Posts

Of Racism and Hate...

In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville this past weekend much has been posted on social media about what happened up there.  One comment in particular caught my attention.  One of my good friends from high school had posted a thoughtful response to Charlottesville, and that led to many, many comments and what was, by Facebook standards, a reasoned conversation in the many comments that it engendered.  Even where the posters didn't agree, their comments to each other were remarkably restrained and civil.  One comment caught my attention:  "we do not have a racism problem in this county."

I know the county of which he speaks and, unfortunately, unless the residents there have overcome original sin it, like every other county in the country, has some degree of racism.  I've seen it and heard it.  As a white male born in the South, there is some racism present that I would not recognize because I haven't been the target of it.  We are n…

What Happened to Grace?

In the past month I've been doing a series of sermons on urban legends, spiritual myths.  Each week I have taken apart a common cliche that Christians use, that is commonly held to be true and even scriptural, but which is anything but Biblical or Christian.  I planned out the sermons several months ago, but hesitated about it right up until the last.  Am I ever glad I didn't second-guess myself out of doing them!  These sermons have been great fun to prepare and have sparked me to think about something larger within Christendom and American culture.

The first four sermons took on the following sayings that are very commonly accepted, but which are not Biblical:  "God needed another angel," "Everything happens for a reason," "God won't give you more than you can handle," and "God helps those who help themselves."  None of them are in the Bible, and to one degree or another represent wretched theology. They represent an attempt to und…

Of Pharisees and Sadducees

In recent weeks the Revised Common Lecionaary has featured texts that feature the two main factions of first-century Judaism- the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  With that in mind I thought I would take an opportunity to describe who these groups were and how they related to Jesus' ministry.  Additionally, looking at them offers an opportunity for a critique of our contemporary church.

So who were these two groups?  The Pharisees are mentioned dozens of times in the New Testament and are a frequent foil in Jesus' ministry.  Because they are so freqently depicted as opponents of Jesus' ministry, they have have gotten a "bad rap" historically.  In reality they  were about the best of Judaism.  They realized that the world in which they lived was corrupt and evil, and their agenda was to try live righteous lives in that corrupt world without being stained by it.  Other Jewish groups- the Essenes and the Zealots shared that basic world-view but came to different concl…

In the beginning...

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃  So begins Holy Scripture in the Hebrew Text, in English "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  Genesis begins with two creation stories that seem to be complimentary.  This week our church is hosting its Summer Art Camp and creation will be the main theme of it.  In connection with that I will be preaching on the first of the creation stories next Sunday.  As I do from time to time, I thought I would address some things related to creation that won't fit neatly into one sermon.

One of the questions that many ask in considering the Genesis 1 creation account is when?  How old is the earth?  Bishop James Ussher in the Church of Ireland back in the mid 1600s is famous for dating creation to 4004 BC.  He did this by simply adding up the ages of all the ancient patriarchs mentioned in the genealogies of Genesis, and by assuming the days of creation in Genesis 1 were twenty-four hour solar…
This summer I'll take some time to preach from the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  In case you're not too familiar with them, they are essentially an ancient Hebrew version of a dystopian novel, except that in this case the story is true.  George Orwell and Aldous Huxley got the the genre going earlier in the twentieth century with A Brave New World, Animal Farm, and 1984, but in recent years novels and movies of similar theme have become very popular.  The Hunger Games and Divergent series of books and movies are perhaps the most famous of them.  This type of novel is set in a future post-apocalyptic world, and features heroes and heroines who struggle against overwhelming odds to maintain or to rebuild some sort of normal existence.

The apocalypse that was in the background for these two books was the destruction of Jerusalem in 586/587 B.C. by the Babylonians and the subsequent exile of most of the residents of the kingdom of Judah.  Hundreds of miles from home, …

Church and Family

We have all heard people say, "our church is a family."  When stated of their own church, it is said as a matter of pride.  When spoken by a newcomer, or someone who is not a member, it is understood to be a high compliment.  The idea of family often inspires thoughts of love, acceptance, fellowship. In fact, it is true that churches should be places of love, acceptance, and fellowship.

With that as an introduction, allow me to play Devil's advocate.  We should not envision, or aspire for our churches to be a family!    "There are just so many people here now that I don't know."  "Our church is changing so much."  "I don't feel like we're one church anymore."  These statements belie an unspoken fear that a church has too many newcomers.  So begins the call for things to be done that would promote unity, that would promote nostalgic feelings of family.  How can it be a family if there are all those people I haven't known for …

Washed With Water

In the coming weeks we will be baptizing several infants.  We look forward to these days in worship; they are among the happiest occasions in the life of any church.  Unfortunately, it is a part of our Christian heritage that few things divide us as much as baptism.  Even though all Christians would believe with the Apsotle Paul that there is, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all," we don't live it out very well.

Some churches insist upon believer's baptism, and do it only by immersion.  Others immerse infants, some pour water on believers, and many who baptize infants do it by sprinkling.  Ideally, all Christians would be of like mind about this very important sacrament.  In fact we don't even agree with the term "sacrament."  Many Baptist churches, prefer not to use the term "sacrament" and use the terms rite or ordinance instead.  Given the many differences we have over baptism, what do we do as United Methodists, an…