I preached this past weekend on two songs that seem to be vying for the attention of American Christians: the song of scandal that dominates our 24 hour news cycle, and the song of Pentecost through which the Holy Spirit uses God’s people to testify to His deeds of power. The reason that we can’t hear the song of Pentecost is because we’re so thoroughly immersed in the song of scandal. Think about where your mind was this past week and what you watched and shared on social media. Were you testifying to God’s deeds of power or were you sharing pictures of Umbrella-gate or another scandal? To tune into the song of Pentecost means assuming that we are surrounded by prophets and that each of us has a prophetic vocation. Listen to find out more:
Yesterday, the young clergy leadership forum heard from Bill Mefford, the GBCS point person for immigration reform and other controversial causes. Bill shared with us that he actually spent most of his career as a local pastor to people in the rural midwest and Texas who would disagree with most of the things he’s advocating now. He said the most solid foundation for being able to speak prophetic Biblical truths in your congregation is for people to know that you love them. They can’t get that from the generic benevolence of a handshake and a warm smile. They need to be pursued and valued. Continue reading →
I am attending the young clergy leadership forum (#yclf on twitter) with the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) in Washington, DC. This is the agency that lobbies the federal government on behalf of the United Methodist Church according to the agenda set forth every four years by our General Conference. I decided I would blog about my experience in a series called “Jesus inside the beltway.” The first question it seems important to ask is why they exist. Continue reading →
I’m about to leave on a youth retreat so I don’t have time for a full post on this, but Brian Zahnd’s Friday night and Sunday sermons from last weekend blew my mind. He is the pastor of non-denominational Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO and a leader in the exciting movement among evangelical churches to embrace the sacramental and spiritual practices of the ancient church. In his Friday sermon “Ring them bells,” he talks about the way that church bells used to serve as the city’s call to prayer before they became passe to churches seeking to be “relevant” and modern. The church bell is a metaphor for a public Christianity that is prayerful and prophetic rather than entrenched in worldly political power. Then in his Sunday sermon “The Mount of Beatitudes,” Zahnd talks about the Beatitudes, closing with a fascinating account of how every single beatitude is in play among those gathered around Jesus as he was being crucified. Zahnd says, “The kingdom of God will only come through little reenactments of Calvary.” I have a lot more to say but I don’t have time so go listen. Peace.
Last week, I had some very strange encounters with God that I interpreted with too much confidence too quickly, since it was the first time I had received experiences of this kind. I wrote a really long strange blog post that was initially intended to be a low-key meditation on the way that American Christians often confuse the fear of the Lord with the fear that has to do with punishment. I will be sharing bite-sized pieces from that strange outpouring in the future. I also wrote some strange, cryptic things on both facebook and twitter about Jesus’ return and things of that nature that made some people uncomfortable. One of my facebook friends wrote that I should “get the plans for my boat together” (like Noah), which was a good-natured way to help me laugh at myself and come back down to Earth. This weekend I will be preaching on how Jesus gives us a vision, using a story from Mark 8:22-26 when Jesus heals a blind man in two stages. The first time, the blind man receives partial vision; Jesus has to repeat the process for him to gain full sight. God used two scriptures yesterday to help me gain greater clarity in His vision for me: Paul’s encounter in Corinth in Acts 18 and John the Baptist’s interaction with the crowd in Luke 3. Continue reading →
One of the most dramatic exorcisms of Jesus’ ministry takes place in Mark 5 when Jesus casts a legion of demons out of a man chained to a graveyard in the region of the Gerasenes by sending them into a herd of pigs who run with fury to a cliff and throw themselves in a lake. For the last several years, as certain aspects of the evangelical corner of American Christianity that I inhabit have looked less and less Christlike, I have had a single prayer that I have written probably several hundred times in my journal: “Lord, let their fruit be made plain.” I’m not sure who the “they” in the prayer is — probably people who earnestly hunger after God no less than I do. But it’s hit me this week that God really is answering my prayer. I really think American Christianity in the age of the culture wars has been like that tortured Gerasene demoniac ranting and raving in the graveyard and finally that legion of demons is starting to reveal itself in a herd of pigs who are racing furiously for the water. Continue reading →