Who is Jesus

Kenduskeag Union Church
Week 2
Mark 8:27-37
“Who is Jesus and what does he ask of us?”
The Hall of Fame golfer Lee Trevino has been struck by lightning three times while playing golf professionally.

He was invited to tell his story on a late night talk show and the host asked him after hearing about surviving three lightning streaks, what would he do different or would he have a different approach to golf?

Mr. Trevino looked at the host and said this,

“The next time I am on the course and there is a lightning storm, I am going to hold up a one iron.”

The host was slightly confused by this answer and asked Lee Trevino to further explain his answer.
Mr. Trevino went on to say this, “The reason I would hold up a one iron is because I know that not even God can hit a one iron.”

While that is a humorist story and light story, it reminds us that people have all sorts of different perspectives and understandings of who and what God is, and maybe more specifically who and what Jesus Christ is.
The larger context of today’s gospel lesson finds Jesus and the disciples making their way east from the Sea of Galilee westwards to the city of Caesarea Philippi on their journey south towards Jerusalem so that they could celebrate the Jewish feast of Passover.

And as Jesus and a handful of his followers enter the shadow of the very much Roman city, he starts a conversation with those who are traveling with him.

Jesus looks at his followers and asks the question, “Who do people say I am?”

You see at the time of this conversation as found in our gospel reading, all the who and what Jesus of Nazareth is had not been revealed yet. Some who followed him thought him to be some sort of political deliverer, others thought him to be the top spiritual teacher of the day, others saw him as some sort of miracle worker and prophet, still others thought he might be the one who would restore the kingdom that belonged to the line of King David; though no matter the particular slant or thought, most found common ground in the hope that Jesus would rid the Holy Land of the Romans, those who oppressed and occupied.

You see Jesus was very intentional in asking this important question in the place that he did.

The city of Caesarea Philippi was the center of Roman worship. In the time of the First Century it was a marvel. The outside of the city was made of sea side villas and palaces and rising up out of the middle of the city was a large white marble temple built by Herod the Great in honor and for the purpose of worshiping Ceaser.

Everything about this city spoke to the power of Rome and the power of Ceaser. Everything about this city spoke to the military power of the Roman Empire.

For those who are familiar with the stories of the Old Testament you will remember that the area around Caesarea Philippi was also once home to the worship of the pagan fertility god Baal. There are many stories found in the Old Testament of the people of God going back and forth between the worship of Yahweh and the worship of the Baal. In 1 Kings 18 you will find the contest between Elijah the Prophet of Yahweh and the prophets of Baal, I will not going into the story now, but it is worth your read at home.

So in the place where lust for military and spiritual power found its home, Jesus asks his question.

“Who do people think that I am?”

From as 21st century American eye, the responses that the disciples give me seem a tad bit from left field, but in light of First Century Judaism they make perfect sense.
“Some people think that you are one of the prophets come back from the dead, maybe even John the Baptist or Elijah, ever even one of the other prophets come back from the dead”
During the times of the Old Testament, God would send a prophetic voice to his people during the times of their oppression, many of the people figured that Jesus was this prophetic voice, and while he was, he wasn’t in the way they were expecting.

Then Jesus flips the question and makes it more personal, he says to the disciples, “But what about you? who do you say I am?”

Without sounding too preachy, this is the ultimate question that we have to deal with.

Who do we say that Jesus is?

And all of a sudden Peter jumps up out of the group of disciples and blurts out “You are the Messiah!”

Have you ever said something out of your mouth that by passed the filter of your mind?

This is what Peter experienced.

We have to turn our attention to Matthew’s gospel to find out what happened next, after Peter blurts out this confession, “You are the Messiah”, Jesus says to Peter, “Peter, you are blessed because flesh and blood (that is human beings or human reasoning) did not reveal this to you, but God the Father did.”

Then Jesus does something that runs counter culture to our society, he tells, in fact he warns the people following him not to tell anyone about him.
Jesus wasn’t about self-promotion, he wasn’t about making his name known, he didn’t even want his disciples to let other people know about this confession of messiahship from Peter.

And then he does something that probably seemed really unusual for what was going on, he sat the disciples down and began to teach them the purpose of the Messiah was not come in like a ceaser and kick the Romans out and re-establish the golden age of Israel, but instead the purpose of Messiah was that he was to be rejected and to suffer, even to suffer to the point of being killed.

And one again Peter does something note worthy.

After Jesus finishes his teaching, Peter pulls him aside and actually rebukes him.

Peter rebukes Jesus.

Think about that.

Peter the one who made the bold confession of the messiahship of Jesus just probably a few hours back, is now rebuking Jesus because he didn’t like or understand what Jesus was teaching.

If we can pause just a moment here and reflect on Peter, I believe that many of us, if not all of us, can find some common ground with Peter.

In one moment we are doing the work of God, the next moment we are acting like the evil one. In one moment we are reflecting the grace and mercy of the savior, the next moment we are reflecting the darker sides of our humanity. In one moment we are shining light, in the next we are showing darkness.

Peter didn’t like the idea that Jesus had to be rejected, to suffer and to die. He wanted Jesus to be like Ceaser, he wanted Jesus to act with military force and power, and Jesus told him he was acting like the evil one and that Peter had his mind set on human concerns instead of the concerns of God.

And to give cement to his teaching, Jesus has the crowd that is following him sit down along with the disciples and shares with them the news that not only will he as Messiah have to suffer, those who wish to follow him in discipleship will also have suffer.

“Deny yourselves”
“Take up their cross”
“Follow me”
“Lose their life”
“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

There are some one who think that once you start following Jesus that everything becomes perfect. That once you start following Jesus everything will be great, every day will be rainbows and sunshine and you will have no more problems to deal with.

A simple reading of this gospel text will show that not to be the case.

As it would probably take more time this morning that I have left to really dive into all of this, I do want to leave you with some thoughts concerning what this text says;
In a world where we are pressured to do whatever it takes to get more, Jesus asks us to give more.

In a world where we are pressured to hate and act inhumane towards those who are different then us, Jesus asks us to extend love, especially towards those who are perceived enemies.

In a world where war and violence is celebrated, Jesus asks us to be peacemakers.

In a world where the rich are celebrate, Jesus tells us that the poor will take a prominent place in his kingdom.
Who is Jesus? He is the Messiah. What does he ask of us? He calls us to suffer with him for the advancement of his kingdom.

In closing this morning I would like to read a prayer that is traditionally attributed to Francis of Assisi and if you know please feel free to say it along side of me;

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood and to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

Posted in Reformed Theology | Leave a comment

Bernie Sanders speaks at DNC Summer Meeting and challenges DNC establishment

Aug. 29th, 2015

Minneapolis, Minnesota – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made his presence felt at the Democratic National Committee Summer Meeting in Minneapolis Minnesota on Friday.
The Senator from Vermont made it clear that he believes that establishment politics will end in a loss for the Democratic Party looking into 2016 and that one of the reasons that people are excited to be involved in his campaign for President is because he is part of a “political revolution” that is not politics as usual.

“And let me be as clear as I can be. In my view, Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate, or the U.S. House, will not be successful in dozens of governors’ races all across this country unless we generate excitement and momentum and produce a huge voter turnout.With all due respect. And I do not mean to insult anyone here. That turnout, that enthusiasm will not happen with politics as usual. The same old, same old, will not work.” -Sen. Bernie Sanders, DNC Summer Meeting

Bernie also emphasized that young people and middle class workers who have never been involved in the political process have joined his campaign and that he is leading all candidates with over four hundred thousand individual campaign donations.

Posted in Reformed Theology | Leave a comment

Compassion | Week 2 at 2nd Congregational Church of Warren

August 9th, 2015

Mark 6:30-44


A young minister graduated from Seminary and was invited back to his home church to preach a sermon. Of course he wanted to make a good impression. He did his best to have a good sermon for his home congregation. He wrote out the sermon word for word, he even memorized it. Finally Sunday morning came. He started his sermon off really well, very dramatic, very engaging, wanting to make the most of the moment the young minister pounded the pulpit and said “Jesus took 5,000 fishes and 2,000 loaves of bread and fed five people!”, after making this point he pointed at the congregation and said “Could you do that?”

The whole congregation broke out with laughter and the young minister couldn’t imagine what was going on. At that point one man raised his hand, and that set the young minister off. He looked at the man who raised his hand and said, “Sir, you are guilty of blasphemy. How could you claim to do something that only God could do!” The man stood up and began to explain to the young minister about the big mistake that he had made. The minister when he realized what he had done was so humiliated that couldn’t say another word. He sat down in utter disgrace.

Being that the home church was full of loving, kind and compassionate people, they all came around the young minister and some put their arms around him and they said, “Look, everyone makes mistakes. Forget about it, why don’t you work on this sermon and come back and preach it again next Sunday.”

The disheveled young minister agreed.

The next Sunday after working on the sermon for an entire week, he stood up in front of the congregation. This time he got all the facts and figures straight, and as he got to a very dramatic point in his sermon, he pounded the pulpit and said “Jesus took 5 loaves and 2 fish and he fed over 5000 people. Could you do that?”

The same man from the prior Sunday raised his hand.

This really upset the young minister.

He looked at the man and said, “Sir, how can you claim to do something that?” The man smiled and said, “With all the leftovers from your sermon last Sunday.”

Before I get into the lesson this morning, I want to thank you for inviting me here today. I hope that as we look at the Scriptures together and as we engage in what the Spirit has for us today, that we are drawn closer to the Savior.

Over the next few minutes I want to turn our attention to the issue of compassion and its power.

What is compassion? Now when I was a young person, I would have taken out the dictionary and looked up the word “compassion”, but as we live in a rather more technologically advanced society, while I was preparing this sermon I simply took out my iPhone, held down the button and said, “Siri, can you please tell me what compassion is?”

And Siri gave me some wonderful insights into understanding what compassion is and why it is so powerful.

From a study at UCal Berkeley this understandings of compassions comes,

“Compassion literally means ‘to suffer together’. Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motived to relieve that suffering.”

Psychology Today defines compassion as the desire to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another person.

And from our friends at Wikipedia, “Compassion is really the act of going out of your way to help physical, spiritual, or emotional hurts or pains of another person.”

Let’s turn to our Bible lesson this morning and explore together this subject of compassion and the power it wields.

The greater context of this morning’s gospel reading is found in the story of Jesus giving his disciples the authority to go out and tell people about the good news of the Kingdom of God and for them to go and exercise the power of the Spirit.

The disciples return to Jesus excited about what they had experienced, in fact there was so much hussle and bussle that they didn’t even take the time to eat, and Jesus being the compassionate person that he is, instructed his disciples to get into a boat with him so that they could go to a quiet place for rest and food.

And as they were leaving the shore of the Sea of Galilee, some folks recognized Jesus and instead of coming to a quiet place where they could rest and eat, Jesus and the disciples find themselves face to face with a crowd of thousands of people.

Talk about putting a damper on your quiet time.

And here is where we find our key verse for this lesson, “When Jesus landed and saw the large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began to teach them many things.”

All through out the Hebrew and Christian Bible there is this image which compares God and his people to a shepherd and his flock. In what is probably the most famous Psalm, Psalm 23 King David, who himself was a shepherd, says this, “The Lord is my shepherd.” In the gospel of John Jesus calls himself “The good shepherd”. In fact in many churches across the world you will see a very lovely stained glass image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

And as the good shepherd Jesus looks at this crowd, which is filled with hurting, disconnected and oppressed people, compassion rises out of him. Going back to our understanding of compassion from UCal Berkeley, Jesus saw the suffering of this large group of people and something rose out of his emotions in such a way that he became motivated to alieve their suffering.

And out of this motivation Jesus did two things that I believe we can apply to our own lives;

First, he offered the group what I like to call “soulfood”; that is he gave healing, he gave nutrition to their souls. That part of their being that connected them emotionally, that connected them to each other, that connected them to God. Jesus saw this as a priority number one.

Let me ask you a question, how often do you run into people who need some “soulfood”? How many folks do you run into week in and week out that need some nutrition for their souls or their emotions? How many people do you run into that feel disconnected in their heart?

As people of faith, as people in the family of God, we have a buffet of “soulfood” available to those around us; we have encouraging words, we have acts of kindness, we have prayer, we have our time to invest, we have the ability to extend grace and mercy and unconditional love.

The second example Jesus shows us in today’s lesson is that thru the power of compassion the impossible can be done.

The people who make up this crowd are folks who are oppressed, they are suffering, they are disconnected and they are hungry.

That description reminds me of people in our very own community.

And without going into all the details of the story, Jesus thru the power of compassion, takes the very limited resources of a boy, five fish and two loaves of bread, and feeds over five thousand people.

My brothers and my sisters many times when we are looking to alleviate the suffering of others, when we are looking to oppose injustice, when we are looking to put an end to a system that is degrading and inhumane, it can look like the mountain that cannot be climbed or the river that cannot be forged, but as we see in the gospel story this morning, even with limited resources, those who engage in compassion can do the impossible.

Jesus’ own disciples said it couldn’t be done, feed thousands of people with five fish and two loaves of bread, nope, it cannot be done.

In the modern times from Mother Teresa, to Martin Luther King to Harvey Milk, to Nelson Mandela they were all told it couldn’t be done. They were all told in some fashion or way that the injustice was too big, the suffering was too much, that they didn’t have enough resources.

Thankfully none of them listened to their critics.

I want to close this morning’s lesson by telling you about my friend Andrew. Andrew and I graduated from Bible College together back in 2002. After graduation he was called to a small church in Virginia, and over time he grew that church to about five hundred regular members. One day he read an article about some people who were suffering in China. He thought his church might be able to find an organization that was helping in the area or even a missionary to sponsor. Neither could be found. After a couple of weeks of not being able to shake the suffering of these people out of his mind, he said to his wife Elizabeth, “Do you think that God might be calling us to serve these people?” Without too much hesitation she said “yes” and over a sort period of time Andrew resigned from his church, got the paper work necessary from the Chinese government and he moved his family across the globe to western China. Today, a near a decade later, with very limited resources, Andrew and his family are taking care of a ten leper communities, he and his family have rescued dozens and dozens of young women from the sex slave industry and he has found countless foster and adoptive homes for unwanted babies.

This is the power of compassion in action.

This is the impossible being done.

Thank you for allowing me to speak to you today, I pray it was a blessing.

Glory to God for all things.


Posted in Reformed Theology | Leave a comment

Bread Of Comfort / 2nd Congregational Church of Warren /

2nd Congregational Church, Warren

August 2nd, 2015

John 6:24-35

“The Bread of Comfort”

In his book entitled God’s Psychiatry, Charles Allen tells this story:

As World War II was drawing to a close, the Allied armies gathered up many hungry orphans. They were placed in camps where they were well-fed. Despite excellent care, they slept poorly. They seemed nervous and afraid. Finally, a psychologist came up with the solution. Each child was given a piece of bread to hold after he was put to bed. This particular piece of bread was just to be held—not eaten. The piece of bread produced wonderful results. The children went to bed knowing instinctively they would have food to eat the next day. That guarantee gave the children a restful and contented sleep.

Before I get to far into my talk this morning, I want to thank you and Pastor Andy for inviting back to be with you, our last time together was a great blessing to me. I hope and pray that our time together over the next three weeks are a blessing to you and that we are all drawn closer to the Savior

Over the next few minutes were are going to spend time together unpacking and walking thru this very famous passage of Scripture. For those who know or have studied the Gospel of John, this is the very first “I AM” statement of Jesus. In other places Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd”, “I am the Door”, “I am the way”, “I am the truth”, etc. etc.

For those who know the Jesus story, you will remember that Jesus didn’t spend too much time in capital of Jerusalem with those who were politically and religiously connected, instead he spent most of his ministry about one hundred and sixty kilometers north in the city of Capernaum, which was this hot bed of cross-culture that laid on the west side of the Sea of Galilee.

The greater context of this morning’s gospel reading is the famous story of Jesus feeding thousands of people along the Sea of Galilee with just five loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus feeds the people, he and his disciples then travel over the Sea of Galilee to get away from the crowds to get some rest, on the way across the Sea of Galilee there is a great storm, Jesus calms the storm with his word, the day ends and this is where our gospel story picks up this morning.

The crowds of people who experienced the miracle of the loaves and fish want to see Jesus again, so they start to search for him. They find him in Capernaum and they ask him this question, which on the surface seems pretty normal, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

This seems like a pretty reasonable question.

But Jesus looked through the surface and saw that the question was not coming from a place of correct motivation, and in one of the rare times where Jesus gives a rebuke to the crowd, he looks at them and says this, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” This crowd of people were not really interested in Jesus, his messages or even the miracles that he performed, they were looking for some sort of gratification, they wanted some thing that was a temporal benefit, in this case they wanted a free meal. They had eaten to their fill for free the day before and they wanted to do it again today.

They wanted Jesus to give them some sort of instant or immediate gratification.

Have you ever prayed this prayer…”God give me patience, now!” or “God, I need this item right now!” Kirk Wilkinson, in his article, “The Curse of Instant Gratification” writes this; “We live in an ‘instant-on’ and ‘always connected’ world where information and entertainment is available at the touch of a finger. You can watch tv or a movie from your smart phone; you can take a library of books with you where ever you go on your tablet and you can now communication with folks all over the globe regardless of where you are through apps on your electronic devices. This type of instant gratification has lead us to society that runs on quick fixes.” In the world of fast food, social media, texting, high speed communication and information traveling at the speed of the internet, the idea of saying “no” to instant or immediate gratification is becoming harder and harder.

As people living in Twenty First Century America we are living in a society where we don’t like the word “no” or the words “not now, I can or will wait for later”. Listen to this blurb from a article from Bucknell University called “Instant gratification and its dark side”:

“The unmistakable message people receive in both the workplace and the marketplace is that faster is better. Indeed, companies are counting on people’s impatience to sell their services. Indeed, companies are counting on people’s impatience to sell their services. Internet service providers promise ever-faster connections — for a hefty price, of course. Verizon is aggressively promoting its Quantum service, which comes in several different speeds the company claims “will take your breath away.” Verizon’s “rocket fuel” speed — about $210 a month — promises to download a high-definition movie in 2.2 minutes or upload 200 photos in 31 seconds. Still too slow? There’s also “supersonic” speed — about $300 a month — that will finish the video download in 1.4 minutes and the photo upload in 20 seconds.

Similarly, a growing number of retailers are trying to tempt consumers with costly same-day delivery options. Amazon offers same-day delivery in some cities, which means packages ordered early in the day will arrive by 8 p.m. If that still seems like eons, then just wait a few years. Its R&D team is developing Prime Air unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, to get packages in customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less.

“One day,” Amazon boasts on its website, “Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.” Of course, that begs the question: Why wait even half an hour for a drone delivery when a customer can download an e-book, music album or movie in a few seconds or minutes with Verizon’s supersonic internet service?

Of course, in our modern society the idea of waiting has long been considered an annoying waste of time, and I am afraid that our technology has only intensified the feeling.

“The promise of technology was that it would make us masters of time,” says Professor of English Harold Schweizer. “It has, ironically, made us into time’s slaves.”

The professor is a passionate advocate of the value of waiting and even wrote a book titled On Waiting. To Schweizer, waiting gives people time for thinking, inspiration and regeneration.

Getting back to our gospel story this morning;

Jesus calls these instant or immediate gratifications “food that spoils”.

With out taking too much time, I want to focus some attention on some of these “food that spoils” that we see in our lives;

The first, and I hate to jump into this one first, but I find it necessary, is money. How many of us compromise for money? How many people compromise their belief systems, their marriages, their relationships, their ethics just for more money.

Jesus made it very clear to us when he said “A person cannot serve God and money. Either he will love one and hate the other, or hate the one and love the other.”

In my ten years of pastoral ministry, I cannot tell you the number of times I sat with some one on their death bed and listened to them as they regretted the amount of time and effort they spent trying to obtain more money, at the experience of those who they loved.

My brothers and my sisters, when it comes to the nature of money, let me please remind you that money, no matter the amount, will ever satisfy your soul.

Another “food that spoils” that we encounter are possessions. Now I am not saying we can’t have things, but Jesus made it pretty clear when he said “What good is it if we gain the whole world, but lose our soul?”

How quickly are we to run to the credit card for that item that we need now?

Many of us in the Christian Church have fallen into the trap of the need of keeping up with the Jones’. We want and will have the newest, best, fastest, no matter how much debt it puts us into or how many years it will put us behind the eight ball.

How many of us would like to do things like go on missions trips, or spend more time helping at the church, but we simply cannot because of how much debt we have?

A final “food that spoils” that I would like to give a bit of attention to our need to be right. How much time is spent, how much money is spent, how many hours are spent, how much energy is spent, on the need to be right. One doesn’t have to spend too much time on social media to see how much effort folks put into showing others that they have the correct political view, correct theological view, correct economic view, correct sports views.

Saint Paul reminds us that the mature believer esteems others above themselves.

So if we aren’t to go after the food that spoils, what are we to invest in? Jesus says there is “food that endures to eternal life”.

What is that food? Jesus says it is having faith in God, and having in such a way that it becomes like living bread or life giving food.

Let me ask you a question, is having faith in God an easy task? It is not is it? Some times it is a struggle. Some times it is hard. Some times is drains our emotions. Some times we question our sanity when it comes to having faith in God. Being a person of faith is not easy, there is an element of discipline to it. There is an element of effort and sacrifice. But in the end, is it worth? It sure is. Jesus says that it is much more important to have faith, then it is to have those things which are temporary, it is more important to have those things which bring eternal life than those things which spoil.

He said that the bread that fills our souls is much better than that bread that fills our stomachs.

My prayer and hope this morning is that in the middle of this society of consumerism and debt, that we find our soul’s satisfaction in our faith in God.


Posted in Reformed Theology | Leave a comment

A Kingdom Approach To Abortion

I do not know if there is a more hot button topic along the American political landscape than the issue of abortion. There are groups and organizations that fund-raise tens of millions of dollars a year to make sure their particular view on the subject is heard. There are protests, sign holders, marches, prayers, petitions, rallies and often times this is a issue that can be the sole reason why a person may vote for a particular candidate.

As a Christian I have struggled with this issue.
As a Christian leader I have struggled with this issue.
As a human being I have struggled with this issue.

For near sixteen years I have been looking for ways I might be able to give verbiage for how I believe and feel. I have never felt totally comfortable with the answers that those on the religious right have given about the topic, though over the years I have mostly identified with their views.

Recently I picked up the book “The Myth Of A Christian Nation: How The Quest For Political Power Is Destroying The Church” by Greg Boyd and within its pages he expressed his views on the issue of abortion in the way that I have been trying to do for over a decade.

This is from Chapter 7

“A Kingdom Approach To Abortion”

“To illustrate, consider the highly charged and divisive issue of abortion. Whether one should vote pro-life or pro-choice is clearly an important question for all citizens to consider. Because all kingdom-of-the-world issues come in complex political packages, numerous complex considerations will affect how one votes on this issue. There are, of course, many difficult metaphysical and ethical questions to consider. When does the fetus become a full person? When does it acquire a soul and take on the image of God?

Your answer to these questions will affect, and be affected by, your views on a host of other ethical questions. For example, do you believe that the morning-after pill is as bad as partial-birth abortions? Would your ideal society punish women who use the morning-after pill as severely as people who murder infants or adults? How should we weigh the rights of the unborn at various stages of development against the rights of the woman whose body it now inhabits? And to what extent do you believe government should legislate the answer to these questions as opposed to leaving the answer up to the woman and others involved in the pregnancy?

Related to these questions are a host of other complex considerations that will affect how you vote. For example, how does the party or candidate that most closely reflects your view on abortion fare on other issues you deem important: concern for the poor, economics, foreign affairs, war, the environment, and so on? How much weight do you put on each of these convictions? Also, what do you deem attainable at the present time in our culture? Is it more efficient to work to outlaw abortion outright, or is it better to minimize abortion by, say, voting for the candidate and party you think will best help the poor, since there is a demonstrable link between the rate of poverty and the rate of abortion in the U.S.? Even more fundamentally, do you think it more efficient to hold an uncompromising stance on this issue, or is it better for the unborn, and for society as a whole, for you to work with people who have different beliefs than yours to overcome our present polarization and find a middle ground? What do you believe is the best way to create a culture in which abortions are as unnecessary and rare as possible? How one answers all these difficult and important questions affects how they vote.

But kingdom people need to understand that none of these questions are distinctly kingdom questions.

The polarized way the issue is framed in contemporary politics is largely a function of various groups trying to gain power over each other for what they believe to be the good of the whole, and while we as Americans have to consider these questions before we can give an informed opinion (a vote) when asked, there’s no reason we—as kingdom-of-God participants—should allow this political way of framing the issue to define our approach.

Jesus never allowed himself to be defined by the political conflicts of his day, and neither should we. The distinctly kingdom question is not, How should we vote? The distinctly kingdom question is, How should we live?

How can we individually and collectively come under women struggling with unwanted pregnancies and come under the unborn babies who are unwanted? How can we who are worse sinners than any woman with an unwanted pregnancy—and thus have no right to stand over them in judgment—sacrifice our time, energy, and resources to ascribe unsurpassable worth to them and their unborn children? How can we act in such a way that we communicate our agreement with Jesus that these women and their unborn children are worth dying for? How can we individually and collectively sacrifice for and serve women and their unwanted children so that it becomes feasible for the mother to go to full term? How can we individually and collectively bleed for pregnant women and for unborn babies in a way that maximizes life and minimizes violence? We answer these distinctly kingdom questions not with our votes but with our lives. And, note, we don’t need to answer any of the world’s difficult political and metaphysical questions to do it. The unique kingdom approach to abortion isn’t dependent on convincing ourselves and others that we have “God’s knowledge” about highly ambiguous questions. It’s based on our call to love as Jesus loved. There’s a scared woman; there’s a growing life inside her, which, however it got there and whatever speculations one holds about its metaphysical status, is a miraculous creation of God. And the only relevant question kingdom people need to answer is, Are we willing to bleed for both? Voting and picketing costs us little. The kingdom approach costs us much. But it is precisely the costliness of the kingdom approach—which looks like Jesus dying on Calvary for those who crucified him—that makes it a unique kingdom approach. And because it manifests the beauty of Jesus, it glorifies God and has a power to change the world in a way that kingdom-of-the-world strategies never could.”

To me Greg Boyd nails it on the head.

The ultimate question isn’t how we vote, but how we live.

Are we willing to lay down our lives and love unconditionally the mother, the life that is growing inside her and those who might express a different belief or thought than we do when it comes to abortion?

Are we willing to put political rightness to the side so that beauty of Jesus can be manifest?

Please buy Greg Boyd’s book, it is well worth the $10 on Amazon.com.

Peace & Grace

Posted in Radical | Tagged | Leave a comment

Black Friday & The Christian Consumer

It seems like advertisements for Black Friday started very early this year.

Promises of large sales and great deals starting on the night of Thanksgiving or on 12:01 AM on Black Friday have taken over the airways, tv channels and Pandora and iTunes radio.

Companies and corporations have poured untold billions into advertising, so that in return folks buy their products this holiday season.

No doubt in the next few hours we will read about folks standing outside of stores for hours on end, we will read about people being injured or killed because of a stampede at a Big Box store, we will see videos of people fist fighting over the last in stock hot ticket item of the year.




Isn’t that the corporate message of this season?

Go into debt, spend what you don’t have, buy, buy, buy!

In light of the teachings of Jesus, what is a Christian consumer to do?

How should a Christian respond to the consumer drive of Black Friday?

In a portion of Jesus’ most famous sermon he said this:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


“You cannot serve both God and money”

Jesus gave his followers a clear warning to avoid consumerism and greed.

People who follow him are to avoid the trappings of earthly treasures and instead are called to focus upon heavenly efforts and service.

During this holiday season let us put people above corporate profits, let us place heavenly efforts above hot ticket items and in the name of God let us serve those around us.

Posted in Radical | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Shame & Storytelling

Every human being has a story.

Every mom and dad, every grandmother and grandfather, every son and daughter, every person in your place of work, every person you bump into on the street and every person who sits beside you at your place of worship has a story.

Our stories are made up of our experiences, those events we have gone through, our struggles, our celebrations, our achievements and our secrets.

Our secrets.

Those things we did, or happened to us, that we would rather not make public or talk about.

Or think about for that matter.

Those experiences which are attached to shame.

Shameful and shame-filled events.

Growing up in a traditional northern New England home I learned at a young age that it was best not to talk about family secrets or give recognition to events that might bring shame. Better to ignore, better to keep silent, better to keep secrets and to sweep the ugly things under the rug.

I am not placing any blame on my parents as they are both amazing parents and pretty special human beings; but there is just something in the culture that I live in that pushes people away from telling their “whole” story.

That is what shame does, it keeps us from telling our story. It forces us not to be open and authentic with one another with our stories.

In my last blog “Shame & The Christian Church” I showed how shame is a thief and a cancer, how it robs from us and can cripple us.

Telling your “whole” story is a good tool in the battle against shame.

James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, wrote this in his letter to the early Christian community,

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for one another so that you can live together whole and healed.” *

Within the context of telling our story, that verse could be re-wrote to say this,

“Make this your common practice: Tell your whole story to each other and pray for one another so that you can live together whole and healed.”

James,under the influence of God, reminded the early Jesus followers, and reminds us today, that as we tell our stories to others and as we engage in divine communication (prayer), it opens the door for wholeness and healing.

Telling your story to someone will not fix all your problems and it may not bring total wholeness to your life, but it will open the door.

It will plant seeds of wholeness, healing and love where once trees of shame grew.

Within the next seven days purposely and intentionally tell your whole story to someone.

It will take courage, and all sorts of fears will try to get you not to do it, but believe me, it will be worth it.

Tell your whole story to a clergy person, to a family member, a friend, a loved one, or you might even have the courage to pull a Forrest Gump, and tell your story to a complete stranger sitting on a park bench while you eat your way through a box of chocolates.

You are not alone.

You are unconditionally, radically and scandalously loved.

And your story is worth telling.

I leave you with this quote from noted author and speaker Dr. Brene Brown,

“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

*James 5:16 MSG

Posted in Shame | Tagged | 2 Comments