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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons