Reflections on Faith and Community

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


 

10/15/2018 8:57 PM

In It Together

10/15/2018 8:57 PM
10/15/2018 8:57 PM
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
 
Sunday kicked off our annual Stewardship Campaign, and I preached on giving, specifically asking the question, “Why do you give?” It’s a great question. Why do we give? I sometimes ask that question of myself as if I’m asking it for the very first time. It’s healthy to talk about questions like that. But we all know what I’m basically doing. I’m asking you to give to the church. You know it. I know it. We all know it. What’s particularly unique for pastors, though, is that I am not just asking you to give, I’m asking myself as well. What an odd place to be.
 
Perhaps one of the reasons pastors struggle to talk about money, and they do, is precisely because we are both an asker and a giver. We don’t want to push too hard if we know we can’t give much more ourselves, or we don’t want to offend if we are able to give a good deal more but know that some are not in that same place. Being the asker and the giver puts one in a funny place where we have an understanding of both sides, making it tedious at best.

Do you want to know what changes it for me, though? Simply this: we are in it together. That’s it. We are in it together. That one truth reminds me that this is not some church giving competition where the highest bidder gets the prize. It’s not a Ted Talk where I’m simply trying to get my angle out to the masses. This is us: you, and me, and Jesus. We are in it together, and because we are in it together, I can relax and talk to you about money and giving. I can do so believing that, like the vine is to the branches, Jesus is present in the relationship, that our giving together not only glorifies God by allowing the church to see another wonderful hope-filled year of ministry. We’re in it together. How great is that?

10/08/2018 10:36 PM

We Do See Jesus

10/08/2018 10:36 PM
10/08/2018 10:36 PM
“As it is, we do not yet see everything, but we do see Jesus.“ (Hebrews 2:9)
 
On Sunday we read selected verses from the beginning of the letter to the Hebrews, which is actually a sermon originally preached to a group of second generation Christians during the infancy of the church. It starts off with audaciously grand descriptions of a Christ who seems beyond our reach. “In these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds and is the reflection of God’s glory, the exact imprint of God’s very being.” In just a few phrases, the preacher captures our feeling of a far off, inaccessible, out of reach kind of God. Do you feel like that today?
 
We can find ourselves in that place in life, looking out at a world we don’t understand anymore and wondering if there is a God at all. And if there is a God, we think, where is he? We can find ourselves in the place that the preacher of Hebrews seems to paint for us, a far off God who speaks to us through a Son who seems no different. But then, just when we are about to put the book down, utterly convinced that God is completely beyond reaching, in walks a line in chapter 2 that changes all of it. “As it is, we do not yet see everything, but we do see Jesus.” With just a few powerful words, the whole thing is turned on its head.
 
We live in a world that often seems too far gone, a world so divided and toxic that any shred of decency withers away the second a word is spoken by anyone, and we struggle to see God in it. God seems so far away that we find ourselves wondering if there is any hope to be found at all. At first, the Hebrews preacher seems to agree with us. But then, then the reminder: we do see Jesus. The one who seemed far off and otherworldly became flesh and blood. This is a God who is not unreachable but is up close and personal. This is a God we can see and feel and hear and touch. This is a God who is as close as the person standing right next to us, a God who pulls us close like family and makes us whole. Four simple words remind us of that. We do see Jesus. May these words sink into your heart today and give you hope.
10/01/2018 8:16 PM

The One Thing I Hope

10/01/2018 8:16 PM
10/01/2018 8:16 PM

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

As I watched the events of last week unfold, I found myself wanting something to happen that everyone could agree on. It was a naïve thought. There was not nor will there likely be agreement. All I saw instead was pain, pain on all fronts. It was everywhere. My heart breaks because of it.

I believe God is with us when we suffer and are in pain. No one captures that theological truth about the presence of God better than the psalmist. “Even in the darkest valley, you are with me.” Where there is pain, God is also, even when we struggle to see it. I believe that.

As a pastor who cares deeply about people, my earnest hope is for you to know that, if you have been abused, you do not have to remain silent. Come to the church. I hope you can find the momentary courage to share it with someone you trust who will not question it. Come to the church. I know I speak for myself and Chris and Ellen and the staff when I say that our doors are wide open. We will listen and pray and get help and make sure you know how treasured you are in the eyes of God.

I have many hopes in all of this, but the one thing I hope for most is that people don’t feel silenced because of it, believing they have no safety in voicing what has happened to them. If that person is you, hear me when I say this. We are here. We are all ears. You are not alone. You can come to the church.

09/25/2018 8:18 AM

We Are Family

09/25/2018 8:18 AM
09/25/2018 8:18 AM

But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)

What makes us family? This is the question Ruth is presented with in her story. She married into a family, but then her husband died. Naomi, Ruth’s mother in law, told her that she could go back home. “Go back to your mother’s house,” she said. “No,” replied Ruth, “My family is here.” What makes us family?

For Christians, the idea of family goes beyond the group we are born into and are raised in. This part of family is an important one for sure, but when we are baptized, we are welcomed into a larger family defined specifically by the love of Christ.

On Sunday afternoon, people from the wider family came together at Canyon Creek to be part of Chris Lee’s installation as associate pastor. They came from all over, including many pastors and elders and members from other churches. The music was broad, from traditional hymns led by our organist, Jordan DeRouen, to old gospel music sung by Brandy Lee and her mother Donna Allen, to more recent music sung by Kelly Vaughn and his wife Stefanie Tapley, all representing the different flavors of different parts of the family.

One connection that was not made obvious in the service was our guest preacher, Dr. Tom Currie. Tom served as dean of Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Charlotte location where Chris took classes. Chris and Tom liked each other right away. Seeing Tom again was particularly special for me, though, because he was also my grandparents pastor in Kerrville, Texas before going to Charlotte. The last time I heard him preach was at my grandfather’s funeral.

I sat there in the service looking out at family, people who, like Ruth infers in her reply to Naomi, are brought together by a connection beyond bloodlines and fondness. I sat there in deep gratitude for the love of God in Jesus Christ that makes us sisters and brothers. We are family.

09/17/2018 8:24 PM

Every Now and Again

09/17/2018 8:24 PM
09/17/2018 8:24 PM
The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
 
Last night my daughter and I were on our way home from a dance booster club meeting, which, if you ever want to experience something that makes you wish for better alternatives like poking needles in your eyes or lying down in a bed of snakes, go to a dance booster club meeting. Anyway, we were on our way home. It was twilight, you know, that perfect set of mere minutes when the sun is dipping below the horizon and the clouds are reflecting the light in such a way that, for a split second, the world seems right and good and hopeful. It was perfect.
 
I will admit that too often I race along, barely noticing what the sky looks like or even what time it is, too busy to pay attention to anything except where I am expected next or how many things I have left on my list before I can call it quits for the day. But last night, at least in that one window of time, the beauty of the horizon grabbed my soul and set me down on planet earth. It was as if God had tailor made that moment just for me.
 
“Wow!” my daughter blurted out. “Let me get a picture!” But a picture can never really capture a moment like that. A picture is two dimensional, and this was way more than that. It had sounds and smells and feel attached to it. It held its own unique reservation in time that passed on like a holy flitter, just as quickly as it had come to be.

Every now and again everything merges into one, and light rolls over the edge of it. Cherish those moments when you are given them, for they are speaking to you.

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