Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Memories and Ministry

When I was five years old my family moved from rural Missouri to Waxachie, Texas.  My memories of living in Missouri are scant to say the least.  I remember our home had a crawl space underneath that I was quite scared of, I remember we backed up to a corn or wheat field and I was not allowed to play past our grass in that undiscoverable space, and I remember one time my older sister getting in trouble for back talking and she had the childhood experience of tasting soap while sitting on orange counter-tops (don’t judge, it was the 1980’s).

Just about every generation of Arnold who lived around the old farm were members of the small Assembly of God church with a sanctuary at ground level and class room space in the basement.  My only real memory of services at that church in rural Missouri was a specific spring Sunday where all the members enjoyed food and fellowship while the children dove into a mountainous pile of hay looking for what I would assume to be Easter eggs.

It is amazing what images, smells, and moments burn into our memory.  I am certain that that Assembly of God church in rural Missouri is/was far from the "perfect church”; however, the memory of fun and fellowship outside the confines of wood and plaster cause me to think of it as such.  I am always struck at the stories of Jesus recorded by our gospel authors.  Certainly the three years that Jesus taught and ministered are full of moments that are lost to history.  But then there are stories, mysterious stories, which stood out from the ordinary and burned upon the heart of Christianity as the author took ink to paper.  So too, in our life-long journey in Christ with fellow sojourners there are specific moments that stand out; they form who we are and how we approach life.

I pray that Sunday, with casual attire, we will experience one of these moments in the life of First Christian Church Ruidoso.  May we always, in the sacrament of neighbor love, form memories that burn into the heart of our family of faith.

May peace of Christ rule in our hearts,
Pastor Ryan

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Less than human

Notes from the Pastor...

There is a rising awareness within our society as to the long-term effects of war.  One of the historically common trends among veterans has new terminology:  Moral Injury is defined as “lasting psychological, biological, spiritual, behavioral, and social impact of perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.”  In laymen’s terms, Moral Injury is the dehumanizing effects of continual exposure and participation in a less than human atmosphere; and war is less than human.

As a nation, next Monday, May 28, we will celebrate Memorial Day as a solemn occasion to fix our societal hearts on the sacrifice offered by a few for the good of the many.  As we place American flags at our door posts, remembering men and women who serve us courageously and faithfully, let us pray for those who suffer from Moral Injury.  Both pacifism and “just war theory” advocate peace as the central motive even in the midst of violence.  Therefore, let us be activists for peace and prayerfully consider the ultimate end to violence.

Sadly, in this election year, rhetoric will be used to demean the sacrifices offered without reservation.  This leads me to wonder how much Moral Injury we create not only through our longest war, but also in our warfare analogies pointed at people that differ from us in religious belief, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.

1 John 5 instructs the children of God to overcome the world through obedience to the commands of God; specifically: “love one another.”  Our neighbors, both service members and civilians, need a hopeful
community, a family of faith that is committed to overcome hate, discouragement, abuse, and the inhuman atmosphere of war.  No one should have to suffer from Moral Injury.  And no one should suffer Moral Injury alone, without a community committed to their healing and restoration.

May this Memorial Day be more than a day of remembrance for you and I; may it be a day of firm resolve where First Christian Church Ruidoso commits herself to her mission in the world: “Through the work of worship, the self sacrifice of discipleship, and the healing of hopelessness we participate in the Kingdom of God.”

May the Peace of Christ be with you,
Pastor Ryan

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Risk, Self-Sacrifice, and Abundant Life

Notes from the Pastor...

On the second Monday of every month the nuts and bolts of vocational ministry come to an apex.  On that day, it is my duty and honor to provide a Senior Minister Report to your Executive Board.  The report highlights administrative and pastoral activities from the past month.  As I prepared May’s report I reflected
back to Lent, to Holy Week, to Easter, and to Mother’s Day; then I realized a continual theme has dominated my conversations, sermons, and teachings thus far this year.

William Temple, the renowned Churchman once said, “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

In the season nestled between Easter and Pentecost we find the resting place of the Church.  Given the resurrected appearance in John 21 we assume that Peter, even after the faith-birthing Easter display of life, went back to fishing;  the life he held before Jesus called him to “follow me.”  His move from birthed faith to inactive existence is a tempted habit for you and me, as it has been throughout the history of Christianity.  And just as in days of old, on that lakeshore, Jesus corrects us still.  Even as we are fishing Jesus repeats his beautiful, life-changing call: “Follow me.”

First Christian Church Ruidoso cannot, and should not, exist solely for the benefit and recreation of her members.  Rather, we as a church exist to participate in the  Mission of God – that is to nurture the life, love, and peace of Christ in our community.  The irony of existing for others is the more we die to self, the more we gain “abundant life.”  Make no mistake; following Jesus in the Mission of God is a risky endeavor.  It cost Peter his life, and two thousand years later, the price has not changed.  Yet risk is the place where vulnerability and expectation meet.

So may we continue to sacrifice our collective desire for benefit and recreation so we may receive “abundant life” in Jesus the Christ.  After all, “through the work of worship,  the self-sacrifice of discipleship, and the healing of hopelessness we participate in the Kingdom of God.”

May the Peace of Christ be with you,
Pastor Ryan

Friday, May 4, 2012

All things new

Notes from the Pastor...

The greatest testimony, in all of Scripture, may well be the pronouncement by the one who sits on the throne, presumably the risen Jesus, in the 21st chapter of the Book of Revelation; he says, “Behold, I am making all
things new.”  The problem with this testimony is we often prescribe its effect to the future and to some post-mortem existence in the life beyond.  Yet when we study the Book of Revelation we find that its effect is in the present (or maybe even the past) and not merely the future.  

aspect:  n. 1. A category of the verb designating primarily the relation of he action to the passage of time, especially in reference to completion, duration, or repetition.

The aspect of the Book of Revelation is notoriously difficult to detect.  Nevertheless, just for a moment imagine what our world would look like if Jesus’ pronouncement, “Behold, I am making all things new,” meant TODAY.  What kind of hope, optimism, ministry, and compassion would this birth into our lives?  What past disasters, pains, and abandonments would be healed?  

With the birth of our daughter on April 18th, Kristyn and I (along with Jack) experienced the exclusively sublime freshness of new.  After the Lenten season spills into Easter we ministers are tired; we pour all our spirit into Holy Week and often don’t feel the relief of the empty tomb until weeks after the echoes of “He is risen, indeed” have ceased.  Yet when Ellie Spring reclined into my arms I felt the breath of hope that comes with the pronouncement, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

This may be auspicious, but I tell you; God hears the prayers of his Church.  His kingdom and will are progressing to reality on earth as it is in heaven.  “Behold,” in this moment, the risen Jesus says, “I am making all things new.”

May the peace of Christ be with you,
Pastor Ryan

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Welcome to the World!

We are the proud parents (and big brother) of a beautiful baby girl!

Tuesday, April 17th I started timing contractions. My biggest hope for Jack all along has been that we would have the opportunity to explain to him what was happening and who he would stay with while we were at the hospital. Thanks to our friend Miss Courtney who came over Tuesday evening with her overnight bag, we were able to have some sweet family time, kiss our son goodnight, and he was able to sleep in his own bed. After singing bedtime songs and a few extra kisses, we anxiously, nervously, excitedly headed to the hospital.
Upon arrival, we went through the check in procedures in the triage room. My doctor just so happened to already be at the hospital and was able to check my progress personally.  She told us I was too progressed to go home but thought we still had some time before things would get interesting. She prescribed rest until she returned in the morning. Unfortunately for my poor husband, the triage room we were in was the last available room. Thankfully for us, we got the last room available! Either way, Ryan did not leave my side, even though that meant he had to sleep in a chair.

The next morning could not come soon enough. With my doctor's blessing, the nurse hooked me up to the portable monitors and we took to the hallways. I wish I could obtain the video surveillance in the maternity ward from Wednesday morning since my tall, groggy husband supportively joined my in walking and lunges.

Progress throughout the day felt as though we were losing a race to a turtle, but we remained determined and optimistic. Meanwhile, my mom had been driving from Austin, TX since 4:30 that morning. To everyone's surprise, my mom made it to the hospital in time for the birth of her granddaughter. I am so thankful I was able to have my husband AND my mom by my side.

We heard the sweet cry of our daughter, Ellie Spring, at 6:45 pm, Wednesday, April 18th. She was 19 1/2", 6 lbs. 5 oz. We were amazed by the frozen moment and filled by the complete love of our growing family.

The hospital congratulated us by giving us an actual room that just so happened to have two beds. Lucky Ryan! This time we anxiously waited for morning because we missed Jack and we were so excited for him to meet his baby sister.
We are a very blessed family of four.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Anticipatory Vision

Notes From the Pastor...

At Easter we proclaim the resurrection story, and we say, “Praise God!  What was dead shall live; what was dark shall shine; what was forgotten shall be remembered, for Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed!”  This is a powerful story, but unless the story becomes flesh and blood in Ruidoso it ends with last of our annual
proclamations: “…just because he lives.”

In short, the resurrection story must become our identity for it to powerfully change our lives.  This means that we cannot identify with former things that once entrapped us; whether it is our possessions, our past, or our position in life.  Yes, I am a member of professional clergy, but what does it mean to be clergy in light of the resurrection story?  Yes, I am a husband and father, but what does it mean to be a family man in light of the resurrection story?

The Westminster Larger Catechism, written in 1648, opens with a question: “What is the chief and highest end of man?”  The answer is then confirmed by the catechismal candidate: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.”  Likewise, Julian of Norwich wrote, “The greatest honor we can give to God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”

Family of faith, I so urge you – live out the resurrection story!  Be people of anticipatory vision; living gladly with friend and foe confident in God’s love for you.

Pastor Ryan

Friday, April 6, 2012

My Good Friday Meditation:

Eloi, Eloi lema sabachani;
My God, My God why have you forsaken me?

God lived among:
Flesh walking, teaching,
admirable life.
But now abandoned, utterly alone.

Innocent, draped in blood and
But this is not the horror.
The horror finds being in
homicidal loneliness.

This is hell.
The absence of God, reserved for
the godless;
Still it is I, the so called religious,
who knows this absence.

Is this not to be avoided?
At all cost, "Flee from darkness,"
I pray, "Medicate me from

Yet within it,
I know my God,
and in forsakenness,
my God is with me.