Monday, December 21, 2015

The Force Awakens

I took the family to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening day.  

We didn’t know how crowded it would be – I warned the kids that we might not get to sit together.  I was shocked when we walked right in.  There was no line and we were the second family in the theater – we sat right in the very middle and had great seats!

I would have loved a real-looking lightsaber like these
but they didn't exist when I was nine.
I was a big Star Wars fan as a kid.  My ninth birthday party involved taking a bunch of my friends to see Star Wars in the theater.  We then went back to my house and ran around using whatever we could find to double as lightsabers that we swung at each other.  I remember my mom making the declaration that the party was over and driving all my friends home!

Star Wars was such a great story because it tapped into archetypal characters that endure through time.  You had the Hero in Luke Skywalker that went on a journey from innocence to maturity as he vanquished evil.  You had the Rogue in Han Solo whose very name represents a me-first attitude.  His journey was to discover that he could in fact care for something more than himself.  You had the Damsel in Distress in Princess Leia who also turned this image on its head by being more than capable of taking charge.  You had the Wise Old Man in Obi Wan Kenobi.  You had the Fool in both C-3PO and R2-D2.  You had the Animal Companion in Chewbacca.  You had the Devil in Darth Vader.

These classic images told a good story where good triumphed over evil.

As we tap into these helpful myths once again with the new release, we realize that these archetypal stories help us to deal with our own chaos and anxiety.  It is no coincidence that the first release was later subtitled, “A New Hope”.  This is what humanity continues to long for.

This week, we also will retell an old old story at Christmas.  We will likely hear Luke 2:1-20 read and if we are attentive, we may rediscover the sense of wonder that this story brings.

In this narrative, we discover that God has dwelt among us.  We remember that God does indeed love us.  We recall that good triumphs over evil.

Worship at Christmas is special because unlike a movie, we actually enter into this story.  We find that our faith in Christ doesn’t just make us observers – as fun as that can be.  We are actual participants.  As we darken the sanctuary and then light the candles at the end of our worship, we are signifying that our job as Christians is to help shine the light of Christ into the world.

The importance of this can be staggering. 

I hope that you’ll make worship a part of your life journey this Christmas Eve.  If you’re in the Edmond area, we’ll have services on December 23 at 7 pm as well as December 24 at 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm.  There might be a crowd but it will be worth it!

In Christ,


Picture by The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Passing the Peace

I've been on the receiving end of many angry outbursts as a pastor.

Some of them have been deserved.

Some of them have been because I was an unknown irritant and the rage and frustration finally erupted.

Some of them have been because the person was grieving and I represented the only physical substitute for God that they can yell at.

We all know what it is like for someone to direct angry words our way.  It is never something we would pursue unless we have some kind of weird disorder!

Do arguments over sports represent
a kind of scapegoat for us to release
our pent up anxiety?
Physiologically, our bodies react when this occurs.  We often go into the "fight or flight" response which includes an increase in heart and breathing rates.  Our adrenaline levels also rise. Some become a little sick to their stomach.

If this happens too often for us, the stress of the body moving back and forth into this state may lower our immunity and we can become fatigued or sick more easily.

Lots of people experience conflict at work or at home or at school.  For some it is their extended family members.  For others, it is their in-laws. Some have neighbors that are antagonists.

If you live with a sense that you have an ongoing enemy, you realize that you are in need of the Prince of Peace.  This Sunday, we'll examine Isaiah 11:1-9.  Christians later adopted this Hebrew text as a scripture that speaks to us of Jesus Christ.  What were the people of Isaiah's time going through that they needed to hear this word to them?

There has been conflict since there have been people.  God grants us rest from this. God has always done this.  God continues to do this for us today.

Even in the midst of shootings and warfare and violence.

A blessed peace is what we need.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, we have one more Sunday to wait. But while we're waiting, may the peace of Christ which passes all our understanding, be ours to share.

In Christ,


Picture by Googie man on CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Stress and the Baby Jesus

Stress is a normal part of the holidays.  It starts right before Thanksgiving and goes right up through New Year's.  

Much of it has to do with seeing relatives that we don't often interact with on a regular basis.

Our relatives have interesting issues - we love them but may also have unresolved conflicts or tension from years ago.  

There are family dynamics that come into light that can be blessings but just as often may cause us to curse!

Moving can also be stressful.  Whether you are moving to a new town or new job or new school, it has its own set of hurdles.  As a kid, I remember moving from Tulsa to Sapulpa.  It wasn't terrible but I didn't know a soul where I was going.  That first day of school, I had to meet new friends as well as navigate a new culture.  School had started the month before so everyone else was used to their routine.
The new drop off is ready to receive
people this Sunday!

I'm not sure if I got snappy with my parents during this time but I wouldn't be surprised if I did.  We often grouse at those whom we love when stressed because it's going to come out somewhere!

At First United Methodist Church of Edmond, we are moving into a new space.  We are moving into a new worship service at 10:50 am.  We are dealing with the stress of things we didn't foresee as well as things we did!  It could be that people feel a little irritated.  For some this comes as a surprise.  After all, we are in a brand new setting - everything looks pretty!  It's got that new car smell to it.

Why would anyone complain?

It may just be a fairly normal reaction to the stress of adaptation.  The good news is that God is a part of this.  We are able to take a deep breath and remember that this is what we've been working toward.  Maybe not the minor irritation - but the mission as a whole to create new space for discipleship.

New space always comes with a few headaches but nothing we can't handle.  

And at the same time, it is very exciting and fresh!  Our glass is more than half full and we have more than enough to share with our community.  Thanks be to God to all who got us here!

As we look toward the baby Jesus on Christmas, may you find the Peace of Christ once more!

In Christ,


Monday, November 30, 2015

Are You Sure It Works Like That?

Passage for Second Sunday in Advent: Luke 3:1-6

Sometimes life is counter-intuitive.  In order to get our desired results, we have to do things that seem like we might be going backwards.  For instance, in order to grab something that is above your head, you might stretch out to the tips of your toes.  It is still out of reach.  How do you get it?

You could try to jump from the tips of your toes but it would be more effective to squat down to get some spring in your legs before jumping up.  You have to go down before you go up.

Flying Officer T. R. Jacklin inspects the damage to
his plane after flying it back from a mission in the Pacific.
During World War II, there were patterns of bullet holes in surviving aircraft.  They only had enough armored plates to partially outfit the planes.

Where would you put the armor?

The natural thinking would be to put it where the majority of the holes were.  Abraham Wald thought about it differently.  He concluded that these surviving planes were able to fly in spite of being hit in these areas.  Those planes that were shot down were likely hit in the places that didn't show patterns of damage.

So he put the armor where there were no bullet holes!

As we think this week about repentance, it might seem that we would be better off in glossing over former sins or mistakes we have made.  What's done is done and it may be too painful to revisit.

While this is true if one is truly at peace with something, we often try to put embarrassing incidents out of mind without actually resolving them through the forgiveness we need. Then the consequences come back to haunt us in ways we don't expect or realize.  Our behavior toward others may be off.  We might be touchy around certain areas.  There may be topics that are taboo because we are sensitive to what they might recall.

If this is the case, we may need to do some soul searching and some repentance.

In order for us to move forward in a healthy way, we have to tend to those things in our past which may be holding us back.  This can be counter-intuitive, but it works.

I think this is what John the Baptizer is calling people to do when they come out to hear him preach at the Jordan River.  They are convicted and find themselves being baptized in the river.  This coming out of the water reminded the people of their ancestors who crossed the river to enter into the Promised Land for the first time.

It was like starting over.

Repentance.  It's not just for the truly horrible.  It's for all of us.

It helps us to prepare the way of the Lord.

Sometimes we have to go down before we can go up.

In Christ,


Picture by Harrison, John Thomas [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What is our Capacity for Love?

Paris shootings - the day after.
As I have watched the devastation in Paris unfold, it is numbing.

At first, it took me back to the awful scene of the homecoming parade in Stillwater a few weeks ago when so many lives were crushed right before my eyes.

It then took me back to 9/11 in seeing the images unfold as a nation stayed glued to the television for days on end as we sought to understand what had happened.

Then I remembered the scenes from the Oklahoma City bombing that impacted so many lives.

Tragedy has always been a part of life.  It is not that we have a greater capacity for violence but that our technology allows us to inflict harm upon such large masses of people all at once.

Before the attacks in Paris, our country was receiving refugees from Syria that were trying to flee the awful violence going on there.  Our capacity for compassion at this point was understandable.  I've watched stories of the persecution not only of Muslims but of Christians as well.  As a father, I can put myself in their shoes.

These stories give us a larger capacity for compassion if not love.

Now that we have seen the horror inflicted upon Paris, we become uneasy about a repeat performance closer to home.  We hear things like the brother of two of the terrorists had no clue that they were planning this.  He said that terrorists blend in with others and give off nothing that would alert anyone to their plans or activities.

The mystery surrounding their identity is a chief weapon of terrorism: fear.

The fear is legitimate in that we may not know who we should be watching.  It makes us paranoid and those of Middle Eastern descent in our country become question marks in the eyes of many.  How well do we really know them?

This line of thinking is very different from when Jesus said, "If you welcome a stranger, you welcome me."

He said this in a day when there was plenty of violence.  He said this when his own country was under foreign occupation.  He said this when people were afraid for their own safety and the safety of their families.

Acts of terror try to increase our capacity for fear.  Fear is a powerful weapon.  When I am afraid, I set my trust aside.  When I am afraid, I set my compassion aside.

This Sunday, we will celebrate the Reign of Christ.  What does that mean in a world torn asunder?  Is it still legitimate?  I believe that it is.

I believe that my faith helps me to conquer my fears.  This doesn't mean that we don't take necessary precautions.  It just means that my perspective is not ruled by fear - which is sometimes easier said than done!

We'll join together in worship and prayer.  We'll pray for our allies in France who are suffering.  We'll pray for our soldiers who are put in harms way.  We'll pray for the innocent families trying to flee a war-torn area.  We'll even listen to our Lord and pray for our enemies which is harder than anything else we do.

Because the Reign of Christ is real.  It becomes all the more tangible when we live it out.

The Reign of Christ increases my capacity for love.

In the end, this is more powerful than any act of terrorism.

In Christ,


Photo by Maya-Anaïs Yataghène from Paris, France (Paris Shootings : The day after) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Do Whatever We Ask of You

This was the oldest of my X-Men comics which
was pretty cool but I really wanted #1!

What would you do with a million dollars?

I used to play this “what if” game as a child.  It was fun to think about having zero restrictions.

Would I buy the latest Atari 2600 system with all of the game cartridges – even all of the different ones published by Activision?

Or maybe I would pick up all the back issues of my favorite comic books like the X-Men or the Avengers (long before they were movies, I read those stories as a kid). 

Having my own swimming pool with a high dive and a huge slide into the deep end was also something that would have fit nicely in my back yard.

My parents always said something or other about not spoiling me.  At the time this seemed like a ridiculous reply.

Later as we got older, the fantasy question often turns from what would you do with a million dollars to what would you do for a million dollars.  That small change of prepositions changes the entire nature of the question, doesn’t it?

Now we are talking about morals and boundaries in ways that are more profound.

The question changes from a fantasy of excess to an exploration of character and identity.  Kids also have a way of pushing the envelope with one another into places that adults hesitate to go.  As an adult, if I ask it of you, I realize that you might ask it of me!  Kids don’t seem to care.

Sometimes we would say things that we would do just to shock the others.  After all, no one was really going to front the money for such an outlandish experiment.  Later they turned this sometimes dark question into a dark movie called Indecent Proposal which takes the viewer places we really don’t want to go.  But shock value and curiosity go hand in hand.

I wonder what Jesus thought when two of his disciples said to him, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  After the miracles they saw him perform, was this their version of “What if we had a million dollars”?

I always picture Jesus smirking when he replies, “What is it you want me to do for you?”

Of course the disciples miss the bigger picture.  It’s been 2,000 years and today’s disciples are still missing it.  It is interesting that Jesus seems to turn the question from what would you do with a million dollars to what would you do for a million.  He lets the disciples know that there are expectations for those who follow him.  It's more fun to think about the great treasure than our responsibility in working toward it.  But it's also comforting to know that they struggled with the same things we do.

In Christ,


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

We All Like Our Stuff

Scripture Reading: Mark 10:17-31

When we first moved to Piedmont, Sheryl was pregnant with Kyla.  The parsonage was empty for several months before we arrived as the congregation worked on restoring it.  It was a nice parsonage and was built only about thirteen years before we moved in.

One of the impressive things about that house was all of the storage available to us.

We had a ton of space in the attic.  There were large cabinets in the hallway that you could sleep several people in if they were empty.  We had closets and book shelves and a shed out back.
I see a sign like this and I want to look.  What if there's something I need?

At the beginning of our time, they were empty.  We praised the storage many times over.

This kind of storage allowed you to just keep stuff.  Stuff you might normally get rid of!

If you had a place for it, why not just keep it?

After two children and over thirteen years of accumulation, we finally filled that house up!

When it was time to pack, I no longer praised the storage.   We were moving to a home with far less space and so now we had some choices to make.

We threw away a lot of stuff that we thought we might need.

We made trip after trip to the Goodwill thinking that others might still find it valuable.

One thing we did was improve the attic storage in our new house so that we could fill it with boxes of the things we couldn't bear to part with.  The majority of these boxes have been untouched for over a year now.

I don't think that I am overly fond of material things.  But I have my share.  Someday my kids will inherit a lot of junk.  They'll probably throw most of it out.

What does this mean for our life as spiritual people?  Do our things keep us from being more Christ-like to others?  Do our attachments make us superficial?  With apologies to Sting, can we be spiritual people in the material world?

I do know this - I haven't missed any of the things I threw away or gave away.  I'm not sure what that says but I think if I pay attention, it might be significant.

In Christ,


Picture by Ellin Beltz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

When Trauma Hits Home

On Saturday, October 24th, my immediate family drove with Sheryl’s parents to Stillwater to attend the Homecoming parade at OSU.  Sheryl’s cousin was up for homecoming queen and we wanted to see her live and in person.  This would be the first time I had been to a homecoming parade in Stillwater since my senior year when I was in it.

We were watching the floats go by from the corner of Main Street and Hall of Fame.  As we stood just behind the front row of people, we were lamenting that we weren’t closer so that we wouldn’t have any obstructions in our line of sight.

At the end of the parade, we heard a loud bang from our left and I first thought it was some kind of fireworks signaling the end of the festivities but then we saw the car smashing through the crowd right in front of us.  It happened so quickly, that there wasn’t time to think.

Then we saw the aftermath.

I began to search for our children to make sure they were okay.  I got them to Sheryl’s parents and then turned to see Sheryl trying to help the victims.  I remember imploring people not to move anyone but to wait for the medical personnel. 

Then I pulled her away from the scene and we all made our way back to our vehicle.  Our daughter then noticed that she was bleeding slightly on her hand and must have been struck by debris from when the police motorcycle was hit by the car. Before we left town, we circled up in the parking garage and prayed.

In the initial moments when I realized this was horribly wrong, I had this sense of fear that it was an attack similar to a school shooting and I wanted to get my family away from the scene as quickly as I could.  

Later as the shock wore off, I began to feel guilty that I didn’t do more for the victims of that crash.  It was especially bad after I realized that the immediate danger was the only danger and no additional attacks were forthcoming. 

Sheryl had the right idea of helping the victims but I also felt that I needed to keep our children from witnessing the deceased and the injured among the mayhem. 

It is hard to know the right thing to do in such a moment.

How do we bear witness to the love of God in a scene like this?

As we attempt to return to our regular lives, we are replaying the scene over and over.  It is distracting us and keeping us from all the regular things that are going on around us as if everything were normal.  It is crying out for our attention. 
When we hurt, we offer this pain
to God who suffers with us.

We are certainly praying for the victims and their families.  We are praying for Adacia Chambers as well even though she almost killed us.  Like the rest of us, I can only speculate at this point on the question of why it happened at all. 

I have ministered before in times of tragedy and loss.  I always state confidently that I do not believe that God is the ultimate author of this tragedy.  People do things to hurt others and have the free will to do so.  I also have the free will to respond.  No matter how many times people try to put others on the cross through pain and suffering, I believe that God responds with resurrection.

A part of our witness as followers of Jesus Christ is to point out where we see it.

As the images of that day replay in my mind and I worry about what kind of emotional trauma my children may be experiencing from it, I am praying not to be bitter or resentful.  I am free to feel or experience whatever I would like.  But I believe peace is the ultimate prize.

May the peace of God be yours today.

In Christ,


Photo by Immanuel Giel, Memorial Church in Speyer, Germany, used under Creative Commons.

Monday, October 19, 2015

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service?

This particular sign is a recent phenomenon in American culture, spreading its way across the country in the 1970’s.  It was likely a reaction to the lax dress codes of hippies more than for health or sanitation reasons.  It indicates a minimum responsibility on the part of the customer as per the requirements of the store to enter into business transactions together.

I wonder if the same logic applies to this business?
This indicates that we have certain expectations for you if you would like to be served.

It is not any different in the church than in a business.  We don’t have any signs up, but the same would likely apply for someone entering our sanctuary for worship.

A few years ago at another church, one of the worship leaders would take off her shoes when she led in singing.  While most seemed to be indifferent, there were a few comments made as to the impropriety of this action.  Some were uncomfortable, just as if someone wore a ball cap in the sanctuary.  The lack of footwear might make a difference if interpreted in light of God’s command to Moses to take off his shoes while he was on holy ground.

I don’t remember ever leading in worship where someone lacked a shirt.  It might be that I’ve given devotions at a youth pool party where this could have been the case, but none of those were in the sanctuary.  I do recall a youth minister who was asked to wear blouses to worship that were not quite so low cut!

We may have other expectations that are unspoken such as we expect those participating to be sober or to not disrupt the service.  While we might overlook a small child talking or a baby crying, the same behavior would not be indulged among the adults! It’s nice if everyone stays awake through the service but no one will be asked to leave if they fall asleep.

This allows us to think about God’s grace.  What are the limits, if any to God’s grace? What are our particular responsibilities in receiving it?  More importantly, what responsibilities do we bear in sharing it?  Do we place expectations on others before we are willing to tell the old, old story?

When we are called to serve the church as one of our membership vows, we do enter into partnership with the congregation in this service.  We are not expected to serve alone or on an island.

This Sunday, we’ll continue to explore the vows of membership as we look at what it means to serve.  Our scripture reading for consideration will be Genesis 18:16-33 which is a fascinating dialogue between Abraham and God on what is acceptable compassion versus judgment.  I would invite you to read it prior to Sunday's worship as we continue to look to Abraham as our example!

In Christ,


Photo by Joe Mabel (Photo by Joe Mabel) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, October 12, 2015

Present in the Moment

Sometimes it is difficult to be in the moment.

When Sheryl and I rented a convertible and drove up Highway 1 in northern California, we put the kids in the back and had the whole Pacific on our left.  They were more interested in the DVDs we rented at Redbox along the way than the scenery.

Are we less vulnerable interacting through cyberspace?
I'm not blaming them.  As a kid, I spent way too much time on an electronic football game that was basically a blinking red light moving around other red lights. These lights of course represented the players.  I hate to say that it was entertaining but there you go.

I can remember long car rides and thinking how cool it would be to have a television in the back seat. Now that we're there, it is pretty cool (and you can pick what you want to watch).  But as we get what we want for games and entertainment, are we missing out on human interaction?

I'm not going to say that we should ban our phones or our tablets or the cool gadgets that are so entertaining.  They do make life enjoyable.  I'm just wondering that if they are so entertaining, and we are choosing to spend more time with them, what were we doing before with that time?

Some of that time I'm sure was throw-away time.

But not all of it.

What does it mean to be in the moment when there is so much drawing us away from the physical reality?

As I continue the series on stewardship, this Sunday, we will explore what it means to commit your presence to Christ through a particular congregation.   I realize the irony of the theme falling on this weekend as it is in the middle of a five day fall break for Edmond public schools.  But if you are in town, I hope you'll join us for worship - we'll need you to shore up our congregation for those traveling!  If you are out of town, you can enter in your web browser at 11 am and you'll have us live!

In Christ,


Photo by Tomwsulcer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"I'll Pray for You!"

“I’ll pray for you!”

There’s a lot of power in that sentence. 

Sometimes it is comforting to have people praying for your health or relationship or job or overall success.

When I was in the hospital as a junior high student, both my church youth group and my class mates at school were sending me cards they had made and signed.  They let me know that they were praying for my full recovery and that gave me a connection to others that helped sustain me through the difficult and frustrating times of recovery. 

At other times in life, people have said “I’ll pray for you” as if I am deficient.  This is still a statement of power but in a different manner.  The simple declaration can imply, “I am in a better place spiritually than you.  I am closer to God.  I am praying that God will change you to become more like me.”

This second approach is actually an abuse of prayer.  It wields prayer like a weapon.  It is designed to orient the world to the self rather than to God.

Studies have shown that more and more people are getting fed up with the followers of Jesus looking at the world in this manner.  While the first example can be moving even to people who don’t consider themselves religious, the latter turns people away from faith rather quickly.

Fortunately, United Methodists hold to prevenient grace.  We believe that God is already active in all people’s lives whether they acknowledge it or not.  This understanding leads us away from weaponized prayer.  It also helps us to see that when we pray for others, we open ourselves to transformation as much if not more so than the individual for whom we are praying.

If you’ve joined a United Methodist congregation, you likely committed to upholding that congregation with your prayers.  This (hopefully) doesn’t mean that you’re praying for the church to do a better job of meeting your needs!  Rather, it means that we recognize that we are an important piece of the puzzle and if there is a need in the church, we might be led to see our own part in the solution.

If you’re in the Edmond area and religiously unaffiliated, we would love to have you join us for worship as we explore this topic on Sunday.  If this doesn’t apply to you, you can worship with us online at your convenience!  We will pray for you because we need it as much if not more so than you do.

In Christ,


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Changing the World

"Well, she still tends to go out to the clubs with her friends a little too much, but I'll have that stopped after we are married."

"Well, he doesn't have very good sense about spending, but I'll change that once we tie the knot."

This is not what any couple is looking for when
they are meeting to discuss their upcoming marriage!
Sometimes when I'm visiting with a couple looking forward to their marriage, I hear privately from one or the other that there are certain tendencies that they plan on changing once they are wed. This is a red flag for sure!

Once we are convinced that we can change someone, neither one of us will likely be happy.

If these situations are not discussed and worked out to an agreeable stance for both parties, the health of the relationship will begin to deteriorate.

In dealing with relationships, I observe the rule that the only person we can really change is ourselves.  If we are unhappy with someone's behavior, we might change how we react to that behavior but we also understand that our own actions are all that we control. If the person's behavior will not change and it is truly offensive, what remains is the decision to sever ties with the individual.

Is the relationship worth putting up with certain things?  Another way of thinking about this is, what is my level of tolerance?  Each person must decide this for him or herself.

As United Methodists, we are trying to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.  That is a rather large task!

We understand that we can't really change the world until we change ourselves.  We seek to do this by being faithful to the call of God in our lives.  United Methodists respond to this call through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.  What does it mean to be faithful in each of these ways?

The faithful example from scripture for Christians, Jews and Muslims is Abraham and Sarah.  We'll be exploring their different stories in worship each week as they relate to one of these five responses.  This particular Sunday, we'll begin with their story in Genesis 12:1-9 and my sermon title will be "Holding Nothing Back".  If you are unable to join us in person at First United Methodist Church of Edmond, you can catch our livestream of the 11:00 am service here.

And if you don't attend anywhere regularly, you can begin that change in your life this Sunday!

In Christ,


Picture by Jennifer Pahlka from Oakland, CA, sfo [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Never Too Late to Start

Lectionary Text: James 5:13-20

As we finish the letter of James, we see that it ends with a look at the power of prayer in the community of faith.  This is really about our relationships together and how God is the one that binds us together.

A community of faith cares about one another and we lift each other up in prayer to God when we find one of us hurting or anxious.

In case we miss the relational tone of the passage, we find this rather odd statement in verses 19-20:

My brothers and sisters,if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (NRSV)
Now this does remind us to reach out to those who may be backsliding or slipping in their faith.  All may agree that this is important work and that we shouldn't write anyone off.

But what is fascinating to me is the term, "cover a multitude of sins."

Is James talking about covering the wandering person's sins or covering the sins of the one bringing back the lost sheep?

Even our Lord fell and needed the help of Simon of Cyrene
to carry the cross for a while.
Either way, it seems to move the focus of salvation to the work of the individual and away from the work already accomplished in Jesus Christ. You can see why Martin Luther with his emphasis on salvation by faith, called this an "epistle of straw."

But if we look at the act of bringing back a wandering soul into the fold, how could this important work cover a multitude of our own sins?

Maybe it doesn't diminish the work of Jesus but rather allows us to understand our own sins in perspective.  As we see one who is wayward, we may offer, "You aren't that much different from me."  After all, we've all had doubts or times when we were less than faithful.  As we offer the grace of Jesus Christ to another who is hurting, this reminds us of the grace we all need.

In this instance, our own multitude of sins is covered not by our good works but by our own realization of our own great need for salvation ourselves.

It shows us that it is never too late to start when it comes to redemption.  Sometimes we need others to bring us back and other times we are the ones showing the way.  As such we are partners with Christ in the grace that permeates the world!

In Christ,


Photo by Tomas Castelazo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 14, 2015

Retaining an Identity

Lectionary Passage: James 3:13-4:8

What does James mean when he tells us to submit ourselves to God in verse 7?

Submission is not a popular concept in American society.  We think of it as losing and no one likes to be thought of as a loser.  This leads us to associate weakness with submission.

If we seek to be more Christ-like in our lives, this does cause us to mute those parts of our lives that would be contrary to God's will for humanity.

Do we imagine that submission to God involves a violent
suppression of our deepest selves?
For instance, I might be in the habit of raising my voice in anger to others when I disagree with them.  Does shouting down an opposing view help to promote peace or does it make me a bully?

It might be important for me to submit this angry reaction to God and to work with God to develop better responses that are more in line with how we might imagine God interacting with us.

I don't believe that becoming Christ-like means that we give up our own identities.  It doesn't mean being absorbed into the Borg or becoming unthinking robots.

I believe that the wide variety of our different personalities expresses God as creator as well as anything.

Rather, submission may have more to do with trust.  If I trust in God fully, I may not experience anger quite so quickly.  If I see my needs being met in God more readily, I may not be as selfish or greedy.  If I find joy in the deep and abiding peace of Jesus Christ, I may find that my joy in other things is more expansive.  If anything, we find our truest selves as we deepen our relationship with God.

I'll be exploring this more in this Sunday's sermon.  We are now live-streaming our 11:00 am worship service and so if you can't join us in person, you need only an internet connection:

I hope you will join us if you are not otherwise committed!

In Christ,


Photo by Scott Finkelstein [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Watch Your Mouth!

Lectionary passage: James 3:1-12

This week's reading from James gives some pretty standard advice - watch your mouth! It resonated with people in the 1st century and it still resonates with us in the 21st.

As we see the rise of Donald Trump in the Republican primary race, he brings with him a brash, no-nonsense kind of talk.  He's not afraid to step on people's toes.  Quite frankly, this is what is making him attractive to many Republican voters at this point.  He is a political outsider that is willing to tell it like it is (or at least tell it from his outsider's prospective).

James says that we've tamed all manner
of ferocious beasts except for the tongue.
However, the very thing that makes Trump a contender in the early race is alienating him from some of the constituency he seeks.  While some find him refreshing, he is also viewed as brash, arrogant and rude.  Is it helpful for the leader of the free world to identify people as 'losers"? Yes, it is within your political rights as an American, but is it expedient to do so?  Trump identifies himself as a Presbyterian.  Conversing with people - even people you disagree with - in a respectful manner is something Christians promote.  This is a value we also promote in our nation's schools.  If you served in the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, you learned it.  There is power in rhetoric.  There is power in how we address one another.

If Trump continues to lead in the primaries, his Christian brothers and sisters must press upon him the importance of this lesson.  If Americans begin to emulate his style in their interactions with one another, my fear is that the polarization of our country will get worse before it gets better.

I see this lesson so clearly in Trump because we are alike in a lot of ways.  There have been times in my life when I have verbally abused other people.  Some of it was done in jest and other times I was actually seeking to injure with my words.  Even though I may have come out on top in the individual encounter, I never won because when I resorted to this kind of behavior, I became the "loser."  

As I continue to grow in Christ, I find that I no longer have any enemies. I only have people that see things differently.  How I communicate with these people makes all the difference as to the reign of the prince of peace in the world - or at least our corner of it.

In Christ,


Photo taken by the author in Kruger National Park, South Africa, August, 2011.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Overcoming Our Tendencies

Featured Lectionary Scripture: James 2:1-17

What would the reaction of our congregation be if Kevin Durant attended worship?

As a perennial All-Star in the NBA and the key member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, I dare say that he would likely garner some attention.  At almost 7 feet tall, he would be noticeable if he entered our sanctuary (likely he would have to duck through the main entrance).

I would guess that many in our congregation would call me, asking me if he was going to return, excited about the possibility of worshiping regularly with this local giant.

However, if someone who was homeless attended, I might get a call but it would more likely be surrounding safety issues.  We wouldn't be so giddy about this possibility (which is actually much more likely).

As we consider both scenarios, it is human nature to seek after fame and fortune.  We might think of the benefits to our church such as the question, "What if he tithed?"  Would his presence attract other followers who would benefit from regular church attendance? There are lots of reasons why we might seek to pull in such an attractive prospect.

But this can be done to a lesser degree for anyone.  A medical doctor could be pursued for some of the same reasons.  If a wealthy person garners more attention than a poor person, is this any different than the selling of indulgences by the church in the middle ages?

As we consider the mission of the church, we often try to balance the needs of the membership versus the needs of the community at large.  A mission-minded model would say that the needs of the community outweigh the needs of the congregation because we are called by Christ to serve.  This becomes evident in our scripture for this week. As difficult as this question may be to answer, it remains important as a vision of what we could be.  Without it, we will never arrive.

In Christ,


Picture by By Keith Allison (Flickr: Kevin Durant) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

As for me and my house...

In Edmond, lots of school is starting this week - whether it is our public schools or UCO. As I think back to my freshman year, I remember being active in church every Sunday.

You may not be surprised at this considering my profession, but it was a big deal for me because it was my decision.  I didn't have a car and I took advantage of the church van that went to the dorms and picked up college students.

I was often running to make it with wet hair but I was one of the regulars.  I think that I even wore a jacket and a tie which pretty much dates me - different times.

I was also active in the United Methodist Campus Ministry.  It is referred to as the Wesley Foundation which I think is not a smart name for us as a denomination but there you go.  Their building was right across from campus and so I could easily walk there and often did my first two years of college (I moved in my junior year).

Some gods we serve today make us believe
that they are serving us.
I would like to say that my intense spirituality drove me to seek this out but it was really more practical than this.  The dorms didn't serve dinner on Sunday nights.  On my first weekend, I saw an ad in the campus newspaper (another throwback) for the United Methodist Student Center and they were going to have a free dinner on Sunday night for college students.  I would like to say they had me at "United Methodist" but as enticing as that was, they really had me at "free".

As a young man not even 18 years old, living on my own for the first time in my life, I had a lot of choices opening up before me.  I believe that I chose wisely.

This is not to say that I was a wise man.  Anyone who knew me during that time could tell you lots of stories that would cause you to shake your head.  But for the major decision of how and where I would spend a lot of my free time - it was in the church.

This Sunday as we encounter lots of new students, we want to be especially welcoming. That free dinner that so enticed me?  Cooked and served by the local United Methodist Women.

We have lots of young men and women who are making choices that may shape their identities for the rest of their lives.  Those who are active in the church have already chosen to serve the Lord.  We hope that by our example and our hospitality, others will join us in that choice.

This Sunday, I will be preaching on Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18 where he speaks about integrity and the choice to serve God rather than the other local deities.  We still have a lot of choices today.  If you're in Edmond, I hope you'll join us for worship!

In Christ,


Photo by By Guillaume Capron from Issy les Moulineaux, France      This image was downloaded from Flickr by Medium69. Cette image a été téléchargée depuis Flickr par Medium69. (Un petit déj en terrasse ...) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hedging Your Bet

If I had to ask what King Solomon was known for, most could probably tell me his wisdom.

He was pretty prudent in his dealings with foreign powers and really made Israel a force to be reckoned.  Solomon makes a marriage alliance with Egypt which was not known for allowing their daughters to be given in marriage to foreign kings.

There is quite a bit of literature in the Hebrew Bible prohibiting marriage to foreigners.

Exodus 34:12-16 (NRSV) reads:

Take care not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you are going, or it will become a snare among you.  You shall tear down their altars, break their pillars, and cut down their sacred poles (for you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).  You shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to their gods, someone among them will invite you, and you will eat of the sacrifice.  And you will take wives from among their daughters for your sons, and their daughters who prostitute themselves to their gods will make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.

Of course, in Exodus, the people have just escaped from Egypt.  This seems to be pretty clear language concerning the intermingling of cultures.  The problem is not racial but religious.  We see that as the people were still trying to establish themselves (and their culture) in the promised land, they needed to stay true to their faith in order for it to become established.

We also have a clear sense of intermingling culturally in the Bible.  Moses had already taken a foreign wife.  Solomon's great-great grandmother was a Moabite.  She has a book of the Bible named for her - Ruth!  

The problem with gambling is not the pay-off.
It is that you lose more than you win.
So maybe Solomon had some wiggle room here.  But we also read that the people were sacrificing in the high places because there was no Temple established yet (1 Kings 3:2).  This is an indication that these were local religious shrines that were likely sacrificing to the local deities.  Verse three then tells us that Solomon also continued to sacrifice here as well.  So in a sense, even though Solomon worshiped God, he also worshiped other gods as well.  Was he hedging his bets?

Is this wise to do so?

We can all think of times when we've ridden the fence so as not to offend one side or another.  In today's political climate, things are so polarize that it is difficult to have a middle ground.  However, when it comes to worship, God is very clear about our priorities.

Are we as clear in our devotion?

This Sunday, I'll be preaching on 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14. I hope you'll join us if you are in town!

In Christ,


Photo by By Jamie Adams from Hull, United Kingdom (Poker chips) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, August 2, 2015

When Victory is Bittersweet

"O Absalom!  My son, my son!"

This is David's famous line after hearing of his son's death.

He is visibly broken by the news, saying this as he wept.

At this point, David must be wondering what has gone wrong to bring him to this point in life.  He had actually been involved in a civil war with his son, Absalom and they had been engaged in battle.  Absalom's forces had been routed (David was the more experienced military commander) and Absalom was killed by David's commander Joab even though he had given an order to capture him alive.

Why Joab took matters into his own hands, we cannot say.  He and Absalom seemed to be at odds in the story.  He refused to attend to Absalom once when called and so Absalom had his field set on fire to send a message.  Joab then answered the summons!

But maybe it was simply a military commander that did not wish the rebel to escape and cause further dissent and bloodshed for the kingdom.  He knew of David's reluctance to bring harm to his son.

Our fights with one another may not be as savage
but the outcomes may be the same.
Absalom represents the all-too human nature of the young seeking to overthrow the old.  In nature we see this play out when younger male animals challenge older patriarchs as they seek to take their place through bloody combat.

David obviously did not wish the conflict with his son to come to this.

Where does God speak to us when we go to war with family?  How can we find peace again in our lives when the barbs thrown are not lethal but strike deeply nonetheless?

This Sunday, we will feature 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 from the lectionary in worship at First United Methodist Church in Edmond.  You'll want to be present if you're in town!

In Christ,


Photo by By Martin Cathrae (Timber Wolves Fighting  Uploaded by Mariomassone) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Stories Can Change Your Life

Although Mr. Spock was a favorite character
of mine growing up, he is not a good model for
emotional health.
There's a lot going on in the world, much of it tragic.

It can be overwhelming if we let all of it touch our hearts.

But it can be just as damaging if we let none of it seep through.  The easiest thing is to feel nothing which then requires me to change nothing about myself.

Do I really want to become an unfeeling robot?

Simon and Garfunkel address this through their song, "I Am a Rock."

They sing:
Don't talk of love,
But I've heard the words before;
It's sleeping in my memory.
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
As the song unfolds, we see a hurting person that has rejected all others in order to deal with the pain and avoid any future difficulties.

The song becomes an ironic reminder for us not to become islands even as we sing about them.

When tragedy occurs, it is easier for us to deal with the facts and figures.  If we hear the numbers of people dislocated by an earthquake or a hurricane, it can be dismissed.  But when we hear the story of a widowed grandmother caring for her two grandchildren who have all been left homeless, we seek to act if only to make a donation.

This is the power of narrative.  When we hear stories, we engage with the people in need in ways that may escape us otherwise.  When we respond, their story becomes our story.  This is Christianity in a nutshell as God engages with humankind by entering our story as Jesus of Nazareth.

This week's lectionary will continue with the Old Testament in 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13 as we see the prophet Nathan exposing the sin of King David.  He does it in a way that engages David - through the power of story.  Because of Nathan's narrative, David is able to see his own sin clearly and repent.

This Sunday, I hope you'll let God's story break through any hardness you may have developed!

In Christ,


"I Am a Rock" lyrics written by Paul Simon, (c) Eclectic Music, Paul Simon Music 
Picture by Desilu Productions/NBC Television (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Consequence Happens

I was watching The Tonight Show last night and Jimmy Fallon had a joke about Ashley Madison getting hacked.  If you don't know what Ashley Madison is, that is probably a good thing.  It is a website specifically designed for adultery.

People can sign up for a fee like a dating site except that these are not single people. They are married people looking to cheat on their spouses with other married people.  The idea is that this would be more discreet and the unsuspecting spouse would have no idea about the extramarital activity.

Ashley Madison's tag line is "Life is short. Have an affair."
Der fliehende Liebhaber by A Buzzi,
19th Century

Evidently, this website dating service is the second largest among users online next to  It is astonishing that over 37 million people that have signed up to use this website.

Now we see that the privacy that they guarantee may not be so private.  Hackers are threatening to release all of this personal data to the web which has 37 million people nervous right now.

When Fallon made the joke, he said that they had someone in the audience whose name came up on the list and they were going to out them on television.  Then the camera started surfing the crowd.  The interesting thing is how nervous some of them looked!  Fallon then admitted that they were teasing the crowd a little bit.

The whole industry is based upon the idea that if I don't get caught, there are no consequences.  It is a rather silly idea and we see from this news that there are always consequences.  If nothing else happens, at the very least, the anxiety level of a lot of people has risen today.

This Sunday, we will jump to the Old Testament for the lectionary reading for 2 Samuel 11:1-15.  This is the story of David and Bathsheba.  It is a story of a man who believed that he was beyond consequences but we see that this is not the case.

Infidelity is always a weakness.  It is not cute or trendy or fashionable.  It always has consequences even if it is just the loss of one's personal integrity.

But there is also redemption available and the past does not have to define us.

Life is short.  Join us for worship!

Photo by A. Buzzi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, July 13, 2015

Wanna Get Away?

This is the famous Southwest Airlines tag line.  I think that Jesus could have answered in the affirmative from time to time.

This week's lectionary passage for the Gospel is Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.  These are two passages broken up by the stories of the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water.  They both emphasize the common people coming in droves to Jesus for healing.

It must have been tiring for Jesus as the passage indicates that sometimes they didn't even have time to eat.  He tried to get the disciples away to a deserted place for a while because they needed rest.

I see in this passage the need for rest after a period of intense ministry activity.  I also see the crowds of people with their need, finding their peace and wholeness in Jesus.

How are these two things related?

As we look to advertising lines, we may find that marketing has spiritualized products to invoke a narrative that gives people an idea that this will deliver more than just a hotel or a flight or a candy bar.

People used to dress up for their flights - do we lose
anything by informalizing travel today?  And if so,
is this related at all to worship?
I think about Motel 6's iconic phrase, "We'll leave the light on for ya" which expresses the idea of a loved one keeping watch for you pulling up late into the night.  I'm reminded of trips to my grandmother's house when we would sometimes pull in after dark and she was there to greet us with warm cobbler and a cold glass of milk.  I doubt if I would find anything remotely like this at a motel, but the catchphrase does conjure up this image for me.

How about "Snicker's really satisfies"?  It may provide a little snack relief but to see the people enjoy it on the ads makes one think that they have found inner peace.

The ten commandments tell us that we are "To remember the Sabbath and keep it holy." Maybe this is how we are to combine the rest that we need with our coming to Jesus for peace.  

This Sunday, I'll be preaching on this passage using the sermon title, "Comfort Ye My People".  My hope is that it will "really satisfy"!  And we'll leave the light on for you!

In Christ,


Photo by By San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive ( [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Shaking Off the Dust

When our kids were shooting off fireworks last weekend, it reminded me of my own childhood.  Bottle rockets (now banned) were among my favorites.  Some of the best things to do were to blow up the little green plastic army men.  Of course, all boys of that era had access to some.  Those toys have probably endured quite a bit through the years.
I never had a lunchbox like this one but I'm sure there
were kids at my school that did.

I remember our nation's Bicentennial back in 1975 and culminating on July 4, 1976. We had a lot of things around town painted red, white and blue to celebrate such as the local fire hydrants.  Quarters had special backs with the colonial drummer on them and a lot of my friends saved them because they were going to be worth a lot of money some day. Unfortunately, the book value today is still 25 cents!

On Saturday, we'll celebrate 240 years of independence.  It's hard to believe that it has been forty years since all of that excitement but there you go.  If you are in Edmond at the parade on Saturday, be sure to look for the church float that our Evangelism Committee put together!  The fourth of July is an important time to reflect on our independence as a nation and what we are doing with our freedom.  What kinds of things continue to define us as a country?

This Sunday, we'll continue in the Gospel of Mark for the lectionary as we examine 6:1-13.  This passage speaks of Jesus being rejected in his hometown.  Then as he instructs the disciples to go out into the villages and minister to them, he invites them to shake off the dust from their feet if they are not received by a town.  This custom was for Jews who left the Holy Land and returned.  When they were returning from a foreign area, they would shake off the dust from their sandals so as not to contaminate the Promised Land with unclean soil.  As Jesus instructs them to do this, he is making a declaration about those villages that do not show hospitality.  

Hospitality is a part of their identity.  Father Abraham was remembered as showing extravagant hospitality to strangers and it turns out that he was entertaining angels unaware!  This story became a part of their identity and when they refuse to minister to the stranger, they are the ones that miss out.

As we think about our identity as a nation, we can also reflect upon who we are as a church.  Do we show the kind of hospitality to strangers that Jesus would have us?  Do people feel comfortable coming in among us if they don't know us? 

I hope that there's not a lot of dust build-up outside our sanctuaries!

In Christ,


Photo from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Seeing Further

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
                                                                Isaac Newton, 1676

The church is a difficult entity to define.

It is a community of believers.

It is the bride of Christ.

But it is also the body of Christ.

The church has been described as the Communion of Saints.  It is also a hospital for sinners.

The church is united through the Holy Spirit and its members are baptized into the faith.

This baptism is a covenant where we seek to be accountable one to another.  I help you and you help me.  Individualism falls by the wayside in the church and that's okay.

At annual conference, I received the Denman Award for Evangelism.  This was given to me as an individual largely for the growth the church experienced in Piedmont while I was the pastor there.  While I am proud and honored to be the recipient, I also recognize that many others went into this growth.  Staff members ran programs that helped with discipleship.  Committees oversaw important ministries that met community needs and allowed us to be on the radar of the unchurched.  Laity set the tone for friendliness and hospitality when visitors walked through our doors.  The church grew not because of any one individual but because we were willing to put aside individual needs and look to the mission of what God is calling us to do.

I'm reminded of the Apostle Paul's word to the Corinthians when he said, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." (1 Corinthians 3:6, NRSV).

We're stronger together than we are apart.
Even in the midst of decline in the church as a whole, we see places where the church is thriving.  I believe that these are churches that are allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them. Sometimes this means allowing the church to move in new directions for the sake of the Gospel.  Sometimes it means giving up being territorial or having it your way.  But it also means building something that will last beyond your life.  It means making an impact for other people in profound ways.  It means transforming a world that begins to look and act more like we would imagine heaven to be.

I'm excited to start my second year in a church that is also on the move.  As we celebrate the successes we've accomplished this past year, I believe that we have tremendous potential for continuing to live out God's call on our lives.  This Sunday, we'll explore the faith of the church through the image of the seed found in Mark 4:26-34.  We'll see what God does with us together!

In Christ,


Photo by Mike DelGaudio (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Generous Christology

As I continue to explore the I Am statements of Jesus, the next up is from John 14:1-7.

This passage includes the following:

“No one comes to the Father except through me.”

These are the words of Jesus that follow up his identification as the Way, the Truth and the Life. This seems pretty straightforward.

If you are not going through Jesus Christ, you are not getting to God.

Worldwide, if you are gracious in who you would consider Christian, this means that a little less than one third of humanity has a legitimate relationship with God.  As Wesleyans, we believe that God loves each person and is trying to reach them.

So either God is doing a poor job of reaching the world or the Christians are.

Muslims pray formally five times
each day.  What if Christians were
as consistent in their practice?
As I consider those of other faith traditions, I've met some who are really devout and some who are slackers and some who identify with their faith in name only.  So this is pretty similar to the Christians I've encountered.

If I believe that God is trying to reach these people and they are praying to God from a different faith tradition, do I believe that God hears their prayers?

I’m hesitant to declare "no" more so for the limitation it places on the infinite God rather than on my own strict adherence to this verse.  As I explore the Gospel, I find that there are more mysterious understandings such as John 10:16 where Jesus states, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

My own understanding of Christology has grown rather generous. 

As I see non-Christians who are devout in their own faith and seeking the same fruits of the Spirit in their lives (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), I may see Christ in them.  They would not declare this for themselves but I would have no problem seeing through the eyes of faith to declare this on their behalf.

It reminds me that Jesus talked about being the Way.  A way is more than just assent to a set of doctrines or beliefs.  A way is more than just declaring affirmation to a litmus test of orthodoxy.  A way requires that we follow through with our actions.  If Jesus is our way, we begin to take on his own characteristics.  As we study Jesus, we see that he was more generous in his day concerning those who would be thought to be in relationship with God.

And so, if I follow Jesus as the way, the truth and the life, I must begin to adopt this generosity of spirit as I encounter my neighbors.  Rather than see their lack, where do I see Christ already at work in their lives?

I think this begins to turn the conversation and it becomes more profitable for us all.    

In Christ,


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More than Mostly Alive

In the movie, A Princess Bride, one of the main characters, Westley, appears to have been slain and is brought to Miracle Max to see what could be done.

Miracle Max examines him, lifts and drops the arm of the supposed corpse and declares, "I've seen worse."

Max then states to Inigo Montoya the man who brought him, "He probably owes you money huh? I'll ask him."

Montoya replies, "He's dead. He can't talk."

Miracle Max then surprises us by saying "Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do."

"What's that?"

Max: "Go through his clothes and look for loose change."

This exchange brings us to the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead found in John 11:1-45.  In verse 17, it lets us know that Lazarus had already been dead for four days.  This is a long time to be dead in an ancient Mediterranean culture.  The heat would have made decomposition a quick occurrence - especially without any modern embalming techniques.  The King James Version says it bluntly in verse 39 as it reads, "he stinketh."

What this is stating is that in the ancient world, "mostly dead" was a thing that sometimes people became.  You could recover from being "mostly dead" and sometimes people miraculously did.  With no modern instrumentation, it was difficult to tell when a person had really passed.  But after three days, the ancient belief was that the soul then departed the body.  So for John to share the detail that Lazarus was dead four days showed that there could be no doubt as to his state.

For Lazarus and his sisters, Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.  It is real and vibrant and we would like to know this Jesus because we have all faced grief and loss. Sometimes our spiritual lives, our emotional lives or our relational lives may also become "mostly dead."

How does Jesus become the Resurrection and the Life for us today?  Just as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, there are parts of us that sometimes need raising as well. Sometimes I may look at areas of my own life and declare, "they stinketh."  These may be the times when we need to take a new look at our faith!  As we encounter the living Lord, it could be that we become more than "mostly alive!"