also presume that this convert was the forerunner of the Ethiopian church, which we rarely hear much about, at least not until recently.
One of my favorite radio personalities is the late Paul Harvey, who died in 2009 after 65 years in broadcasting. To me, Harvey was exceptional at getting to the heart of any matter in his topical broadcasts, called "The Rest of the Story."
Sometimes we pastors are humbled by the wisdom we find in others. We think that we, having been schooled in scripture, have a monopoly on wisdom. And then we hear someone speak on life and truth from a deeply personal experience, and we realize we have no such monopoly and our pontificating may be lacking something. Here is an example of a true account that leaves me feeling humble.
NBC's advertising of the "Today" show's Monday morning segment on prayer caught my attention. While the promotions were run continually and ad nauseum, at least they signaled a possible shift by the usually highly secular show toward an acknowledgement, if not appreciation, of things spiritual.