David Gregory is the New York Times Bestseller author of Dinner with a Perfect Stranger. In that book, the main character receives an unusual invitation. It is unsigned and the inviter has invited himself to the character’s home for dinner.
The character prepares his home for a visit for an unknown stranger, wondering what person of great importance has chosen his home to visit.
In Gregory’s new book, Open, a young woman named Emma receives a similar, unsigned invitation. Her invitation is not to dinner. The invitation reads, “For a real adventure with Jesus, go through the nearest open door.” Emma’s curiosity recalls for the reader young Lucy’s innocence in walking through the wardrobe into Narnia. Emma, a bit more broken than Lucy, is transported through time to Jesus’ day.
The story of Job in the Christian Old Testament is one of the most poetic pieces of literature in the world. At the same time, it is one of the least read books in the Bible because its difficultly to be understand. Douglas Bond, in his book God’s Servant Job: A Poem with a Promise, crafts the well-known story into verse form. Coupled with powerful illustrations from Todd Shaffer, the story of Job with all of its joy, anguish, and revelation, come to life in a new way.
Readers of all ages will appreciate this approach to the story. The use of rhyme is engaging and captures the essence of the plot. Job, a wealthy man, is tested by Satan, and his life is turned upside down. Satan’s bet is that Job will turn on God. Satan is proven wrong.
“Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16, Common English Bible)
In an episode titled “Greater Good,” from the first season of the drama-comedy Boston Legal, Alan Shore (James Spader) and Denny Crane (William Shatner) represent a large, drug company in a civil suit. The two lawyers disagree on a key ethical issue surrounding the lies about a clinical trial for a new drug.
The doctor who participated in the clinical trial is conflicted. Shore wants her to be truthful about the potential harm the new drug may have caused its patients. Crane, on the other hand, wants her to be quiet about it. Shore reminds the doctor that when she testifies in court, she will be under oath. Mr. Shore’s intention, of course, is to persuade the doctor to speak truth.
When I was a kid, in the cold of winter, we heated our home through a wood stove – a fireplace. One of our chores during those cold months was to bring firewood up to the house so that there would be wood near by in the cold of the night.
The firewood chores, however, started well before winter. Sometimes as early as the summer, but always during the fall. Any trees that had fallen during a summer storm, or that just needed to come down, were fair game. Dad would cut the trees with a chain saw, and then the splitting would happen with an ax. We would be responsible for hauling the split wood to the wood pile and stack it just right.
It was sometime in 2008, while working at Lebanon United Methodist, I got a phone call about firewood. There was someone in our community without firewood to heat their home in the cold winter days. In the county over there was a church who had a firewood ministry, and as such they had a stock pile. They allowed us to use their wood. I called the United Methodist Men‘s president, Claude, and we rode out to load up a trailer full of wood and deliver it to the home in need.
Our favorite spot in the new house is quickly becoming the sunroom. This enclosed porch with sliding doors all around, gives us a postcard perfect glimpse of our backyard. It is more perfect when birds, squirrels, rabbits, and other friendly critters occupy the space.
It is a peace-filled space.
The other day while eating lunch on the sunroom, Toddler J and I watched as a squirrel hopped through the yard. As the squirrel started climbing the tree, Toddler J’s eyes lit up and a broad smile spread across her little face. She pointed up as the squirrel climbed the tree. When the squirrel was long out of sight, she was still pointing with excitement and mumbling what I believe was her attempt at saying,”squirrel.”
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.
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.