How Did Jesus Know?

Luke 7:11-17 – The 3rd Sunday following Pentecost – for Sunday, June 5, 2016

“When he saw her, the Lord had compassion for her and said, ‘Don’t cry.’” (Luke 7:13)

Jesus Resurrecting the Son of the Widow of Naim (oil on canvas)How did Jesus know the widow from Nain was a widow?

As an outsider to Nain, how did he easily and quickly identify her and her situation?

It was real easy to spot her as a woman.

It was relatively easy to see she was part of a funeral procession.

Perhaps from her emotional reactions, most could guess the funeral involved her child.

But how could a “stranger” know she was also a widow?

Her neighbors knew. They also knew that without husband and son, without income and status, she was dependent on Israel’s charitable customs and the limited generosity of other impoverished villagers.

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Last Thursday, I chatted with our only African-American male chaplain before our hospice’s monthly Remembrance Service. I’ve known he was black since the first day I met him.

Last Wednesday, the death-of-spouse grief support group I’ve led since February finished its twelfth and final session. I’ve known since the first gathering that everyone who walked into the room and put on a nametag was a widow or widower. Continue reading →

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Three Wrongs and an Invocation

Photo on 10-10-13 at 6.35 PMWhen I was a responsible pastor serving a real church about seven or eight years ago, I was asked to give an invocation at a Fresno City Council meeting.

They asked me to show up at the wrong time.

They didn’t have the name of my church listed correctly on the agenda.

They misspelled my name.

But I forgave them!

And, as I began my “invoking,” I told them I didn’t think God needed an invocation.

You may wonder what an “invocation” is, whether at the Council meeting or elsewhere, but first let me try to explain the Council’s wrongs regarding me.

The agenda listed me as “Larry Patton*.” Wrong. I am Larry Patten. My name is constantly misspelled. I refer to it as the “curse of the General.” General George Patton was a famous soldier of the World War II era. In the 1970s (and now constantly repeated on television), George Scott portrayed him in the aptly named film, Patton. Curse and double-curse. So the name, spelled with an “o” instead of an “e,” has received a fair amount of exposure. Further, it’s more common. The Fresno phone book lists eight (8) Pattens and thirty (30) Pattons. We’re out-filmed and out-numbered.

The agenda said my church was “Wesley Methodist Church.” Wrong. I then served at Wesley United Methodist Church, which meant we were part of the United Methodist denomination. Not Methodist. United Methodist. Since 1968, when the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, we had been—taking one word from each denomination—United Methodist. In 1968, I suppose we could’ve made other name choices, like The Evangelical Methodist Church or The Methodist Brethrens or maybe even The Untied Evanmethodicals, but we became United Methodist. Continue reading →

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Thanks…Bishop Leontine Kelly

Bishop Leontine T. Kelly died on June 28, 2012. I just found some words I wrote when she visited the church I served in 2003…

“Words for the Edge of My Soul”

On Sunday, March 23, Bishop Leontine Kelly will be our guest preacher for Reconciling Sunday.

There is much that can be said to praise this fiery octogenarian. In 1984, she was the first African-American woman consecrated a Bishop in the history of the Christian church. Repeat that last sentence! We date time based on the historic guesses about Jesus’ birth year. 1,984 years later a black woman becomes a bishop. The church has never been in a hurry.

Bishop Kelly…photo from CNUMC webpage

She was only the second woman in the United Methodist church consecrated Bishop. She’s a mother, been a teacher, served as a pastor in a local church, walked side-by-side with Desmond Tutu, and has been honored by the Ladies Home Journal as one of the most important women in America.

With all of her accolades, I remember one thing more than anything else about Bishop Kelly. She was my bishop in the relatively brief time she served as an active Episcopal leader between 1984-88. Thus, I heard her preach at least once a year at our annual conference of the California-Nevada United Methodists.

During one of her sermons, during one of the many worship services we have throughout a conference, she spoke a phrase that went straight to my soul. The phrase she spoke hit me with the force of personal truth.

Indeed, the phrase she used in the midst of that sermon is prominently displayed on the bookshelf in my office. I want those words around to remind me of that riveting moment long ago and to challenge me every time I glance at them. Continue reading →

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