The past several years of my life have been building up to a three and a half hour stretch of time this morning from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm: my interviews for full ordination as a United Methodist elder. I have anticipated this moment with dread, paranoid about getting torpedoed by someone with a chip on their shoulders over one of my blog posts. What actually happened was I sat in a room with human beings who love God, who pray, who have made mistakes and learned from them, and who genuinely seemed to want the best for me and for our church. They not only took seriously their duty to evaluate my effectiveness in ministry but also acted the way that pastors are supposed to act in making me feel loved and safe in their presence. I don’t want to diminish the legitimately troubling experiences that other pastors have had in the ordination process. Neither do I want to minimize the injustices in our church. But experiencing the peace of the Holy Spirit when I expected to face a firing squad, God put it on my heart to say to my fellow Methodists that I think we’re going to be okay.
Last Sunday morning, I preached on Jesus’ statement “I am the bread of life.” I looked at the three things that we gain from feasting on Jesus, which happen to be three words that we have for the sacred meal that we share as Christians: communion with God and each other, a life of eucharist (thanksgiving) and worship, and a sacramental appreciation of God’s transcendent fingerprints in all of creation. Please subscribe to the podcast if you want to get the sermon audio automatically sent to you.
Hear me out; I’m not trying to be offensive. Several weeks ago, I listened to a podcast from Bruxy Cavey in which he said that we need to reclaim the phrase making love. We shouldn’t be offended by talking about sex; we should be offended by the desecration of sex. I preached one of the worst sermons I’ve ever preached this past Saturday because I couldn’t muster the courage to come out and say directly what I felt called to say: that Eucharist is to the church what sex is to a marriage. Living without either is about equally bearable. Continue Reading
I learned a hard lesson today. Some of you saw my post where I had developed a contemporary version of our United Methodist communion liturgy Word and Table and recorded it on my iPhone. A friend informed me that there was a copyright issue with doing that, so I wrote the United Methodist Publishing House and was promptly ordered to take down the video and the blog post. I’m not meaning to be snarky, but wow, communion liturgy is intellectual property? Continue Reading
This week’s Journey to Eternity sermon is about welcome. The word welcome is one way you could summarize God’s mission to humanity through Christ. Jesus eliminates any obstacle to our welcome at God’s heavenly feast through the sacrifice of His body on the cross. For our sermon text, I looked at Luke 19:1-10, the story of Zacchaeus, in which Zacchaeus is saved from his sins not by being chastised or argued into a corner, but through Jesus inviting himself over for lunch. The sermon audio and manuscript are both below.
A week ago, ex-evangelical blogger Sarah Moon wrote a post titled: “When my abuser is welcome at the table, I am not,” taking aim at the presumptuousness with which some progressive Christians champion a table where everyone is welcome. A friend had told Moon that she should be grateful Jesus died for the man who raped her and she should accept him as her fellow forgiven sinner. Though Moon wasn’t necessarily writing about life after death, the pain she shares illustrates the problem with universalism. Wouldn’t God be lacking in mercy for the victims of abuse to force them to spend eternity in communion with their abusers? Continue Reading
I’ve just started reading James KA Smith’s new book Imagining the Kingdom. Smith’s basic argument is that our actions are not really based on conscious rational choices but rather on how ritual behaviors have caused us to imagine the world around us. Most Christian thinkers from the beginning have unconsciously bought into a Platonic “rationalist” conception of human nature in which our behavior is supposed to be regulated by our conscious rationality, and the fact that it isn’t reflects our fallenness rather than a condition innate to our humanity. Continue Reading
On the last day of our GBCS young clergy leadership forum, we learned the term “glocalization.” It’s actually not an affirmation of the activist world cliche that we should “think globally and act locally.” The problem is precisely that we too often think about activism in global terms instead of local ones. Activism that is understood in kingdom terms should always seek as localized a form as possible even if it occurs over a distance that is global. Let me explain. Continue Reading
Is Jesus saving the world from us? It’s a different way to talk about salvation, but honestly it’s the gospel that I’m hoping to be true as an evangelical afflicted by what Rachel Held Evans calls “the scandal of the evangelical heart.” When did we become the Pharisees Jesus came to Earth to stop us from being? How many of us have been secretly asking that question in our minds? How many of us need to be saved from a toxic salvation? I really feel that we are in the midst of a great awakening. The legion of demons that poisoned our gospel for so long is running off a cliff in a herd of hateful pigs, leaving us to wake up in the graveyard where we chained ourselves. We are discovering that Satan is our accuser and oppressor, not God. We are realizing that our need to be right and justify ourselves has kept us inside a tomb whose stone was rolled away by Jesus. So I wanted to share five things God has been teaching me over the past few years about what Jesus saves us from and what He saves us for. Continue Reading
I have reduced my book to seven chapters and have given it a new title: Mercy Not Sacrifice: Salvation for Recovering Evangelicals. It may be too bold; I almost feel like checking the sky above me for lightning. My brother John Meunier had challenged me to come up with a unifying theme, and last night in Bible study we read about Zacchaeus where Jesus says, “Salvation has come to this house.” So it hit me this morning that there’s one question that evangelicals think we know the answer to but really ought to step back and reconsider: What is salvation? I propose 7 answers. Continue Reading