Saturday, December 29, 2012


e·piph·a·ny n. pl. e·piph·a·nies
1. A Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi.
2. A revelatory manifestation of a divine being.
3. a. A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.
    b. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization

My faith family has gotten a little off of the beaten path with our Advent/Christmas season in following the sermon series "A Different Kind of Christmas" as laid down by Rev. Mike Slaughter.  In keeping with this study, this Sunday we'll be observing Epiphany, that day when the Magi, those wise men from the east found who they long travelled to see - the Christ Child.

From the East they came, following the star that led them to Bethlehem.  The journey may have taken them years - but still they came, bearing gifts to the King.  The arrival of the Wise Men was another sign that this Messiah was special, a Messiah sent not just to save Israel, but the whole world.

On Christmas Eve, as part of our worship we heard from the adult Christ.  As we read from Matthew 25, we listened to Jesus tell us what was at the top of his "Wish List" - for us to love one another and take care of one another.  Christ wants us to treat others with the respect and love one would offer to King; he wants us treat others as we would treat him.  Of course, there's a certain amount of irony here - by Matthew 26, Jesus has been given up to the high priest and then to Pilate, by Matthew 27 Christ is on the cross.

Where do we begin to meet the command of the Lord, "Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."?

It first starts with commitment to Christ, as the Magi traveled from afar to see the Christ Child, many of us come to Christ after a long faith journey.  But when we arrive before Christ, what do we have to offer?  We can't give him gold, frankincense, or myrrh...

At this point, I find inspiration in stanza four of  the hymn In the Bleak Midwinter, by Christina Rossetti:
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.
As you get ready for Sunday worship, what  will you bring Christ?

Friday, December 28, 2012

And just how do you think Jesus would drive?

When I see a Jesus Fish on vehicle on the road, I avoid that vehicle at all costs.  On the road, it's not a sign of a believer to me - it's a sign of doom.

It's a sign of driving down multiple lanes.  Sometimes even three lanes simultaneously.  It's a sign of changing lanes without a turn signal, while I occupy the very space being turned into.  It's a sign that I'm going to be tailgated in the fast lane, and also a sign that that I may have to drive 20 mph under the speed limit in the fast lane - and those two things also may occur simultaneously.

In the parking lot, it's a sign that you can take up as many parking spaces as humanly possible.  It also may be a sign that I'll never ever get to park my own car, as that symbol means you'll wait for ever in the parking lot traffic lane for that sweet spot that that family of five is about to vacate.  Here, you may or may not use your turn signal - but probably not until I'm too close to you to get around you.

The Jesus Fish (or Ichthys, if you want to get technical) is an ancient symbol of Christian believers, that also makes a fantastic sticker for the car, where everybody can let everybody else know that they believe in Jesus.  Showing your faith on your vehicle is not the problem here - it's showing your faith and then driving without care for others that is.

Just think about it ... Christ calls us to live like Christ all of the time ... That means maybe not driving like a Jesus Fish bumper sticker gives you a free pass to drive like a (fill in the blank).  So if you have a Christian symbol on your car, maybe you should think about how you drive.

Have you ever thought about how Jesus would drive?  He probably wouldn't drive at all.  He'd probably take the bus.  More people to talk to that way.  And he could avoid the Christians driving like maniacs.

Drive now in peace.

Monday, December 17, 2012

God Weeps

In the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut, this hymn has been speaking to me. 

How does God feel in the aftermath of such tragedies?  If we look at the Gospel, at Christ's ever-repeated directions towards caring for one another - God Weeps, by Shirly Erena Murray may give us a glimpse.  The tune used in The Faith We Sing was composed by Carlton R. Young, HIROSHIMA, was inspired by a visit to the Hiroshima memorial site.

God weeps
                   at love withheld,
                   at strength misused,
                   at children's innocence abused,
and till we change the way we love,
                                                              God weeps.

God bleeds
                   at anger's fist,
                   at trust betrayed,
                   at women battered and afraid,
and till we change the way we win,
                                                              God bleeds.

God cries
                   at hungry mouths,
                   at running sores,
                   at creatures dying without cause,
and till we change the way we care,
                                                              God cries.

God waits   
                   for stones to melt,
                   for peace to seed,
                   for hearts to hold each other's need,
and till we understand the Christ,
                                                              God waits.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ah, Email ...

Is there anything that can get us in trouble in ministry more than email?

I think half of the conflicts I've been involved in in the last 8 years of professional ministry can be traced back to email.  From typos, to misunderstandings, to copying the wrong person ... Email is just a trip.

Just this morning our youth pastor asked me to send out a quick email to our choirs to plug a youth fundraiser dinner coming up this weekend.  No big deal, right?

I send out the harmless thing, and then I start getting the bounces, from an email address of one choir member who's email I know is incorrect.  I get 15 bounces.  Then I get an email from my assistant:

I don't know if you are aware, but you just sent 14 concurrent emails with the same text.
Awesome.  I check my Outlook, and the darn emal is still sending, 30 minutes later.  I scramble and cancel the thing ... Which is no easy task, frequently met with an "I'm busy doing important things" look from my Outlook.  And while that's going, 5 more bounces.  While I've been typing this, there has also been at least 3 more bounces.

Good times, right?  I hastily write an apology email to all concerned and press the send button.

I pray.

It only sends once.  Bounce total: 27 emails sent.

I thankfully get no angy emails in return, but I did recieve this gem of hilarity from a choir member's husband:

Those were great emails.  It took all of them for me to decide what to do.  Then it finally dawned on me that I had purchased the tickets and [my wife] had already made my decision.  So-I deleted all 27 emails.  Ha

No Big Deal!
There are good people at this church.

Any email bloopers you would like to share with the world?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sorrow + Joy

I've heard the Season of Advent frequently described as a time of 'already here, but not quite yet'.  Advent is the great in-between time; the 'already here' being that Christ has indeed already come, but the 'not quite yet' meaning that we're still waiting for him to come again.

Just think a moment on the opening line of our great Methodist Advent hymn Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus:
Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.
The hymn calls on Christ to intercede for us on a couple of different levels - that we'd need Christ to come again into our hearts right now, but also that we're looking towards that second coming of Christ.

Last night, we lost a dear friend of mine (and many, many others), an "Uncle" to my boy, to a heart attack.  It reminds me that even as we walk this earth, we're already in an in-between time before joining the Saints above.  Even as our church family mourns, we're also called to rejoice - a time that mirrors the paradoxical nature of Advent.  I'm sad in my heart, but its because I knew a great man who lived a wonderfully full life of family and ministry that I can rejoice.

I have to remind myself again of the truth - death has lost it's sting through Christ Jesus.

We'll be working out arrangements for his Celebration of Life this week, and I always feel it to be such a privilege to join in the planning.  I'm so thankful for the life my friend.