A reminder that we will have a presentation about the One Church Plan by Mark Holland tomorrow evening (Wednesday, October 17, 2018) at 6:30 p.m. in the sanctuary. Mark Holland is a clergy delegate to General Conference from the Great Plains Annual Conference. He made the motion on the floor of the 2016 General Conference that asked the Bishops to help lead the denomination forward and resulted in the One Church Plan. If you are interested in LBGTQ+ issues and/or the future of the United Methodist Church (including this congregation) you will not want to miss this meeting.
Yesterday Jenny and I and a few other people went over to the Bishop’s town hall meeting in Salina. There were non-affirming people there, and some of them were quite vocal. I returned home even more convinced that while homosexuality is not communicable, homophobia is contagious. (And I’m not saying that everyone who is non-affirming is homophobic, but some of these folks definitely were.)
Yesterday Jenny preached on the book of Job and shared the following quote. I want to share it with you in written form this morning:
Arguing with God is an act of deep faith—deeper, perhaps, than a passive acceptance of whatever happens as God’s will, or a carefully articulated theological rationalization for why things are. — J. S. Randolph Harris 
 J. S. Randolph Harris, “Job 23:1-9, 16-17: Homiletical Perspective,” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, vol. 4, Year B (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 151.
“God is often styled holy, righteous, wise: but not holiness, righteousness, or wisdom in the abstract: as he is said to be love: intimating that this is . . . his reigning attribute, the attribute that sheds an amiable glory on all his other perfections.” — John Wesley 
Both above and beneath, both before and after everything else, God is love.
 John Wesley, Explanatory Notes on the New Testament (New York: Lanes and Scott, 1850), 1 John 4:8. Explanatory Notes on the New Testament was first published in 1755. It remains one of the standards for doctrine in the United Methodist Church.
At the potluck this past Sunday, I was finally asked the question I’ve long been waiting to be asked: “Do you read anyone other than N. T. Wright?” The answer is yes, I read a lot of other people. That answer naturally leads to another question: “Then why do you reference N. T. Wright so often in sermons?” It’s a great question. If you think you don’t like how often I reference N. T. Wright in sermons, please believe me when I tell you that I like it even less. The problem is he routinely provides insights into scripture and the Christian faith that I haven’t encountered anywhere else. Furthermore, quite often these insights provide a new way of looking at a scripture that solves a lot of exegetical problems while preserving the original gospel message.
Last Sunday’s sermon on Holy Communion was a good example. In, The Day the Revolution Began, Wright wrote:
“I have made the point elsewhere, but it bears repeating: when Jesus wanted to explain to his followers what his forthcoming death was all about, he did not give them a theory, a model, a metaphor, or any other such thing; he gave them a meal.” 
In hindsight, this is a blindingly obvious point, but it is one I had never heard before. I’ve read a lot of biblical commentaries on the last supper, I’ve read a great many books about Holy Communion, none of which have made this point. I wanted to share that insight with you, and so I was once again stuck referencing N. T. Wright. When several biblical scholars/theologians make the same point, I don’t feel the need to cite my sources , but when I’ve only found something in one author, I do. That’s the main reason I so often end up referencing Wright. Another reason is that because he’s Anglican we often share a set of core beliefs and a basic interpretive framework (John Wesley was an Anglican priest until the day he died). It also doesn’t help that Wright’s a prolific author—sometimes I feel that he can write faster than I can read and digest what he’s written.
 N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (New York: Harper Collins, 2018), Kindle Locations 2995-2996.
 In part because it’s often impractical if not impossible to track the point back to its original source.
“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.”
— widely attributed to Michel De Montaigne 
This has so often been true of my life that remembering it helps me trust God with my future.
 I say “widely attributed to Michel De Montaigne” because I can’t track the quote back to one of his works.
Bishop Kenneth L. Carder has written a blog post called “Why I Changed My Mind About Homosexuality and the Church.” He moved from voting for restrictive language in the Book of Discipline to advocating for inclusion, his reasons for changing his mind mirror my own.
I don’t know Laura Jean Truman from Eve, but today I’m praying this prayer:
Keep my anger from becoming meanness.
Keep my sorrow from collapsing into self-pity.
Keep my heart soft enough to keep breaking.
Keep my anger turned towards justice, not cruelty.
Remind me that all of this, every bit of it, is for love.
Keep me fiercely kind.
Amen. — Laura Jean Truman 
 Laura Jean Truman. Twitter post, October 7, 2018, 9:56 p.m., http://bit.ly/2NtxCTJ.
In a recent blog post, my colleague, David Livingston, wrote “Pastors are told to ‘afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.’ We are in a time when everybody feels afflicted.”  That last sentence sums up the past week, the past month, and the past year. It’s been a hard week for everyone who has had to relive the trauma of a sexual assault.  It’s been hard on people like me who did not realize the extent to which friends we know and love have been affected by sexual assault and abuse. It’s been a hard week for folks on both sides of our political divide. No one has won and everyone has lost. Tomorrow I’ll do my best not to afflict anyone.
 David Livingston, “A Plea From a Pastor,” Now and Not Yet, October 1, 2018, accessed October 06, 2018, http://bit.ly/2OL1OP2.
 Whether one believes the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh to be true our false, surely we can all agree and be sympathetic to the fact that having this issue lead the news has made this past week difficult for survivors.
Our next All-Church Potluck dinner will be this Sunday, October 7, 2018, at 11:30 a.m. in Wright Hall. This is the same day as World Communion Sunday. We’ll incorporate the bread remaining from the sacrament into the feast.
Our colleague, Rev. David Livingston has written a great post about the difficulty of preaching right now. The key point: at present pastors have to be extremely careful in choosing their words because “Words that a distant two years ago would have been seen as docile now cause people to leave churches.” Even when we’re extremely careful, we’re not perfect. I would join with David in asking you to talk to us if you find something we said hurtful.
The whole post is worth a read: http://bit.ly/2OxOEod.
Ralph Hilton died this past Friday. There will be a visitation this Friday, October 5, 2018, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church narthex. In accordance with Ralph’s wishes, there will not be a funeral service.