The Little Red Invitation

little_red_hen

Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the Lord your God. –Leviticus 25:17

Remember the Little Red Hen?

She found some wheat and wondered who would help turn it into bread.

“Not I” said the Pig.

“Not I” said the Cat.

“Not I” said the Rat.

Then, when the loaf of bread was hot, fresh and steaming, the Little Red Hen asked, “Who will help me eat the bread?”

“I will” said the Pig.

“I will” said the Cat.

“I will” said the Rat.

And the Little Red Hen said,

“Like h— you will!”And she ate the whole thing herself.

Or something like that.

I say Kudos to the Little Red Hen.  She stood up for herself.  She didn’t allow herself to be taken advantage of.

However…

I can’t help but ask the question…What would Jesus do?

Would Jesus have denied those other animals some bread because they were lazy and unhelpful?

Or would he have welcomed them to the table and fed them, even if they were undeserving?

Honestly, I’m not sure!

On the one hand, we preach a Gospel of Salvation by Faith alone.  Works are a response to Grace, not a requirement for it.

So the question is, do the Pig, the Cat, and the Rat offer up any sign of Faith?  Or are they more like the Goats–who say, “When did we see you in need of help and ignored you?”

To which Jesus says (gulp) “I never knew you.”

The invitation in our (United Methodist) liturgy says this:

Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Wow.  The Pig and Cat and Rat don’t deserve that bread at ALL!”

Maybe.

But it’s the invitation that makes all the difference.

If the Little Red Hen, instead of flat-out denying the other animals because of their lack of effort, had spoken to them about what this bread means…

How it was prepared as a sign of Love…

How she was willing to share it with any of them who were willing to accept not just the bread, but the Love that came with it…

Maybe, just maybe, that loaf of bread could have been a means for transforming their lives.

Then the Little Red might not have felt so taken advantage of,

and the invitation to break bread

could have fallen on six willing ears.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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25 one-minute faith fixes

A lot can happen in a minute.

If your faith feels a little faded today, try one of these quick fixes and reconnect with God.

1.  See the sky

1. outside

  If you’ve been cooped up inside all day, give yourself a glimpse at the sky.  Feel the wind on your face.
Remember that the Holy Spirit is present.

2.  Give yourself a temporary tattoo

4. tattoo

Really!  Take a pen and make the tiny sign of a cross or fish (ichthus) on your hand.
Every time you look at it today, you’ll remember Jesus.

3.  Remember your baptism

13. baptism

Use the drinking fountain or a sink.  Just wet your fingers and then make the sign of the cross on your forehead.
You are blessed and made clean by God!

4.  Go Green

16. green

 A potted plant, the tree outside the window, a flower, a weed — it doesn’t much matter.
Being in the presence of life like this points you towards the one who gives it.

5. Laugh.

laugh

 Make a joke, watch a Youtube video, remember your favorite episode of Seinfeld.
Every time you laugh your body, mind, and soul get a little healthier.

6.  Do this quick guided imagery

17. chest

Take 3 deep breaths.  Close your eyes and picture the following, using your imagination to add detail:
You are in a giant hall.  God is there, with you.  In front of you is an ornate chest.
You hear God’s voice telling you that there’s something specifically for you, today, inside the chest.
Open it.  What do you see?

7.  Donate for free with the click of a mouse.

14 greater

Visit Greatergood.com and with the click of a mouse, you can help
support veterans, rainforests, orphaned animals, and much more.  See for yourself!

 8. Invite someone to church

11. invite

What?  In a minute?  Why not!
We spend more time fretting about inviting people than it takes to actually do it.
Ask a co-worker. Send someone an email.  You’ll feel good to have reached out.

9. Strive for silence

silence

Take a minute and simply be in the presence of God.  What the heck.  Take two.

10.  Look at your hand

hand_down

Look at the lines on your palm.  Your fingerprints.  The color of your skin.
You are a unique being, and you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

11.  Pray for someone in particular

25 pray

It could be anyone.  It could even be yourself.  The person you pray for doesn’t have to be sick, even.
But for one concentrated minute, you are channeling your spiritual energy in praying God’s blessing upon them.

12.  Memorize a Bible verse

6. memorize

In one minute, you can commit a simple Bible verse to memory.
Visit http://ministry-to-children.com/easy-bible-verses/ and you’ll find 10 simplified verses you can pick up easily.

13. Tell someone “I love you”

3. i love you

Who do you need say those 3 magic words to today?  Giving love to someone else helps you to feel it too.

14. Light a candle

1111 flame

There’s nothing like a simple flame to point us to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

15.  Remember your communion

21 Communion

We have the opportunity to take communion all the time — but not necessarily right this moment.
So take a moment and remember the bread and the cup, and what they mean for you and your life.
The love of Christ is still nourishing you — even now.

 16.  Pet your pet or kid with your kid

2. dog kid

The innocence of animals and children is like a giant arrow pointing towards God.
Call up a few fond memories and smile in God’s direction.

17.  Draw Creation

24. creation

I’ll bet you can draw the story of creation in one minute.  No time for perfection here–just sketch it out fast:
The Sun and the stars.  The sky and the water and the land.  The birds and the fishes and the animals and the humans.
Remind yourself of the grandness of God’s gifts.
And don’t forget to put God’s pronouncement on there somewhere:  IT WAS VERY GOOD.

18.  Confess

23. confess

You don’t have to carry guilt around a minute longer.
Don’t beat around the bush — just lay it out there for God to take from you, and ask for forgiveness.
And then, read this:
“Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.  That proves God’s love for us.
In the name of Jesus Christ, You are forgiven!”

19.  Hum Amazing Grace

14. amazing-grace_t

Or sing it, if you’re where you can.  Think of how many millions of believers had sung these same words and felt the same Grace.
You are not alone.

20.  Listen to the World.

12. listen to world

The world can be a noisy place, and we tend to block out a lot of ambient noise.
Take a minute, though, and really listen:  The car driving by, the hum of the refrigerator, distant footsteps.
You are called to be part of life’s symphony.

21.  Picture God’s arms around you

7. arms

I frequently share this idea in situations where people are feeling pain or loss,
but really, when wouldn’t God be holding you?  It’s not just an idea…it’s really true.

22.  Recite the Lord’s prayer

10. lord's prayer

This prayer is designed to align us with God’s Kingdom.
Pray it with the confidence and hope of a believer.

23.  put on the armor of God

22. armor

You are a member of the Body of Christ, and an ambassador of the Kingdom of God.  That means you are connected with the powerful Love of God and even able to use it in your life.  When conflict, abuse, or trials come, don’t forget that.

24.  Put a problem in your God box.

20 god-box

My wife does this, and swears it helps.  It’s based on some writings from Anne Lamott.  If there are problems you just can’t face, put them in your God box, and remind yourself you don’t have to be in control of everything.

25.  Recite the story of the Good Samaritan

19. good samaritan

This is one of those parables many Christians know by heart.
Take 60 seconds and tell yourself the story again.
By the time you’re done you may remember Jesus’ 2nd commandment as well
— to love our neighbors as our self.

There you have it!

It’s as if Jesus himself had walked up behind you, tapped on your shoulder, and asked:

“Got a minute?”

Have a great week,

Mitch

Going Undercover To Save The Church

There’s a reason I sport a moustache and a goatee: Without them, I look about 18 years old.

So, why not put my youthful features to use?

Maybe I could make a difference by going undercover.

That’s right. I’m going to attempt something right out of “21 Jump Street”.

I’m going to infiltrate today’s youth. I mean, we have a great group of youth at our church, but I want to get to all the others.

Yep! I’m gonna fake some enrollment papers and “move” to town as a High School senior.

I’ll get to know the different groups of kids–The dweebs, the jocks, the brainiacs, the preppies (I’m a little out of practice on slang terms for social groups)–and I’ll find out why young people are staying away from church in droves.

And then I’ll make them change their minds.

I’ll show them that being part of a sports team isn’t worth it if you have to play games on a Sunday morning, missing church.  Of course, our attendance goes down for all ages whenever there are sporting events happening.

I’ll convince them that our church isn’t hypocritical like some other churches.  Of course, we try so hard to be open minded that many folks have no clue what it is we stand for.

I’ll explain to them how much the Holy Spirit is present in our church.  Of course, we tend to sit on our hands and mumble-sing through most of worship.

I’ll list examples of  how much we care about the world.  Of course, we have a hard time trying new things in new places.

I’ll remind them how important rituals like communion are.  Of course, sometimes it doesn’t feel very spiritual. We tend to rush it so we don’t run overtime.

I’ll invite them to serve on committees.  Of course, they tend to meet at inconvenient times, doing things that may or may not seem very vital.

And above all, I’ll make it clear how much the church cares about them.  Of course, our budget and volunteer involvement don’t always reflect that.

Hmm.  The more I think about it, the more I see how hard of a sell the church can be for today’s youth.

I have another plan.  Instead of trying to go undercover in our approach to today’s youth, let’s not just tell today’s youth they’re important to the Kingdom.

Let’s show them, by listening, collaborating, funding, and giving power to them!

Remember, you can cover it up with a moustache…

But merely talking about (or at) the youth

is still just giving lip service.

Have a good week,

Mitch

Have a Church and a Smile

Our Communications Team is looking for a new slogan for our church.  Something we can put on t-shirts and hats, something that gives people a glimpse of why church is important.   Here are a few I dug up.  See what you think:

  • “The Closest Thing To Home”
  • “Enjoy Life”
  • Church “is your kind of place”
  • “Where there’s <church> there’s hospitality”
  • “I’m lovin’ it”

You might not have recognized the first four, but I bet that last one rang a bell.   These are all slogans from McDonalds or Coca Cola from the past 100 years!

As I sat around the table at the Communications meeting last night, it dawned on me that McDonalds and Coke have stolen all the good church slogans.  “We Love To See You Smile”, “Coke adds life”,  “You deserve a break today”, “It’s the Real Thing”.   I could go on and on. So what’s the deal?  When Christians come up with slogans for their churches, are they “selling out” and acting like advertising companies?

I don’t think so.  Not at all.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Remember that great song “I’d like to Teach the World To Sing?” The first time I heard that was in church.  It wasn’t until years later that I found out it was a jingle for Coke.   What Coca Cola had done was to take all the feelings, importance, and meaning of a world in perfect harmony, and then attach them to a product — Coke!  When you see a car commercial on TV with the slogan “DRIVE = LOVE”, that’s somebody’s attempt to make you think that an automobile can make you feel love.

But that’s not true!  God is the source of Love.  We’ve been telling people that for millennia! God is the reason for hospitality and why the whole world will one day sing in harmony.  The reason churches do marketing is because we want to help people connect with the real “Real Thing”.  It’s not a misrepresentation, and it’s not a manipulation.  After all, “God” really does = “Love”.  

So we’ll keep working, looking for a few choice words that speak to what it feels like to be part of our church.   In the meantime, allow the words of this devotion to invite you to visit us for church this Sunday.

An added bonus?  This week we’re having communion!  Or as I like to call it…

Happy Meal.

Have a great week,

Mitch