Thomas Frank, the guy who wrote our textbook on United Methodist polity, has made a plea for UMC bishops not to put pastors on trial who conduct same-sex marriages (like the 50 who did so last weekend). I had been trying to lay low on this issue for a while. My position has been to honor what the Discipline says for me to do while being obediently prophetic regarding God’s truth as I have encountered it. I was actually going to write a post stating that if pastors engage in civil disobedience, then the consequences are part of the witness. However, I realized as I read Frank’s plea that the paradigm I was applying to our gay wedding crisis is to presume that United Methodism is appropriately analogous to our broken secular democracy: a two party majoritarian system with lobbyists, caucuses, and hyperventilating pundits.
Our senior pastor Larry Buxton, who’s a baseball nut, says that parables are supposed to be stories that have a “late-breaking curveball.” He threw a curveball this past weekend with his sermon on the familiar parable of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee says, “I thank you God that I’m not like other people,” and the tax collector says, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Pastor Larry shared that too often, we come away from this parable thinking that the moral of the story is to be more conspicuously self-deprecating in our prayer life. So we become people who say, “I thank you God that I’m a humble sinner, unlike those Pharisees who thank you that they’re not like other people.”
A friend pointed me to Tim Challies’ recent interview with John MacArthur in which MacArthur doubled down on the claims made in his Strange Fire conference condemning the charismatic movement in Christianity. While I don’t have time to consider MacArthur’s scriptural arguments exhaustively, one of the passages he used to support his cessationist view that the Holy Spirit has stopped revealing things to people in the way that happened in Biblical times is Ephesians 2:20. I find his use of this passage providentially ironic and a good opportunity to illustrate how differently we read the Bible.
My wife and I wanted to watch a light film at home this past Saturday night and then go to bed early. We made the mistake of putting in the movie North Country, which came out in 2005. It was inspired by a landmark sexual harassment case that took place in a Minnesota coal mine. As I was watching the film, I was shocked by how mercilessly the protagonist Josey Aimes was treated by her co-workers, her family, and even the other women in the mine who were victims of the same sexual harassment. I said to my wife, “This seems a little bit over the top,” and she said, “Oh no, this is what women really deal with.” As I saw Josey standing up for her dignity with the whole world against her, I thought a real test of my Christian morality would be if I had the guts to stand up for her if I were working in that mine.
My wife is the one who follows the parenting expert books that teach you better techniques than the old-fashioned approach of yelling and spanking when yelling doesn’t work. I tend to rebel against following what “the experts” say to do about anything. As much as I critique my fellow evangelicals for having a knee-jerk reaction against the “worldly wisdom” of “secular humanism,” it’s part of my DNA too. When my sons aren’t obeying me, I want to put them in line with a look or my voice or my belt. But I’ve been convicted recently that my need to be the big mighty papa bear has led me into sin. I had to ask my sons’ forgiveness for being a bad parent twice last week. Continue reading
Last weekend, I preached on the passage from Joel that Peter quoted in his famous Pentecost sermon that we read from Acts 2 every year. But the context for Joel 2:23-32 is very different than Acts 2. The Israelites have just returned from their Babylonian exile and their land has been devoured by a swarm of locusts. In preparing for the sermon, I did a lot of research on locusts and learned that they have a very interesting trait that humans tend to emulate when we have not put our trust in God. More commentary below with sermon audio here: Continue reading
It’s stewardship season in many churches around the country. As my friend Jason Micheli wrote, talking about how much money people give in church is probably even more taboo than endorsing political candidates from the pulpit. As I’ve been thinking about stewardship, I’m convicted by my own bad habits. I think of myself as an easygoing, generous person when it comes to money. There’s one thing I’m not very good at which feels miserly but ironically is a key foundation to pursuing justice through your use of money. I suck at keeping a budget. Continue reading