Big Text

Today marks the beginning of the General Conference meetings of the United Methodist Church worldwide.  Every four years a thousand lay and clergy delegates come together to cast the vision for the denomination, sort out administrative and fiscal puzzles, and further shape the social principles of the church.  Millions of Methodists have as many opinions on things; only the General Conference can speak for the church in an official way.

 

Let the games begin; and may the odds be ever in your favor.

While I don’t have a great deal of confidence that the General Conference is going to produce high quality, grace-filled outcomes, I’m very hopeful for the United Methodist Imagine No Malaria Campaign launched by General Conference four years ago.  Provoked to action by the Gates Foundation our denomination set out to end deaths by malaria in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015.  When we started a child died from malaria every 30 seconds, dying from a disease that is preventable, treatable, and curable.  They say the clock has already been turned back to every 60 seconds.  Thanks be to God and to all who have supported the campaign thus far.

Wednesday, April 25, is World Malaria Day.  I’m inviting you to save some lives right now.  Text MALARIA to 27722 and you will donate $10. and save a life.  If you’re inspired to, send the same text every day during the UMC General Conference, now—May 4.  Together we can make a LOUD statement to the United Methodist denomination about our life-saving vision and our compassionate social principles.  Surely God wants everyone to live, not just the last Tribute standing.

Imagine.  No one dying from malaria.  Not that long ago people in the USA could not imagine that.  But then we stopped it.  Save a life.  Text MALARIA to 27722.  And share this with your friends in all those social media ways you’re so good at.

Thank you, friend.  All good things to you,

david gilliam, pastor, faith united methodist church, austin.  for more about faith church, click here.

psst !

“God saw all that God had made, and it was very good.”  (Genesis 1.31)

One night I was sleeping in my cabin by the Pacific Ocean in one of my favorite places on Earth. It’s the kind of place where every day you wake up, look around, and say, “this is very good.”  But one night I woke up for no apparent reason around 3:00 in the morning.  It was as if the cosmos had whispered, “psst!  psst!”  I struggled to clear my head, looked out my window and said, “God.”  I scrambled to find my little Nikon Coolpix, went out onto the deck, set the camera on the rail to steady it, opened the shutter and tried not to shudder.  I knew I was asking the camera to do something impossible.  I said a little prayer.  This image was the answer.

Starlight Reflection

The full moon reflecting on the ocean shining through a cave running through an offshore rock.  My camera said, “Cool pic.”  I said, “God, this is very good.”  I sat and gazed at this wonder in time and I felt a bit beyond time.  I felt connected to all things.  I loved all things and all things loved me back.

I first celebrated Earth Day on the first day of spring during my junior year in high school and have done most years since.  A month ago some friends were sending around a video. I saved it to share in this Earth Day meditation. If the link doesn’t work, look on Vimeo for “The Most Astounding Fact” by Max Schlickenmeyer. Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked in an interview with TIME magazine, “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?” This video beautifully expresses his answer.  Every person on Earth is made up of atoms that came from exploding stars that came from star nurseries that came from what scientists call The Big Bang. We’re all connected, each one, one with the first one. From a Biblical perspective every adam came from the first adam, crafted on a wheel, spun into creation by the Master Potter as he/she began to create. Take a little H2O, blend it with stardust, breathe into it the breath of life.  psst.  This is very good.

The cover of the April 20, 2012, issue of the Austin Chronicle offers up one of those iconic Apollo mission photographs of the Earth rising over the horizon of the Moon, a body also made up of the same stuff as you and me. The headline reads: “Earth: Fun While It Lasted.”  The article poses a good question: can the Earth be saved?  I believe the answer is yes, of course. This marvelous planet is not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, she’s been through cycles of life, destruction, and re-birth many times before. We can’t know with certainty what the near future holds; but if scientists’ projections are even close to the mark, sooner or later the earth is going to slough off this toxic environment we are destroying. Contrary to popular lore, I’m not even sure the roaches will make it. But then the Earth, self-healer that she is, will transform into a new Earth, adams and atoms mixing together to form whatever the Potter dreams up next.

In the meantime, at least as long as I am sentient in time, I plan to give thanks every day for this beautiful blue planet. And while I can’t just totally stop being part of the problems that are degrading the ecosystem of present-day Earth, I can do what I can to be part of the solution, part of the healing process.

psst.  I hope the rest of my species will wake up and do the same.

All good things to you,

david gilliam, earth pastor, faith united methodist church, austin.  for more about faith church, click here.

Weeds

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.  Genesis 1.11-12 (NIV)

I’ve been thinking about weeds lately.  This time every year, if there’s a square inch of exposed soil in my yard there’s a weed growing.  Thanks to the winter rains that weed is doing good.

The other day my wife and I drove out to the Texas Hill Country for a tour of the Willow Loop.  Thanks to the winter rains the wildflowers this year are AWESOME.  Even God rewrote “this is good” to THIS IS AWESOME.

Creation, Texas Hill Country, Spring 2012

But as I looked at scenes like the one captured in this photograph, I got to thinking.  Genesis doesn’t say God created good plants and then created weeds.  The Bible pictures God creating, spinning out all manner of natural wonders, awe inspiring feats capped off with divine appraisal—this is good.  Bluebonnets good.  Cactus good.  Cedar tree good.  Ash, oak, pecan, all good.  God didn’t make a single weed, friends.

Some of that’s hard for me.  Like my parents before me, I suffer from hay fever, cedar fever, tree and grass fever.  Every autumn, every spring, when God’s creations spew out pollen (their God created way of having sex), I think, this is not good.  I sneeze and cough and wheeze and call down destruction on all these bad bad things, weeds of the worst sort.

In the beginning there were no weeds; but somewhere along the line we humans started thinking in terms of good plants and bad plants.  We planted and watered and nurtured and came to love the plants we deemed desirable—flowers, fruits, nuts, lawns—while we made another list of everything else; we called them weeds and then set about pulling them up or devising ever more effective poisons with which to kill them.

I don’t have a problem with agriculture.  Jesus talked a lot about fruitful agriculture; even when he referred to wheat and weeds, he never said to pull up the weeds.  I’m cool with having only wheat in some places.  I love bread.

But I’m pretty sure we humans have gone too far.  We think in terms of weeds and good plants, then apply our energies to getting rid of the weeds.  We think in terms of good art and bad art, then cut funding for bad artists.  For too many years now our political thinking has trended toward good Americans and bad Americans and how to weed out the bad.  We think in terms of good people and bad people (rarely, if ever, suggesting that we are among the bad) and devise laws to keep the bad ones away, out, or down.

God did not create a single weed, friends.  God made all the plants and called them good.  We created Roundup.  God created humankind and called us good.  We created the KKK, Nazis, and all the subtle and not so subtle ways our societies and governments discriminate and oppress.  The Bible has lots to say about how we should and should not behave, how we should love one another and avoid sinning against one another.  I believe we badly need better thinking when it comes to good behavior and bad behavior, grace and judgment, love and hate.  But in the beginning, God created everything; and God saw that it was good.  Don’t you think we could try a little harder to see things God’s way?  What difference would it make in the world if we did?

All good things to you,

david gilliam, weed pastor, faith united methodist church, austin.  for more about faith church, click here.