Archive for June, 2007

Adios for a Bit

OK, I’ll be gone for a few weeks. I’ve got a wedding, a mission trip to Mexico, and a week of leading worship for District Youth Camp planned during the upcoming days and weeks. I may post some, but I may give myself a little vacation from blogging during much of this time. See you soon!

June 29, 2007 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

Oklahoma United Methodist Blogroll

Following Andrew’s lead over at Thoughts of Resurrection, I’ve decided to include a blog roll for Oklahoma United Methodist bloggers over on the sidebar. I’ve added all that I know about, so if you’re a pastor or active layperson who blogs in the Oklahoma Conference, let me know. Or let me know about your friends who do this.

On a side note, I noticed awhile back that I have a conspicuous absence of links to female bloggers (w/the excpetion of the Asbury Blogroll & The Methoblogroll), so I’d love to remedy that by adding links to blogs written by clergywomen or laywomen from our conference.

June 27, 2007 at 8:20 am 1 comment

Happy Feast of Saint Cyril of Alexandria!

St. Cyril of AlexandriaWith apologies to my Nestorian brothers and sisters out there, today is June 27th, which we all know is the feast of Saint Cyril of Alexandria! Good old Cyril, Bishop/Saint/Doctor of the Church, was born in Alexandria, Egypt. He was most famous for his battle with the Nestorians.

The Catholic Online website recounts some of this battle, “In 430 Cyril became embroiled with Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, who was preaching that Mary was not the Mother of God since Christ was Divine and not human, and consequently she should not have the word theotokos (God-bearer) applied to her.”

The article at Catholic Online continues by describing more of Cyril’s work, “During the rest of his life, Cyril wrote treatises that clarified the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation and that helped prevent Nestorianism and Pelagianism from taking long-term deep root in the Christian community.”

Perhaps it is an appropriate day to think about the teaching role of bishops. Do you think our United Methodist bishops neglect this task? I know William Willimon and Timothy Whitaker are two sterling examples of teaching bishops. What about the rest? Should this be a central or important role for our episcopal leaders?

This feast day also makes me think about the post-modern movement of the Church. It is interesting that we are concerned to recover many early Christian practices, but we don’t seem to have a huge concern about apologetics. Don’t get me wrong, I know that for many this is considred a thoroughly modernist enterprise, but maybe we need to ask why it was also part of the pre-modernist enterprise. It seems that folks as early as Justin Martyr cared about apologetics, even though you’d never think he was a modernist.  If it is a premodern Christian practice, does it have a place in the post-modern emerging Church?

Anyway…happy feast day!

June 27, 2007 at 6:18 am Leave a comment

Can a Robe Obscure the Gospel? Revisited

My good friend Robert posted this as a comment on my Can a Robe Obscure the Gospel post. I really enjoyed reading it, and thought it might go unnoticed there, so with his permission, I’m reposting it here:

The 2-point charge in this very rural area helped me with that decision. The smaller church encouraged me to dispense with the robe from the beginning; it only took me about 3 months to catch on and leave the robe off. The larger church told me from the first that their pastors wear robes in the pulpit, and that they would be happy to buy a robe for me if I did not own one already.

I’m one that believes in the value of clerical collars for weekday wear, although that was new in the communities I serve. The only time I wear a clerical collar in the pulpit is when I have no other clean white (I tend toward white clergy shirts more often than black) shirt in the closet or I am participating in an ecumenical service (such as Baccalaureate) – where a robe or alb in this rural area would tend to exaggerate the differences with the pastors from the other local churches.

I have introduced the white alb for celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion at the larger church (and for Baptism only at the smaller church). Both churches are happy with the alb. Oh, there are some who think it looks awfully “Catholic” – which is fine with me, being a bit of an Anglo-Catholic myself. And both churches were especially pleased with the addition of my red Order of Saint Luke scapular for the Sacrament(s).

By the way, the smaller church which likes me in a suit rather than a robe on Sunday mornings, absolutely wants me in a robe for funerals and weddings. Is that because those are “official” church services, or perhaps because they long for that connection with the universal church of the ages for those important passages in the lives of us all? If so, does that mean that Sunday morning worship is not really “official” or not really important? Has Sunday morning just become a time for some singing and a comforting lecture from a non-threatening neighbor?

Now, the black alb (yes, I know that is a contradiction in terms, at least based on the origin of the word “alb”) for Good Friday services has not proven as popular. . . yet.

Do robes and albs get in the way of the message? Yes, sometimes they do for some people. Business suits get in the way for some people sometimes, too (particularly $1,500 well-tailored suits that smack of the “prosperity gospel” or the “city slicker here to fleece the local folks”).

It may be that robes and albs are more important to me because I grew up in a church that considered such garments a mark of apostasy from the “true religion.”

Do golf shirts and khaki Dockers get in the way for some people sometimes? Yes, they do.

Where I serve right now, the only dark suit – the only suit of any color – the only coat and tie, in the church on Sunday morning would be in the pulpit. Does that make the suit, the coat and tie, an outmoded costume or uniform worn to express continuity with another place and time? Sure does – just as the robes and albs do. I just believe it is more important to show that connection with the Church over the last 17 or 18 centuries, than over the last 7 or 8 decades. For others, it is more important to reject either of those connections, each of which brings to mind as many tragic events as powerful and positive events.

For me, each situation should be considered, and we should remain flexible and open to change as time goes by even in the same church and community.

But those who reject robes and albs because they are costumes and carry some “baggage” with them, should be aware that WHATEVER we wear in the pulpit, or on the street (clergy collars originated among Anglican – not Roman, clergy so that they could stop wearing cassocks on the English streets just a couple of centuries ago or so), is a costume and sends a message to at least some observers.

June 25, 2007 at 1:13 pm Leave a comment

Sell Your House, Reconsider your Burial Plan, and Keep Plowing

This Sunday’s lectionary passage is from Luke 9:51-62. My favorite commentary on the Gospel of Luke is by Dr. Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, in the NICNT. Just about everything I have written here borrows implicitly and explicitly from Dr. Green’s work.

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village. 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus1 said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Green thinks the focus in this passage is that God’s purposes are so important they relativize all other commitments and considerations. There is no doubt that we have to realize that this orientation will likely engender some hostility. When Jesus “sets his face” toward Jerusalem, the phrase suggests a sure and certain determination and resolve that cannot be waylaid by any distraction. Jesus has been spreading his Kingdom message in the bush-leagues of Galilee, but now he has his sights set on the “big show.” How will the radical character of his message play on that stage?

So the disciples are sent, like latter day “John the Baptists” to prepare the way of the Lord, fully participating in the mission and purposes of God in spite of their lack of full understanding. Interestingly, they are sent to Samaria, with all of the cultural tensions between the Jewish and Samaritan cultures. The Samaritan villagers, however, will not accept Jesus for whatever reason. Why might this be? It makes me think that there is no privileged place (insider or outsider) from which to hear and respond to the Gospel.

In Luke 9:5, Jesus had told his disciples how to respond to rejection, “Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Yet here, the disciples have different plans asking Jesus if they could command fire to come down and burn up the Samaritans. They had seen this movie before, after all, when Elisha called down fire to burn up the representatives of Ahaziah, King of…you guessed it…Samaria! Interestingly enough, the disciples who wanted to bring down lightening and thunder, were James and John – two of the disciples closest to Jesus – two of those who were allowed to see Jesus Transfigured on the mountain. They still need a few more miles under their belt on the journey to catch up with what Jesus is doing. How many more miles do we need to go to understand that same message?

Finally, they get a volunteer. Yet, even at this show of enthusiasm, Jesus made this person fully aware that calling of God was pretty tied up in rejection – relying on the hospitality of strangers. He reminds her that even animals have a place to live, but we’re out under the stars most nights. I will refrain from any well-worn United Methodist humor about parsonages at this point.

Jesus then calls another, “Follow me.” This person replies, “I have to go back and take care of my father until he is respectfully buried.” Perhaps this isn’t a weekend funeral, as we’ve often suspected, but a request to fulfill the family obligations required by normal conventions. To this request, Jesus, whom they refer to as “Lord,” exposes the way that their language fails to match up with their willingness to prioritize his role in their life.

He responds, “Let the dead bury their dead,” which many assume to mean, “Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead.” Yet, Dr. Green believes this might just refer to the bipartite funeral practices in which the corpse was placed in a sealed tomb, followed by a second burial after a twelve month decomposition period after which the remains would be placed in an ossuary (bone box). On this reading, Jesus was saying “Let the corpses rebury the bones…” or something similar. On any reading, this showed a diminished priority for certain customs as they were subsumed under the authority and priority of Jesus’ mission and work in God’s Kingdom.

If you commit, Jesus suggests, you had better well be committed for good. Put your hand to the plow and don’t look back. The fuel for this kind of commitment is the strong call of God. Anything less simply won’t sustain a full day’s work, let alone a lifetime of changing seasons, rough weather, and failed crops. You need to know you’re a farmer for good, or you’ll be in the city selling insurance by the end of the week.

June 25, 2007 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

Great News

I just found out earlier this week that I’ve been accepted to a D.Min. program at Drew Theological School. This is a big event in my life, as I’ve always dreamed of earning a doctoral degree. Since graduating with my M.Div. I wrestled between a Ph.D. and the D.Min. In the end, at this point in my life the D.Min. fits my life, my family, and my calling better than the Ph.D.

I’m excited that it will be through Drew, because I wanted to diversify my education. In other words, since I went to Asbury Theological Seminary for my M.Div., I wanted to go to an official United Methodist Seminary for this next degree.

To my friends out there who played a part in this decision through your prayer, friendship, and wise counsel – thank you! You know who you are. And if you’re not quite sure, but you think you’re one of these, then you probably are!

June 23, 2007 at 7:53 am 6 comments

Ms. Communication

I was fixing some Lucky Charms for my four year old daughter when she asked me to “play restaurant-man.” So, I obliged and said, “Good evening Ma’am, are you enjoying your meal?” “Yes, I am,” she replied. I then asked, “Would you say it is excellent?” She looked up from her cereal with a serious look on her face, sighed, and said, “Daddy…you know I don’t speak Spanish!”

June 22, 2007 at 10:06 am 2 comments

God’s Mission & Preaching

Brian Russell has a great post on Missional Preaching.  I especially like the way he deals with distinctions between insider and outsider.  It seems that truly missional preaching is inclusive in the way it invites those outside the community to participate in the ongoing narrative of God’s work in the world.  Now, that’s a description of inclusivity that I really resonate with!

I think my preaching is less faithful when I stray from some of the key commitments Brian talks about here. To be honest, when I preach a sermon series I tend to violate some of these commitments far more often than when I stick with the lectionary.  While I’m sure this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone,  when I preach a sermon series it’s easier to start with a concept and find scripture to support it rather than letting the message be formed, shaped, and driven by the scriptural narrative.  I think when I’m finished with the series on prayer that I’m preaching now, I’m going to stick with the lectionary for the rest of this Season after Pentecost.

June 21, 2007 at 6:22 am Leave a comment

A Few Tips for Preachers

If you’re like me, you’re always trying to be a better communicator.  Preaching is definitely an art, and I sometimes think we neglect ways to improve ourselves.  I know most pastors spend a lot of time thinking about and preparing our message – shouldn’t we spend some time reading and thinking about the way we present it?  This link: Speaking as a Performing Art (h/t Jedi Pastor Ken) will give you a few ideas to improve your communication skills.

June 20, 2007 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

For it is by Hybrid You Have Been Saved…

Global warming is a serious problem. The World Health Organization reports the global average surface temperature has increased by 0.6° + 0.2° C over the last century. Globally, 1998 was the warmest year and the 1990s was the warmest decade on record. Further, abnormally high temperatures in Europe in the summer of 2003 were associated with at least 27,000 more deaths than the equivalent period in previous years. Nature reports the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years. I think we would be hard pressed to deny the evidence that our world is experiencing a serious ecological crisis. Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, brought the data and statistics into the public eye like never before, and it is causing quite a response. In fact, several people I know have responded by purchasing hybrids not long after watching this movie.

That brings me to my question. It is one posed by the Psalmist in Psalm 121:1, “I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come?” As we face crises in our lives, we run to and fro searching for a way out – salvation. After 9/11, one of President Bush’s responses was to encourage us to keep purchasing. His exact words: “I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy.” Several scholars and theologians pointed out that this response seemed to be offering consumerism as the answer to terrorism. However, many of the same people who saw this response as ridiculous are the first to offer a consumerist way out of our global ecological crisis. When our nation was scared after 9/11, the answer was “keep shopping,” and now when our people are scared about global warming the answer is, “buy a hybrid.”

Let me be clear here. I realize and agree that we have several serious challenges to face. I believe global warming is a real and potentially devastating phenomenon. Heck, I’m even prepared to make changes in to help reverse global warming, because I believe we’re called to be good stewards of creation. I just think we have a tendency to blindly believe that we can save the world through our purchasing power. Consumerism is the answer. Want to change the world, buy new light bulbs and a hybrid.

As Christians, we will eventually the conversation have to move to difficult questions about a faithful response. How can we advocate participating in the salvation of creation while still maintaining that Jesus is the Savior? How do we long for a new heaven and new earth while working to care for the old earth we have? Is our eschatological future a long series of events leading to salvation (as a friend of mine believes), or is there radical discontinuity between this world and the world to come? How does this all relate to our mission as God’s people?

In the end, go ahead and buy that hybrid. Just remember Jesus is Lord and the power of the consumer is not.

June 20, 2007 at 7:29 am Leave a comment

Older Posts

Catching Photos

June 2007

Blog Stats

  • 55,091 Meddlers