March 31, 2007

the solution to property disputes

just change the word Canada, to Rwanda, and you've got the solution the plight of orthodox Anglican's in the US... here.

have a nice weekend!

March 29, 2007

Grant us so to die daily to sin

I really think that one of the bits of truth that our Baptist brothers and sisters retain in their tradition is that of baptism by full immersion. Baptism is a radical event; one in which we join Christ in the tomb in death and are resurrected to new life with him. I can picture this as a baptismal candidate is laid back and fully immersed under water (death) then regains their footing and arise from the watery grave to new life (resurrection). I have a harder time seeing the radicalness of it when we splash the top of their head with three tiny scoops of water. Where is the death without which there is no resurrection?

What really struck me among the myriad options for a principal Easter service is that first collect:

O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Our death to sin and resurrection to new life does not happen once and for all at our baptism. It seems that it instead needs to be a daily occurrence. Each day we are called upon to choose life by recalling our baptism, recalling that moment in which our old self died, choosing again to die so that we might join Jesus in his resurrection. Without this key step, without dying daily to sin, it is so easy to forget that without death there is no resurrection. Without this key step it is easy to live a life of triumphalism and forget that we are indeed sinners in every meaning of the word. Without this key step we lose our need for Jesus, for we are redeemed in our own perfection.

I don't remember my baptism; I was too young. I can assume that I wasn't dunked at 6 months at a Catholic Church. But I will remember the image of full immersion this day as I strive to die to sin so that I might join with Christ in the joy of his resurrection.

March 28, 2007

Easter is for Everyone

I don't title my sermons. I'm not sure why. Its not that I'm opposed to titling sermons, I just don't do it with mine. I am, however, playing with the idea of titling my Easter Vigil sermon, "Easter is for Everyone." What'da think? My reason for this is that prayer I got so jazzed about a few months ago; the one that ends the readings of the Vigil service.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look
favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred
mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry
out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world
see and know that things which were cast down are being
raised up, and things which had grown old are being made
new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer, with its focus on the whole Church, seems apt to me for Easter morning, as the battered and broken body of Christ is resurrected, holes and all, for the sake of all humanity. But my Easter Vigil sermon has nothing to do with the readings for the primary services on Easter Day. Still, the sermon title holds, "Then Peter began to speak to them: 'I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.'"

Peter's realization that God is doing a new thing outside of the bonds of Peter's original understanding is essentially an realization that Easter is for Everyone. The work done on the cross, in the tomb, and ultimately in the resurrection is a work done so that "all might come within the reach of God's saving embrace."

Easter is for everyone, yet so many don't know that Easter is for them. That is why I want to title my sermon this one time. I want it to say in big letters somewhere (oh how I wish we had a marquee this one time) that Easter is for Everyone.

March 27, 2007

a great post on a great site

Thanks to the Wittenburg Door Blog I've found the Tominthebox News Network which is well worth subscribing to. His latest post on the lack of racial diversity in African Anglican Churches shouldn't be missed: Tominthebox News Network: Ugandian Congregation Criticized for "Lack of Racial Diversity"

He is not here, but he has risen

Quite possibly the greatest sentence in all of human history is spoken by the Angels of the Lord in Luke's account of that first Easter morning. "He is not here, but he has risen." If I remember correctly, there is no punctuation in Koine Greek, so this could easily read, "He is not here. But he has RISEN!"

Lent has been quite a journey for me. On Shrove Tuesday my bishop came for a visit and two days later I was free to interview for jobs outside of the diocese. Lent has truly been a time in the wilderness. I haven't slept well. I think I have an ulcer. "Pray without ceasing" is my life whether I like it or not. I've been tempted by jobs. I've been reminded that this is a job search no matter how theologically flowery we are with our language. Its been a long Lent.

By the time Easter rolls around, I still won't know. As of now, my final job interview is scheduled for April 19th and then Holy Saturday begins. Cassie and I will then be in the place of the disciples on that crushing day, "what do we do now?" Though for us it will be very different. We have the words of Luke to sustain us, "He is not here, but he has risen!"

No matter how long our Lent lasts, no matter how disconcerting our Holy Saturday is, we know the promise of Easter; that Easter came once and for all. That is comforting as Lent drags on.

March 26, 2007

why do you look for the living among the dead?

This was a very interesting question when it was asked by the angels of the Lord to the women. It continues to be an interesting question for me today. Just as the women came to the tomb expecting to find Jesus, I often find myself searching for Jesus in old, dead places. The folks over at emergent have a wonderful way of talking about the gospel as coming to life in a community of believers. While for so many the ancient words of the scriptures are the land of the dead; old idioms which make no sense in our current context. But what if we, as followers of the way of Jesus, were to live in such a way that those ancient words were brought to life by example in our words and deeds?

Those of you who know me, know that I won't accept this life of living gospel to be only one of social justice and acceptance. What if the radical nature of the gospel wasn't encapsulated in the 1960s. What if there was something before "the way its always been began" in 1890? What if we were able to reconnect with the old, the ancient; and not the dead? You see, the Church has killed the gospel. Whether fundamentalist or liberal mainline, we kill it in the same way; legalism - or better said, the ability to tell in another the validity of their faith. We kill the gospel by using angry words to define others, while outsiders, nonbelievers look on and scoff at our hypocracy. Seekers come to our churches expecting to find life, and instead find themselves at an open coffin wake. They are able to see glimpses of the life we once had, but inevitably are struck by the mourning by some, and worse yet, those who continue to beat on the corpse though she has long since died.

This isn't a happy Easter post, and for that I'm sorry. But there is hope here. "If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation." As followers of the way of Jesus we can choose today to be a new creation; to be restored; to move from the place of the dead to the way of the living God. We can bring those ancient words of God's grace to life in our living. We can be a city upon a hill, a light to the nations, salt to the world. We have to want to live. We have to stop looking for the living Jesus among the dead, and seek the abundant life that comes as we join him in bringing the gospel to life day by day.

March 13, 2007

those wicked tenants

I wrote an exegesis paper (for the 99% of normal people who don't know what that means, go here) on Mark's version of the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. Let me tell you, they were some wicked folk. What is striking in both versions (its in Matthew also, but I'm not as familiar with that text) is just how foolish the landowner looks. In Mark, Jesus explains the allegorical interpretation of the parable with God playing the role of the landowner. God sets up a perfect vineyard so that all the tenants have to do is work the land and harvest the crop. God sends one servant, then another, and another, (in Mark he sends many more), and finally sends his only son; "surely they will respect him." But they don't. They kill the son in the hopes of having the vineyard to themselves. God looks like such a fool in this parable. Sending people over and over and over again to a group of hard-hearted tenants who want nothing more than material things.

Oh, wait, that's what God has done in salvation history. God sent prophet after prophet calling the people to repent (to turn around) and follow the will of God. Then, when that didn't work, he sent his only Son, God incarnate, to call the people back. And he was killed for power and prestige. Still today we can hear the voice of God calling us away from our lives enslaved to sin, and we ignore, we rationalize, we church-hop. God is foolish, but God's will is perfect wisdom. God knows that without him we are doomed to failure and God, who in the trinity is perfect relationship, eagerly desires relationship with us. And so he tries over and over and over again. We fill our lives with sex, with drugs, with material things, all in an attempt to drown God out, but as is the case in the parable, God will keep trying over and over and over again. Thanks be to God for his foolishness.

March 9, 2007

so very thirsty

Psalm 32:3
While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *
because of my groaning all day long.
For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *
and did not conceal my guilt.
I said," I will confess my transgressions to the LORD." *
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.
As one comes to a crossroads in life, it isn't uncommon to look back on the years and reflect. I have found myself doing that as SMW (I've decided to use the blogger thing and not refer to my wife by her name anymore, but rather an ancronym. She will heretofore be known as Smokin' Hot Wife, a name she will hate, but meh, she doesn't read this anyway)... as SMW and I prepare to leave Alexandria to find a new home and a new ministry.

Reading the Psalm for Lent 4c gave me pause today as I was forced to look back at the peaks and valleys of my spiritual life over the years. I have spent many a year feeling like the Psalmist, "withering away" and "dried up as in heat in summer." The spiritual life is one that is often hard to attend to. It is usually the first thing to go away when the calendar crunches and time seems to grow short. It is usually the first thing to go away when things are going smoothly. In some cases, it may even go away when times get tough. The spiritual life takes time and energy and often feels like it is a waste, there is no tangible results to show. This is a pitfall for many in ministry; the demands of a parish are such that they don't want to pay you to take care of your spiritual life, they pay you to take care of them.

The Psalm, however is clear. Without prayer comes death. With prayer comes life. It is something that requires intention and a clarity of purpose, but it is something that none of us can afford to forget.

March 7, 2007

no post, but you must see this

Thanks to the folks at the Wittenburg Door Blog and GodTube (hahahaha) for finding this gem. Does it bring back any memories for you?

March 6, 2007

ah the prodigal son

Such a rich passage. It seems like it is always right on the preaching horizon; something that must always be reckoned with. As a kid in Sunday School we always talked about the repentance of the younger son or the mercy of the Father, but more and more these days, I hear people talking about the hard heart of the elder son.

I guess it is because we don't like untidy endings to things that we teach our kids only part of the story. But it seems appropriate to be uncomfortable from time to time. I am uncomfortable with the elder son because I see a lot of me in him. I want to define the terms of just about everything, and often I end up bitter because life has not worked out according to my plans. "I have worked so hard, why does x get such and such?" It is a commonality to humanity, I believe, one that Jesus was keenly aware of as he told this parable. Be it the scribes and pharisees looking down on the sinners and tax collectors or Jesus' own disciples arguing over the seats at his right and left hand, we all have our expectations. We all assume God's will, God's justice is as we define it. What is so very clear in this parable, however, is that God's will and God's justice are God's and God's alone. We can work to bring our will close to that of the Father, but it is only by grace that we are made whole, perfected in the will of the Father. 'Til then, I'll be with you all, fighting for my method of justice to be lived out, sometimes pouting outside of the party because things didn't go my way. If you see me there, remind me of this story, and invite me to turn around and receive the grace that God gives all those who truly turn to him.

March 5, 2007

my first memorized bible verse

Came from the epistle for Lent 4c. "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" It was a part of the InterVarsity (I think) bible memorization series. My Young Life leader gave it to me, and I really wanted to learn the verses. "The only way to have scripture on your heart is to memorize it." Yeah, I let him down, though he was an amazing accountability partner. Anyway, I've found a new way to place scripture on my heart (see nearly all previous blog posts).

Still, I really like this verse. It is still sort of a mantra for me as I work as a radical centrist on a ministry of reconciliation within the church. We are all new creations, each being made new every minute by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Paul doesn't say we are made perfect, just new. We are still sinners; personally and corporately. As new creations, constantly being made new, we should see the sin being removed within our self as we, in humility, call our brothers and sisters to accountability for their transgressions. To do so, requires that we remain in conversation. To be new creations, one with another, learning from what the Spirit is doing in our brother and sister that might help us along our journey; personally and corporately, so that we once again might be made new in Christ.

life 2

I left last week on a somewhat bleak note, and thought i owed you all an update post-weekend. I'm on chapel team for the next 2 weeks. For those of you who are non-VTS'ers, chapel team is the week (usually) when one' life turns upside down as he/she helps lead worship with a group of other students and a faculty, minister-of-the-week. As student body president I have the distinct pleasure of being the only graduating student with 2 chapel teams this year. To top it off this, my second round, is two weeks of Lutheran worship. Being a good eccumanist, I'm not complaining about the Lutheran part, but dang if the 2 week shaft doesn't suck.

Anyway, all this to say my routine is shot for the next two so I won't be as diligent with the blogging as I've been of late. Looking at the clock, however, it looks like I've got a few minutes, so I'll be back with a post, albeit a brief one, in a few.

Before I go, check out my OT/HB professor's personal blog where he and his wife are detailing the experience of adopting a baby from China, here. It'll put a smile in your heart.

March 2, 2007


No reflection on scripture today, just a reflection on life and transition; it is tiring. It is not even like we're at a place where we are doing a lot of physical work to prepare to leave Alexandria, but nonetheless Cassie and I are tired every single day. By 930 we are so exhausted we can barely move (if we make it that late).

Yesterday was our fourth wedding anniversary (I know, I can't believe she's put up with me this long either). Since Cass was supposed to have yoga last night, we postponed our celebration until today. She ended up not going to yoga, so we called an audible and spent some intentional time together; Target, Domino's Pizza, Blockbuster, and Maggie Moos; how romantic. Cass didn't make it through the movie, while I was buzzing on sugar from the ridiculous amount of ice cream in my waffle cone.

As I sat there, not enjoying man of the year, I came to realize just how much this process of leave-taking is costing. I am always tired. I am usually short tempered. I never want to be on campus. And worst of all, I'll be damned if I'm doing any actual school work. Ugh. 75 days until graduation, and senioritis is in full bloom. Please pray for us. Pray for strength, for perseverance, for clarity, and for patience. We will draw heavily on the prayers of others over the next 2.5 months, and we thank you for lifting us up.

March 1, 2007


The Youth Director at my field education site is the bomb. A computer guru by day, the man is a brilliant theologian able to speak the language of the busy, hyperstressed teenagers of the Washington Metropolitan area. He synthesizes things in a way that brings things to life for these kids (and for me and my wife) in really neat ways. Last night, another such moment happened as his lenten small group talked about sin.

"The simple definition of sin is anything that takes us away from God." CLICK! For my wife, 26 years of living as a Christian finally made sense. The man made definitions of sin we so often use; lying, cheating, playing cards, drinking, dancing, whatever, are a false construction - sin is anything that takes us away from God. Jesus is he who brings us back into right relationship with God.

We talked about this a lot last night and came up with an image for Jesus. Jesus calls us to repent of our sins (see Lent 3c). The literal translation of the Hebrew word for repent is "to turn around". So we imagined Jesus standing behind us tapping us on the shoulder. In order to speak with him we must turn around. Having done so, Jesus can so easily ask us to join him in a different way. "I know you want to go about this in your own way, but what if we tried this way, I promise it will prove beneficial."

I'm excited that Cassie finally had it all click. It proves the benefit of having a great diversity in the body of Christ. No one previously, myself included, had articulated the act of repentance in a way that Cassie was comfortable with. She could understand what they were saying, but it never really spoke to her. Pastors, parents, friends, family, husbands, fellow church-goers; no one spoke her language, until last night.