Reflections on Faith

Dear friends,

In this blog, you will find weekly reflections on life and faith. My hope is that, in some way, they will prove helpful to you in your daily living. May God bless you on the spiritual journey.

Andrew S. Odom
Pastor

06/26/2017 11:11 AM

Laughing into Belief

06/26/2017 11:11 AM
06/26/2017 11:11 AM

Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:6)

One day God came to Abraham and told him that his wife Sarah was going to have a baby. Sarah overheard this conversation and began laughing out loud. The whole notion was ridiculous, completely impossible. She was well beyond child bearing years, and Abraham, well, Abraham was really old. So she laughed, and Abraham laughed right along with her. I’m sure they kept on laughing, at least until her tummy began to grow. When their son Isaac (a name that literally means “he laughs”) was finally born, Sarah looked to the heavens in gratitude and said, “God has brought laughter for me.”

Can laughter serve as a catalyst for belief? I believe so. We tend to think of laughter as a frivolous activity that serves no purpose other than sheer entertainment. After all, we find great enjoyment in a laugh. But there is more to it than that. I believe God speaks to us through laughter in the same way God does through any other means. Throughout the beginning of the story of Isaac, we are surprised to discover God using laughter as a powerful tool to help Abraham and Sarah move from doubt to belief. What started off as a complete impossibility, laughingly becomes the real deal. They literally laugh themselves into belief as their hearts are opened up to the impossible promise of God.

As Walter Brueggemann astutely points out, “Laughter is a biblical way of receiving something new that can’t be explained.” Sometimes our faith can present us with the most outlandish of things, things that cause us to chuckle at the thought of them. What we learn from Abraham and Sarah, is that our holy laughter can serve as a prelude to a deeper faith and a more fervent belief in God.

06/19/2017 9:44 PM

Singing the Faith

06/19/2017 9:44 PM
06/19/2017 9:44 PM

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. (Exodus 15:1)

Last week our Revelation Youth Choir travelled to Washington D.C. for their annual tour. They sang in numerous venues and beautiful settings, but my favorite part has to be the unscheduled times that they sang. One of those was at the Lincoln Memorial. Imagine yourself visiting that spot with your family when, all of a sudden, you hear the holy sound of a youth choir. I’m sure it was powerful.

We come by our singing rightfully and are part of a rich history of singing the faith. When Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea, they sang. It’s called Moses’ Song and is directly followed by Miriam’s Song. When King David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem after years of it being gone, he was dancing and singing when he entered the city. The events surrounding Jesus’ birth include angels singing, Zechariah’s Song, Mary’s Song, and the Song of Simeon. Many of the psalms are old hymns. Revelation paints an image of thousands who gather in song when the Lord comes again. You get the picture.

Last week our youth stood at the Lincoln Memorial and sang the faith. In a place filled with tourists and sightseers and passersby, they sang. In a city ripe with toxicity and polarization and political posturing, they sang. At a moment in our history when we need to be reminded of hope, they sang. All who were fortunate enough that day to be within earshot of our choir were greeted with the haunting sound of song that has the power to lift the spirit above our darkness and distress into the light and peace of Christ our Lord. Don’t stop singing, ever.

06/05/2017 3:38 PM

Helping that Actually Helps

06/05/2017 3:38 PM
06/05/2017 3:38 PM

I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. (Matthew 25:35)

On Sunday, you may have noticed a family in our parking lot asking for help. This is not the first time. At Easter, we had another family in a similar situation. We shouldn’t be surprised. After all, if I needed help, the church would be first on my list of places to go. If they approached you, maybe you weren’t sure what to do. Maybe you had just attended the class on hospitality taught by Liz Rasley, and you were feeling somewhat conflicted. How do I help? What really does help? How might I extend the hand of hospitality here?
 
Some have asked me what a good response is in cases like this, so here are some basic dos and don’ts for you to consider:
  1. Do be nice. I know this seems obvious, but quite often we are approached when we are in a hurry, and we get frazzled. Remember, the person in front of you has real need, even if they are trying to scam you. So, be nice.
  2. Do refer them to a pastor. Working with people in various stages of life is what we do and may be the best way to help someone begin to look at more long-term solutions.
  3. Do pray for them. Pray with them if you feel comfortable doing so. It helps the person know you care and invites God directly into the moment.
  4. Don’t do anything you are not comfortable doing. Being a Christian certainly means being generous, but that doesn’t necessarily mean risking safety.
  5. Don’t give cash. It’s not a terrible thing to give cash, but you could easily be supporting behavior that is part of the problem. Giving food or addressing need directly is better.

This list could be much longer, but I thought I would at least give you a place to start. I can also let you know that I met with both of the families and was able to address some of their needs.  Thank you for being such a warm-hearted and generous congregation who cares deeply for the welfare of others.

05/29/2017 10:27 PM

In Memoriam

05/29/2017 10:27 PM
05/29/2017 10:27 PM

And the one who was seated on the throne said, 
“See, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

His name was William. He was the youngest of three brothers, one of which was my grandfather who I am named after. Like his brothers, William was drafted into “The War”. World War II called a good many into service. It was sadly necessary, and hard, and heart breaking, and life taking. Serving in the war took William’s life when Japan made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was just a kid, the baby of the family. He died before he ever got the chance to really become an adult.

I was born many years after William’s death, but I heard about him growing up. One didn’t have to spend much time around my grandfather to realize that losing his younger brother so suddenly and senselessly took a toll on him. Without him saying a word, I knew that my grandfather’s opinion was that the world would have fared better if he or David (the oldest) had taken William’s place. I would’ve argued that, no doubt, but I knew I shouldn’t. My grandfather missed his brother.

Memorial Day is not just a time to remember those who have sacrificed themselves in service to our country. It is that, for sure, but it is also more than that. It is also to remember the families who deal with the pain of loss long after they are gone, wishing for just one more day with the one they thought would be coming back. It is to bow our head in disgust at the horrors of war, while also kneeling for the ones who enter it on our behalf. It is to spend time pining for a new creation that finally completes God’s promise of peace. It is to remember that we are charged with working toward the day when we no longer feel the need to send young men and women into gunfire, only to have the life they thought they were going to live stolen away from them.

I never knew you Uncle William, but I wish I did. Thank you, for everything.

05/22/2017 6:28 PM

Scapegoating vs. Belonging

05/22/2017 6:28 PM
05/22/2017 6:28 PM

See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are. (1 John 3:1)

On Sunday we talked about belonging. In his first letter, John assures us that we belong to God. He has become convinced that, because of Jesus Christ, we are children of God. We belong. But the world doesn’t reflect this reality. We don’t know how to treat each other. We don’t know how to talk to each other. We don’t even know how to look at each other. We don't do community well. We live in a world where, quite often, we feel like we don’t belong. When that is the case; when you feel like you don’t belong, the only one left to fend for is yourself, which makes it all too easy to blame everyone else for you own problems.

Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr calls it the scapegoat mechanism, pointing out that “if your ego is still in charge, you will find a ‘disposable’ person or group on which to project your problems. People who haven’t come to at least a minimal awareness of their own dark side will always find someone else to hate or fear. Hatred holds a group together much more quickly and easily than love and inclusivity, I am sorry to say.”

John would echo Rohr’s sentiment as he paints the reality of God’s belonging. If we are to take John’s words seriously, then our most faithful task is to see others as people who, first and foremost, belong to God. They are not scapegoats for our problems. They are not receptacles for our blame. They are not targets for our complaints. They are part of the family, people we walk alongside with in this life. They belong. This is God's great gift to us in Jesus Christ. So when you are out and about this week, commit yourself to doing the hard work of seeing the people you cross paths with as children of God. Then, treat them that way.

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