The Launch

Free Ride 9     I am currently neck-deep in the planning and preparation of a new ministry. On Sunday, September 11, the church I currently serve will be launching a new, 3rd Sunday morning worship service. And I…am…pumped!

This is the 3rd church I have served. And it is the 3rd time I have added a 3rd Sunday morning worship service. In fact, over my 20 years in the ministry, I have launched or helped launch 7 new services, counting this most recent one.

There is something awesome about starting a new service. For me, worship is the core of a congregation. Everything else that they do should radiate out from that center. And so, to create a new service is to broaden and deepen the base upon which the congregation is founded.

We currently have 8AM and 10:15AM services. The 8AM is called Praise and Worship. It is led by a praise band (2 acoustic guitars, keyboard, bass, drums and vocalists) and features an originally-produced Call to Worship music video that references the main point of the day and is built around a Classic Rock song. The service has consistently grown over the past couple of years. It has a really good, dedicated “audience”- especially for 8AM! It offers Communion once/month.

The 10:15AM is called Blended Worship…and it, without a doubt, the MOST blended service I have been a part of. It features a 20+ member vocal choir (they are VERY good!), a full bell choir (they are also very good!), an organist (again, very good!) AND the Praise Band from the 8AM service! It has more “tradition” elements” (responsive readings, collective readings, liturgist, Doxology, Apostle’s Creed, etc.) It is, by far, our best-attended service. It also offers Communion once/month.

And along comes Rock and Worship. It will be built around a new band- electric guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar, bass, drums and vocals. (I’m still praying about a keyboardist!) It will feature that same original video that is used in the 8AM service. It will be a little shorter- 50 minutes. It will be the most casual and “relaxed” of all 3 services. And it will offer Communion every week.

I am a firm believer that not only is worship the core of a congregation- it is also THE main entry point into the church. (The more entry points you can offer, the more you open up the church to a wider variety of people.) And with 3 different services (The new schedule, by the way, will be 8AM- Praise and Worship, 9:15AM- Rock and Worship and 10:30AM- Blended Worship), we are positioning ourselves to reach more people for Jesus Christ! Good stuff!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Heads That Talk


OK…let me just qualify today’s blog right up front! I realize that I run a fairly substantial chance of offending some of you with today’s entry. Please know that it is NOT my intention to be divisive or argumentative- I claim right on the home page of my website to NOT do that! And if today’s blog DOES offend, I ask your forgiveness. My intention is simply to point out something that I have noticed causes a fair amount of harm and seems to often run counter to the Christian principle of love your neighbor as yourself. So…here we go!

Do you remember Max Headroom? He was a commercial pitchman and television star in the 80’s. That’s his picture on the left. He was, perhaps, the original (and remains, to my mind, the quintessential) Talking Head. If you can’t place him, YouTube him- you’ll remember soon enough! Well, he “popped into my dope cranium” (came to mind) recently. I have been exposed (not by my choice) to a great deal of what I would call The Talking Heads lately. The Talking Heads are the people (mostly middle-aged pasty white guys…much like myself!) who populate the various and sundry news programs that run ALL OVER cable television and the radio. And they talk A LOT about what the OTHER party is doing (or in most cases NOT doing) and how it could be “fixed”. One claims to be “fair and balanced”, one claims to the the “worldwide leader in news”, one claims to be “first in business worldwide” and one claims to be “America’s Truth Detector”. (This is NOT an exhaustive list, by the way, just some of the highlights.) And they all set out to tell us which is the right way to think and which is the wrong way to think. Most of them claim to have no agenda (although most are unabashed about their agenda) and instead offer a completely unbiased view of what’s going on in the world. My experience is that they ALL have an agenda…and they therefore aim all of their available ammunition at those who are on the other side of that agenda.
On the surface, this seems to make sense- “THIS is the way things should be, and therefore THOSE are the people who we need to target, because they’re keeping us from doing things the right way.” Seems logical. But what I notice is that, for the most part (and I AM admittedly painting with a broad brush, but, from, my experience, not THAT broad), they focus less on the positive side of ANY story or issue and instead focus on how: stupid, mean, evil, ineffective…pick one…the other side is. And the end result of this? I have a LOT of people who talk to me in my capacity as pastor who are so indoctrinated into this mode of thinking that they start sentences with things like, “These stupid Democrats…” or “Those evil Republicans…”. The Talking Heads have helped create an environment of “us” and “them”. If you’re a Talking Head Republican, then EVERY other Republican is the salt of the Earth who would give you the shirt off their back and would make the best President/Governor/Senator/Dog Catcher ever. Meanwhile, EVERY Democrat is a vile, dirty, filthy, ignorant, slack-jawed Communist sympathizer whose stated goal is to bring about the ruination of the nation! And if you’re a Democrat, then…well…you get the picture!
The Bible says we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourself. Sounds great…in theory…but if we were to get a Report Card from God in this subject, what grade would we get? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d want to see it! So do we need to outlaw all The Talking Heads from the airwaves? No. But if we have any hope of becoming the people God wants us to be, we do need some serious rehabilitation in that area. And how would that happen? From us…the people. The TV execs are NOT going to change what they’re doing- their bottom line goal is to sell advertising, and so they will put on the TV/radio whatever will sell the most ad time to the highest bidder- it’s a business, as simple as that. What is programmed on TV/radio is what WE tell them WE want to hear/see. If we tell them we want partisan, divisive programming that is aimed and pulling us further apart, then that’s exactly what they will give us. Don’t believe me? Turn on your TV! But if we tell them we want something that doesn’t just CLAIM to be “fair and balanced” or the “worldwide leader in news” or “first in business worldwide” or “America’s Truth Detector” but actually IS…that’s what we’ll get!
I am a United Methodist minister. It was a LONG and DIFFICULT journey through the process of ordination, with more fits and starts, dropped balls and incomplete leadership that I could possible share here. So much so, in fact, that I developed an “us versus them” mentality- it was little old me- David, with my puny slingshot and rocks- against great big old them- “the system”…or as we call it, “The Conference”- Goliath, all 9+ feet of him. And that put me in a very negative mindset about my own denomination. But one day, I realized that great truth from the old comic strip Pogo, “We have met the enemy…and they is US!” I realized that I AM the conference, and if there are problems within the system (and there are- we’re human), I’m a part of them! And the only way to FIX those problems is to acknowledge that I AM a part of them and join with those I previously held as “them” in finding a way to remedy the situation. I am convinced that as long as we cling to this “us versus them” mentality in our country, as long as we insist on creating division among ourselves, as long as we focus on what “they’re” doing instead of what “we’re” doing…we simply cannot be in God’s will. So, what I’m NOT saying is “stop watching/listening to” The Talking Heads. (While it’s NOT my cup of tea, it may be yours!) Instead, FILTER The Talking Heads, NOT through divisiveness and “us versus them”, but through “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself”.
Thanks for stopping by- have a blessed day! Please stop by again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Please Sir, I Want Some More


When I was a kid, I saw the movie Oliver! It was love at first sight. I mean, I was…am…a performer at heart and I loved that movie. Then I got the original cast recording of the music from the show. I listened to it so much that I knew every song…did I mention EVERY song?…by heart.

Ironically, I got the opportunity to be IN a production of Oliver! When I was in high school. It was the musical (We did one every year, along with 3 plays, every year.) my sophomore year. However, at that point in my life, I had been convinced that I couldn’t sing. So, after learning that ENTIRE show by heart, I played a NON-singing character! (Mr. Brownloe- the rich guys who adopts Oliver. I think I had 4 lines…AND I got to wear a cool top hat!)

One of the signature songs from Oliver! Is Food, Glorious Food. The kids in the orphanage sing it as they pine for better dinners at the orphanage. The lyrics include:

Is it worth the waiting for? If we live till eighty four,

all we ever get is gruel!

Every day we say our prayer- will they change the bill of fare?

Still we get the same old gruel!

There’s not a crust, not a crumb can we find,

can we beg, can we borrow, or cadge.

But there’s nothing to stop us from getting a thrill

when we all close our eyes and imagine-

Food, glorious food!”

Us United Methodists get a lot of ribbing about our penchant for potlucks. And quite frankly, it’s a reputation we’ve EARNED! In our denomination, where two or more are gathered, there is BOTH the Holy Spirit…and a covered dish! But the church I currently serve has taken that reputation and turned it into sa full-fledged ministry!

I am a firm believer that you simply have little to no hope of helping people meet their spiritual needs if their physical needs aren’t being met. Few, if any, folks are very receptive to the transformative power of Jesus Christ if they can’t remember the last decent meal they had. And so, this congregation is trying to do something about that.

Let’s start with the foundation of the project- Caring Hearts. While it now has SEVERAL ministry under its umbrella, it began as an attempt to have pre-cooked, read-to-eat, nutritious meals frozen and available for whoever might need them. Twice a month, a team gathers to cook and replenish the Caring Hearts freezer. Anybody is welcome to take food- no questions asked.

From there, it has grown. We feed the youth of the church 2 dinners each and every week. We feed the whole church..and anybody else who wants to come…once a week. We provide breakfast every Sunday morning at our Café. We have a special meal for Senior Citizens who often find themselves eating alone once a month. Our United Methodist Men serve dinner once a month. We offer dinner to whoever would like to come every night during our Vacation Bible School every year. We produce a luncheon for many funerals every year. We JUST served 1,042 meals in FIVE hours at a town-wide event. We get a vanload…a VANLOAD…of bakery goods EVERY Saturday morning from a local grocery store chain. It is used to supplement all of those meals and ministries I’ve mentioned. The rest is made available to the congregation every Sunday. Whatever is left on Monday morning goes to either the Food Pantry or a local resident facility.

The most fascinating thing about ALL of these food-related ministries? No charge. Yep, you read that correctly- no charge. We DO put out a free-will collection basket. But we don’t charge anything for anything. And yet, we keep finding ways to make all of this work. Some of it is budgeted money…but not nearly all of it.

There are folks in the larger community who only step foot in the church when it is to get and/or eat food. And I’ll be honest- I have served with people over the years who would have a HUGE problem with that. And that’s their prerogative. But for me, getting someone to interact with us, whether it’s in the building or not, is better than NOT getting them to. And if that interaction happens as a result of food…so be it! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I volunteered to cook for both the Junior and Senior High next week and I have some prep work to do!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Creative Attendance Math

bad-math-300x202-300x202 (1)

I read an article yesterday that focused on schools that are “fudging” their data to improve their graduation rate. It referenced other examples of schools cheating on standardized testing to improve their image, funding, whatever. Let me say right up front that I am NOT implying that all schools cheat. This is NOT an indictment of the public school system. My wife taught school for 20 years and I am positive that the VAST majority of teacher and administrators are honest, dedicated educators who truly want the best for their students.

But the article made me think about a trend among some clergy. But let me preface with the same thing I already said- I think most clergy are honest, dedicated folks who are trying to do the best they can. With that being said, the trend of which I speak is being “creative” about attendance counting and reporting.

Perhaps the best lead-off example is that I had a pastor once (And by “had a pastor”, I mean I wasn’t in the ministry yet and this person was MY pastor.) who once told me, when it came to counting heads for Sunday School, “If a car drives by while you’re counting…count the people in the car!” Now, he DID laugh when he said it…but I think there was more truth to the comment that he would have wanted to admit.

There are pastors who fudge their numbers. They round up. They conveniently count a full row twice…by accident. They guess instead of count…and the guess is always high. And a part of me understands why they do it. There is a decent amount of pressure to have “good numbers”. Church attendance, fair or not, reflects on the pastor.

On the other side of the coin are the pastors who DON’T count and have NO idea what their attendance is. “Oh, I don’t count attendance. It’s not about the numbers.” And while that’s honest- it’s not helpful.

For me, tracking attendance is important. If our goal is to connect people with Jesus Christ (And it is!), then there needs to be some way to measure our effectiveness in reaching that goal. And while tracking attendance isn’t the ONLY measuring tool, it IS one important tool. Whether our worship services are growing, shrinking or maintaining is important information to know. If attendance is dropping- why? If it’s growing- why?

And since all of that is true, it is essential for me to have ACCURATE numbers. There is absolutely NO need for me to record inaccurate numbers. I already know what I want our numbers to be. I don’t need to record THAT! Instead, I want to know what our numbers actually ARE!

I can tell you, at any given moment, what our average attendance for the year is. I can tell you how we are trending- are we on the rise, are we treading water, are we declining? Why? Because that information is important. It is NOT the only information…but it is a key part of it. Retailers track their sales meticulously. And you know what? They sell socks and french fries!

Christians, on the other hand, have the BEST product out there. The BEST! We have the greatest story ever told. We have forgiveness, rebirth, peace and eternal salvation to offer. Oh, WE can’t give those things- not even a little bit. But we know Who to refer others to- we know Who CAN give all of that…and more. So, my questions is- why in the WORLD wouldn’t we want to know exactly how we’re doing toward that goal?!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

God’s Faithfulness

Psalm Pseries second sequal Gods Faithfulness

I will confess right up front that this story is one that you might well have already heard. In fact, you might well have heard it…from ME. BUT…it’s a great story AND it’s way too appropriate for today’s conversation to leave out! SO…a family had identical twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed he couldn’t hear it. These boys were opposite in every way. One was an eternal optimist while the other a doom and gloom pessimist through and through. Interested in how identical twins develop, their dad decided to do an experiment. On their birthday, he loaded the pessimist’s room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist’s room- he loaded with horse manure. Later, he went to check on them. When he got to the pessimist’s room, he found the boy sitting in the middle of all his new gifts…crying bitterly. “Why are you crying?” his dad asked. “Because now my friends will be jealous. And I’ll have to read all of these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff. I’ll constantly need batteries. And all these toys will eventually get broken.” The dad shook his head and went to check on the other boy. Amazingly, he found the boy surrounded by horse manure…and dancing for joy! “What in the name of all that is holy are you so happy about?” The boy smiled even bigger and said, “With all this manure, there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere!”
     Deuteronomy 7:8-9- The Lord chose you because He loved you. He wanted to keep the promise He had made with an oath to your people long ago. That’s why He brought you out of Egypt with a mighty hand. He bought you back from the land where you were slaves. He set you free from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. So I want you to realize that the Lord your God is God. He is the faithful God. He keeps His covenant for all time to come. He keeps it with those who love Him and obey His commands. He shows them His love.
Today, we continue our current sermon series sequel- the Psizzlin’ Psummer Psalm Psermon Pseries Psecond Psequal. We’re spending 5 weeks walking through the Old Testament Book of Psalms. Every human emotion, every circumstance of daily life is captured in the 150 chapters of the Book of Psalms.
Today, we look at Psalm 111. Psalm 111 is a combination- part hymn of praise and part wisdom instruction. And it leads from the premise that the more you praise God and celebrate your life in Him, the more there is in life to celebrate. We are going to walk through Psalm 111 a bit at a time, pausing to reflect on what it has to say to us along the way.
Psalm 111- Praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord with all my heart.
Psalm 111 opens AND closes with a call to praise God. These celebratory “bookends” both set the mood for the entire Psalm and serve as the period at the end of the sentence. Psalm 111 is a hymn of praise….with a healthy does of instruction sandwiched in the middle. Psalm writer David leads with what he knows- praising God. And it is important to note that he is unabashed and unashamed about that fact.
I will praise Him where honest people gather for worship.
David’s praise comes from his heart and through it he encourages the people of God to join in his unending praise. Notice the emphasis on praising God WITH people while gathered for worship. There is power in private prayer and worship, to be sure. But I respectfully and completely disagree with folks who insist they can worship God JUST fine at home…or at the golf course…or at the ball field…or in the fishing boat…or in the deer stand…or wherever. Do I believe that God can be found in all of those places? You bet. But the ONE thing all of those places have in common is that, regardless of how many people are or AREN’T there, NONE of them have, as their central goal, worship. And THAT’S the difference. THAT’S the reason corporate worship is so important. There is NO substitute for gathering together with brothers and sisters in Christ, worshiping God for all that He has done, is doing and has yet to do.
The Lord has done great things. All who take delight in what He has done will spend time thinking about it.
David points out, very clearly, that God does great things. He then says that praising God consists of meditation on- thinking about- what God’s done, is doing and will do. And we do that as a response to the delight we take in Him.
What He does shows His glory and majesty. He will always do what is right. The Lord causes His miracles to be remembered. He is kind and tender. He provides food for those who have respect for Him. He remembers His covenant forever. He has shown His people what His power can do. He has given them the lands of other nations. He is faithful and right in everything He does.
God’s redemptive works in our lives are incredible and awe-inspiring. His acts are great and, although we can never fully comprehend them…this side of Heaven…David says we’re to ponder them and delight in them. Why? Because God’s works are glorious and majestic. He’s kind and tender. He meets our needs. And He not only promises a new life for us…He remembers His promises and follows through on them. He shows us His power and His glory. He is faithful.
All His rules can be trusted. They will stand firm forever and ever. They were given by the Lord. He is faithful and honest. He set His people free. He made a covenant with them that will last forever. His name is holy and wonderful.
“All His rules can be trusted.” Parents have rules. My mom had lots of rules, many of which dealt with how we were to behave in the world. Be polite. Say “please” and “thank you”. Treat people like you want to be treated. Have good manners. And not a day goes by…not ONE day…that I don’t remember and follow the rules my mom taught me. Why? Because they can be trusted.
God’s rules can be trusted. They have stood the test of time and will continue to do the same. He’s faithful. He’s honest. He sets us free. He is holy…and wonderful.
If you really want to become wise, you must begin by having respect for the Lord. All those who follow His rules have good understanding.
For my money, this is the meat of Psalm 111. The whole Psalm is good, to be sure. But this is where the rubber meets the road. We all know that there is a difference between “smart” and “wise”. We’ve all known people who didn’t have a lot of formal “book learnin'” but were wise. My wife’s grandpa didn’t ever make it past the 8th Grade. And yet…he was one of the wisest men I’ve known.
What about you? Want to be wise? David tells us how. Respect God. Pretty simple. Not always very easy…but pretty simple. R-E-S-P-E-C-T…find out what it means to me. Respect God. Obey His rules. Follow His guidelines. Live a life worthy of being called His child. Do that…and you’ll be wise. And for my money, following God’s call on your life not only makes you more wise, it fills you with a joy that the world simply can’t provide. And really, deep down…who doesn’t want that?!
People should praise Him forever.
If you remember, we said at the top that the challenge to praise God was the celebratory bookends that open and close this Psalm. It started with, “Praise the Lord.” And 11 verses later, it ends with, “We should praise Him forever.” It’s pretty simple- God is worthy of…deserves our praise and thanksgiving. He’s faithful to His promises and is steadfastly committed to the redemption of His children…us.
     2Thessalonians 3:1-3- Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread quickly. Pray that others will honor it just as you did. And pray that we will be saved from sinful and evil people. Not everyone is a believer. But the Lord is faithful. He will strengthen you. He will guard you from the evil one.
I had a dream. Since I was little, I had a dream. That dream was to be a performer. I did magic shows…REALLY bad magic shows…for my mom when I was little. I put on plays. I imitated people I saw on TV and in the movies. I couldn’t wait to get to High School and get involved in acting. There was a total of 12 plays or musicals produced during my three years of High School. (Yes, my school district had a 3-year high school. 9th Grade was part of Junior High.) !2 plays or musicals- I acted in 10 of them and stage managed the 11th. (I wasn’t involved in the 12th one because it was the first one my first year and I didn’t know about it until it was too late!)
I got a talent scholarship to pursue acting in college. I was very involved in theater during my four years there. I got out of college, got an agent and started auditioning. I got a few gigs, but that is a HARD nut to crack. Because I needed to help put food on the table, I drifted into other lines of work…SEVERAL lines of work! But all along, I held on, somewhere deep inside, to “the dream”.
Meanwhile, God was working on me. It started out simple, innocent. “Help with the Youth Group. You’re young. You’re fun!” (Young? Fun? What happened THERE?!) Then it was, “Teach a Sunday School class.” Then, “Be the Sunday School Superintendent.” “Read Scripture.” “Become a Certified Lay Speaker.” And then…God sprung the trap. “I want you to go into the ministry.” “How’s that? I’m sorry- I CLEARLY didn’t hear you correctly, God. Because I THOUGHT you said, ‘Go into the ministry’.” Long pause. CRICKET. CRICKET. Oh…SNAP!
So I fought it…for a few years. “I don’t want to do that, God. I can’t THINK of a worse idea! And besides, I have dreams for myself.” But He was relentless. And over time, He wore me down. And finally, just to make it all stop, I said, “Yes. I’ll give up my dreams. I” give up playing the drums. I’ll give up acting. Performing. The whole shooting match. I’ll give it all up and follow You.”And I did. We did. Quite a career. Start seminary full-time. Start serving a church part-time. And it was hard. But we made it.
And along the way, an amazing thing happened. God said, “OK- you’ve been faithful. You did what I asked you to do. You gave up what was important to you for something more important. And because you did…I’m going to find ways to give it BACK to you.” And He has. The drums. The acting. The performing. The writing. Producing plays and musicals. It’s NOT what I ever imagined. It’s better!
God’s Word brings order TO our lives, so that we might better reflect His nature IN our lives. And His Word is true- what He says comes to pass. God has shown us the power of His works. He assures us that no adversity can separate us from His love. He tells us that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from His love.

Using My Education in ODD Ways!

group of graduates holding diploma

group of multiracial graduates holding diploma

I have shared MANY times in this space about the incredibly odd mix that is…me. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Acting and a Master’s Degree in Theology (Or, as my 15-year old says, a Master’s Degree in Jesus! In fact, the Master’s Degree is in Divinity. But most people either don’t know what divinity IS or they think it’s that frighteningly sweet candy your grandma made at holidays! I won’t tell you what my brother calls that candy!), I am a riddle wrapped in a mystery and surrounded by a conundrum!

But on days like today, I am grateful for those two seemingly disparate degrees. Today, I get to use both of those degrees…at the same event! Today, in the community in which I serve, is the Relay For Life. It’s not only a pretty big deal in this community but it is also run by a group that includes some folks from the congregation I currently serve. Therefore, we tend to be rather involved.

My involvement in the event will start at 11AM. I will be presenting the opening prayer as the event kicks off. As soon as that is done, I will run back to the church and load my drumset into the van. A quick jaunt back to Central Park (Not THAT Central Park…OUR Central Park!) and I will unload those drums and set them up.

Then, at 1PM, I will put BOTH degrees to good use. I am performing from 1PM-1:30PM. It is being billed as magic, and there WILL be some of that. But there will also be juggling, as well as some “stand up” and a monologue I wrote and have presented in other venues about Noah.

As soon as I am done with that, I will help our band finish setting up and setting sound levels. Then, at 2PM, our Praise Band will be playing. We will be on stage from 2PM-3PM. The set list includes SEVERAL songs.

Once that hour is done, then it’s time to break the drums down and load them back into the van. From there, it’s back to the church, unload, carry in and set back up so they will be ready to go tomorrow morning.

Prayer. Magic. Juggling. Stand up. Acting. Drumming. All in the span of 3 hours. I don’t know about you, but for someone who had the dream of being a performer and then “gave up” that dream to become a minister…it just doesn’t get a whole lot better! I LOVE how God does that- “Give up YOUR dream to follow what I have for you…and I’ll give you that dream back in ways you never imagined!”

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Another Brutiful Day: Part 2


Yesterday, I wrote about a brutiful day- beautiful and brutal…brutiful. If you didn’t read yesterday’s blog, first off- why not?! Secondly, scroll down and read it- it will help you get a better context n today’s blog. Go ahead- I’ll wait. (Think the Jeopardy theme music in your head!) OK- are you back? Great! Let’s move on.

At about 5:30 last evening, I got a call from a hospice nurse saying that the family that I had interacted with on Wednesday wanted to know if I could come and baptize their loved one- she was continuing to decline. I was literally walking out the door for an event, but I said that, if they thought 8:30PM or 9PM would work, I would be there. They did.

So after that other event, I came home, got my United Methodist Book of Worship and a small container of water. I pulled up some appropriate Scriptures on my phone…because I DON’T have a phone with  Bible in it. I have a Bible that also makes phone calls! And I headed out.

Now, let me take an aside here to share a couple of things.

  1. This is only the second time in 20 years…and a LOT of baptisms…that I have baptized in a hospital or nursing facility as a response to the real possibility of someone dying soon. The only other instance involved a baby. He was in the NICU at Barnes Hospital and there was a real danger that he would not survive. The parents asked me to come and baptize him. And that leads to
  2. In the United Methodist understanding, baptisms are PUBLIC DECLARATIONS. That’s why they are traditionally done as part of a worship service. Whether that infant baptism as a PUBLIC declaration or not was questionable. But I went with the notion that there were nurses, technicians, the parents and me there. I decided that was public enough.

The same is true of the baptism I performed last night. Was it part of a worship service? Well…it depends on how you measure “worship service”. There was prayer. There was Scripture reading. There was even a (brief) message. And there was the laying on of hands. AND there as a (small) congregation there. I’m going with “public declaration”.

The other issue for a United Methodist minister is whether or not the person has already been baptized. We don’t believe in re-baptism- for us, it’s a “one and done” sort of thing. We can do a “remember your baptism”. We can do a blessing. But we don’t re-baptize. And yet, this family simply wasn’t sure whether or not their loved one had been baptized. But at that moment, as she drew closer and closer to death, it was important to them.

So I had a choice to make. I could say, “Well golly- if you don’t know whether or not she’s been baptized, I can’t baptize her. But I WILL offer a blessing.” OR…I could err on the side of grace and baptize the woman. I certainly hope you can guess which way I went!

So, another brutiful day. Another reminder that ministry is “messy”. Another opportunity from God to step into the fray and connect with some folks at a crucial moment in their lives. Have I mentioned? I love what I do!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!