Monday, January 25, 2016

Recognizing a Thin Place

Edmond FUMC's cross is a
Celtic cross noted by the ring
surrounding the intersection.
Celtic Christianity has long recognized what it calls "thin places" which are physical locations on this earth where the line between heaven and earth are very thin.  These would be spiritual places where one seems to be more likely to encounter the presence of God.

It is difficult for our theology to acknowledge thin places if we assume that God is omnipresent. Preceding grace tells us that God is there before we arrive.  Yet there are places that seem more holy to us - places where worship is more likely.

For me, our United Methodist camps in Oklahoma - especially Canyon and Egan seem to be thin places where I am more likely to have a spiritual encounter.

I do believe that God is present everywhere but I also know that we are more likely to perceive God's presence when we are in spiritual retreat.  I would say that the worship of God in a place where it has been observed regularly for years make it special to a multitude of people over many generations.  I believe my current appointment in Edmond is such a place.

We baptize and offer communion regularly here and have since before my parents were born.  We have celebrated weddings and have remembered our beloved dead.  We have sung the hymns of faith and prayed both communally and in private.  The holy narrative - our narrative  - of scripture has been lifted up time and again.

This Sunday, we will celebrate our renovation and addition.  We will re-consecrate this sacred space and bless the new space for generations to come.  My hope is that this is a thin place for those who come to worship.

In any of the stories of the Bible, those who meet with God are changed.  It is not something to be taken lightly.  We do so with reverence and a sense of answering God's call.  So our church should be a place where we are not only comforted by God but also challenged to grow in our faith and discipleship.

If you are in the Edmond area this Sunday and you don't have a regular place to worship, please join us at 8:30, 10:50 or 11:00 am as we celebrate God's continual presence among us.  If you liver farther away, you might join us online at!live-stream/c1jx.

In Christ,


Monday, January 18, 2016

Love is Not Such a Bad Dream

This week I'll continue to preach on 1 Corinthians 13 through the season of Epiphany. We'll also utilize Luke 4:14-21 from the lectionary.

As I think about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this day honoring him, I heard "Pride" by U2 on the radio this afternoon.  It's probably my favorite song by the group and certainly appropriate for a listen on this day.

Dr. King's influence on our nation is hard to overstate.  He taught us that nonviolent resistance to injustice actually works here in our nation.  He taught us that love overcomes hate and that change is not impossible when we partner with God.
Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd from the steps of the
Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous,
“I Have a Dream,” speech during the Aug. 28, 1963,
march on Washington, D.C.

His words from 1963 still ring true today:
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
By Dr. King's leadership, we have made great strides with the relations between white and black America.  But there is still conflict and violence based on race.  God calls us to love one another through the words of the Apostle Paul.  They are not easy words to live by but they are a wonderful vision that the followers of Jesus Christ continue to hold up as behavior that can be attained.  May we all continue to embrace this dream today!

In Christ,


The quoted speech is my Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 28, 1963.
The picture is public domain from wikimedia commons.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Love Is All We Need

Companionship is an important
facet of love but Christianity expands
upon love even further.
This is the idealistic statement from the sixties that The Beatles turned into a popular song.  As Christians understand that God is love from the letters of John, we can agree with this statement to some extent.  However, psychologist Abraham Maslow would likely disagree if taken literally.  Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs that begins with our physiological needs.  Basically, things like water, food and air.  Even these have a hierarchy in that if you were thirsty and someone had a choke hold on your throat, you would pursue getting air before finding a drink of water!

Maslow believed that once these needs were taken care of, we can begin to worry about the second tier which include safety and security issues.  These issues such as freedom from crime or natural disaster come into play here.  At the third level of need is where we find love as well as belonging needs.  When all of the previous needs are met, we may look for love in a marriage as well as belonging to different groups in society.

Next, we begin to look for a little self-esteem.  Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs, a lower one and a higher one.  The lower one is the need for the respect of others, the need for status, fame, glory, recognition, attention, reputation, appreciation, dignity, and even dominance.  The higher form involves the need for self-respect, including such feelings as confidence, competence, achievement, mastery, independence, and freedom.  Note that this is the “higher” form because, unlike the respect of others, once you have self-respect, it’s a lot harder to lose!

Finally, Maslow said that if we meet all of these conditions, we can work on self-actualization.  Maslow thought that only about 2% of the world’s population met this final stage.  When we are worried about meeting any of the lower needs, it is difficult to worry about the philosophy of our lives.

The apostle Paul might agree somewhat with Maslow.  Maslow's examination of people that he believed had achieved self-actualization found that they often operated out of a sense of love for humanity in general.  Paul states his own hierarchy of spiritual gifts by putting love over hope and even above faith!  What does this mean for us as Christians?  We’ll examine Paul’s understanding of love from 1 Corinthians 13 over the next four weeks as we finish the season of Epiphany.  If you are unable to attend in person, check out the sermons on our youtube page.  

In Christ,


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

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

There's No Such Thing as Re-Baptism - Depending on Your Perspective

Lectionary Scripture for Sunday, January 10: Acts 8:14-17

Baptism of the Lord Sunday

Within The United Methodist Church, baptism is a sacrament that is only celebrated by an ordained Elder.  A licensed Local Pastor may also baptize someone but only within the bounds of their appointed charge.  We take baptism seriously as a sign of God's claim on your life.  

While a number of denominations regularly baptize congregants multiple times throughout their lives, we do not.  Once is enough.

We baptize infants because the emphasis is
on God's action rather than our action.
In fact, we believe this last statement so much that as a pastor, I would refuse to baptize someone that I knew had already been baptized.  

Some might say, "But what if they really wanted this as a spiritual commitment to God after straying from the church?"

Others might say, "This might really help them solidify their faith in Christ."

At this point, it seems kind of mean to refuse them, doesn't it?  Might my theology become a stumbling block for someone?  It could if I refuse to engage that person in conversation.

It all depends upon what we believe baptism is about.  For the Southern Baptists, the emphasis is about a person's commitment to Christ.  The baptism is the public sign of their commitment and a visible reminder that their sins are washed away. This is why you must be of an age to understand what you are doing within their tradition.  
For United Methodists, the emphasis of baptism is upon God's commitment to you.  It is a sign of God's mark upon your life - God claiming you.  It is also an entrance into the Body of Christ - the Church.  We commit to sharing in this life together.

So if it is about God's commitment to you, we don't need to baptize again - we can't baptize again - because God does not break covenant.  We might break covenant with God but God remains faithful.  Furthermore, we believe that God pursues us when we do fall away.  

So a person would not need to be baptized again because we would say that God never broke the promise made the first time!

We don't believe that someone is sinning if they have been baptized more than once.  It simply means that they were operating under a different tradition and understanding of the theology of baptism.

The scripture referenced above shows the we are baptized not only in the name of Jesus but under the authority of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is often how we experience God in community.  We see it present in the power of touch.  

This is why it is so important to physically gather with the worshiping community if at all possible.  There is something about the presence of others that we need just as they need us.  I've always said that we are stronger with you present than absent.  I believe it to be true - and it helps me keep my own vows of baptism - that I will help watch over you just as you help watch over me.

In Christ,