Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What's In A Name?

When I was a little boy, I went by Sammy.

Everybody called me Sammy and even though my name was Samuel, I didn't feel the need to go by anything else.  As I grew older, my elder brother started going by "Bob" rather than Robert.  This may have influenced me to drop the 'my' at the end of my name and just go by Sam.

However, when you make a name switch, just be prepared for your older relatives to never get it.

Okay, never is a bit strong.  My parents finally switched.

My grandmother never did though.  I think I was Sammy to her until she died.

And Bob was always Robert.

What is really in a name?

When I was in college, one of my friends Bryan Foster gave nicknames to everyone.  I was "the Sham" from Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.  Some of his names were better than others!

Identifying in a positive way is important.  It is important how we name one another in a positive, respectful way.  Anyone who ever had a nickname that was demeaning understands this!

This Sunday, we'll be looking at God's name from Exodus 3:1-15.  The name, "I am" is somewhat mysterious.  I've also heard it translated at "I am becoming who I am becoming".  How that unfolds for us as finite human beings is important.  We too are becoming who we are becoming.  If we allow God to be a part of this becoming, we are likely on our way to being more than we would be alone.

What happens when a lot of us get together to help each other do this?  We call it church and if you're in the Edmond area and don't currently go anywhere, I hope you'll join us!

In Christ,


Name tag picture by Eviatar Bach (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What if Subversion is your Only Option?

Dictionary.com defines "subvert" as a verb that means to overthrow, to cause the downfall of or to undermine the principles of.  A synonym it gives is "corrupt".

Wow, that sounds pretty negative.

To be subversive is to work against the establishment which also sounds rebellious.  To be subversive is counter-cultural.  For younger generations, there may be a cool factor involved in being subversive.  Think James Dean or for today maybe, Anonymous breaking down the standards set by the government and society.

Sometimes being subversive is the only option for those without any real power.  Br'er Rabbit stories were subversive stories disguised as animal tales for children.  They were told by slaves in the United States as stories where the white master is tricked by "Brother (Br'er) Rabbit."

As a child, I remember a particular class where the teacher yelled extensively.  To be fair, we were not the easiest of classes to teach.  We had more than our share of ornery kids (the "angelic" author excluded of course). But the yelling got worse and it seemed to more readily become our teacher's first option rather than a last resort.

Cassette recorders were fairly new at the time and one student brought his new battery operated recorder from home.  He put it in the desk and recorded our class.  It picked up our teacher's yelling quite nicely and the students all got a kick out of hearing it.

The original intent was not to provide change.  There was not an overall vision of activism or subversion.  But it soon got out to adults and it quickly changed the nature of the action.  The school administration became involved.  The tape was confiscated.  I don't remember the student getting into trouble, though.

One consequence was that the teacher didn't yell quite so much as she did before.

Was recording her unknowingly a subversive act?

It seemed to be in that it challenged the authority of the teacher to discipline the class in quite this manner.  It is one thing to yell at a class for motivation but it is quite another thing for this to become the normal mode of communication.

Tank Man" temporarily stops the advance
 of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, in Beijing, China.
The Hebrew people became slaves in Egypt. They were treated harshly and Exodus records genocide as a method for their population control.  There are acts of subversion by the Hebrews against the authorities in this week's lectionary text (Exodus 1:8-2:10) for the Old Testament.  The midwives and the mother of Moses use trickery to save lives.  How does God work to achieve justice in society?  It seems that God is willing to do things in an unorthodox manner.  Maybe this is because orthodox ways do not always work.  In any event, we'll be looking at issues of justice and subversion in worship and think about what God might be calling us to do today.

In Christ,


Photograph Published by The Associated Press, originally photographed by Jeff Widener. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dogs Under the Table

When I was appointed to Drummond, all the clergy used to gather for worship each month.  We would go over announcements, we might have some type of learning component and then we would worship with one of the pastors preaching.  Once in particular, our District Superintendent, Stan Warfield was preaching on this upcoming Sunday's lectionary text, Matthew 15:21-28.

We venerate dogs a lot more today than they did in first century Palestine.
In this passage, a Canaanite woman (Mark's gospel refers to her more specifically as Syrophoenician) comes to Jesus for healing for her daughter. Jesus puts her off with an implied slight that she as a Gentile is a dog. Her reply is that even the dogs feed on the crumbs under the master's table.  Jesus seems impressed with her answer and announces that her daughter has been healed.

When Stan was preaching on this text, we had a wide variety of pastors present including some older retired pastors serving smaller churches in the district.  One in particular liked to "Amen" the points Stan was making during his sermon.  As Stan told the details of the story, the pastor kept right on with "Amen!"

Stan was building up to the shock of Jesus's response to her and finally concluded with, "Jesus called this woman a dog!"

Right on cue, the pastor replied, "Amen!"

It kind of reduced the dramatic effect that Stan was going for on this particular point!

So what do we do with this text?

How do we reconcile this treatment of the Gentile woman with our belief that God so loved the world?

It is a difficult passage to be sure and we'll continue to wrestle with it on Sunday.  If you have some thoughts about it, please comment below!

Picture by darwin Bell from San Francisco, USA (waiting under the table  Uploaded by Fæ)  via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Wild cats and Rhubarb Cobbler

I found that I could predict my grandparents' behavior from an early age.  This came from our travels to Houston, Missouri to see them along with various uncles, aunts and cousins.  Grandma and Grandpa lived on a small farm in the country a few miles from town.  No matter when we arrived, Grandma would have food for us (my favorite was her rhubarb cobbler).  A big glass of fresh milk (that Grandpa milked from one of his cows) would accompany the dessert.  
Cobbler with ice cream is one of the best things there is.

As good as the cobbler was, my favorite thing to do was to play outside.  Grandma had plenty of what they called "barn cats" roaming around.  These cats were not used to being handled and so were pretty difficult to catch.  When you actually accomplished catching one, you could expect LOTS of scratches.

In addition to all the claw marks on my arms, my one allergy as a child was to cats.  It wouldn't be long before I began to sneeze my head off.  You would think that natural consequences would keep me from handling the cats but I was what you would call a slow learner.  
Petting this type of cat is not so much relaxing as it is a contest of will.

This would exasperate my grandma to no end.  I can still hear her saying, "Sammy, why don't you leave them cats ALONE!"  She hated seeing me so miserable - snorting around the house with my eyes watering.  I don't think that she realized that I found the allergic reaction an acceptable trade off for the conquest of actually catching one of her wild cats!

Another thing my grandparents enjoyed was watching religious television.  This usually meant some type of TV evangelist.  My cousins and I did not enjoy this type of programming at all and with nothing on television that interested us, we would find that being outside was a lot more fun.  I remember one time in particular that the channel was turned to something other than religious broadcasting and my cousins were glued to the set.  I wanted to play outside but they wouldn't budge.  I went in to Grandpa and said, "I think the 700 Club is on."  He immediately went in and said, "Why don't we watch this!" while turning the channel.  My cousins soon joined me outside!

As our loved ones become somewhat predictable to us, this may evolve into a basic kind of trust.  As we spend more time with God whether in worship, devotion, Bible study or prayer, we find that it becomes easier to trust in God.  Sometimes when life disappoints us, we might even be angry with God.  But rather than abandoning the faith, we work in out like we would with an old friend.

How does the church help to relate this trust in God?  This Sunday, we'll be looking at trust as we encounter Jesus walking on the water reflected in Matthew 14:22-33.  If you don't yet see God as an old friend, maybe this is a good time to start the habit!

Cobbler picture by Ralph Daily (Flickr: Peach Cobbler) via Wikimedia Commons
Barn cat picture by By Usien via Wikimedia Commons