Archive for December, 2009

Being chased by Jimmie “J.J.” Walker

December 14, 2009

Yesterday’s sermon focused on Joseph. We looked at the Christmas story from Matthew 1:18-25. I wanted people to consider how much faith Joseph must have had. After all, he was asked to believe that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant, not by another man, but by the Spirit of God. And we modern-day Bible readers may respond, “Yes, but an angel told him. An angel!” Sure, if an angel appeared and told us something, then believing it would be no big deal.

To which I say, “Yes, but it happened in a dream!” What are our dreams like? Mine are often crazy, ridiculous, and unsettling. I often wake up and feel great relief that I was only dreaming. It was only a dream. I can tell myself that it doesn’t mean anything. Joseph, by contrast, had a crazy dream and, unlike me, he didn’t dismiss it. He believed that God was communicating something important to him through it. That’s faith!

I asked people in the congregation to text me their strangest or funniest dreams. The responses were hilarious. They are as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

I saw three ships come sailing in

December 13, 2009

I’ve been accused of being a Scrooge about Christmas lights and tacky Christmas yard displays, but that’s not true. I love them, even if I’m unwilling to do them myself. How could anyone object to a light show this impressive? Especially when it’s coordinated to a great song from my favorite Christmas album, Jon Anderson’s “3 Ships”?

Jon Anderson is the lead singer (very high voice but not falsetto) for the prog-rock band Yes. His album mixes very tuneful new (at least in 1985) Christmas-themed songs with traditional carols. I love when contemporary artists try to say something new about the meaning of Christmas, instead of simply relying on the tried and true. The album is very ’80s-souding, heavy on synthesizers, but I LOVE it.

Still, this original Christmas song, a rocker by one of the greatest bands ever, remains my favorite non-traditional holiday song. Enjoy!

“God is a part of reality, always, everywhere.”

December 12, 2009

John Cobb is a world-renown theologian of the “process theology” persuasion. I don’t know from process theology, except that inasmuch as it’s trendy and new, I am suspicious. Still, Cobb is that rare world-renown theologian who is also United Methodist (yay, team!), and he wrote the best book I’ve read on Wesleyan theology, Grace and Responsibility, which I recommend to anyone interested in what it means to be a Wesleyan Christian.

In this short YouTube video, Cobb takes aim at the fundamental problem, from my perspective, of both evolution and its well-intentioned critics of the Intelligent Design camp: they both share, to some extent, what Cobb calls a “materialistic, reductionistic metaphysics,” i.e., a universe (or multiverse or whatever) operating on its own, independent of a Creator. Immersed in this metaphysics (or way of understanding reality), evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion can therefore complain that even if there were a God, he would be very lazy, since Darwinian processes can account for so much of our world.

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Church consumerism

December 12, 2009

He is an Irish Presbyterian seminary student whose blog I enjoy. Here’s a nice post of his on treating church like we’re consumers instead of brothers and sisters in the same family.

This Sunday: Christmas in Vinebranch

December 9, 2009

Christmas is coming early in Vinebranch! This Sunday, during our worship time, we will have our comfortable and intimate Coffee House-style set-up in Trinity Hall. The Vinebranch band will begin by playing traditional Christmas carols and songs outside in the lobby before the service. During the service, we will have plenty of coffee, hot chocolate, and light refreshments. The service will feature a  selection of contemporary and traditional Christmas music. I will be preaching a Christmas message from Matthew 1:18-25.

Please invite a friend and feel free to bring food to share, if you’d like. See you there!

Sermon for 12-06-09: “The Grace of God’s Judgment”

December 9, 2009

Sermon Text: Malachi 3:1-4

Very soon, we’re going to be celebrating Christmas, when the Word, who was in the beginning with God and who is God, was made flesh and came to dwell with us—Emmanuel, “Our God is with us.” And if you’re like me, there’s a big part of you that’s looking forward to it… But not so fast: When you consider all that you have to do between now and Christmas Day in order to be ready, you might be feeling some stress. I have a friend in seminary, and she wants nothing more than to celebrate this joyous season that is fast approaching, and she has two papers due, and a final exam. I remember those days! Ugh! I’m sure some of you in high school are feeling that same stress as you think of the end of another semester. We want to celebrate the coming of the Lord, but we’re not ready!

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“A Festivus for the rest of us!”

December 5, 2009

In tomorrow’s sermon, I’m going to mention this Seinfeld-invented Christmas alternative. Do any of your family Christmas gatherings seem like unintentional Festivus celebrations?

Prayer for the Unity of the Church

December 4, 2009

From the Book of Common Prayer, p. 818:

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This week in Vinebranch: 2nd Sunday of Advent

December 3, 2009

For the Second Sunday in Advent this Sunday, I’ll be preaching a sermon on Malachi 3:1-4. I’ve never preached a sermon on Malachi, so it will be a new adventure for me!

“More grounded, more substantial, more real”

December 3, 2009

I’ve been thinking and writing a great deal recently about our understanding of resurrection and eternal life, both for sermon preparation and Board of Ordained Ministry work. The following essay crystallizes my thinking on the topic in what I hope is a concise and clear way. Maybe this will help you as you think about it?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of our Christian hope. I believe strongly that Christ’s resurrection is at least physical and bodily: hence the tomb was empty, the risen Lord is shown eating with his disciples, and he offers Thomas the opportunity to feel his hands and side. But it was also more than physical and bodily as we understand those terms. There was a Read the rest of this entry »