Archive for November, 2010

Bring deodorant this Sunday!

November 18, 2010

This Sunday in Vinebranch, as part of Thankful Sunday, we are collecting men’s and women’s deodorant for our church’s Drake House and homeless ministries. I’ll preach a Thanksgiving message on gratitude from Luke 17:11-19, Jesus’ healing the ten men with leprosy.

Here are a couple of funny videos: The first is a song by the Who from 1967 called “Odorono,” a parody of deodorant commercials, about a burgeoning singer whose deodorant let her down at the wrong time. The second is an actual commercial from the same time period. Which is funnier?

Sermon for 11-14-10: “Keeping the Promise, Act 5: Witness”

November 17, 2010

Sermon Text: Acts 8:26-40

If, like me, you were a teenager in the ’80s, then you and I shared some cultural landmarks growing up: For example, you remember how exciting it was the first time you saw Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. You remember how, after seeing The Breakfast Club, you thought to yourself, “This movie totally gets me.” It captures exactly what it felt like to be at least a white, middle-class, suburban teenager in 1985. And you remember that amazing unaccompanied guitar solo that Prince played on “Let’s Go Crazy” in the opening minutes of the movie Purple Rain.

Prince is still around, doing his musical thing. But in recent years he became a Jehovah’s Witness. And, like all faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses, what can he be found doing occasionally on Saturday mornings? Knocking on doors, canvassing neighborhoods, and trying to persuade people to become Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around answering the door, and having one of the world’s biggest rock stars hand me a copy of the Watchtower magazine, but there you have it…

We’ve all had the experience, I’m sure, of being interrupted at the most inconvenient times by Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons. Whenever this happens, I feel a range of emotions. On the one hand, I love that we have a First Amendment in which people of all religious beliefs get to freely share those beliefs with anyone they wish. On the other hand, since both of these religions are so far outside the bounds of orthodox Christian thought, I’d just as soon they keep it to themselves, rather than risk leading someone down the wrong path. Plus I think, regardless of one’s religion, going door to door and talking to complete strangers about the most profound questions of life is largely ineffective. Read the rest of this entry »

Prayer for Christ the King Sunday

November 17, 2010

From the Book of Common Prayer, for the last Sunday of the Christian year (i.e., this Sunday),

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of Kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

“The people that Trekkies and sci-fi geeks call ‘nerds'”

November 16, 2010

This movie was forwarded to me by a friend on Facebook. It nicely captures some of the challenges of answering God’s call into pastoral ministry. And of course these challenges are often greater for women.

Regarding the “dead white guys” comment, I feel compelled to point out that for the first 1,000 years or so, Christianity was not a “white man’s” religion. Technically, Christianity’s early practitioners were brown-skinned (the appearance of much Christian iconography to the contrary). St. Augustine, for example, was North African; he likely looked a lot like Muammar el-Qaddafi. Christians from both northern Europe (“white guys”) and sub-Saharan Africa were considered barbarians.

Anyway, I love this do-it-yourself animation website. I’m already wondering how I can use it. Enjoy!

About that tricky passage: “Wives, submit to your husbands…”

November 15, 2010

I love "Leave It to Beaver," but the role of iconic mother and homemaker, played beautifully by the late Barbara Billingsley, doesn't come from the Bible.

Sometimes it seems like we Christians are reading different Bibles… And I’m not talking different translations.

A lengthy article in the New York Times Magazine last week focused on a popular evangelical speaker and author named Priscilla Shirer, who preaches a message of “biblical womanhood”—not to be confused, please, with feminism. The big problem, she believes, with the state of marriage and family today is that uppity women have usurped their husband’s God-ordained authority by becoming pastors, for example, and working outside the home. Women need to find their place all over again.

This message is nothing new, of course. In the Victorian era of the mid-nineteenth century, the forces of industrialization, mass marketing, and a burgeoning middle class combined to create the ideal of the stay-at-home mother and homemaker. As middle class families had more discretionary income, the stay-at-home mother represented a new niche to which marketers could sell their wares. From what I’ve read, their efforts were a little like Starbucks today: make consumers feel a little wealthier than they really are, and they won’t mind spending money on items that might otherwise be considered luxuries (like a $4 cup of burnt-tasting coffee).  Read the rest of this entry »

Act Naturally

November 14, 2010

Ringo at Shea Stadium in 1965

Here’s the song that I performed at last night’s Vinebranch Coffee House. I first heard it when I was about 11 years old, during a PBS fundraising broadcast of the Beatles live at Shea Stadium. Ringo sang this song behind the drum kit. At the time I had never seen a drummer sing and play at the same time. (I didn’t know about Phil Collins back then.) Originally, “Act Naturally” was a #1 country hit by Capitol label-mates Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. The Beatles were fans of the Buckaroos. Whenever the Beatles did country-ish songs (for example, “I’m a Loser,” “Baby’s in Black,” and “What Goes On”), they always sounded a lot like Buck Owens.

Lead guitarist Gary Wilder, to my left, probably channels George Harrison more than the Buckaroos’ great Don Rich, but either way he sounds amazing.

There was a large and enthusiastic crowd at Coffee House. The newly renovated chapel was the perfect place for it. But most importantly, the band was outstanding. We’ll do it again in the spring!

“Unless someone guides me…”

November 12, 2010

This Sunday in Vinebranch, we’re looking at Acts 8:26-40, the remarkable account of the deacon-turned-evangelist Philip explaining the meaning of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah to an Ethiopian official (and eunuch) who, though an outsider to Israel, worshiped the Jewish God. The official is reading aloud from Isaiah 53 as Philip comes upon him.

Why was he reading aloud instead of reading silently? Because people of the ancient world didn’t read silently! Even if they were reading only for themselves, they read out loud. (Isn’t that a curious cultural difference between their world and ours?) Philip hears him reading and understands this as a Spirit-led opportunity to witness to the man. Read the rest of this entry »

Another reason why cats rule

November 11, 2010

File under “God’s Amazing Handiwork.” With the help of very high speed photography, scientists at last discover that the humble action of a cat’s lapping water is actually a marvel of physics.

What happens is that the cat darts out its tongue, curving the upper side downward so that the tip lightly touches the surface of the water.

The tongue is then pulled upward at high speed, drawing a column of water up behind it.

Just at the moment that gravity finally overcomes the upward rush of the water and starts to pull the column down — snap! The cat’s jaws have closed over the jet of water and swallowed it.

The cat laps four times a second — too fast for the human eye to see but a blur — and its tongue moves at a speed of one meter per second.

Unsurprisingly, as the article points out, cats handle the task of drinking with more class and elegance than dogs. That’s science! That’s not even my opinion.

Our cat, Peanut, who does, in fact, rule.


“Normal, natural, and reasonable”

November 11, 2010

Here’s a nice thought from fellow United Methodist pastor Dan Dick:

Evangelism, at its very best, is an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships where the transformative good news of Jesus Christ is natural, normal, and reasonable to share.

Normal, natural, and reasonable… I like that. This means, among other things, that evangelism shouldn’t be something that forces us far outside of our comfort zone. I say “far outside” because, for many, even broaching the subject of religion and church with non-churchgoing friends might feel slightly uncomfortable. In my experience, whereas many people are open about other aspects of their lives—including formerly taboo subjects like politics and sex—nearly everyone is guarded about religion.

Regardless, if Dan’s statement is true, opportunities abound to invite friends and neighbors to church, or to speak openly in a loving, non-threatening way about our faith.

Here’s a thought: Do we ever find ourselves censoring our words to avoid speaking of faith or churchgoing in everyday conversation? That’s likely a sign that we are missing Spirit-led opportunities to witness. What do you think?

Dan R. Dick, Bursting the Bubble (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), 96.

Evangelism isn’t a four-letter word

November 11, 2010

Clearly, in my sermon this Sunday, I’m going to have to help the congregation overcome the very real and completely understandable apprehension we have about “doing evangelism,” which is more or less synonymous with “witnessing.”

Here’s a trailer for a Rob Bell video about “bullhorn guy”—you know, the street preacher with the bullhorn who imagines that he’s witnessing effectively. I see guys like this at the corner of North Avenue and Techwood every time I go to a Georgia Tech football game. One point I’ll stress on Sunday is that just because so many people do evangelism poorly doesn’t excuse us from doing it at all.

At the end of this blog post by Scot McKnight, followed by much commentary, evangelical writer Joe Carter proposes ways in which he believes we (evangelical Protestant) Christians can do evangelism better, which I share with you on this blog so that I can remember it later. 🙂 I really, really like #5. Anyway, here goes…

1. Immerse oneself completely in God and and his Word and surround yourself with his Bride. — Our evangelism should come as a natural outgrowth of our love for God. We have no problem telling people about the great movie/product/restaurant we discovered because we are genuinely excited about them. If we get that excited about God—and not just about what he’s done for us—then evangelism will become second nature.

2. Be able to clearly communicate the core message of the Gospel – Most people in our culture have no problem wrapping their minds around the fact that God loves us (why wouldn’t He? We’re wonderful!). But they have a hard time understanding the concept that we are deserving of hell. We need to relearn how to explain to people that it’s about God, not about what he can do for them. Everyone knows God exists, no matter how much they try to deny it. What they don’t know is that they are in need of redemption. If we don’t get that point across then we have failed them.

3. Get to know the people you are trying to bring to Christ – You don’t have to know them for years, but for goodness sake’s, at least learn their name. Let’s show that we care about them as people and not just as a disembodied soul that will be sent to hell when they die if we don’t intervene. Let’s show that we are excited about seeing them for eternity in the New Jerusalem by being able to give them our attention here on Earth.

4. Let’s show that evangelism is a longterm process – We may merely be the ones that are sowing the seed. But if its within our ability, we should be helping them to grown in their faith—or at least helping them to find someone who can carry out the task of making a disciple out of them.

5. Forget “techniques” of evangelism; focus on being disciples who evangelize – The focus on techniques arose out of industrial-era fascination with effectiveness and teachable routines. Some of it was helpful, most of it was counterproductive. Forget trying to learn some five point process (like this one!) and spend time in spiritual disciplines that make you a better follower of Christ. From there, go where the Holy Spirit leads and do whatever he tells you to do.