Locusts vs. prophets (a sermon on Joel 2)

locust swarmLast 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

“Beset by change but Spirit led”

Our hymn of preparation at mass today was “The Church of Christ in Every Age.” Its first stanza does a great job of capturing the tension we face as an ancient faith guided by a living Spirit who is making all things new:

The Church of Christ in every age
beset by change but Spirit led
must claim and test its heritage
and keep on rising from the dead.

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Scandal vs. Pentecost

obama-umbrella

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:

“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (salvation AS Pentecost)

To prepare for Pentecost, I’ve been reading Pentecostal theologian Amos Yong’s The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh. Yong argues for a “pneumatological soteriology” (Spirit-centered account of salvation) that “would be in contrast to soteriologies that tend to bifurcate the work of Christ and of the Spirit… articulated by Protestant scholasticism… [in which] Christ provides salvation objectively (e.g., in justification) and the Spirit accomplishes salvation subjectively (e.g., in sanctification)” (82). In the prophecy from Joel that Peter quotes on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, God makes an incredible promise: “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” What if this statement is taken as the centerpiece of God’s salvation of humanity and the world? What if the salvation made possible through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ finds its full expression in the perpetual Pentecost poured out by the Holy Spirit? Continue reading

God’s Pentecost vs. my cynicism

God broke me today in a really good way. You see I’m a recovering cynic who relapses at least several dozen times a day. Nothing is more insufferable to me than an overly cheerful person. Somehow I’ve been programmed to presume that cheerful people are disingenuous. But then there’s my friend Beth Anderson who smiles more than just about anyone I know and is also absolutely genuine to the core. She preached a sermon to us at our provisional retreat this morning about God’s perpetual Pentecost that melted my cynicism. I just hope that it sticks. Continue reading

Interruption, Ideology, and Truth

Amos Yong at the Missio Alliance talked today about “the phenemonology of interruption” in Pentecost. Interruption is how God expresses His sovereignty. Humanity muddles along in our reality that we can’t imagine being any other way, and events happen that do not fit “the way things are.” Our paradigms are shattered, and we are forced to grapple with the terror that Somebody greater than the projected Geist of our civilization has tinkered with us. Pentecost is the eternal event of the Spirit’s interruption. The opposite of Pentecost is ideology, the stasis of homogenized idolatrous “truth” that tries to substitute itself for God, what Slavoj Zizek calls “the big Other” and what Christians with a perspicuous (idolatrous) account of Biblical truth would call the “owner’s manual.”

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Looking Back on 2012: April-May

In March, I fasted from blogging for Lent. April and May of 2012 were dominated by thoughts about our United Methodist General Conference. There was also a series of violent tornadoes that John Piper decided to interpret as God’s wrath against America for homosexuality or abortion (I can’t remember which one). Since homosexuality dominated the conversation around General Conference, I wrote a few pieces about it, striving to be both faithful to scripture and faithful to people I love who are gay. I also preached a sermon comparing and contrasting the uniformity and top-down vision of the Tower of Babel with the chaos of Pentecost. So here are the 10 from April and May. Continue reading

Is God Against Hegemony? (The Question of Babel)

There is probably not a more awkward passage for Biblical literalists than the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11. How exactly do you build a tower to heaven in the real world where physics and atmospheric pressure exist? And what kind of sovereign God would squash this project out of fear that “nothing they propose to do will be impossible for them” (v. 6)? The text gives no moral reason why building the tower was wrong so the creators of children’s Bible videos have to fill in a lot of blanks. But as I was considering this story last week in our Pentecost week readings, it hit me that maybe God just hates hegemony. Continue reading