Showing posts from March, 2013

Empty: Thoughts On Resurrection

This week I'll be preaching a different sort of sermon.

The text that I'll be preaching from is John 20:1-18, which you can read by clicking here.

I realized something this week when I was talking to my son about why I believe in God.  Yes.  I do that.

It's a pastor thing, you wouldn't understand.

Here's what I realized.  On Easter Sunday morning there will be probably 300 people in worship at my church---most who don't attend church all that regularly, and some not at all.  Then there are my regulars, who would have been their regardless of the day, but are even more fully present because it's a Christian High Holy Day and all that.

Interestingly, they all fully expect me to read the Resurrection story from the Scripture and then expound on it, say a few hopeful things and then get them out the door in time to make their lunch reservations.

Then I started thinking about this...

Out of all of those people---the occasional, hardly ever and consistent…

Good Friday: Standing At The Foot of the Cross

This is a copy of the devotional I sent my church members this morning.  

John 19:25-28
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, "Woman,here is your son," 27 and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. 28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

I have on many occasions stood at the bedside of loved ones who breathed their last, and put my arms around their family members as they g…

Maundy Thursday Thoughts

Today is Maundy Thursday---the day Christians around the world will be commemorating the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples before experiencing the Passion of the Cross.

It's easy, within the Christian-y context that I inhabit, to forget the reason why Jesus was gathering with his disciples in that particular moment.  Like a lot of Christians I tend to focus on the parts of the story that affect me, and as a result lose some of the rich meaning Jesus seemed to embed in each teaching moment with his followers.

First of all, the occasion for the meal was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread--Passover.  This was a commemoration of the night when God freed the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt and set them on the path to the Promised land.  On that night, the Angel of Death passed over the houses of all those who had taken the blood from the Paschal Lamb (sacrificial lamb) and smeared it on the doorposts.

The bread, meat and all of the other symbolic aspec…

Less Than. Not Equal To.

My Facebook feed is an interesting place.

It's full of conservatives and liberals and odd folks like me who have ideas about things that are all over the map.

And pastors and church leaders.

I have lots of Facebook friends who are pastors and church leaders (although I may have a few less after this post), and I used to love engaging my colleagues in all sorts of interesting conversations---most of which would devolve into theological disagreements and even carefully worded insults and digs.

How very Christian of us.

Then I heard a pastor that I really admire say something that has changed the way that I interact with people on social media.  Since this pastor has successfully grown his church from like 12 people to over 40,000 in a little over fifteen years, and is literally one of the smartest leaders I know... I listen to what he has to say when he talks about leadership, and specifically leadership in the church.

This is what he said:

"Don't lose your chance to…

Stones: A Sermon for Palm Sunday

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, and the "home stretch" to Easter Sunday morning.  It's also the day that in my faith tradition (Presbyterianism) we bust out the handbells, crank up "All Glory, Laud and Honor" on the organ and let the kids run around the sanctuary waving palm branches.

Which are a heckuva lot easier for us Floridians to obtain this time of year.

I thought a bit this week about what it must be like for someone who has never really been to church to walk into the aforementioned spectacle.  They might think it's awesome.  Or weird.  Or both.

Christians have funny traditions.

But some of these traditions---especially the ones that we celebrate every year---provide us with signs and symbols to remember who we are and why the stories we tell about our faith are so important.

Take this week, for example...  The passage of Scripture that I'll be preaching from is the story of how Jesus entered into the city of Jerus…

Moses My Servant Is Dead: Leadership That Doesn't Look Back

In the first chapter of the book of Joshua in the Hebrew Scriptures, God speaks to Joshua, who has been waiting for his mentor and leader Moses to return from talking with God about life, the universe and everything.

And God says...

"Moses, my servant is dead."

God doesn't try to break it to Joshua gently.  He doesn't ask him to sit down and pour him a cup of tea before breaking the news to him.  He just tells him bluntly, "Moses is dead... now you need to get going."  There is no going back to search for Moses to make sure that he is truly dead.

"Moses is dead.  Now go..."

I made the graphic you see at the outset of this blog into a poster that hangs on the wall in front of my desk.  It reminds me of two things:

1)  The past is the past.  You can't go back there.  You can't live there.  God doesn't want you there.  When it's time to move forward into the future that God has in store for you---you better get moving.  There'…

Cross Training Week Five - "A Full Share"

This week I am concluding the sermon series "Cross Training" as we celebrate the Fifth (and final) Sunday of Lent, and begin preparing for Holy Week.  The text for this week's sermon comes from John 13---the scene where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.  Here's the text:

1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, w…

Leadership in A Vulture Culture

I was listening to the Catalyst podcast recently and one of the hosts told a story about how he saw a bunch of vultures eating a carcass on the side of the road and purposefully went out of his way to hit one of them.

He recalled how the birds deliberately waited until the last minute to get out of the way, but as soon as he passed by they went right back to their grisly meal.  In fact, they went back much quicker than they left.

He then remarked on how some organizations are plagued by a "Vulture Culture," where gossipers, malcontents and bitter folk can't wait for something to go wrong so they can start "picking the carcass," so to speak.  Even if these "vultures" are cleared off their picking, they often leave reluctantly and rush back as soon as they think the time is right.

I resonated with this analogy.

I live and breathe in the arena of Church and church-y people so that is the frame of reference from which I write.  But the truth of the Vu…

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rob Bell's Newest Book

I'm not one for extensive chapter by chapter book reviews.  I don't like to read them and I don't like to write them.  Occasionally, for something academic I have been forced to produce a lengthy book review where I had to pontificate upon and evaluate some tome or another.  Bleh.

So if you are looking for a lengthy treatise on what I think about Rob Bell's newest book What We Talk About When We Talk About God, look elsewhere.  I bet you a hundred semolians that you will find a few of the aforementioned reviews just by Googling the title.  And some of the reviewers might have actually read the book.


Just know this.  If I was asked to recommend a book to someone who was struggling with whether God existed, or whether Christianity was something that they should consider...  I would unequivocally recommend What We Talk About to them.

This is a book about becoming more aware of God in the world.  It's a book about understanding the radical notion of a God…

What Circuit City Taught Me About How Not To Succeed In Business: Part 2

This is the second part of the blog post on some things I learned about business and leadership from my tenure as a "Sales Counsellor" at Circuit City (R.I.P.)

6.  Train Managers to Inspire, Not To Conspire
CC managers were about as inspiring as an old shoe.  They were trained for one specific purpose:  to maximize profits.  We held them in fairly low esteem because not many of them could sell water to a man dying of thirst.  And even the ones who could, quickly became drones trying to keep their jobs and bonuses.  They seemed to conspire against us---making sure that we lived in the same kind of fear they were living in---rather than inspire us to greatness.  First of all, your business should not create toxic and ineffective managers.  The way you treat you mid-level staff is probably the way they will treat your front-line employees.  Secondly, there is always a fair amount of junk that managers will have to deal with that they should not be passing on to their employees. …

What Circuit City Taught Me About How Not To Succeed In Business: Part 1

I worked for Circuit City--a now defunct electronics chain---for two very long years.  I sold appliances mostly, but also was trained on selling small electronics, programming cellular phones (remember the Motorla "flip" phone?) and selling home audio equipment.  During my tenure at Circuit City I learned some invaluable lessons in organizational leadership that I have never forgotten.  Perhaps if these lessons had been evaluated by the Circuit City brass a few years ago, they would still have jobs.

1.  Care About Your Customers Needs, Not What You Need From Them.  
As a Circuit City employee I quickly learned that my first priority was to sell products that paid the most commission  and that would make the company money.  Our desire was not to help the customer find what they needed, but to sell them something that had a higher "spiff," which was the slang for the commission sales people received.  We could see the spiff on every price tag and in the computer.  If…

Cross Training Week Four: The Running God

We are continuing our sermon series, "Cross Training," a sermon series for the season of Lent that focuses on the essential teachings of Jesus.

This week I am preaching on one of the most familiar parables that Jesus ever shared with his followers---the story known most widely as The Story of the Prodigal Son.  It's interesting that most commentaries, translations of the Bible, popular literature, etc. all use this title for the parable---especially since the story isn't exactly about one son, but two.  Further this isn't just a story about sons, it's a story about a father and his sons.

This is probably a good moment to simply read the passage:
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my sh…