Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a deacon dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: deacon

Guest Post: Death Penalty Vigil

by Emma Johnston

“One of the most effective means of disengaging the church from the work of justice is making injustice a philosophical concept” – Soong Chan Rah.

Over the past three years, I was a full time seminarian at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. From the very first class, my faith was challenged.  One of the most beautiful things of the seminary environment is that your faith is questioned, broken down, and then built up through deeper learning and understanding of Scripture and its interactions with other texts, and the ministry that we are engaging in during our internships.

In September of 2015, my small group and I endeavored to learn more about systemic issues in our world.  Our focus was the death penalty and for them, and for me, it was a chance to challenge our beliefs and to engage in a conversation that is often not had on college campuses.  We watched the movie Dead Man Walking, and some of the young women still felt like capital punishment was a viable option, whereas some were challenged to reflect more on the justice system that our country champions but on both sides, there was compassion and a willingness to listen and question themselves.

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Wait. What’s a Deacon?

This was originally published in the April 2016 issue of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate. The focus of this issue was the 20th Anniversary of the Order of Deacon. 

A group of church leaders had gathered for a meeting. The district superintendent mentioned the possibility of hiring a deacon to help the congregation reach beyond the church walls. A woman sitting across the table looked back at the DS with a quizzical expression. “Wait,” she said, “What’s a deacon?”

It’s not the first time that question has been asked. For twenty years, the United Methodist Church has been struggling to articulate the answer, “What’s a deacon?”

I welcome these questions. When I first experienced my call to ministry and I was told about the ministry of the deacon, that was my response. I had never heard of an ordained deacon. While I felt a strong call to ordained ministry, it did not look like the pastor of a church. But, I had no words to express what it did look like.

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Book Review: Kingdom Come

41gf7itj8wLKingdom Come: Why We Must Give Up Our Obsession with Fixing the Church – and What We Should Do Instead, Reggie McNeal, Tyndale Momentum, 2015.

Reggie McNeal sets out to do exactly what the subtitle suggests. The fist half of Kingdom Come explains why the church must give up fixing the church. While the second half deals with the what the church should do instead along with practical ways to do just that. The thesis of this approachable book is summarized in this statement by McNeal, which he repeats often:

“The church is not the point of the Kingdom; the Kingdom is the point of the church.”

The book is divided into two sections. One focusing on McNeal’s theory that in order for the Church to survive in this new day and age, it must refocus on the Kingdom. The second half gives practical examples and practical steps to achieve that. While the first half of the book is Pastor McNeal, the second half is Leadership Consulant McNeal.

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Deacon’s Call: Mike Friedrich

I’ve been collecting call stories from my friends who are serving in diaconal ministries – ministries of service – expressed in the United Methodist Church through the provisional and ordained deacon, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, and home missioners.  In this post you will hear from Mike Friedrich is a provisional deacon serving as the Emerging Ministries Specialist to the Bridges District of the California Nevada Conference..  Here are Mike’s words: 

Here’s the short version:  I stood in a church one day and out of the blue said to myself, “I gotta be part of this!”

I think you’ll find the longer version is more interesting.  Here it is:

I was raised in a practicing and faithful Roman Catholic family and was personally active spiritually and religiously while attending my Jesuit college. Yet, I fell out of practice when I discovered all the local churches I knew were into families and I was a single 20-something guy.  There was no welcome space for me.

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Deacon’s Call: Lisa McGehee

I’ve been collecting call stories from my friends who are serving in diaconal ministries – ministries of service – expressed in the United Methodist Church through the provisional and ordained deacon, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, and home missioners.  In this post you will hear from Lisa McGehee who is an ordained deacon currently serving as  the Associate Minister at Good Shepherd United Methodist in Richmond, Virginia. Here are Lisa’s words: 

The seed for my call was planted before I was born. My maternal grandmother was passionate about serving and caring for others – humans, animals and creation. It was through her life and the way that my mother was raised that I became an advocate for those without a voice. Granny left a legacy filled with stories of providing for care for children. She opened the family home to her children’s friends giving them a warm meal, clothes to wear and a place to stay.

She cared equally for animals and there are many stories of my grandfather and my mother and her siblings coming into the kitchen to find “the box” that sat beside the wood burning stove. “The box” provided protection for an animal that was born the littlest or one that was injured. She raised it with care until it was ready to leave. Her love for creation was equal to the love she had for people and animals. She was a farmer and a gardener who never seemed to have a challenge growing plants. I believe it was the care in which she planted the seed and tended the soil. She gave thanks and praise to God for all that she had and deeply desired to share it with others.

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Quote: Diaconate Reality

Diaconate quote

Guest Post: The Reality of Ebola in Our Lives as God’s People

The Rev. Nancy Robinson is an ordained deacon in the Virginia Conference and, along with her husband Kip, missionaries to Sierra Leone. She reflects on the reality of Ebola in our lives as God’s people in the world.

Kip and NancyKip and I, General Board of Global Ministries missionaries to Sierra Leone, are currently exiled to the United States and are asked not to return until a later date to be determined by those in leadership; Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church and leadership in Sierra Leone. We are standing in the gap, sharing the story of an amazing people and help those here in the States to understand the context and put a face on what is a concern on all of our minds.

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Guest Post: Foot Washing

by Rev. April Casperson

Read John 13:1-20.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comWhen I read this familiar narrative in John, I’m struck at how the author tells us how Jesus feels, what Jesus does, and how Jesus explains himself. It’s a fascinating glimpse of the consistency between the inner and outer life of Jesus Christ.

Jesus knew that his time on this world had come to an end, and he felt love for those who were in the world. He could have stopped caring, or begun to transition away from being in deep relationship with humanity. And yet, he chose to remain in relationship. Even more radically, he chose to continue to love those in this world until the very end.

Jesus even took his love a step further, demonstrating to the disciples what it meant to be a servant. He participated in a familiar ritual of foot-washing in the middle of a meal, knowing that the disciples would not understand what they were observing. Even so, he continued in the midst of confused questioning, making the ritual both a teaching moment and a tangible demonstration of his love.

Finally, after we read through Jesus’ explanation of the foot-washing ritual, the very next verse (verse 21) states that Jesus was troubled. How unexpected! For Jesus, following his call towards redeeming the world, demonstrating his role as a servant, and embodying his role as a teacher didn’t bring him peace. Instead, he was troubled about what was still to come.

What a striking reminder this is for us. How often are we troubled, even when we follow our calls, live as servant-leaders, and try to make our lives a teaching witness? Maybe we are troubled when we don’t see instant results. Or perhaps we let ourselves do these things in hopes that the actions will settle our souls, rather than the hope that the world will be transformed. And yet, God doesn’t call us to be comfortable or to do good works because they make us feel good in return. God calls us to live faithful lives, and to transform the world, because of the life, work and example of Jesus Christ.

This Lenten season, consider your motivations. Have you allowed your motivations to become of this world, rather than grounded in the call of God?

In this season, may be all be reminded of the One who calls us, and the One who is to be our motivation for service to the world.

Rev. April Casperson is an ordained deacon serving as the Director of Enrollment Management and Scholarship Development at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. 

 

Guest Post: Grace!

by Rev. Charlie Baber

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comCenter With Prayer: 

Creator of birth and rebirth, remove the veil from my heart that keeps me from knowing you more perfectly.  Christ, lifted up on the cross of death to heal all who look upon you and believe, strengthen my heart to accept your Word as transforming truth in my life. Wild and untamed Holy Spirit, catch me up in your movements that I may go where you send me. Amen.

Read the Scripture: John 3:1-17.

I recently drew a comic about God’s love and a Methodist understanding of the Way of Salvation. It’s also based on my experience with animal rescue and fostering.  Prevenient grace is the Holy Spirit at work in every single person, beckoning us all to God.  Since all my students take Spanish and not Latin or French, I told them to call it “Pre-Vamonos” grace: “Everybody, Let’s GO!” It’s like the porch of a house, inviting you to come in. Justifying grace is the turning point, where we recognize our profound need for God, repent and trust in Christ.  It’s “Just-if-I’d” never sinned, and the faithfulness of Christ fills up and covers over our faithlessness.  It’s like the door into the house where the party is going on. Sanctifying grace is a life in Christ, growing to be more and more like God as we grow closer to God.  It’s the whole party house.  But we can make some pretty terrible mistakes, and turn our backs on God.  Fortunately, God’s grace is always first, always going before us, always calling us back.  We love because God first loved us.

Take a moment to read the comic below.  Reflect on the ways God has fostered salvation in your life and rescued you.  Then go forth in your salvation and love the world that God has so loved…

55WB

Rev. Charlie Baber is a deacon serving at Highland United Methodist in Raleigh, North Carolina. Charlie has a weekly comic-blog called Wesley Bros.

Guest Post: When There is Love

Rev. Lisa McGehee is an ordained deacon in the Virginia Annual Conference serving as Minister of Adult Discipleship and Communications at Good Shepherd United Methodist in Henrico, Virginia. 

Slide3Read Psalm 72. 

The theme for the second Sunday of Advent is love. While the word love is not found in Psalm 72, it’s there in the prayers for justice and righteousness. Psalm 72 originated as a prayer for the king – it is thought to be King David’s last psalm written for his son Solomon. It’s a prayer focused on justice and righteousness – God’s justice and God’s righteousness. It’s a prayer that gives a charge to the king (vv. 2-7) to protect and defend the poor and the needy and to take down those that oppress. Or as described in The Message, “Please stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy, come down hard on the cruel tyrants.” The psalmist prays that justice and righteousness prevails when the king stays focused on God’s plan.

Where there is justice and righteousness there is peace. Where there is peace there is love. Ah, peace and love. Perhaps there is no other time when we pray for peace and love more than Advent. Oh, but wait, this year we have constantly prayed for peace and justice. We’ve prayed for Egypt, Syria and North Korea. We’ve prayed for innocent children and teachers, for Navy yard workers, for marathon runners who lost their lives because someone was calling out for help or sought revenge. We have prayed for senior adults who cut back on meals because of local food pantries with empty shelves. We’ve prayed for cities that have declared bankruptcy. These issues seem insurmountable. This is due in part because governments and political systems appear to be the controllers, perhaps even the oppressors, of this world. Yes, we have prayed for peace and love this year.

Psalm 72 doesn’t give a strategic plan on how to bring about justice and righteousness. However, the key is found throughout all of scripture – the key is love. Even in the darkest of days and times, where there is love, oppression is lifted. When we remember the love that God has for this world, we work harder for justice and righteousness. This week, think about ways that you can be the king – or queen – of love who stands up for the poor, who helps the children and who lets the oppressor know that their way is not a way of love.

© 2017 Jason C. Stanley

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