Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Purple Pride in The United Methodist Church

As a loyal Vikings fan, I sat down on Sunday to watch the game and cheer for my team ... even though my cheers have no effect on the actual outcome (especially when using TiVo).  What surprises me, and actually what annoys me is that many of my fellow fans were choosing not to cheer, and instead were booing.  The difference between them and me was that their cheers, or lack there of, mattered because they were actually at the game.  Now, I am not saying the play of the Vikings on Sunday was worth cheering for all the time, or even maybe most of the time, but I am not sure that is the point.  To me a loyal fan is someone who supports there team.  A loyal fan who is at the game can actually have an effect.  My older brother was named MVP of a Vikings game in fact.  Technically it was given to all the fans but he was part of the end zone section that caused numerous false starts in a key play-off win against the Cowboys a decade ago.  While I think fans have a right to be upset, and really they can do whatever they want, but in my mind, if you are a real fan, and really want to help your team, then you cheer while you are at the game.  On the ride home you can vent all you want about the lack of creative play calling, the poor tackling, or who you would start as QB instead of Ponder.  During the game it is time for real fans to be cheering, making noise, and helping the team.

The same is true for those of us in the church.

Like the Vikings, The United Methodist Church is having some tough times and our "Super Bowl" record is about as dismal in the last fifty years or so.  I can understand if loyal fans of the church would rather be booing instead of cheering.  I am not sure however that the booing is anymore helpful to the church than it is to the Vikings.  Maybe it is because I am an optimist, but I think the cheering helps a lot more than the negative stuff.  Just as Ponder knows he screwed up when he throws an INT, most of us in the church know when we are making mistakes ... we need to be picked up, not picked on.

What does cheering look like in the church?

Obviously our work is not done in stadium bowls with vast roofs to amplify the noise, where the resounding shouts can both pump us up and make things hard for the other team.  Our work is a constant ongoing effort, week in and week out, Sundays and every other day and all of us need some cheering at times to pick us up.  We need to spend some time celebrating the good things that are happening and looking forward with hope, not beating each other up for things we don't agree on or don't like, or things we think could have been done better.  There is a time to focus on the mistakes, both for football teams and for the church, but too often we let our negativity and criticism spill over into times were we need to be upbeat, positive, and really believe that God is at work, maybe not helping the Vikings, but certainly helping the church to do great things no matter what the "score" might be.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When I Grow Up ...

Like most children growing up there were times I dreamed of being President of the United States.  I also remember consciously giving up on that dream at an early age.  I cannot tell you exactly when it was, but it was while I was still young.  I came to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience hold such an office because I would be required to be in charge of the military, and my first act in that role would probably be to tell everyone to go home, because I was, and still am, opposed to violence and war.  I recognized that this would be a conflict of interest because the President is responsible for the safety of our nation and I was sure that I could not order someone to go to war even if that was what was "best" for the country.  For this reason I don't envy President Obama and his current situation.  The United Methodist Church states in its Social Principles that war is incompatible with Christian teaching.  There is a strong pressure to elect good Christian leaders (Obama certainly faced a challenge on this) but then we expect them to do some of the most unchristian of things.  What if there is a better way to do this?

This morning I dressed my son in a onesie with a picture of Gandhi on the front and a tagline "Another skinhead for peace."  Bryce is now the second generation of Ozanne to wear peace-loving shirts long before he knows what they mean.  I grew up with shirts of MLK, Gandhi, and "you can't hug your kids with nuclear arms."  The struggle for peace did not start with my generation either.  My mother was fighting it too and it goes back long before then, as long as we have had wars I suspect there have been those crying out to find a better way to solve things.  I think our natural tendency is to respond with force but it is not the best one.  We cannot force people to love us, and until we love each other we are simply waiting for the other side to get a better weapon to strike us with, to find a chink in our armor, or a way to get an edge on us.  Mutually Assured Destruction kept us and the Russians at bay, but that fear people lived in was not a healthy lifestyle.  Maybe it is time we took steps so our next generation of children can dream of being a president AND being a peace-maker.