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


03/08/2018 10:02 PM

Off To Pray

03/08/2018 10:02 PM
03/08/2018 10:02 PM

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

Allow me to share with you what I will be doing this week. When you read this, I will be in Indiana at a 7 day gathering called Presbyterian CREDO. Their website describes it as a conference designed to help pastors “cultivate their spiritual, vocational, health, and financial well-being, as well as their leadership potential.” It also says that CREDO is:

  • an intentional Christ-centered community
  • a living stream with a sustainable spirit
  • a work of the heart, mind, body, and spirit
  • a four-step life cycle process of identity, discernment, practice, and transformation

It is organized by our denomination’s benefits group, The Board of Pensions, and you have to be invited in order to go. I was invited many years ago, but I passed on it. My friends who have attended told me to never do that again, so I promised myself to accept if I were to ever be invited again.

Now that I find myself in the middle season of my pastoral career, I also find myself reflecting a great deal on my own faith, my calling as a pastor, and life in general. I am sure that is simply part of being middle-aged. I don’t necessarily expect to come away with a profound new understanding of myself or for the week to reveal miraculous things, but I do hope it will serve the purpose it is intended to serve, whatever that may be. I guess I find myself being open to God’s still small voice. I picture Jesus in that kind of posture when Mark talks about him going away to pray alone. I too will be spending a week in prayer. It is important for pastors to do that, and, truth be told, we rarely get the chance. I am looking forward to this experience. See you in a week.

03/05/2018 1:33 PM

Our Place

03/05/2018 1:33 PM
03/05/2018 1:33 PM

Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me!” (Mark 8:32-33)

How often have you tried to assert yourself when you probably shouldn’t? How many times have you assumed you were in charge only to find out that your assumption was wrong? Certainly there are times when we should be assertive and take charge, like when we are in danger or are in a risky situation. Other than that, though, perhaps we don’t need to assert ourselves as much as we might think. I have come to believe that most of life is a lesson in humility.

Peter finds this out big time. Jesus has been talking about how he will undergo suffering and rejection and death, and Peter will have none of it. In a moment of assumed authority, Peter steps out front, takes charge, and gives Jesus what for. I can’t say that I would have acted any different. None of what Peter does here surprises me. What does surprise me, however, is Jesus’s response. “Get behind me,” he says, not “you’re wrong” or “don’t be ridiculous”, but “get behind me.” Rather than explain to him why he is wrong, Jesus simply, and sternly, reminds Peter of his place.

Just when we think that we are in control or are the ones who are supposed to be out front making decisions and barking orders, God shows us our place in this life. Spiritually speaking, our place is behind Jesus, following his lead.

02/25/2018 9:07 PM

On God's Terms

02/25/2018 9:07 PM
02/25/2018 9:07 PM
God said to Noah, “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:11)
This promise from God to Noah comes at the end of the story of the great flood. It was the flood to end all floods, the flood in which, as the story goes, God wiped out everything God created, sparing only Noah and his family and the creatures Noah could scramble into the ark before the rain, and then this. Here God promises that God is finished starting over and is now ready to stick us all the way.
It sounds reassuring, doesn’t it? And it is. It is reassuring. After all, God has been true to that promise ever since, going all the way to the cross in order to keep it. Walter Brueggemann lays it out for us. “God is gracious and merciful,” he says. “God is assuring and affirming and generous and kind. But there is a catch. God is not just gracious; God is gracious toward those whom God wants to be gracious. God is merciful toward those whom God wants to have mercy on. It’s all on God’s terms.”

Let’s not forget that this covenant God makes with Noah directly follows the greatest destruction God ever inflicted on the world. And so we are reminded of both. Yes, God is merciful and God is gracious, but it is all on God’s terms. Everything that has come before us, everything that is in front of us now, and everything that is yet to come is all up to God. It is up to God start to finish. As Brueggemann puts it, “We people of faith do not have life on our terms. Like Noah who walks off of the ark into a whole new future, we too have to decide that we will walk into the future on terms other than our own. We too have to decide if we are willing to live on God’s terms.

02/19/2018 9:34 PM

Where to Start

02/19/2018 9:34 PM
02/19/2018 9:34 PM
I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Last Wednesday we began Lent by having ashes placed upon our foreheads and being reminded of who we are. We are dust, and to dust we will return. We are merely mortal, and because of that, we are in need of something greater, something larger than the lot of us. We are in need of God. This is the purpose of Ash Wednesday. It is one of the more poignant services of the entire year.
Then on Sunday, our youth led us in worship, the singing, the prayers, everything. Using Paul’s famous lines from Romans 8, the young people of Canyon Creek spoke to us of the God who holds on to us through all the things life can throw at us. “God is always there,” they kept saying, a line we are often told, and yet when it comes from the mouth of a youth, somehow it holds a deeper authenticity. I can’t think of a better way to spend the first Sunday in Lent.
After being reminded of our mortality and our need of God on Ash Wednesday, we were then reminded on Sunday of just what kind of God it is we are dealing with, one who loves us so much that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from it. It was an incredible Sunday of assurance. Thank you to the youth of our church. You helped us begin Lent with the God who will not let us go, ever. You showed us where to start.
02/13/2018 8:44 AM

Choose Compassion

02/13/2018 8:44 AM
02/13/2018 8:44 AM
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46:1)
I recently had the privilege of participating in two wonderful events. The first was a conversation panel at NorthPark Presbyterian Church on the book A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives. I know many of you have been reading the book and attending some of the conversations around Dallas. What made the evening powerful for me was the sharing of personal experiences around the challenge of being compassionate and showing compassion to others. Each person on the panel talked about how, at some point in their life, compassion became a conscious choice for them. They talked about how people in their lives influenced them and how, looking back, they could see that who they are today began to be formed early. It was clear, though, that somewhere along the way, they made the choice to embrace a life of compassion for others.
The other event was last night. Samira Page from Gateway of Grace asked me to offer one of the prayers in a service for refugees at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas. Pastors gathered from different denominations and Christian traditions, as well as many others who are part of Gateway's ministry. We prayed for God's intercession, guidance, and comfort. We asked God to help us remember that the biblical story is of a people in a foreign land who are welcomed home by the arms of grace. We recognized that the issue is a controversial one that should not be so for Christians, asking the Holy Spirit to help us all become more compassionate. "Give us compassion," we prayed.

In both of these events, I was reminded of what people of faith do. We choose compassion.

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