Reverend Chuck Johns

The Reverend Charles E. Johns is a retired clergy member of the Wyoming Annual Conference. He is currently the host of the Human Resources Ministry Table. Chuck joined the conference in 1964. Through the years, he served at Throop, Moscow and Church of Christ Uniting in Kingston. In 1998, Bishop Susan Morrison and the Conference Council on Ministries tapped him to serve as Conference Council Director. It was during this time that Faith Matters began as a regular feature in The Voice, the conference newspaper. Chuck continued the column after being named Superintendent of the Scranton District in 2000. He retired from active service in 2003.


By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 6/1/2010

Somewhere around the middle of the second decade of life, a syndrome of forgetfulness overtakes many humans.  Let us call it adolescent amnesia.

Faith Matters - Jubilee

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 5/1/2010

Even after several years and a lot of miles, Chuck Johns still wonders why he was the recipient of a random act of kindness on The Massachusetts Turnpike. A random act? Maybe not!

Faith Matters - Unnatural Acts

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 4/1/2010
Topics: Faith Matters

 Have you ever noticed how somethings stick in your mind, while things you need to remember can be hard to recall? Chuck Johns has, and writes about one of those things that has hung on for years regarding doing good and using what God has given.

Faith Matters - In the Dark

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 3/1/2010
Topics: Faith Matters

The lights went out.  Chuck Johns compares a power outage he remembers in upstate New York in 1965, with that of one that St. Luke remembered in Jerusalem.

Faith Matters - Tour Guide

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 2/1/2010
Topics: Faith Matters

A little child thinks the well-soaked Jesus “looks scared” in a picture of Jesus at his baptism. A child senses the fear in this placid river scene. Do we fear our journey through the wilderness of faith? Chuck Johns assures us we can count on our "Tour Guide" to see us through.

Faith Matters - True Compass

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 1/1/2010
Topics: Faith Matters

A Christmas gift sends Chuck traveling down the road, examining wants and wishes versus what is really needed.

Faith Matters - Hopes and Fears

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 12/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

What are the hopes and fears of all the years?  We could sit with yellow pad and pencil. Parallel columns. Hopes and fears. We could fill a page. It is probably a useful exercise to review the distance between the place from which we have come and the place to which we are going.

Faith Matters - But Not Religious

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 11/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

 Spirituality, like an iceberg, is more hidden than revealed. But, on the other hand, I have always believed that spirituality reveals itself in discipleship. If I never move from the silence, and if I never do anything with the parable, then my spirituality is incomplete.  If I leave the cathedral unchanged, I am just another tourist. And so it is a puzzle to me to know what to make of the current popular expression, “I am spiritual, but I am not religious.”

Faith Matters - Free Lunch

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 10/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

A friend sits across a lunch table and empties an overflowing heart. Nearing the end of her long and painful story, she finally says to me, “You know, when all of these things went wrong in my life, I thought it might help if I went to church. So I started. I came for quite a while. But my problems did not go away. My life did not get any better. Everything was just as bad as before. I figured, what’s the use? So I stopped coming. 

It is not as hard to follow Jesus when all is well, when we eat our fill of bread and fish, when we are healthy, the kids are in the Honor Society, we are blessed by a happy marriage, we like our job, and we have a few bucks under the mattress. But what happens when the locusts ride in on a cold night wind and devour the crops?

My reading of the Gospel does not reveal any guarantee of rescue, although God’s grace can and does afford it. It does not promise another free lunch, although life-transforming grace surely is free. I read about the promise of presence and possibility. I read of the bread of life that feeds the deepest human hunger for meaning and the wine that quenches the hidden thirst for life eternal. I read about the gift of a peace which remains after the locust’s work is done. 


Faith Matters - Playing with Fire

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 9/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

I did a double take. I was sure that my eyes were having me on. It has happened before, of course. It could just be a variation on the mistaken identity that regularly inflicts aging eyes. Settling back into the cushioned pulpit furniture after the processional, I was strategically positioned to get an unobstructed view of the back of the pulpit. Being an occasional visitor to chancels, I get to see the preacher side of pulpits now and again. This time I looked once, twice, three times. This was a new one on me.

Sure enough, upon closer scrutiny, my first impression was accurate: it was a fire extinguisher. My mind went wandering off into a flight of fancy as to the reason for a fire extinguisher in the pulpit. 

Driving to my next stop, I was kidnapped by that fire extinguisher. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that having a fire extinguisher pulpit-side could well be understood as a statement of faith about what can happen in worship. Perhaps the fire extinguisher should be regularly and prominently placed upon the communion table for all to see. Let it be a reminder of the Holy Fire upon whom we call in our prayers.  

Faith Matters - Packing Mercies

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 8/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

One Sunday not so long ago, the congregation was responding to the pastor’s invitation to announce joys and concerns. Near the end of the time, a hand went up a few rows in front of me and a woman asked for “packing mercies”. It was the pastor’s spouse. The pastor had been appointed to a new congregation. The moving van would arrive in a few weeks. A ripple of knowing laughter skittered across the sanctuary.  

Her remark set my mind chasing after memories of the fourteen moves in my own odyssey. It was a moment of empathy that had roots in my own moves sustained by prayer as well as sweat and tears. The prayer request transported me to the tape dispensers, colored markers, newsprint bundles and dozens of sturdy cartons begged from the Wine and Spirits Shop. An unknowing visitor in the parsonage at either end of the move might well be startled by the colorful boxes that were formerly home to a variety of non-Wesleyan beverages.   

Matthew reports that Jesus’ traveling instructions to the disciples as he sent them to the house of Israel was that they travel very lightly: no gold, no copper, no bag, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff. Sounds like little more than the clothes on their backs.

Faith Matters - No Small Change

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 7/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

We do not know much, but we know what is unfair. One of our most highly developed inherited traits, passed down from our Eden ancestors, is a particularly keen awareness of when we have been unfaired against.

We respond pretty much the way the hearers must have responded as Matthew reports Jesus’ parable. The caprice of the landowner, paying all workers the same, strikes everyone as bizarre, even though that caprice is generous, even extravagant. Jesus, master teacher, elicits from his hearers and from us the response he desires: “it’s not fair."

The depth and complexity of any parable defies a single interpretation. Here we can place ourselves within the story and stand with the landowner or the laborers. From where we stand, we respond accordingly. However, this is a parable for disciples, for only disciples can have any chance whatsoever of entering upon the deeper meaning. One group receives their just wage and the other group receives an undeserved gift.

Faith Matters - Passenger

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 6/1/2009

I am not an atheist. I can't remember a time in my life when that was a se rious consideration. From time to time I have read the travel brochures, but I have never been tempted to purchase a ticket. Time out of mind, I booked pas sage on another ship on which I have been traveling my whole life. Before I knew what it was to know, inclinations were planted within me that, when the time was right, led me to the ticket agent and, for an exchange of considerations, I boarded and found my seat with the others.

If opinion research is to be believed, it is a ship with many passengers. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Americans say that they are on board. Polls reveal that about 90 percent of our fellow citizens say they believe in God. To be sure, the polls also reveal that only about 36 percent of that same group attends worship at least once each month. The current cliché is “I am spiritual but not religious.” Belief is one thing, behavior is an other, spirit and flesh ever the uneasy companions.  

Faith Matters - Thieves

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 5/1/2009

I was in search of something I had intentionally placed in a secure and easily remembered location. I have been here before. In this case, it was my camera. I had recorded in its tiny, digital storehouse a series of photos accumulated over more than one month. They were a progress report on some work I was doing. I was now ready to see and share. By an orderly process of accessing the memory files in my brain I was confident that I had placed the camera in the glove compartment of the car. When I visited that place, however, the Canon did not answer the roll call. I was quite certain that is where I had stored it, but it was not to be found.

At last I remembered that, for the best of reasons, I had entrusted the car into the hands of strangers. One of those anonymous strangers had evidently opened the unlocked glove box and removed the easily concealable compact camera. My search had taken far more days than would permit any reasonable hope of recovery. I reluctantly but inexorably came to the conclusion that the Canon had been stolen by a person who had been the temporary steward of my car. This unknown person lived in a state 1,300 miles away. In a few moments it became clear to me that I no chance of ever recovering the stolen camera.  

Faith Matters - Resurrection

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 4/1/2009

How long had it been since they first heard the knock at the door-- days or weeks? Time escapes remembering when you can taste your fear. They do not answer the door. They know who it is. They know what he wants. If they ignore the stranger, perhaps he will go away. But the knocking persists and the door begins to give way. They take turns at the door, blocking it with their backs and shoulders.

At last, when they know that the caller will soon have his way in this house, they send an urgent message to their friend. A neighbor carries the plea: please come quickly, your friend is deathly ill. The plea is a prayer: come by here.  

But their last best hope of heaven and earth does not come. We understand that a doctor or a priest or a policeman might not come immediately. They have others in their care and we need to wait our turn. But we expect more from a friend -- much more.  

Faith Matters - Gardens

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 3/1/2009

There are many stories that frame and interpret our lives. There are sacred and secular texts that write and re-write us. They are the stories of our time and place, where we exist and where the most precious things are kept. They are stories about emotion and conscience, memory and intellect, sensation and intention. They are our stories. We are the performers, and we are the audience. The stories are frighteningly public. They are mercifully private.

Lent is an invitation to remember some of our garden stories. Outside the sanctuary, the days are getting longer, the winter solstice is past, the vernal equinox is soon to make her entrance upon stage, the seed catalogues are in the mailbox and the over-wintered bulbs nudge through frost and snow at the sun’s urging.

Faith Matters - Gospel Economics

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 2/1/2009

 It is a smack upside the head: “Lotto Jackpot Now $17 Million.”  National economic crisis or no, gaming remains a recession-proof way to pay some of the government’s bills. The billboard beckons to one and all on the interstate. Generally I don’t even see it. Today it kidnaps me and takes me to a part of town where I don’t generally venture after dark. I begin to imagine how much money we are actually talking about. That would be 17 followed by six zeroes. Even someone numerically-challenged knows that we are talking real money here.

My mind begins to imagine what I could do with that kind of wealth. A siren knocks and I open the door and set an extra place at the table. Even after I care for the needs of my Uncle Sam, there would be money and enough to get some things done: good things, wonderful things, render-unto-God things. Sweet Jesus, I am ready to book passage on that cruise ship.

Faith Matters - Resolutions

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 1/1/2009

I never tell anyone the resolutions I make for the New Year. When I invariably break them, generally before Epiphany, it is easier on me if I am the only one to know of my weakness. Failure at an interior level is enough to bear without adding family and friends. Actually, I rarely make any resolutions at the dawn of the year any longer.  I might think about how good it would be if only I could take in more of one thing and less of another.  I understand the impetus to look ahead to a new and better me, as December becomes January. But resolutions, as far as I can tell, have never availed to make me a better person.

The problem I have found is that the kind of transformation I truly need and desire, inner change, is not amenable to resolutions, the obvious kind in any case. I say this from the experience of two-thirds of a century of trying to make it so.  I resonate with St. Paul who laments that he can “will” what is right but that he cannot “do” it. 

Faith Matters - Malled

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 12/1/2008

It always seems much worse to me this time of year. Not that I ever covet mall shopping, but when the purchasing begins in earnest on Black Friday, malls are places that I religiously avoid so to speak. Usually an introvert's Purgatorio, the mall now shifts into warp drive and its apparently recession-proof invitation is a siren call to those on mission to make Christmas happen. I really don’t want to be here but I am soon to learn that some epiphany has me on its radar screen. 

Out behind the mall, where the delivery trucks unload and the garbage trucks collect the trash I notice a man on top of a dumpster. He appears to be in search of something. A lost wallet? A valuable document? Something to eat? As I step inside I wonder if he will find what he is looking for. I hope to God he is not looking for food.

Sometimes I think that the price we pay for this season is too high. We spend so much time and money trying to stage Christmas, trying to bring it to reality, that it slips from our grasp. The residue that remains after pleasure evaporates is exhaustion or depression. And even as the wrapping paper is compacted into the plastic garbage-sacks on Christmas Day, we wonder if we might have missed it again this year. 

Faith Matters - Foolishness

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 11/1/2008

The DVD drama series was very well written, acted, and directed. It fact, it was among the very best drama I had seen in some time.  As I was reflecting on what I had been enjoying, I was hectored by a distinct discomfort. In several of the episodes, a clergyman was featured in part of the story, sometimes a larger role, sometimes lesser. But what became clearer to me upon reflection was that the writers were having their say about the Christian church and its clergy.

In virtually all cases, the clergy was male, older, a bit overweight, in clergy haberdashery, and serving a small, passive congregation. Furthermore, the clergyman was never presented in any role that we would particularly admire or choose to emulate. In one case, the clergyman was a spy. In the other cases, he may have been well-meaning and not a criminal, but he was hopelessly out-of-touch with the facts of life in the world around him. The series clergy were living in their own little world. That world was hopelessly beside the point for what really mattered in the stories. It some cases, they were silly. In other cases, they were clueless. In all cases they were superfluous.  

The realization made me wince.

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