April 28, 2010

Our Life Together 2010: Called & Calling

I had the chance to attend the first of the two day Our Life Together clergy gathering for pastors in the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. This is the second year I've had the opportunity to attend so my experience and opinion is limited but I wanted to share two things I noticed:

1) I found myself worshiping more than I did last year throughout the morning session with a great dialogue message from two fellow Indiana clergy. I did not have the chance to see Andrew Peterson in concert but I did get the chance to hear Lisa McClendon do her thing, which sort of reminded me of Lauryn Hill. I also had the chance to hear Tyrone Gordon speak for the first time and found myself energized by his words. Special thanks to @PastorChrisR, Lisa Schubert and the rest of the planning team for a thoughtful retreat.

2) The other thing that was hard to miss, at least to me, was the number of clergy in attendance. I believe I heard registration for the clergy retreat last year was around 600 participants. I don't know what the registration numbers were for this year but it was much less. What I find to be telling is that of the 1000+ clergy (an educated guess on my part) in our conference, less than 40% decided to come. What does this say about our "connectional" system? Clergy schedules? Clergy health? Maybe it says nothing, or maybe....

April 24, 2010

Let Freedom Ring...(for me)

As Americans we love our freedom. The freedom to do what we want, say what we want, live where we want, act how we want...as well as to tell others what they should do or say, where they can live or how they should act.

Sometimes I wonder if the Church is much different.

As Christians we love to hear about, talk about and be reminded of the freedom we have in Christ...when I'm the one being set free. When it comes to the idea that Christ gave everyone else access to that same type of freedom, well, I'm just not sure how I feel about that. We want to tell others what to think, believe, how to vote, etc. if they are going to be truly "free" in Christ.

Is confined freedom still freedom?

Please don't misunderstand me. I am speaking only of the freedom that is found in and through the person of Jesus Christ and is to be lived out in his body called the Church. It is within this context and community that I wonder if we give others the freedom to be free in Christ. Paul's words in I Corinthians 13:12 remind me that we don't quite have this freedom thing figured out...yet. I hope my freedom isn't keeping someone else from being free.

April 22, 2010

Control Freak

Are you? Do you find yourself needing to be in control and having a hard time when you're not? How do you handle things that are beyond your control?

During my run this morning a song by Modest Mouse came up on shuffle that talks about God being a control freak. This got me thinking a little bit...do you think He is? What does the relationship between faith and control look like for you? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

April 18, 2010

"Making the Resurrection Personal"

This is the outline from this morning's (4/18) sermon I preached at our Castleton campus. Comments and questions are welcome.

"Making the Resurrection Personal"
John 21:15-22

These are a couple ways in which I see Jesus making his Resurrection extremely personal in this passage for Peter (and really, for you and me as well).

1. Jesus covers over the past.
-Past rejections (John 18:15-18, 25-27)
-What Christ bore on the cross was not only Peter’s rejection of him, but yours and mine as well

-We call this forgiveness

2. Jesus reestablishes the relationship.
-Jesus uses the word agape 2x, phileo 1x. Peter responds with phileo 3x
-Jesus does this because we’re reminded of what Peter said a few weeks before this breakfast on the shore (Mark 14:29-31)

-We call this redemption, the idea that Christ has “put off” our guilt and shame
-Is it possible that Peter needed to be reminded of the weight of redemption?
-Humility precedes redemption in that we must be humble to recognize our need to be redeemed

3. Jesus renews the call.
-With 2 simple words, “Follow Me”, Jesus restores Peter
-This is God telling us that he hasn’t changed his mind

-Purpose with action…notice that Jesus follows Peter's responses with action words: "feed", "take care of"
-Sheep are the perfect analogy for us because sheep are dumb, and we do dumb things all the time
-Our response to loving Christ means we need shepherds and other sheep to keep us from doing dumb things

-Response brings connection
-The Resurrection is Christ letting you know that he wants to use you, yes, even you…

April 12, 2010

Facebook Purgatory

Be honest, if you use Facebook, you have certainly left things in what is called "Facebook Purgatory". The page where an invite to a certain event shows up, a friend request or suggestion you don't know what to do with, or that page suggestion that ends up sitting there for days, weeks and beyond. That is "Facebook Purgatory".

You know when you get that suggestion or request and aren't sure what to do with it, you don't want to say 'No' because that seems mean and yet you're not really willing to say 'Yes'. You tell yourself you'll come back to it tomorrow thinking that maybe something will have changed and your response will become much clearer. Next thing you know this suggestion or request has been sitting there for weeks with no response, just waiting.

So I'm curious, do you keep a "Facebook Purgatory"? How long do you typically leave requests, suggestions, invites, etc. hang in limbo?

P.S. - Feel free to add me...if you dare.

April 10, 2010

Julian Casablancas Album & Show Reviews

Julian Casablancas first solo project entitled "Phrazes For The Young" has been out for some time now but I've just recently taken the time to check it out. Knowing that Casablancas is the front man for The Strokes and the little I know about them left me without any expectations as I sat down to listen to his debut.

I must say, overall I was pleasantly surprised. For some reason I had this preconceived notion that his sound would be overly punk with an unfortunate vocal quality but again I must say, I was glad to be wrong. The first track, and possibly my favorite on the album, Out Of The Blue, comes with vocals that are strong and experienced. The entire album is a collection of eclectic sounds ranging from rock, pop, synth, 80's (30 Minute Boyfriend), and even a little bluesy (4 Chords Of The Apocalypse). I think you will have a hard time not moving to a couple of the tracks on this album, especially 11th Dimension, another album favorite. Despite the album only having 8 tracks on it, I would certainly encourage you to check it out.

Now, on to the 'Rock for Riley VI' show at The Vogue that I had the chance to see last night with Julian Casablancas as the headliner...

I always enjoy seeing shows at The Vogue. I think it's one of the more solid smaller venues in Indianapolis. My concert-going-companion @bhsmith1 and I got there in plenty of time to see the opener, Funeral Party, play their 35min set. Not an awful opening set, got the crowd moving a little bit and some of the best musicians I have seen. I found their lead vocals to be a little unfortunate and difficult to listen to for 2 main reasons: 1) I couldn't understand what he was saying and 2) he screamed much more than he sang.

Next...the first half of the worst part of the entire show...the set change took an HOUR! I do not hold the 'Rock for Riley' people responsible for this but instead think for a venue this size with artists of this "size" an HOUR is UNACCEPTABLE! Actually, I am not sure an HOUR set change is ever acceptable, regardless of who you are.

Casablancas finally took the stage and the crowd immediately responded. There was energy and movement all over the place. By this time the crowd had filled out and was ready to go. He put together a solid set, playing I believe, his entire debut album but that is where the second half of the worst part of the entire show comes in...his set was actually shorter than the HOUR set change. That is not cool. We sit through 2 hours of an opening band and set change and get 45mins of the headliner? Quite a disappointment minus the fact that over $76k was raised for Riley Children's Hospital. So, save yourself the $20 to see him live and spend $4.99 at Amazon to buy the album and use the other $15 to grab something to eat (unless of course it's for a good cause).

April 4, 2010

Crucified Faith

Over the past three days the world has remembered the most significant events to take place in the history of mankind. The crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of a man named Jesus, who was called the Christ. And of these four events, the Resurrection is far and away the most important and significant. Without it, Jesus was nothing more than a madman martyred for a moral cause. Paul even says in 1 Corinthians that if we only have hope in Christ for this life, we are to be pitied more than anyone else (1 Cor. 15:19). But you see, this is not the case. The Resurrection of Jesus brings power to faith.

I wonder how many of us have left our faith hanging on the cross? Life has thrown us some sort of obstacle or struggle that has caused us to forget about our faith. We have suffered a hurt or loss that has shaken us to the core, leaving us feeling as though we have experienced our own personal crucifixion. We walk around feeling abandoned and defeated with a faith that has been battered and bruised, as though it were nailed to a tree.

Christ took our struggles, our hurt, our loss, our sense of abandonment and defeat and had them nailed to the cross that day in His flesh. This was done so that those things might die and faith might live, because the One who has saved us is alive and well. The power of the Resurrection is a result of the Cross but Christ is not hanging there any more. Your faith does not have to either.

"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!"
~Luke 24:5-6

April 3, 2010

"Dinner Guests" - Holy Thursday Sermon

While I have a recent post by the same name and use some of the same content, I took my message for our Holy Thursday service (4/1) and expanded it. Please feel free to share any comments or questions from my outline.

"Dinner Guests"
John 13:1-30

Observations from text...
-Jesus knew that Judas Iscariot had already betrayed him and was still willing to get down on his knees and wash his feet (vs. 2).

-Jesus is willing to celebrate the intimacy of the Passover Meal with his betrayer.

-Notice that Judas Iscariot leaves after receiving the bread, Jesus never tells him or makes him leave. Judas leaves on his own.

-I think this might be significant for us in three ways: the Invitation to come to dinner, who’s going to be there and what do we bring.

-You and I have received an invitation to an intimate meal that we know as Communion.

-Christ has invited us to be his dinner guest and has the authority to do so because he is the one true sacrament of God, he is God coming to us, speaking to us, allowing us to touch and feel him.

-We must recognize that we have no right to be invited but we are able to go because Christ goes with us and he is at home there.

-The Table is the real presence of God as encounter, which is possible because Christ is already there interceding on our behalf (Rom. 8:34).

-The invitation is open

Guest List
-If we're honest, we like to know who's going to be there before we accept an invitation.

-We must keep in mind that the image of God is more of a “we” than a “me”.

-Christ is bread for the world not just us...or people like us or people we like or who are nice to us…remember Judas?

-The only reason you and I can forgive our neighbors or enemies is because Jesus died for them, just as he did for you and me. And because of this, everyone is on the guest list.

What To Bring
-Don’t worry about bringing anything but yourself, come as you are but don’t expect to leave the same. God loves you exactly where you are but loves you too much to leave you there.

-See, sometimes we think we have to “get right” before we can come to the Table or begin a relationship with God but that’s all wrong because we’ll never “get right” enough on our own.

-Christ is already there, in the presence of God, interceding on our behalf, remember?

-He makes you worthy because he is the host that invites you in.

-If you believe Jesus’ words that he is the bread of life, then there is nothing wrong with coming to the Table asking to be fed.

-How will you respond to Christ's invitation to be his dinner guest?