From the Pastor – August 2023

She wanted to meet with my mother following school that afternoon.  Our sixth-grade class had played a highly competitive game of kickball earlier in the day and, in her words, “(I) had a bad attitude.”  Rules were rules and Mrs. Hill had informed us there would be no stealing of bases in this game, but a friend on the opposite team tried to push the limits of the rules.  I wouldn’t call it being a “poor sport,” but I did try to draw attention to what my classmate was doing when the teacher wasn’t looking.  Did my feathers get ruffled a bit?  Sure, but my frustration came as a result of our teacher failing to pay attention and apparently being unable to hear my verbal protest.  Was my behavior a bit over the top?  Perhaps, but it felt justified in the moment.

No doubt, you’ve been there before.  Maybe not over a childhood game of kickball, but on some other occasion when things didn’t seem to be going for you.  I would love to believe bad attitudes happen only amongst non-Christian people or in situations external to the Church.  However, life has taught me otherwise.  I have been a part of church and denominational meetings in which I have experienced the “good, bad, and downright ugly.”  It’s unfortunate, because our attitudes inside and beyond the Christian community have a great impact upon our personal witness and the reputation of our congregation.  I wonder, how is your attitude right now about matters related to your faith and church family? 

We hear people suggest time and again: “Attitude is everything.”  By this, it’s meant one’s outlook and perception of a situation can greatly influence for good or for ill the end result of that situation.  From time to time, we need an attitude checkup to see whether or not our attitude has need of adjustment.  It’s true in the realm of academics, work, sports, practically every facet of our lives, and just as true in our life together as the Church.  Attitude impacts morale and morale the quality of service which we render for the Kingdom of God.  We will conclude the summer by looking at what the Scriptures have to say about our attitude and the kind of attitude which will make us fruitful and effective for the Kingdom.  This series entitled, “A+” will consider some of those things which shape our attitude and how that influences who we are as a congregation.

Although September is still a few weeks away, I would like to offer a preview of our fall Bible study series.  This is a bit of a change in direction from our recent biblical book studies in that we will be returning to the Old Testament and looking at one of the Minor Prophets, Amos.  I know such a study may seem puzzling, but, if we are honest, it can be easy to gravitate to those portions of Scripture with which we already possess some familiarity.  Most likely, you haven’t thought much about the Minor Prophets in some time and chances are good that you have heard only one sermon or Sunday school lesson from Amos (probably chapter seven).  This fall, we will consider the fullness of Amos’ prophetic message to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and its significance for us today. 

Amos was an outsider looking in as he spoke God’s word to a nation which felt confident and secure in its identity and achievements.  The people’s religion was superficial and its treatment of fellow human beings horrific.  While it does have a few prophetic words concerning Israel’s enemies, the brunt of Amos’ message was aimed at Israel, God’s people.  Sometimes we look at the world around us and shake our heads and fists when “those people” get it wrong, but, in reality, we all get it wrong.  Yes, even those who claim to be good, honest, God-fearing people.  While only nine chapters in length, Amos’ words are challenging, but, at the same time, understandable when we place them in their context and consider the history of the times. 

I would like to challenge you to read Amos as we go through the remainder of the summer in preparation for our fall study.  Look up some of its background in a Bible dictionary or study Bible.  Make notes about those verses which seem confusing.  Come up with questions which you may like to consider together.  As I often state, “There are no bad questions!”  As you read, don’t feel intimidated by the text.  Instead of trying to understand everything the first time, picture yourself as a resident of the Northern Kingdom and ask how you might have been confronted by the words long ago.  Much of the prophetic writings is recorded as poetry and, keep in mind, poetry is intended to communicate in a way which is different from prose.  Most importantly, enjoy your reading of Scripture.  Psalm 119:105 speaks of making God’s Word a “lamp for our feet and a light for our path.”  This is only possible as we spend time with this expression of God’s revelation.

Together in the Journey,

The Reverend Kelley Smart