Archive for June, 2010

They make it seem effortless

June 12, 2010

… but only because they rehearse like crazy. Here are some of my favorite musicians acting shy for the camera. I love the dedicated volunteers in the Vinebranch band who help make our service so special. And these are only some of them!

Dear Dr. Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University…

June 12, 2010

This is me laughing at you. I don’t know how else to respond to this post. On the one hand, mission accomplished! You’ve bothered me enough to respond. Congratulations. But you don’t deserve to be taken seriously—even though, of course, you are taken seriously by many, many supposedly intelligent people. Somehow, you’re near the intellectual center (such as it is) of contemporary debates about euthanasia, abortion, stem cell research, and nearly anything related to questions of life and death. We can count on you to be on the pro-death side.

I don’t respect you. And I want to ignore you. But you remind me of Elvis Costello’s warning to his fellow countrymen about the fringe neo-Nazi National Front movement in Britain in the late-’70s: “You think they’re dumb, you think they’re so funny/ But one day you’ll be running from the night rally.” I think your ideas are dumb and laughable, but I’m reluctant to ignore you.

Your success is, I suspect, a symptom of the deeply pessimistic age in which we live, reflected on the political left and right. On the left, this pessimism manifests itself mostly in visions of impending ecological disaster (aided, as I type this, by the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico). On the right, it manifests itself mostly in visions of totalitarian government crushing us and our liberties underfoot. In either case, time is running out. Our goose is cooked. We’re doomed. May as well eat, drink, and be merry, right? Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon for 06-06-10: “Relatively Speaking, Part 6: God’s Family”

June 10, 2010

Sermon Text: Mark 3:31-35

[Click on the play button below to listen to the sermon or right-click here to download a podcast.]

The following is my original manuscript with hyperlinks and footnotes.

Here’s a remarkably good news story out of Connecticut a couple of months ago. A woman named April Capone Almon, the 35-year-old mayor of a town called East Haven, population 30,000, donated one of her kidneys to a friend—well, a Facebook friend; one of more than 1,600. And she only barely knew the recipient of her kidney. The man who needed the kidney, a 44-year-old father named Carlos Sanchez, put out a desperate plea on Facebook after none of his family proved to be a donor match. His life was in jeopardy. He didn’t expect any success. He certainly didn’t expect the mayor of his town to respond! The mayor responded, got tested, and was a match. And she gave her kidney to him.

O.K., O.K…. I know what you’re thinking. She’s a politician who was running for reelection. It’s all about winning votes and good will and sympathy. But not so fast. She was running for reelection, but she kept the whole thing secret until after the election was over. She did say that she won Sanchez’s vote! I should hope! Read the rest of this entry »

Last Sunday’s video on being part of God’s family

June 10, 2010

The following is the video we showed in Vinebranch last Sunday to go along with our theme about being part of God’s family.

Remembering Francis Asbury

June 9, 2010

Here’s a review in First Things of a book about the most important figure in American Methodism, Francis Asbury. According to the author of the review, the book describes Asbury’s important role in the shaping of American democracy and identity.

He’s certainly shaped American Methodist ministry: among other things, we Methodist clergy are itinerant (and some still have “circuits”) because of his legacy. When his circuit-riding preachers complained to him that they couldn’t afford to support a family on their preacher’s salary, he said, “Good! You shouldn’t get married!”

I’ll forgive him for that.

A true non-conformist

June 5, 2010


ESPN has a fitting tribute to the life and legacy of John Wooden, who died Friday at 99. He was the legendary UCLA basketball coach who, among other great accomplishments, led the team to 10 national championships in 12 seasons. He was also a deeply Christian person who insisted on teaching his players—among them Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—that being successful in life is more important than being successful on the court. Given his success on the court, he knew from whence he spoke.

From his Wikipedia entry:

He was a Christian for many years and his beliefs were more important to him than basketball, “I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior.” Wooden’s faith strongly influenced his life. He read the Bible daily and attended the First Christian Church. He said that he hopes his faith is apparent to others, “If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me.”

“Doomed to wither and die”?

June 4, 2010

In the wake of the news about a celebrity marriage (Al and Tipper Gore’s) coming to an end after 40 years, one writer who has studied late-life divorce shares her findings. It sounds like couples who’ve been married for 20, 30, and 40 years divorce for the same reasons that younger couples divorce—only with wrinkles and grown children.

Men and women I interviewed insisted they did not divorce foolishly or impulsively. Most of them mentioned “freedom.” Another word I heard a lot was “control”; people wanted it for themselves for the rest of their lives. Women had grown tired of taking care of house, husband and grown children; men were tired of working to support wives who they felt did not appreciate them and children who did not respect them. Women and men alike wanted time to find out who they were.

One spouse might have wanted to keep working while the other wanted to retire. Often, there was an emotional void; one would say that the other “doesn’t see me, doesn’t know who I am,” while the other hadn’t a clue: “I thought everything was just fine; we never argued, we don’t fight.” One grew disenchanted with the wrinkled person across the dinner table and wanted someone new and exciting.

I hope I got this point across in last week’s sermon, but every couple, no matter how happy they may be at one time or another, is susceptible to splitting up. No one can fully imagine or anticipate what loving until “we are parted by death” means. No one can know the changes that life will throw their way. We can be certain the person we marry at 25 will not be the same person—physically, emotionally, spiritually—that he or she will be at 40, 50, or 60. Will we still love this new and different person? Read the rest of this entry »

This week in Vinebranch

June 4, 2010

This Sunday in Vinebranch, we will continue our sermon series on families in the Bible with “Relatively Speaking, Part 5: God’s Family.” We discuss the family that we become part of through faith in Jesus Christ. The scripture is Mark 3:31-35. Plus we have a new video and special music related to the topic.

In what ways is church—our brothers and sisters in Christ—like our family? Do we ever think of ourselves as Christ’s brother or sister? Does that thought make us uncomfortable? What does it mean that blood is no longer thicker than water—at least as it relates to faith? Where do our personal loyalties compete or conflict with our faith in Christ?

Finally, consider Jesus’ response to rejection from both religious experts (see the entire story, vv. 21-35and his own family. How does he hold it together? Why doesn’t this rejection stress him out?

We’ll explore some of these questions on Sunday. See you there!

“Culture of Mediocrity”

June 3, 2010

This month, when I am ordained as an “elder in full connection,” I will receive the ecclesial equivalent of tenure. At least for a couple of years. The system of guaranteed appointments for elders in good standing will likely come to an end in 2012, as this Christian Century article points out, and I say good riddance. As one bishop who studied the current system writes, it creates “a culture of mediocrity. It allows people to coast rather than to continue to strive and grow.”

I’m all for striving and growing—and trusting my future to God. When we pray, in the Wesleyan covenant prayer, “Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee,” do we mean it or not? God has called me to do this thing that I’m doing now. I believe that with all my heart. It’s not up to a human institution or employment contract to secure my future.

God, let me be faithful to the task you’ve given me, and I’ll let you take care of the rest.

Last week’s Vinebranch video on husbands and wives

June 1, 2010

We showed the following video in Vinebranch on May 30 to go along with our sermon, “Relatively Speaking, Part 4: Husbands and Wives.” Enjoy!

For each week of this series, we’re featuring a new video.