Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Monday, May 25, 2009


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). 

            I’ll begin by saying "Thank you" to all whom we remember and honor today. 

            We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who fought and died for their country. They fought and died for what their country stands for--freedom and justice for all people. They answered the call to service. Their answer to that call was witness to their commitment to a noble cause. In service to that call, they sacrificed their lives. They are part of the great cloud of witnesses we honor and remember today.

            Remembering, or remembrance, in the Bible is what forms identity and determines conduct of the people of Israel and the early church. When the people of Israel remembered how they were freed from slavery in Egypt and the God who gave them their freedom, they remembered who they were and whose they were. They remembered God is a God who loves righteousness and justice. When they remembered, they knew God expected them to treat one another and the stranger with righteousness and justice, kindness and mercy.

            The early church was built on remembering Jesus Christ--his life, death and resurrection. Every Sunday was (and is) a memorial day in which all that God has done for the church and the world in Jesus Christ is remembered. This remembering is how God reminds us who we are and whose we are. Our remembrance causes us to witness to Jesus Christ in the world and follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

            In like manner, when we remember our fallen brothers and sisters, we remember who we are and whose we are. We honor their memory when we honor the cause for which they fought and died--the principles upon which our country was founded, namely freedom and justice for all people. We honor their memory when we work for justice and peace in the world; when we become a non-violent and peaceful people who lives justly with kindness and mercy for all.

            We honor their memory when live in such a way that violence and war will be prevented and eventually abolished from the face of the earth. We have a responsibility to our fallen brothers and sisters, a responsibility that calls us to be good stewards of the freedom we enjoy and often take for granted. One of the responsibilities of freedom is to love justice by seeing to it that all people are treated justly. To work for justice and honor their memory is to be advocates for peace and non-violence.

            In May 1995 I was in Washington DC over Memorial Day weekend for a meeting. Because I had been asked to give the address for the annual Memorial Day ceremonies in the small town I was living in at the time, I visited the Vietnam Memorial. While there I had the good fortune to stumble upon the Memorial Day Writers Festival. It is an annual gathering of veterans who share stories and poetry with one another and the public. I visited several tents and listened in on many stories and poems. I walked over to a Marine who had just finished reading some of his poetry. I introduced myself to him and thanked him for his words and his witness and his courage. Then I asked him if he could give me any advice about what I could say to the people of my small Minnesota town on Memorial Day. He told me the one thing that should be said : 

“The greatest honor and witness and memorial we can give to our fallen brothers and sisters would be to live our lives in such a way that war will never again be an option for nations to resolve their conflicts. The greatest honor we can give to their memory would be to give our children a world in which justice and peace are honored and war is no more; the greatest memorial we can build is a world in which young men and women will never again have to suffer and die on battlefields.” 

That is the word I want to leave you with this morning. Let us be a people who love justice and make peace for our children and grandchildren.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Collect for John & Charles Wesley

Lord God, you inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"The Church's First Mission"

Andrew Thompson has written another excellent column for the United Methodist Portal titled, "The Church's First Mission." Read it here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

8 Ways to Easily be Missional

Today I stumbled across Jonathan Dodson's blog, Church Planting Novice. The title of the blog is a how he describes himself and his current vocation. Dodson is involved in planting a congregation in Austin, TX with a group of "imperfect Christians." I wish him well.

He says in an April post that "Missional is not an event we tack onto our already busy lives. It is our life. Mission should be the way we live, not something we add onto life: “As you go, make disciples….”; “Walk wisely towards outsiders”; “Let your speech always be seasoned with salt”; “be prepared to give a defense for your hope”. We can be missional in everyday ways without even overloading our schedules." He then gives 8 practical ways to live a missional life:

8 Ways to Easily be Missional

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bishop Willimon on theological education and pastoral leadership

Bishop Will Willimon is usually a provocative and thoughtful writer and speaker. He has posted an important article on his blog. "Between Two Worlds" is an extended reflection on the challenge faced by seminary graduates as they try to make the shift from the world of the academy to the world of the church. In the first they learn and talk and write about the church as it ought to be. In the second they are confronted with the church as it is. Of course, the two are irreconcilably different.

I particularly appreciate this comment on the disconnect between the academy and church with regard to Biblical studies:

"I recently heard Marcus Borg of the errant “Jesus Seminar” chide us pastors for protecting our congregations from the glorious fruits of “contemporary biblical scholarship.” There’s a brave new world of insight through the historical-critical study of Scripture! Don’t hold back from giving the people in the pew the real truth about Jesus as it has been uncovered by contemporary biblical scholarship and faithfully delivered to you in seminary biblical courses. He implied that even the laity, in their intellectual limitations, can take the truth about Jesus as revealed by Professor Borg and his academic friends.

"Yet it seemed not to occur to professor Borg that contemporary biblical scholarship, because it is asking the wrong questions of the biblical texts, and even more because it is subservient to a community that is at odds with communities of faith, may simply be irrelevant both to the church and to the intent of the church’s Scripture. Sometimes the dissonance between the church and the academy is due, not to the benighted nature of the church, but rather to the limited thought that reigns in the academy.

"It took me a long time to learn this. As I said, I remember experiencing that dissonance in my first days in my first church in rural Georgia. I was the freshly minted product of Yale Divinity School now forlorn and forsaken in a poor little parish in rural Georgia. My first surprise was how difficult it was to communicate. If was as if I were speaking a different language. As I preached, my congregation impassively looked at me across a seemingly unbridgeable gulf."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Jazz Theologian and the Methodist Review

I found two excellent resources for theological reflection on mission and evangelism this week. The first is Robert Gelinas' blog, Reflections of a Jazz Theologian. According to information on his blog, Rev. Gelinas is lead pastor (and resident Jazz theologian) of Colorado Community Church in the Denver area. He is also the author of Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz Shaped Faith.

I appreciate his use of the metaphor of Jazz as a way of understanding Christian faith, discipleship and mission.

The other exciting resource is a new web site and online journal started by Ted Campbell, Rex Matthews, Henk Pieterse and others. It is called Methodist Review: A Journal of Methodist and Wesleyan Studies. The first issue was "published" late last week. It's free! If you are interested in scholarly investigation of the what it means to be Wesleyan, check it out.