Everlasting God–cover

If you take a moment to think about where and how you have experienced God–in a moment, a place, or an action–you may discover a touchstone or ordinance (religious rite) that helps keep you in love of God and neighbor.

This is a song by Brenton Brown/Ken Riley written using Isaiah 40’s words that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength and rise up on the wings of eagles.

The song also embraces the prophet’s (and God’s) desire for justice for those in need–the weak and poor. For me, these needy and weak persons can be both us who sing these songs in worship and those who are poor in other ways. In either case our salvation is tied up together–in helping save others lives (not simply ‘souls’ but a more holistic salvation) through mission and service and evangelism–we also receive God’s salvation.

This subject of “waiting” is a popular one in the prophetic literature and in the Psalms. But, this type of waiting is (in my opinion) not what some would call christian “quietism” in the sense of passive waiting upon God to act or speak. This was a popular doctrine in catholic and protestant circles in the 17th century.

John Wesley, the Anglican priest and father of Methodism, said that christians must “attend to the ordinances of God.” That is that people striving to follow the ways of Jesus should actively wait upon God by going where God is conveyed. (And yes God is everywhere, but the argument can be made that God is better revealed and made known to us in certain places, spaces, and actions. In this is we who need a change of venue or pace in order to recognize the God that is ever-present.)

If you take a moment to think about where and how you have experienced God–in a moment, a place, or an action–you may discover a touchstone or ordinance (religious rite) that helps keep you in love of God and neighbor. How do you keep that ordinance or touchstone in your daily life now?

As one of my favorite seminary professors Rex Matthews has said of our participation in God’s work–if you want to catch the bus, you go to a bus stop…if you want to hear from/experience God, go to where God is.

Many experience this place/space at church in worship, communion, singing, praying, in conversation with friends and family, or in other ways. Whatever/where-ever it is, find it and go to it often. This is what John Wesley was talking about–where and how do you find/connect to God and what God is doing in, through, with and, even, in spite of you?

It is in our “active waiting in that place/space/event that we find strength to live and move and act in the world in ways that express the Love of Jesus Christ God.

chords and words for Everlasting God

Video/music: “I Will Go” (cover)

After having several (ongoing) conversations with many people who tend think that all modern christian music has bad theology, and is all fist-pumping, empty rhetoric (although some of it is)–I’ve decided to start posting up some music (some of my own acoustic versions) I’ve come across. I hope that these songs/hymns will be helpful to christians who are searching for songs and hymns that have deep meaning, good theology, and good musicality for various types of worship.

The first of these is “I Will Go” by Jon and Tim Neufield–two brothers in a Canadian band called Starfield. This song addresses the need for christians to understand and heed God’s call to minister with the poor, the oppressed, and the broken–“the ones the world has cast aside.” My favorite lines (perhaps one I most identify with) come in the second verse: “Let me not be blind with privilege/ give me eyes to see the pain/ Let the blessing you’ve poured out on me/ not be spent on me in vain/ let this life be used for change.”

This is an answer to the ever-present question of “what do you do with privilege?” In recognizing and using one’s privilege to help those who have none is what God calls us to do. God calls us to go and join the effort that God is already making in places of need and hurt. As Starfield articulates on their website:

“We are so privileged, yet we’re so dissatisfied with our lives no matter how well we’re doing”, lead singer Tim Neufeld says. “There’s always this underlying pressure to be doing better, when the exact opposite should be the case. The pressure and call on our lives should be to live with less and give away more.”

May we live our lives in ways that allow others to fully live.

I will go – Chord Chart

Making➔ Space

Emory Wesley LogoWhen we offer hospitality to strangers, we welcome them into a place to which we are somehow connected–a space that has meaning and value to us.

Christine D. Pohl in Making Room: Recovering Hospitality
as a Christian Tradition

One of the most classic  and exhilarating college experiences is having a roommate. Sometimes this goes along smoothly, but other times it does not. However good or bad, there is something challenging and formative about sharing space with people who are different from you –it is experiences like this that help shape you into the person you will be when you finish college.

Two of the greatest challenges in life are finding space to belong to and making room for others. We all need a space to belong, a community to take part in, a group where we can be ourselves. People were created by God to be in community–to be in relationship–with God, with each other, and all of creation. It is perhaps easier to have our own space, but it is not as rich, not as diverse, or as beautiful as sharing our lives with others.

This is why it is vital that students have a place to come together in Christian community–a place where they can form and be formed into the people they are becoming in Jesus Christ. Jesus was all about making space. In the story wesley outlineof Levi, the tax collector, and Jesus in Mark chpt 2, we can see that Jesus made room in his community for tax collectors and sinners–those who society and religion of the day had excluded. Our job and calling is to make room for those society and even religion may exclude–those who are marginalized, labeled, and dis-connected.

Making room for others is difficult because it means we have to share the space that we have found. The students of the Emory Wesley Fellowship have found their space and are sharing it. They have defined themselves as “a community of disciples growing together in love of God and love of neighbor” and are seek to live it out. The Emory Wesley is a place where students come together as strangers and leave as part of a community having shared in a space that has meaning and value for their lives and their journey with God.

This past Sunday we had our first dinner and worship service and had a group of around 25 students. Our group is small, but a welcoming and growing group. We ate good food, shared in fellowship, song, prayer, and the Lord’s supper together. The student leadership of Emory Wesley is a talented, dynamic group of leaders and I am blessed to work with them. May God continue to bless and guide the Kingdom efforts made by the Emory Wesley Fellowship.

Grace and peace,loving god and neighbor

Joseph McBrayer
Emory Wesley Fellowship, Director
emorywesley.org

New Orleans, college campuses, and the Church

This week we’re on vacation…jackson park fencewell my wife is at a conference and I’m walking around the city of New Orleans taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the food of course. In my walkings around the French Quarter, City Park, and the Warehouse district I’ve noticed how many tourists I see with very nice digital cameras taking lots and lots of photos. I guess New Orleans is a very photogenic city. Its historic nature and subsequent variety of people and architecture make it a great place to “people watch” and take pictures…although hopefully you’re taking pictures of the scenery and not the pedestrians.

There is always something going on here in New Orleans–a prime example: after I searched for 15 mins to park ourbrass band 2 car to check into the hotel I found a spot on a side street in the French Quarter. As I was getting our luggage out of the car and BAM!–right in front of me emerged a brass band and following parade moving down the street. It was out of no where and I’m not even sure why it was going on, but it was and it was awesome. Every time we come here to visit friends, there is always something going on–if it’s not Mardi Gras, it’s a Jazz festival, crawfish boil, or something else. It seems to me that the people  in New Orleans like to do things–not just talk about them.

I feel like that is what a college campus is like or supposed to be like. sandwich makingCollege is about learning–but (hopefully) not just about the theoretical part of things. Sadly many classes are about theory and the proper procedure, but are generally lacking the practice or application section. However, all the students at Emory are encouraged to take part in extra-curricular activities and service projects. Many of the students in the Emory Wesley Fellowship are very involved in campus activities–everything from being resident advisors (RA’s), being involved in student government as class representatives, and leading service trips for Volunteer Emory and even making sandwiches to help support people struggling with homelessness in Atlanta. Outside of service opportunities, there are many other interests and activities vying for attention from the student population.

Basically, there is always something going on at a college campus too. Whether for good or ill, I think that college students are about doing things. They’re interested in talking about things, but they also couple that talking with action and living out what they learn and what they believe.

This brings us to the Church. I won’t take this space to be too critical of the actions of the Church, that is the body of Cathedralpeople claiming Christianity as their faith tradition. I’ll leave that discussion for a later, more interpersonal time. However, the Church, when it is truly being the Church–the ekklesia, the gathered people–the Church is about action and about transformation. The life and teachings of Jesus motivate us to join in the movement of God towards the reconciliation, healing, and transformation of and for the world.

Now, the nexus of these topics is found in Campus ministry: young adults and college people who are about living out the good news and love of God through action to and with thier neghbors in the world. That is what campus ministry is about.

If you’re heading off to college, Emory or otherwise, and you’d like to get involved in a living, breathing, action inducing faith tradition, then check out a campus ministry like the Emory Wesley Fellowship.

As always, email with comments or questions. –Joseph   jmcbray@emory.edu

National Student Forum: Dr. Eboo Patel

Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others.

This weekend (May 21-24) I’m here in Shreveport, LA at Centenary College attending the National Student Forum of student forum logothe United Methodist Student Movement–basically a gathering of United Methodist college students who are from all over the US. Also there are 50+ UM campus ministers and chaplains (I’m now one of those as the Emory Wesley Fellowship Director!) It is a pretty awesome gathering of people in the United Methodist Church who are deeply passionate about young people, the church, and the world. Our theme is breaking barriers and building bridges.

Today at the conference Dr. Eboo Patel founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core spoke to the students and later to the Campus Ministers about coming together despite differences, pluralism, and serving others. The Interfaith Youth Core, is an organization who “builds mutual respect and pluralism among young people from Eboo Pateldifferent religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others.” Patel is a young, energetic, extremely intelligent and well-read communicator.

He spoke to us about the importance of building the “beloved community” of which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke. Dr. Patel, a devout Muslim, shared his belief that MLK, Jr.’s vision of the beloved community consisted of and was informed/formed by two things: 1) his being deeply rooted in the Christian faith tradition, and 2) his relationships with people of other faiths. Patel encouraged and challenged the students and campus ministers to grow more deeply in their faith, noting that in deepening their own faith traditions they will encounter truths that resonate deeply with other faith traditions. He talked about the interfaith encounters and relationships of Martin Luther King, Jr. with Ghandi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel to demonstrate that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only a great leader for the civil rights movement and a great leader for the Christian movement, but that he was also a great interfaith leader.

Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others. His message was and is encouraging, insightful, and it is gaining momentum–one conversation and one interfaith leader at a time. May it continue.

mississippi bridge

Approved!!

So, last week 50+ people desiring to be United Methodist elders and deacons went before the Board of Ordained Ministry of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church to be essentially “interviewed” to be approved or not to be placed in ministry in the UMC. UMC logo

In short, I “passed,” although the official words are that I am “deferred pending appointment.” Many did not make it through, but must repeat some parts of the paperwork and interview sessions. This is a difficult verdict to hear because in preparation for the Board, every candidate has to go through a lengthy candidacy process (it takes at least 3 years) which includes Masters in Divinity, a 3 year graduate theological education basically, on top of your undergraduate degree and ministry experience. My paperwork wound up being close to 80 pages double-spaced as they ask a difficult set of questions ranging from “How do you see the Holy Spirit working in the World?” to “What does it mean to say that Jesus Christ is Lord?” to “What is the nature and mission of the Church?” Basically, the Board wants to see if you can articulate theology–that you can write and speak coherently about God, humanity, and their interaction.

My experience with the Board, although challenging, was a positive one that left me feeling both encouraged and hopeful. Encouraged–that more experienced ministers and pastors on the Board were willing to listen and appreciate the passion and call of a young person who is hoping to enter the ministry. Hopeful–that things are changing in the Church and that the Church has a future with young people in the world and in ministry.

road to somewhereNow what?! We wait for a little longer to see if there is a place where my gifts and talents match the needs of a church or ministry. This is how the Methodist itineracy system works. So, join me in praying for all who met with the Board: that we may find ministries to which we are well suited and that will enable us to fulfill our calling to serve God and neighbor. But, for the next two weeks my wife and I are simply going to celebrate that I was affirmed by the Board of Ordained Ministry–for each day has enough worry of its own.

Snow in Atlanta!

Next time it snows during a worship service, I too may be tempted to run outside and enjoy the snow.

snowy streets

So, a rare and exciting thing happened yesterday…it snowed 2 or 3 inches here in Atlanta. I’m not sure, but I think that the last time it snowed this much was back in what many Georgians call the “blizzard of ’93.” I was only 10 years old when that happened–wow.

For us here in the southlands it is a rare occasion when we get to see snow, much less enjoy it–and, since it was a Sunday, we actually got to enjoy it a little bit. Even if we still had to go to work today…

glenn umc snow

Because of the rain and the cold, we decided to drive to church,  Glenn Memorial UMC on Emory’s campus. As the Rev. Dr. David Jones was beginning his sermon entitled “Spring Training” he made an observant comment to the effect that it certainly was “spring” outside, as it had just begun snowing. We watched as everyone in the Glenn congregation turned their heads to the windows on either side of the sanctuary and there was a small amount of “murmuring” from the congregation–both young and old. Rev. Jones’ sermon was about Jesus’ being tempted out in the desert and about how Lent was in part a remembrance of this–but that we should not bear any difficult situation or circumstance by complaining or “murmuring” as the hebrew puts it in the Exodus story, but that we should tighten our belts, listen to the wisdom of our parents and grandparents from the depression era, and celebrate the good things that we do have–even as we are in the midst of difficult times.

A few minutes after Rev. Jones announced the snow fall outside, one of the children ran down the side aisle shouting “its snowing!” Then he ran back in, unaware or not caring that the whole of the church was watching and “murmuring“–and then ran back outside. Rev. Jones didn’t miss a beat, but mentioned that if two of the older, more established members ran outside, then we’d really be in trouble. The congregation laughed and the worship service continued in the singing of hymns, the serving of bread and wine, and the fellowship of God’s people–all while the year’s first snow fell softly round.

Snow people After getting home and having some homemade chicken noodle soup, Frances and I made some snow people. We had a great time as playing in the snow is something that neither of us had done in a while.

Next time it snows during a worship service, I too may be tempted to run outside and enjoy the snow.