Thursday, October 23, 2008
As I write this I am on my continuing education break. This year instead of going to a conference and trying to take in a year or even a lifetime of information I decided to take time to read, pray, relax, and center myself. I hope it will be a fruitful time. In fact by the time you read this I will be back at church! One thing I have realized is that I am trying to do too much. I have great ideas and a desire to make them happen for you. But is the problem I am not God nor should I ever think I can do the work of God. It is our job as a community of Christ to do God's work not my job to do all these things. I desire more than anything for us all to work hand and hand to lift one another up and to experience the fullness of God in community. I am reading a book right now by N.T. Wright called Surprised by Hope. It is his attempt at reclaiming the true understanding of bodily (physical) resurrection. It is an idea that is not foreign in word to many of us but seems to be foreign in practice in our world. In it Wright expresses the importance of God working to recreate the world and even our bodies. In the age to come we will all have a new heaven and a new earth as well as a new body! This is however not something that happens by and by pie in the sky but has already begun with Christ own resurrection 2000 years ago. Because of this God invites us all to join in the work of making it on earth as it is in heaven. What this means is we all need to find a place and a way to get involved and be about God's work. It is not just the job of the professional staff but the job of the people of God!
One thing I have begun and I think is going well is that youth programs begin with a shared meal around a common table. This is a great place to begin our time together. It is a bit of a logistic nightmare however to get meals prepared for these times. This is where I would love to see the congregation come along side us and participate. I need people to prepare a meal on either Sunday afternoon or Wednesday evening for one of our groups of youth. It can be a simple meal or something even more extravagant if you feel led. You can cook it ahead of time or come help the youth cook it! But I would LOVE it most of all if you stayed and enjoyed the meal with us, sharing your conversation and hearing the stories of these incredible youth. I will have a sign up very soon in the narthex on the youth and children's bulletin board. Of course this is just one of many ways you can support the work of God in teaching our youth. If you feel God calling you to take part behind the scenes or out in front give me a call. I know there is something for you!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
A friend of mine from seminary had this posted. It is a bit long but you don't need to see it so put it in the background and listen while you work.
It does a good while funny job of saying things that apply to more than just politics. Basically if you only use one source for all your information your information is not well rounded. Kind of important to remember especially when you are thinking theologically. If all I ever do is listen to Tony Jones, or Brian McLaren, or Charles Dobson, I will quickly limit my understanding of the issues. That is what allows us to become closed off to new ideas.
Let's keep an open mind!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Safe in the Dust of History
A sermon by The Rev. Chris Johnson
A little boy was overheard talking to himself as he strutted through the backyard, wearing his baseball cap and toting a ball and bat: "I’m the greatest hitter in the world," he announced.
Then, he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it, and missed. "Strike One!" he yelled. Undaunted, he picked up the ball and said again, "I’m the greatest hitter in the world!"
He tossed the ball into the air. When it came down he swung again and missed. "Strike Two!" he cried.
The boy then paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully. He spit on his hands and rubbed them together. He straightened his cap and said once more, "I’m the greatest hitter in the world!"
Again he tossed the ball up in the air and swung at it. He missed. "Strike Three!"
"Wow!" he exclaimed. "I’m the greatest pitcher in the world.
I am sure there have been plenty of little boys who at one time dreamed of becoming a great hitter or pitcher in the world of baseball. Why not? It’s been said that life is made of dreams.
If you don’t have any dreams or goals in life, you may not get very far. To keep your dreams and goals it takes endurance, perseverance, determination and discipline. All traits we also need to travel the base path that Christ has put before us. This is why the author of Hebrews said:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that [distracts] and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Life is a learning process and believe it or not, we can learn some things from the game of baseball. Tommy Lasorda, the long time Dodger manager, once said: "There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens." And I would say that’s true of most things in life. God calls us, the church, to make it happen. God calls us to be the change we want to see in the world. Too often lately the church is too timid to get involved and instead watches it happen, leaving us the individuals wonder what is happening to the world.
Casey Stengel the great manager from the 30’s through the 60’s was famous for saying "Most ballgames are lost, not won." How are they lost? By a lack of genuine effort. Many things in life are lost just because we don’t do anything about them. The game of baseball, just like our Christian journey, takes fixing our eye’s on the goal and pressing on. We cannot allow our eyes to move from that goal or it may easily slip away. We have to keep our head in the game and our eye on the ball.
This brings to mind what was happening in the Mariners organization this past week. At the beginning of the week there were rumors flying all over the Puget Sound that Richie Sexson was going to be released (personally I think this might help). All the media was bombarding the players with questions by Monday afternoon General Manager Bill Bavasi was clearing out his desk. As this did not get the hopeful reaction from the media John McLaren the skipper was sent packing just a few days later. Finally, success achieved, just read Art Thiels column in the Thursday Seattle P-I, Bavasi and McLaren were dead in his sights and the only player discussion was how effective this change would be on their play. Honestly the release of a manager from a major league ball club seldom has to do with the mangers performance. The hopeful outcome is that without the media distracting the players they can focus again on the job at hand, playing baseball and hopefully winning. (the teams at .500 as of Saturday night!)
Baseball is also an endurance sport. Now I know my son prefers it over soccer because he does not have to run around the whole time, but after a 17 game t-ball season I am more convinced than ever that baseball is an endurance sport. 17 games and I don’t know if a single player made it to every game. I can even imagine playing 160 games in the regular season, not to mention the playoffs! But if you want to be successful in baseball you have to have endurance.
I remember when Cal Ripken Jr. was going for the consecutive game record back in 1998. He played in his 2131st game and went on to never miss a day in 2632 games. That’s 16 of the 21 years he played in every game of every season that the Baltimore Oriels played. What kind of endurance does it take to complete this kind of accomplishment? I mean I can seldom go for a single year without taking a sick day. However, most fans and Minor League players dream of getting any opportunity to play in the big leagues. Cal Ripken had that same dream, combined it with his sheer desire to play along with incredible endurance and stuck through it.
Perseverance is another important trait talked about in Hebrews and seen in baseball. When we talk about perseverance I think of the 2001 Mariners. Now for you non-Mariner fans this is the season they won 116 regular season games setting a new American League record. We all expected this was finally our year! We were not only going to the World Series, we were gonna win! I was already trying to figure out if I would get tickets to all the games or just a couple! But instead when the playoffs started the magic had seemed to disappear from the team. They barely scrapped by the Indians in the division series and went on to lose 4 games to 1 against the New York Yankees It was almost like the Mariners began to coast. Were they out of gas? Did they become distracted? Whatever it was those 116 games came down to another season that Mariner fans would not see a World Series in Seattle. Somehow they were not able to persevere. And so a record that stood for 100 years passed before our eyes.
The race we are in with Christ requires perseverance. It is not about getting our ticket and sitting in the stands, waiting for the end of the game. Without perseverance we are likely to run out of gas, not press on, or just forget the goal of bringing the kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven and become complacent with a place in the bleachers.
Some of you may remember that baseball player Lou Gehrig is called the "iron man of baseball" for a very good reason. For 15 years in the 1920’s and 30’s he played first base for the New York Yankees. He played 2130 consecutive games, second only to Cal Ripken. After he retired they X-rayed both of his hands and found that every finger had been broken at least one time, YET HE NEVER MISSED A GAME! He played even though he was hurt. He played because he had determination, not just to be famous but determination to continue the journey despite his injuries.
Obviously, we have to go on living the Christian life even though we’ve been hurt. And it’s a guaranteed thing we will be hurt in this life. We will experience hurt and pain in some form or another and for one reason or another: perhaps just because we live in an imperfect world where imperfect things happen all the time but it takes determination to keep on the journey.
Joe DiMaggio is remembered for many amazing feats in his 13 year major league career all with the Yankees. But the one thing he is most remembered for is his 56 game hitting streak during the 1941 season. The kind of discipline that must have taken for Joe to reach down and get that hit in each of those games is astounding to all who venture out onto the baseball field today. I once stood in a batting cage against an 80 MPH pitch in 20 pitches the only time I even got the bat on the ball was when I held it out before the ball was shot at me, and it hurt my hands like crazy!
Of course you can’t talk about Joltin’ Joe and the 1941 season without remembering The Splendid Splinter. In that same season Ted Williams became the last batter to end the season with a batting average over .400 (in a 160 game season). I was once told the difference between batting .300 and batting .400 in a single season is one hit per week. One hit in a week is all that makes the difference between Ted Williams and his .406 average and Joe DiMaggio with his 56 game hit streak and a .357 average (or even Ichiro’s .333 lifetime average). This is the kind of accomplishment that demands discipline.
It is with discipline that we will push on in the ball game known as our Christian journey. Through discipline we will find the desire needed to step up and say I want to serve the church. It is with discipline we will be able to see that place Christ is already at work and jump in. It is discipline we will need to reach out when we see a person in need.
But baseball has always been about yesterday or the last inning. It has always spoken fondly about the cloud of dust raised by the players that have gone before. They talked about the perseverance of these great players. Players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, and Hank Aaron, the list goes on and on. These are players who lasted sometimes 15 or 20 years. In today’s major league era of salaries in the multi-million dollars per year it is still these great players that have come before that are spoken of daily. It is in their witness that all other players strive to meet. When a pitcher throws a great game or a batter gets an amazing hit, they are always compared to one of these great players from the past. In fact all the greatest records are ones that take many years to accomplish. Ken Griffey Jr. just recently hit his 600th homerun. It took him 20 years to reach this accomplishment. As Dizzy Dean one of my favorite old time players said upon his induction into the baseball hall of fame:
"I want you boys to realize what a great opportunity you have in baseball. I hope all of you make this Hall of Fame. You have to practice and work hard. Give everything you have." - Dizzy Dean (1953 Hall of Fame Induction Day Speech)
The fierce competition of the faithful against all that would defeat or distract us is inspired too by such a great cloud of witness of the countless former faith hero’s whose lives we read about throughout the Bible. These previous generations laid everything on the line compelled by hope in God’s promise of salvation. Back in the day their kind of determination was legendary even though they only glimpsed the reality of Jesus Christ.
Imagine the crowd of witness that surrounds you on your faith journey:
Whose life witness gives you particular encouragement to carry on in the race?
Which poses the greatest threat to your endurance, internal distraction or external resistance?
What practical measures can you take to encourage someone in need of pushing on in the game?
The game leaves us all very tired and weighed down, but Jesus gives rest, release and reward. Believe in Him, trust Him, surrender to Him, obey Him. Comfort will come. Worries will cease. Joy will return. Life will never end. So Root, Root, Root, for the home team, and let Play Ball!
Friday, June 06, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The calendar has been on my mind a lot lately. The calendar is the macro system we all rely on for scheduling our lives. It of course is broken down into smaller units of time so our days can include all the meetings and tasks we must accomplish.
Did you know that for a very long time the church was responsible for keeping the calendar for the community? In addition to the seasonal crops growing, the church let the community know what time of year it was. This was much of the purpose of the liturgical calendar in ancient times. The life of Jesus was broken down into particular times of the year such as Christmas and Easter. The church would tell the story of Jesus in terms of the time of the year. The birth of Jesus always happened during the winter. The resurrection of Jesus would happen shortly before the planting season began. Advent would begin sometime after the final harvest. Lent would occur around the time of field preparation for the next growing season. In short, the schedules of the community were driven by the church. In fact, in most of the European cities the church even held the town clock. The church bells would ring, tolling out the times of the days.
With this in mind, I have been thinking how we can again reclaim the church as our guiding light through the calendar. It is clear from the observation that church is the first thing dropped when another event comes up in competition for our time that this is worth discussion. What I wonder is how we can again reclaim the church as the center without sacrificing the other things in life that have become important.
The church used to begin the day with prayer. It marked midday with prayer and it closed the day with prayer. It did not ask you to give up the other tasks of your day, but instead use these times of connecting with God as breaking points between activities. You would wake up, say these prayers, and then go to work. At midday when you needed to stop to eat lunch, you would mark this point of the day with prayer. At the end of the day when it was time to sleep, you again would mark the day with prayer. This was known as "the daily offices." It walked people through the day. Along with the larger church festivals and holidays, these routines walked you through your year.
Year in and year out you would follow the life of Jesus as it paralleled your own life. Your activities did not compete with the church for time, but instead were led by the church.
It is in this vein that I ask how we can reclaim this. How can we again find a place where church is not asked to compete with the rest of life, but church becomes the center point from which our lives flow? How can we reclaim Jesus Christ not only of our spiritual lives but of our physical life?
I don’t have any answers for you on this subject, but I would love to talk with you and hear your feelings on it. I would love to hear what practices you have picked up that help keep your life centered on Jesus Christ and the community he has built called Church. Come by and share your thoughts with me!
“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
I wrote a sermon in Seminary and I think I even preached it here to y’all. It was entitled “He is Risen! … so now what?” I hate to think my best sermon writing is behind me now but when I can spend so much time focusing on one thing I guess you just come up with good material. The sermon spoke about all the things we believe about the risen Christ and how that makes our lives completely different. But it did not leave it there. It called us all to do something about it. You see if you are willing to announce to the world that Christ is Risen and that makes some kind of difference in your life you are now committed to living a changed life.
Last Sunday we watched the vignette from Rob Bell, “Sunday”. It this short film we were challenged to think of church as something more than a motion we go through once a week. The film asked us if we had ever attended a church service out of a sense of duty. Now this was not intended to be a judgmental question, although it could sound like it. It was intended to question what church means to you. It was asking why you come to church. On the one hand if you simply come because you feel you better or God might hit the smite button, he may have already done just that. I think Jesus said it like this, if you expect your outward actions and appearance will gain you some prize in the afterlife, than you have already received your reward.
Going to church is not about earning a reward or making yourself a better position on the community. Being church is a duty we are called to. All of us that call out He is Risen! We gain a duty when we say this. We gain a duty to serve the poor and the downtrodden around us. We are expected to have a changed life when we proclaim He is Risen! Church is the place where we come to learn how to make our hearts beat more and more like God’s. The film closes with the statement “The point is being a Christian. It means being a follower of Jesus. It’s being connected with everything that is true and good and right. Everything that goes on around us, that reminds us that there is so much more going on around us than we realize.” So announce out loud to your family and your neighbors and your coworkers. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
<>< Pastor Chris
Monday, March 03, 2008
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Defending the Facts on Obama's Faith
I don't endorse political candidates, but I will defend them when it becomes necessary. On this, I agree with my friend Richard Land, the conservative Southern Baptist leader who is often identified with the Religious Right. Richard and I agree that faith has a place in politics and, when we agree on fundamental moral questions, have worked together. Richard says, "I have defended various candidates from time to time when I've felt that they have been unfairly or inaccurately criticized. At other times, I have been asked by the media for my assessment of a particular candidate's chances or weaknesses and strengths. Neither defense nor assessment should be confused with endorsement. As a matter of policy, I have not endorsed, do not endorse and will not endorse candidates."
So I am going to defend my friend, Barack Obama, from an increasing number of ridiculous and scurrilous attacks on the Internet and in the media. The latest incident occurred when a loud-mouth radio talk show host in Cincinnati let loose with a barrage of disparaging remarks against Senator Obama and kept using his middle name—Barack HUSSEIN Obama—over and over, seemingly to tie into the Internet accusations that Obama is really a Muslim who, as a child, attended a Muslim "madrassa" school in Indonesia that taught Islamic fundamentalism, etc. As a Chicago Tribune blog piece commented, "Anyone who uses Obama's middle name repeatedly, like Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham the other day, knows what he or she is doing and what feelings they are trying to evoke. There's simply nothing innocent about it."
The occasion for the shock jock's diatribe was his introduction of Senator John McCain at a rally. To his great credit, McCain denounced the remarks when he heard about them, disassociated himself from this kind of attack, and reaffirmed that his campaign would be conducted on higher ground. Good for you, John McCain. So of course, the local loud-mouth, Bill Cunningham, quickly withdrew his support from McCain and now is denouncing him too; which, of course, was quickly picked up by his mentor, the national radio loud-mouth Rush Limbaugh (whom the local Cunningham seems to desperately "wannabe"). And, of course, Rush is now denouncing both Obama and McCain.
I watched last night as other cable news shows told this story and subtly tried to add more fuel to the fire. Lou Dobbs downplayed the Cincinnati outburst as unimportant and suggested it was no different that telling the world that John McCain's middle name is "Sydney." Sure Lou; and it was interesting that Dobbs followed with more innuendos and rolled eyes over the moment in the Tuesday Democratic debate when Obama was asked about Louis Farrakhan, about suspicions that Barack's home Trinity Church on the south side of Chicago was "black nationalist," and about why Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, wouldn't come on Lou's show to discuss his alleged sympathies for Farrakhan, etc. It is certainly no mystery why Pastor Wright didn't cancel his retirement celebrations and drop everything to come on Lou's show. Would anyone?
An Associated Press story entitled, " Obama Fights False Links to Islam," commented on the new flare-up, "For Barack Obama, it is an ember that he has doused time and again, only to see it flicker anew: links to Islam fanned by false rumors, innuendo, and association."
During the Democratic debate, Obama again "denounced and rejected" the ugly anti-Semitic comments that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has often made, as he had done many times before. Farrakhan hadn't actually endorsed Obama, but recently said, "This young man is the hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better." Asked on Tuesday night about whether he would accept Farrakhan's support, Obama said: "I live in Chicago. He lives in Chicago. I've been very clear, in terms of me believing that what he has said is reprehensible and inappropriate. And I have consistently distanced myself from him."
So let's set the record straight. I have known Barack Obama for more than 10 years, and we have been talking about his Christian faith for a decade. Like me and many other Christians, he agrees with the need to reach out to Muslims around the world, especially if we are ever to defeat Islamic fundamentalism. But he is not a Muslim, never has been, never attended a Muslim madrassa, and does not attend a black "separatist" church. Rather, he has told me the story of his coming from an agnostic household, becoming a community organizer on Chicago's South Side who worked with the churches, and how he began attending one of them. Trinity Church is one of the most prominent and respected churches in Chicago and the nation, and its pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is one of the leading revival preachers in the black church. Ebony magazine once named him one of the U.S.'s 15 best Black preachers. The church says it is "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian," like any good black church would, but is decidedly not "separatist," as its white members and friends would attest.
And one Sunday, as Obama has related to me and written in his book, The Audacity of Hope, the young community organizer walked down the aisle and gave his life to Christ in a very personal and very real Christian conversion experience. We have talked about our faith and its relationship to politics many times since. And after he gave his speech at a Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference in June of 2006, E.J. Dionne said that it may have been "the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy's Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican."
Like his politics or not, support his candidacy or not - but don't disparage Barack Obama's faith, his church, his minister, or his credibility as an articulate Christian layman who feels a vocation in politics. Those falsehoods are simply vicious lies and should be denounced by people of faith from across the political spectrum.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Yet I also realize how much I still have to learn about preparing for a church service!
I hope this does not become to much of a distraction to sharing the word.
I will post the sermon later this week.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Happy Election Season!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Just in from the PC(USA) Permanent Judicial Committee… PC(USA) High Court Rules "Fidelity and Chastity" Standard Remains Binding
While I am glad that the denomination has made a clear statement in one direction or the other in a what almost looks like an election year “pay off”. But I really wonder if this will lead to Peace Purity and Unity. Will a decision that so strongly favors one side of the fight over the other truly going to bring an end to the argument? I struggle with understanding God's teaching for us on this issue. While I truly believe God wants us to live in marriage between a man and a women and that a Gay lifestyle was not part of the original plan, I know many people who are Gay and live a more Christ like life than many others in the church. I am not sure this decision will help us to understand how to love ALL people without reservation just as Jesus did. We are a broken race and will continue to be a broken people, But God still loves us, even in our impurities. I agree that Ordination is for those that have been called out by God for a special service and we are held to a higher standard but what about grace? What about unconditional love? What about Christ's open arms? Let us move forward with this decision but still find places for all of God's children to serve together as ONE body. Let us continue to find ways that every child of God who feels a call to ministry can indeed serve without having to give up who they are as a person.
For more on this and to read others thoughts go to:
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Another favorite author of mine Dan Kimball in his book "The Emerging Church" (Zondervan, 2003) explains the missional church this way; "as a body of people sent on a mission who gather in community for worship, encouragement, and teaching from the Word that supplements what they are feeding themselves throughout the week."
Both Horrox and Kimball capture much of the essence and heart of what it means to be missional, but in order to probe deeper and be more coherent we need to be involved in conversation about this subject. I think we can and I want us to begin to think about what it means to be missional. The first step in understanding what it means to be missional requires a shift in our thinking.
Alan Hirsch in a separate article observes, "the word 'missional' over the years has tended to become very fluid and as it was quickly co-opted by those wishing to find new and trendy tags for what they themselves were doing. Missional is often looked upon as just another phase or program. But we go astray when we allow this to happen for missional is more than just another movement, it is a full expression of who the ekklesia (the Church) of Christ is and what it is called to be and do. Some scholars, including Darrell Guder in The Missional Church (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing - February 1998) believe "missional" focuses on the church contextualizing its methods, morality, and message to fit its indigenous culture. At its core, missional is a shift in thinking. This shift in thinking is articulated by Ed Stetzer and David Putman in their book, "Breaking the Missional Code" (Broadman & Holman, 2006) like this:
- From programs to processes
- From demographics to discernment
- From models to missions
- From attractional to incarnational
- From uniformity to diversity
- From professional to passionate
- From seating to sending
- From decisions to disciples
- From additional to exponential
- From monuments to movements
And these are a couple others I have seen on the internet:
- From services to service
- From ordained to the ordinary
- From organizations to organisms
Let’s sit down and enjoy a cup of Free Trade coffee and enter the discussion!