Saturday, May 30, 2009

Speak the Language -- Sermon for Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Pentecost – birthday of the Church. The spirit of God come to each and every one gathered
  • unusual, b/c before now, the spirit of God would be “on” only the prophets – given to the disciples in the upper room when Thomas doubted. (John 20:24).
  • Veil was torn in the temple at the resurrection / God no longer confined to the Holy of Holies, but now moves freely among the people.

How did the spirit of God come? As flames/ and each heard his own language.
  • God speaks to us in our own language so that we can understand
  • Some see this as the correction of the great sin of the Tower of Babel
  • That sin is the building up of the human and a lessening of the Divine
  • Pride, puffing up of our selves, hubris, selfishness
  • Divided us up into “peoples” who compete with one another
  • But no longer, because we are all one church
  • Everyone is welcome – radical hospitality
God speaks to us in our own language
  • Why should we speak to one another
  • When should we speak to one another?
  • how should we speak to one another?
  • what should we speak to one another?
We speak the gospel of Christ – what does that mean?
  • we need to speak the gospel of Christ to one another in a way that reaches their deepest need
  • We tend to use “churchy language” that WE understand but may not be understood by the unchurched
  • Need to learn to speak the Gospel in a what that this world can hear

What do we speak?
  • Follow this train of logic
  • God so loved the world
  • What IS God? God is love (1 John 4:7&8)
  • We need to speak this Love to a loveless world.
  • What the world needs now is love sweet love… it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…

5 Love Languages – Gary Smalley
  • Word of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Gifts and visual symbols of love
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch
Jesus used these languages -- he often spoke word of affirmation -- look at the Beatitudes
  • He gave quality time to his disciples
  • He gave the ultimate gift -- the gift of himself
  • He served all -- look at the Last Supper
  • He healed often by touch...

Likewise, we need to speak in a language that people understand
  • What is their greatest need?
  • We tend to speak of a God who saves through “substitionary atonement”
  • That’s great for us churchy types, but not everyone understands the need to be “washed in the blood of Jesus”
Different theologies of soteriology – the doctrine of salvation
Substitionary Atonement is just one of them
  • Other people believe that it was the suffering of Christ (movie “the Passion of Christ” great example)
  • Some people the moment of salvation occurred at the Virgin Birth.
  • Some people believe that it was the life example of Christ that was the saving action.
  • Some believe it was the teachings.
  • Different denominations relate differently to each aspect of this – we need to become familiar with the entire package – We as Methodist proclaim it’s the Life, Death AND Resurrection of Christ.
I had a good friend ask me yesterday how she could share the Gospel of Christ with someone who just doesn’t “get sin.” The woman believes in God but just doesn’t “get the Jesus thing.”
This describes the majority of people today – they just don’t “get the Jesus thing.”
  • How can we tell them of our relationship with Jesus Christ in a way they will understand?
  • Maybe we don’t need to share how Christ’s blood washes away our sin – because they just don’t “get sin.”
  • Maybe we need to look at their spiritual needs first and then tell them about how the Gospel will meet those needs.
  • For instance, this woman is expecting a baby in July. She knows that this child will need a good community that will help raise it up to be a “good person.” She yearns to be loved – she talked about how she never felt loved by her parents.
  • How do we share the Gospel with her?
  • First, because Jesus never did a “cold call witness” (I did several of them as a teen – I’d knock on doors and say “if you were to die tonight would you go to heaven or hell???” – never really did share the Gospel) – he first entered into relationship with the person. He has conversation, dinner, he healed them THEN asked the person to follow Him. Relational Evangelism.
  • Better to ask a person ‘what are you praying for’ than ‘are you going to heaven or hell??’
  • She is yearning for love – tell her that our God is a God of love – that Jesus is God come to earth with skin on so that He could show us that love. He put on flesh and dwelt among us. He loved humankind. He healed us, he fed us, he prayed for and with us, he lived among us and then he died for us. God’s love reaches across all sorts of boundaries – race, color, age, sex, national origin.
  • Speak the language – this world is yearning for direction, for love, for healing, for sustenance. She is yearning for community. Tell her that in some mysterious way that the church IS the body of Christ now – that the church is here to love this world the way the Christ and God loved this world. That we are here to put hands onto Jesus’ body, to speak Jesus’ words, to teach Jesus’ teachings, to carry the message to all the ends of the world (reference the text) "How Beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!"- Isaiah 52:7
Last week we spoke of our purpose – to make disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. To fulfill that purpose, we need to learn to speak the language of the current world; a universal language; the language of love.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Best Argument FOR Big Screens in Worship

The Best Argument FOR Big Screens in Worship -- It's really the old fashioned way.

It seems that before Gutenberg and his printing press, Hymnals were HUGE. They were hand copied and illustrated and the manuscripts were large enough that when placed on a stand, they are big enough for the entire choir to see.

So a big screen is really more old fashioned than new fangled.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prayers of the People for Pentecost

This is one of my first pastoral prayers, written many years ago. It's not as good as I remembered, but I also remember my earnestness and anxiety as a fresh young "minister" delivering this prayer.

I don't remember if I borrowed anything from anyone -- I don't think so. But if I did and if you recoginze a phrase as yours, please let me know and I will give credit where credit is due.

Almighty God, Creator of all things,
For fifty days have we celebrated the fullness of the mystery of your revealed love.
See your people gather in prayer, open to receive the Spirit's flame.
Speak through us, O Lord,
that others may listen,
and the very nature of the world be changed.
Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer.

Yahweh, Center us in your love
that our work might be for justice.
Lift the weariness of this life so,
that we may rise and dance, dance again to your great song of life.
Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer

Lord of Life and Love,
Fill us with your life-giving breath, your Ruah so that we may feel
the fire of your Spirit deep inside our chests,
its warmth diffusing throughout our whole being;
strengthen our faith that we might abide in your presence, to do your work,
comforting us and sustaining us when that work is hard, and lonely, and long.
Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer

Adonai, Fill our voices with your heavenly song, Let your beauty shine forth.
Let your holy fire shine forth from these eyes of ours,
that we might enlighten the darkness of these times,
and glimpse the birth of your new creation,
Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer

Jesus our Messiah, See your people gather in prayer, open to receive the Spirit's flame.
May it come to rest in our hearts and disperse the divisions of word and tongue.
With one voice and one song may we praise your name in joy and thanksgiving.
Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer

And burn, Spirit, with your fire,
burn away the little idols we’ve made in our own image,
those things we’ve looked to for security, for peace, for happiness.
Burn a clear path for our repentance,
that no obstacles might stand in the way of our embracing the truth of the good news for our lives and for the world.
Then we can rejoice and worship and dance in the joy of the truth, and then, too, will the world see in us a more faithful and compelling witness.
Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer

Spirit of the living God, fall on me;
Spirit of the living God, move me;
Spirit of the living God, fill me;
Spirit of the living God, seal me.
Spirit of the living God, consecrate me to do your will,
Spirit of the living God,create in me a soul burning with Your endless Love and
Seal my soul as Your own, that Your reflection in me may be a light for all to see.

All of this we pray, in the name of the Son, who, with the Father, sent You, our comforter, the Spirit of Holy Adoption, into our hearts that we might truly pray, -- Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name...

A Prayer for Pentecost

O Spirit of the living God, Thou light and fire divine,
Descend upon Thy church once more, and make it truly Thine.
Fill it with love and joy and power, with righteousness and peace;
Till Christ shall dwell in human hearts, and sin and sorrow cease.

Blow, wind of God! With wisdom blow until our minds are free
From mists of errors, clouds of doubt, which blind our eyes to Thee.
Burn, winged fire! Inspire our lips with flaming love and zeal,
To preach to all Thy great good news, God’s glorious common weal.
-- Henry H. Tweedy

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

--Acts 2 1-13

Breathe on us God
Let the violence of your Spirit sweep among us and
Make us discontent.
Fill our churches with the overwhelming sound
Of your rushing wind -- your ruah.
Prepare us for the coming of your Spirit
Let us listen with anticipation the teachings of Jesus the Christ:
Make our hearts and minds be ready to receive
The blessing of the Holy Spirit,
Prepare us to be filled with the strength of his presence

Breathe on us God
Prepare us for the coming of your Kingdom
A perfect kingdom where no sword is drawn but
The sword of righteousness,
A perfect kingdom where no strength known but
The strength of love:
Breathe on this world your breath and so spread your Spirit,
So that everyone in the broken world may be gathered under
The banner of the Prince of Peace,
So that everyone in this broken world may be children of one Parent.

Breathe on us God
Prepare us for the perfecting of your Church.
Set up on fire for your Word.
Perfect us with a burning desire to do your will.
Let us speak to each person in this world
In language they will understand.
Fill us with all truth, in all truth with all peace.
Where your church is corrupt, purify it;
Where it is in error, direct it;
Where your church does not promote your kingdom, reform it.
Where it is right, strengthen it;
Where it is in want, provide for it;
Where it is divided, unite it;
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday Randomness

  • Facebook has cause a great decrease in my blogging efforts.
  • Either that or I'm just not 100 percent yet from surgery.
  • I am looking at (continuing) to declutter the house and to do some "home improvement" projects for two reasons 1) we've been here a while and things need to be freshened up 2) if we are going to move anytime soon, the house needs to get to a point where it's ready to sell (heh! In this economy!)
  • The laundry room is my focus right now. The walls are beat up and builder beige, it's unorganized and just plain drab. I have put in new curtains (about $25 total including new rods) and spray painted (most) of my peach baskets red to match (about $10 of spray paint). I'm using a can of paint leftover from painting the living rooms, so there is zero additional cost there, therefore the total on the project is about $35. Good price for a fresh look, in my humble opinion.
  • The deck is a simultaneous "next" -- I work on the deck when the weather holds. Which it really hasn't -- lots and lots of rain recently. The deck is iffy -- I don't know if it is salvageable or if we need a new one. I'm going to try to pressure wash it gently with Deck Bright and stain/paint with a semi-opaque exterior stain. The supplies to do this are about $75 -- a lot cheaper than a new deck.
  • We are still working on "stuff reduction." I am thinking about putting my books outside and taking a picture of the ones that are in nice boxes and selling them on Craig's list. There are about 1250 to 1400 there are sorted nicely and that I know I want to get rid of -- I'm thinking about listing them for $400 OBO. There are around 30 boxes like this so that's just a bit more than $10 a box. Second idea: a "Book Sale" to be advertised on Craig's list and the homeschool email lists -- fill up a box for $10. It's still going to take quite a bit of sorting and cleaning up to get to either point.
  • I actually want the garage COMPLETELY cleaned out in order to stain/seal the floor. Long term goal? I don't know, but I do know that we can't show the house with it looking that way and it's weighing me down.
  • I am noticing more and more in my life a real and dynamic connection between my physical life, my emotional life and my spiritual life. They MUST be balanced for me to be fully fulfilled. This is my "work" spiritually right now (or so my spiritual director tells me.) I thought I would be finished by now -- but I'm also getting an understanding that there is no "finish" -- it's all a process....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thought of the Day

Contemplating "Life of the Beloved" by Nouwen:

"But what I would like to say is that the spiritual life is a life in which you gradually learn to listen to a voice that says something else, that says, 'You are the beloved and on you my favor rests.'"

"You are the beloved and on you my favor rests."


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Still Recovering

Starting to feel "trapped" by the house. I want to get out, but I don't have lots of energy. I missed my appointment this morning. The appointment card said "Wednesday, May 19th." I thought it was for tomorrow. The scheduling nurse put down the wrong day of the week -- Honest mistake on both our parts. So I'll go in on Thursday for my followup.

I've been working on collecting my ideas for my log cabin project as well as the Portable Parsonage Project (a park model trailer). I wonder sometimes why I spend so much energy doing "pie in the sky by and by" things instead of working in the moment -- so I also have been working on getting my laundry room re-organized (kid labor) and re-designed. It's coming along OK; I actually spray painted my peach baskets red this afternoon and worked a bit on the deck (it's the next project.)

I do like spray paint.

Sugar kitty and I have been bonding. She's almost 6 months old and still very much a kitten. But she sure doesn't look like a kitten! She's about 7 to 8 pounds and her paws are huge. She's still very scared of everything and very needy. Here's some pictures.

What do you mean I have big paws, hooman?

Sugar on the bed -- I am the lump in the bed...

Big eyes. Big paws.

Well, I haven't even looked up the text for the week, much less had deep and insightful comments to make on the text... so until later.

Next time: Princess the Prissy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Catching Up

I have been recovering from surgery on Monday. It's going OK. I think that the hoarseness and roughness of my voice from the intubation is worse than I expected. I'm getting up and around somewhat and am spacing out the pain pills, so I'm doing OK.

It's hard for me to "take it easy." I see something that needs to be done, I usually just do it. I'm thinking up things to do with the computer and things I can do without picking up more than 5 pounds, but it's still hard. I have a substitute preacher -- I don't have to do any sermon prep; so I'm writing in my "Log Cabin Idea Book." I'm up to 130 or so pages, so I have a lot of material.

The kitty cats have been keeping my company. Tucker in particular as he had THAT surgery on Tuesday. I miss my old kitties still, but I do love my Tucker, Johnny and Sugar. Sugar is going to be huge. Her paws are half again as big as Johnny's and she's only 6 months old. I have wanted a Maine Coon for a while and she sure fits that bill. She's still a 'frady cat, so I don't have any new pictures.

I have also been planting my garden in the back with the "point and plant" method -- "Here, Chaos. Plant this there." Works OK until they get bored.

What it looks like now:

We are using the "split open the potting soil bags and plant directly there" method. I am also repurposing the swingset as a big bean pole. I was going to give it away but it is 1) BIG and 2) sorta rotten near the bottom. Therefore, it is now a giant bean pole.

This is what I hope it will look like by the end of the year:

I want to replace the landscaping timbers with rock and add a lanturn and firepit. Maybe even a water feature.

OK, I'm tired. More later.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Just what is needed for the Swine Flu

From here.

Or my own design:

Star Trek and Fruit of the Vine (sorta)

Star Trek opening -- new Spock, new Kirk. Chris Pine is Kirk -- another movie he was in earlier this year -- the movie "Bottle Shock"

"Bottle Shock" is a 2008 film that tells the story of the events that led up to the Judgment of Paris in 1976, when California wine beat French wine in a blind taste test. Sommelier and wine shop owner Steven Spurrier, a British expatriate living in Paris, concocts a plan to hold a blind taste-test intended to introduce Parisians to the quality wines coming from elsewhere in the world (and save his business in the process). He travels to the not-yet-famous Napa Valley in search of contestants for his Judgment of Paris taste test, where a chance meeting introduces him to floundering vintner Jim Barrett of Chateau Montelena. This twist of fate and the resultant oenological epiphany forever change their lives, the fortunes of the Napa Valley wineries, and the global wine industry as a whole. (Thank you Wikipedia)

Points: 1) The "new" CA wines are tastier than the "old" wines -- shocking the world. Reminds me of how Jesus said something about new wine and old wineskins. New wine will burst old wineskins and the minds of the wine tasting world were burst open by this blind tasting. The new wine of the new covenant is just plain tastier ...

2) Jim Barrett and his son Bo quoted Hemingway quote "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." We are promised that Christ will be with us -- not that we are not going to have to suffer. And some of us may be broken by this world -- some of us by the church -- some of us by things beyond our control. Interesting fact: Most grapes are grown onto grafted vines. Meaning that the "vines" were broken off/ cut off old rootstock and placed on new. In fact all French wines now are grown on vigorous California root stock. (Keep going, stressing the points that fruitful vines will be grafted back on -- unfruitful ones cast into the fire -- and that the place where graft is placed into the rootstock is the strongest place, the knottiest place, the most fiberous place on the whole plant.)

3) stressing the vines make a sweeter grape -- quote from Jim Barrett to Sam, his intern. Again, the suffering we endure now will make the final promise sweeter.

Final illustration from
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to walk on the moon in the Apollo 11 space mission. Michael Collins third member of the group, was in charge of the command module, essential for their return to earth, which circled the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin landed. The moon lander touched down at 3:17 Eastern Standard Time, Sunday, July 20, 1969.

Aldrin had brought with him a tiny communion kit, given him by his church, that had a silver chalice and wine vial about the size of the tip of his finger. During the morning he radioed, "Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, whoever or wherever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the last few hours, and to give thanks in his own individual way."

"In the radio blackout," he wrote later, "I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.' I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute Deke Slayton had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O'Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly..." "Eagle's metal body creaked. I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements."

This is indeed The final frontier
These are the voyages of the church of God
Its ongoing mission
To explore strange new worlds
To bear fruit in our new life within our civilization
To boldly go where no man has gone before. (too schmutzy?)

Friday, May 08, 2009

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Poverty of Spirit

My airport card is still not working correctly -- thus I have had a sort of internet fast that was not of my own making this last week.  It causes me to wonder about what exactly is necessary and what exactly is luxury.

For basic physical life, I've upheld the belief that there are 5 areas where we have real need: food and water, shelter, clothing, education and medical care.  If any of these are compromised, we live in poverty.  Now the lack of a place to live is a much deeper poverty than lack of medical care, so my list is also a list of priority.  These things are necessary for humans to live in dignity; to live a good life.

I have wondered about the things that are necessary for us to live a good life spiritually and emotionally.  I believe we can make a list here as well: relationship with God, relationships with each other, a sense of purpose and fulfillment, disciplines to strengthen the inner life such as prayer and meditation, time in community/time in contemplation.  Personally there are things that I need in order to be healthy spiritually.  I need a clean and ordered place, I need a certain amount of time alone everyday to just be and think, I need a certain amount of affection from my family members, I need good and healthy conversations that stimulate my mind and my soul.  I need that sense of purpose.  I need cats. I need a certain amount of sleep and a certain amount of exercise everyday.

I wonder exactly what is meant by the phrase "poor in spirit."  Matthew Henry said, "this poverty of spirit is a gracious disposition of soul, by which we are emptied of self, in order to our being filled with Jesus Christ."  Wesley said, "He has a deep sense of the loathsome leprosy of sin which he brought with him from his mother’s womb, which overspreads his whole soul, and totally corrupts every power and faculty thereof."  Thus theologians would tell us that to be poor in spirit is to realize our moral bankruptcy before God and lean only upon God's spirit.

I wonder if to be poor in spirit can mean to place real value my personal spiritual health --to value that spiritual health above the love of material possessions.  Francis of Assisi cultivated those things that fed his spirit and eschewed those material possessions.  Francis was truly poor in spirit.  What would it mean for me to emulate this poverty of spirit?  What would it look like? How different would I structure my life, my time and my money?

Saturday, May 02, 2009


  • My airport card is on the fritz. It only works when the computer is completely cool. I suppose it's time to go to the Apple store.
  • We have been using the camping trailer as a sort of portable parsonage. It's working out OK. At least it gives us another base of operations.
  • The girls are spending the night with their friend after going to Free Comic Book Day at Galactic Quest.  Looks to be a load of fun today.
  • Cats are cats.  We now have 4 -- and they haven't all decided where their territory is.  We do have a sort of detente. We shall see.
  • I'm having complications from my surgery two years ago.  I get to go consult with another surgeon on Tuesday.  Goody.
  • I'm going to plant my garden on Monday directly in the potting soil bags.  Seems like a great method.  I'll report later with the results.
  • More stuff, but no time.  Later.