Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Sudbury UMC is becoming known as one of the most exciting churches in the community. There is a Jewish real estate agent who is telling her clients that if they are looking for a Protestant church that they need to give us a try. We recently had some visitors who were told by someone in a coffee shop in Concord that if they wanted to attend a vibrant church they needed to come here. And we had another person say they wanted to attend on Easter but didn’t stay because of the crowds, so they came when we were a little slower. These are wonderful comments and are a great indicator that we are doing the right things.
A recent study found the median church in the US has a regular Sunday attendance of 75 people. The study also found that 50% of people who attend church go to ones that have more than 350 in attendance. We stand on the precipice of church sizes. We are obviously bigger than 75 and on many Sundays we have more than 350. We are no longer small but not quite large. The problem with this, learned through experience, is that churches cannot stay in this in-between position. We either have to decide to get larger and make the changes necessary to facilitate that change, or we can begin to get smaller and put up with the changes that will also bring.
This is not the first time this congregation has stood on the precipice of change, nor will it be the last. In the 1950’s and 60’s a vision was set which brought us to where we are today. Some were happy with this vision and others were not, but change came regardless of what people thought. Change will come to us as well whether we like change or not and even whether we want to deal with these changes.
Pastor Joel and I, of course, are in agreement of which direction we would like to see this congregation go, and you’ll be hearing more from us in the coming months and years about how we carry this out, what it might look like, and what it means. One of the biggest things that will change is how we do things around the church. So, for example, we will not often be able to have only one event scheduled at the church during key hours, but instead will have several events taking place at the same time. There are many advantages to this especially in being able to show our size and vitality, but there are also some disadvantages which are sure to leave some people upset.
We will also have to have much greater and more deliberate conversations and interactions between groups. We can no longer afford to be siloed in our activities. Church growth will need to be working with worship, membership needs to be working with stewardship, education needs to be working conflict management, social justice needs to be working with health ministries, and on and on. We all need to be in greater communication in order to make sure the parts are all working together effectively and efficiently. In other words we have to work on becoming greater than the sum of our parts.
All of these things will require us to think of things in new ways, to stretch beyond our comfort zones and work to live into a new vision. What the future holds for us is unknown, but let us never forget what God is calling us to, that the Spirit is moving amongst us and that with Christ all things are possible.
Grace and Blessings,
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Yankees in First Shows Winning Plan Without Bonds: Chart of Day 2009-08-12
By Mason Levinson and Jeff Kearns Aug. 12
(Bloomberg) -- The New York Yankees' front-running status might lead to
some joyous months in the Bronx and profitable ones on Wall Street. 'The CHART
OF THE DAY compares the historical performance of the S&P 500 Index, the
benchmark index for American equities, from Aug. 12 to year's end when the
Yankees are in first place, as they are today, to when they trail.
During the 33 years since 1928 that the Major League Baseball team led its
division on Aug. 12, the S&P 500 had average gains of 3.3 percent for the
remainder of the year. That's five times higher than the 0.64 percent average
gains the index had during the 48 seasons the Yankees weren't in first place.
"As a Yankees fan I can tell you why that happens: because the Yankees are
always in the lead and the market goes up two-thirds of the time," said Richard
Bernstein, chief investment officer of New York-based Richard Bernstein Capital
Management LLC and former chief investment strategist of Merrill Lynch &
Co. "You can put it up there with such other notable buy signals as who
wins the Super Bowl."
"One shouldn't underestimate the strength of spurious correlations."
The Yankees, following a four-game sweep of division rival Boston last weekend, led
the Red Sox by 5 1/2 games through Aug. 10 in the American League East.
Of the team's 26 World Series titles, 22 came after holding a first-place
lead on Aug. 12.
With assistance from Rodney Yap in Los Angeles. Editors:
Michael Sillup, Jay Beberman
So apparently the Yankees winning is good for the economy which is good for America. What do you think of that Red Sox Nation? (LOL)
1. Name the four gospels. List as many as you can.
2. Name a sacred text of Hinduism.
3. What is the name of the holy book of Islam?
4. Where, according to the Bible, was Jesus born?
5. President George W. Bush spoke in his first inaugural address of the Jericho road. What Bible story was he invoking?
6. What are the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Old Testament?
7. What is the Golden Rule?
8. "God helps those who help themselves": Does this appear in the Bible? If so where?
9. "Blessed in the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God": Does this appear in the Bible? If so where?
10. Name the Ten Commandments. List as many as you can.
11. Name the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. List as many as you can.
12. What are the seven sacraments of Catholicism? List as many as you can.
13. The First Amendment says two things about religion, each it's own "clause." What are the two clauses?
14. What is Ramadan? In what religion is it celebrated?
15. Match the Bible characters with the stories in which they appear. Hint: Some characters may be matched with more than one story or vice versa.
Adam and Eve Exodus
Paul Binding of Isaac
Moses Olive Branch
Noah Garden of Eden
Jesus Parting of the Red Sea
Abraham Road to Damascus
Serpent Garden of Gethsemane
How do you think you did? Email me for the answers and scoring.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Something else to note is how different the AIDS outbreak might have been had the health community, the CDC and the rest of the government focused as much attention on that disease and finding its cause as they did to finding the cause of what was killing the Legionnaires. Would it have made a huge difference, maybe not, but my guess is that it would have, but no one outside of the gay community was concerned about gay men dying. You know that whole "it's forbidden in the Bible and they deserve their punishment" thing.
Until very recently I have had more friends and acquaintances die of AIDS than from anything else, so it's of interest and concern to me. For what I think is the best treatment of the AIDS epidemic in the 80's read And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts, who himself died of AIDS. When I saw Milk and then read Shilt's biography of Harvey Milk (The Mayor of Castro Street)I couldn't help but wonder if the epidemic might also have been different had he not been assassinated.
Here is a prayer from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on HIV/AIDS (altered):
A recent statement by Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention said that if nothing is done, they will lose 22,000 churches by the year 2030. No, that is not a typo, he did say 22,000 churches. That is half the churches they currently have. This year they also had their third year of decline in baptisms, reaching the lowest number since 1987. Since believers baptism is the key piece of how Baptists identify themselves this is a crucial statistic.
While current membership stands at just over 16 million, many people believe this is an inflated number. There have recently been several motions to have churches purge their membership roles of inactive people, but these have been rejected for fear of what the true numbers would like look. They, like the Methodists of years past, like being the largest Protestant denomination in the country.
Another conservative denomination has also seen a drop-off in membership. The Presbyterian Church in America (this is not the PCUSA which is the one most people are familiar with) saw their first numerical decline last year since their founding in 1973. The moderator said this loss was attributable to a purge in membership rolls from a megachurch in Florida, but that they should be concerned about deeper trends. The PCUSA also recorded their largest one year loss ever.
So what do we do about this? That is a topic we will spend a lot more time discussing in the near future.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Since the USDA began tracking these figures in 1960, the largest growth has been in the cost for child care, although no costs are given for this amount. The fact that this issue is not more of a public debate is very strange. Linda and I pay more than $28,000 a year to send the girls to daycare. In other words, we spend roughly what I make as take home pay to send them to daycare. We are not in the lowest costing daycare in the area, but we aren't even close to the highest costing. We could be spending a lot more if we wanted to, but we simply can't afford it. We could also be paying less, but we weren't happy with those programs. These are incredibly important years in their lives and I want to have them working with the best we can afford. I don't want our daycare to be competing with McDonald's as an employer. (no offense to those who work at McDonald's. Linda and I both worked there.)
Why aren't we as a nation talking about affordable, quality childcare? Why aren't we talking about getting good teachers teaching our infants and toddlers just as we are talking about for the regular school system? Why aren't we up in arms about how people of lower incomes aren't able to afford childcare for their kids? When I write my check every month I wonder how people making minimum wage or just a little above are able to pay someone to take care of their children and still have anything left to pay the other bills.
The simple fact is many of them can't. Every year there will be a story in the news about a child who died from exposure in a car while their parent, usually a single mother, was inside working because they couldn't afford to send them somewhere. The response is usually two-fold. One group will talk about the need for affordable childcare and the other group will blame the parent and say they just didn't try hard enough to find a place for them to go. But, the news is quickly forgotten and we move on to the next news cycle. Well the problem is not going away, in fact, it's probably getting worse, and we are going to have to confront it sooner or later.
To show you how much this problem seems to be ignored, I looked in the Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions for what the UMC has to say about this issue. While a resolution says "The church has important responsibilities in initiating, encouraging, and participating in the highest quality of child care for children and families, not only in the local community but also nationwide," there is not a direct call for groups to deal with this directly other than to be "diligent advocates." There is not even a call for greater funding for Head Start. To be honest, I'm a little stunned by this and will be thinking about how we should approach this, and what should be submitted, for the next General Conference.
Sunday Schools were originally started in order to give children a place to go to learn how to read and write on the only day they had off from working. The church was instrumental not only in getting child labor laws instituted but also in pushing for universal education. Often the first hospital, school and college built in a town were built by the Methodist church. Why are we silent on this issue? I think some of it is because people who don't have small children do not realize how insanely expensive child care is, and I think there is also the traditional argument that if society helps assist with these costs more women will go out to work and their place is in the home.
As I already said this is not an issue which is going to go away, and unfortunately it is probably waiting for a tragedy to happen before it is addressed.
This will be an issue I will address again. I will also discuss the $207,000 gap between those at the top and those at the bottom. I would venture to guess that a large portion of this is directly attributable to educational issues.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
This was the longest scoreless game the Sox-Yanks have played in their history, and it will go down as one of the all time greats in the series. That catch by Drew in the 14th was fantastic, Melky came within inches of a hit to win, and A-Rod breaks the longest homerless streak of his career. It was only the 5th time in major league history that a game scoreless in the 15th or later has ended on a walk-off homer. This is why baseball is the greatest game of all. Of course I'm happy with the outcome, but it would have been a great one even if the Yanks had lost. All I can say is "Wow"!
Friday, August 7, 2009
The first is the fact that everyone keeps talking about an "impartial judge" and justice being "blind." Of course that is the ideal and what everyone wants, but the simple reality is it is impossible. Judge Sotomayor cannot see the world through anything other than the lens of being a Latino woman, which is what everyone was so upset about from her comments which were taken totally out of context. She can't do that just as Chief Justice Roberts cannot see the world through the eyes of anything other than a white man. That is his and her experience of life. While they certainly try and see things impartially it is impossible to ever fully do so. And why is it that we only ever try and apply this standard to minorities? We never talk about whites, or for that matter men, having to move beyond these categories in order to judge fairly. Why? Because our society expects people to see things like white males do.
Which brings me to my next point. If true impartiality was possible, there would be no question or debate about who should serve on the court. But, everyone brings with them a personal vision of the law, of justice and the role of the court. That means from the start that none of the judges are impartial because they all view what they are doing and how to interpret things, the Constitution in particular, very differently. That is a given from the start, and therefore indicates partiality. Another thing that is given is that ALL judges are "activist" judges.
Judges are activist by the very nature of what they do. If they strike down a law or ruling by a lower court, it is activist. If they uphold a law or ruling by a lower court it is activist. That is the way our courts are set up, and have been since Chief Justice John Marshall ruled in Marbury v. Madison that the court had the right to decide constitutionality. That little fact is not contained in the Constitution; the courts decided they had this right. Now if that is not judicial activism I don't know what is, but I don't hear anyone decrying this role of the court. Instead it is all about how people feel the Constitution should be interpreted, and again that is where no one is impartial. Everyone brings their own theory of interpretation to the court.
The other thing that is interesting is the Republican Party's take on Sotomayor. President Bush was trying to court the Hispanic vote, and many feel they are necessary for future victories. But for some reason they voted in large numbers against Sotomayor. This includes Senator McCain, who has talked about the need for the Hispanic vote, and then for the first time in his career voted against a Supreme Court nominee. First time, against Judge Sotomayor. How well do you think how she was treated will play in the Hispanic community? I could be totally wrong, but I don't think it has gone over very well.
Everyone has to realize that sometime in the next forty years, whites will become the minorities in this country. This scares many people. I think it is the reason so many people are throwing up ridiculous ideas against Obama. He doesn't look like them. Instead he looks like the future, and that is terrifying, and they don't know what to do about it. The time of white privilege and white majority is passing, which is all for the good, but any time there is change people become edgy, especially those who benefit the most from the status quo.
My final issue with this whole process is how ridiculous Supreme Court nominations have become. For the first time ever the last three Justices have been approved with more than 20 Senators voting against them. This, in and of itself, is not the problem. The problem is that rather than voting whether someone is qualified for the court or not, they are voting whether they like them ideologically (which again shows how ridiculous the whole idea of impartiality is).
What's worse is that most of the "ideological" requirements for serving on the court have little to do with what they will actually rule on. Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 the Court has ruled on only a handful of abortion cases. From the importance everyone puts on it you would think they issue numerous decisions every year, but they don't. They take up many issues regarding the death penalty every year, but this is never discussed. They also issue few decisions regarding affirmative action, but again this gets lots of attention.
What we should be focusing on is their partiality. How do they view the court? What does stare decisis mean to them and how do they use it in making rulings (ie is it of primary importance or just another consideration)? What do they think the courts role is in relation to the interstate commerce clause (which gets many more rulings)? In other words, lets ask them about the real issues they will be ruling on, not the things that are important to others but which the court rarely addresses.
And this is true for both Republicans and Democrats. I might not like Justice Scalia's view of the law, but I do not doubt his intelligence or his ability to serve on the Court. To me that should be of primary importance, because ultimately you never know what they are going to do once they get to the court. And if you don't believe me, look at Chief Justice Earl Warren who led one of the most "liberal" courts in history, even though he was selected by Richard Nixon for nomination by President Eisenhower.
It's time to move past petty party politics and begin working again on deciding what is best for the country.
The first was that I was wearing my Joba shirt. They win the majority of the time I wear it, it's my only lucky Yankees shirt.
The second was that when we ordered last night from Sudbury Pizza our number was 19. For those who don't know who wore number 19 for the Yankees, which I'm assuming is all of you, it was Aaron Boone, hero of the 2003 ALCS. I took that as a sign we were going to win.
Now you might ask "are you superstitious?" And the answer, when it comes to baseball, is most definately yes. I guess when you balance it out with the rest of my life I'm sortastitious. (that's an old Smothers Brothers joke)
One down, three to go
Thursday, August 6, 2009
1. Yankee Stadium (not the new one, haven't been there yet)
2. Wrigley Field (from the old days when stadiums weren't named after companies, LOL) (Cubs)
3. The Jake (now Progressive Field) (Indians)
4. Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field, but the BOB was a much cooler name) (Diamondbacks)
5. Comiskey (now US Cellular Field) (White Sox)
6. Busch Field (not the new one, haven't been there) (Cardinals)
7. Comerica Park (Tigers)
8. Ballpark in Arlington (Rangers)
9. Kaufman Stadium (pre-renovations) (Royals)
10. Minute Maid Park (Astros)
11. Fenway (Red Sox)
12. Turner Field (although these were standing room only which affects the ranking) (Braves)
13. Angels Stadium in Anaheim (Angels)
14. Miller Park (Brewers)
15. Metrodome (Twins)
16. Olympic Stadium (Expos)
17. RFK Stadium (Nationals)
* Honorable Mention
a) Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa (not quite heaven but not quite Iowa either)
b) Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, NY (saw the Braves play the Twins there)
The first few and the last few were easy. If I weren't a Yankee fan Yankee stadium would probably not be number one, but it would definitely be in the top three. It was a great stadium (the first to ever be called a stadium) and as a person interested in the history of the game this is where so much of it took place, and to look out and know all the great players who roamed those hallowed grounds was special.
But if you are looking for the quintessential baseball experience, go sit in the bleachers during a day game at Wrigley field. It really doesn't get much better than that.
Red Sox ownership has done a tremendous job on the renovations of Fenway which has improved it, but it still doesn't move it up much (sometime I'll write about the economics of baseball and why these renovations were not undertaken primarily for the fan.). Once they have replaced all the seats it will get better, but I have seen things take place at Fenway in person and on TV that would never happen in other stadiums. Beer and fanaticism are not good mates.
So let the debates begin, and before you attack me saying Fenway is the best, you need to have been to at least five other major league stadiums.
I've posed this question before, but let me ask it again: Why is it that the people who give me the hardest time about being a Yankee fan are the people who seem to know the least about baseball?
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
"Right to Health Care — Health is a condition of physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. John 10:10b says, 'I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.' Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted. Creating the personal, environmental, and social conditions in which health can thrive is a joint responsibility — public and private. We encourage individuals to pursue a healthy lifestyle and affirm the importance of preventative health care, health education, environmental and occupational safety, good nutrition and secure housing in achieving health. Health care is a basic human right. (emphasis mine)
Providing health care needed to maintain health, prevent disease, and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility each person owes others and government owes to all, a responsibility government ignores at its peril. In Ezekiel 34:4a, God points out the failures of the leadership of Israel to care for the weak: 'You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured.' As a result all suffer. Like police and fire protection, health care is best funded through the government's ability to tax each person equitably and directly fund the provider entities. Countries facing a public health crisis such as HIV/AIDS must have access to generic medicines and to patented medicines. We affirm the right of men and women to have access to comprehensive reproductive health/family planning information and services that will serve as a means to prevent unplanned pregnancies, reduce abortions, and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The right to health care includes care for persons with brain diseases, neurological conditions, or physical disabilities, who must be afforded the same access to health care as all other persons in our communities. It is unjust to construct or perpetuate barriers to physical or mental wholeness or full participation in community.
We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care."
In addition, a resolution in the 2008 Book of Resolutions, says "The United Methodist Church is committed to health care for all in the United States and therefore advocates for a comprehensive health care delivery system that includes access for all, quality care, and effective management of costs." (p. 352). In order to see health care available for all, the resolution calls for the implementation of a single payer system. (p 354). This particular resolution was first adopted in 2000 and has been reaffirmed each quadrennium since then.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
You may have seen some of the disruptions of town hall meetings on the news (I will give my opinions about these later on as well). In one of them, a woman at the back of the hall is holding up a Bible and she keeps showing it to the camera saying it's the truth, it's the truth. Since she is standing with the protesters I'm assuming she is with them, but I can't figure out what the Bible has to do with the protest. What is even stranger is that the Bible she is holding up is the New American Bible, which is published by World Catholic Press. What she might be surprised to know is that the Catholic Church is the largest health care provider in the world. In many parts of the world, they are the health care provider. In other words, they are reaching out and providing care to those who need health care who don't have access to it otherwise. So there is a disconnect for me between her protesting giving universal access to health care here in the US when that is what the Catholic church is also trying to do.
Let me tell you two stories that involve me and my family:
I had left one job, with insurance, started a new job, that also had insurance, but was in that dead zone after the old insurance had ended but before the new one had begun, and COBRA is way to expensive to take on. I was out chopping wood when a piece flew up and hit me in the eye, scratching it. So here I am with an injury, no insurance, and no money to be able to afford to go to the emergency room. I went out and got a patch, some eye drops in order to wash out any residue, and put up with it best I could, but it hurt a lot and was very irritating. Fortunately for me, my roommate's mother was a doctor, so she called her told her what happened, and she called in a prescription for me, under her daughter's name, so that I could get treatment. (This is illegal by the way but not being American by birth she thought it was absurd that people couldn't have access to health care when they needed it) I used the cream in my eye and fortunately everything worked out fine, but it might not have.
The other story involves my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. Like me, they were between insurance because of a job change. In fact they were one week away from being covered. Their oldest son was playing with his best friend on the jungle gym, when his friend fell and shattered his elbow. A long surgery and days in the hospital later he was on the road to recovery. But it could have just as easily have been Spencer as it was his friend, and if it had been Spencer they would not have been able to have afforded the bills, but obviously would have needed to seek treatment. More than likely they would have become one of the close to one million people who declare bankruptcy each year due to medical expenses.
These stories are not unique or strange, they happen everyday all over the place. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, something needs to be done, it's what is done that we should be discussing (not arguing or shouting each other down, but discussing). So let's begin an honest and open discussion of these issues and what should be done. What's happening now is not helpful to the process and does not deal with the seriousness of the problem.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I am trying to make my sermons a little more interactive. I had several ideas for yesterday's sermon on unity in the church and all being a part of the body of Christ, but I couldn't get any of them to work in my mind. What are your ideas? What do you think might have worked?
However, calling a person of color a "banana eating jungle monkey" regardless of what you intended is racist. There is no other way to look at it. None. And to think that he sent this out not only to his friends but also the Boston Globe just boggles the mind. Barret can claim he didn't mean it the way it sounded, but this was clearly not taken out of context and there is no other way to hear it then as it sounds. Barret's comments serve to illustrate what the black community has been talking about all along.
On the positive I am very glad the Boston PD, and the national guard, have dealt with this issue the way they have. It does show how far we've come.