How do we live together in a world of Post-truth? This is the dystopian question which causes many futurists to sleeplessly abandon their ruffled beds. Maybe you have seen the YouTube sensations I shared in my recent sermons. There was “The Dress,” which appeared white and gold to some, and black and light blue to others. There was also the audio playback of “Laurel and Yanni.” The congregation was split 50/50 over whether they heard one or the other. How could we hear and see the world so differently? I don’t know, but the truth is we do.
In psychology studies, it has been shown that we begin to see the world the way we want to see it. In other words, we may begin to only look at things that confirm the way we want to see the world.
Take the example of this basic psychological profile question. In Intro to Counseling, a counselor performing an intake on a new patient may ask the very simple, but profound question: “Do you see the world as mostly good or mostly bad?”
If we see the world as mostly bad, we may begin to focus more and more on things that prove our point of view. There are 300 channels on my TV and more than half would confirm a person’s negative world view.
The other side of the coin is just as true. If a patient saw the world as mostly good, they would begin to look for the good even in the worst of situations. One example I read talked about the Christmas Tsunami in Indonesia. One person said that was the worst natural disaster. The positive person looked at all the volunteers coming out to help.
In the real world, the two patients may call each other all kinds of names and absurdities for seeing the world differently, even though they both have their own subjective truth.
As this phenomenon becomes more prevalent and moves from the trivial to the emotional, political, and moral, we may find ourselves backing into our own corners, where we feel safe and have our own post-truth worldview confirmed.
The danger of this post-truth world happens when we begin to want “our side” to be so right, that we take hearsay as evidential. This is where “he said vs she said” begins to hold up in the public court of opinion. We are in worse trouble when in the post-truth world, when we accept insults as viable proof of the invalidity of another’s empirical argument.
For example, could a scientific argument be nullified in the following manner, “He said blue whales are in danger. He is dumb. Who wears a bowtie on national TV?” How can we trust that? I don’t know, but studies have shown that if we agree with the person making the insult, then we will agree with the point and reject the other who may be right.
In the classic Orwellian novel 1984, someone you believe could tell you 2+3=4 enough times and with enough authority that eventually you would agree. It would become your truth.
So the question remains: How do we live as Christians in this post-truth world?
A great response comes from Paul in his letter to Galatians where two groups who had their own views and truths of the world were learning to live together as one community. Their peace came from not agreeing on facts, but from agreeing on virtues. Paul said, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” There is no law against such things. We will talk about each of these over the summer to see what it means to live them out in this brave new world.
Rev. Trey Hegar
The Iowa WINs (Welcomes Immigrant Neighbors) Com-mission has received the Volunteer Group of the Year Award. The award letter read, “Trey, on behalf of the Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council, it is my pleasure to inform you that Iowa WINs has been selected as the Volunteer Group of the year!”
I am so moved that this congregation is compassionate in so many ways. I know IowaWINs has received a lot of attention this past year and deservedly so. Yet, they don’t do it alone. They do it as one part of our larger body in Christ. The award is for all of our congregation. For example, I know for a fact that some of the leaders for IowaWINs eat cookies after worship. So, if you have ever set out cookies or cleaned up after hospitably time this award includes you. You make this church welcoming! If you have handed out bulletins in worship, sung in the choir, played in our bell choir, been a liturgist, this award is for you. You make our worship holy! If you have worked on budgets, cleaned our church yard, served our youth or children, this award is for you. You all make this church a great place to be nurtured!
It takes so many of you who make up different parts of this body, that there are too many to name.
1 Corinthians 12 says, “When one part of the body celebrates, we all celebrate together and when one part mourns we all mourn.” So today, let us celebrate together recognizing that we have created a place where God is worshiped and we are challenged to share God’s love, shine God’s light and be shaped as God’s people.
Everybody mumbled and grumbled about too many ministry meetings for pastors and elders at the higher governing body level. We all had other important work to do at our churches. These meetings lasted too long. They required time and travel. And worse, the content of the meetings drained our energy. We dealt with one problem after the other. It was discouraging.
Then at one meeting our Executive Presbyter, that’s a fancy name for the pastor to all the pastors, stood up and said, “We are adding an additional item to the agenda. We will spend 15 minutes in guided table talk.” I gasped at the cruelty. These meetings were bad enough. Now the leaders expected us to talk to each other. I mumbled, “Why can’t we just get on with the business?” I didn’t want to talk to other people for 15 minutes!
Sheets of paper were passed around to each round table where 5 - 7 people sat for the meeting. There were three questions on the paper.
1) Where have you seen God at work inside your church?
2) Where have you seen God at work in your neighborhood?
3) How can you meet up with God in this work?
Now, in my years of ministry it was customary for pastors and others to complain about the church. Conversations often centered around needing more people, not having enough money, hurt feelings and other negative frustrations.
It took a minute to let the first question settle in. Sadly, I was used to feeling the absence of God. I had to visualize the presence of God. I dwelt on the question, “Where have I seen God at work inside my church?”
A scene came to mind of two members at my church getting coffee ready. One member had lost a husband and child 20 years ago. She was still a positive, light-hearted soul. The other had a very sick wife. They weren’t just making coffee. They were sharing life. God was there in the kitchen.
I thought about the second question, “Where have you seen God at work in your neighborhood?” Several ministries appeared to me that I had never really taken noticed of in the community. The thought occurred that God was working in my neighborhood!
Suddenly, for 5 to 15 minutes in this tepid meeting, I found myself excitedly talking about positive aspects of ministry and where I have been seeing God. The ways to meet with God came flooding into my mind.
Our Executive Presbyter encouraged us to look, see and meet with what God is already up to. He moved us from the negative side to the positive side. He told us to build on that momentum. Join the work God is doing.
After that meeting I began to look around my church differently. My eyes sought places where God was at work, rather than looking for places where I wished God was working. Now, I saw God already present.
Where do you see God at work already? In your life? Your work? Our church? Our neighborhood? How can you meet up with God? I love those meetings!
REV. TREY HEGAR
God is on the move! That is our Lenten theme this year. The sermon series for Lent will focus on God moving to the cross and personally in our lives. We will see how Christ moves us past obstacles, moves us through wisdom, moves out to greet us, and moves us inside and out to transform our lives through gracious acts. Aristotle thought of God as the Unmoved Mover. Thomas Aquinas pointed out that there would be no movement in the whole cosmos unless there was a first mover. St. Augustine shared how Jesus was God moving to save us. We believe through the Holy Spirit that God is still on the move! We believe God is on the move in our church. Together we will explore how God is on the move in our lives.
Also, this year during worship in Lent we are planning a special practice called “Visio Divina.” This will be a time to help us focus on God’s provisions and movement in our lives. Photos based on selected Psalms are being taken by two of our church members who have a passion for photography. We will project a photo image on the screen. Then a leader will guide us with a Psalm and mediation to reflect on how God sustains us.
My prayer for our worship during Lent is for us to all see how God is moving in our lives.
Rev Trey Hegar
Hebrews 13:16 says, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
One of the most influential moments in my church life as a child was when my parents divorced. My dad moved into a small one-bedroom apartment. Men from the church came to help move some heavy furniture with their trucks. I
remember one church member putting his arms around me and saying something like, “friends help each other out when they need it.” He then affirmed me by saying, “I saw you move that couch. You are a good helper.” I stuck my eight-year-old chest out a little further than I ever had before.
Over the years, there were several times my dad asked me to come along and help do some heavy lifting for others who needed it. We moved couches and dressers for older couples who were downsizing or families who were moving into a bigger home. Once we helped another friend from the church going through a divorce. He was moving into a small apartment. I remember my dad and him sitting for a long time on the stairs looking down and talking long after everything had been unloaded. I just kept remembering how one man in the church told me this is what friends do. I associated that to mean this is what friends in the church do. They help each other.
These weren’t events that happened every week or month. They happened occasionally, but their impact was powerful. It showed me one side of being a man in the church. We do for others. We show up, do a little work, give a hug, shake a hand and sometimes we sit together quietly. Now to be sure many of these same men got loud and rowdy together when the former NFL Houston Oilers made the playoffs. They showed how to have a good time with chili competitions and more than once we had frog races with toads we had to catch. There were canoe trips, hikes on park trails, and monthly yard teams at the church. The times were foundational. One of the most important aspects was that men: grandfathers, fathers and uncles, brought along the next generation both boys and girls. They showed Christian virtues of work with kindness, joy, and generosity. I think we need this more and more today. Here is a quote which shares why.
“Our modern high-tech, fast-paced, consumerist world is becoming increasingly frenzied, fragmented, and disarrayed. In a time when we possess more financial wealth, material goods and comforts, and technological conveniences than ever before, many of us suffer from untethered wishy-washy relativism; information overload and dizzying speed and chaos in our lives; anxiety, stress, and feelings of fatalism and nihilism. We face defensive paralysis in the face of change and a disproportionate reliance on money and consumerism seem to be the answer….We are becoming lost and forlorn, drowning in an overpowering present. What is going wrong and what can we do about it?” (Excerpt From: Thomas Lombardo. “The Pursuit of Virtue: The Path to a Good Future.”)
For centuries the answer was virtue and character development formed in the way of Jesus. Largely these traits are no longer explicitly taught in homes and schools. This leaves young men and women on their own to figure out how and who to be in the world. That is why I think it is so
important for us to once again turn to the lessons of scripture. Virtues are taught as a way of being. I believe we have the opportunity to share these character qualities in action. The men of the church are needed to begin this work. Please say a prayer as the men of the church begin again. May we start to intentionally create ways to shape the future. I pray you will join us to do good in the name of Christ and shape the future of the world.
Rev. Trey Hegar
I love our family dog, Maggie. We trained her early as a pup. She learned to walk well on a leash, do a few tricks, and load up in her kennel for bed each night. We didn’t force her to learn these things. We rewarded her for doing things she already loved.
You can’t drag the puppy on a leash behind you to teach it walk. Also, you can’t toss the puppy in the kennel and say, “load up” and expect the puppy to go into the kennel the next time you said ‘load up.’
No! Lasting results don’t work like that. This is how to train a puppy to load up in a kennel. Use puppy’s interests and desires to get it to go where it needs to be. Puppies love treats. They also love cozy enclosed dens. So space out some treats on the floor. Lay one near the kennel. Lay another closer to the kennel. Then put one in the kennel. Let the puppy’s appetite guide itself. Then reward the puppy for doing something it likes to do, eat treats and be in a cozy den. Soon you find the puppy enjoys going right into the kennel, too.
We can take a cue for our New Year’s resolutions from this lesson. Whether you are trying to change your lifestyle, create a new environment in the workplace, or lead a congregation like me; one of the best ways to change behavior is to use small incremental steps.
Many things are hard to do in life. Changing behaviors and starting a new lifestyle are two of the hardest. Often we attempt to go against the grain to start new things or force a change of direction.
We especially do this with New Year’s Resolutions. We hope to better ourselves. We promise we will start over new. We toss ourselves in a proverbial kennel one time without conditioning and expect to do it again daily on command. Before January ends, we realize we don’t have the energy to keep up the initial force or the stamina to maintain a new direction. The old grooves and comfy ruts lull us back into mediocrity. By February our ambitions are held at bay. The defeat lacks luster. It just is. That’s the way things go. Right?
Isn’t it near impossible to start from scratch or reverse course in reality? No, not at all. Change is possible. But most lasting change doesn’t go against the grain. It isn’t forced. It happens with natural momentum and incremental steps. Then we can defeat old habits without beating ourselves up too much.
My college roommate was a boxer. He loved to get his opponents on the ropes. He was often successful even when the opponents didn’t want to have their backs to the ropes. How did he do that? Did he force them? Shove them? No, he barely used any energy at all. He let them do it. As they stepped into him, he stepped back with small pivots. He would counter with the opposite hand to make them continue in a semi-circle. Before the opponent knew it, they had their back to the ropes. They had also expended a ton of energy to get somewhere they didn’t want to be, while my roommate conserved his strength for a barrage of blows. He would do this incrementally round after round until it was like
clock work. It took remarkable discipline, foot work and psychology. He let the other boxer help him win. They wanted to hit him. So, he let them try over and over until he had them conditioned to be where he wanted them to be. Genius!
So, what if for your New Year’s resolutions you kept moving forward with incremental changes instead of trying to force a change. I call it Spiritual Jijitzu. Here is Jijitzu defined: “verb (used with object) to turn (a situation) to one's advantage by exploiting one's own weaknesses and strengths.” We expect immediate changes of ourselves and others. We beat ourselves up for not keeping up with a new lifestyle or best practices. We slander others for not going from a zero to hero overnight. In truth that rarely works.
Sure, all change takes a first step. But lasting change creates a new pattern in a new direction away from the old ruts. It takes time to get into those new grooves. So what if this New Year, you and I built on the positive momentum and natural inclinations to be even better than the year before? Let’s make it so. Here’s to a New Year of becoming better using our Spiritual Jijitzu in the name of Christ.
Rev. Trey Hegar
Bombs were falling all across Baghdad. The green glowing phosphorus streams of anti-aircraft bullets punctured the black night sky. We sat and watched the news coverage from a recliner and couch with the Christmas tree still looming in the corner of the living room. Somewhere across the world others were huddled in hallways. The deafening thud of carpet bombing beat louder than their heartbeats. And yet for many their hearts were still beating. People still fell in love, got married, had children and went on to live their lives.
People keep on keeping on even in the midst of wars, raging fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, economic downturns, and global political crisis. Winston Churchill famously said once, “If you are going through hell; keep going!” Isn’t that some of the best advice ever? Why would you stop?
For me, this perseverance to march on in the midst of the darkest days is exactly what the Christmas story has become about. On one of the longest, coldest nights of the year, the world was given a new life. The parents had submitted to the government’s tyranny. They had walked
nine days for a census. They had no place to stay. Yet, they
had each other and the everlasting gift of life. They had to flee from Herod, who ordered every child under the age of two destroyed. They still persisted. Their story is part of our story.
We are made to persevere. That is part of what it means to be made in God’s image. Many of you have made it through your own dark nights of the soul. You have come over the mountains or through a valley. Some of you may still be looking for the light. Others may just be beginning a journey with a destination unknown. Wherever you are, remember as the Christmas season approaches and the daylight lessens; there is a light that has come into this world and the darkness of war, natural disaster, economic upheaval or political turnover has never been able to extinguish it. That light is in you! May you continue to share God’s love, shine God’s light, shape God’s people! If you need hope, may you find strength in the story of a family and a child who came to save the world.
Rev. Trey Hegar
So I did a little experiment. I recorded myself scrolling through my Facebook page to see how long it would take before I found some type of hot button topic that could send even the mildest mannered, gentle soul into a tizzy. (I am not saying I am that person.) It didn’t take long. We are surrounded by negativity.
You can’t go five minutes on any public forum, news channel, radio station or social network without finding someone or something to raise your blood pressure.
It is especially difficult now when we live in a time where it seems every hero and role model has fallen from grace. For some of you, it may have started with presidents like Richard Nixon. His Watergate scandal shook the foundations of trust for our country. For others, it may have solidified around Bill Clinton and all the word salads he used dancing around accountability with lawyer speak. Well it just keeps getting worse.
Now there is this ever growing roll call of celebrity men brought to public justice by the #me too movement. The list of the fallen is astonishing: news anchors, politicians, business leaders, and more. Bill Cosby is grotesque. Garrison Keilor, one of my favorite story tellers, is guilty. It seems we don’t have anyone to trust or follow. We don’t know whose opinion to believe or what facts are real. Scientists have to protest, teachers have different beliefs about what to teach, moral leaders lead amoral lives, yet still produce what some consider good fruits. With few leaders to follow, we are still called to be light in the darkness. We are to live peaceably with all as much as it is up to us. Where in the world can we get direction? To whom can we turn?
To sound cliche it may be that these things are truly impossible for us. Jesus said in Mark 10, “What is impossible for humanity is made possible with God.” As much as I know about the world and the people in it, I still believe Jesus is one who shows us the Way, the Truth and the Life. Who else can we listen to? Who else should we follow? In this day and age Jesus is my hero. May we all grow to be more like him. Rev. Trey Hegar
I am often asked about the future of the church. People reference the declining numbers of attendees in the United States in the vast majority of churches since the 1960s. One essay I read even refuted the few growing mega churches saying, “there is a direct correlation from small community churches shrinking and a very few mega churches growing.” They aren’t making Christians. They are taking Christians. Even with the trend of some churches growing the numbers, it doesn’t look well for the future.
So then what is the future of the church? What’s next? Two things 1) The future of the universal church has never looked good. 2) There is no future of the church. There is only now.
The future of the universal church has never looked good. The temptations of the world for power and money against the message of peace and inclusion for all never looks successful. The church has a backwards message. Die to yourself, so you can truly live. Give to others, rather than keep all you have. Don’t banish the weak and the stranger or the poor and the orphans. Invite them in. Show them the same hospitality meant for kings. The church doesn’t have a viable business model. It isn’t economically sound. It especially isn’t culturally attractive. Who wants to eat with lepers and homeless? Only those in the church. Yet, even the members within the church debate.
That is the other side of why the future of the church has never looked good. The universal church has internal struggles. Oh, we fight within ourselves. The battles still rage over what a true sin is, how salvation works, who is saved, how we know someone is saved, who has the true message of Jesus and what that message actually is. That’s just the big stuff. It’s the little stuff that actually hurts. What kind of music will sing to God? Does God care as long as our hearts are in it? What color should the carpet be? Does God care as long as people walk on it? Or my favorite, how come there is a mess in the kitchen and why don’t people clean up after themselves? God cares about messes! With all the natural infighting, the future of the church has never looked good.
Yet, here is a truism. There is no future of the church. There is only now. How is this true? Well, of course there is a future of the church. The church is eternal and everlasting. Yet, you are the church. There is no future without you and you are here now. So what’s next for the church? What is church 3.1? You! Church 3.1 is connecting you with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Church 3.1 is finding ways to get you more deeply involved with our Creator God, Redeemer Christ, and Sustainer by the Holy Spirit.
Now to be sure, this is going to look like trying a few new things. We will work to create deeper relationships, grow in faith and wisdom, and serve, serve, serve. Here is why: The church even now is the only institution that does not exist for itself. We exist for others. We have to find other ways to get you outside the walls of the church. Church 3.1 is now. You are the church. This is our future. May our Triune God bless our work, worship, and winsome community.
Rev. Trey Hegar