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Showing posts from March, 2009

Review: Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Ever since I saw a short review of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love on Sarah Walker Cleaveland's blog, I have wanted to read it. I finally got around to it recently, and I'm so glad I finally did - an excellent, moving, thought-provoking book. The book follows Gilbert on a year-long personal quest for - God, love, understanding, clarity, hope, etc. - through stops in Italy, India, and Indonesia. Her style is narrative story-telling, and the book reads like a novel. I found Gilbert's longing, questing to experience God and to have a sense of self-worth compelling. She doesn't write from a church-goer perspective, and I imagine her spiritual journey is similar to others who find themselves seeking God outside the boundaries of organized religion today (although I wish everyone took their spiritual journeys, in or out of the Church, as seriously as Gilbert takes hers). Some excerpts: "The Yogic path is about disentangling the built-in glitches of the human co

Sermon for Fifth Sunday in Lent (non-lectionary)

(Sermon 3/29/09, Matthew 14:23-33, Mark 8:27-37, Matthew 26:31-35, 57, 69-75) Peter, The Rock Today, we finally look at a disciple about whom something is actually written, about whom we actually have significant information to go on in our study! Today, we’re looking at Simon Peter. Simon Peter became one of the most prominent leaders in the early church, along with Paul and James, the brother of Jesus. He is considered the first bishop of Rome , the first Pope of the church. And, thankfully, he appears frequently in the gospels, and in the Acts of the Apostles, more frequently than any other of the twelve. Of course, this makes sense. The gospels in our Bibles were not recorded until some 30 and more years after Jesus walked on earth. By then, Peter was already considered a great leader of the church who had been martyred for the cause, and so when retelling the story of Jesus, authors naturally highlighted stories of the most famous of the twelve. The ben

Sermon for Fourth Sunday in Lent (non-lectionary)

(Sermon 3/22/09, Luke 7:36-50, 8:1-3, Luke 10:38-42, John 12:1-7, Matthew 27:45-50, 55-61, 28:1) Mary, Mary, Mary? Mary Magdalene – what do we really know about Mary? Not much. In fact, we probably think we know more than we do. Mary Magdalene is mentioned only rarely in the gospels, in fact, mentioned only one time outside of accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. In one passage in Luke, there is mention of the fact that Mary Magdalene had been cured from possession by demons by Jesus, and that she was traveling with him along with some other women and the Twelve as he was teaching and preaching. Other than that, Mary Magdalene is only mentioned in the context of being at the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion, helping the women with burial rites, and then, of course, most significantly, at Jesus’ resurrection, as the first witness, the first teller of the news. She’s mentioned nowhere else, despite popular beliefs. She is not the woman caught in adultery. She is not label

District Resource Day: Vance Ross

Last week I attended a District Resource Day with Vance Ross , deputy general secretary of GBOD. His topic was Pastoral Leadership for the Evangelical Task. Honestly, it took me a while to warm up to Ross' presentation. I attribute this, though, to the fact that we didn't have a projector for his presentation right away - it arrived about 20 minutes after he started. So he was forced to 'wing it' a bit more at the start. Once everything was set up and on task, I really enjoyed his presentation. Here are my mostly un-edited notes: *** Easier to talk about who Jesus is than what he said and what he did. Jesus isn’t the good news message alone – it is the coming kingdom that is the message. Evangelism is our code-word for growing numerically, when it should have a bigger meaning than that. Trying to observe, methodically, the Sabbath. 8 Necessities for Leadership: Call – Our own, calling others (remembering God’s call on your life) Confidence (being a

Happy Anniversary to Me....

Today is my five year anniversary of blogging! (Ok, it's actually 1:02am as I'm writing this, so the anniversary was technically yesterday...) It is hard for me to believe I've been blogging for so long. It took my blog a while to get rolling. About six months in, I posted a plea searching for other UMC bloggers, since I couldn't find many. In the responses, I got linked up with some now-defunct blogs, but also Jay Voorhees , Questing Parson , and Shane Raynor . Over the years, I've had the chance to meet many of my blogging friends in person, and sometimes I forget I first 'met' them online. I think we've built a nice community over the years, haven't we? My passion for blogging has waxed and waned... I started out slowly, and picked up to blogging quite frequently (although never daily.) For a while it seemed I couldn't attend an event without thinking about how I would blog it later, and I was a compulsive checker of my stats. Lately, though

Dan Dick: United Methodeviations

I have a problem with Dan Dick's blog, United Methodeviations : his posts have too much content for me to process. I am constantly bookmarking his posts because they are harder to take in with a quick scan (like I give most of the blogs I read). So I bookmark his posts, and try to get back to them later, ending up with a situation like my current one where I have 11 of his posts bookmarked that I still want to read more carefully. If you aren't reading his blog yet, you really should be. In an effort to actually read his posts more carefully and share them with you, here's a summary of some of the posts I've bookmarked: Show Me the Money Mission - talks about giving being up during the recession in congregations that are mission focused rather than self-focused. "Too many churches focus on giving to the exclusion of generosity, ignoring the fact that you can alter a person’s giving patterns (behavior modification) without helping them to become a generous person.

Sermon for Third Sunday in Lent (non-lectionary)

(Sermon 3/15/09, Matthew 27:1-2, 11-26) Pontius Pilate It is strange that while the twelve spent three years of their lives with Jesus, we know so very little about them, while Pontius Pilate, the focus of the message today, spent just a short time with Jesus on one day, and yet we hear more from Pilate than we do half the disciples. We still don’t know a lot about Pilate’s background – there are some conflicting stories over where he was born and what family he was part of – and we don’t know much about his life before he appears in the gospels. But we know that he was a prefect in Judea , and that prefects had certain duties – mostly military oversight and collecting taxes, but also judicial responsibility in some local affairs. During big religious festivals like the Passover, Pilate would be expected to be in Jerusalem , to make sure things were kept under control. And we know that he served as prefect in Judea from 26-36 AD, recalled to Rome perhaps just a

Festival of Homiletics: Who's Going?

In just over two months is one of my favorite continuing-ed events: The Festival of Homiletics . This year it is taking place in Atlanta, Georgia, and has such a fabulous list of speakers, including (my favorites): Desmond Tutu, Barbara Brown Taylor, Grace Imathiu, Brian McLaren, Fred Craddock, Will Willimon, and Adam Hamilton. The festival is a really fabulous week of preaching and lectures, interspersed with some great music in the evenings. I couldn't attend last year because of General Conference, and I'm looking forward to getting back this year. Who else is going? Methoblogger meetup?

Sermon for Second Sunday in Lent (non-lectionary)

(Sermon 3/8/09, Matthew 26:47-56, John 6:1-15) Simon, The Zealot Last week when we talked about Judas Iscariot, I mentioned how very little we knew about someone who was so notorious. He was the betrayer of Jesus, but we know hardly anything else about him at all. Well, this week, as we continue looking at characters from the passion story, things get worse, in that regard, not better. Simon, called the Zealot, was another of the twelve disciples. He is not mentioned outside of the list of the twelve disciples at any time, never named specifically in some incident, event, or scene. He’s one of the twelve, and as important as that is, we know nothing about him from the biblical scriptures. There are some writings about him outside the scriptures, and some stories that were built up about Simon over time. For example, the twelve disciples all have a ‘symbol’ that goes with them, and Simon’s is the saw, because he is said to have met his death, his martyrdom, by

Sermon for First Sunday in Lent (non-lectionary)

(Sermon 3/1/09, Matthew 26:6-50, 27:3-10) Judas, Who Later Betrayed Him Judas, you might say, has always been my favorite disciple. Maybe ‘favorite’ isn’t quite the right word for it. Judas has always been the disciple by whom I’ve been most intrigued. I’ve spent the most time studying him. The most time pondering who he is, why he did what he did, what his role was in the passion story. I’ve been fascinated by Judas. And I have to admit that it started with a crush. When I first went to see Jesus Christ Superstar in seventh grade, I developed a big crush on the actor who was playing Judas. He played the role for the next three years, and when I would go see the production, I would focus mostly on Judas! And so even though my crush was on the actor, I became really intrigued by the character. Jesus Christ Superstar is told from Judas’ perspective, in a sense. It is his story of Jesus’ last week, his relationship with Jesus that is central to the musical. And,