Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a deacon dad walking humbly & seeking justice

“Don’t Put God in a Box”

When I was in high school, our senior high youth group were gathered together up in the youth room on a Sunday night. The group was planning an upcoming Youth Sunday. We were making decisions regarding scripture passages, hymns, and prayers to use. Then, the question was asked, “Who will do the sermon?”

Everyone avoided making eye contact with anyone.

Honestly, I had spent the bulk of the time avoiding eye contact. I was one of the youngest in the room. What did I have to contribute?

Then, from the other end of the table, one of the seniors spoke up and said, “I think Jason should do it.”

It was one of those moments where I was thrilled to be thought of, yet scared to death that they thought of me! I would accept and began working on the “sermon.” When I finished it, I gave it my youth leader to look over. She made some suggestions, among them, “Be careful not to put God in a box.”

god-in-a-box

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Sermon: Room at the Table

Here is the audio of my sermon from April 24, 2016 at Peakland United Methodist Church. The text was Acts 11:1-18 and Revelation 21:1-6. During the sermon, I washed someone’s feet.  You can listen on the Podcast app by subscribing here.

 

Book Review: Love Kindness

Love-Kindness-CoverLove Kindness, Barry H. Corey, Tyndale, 2016

“We need to keep remembering that we don’t beat an idea by beating a person.” (Barry H. Corey)

There is a deep polarization in Christianity today. Thankfully, it is not around the doctrine that Jesus Christ is Lord.  It mostly centers around social issues, and how we respond to them. Barry Corey, the president of Biola University, has a suggestion: Love kindness.

He writes in his Introduction:

In today’s polarized culture, we are often pulled toward one extreme or the other, soft centers or hard edges.  I’m proposing a different approach, a third way. Rather than the harshness of firm centers and hard edges, and rather than the weakness of spongy centers and soft edges, why don’t we start with kindness? Kindness is the way of firm centers and soft edges.

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The Africa Study Bible Project

I recently learned about a new project to get a study Bible in the hands of Africans with commentary and notes from African pastors and scholars. It is called the Africa Study Bible.

AfricaStudyBibleCoverArt2

Imagine using a study Bible with the notes from another country, with images and illustrations from that context. It would be difficult to understand. This is the case for many in Africa, with their study Bibles written from the viewpoint of the United States and United Kingdom. The Africa Study Bible project aims to close that gap and provide a resource designed by Africans for Africans.

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Book Review: How Jesus Saves the World From Us

cover85683-mediumHow Jesus Saves the World from Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity, Morgan Guyton, Westminster John Knox Press, 2016.

I first met Morgan Guyton about five years ago at a required event for soon-to-be clergy in the Virginia Conference. We, and dozens more, were gathered at a college campus for a week for what I like to refer to as “Pastor Bootcamp.”

The distinct memory I have of Morgan was from an evening at a Mexican restaurant (one of many during the week). Over beer and chips and salsa, a group of us found ourselves in a deep theological conversation. For anyone who knows Morgan, you will not be surprised that he was at the helm of this conversation. In between scoops of salsa, Morgan would raise yet another question. Not to be argumentative, but to authentically seek more knowledge.

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Book Review: Mr. King’s Machine

mr_king_s_machine_0Mr. King’s Machine, Geneviève Côté, Kids Can Press, 2016

“The divine presence of the Spirit in creation binds us as human beings together with all created life.” (World Council of Churches, 1991)

This little book from Geneviève Côte, the third in the Mr. King series of books, has a simple message: Care for creation.

When the cat, Mr. King, discovers some beautiful flowers have been chewed by a caterpillar, he decides to do something about it. His solution is to build a Caterpillar-Catcher machine to track down the flower-eater.

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Book Review: Bedtime for Batman

Bedtime for Batman cover

Bedtime for Batman, Michael Dahl, Capstone Young Readers, 2016.

In our house, when the sky turns dark, there is a little super hero who needs to prepare for the greatest adventure of the day . . . . bedtime! We have an arsenal of books we read to Baby J at bedtime, many of which are bedtime themed books.

In this bedtime story book, the super hero too has to prepare for bedtime. The little boy gears up in his pajama uniform, hurries upstairs to clean up the nightly filth, and he keeps watch from his perch on his bunk bed. Each couple of pages mirrors what the boy is doing to prepare for bedtime and what Batman is doing to prepare for his nightly patrol of Gotham.

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Guest Post: Newborn’s Healing Cry

by Rev. Andrew Taylor-Troutman, author of “Parables of Parenthood”

Good Friday darkened March 25 this year, a date that marks the Feast of the Annunciation when the archangel Gabriel, also known as the voice of God, announced to a young peasant girl that she was highly favored among mortals. Conception and crucifixion. Joy and grief. Feast and fast, together on a single day.

My second son was born at 10:28 AM. He did not make a sound. The cord was wrapped once, twice around his neck. Even before I had a chance to be fully alarmed, nurses flew into action, their six hands a whirlwind over his body. And the oxygen mask to my son’s face. Once, twice. And Asa, whose name means healer, let out a short, staccato burst of a cry, as sure an amen as I have ever heard.

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Book Review: Berenstain Bears Mother’s Day Blessings

_240_360_Book.1852.coverThe Berenstain Bears Mother’s Day Blessings, Mike Berenstain, Zonderkidz, 2016.

It is a lovely, spring day in Bear Country. And it’s got Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear thinking. Mother’s Day is coming soon, and they should do something special for Mama Bear. They consult with Papa and they create the best plan.

Written and illustrated by Mike Berenstain, son of Stan and Jan Berenstain, the story and the pictures remind us of the original books. First introduced in 1962, the Berenstain Bears have helped generations of children learn the values of being a good person. From telling the truth to not eating too much junk food, the Bear Family has been a moral guide.

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Sermon: Jesus the Unexpected

Here is the audio of my sermon from Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016 at Peakland United Methodist Church. The text was Philippians 2:5-11. You can listen on the Podcast app by subscribing here.

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