Sunday, April 22, 2018

Kids These Days

This was the common path to both my school
and my house while growing up.
The final piece in the series, "Living a Resurrection Faith in a Post-Christian World" has to do with the decadence we see in society today.  The question becomes, "Are morals in American culture going down the drain?"  As we look at death and resurrection during the Easter season, we answer this with the death of judgment and the resurrection of accountability.  While these two things seem to be similar, the Christian approach should favor the latter over the former.

Human beings have railed on the youth of the times in every generation.  They have always been lazy, self-serving leeches on society who are going to lead us into the abyss.  Their morals are continuously suspect.

In 1816, the Times of London expressed how the waltz was a dance that would corrupt the morals of polite society.  You never changed partners!  Here's a quote from the article:

We know not how it has happened (probably by the recommendation of some worthless and ignorant French dancing-master) that so indecent a dance now has for the first time been exhibited at the English court; but the novelty is one deserving of severe reprobation, and we trust it will never again be tolerated in any moral English society.

It seems that we fear that our morals are constantly being overturned by newer behaviors.  We worry that video games are keeping the youth of today from playing outside.  In 1859, Scientific American published an article on the evils of chess of all things.  They mention:
chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while at the same time it affords no benefit whatever to the body.
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chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while at the same time it affords no benefit whatever to the body.
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Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
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Chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body.
If you substituted "X-Box" or "PlayStation" for "Chess" in the above sentence, you could easily place it in a modern essay on how kids are awful because...

This week's lectionary reading is Acts 8:26-40.  As we look at the varieties of gender today, we see that the church already had an answer for those of difference in its infancy: baptize them.  This definitely went against the grain.  The grace we express in Christ Jesus also puts us in relationship with one another where we allow ourselves to be held accountable.  It is only through being held accountable that we allow ourselves to grow past our own particular blind spots.

But how can we do this without judgment?  To hold someone accountable implies judgment, doesn't it?  We'll look at the difference between these two important concepts on Sunday.  That is, assuming I'm not having to spend all my time correcting my wayward teenagers.

In Christ,


Photo by Mitch Barrie via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Does the Church Have Less Influence Today?

This is not a trick question.  When I grew up, it was very normative to be a Christian.  In fact, it was weird if you weren't.

I had a couple of Jewish friends and when I found out they went to worship on Saturday, I felt sorry for them because that's when all the good cartoons were on television.  If they tried to watch TV on Sunday, all they could see were worship services.  And by worship services, I mean Christian worship services.

There were plenty of things that were closed on Sundays and there was nary a school activity on Wednesday night.  It was easy to be a Christian because our culture didn't allow for much choice in the matter.  Or at least, it made it easy to attend due to lack of competition.

In the Church today, its members are facing a very different reality.  There are loads of options during Sunday morning worship.  In fact, most of the congregation brings the options with them into worship today:

Sometimes we forget the
target audience of the Church.
Cell phones.

These little wonders contain all the distractions one could ask for:






even voyeurism - err, I mean social media.

So people in today's United States must actively choose to turn off the phone and engage in their faith.  And before you text me that your Bible app, prayer app, worship app, faithful living app, church app helps you in your faith, I meant turning off the phone in a metaphorical sense.

This is the sense that we must turn away from the world and try to hear what God may have for us.  I don't mean turn our back on the needs of the world, I mean that we must turn away from the message of the world that constantly cries out, "It's all about you!"

This Sunday, we will continue in the series, "Living a Resurrection Faith in a Post-Christian World" and I will try to address the question in today's blog title.  We'll look at Acts 4:5-12 and see how Peter's word for the elders of the day is still Peter's word for us.

And spoiler alert, the answer to the question, as always, is up to you.

In Christ,


Photo by harrypope via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

How Do I Relate to People of Another Faith?

As our church continues the series, "Living a Resurrection Faith in a Post-Christian Society" we are examining what it means to be the church today.  Where to be American once brought the likelihood of Christian faith, that is not the case now.  This week's topic is "How Do I Relate to People of Another Faith?"

In looking at the lectionary passage, Acts 3:12-19, we witness an encounter between Peter and the Jewish onlookers following a miraculous healing in Jerusalem.  Since this account was written over fifty years after the fact, it has the appearance of a Christian-Jewish dialogue.  In actuality, it would have been an intra-Jewish conversation since Christianity had not yet emerged as separate from Judaism at that time.  The shame Peter throws toward those in Jerusalem would have been as one Jew to another rather than as a Christian toward a Jew.  It also would have been from a minority population to the majority rather than as equals or from a position of power.

This makes a difference in power dynamics because someone in a minority position doesn't wield the same kind of power as someone in the majority.

Later, after Christians became the dominant population, Jews became a minority group that were blamed for the death of Jesus.  During the Crusades, the Muslims were seen as the religious occupiers of the Holy Land that needed to be driven out.  Due to the distance between the countries in Western Europe and the Middle East, it was not easy or cheap to travel with armies that far.  Some felt that the Jewish populations were a good substitute because they were within reach.  In 1096, the Rhineland massacres took place in Germany which some historians look at as a precursor to the Holocaust.

Sometimes economics bridge
a gap where other methods fail.
The atrocities of the Crusades didn't stop with Jewish populations.  In 1209, Pope Innocent III decided to crackdown on the Cathars who were Christians that didn't submit to the authority of the Pope.  While they resided in the town of Beziers, France, they lived in harmony with the Catholics there.  The Crusaders recruited to eliminate the Cathars ended up slaughtering around 20,000 people in the town including women and children and then burned the town to the ground.  It was the French monk Arnaud Amalric who was later reported as being asked how they would tell the difference between the Catholics and Cathars in Beziers and replied, "Kill them all.  God will recognize his own."  This has been paraphrased in later military endeavors as "Kill 'em all - let God sort 'em out."

Even though the Europeans did not recapture the Holy Land during the Crusades, Muslim populations still have difficulty with the term "Crusades" and what it meant for the treatment of their populations (including women and children) during that time by the West.

As we look at our own history, if we are to have a conversation with someone of another faith, it helps if we recognize our previous shortcomings.  In the past, we have practiced dominance rather than dialogue.  It is time for us to see the death of the Crusade mentality in Christianity and allow the love of neighbor to be resurrected.  In this love, we practice respect for others - even those we would consider opposed to our faith.  This approach is Christ-like as we remember that Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

This may also mean that we need to repent of when we have been the persecutors - just as we rightly decry terrorism today, there are periods in our history that have not dignified our Christian witness.

Photo by Merrimack Collage via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Living a Resurrection Faith in a post-Christian Society

Sometimes this is what it feels like to 
be the church in today's society.
The Easter season will continue for about seven more weeks.  During this time, the lectionary features various texts on resurrection appearances or on the theme of new life in general.  The church is certainly in need of resurrection.  My own denomination, The United Methodist Church, is facing a crossroads over human sexuality at a special called General Conference in February and I’ll be attending as a delegate.  Regardless of where the church lands on this issue, it appears that a split is not so likely as an exodus.

We also hear about the church in general within the United States begin in a state of decline.  It seems that people are not attending worship as much as they did in the past.  Our culture is moving toward a post-Christendom vibe as being a “none” or someone who has no religious preference or activity is becoming the new normal rather than someone who is an active disciple involved in a local church.

Many times, we hear the longing for the good-ol’ days when our Christian faith seemed to have more influence.  For some this means the church of their childhood.  Others realize that church in that age wasn’t perfect either and they harken back to the early church when it was still led by people that walked with Jesus when he led his earthly ministry in the flesh.

The lectionary features the book of Acts which highlights the early church.  Acts is a wonderful book of faith that shows us the vision of what the church could be.  But it was written in hindsight and may not expose all of the warts it could have.  If you want those, you have to read the hands-on account of the apostle Paul in his letters to the early church.  So Paul’s letters really remind us that the church has always had some of the same issues in every age: it is composed of people.  While this is a great joy as we are made in God’s image, it is also a hazard because, well, we don’t always live up to our potential!

Over the next four weeks, we’ll be exploring this theme of what the church could be today in light of the changes going on all around us.

This Sunday, will be the first in this series as I highlight Acts 4:32-35 and attempt to answer the question, “Is the Church in decline?”  In order to keep in line with the Easter season, I will contrast the death of the institution with the resurrection of mission.  If you are in the Edmond area, we hope you’ll join us for worship.  If you aren’t or are already active in another church, you can still join us online at your convenience for the full service on our Facebook page or for the sermon as a podcast or on our YouTube page.  Keep those hits coming whether in person or virtually and we’ll show the world that faith is still alive and well within the body of Christ!

In Christ,


Photo by Fueling Creative Fire via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Daily Devotion for Lent 2018 - Easter Sunday

Scripture Reading: Genesis 50 (NRSV)

Lent has finished but it always seems that ending these Lenten devotions on Easter is fitting.

Jacob is embalmed in the Egyptian style - maybe to better preserve the body for the journey to Canaan in a non-air conditioned climate.

Even a crown of thorns can flower
with new life!
Then we see Joseph's brothers begin to worry.  Now that their father is dead, maybe Joseph will decide to take vengeance after all!

But just as we see signs of death in this chapter with Jacob and Joseph, we also see signs of resurrection.

It is pretty funny that they get together and tell Joseph, "Dad's dying wish was for you to forgive us for selling you into slavery!"  We see Jacob's final words in the previous chapter and they didn't seem to have anything to do with his sons reconciling after his death.

So in good family tradition, the other brothers get into the act of using trickery as a means to an end.

If Joseph sees their ruse, he doesn't let on.  He does, indeed, take the gracious response.  He not only forgives them but pledges to care for them.  Their ironic statement, "We are here as your slaves" will come to pass in the next book of the Bible, Exodus.

On Easter, we celebrate the resurrection and new life we have in Jesus Christ.  We seek to end old grudges.  We seek to crucify our bitterness and let graciousness rise in its place.  We do this because we are in Christ together.

Even on the cross, Jesus practices this graciousness in Luke 23:34 declaring, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."

We see parallels to this chapter and the Easter story as Jacob is carried north for burial and his children begin a new chapter in their lives.

For the disciples, they too will head north from Jerusalem to Galilee as the messenger in Mark 16:6-7 declares:

Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
They too will begin a new life but it is not death that has changed them, it is resurrection!  May you reflect upon death and life and new life as it comes to you and may you embrace resurrection!

Christ is risen:
   The world below lies desolate.
Christ is risen:
   The spirits of evil are fallen.
Christ is risen:
   The angels of God are rejoicing.
Christ is risen:
   The tombs of the dead are empty.
Christ is risen indeed from the dead,
   The first of the sleepers.
Glory and power and his forever and ever.

Prayer by Hippolytus of Rome, early 3rd Century

Photo by Pandiyan V via  Used under the Creative Commons license.