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Showing posts from January, 2005

Meanderings on prayer

There are some good thoughts on prayer both at The Grace Pages and The Parish, and I jumped in on the discussion. Basically, both struggle with what prayer is and why the model of asking God to do stuff (a little crudely put I admit) can be unsatisfactory.

Marjorie Suchocki has a book called In God's Presence that describes a larger view of prayer. She speaks of seeking God's presence rather than seeking God's intervention. That reasonated with me as God With Us is a cornerstone of my theology. If God is always present, then God does not have to especially intervene upon our asking. God is already intervening, yet our seeking and acting on that presence can affect that intervention as well. As I said in the discussion at the Parish:

"If, for instance, one prays for an uncle's healing, and the uncle does make a full recovery, does that mean that God was only working in the uncle for healing, and only because of that prayer, and now God is just waiting for mor…

Weekly recommendations

It's been a slow week in the blogosphere, mostly because it's been a busy week elsewhere. But shame on me if I don't get my weekly list of recommendations to my loyal readers....all three of you....anyway....

I picked up Jim Wallis' book, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, yesterday. I hope to start it soon. I'm guessing it'll provide some good fodder for future posts.

I also just recently started listening to Radiohead. I'm not sure why, but I was never really interested before now. They're really good. I've got The Bends in the player right now.

For television I'll recommend to you one of the few shows I make a point to watch any more, ESPN's Pardon the Interruption. It provides a quick rundown of the top stories in sports every day. It's like Sportscenter, only a half hour shorter and with more arguing. Plus you get to watch those great Guinness commercials. Brilliant!!

Two movie…

Ain't that the truth...

“Preaching is one of the greatest privileges of the pastorate. It is also one of the most fearful responsibilities. In all honesty, to stand before the congregation and proclaim ‘Thus says the Lord’ seems a bit ludicrous to me. Who am I to offer these people God’s Word?…I think about the people in those pews with whom I have fallen deeply in love. I think about those who are overworked and those who have been worked over by the hardness of life. I remember the woman who has filed for divorce, the young man who is afraid he may have AIDS, the older couple that didn’t want to move into a nursing home. The [choir] anthem ends. I make the long walk to the pulpit, begging God to use my words to bring some of his hope into their lives.”

From Yearning by M. Craig Barnes

I don't know, either

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God Got a Hold of Me

On Sunday afternoon I was ordained into Christian ministry of the United Church of Christ. It was a wonderful service, well-attended by both my home congregation and the congregation I am serving, in addition to a large part of my family. To look over the congregation to give the benediction and see people from my entire life gathered in one place was wonderful. The gathering reminded me of my wedding in some ways.

The pastor of my home church preached, and he was in rare form on that afternoon. There are two things about his sermon that struck me in particular.

First, he kept stating that I would be a 'keeper of the word of God and its integrity.' In my mind I linked this to one of the ordination vows in which I promised to 'remain faithful to the truth of the gospel while maintaining the peace of the church.' No small task, I'd say. But this is what I took keeping the word of God and its integrity to be. As a minister of Word and Sacrament, the integrity of both is…

Snow Day

As we gear up for a snowy weekend in northeast Ohio (and I gear up for my ordination), here is my weekly list to get my loyal readers through to next weekend.

In the CD player is 'Home' by Keller Williams. He's an acoustic guitar player with a sound similar to Dave Matthews or Jack Johnson, only more quirky.

For a fun DVD, watch Bubba Ho-Tep. Here's the plot synopsis: the real Elvis and a black guy who thinks he's JFK battle a mummy in a nursing home. Interested? Plus it's Bruce Campbell, so it's gotta be good.

I'm currently reading The Faith We Proclaim by Elmer Arndt. It's been sitting on my shelf for a while and I started it on the recommendation from a listserve I'm a part of. The tagline is "The Doctrinal Viewpoint Generally Prevailing in the Evangelical and Reformed Church." So it's a work of historical theology on one side of what came together to form the UCC. Arndt used to be the church history professor at Eden, and …

God's Politics

Jim Wallis has a new book out called God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. Wallis came to Eden to speak while we were still living in St. Louis and I passed on an opportunity to see him, but I did catch him on The Daily Show the other night plugging the book. Anyway, Chuck is also talking about him today, and I thought I would as well, because books like this and Tony Campolo's Is Jesus a Republican or a Democrat?: and 14 Other Polorizing Issues give me more hope for 'fair and balanced' looks at America's theological and political landscape than people who actually claim to be 'fair and balanced.'

One important issue to be considered here is the 'imagination' (Curtis White is shuddering right now) of those currently running the government. Those who oppose policies and proclamation from the UCC's national office partially make their argument on the grounds that in opposing war, for instance, no alternative …

Going Back to General Synod

This past week I was unofficially named a delegate to the Twenty-fifth General Synod of the United Church of Christ, in the Clergy Under 30 category. This will be my second term as a delegate, having served previously as a Youth delegate (even though I was 22 at the time) at the Twenty-third Synod in Kansas City. Delegates actually serve for a term of two Synods, but I was unable to attend the last one in Minneapolis.

I experienced General Synod as a great time to meet UCC members from across the country and see how the process at the national level works, along with experiencing some wonderful and diverse worship. Resolutions drawn up by various church bodies (or multiple bodies) are brought to the floor to be considered, and in turn the resolutions that pass are recommended to be acted upon by local churches. However, local churches (in my experience) do not often act on these either because they don't ever hear about them or they don't agree with them. I'll sit down…

Part 3 Under a Microscope

While writing my posts briefly chronicling my faith journey, I had a feeling that some pieces of it would evoke stronger responses than others, most of all Part 3. As was the case with all four of these posts, it was chopped up by my Pampered Chef Selective Memory and served back in easy-to-swallow bites. Or so I thought. It was pointed out to me earlier today that perhaps this piece especially is chopped too fine to really be considered a full meal. You ever hear someone talk about not liking hot dogs because one day when they were little they ate one too many and threw up? That's what Part 3 was, except I forgot to mention how good the ice cream was beforehand.

I'm mixing food metaphors. Here's what I'm getting at. I remember my junior year of college being very intense and dark, faith-wise and in certain cases relationship-wise. There were other things that I didn't mention (and some things I won't mention) going on that year, some of which contributed to and…

Worship vs. Entertainment

Ultimately, this is about preference. The pros and cons weighed between traditional and contemporary worship are not new. And let's bypass the debate about the adequacy of these two terms to begin with (doesn't all worship in some way stem from a tradition and can't all worship currently used in churches be considered contemporary?).

I begin with Curtis White's book The Middle Mind, which goes to great lengths to differentiate between 'entertainment' and 'art.' The latter, he suggests, wishes to make a statement about or counter to the larger culture. In particular he discusses Radiohead's album 'OK Computer' and one particular review which gave it a lower grade due to it not having mass appeal. White's conclusion is that it is a mistake to evaluate art by how entertaining it is.

This past Saturday I attended a workshop on multimedia in worship. We opened with a worship service (the pastor leading us called it 'contemporary,' but n…

The Countdown Continues....

Seven days and counting. A week from today I'm gonna be a made guy. ;)

What's that mean, exactly? What's the big deal about ordination? What's it symbolize?

One colleague recently explained it as being an act of calling one out of a community, recognizing gifts in that person for ministry, and entrusting him/her with the responsibilities of the office. He was careful not to use the word 'privilages' or 'rights' (contrast that with my M.Div), he said responsibilities. In other words, one who is ordained, first off, is no better or holier than any one else. Instead, s/he has discerned his/her gifts within a community, and that community determines whether that call is genuine. It's not just the person who makes that call.

Fast forward to next Sunday, where at one point during the service the congregation will be asked what they think about the promises I will have just made. As we'll be to the ceremonial part by then, they'll respond, …

My journey (so far) - Part 4

Earlier installments, including the ever-present warning, can be found here, here, and here.

2001-Present:My experiences at Heidelberg left my theology in a weird place. In part, the theology with which I graduated was in rebellion against some of the beliefs and practices I'd experienced in Campus Fellowship. By this time I had read Stephen Patterson's The God of Jesus, which had opened my eyes to Jesus' teachings on the kingdom of God, a kingdom where all are welcome and equal in God's eyes, a kingdom antithetical to the kingdom of Caesar which was based on power and wealth, and a kingdom of NOW rather than later. I had also heavily studied the work of Karl Barth for my senior honors project, and I had especially reasonated with his Christ-centered system of thought, complete with his version of double predestination: we are all through the cross rejected, and then we are all through the resurrection accepted. And eventually we all realize God's love for us. It wa…

Intermission

I'll have the 4th and final installment of my faith journey up soon, but in the meantime I wanted to get up what will hopefully become a weekly list of recommendations.

I finished the book on St. Francis. It's awesome.

Currently in the stereo: The Sopranos Soundtrack. A good mix of older and newer tunes from one of the best shows on television. There, two plugs in one.

We've watched 50 First Dates a couple times since we bought it. Not my favorite from Adam Sandler, but one of his deeper roles (you be the judge of that statement's worth).

Check out Ian's blog. He's doing some cool stuff in N. Ireland that you should read about.

Here's hoping any or all of these things make your upcoming week more enjoyable. Cheers.

My journey (so far) - Part 3

I hadn't planned on writing this until later, but my car is currently sitting on 2 1/2 tires so I've got some time.

Right, then. Same warning for Part 1 and Part 2 applies here.

1997-2001: The college years. I entered Heidelberg College already determined to major in Religion. It was my life's call and I would keep my eyes on the goal (my primary regret since graduation has always been not double majoring in either Literature or Theatre, but that's for another time). I was signed up for Old Testament my first semester and was on my way. In addition to my classwork, I connected with three Christian organizations on campus: B.U.C.C. ('Berg UCC, a UCC group), Campus Fellowship (a more evangelical group with loose ties to Campus Crusade for Christ), and the H.O.G.S. (House Of God's Servants, an on-campus house program). By the end of the first few weeks I had already decided I'd be a HOG next year, was the B.U.C.C. chaplain, and was playing drums in the Campus Fe…

My journey (so far) - Part 2

When we last left our hero, he had just been confirmed and was about to enter high school. This one probably won't be nearly as long. The same warning from Part 1 applies.

1993-1997: So. High school. Nothing of note really happened (faith-wise, anyway) until my senior year. Well, the summer before my senior year. My girlfriend at the time was much more devoted a Christian than I was. I still had questions, was kind of a Thomas Jefferson-brand believer (basically, God exists, and Jesus' teachings are good things to follow). Well, she would push the faith conversation from time to time, in which I was moderately interested. I'd usually mumble something about 'yeah, I believe, let's watch a movie.' My junior year she invited me to the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Atheletes) group that met at the high school on Friday mornings. I went for the donuts and to compensate I could sit through a 10-minute chat that was basically no different than what I'd he…

My journey (so far)

I was inspired by Dave to briefly recount the stages of my spiritual journey...so far. It may have a few more hills, with many more to come. And since recent posts have dealt with the inadequate labels of 'liberal' and 'conservative,' perhaps this will thoroughly confuse you as to where I fall, if you aren't already.

A fair warning. Various people who read this blog are intimately connected with some or all of these events, and may encounter a few thoughts they didn't know I was having at the time. Should be fun, eh?

So right after I pour myself a second cup of coffee, we shall begin. Hey, the blog title is no joke.

1979-1992: A preacher's kid gets moved around a lot. I live in three different locations around Michigan before moving to northeast Ohio. As a PK I am in church every Sunday whether I like it or not, so I mostly settle in during Sunday School and learn the stories. I have little to no grasp as to their relevance, but they're nice stories. I rem…

Okay....so what's a 'conservative' Christian?

Recently I've realized that we're all conservative...it's just a matter of what we're trying to conserve. Some wish to conserve the rights to which all human beings are entitled, some wish to conserve the present form of their worship service, some wish to conserve spending or eating. And some wish to conserve 'traditional moral values,' whatever those are (how far back do you have to go to cite something as 'traditional?' And whose tradition?).

Well anyway, I've been thinking recently about what Jesus was 'conservative' about, just to give the other half of my readers a fair shot after recently considering 'liberal' Christianity. So we begin much the same way that the other post did: with Webster's definition: "tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions."

Now I have to admit that I really had to rack my brain (and scripture) a little bit before I could figure out what 'existing views,…

John Thomas' Epiphany Letter

Rev. John Thomas, president and general minister of the United Church of Christ, wrote a letter at the beginning of Epiphany. You can read the entire letter here, but I wanted to lift out this paragraph:

"The deeper danger for us is that we will grow content with a message of inclusion and welcome. An invitation to a community of amiable tolerance is certainly to be preferred to the mean-spirited exclusion around us, but as our prayer suggests, the hands we reach forth are to be an embodiment of the outstretched arms of Christ in his passion. The welcome we extend is to a baptism that names us children of God and members of the church, a baptism that does not bless us and the culture in which we live, but reshapes us for costly discipleship, resisting those elements of our culture that demean, diminish and destroy. The invitation we give at the Table is not an offer of friendly dinner conversation, but an encounter with Jesus, crucified and risen, and with a vision of the realm o…

To Whom Are You Pledging Allegiance?

Over the past year or so (perhaps longer, I can't really remember), a lot of ink, pixels, and breath has been spent on the issue of whether to keep "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. "This is a Christian nation! This nation was founded by Christians!" come the shouts from those who wish to keep the pledge the way it is. "The phrase 'under God' excludes those of differing religions or no religion at all," opponents shout back. And both sides shout. A lot.

Frankly, on the whole I don't give much of a fig whether 'under God' stays or goes. My relationship with God is not hurt if the phrase is removed. Much as I could try to muster them, feelings of persecution or that the American Church has been dealt a mortal wound by such an action evade me. Would the founding fathers roll in their graves if it was decided that the phrase needs to be removed? I doubt it. Here's why.

First, let's take a brief journey through time to watc…

A Working Sabbath?

Yeah, the term sounded funny to me, too. I conjured it this morning while planning out my week at the church. Tonight and tomorrow night are a couple meetings. Tomorrow and Wednesday I meet with ministerial colleagues for different reasons. A couple visits, a few phone calls, and planning for Sunday's service which actually won't demand a lot of my time this week. A representative from Habitat for Humanity is speaking during the sermon time and a layperson is doing the children's sermon. So other than a confirmation lesson, I'll have a pretty laid-back Sunday morning.

So what's that have to do with the oxymoronic title of this post? Well, not having a sermon to plan this Sunday means I have some time to plan ahead, take an afternoon or two for Biblical study and see if God speaks to me through any particular lectionary (or non-lectionary) texts. What makes this particularly relieving for me is that such time won't feel like work in the least. It's work-relat…

Comments & Other Sundry Items

Okay, new comments system hosted by haloscan were up and running, but then I realized that long replies get screwed up, and that annoyed me. So old blogger comments are back.

So now that that's out of the way, here are a couple recommendations to get your week started.

If you haven't done so already, go out and rent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. As a Jim Carrey fan, I was surprised I'd waited this long to see this movie, and it was well worth it. There isn't a whole lot of Carrey's usual rubberfaced wackiness in it, but that probably won't be enough to convince anti-Carreys. So to everyone else, go see it. It's fun.

Newest CD in the player is 'Rubber Factory' from The Black Keys. This is some good blues-rock fusion recorded in....a rubber factory. They're from Akron, are you really that surprised?

I'm currently reading the book to the side on St. Francis, but before that I read The Middle Mind by Curtis White. It's an indictment of…

Comments under construction

I'm trying to work out Haloscan. Should be fine soon, if it isn't already.

"I haaaaaaave the poooooooower!!!"

In preparation for my ordination, I bought a robe yesterday. It's your standard black academic robe that the Reformed guys in Geneva would have worn. I keep trying to picture myself in a white alb, and I look silly.

Anyway, the shoulder pads in this thing are huge. I tried it on in the store and it definitely added an inch or two to my physique. I jokingly thought to myself that by putting it on I've become Pastor He-Man. I held aloft my power sword and shouted, "By the power of Cokesbury....I haaaaaaave the pooooooower!!!!" Please tell me people who read this know who I'm talking about. I know the show's been away for a while and for some reason Cartoon Network isn't showing the new version right now. There's at least one entirely new generation who wasn't around for it. Well, whatever.
So I was thinking on the ride home about this business of becoming Pastor He-Man, and thought about how some church members really do expect you to wield your power…

Disaster Relief

I wanted to get a post up to point people toward various places helping with the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia:

American Red Cross

Catholic Relief Services

Church World Service

Habitat for Humanity

UCC Disaster Relief

United Way

World Vision

There are many more, of course. Please consider giving, if you have not already.

The Bible: Faith's Family Album

Before too long (if it hasn't already), the question of how I view scripture will pop into a reader's mind. In my traditionally lazy way (and in an effort to quickly beef up my post count here), I've dug up some ramblings from Xn, which will at least get us started.

One another note: I can't claim the 'faith's family album' metaphor as my own. I wish I'd thought of it first, but this guy beat me to it.

So here it is, edited severely so it'll make sense in this context. Also keep in mind that the original post was made in response to an avowed non-Christian:

At various points in my life, both on and offline, attempts to explain how I'm a Christian and yet don't believe the Bible to be inerrant have been met with comments such as, "Well, if you don't believe all of it I don't see how you can really call yourself a Christian," "Oh, you're just picking and choosing to suit your own preferences," "You actually …

What is a 'liberal' Christian?

Some can already find this tidbit in a few places around the net. It can be found in one form at Xn and another at Chuck Currie's blog. But here it is again for those who've never been to either of these places and have no intention of ever visiting:

The definition of 'liberal' from Webster's dictionary reads as follows: "broadminded, tolerant, not bound by authoritarinism, orthodoxy or traditional forms."Some labeling themselves as 'liberal' Christians (and some who wish to impugn 'liberal' Christians) cite especially the first two: broadminded and tolerant, and seek to justify the holding of all points of view as equal and good. Furthermore, the phrase 'like Jesus' is tacked on to give it more authority. So 'liberal' Christians claim to be 'broadminded and tolerant like Jesus.'

Then Jesus himself throws a monkeywrench into this whole thing by going after the Pharisees and some of their practices. 'A brood of vi…

Very Soon.

Yes indeed, friends. It's happened. I've plunged deeper down the spiral into my web addiction and have found a new way to hide from the sun.

Why a blog, you ask? I don't know. I've never been tremendously dedicated to journals in the past. The gaps between dates are ridiculous. But here I am with a new toy, a new outlet for the same stuff I've spouted on about from one forum to another, composing my thoughts to edify people with names like Macfan and BobtheMule.* But if you've seen some of the pseudonyms I've used over the years these will seem pretty tame.

Anyway, what gems can you expect from this trifle of a site? Well, who am I to promise gems? I'm just a guy trying to condense his internet time down by a few hours a week, but my interests remain the same: faith, life, music, books, and of course coffee. Loooooots of coffee.

So pour yourself a cup and stay a while. Welcome to the blogosphere to me. I hope it's worth our while.

*I can personally vouc…

Coming Soon.

Very soon. Mwah ha ha.

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