New

 

Danny, we will start in the deuce court.tennis-courts-1024x768

I’ve made three major changes in my life in the few months.

First,  I begun a new ministry with the Pension Fund of the Christian Church.

Second, our family relocated to Carmel, Indiana

Last, but not least, I started tennis lessons- at the intermediate level.

We’ve been knee deep in new lately.

I’ve had to learn lots of new words in the last month. A new job brings a new daily language. I use words and acronyms daily that I have never used.

We’ve lived in Carmel but there is still lots of new. Lots of new roundabouts to be exact. It is very important here to not only know what a roundabout is but also how to use one.

Tennis- I have played on and off, but never at this serious of a level. I’m convinced our instructor is prepping us for the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

It occurred to me on the tennis court that faith forces us to learn a new way of speaking. Faith calls us to new understandings. One of the great promises of the Bible is that God is always moving us forward. God moves us forward in our understanding who God is and what God would have us do. Encounters with the holy call us to see and to understand the world differently. Some embrace this while others fight it. New comes easier for some than it does for others. You can hold onto the past but the consequences of doing so are great. New life is found in what we are becoming, not what we have been.

I decided that I am going to figure out which side of the court is the deuce court and which side is the ad. My guess is my game will improve with new understanding of where to begin.

Grace and peace

The Work of Christmas

This appeared today as the Christmas Day devotion for my congregation. Sandy Springs Christian Church.

 The child is here, and through him the whole world rejoices. I think we love Christmas Day so much because the world stops. We have some time to simply be. What a wonderful gift! Tomorrow, life will begin again, in more than one way. For you, what will be different now that the messiah is here? Will we rejoice at the new possibilities that are born through this child? Will we celebrate the new life offered through the messiah? The angels sing, the thrill of hope is real, a weary world rejoices– now what are we going to do?

The gift of Christmas calls us to be different. All of our expectation and preparation will be nullified if nothing in our lives and the world changes. Our reality is not unchangeable and the birth of a messiah is all the proof that we need.

Something I read every Christmas Day is Howard Thurman’s poem The Work of Christmas Begins. I share it with you now as it perfectly lays out our work following the gift of a messiah:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Merry Christmas!

No More Apologies (or Labels)

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“Oh, I’m not that kind of Christian.” I have uttered those words more times than I can count. As a child, playing with neighbors, in the halls of middle and high school, in social gatherings in college, in offices I’ve worked in, and now, as an ordained minister, seemingly to most every person I meet. I’ve grown weary of apologizing for my faith. Maybe you have as well. Continue reading “No More Apologies (or Labels)”

Membership Has No Privilege

Am Ex

Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. 24  All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them.  Luke 9:23-24

I read church signs. I think its a professional hazard or something. Some signs are great, some are informative, some are so ridiclous that they are funny (and I assume most find them that way as well. One small church near us had “Stop, Drop, and Roll Won’t Work in Hell on their sign one day. I am hoping that didn’t attract a lot of visitors.”)

Today, I saw a sign that literally stopped my in my tracks. I quickly pulled into this church’s parking lot to make sure I read the sign right. Unfortunately I did. “Membership Has Its Privileges.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why people don’t go to church and what our congregation can do to change people’s minds and hearts about church. We are beginning a new Sunday evening service at the end of February called The Table. We are committed to the truth that there is a place for everyone at the Table.

Perhaps the Church (the big “C” church) is our own worst enemy. That sign reminded me of many people’s perception and even their reality about the church. Church is an exclusive club where the select few receive special privileges. Take it even further. The Christian faith is an exclusive club where those who believe the right way receive special privileges. Privilege is defined as” a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.”  Privileges elevate one over another or over many. If I join Costco and you don’t, I have the privilege of buying three gallons of ketchup and you don’t.

If you read the Gospels looking for some privilege of following Jesus, you might be disappointed. On several occasions, he mentions taking up your own cross and following him. He mentions losing one’s life (at least losing one’s so called life.) More often than not, he goes out of his way to go places no one else would dare go. “He had to go to Samaria.” No one has to go to Samaria. But Jesus does. Would you? Would I? No privilege to be found in Samaria. However, there is life to be found.

The church can offer the gift of being a part of an inclusive movement for wholeness.

The church can offer the gift of being able to find our true self and God’s true calling upon our life.

The church can offer the gift of being unconditionally loved as well as teaching us how to love unconditionally.

The church can offer the gift of grace and radical welcome

The church can offer the gift of a real and meaningful life.

If you want privilege, get an American Express card. If you want to lose your life so that you may find your true life, well Jesus has some ideas about how to find that.

The First Birth Annoucement

Advent 2015We love to get birth announcements in the mail. The announcement usually arrives with a picture of the baby, the proud parents and sister and brothers’ names and their weight and height. For a baseball card comparison, it’s life’s rookie card. Jesus’ parents didn’t have to send out a birth announcement because of an angel of the Lord did so for them. I am bringing you good news of great joy.

Do you know the rest of the announcement? It’s important stuff. “Do not be afraid, for I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.” Eugene Peterson calls the birth of Jesus “an event for everyone.” We focus on the good news for us and our lives, but what about for everyone else. Not to mention that the very first words after the birth of Jesus are “do not be afraid.”

As we open gifts on Christmas morning, are we also willing to open our hearts and spirits? Are we willing to embrace that the birth of Jesus is good news for all the earth? Are we willing to quit letting fear rule our thoughts and actions?

Our land today is ripe with fear and misunderstanding and all of the bad fruit that fear and misunderstanding produces. Perhaps I am a bit naive but I still believe that we are stronger together than we are apart. I believe there is no “us” and “them” but only “we.” As a follower of Jesus, I am concerned that if we will not work for and stand up for peace, then who will.

Very soon, a word of hope will be spoken into our anxiety and fear. Are you prepared to receive and believe this word? It was the first birth announcement.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all people.”

Between Memory and Hope- Sermon Text from the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

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Between Memory and Hope

On this day of remembrance I offer the text of the sermon I preached at Carmel Christian Church in Carmel, Indiana on September 11, 2011. 

Chances are good that no one will forget where you were on September 11, 2001 around 8:45 AM Eastern Time.

Take a moment, just about 30 seconds or so and turn to someone and tell them where you were, what you were feeling

I was at work, at the CareerBuilder.com office in North Atlanta. I had settled into my cubicle, returned email from the previous day and began to prepare for several appointments that I had scheduled for that day, when all of a sudden, people came running into the sales area of the building, telling us to come to the break room, to see what was happening in New York City. We had this break room in our office that held a foosball table, air hockey table and a big screen television. We had about 50 people crammed into this break room, watching what was going on, smoke billowing out of the towers

Continue reading “Between Memory and Hope- Sermon Text from the 10th Anniversary of 9/11”

Lessons from the Side of the Road

Parables SeriesI have returned from some time in Columbus, Ohio at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).. Mary Michael and I rented a house with another couple in a neighborhood called Short North. This afforded us about a half mile walk each day to and from the convention center. I told our roommates for the week that Short North could best be described as “high rollers, hipsters, and homeless.”The diversity in people who lived, worked, and played in the neighborhood was both refreshing and challenging. It is interesting to walk to a church gathering and walk past a number of homeless people on your walk. A lot goes on in both your heart and your head. It’s one thing to spend time singing and praying for justice and a whole other thing to be confronted with issues of justice just moments later Continue reading “Lessons from the Side of the Road”