God is our mighty fortress, always ready to help in times of trouble. And so, we won’t be afraid! Let the earth tremble and the mountains tumble into the deepest sea. Let the ocean roar and foam, and its raging waves shake the mountains. (Psalm 46:1-3, Common English Bible)
I was sitting in the parsonage at First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, TX. I don’t really remember what I was doing when the phone rang. I knew from caller id it was my good friend Mike Deaton. I answered in a cheery mood. It wasn’t five seconds later my mood became downcast. He told me there had been a shooting at Santa Fe High School.
For those of you who may not know, for a little over three years I was the pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Santa Fe. I have a couple of friends on the faculty there. I sent a text message to them. I simply said I am sure you are very busy and overwhelmed. When you get a chance, please call or text me and let me know you are OK.
At that moment I didn’t think about any of the students. The high school kids I knew when I was pastor there, had long since graduated and moved on. The kids that had been in the lower grades were by then the high school but I still saw them as being in kindergarten. Because I hadn’t seen them in a few years, they all where, still the same age. Intellectually I knew they had grown but I still remember them being small.
The next day, 2 years ago today, I saw a list of those killed at school. One name jumped off the gate at me, Jared Conard, Black. I had baptized Jared when he was a preschooler. His brother Anthony was an older elementary student at the time. He was one of those who had already graduated. From time to time when they came into the church building Anthony would run up to me and cross his arms standing in front of me. He wanted me to reach out and grab him and I would lightly hold him against the wall. He could escape anytime he wanted but usually only made a token effort. Anthony was waiting for the next phase of our game.
The next phase was Jared coming to Anthony’s rescue. He would run up in front of me and stop just outside of arms reach. I would grab at him and missed more often than not. Sometimes I just missed. Other times he had faster reactions than me. Because he hadn’t “rescued” Anthony (eventually I would let him), he would say, “I’m sorry Antny, (not a misspelling or a typo, I’m sorry, I tried, I tried.” Then he would run off, only to come back 15 seconds later and do it all over again. Occasionally I did grab Jared. When I did I always let Anthony go and would hold on to Jared. Jared would start in a half giggle, half screaming, if you can imagine a four or five year old, “Antny come help me! Antny come get me out of this. Help me Antny, Helm me.”
Anthony would turn around and wave at Jared and say, “Bye Jared. See you later) and then he would run off to whatever his age group activity was happening. I would put Jared on my shoulder and go into the fellowship hall where everyone had gathered. I would go around asking people, “I just caught this, what should I do with it?” People would give a variety of answers but eventually someone would say, “Just throw him in the trash.” This would go around the room for a while. Eventually, I made my way back to his mom and asked her the same question, she would say, “Oh, no! I will take him.” With that I would put him down, he would go run around and play, occasionally coming up close enough to grab him again but most of the time I would ignore him because I needed to go get ready for Bible study or something.
All those memories came flooding back when I saw Jared’s name on that list. It brought me to tears. I think it is the first time that someone I baptized, I was also involved in burying him. It was truly a sad day, one of the saddest of my time in ministry.
Every time I hear of a school shooting it upsets me. Most of them are so senseless. And death is so permanent. Sometimes I don’t think people think about that part before pulling the trigger. But this one was different. This one hit close to home. I knew people there. I had worshiped with them, was in fellowship with them, and served with them. And now one of them was gone. Someone I knew. It was all so senseless. My heart was broken.
Two years and a day later (I couldn’t make myself do this to be posted yesterday. I’m not sure why that is the case, but it is) I still pray for Jared’s mother, Pam. I pray too for his brothers. I pray for that church and that community regularly. Something happened there that should never happen anywhere. It was pointless. It was tragic. It was evil. And I still pray, something like this will ever happen again. So no parent will be in the position of my friend and Jared’s mom, Pam.
Seeking the Genuine, Keith
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
16 These people are always grumbling and blaming others; they follow their own evil desires; they brag about themselves and flatter others in order to get their own way. 17 But remember, my friends, what you were told in the past by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “When the last days come, people will appear who will make fun of you, people who follow their own godless desires.” 19 These are the people who cause divisions, who are controlled by their natural desires, who do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, my friends, keep on building yourselves up on your most sacred faith. Pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and keep yourselves in the love of God, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy to give you eternal life. 22 Show mercy toward those who have doubts; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; and to others show mercy mixed with fear, but hate their very clothes, stained by their sinful lusts. (Jude 1:16-23, Good News Translation).
Jude’s letter speaks to 21st Century culture. When I read chapter 1 last night I knew where they blog was going today.
Regardless of your political views in society or even in the Church, the amount of finger pointing is staggering. And, for those of us who blame others but refuse to take any responsibility? Well, we are part of the problem. Republicans blame Democrats, liberals blame conservatives and never fear, the opposite is also true.
During the Covid-19 scare I came to realize just how bad the problem has become. I made the digital collage above. Over the past two months I have heard everything, every one up there be blamed for this pandemic. Might the bat or the mosquito hold an amount of responsibility? Could be. What about the tiger? The tiger is a victim at least as much as we.
How this got my attention was two men in the pictures, Greg Abbott and Andrew Cuomo. One is a Republican, one is a Democrat. One is on the east coast, the other, the southwestern Gulf Coast. The most common thing each shares is, they are both governors of large states which would give them some amount of power.
That each has had someone place responsibility on them for the Covid-19 pandemic is ludicrous. This is blaming and finger pointing just for the sake of blaming and finger-pointing. No wonder some blame the tiger.
Like most people, I have my political opinions. People who know me well know what many of those opinions are. Many of you would agree with me. Many others would not. And, in the circles of friends and family, I have done some finger-pointing myself. I am not proud of that.
What I am really trying to say is, we are in a crisis. Things are hard. Having the responsibility of leadership does not make them easier. Having the responsibility to make decisions that impact not just the millions in the United States but billions around the world should not be taken lightly regardless of the President or Congress, important decisions rest in their hands. On any level of government, important decisions rest in their hands.
It isn’t my intent to self-serve with the above Facebook meme. Someone shared it with me (outside Facebook). When they shared it with me I thought, “It is true that I have never pastored a church through a pandemic, it is equally true that the high school principal has never tried to lead a school and the teacher has never tried to teach through a pandemic either. Congress has never tried to legislate during a pandemic and its been a very long time and is a very different world since the last time a President tried to lead through a pandemic. In truth, none of us have tried to do anything through a global pandemic before.
If we try to live by Jude’s words in the lesson, we shouldn’t be pointing fingers any time, but, we also say we are people who live out the words of Scripture. We say we believe the Bible. If that is true, its time to stop blaming. An election is coming. Instead of blaming, go vote.
Jesus said, “By this they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (My paraphrase).
I think it was my mother who taught me, when I point a finger at someone else (the blame game), there are three more pointing back at me. I may not make the mistakes I blame on others, but I make more than my fair share. Let’s take the lead and then perhaps our leaders can learn something from the followers that it’s time to stop playing the blame game.
Seeking the Genuine, Keith
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Matthew 15:21-28 21 21 From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” 23 But he didn’t respond to her at all. His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.” 24 Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” 25 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.” 26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” 28 Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed. (Matthew 15:21-21, Common English Bible).
John 13:31-35 31 31 When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Human One[a] has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify the Human One[b] in himself and will glorify him immediately. 33 Little children, I’m with you for a little while longer. You will look for me—but, just as I told the Jewish leaders, I also tell you now—‘Where I’m going, you can’t come.’ 34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:31-35, Common English Bible).
Many things about us from our mannerisms to our looks and other physical traits are ours because of who our birth parents happen to be. When we see a child, we might say the child has her mother’s eyes or his father’s hair. In Cindy’s family they talk about the “Oquinn Little Finger.” You can see the bend in pictures. It is slightly bent.
What we inherit often goes beyond physical appearance. There are also hereditary medical conditions many people have. This is one of the primary reasons some who are adopted what or even need to locate their birth parents.
Our oldest son Wayne has the misfortune of inheriting both his mom’s and his dad’s vision issues. Christopher was fortunate enough that he didn’t get much of either. He wears glasses now but that is mostly to help him reading.
Cindy is VERY near-sighted. I have a disorder called hyperphoria. It is a five-dollar medical term that simply means one eye looks up and one eye looks down. For me it isn’t as pronounced as it is for many people, but it is there and it does present me with problems. Until I was in seminary and developed what my ophthalmologist called “grad school syndrome,” meaning I spent way too much time reading, I didn’t really need my glasses.
I was often frustrated if I tried to do extensive reading and didn’t have my glasses. I would start reading on one line and when I got to the end I was reading the next line. The reading didn’t make much sense. It would also make me very sleepy. I would usually fall asleep after reading only a few pages.
While a student at University of Houston I went to their optometry clinic. After several days of testing they found the problem. I had the condition all my life and it is 100 percent correctable with the right lenses. It made reading easier.
About the time Wayne hit junior high, he started complaining about symptoms much like I had. He had already been wearing glasses for nearsightedness., but he was still had problems.
As we listened to him, we knew he had hyperphoria. We made an appointment at University of Houston. They ran all the tests and found he had the same problem as me. He got the right lenses and we went on about our business.
A year passes. Wayne’s eyes need to be examined again. Now we’re living in east Texas. Still we went to Houston to take advantage of U of H optometry clinic. They knew his eyes and we thought they would have his best interest in mind.
The student examining Wayne said he outgrew his hyperphoria and no longer needed the correction. We questioned the student extensively and later his professor, both insisted the correction was no longer needed.
Having little choice, we left. It was shortly before Thanksgiving. As we walked to the car Cindy said, “By Valentine’s day we will be back with Wayne showing the same symptoms.”
Sure enough, February first, Wayne started complaining again about his eye issues. Cindy went off. If you have never seen a red- head ready to battle, if you do, get out of the way.
She went on a campaign, determined her son wasn’t going to suffer with a correctable eye problem. She started calling people at the U of H. When she didn’t get satisfaction from one person she went to the next. By the time it was all said and done, Cindy talked with the dean of the optometry school. There were casualties in her wake. Cindy doesn’t go redhead often, but when she does, it’s not pretty. You don’t want to be in her line of fire. When we went to U of H again.
Wayne the examining wing, a space that could house 10 patients and the examining student optometrists, all to himself. The supervising professor would watch five students or more. Wayne was his only patient. Beyond that, this professor was the head of the binocular vision clinic, where I was diagnosed. After the exam, the original student and professor came in to learn from their mistake. At the end of the day Wayne left with new glasses, correcting his hyperphoria.
Through this, Cindy became M.O.M., she coined an acronym, “Mother on a Mission.”
During my years in ministry I have seen M.O.M., mother on a mission, several times and more moms than my wife. I have seen M.O.M., mother on a mission in hospitals, schools, and even twice in a courtroom.
I feel certain if I could walk among you this morning and handed out a variety of difficult or threatening situations to you moms no doubt I would see MOM, mother on a mission. Most mothers tend to be that way. They protect their children. They will fight any fight to protect their child and the child’s needs. It makes them who they are. It’s makes our mothers special.
Society, churches, and families we celebrate what mothers mean to us. We celebrate the love they bring to our lives. Most celebrations are also times for special memories. Most of us, remember times when our moms show us love in a special way. We remember times when our mothers turned into MOM, mother on a mission. I’m sure the moms watching this morning remember those occasions too. And, likely they would do it again. It is your child and mom’s love for her child sets you’re actions into motion.
Today’s lesson shows MOM, Mother on a Mission. Please note, I do not fully understand this story. It has made me uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable with Jesus, in essence, calling the woman a dog.
There are scholars who argue that Canaanite has the same root word as canine, so Canaanites would be “dog people.” First, that doesn’t really help. Second, Jesus likely spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. It was translated into Greek and then English. Not all words translate from language to language. There are two Greek words in the Bible for dog. One is a large cur dog. The other a small dog, a pet or puppy. Matthew had Jesus using the second word. It was more of a pet name. I still don’t understand or like it so I am not going to try to elaborate on what I don’t know.
Some might ask, “Why would you preach a story you are uncomfortable with and don’t understand? That is a good question. This is a great story of M.O.M., mother on a mission. As the lesson begins, Jesus is in Canaanite country. The Jews didn’t like Gentiles in general and saw them as dogs. Canaanites were particularly loathed. This woman was in a hotbed of Canaanite activity when Jesus came by, she comes to him she asks healing for her daughter. At first Jesus ignores her. She was undeterred. Jesus’ non-answer wouldn’t be her answer.
The disciples begged Jesus to send her away. She was determined to pressure Jesus, she was a total nuisance.
Jesus gave an answer, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” So, Jesus said, “No, I won’t help you.”
This isn’t what the Canaanite woman expected or wanted to hear. Jesus told her “no.” No less determined, she comes and kneels in front of him and begs him to help her daughter. Jesus tells her, “It’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
I don’t think Jesus was being critical. He explained his mission and tested her faith to see how far she was willing to go. Still, people thought as a cut down MOM, mother on a mission, she wasn’t going quietly. “No” wasn’t her answer. She was determined to find healing for her child regardless of insult or cost. Her reply to Jesus was direct if nothing else. She said, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
What a woman. A silent “no” on Jesus’ part be her answer. She wasn’t going to take a response of “it’s not my job,” and she wasn’t going to take a put down, if that is what Jesus was doing. This is a story of not only great determination; it is also a story of great faith. It is an example saying, “whether we know it or not, most all of us follow. We pray for those who are close to us, our children, our parents, our spouses, when they are faced with great problems, physical or otherwise.
The woman’s faith was well founded. Jesus even told her, her faith healed her daughter and sent them on their way. It was a wonderful story of MOM, mother on a mission.
When I read this story, I have no trouble seeing MOM, Mother on a Mission. Just as importantly, however, it isn’t just in these words of Scripture where I can see MOM. I have seen it in my own home. I have seen it in my mother. I see it on many of your faces and in your love. The love is great. The love is what makes you determined. It is wonderful to see that love in our mothers. We all need to have that kind of love in our lives. That kind of love makes us feel good. It makes us feel special. But, most importantly, that kind of love is a good example for us of the kind of love God asks us to share with others.
In John’s gospel, Jesus reminds us of the importance of that too. The love of a mother for a child, while a good example, does not in show us either mother or child as a Christian. Mothers of other faiths love their children. Mothers of no faith at all love their children. But Jesus also says this, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
As people of faith loving our family is not our calling. That is the easy part even though it can be difficult and challenging at the various times. Our call is higher and for more difficult. Our call is to love one another, which includes but is not limited to our families.
The truth of the matter is, while most of us have a special love in our mothers, it isn’t true for everyone. Some children have no mother in their life. Some children have a mother but might be better off without. For whatever reason, the mother is incapable of loving her child. Yet they need to feel love too. They need to feel they are important to someone and that they are important to God.
It is because of these people all of us can join the MOM, mother on a mission brigade, even if we are not a MOM. This is where the new commandment comes into play. And, it is where we are people of faith entering the picture. People out in the world need to know our faith. They learn of our faith by seeing our love.
As people of faith we are called to love, not just when and where it is easy, but to love everyone sharing our world, even the unlovable. No, it isn’t always the easy thing to do. People of faith struggle with that every day, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary. God’s love needs to be seen at work in the world.
M.O.M., mother on a mission is a great acronym. It is an even better example for us. Not everyone, however, has a mom or can be a mom. But we do all need to know about and experience and even give that special kind of love. So maybe a new acronym is called for, one that speaks to our need to be faithful in the mission God has given us, to be faithful in love. I think maybe F.O.A.M. fits the bill because it fits all of us as people of faith. May we all be, Faithful on a mission.
I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. 2 Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. 3 You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.
4 Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. 5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (Psalm 30:1-5, New International Version).
I have blogged on this topic once before. That was almost four years ago. And during this series on prayer it seems to fit. So, this post, though in the prayer series is on the ways God heals us.
As I started thinking about this post I was reminded of a sermon I heard preached by the late Dr. Bill Hinson, then pastor at First United Methodist Church in Houston. While serving at Elwood United Methodist Church near Madisonville, Texas (It was my first church after entering the ministry a little over 25 years ago).
I had the habit of getting up early on Sunday morning, moving the directional outdoor antenna on the house toward Houston and watching a re-broadcast First UMC Houston’s service from the Sunday before. Though I had written my sermon earlier in the week, it seemed to help prepare me to preach
On this particular Sunday, my maternal grandfather had passed away from complications with Parkinson’s Disease. I was having some difficulty reconciling what my family experienced in his illness and death with my understanding of God.
The sermon Dr. Hinson preached that Sunday was on the four ways God heals us. It spoke to me, quite possibly in ways no other sermon (mine or others) has spoken to me before or since.
The first way Dr. Hinson said God heals us is by sending us to the right doctor. I live with a chronic inner-ear condition called “Migraine Vestibularopothy” (according to spell check I didn’t spell that correctly but it didn’t give any better suggestions either). I bounced around with several doctors, none really able to do much until one doctor sent me to an ear, nose and throat physician that specializes in inner-ear conditions.
While I still deal with the ailment, this doctor got me on a treatment regimen that keeps the condition manageable. Yes, sometimes God heals us by sending us to the right doctor.
Sometimes God heals us in what we would call “miraculous healing.” When I think of miraculous healing I think of someone like the late Dennis Byrd. Dennis died in a head-on-collision back in 2016. Before that, he was known first as a professional football player with the New York Jets. Byrd was one of those players who suffered a catastrophic injury during a game. Doctors said he would never walk again. They were wrong.
Byrd tells his story in his autobiography Rise and Walk (a great book, I highly recommend it). With a miracle from God and sheer guts and determination Byrd taught himself to walk all over again. His is a great story. God does heal us in miraculous ways.
The third way Dr. Hinson said God heals us is as God healed Paul of his “thorn in the flesh” by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you.” I can think of so many people who deal with on-going chronic conditions and yet live powerful lives, practicing the faith God has placed within them. I know a young man who is mentally challenged. There are few people I have ever met with faith greater than his. God’s grace is sufficient for him.
The last way Dr. Hinson said God heals us is, by “calling us home.” God healed my father and my grandfather. Dad had lung cancer complicated by pneumonia. Thankfully, he was never really in pain. He just tired easily and toward the end, he had a really hard time breathing. His lungs just wore out. He maintained his sense of humor to the very end. He just couldn’t breathe and God called him home. I realize many people would say God didn’t heal him, but they would be wrong.
My healing at the hands of Dr. Illahi (under God’s guidance) is a temporary healing. God gave dad the ultimate healing. There is no more pain (though as I said, he didn’t have much), there is no more sickness, there is no more cancer, there is no more difficulty in breathing. God freed Dad from that diseased, worn out body with the ultimate healing that will last for all eternity.
I think in some way we have all experienced the healing grace of God. I am thankful to Dr. Hinson for sharing these in that sermon so many years ago. It has stuck with me over the years and I have had the opportunity to share his ideas with many people in the time since.
I think these ideas are sound theology. I know them to be a comforting reality. Whatever ways we may experience God’s healing during our lives, we all will share Dr. Hinson’s final way God heals us. God will call us home. Then, for we who believe it will be victory over the illnesses of this lifetime. It will be “Victory in Jesus.”
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Seeking the Genuine, Keith
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved