Thursday, July 20, 2006

Winning Isn't the Goal

As a comment on a post by Kendall Harmon here, I thought of this:

When I was in High School in Atwater California, I was on the High School Debate Team (Surprise! :) )

The coach had a huge number of trophies surrounding his classroom because his teams used to be the best and they knew it. Then he read a book titled "They Call Me Coach" that taught him that winning isn't the goal. Winning is a byproduct of doing your best. After he put that in practice, the teams didn't win as much, but they were better debaters and better people and he was much more loved as a coach and teacher.

I have tried to put that philosphy to work in my life. Winning is not the goal. Whether winning is defined by profits, converts, material wealth, grades, or any other measure of success; winning is not the goal. The goal is to do your best. When you do your best, you will win. You may not have the most or be "Number 1," but you will be a much better person and much better at life in general than if you make the measure to be the goal.

Phil Snyder

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Day of Prayer and Fasting

I read on TitusOneNine that the bishops of California, Los Angeles, and San Diego are preparing a presentment against Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin. Why I don't know. He has not left the doctrine of the Church nor the discipline of the Church. Bishop Schofield is not in the best of health. +CA, & +LA are clear that this is about property. So much for "inclusion" and "unconditional love."

I came to know Jesus as a personal Savior and Lord in Camp San Joaquin in the summer of 1978. I had been a member of the Church all my life, but I finally understood what it is to love and be loved by God there, on the mountain and beside a mountian stream. (But that is another post.)

I love that diocese and will do all I can to support it in this fight.

I call for a day of prayer and fasting on Monday, July 17. I will spend the day drinking only water and will spend the time I would normally spend eating in prayer for the Diocese of San Joaquin, Bishop Schofield, the Network and Windsor bishops, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

May God's power be given to Bishop Schofield as he fights to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Bishop, you have served Jesus Christ faithfully and he will be faithful to you. Trust his promise to be with you and tell you what to say when you are brought forth on this matter.

Phil Snyder

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What Now?

The last few weeks (years?) have had a lot of people occupied with what will happen with the Episcopal Church. We've been wondering what will happen if GC06 doesn't answer the Windsor Report. What will happen if the Primates don't recognize Schori as a primate. What will happen if ++Cantuar doesn't invite most of the ECUSA bishops to Lambeth? What will happen if a diocese leaves the ECUSA and the whole diocese affiliates with either Cantebury or with another province.

These are all interesting questions, but for most people, they are exercises in wasted time. Satan loves to have us occupy our time with what will happen in the future. While God knows the future, we do not.

What should we do now? Well, first we need to focus on now. There are people whose task it is to focus on tomorrow. Let them focus on tomorrow. We need to focus on being the Church now. We need to sit at the feet of Jesus and his apostles and learn from them. We need to witness to the power of Jesus Christ to change lives and to redeem us from sin and death. We need to proclaim that Jesus is not just "Savior," he is also "Lord."

That proclaimation needs to take place both in words and in deeds. Are you worried about the ECUSA (or TEC)? Then take up a ministry of service. Find some place in your parish where you can meet Jesus in the poor, the sick, the homeless, the hungry, and those in prison. Find some place where you can serve your neighbors outside your parish. Learn to practice witnessing to the power of Jesus Christ in your own life. Don't focus on tomorrow. Let God worry about tomorrow. Focus on today and on being faithful to God today.

Phil Snyder

Friday, July 07, 2006

Interesting Cartoon

This shows where we are headed if we are not careful.

To avoid this path of empty churches, we need to recover our missionary zeal. Along with our missionary zeal, we need to recover our faith in Jesus Christ.

Phil Snyder

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sermon - 2 July 06

Deut 15:7-11
Psalm 112
2 Cor 8:1-9,13-15
Mark 5:22-24,35b-43

Almighty God, give us ears to hear, minds to understand and the will to do those things that you teach us today. Amen.

As many of you know, General Convention concluded a little more than a week ago. You have heard it before and will hear it again: The Episcopal Church is in a crisis. What is going to happen to the Episcopal Church, USA? To the Diocese of Dallas? To our beloved church family here at St. James? I don’t know. Those decisions are made above my pay grade. The Episcopal Church is in a Crisis. But, something I learned in studying Church History is that the Church has always been in a crisis.

Given the turmoil that the Episcopal Church is in, I think that last week’s Gospel was rather apt. Last week, we heard the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee and we look for him to calm our storms. But now, instead of saying to the storm, “Peace! Be Still!” I believe that Jesus is saying to us: “peace, be still.”

The prayer we said just before the Scripture readings – called a “collect” because it “collects” our thoughts for worship today - shows us how we can do that – how we can have peace and be still in the midst of our storm – no matter what that storm may be. Let me read it again.
Almighty god, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grand us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The way to peace and stillness in all of our crises is to follow the teachings of the apostles and prophets and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How do we know those teachings? Where can we find them? Well, a good summary of the teaching about God is found in the Nicene Creed and we will say that together after the sermon. As you say it today, think about what each phrase means. What does it say about God? As a brief start to your reflection, let me say this. First it says that we believe in One God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that God the Father created all things through God the Son. This God loves us and, because we are in rebellion against God, came to earth to be a human being – to become “incarnated” or “en-fleshed” and Jesus. This Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven to take our human nature and join it to the divine nature of God. We believe that Jesus will come again in glory and judge the living and dead. We believe that we are given a new kind of life through God the Holy Spirit who spoke through the prophets. We believe in one Church (however fractured we are, we are all still one Church) that is holy (set apart), catholic (teaches the whole of the faith) and apostolic (follows the teachings of the Apostles). We believe that we will be resurrected and have new life in the world to come.
I could go on and on about the Creed and discuss more deeply the meaning and origin of each phrase, and would love to do so, but Bubba would probably strangle me with her stole or Roger (or other verger) come and beat me with his (her) stick. Suffice it to say that the Creed is a snapshot of what the apostles taught.
We can learn more about what the apostles and prophets taught by reading and studying Holy Scripture and other Christian works through Sunday School Classes here at St. James. We have two classes for adults here at St. James. I am currently teaching a class on one of C.S. Lewis’ books and Fr. Clif is about to start an Inquirers’ class. To understand what the prophets and apostles taught, read their works or the works of those that have followed in their footsteps.
But to best understand the teaching of the apostles and prophets, you have to live it. We all try and we all fail to live it, but we are all called to get back up after we fall and to ask God for forgiveness and help to try again. Living the Apostles’ teaching will help us to more and more to gain that new life that we receive from the Holy Spirit.
In my brief 40 some years, I have learned that God is a giving God. He gave us this beautiful world when we didn’t deserve it. God gave us minds to think and a spirit that revels in fun and fellowship. We can enjoy a mountain sunrise and an ocean sunset. Because of God’s gifts to use, we are capable of great things. In my recent trip to London, I saw magnificent churches where people had been praying daily – where Holy Communion has been offered daily for over a fourteen hundred years! In Canterbury Cathedral, the stone steps are worn with feet and knees of hundreds of years of pilgrims coming to that place to pray and praise God. God gives us the ability to create such beauty and to enjoy it. God gives us families and friends and a longing for community. Above all, while we were still enemies of God – in open rebellion against Him, God gave us His Son, Jesus, to reconcile us to Himself so that we could participate in reconciling the rest of the world to God. Our God is a giving God.
We should learn to emulate Him in this. Today’s lessons from the Deuteronomy and from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians make this very clear. These passages are part of the teaching of the apostles and prophets and we need to hear them, learn them and live them! We, like God, need to give of ourselves to others – regardless of their positions or wealth or circumstances. When our neighbor is in need, we need to give.
Who is our neighbor? Well, look around you. These are our neighbors! After the service, look around the neighborhood. These are our neighbors. Look at a map of North Texas. These are our neighbors. Look at the world. These are our neighbors! There is no one alive today that is not our neighbor and when they are in need, we need to help.
America is a very rich country. You and I have wealth that other generations and other people around the world could only dream of. Imagine what Pharaoh, King of Egypt - a man who had thousands of slaves and who could afford to build the pyramids and the other colossal structures we see - would give to sit in an air conditioned house and drink a slurpee!
We have great wealth and we should share it with those in need. Why? Well, I can think of a few reasons.
1. To relieve our neighbors’ needs. We like to think that we are rich (or doing OK if we won’t admit to being rich) and others are poor because we worked harder or made better decisions than the other person did. We value wealth in our society and so shun poverty. This is wrong! True, some people do make bad decisions and that affects their life, but so what? Does God leave us alone because we sin? No! God continues to give to us in spite of our bad decisions and wrong actions – in spite what we have done or left undone. As people who are growing in the new life from God, we need to have the same attitude. People are going to mess up. They are going to cheat you and betray you. Love them anyway. Give to them anyway. Do not abandon them because God does not abandon us. We are God’s hands and feet to each other. Love each other the same way God loves us.
2. God commands it. Re-read today’s lessons. God says that if we do not give to our neighbors, they will cry to God and He will count it sin against us. The people of God learn to give as God gives.

3. Giving changes us. There is a bond that is set up between the giver and the receiver and both are changed by the gift. When we give, and give with the intention of being the hand of God in a situation, we are changed. I can’t describe it exactly, but I know it to be true. When I minister in prison, I can’t tell who comes away more changed, the men I talk with or me. Sometimes I come away feeling great – like I have helped someone come closer to the Lord today. Sometimes I feel sad – that so much that is good now sits in a very dark place and refuses to see the light. I often think this is how God sees me. When I respond to His invitation, He rejoices. When I reject Him or His word, He is sad that a person for whom His Son died is in a dark place. Giving changes us and brings healing to us and helps us to see God more clearly.
4. We are one body. In the Church, when any one of us is hurting, we all hurt in some way. The smallest pain makes the Body of Christ less effective. Giving heals both the giver and the receiver and brings wholeness to the Body of Christ. Giving outside the Body even helps the body as it brings healing to the giver.

So, we know why we give, but what do we give? Well, most times when we think of giving, we think of giving money and that is great. Money, if you think about it, is a universal means of barter. I trade my time and talents to Perot Systems in exchange for money. Most of us do that – trade time and talents for money. So, money is a measure of our time. Money is also portable. Which is easier to carry? $100 or $100 worth of food? Money is universally traded and, usually, of little or no intrinsic value itself. A $5 bill costs about the same in time and materials as a $100 bill, but the $100 bill is worth 20 times the $5 bill. When giving over long distances, money is often best. This summer, several members of the Diocese are going to Uganda as missionaries from us. Our own Pat Hind is one of the people going. To help her, many people in this congregation didn’t give her food or clothes, they gave her money and I am sure that the missionaries are taking funds to purchase things over in Uganda. Money allows us to help others minister in our name.
But, not all of us can afford to give money or much money. Regardless of how much money we cn afford to give, the most important thing we have to give is ourselves. Giving time in a ministry is a way of giving to our neighbor who is in need and is the best way to become the arms and hands of God to them and the best way to see Jesus in them. At St. James, we have several opportunities for each of us to be personally involved in giving our time to our neighbors. You can sign up for a Kairos team and join me in prison. Come see how God works in one of the most hate filled places on earth. If you want to see the power of God change lives, come to prison with me and give of yourself there. You can assist at Austin Street by helping serve meals or doing any number of things. Bubba would be glad to have you help her sort clothes or serve meals or whatever. She is not afraid to put you to work! If you want to see the power of God change lives, go and give of yourself to Austin Street! We have several other areas. God’s power changes lives at the White Rock Center of Hope and at Habitat for Humanity. God’s power changes lives when you give of yourself even here at St. James. One of the reasons that I grew up to love the Church is that faithful Sunday School teachers were there, giving of themselves, to bring my friends and I along in the Faith.
Do you want to know peace in your life? Do you want to be able to withstand the storms that will come up? Do you want to feel safe in Jesus arms when you get tired of battling the storms? Then learn the teaching of the apostles and prophets and Jesus Christ. And, as you learn that teaching, live it. Give your time and your self just as God gives to you and you will start to understand the Peace of God and begin to bring others to know that peace as well.

In the Name of God: Father and the Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.