Reese’s Pieces

Reese’s Pieces

September 2017

How does one respond to the news event that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12th? That is a subject that many Christians and especially pastors wrestle with when we hear of such horrid developments as what happened that day when protestors from the “alt right” supremacists clashed with “counter-protestors”. We need a response. I mean of course we can do as I did that day after and pray about the matter and name racism as the sin that it is. Besides praying, which is a great start, is there more that we can do?

Our bishop, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi sent a wonderful pastoral letter asking for United Methodists in Western Pennsylvania to respond. She reminded us of our membership pledge noting: “At our baptism we, or our sponsors on our behalf, answered yes to the question, “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” The way in which we respond to the events in Charlottesville demonstrates to God and the world whether or not we can be trusted to do what we say we are going to do.” Indeed, those are profound words about our need to stand for justice as God and Jesus would want us to do. But what is our action? We need some response as she urges.

In considering this, I also remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr. who speaking about hate said: Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken. From Strength To Love, 1963. There is wisdom in these words from this great Christian leader. I realize the words he spoke were meant for all people of the USA and thus did not have specific Christian application, but knowing his heart and love from Jesus, I feel I can extrapolate that the light would be the light of Christ, and the love would be the love of God.

King

So what needs to be our response to such happenings as Charlottesville and in hearing that there was a similar supremacist rally planned in Pittsburgh the next weekend? The actions of such hate groups are not of God, and thus I would urge you to name such actions for the evil intent that is there. But remember such a response needs to be done so one is shining light into the darkness and showing love to overcome the hate. Respond with the love of God and demonstrate to our friends and to the world: as Christians we stand for the things of God which includes ways of love, hope, peace, and justice.

Peace,

Pastor Dale Reese

Reese’s Pieces

October 2017

When one becomes a pastor, there are some instructions given about subjects we will address for the spiritual journeys of our members. With that note, let me share about my experience with one of the spiritual disciplines.

It happened a few years ago. I was to go golfing with some clergy buddies on a Monday. But as Mondays are a day when I really like to get my sermon primarily written so I can think through it all week, I decided to get up early to get work done. So there I was working diligently, and before I knew it, it was time to leave. As I rushed to get my keys, it dawned on me I had not eaten my breakfast. “Oh well,” I thought.

After completing nine holes of golf, we decided to go another nine without a stop. This meant I would be skipping lunch as well. So as I came on the 11th hole where there was a water canteen, I drank and thought, “Oh, I think I should make this a day of fasting since I had not eaten anyway.” Now it is at that moment that I sensed a message I attribute to my knowledge of God. I remembered (based on the scripture text of Isaiah 58:5-6) “Oh is this the type of fasting I am looking for? One where you go out and have fun and play? Where is the prayer time? Where is the humility?”

As you might imagine I felt chastised and humbled. I knew this was not the type of fasting God desires. I also know that fasting is a good spiritual discipline when done with the right reasons in mind. Fasting is something we pastors are supposed to encourage people to do. But note the fast we are to encourage does not have so much to do with the food element as it does our desire to be closer to God, spending more time in prayer and recognizing our dependence on God (Fasting usually deals with food, but could be done creatively like fasting from TV watching, or giving up your hobby time for a week spending that time in prayer instead, etc.).

So as I conclude, spiritual disciplines (like prayer, worship, study, service) are important for pastors to encourage. And the tricky one of fasting is one I also want to encourage you to consider. But remember that when you choose to fast, do it with the right motives of getting closer to God and talking with God over some issue of life. When we do so, we are doing the fast in a way that honors how God intended fasts as mentioned in the Bible.

Peace,

Pastor Dale Reese