Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Day 3

Scripture: Psalm 6; Psalm 10; Luke 20:9-18
Walking through Advent is uncomfortable. This journey takes us from darkness to light. It has us walking through our brokenness. Today's lectionary reading is no different. The Psalmists lament over their brokenness and the apparent distance between God and the chosen people. Luke tells us the story of the wicked tenants. Who are the tenants? The religious people who are keepers of the law, the doctrine? Those who were entrusted with the Good News and shining the light of God to the nations but instead horded God for themselves?
What in my life is keeping people away from the Good News? Advent is about getting close and personal to the brokenness in my life so God can bring healing and deliverance. It is uncomfortable to be aware of the darkness which still exists in me. But the good news is we are walking towards the light. Our Deliverer is coming!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent Day 2

Scripture: Isaiah 1:10-20

Advent is a time of waiting. We wait for our Deliverer--the One who will deliver us from our brokenness, our sin, death. The passage in Isaiah reminds us our brokenness can seep into our religion. Israel was practicing her religion: the festivals and the offering of sacrifices. Yet she remained broken. Her holiness was shallow. What does God require? Seeking justice, learning to do good, caring for the poor.
Have I become satisfied with a religion which makes me feel comfortable and good? Does my brokenness seep into my practice of my faith? I want to let God heal me. I want to be an instrument of healing.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Journey begins

I grew up in a tradition which did not observe Advent. Yet every year, Christians complained about the commercialism and how we were losing the true meaning of Christmas in our society. But Christmas is not our culture's to protect, it is ours. And I am becoming more and more convinced that if we wish to keep Christmas well, we must first observe Advent well. The past three blogs have been introductions to my attempt to observe Advent well. This blog begins my journey. You are invited to come along silently or join the dialogue.
Today's Gospel from the lectionary was Matthew 24:36-44. As we journey towards the celebration of the past--the celebration of Christ's birthday, we look to the future coming of Christ. We are closer today than we have ever been to seeing Christ face to face, whether it be through the Second Coming or through the doorway of Death. And we are called to be ready.
But I believe we are called to be ready to meet Christ in a new way this Christmas. How will this Christmas be different than last? Will we know Christ better? Christmas is more than gifts and packages, it is more than family time, it is the invitation to join the story of God. How are we going to get ready to meet Christ this Christmas?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Intentional Advent

As stated in my last post, our culture rushes us into Christmas, and for good reason. If we are rushed into the holidays, we leave all rational thinking behind, especially about our finances, and jump into the commercialism. And the pull of commercialism is overwhelming. According to the advertisements on television...
My car tells my neighbors I am bland. My computer is not thin enough or fast enough. My washer and dryer are not smart enough. My oven does not multi task well. My phone does not have enough g's. My television is not wide enough. I am fashionably challenged. And what about my family? If I really love them I will make sure their car tells the world they are classy and hip, their computers will be fast, the televisions wide,etc.
No wonder contentment is elusive in our society. "Blessed are the meek"? What is meek? Advent yells, "enough." We are looking for a Deliverer, not a tech item which will devalue the moment we open it or be out of date the next morning. We are looking for a Savior from this prison of materialism and discontentment. Advent reminds us, "Our Deliverer is coming!"
And so what do we do while we wait for our Deliverer. There is the Advent Conspiracy .
There is the call to spend less and give a goat through World Vision.
One thing I will do is turn off my television or allow myself only two shows in the week. Television will no longer be the background noise when I am home.
What do you need to do this Advent to re-center yourself for Christmas?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Advent visited

Today is Black Friday. The news is about the long lines at the stores while others are braving the Internet in their pajamas. This year stores opened on Thanksgiving. Every year it seems our culture rushes us into the holiday season. Christmas decorations are up in stores earlier, Christmas music is released earlier. Santa and his reindeer are seen in commercials earlier and earlier.
Advent pulls us back. No, it is not Christmas yet. This is not the time for "Glory to God in the Highest" but the time to pray to the God of Glory for deliverance. We recall Israel's story, our story, humanity's story. Long was their slavery in Egypt, long was our slavery to sin and death. We wait for the promised Deliverer. We linger here in the waiting and the longing. We say no to the culture who would demand we rush into Christmas. We wait. We wait so our hope and our joy will be full. We join the story of Israel in Scripture who in exile would recall God's deliverance in the past and call on God to deliver once again. Advent calls us to remember the deliverance from Egypt and the deliverance brought in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. Advent asks us, "where do we need deliverance today?" "what am I being held captive by?" Now wait expectantly. Our Deliverer is coming!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


And so the holiday season begins once again. And the news is the same....stores readying themselves for Black Friday. Will this holiday season help the stores reach their goals? Will our spending help the economy? All the plans are in full swing where we will spend Christmas and the time for services and family gatherings. We will watch the same movies again, the Grinch will steal Christmas and his heart will grow once more. We will hear the same songs and read the Story once again. Is this why Christ was born?
There has to be more. The bumper stickers calling us to "keep Christ in Christmas" or to remember "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" will be out in force. How do we make these more than pithy little sayings?
I believe Advent holds part of the answer. To fully celebrate Christmas, we must intentionally celebrate Advent--this period of waiting, period of preparation.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Asbury Seminary and Ethos

To my friends who attend Asbury and alumni,
I hear there is a new ethos statement which is causing some concern over its wording and what you can get away with while remaining in good standing. I don't want to sound harsh, but I am a New Yorker so I like just saying things right out.
Out in non-Asbury world, there is no ethos statement. While denominations do have standards to live by, you will find the old ethos statement at Asbury was far more conservative than some denominations. But out in the real world, the ethos I live by is really more a personal one.
Out in the non-Asbury world, there is not a tight community all focused on ministry and theology, etc. like at the seminary. So this personal ethos I live by, well, I am on my own. I have been developing closer friendships with other pastors. But the ethos we are under varies with denominations and each has personal standards.
So perhaps at Asbury under this new ethos, you can begin to put into practice what you will need in the bigger world. What is your ethos? You have a safe, close community to work this out in--unlike those who have gone before who had a strict ethos in seminary and had to figure out their personal one in a lonely world.
Just a thought.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
For the gift of life and new breathe each day
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
for the wellspring of hope; abundance of grace
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
for family and friends who love me as is
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
for opportunities had and for those missed
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
for unfailing love, when mine falls so short
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
for forgiveness when his image I distort
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
For work and for play, for joy and for pain
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
For winter and spring, for sunshine and rain
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
For communities of faith who have held my hand
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
For the fellowship of friends whose love understands
give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
For freedom in Christ and peace eternal
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!
For a life poured out in love, the sweetest hymnal
Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reflections on a short man

So I preached on Zacchaeus this past Sunday. Here are some thoughts:
1. Zacchaeus was a despised man. The story says the crowd mumbled because Jesus was going to a notorious sinners home. Usually the Pharisees were the ones who complained about Jesus hanging with sinners. Despite being despised, Zacchaeus risked everything to simply see Jesus. Am I risking everything to get to know Jesus better? How about you? And I guess the subsequent question would be, what does it look like in my life, in your life to risk everything to get to know Jesus better?

2. As stated above, the crowd joined the Pharisees complaint about Jesus--he eats with sinners. Does anyone question the company I keep? Jesus went to the homes of the sinners. He didn't invite them to the Temple to hear about the Kingdom. He brought the Kingdom to them. If I am not hanging out with a questionable crowd, am I being the Kingdom of God? Now this is different than being accused of questionable behavior.

3. Zacchaeus responds to Christ. He doesn't simply say, "from now on, I am going to be a different person." No, he lets the salvation work backwards in his life to right the wrongs. He makes amends with those he has offended in the past. How can the salvation Christ has brought into my life not only be for my future but also redeem my past?