Showing posts from April, 2014

The UCC's Lawsuit in North Carolina

On Monday, my denomination, the United Church of Christ, filed a lawsuit challenging North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage:
A group of Charlotte-area ministers have helped launch the country’s first faith-based challenge to same-sex marriage, claiming in a lawsuit filed Monday that North Carolina’s laws block them from practicing their religion.The local religious leaders, who include a rabbi, are joined by colleagues from Asheville and Raleigh along with a national denomination, the United Church of Christ. All of them support the rights of same-sex couples to marry.They say state prohibitions, including a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2012, violate their First Amendment right of freedom of religion.“The core protection of the First Amendment is that government may not regulate religious beliefs or take sides in religious controversies,” says Jonathan Martel, a Washington, D.C., attorney helping with the case.“Marriage performed by clergy is a spiritual exercis…

Reuniting at Eden Seminary

As I mentioned back in January, I anticipated that this year would be a year of big decade milestones. The first one comes officially next month, but the celebration was just this past week as I traveled back to Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis for their spring convocation and for my 10-year class reunion.

It's been a few years; various circumstances have kept me away lately, but I knew that I wanted to be back for this one. Eden has been a beloved, meaningful place for me that served as a site of incredible growth and learning, and to make the trip for this event was very important to me regardless of the program offered.
Thankfully, the drive was like falling off a log. It was long, but it was very familiar. I remembered directions, landmarks, roads…even after so long, it came quite easily. I was thankful that, even as I reached the complicated web of highways close to the bridge over the Mississippi River, I could recall exits and merge lanes that eventually landed me at…

April 2014 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for April...

1. We saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier the weekend that it came out. Here we meet Steve Rogers post-Avengers, where he's wondering about his place in S.H.I.E.L.D., and really in the modern era in general. There are some great introspective moments where he notices the differences in how combat, intelligence, and freedom is used and valued, and he wrestles with whether he fits in. There is also some intrigue as "Cap" tries to help uncover some suspected corruption within the organization. In the midst of it all, he also needs to deal with the mysterious Winter Soldier, who can pretty much match him move for move and strength for strength. Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson also reprise their roles as Nick Fury and Black Widow and are pretty integral to the overall plot. The first Captain America had a certain feel to it that they were rushing to churn it out in order to get to The Avengers, but this felt more even and had better pace …

Vintage CC: A Post-Easter Conversation

This post from May 2011 is one of my all-time favorites. I had it in my head for years prior to actually writing it, and I love how it turned out. Easter always has a big circle around it on the calendar for me as a pastor, and even if things don't seem to connect exactly the way I think they should, there are more important things to remember, anyway.

Even as it takes its place in the noonday sky, the sun is still tempered by the crispness of late April. The frost has melted, but it now seems to hang just over one's head instead, a shield of sorts from more blistery days that are still weeks away. The birds have long been up to greet it: some pick at the dirt in between blades of grass rediscovering their green, while others playfully hop from branch to branch, their chatter dripping from the air's moisture along with the smell of tulips and dogwood.

I'm sitting on the front steps of the church, the grey concrete chilled by shadows cast by the steeple and the trees…

Holy Week Video Meditation

I created this video meditation for last night's Maundy Thursday service. Perhaps it will aid in your own Holy Week journey as well. Have a blessed conclusion to this Lenten season.

"Far Different" - A Prayer for Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

On roadsides and street corners
Our feet curling over curbs
Our necks straining in anticipation
We hope for a glimpse of the holy.

We have our own ideas of what it will look like
With our cloaks spread on the brick and
Our list of demands in hand;
Our lips parting in songs of praise and welcome,
Our thoughts churning with what will be done for us.

And when the moment arrives,
The Promised One comes into view
Far different from what our mental images professed.

Riding a simple and slow beast,
Dressed in common regalia,
He passes by
And if one listens closely, it can be heard:
“Love your enemies.
Pray for the orphan.
Feed my sheep.”

It is here that we have a choice:
To take up your demands instead of ours
Or point accusingly and try forcing you to conform.

Where will peace come if not from where we expect?
Through him you call,
Refusing our categories;
Pointing to love and grace and truth.

In a display of humility we are shown power.
We watch him ride past
Inviting us …

Leaving Evangelicalism

On April 1st, Rachel Held Evans wrote some thoughts in the aftermath of a week when World Vision announced that they would employ people in same-sex relationships, then backtracked a few days later after thousands of good, faithful, evangelical, Bible-believing Christians threatened to, or really did, pull their sponsorships of impoverished children.

Please note the sarcasm in the last paragraph. Read no further unless you can see it. Thanks.

In part, here is what Rachel wrote:
For many years, I felt that part of my call as a writer and blogger of faith was to be a different sort of evangelical, to advocate for things like gender equality, respect for LGBT people, and acceptance of science and biblical scholarship within my community. But I think that perhaps I became more invested in trying to “fix” evangelicalism (to my standards! oh the hubris!) than in growing Kingdom. And as helpful as I know that work has been for so many of you, I think it’s time to take a slightly different…

Small Sips Ends Up Ranting a Little

Well, how about that. Charles Arn shares a "surprising secret" to church growth, which is neither surprising nor a secret:
Several years ago, a study by the largest Protestant denomination in the country found a startling relationship between the length of time pastors had been in their churches and the growth or decline of those churches.Their finding?Approximately three-fourths of their growing churches were being led by pastors who had been in their church more than four years, while two-thirds of their declining churches were being led by pastors who had been in their church less than four years. Their conclusion (with which I agree): Long-term pastorates do not guarantee that a church will grow. But short-term pastorates essentially guarantee that a church will not grow. You may recall when I made it a point to study what goes into building a long-term pastorate a few years ago. My reasons at the time were more personal: I wanted to break out of the cycle of moving all t…

The Quiet and the Noise

Since Saturday, I've been feeling very quiet.

To be sure, there's been plenty to do. And there will be plenty to do as April goes along. We have Holy Week coming up, after all. This is one of the busiest times of the year for pastors. Not only that, but I'll finally be returning to Eden Theological Seminary for their spring convocation and my 10-year (!!!) reunion. Then I turn right around to come home and celebrate Confirmation Sunday.

That, and I'm working ahead a little in my spiritual direction program. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, and I'm doing what I can to will it closer. My practicum is winding down, and I only have three more class times to go.

So there's plenty of noise.

But I've also been feeling quiet. I've been feeling quiet about this space. It's not that I don't want to write anything. I just can't think of anything that I want to say right now. I worked myself up so much about the radio show, and n…

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