Unleashing the Scriptures

Unleashing the Scriptures

bibleThe room was small, one of those cramped “pretty” rooms found almost exclusively in churches.  The furnishings were nice if not slightly, well, no actually, they were completely dated. A picture of Jesus hung on one wall and directly across was an even larger picture of some long gone saint of the church.  It truly was difficult to tell who was watching over whom on those walls.

There were six souls in that room as well.  Five of them in a state of restless listening and the sixth was just in a “state.”  They were all pastors, but this sixth person was probably on the verge of finding some way out of that calling.  The sixth pastor was hurt.  The sixth pastor was angry.  The sixth pastor felt abandoned.

One of the listeners eventually quietly offered a word of Scripture…something about a yoke being easy and a burden being light.  Another of the listeners offered a word from the Word that reminded number six that a worker was worth what God had paid for them.  Number six remained in a “state.”

In the silence that followed, a person already in the room would have heard hearts breaking and aching to reach a colleague.  An observer walking in would have thought there was a death in the family but there was no one relative that united these six pastors – only a calling to serve.  A stranger off the street – an outsider – might have sat among them and offered advice about finding a new path.

Eventually the painful silence was broken by the words of one of the listeners.  It had to be one that was not only listening to the pastor in the “state” but also listening to the Holy Spirit.  They said, “When I was being examined for ordination, the people on the Board used to say to one another, ‘Would I want this person to be my parent’s pastor?’  Well, Scott Sears, I want you to know something.  I would not only want you to be my parent’s pastor but I would welcome you to be my children’s pastor, anytime.  They could not ask for anyone with a better heart to lead them spiritually!  You ARE a caring pastor no matter what anyone else says.”

The state of the sixth pastor…my troubled state…melted away in the presence of Jesus found in colleagues and friends and sisters and brothers.

Yes, there were words from the Scripture.  These were words that I had read and heard on my own along with others like a passage from Isaiah that was shared by another friend – “’Remember,’ says the Lord, ‘remember that I have plans for you.  Plans for good and not evil.”  But on their own, these words just didn’t bring comfort…didn’t bring understanding.

It was only when I was together with a group of loving, forgiving, trusting Christians – a place where I could be myself and be loved – that the Bible and the very Word of God that is Jesus came alive.

Yes, I know that there are times and sometimes circumstances that keep people from being together in groups to study the Bible and to hold one another accountable.  But the single most common reason people are not in some sort of Bible Study group is simple – they just don’t want to take the risk.

I speak from experience on this one folks – a painful yet wonderful experience that showed me once again that the greatest place to seek understanding of God’s word, God’s will and God’s way is with a group of loving Christians.  (This was not the first time being in a small group made a difference in my life and faith and I am quite certain it won’t be the last.)  If you don’t have a small group…build one.  If you think you can’t build one…then call me and I will put together those that call so that they can have one another to help, to build up and to encourage in the Word.  (And don’t worry about being stuck at home, or work or school…there are always ways for people to get together.)  The group I met with and continue to meet with today drives hours to be together.  Why?  Because!  Simply because.

One of the books I read in seminary which happened to be written by one of my favorite seminary professors, Unleashing the Scriptures, argued that Christians really should not be trusted to read the Bible alone – it was a book written in community and should be studied in community.  Although I may not go to that extreme, the author, Stanley Hauerwas, is absolutely correct – Christians are a community…not a group of individuals.  We must, must, must read the Bible together.

It’s been well over 18 months since that day in the room with that pain and those tears.  But the words and the Word…well, nothing has dulled them from my memory.  Thanks be to God.

“Torn” – A Book Review

It is not very often that I come across a book that I feel compelled to both recommend and talk about, however, “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay v. Christian Debate” is one of those books.

I wrote my review on Goodreads…You are free to read it there if you so desire or just read it below.

I encourage your comments about the book and the topic, but please know that I will be moderating them to make sure they maintain a level of “love for neighbor” that comes close to Jesus’ love for us.

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians DebateTorn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are very few books on “current” theological debates that I have read in the last decade that have the power that this particular book brings. I truly believe that this one is a “world” changer.

Justin Lee enters into the fray of the most fractious debate among Christians from a narrative standpoint – his narrative. He openly shares his story, his struggles and his ultimate quiet triumph.

I do not believe Lee set out with an agenda in telling this story any more than he set out in life to be the person that he became. Therein lies the power of this book. He shares. He simply shares his story. The reader can respond but will have a very difficult time dismissing what Lee has to say. He is a person who has wrestled with his faith, his church and his Bible and came out of the struggle still able to love and be loved by God, still be in touch with a community of believers and above all else love those around him who will no doubt disagree with him and use that disagreement to fuel the fires of this debate.

As a United Methodist Elder, I know what my limits are and will uphold them based on our Book of Discipline, however, I do believe that this writer has brought us new light to shed upon the debate. The greatest part of that light I would paraphrase by saying, “Stop fighting and start loving one another as Jesus loves you.” It is an incredibly simple sentence but given the “heat” of the Gay v. Christian debate, it will be a very difficult task to carry out. Interestingly enough, this “light” does not, as far as I can tell, go against anything in our Discipline whatsoever.

If there is any one book I would recommend my friends to read…it is this one. Enjoy!

View all my reviews

Mt. Hope v. Princeton???

Tonight I am taking part in the weekly Southern West Virginia tradition of “Friday Night Lights.”  It is a home game for the Princeton Senior High School Tigers and they will be playing Oak Hill High School.  Now, why would I title a post about Mt. Hope, when the opponent is Oak Hill.  Well, the truth of the matter is that my Alma Mater, Mt. Hope High School, is no more.  😦

MHHS

Class of 1983!!

Yesterday, I was thinking about this upcoming game and I happened to be driving by the old hometown, so I drove through for the thirty second tour.  I saw my old home – doesn’t appear that anyone is living there these days and saw many of the routes I would have walked around this little town in Fayette County.  I even took time to drive up to the old school which amazingly looked a lot like this picture, except that now the school is home to people who are working on the new Summit Bechtel Reserve – a project of the Boy Scouts of America.

All this reminiscing got me thinking about growing up in that small town and what it truly meant to me.  While there, I was the middle son of three boys.  My younger brother, Kevin, works for the Wirt County School system as a Technology Integration Specialist, after working many years there as the Wirt County Band Director.  It has always amazed me that Kevin went on to lead the Wirt Tiger Band for so many years after being a part of the small band at MHHS.  (Band was something that all three of the Sears boys had in common in high school and now I live in a town that has one of the premier High School Bands in WV!)  Jack, my older brother, works for the Boy Scouts of America in Jacksonville, Fl. (Go figure, another link to this tiny high school that is no more…)

And then there is me – the middle child and the one who went on to yet another area of service – pastoral ministry.  Some may say that I chose this particular path because my birth order.  I know that it is more than that – I have certainly been called to serve in this way but I know my experience as a middle child often weighs heavy on the way that I lead as pastor.  (Middle kids tend to be peacemakers or brokers of deals between parties. Because I know this about myself, I have a tendency to “correct” it by leading more directly through conflict situations along with the help of my great coach.)  Although, I must admit…it is always hard to break those old habits!

It is always fun for me to discover “systems” things about my colleagues and partners in ministry and wonder how things from their past work into their present and our future. Daily, I am learning new things about the great people I work with at First Princeton UMC and I can hardly wait to learn about our new Episcopal leader and all the gifts that she will bring to our Conference – who knows, maybe she has a closed high school in her past or brothers and sisters that have impacted her!

Kevin, Scott, and Jack

Kevin, Scott and Jack in 1983!

My brothers have a wonderful and positive influence on me in my ministry.  And even though the three of us no longer have a High School that we can call home, tonight, as I cheer for the Tigers of PSHS, I will be watching for glimpses on those old Mt. Hope Mustangs in the opposing team.

A Twenty Minute Detour

As a new blogger, I am reading other blogs to try and find that little bit of inspiration that will help me write.

Today, as I read a blog post by Jonathan Malm, I ended up taking a little detour to a magazine that was more than worth the twenty minutes minutes I spent looking at it.  I thoroughly enjoyed the content – especially the articles on leadership, website site design (“More is More”) and the music review.  I even have some new music to listen to now.

Whatever your role is in the church – from pastor to pew sitter to anything in between – I can’t help but recommend this resource as fresh, inviting and positive!  Take the detour with me…I doubt that you will be disappointed.