The following is the note I wrote for Peakland Pages, the monthly newsletter at Peakland United Methodist in Lynchburg.
In a seminary class we were asked to identify five theological rocks that grounded our ministry. These “rocks” were to be the things behind why we did what we did in ministry. I could only think of two: love God and love each other. For me, this is the bottom line of the gospel.
Here is the audio of my sermon from May 29, 2016 at Peakland United Methodist Church. The text was Galatians 1:1-12, Luke 7:1-10, and 1 Kings 18:20-39. You can also listen on the Podcast app by subscribing here.
Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love, William H. Willimon, Abingdon Press, 2016.
True to form, Bishop Willimon approaches theological themes in a no-nonsense and gutsy matter. This little book (less than 100 pages) is the Bishop’s response to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. “If not for them,” Willimon writes, “I would not have been asked to write this book.”
Willimon shows no fear in addressing current social topics. He covers it all. The desire for a bigger wall across the border to keep out Hispanics. The call to keep Muslims out of the country. The exclusion of LGBT individuals in the life of the church. And, he even takes on Jerry Falwell, Jr.
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.
Love 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.
How 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.
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.
*I am indebted to conversations with my friend, Kara, who blogs at byrnenlove, for the inspiration for this post.
I should be at church right now.
It’s Sunday morning and I spend it leading worship at Peakland. In fact, today I was scheduled to preach. But, as life tends to do at times, everything got interrupted when baby J got pink eye.
Yep, pink eye.
This week already proved to be full of interruptions. From the Greek Orthodox woman at Starbucks who wanted to talk about Donald Trump to sharing unexpected news with people I care deeply about.
Last Call: From Serving Drinks to Serving Jesus, Jerry Herships, Westminster John Knox Press, 2015.
Jerry Herships is unlike any minister you have met before. His experiences alone before receiving his call to ministry are enough to fill a book. But add to that what he is doing in Denver and it makes this memoir even more compelling.
A former altar boy who had vast dreams of being the next Johnny Carson, Herships tended bar as he worked to make ends meet with his various comedy and game show gigs. These aren’t the usual experiences that one who is called to ministry is expected to have. But Jerry isn’t your typical pastor. His book tells his story of moving to LA to chase his dream of becoming the Carson for a new generation to forming a new faith community – a bar church – known as AfterHours Denver.
AfterHours is more than just a church that meets in a bar, it has decided to focus on the homeless in Denver by gathering in community and fixing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to give out to the homeless. This affirms that traditional church and traditional worship is not for everyone. Herships found a way to be in ministry with those who otherwise would not darken a church sanctuary. In addition to handing out food and water, this church shares in communion with 700+ people a week in Civic Center Park.
I was never great at building sandcastles. It seemed that I could never get the right amount of sand and water mixed together to create the castle of my dreams. The sand buckets we used were always the basic round buckets, leaving little opportunities for anything other than round towers. And then there was the tide. It would always come in. It was never a question of “if,” but rather, “when.” When the tide came, the sandcastle never stayed.
Rich Wilkerson, Jr., in his book Sandcastle Kings, pulls on those memory strings as he discusses the spiritually bankrupt world that we are living in and the need/desire to meet Jesus. Using four stories from Luke 7 – the centurion’s faith, the resurrection of the widow’s son, Jesus’ message about John the Baptist, and the anointing by the woman with the alabaster jar – guides the reader into taking a closer look at the many ways we build sandcastles that will one day be wiped away by the storms that will come.