Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A quote for pondering

According to John Wesley, the writer Jonathan Swift said that “all those who endeavour to explain the Trinity have utterly lost their way … and have hurt the cause which they intended to promote”. Wesley went on to say, in his sermon on the Trinity, that there were many aspects of the natural world which could not be fully understood – such as the nature of light, and what causes the force of gravity. Why, then, should we worry about not understanding the Trinity? Now to modern ears that’s a dangerous argument. Today we have far more confidence in the power of science to explain the world around us than in Wesley’s time, over 200 years ago. People therefore tend to think that if we can’t explain something, it’s probably not true. So if a religious belief – doctrine - can’t easily be explained, people are far more inclined now than when Wesley was preaching to conclude that there must be something wrong with it. Scepticism starts to prevail over faith.

Book Reviews

I have been trying to keep up on my reading of late. This was much easier when I was waiting on a baby, and just putting my CD collection into MP3s to add to my new iPod.

That was great. I finished two books in good order.

Oh Shit! It's Jesus!

The Shack

Some brief comments on the two books. (First off a hat tip to Gavin for turning me toward these books)

Re: Oh Shit! It's Jesus!
This was a pretty simple read, fast and relatively introductory theology. Author Steve Hughes sets out to make Christianity simple again. He rewrites several passages of scripture, all of which make Eugene Patterson and The Message seem to be first rate scholarship, and transposing of literary greek. However, the purpose is not to insert Hughes into the ranks of Bultmann and Augustine, but instead to reinsert Jesus into the world so many are familiar. If this brings about the understanding of persons to see Jesus as something other than what "religion" has made him out to be - vilified, and dehumanized, as well as completely understood, or foreign, then Hughes has made his mark. I believe that Hughes brings a sense of sanity to the discerning mentor or church leader, asking us to redefine the easy Jesus for the Jesus who causes us shock and wonder, and makes us backpedal to find safety in the very basics of relationship, with each other, with God, and especially with the one who feels like an outsider to the church.

Re: The Shack
Using images of the Trinity - God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit - that move one into uncomfortable territory, along with the image of a brutal kidnapping and murder to introduce one to relationship is definitely using the backdoor. The general imagery is that of broken relationships, contrasted to the perfect relationship of a unified God. In a world that is indeed lost and hurting, identifying the fear of isolation and its effects on familial relationships, as well as relationship with God will bring one to a heightened sense of awareness. I realized some of my own fears in the loss of a child, the isolation from family members, as well as the deepening sense of depression that often accompanies relationships being ignored for the sake of dwelling on the things we cannot change. I found this book to be helpful in holding a mirror to my life, and expect it would do likewise for many others. The hope that comes from relationship with God is primary, based on our relationships with one another right now in the world we share.

Ultimately, both books focus the reader back on aspects of true relationship, and centering God not just for the purpose of worship, but for helping to guide and teach relationships for our human lives.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pastor's Corner September 08

Using the statements of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Ch. 15:21-28) where he is approached by the Canaanite woman begging for help, I have found my grounding for moving us through the coming year. Jesus responds that he came first for the lost sheep of Israel. He follows that with a statement that it isn’t fair to give to those who don’t belong the food for the ones who are already members. She calls Jesus to account telling him that even the ones who don’t belong deserve pieces of nourishment.

This is the basic outline I am using for bringing us to common vision this year. I am starting with those who are already members. I have set aside times to meet with the members of the congregation and I invite you to call the church office and set up a time with Kathy for our visit. As we get closer to September I am calling people to see about catching everyone before we get too far into the year.

We will the celebrate our 50th Anniversary as Ojai Methodist Church (we began before we became the United Methodist Church) in October. We have a great and varied history and we need to remember where we came from and those who have helped to establish who we are. In the telling of our personal and communal stories we claim something inherently important. In order to establish a vision for the future we need to know who we are.

Once we have a grasp of who we are we can begin to claim the things we value and find important. We do this by discovering our assets. I intend to have us do spiritual gift inventories, asset naming (things like our physical assets of buildings and money, but also and especially our intangible assets that involve our reputation, our qualities and characteristics, and ultimately our people), concluded with Community Assessment. We need to pull all of these factors together to know how our greatest strengths meet the greatest needs of the community where we serve God. As we find this junction we will define our common vision for ministry.

You may have noted that this is all about what you as a congregation and individuals bring to the table of ministry with God, and not about my telling you what direction the church ought to go. While I will say that I do have some ideas and some hopes for what we might decide to do with our vision (which is what a mission statement is – the statement of action about how to achieve the vision), it is ultimately up to the church and the congregation to take action for their own hopes and statements. My job is then to guide and provide resources to help train you to do this kind of ministry.

After all of the assessment and development of who we are and what the community is, and how we can best interact with the community to bring the Gospel message of God’s love in Jesus Christ we will define how best to evangelize (that is to tell the good story of God’s work in our lives to others such that they will want to participate in the Life Everlasting – which may or may not be anything like what you imagine evangelism to be). This is the Vision of our church. It is the goal I have of achieving this year. I hope we will name our common Vision, and begin to establish the steps to achieve the Vision.

We want to use the crumbs that fall from the table set for the Lost Sheep of Ojai United Methodist Church (and the ones who are already quite found!) to make a trail, not unlike that of Hansel and Gretel, to provide avenues of entry into the church for those who have not heard the Gospel before, those who have been turned aside by the church and its people, those who need a spiritual home, and those for whom God has appeared bringing them into our community of faith.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Can't Tithe My Lotto Winnings

So if the day ever comes that I win the Lotto, remind me just to go ahead and keep it all, that God cannot redeem those dollars if I give them to the church.

At least that is the story out of Florida. But I think Hacking Christianity and Stress Penguin have a little more insight.

But, I repost my comment on Jeremy's blog here for my immediate thoughts.

I wonder about the "morality code" of accepting offerings. I think about the prostitute or stripper who gives to the church, and is not spurned for their giving. More to the blood money side of things, what about the person who owns the conglomerate who owns the strip bar, or the defense contracts that manufacture bombs. Let alone the person on the lines in the defense contractor factories who make the bombs. Do we declare soldiers' tithes as immoral because they are earned in the service during war, and we have been very clear about calling war "incompatible with Christian Teachings".
I expect that the God who is capable of redeeming people who are by nature corrupt is very capable of redeeming things that have no nature, except that of the user.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

New Stuff and Guilt

Yesterday was a long day. I was up most of the night before with a crying baby. Then I woke my in-laws at 3:30AM so they could get packed and ready for us to leave the house by 4:15AM to catch a flight from Santa Barbara back home at 6AM.

The day didn't get a whole lot better. I was tired and sick to my stomach with fatigue and stress. I came back from taking them to the airport and wretched. I wasn't ready to put anything in my stomach.

Why the lead-in with such graphics, well it explains why I had such a huge caffeine headache yesterday and why a good cup of coffee to start today was so vital to my ongoing future happiness.

I charged up the coffee maker and set things up as usual, taking the extra time to make sure the autostop lever was fully opened. If I fail to do this then the coffee maker refuses to dispense correctly to the decanter. I turned it on and left it to go change the baby and let the dog out. I came back to find the coffee had once again gone leaking out the top of the filter area, missing the decanter and on to my counter top.

As you may have guessed from my awareness of the autostop lever, I have had this problem for nearly 3 years now. I got this coffee maker for our wedding, and have used it regularly for some time. I had one from my Del Rosa life and a small 4 cup that I got rid of when we consolidated houses. They both had their own set of issues, pouring and making enough...but I digress. I want a good cup of coffee, worry free in the morning and I do not have the money for an amazing super charged machine, nor the desire to tend to my coffee with a french press.

So I threw the old one out and went to get a new one today. I have been preaching that we need to minimize and limit how much stuff we have in the house. But, for an item I use almost daily that seems a little foolish to just chuck the old one and not replace. I decided the old one had hit my last nerve of patience for my coffee, and it hit the trash.

Now I have this guilt, both for throwing out a wedding gift - mind you it was one that had gone awry from its intended functionality - and for going out to get something new - and maybe just a bit of guilt because it wasn't something for the baby.

However - Here's to a good, fresh brewed, pain free coffee tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Plan

Every time a pastor makes a change from church to church it seems one of the key questions that interview teams ask is "What is your vision for this church?"

I can't say as I blame them for asking such questions for this is what a couple of generations of pastors and church hierarchies have taught them to ask.

I tend to break that trend by turning the question on its head and asking the church what its vision for the future is. Most of the time these days I seem to get blank stares, or a generic, "We want young people, as our folks are just too old and tired to do the work. We need someone to come in and take our place."

That's a truth we need to hear as clergy, but we need to then enable to people to name a vision that will help that to become a reality. As such I have a plan.

Here's the plan:
1) Visit with the people. Get to know who they are, where they come from, their hurts and their joys. Hear them out. (This doesn't just mean church people, but it is where my stated focus remains. I tend to do some scouting while out and about in the community too)
2) Find out about the community, and share that information back to the church people. Find out about spiritual gifts, the assets of the church, the needs of the community and do some community mapping with the people of the church.
3) Bring the people back together naming the gifts and graces of the church, the hopes of the people, and the needs of the church and community. Use roundtables, church meetings, coffee breaks, sermons and any other tool imaginable to surface a vision for the future.
4) Establish the steps to seeing the vision to completion.
5) Start walking the steps necessary.

Now, it may be that some basic needs for ministry need to be addressed before moving in this way. There may be church needs, like better equipment, or background checks to make sure things are safe and usable. There may need to be concerns for the health and welfare of immediate church members, the church (as in the case of a major disaster), or the pastor and family taken care of before moving on. Once these things are at least stable, then get moving. And right now, that is what I am doing...starting down the list to get to the steps to see a church walking with purpose once again.


Pastor's Corner

Pastor's Corner - Ojai UMC - August 2008

Throughout Scripture we are reminded of the command to offer hospitality, whether with food or drink, or rest. Some scriptures to remind us of this command are:

Matthew 10

40"He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. 42And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

Ojai UMC has received Anna and me so very kindly. We have brought along Anna’s mother and a new baby on the way, and you all have made sure to welcome us each week with greetings and food. You have checked in on our comfort and progress. You gave us water (Harriett and Alan brought us two gallons and a little more), and have proven again and again through your willingness to serve and offer hospitality that you are God’s Disciples in the Ojai Valley.

Mark 9

41”I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”

Thank you for all that you offer, in love, grace, food and water, and your gifts of service in ministry.

Hebrews 13

1”Keep on loving each other as brothers. 2Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Anna and I have been so blessed by the hospitality of the people of Ojai and the Ojai United Methodist Church. It is a real testament to the leaders of the church, and the pastors who have cultivated the ministries and life of the Ojai people. I am reminded of part of the rest of the passage from Hebrews 13:

Hebrews 13

7”Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

The uncommon gift of food, care, baby “telephone showers”, understanding for the transitions we are undergoing, the love for each other and for us have all been a god-send. I am amazed by the general happiness of the people of Ojai United Methodist Church and the Ojai Valley. You all are ripe with excitement about the ministry you are currently doing and expect to do in the months and years ahead.

Now we have the opportunity to practice hospitality to a new baby girl, Sophia Anabella Crews Camphouse, born July 28, 2008, Ventura Community Hospital, 6:54AM, 8lbs. 13oz., 21 in. We also get to teach her by practicing the same hospitality you all have shown to us back with you and the whole Ojai Community.

Thank you for being such an outstanding group of people, and I look forward to our continuing journey together.


Pastor David

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Under the Sheets

So, when I get a little time and space these days I tend toward the bed rather than the computer.

I spent all of the time leading up to the birth of my new baby doing some downloading of all our CDs for the new iPods we got for birthdays.

Then July 28, at 6:54AM, at Ventura Community Memorial Hospital, Sophia Anabella Crews Camphouse was born. That was very cool. She weighed in at 8lbs, 13oz. and 21in.

I apologize to those who were thinking this might become a blog about my kid or my family with the introduction of a new child, but I think we are going to stay a little more behind the scenes with her than I allow this blog to be.

If you are so inclined to hear about my new little one, or the adventures of the Camphouses then drop a comment and I will let you in on the means by which we are offering this once-in-a-lifetime deal.

In the meantime, back to the bookshelf and back to the bed (which mind is the anti-SIDS campaign slogan "back to bed") for some sleep, and reading The Shack and Oh Shit! It's Jesus!