Monday, November 17, 2014

It's the End of the Year As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

My mom tells that when the doctor gave me a shot as an infant, I had a look of rage on my face as I cried.

The surprised physician exclaimed, "Boy, he gets mad!"

My parents used to tell this anecdote to me with the idea that I didn't just lie there and whimper at something happening to me.  They told me that I had spirit.

This became a part of my identity - an independent nature that resists perceived abuse (even when it was really good for me like inoculation).

Is this something that I was born with?  The story seems to indicate this.

Or has it developed and strengthened with the telling and re-telling?

I kind of think it might be both.  Our stories are a strong part of who we are and how we perceive ourselves.

For those strong, independent-minded people, how do we come to grips with the theological declaration, "Jesus Christ is Lord"?

A nurse vaccinates Barack Obama against H1N1.jpg
Even the President of the free world has to submit sometimes.  But it doesn't look like he likes it!
Can we really accept God's reign in our lives or does it only work when it fits with what we had in mind already?  Are we really shaped to become more Christ-like or do we subconsciously shape our image of God to become more acceptable to what we already believe?

The reign of Christ is something in which I believe.  It is something for which I strive. I've made it my life's work.  And yet, there is a strong sense of the self.  When my will is in conflict with Christ's will, how do we learn to submit?

Submission seems weak or even belittling.

But it might just be good for us - like getting a shot for protection from disease.  It's a little painful but the long-term gain outweighs the initial discomfort.

This Sunday is the final Sunday of the church calendar year.  It is often called the Reign of Christ Sunday or Christ the King Sunday.  At First United Methodist Church of Edmond, we'll be exploring the separation of the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25:31-46.  If you can't join us for worship, check out the sermon on the front page of the website.  It'll be posted a few days following.

In Christ,


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Don't Bury the Passion

During my senior year at Sapulpa High School, my favorite class was honors English. Interestingly enough, it was also the toughest class I had that year!

Before this, English was not my favorite subject.  In fact, it would have been somewhere toward the bottom of the list.  

What made this particular class stand out?  

It was the teacher.  

Dotty Merchant taught our class, giving me an education on how to write about literature.  I won’t say that every book we read was great.  I certainly didn't enjoy the weekly papers analyzing these books.

So why was it such a great class?  It was a great class because Mrs. Merchant taught with passion!  She truly loved her subject and it showed up in her teaching.  She believed in what she taught and it helped me develop an interest in literature.
One of the many books we read.  I discovered a lot of the
nuances of psychology in literature as well as in the human
venture from this book.

I still use some of the analysis that I learned in that class.  All the paper writing served me well in college and especially seminary.  Maybe it was getting me ready to write sermons and blog articles on a weekly basis.  I am thankful for this teacher that helped me learn.  I am grateful for her passion.

You can always tell when someone is passionate about something.  They talk about the subject with an energy that they may not have for anything else.  Their eyes light up.  You can see that life has more meaning when they are thinking and speaking about their passion.

Sometimes you may encounter a passionate Christian that is new to the faith.  They want you to have the same relationship with Christ that they have discovered.  You may tell them, “It’s different for me.  I was raised in the church.”  Maybe it’s like the difference between a newlywed and someone celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.  Some of the initial excitement may be gone but the relationship is hopefully much deeper than it was 45 years ago.

As Christians, we will be more effective in our walk of faith if we can find our passion in the faith - that area or place where Christ touches you in a profound way.  Not only is this vital for us to find, it is vital for us to share.  The thing about faith that excites you to share it with someone else might cause them to look at their own faith again.

This Sunday, we will continue to examine the parables of Matthew 25, looking this week at the parable of the talents.  If you are in the Edmond area and don't regularly attend worship in a church, I would invite you to worship with us at First United Methodist Church.  We meet at 8:30, 9:45 and 11:00 am.

In Christ,


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Something to Teach Jesus

My latest round of books for my January Doctorate of Ministry courses has arrived and I've begun to read them in preparation for my assignments.

As I engage in being graded once more, I find that I am remembering how subjective the evaluation process actually is.

Exams can be stressful!
Some of my work seems golden while other professors see it as lacking.

For one course last summer, I didn't receive timely feedback on several papers.  I had actually turned in four papers before finding out what I had made on any of them.  I was disappointed to find that I had not been living up to the expectations of the instructor as reflected in my grades.

After the feedback, my grades did improve but not to the level of my own expectation.

Of course for the final grade, I felt as if I was being docked for the instructor's lack of attention in letting me know where I was as to my work.

Yet, there it is.  I got what I earned.  I can cry or whine about it but in the end, it was her assessment of how I did in her course and that's what counts (okay, I did learn some things as well but I'm not feeling especially gracious about it to mention that part).

I think that I was looking for a little reciprocation.  We had deadlines for turning in our papers - where is the deadline for the instructor?

This was never stated in the syllabus that we would get grades before any of the due dates.

So as an example of merit over mercy, this has me looking for grace.

Our Christian faith is one where we have long touted salvation by faith rather than salvation by our good deeds.  This may have come back to bite us in that our standards as Christians may have slipped.

As Protestants, we assume that since Martin Luther said we are saved by faith that everything in scripture would surely agree.

That is until you read the Gospel of Matthew.  It is full of teaching about our good works. In the lectionary, we are getting ready to spend three weeks in the 25th chapter of Matthew.  There are three parables or examples of works righteousness that are begging for us to examine in light of our own beliefs about grace.

This Sunday, we'll look at the parable of the foolish bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-13. When we read this, it seems as if Jesus has never even heard about Martin Luther's theology!

As I look at this parable, I am reminded about my work this summer.  It may be that Jesus would say, "Quit whining and work harder."  In the end, that's probably not bad advice.

Maybe I did learn something after all.

In Christ,


Photo by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Bookwalter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons