You Can Call Me…

I was writing an email to a guy who ran some tests on me.  We spent a day together, laughed together and shook hands at the end.  When I write, there is a distance.  I began my email, Dr. Bryan.the-godfather-a-powerful-man

If I were to have the honor of meeting Barak Obama.  Regardless of the setting.  Regardless of how he addressed me.  When I address him, there would be distance.  I would say, Mr. President.

Distance.  It is what those in power have earned.  They have earned arm’s distance.  They have earned a little breathing room.  They have earned being a cut above.

The more power, the more distance.  Dr. Bryan.  Mr. President.

And then there are the people who come between us and them.

They are secretaries who you later find out are also the wives.  They say to you, “Dr. Bryan will see you now.”  It is as if their role is to remind us of the distance.  It is their role to stand between us and push that distance just a bit further.  Make the power a little more ominous.

They are chiefs of staff who come before and make sure only the right people are in the room.  They inform you that you will have 3 minutes with the President.  You will stand when he enters.  You will sit only after he sits.  You will keep your distance.

He stands between, stretches his hands and pushes us a bit further away.  He is the President and you are not.

Almighty God.  Elohim–God of gods.  God is a big and powerful God.  He created the world and all it contains.  His power is unmatched.

Sometimes we feel like it is our job to stand between God and people and push them a bit further apart.  We start talking about Holiness.  We point at little specs in eyes.  We sort out the right kind of people.  We shake and shout, reach out our arms make some distance and demand that people give God the respect He deserves.

But isn’t it interesting that God works hard to say to us, “Hey, you can call me, “YHWH.”  It is my name.”

It is like God nudges us and says, “You can call me, “Emmanuel.”  I am with you.”

What does it say about God?  He says, “Call me Jesus.  YHWH saves.  I am here for you.”

And the one he has placed between us?  He is called the “Advocate” whose job is not to push us apart, but to indwell us and be God in us.

The God whose power is omni–the God who calls to the morning and it dawns, says to us, “Call me “Abba”.  Call me “Daddy.””

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What the Fuck?

Today, a friend of mine shared with me the story of a girl who was raped by a deacon at church. Her father was the pastor of the church and, for the sake of the deacon’s reputation, did nothing and went on as if nothing happened.


What the fuck?

I have had first hand experience with a church that actively covered up multiple sexual assaults. They wanted to “protect the reputation of the church.”

What the fuck?

I know the language is harsh. We have to hear it. The world understands how wrong this is. They look at us and say, “What the fuck?”  The church doesn’t seem to get it.

What is wrong with us?

When did we forget that our job is to fight for the oppressed? When did we forget our calling was to care for those who could not care for themselves? When did we forget our role in opposing evil?

We can stand up and oppose homosexual marriage. God forbid that two consenting adults would commit their lives to one another and have sex.   But we are silent when church “leaders” have sex with children.

What the fuck?

We can preach and pound the pulpit about family values. We march against pornography. We write letters about dress codes and dances. And we cover up the sexual violence that happens in our own buildings.

What the fuck?

We can be outraged that someone says, “Fuck” on a theological blog while , but until we get serious about protecting people—protecting children—from those oppressors within and without, the world will continue to hear our message of “Love,” and say, “What the fuck?”

I’m not so sure Jesus wouldn’t say it too.

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Permit me…

Permit me for a moment to veer from theological reflections to a personal one.

A year ago was the last time I preached at Village (the church where I attend). My sermon was not received well and I was not asked to preach again.

Even though I met with our pastor every week to help work with him on his sermon.  Even though he is very encouraging of the “help” I give to him.  Even though I am fully invested in the church.  Even though I have preached for 25 years.  Even though…I wasn’t asked to preach again.

The reason was that my sermon challenged those who heard in a different way than they were accustomed.  (It was the prodigal sermon a few posts below)

A couple months ago, we announced we were moving for business reasons.  I didn’t really think about it, but my last preaching experience–and my last “official” service at Village left a bad taste in my mouth.  It was discouraging.

Then a few weeks ago, Renjy, the pastor in charge of the chapel service, called to ask if I would preach for him.  It changed everything.  I preached and that very week, Renjy called and said, “People really resonated with your sermon.  Would you preach again before you leave.”

Thank you, Renjy.  Thank you for affirming my gift.  Thank you for loving me and allowing me to serve.

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Shining Justice

I was so blessed to be able to preach in the Village Chapel.

Here is the coolest part.  2 days after I preached this, the pastor called me and asked me to come preach again.  #BlownAway

Here it is.

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Only Jesus

It has been a long time, but today, I sat down to ponder my text to preach next Sunday.

The text is Luke 7:36ff.

Jesus is invited to the home of Simon–Simon the Pharisee.  While eating, a sinful woman (read, “prostitute”) comes behind Jesus while He is eating.  She anoints Jesus with expensive perfume and, weeping, washes His feet with her tears and wipes them dry with her hair.

Simon protests by scoffing that a real prophet would not allow such a woman to touch him.

Jesus sweeps to the woman’s defense with a story.  Two debtors who owe vastly different sums are forgiven their debts.  Jesus asks who will love the lender more.

The answer, of course, is the one who is forgiven more.

With that, Jesus explains that this woman loves more than Simon because she has been forgiven more.  Simon, actually, does not love at all and the woman’s love overflows everything in her.

Then Jesus declares her forgiven and whole.

It is a common story.  It is one we remember from Sunday School.  It is one I have heard 100, maybe 1000, times.  Down my cheek ran a tear.

I am moved by Jesus.  There is no one and nothing that moves me more deeply than the grace and compassion of a God who would dwell among us.  There is nothing that makes me more keenly aware of my own sin and my own forgiveness than spending time getting to know Jesus.

Only Jesus moves me so.

I hope I never lose the awe.  Jesus, thank you for showing us the image of God and for drawing it out of us.

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Who is the Betrayer

Wendy and I were talking about how sermons should bring our own lives into sharp focus. Sermons that talk about how terrible all those people “Out there” are not valuable at all and actually push people away from the Kingdom.

It reminded me of this sermon.

This sermon uses a my own life and the struggles I was facing to bring hearers away from seeing Judas as someone who sits apart from us to someone who may even sit in our pew.

Surely Not I (Mark 14 10-21)

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Remembering Sharon Rice

1532112_10151817534160779_1473438729_nSharon Rice was my youth leader from the time I was in Jr. High until High School and then she became my friend.

Last Saturday, she was killed in a car accident.

I can’t adequately express my gratitude for this wonderful lady, nor can I overstate her impact on my life.  I will dearly miss her, and look forward to the day I see her again.

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Pieces of His Body, Pieces of My Soul

Communion is one of those foundational elements of our faith.  It is a deep, deep sea.  I love meditating on the Body and Blood of Jesus.

The trays of torn pieces of bread and little cups of wine passed ordinarily in front of me. I took a piece of bread and a cup. The bread was jagged. The wine was red.

Communion is the body and blood of Jesus. It is the meal we partake to to remember the violent sacrifice of Jesus that cleanses our souls of sin and gives us hope.

The body, broken. The blood poured out.

The body was broken when Pilate had Jesus scourged. It was broken when nails were driven into His hands and feet. It was broken when a soldier thrust a spear into Jesus’ side. And from the broken body poured blood and water.

The violent sacrifice of Jesus.

When we remember Jesus’ sacrifice, we tear pieces of bread and pour wine.

I wonder if it still hurts. I wonder if we still tear bits of Jesus’ body with our sin. I wonder if our betrayal still tears jagged pieces of Jesus’ flesh from His bones. I wonder if it hurts.

I have raised my children with the gentle instruction in the ways of Jesus. I have taught them love and truth and kindness and obedience and and and. If you are a parent, you know where this is going. All along the way growing up, my children knew what was right, but chose to do what was not.

Every time they did, they tore pieces of my soul.

They didn’t think of me, they thought of themselves. They thought, “I want this and though I know it is not what my parents have taught me, I will have it anyway.” A piece of my heart. A piece of my soul torn from me.

It hurts like crazy every single time. The last time is as painful as the first.

And though it is painful, I still allow my children to reach up and pull another piece of my soul from my bones.


I think it is the wine talking.

I think it might be that broken body is followed by flowing blood.

I think it might be the blood that washes away my sin. These hands that tore apart the body of Jesus are washed with life very life of the one who is torn and broken. Jesus’ death is the violent demonstration of the overwhelming love of God–love profoundly manifest in the forgiveness delivered by and represented by the blood of Jesus.

God forgives over and over and over. Every piece of torn flesh is washed by poured blood. Every violent, ungrateful, egocentric sin is met by the same unrelenting grace of the One whose body is broken. The forgiveness even comes in the midst of violence and by means of the same violence. The cleansing blood comes from the broken body.

In 20 short years as a parent, my soul has been torn over and over, but every single time, those wounds provide an avenue by which love flows. Through the deep pain comes complete forgiveness.

It is the kind of crazy love only a parent understands. Love that forgives and continues through pain. However great the pain, the love endures and overcomes.

Torn pieces of bread. Poured glasses of wine. Violent, beautiful images of the ugliness of sin and the costly nature of the grace which gives me life.

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Who’s the Prodigal Now?

This was my second opportunity to preach at Village Baptist Church.  Such an honor.

Thanks to the kind folks at Village who invited and treated me kindly.  It is good to be part of a great church.

Here is the Sermon

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It has been far too long since I updated this blog.

My life has been going well.  I have been connected up with Village Baptist Church and have been enjoying being a part.  One of the areas of my involvement is on a sermon study group with the pastor.  It is fun to get to think theologically again.

A few weeks ago, John asked me if I would fill in for him while he was out of town.  I was thrilled.

The sermon had an autobiographical bent to it because it was the first introduction of me to the congregation.  The sermon is about doubt.

Here is the sermon.

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