The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Phoenix rises ...

I heard from "Phoenix" this morning, and was glad he took time out of his day to write. Here was his response to my previous e-mail:

Phoenix writes ...

You don't meet Atheists contributing in the wonderful work you are doing for the same reason you don't find Christians contributing to the wonderful work, that say, Muslims are doing. Actively contributing to the demonstration of Allah's power, glory and benevolence somehow outweighs the conviction to ease the suffering of mankind.

As an Atheist, let me offer support and extend my hand. Not in the belief that you are doing God's work, or your feeling Christ's love in your heart, but in that part of you that, even if there were no God or Christ, you would still be compelled to do.

I venture this: The higher standard is on the Atheist. I have no supreme power telling me of eternal reward or punishment. No disciple to frame good and bad. I must decide all that without outside influence.

I guess I'm lucky. Doing bad makes me feel very, very bad. Doing good makes me feel very very good.

Pastor Buzz writes ...

Actually, after I sent my previous reply this occurred to me: Unless you asked someone, or unless someone volunteered the information, how would you know whether your coworkers with the homeless, or anyone who offered assistance to you, were Christians?

That question also holds true in regard to my knowing whether someone is an Atheist. It's certainly not the sort of question I go around asking; it's only after someone makes that revelation to me that I discover whether they are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Jehovah's Witness, Atheist, Agnostic, whatever the case may be.

Just so you will know, I'm 49 years old this year and have been on a 20-year Christian journey. As I write this today, my faith and the expression thereof does not center around "the Great By and By," for I believe eternity and the kingdom of God is part of the here and now as well. That's why some people, including me, say they have experienced hell on earth.

(Incidentally, as one who seeks to share the Gospel story, I cringe at the thought of selling 'fire insurance.')

You appear to be a pretty intelligent person, and you are obviously open in that you bothered to follow up with an e-mail. Believing that, let me share a portion of an interview with Brian McLaren, who is an emerging church author. This is from the November 2004 edition of Christianity Today:

"(McLaren) sketches a big circle labeled 'self,' a smaller circle next to it labeled 'church,' and a tiny circle off to the side labeled 'world.'

“'This has been evangelicalism’s model,' he says. 'Fundamentally it’s about getting yourself "saved" — in old-style evangelicalism — or improving your life in the new style. Either way, the Christian life is really about you and your needs. Once your needs are met, then we think about how you can serve the church. And then, if there’s anything left over, we ask how the church might serve the world.'

"He starts drawing again. 'But what if it went the other way? This big circle is the world — the world God loved so much that he sent his Son. Inside that circle is another one, the church, God’s people chosen to demonstrate his love to the world. And inside that is a small circle, which is your self. It’s not about the church meeting your needs, it’s about you joining the mission of God’s people to meet the world’s needs.'"

That expression of faith is what some would call "the missio dei."

The fundamental problem, Phoenix, is that too much of modern Christianity revolves around the "self" and, therefore, "self-interest" -- whether social, political, or consumer. I'm not sure which of the latter three are more dangerous to the Gospel message: the social engineers, the politically religious, or consumer Christians. They all three have the tendency to give me the heebie-jeebies.

John Wesley was an Anglican whose "societies" formed the foundation that later became the Methodist Church, of which I am a part. Wesley wrote a sermon that is called "Catholic Spirit." In that sermon can be found these words:

"'If thine heart is as my heart,' if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: 'Give me thine hand.'"

Even though you profess no belief in God, it appears you love mankind. Accepting that, I would say "the kingdom of God is near you"and I will take your hand in that belief.

How could I do no less?

After all, there are those who profess to be Christians, and thereby profess a love for God, but nonetheless show expressions of hate for fellow man.

Grace and peace ...