Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sermon: Lent 1 - Year C

Do we really believe in a God like that? Do we WANT to believe in a God like that? A God who relies on truth transforming us? A God who thinks that love can change the world? A God who wants mercy to mend broken hearts?

No offense, God, but truth is too slow a process and we’ve got too many liars on the planet. A God who asks us to trust – no offense God, but you are often silent when we most need you to speak. A God who acts in love – LOVE – when we face the onslaught of basic human greed destroying the planet, the threat of violence that puts human life in danger, the hatred between peoples born of pride and the lust for power – no offense, God, what’s the point of being God if you can’t throw YOUR power around?

Also, I live in the real world. This love and trust mumbo-jumbo may sound nice on Sunday morning at church, but when I step out the front doors, people are trying to get me. They’re gonna try to take what’s rightfully mine, everything I’ve worked hard to accumulate. No offense, God, but you’re looking pretty weak.

If you listen hard, that’s...(read the whole thing here)

Friday, February 23, 2007


There's always been rumblings that KFC was more rodent than poultry, but I never thought it would come to this.

And here's this, just because it's Friday.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ash Wednesday Sermon

It took me a while to realize what I was doing, but I noticed that after I preside over a funeral, I write something on my blog about it. And also, if it’s warm, I sometimes take my oldest daughter to the cemetery afterwards and “introduce” her to the person I just buried.

I don’t know what it is about funerals that make me more reflective. It might be the obvious. I’m face to face with someone who had died.

And it’s hard to proclaim a message of life and salvation at a funeral service without some peoples’ tears landing on you, bringing out tears of your own.

Maybe it’s because death causes me to face my own doubts. When you’re standing at the foot of an occupied casket, with family members quietly wiping their eyes, it’s hard to keep the bible’s promises of resurrection as abstract theory or weighty theological principles. It’s hard to pontificate when people are weeping. It’s difficult to spout soft religious platitudes in the midst of life and death questions

Maybe that’s why I get reflective. I find funerals to be an uncomfortable reminder that one day I will lie in that coffin, and I don’t like that scenario. I don’t like being confronted with the fact that, yes, I have come from dust, and to dust I will return.

Two years ago, I was almost killed on the Granum highway. Twice. Within the space of two minutes. It was snowing and I...(whole thing here)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fat (again?) Tuesday

It’s only by the God Lord’s merciful grace that I didn’t gain all the weight back last night that I’ve spent the last few months trying to lose. But last night’s pancake and sausage-fest at church was too much to pass up. Checked the scale this morning: minimal damage done.

Now begins the Lenten Fast.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Jesus Never Asked Us to Become Christians"

Drew Marshall on 100 Huntley Street parts one and two:

Here's his response to the many responses to his appearance.

Hi folks,

Just wanted to take this opportunity to clear up a few things as a result of the overwhelming response we've had to the 100 Huntley debut.

The hosts who interviewed me, Reyn & Kathy Mainse, I have great respect for. They are definitely not one of the many "Jesus Salesman" on TV who live lifestyles of opulence! I felt they handled the interview quite well considering the fact that I pretty much used that time to vent 25-years of frustration with "Victories Only - Jesus TV" which has left the rest of us "messy losers" a tad alienated and utterly bewildered at our spiritual ineptness. My "Ken & Barbie" comment was meant to only illustrate just how good looking they are - NOT how fake & plastic they are!

As for Norm's comments at the end - "Get a life Drew. The Howard Stern of Christian Radio" - I'm pretty sure he felt a little flustered after my interview, having just assaulted many of his traditions and beliefs, and he tried to recover with "funny." Hey, if anyone knows about trying to be funny and it not working... it's me! As for being called the "Howard Stern Of Christian Radio"... if that means that I talk about things others are thinking but don't have the guts to bring up... no worries. God knows, that if the Church had actually been talking about some of the stuff we talk about on our show, my spiritual life might have been a whole lot healthier along the way!

A few people were surprised at how intense or even angry I came across during this interview. Some have said that maybe I just need to take a break and "get healed" or "filled." Maybe my emotions just stood out so much because no one is EVER encouraged to be that vulnerable or honest on these types of God shows? I AM FRUSTRATED and actually, YES... I AM angry. Very angry, at how Christian leaders have been allowed to consistently get away with selling a North American, narcissistic, materialistic, "what's in it for me", squeaky clean, sterile Christianity. The Christianity I see being sold (You can't actually sell something unless people buy it - so wake up people and stop empowering these Princely Pawns) is quite simply, getting in the way of people finding Jesus, following Jesus, being in a relationship with Jesus. I think I actually hate "Christianity!"

Cultural Christianity is KILLING US!...(the whole thing here)

I hadn't heard of this guy before, but, he's saying a lot of what many of us have been saying over beer at the pub. To me he didn't sound all that radical, but, given the Mainse's response and "Drew, get a life!" comment at the end, some folks are comfortable in their Christianity.

For me, I'd rather see a stripped down, bare bones Christianity than live with or in a suburban, Pleasantville, version of biblical faith.


They Like Jesus But Not the Church

Dan Kimball has a new book out. I have his other two books on my shelf, The Emerging Church and Emerging Worship, and quite appreciated them. This new one’s called They Like Jesus But Not the Church.

To my ears, that sounds like a direct quote from my New Testament prof from when I was in seminary. This is nothing new. But it needs to be acknowledged that folks see Christians this way.

Here’s what he learned about what those who “like Jesus but not the Church” say about the Church:

1. The church is an organized religion with a political agenda.
2. The church is judgmental and negative.
3. The church is dominated by males and oppresses females.
4. The church is homophobic.
5. The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong.
6. The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally.

Some reviewers say that he doesn’t necessarily agree with each of these assessments, but it’s important to know that these attitudes are out there.

Here's a review. Another one here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Becoming a New Creation

So, I’m still trying to lose weight. I’ve joined a gym which I’ve now coupled with my diet plan (aka ‘new lifestyle nutrition strategy’). So far, so good.

While I’m blasting fat on the stair climber (stair masters are for wussies), I’ve been listening to NT Wright lectures. They’ve been both a refreshment and a challenge to me. He’s clearly in the evangelical Anglican camp, but that’s a far cry from where the North American evangelicals set up their tents.

He’s been talking about what he calls “life after life after death.” What the bible calls the “New Creation.” He’s quite right when he says that the bible says nothing about going to heaven when you die, and even suggests that getting our ticket to heaven is not the point of the bible. He lambastes much of our hymnody that focus on heaven as the ultimate goal when the bible makes little or no mention of it as a specific place we go when we die.

This jibs well with what we heard at the Synod Study Conference where we heard that salvation is not about getting your ticket punched at the door of heavenly bliss, salvation is about being liberated and healed – for life in God’s world.

While we covered much of this in seminary, and I’ve heard much of the same from thoughtful preachers through the years, it’s been a profound affirmation that our ministry is about proclaiming the kingdom of God that has come among us in Jesus. The kingdom of peace, healing, forgiveness, and renewal.

For me, that’s the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

I see my exercise regimen as part of God renewing me. Stairclimbers and cottage cheese are part of the process of me and God remaking my body as a worthy temple of the Holy Spirit. And with my body, my soul and mind, since all are connected.

Monday, February 12, 2007

John MacArthur has some sage words for Christians and the Environment

So I believe we are charged to treat responsibly all the wonderful resources God has given us. But that, in fact, has very little to do with the environmental movement. The environmental movement is consumed with trying to preserve the planet forever. But we know that isn’t in God’s plan.

The earth we inhabit is not a permanent planet. It is, frankly, a disposable planet — it is going to have a very short life. It’s been around six thousand years or so — that’s all — and it may last a few thousand more. And then the Lord is going to destroy it. (whole article here)

Last time I checked, the bible talks about God renewing creation; Jesus being the first fruits of the New Creation, all that stuff. The God of the bible seems to be in the creating business. Not the destroying business. We human beings seem to have cornered that market.

And for the stuff about the earth being only 6000 years old, well, I wonder if he dismisses science so recklessly when he goes to see the doctor.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sermon: Epiphany 6 - Year C

...Luke seems to glory in Jesus’ sayings about poor people being lifted up and rich folks getting run over by the divine steamroller. Theologians have picked up on this and even made up a term for it; they call it: God’s preferential option for the poor.

I don’t know about you, but that rubs me the wrong way. It tells me that I’m not at the top of God’s priority list; that God’s preference is for someone else. I may not be living high off the hog, but to many folks around the world and even to some here in Lethbridge, I’m living large.

It tells me that because I won the cosmic lottery and was born into a part of the world where I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to sleep or what I was going to eat, and that because I had access to a good education, and a good doctor was a quick phone call away, that somehow, I get penalized for it.

It tells me that I’m cursed for working in a decent paying job and for having a good looking resume. It tells me that all my hard work means nothing.

And when I look to the scriptures for an explanation, trying to figure out what God is up to, I’m left with these cold hard words: blessed you who are POOR, for YOURS is the kingdom of God.

But there’s no wiggling out of it. Try as I might, I need to take the bible seriously, and the bible tells me that Jesus spent most of his time with people who were dirt poor; folks who were pushed to the edges of their world. He had little time for people who wanted everyone to think they had it all together. In fact, Jesus said “beware when people speak well of you.”

He certainly doesn’t make it easy to be a Christian, does he? (read the whole thing here)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Back from Canmore

I was away in Canmore for our Synod Study Conference, which is why I haven’t been blogging or answering much email. As usual I bought a boatload of books that I won’t get around to reading until early 2009.

I arrived at the conference feeling tired, nervous, and anxious. I left under-rested but hopeful. I was very impressed with our new bishop and how he handled the contentious Issue facing our church. When new bishops are elected I usually take a “wait and see” approach, cautious optimism mixed with ecclesial realities can often turns a guy like me into a cynic. But our new bishop provided strong leadership without running over anyone. I was very impressed. And relieved.

The main presenter, Tom Yoder Neufeld led us through a powerful exploration of the scriptures using the lens of “peacemaking.” It was both challenging and refreshing.

But now I have a stack of work on my desk that needs tending to. Not the least of which is my sermon for Sunday.

Procrastination over.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What is the Emerging Church?

My wife was leading a Living the Questions session today here at the church. This group is a partnership of various congregations in the city who explore a more “progressive” approach to the faith. It’s not always my cup of tea. But some folks find value in it.

I usually don’t find value in some “progressive” approaches to Christianity because I don’t find them all that progressive. While they extol “inclusivity” and “diversity” as core values, they are usually inclusive of folks who think like them.

Afterward a group surrounded me and asked me what the Emerging Church stuff was, especially as it pertained to Evangelicalism. I don’t know about you, but I find easy definitions of “emerging church” unsatisfying. There are as many definitions as there are emerging churches.

I hemmed and hawed and muttered something about postmodernism, church in the dark, rock bands, Walter Brueggemann and NT Wright, knowing that I’ve lopped off many “emerging church” types from the definition.

But then again, I wonder if that’s a strength. One of the things I LOVE about the emerging church mov’t is that there is no definition. There’s real power in ambiguity. They don’t have everything nailed down. Their faith ebbs and flows with the ups and downs of life, not offering easy answers but a living, breathing, relationship with Jesus.

Some may say that their falling into theological or moral relativism. I say, look closer. Look at the relationships being established and communities strengthened. Look at people trying new ways to be the church in a changing culture. Look at faithfulness, not at doctrine. As Tony Campolo reminded us last week, even the devil has good theology.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Break Forth Redux

I know that some of my colleagues get all bent out of shape over Break Forth Christian Conference. Some say that it’s too conservative; that it caters to a certain style of evangelicalism that is too far removed from how we, as Lutherans, understand our faith.

But there was, and usually are some good things for those of us who swing to the left. Tony Campolo challenged us to live the Sermon on the Mount more faithfully, asking out loud how Christians can support the war in Iraq, the death penalty, and not support more global hunger initiatives. He even went so far as to say that Christians shouldn’t drive BMWs while so many in the world can’t even feed themselves. In an affluent crowd, that took some brass.

Bill Easum had some good things to say about church leadership. While I found him basking too glowingly in his grouchy old man routine, he shared some valuable insights from the scriptures that could apply Jesus’ style of leadership to congregational life.

The only clunker of a main speaker, in my opinion, was Kay Arthur. She treaded the line between biblical faithfulness and biblical idolatry, and often slipped over to the latter. She seemed to be saying that we should still be obeying the Old Testament Law because it’s the “Word of God” and the Word of God never changes because God’s mind never changes. She went on from there to say that God’s judgment was coming to America because they have broken God’s Law. She identified the usual suspects: homosexual, pro-choice folks, the fact that there’s no prayer in schools. But she was suspiciously quiet about the rich and the folks who supported and still support the war in Iraq (see Campolo).

All in all, I was glad I went, as I was glad I went last year. As one Lutheran colleague, who I ran into there, said, “You take what’s good and leave the rest.”

I think that’s what I’ll do.