Where do we go from here?

My latest for the Longview News- Journal


There has been a lot of conversations taking place this week in our country. The display of white nationalists and the protests that ensured in Charlottesville have brought race relations back to the forefront. These events have spawned conversations, debates, prayer vigils, political pundits posturing in sound bites and a social media firestorm. This has not been an easy week for our country; it has not been an easy week being a minister; it has not been an easy week as a father.

Throughout this past week I kept asking myself, “How did we get here? Is this what the world is coming to in 2017? How is white supremacy still a thing? Are they really claiming to be Christians?” It is mindboggling that in 2017 I have to worry about my children overhearing a news story about white supremacist and white nationalist. How do I explain to my kids that there are people in this world that hate another human just because they look differently?

Hearing the vile that was being spewed on the streets of Charlottesville still turns my stomach. The rage, the hate, the lack of concern for anyone else who does not look, think or act like they do is sickening.

This is not the world that I envision for my children. This is not the world I envision for my grandchildren. This is not the world that I envision for anyone. This is certainly not the “very good” place that God created in Genesis 1.

Time and time again the human condition rears its ugly head. It seems as if each time I think it cannot get any worse, humanity finds a way. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus calls his followers to a higher and better standard. This standard means giving voice to the voiceless, remembering the forgotten, seeking out the lost and standing up in the face of evil and hatred. This task is not simple or even convenient. It is not completed in a lifetime rather it is a process of continually showing that God’s love is real, God’s Spirit is alive and hope will remain.

This summer I worked at a high school summer camp where I lead a workshop on prayer. I asked the students what prayer was. One person responded, “it is a little plate of hope.” We must cling to that hope. Darkness might be around us, evil will be in our midst but we must not give up hope. The gospels remind the church that God will ultimately triumph over evil. Hope drives us to face a new day; hope guides us to stay the course; hope is the undergirding of our faith.

Hate can never be the answer; violence can the never be the answer. Not because it is morally repugnant, but because it goes against the basic teachings of God. To move away from the heart of God’s calling means we have decided to make God in our own image, to decide that some rules do not apply to us. The most difficult part of all that has transpired this week is the notion that some of the white nationalists were using the Bible and Christian theology as support for their violence. This is a twisting and misusing of the Bible and the traditions of the church. Nowhere in the Bible does Christ advocate racism, xenophobia or violence.

 

This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. We do not need to have yet another partisan political issue. This is an issue that speaks to what it means to be an American. Society has come too far just to go backwards.

 

Where do we go from here? What can be done?

 

The church must be a place where the welcoming spirit of God is felt and extended. Christians proclaim that all of humanity is formed and created in the same image of God. We proclaim that in Christ there is no division, in Christ there is no separation. Galatians reminds us that there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free for all are one in Christ.  Jesus told his followers that the summary of the Law and Prophets was to love God with all of your heart, soul and strength and to love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself.

 

Love must be the guiding force for our community. Love must be the guiding force for our state. Love must be the guiding force for our nation. 1 John 4: 19-20 states, “We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen.”

 

Racism of any kind is wrong, bigotry of any kind is wrong. Churches of all sizes, denominations and theological outlooks must come together in one voice proclaiming that violence, white supremacy and hatred of another human being for being who God created them to be will not take root. It will not take root in our churches; it will not take root in Longview; it will not take root in Texas; it will not take root in the United States.

 

This will not be an easy task but it is the right thing to do. Let us not give up on hope.

 

Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.

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Prayer Vigil for Charlottesville

Last night I was a part of a prayer vigil in response to Charlottesville. I was pleased with the turnout given that it was short notice.

The Church must respond to hate and respond to injustice. White supremacy is not Christian and not reflective of God’s love, mercy and character.

Below are some links about the event.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


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Transcending Generations: Endorsement

I was honored to endorse Meredith Gould's new book Transcending Generations. It's a wonderful primer for conversations in church regarding inter-generational conversations.

Check it out today!

What Is The Future Of The Faith?

My latest for the Longview News-Journal.

Faith is no simple task, rather it is one that will take serious time and devotion. However, once the time is invested I believe that God will reveal the direction a congregation is to go; do not be surprised of the answers you receive. This summer I have been reminded that God is still moving, God is still working and the future of the faith is entrusted to a group of people who view the world as a place to show love and mercy.

Pentecost 2017 Through the Eyes of a 2 year old

My two year old asked to paint and below are the pictures she created. I’m not sure she knew it was Pentecost but the Spirit seemed to move her in that direction.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


 

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If You Need A Laugh Today

Sermon: The Giving Christ

My latest sermon for First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Longview, Texas based on John 20:19-31.

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The Struggle of Faith (LNJ)

My latest for the Longview News-Journal


As humanity looks back on its storied history there are eras that are marked with great advancement in philosophy science, art and theology. There was the Bronze Age, the Renaissance, the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment to name a few. All of these have offered humanity a new perspective on how to view the world and further contemplate our role in it. Today, historians and scholars are still trying to name this period of time we find ourselves currently in. I believe “post-Enlightenment” is a good summarization of where we stand. On one hand, it is a wonderful thing. The revelations of the Enlightenment have brought about some of the most important scientific discoveries of the last 200 years. Much of what modern science is built upon was first studied and analyzed during this time. On the other hand, it has made us quite skeptical to many things. We look for facts and evidence before we further believe in the claims being presented.

In 2017, we find ourselves in a world where humanity has access to more information than any other time in history. If we have questions we simply perform a search on the internet and 9 times out of 10 we will find the answer. It is a wonderful tool that we have at our disposal. Couple it with the ever-advancing changes in computer and mobile technology human can now search for answers that plague our minds anywhere and at any time. This constant information access has made our quest for facts and the truth more desirable.

There is one thing I believe that even in a post Enlightenment age still is a difficult burden for many people: faith in God.

Faith is a challenging thing to wrap our minds around. It forces us to believe in things that not seen or measurable. We can analysis and scrutinize the stories of the Bible for their plausibility or historicity and will often come up short. For many this is not acceptable. Why believe in a God or in Jesus if I do not for certain know that it is the truth? This is not a new phenomenon but I believe that it is becoming more and more difficult for people to find and keep their faith. No amount of searching on Google will ever “prove” the existence of God or Jesus the Christ.

James Fowler was a theologian who studied faith across the life cycle. He believed that there was different stages of faith that a person went through during their life. The biggest and most foundational stage is what he called “synthetic conventional.” Most people enter this stage around 13 and during this time a person is trying to synthesize (or understand) what the world (of the church) as told them is normal or conventional. If you have ever worked with or taught middle school aged students this where the wheels begin to turn and the questions of faith start to bubble up to the surface. (My favorite is “If Adam and Eve were the only people on Earth then where did Cain’s wife come from?)

During this time people begin to question their most basic held beliefs. Questions of faith and its practical application in the world become important growing tools in a person’s life. Churches and ministers should not dismiss questions of faith. Questions are profoundly important in exercising one’s own interpretive lens through which they see the world and God. This means that as a faith community the Church is going to need to be honest and open about matter of faith. Telling someone who has questions regarding their faith to just “have faith and believe” only discourages them more. I’m not saying that the Church or ministers or lay leaders will have all the answers to all of life’s questions. Rather I believe that questions are about learning, sharing, growing and journeying together. Just because I have a Master’s degree in Divinity does not mean that I understand fully the complex world of theology nor does it mean that I cannot learn from my parishioners about matters of life and faith. We are all on this journey together; recognizing that we all have questions, we all struggle and that deep-down faith can be difficult and trying at times means that we all find something that brings us back each week.

It is hard for some to find faith in God in a world of hate, greed and malice. It is hard for some to find faith in a world that is not that “very good” place described in Genesis 1. It is hard for people to find faith when someone dies unexpectedly, receives a poor diagnosis or faces an uncertain future. These are difficult situations not just for people struggling to understand God better but also for Christians as well. It is wrong to suggest that questioning God or even one’s circumstances is “wrong” or “blasphemous.” The Bible is filled with prayers and stories of people questioning God, God’s motives and actions (or lack thereof). The Psalms for example give voice to almost every human emotion. We need to share our frustration and share in our common struggle as humans. I believe that if God give us an emotion then God can handle that emotion. Our questions speak to the deep seeded desire of our soul to fully understand our place in this world. Saint Augustine of Hippo summed this up well when he wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” Faith does not come with easy answers but it does give our lives meaning. Finding a place where questions are welcomed and even encouraged, where cheap clichés are thrown out the window is the best for a person looking for faith or struggling with faith is what is most important.

Matthew Live Session 8

If you missed any of the other Facebook Live Bible Study click here.

In Case You Missed Easter Worship…

Enjoy!