Posts Tagged ‘Sleater-Kinney’

Sermon 01-18-15: “Basic Training, Part 2: Adoration”

January 27, 2015

Basic Training Series

What does it mean that the very first thing that Jesus teaches us to ask for in the Lord’s Prayer is that God’s name be hallowed? “Hallow” isn’t a word we use anymore, but as I say in this sermon, we all do it—whether we hallow God or something other than God. Jesus is telling us, among other things, that our priority in life is to praise, worship, and adore our heavenly Father. If this message is as challenging to you as it is to me, you’ll want to watch or read this sermon!

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:5-15

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

A few years after Lisa and I got married, we saved money and bought a house in Tucker, Georgia. We were about a quarter-mile from the railroad tracks that ran through town. On our first night in our new house—in the middle of the night, around 2:00 in the morning—we were awakened abruptly by the sound of the train blaring its horn as it crossed a major road near our house. We could feel and hear the windows shake as it went through town. The next night it woke us up again, and the night after that, and the night after that.

A couple of years later, a new neighbor moved in next door. I greeted him the morning after he moved in as he was on his way to work. “Oh, my gosh,” he said. “How do you sleep at night?” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” He said, “That train! It came through at two in the morning. It felt like an earthquake! And that whistle blaring!” And I remembered, “Oh, yeah! The train! I forgot all about that train! I haven’t noticed it in years. Somewhere along the way I stopped hearing it, stopped feeling it. I got used to it.” By the time my next-door neighbor moved in, I’d probably only wake up if it didn’t go through town in the middle of the night, blaring its horn!

I’d gotten used to it. It became ordinary and commonplace. I stopped hearing it and feeling it.

What a fitting metaphor for the Lord’s Prayer! We live in a world in which people are desperately interested in spirituality and here, in this prayer, our Lord Jesus tells us how we can have the most profound spiritual experience of all. Yet I’m afraid that Jesus’ earth-shaking words have become so ordinary and commonplace. We’ve grown so used to these words, it’s as if we’ve stopped hearing them—and feeling them! Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 06-23-13: “The Main Thing”

June 27, 2013
Jesus moved from his hometown of Galilee to Capernaum, where he likely worked as a carpenter.

Jesus moved from his hometown of Galilee to Capernaum, where he likely worked as a carpenter.

Sermon Text: Mark 2:1-12

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Mark Burgess told me the story of his first Sunday at Hampton UMC. It turns out it also corresponded to the first day of Vacation Bible School. So Mark got up and preached what he thought was a good sermon, but he had barely finished his benediction, he said, when these people marched up and took the pulpit away. And Mark thought, “Was I that bad? Are they not going to let me do this anymore?” I am so grateful to Mark for his faithful, effective, and grace-filled leadership over these past seven years, and his love and support of me during this transition. He has left a strong foundation for ministry on which each of us can continue to build. Praise God?

Corin Tucker, on left

“My favorite band perspired on me!”

As you will surely learn about me, I am passionately interested in music. Back in the late-’90s I saw one of my favorite bands in concert at a sold-out club in Atlanta. They were a female punk-rock trio called Sleater-Kinney. In fact, one of members of the group was a woman named Carrie Brownstein, who now stars with comedian Fred Armisen on a show called Portlandia. She’s even featured in an American Express commercial. Anyway, this small club was packed, wall-to-wall, with people. Standing room only. No elbow room. To make matters worse, the air-conditioning wasn’t working, and it was very hot—and everyone was sweating profusely. Anyway, I was standing near the door that led backstage. Shortly before the show started, the three members of this band that I idolized walked out of that door. And they walked right up to me, and they politely said, “Excuse me,” and they squeezed past me on their way to the concession stand. Each of them brushed against me as they passed. And after they did so, I turned to my friend Keith and said, “I’ve been perspired on by my favorite band! I’ll never wash this shirt again!” Read the rest of this entry »

But that’s a gift from God, too!

June 30, 2011

I still ♥ Sleater-Kinney. More than church, truth be told!

I’m sympathetic with the pastor who wrote this post. He complains that Christians’ passions are rarely awakened by worship in the same way they are by, say, sports or movies. After admitting to his own passionate response to action movies, he writes:

Now the point: nobody, I notice, engages my sermons this way. Nobody seems viscerally involved, vicariously transported, by my exposition of 1 Corinthians or my teasing out of the nuances of the Chalcedonian Creed. Occasionally, on one of my better days, my humor tickles them. My urgency moves them. My pathos touches them. And, quite often, a number of people get physical during the singing—arms lifted high, head tilted back, eyes closed. Some even dance, in a Baptist kind of way, which is to say they weave their shoulders slightly and do a little two-step with their feet.

But no one seems to lose themselves. No one gets as personally involved in word and worship as my father did with linebackers or as I do with action heroes.

When I was in seminary, I pastored a small church. We worshiped between 50 and 60 on Sundays. It was small enough that I would feel the absence of one or two large families on a given Sunday.

This was a slight problem for me in the fall, during college football season. One of the families that anchored the church—a family I love dearly—were also the most passionate University of Georgia football fans I’ve ever met (which is saying something, believe me). They traveled by entourage to all the games, both home and away. When there was an away game on Saturday, I could count on their large corner of the church being empty the next day, as they were traveling home from wherever UGA had played.

I hated those away games! My only consolation, as an embittered, die-hard Georgia Tech fan, was found in their losing those away games. I wanted to say to visitors to church on that Sunday, “It’s not usually this empty! Come back next week! Georgia’s playing at home!”

But I would be a liar and a hypocrite if I became too indignant about it. “Why do so many people like sports and movies more than church?” Heck, I like sports and movies more than church! I mean, not all sports and not just any movie, but I get passionate about these things—and especially music—more than I get passionate about going to church. As a pastor, I know I’m not supposed to say that, but it’s true.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is, by all means, the greatest story ever told. But we know the ending already. Worship isn’t surprising or suspenseful. Besides, saying that we get more passionate about things other than church isn’t the same as saying that we regard these things as more important or more necessary. I’m not saying that our passions can’t become idolatrous, but they don’t necessarily become that way.

Moreover, I don’t like the false dichotomy that this article implies. It says that there’s this part of the world that belongs to God—like churchgoing—and this part of the world that doesn’t belong to God—like sports and movies.

One Thanksgiving many years ago, my mom tried to implement a new tradition. As we gathered around the table for the meal, Mom had each of us—children, grandchildren, in-laws, friends—say one thing that we were thankful to God for. Most of the responses weren’t very original. “I’m thankful for my family.” “I’m thankful for my health.” “I’m thankful for Jesus.” I wanted to gag!

When it was my turn, I said, “I’m thankful for Sleater-Kinney.” I had to explain to my un-hip relatives that they were (at the time; they’ve since broken up) an amazing female punk-rock trio out of Olympia, Washington, who had set my world on fire the previous year. I ♥ Sleater-Kinney! Seriously! I still do!

My sister Susan scolded me: “Brent, be serious!” But I was serious! One thing I was very thankful to God for over the previous year was Sleater-Kinney. I found God in their music.

One thing I’m passionately interested in communicating to my parishioners is this: If it’s good, it’s from God. That good game is from God. That good movie is from God. That good piece of music is from God. Every good gift, if it’s truly good, is from God. So our hearts should be overflowing with gratitude for these gifts as well.