Friday, January 30, 2015

Floods in Sri Lanka


Last month, Sri Lanka experienced severe flooding in 22 of the country’s 25 districts. The hardest-hit area was the submerged district of Batticaloa, where 154 villages were affected and more than 30,000 people were displaced from their homes. At least 39 deaths have been reported.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 1.1 million people were affected by floods, landslides and high winds. More than 6,400 houses were destroyed and 18,537 houses damaged. Currently, 30,654 people are living in 230 safety centers in 17 districts.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is supporting partner Association of Mobilizing Community Resources, with funds for emergency food aid for 3,800 families impacted by the flooding in Batticaloa District. 

UMCOR also is supporting partner Muslim Aid with both emergency food assistance and clean drinking water for 1,300 families impacted by the flooding. UMCOR funds also will allow for the cleaning and chlorinating of 300 wells, contaminated by the floodwaters.


See the entire UMCOR hotline.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Baptism

To the Church about to Baptize My Baby Boy:
Be warned.
It’s all cuteness and lace now, but in no time at all, my little baby- after a brief sojourn in childhood- will hit adolescence. His hormones will kick in and quickly conspire to undo all the good you’ve done in him.
These will be the years that he’ll push you, Church.
He’ll suddenly wonder how Jonah could survive that dark trip in the whale’s belly. He’ll argue that David may have bested Goliath but that he’s no match for Tom Brady and, besides, David’s hardly the unblemished hero his Sunday School teachers made him out to be. Proud of himself, he’ll point out that Noah never would have had to build the ark had God not decided to flood everything and everyone in the world.
He’ll push you, and if you’re not up to the challenge he’ll be tempted conclude that everything you’ve taught him and everything you teach is, at best, a fairy tale and, at worst, a lie.

And this might be the first time someone he knows or loves dies.

When that happens, Church, you better not resort to clich├ęs. You better be prepared to show him resurrection-of-the-body hope at work among you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Holy Mess (3): Human Sexuality

The Scripture reading:

The message:

Holy Mess (3): Human Sexuality   
2015/01/25 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Canticle of Love (#646)
Children, Genesis 2.15-25
Message, Genesis 38.1-30


We struggle to talk about sex. I loved the scene in one of the Beethoven movies – the ones about the dog, not the composer. The kids needed to distract their father to smuggle the dogs into the house, so the daughter says, “Dad, tell me again how babies are made?” Dad launches into an awkward speech that includes something about swimming tadpoles, if I recall. When the daughter gets the “all clear” signal, she cuts him off: “You really don’t know much about this, do you?”
      It is amazing how much we struggle to have these conversations, not just with our children but with each other as adults, given how pervasive sexuality is in our culture. We advertise cars, beer, and deodorant with sex. We go through the checkout lines at the grocery and see magazine headlines – 10 ways to drive him crazy in bed, woman has alien baby, how to look good when pregnant, how to look like you’ve never been pregnant after you’ve had your baby.
      I believe there are two main problems at the root of our struggle to talk about human sexuality and, amazingly, neither is pointed to the pervasiveness of sexuality in our culture. They are spiritual problems, through and through. The first is that we struggle to believe the good news that God has created us as sexual creatures, not only for the practical purpose of making babies, but also for the joy and pleasure of oneness. Not many of us pause in our love making to thank Jesus for this wonderful gift. Second, we’re broken, all of us. As beautiful as the gift of sex is, we carry into it the memories of failed relationships, the pain of abuse, and a fantasy life that gets in the way of what is real.
      I’d love to devote more time to these general questions of human sexuality. However, the promise and purpose of this series of messages is to leverage the ambiguity and strangeness of Scripture to open us to broader and deeper questions around the major controversies of our time.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mission Insights

By the General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries:

A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and wailing.
It’s Rachel crying for her children; she refuses to be consoled,
because her children are no more. (Jeremiah 31:15, CEB) 


The past few weeks have been filled with violence and loss. Even as we were processing the pain felt in France and Yemen, we began to hear reports of the massacre by the Boko Haram in Baga, a small town in Borno State, Nigeria. According to Human Rights Watch, the extremist group burned much of the 10,000 resident town and took control of 16 neighboring villages displacing more than 30,000 people. Reports vary widely regarding the Baga massacre, but the death toll is estimated to be in the hundreds, with some reports placing it as high as 2,000.

Please join me in praying for all who are affected by these evil acts. The General Board of Global Ministries condemns this brutality. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are building peace in the face of atrocity. We continue to pray for peace in northeast Nigeria where the Boko Haram has unleashed years of terror.

Dr. Olusimbo Ige, who works with Global Ministries’ Global Health unit, is originally from Nigeria. In response to the tragic news she lamented, “It is sad that young girls can be kidnapped, innocents slaughtered and entire villages and towns taken over with such impunity. Our thoughts and prayers are with our sisters and brothers in Nigeria and we join our voices with those of others praying for peace and justice to reign in Nigeria.”

Please join Dr. Ige and the people of Nigeria in the lifting up the words of the Nigerian National Anthem, “O God of all creation direct our noble cause, guide our leaders right. Help our youth the truth to know, in love and honesty to grow, and living just and true, great lofty heights attain to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.” 


See the entire ConnectNMission Update.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Holy Mess (2): Science & Faith


2015/01/18 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Psalm 8
Children, Genesis 11.1-9
Message, Matthew 2.1-12

Last week, as we laid the groundwork for this series of messages, we acknowledged the great conundrum that – even though we know we are wrong about a few things in life – we believe each of our opinions, individually, to be correct. And we went on to learn from John Wesley and the great odd couple of the Old Testament that it is possible for us to be united in heart, even when we are not of one mind. Today, we’ll be exploring some questions around the intersection of science and faith. In the coming weeks, we’ll address human life, human sexuality, church and state, and judgment. You will disagree with me, at least once, over this series of messages. I don’t have the “final answer” to end all discussion. In the church, we offer Jesus, not answers, not miracles. It is my hope that we move through these controversies and grow in love with Jesus and one another, despite all our differences.

There are a number of intersecting points for science and faith, among them:
  • The future of what it means to be human, particularly as we continue to learn how to “improve” ourselves cybernetically. Philosophers are already giving courses in “the post-human”. And particularly as we continue to discover the implications of the human genome, and the impact that has on the biblical phrase “the image of God”.
  • Appropriate limitations to human action on scientific knowledge. Should we inject growth hormone into livestock or genetically engineer food crops to be immune to herbicides? Should we do research on embryonic stem cells, or only adult stem cells? Should we develop artificial intelligence that could take over the world and enslave or destroy the human race? (It does make for great movies!)
  • The question of origins. Creation? Intelligent Design? Evolution?

Of these three areas, we will take a little time to focus directly on the last matter, on origins.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Holy Mess (1): Diversity & Unity


2015/01/11 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Prayer, Psalm 133
Children, Luke 6.12-16 (with Mark 3.13-19)
Message, 2 Kings 10.10-17

Over the next five weeks, we will be looking at some of the most controversial topics in our culture today – science and faith, human sexuality, human life, church and state. We open the series today with the question of diversity and unity and we will close with an examination of judgment.
      In all these, my purpose is to make certain you walk out of here thinking exactly like me, because I am right. Ha! Do you have any opinions that you think are wrong? If so, then they aren’t your opinions! John Wesley had some wisdom on this in his sermon on unity and diversity, and I have included the quote on your note sheet:
Every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true . . . . He knows, in the general, that he himself is mistaken; although in what particulars he mistakes, he does not, perhaps he cannot, know (I.4, p 445).
That is, on any specific matter for debate, if we hold an opinion and are not simply undecided, we think we are right. We know that we are not right about everything, but we have no way of identifying the specific ways we are wrong. Therefore, no, my purpose is not to persuade you to think like me. Nor is my purpose to provide a comprehensive summary on any of these issues. Others are more capable and gifted to do that work.
      My purpose is to expand our imagination, to guide us to search our own souls, to open us to ambiguity not only in the heartbreaking stories that we can find throughout our society but especially in the weird and unsettling words of Scripture. In this regard, and particularly with this issue of diversity and unity, John Wesley shows the way. Over 250 years ago, well ahead of the postmodern obsession with ambiguity and narrative, John Wesley cherry-picked the strangest odd couple in the Bible and one of the most violent chapters in the entire book as the text for his message “Catholic Spirit”, which teaches us how to acknowledge our differences and still acknowledge what is universal in the church.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Highlights

From my Scripture reading application in 2014. Check out the YouVersion app!

Ecclesiastes 5.9 – But this is a gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.
A sign of quality leadership is paying attention to little things, to things that might be considered "beneath" you, to things that affect the daily experience of people you lead.

Psalm 119.96 – I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.
There is no limit to the perfection of the Word of God! Read it and weep .,, with joy! 

Isaiah 28.20 – For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in.
I just loved the imagery for judgment in this passage - not one of destruction but one of persistent discomfort. Interesting.


Zechariah 13.6 – And if one asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your back?’ he will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’
In the context, this is about false prophets, who often practiced flogging themselves, attempting to hide their practice. It also sounds exactly like the kinds of stories we fabricate to protect those who abuse us.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Holy Name


2015/01/04 Christ Church, Mountain Top; Communion, Covenant
Children, Luke 2.21
Message, Philippians 2.5-11

Kids embarrassed to walk with me at the mall
      To “name” me as Dad
      You underestimate the power of the dark side!
      Every knee will bow, and every son confess that I am dad
      What does it take for them to call me “dad”?

What does it take for someone to call Jesus “Lord”?
      Martyrs of Sabaste, 40 men of the Roman legion, frozen lake, AD 320

St Stephen – Dec 26 – “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Ac 7.60)

Holy Innocents – Dec 28 – Collect (BCP): … Receive, we pray into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love and peace. …

Coercive? “Every tongue”? Just another empire?
      Esther 8.17
“And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.”

Covenant Prayer: “Christ will have no servants except by consent.”

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

This Year - by JJ Heller


A fresh song for this new year written by JJ and Dave. JJ Heller is one of my favorite new Christian musical artists.

Christmas Brass


Christmas Eve concert!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Holy Mess

It is much easier to deal in absolutes than in ambiguity, to offer prescriptions than to share stories. But life is stories, and life is a mess. And the Scripture is stories, much of them a mess! We’ll dive into these messy stories to discover guidance as we approach controversy today.

Diversity & Unity (Jan 11)
Science (Jan 18)
Human Sexuality (Jan 25)
Human Life (Feb 1)
Religion and the State (Feb 8)
Judgment (Feb 15)

Hard Topics, not Hard Hearts
Sunday worship, starting January 11