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.

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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.

http://spilledwine.org/sermons/?sermon_id=29

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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.

Why?

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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Doubt.

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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It’s My Parents’ Fault

When I was growing up my parents withheld important things from me that I know very well they could have provided.

I had a friend in high school whose parents gave him a older model sports car to learn to drive when he turned 14.  When he turned 16, they gave him a new sports car.  I sacked groceries and bought a 1980 Dodge Omni.  I had friends whose parents did their homework for them.  I had to skim my own books.

I had friends whose parents gave them everything.  My parents didn’t.  They made me grind out my own life.

It is my parents fault that I appreciated that stupid Dodge Omni.  It is my parents fault that I earned my pitiful 3.3 GPA in high school.  It is my parents fault that I appreciated every inch of progress I made.  It is my parents’ fault I wasn’t afraid to take on a business that had “FAIL” written all over it and made it work.  It is my parents’ fault I didn’t expect my life to be easy and I appreciate where I am.

I think that may be the key to the reason the Word-Faith (name it and claim it) kind of theology doesn’t work.  If God is some kind of cosmic doting parent who passes out all of the good things in life to his children, we never become anything more than shells of men and women whose lives are as inspiring as another rich kid with a shiny car.

If having real faith means we get to avoid all of the difficulties of life and skate through with a brand new sports car, then I must not have real faith. It doesn’t fit with my reality or the reality I see in the lives of godly people around me.  I see them fighting cancer, dealing with menacing financial issues, struggling with their marriages, drinking too much, and the list goes on and on.  The people I see hold most tightly to a if-you-just-believe-god-will-give-you-a-sports-car theology are also the ones whose faith crumbles around their feet when trials do come.

Real faith emerges strong through the fire of testing.  Strong faith comes the same way a strong marriage comes–by working through the difficult stuff.  Appreciating the goodness of God is much sweeter when you have fought your way through the really bitter parts of life.

Maybe it is God’s fault that the dawn looks brighter when we have labored through the night.  Maybe it is the moments when we cry out to God, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” that makes “He is risen,” resonate in our souls.

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