Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pornography: it is a bigger problem than you can imagine

Three weeks ago I attended a summit meeting of religious leaders known as the Religious Alliance Against Pornography. This interfaith group is working to educate religious organizations and the public at large about the widespread use of pornography in our society today. It also uses its corporate influence on matters of legal and public policy when appropriate. Members of this alliance are partnering with the National Coalition and iCare to educate people about how to protect themselves from pornography. With the advent of computers, internet, and many kinds of hand-held devices and cell phones pornography, sex trafficking and prostitution has become a multi-billion dollar industry around the world. Just about anything and everything is at the click of a mouse on a personal computer. Many innocent children and teens are being trapped into this culture.

If you have not already done so protect your home and church computers with filters and “smart limits.” Parents should study the kinds of protections that can be put on cell phones and video games. When you see pornography in stores or in the media use your voice to raise awareness and complain to managers and advertisers. Support international efforts to stop sex trafficking of young children and women. The United Methodist Women have many such programs. Speak to church groups and youth groups about the dangers of pornography. Get counseling and help for people with addictions to pornography. Above all else, pray for God’s grace to make a difference in this world by your pro-active witness.

For more info contact

Resources from the General Board of Church and Society -

Sex and the Church — Pornography and sexual addiction
Prevention of the Use of Pornography in the Church (#2082, 2008 BOR)
United Methodist Web site on sexual ethics:

UMSE Bulletin: Monthly News, Events and Information on
Sexual Ethics for The United Methodist Church:

CONFERENCE: Healthy Sexuality in Light of Internet Pornography: The Church’s Place
Camp Hill United Methodist Church, Camp Hill, PA. Save the date -- May 2, 2011.
COST $35 incl lunch. Contact: Darlene R. Schlegel, PA Council of Churches,
717 545 4761.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


The Jewish Passover celebration begins today (Monday). This is the ancient meal that was instituted by the children of Israel to remind them about their escape from slavery in Egypt. The word “seder” means “order” and this meal has an orderly progression of courses of foods and rituals, all of which recount God’s delivery of the Jews from the hand of the Pharaoh. The steps include: the blessing over the wine, the washing of the hands, the dipping of vegetables in salt water, the breaking of the matzahs (unleavened bread), the retelling of the story of exodus, the second washing of the hands, the blessings over the matzahs, the blessing of the bitter herb, the better herb and the charoset ( an apple-nut mixture) eaten on a matzah, the festive meal (which includes lamb), the eating of the last matzah, the grace after the meal, the Psalm of praise, and the closing statements.

In the closing statement the seder is declared complete and all wish that next year the seder might be observed in Jerusalem. This declaration means that they hope that the Messiah will come soon and allow all to celebrate next year in Jerusalem that has been rebuilt.

Christ instituted the Last Supper during a Passover meal on the night before his death. In this meal he brought fulfillment to the promise long ago that God would save people from their sins once and for all. As we observe Holy Thursday and Good Friday this week, may we not only look back at this story of redemption but also look forward to the day when everything is fully restored. Just as the Jews say “next year in Jerusalem” may we pray “next year may the Lord come again and restore all things and we will feast at Christ’s heavenly banquet.” May we prepare ourselves for that great day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Asleep on the Job

Back in March the news reported a case in which an air traffic controller at Reagan International Airport fell asleep on the job around midnight. Two commercial jets approaching the airport intending to land could not get a response from the tower. They even called on the phone and still no response. Luckily both flights landed safely. I think we are all grateful for that and that we were not on those two flights that night. Certainly this could have been a life-threatening situation.

I think all of us can think of a time when we fell asleep at the wrong time. I remember once I dozed off during a particularly long testimony at a funeral in the deaf church where I was serving as pastor. It was quite embarrassing to wake up, realizing everyone was waiting for me to get up and finish the funeral.

Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his death. He asked three of his closest friends to pray with him but instead of praying they fell asleep. Three times they fell asleep during Jesus’ most agonizing moments with God. If they had stayed awake surely they could have been a comfort and a strength for Jesus.

We can fall asleep literally during important times and not so important times of life. But more subtle are times when we figuratively fall asleep by ignoring important issues of our faith. God is often like a jet pilot calling to us in the control deck of our life but we are rushing through our prayers, ignoring God’s warnings and leading and living as if we were asleep on the job.

What is our job? To love the Lord your God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. To do anything other than that is to be asleep on the job. We only get one life to live and we need to be awake, alive and obedient to God’s direction for our life. What message is God calling to you? How is God trying to get your attention? Keep awake and focused on God’s will for your life, and you will never sleep through God’s plan for your life.

Monday, April 4, 2011

When Religion Divides and Hurts People

The Spirit of God unites people and religion divides people. This statement sums up what is happening in the world today when religion goes painfully wrong and people get hurt. How sad that Rev. Terry Jones decided to burn the Koran causing riots and death to innocent people from the UN. How sad that the Westboro Baptist church hurts so many people during their funeral protests. They do this as a way of making a statement against gay people in this country. When beliefs are such that the people holding those beliefs justify hurt and destruction then things have gone far from the holy intent of religion. We shake our heads in disgust and disbelief.

But do we not do the same thing when we reject and hurt people with our words over controversial issues that arise in our churches? When there are divisions and painful arguments in church over anything whatsoever we have convicted ourselves of hypocrisy. Paul says in I Corinthians 6:7-8 “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead you yourselves cheat and do wrong and you do this to your brothers.”

Instead of engaging in controversy and disagreement, put energy into doing the things that make for the unity of the body. The fruit of the Spirit gives love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22). Peace and unity among people of faith is the greatest witness we have to the love of Christ in this world. How can you wage peace in turbulent times in your church? If we can’t do it here in our churches then we have no room to judge others stirring up controversy and pain in this world.