Showing posts from May, 2017

Pastoral Prayer for Living Between Two Kingdoms

based on Acts 1:6-14 and Ignatius of Loyola's "Two Standards" meditation

Faithful God, we straddle a world between the banners of two different and distinct kingdoms. One encompasses all that determines our tangible success or failure. It is a kingdom of complex and interlocking systems of taxation, defense, entertainment, family systems, neighborhoods, elected officials, and laws. Many take great pride in this kingdom and wish it well because its prosperity means our prosperity; its health means our health. Others have borne the brunt of unfair policies and imperfect enactors, and those who see this are ever working toward a more just way to be in community together.

Under the other banner is a kingdom of great divine promise revealed through Christ, one that claims and exudes heavenly values and eternal truths. It is a kingdom where all are invited to banquets and all find healing and hope. It is a kingdom ever breaking into view and of which we may catch glimpses whe…

May 2017 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for May...

1. This month we saw Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, in which we see that Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot are a more established group that hire themselves out to protect planets against threats. After they manage to anger a client (which isn't difficult for them), their escape crash lands them on a world where they meet Ego and his companion Mantis. This meeting sends each of them on a path of further discovering who they are, and what their relationships to each other mean. The film has incredible visuals, a coherent weaving of narratives, brilliantly-timed comedy, and yet another awesome '70s and '80s era soundtrack. I enjoyed this more than the first outing.

2. I finally got around to watching Luke Cage on Netflix this month, the third of four Marvel shows featuring one of the characters who will eventually become The Defenders. I really liked Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and Cage the character already made an appearance in the latte…

Pastor Iron Man

I had a dream last week. I was at a church, which didn't look like the church that I pastor but I knew that it was my church in that way you know things in dreams.

I was about ready to lead worship and was heading from my office down to the sanctuary, but in my dream I wasn't wearing my usual alb. Instead, I was wearing Iron Man's suit.

Yes, I was dressed like Iron Man. And I wasn't actually walking to the sanctuary, but flying to it. Because you see, I was dressed like Iron Man, so why wouldn't you fly when you're dressed like Iron Man?

I flew all the way down the hall, all the way down the aisle, and up to the pulpit. And I started to lead worship, dressed as Iron Man.

And that was it. I don't remember actually talking to anyone in my dream and I don't remember what the worship theme was or what time of year it was or anything. I just remember that I was standing in a church--my church--in Iron Man's suit.

I have a lot of dreams where I'll th…

Summer Reading

The summer months will soon be upon us, and I've been compiling my latest list of works I intend to read between now and my favorite season of the year.

I do like summer for many reasons. It means the local ice cream stand is open, things are a little less busy at the church, my family's annual trip to the beach is coming up, and I can hang out on our back patio.

Here's my current plan of what I'll be reading while I enjoy those things.
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil FerrisWhat Is the Bible? by Rob BellHow to Survive the Apocalypse by Robert JoustraContemporary Churches by Louis F. KavarCrazy Is My Superpower by A.J. Mendez BrooksThe Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij JohnsonLeviathan by Scott WesterfieldCold Magic by Kate Elliot So, one graphic novel, just a few theology/churchy books, a memoir, and a few novels. I like to keep it light this time of year.
What's on your reading list for the summer months?

(Does it include this book?)

Searching for the Fountain of Youth Group

I have a new post up at the UCC's New Sacred blog entitled Searching for the Fountain of Youth Group:

My senior high youth group  was bright, engaged, eager to share opinions, and compassionate.

I still carry those days with me as my entrance into Christian discipleship: the informal yet passionate conversation mixed with opportunities to participate in service projects were my first, lasting taste of what it means to be part of the church.

I believe that many others who have been a part of youth groups could say similar things. But after graduation, that energy disappears and something else takes its place.

Read the rest at New Sacred.

Vintage CC: God's Feminine Side

This post comes from February 2012, when a popular author challenged bloggers to write something about female images of God. This is what I came up with. I thought it appropriate as we head into Mother's Day Weekend, especially as that day factors prominently into the post.

During my third and final year of seminary, I was student pastor of a large UCC church just down the street from the school. Out of my entire seminary career, it was the only contextual education experience where, stereotypically, the seminarian was given everything that nobody else on staff wanted to do: I coordinated the senior high ministry, I organized the Thanksgiving Day service (producing this wonderful memory), and I preached on two Sundays that nobody else wanted, namely Scout Sunday and Mother's Day.

I didn't really get the big deal about Scout Sunday, but I did understand the bother with Mother's Day. There is a certain contingent that perhaps expects or prefers the gushing, wine-and-rose…

What is Fasting?

Previously: What is the Examen?, What is Lectio Divina?

I meant to have this latest entry in my ongoing series on spiritual practices posted during Lent, as many people take on fasts of various kinds during that season. Needless to say, that didn't happen. Of course, fasting is not limited to a particular time of year, and may be observed during many seasons of life not primarily dictated by the liturgical calendar. So maybe for some this is more timely now than it would have been earlier. Or it will be later. Whatever.

I'll begin by pointing out that, in my experience, fasting seems to have a bad rap among Christians that other disciplines don't, and for several reasons. One objection that I've encountered has to do with its arbitrariness: when groups I've been a part of have elected to take on a fast for a set period, some have chosen not to participate because they haven't understood its point. A second objection is that its nature is more negative: you are …

May the Small Sips Be With You

Read this a few times. Aaron J. Smith reflects on his experience with reconciling the Bible with mental illness:
The Bible is full of wisdom and food for faith in Jesus. It is the story and revelation of Jesus the gospel. But it is not the handbook for all of life we have made it out to be. It’s important that we talk about more than just what is in the Bible. There are parts of our existence and lives that the Bible never talks about because that’s not the purpose of scripture. Sola scriptura might be a good rule for our churches, but it is a horrible way to live our lives. When it comes to matters of mental health, we need to be intentional in speaking about them, after all, 1 in 4 people deals with mental health issues of one kind or another. These aren’t spiritual problems. From addictions to eating disorders to bipolar these things are broken brain problems. We need to acknowledge the reality of mental illness in our congregations and we need to speak to it. Speaking out about it…

Book Review: Sex, God, & the Conservative Church by Tina Schermer Sellers

One of the challenges I believe we face as therapists is helping our clients who seek to integrate their spiritual selves with their sexual selves, especially if their religious upbringing is foreign to us. As a sex therapist who also teaches at a Christian university, I have seen firsthand the floundering of young couples who grew up steeped in a religious culture that has historically treated the body and its desires with suspicion, and how often they have no idea how to live as sexual beings in their relationships and daily life. - Tina Schermer Sellers, Sex, God & the Conservative Church

I wasn't introduced to the so-called purity movement until my early college years. In those days, Joshua Harris' I Kissed Dating Goodbye had just been released and was already taking off. I even read it myself my freshman year, and in the aftermath of a breakup seemed sensible and true. Thankfully for me, that viewpoint eventually wore off, but the culture of shame that surrounded any …