Archive for June, 2004|Monthly archive page

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2004 at 4:57 pm

one of the things I like best…

about city on a hill is that our organic structure enables us to invest the overwhelming majority of our resources (around 95%) in the mission of the church. over the past week or so I’ve been thinking about how we can invest our money not only in foreign mission (though we love partnering with you faye!) but in the life missions of each member. thus, I would love for us: to send dr. james (our budding peter weir or kevin smith) to the spirituality in film that’s taking place in l.a., fund a few of craig’s spiritual retreats (which might give him time to create another piece to add to the city on a hill hymnal) , enable brooke to take an extra voice lesson or send myself to the emergent conversation with brueggemann in september. i am beginning to realize that by investing in life missions of our members we are really investing in our larger community as well as the church as a whole.

this excellent reflection by brian mclaren helped stir up these thoughts.


In Uncategorized on June 30, 2004 at 1:04 pm

share the wealth

dr. james found the following post on, um, a major christian bookseller’s message board. fire at will!

I would love to recieve some good Christian themed forwards from anyone out there. If you get any, please add me to your list. I can always use the encouragement!! Thanks!!

Mark (

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2004 at 4:54 pm

this week’s sign that the apocalypse is upon us

seen and heard, which is brought to you by homeskool oklahoma!, the brain trust at fox news and the christ-centered fascists at thomas nelson.

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2004 at 3:39 pm

take a moment to check out..

what pastor rick has to say about the christian right and the f-bomb.

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2004 at 12:33 pm


this morning i stumbled upon a rather startling truth. i don’t think much, or know what to think, about our belief in resurrection. sure, i can say the apostle’s creed without my fingers crossed behind my back, know the gospel stories and remember bob monts’ excellent lecture on the power of zoe. however, in all honesty, resurrection has yet to become the animating principle of my faith. clearly, this is a problem.

for this reason, i am deeply grateful for NT Wright’s resurrection of the Son of God. this tome has diagnosed my confusion in this area and has proscribed a healthy understanding of how resurrection was understood within the larger cultural context of the early church and what the early church actually believed about resurrection. my prayer is that by the time i finish the book, which at this pace might be around this time next year, i will be reacquainted with the core of our shared faith.

i also stumbled across this thought from uncle henri regarding resurrection and thought i would share:

“the great mystery of the spiritual life–the life in God–is that we don’t have to wait for it as something that will happen later. Jesus says: ‘dwell in me as i dwell in you.’ it is this divine in-dwelling that is eternal life. it is the active presence of God at the center of my living–the movement of God’s Spirit within us–that gives us eternal life.

but still, what about life after death? when we live in communion with God, when we belong to God’s own household, there is no longer any ‘before’ or ‘after.’ death is no longer the dividing line. death has lost its power over those who belong to God, because God is the God of the living, not of the dead. once we have tasted the joy and peace that come from being embraced by God’s love, we know that all is well and will be well. ‘don’t be afraid,’ Jesus says. ‘i have overcome the powers of death…come and dwell with me and know that where i am, your God is.’

when eternal life is our clear goal it is not a distant goal. it is a goal that can be reached in the present moment. when our heart understands this divine truth, we are living the spiritual life.” ~Here and Now, pg. 70

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2004 at 2:53 am


to the blogosphere dr. james! may the presence of your integrity and wisdom balance out my sarcasm and spiritual narcissism.

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2004 at 3:20 pm

concerning progressive propaganda

we joined the wilcoxs and the defranzas for a matinee showing of fahrenheit 9/11 this weekend. i thought 9/11 was generally well done. as many have noted, it was much less egocentric than moore’s other paeans to the progressivism, and he provides some fairly intriguing revelations (esp. concerning the depth of the bush family connections to the bin ladens). however, i found the juxtaposition of horrible images, such as a saudi beheading, with rather hysterical segments, including white-bread marines trying to recruit african american men by trying to ‘talk black’ and playing up the fact that ‘shaggy’ was one of the few and the proud, quite difficult to bear. in fact, the frequent transitions between humor and horror exhausted me, leaving me pretty much speechless for hours afterward.

though 9/11 was well done, it wasn’t half the documentary that fog of war was. i realize that both the historical distance from the events in question as well and the direct access he had to robert mcnamara helped errol morris’ cause. however on Sunday evening i couldn’t help but wish that morris, not moore, had crafted an expose on bush. morris’ subtle provocation wouldn’t have made as big a splash as something by moore, but it would have ended up having a more enduring impact.

dr. james says the most fair handed review…um, i mean striking criticism…he has found of moore’s work can be found here.

if you’ve seen the movie I’d love to hear your thoughts.

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2004 at 12:07 pm


i complain when sermons go awry, so i should probably tell you when they go well. yesterday i had the opportunity to preach at Hill Memorial Baptist in allston, ma. Hill Memorial is an older, ABC congregation that consists of middle aged and older believers, most of whom have led challenging lives and bear evidence of the scars of broken relationships, and a smattering of wonderfully curious children and teens. i preach there once a month, try to express a measure of pastoral concern for the congregation and get to pay my comcast bill as a result. so, up to this point, our relationship has been mutually beneficial.

after preaching a bomb of a sermon earlier this month and so desecrating their ‘children’s sunday,’ i promised myself that i committed myself to preparing a well-developed sermon this time. fortunately by God’s grace, the results weren’t half bad. for the past few weeks i have been reading the gospel of luke. when i stumbled across the ‘parable of the prodigal son’ in lk. 15, i couldn’t help but wonder why i had never heard a parable from the perspective of the elder brother. following craig blomberg i think that this parable provides ‘one major point per person.’ so i set out to preach from the elder brother’s perspective.

although i was more than a little hesitant to do so, i decided to shape the sermon as a first person narrative. so, after studying the text with some care, i wrote a story about a upper class, pious episcopalian elder brother whose younger sister drained a third of the family trust (botching the family plans to invest in the yahoo i.p.o. in the process) and abandoned her well healed, beacon hill family to marry a disaffected, upper middle class hippie on the west coast. i reshaped a couple of incidental details as well, such as her returning with a second dirtbag husband whom she wanted to marry (picture connie in the godfather II), the father throwing her a celebration that served as both a welcome home party and a bridal shower, and her being adorned with her late mother’s wedding dress and ring. the brother is confronted with dave matthews band pumping out the bay windows and the sight of a catering truck in front of the brownstone as he walks home from work. things proceed from there. anyway, to make a long story short, the sermon connected. i worked hard at trying to understand the psychology behind the brother’s response and, compared with other sermons i’ve preached as of late, i practiced my ass off. there were a few in the congregation that arched an eyebrow during the sermon (perhaps due to the fact that i called my father’s daughter a whore on a number of occasions) and extended a pious condemnation after (that was interesting…). thankfully, most of the people were clearly connecting with the sermon and afterwards a few of them took me up on my offer to discuss the sermon afterwards.

however, as is often the case, in the end i was the primary beneficiary. though i have often identified more readily with the prodigal, as is fitting considering the immature, and sometimes illegal, antics of my adolescent years, i realized that in the last couple of years i have been trying on the role of elder brother. this is especially true in the case of felipe, a chilean student who my parents graciously took in as one of their own (they are well practiced in this area), and who subsequently brought dishonor to the ministerial vocation and shame to my family. my parents, no doubt following in the footsteps of God, have long since forgiven felipe of his trespass and have sought to walk with him towards restoration. however, i have continued to condemn felipe in my heart for some time. i have little respect for someone who dishonors their pastoral vocation in the way that he did (i suppose the ways i dishonor it are much more acceptable…) and i have no tolerance for someone whose actions impugn my family in any way (i tend to protect my family in the same fierce way that the elder brother was trying to protect the father). i now see that by continuing to reject my fellow sinner, i have been rejecting the overwhelming love of my parents and that of the father, which i have been the beneficiary of on so many occasions. i confess that such condemnation is out of step with my profession of love. thus, i want to set it aside. may God give me the grace to realize that by rejecting those he has forgiven, i am, in essence, rejecting Him.

i realize that this is yet another long winded, confessional entry that is more for private reflection than public consumption. thanks for bearing with me.

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2004 at 7:39 pm

keeping the questions alive

over the past several weeks i have been questioning my previous assumptions about my relationships with people who are not following Christ. last week i had a conversation with my co-worker Krista, who is more interested in reading tea leaves (literally) than the gospels, about my internal resistance to particularistic (i.e., through Jesus only) salvation.

i told krista that on the one hand, when Christ says that “no one comes to the father except by him,” i want to simply take him at his word. the road is indeed narrow, i reason, so i should set my dissonance with particularism aside. yet, on the other hand, when i hear these same words i cannot help but make qualifications. surely, when Jesus wrote these words, he wasn’t speaking of melvin, my mentally handicapped friend whose primary source of identification in a nominally christian community is that he is jewish not christian. so, though scripture is silent on the salvation of the handicapped who have not made an objective decision to follow Christ, we can assume that God’s grace is sufficient. moreover, although he didn’t explicitly confess Christ, surely Christ’s reconciliation was incarnate through and eventually extended to ghandi…and on and on i went.

in the midst of the conversation, i began to wonder whether krista and i should be having this conversation at all. after all, as my missions and evangelism teachers at lcc would have reminded me, my job is not to raise further doubts for unbelievers but through intellectual argument, personal testimony and reliable companionship to woo them to Christ. thus, part of me believes that i should be ashamed of myself for creating roadblocks instead of straight roads for the gospel. yet there is another voice within me, which is much quieter than the voices of either tradition or professors past, that reminds me that such vulnerability and personal revelation is essential to proclamation. perhaps, as someone i read this week surmised, my job as a pastor and sojourner is not to provide answers, but to keep the great questions alive.

anyway, that is a ridiculously long introduction to a quotation from henri that i would like to share. in this passage henri speaks of ‘reverse mission.’ as i read this passage i could not help but think of friends like krista, melvin or mark who do not follow Christ, yet may have a mission that i need to receive and a message that i need to hear.

“…i have become aware that wherever God’s Spirit is present there is a reverse mission.

when i marched with thousands of black and white americans from selma to montgomery in the summer of 1965 to support the blacks in their struggle for equal rights, martin luther king already said that the deeper spiritual meaning of the civil rights movement was that the blacks were calling the whites to conversion.

when, years later, i joined l’arche to live and work with mentally handicapped people, i soon learned that my real task would be to let those whom i wanted to help offer me–and through me many others–their unique spiritual gifts.

this ‘reversal’ is a sign of God’s Spirit. the poor have a mission to the rich, the blacks have a mission to the whites, the handicapped have a mission to the ‘normal,’ the gay people have a mission to the straight,’ the dying have a mission to the living. those whom the world has made into victims God has chosen to be bearers of good news.

when Jesus heard that eighteen people had been killed when the tower at siloam had fallen down, he was asked whether these men and women were worse sinners than others. ‘they were not. i tell you,’ he said. ‘no, but unless you repent you will perish as they did.’ Jesus shows that the victims become our evangelists, calling us to conversion. that’s the reverse mission that keeps surprising us.” ~Here and Now: Living in the Spirit, pgs. 58-59.

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2004 at 4:45 pm

brushback pitches , personal reflections and unsolicited opinions

in lieu of doing real work, i have decided to pen another random post. aren’t you among the lucky ones?

  • it’s official: the redbirds are 15 games over .500 and I’m a believer! this cardinal’s team seems to have all the elements that make up a champion, including: surprising contributions by veterans (see chris carpenter and tony womack), sufficient starting pitching (yes, with the way morris and williams have been pitching this area requires a leap of faith), a dependable bullpen, world class defense (everybody repeat after me, ‘defense wins…’) and gaudy offensive production. i haven’t believed like this since ’96.

  • around 6:45 this morning, before escorting kellie to the commuter rail, i tried to catch the cards-cubs highlights on sportscenter. as per usual sc failed to satiate my need. instead of the highlights I was looking for they offered a segment on the worst calls in sports history. the last heart wrenching clip they showed was, you guessed it, the dumbass call don denkinger in the sixth game of the ’85 series. after watching the this clip for the umpteenth time and realizing that it has been 24 years since our last world series victory I am tempted to say something like “at least don denkinger is dead!” but I’m a christian gentleman, so I won’t say that.

  • yesterday was my grandfather’s 83rd birthday. happy birthday papa! when I consider the significant part that papa (who shares the honor of being my favorite person with my wife) has played in my life one experience often comes to mind. I must have been eight or nine years old when my grandparents took me and my cousin amy on a short business trip to ft. smith, arkansas. on friday afternoon, after papa had finished his business in the area, he took amy and I down to the hotel’s indoor pool for a little swim. while we were playing in the water papa kneeled down and had me climb upon his shoulders and then amy climbed upon mine. papa was the firm foundation of the little pyramid that we built there in the holidometm and he has continued to be our foundation for the 19 years that have followed. papa, you are a man above reproach and my co-favorite person on the planet. words are unable to express my love for you. happy birthday! i hope that God grants us a few more years together. Wow, this room just got a bit dusty…

  • last night at homechurch we said goodbye to ben russell for the summer. ben is our virtuoso violinist and budding theologian who is going to spend his summer gracing the koussevitzsky concert shed at tanglewood. tanglewood is the enchanting summer home of the boston symphony orchestra and the boston pops. if you are interested in joining our home church for all-inclusive evening out at tanglewood (multiple samuel smith four packs and various white wines will be included) let me know. we’d love to have you join us!

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