Archive for June, 2010

New sermon series “Can You Hear Me Now?” starts July 11

June 29, 2010

Have you ever been called by God? If you are a Christian, the answer should be an emphatic “yes!” Our United Methodist Book of Discipline, in ¶ 125, describes our common call to ministry in this way:

All Christians are called through their baptism to this ministry of servanthood in the world to the glory of God and for human fulfillment. The forms of this ministry are diverse in locale, in interest, and in denominational accent, yet always catholic in spirit and outreach.

This means, among other things, that all of us Christians possess unique gifts for ministry. God graciously chooses to use us and our gifts to help fulfill God’s mission to save this world. We answer God’s call in a variety of ways throughout our lives. And when we do, we find fulfillment in our own lives.

So… What is God calling you to do—and how do you know? What gets in the way of hearing God’s call? Why are we sometimes afraid or reluctant to answer God’s call?

These are some of the questions we’ll explore with our new six-part Vinebranch sermon series entitled, “Can You Hear Me Now?” It starts on July 11 and runs through August 15. Each week we will discuss people in the Bible who dared to answer God’s call. We will also feature videos in which Alpharetta Methodist people talk about some ways in which they’ve been called to ministry in and through this church. As always, the music will be excellent.

The schedule for this series is as follows:

July 11: Moses. Exodus 3:1-15. Who am I that I should go…?

July 18: Paul. Galatians 1:11-24. Set apart before birth.

July 25: David. 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13. Seeing beyond human appearances.

August 1: Levi (or Matthew). Mark 2:13-17. Calling all sinners.

August 8: Isaiah. Isaiah 6:1-13. Here am I; send me!

August 15: All disciples. Matthew 28:16-20. The Great Commission.

Parody of contemporary worship

June 28, 2010

Kudos to Northpoint for making fun of itself. As someone in charge of a “contemporvant” worship service, I breathe a small sigh of relief that we don’t conform to all these stereotypes—but is it just because we don’t have the budget?

A collect for guidance

June 25, 2010

From the Book of Common Prayer:

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), 57.

Wendell Berry on war and peace

June 24, 2010

I just read this challenging Wendell Berry essay, “Peaceableness Toward Enemies,” in his collection of essays entitled Sex, Economy & Community. Happily, after reading it in one of these old-fashioned, analog things called books, I found it online. (Thank you, Internet. I hope Berry is getting compensated in some way!) He wrote it shortly after the first Gulf War in 1991, but it could have been written this morning. Berry, a genteel Kentuckian, has no discernible partisan ax to grind. It’s safe to say whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, libertarian or socialist, he disagrees with you.

Instead of a partisan harangue, he presents what I view as a Christian alternative (although he’s writing for a largely secular audience) to the usual way we understand war, peace, and diplomacy in this country.

Here’s one highlight: Read the rest of this entry »

Father’s Day video in Vinebranch

June 22, 2010

We showed this video in Vinebranch on Sunday as part of our “Relatively Speaking” sermon series. Enjoy!

Sermon for 06-20-10: “Relatively Speaking, Part 7: The Loving Father”

June 21, 2010

Sermon Text: Luke 15:11-32

[This week I’m including a video of the sermon taken with my Flip camcorder. The quality is pretty good, with one glaring exception: the aspect ratio of the Flip doesn’t quite conform to the aspect ratio of the finished mp4 movie. This means that my head gets chopped off at times! I apologize! If we do it again, we’ll fix that problem. Also, we’ll use a tripod! Still I think it’s a nice first effort.]

The following is my original manuscript.

I’ve read that when you’re learning a language, the hardest thing to master is humor and jokes. This is surely true—I think about my own children and how long it took them to figure out jokes and how they worked. The first jokes they learned were knock-knock jokes. “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Boo.” “Boo-hoo.” “Why are you crying?” And then they’d burst into laughter. But then they would make up their own: “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Cat.” “Cat who?” “Dog.” And they’d burst into laughter. Wait! That doesn’t make any sense.

Just last week, my son Townshend asked me, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” “To get to the other side,” I said. Duh. “No,” he said, “Why did the chicken really cross the road?” I didn’t know the answer to that question! I can’t explain that joke, and the easiest joke of all time! Jokes are tough. Even as we get older, the last thing we want to do is have to explain a joke. If you have to explain it, the joke loses its humor; its power; its effectiveness. Read the rest of this entry »

Part 2 of our mothers & daughters video

June 16, 2010

Here is the second of two videos that we showed in Vinebranch on Sunday related to our theme of mothers and daughters. We’ve shown videos each week as part of our “Relatively Speaking” sermon series. Our final installment of the series is this Sunday, Father’s Day. We’ll be talking about fathers, naturally, and looking at Jesus’ Parable of the Loving Father (otherwise known as the Prodigal Son). The scripture is Luke 15:11-32. Our video will be a tribute to some Alpharetta Methodist fathers.

Part 1 of our mothers & daughters video

June 15, 2010

Here is the first of two videos we showed in Vinebranch on Sunday related to our theme of mothers and daughters. These videos are part of our “Relatively Speaking” sermon series, which concludes next week on Father’s Day.

God in the OT

June 15, 2010

In nearly every Bible study and Sunday school class I teach, the following question arises in one form or another: Why does it seem as if the God of the Old Testament is sometimes vengeful and mean, and the God of the New Testament is loving and gracious? This question often refers to stories about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah or the seemingly God-ordained genocide of Canaanites in the time of Joshua.

My first response to the question is, God is God, and God doesn’t change. The God who is behind the events and writings of the Old Testament is the same God who is behind the events and writings of the New Testament. I agree that it doesn’t always seem this way, and that’s a challenge. But keep this in mind: God is bigger than words, which are very imperfect vessels for communicating the nature of a transcendent God—the one who is Other than anything else we know. God is therefore bigger than the Bible. Read the rest of this entry »

Vacation Bible School 2010

June 14, 2010

Here’s the VBS video we showed in Vinebranch this morning to accompany the children singing. Obviously, the kids—over 500 of them—had a blast, and I’m pretty sure the 180 or so teenage and adult volunteers did as well. I know I did!

This will make you smile. Enjoy!