Archive for January, 2010

For Meth-heads

January 29, 2010

The following is an excerpt from a note I sent a friend about what Methodists are all about. I wrote it quickly then thought, “Hey, that’s not bad!” You may or may not find it helpful.

As for what I believe… What do you think I believe? I’m Methodist, in the very middle of the mainstream of orthodox Christian thought. God enacted a rescue plan in this good world that he created, which culminated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe we are but one tiny part of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church that Christ established. The Methodist Articles of Religion are mostly the same as the Church of England’s, minus some stuff about the monarch, etc. Methodists claim the Bible as their primary source of authority, although we recognize that our understanding of it is mediated through Christian tradition, reason, and experience. The Holy Spirit is at work through it all. Read the rest of this entry »

This Sunday in Vinebranch

January 29, 2010

This Sunday, January 31, we will continue our sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer, “The Prayer Jesus Taught Us, Part 4: Forgive Us Our Trespasses.” Our scripture is Matthew 6:12. What do you think is the connection between forgiving others and being forgiven ourselves? If we don’t forgive others, will we be forgiven? How can we know God has forgiven us? Do you think that forgiving others includes forgiving ourselves, too?

Sermon from 01-24-10, “The Prayer Jesus Taught Us, Part 3: Give Us This Day.”

January 29, 2010

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:11

Click this link to download the .mp3. Otherwise press the play button below. (Please note that due to a technical problem, the first minute of the sermon was cut off. Sorry!)

What follows is my original manuscript for this sermon. It includes a link to a wonderful Youtube video of Elvis Costello and the Attractions performing “New Lace Sleeves.”

There is so much about living in our world that is phony. Our political leaders lie—or at least fail to tell us the whole truth; fail to level with us; fail to be candid. Other people we look up to lie to us: Remember the first cover story that came out after the Tiger Woods scandal began? Did we believe that his wife was using that golf club to rescue him from his smashed-up vehicle? Or two weeks ago, when former slugger Mark McGwire broke the “news” that we already knew: He had indeed used performance-enhancing steroids that year he was chasing and surpassing Roger Maris’s single-season homerun record in 1998. Sort of anti-climactic, huh? In his interview with Bob Costas, his anguish and remorse seemed real enough, but he still maintains, against all logic, that the drugs didn’t contribute to his record-breaking year. Right. Read the rest of this entry »


January 26, 2010

Busy week! Please pray for me as I finish writing, revising, and compiling my ordination papers, which are due in a couple of weeks. I will post last Sunday’s sermon in the next few days, but I wanted to first point out an op-ed article from the New York Times entitled, “Between God and a Hard Place,” written by James Wood.

This was going to be a short response, but it became longer than I intended. I don’t mean to suggest below that I know the answer to the problem Wood discusses. But—geez!—I know I’m closer than he is. He doesn’t even try to look for one.

Wood begins by giving a very brief history of theodicy—the “justification of God’s good government of the world in the face of evil and pain”—in the modern era. He makes the mistake of so many modern intellectuals, assuming that, prior to 1750 or so, gullible believers, in thrall as they were to the Church and superstitious religious beliefs, failed to notice that bad stuff inexplicably happened to good and innocent people. Apparently, we didn’t become “enlightened” to the reality of suffering and evil until then. People were so naive back in the Dark Ages! Read the rest of this entry »

Prayer for Haiti

January 21, 2010

This prayer was written by Josh Thomas. It comes from the Daily Office website, affiliated with the Episcopal Church.

O Father of the poor and Mother of the oppressed: Enfold in your arms the suffering people of Haiti. Comfort those in mourning; relieve those in pain; give shelter to the homeless and hope to those in despair. Feed your people, O God, with bread both earthly and divine, and give them your water and wine. Help them bury the dead, nurse the sick and wounded, and raise their faith and dignity, for they are some of your dearest children. Silence those who falsely claim that Haiti is somehow accursed; proclaim the truth that this vibrant, creative nation still shines as a beacon of freedom throughout the Americas. And help us, the nations of the world and the people of means, to rebuild this colorful land in the image of your Son Jesus Christ, who knows our suffering because he took our mortal pain into his own body on the Cross; then rose again to live and reign with you and the Holy Comforter. Amen.

This Sunday’s sermon: “The Prayer Jesus Taught Us, Part 3: Give Us This Day”

January 20, 2010

Our sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer continues this Sunday, January 24, as we look at Matthew 6:11: “Give us this day our daily bread.” What does it mean to pray for something that most of us in our affluent, western-industrialized culture take for granted every day? Do we understand, as Jesus does, that the Father provides for our most basic needs? What is the deeper meaning of praying for our daily bread?

Join us this Sunday as we explore these questions and more. We will also have two baptisms and celebrate Holy Communion—nourishing ourselves on Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Sermon for 01-17-10: “The Prayer Jesus Taught Us, Part 2: Thy Kingdom Come”

January 20, 2010

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:10

You can listen to this sermon by clicking the play button below, or click here (Sermon 01-17-10) to download an .mp3.

The following is my original manuscript with citations.

We have an adorable three-year-old brown-and-tan tabby cat named Peanut. But last week, my daughter, Elisa, brought home a new stray kitten. The kitten’s name is Fuzz. O.K., it’s an imaginary kitten. But periodically over the past week she made a point of stroking its imaginary fur and scratching its imaginary chin, telling me how much she loved Fuzz and talking to it in this tone of voice. You see, Elisa wants to convince me that having a new kitten is a wonderful idea, and she thought this scheme would overcome my resistance to the idea. I was unmoved. One cat is enough. I said, “Oh, well, maybe you’ll learn to scoop Fuzz’s imaginary litter box while you’re at it!” Read the rest of this entry »

More thoughts on theodicy, God, Haiti, Pat Robertson, etc.

January 19, 2010

Zoomtard pointed his readers toward an excellent First Things article by theologian David Bentley Hart, which he wrote in 2004 after the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed over 200,000 people. First Things republished it in light of the earthquake in Haiti. Hart rejects popular Christian responses to the question of how could a good, just, and loving God allow or cause such a catastrophe. In the next to last paragraph, Hart writes:

I do not believe we Christians are obliged—or even allowed—to look upon the devastation visited upon the coasts of the Indian Ocean and to console ourselves with vacuous cant about the mysterious course taken by God’s goodness in this world, or to assure others that some ultimate meaning or purpose resides in so much misery. Ours is, after all, a religion of salvation; our faith is in a God who has come to rescue His creation from the absurdity of sin and the emptiness of death, and so we are permitted to hate these things with a perfect hatred. For while Christ takes the suffering of his creatures up into his own, it is not because he or they had need of suffering, but because he would not abandon his creatures to the grave. And while we know that the victory over evil and death has been won, we know also that it is a victory yet to come, and that creation therefore, as Paul says, groans in expectation of the glory that will one day be revealed. Until then, the world remains a place of struggle between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death; and, in such a world, our portion is charity. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking Pat Robertson’s words very seriously: a brief theological analysis

January 16, 2010

Another disaster, another dumb Pat Robertson quote.

Maybe it’s too easy to pick on Rev. Pat Robertson—it’s the theological equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. But as long as he has a public platform like The 700 Club, the media take him seriously, and I will, too. The latest controversy involves his firm belief that Haiti is under a curse because of a deal, Robertson asserted, that the people of Haiti made with the devil 200 years ago to get out from under French enslavement. Although he doesn’t come out and say it, his statement implies that God has cursed the Haitians because of this Faustian deal. Read the rest of this entry »

From Wesley’s Notes on the Bible

January 15, 2010

Call me “old school,” but I do enjoy John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible—even if I’m more than a little intimidated that he was able to complete such a massive undertaking (in addition to everything else he wrote, preached, and organized). He very nearly translates and offers verse-by-verse commentary over all the Bible. He makes me feel lazy! I console myself with the knowledge that he didn’t have children!

I’ve been reading his notes on the Lord’s Prayer in preparation for our sermon series. Here’s an excerpt from his comments on Matthew 6:9. The man could write! You might spend time reflecting on this during your prayer time today.

The preface, Our Father, who art in heaven, lays a general foundation for prayer… Our Father – Who art good and gracious to all, our Creator, our Preserver; the Father of our Lord, and of us in him, thy children by adoption and grace: not my Father only, who now cry unto thee, but the Father of the universe, of angels and men: who art in heaven – Beholding all things, both in heaven and earth; knowing every creature, and all the works of every creature, and every possible event from everlasting to everlasting: the almighty Lord and Ruler of all, superintending and disposing all things; in heaven – Eminently there, but not there alone, seeing thou fillest heaven and earth. Hallowed be thy name – Mayest thou, O Father, be truly known by all intelligent beings, and with affections suitable to that knowledge: mayest thou be duly honoured, loved, feared, by all in heaven and in earth, by all angels and all men.