Tuesday, March 31, 2009

First Communion

I preached and led in communion for the first time in a full church service this Sunday. I have served communion to students many, many times, as well as in the contemporary service at FBC. I have even helped deacons distribute the elements in church services and at nursing homes, but Sunday was historic for me. As I prepared what to say, I continually thought about the first time Martin Luther celebrated Mass as an ordained priest. According to the story, Luther was so nervous that he trembled so much the wine in the goblet spilled out all over the floor. Thankfully we don't use goblets and that didn't happen Sunday. It was a wonderful time for me, to get to gather around the Lord's Table to celebrate together. As I was preparing last week, I reread Henri Nouwen's book Can You Drink The Cup?. It is a wonderful book that asks the question that Jesus posed to James and John when they wanted to know if they could sit at Jesus' right hand. In his characteristic style Nouwen weaves the gospel with life to make one see with fresh eyes the way of the Savior. This quote stuck out in my mind, "We need to remind each other that the cup of joy, that precisely what causes us sadness can become the fertile ground for gladness." So often we forget this truth, but the cross is a living reminder of the source of our sadness, the death of our Lord and Savior becoming the source of gladness as we experience new life and walk with him daily. Perhaps as you approach Holy Week you can be encouraged that the difficulty you are going through will eventually turn to praise to God.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Does the Cross mean to You?

I actually scribbled this down in one of my notebooks a few weeks ago as I was preparing to preach on the sayings of Christ from the cross and leading the Lord's Supper service this coming Sunday, but it has been a little crazy so I haven't had a chance to get it posted till now.

I read something today that asked the question "What comes to your mind when you hear the word cross?" I immediately thought of several song lyrics. "Girl with crimson nails, Jesus round her neck" (U2). "It's not my cross to bear" (Allman Brothers). "Yeah, you cross yourself those three times and step into this skin" (Bill Mallonee). "The Southern Cross" (Crosby, Stills, and Nash).

What does the cross really mean to me? Is it a theological explanation for a major world religion? Is it a piece of jewelry? Is it a metaphor for a burden or a difficult task? Is it a sign of blessing and peace? Is it an empty piece of wood that bore the mangled body of the savior? For me the cross is that symbol that reminds me of the love of God. It is the length to which a loving God went to redeem a stubborn, rebellious sinner like me. The cross has the power to humble me when I become prideful, cheer me when I become downcast, and boost my hope that God's love is bigger than my sin.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Importance of Story

I am preaching and leading in the Lord's Supper service this Sunday in 2 of our morning services. In preparation I was doing some reading and studying and came across this quote that stuck out in my mind. For Christian faith, what happens in history is important; we believe that God acts in history to provide revelation and salvation. History is not important in all religions. What is important about the Buddha is his teachings, not his story. With Christ it is different. His story, the events of his life, are important to Christians. In fact, they are indispensable for Christian faith. (Fisher Humphreys in Proclaiming the Baptist Vision: Baptism and the Lord's Supper)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Seeing things for the First Time

I am a huge fan of The Black Crowes! I would argue that they are one of the greatest rock bands of the last 2 decades. There mix of gritty rock,laid-back blues, and southern sound are magical. They have a song that says, "Seeing things for the first time, in my life..." Don't you have moments like that when it feels as if you are seeing things for the first time, even though you probably have looked at it several times. I do that a lot with scripture. I will read a passage that I have read dozens of times and then all of a sudden something clicks, something connects with me that didn't before and it is as if I am seeing things for the first time. I think our faith is full of moments that are like that perhaps because it is through our faith that we view everything else. I'm not talking about rose-colored spectacles to put on when the world is dark and gloomy! I'm talking about looking at people around us, situations we encounter, and the world at large through the lens of the cross. Everything we see, do, and experience is because of our faith. Our belief in God shapes everything about our lives not just Sunday mornings. C.S. Lewis wrote, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else" (The Weight of Glory p.140). Do we agree with Lewis? Is our relationship with the Living God something we set to the side or is it the very foundation of our lives?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Charlotte's 1st St. Patrick's Day

It's almost 11pm on St. Patrick's Day 2009 and we have both girls in bed and Cyd is asleep in the den. What an exhausting day, but we had a blast! We got to see family old and new, as well as catch up with some old friends at the parade. Claire isn't a big fan of the loud bands and the swarm of people though, I think she gets that from Papa Ted. Mamanon's was the usual hotbed of excitement this year. My cousin, Brad brought his girlfriend, let's hope they don't break up after she saw his family:) Mamanon's friends are getting older and several regulars for this day have passed away in recent years. In fact, several commented that it was the first year in a while that the young crowd out-numbered the old crowd. By the way, 5 kids all under the age of 4 at 40th Street makes life very interesting! Cyd and I especially enjoyed getting to share in the revelry of the day with Ricky and Susan Allen, evidently we didn't scare them away last year when they joined us. I have lots of pictures but it may be a few days before they get uploaded. It certainly was a wonderful day for Charlotte's 1st Saint Patrick's Day! Charlotte turns 1 on Sunday, WOW!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick

This is an inscription from the breastplate of St. Patrick.
May Christ protect me today;
against poison and burning,
against drowning and wounding,
so that I may have abundant reward;
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me;
Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me;
Christ to the right of me; Christ to the left of me;
Christ in my lying, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising;
Christ in the heart of all who think of me,
Christ on the tongue of all who speak to me,
Christ in the eye of all who see me,
Christ in the ear of all who hear me,

I rise today:
in power's strength, invoking the Trinity,
believing in threeness,
confessing the oneness,
of Creation's Creator.

For to the Lord belongs salvation
and to the Lord belongs salvation
and to Christ belongs salvation.

May your salvation, Lord, be with us always.

We head off to Savannah later today for all of the St. Patrick's Day festivities. We can't wait. Green grits, green bread, corned beef, cabbage, and everything else. This is Charlotte's first St. Patrick's Day so we are excited to see how she takes it all in. Here's hoping that your St. Patrick's Day is as wonderful as ours hopes to be.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Almighty Protector

The following post was sent to me by a student of mine. I thought it was incredibly powerful, I guess you connect with Clifford when you have small children...I asked if I could share this on my blog, the person graciously consented.

When I was little I used to be obsessed with collecting stuffed animals. I’m an animal lover so I always loved pretending that the animal was real and was my pet or something like that. Hours of my time were spent playing with them with my friends or by myself. To this day I can’t make myself get rid of any of them- even though I have about five hundred- because of the memories and stories behind each one.

Each one had special assets to them that I loved about them, but there was one specific animal that held a special place in my heart. It was a Clifford dog that I think my mom had gotten while she was still teaching. I’ve never been able to figure out what made him so different from the others that made me love him more, but he was definitely my favorite out of the whole lot.

I had to take him everywhere. No matter if we were going to the grocery store five minutes away or on vacation five hours away. He had to come. If I didn’t have him it was trouble. During the day it was ok, I could just deal with it. But when it got to be bedtime, everyone would be searching franticly for Clifford cause they knew the consequences if I didn’t have him.

I had to have him to sleep. I couldn’t sleep without him. I would cry and toss and turn and when I finally would manage to fall asleep I would have bad dreams all throughout the night.

Of course it seems silly to me now, but then I really felt like I needed him to sleep well. It gave me comfort to know that he was there with me all night. Id wrap my arms around him and he’d “sleep” next to me all night, there to chase away the bad dreams and keep the monsters under my bed at bay. At that age, I had no reason not to believe that he would protect me from all my fears and worries, and things that went bump in the night. I could sleep peacefully, not afraid of what was lurking in the shadows.

As I grew older I soon grew out of Clifford, and didn’t require his presence to get a good nights sleep. I realized that as the boogie man and bed bugs weren’t real, neither was my need for a watch dog in the bed with me every night. I still got scared every now and then, but I was old enough to assure myself of the silliness of it, and thus no longer had the need of sweet little Clifford.

Now I’m teenager, and have much bigger problems and worries than what may be hiding in my closet coming to get me just as I fall asleep. I’ve traded my boogie man for worries like what I’m doing about college, and where I’m gonna go. Now, if i cry myself to sleep its not because I don’t have some stuffed animal I think I need, but for the hurt that’s been inside me for one reason or another. It’s now more than ever, when my fears have grown up along with me, that I need something to wrap my arms around and squeeze with all my strength, having confidence that the object can suck up all the bad things and chase away the nightmares, leaving me peaceful so I can actually get a good night’s rest.

Psalms 91:1-6
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty… You will not fear the terror of the night… nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness.

Matthew 11: 28
Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Psalms 62:5-8
Find rest, o my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him…. He is my mighty rock, my refuge.

God is kind of like my grown up Clifford. He watches over me as I sleep and chases away my fears and nightmares. He gives me peace and helps me to rest. He’s the Almighty Comforter and Protector. I can take hold of Him when I’m scared, knowing that He will not only quiet my fears, but will go further even to help me conquer them. And I don’t even have to worry about forgetting to pack Him; He’s already there, waiting for me to embrace Him with all my strength and hand over my fears for Him to handle.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is Evangelicalism Dying?

I've been looking at some different blogs with evangelicalism the last few weeks and I am completely amazed at the diversity of people under the banner, Evangelical. I have a growing suspicion that Evangelicalism as the movement we have known for several decades is waning, but I'm not sure it will ever die out completely. I found this blog by one of the editors of Christianity Today to be very interesting. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/marchweb-only/110-31.0.html?start=1

Friday, March 6, 2009

Giving up Facebook for Lent

I saw this online and thought it was very interesting considering the popularity of social networking sites among teens and college students.