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End of Summer Sermon Series

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions for our “End of Summer” sermon series. There is still time for those who may not have had a chance. I have been asked thoughtful questions reflecting vast differences. I celebrate the diversity found in the Laurel Heights congregation and try to lead in a way that cultivates small boutique groups within the overall life of the congregation rather than a “one-size-fits-all” or “big box” approach. This applies not only to theology, life stages, and cultural influences but to worship and preaching style as well. I can imagine from the questions I have received already that this series may last 3 or 4 weeks and not be able to scratch the surface of any one question to everyone’s satisfaction. My hope is to share openly the beliefs and struggles of the church and to encourage continued open and loving dialogue. Preaching a topical series is a worship and preaching style I don’t use very often and I am excited to proclaim the Good News in this way.

Some of the questions I am praying and studying over are old questions asked in a new way while others are new questions that the old traditional answers of the church no longer address adequately for contemporary thinkers. One person asked, “What role does the feminine aspect of the divine play in the church?” The psalms, proverbs and wisdom literature are filled with female imagery and yet these images do not seem to make their way into current worship and public positions of the church. Did the rules change? Did Jesus and the early church not value women? Or is there another explanation? How does the contemporary church address this and what does the future hold?

Several of the questions have come from people who say they once identified themselves as Christian but are no longer comfortable doing so. The belief systems they grew up with seem no longer supportive as adults. As children and youth, they may have been discouraged from asking questions and the answers given now seem shallow or contrived. As United Methodists we encourage questions and embrace the struggles faith development may bring. I have often shared that I do not believe that the United Methodist Church has everything related to God figured out; I just don’t believe any other denomination does either. The questions of salvation and who is saved and who is not will be with the church until the end of time. This does not mean that God does not walk with us in that search. Quite the contrary, I believe that God is found in the searching and our searching allows God to reach us in a fresh and new way.

Throughout the scriptures of the Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths, that we as Christians call the Bible, God has chosen to be revealed in a broad variety of ways. The scriptures tell us that not every way God chose to be revealed has been recorded in those texts. The official position found in the “Doctrinal Standards and General Rules” of The United Methodist Church is, “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man [person] that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation” (Book of Discipline 2016, para 104, article V). This leaves a great deal of room for God to work and be revealed in order to be in relationship with all types of people with all sorts of questions. What are yours?

See you Sunday,
Jim

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