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Confession # 1: I Crash Landed the Plane & Thought No One Noticed

Tuesday’s sermon was great. I was super excited about it because the kuneo planning team (‘kuneo’ is the name of our worship gathering) had come up with some really great insights into our surrounding culture, plus we had a super sexy title:

Jesus Wants to Save You from the Zombie Super Apocalypse

Things were going great…we had congregational participation and laughter.  Our conversations around zombies revealed some of our greatest fears and weaknesses as a society and as individuals. All of us (including myself) recognized things from which we need to be saved.

I remembered the convicting words of my friend, Maria Dixon-Hall in a recent blog rant. I decided, I am going to proclaim that Jesus saves. I am going to own the fact that I need to be saved just as much as someone who’s life is obviously in shambles. My brokenness is much more hidden than this guys

Image

, but it’s just as real. I need Jesus to save me because I can’t do it on my own. So I told everyone to spend some time acknowledging the parts of their lives that are zombie-esque, choose to live differently and, if it seems overwhelming, trust that Jesus can save you from the zombie-infected parts of your soul. 

Here’s the problem: 

  1. I never explained how Jesus saves us
  2. I never offered guidance on what people should do to get Jesus to save them
  3. Although I did expand people’s understanding of salvation to include being saved from very real practical realities TODAY and not just far off salvation after people die, I essentially defaulted to a Christian cliche that “Jesus will save you” as if that statement makes sense on its own.

I thought it was a good, inspirational landing, but in actuality I hit the tarmack so hard that the baristas had to scrape people off the ceiling who had failed to fasten their seatbelts. 

Confession # 2 : Sometimes the Church Acts Like the Producers of LOST

(warning: LOST spoilers)

I will always be annoyed at the people who made the show LOST. They started the show with some really good ideas and then decided that they would let the story write itself. They didn’t know where they were going…and that was okay with me. I think it is cool to create a universe and see where it takes you–whether you’re telling a story, writing a TV show or theologizing. This is what’s not okay with me: LOST fell apart at the end. The producers knew it, the actors knew it and good God, almighty, the audience knew it too. But here’s the great sin: they spit in my coffee and called it sugar!  LOST pretended like their crazy storyline made sense (it didn’t…come on, unless the lights in my parent’s pool are magical, an icy wheel that combines light and water shouldn’t be able to create rifts in the space-time continuum of the universe) and with a smug look on their faces, pretended like the ending was their plan all along. Image

This is crap: “ha ha ha, all these flash sideways (what the heck is a flash sideways, BTWs) are from the afterlife. It all makes sense because no one knows what happens in the afterlife so it doesn’t have to make sense. Thank you for watching our program for 6 years.”

At the end of my sermon, I pulled a LOST. I said stuff like “Jesus saves” as if that makes sense in and of itself. But it doesn’t. I ought to respect the intellect of my congregation enough to acknowledge that. I ought to be honest enough about my own shortcomings as a theologian to acknowledge to the room that I don’t know how Jesus saves us and I don’t really know what it means.

I get all sorts of self-righteous and dismissive of churches that throw out our own theological constructs as if they make sense…and I did the same thing.

Confession # 3 : I Need Honest, Smart People to Help Me Become a Better Preacher …(the Church Might Need Some Honest, Smart Critics to Help Her Become Better Too)

Thank God for people like Rachel, Jonathan, Robert, Jennifer, Katie, Michelle and Shane who went with me to grab a drink after worship. They loved me, were honest about the places the sermon connected and then owned the hard landing. Here’s the really magical thing about these people who I absolutely adore: they didn’t just talk about the hard landing. They entered into dialogue with me as we figured out, together, how we could have smoothed out the landing. We set up the flight simulator and they jumped into the cockpit with me. Instead of throwing out this notion that “Jesus saves” instead I could have ended with any of the following:

I don’t know how Jesus saves, but I do know that God saved the people in the Bible from zombie-like influences of wanton greed, mass consumption, violence, ignorance and more. I’m just crazy enough to believe that God the stories in the Bible can help save us too. I’m hoping that we can figure it out together.

OR

If you have zombie infections in your soul, I know that Jesus has something to offer because Jesus has something to say about our warring madness and violence as a society. Jesus has something to say about our materialism. Jesus has something to say about our wanton consumerism. Jesus has something to say about our willingness to blatantly ignore the needs of others in order to pursue our own wants. There is salvation in Jesus’ words and wisdom!

OR

I know I’ve thrown out this concept that Jesus saves. And I know we’ve all heard it. And I know that none of us probably really know what it means. In the next several weeks, we’re going to explore the practical ways that Jesus saves and see if we can get a better understanding of what it’s all about. 

Confession # 4 : Pretend Perfect

I was going to sit down tonight and write out the sermon (I still plan to do so), but what stopped me in my tracks is that I planned to fix the ending, without qualification or confession. Instead I wrote this blog. Hopefully, I’ll find time to post the sermon later. I want to be honest and transparent in my preaching. 

I told Rachel Bryan, tonight on the phone, “if I ever throw something out there like that again, call me on it–but don’t wait an hour. Call me on it in worship. Maybe we can figure it out on the spot instead of at the bar a couple hours later.” Praise God that she, and others like her, will be brave enough to do so. 

This past week, I took a handful of college students up to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church to walk a prayer labyrinth.  I walked the labyrinth looking for direction about some upcoming decisions.  At times, I’ve been trying to make things happen and was curious if I was supposed to make them happen or just see what happens.  As I began walking the labyrinth, my thought began to quickly wander.  I’m not typically good at this naval-gazing spiritual reflection stuff.  By the time I made it to the center, I had calmed the random thoughts and focused on one thing: ‘how do I lead a meaningful discussion about the labyrinth experience when this is over.’   I walked into the labyrinth looking for discussion points and had forgotten to reflect on my question–my spiritual need.  So I told myself (or God told me), ‘stop planning, just be.’  In a flash, I realized that God had just answered the question that led me to the labyrinth in the first place–am I working to hard to make things happen?

Similar to my experience walking into the labyrinth, it seems to me that many pastors (by which I mean, myself) read the scriptures looking for talking points.  We hone in on the meaty stuff, ignore the stuff that won’t obviously connect with our people and, I believe, frequently miss the bigger picture and beauty of the scripture.  If I hadn’t caught myself, I’m not sure I would have ever opened myself to God to hear the message.  There might be a sermon in there.

Conversations with the students afterwards was great.  Here are some highlights of our insights together:

  • The longest, uninterrupted pathways were the ones that were the farthest from the center.  In order to stay close to the center, you have to keep turning and changing direction.
  • Entry into the center was a surprise.  The end of the journey into the center happens very suddenly from the outside of the circle when we thought we were far away.
  • It’s hard to tell where we are on our journey…how close or far away.  It’s even harder to tell where other people are on their path–even if we know who started before or after us.
  • “My feet were deliberately walking along a particular direction for the first time in a long time.  Usually I just lollygag my way around.”  Seems to be true of real life as well.
  • There is only one path.  That being said, we can choose to ignore the lines, jump to a different spot on the path or just go straight to the center.  OR, we can follow the path layed out before us which was (literally) difficult to see at times.  We wondered how many people missed some of the pathway lines and ended up back in the middle after thinking they were on their way out.  IF we chose to ignore the lines, intersting outcomes can happen, but we all saw how cheap of an experience it would be to simply walk into the middle and then walk out.
  • At one point, one person got lonely, abandoned his path, put an arm around me and started walking with me.  At first, I was annoyed. ‘didn’t he listen to the rules?  This is supposed to be a solo journey.’  Then I realized, ‘this is cool…he abandoned his path to walk with me because he didn’t want to be lonely.  I should be willing to work with that.’  We walked togehter for a bit.  Eventually, he decided to let go and walk on his own again. 

If you’ve never walked a labyrinth before, make sure to give it a try and experience what it is to wander in the direction of God.

 In ancient times, when someone was mourning or upset—when they were grieving or when they witnessed injustice, they would rip their clothes.  Sounds weird, but that’s what people did.  Why?  It was a way to warn everyone else that they were in mourning.  In some other ways, though, it was an act of exposing yourself to God—to let God do whatever God wants to do with you in this time of hardship.  We need to keep this in mind as we approach the text from Joel:

 Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart.

Rend your hearts and not your clothing.

Return to the lord, your God.                  Joel 2:12-13

 The mark we receive this day—the mark of the cross—is a mark of our mortality.  Every blackened forehead now proclaims, “I will die and so will you.”  And that breaks our heart.  And it is supposed to.  Ash Wednesday is supposed to make us mourn, to look around the room and see that everyone here has been marked for death.  It is supposed to make us mourn when we feel the weight of the ashes upon our head for hours.  It is supposed to break out hearts, because sometimes…our heart needs to be broken.  It is meant to remind us, that we do not have unlimited time.  There are some things that need to be taken care of now because we do not know what the future holds. Every one of us is on borrowed time.  We begin our preparations for Easter with a reminder that we, like Christ, will die.  And what are we called to do?  Rend your hearts—tear your hearts and not your clothing.

 When she was only seven months old, a surgeon stopped my daughters heart.  She was born with a congenital heart defect that needed to be repaired, but you cannot operate on a functioning heart.  And so for three-hours, fifty-two minutes, my daughters heart did not beat and it had to be cut open.  The surgeon had to rend my daughters heart so that it could be repaired and function as God had intended.

 This wisdom appears in the Hebrew—thousands of ears before open-heart surgery could have been imagined.  The Hebrew word for rend, to tear,  is Param.  It shares the same root as the word Shalam, which means “to be completed, to reciprocate, to make amends, finish, fulfill, make good” and “peace that is perfect”.  Just as the surgeons had to rend Sylvia’s heart to repair it, so too must we rend our own hearts so that the master surgeon might repair our heart and soul! 

 Throughout Lent, many of us are good at “rending our clothing”—doing the outward things…giving up candy or caffeine or maybe swearing for lent.  But how many of us are good at rending our heart?    How many of us look for surgery of the soul, knowing that it might be painful, that it might be bloody and messy, but also knowing that we find new life on the other side?

 In order to rend our hearts, they need to be exposed.  We have to expose our hearts to God and one another in order to be reconciled in this time of Lent.  To reconcile is to fix, make good, repair, bring Shalam into our relationships.  Fixing relationships, Shalam,  is the ultimate goal of Easter and therefore should be the ultimate goal of Lent.  We must seek reconciliation with our classmates, our parents or siblings, our teachers and our friends.   Now is the time also to fix our relationships with those we have never met, but to whom we owe something.   Most of all, we must seek reconciliation with God. 

 Do you want your heart to be new?  Do you want the hearts of others to be new?  Do you struggle with the fact that you will die?  Do you find yourself caught up in fights with other people—students, teachers, family—that are never really resolved?  Do you carry guilt about something you have done to someone else and never spoken with them about it?  Do you feel resentment towards someone because of something that she or he did to you?  These are my few suggestions this Lent:

Rending our hearts usually comes with scars.

 Rend your hearts and not your clothing

Give up something for Lent that will help someone else—if you give up eating candy or soda or snacks, give the money you would have spent on food to the poor

Rend your hearts and not your clothing

Confront your classmate/teacher /family member/brother or sister in Christ about the way you have been hurt.  Take a risk and expose your heart.

Rend your hearts and not your clothing

Ask forgiveness for something you’ve done or said that hurt someone else.  Don’t let it pass assuming the other was not hurt that bad.  Expose your heart and guilt and you will be free.

Rend your hearts and not your clothing

Weep, truly weep for those who lie dead in the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan—soldiers, citizens and insurgents.  Think about what their death really means and wait for the tears to fall before moving on to the next news story, the next chore, the next channel.  Those numbers are human lives for which we are all, in some way, responsible.

Rend your hearts and not your clothing

Weep also for the nameless and numberless many that die of hunger in a world that has more than enough food to eat.  When’s the last time your threw away food?  The numberless many are lives for which we are all responsible.

Rend your hearts and not your clothing

And be moved from head to heart, shadow to substance, ritual to reality

Rend your hearts and not your clothing

As you give up something through Lent, take the time you would have spent eating or doing whatever it is that you’ve given up and spend it reading the scriptures.  Satisfy the hunger of your heart for the Word of God even as your stomach hungers.

Rend your hearts and not your clothing

And speak up.  Stand up for someone who is being picked on—eat lunch with someone who is less cool than you are—stop gossip in its tracks and don’t count the cost for yourself

Rend your heart and not your clothing

Spend the time with God that you keep putting off to another day.  Attend church, show up at mass, Eucharist or special worship services, come to prayer, come to devotion, come to Jesus, running—walking—dancing—singing in whatever way you can. 

Rend your hearts and not your clothing

Because God says that we cannot be healed, we cannot be whole, we cannot be what we are called to be unless we do so.  Until we let our hearts be broken by the things of God, we are still infants to the faith—I don’t care if you’re nine years old or ninety-five years old.  Until you’ve been broken for God, you cannot truly be new. 

Rend your heart and not your clothing.

Let us lay ourselves upon the operating table of the divine surgeon.  Following Jesus means following Him to the cross—a place of death and pain—so that we can find new life!

Why does this guy get a pass on anti-christ signs. He has a big 'O' in his name like Obama and Oprah

In the past two weeks, I’ve had text messages from teens and young adults in my church, asking me about “the end times.”  One of them came home with a nine-page sermon, citing

Oprah and Obama as signs of the rising anti-Christ (maybe he doesn’t like people who’s name starts with the letter ‘O’…Pat O’Reily might be okay, but you know, he’s not, um, from

Illinois).  It’s funny to me how folks who claim to ‘interpret the Bible literally’ try to make claims about when Jesus is coming back.  They seem to have skipped over 1 Thessalonians 5 that talks about Jesus coming like a thief in the night and catching us all by surprise.  Then there’s Jesus himself: “Therefore keep watch, for you won’t know the time or the hour” (Matthew 25:13).  Now some claim that they can still predict, but they have to go through so much scriptural gymnastics to get there that I don’t think they can claim to be ‘biblical literalists’ anymore without feeling at least a little bit dirty.  (example, this guy:  http://www.bibletime.com/faq/thief )

I honestly think that some of these folks are just “keeping watch” and I’m cool with that.  To try to come up with guesses of when Jesus will come just delays his coming.  If we believe that Jesus tells the truth and Jesus tell the disciples (and therefore us): ‘hey…I’m a lot sneakier than you think.  You’ll NEVER guess when I’m coming back”  THEN every time someone guesses that Jesus will return, just keeps him away.  Who knows, maybe he wanted to come back for the last twenty years (who wouldn’t want to miss Pearl Jam), but some guy in Ohio screwed it up by saying, “Jesus is coming NOW…I mean NOW….no, I mean NOW!”

So this is my proposal.  I think it would be cool if Jesus came back.  This is all we have to do.  The whole church has to agree and proclaim that Jesus most certainly will NOT be back on a certain day.  There isn’t enough time left in 2011 to get it in this year.  Hollywood has already predicted the end of the world in 2012, so we have to 2013.  How about June 6th, 2013.  NO!  That won’t work because it has 6s in it and people go nuts over 6s.  How about February 4th, 2013?

Okay, so if everyone could please declare February 4th, 2013 as THE DATE that Jesus WON’T come back.  I think we’ll all be in for a real surprise!  (Plus, I hear that Pearl Jam is on tour next winter…of course Jesus isn’t going to miss that).

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This is a short prayer that I wrote on the way to church on Sunday.  It was inspired by a David Crowder song:

When darkness falls on us,

We will not fear, we will remember that your light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

When rain falls on the earth,

We will not fear, we will remember the waters of our baptism that bring death, but also new life, purpose, calling     and grace.

When sickness overshadows our bodies,

We will not fear, we will remember that Jesus healed 2000 years ago and that Jesus continues to heal today.

When we walk in the valley of the shadow of death,

We will not fear, we will remember that you are with us—your rod and your staff comfort us.

When our sins and mistakes cover our souls.  When we’ve broken someone’s heart.  When we’ve broken your heart,

We will not fear, we will remember the prodigal son who remembered the goodness of the father.

When  fear creeps in, help us to remember.

Amen    

Sometimes the church eats cake batter

I led a devotion this week at the conference office with eight or so conference staff members.  It was a great way to start the day.  After singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel, I stood in front of them and waited.  I just watched the clock while they all looked expectantly at me.

20 seconds passed and my heart was racing.

30 seconds passed and I considered giving up and talking.

40 seconds passed–I seriously can’t take this anymore.

42 seconds passed–AHHHHHHHHH!

45 seconds okay, I’m going to pretend to turn to the scripture just so it looks like I”m not comatose

55 seconds there’s no way I can make it through two minutes

60 seconds “All creation waits, with groaning for the coming of the kingdom of God.”  I spoke!

I hate waiting.  Maybe it’s because I’m from NJ where time is  a much more precious commodity, but I can’t stand to wait.  When I moved to Texas (Fort Worth–where everything moves a little bit slower), I came close to losing it just about every time I went to the grocery store because they check out people talk to me!

‘I’ve got things to do, I”m never going to see you again…I’m sure you’re nice but do we really need to slow things down now so that I can learn that you like dogs too?’

I’m a good cook.  I’m an awful baker because when you bake, you’ve got to get it all ready stick it in the oven and wait.  You can’t check it’s progress, you can’t modify it and fix it to make sure it comes out okay.  You just stick it in the oven and bake.  I can’t do that!  When I cook food, I’m constantly tasting, testing, adjusting and balancing flavors.  Even with dishes that take a while to make, I don’t have to wait.  With baking, there’s no way around it.  You have to wait.

I asked the conference people how they felt while I stood in silence:

  • awkward
  • worried for the presenter
  • calm…it’s the first silence I’ve heard in a long time

WELCOME TO ADVENT

We live in a society dominated by instant gratification.  Some attempts at the instant are trivial: instant soup, coffee, oatmeal–even Mac’n’Cheese.  There’s instant messaging, text messages, twitter and cell phones to help us instantly get in touch.  There are unfortunate expressions of our desire for instant gratification: abundant pornography, excessive debt and various addictions to name a few.

In a society of instant gratification, advent is a time that we embrace the awkward (anyone ever notice how awkwardly awkward is spelled?), choose the silence and worry–worry that things won’t come out right, that we’ve screwed something up.  Advent is a time to worry.  It is a time to wait.  It is a time that is meant to make people worry–especially the powers that be!  It is also a time to hope–a time to look forward to what might be.  It is a time to build up expectations and make room for something new.  Advent isn’t about instant.  It’s about waiting.

Some of the longest waits of my life:

  • 1 minute, 32 seconds…time it took for my wife to walk down the aisle
  • 54 minutes…time the medical team tried to resuscitate the teenager who would lead to my first time telling a mother that her son was dead
  • 3 hrs, 40 minutes…time it to for me to get in touch with one of my best friends after an airplane flew into her office building
  • 6 hrs, 49 minutes…time from when I gave my 7 month-old daughter to a surgeon to repair her heart until I got to see her bright pink skin
  • 2 weeks…time it took from the onset of contractions for one of my daughters until she was delivered (these two weeks were a lot longer for my wife)
  • 10 years, 2 months…time it took for me to go through the ordination process
  • 14 years, 0 days…time for my first real kiss (yeah, it was my birthday)

All of these were incredible waits, but all of them led to an incredible experience.  When I look back, I know that the wait is part of what made them powerful and life-defining.  There was something about the wait that made me value the moment.  How does Isaiah put it?

“The strength of the Lord will rise as we wait”

Abrahm and Sarai waited…Joseph waited in prison…the Israelites waited in Egypt…then in the wilderness…then in the wilderness again…then they waited in Babylon…then they waited for a Messiah and it was good–it was beyond good!

But advent comes into out lives and so few churches wait for Christmas. Instead of birthday cake, we eat batter. Sure, it’s sweet, but it goopy, not fully formed and definitely not ready yet.  Then we show up for the Christmas feast, having already tried the flavor.  We’re still interested in the cake, yes, but less so than we might otherwise.  And the cake doesn’t really come out right–it seems like those people who only showed up on Christmas and haven’t had any of the batter get more out of it than the church-goers.

Imagine the other side.  Imagine if we actually observed advent and the smell of baking cake enticed us for weeks.  Imagine how much we would want to eat that cake.  Imagine how much better the cake would be if it was allowed to form properly.

Christmas is like this too.  The Christmases in my life that have been the most powerful for me have been ones in which I have adopted practices of waiting and preparing and watching.  I pray that I might have the patience this year to once again wait upon God’s time and the church’s time instead of my own.

If you haven’t seen this yet, please run to YouTube (do not walk or click slowly because you need to see this lady)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

Read on if you’ve seen the clip from Britain’s Got Talent 2009.

I’m not gonna lie.  This clip seriously brought tears to my eyes (don’t worry, they were manly tears).  There is a huge lesson for us in ministry in this clip.

It’s easy to judge people based on how they look and how they act.  If I’m honest with myself, I know that I do this sometimes with youth that I encounter in church or beyond.  It’s easy after being in minstry for 10 years to start making assumptions about people and limit the list of people for whom we have great hopes. 

I think, however, that every child of God has a beauty as immense as Susan Boyle’s.  It may lie in a talent (like singing or art) or it may lie in capacity to love or conviction to care for others.  Wherever it lies, it’s our duty as youth ministers and as Christians to dig up that beauty.  When we do so, we see our students as God sees them and THAT makes all the difference.  The people who have impacted my lives the most are the ones who have seen me the way that God sees me. 

I pray that all of us in youth ministry and all of us in the church can remember that our youth groups, churches and neighborhoods are filled with Susan Boyles.  Our task and calling is to see their beauty and look upon them as God would. 

When I write, the clip has amassed 11,000,000 views in 4 days.  Spectacular!

I’m not gonna’ lie.  I hate Ash Wednesday.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the most painful things that I have to do as a minister.

I stand in front of people I love, smear the burnt remains of a joyous day and tell them that they are going to die.  One by one, I remind them of their own mortality.  It’s a strange thing to see their reactions.  Some cry.  Some look solemn.  Some say ‘Amen.’  Some say ‘thank you,’ which I don’t understand but I do respect.  I’m constantly at the edge of tears as I perform my macabre act.

People that I work with.

Students from my youth group.

children

But the part that really slays me…the part where I just about walk away:  putting ashes on the foreheards of my wife, my kids.  I looked with fear when i saw them step into the aisle, praying they’d end up at someone else’s rail.  God ordained, it seems, otherwise.  I put ashes on my wife, my soulmate.  My hands shook as I put ashes on my youngest daughter who so narrowly avoided death at her birth.

Today I put ashes on the forehead of my three-week old son.  After several tries through the tears and emotion, I told him, ‘from dust you came and to dust you will return.’  I know what it is to have a child at a hair’s breadth from death.  To tell my son…to tell myself…that this incredible gift who just entered the world will one day depart it.  *That* was too much for me.  A congregation member who was next in the line put a comforting hand on my arm.  That may have been the one thing that allowed me to keep going in my priestly duty.   And I’m glad that she did. 

As much as I detest Ash Wednesday, I make sure not to miss it.  I know that I need it.  I need the reminder of the enemy of death.  I need the reminder that it’s important to observe a holy lent because getting close to God is important NOW.  We never know when this frail, beautiful life will end.  I need Ash Wednesday because the more opportunities I have to face death just might help me to deal with my mortality when I face it. 

Of course there is an ironic hope to what we clergy do on Ash Wednesday.  In the very same moment in which I proclaim someone’s death and smear the remains of that which one was alive on their foreheads, I also make the sign of the cross–that which overcomes the power of death and the grave.  Within the reminder of death we are also reminded of how we have overcome it.  Thanks be to God. 

May we all observe a holy lent and grow closer to our God and Redeemer.

In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t been in ministry that long.  I have, however, been in appointive ministry long enough to hear two baby bishops make grand promises about a change in the way appointments are made–an end to systems that ensure pastors climb the ladder…and end to appointments that take salary into account yadda yadda.  I’ve heard two new bishops make promises to lead the appointment system the way we all know is *should* be instead of the way it always has been.  Both times, I was disappointed.

Somehow, I have hope this time.  Bishop Lowry has issued his own little manifesto for the Central Texas Conference of the UMC.  I no longer serve in that conference, but did several years ago and felt that it was two generations away from anything that could be fixed. 

Then Lowry comes in and actually says the stuff that pastors (until he came around) got into all sorts of trouble from the cabinet for saying.  He starts to discuss controversial issues (in the Annual Conference that tables indefinitely ANY slightly controversial resolutions).  He challenged the Board of Trustees at Texas Wesleyan to start acting like a religious school (the mere fact that he showed up for a Trustee meeting was revolutionary as the previous two bishops never did).  He challenged the status quo which, it seems, is what Central Texas Conference was all about.  And now he does this:

He declares war on the good ole boy network and he did it in a way that was authentic, honest and confessing.  He laid it all out there–including the known vacancies for appointments–and encouraged pastors to contact their DS if they felt called to one of the positions. 

It looks like there might be a Maverick in town to clean up the cowboys (and hopefully let a couple Cowgirls into the saloon).   I’m praying for his efforts and God’s success.

A couple months ago, the pastor of the Fellowship Churches (Ed Young) in our area received national publicity for challenging his married congregation members to have sex every day for a week to increase the intimacy within marriages.  Pastors and laypeople all over the Dallas area responded with laughter or disgust to the challenge. 

In the spirit of judgment and competition that are incredibly healthy fodder for true conversation, I’ve decided to award some points.

+10 cahones points for showing some “cahones” (not showing his cahones…that would have been super negative points) and talking about sex in church.  Sex is an important thing for Christianity.  Every other chapter in the Bible has someone having sex with someone else they should or should not (usually it’s should not) have been gettin’ it on with.  The Bible is sexy…our churches should be too.  (grand total: 10)

+2 clever points  Young preached the sermon while lounging on a bed.  (grand total: 12) 

-2 clever points  The bed had satin sheets.  You can sometimes get a little too clever and spend way too much money on a gimmick that could have been used to feed about 100 guys at Austin St shelter for a week.  (total: 10)

-10 gimmick points  Ed Young acknowledged in the Dallas Morning News that this was done, in part, to pick up publicity.  Eddie, Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.  It’s one thing to do something in the hope that it will get noticed and impact the world, but you should NEVER do something just to get publicity!  It’s crap like that that destroys the church’s credibility (and if you do do something for publicity, you really shouldn’t say that to the press)  (total: 0)

+7 breaking expectations points  Most people think that the church is against sex or that the church thinks sex is bad.  Young did a good job helping his church and many others to see that the church isn’t against sex.  Sex is one of God’s greatest gifts!  The very first commandment that God issues to creation is to have sex (okay…the actual quote is “be fruitful and multiply,” but if you think about it for 1.2 seconds, it’s a command to have sex).  (total: 7)

-4 should have done more points  At the end of the day, I’m not sure that Ed Young really took the message far enough.  As my senior pastor said it, “dogs can have sex every day for a week–that doesn’t make them more intimate.”  Intimacy is far more than sex.  While Young alluded to this, I think THAT should’ve been the thrust of his series.  Intimacy takes far more than sex.   (total: 3)

-.5  it makes me nervous points  I have not been able to watch the ENTIRETY of what was said around the worship services on the 7 days of sex challenge.  I hope and pray that SOMEWHERE in there, he told his congregation that marriage is not a blank check for sex whenever one member of the couple wants it.  That understanding of marriage is dangerous and illegal.  It is possible for a spouse to rape a spouse.  Sex must always be consensual and desired by both parts of a couple.  I would give this a LOT more negative points if I knew he said that marriage means being willing to have sex all the time and I would give a LOT more positive points if I knew he talked about this.  Anyone out there know?  (total:2.5)

So there it is:  2.5 points to Ed Young for his seven days of sex challenge.  Is this a good score?  I’m not sure.  The scale is virginal and arbitrary.  Time will tell if 2.5 is a good score on my SCALE OF JUDGMENT (said in scary voice)

Right now our church is doing a series on intimacy.  I’ll post some more about it as time goes on. 

Peace!

iREVeRANT Tweets (@ireverant)

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