Sunday, December 28, 2008

God in the Unexpected

The Gospel for today, Simeon and Anna meeting the Holy Family has two themes I will cover today. The two themes are God in the Unexpected, and Life has Suffering. I'll cover God in the unexpected first.

We stumble on God in unlikely places. In the mall, at our New Years party, in the grocery isle. God is truly in all, through all, and above all. But sometimes we have to be awakened to the possibility. God in the unexpected. Even in the city dump.

In a recent episode of my favorite NPR show RadioLab, they talked about what they find in dumps. In New York, they are burying garbage in manmade hills. Imagine what some future archeologist will find decades from now. A current archeologist dug down and took a core sample about 50 feet down in one of these massive "landfill hills" and do you know what he found? God? No, a Ten year old hotdog.

However the concept of making hills out of garbage isn't new, nor is it unusual. We've been burying garbage for a while. In a few days I'll be going to Egypt, but let's go there now! Well not now, but to Egypt 1898. Two archeologists from Oxford noticed some strange sand dunes. They just didn't look like the other ones. They are strange and irregularly shaped. They found huge quantity of baskets, pottery, clothing, the MOTHER LOAD! Undisturbed mounds of 10 centuries worth of trash. The biggest find was all of the ancient paper… In fact the first piece of paper they pull out is a Lost Saying of Jesus.

Imagine, standing in a desert, in a 1,000 year old trash dump, and the first thing you pick up is the words of Jesus Christ. Here you are standing on a sand dune, reading words of Jesus no one's ever heard before. The first saying out of this dump "He who knows the all, but fails to know himself, lacks everything." Forget the 10 year old hotdog! Here is something not heard or read about for 2,000 years. It's not even alluded to! Jesus states that Heaven, the kingdom of God is spread out all over the world, but we don't see it. We're surrounded by it, but don't see it. [i] I think this exactly the Jesus I know, it fits with the story we do know.

God in Garbage dumps. God in unexpected places. These archeologists didn't expect to find God there in an Egyptian dump! And I bet, neither did Simeon or Anna when they first looked at the baby of the poor carpenter and the woman he "got pregnant" out of wedlock.

Here is Simeon, an old man who somehow got it in his head that he was going to see the messiah. Here is Anna, a faithful servant who isn't expecting much, just to live out her days in the temple, worshiping God. Along comes this poor couple. How do we know they're poor? The family offers a sacrifice and the details of the sacrifice are interesting. Two turtledoves or two young pigeons are to be offered if the family couldn't afford a lamb. Mary and Joseph are poor! Poor but observant Jews.

Imagine how many babies Simeon has seen in his quest. I bet he looked at every baby that came into the temple. If I had Simeon's mission to see the Messiah, I would be ready to quit after my tenth baby. Simeon was faithful, he trusted God and stayed in it. Who knows how long he was in there, how long he waited, but he knew he had found the messiah when he saw Jesus. I would imagine Simeon was a little shocked. I have no idea what Simeon thought the messiah would be, but it couldn't be this little child from this poor family. The messiah was to be from the House of David, ROYALTY! A great military leader, the prophecies say nothing about a baby from a poor family. We have words of Christ in the dump and the Messiah in a Poor Baby.

Simeon does something odd though. He gives a beautiful hymn of praise to the family and to the baby, Simeon is SO happy but then he throws in this sadness. And Simeon's words to Mary say "Sword will pierce your heart" meaning, her heart will break. Simeon is foreshadowing the cross.

Wait, wait. This story is just the gospel writer foreshadowing the cross, nothing more. It's not relevant to our lives today. Some dude meets a baby in the temple, who cares? What's the point? There's no God here, this is just a 10 year old hotdog part of the Bible.

Of course God is here in the story and it is still relevant today. As you may know, Kate and I are pregnant. Well, she's pregnant and I'm responsible… what I mean to say is that we're expecting our first child. The kid is still in utero and we've already had an army of Simeon's and Anna's.

These modern prophets start off just like Simeon's hymn, with joyous praise, "you're going to have a baby! That's great! Congrats! That child will be the apple of your eye. You'll be great parents." But just like Simeon, there's also a note of dread. From the funny like "Oh I'm sorry Kate, now you're going to have two children to deal with, your husband and your baby." Then there's the saddeness. One particular message keeps playing in my mind from a particular Simeon. He said "You raise your kids, and all is well. The terrible twos aren't that terrible. You get them talking and out comes this little personality, and it's great you love it. Then you have to send the kid to school and your heart breaks a little bit. But then you realize that the manners you taught them are working out. Then one day, ugh, the school sends home this person… this happens around 13 or 14… this stranger who looks like your kid, sounds like your kid, but doesn't act like your kid. Talks and acts impolite, is very selfish, THAT is when your heart will break."

That's something to tell expectant parents. But this Simeon is right! And I'll further that message. Throughout your life, not just one sword is going to pierce your heart. Life, after all, is terminal. As one philosopher Van Wilder put it, "Don't take life too seriously, no one gets out alive." One day, everyone you know will die.

So what's the point? You may ask. Why remind us of our mortality, thanks a lot Debbie Downer!

It is easy for me to say standing up here in front of you. God is great and God is good, found in trash heaps and in little babies. How sweet! Some religious traditions try to make excuses for these hard times – talking about the mystery of God or even suggesting that God does these things for reasons we will never know, or because we’ve sinned or done something wrong – THOSE traditions don't go down the road of hard questions. But we're not that kind of church. THIS tradition asks hard questions – feels hard feelings – and tries to make sense out of hard truths. And one of the hard truths about illness, accidents and calamities and death is that… it doesn't make sense. It isn't fair… and it hurts like hell.[ii]

It's easy to stand here and say Jesus is Christ and use images of riches and glory all devoid of the suffering of the story. We don't often talk about the blood of Jesus at Trinity and I think that reason is twofold. First is because we don't subscribe to a "blood atonement theology" and second is that we're uncomfortable with the physicality of Jesus. Jesus was human, and what he went through on the cross HURT and it was terrible and it caused him a lot of pain and those around him even more pain. So much so that his best friends couldn't even watch their friend suffer and die. Isn't that true of us? Don't we stay away from grieving and dying people sometimes, not because we don't care, but because we care too much? But here within the announcement of the Messiah there is also an announcement of the tragedy. "A sword will pierce the heart of Mary". To recall a movie title, there will be blood.

In this life there will be blood, and tears and pain. From my time here at Trinity, since June, I have seen pain and suffering. In our tradition of Christianity we sometimes say that the authentic follower of Jesus is NOT the person with all the answers – or all the degrees – or even the best words. No, the real follower of Jesus is the one who knows how to feed the sheep. To feed the sheep of our world demands compassion – and patience – and tenderness. It requires being true and real and humble. One person said that if you are going to feed the sheep of this world you can't be too full of yourself. Like communion bread you have to be taken – and blessed – and broken and shared.[iii] You don't need to have the right words, in fact, I've learned that words are the least important thing! Just be there, be present, be that someone who stands and offers the hug, or handshake or meal to a family who is hurting.

We think we need some Hollywood scene and say the right thing in a beautiful, eloquent speech. No, you don't. You just need to be present and listening.

A professor of theology at seminary once told me a story about how good wine is made. There are a few spots where good grapes can be grown because the climate in America is too perfect.

"Too perfect?!" I asked, "Perfect grapes make bad wine?"

"Yes," He responded, "For great wine to be made the grapes have to suffer. Suffering adds depth and builds character."

This is what life will do to your spiritual character. It adds character and depth. And you will suffer and wrestle with new concepts. New joys and new tragedies. However, the community here will help you through it. The community will help and although we might not understand it, we will get through it. This too shall pass.

Jesus said, "I am the vine…" (John 15:1) so that makes us grapes! We will be crushed, and stomped, and bruised, but we have each other and God is there and we can make something great! God is there even in the unexpected tragedies of our lives. We have the grace of God and the example of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When tragedy strikes, we're allowed to say OUCH and ask for help.

When i think of a good grape, Mother Teresa and Dalia Lama springs to mind, but the main example is a more personal one. I think of my GMA Bet. She was always positive and hopeful despite suffering with Rhuematoid Arthritius. I never heard her ask why did this happen to me? Christians get so focused on the why we lose focus. Our Muslim and Buddhist brothers and sisters don't ask this, they take it as a given that there will be suffering. They don't even bother to ask why, they just focus on dealing with it. This is something we do well to remember. It's not about hoping there won't be suffering, it's how we respond to it. As Nancy quoted in one of her sermon's this year, "10% of life is what happens to me, 90% is how i react to it." [iv]. When turmoil engulfs our lives, we should remember that Christmas is a never-ending story. Christmas is a reminder that “God so loved the world..” and God loves us. [v]

We don't love because it's easy or because we won't get hurt. We love despite it all. We love because you and I are here, now, it could have been otherwise. Jesus never said that following him, or even life for that matter, would be easy… he just said it would be worth it. AMEN.

[i] Radio Lab "Detective Stories" 9-11-2007,
[ii] RJ from "Saying Good-bye to Vicki"
[iii] RJ Again, dude was on it in this post!
[iv] Nancy quoted Charles Swindoll.
[v] Charita Goshay "Christmas is a never-ending Story" Canton Reposititory, 12-25-08. This 'n' that.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

It's Decemberween! YAY! Happy Holidays to all! They're still not better than your hot cousin Debra.

What's coming up, you ask? Well I'm going to Egypt in January. From 1-7 to 1-22 I'll be out of the country... but I'll be posting up my exegetical paper on 1 Corinthians for your reading and hopefully, massive discussing.

so to all those in the blogosphere, to the Canon of TK, Matt, Mark, and John, and to all the good peoples of the world, may peace be upon you and your holidays filled with friends and family.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why I don't like "Biblical" Anything

A while back, I gave my Thoughts on Biblical Maculinity in response to Brad over at Confessions of a Seminarian. I get really bothered anytime someone tries to label something "Biblical" like "I believe in Biblical masculinity/feminism/marriage/family values/ethics/etc."

I touched on this discomfort in that post, but it wasn't fully articulated. I will try to do that here.

ONe of the hardest problems is interpreting the Bible to our modern context. some will say "The Bible doesn't need interpreting, you just read what's written" advocating a literal interpretation. I will now say that the majority of the people who say this ARE NOT reading the bible literally, but traditionally. Just take Christmas for example... the innkeeper who tells Mary and Joe to hit up the manger, Mary remaining a virgin and not having any children OR sex, that there are 3 wisemen, and Jesus is raised to be a carpenter in Nazareth are NOT in the Bible! Those are traditions PLACED on the Bible... Sola Scriptura indeed.

Plus we need to look at the social structures assumed in the Bible and ask, are an essential part of God's revelation? We no longer live in a world of absolute monarchies, slavery, tribal and clan warfare, patriarchy nor animal sacrifice in their ancient Middle Eastern forms. Instead of an agrarian world we're urban, instead of assumed male superiority there is women's rights movements, instead of absolute monarchy democracy is a pervasive ideal, instead of an all-encompassing religious, economic, political and social legal system we have patchwork of laws that govern different aspects of life.

The story of God in the Bible is inseparable from an understanding of the kind of society Israel was meant to be nor can God not be removed from Israel's context and view of the world.

However, look at how progressive Israel despite the context! Within the context of slavery, Israel was to free all slaves and give them a nest egg every 7 years (Duet 15). within monarchy, they knew how this system would be a form of oppression (1 Sam 8) and there's no greater king than God (2 Sam 12). In an agricultural economy, Israel was to ensure everyone had a fair share of the wealth and resources (Lev 25). Within the context of patriarchy and polygamy, Israel was to protect the rights of women (Duet 21:10-14; 22:13-29).

How do we bridge the 2,000+ year gap? I would say the last thing we need to do is recreate the context of ancient Israel! We can't get out of our own symbols and cultural context and we read Israel's story and Jesus' story through our own cultural experience. We CAN'T apply the Bible literally because we'd ultimately being applying our own bias and prejudices. Our experience is not on a higher plain than the scriptures but it is our beginning and ending.

We cannot approach the Bible as a narrow rule book that sets out models of behavior for every single circumstance. What does the Bible say about a flat tire on the side of the highway? What does the Bible say about interacting with societies completely alien from your own? Some stuff, surely, but the application isn't exact. Every time we pick up the Bible there needs to be serious consideration of context, culture, and other communal structures.

Combining the story of the Bible with the story of our culture in such a way that our praxis becomes the product of wisdom. There is no easy way nor one way to accomplish this. There are aspects of the Bible in everything we do because we are a saturated culture, however, calling something like it's the authoritive BIBLICAL anything is just patently untrue and makes for bad marketing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Plans, Advent Skit 12-21-08

Luke and Kate and sitting in the pew pouring over papers and talking very closely, Pastor Nancy at the pulpit.

Pastor Nancy: This is the final Sunday in advent, next week is Christmas.. so as we prepare (Notices Luke and Kate)… My dear intern, what seems to be troubling you? (Luke still pouring over papers) Hello? What's up with this… Hey (whoever is doing the sound) turn on his mic.

Luke: yeah, put them there… wait.. the Crockett's are coming? I thought they were staying here, we're not even related to them.. and Mark's such a picky eater.. wait… (Figures out his mic is on). He-He… umm.. Pastor Nancy, I can explain!

PN: I'd love to hear it! It's not like we're getting ready to worship or anything!

L: Well, you know how I said to buy one less present…

PN: oh yeah, and how you yelled at me for my RC Cherry Red Hummer for my grandkids.

L: Yeah! Well our families thought that was such a great idea that none of them wanted presents!

PN: WOW! That's great!

L: Instead Kate and I have to plan the Christmas party and dinner.

PN: That's not quite what you meant.

L: Tell me about it! Now Kate and I are all stressed out cause we can't sit Andrew next to Steve or Margaret next to Frank cause they don't like each other…

PN: well I'm sure that..

L: (continues without hearing) and NOBODY wants to sit by Aunt Mildred and somehow the Crockett's are coming, but they only know us and then the kids table is just a mess cause those kids are a mess and they never listen and they're always coming to the adults.

PN: OKAY! You're stressing me out now! Why not to a buffet and let people sit where they want?

L: AND MAKE IT LOOK LIKE I DIDN"T PUT ANY WORK INTO IT?! (getting hysterical) you don't know what kind of message this would send, what would people thing of me? I'm a poor student, that I can't AFFORD gifts and that I can't do simple thing like putting on a dinner for everyone, are you CRAZY?

PN: Well, what have we been saying about all the stress and hassle? That's not what the season is about! It's about God in the unexpected, right in our personal relationships with each other.

L: We mean that?

PN: Yeah! (indignant!) So let this slide away and let us begin to worship. Please stand for the call to worship.

L: Okay Kate, we'll figure this out after the service.

PN: Ugh, there's no reaching some people, please join me in the call to worship printed in the bulletin.

"...Every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Paul cares about his own power, he’s such a jerk!

Written for the NT class on a hypothetical objection from a congregation member. The problem is that once you announce a sermon series on Paul, one congregation member states "I can't stand Paul! I gotta take the summer off because Paul only cares about his own power, he's such a jerk!" Stunned by the response, you later write a letter address this comment, what would you write?

Well, here's what i wrote:

When I announced my intention for running a sermon series on Paul, I was shocked by your comments about Paul; but you may be surprised why. I was shocked because I was hearing myself before seminary! I used to think Paul was a power hungry goodie-two-shoes who called people names and misrepresented the Gospel. Then I took a class and found some perspective on Paul.

Aside from Jesus, no other figure has proved to be more important to Christianity than Paul (Ehrman 260). I believe Paul is the greatest blessing and yet the greatest curse of Christianity. The greatest blessing as his writings are complex and cover a great many topic and provide a window to the historical setting of early Christianity; yet, he is the greatest curse as the church has really misinterpreted many key points; points I hope to cover during this sermon series.

The classic negative view of Paul is that he’s a guilt-ridden legalist who felt bound to follow a set of impossible to keep laws (Ehrman 269). He denounces the Jewish Law only to replace them with a more dire and pious set of laws. In this summer sermon series, I intend to show that Paul’s ethics is enabled by his theology, and his theology is in no way monolithic (Blount 150). Paul’s thought and language seem to be very fluid and flexible, I’d dare say contextual (Bassler 38)! Paul is not out to write a universal doctrine, but writes to each individual church with advice.

Plus you’d be very surprised that my view of the world (and if I may be so bold, your view as well) has some parallels with Paul’s view. Paul seems to be focused on a reality that lies beyond the reality of this world ruled by our senses, yet we can experience this mystical union with Christ in our every day, non-mystical experiences and struggles (Bassler 40,47).

Paul may seem like a jerk when he says things like “follow my example” in First Corinthians or when he seemingly butchers the story of Sarah and Hagar with his interpretation in Galatians or even all that stuff about natural and unnatural in Romans. What we have to remember is Paul is writing in the First Century and thinks that Jesus is coming back within his lifetime! His values are not our values, his world is alien to you and me, and he never thought that his letters would be kept this long! We’re supposed to be in Christ’s kingdom by now!

I think you’ll find Paul a little more endearing through this series. Come listen and then we’ll go out for lunch and talk about what you thought. You may be surprised to see how inclusive Paul and how he even has a universalist flavoring in his letters (no limited atonement here!). Looking forward to seeing you in service!

In Christ,

Pastor Luke

Works Cited
Bassler, Jouette M. Navigating Paul. Louisvill KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.

Blount, Brian K. Then the Whisper Put on Flesh. Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 2001.

Ehrman, Bart. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent Skit 12-7-08

written by Luke and Pastor Nancy, performed at Trinity Reformed UCC in Mountville PA.

Luke: Today we're going to hear about the Annunciation. That's when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her "hey, you're gonna have a child and name him Jesus." Man, what a story! but image what that would be like if that were you! I know if a few months ago, someone came up to Kate and announced not only her pregnancy but also the name of our child, why i'd hit that guy so hard.... (notices Nancy).... uhh.... Pastor Nancy?

Nancy: (still going through the newspaper) Yeah?

Luke: I was talking about Gabriel...

Nancy: uh huh... (distracted voice)

L: And how Gabriel visited Dean Thomas and said he was pregnant.

N: That's nice.... i heard that... keep doing what you're doing – I’ll be with you in a minute.


N: What?? Yes I am – or I mean to! I'm just a little distracted today. I found out my grandkids want a battery operated, miniature replica of Hummer – red – with doors that open and shut, a real horn, back up lights and fake ignition keys!! And let me tell you – these things do NOT come cheap and I’m trying to find the best deal!

L: Well can't that wait? We're getting ready for worship and...


N: Hello?

L: umm... You’ve GOT to be kidding!

N: oh yes, is this Ebay? I had a question about that item #4567. (keeps talking....)

L: seriously?! She’s taking the call...(to the audience) this is... uhh.. unbelievable... what should i do....

N: (As if she doesn’t know what’s going on) “Now what exactly does “gently used” mean?

*Luke gets cell phone out of pocket and dials*

N:– uh huh – and you can have delivery to St. Louis by when?? Oh! Can you hold? This call might be from the manufacturer – “Hello – is this General Motors?”

L: PASTOR NANCY! (*shocked look, looks at Luke and gives a shy smile... Luke continues:
“What's the deal, i just talked last week about centering the season on Christ and you're acting like a nutcase today!”

N: That’s PASTOR NUTCASE to you, my boy!! But hey, you're right. There's just so much to do and I just feel so pressured. I really feel guilty not living near my grandchildren so naturally I want to give them everything they want!! But, ok -- maybe i shouldn't have used this time to think about all the stuff I have to do.

L: Listen – far be it from me to tell you how to celebrate Advent – but didn’t MY sermon last week mention something about “guilt giving”??? Is that Hummer really what you want to give your grandchildren that will leave a lasting impression?? Maybe you need to focus a little bit more on what’s going on here rather than making lists and taking phone calls during the call to worship!!

N: OK – You’ve made your point! I’ll worry about the Hummer later!

L: (Looks totally exasperated – he hasn’t gotten through at all!)
L: To the congregation: “Won’t you join me in the call to worship printed in your bulletin – and PAY ATTENTION!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We Make the Noises

i have been recently called an agnostic-Christian. i've been told that I have no business behind a pulpit and that "I'm responsible for every soul i lead astray by not teaching the gospel." To this I say "The only thing i have is my personal responsiblity. I'm responsible to the gospel and my interpretation of it." That's the whole point!


We all have it, we all use it... why? Because the Bible doesn't SAY anything! it requires us to read it and interpret what it means to us.

i'm reminded on a joseph campbell story about a tribe in australia whose social order was maintained with the aid of bullroarers. those are long flat boards with a couple of slits cut in them and a rope tied at one end. they are swung around over one's head and the low humming sound is other worldly. when the gods were angry they would sound the bullroarers in the woods at night... no one in the tribe knew this of course. the males of the tribe would explain why the gods were angry and what behavior had to change.

in the initiation rite of young men into manhood in the tribe is very violent and bloody. it's culmination is the revelation to the boy by the cheif priest of "We make the noises"

and we do. however i tend to look at the similarities and the shear fact that you and i are here on this planet... as it could have been otherwise. we are made of stardust and tied to the universe. life on earth is very linked and intraconnected. authoritative claims take away this connection and the church has been a large part of this.

so this leads me to think that there's something behind it all... some higher order behind the chaos. i call this something God. which leads me to a different take on the incarnation... what if we are the incarnated universe trying to figure itself out?

so with that in mind we're called to wrestle and figure it out not make super vague claims like "Jesus is the answer PERIOD" like the fundamentalists or say "There is no god" like the stalwart atheists have in my experience. in my experience, i feel that both the fundies and the atheists i've talked to are inherently ignorant about this take on spirituality. i could be wrong and i'd be more than happy to be!

we are making noises to try to understand the infinite. we are putting up boundaries on something that cannot be bound and what we place there should only be looked through into the grand divine.

You can make all the dogmas and doctrines you want, the divine won't be contained.

It's knocking over fences, crossing property lines.

related posts: SVS on 'aChristians'- Yes I coined it...

KT's excellent Poem in her post Where Should We Go? pretty much sums up this rant.

All that and a bag of chips!

Been there, done that, and I blame Blair for this. Go ahead and blame me for yours!

The usual style — make a copy and mark the ones you’ve done in bold and the ones you’d like to do in italics (or at least do something to make them noticeable).

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band

4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland (Disneyworld anyhow — whichever is the one in Florida)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables — Yearly
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (not a famous one, but my buddy Burrito was a flim major)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookie
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had Chicken Pox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby (in process)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Passion of the Parking Lot

I wrote this with the help of my main dawg, Linear Dog.. We wrote it for our worship service at Chapel here at LTS. Nancy and I redid it to fit Trinity, here's that skit:

Luke: Wow, the sanctuary looks great today… I love all the advent decorations and the theme for this season of the church year. What are we doing next?

Nancy: The call to confession… and no better to lead it than a man who needs to confess himself.

Luke: What do you mean by that?

Nancy:I saw you two Sunday’s ago after service – in the parking lot... you looked pretty steamed.

Luke: Yeah dude, Dave Burns cut me off! I couldn't freaking believe it! It's like he didn't even see me! I was SO mad because I had places to go and people to see!

NANCY: Well, if I remember correctly, the sermon that day was turning the other cheek...part of the Ten Days for Peace thing? Remember??

LUKE:I was about to turn his cheek (punches hand).

NANCY: Well that wouldn't have been very nice. You know, next time you come to church, you don't have to leave Jesus inside it, he's supposed to accompany you for the whole week.

LUKE: WHA.... Uhhh.... Yeah, but excuse me!! Last week when we were out making homebound visits and stopped for a coffee – weren’t YOU the one who got so mad at the woman in front of us – remember?? When you said you couldn't believe how long she was taking, asking the ingredients to everything only to find out later she's got a peanut allergy and is diabetic. Way to go there “Christ-follower – Pastor Person”

NANCY: Yeah... about that...

LUKE: Wasn't there something in the bible about the splinter in your neighbor’s eye and the.. uhh... what do you call it... THE LOG CABIN in yours??

NANCY: I think that might be a SLIGHT exaggeration – but I get your point. I’m sorry for that outburst in the coffee shop – and I’m also sorry for criticizing you in front of the whole congregation.. I was just very concerned at your anger and wanted to help. I didn't mean to cause any embarrassment -- I was wrong to call you out here.

LUKE: But you only did it cause you were concerned about my welfare... right? And you know, you're right. Sorry to respond so defensively. I was way out of line. So really – thanks for the correction. It’s occurring to me that onfessing our faults is hard work.

NANCY: Yes, but that's what we're called to do. Jesus even said that before we can offer up our prayers to God, we should reconcile to each other.. So c'mere you! (HUG!)

LUKE: We now invite you to reconcile with your neighbors

NANCY: Or simply greet one another in the name of Christ this morning.

LUKE: Or we could just do that.. yeah!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Who I think Paul was...

In the last post, i asked Who Was Paul? Here i'll provide a short answer to this complex question. Thank you to all who commented, I loved reading your posts and saw where each of y'all were coming from. It helped me write this post, so thank you again. Let me know what you think of this!

Was Paul: 1. The Preacher of salvation by grace from the burden of the Law?

2. The Preacher who proclaimed God's reign by breaking through in Christ the Messiah of Israel?

3. Was he a social conservative that opted for celebacy and temperance based on the teachings of Christ?

4. Was he a social radical that opted for a new, liberative lifestyle based on the teachings of Christ?

Paul was all of these things but none of them completely. He had a lot to say about grace, he seems conservative in a few spots, like in the Pastorals, but yet radical in Corinthians. I will, however, focus on Paul as a “Preacher who proclaimed God’s reign by breaking through in Christ the Messiah of Israel. I lean this way because of the letters to the Galatians and Romans.

Through Christ the law is fulfilled. The law was like a nanny that watched over the world and without it Paul would not have known sin. But Christ makes God’s grace known and levels the field as Gentiles and Jews, once separated, are now grafted together onto one tree. God promised that all people will be blessed through Abraham, and Christ fulfills that promise. The law of Moses is still valid in Paul’s eyes, but is now beside the point as if you “put on the mind of Christ” you are doing the law.

When Paul talks about the Law, there are some inaccuracies. Inaccuracies are always occurring in marketing, and Paul is a marketer of Christ to the Gentiles. This happens in our modern times too as the new Apple notebook doesn’t use less power than a 25 watt light bulb (unless it’s in sleep mode) nor is the law slavery like Paul would have us interpret it in Galatians when he brings up the Sarah and Hagar story. His interpretation is way off the mark, however, it is written to Gentiles and this Paul’s inaccuracy has a point. Namely, Gentiles don’t have to first become Jewish to experience the Reign of God in Jesus Christ… One simply needs to follow Christ, period.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Who Was Paul?

I used to think St. Paul was a jerk. I couldn't stand him or what I perceived to be his theology. After my 'Paul and the Early Church' class taught by Greg Carey, i'm now having second thoughts. I used to think Paul as a lot like this picture (photographed by yours truly from the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on the corner of Walnut and Nevin here in Lancaster) just giving people the bird and telling them they're going to hell. i've come to think a little differently of Paul but still am trying to articulate that thought. for your help, i'd love to know what you make of Paul! who was he?

To help, here are the 4 legacies usually assigned to Paul by today's scholars. Was he:

The Preacher of salvation by grace from the burden of the Law?

The Preacher who proclaimed God's reign by breaking through in Christ the Messiah of Israel?

Was he a social conservative that opted for celebacy and temperance based on the teachings of Christ?

Was he a social radical that opted for a new, liberative lifestyle based on the teachings of Christ?

I'll hold my opinion until after i write this paper! but i'd love to hear what y'all think, so rawk and roll!!!