Sunday, March 30, 2008

Did you know...

Jesus actually spent 40 days on earth with his disciples after his resurrection, tooling around with the crew, convincing them that he really was alive. I preached on that passage today. There's actually a ton of references to 40 days throughout the Bible - Noah, Moses, Elijah, Jonah & Jesus - just to name a few of the highlights. They almost always had to do with preparing, and my whole premise was that God is preparing us, especially in the down time (following the exciting Easter Sunday) - to be part of his mission in the world. Nothing dramatic is happening in my life right now, so I'm trusting God continues to prepare me - even when I don't see anything specific - to be a faithful witness...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

a little warm

It had been coming on for a couple days now - my scratchy throat began around Thursday. But somehow, it all came crashing down Sunday evening and I woke up Monday feeling horrible. I spent the day between the couch (wrapped in a blanket) and the bed (wrapped in a few blankets). When I finally took my temperature, 101.81 is what it read. I'm a little better today. I'm not quite so dizzy and unable to stand for long - being sick sucks, as a good friend once opined on his own blog. And that's the reason I haven't posted in a couple days...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sunrise - a little early

HE IS NOT HERE - Matt 28:1-10

Here is, roughly, what I'm sharing tomorrow morning @ 7am... (

I wonder what it would have been like for these women, traveling to Jesus’ tomb 2000 years ago… They had witnessed his teaching, his healings and his miracles – and they had now witnessed his arrest, his torture and his death. The best they had to give at this time was some perfume, a few tears – a mourning ritual outside of the tomb where Jesus was laid. I can only imagine that they were somber – maybe even silent as they walked. After all, the man who had lit a fire in their hearts, the man who had healed them and offered them a new way of living, was now nothing more than a memory…

But in the midst of this, something happens – Matthew records it this way – Matt 28:2-6a

“He is not here…” That was surely unexpected. I have a feeling however, that it is a little lost on us. So, let me throw you a curveball for a second and ask you something – what were you expecting when you came here this morning? The Second Stringers, Larry on the trumpet – to worship Jesus in a very special place… What if an angel appeared right now and explained that Jesus was not here… ?

I don’t want to suggest that we are here in vain, that Christ is not present with us here in this place – but I think that there is an important message here that is as important if not more so for us today than it was for the women who first heard it – Matt 28:6b-7

“…going ahead of you into Galilee.” First, it’s important to note that Jesus has gone ahead – he has prepared to meet them – he has prepared to meet us as well. Not necessarily huddled up in some hide-away somewhere where no one will know – but out there. Jesus calls us to meet him out there and he has already prepared a place for us – Matt 28:8-9a

“Suddenly Jesus met them…” Second, Jesus doesn’t meet these women until they leave, until they begin to be about the mission that Christ has called them to – until they go out on there way. But even then, he doesn’t meet them where he said – but surprises them on the way. He shows up unexpectedly, ahead of time – Matt 28:9b-10

“Go and tell my brothers…” Finally – meeting Jesus doesn’t end the mission of these women – they are still encouraged on their way. They have a mission to fulfill and it continues beyond their meeting Jesus.

Friends, I know that Jesus is here in this place this morning. But he is not just here. No, he is also out in the world, calling us to go out and meet him there – because he has already prepared a place for us to serve him – in the world, to be his witnesses, to share his love and grace – and it is while we are doing this, while we are taking part in Jesus mission that we will truly find and experience the joy of Jesus resurrection!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


No, this isn't the kind of post where I lament something about my lack of discipline. Sunday, Becky, co-Pastor @ Liberty, encouraged the congregation, not to go from Palm Sunday to Easter without going through Maundy Thursday or Good Friday - Jesus resurrection makes no sense without his death. Amen to that. But what about for those of us who lead worship - specifically, those who preach?

I'm "preaching" at our 7am service Sunday. It'll be a little cold & dark, but it'll be fun to experience this outdoor service which is a tradition at Liberty - with all it's quirks. But in order to prepare for that, I'm needing to be working through the ramifications of the resurrection - and I haven't even come close to Jesus' death. It's only Thursday morning now, much less Friday and Sunday's sermon and text have been swimming around in my head for awhile already. And I'm guessing this isn't abnormal. Maundy Thursday & Good Friday services often don't have sermons but are filled with readings and communion and even foot washings. So pastors aren't necessarily afforded the opportunity to walk through this naturally - Easter is always on the mind.

My question is, How do we get around this? Should we get around this? Maybe the "great Easter sermon" is something that we need to set aside in order to experience, if even just a little, that shock, joy and surprise that happened two thousand years ago. Maybe sometimes it's good to be unprepared...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Perspectives on a parade

I'm not much of a parade guy. I'm not sure it stems so much from a childhood where we went to a bunch - standing in the freezing cold, waiting around to catch glimpses of floats that were never quite as exciting as I'd hoped - or because I didn't go to enough. In either event, I'm just not a parade guy. In fact, the only thing worse than watching a parade live is watching it on television - Macy's Thanksgiving Day, the parade of Roses - I'd rather watch an infomercial.

So, when I began to think of Palm Sunday recently, and the events of Jesus entering Jerusalem (interestingly, one of the few events recorded in all 4 gospels, including John's) - I had an interesting "what if" moment. Part of it could be chalked up to my less-than-impressed view of parades, part of it could be attributed to some recent conversations I've had about "margins" - but I had this image of Jesus' "Triumphal Entry" as Bible editors title it - Jesus, riding on the donkey, surrounded by a crowd - all clamouring after him, shouting, spreading cloaks waiving palm branches... but as the scene pans back, instead of Jesus being the central figure among a throng too numerous to count, you see Jesus and the crowd, still some miles off from Jerusalem. Between them and the city remains an empty road stretching on for a mile or two. The city with its tall walls and enormous buildings, dwarfs this crowd - which seems more and more to be secondary characters to the events transpiring within the jewel of Jewish culture at the time.

In this image, Jesus is on the margins. It is not the entire city that recognizes his entry or acknowledges his fame. It's just a few. It's certainly not the elite, the power-brokers, the wealthy aristocrats, the famous celebrities... Jesus is essentially slipping in unnoticed. At one point, in a crest on the road, the camera pans back in to Jesus - he's in the foreground, the crowd is still surrounding him, but now he's looking at the city and he begins to weep and slowly the camera focus changes from Jesus to the city over his shoulder and Jesus exclaims his lament.

Now, I'm not sure this image of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is any more accurate than the image we play over and over every year - with the idea of a "ticker-tape parade" homecoming or Sports championship parade in our minds. Except for the fact that more people lined the streets of NYC than were even living in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. Maybe the entire city came out to see him. Maybe the road was lined for miles. Or maybe, even in this, Jesus was really only on the margins. Maybe, while it seemed like Jesus was front and center to those following him - maybe he was really only a sideshow to the main attraction for the majority of people living in Jerusalem.

For me, this image is much more in line with the ironic way I've seen God work. Turning Chicken littles into mighty warriors, taking litter runts and turning them into kings, and then, turning death into life. In this way, Jesus is the ultimate anti-hero. He's unrecognized by the important people, even by the majority of people - heck, he's not fully recognized by his own followers until after his death and resurrection. This image for me is so life-giving because it reminds me that while Jesus may have lived his life "on the margins" of what we understand society to be - his life was not "marginal" - his life, death and resurrection are actually the central story, but we don't get it until after the fact.

My response to this becomes two-fold. First, it's a reminder that I'm not called to be important. But that my life can be important when grounded in the truth of Jesus - the truth that allows me to be on the margins and still make a difference. I don't have to be important. And second - I feel called to reorient my entire thinking - to reorient my way of viewing the world and recognize the margins - those margins where Jesus is now at work in the world and those same margins I am called to...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gearing UP

Interesting how those busy days - those days when you put your head down & prep for a bunch of things - that you end up with surprises, like drop-in visits and hospital calls, eh? I'm feeling more today than ever that it's these days that require attention to God in prayer. Maybe one day I'll step it up to Martin Luther, who's believed to have said "I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer..."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Were not our hearts burning within us...

...while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

That is the Scripture that came to mind Friday night, and I've been wrestling ever since. That wrestling isn't exactly the reason I haven't posted in a few days. That had more to do with being snowed "in". I thought a bit about blogging on that, but it's just not that big a deal - beyond the fact that they simply don't get out and plough here in Ohio like they do in Southern Ontario, where I grew up.

For those of you who may not have known, Darrell Guder, Academic Dean, Professor of Missional and Ecumenical Theology - and one of my favourite people at Princeton, was in town as a keynote speaker at a special "Spring Fest" event of the Presbytery of Scioto Valley Saturday. I was set to introduce him and be one of a dozen or more leaders of workshops. Due to the storm, the event was canceled - but not the Friday night dinner. Dr. Guder had flown in ahead of the storm and so the dinner remained - a way for some of us to engage the idea of the "Missional Church" and to hear from him.

While I have no bones to pick with our presbytery, I'm not entirely sure that many are really "on board" with what Dr. Guder is saying - or even know what he is saying. It has (the word "missional") become, I was reminded recently, a "buzz word" among theological circles and within the church. I regret that - as does Dr. Guder and Dr. George Hunsberger - who coined the phrase. But the explosion of interest has outstripped the ability of those who began this conversation - The Gospel and our North American Culture - spawned mainly by a challenge delivered by the late Bishop, pastor, missionary and theologian Lesslie Newbigin when he looked at the state of the North American church in a post-Christendom situation and asked "What is the Church in N. America going to do to address this changed culture?" The Warfield Lectures he gave in 1984 were eventually expanded and published as Foolishness to the Greeks, The Gospel and Western Culture.

As I sat in that room with pastors and Christian educators, lay leaders and spouses, I was transported back to seminary, when I was under Dr. Guder - I was excited and energized with the gospel - and the mission that we have been called to undertake as Christ's church. The major difference, is that I was now in a church. This was no longer theoretical but real. I was now engaged in this conversation in the context of a living, breathing, community - one called by Christ but one that may not recognize their calling. And I realized that the conversation - the conversation that focuses on HOW we live out our missional calling in the midst of this Western Culture, in the midst of our faith communities - those same communities that now pay us to be (for lack of a better term) - purveyors of religious goods. How now, brown cow?

I want desperately to continue to the conversation. I want desperately to engage in these ideas - to understand how we can be those sent ones we have been called to be. In part, my initial response comes from that passage above - as he... opened the Scriptures to us - and my prayer right now is that I will discover some conversation partners that I can walk with and talk with, right here where I live...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Radically Different

Ok, I know this might be a dud - I don't get the kind of traffic that some people or some other people I know in the blogosphere get, but this question has been rattling in my brain recently and I'm curious to see if anyone out there has something to add:

How are we, as Christians in North America, living lives that are radically different?

I invite anyone who's passing by to offer up something they're doing, something someone they know is doing, or something they want to be doing that is radically outside the bounds of our culture - something that is a radical response to the gospel of Jesus Christ...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Unlikely Sources

I began reading Organic Community on Sunday. The subtitle is "creating a place where people naturally connect" - and I'm reading it in part because at Liberty, we have a great church that lacks that connection. Some are deeply connected to the church and to other members, but since the church has grown immensely in the last dozen years or so, the numbers of people who are deeply connected have not grown in the same way. But, particularly as I work with Young Families, I recognize the real and felt need for this.

Anyway, as I'm reading this book, which talks about creating and cultivating an environment where community naturally occurs - not where it's forced, I read this stellar quote which hit me between the eyes - in a very personal way:

"Patterns are integral to our lives. They protect us, help us organize what we do from day to day, and even entertain us. Most of the time, we don't even think about them. We simply absorb them." (Myers, 37)

They protect us...

I stopped reading at that point, underlined the paragraph, circled the word protect and wrote a list of my own personal "patterns" - with an eye to the reason behind them, the reason I probably hadn't thought about when I simply absorbed them into my life. I thought about how they might have served a felt purpose of protection, and how they actually might be serving a negative purpose in that. And then my mind continued - continued into thinking about what patterns are presently absent in my life, and about how creating them and implementing them might actually protect me from some of the pain and pitfalls I've experienced and others have experienced in ministry. I've spent the last day and a half wrestling with and writing down thoughts and plans in this vein. And I simply love how God can show up in places we never expected, and point out things we never thought to find along the way...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I've returned...

...from a great time in Texas. Learning, laughing, and lying around - which only occurred after a whole lot of energy was expended. I'm not only refreshed, but I'm excited about the future, about making some adjustments - personally, at home and in ministry. But now, it's time to get to bed...