Reflections on Faith and Community
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
- Seek what God wants to do in and through us
- Affirm the value of every person without exception
- Respond compassionately to the needs of our neighbors
- Grow in our understanding of who God is in Jesus Christ
- Walk side by side rather than go head to head, pushing beyond boundaries that divide
- Pray together, Play together, Serve together
Published on 06/02/2019 @ 4:40 PM CDT
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)
I go on sabbatical this Monday, June 3 through August 18. Last Sunday we talked about how we handle those moments when we are in a “time between times.” We don’t always deal well with waiting for something we know is about to happen. The psalmist’s words advise us to be strong and take heart as we wait, but we struggle to do so. Those are the times in which we perhaps sense our humanity the most, since waiting patiently is not our forte. We would rather be doing something, anything to keep our minds distracted.
For the past couple of months, I have been preparing for my sabbatical in bits and pieces. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never had one. I’m used to working. Since I graduated high school, I’ve worked. Before seminary I was in the restaurant business where weekends were the busiest times. I then entered the church as a pastor where weekends remained a foreign experience. And now this, two and a half months of fairly unscheduled time. That is one of the goals, since being over-scheduled is the norm. I’m taking a sabbatical from “the schedule,” which is going to be both challenging and renewing. You may have heard me say that if you want to grow spiritually, then do something outside of your comfort zone. This falls into that category.
So, I will spend this week no doubt preoccupying my time with things to distract my mind while trying to wait patiently for what begins. It will be a week of living in a “time between times.” I’m looking forward to the break, though I will miss being with you. I am also looking forward to being with you this Sunday as we send the graduating seniors off with our blessing. Life is filled with those “time between times” moments. I’m glad we are in it together.
Published on 05/27/2019 @ 8:39 PM CDT
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long. (Psalm 146:1-2)
Psalm 146 is the assigned morning psalm in the daily lectionary, a mapped out plan for reading through scripture on a daily basis (https://www.presbyterianmission.org/devotion/daily/). The first two verses alone are captivating enough, painting the picture of a person that never stops praising. Is it possible to praise God for an entire life? The only answer I can come up with is to say I don’t know. The idea of it, however, grabs my heart and makes me want to try.
I have a lot to be grateful for after all. I pastor an amazing church of amazing people. We have an incredible staff and life changing ministry. We are completing a highly successful campaign together, raising over $2.7 million and, as of Sunday, has resulted in $114,048 already given. There are so many things to be thankful for.
Additionally, many of you know that I will be taking a sabbatical from June 2 – August 18. This is a first for me, something I’ve never been able to do. I would be more nervous about it if I thought the church wasn’t going to be in good hands while I’m gone, but you will be. Just to help you know, Chris and Ellen are sharing the administrative and preaching load. Chris will be taking June, Ellen July, and they will share August. I must say that I am starting to look forward to it.
Yes, we have a lot to be thankful for. We are a healthy church at a time when many churches are really struggling. Yes we have our struggles too, but God has richly blessed us with the gift of each other, something that gives me pause and makes me want to praise the Lord like the psalmist does, my whole life long.
Published on 05/20/2019 @ 7:39 PM CDT
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. (Psalm 100:1-3)
Sunday was Announcement Sunday for the “Set Free” Campaign. The benchmarks we had set were $2.0 million as our “First Step” goal, $2.5 million as our “Challenge” goal, and $3.0 million as our “Set Free” stretch goal. The names for these benchmarks weren’t just thought up at random. They aptly describe the difficulty of a church our size with our financial ability reaching them. The “First Step” was exactly that, a first step. We knew we would be able to pull that step off, and it was to be our first step. The challenge was to go beyond that, and finally the stretch goal was just that, a real stretch.
The announcement was made that, as of the end of last week, we now have 200 households committing a total of $2,761, 833. We have surpassed the challenge! What an incredible thing to be able to share! Just today I was asked by a member of the Finance Committee how I feel about the campaign. My immediate response was to say how proud I am of this church. I hope it helps you to know that your pastor is proud of you. I am. You are remarkable, and you need to believe it. One of the best blessings God could ever give us is the gift of each other. With that thought in mind, let me just say that we are richly blessed.
For me, this campaign has always been about our coming together. The numbers are important, and they always are. But the most important thing, far above a dollar amount, is how we do it. I have often said that how we do things is more important that what we do. Throughout the campaign, we have shared, sacrificed, laughed, celebrated, dreamed, hoped, prayed, and worshiped. I am so proud of you. May God continue to bless us with the gift of each other.
Published on 05/13/2019 @ 10:30 PM CDT
“God chose you in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”
Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr recently shared this thought on his blog, “You (and every other creation of God) begin with your unique divine DNA, an inner destiny as it were, an absolute core that knows the truth about you, a true believer tucked away in the cellar of your being, an imago Dei that begs to be allowed, to be fulfilled, and to show itself.”
On Sunday the children of the church put on their annual musical, In the Image, as the message in morning worship. As they acted out the story, it quickly reminded us all of how easily we see the image of God in the exuberance of young people. There is such an innocent quality about them, one that is as yet unstained by the world. I found myself experiencing new hope for the world.
For me, the big take away from Sunday is to remember that the imago Dei is not something reserved solely for children. It is part of the fabric that makes up each one of us. If there is anything the church is here to do, anything religion is there to accomplish, it is to help us experience our True Self, God in us and us in God. “If religion does not do this,” says Rohr, “it is junk religion.”
Published on 05/07/2019 @ 2:15 PM CDT