Sunday, March 30, 2014

April 2014 newsletter article

"Jesus cried out,
‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’…
…and with a scream, he yielded up his spirit.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two…”
- Matthew 27:46-51

We are surrounded by busy-ness. We rush to get here and there, to accomplish this and that, to meet the obligations of contemporary life. The busy nature of 21st century life is the narrative offered by this broken world, into which we live. But the world’s narrative, fueled by the corruptions of sin and alienation, holds no atonement for us or for our families. It only serves itself.

Lent is a rebellion against the narrative of the world. Lent is a reminder to us that the narrative that REALLY matters, the narrative that REALLY defines us as disciples of Jesus, is the Grand Story of Israel – of a loving God who chooses a people through whom he will save his creation, of prophets through the ages calling people to faithfulness, of a God so desperate to be with us that he came into the world in Jesus and ultimately suffered a horrific death that we might have the opportunity to know his everlasting peace.

Lent teaches us that our own desires and opinions pale next to the Story of Jesus on the day he died. 

Worship…ministry…work…life…these are not about you or me or our wants. They never were. They are all about Jesus and, in this season of the year, the great suffering he endured for us. Lent is a corrective to our own self-centeredness and our focus on the wrong things. This is what Word and Sacrament are all about.

I encourage us all during the final, brutal weeks of Lent to pray that God’s Spirit does a mighty work in us and among us, that the Story of Jesus becomes paramount in all that we think, say and do…that the glories of Easter morning might truly become transformative and redemptive.

God loves you more than you know,

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Prayer for Peace in Syria

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the way of peace.
Come into the brokenness of our lives & our land with your healing love.
Help us to be willing to bow before you in true repentance
& to bow to one another in real forgiveness.
By the fire of your Holy Spirit,
melt our hard hearts
& consume the pride and prejudice which separate us.
Bring peace to the people of Syria,
we humbly pray,
that those who have their minds bent to seek war
would instead this day find you
& fall deeply in love with you & your Kingdom,
where true peace is known.
Grant President Obama & the US Congress wisdom
& the courage to follow your ways
rather than any earthly political course or compromise.
Comfort those who are suffering
& show your Church how we might best serve them.
In all things, may your Father's will be done.
Fill us, O Lord, with your perfect love,
which casts out our fear
& bind us together in that unity
which you share with the Father & the Holy Spirit.
-adapated from "The United Methodist Book of Worship"

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Election Day Communion

"I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you…
For it has been reported to me that there is division among you…
What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I belong to Barack’ or ‘I belong to Mitt’...
Is Christ divided?
Was Obama crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Romney?...
therefore, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast of the Lord.’”
- adapted from 1 Corinthians 1

On November 6, voters across our nation will select a President. It is an important day for America and for the world, and we should not take our responsibilities as voters lightly. The Presidency is an extremely important job, and all Christians should be in prayer for both major candidates and their families during this time.

Sadly, during election seasons, Jesus' disciples are often not at their best. While there are important matters of justice and freedom which are at stake in this and every election, we should never allow our political opinions to give us permission to mistreat or belittle others. After all, the most intensely political statement a Christian can ever utter is "Jesus Is Lord", and if that statement is believed, then we need to find ways to offer redemptive love even to those with whom we disagree.

At Slippery Rock UM Church on Election Day, we will share an opportunity to experience the unity of the Holy Spirit in the midst of chaos and division and proclaim to the world that our bond in Jesus is far, far more important than any political disagreements we may have.

At 12 PM – the middle of the voting day - we will celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion along with sisters and brothers around the country who have made similar pledges. The Election Day Communion movement is one which the Church needs at this time in its history, to clarify who we are and, frankly, who we are not. We pray that Jesus will be made known in the breaking of the bread.

You are invited to join us at noon to thank God, hear the word, pray, and celebrate the sacrament. We will be joined by the Rev BT Gilligan of Harrisville UM Church, who will co-preside at our celebration. Hope to see you on Election Day!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prayer after Violence in Libya & Egypt

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- from The Book of Common Prayer

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

NFL Picks 2012


Division winners: Patriots, Steelers, Texans, Broncos
Wildcards: Ravens, Chiefs
Championship: Broncos vs Patriots


Division winners: Giants, Packers, Saints, 49ers
Wildcards: Falcons, Lions
Championship: Saints vs Packers


Packers over Patriots
Game MVP: Aaron Rodgers

I also think that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger may actually win the NFL MVP with the new offense in place.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Themes of General Conference 2012

* The rise in influence & power of the Central Conferences makes the UMC a truly global church... finally.

* The great mistrust in the UMC involving bishops, clergy, laity, agencies & the various political/theological factions dominates conversations.

* The debates & decisions on sexuality were not hateful but examples of tough love; we ought to be able to disagree in love without impugning those who disagree with us.

* The UMC's inability to agree on definitions of words like holiness, inclusion, justice & love prevents real, meaningful unity.

* The Holy Spirit was present but often moves in ways which we find confusing or disappointing; we should learn from the ways in which the Spirit moved unexpectedly rather than discounting any divine presence.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

CEB review

Ken Collins has run one of the best Christian websites for years now; his site is filled with fine resources and challenging thoughts. I visit it often.

He recently posted a rather scathing review of the Common English Bible, a 2011 translation published by Abingdon Press, the publishing arm of The United Methodist Church. I always appreciate Ken's insights and opinions on Bible translations, a field he takes very seriously as both a pastor and a scholar. His language in opposition to the CEB is strong and invites serious reflection. I confess that I have not been particularly comfortable with the CEB, and don't use it often; perhaps Ken has narrowed the rationale for some of my discomfort.

I also encourage folks to peruse Ken's reviews of other English Bible translations, which are excellent summaries.