Monday, December 12, 2016

Sermon-in-Verse: The Fourth Edition

I spend an inordinate amount of time planning, researching, editing, and the like prepping for the two biggies: sermons for Christmas and Easter.  But I probably spend, per word portion, more time on the sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent than any other sermon.


It is a sermon-in-verse, a whimsical retelling of an unknown and fictional slant of the Christmas story.

I first heard about the idea while researching the sermons of the late David H.C. Read at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church; he served there from 1956 to 1989.  Suffice to say he was there a long time...perhaps the sermon-in-verse he created for the Fourth Sunday in Advent helped him stay fresh and gave him an creative and jolly breather before the toll of Christmas Eve, perhaps...

I've done three Sermons-in-Verse here at Judson. The first one was a flop, so bad I didn't want to do another.  But my second was actually pretty good.  The third was mediocre.  I stopped chagrining a few months ago because it is not like there is a high bar for success.  Success is just writing a rhyming poem and delivering it!

This year I chose to borrow elements from Rip van Winkle and Elf to describe the rivalry between John the Baptizer and Jesus.  I think it will be a fairly decent sermon-in-verse with some faux rhymes, extremely dry lines, and making a debut this year: couple of singing verses.  All in all six minutes of homiletical joy.

Come up with a story, grab yourself a rhyming dictionary, put on a pot of coffee and have at it.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Finding Robert Lax

"I heard you want to talk about the poetry of Bob Lax, I know an elderly man in New York City who would love to talk to you".  That line was uttered by a male, probably in his fifties; that's all I can recall, but I know it happened.  And that is pretty much my history with Bob Lax, details slip from my memory (and I'm too young for memory loss).  I know I communicated with Lax and about Lax but I cannot remember if my communications took place via letters or via dreams...

After walking down the aisle to give my life to Jesus at the age of 16 at the First Baptist Church in St. Albans, WV.  I quickly realized I was woefully prepared for the Christian life.  I asked my pastor if he could help me learn how to pray.  He tried and to his credit gave me a Richard Foster book on prayer.  The book was over my head, but I appreciated the effort (of my pastor and Mr. Foster).  In college I was excited when the campus minister offered a class on discipleship (which I thought would surely help me discover how to pray).  My campus minister was a good dude, but after the first semester he suggested I go see the Catholic priest for spiritual direction.  The priest was another good dude, but he was too much into the Ignatian method.  At about this time I discovered Thomas Merton and found the voice I was looking for. 

In The Seven Storey Mountain Merton introduced me to his best friend, Robert Lax.  I read about the friendship between Merton and Lax with great envy.  Me and my friends talked about cheap beer, football games, longing for dates, golf, and whose turn it was to wash the dishes.  We didn't write poetry, talk about philosophy, or contemplate our place in the world.  Maybe it was Bill Clinton's fault - we we're all focused on sex too much.  Today's college students seem more serious, more focused and more in tune with the world than I was (divine I hope so).  

Later in college I learned that Lax was still alive.  And I thought I should write him a letter.  So I did. And to my astonishment, he wrote back.  Or at least I thought he wrote back.  Here is one of those occasion where I cannot separate what really physically happened and what took place in my dream life.  Did he write back to me?  Or did I dream that he wrote back to me?  Or did I even write him, how did I get his address?  Maybe Msgr. Bill Shannon gave it to me.  If you know the life story of Bob Lax I'm not sure any of this matters...

In divinity school I continued to read Merton, primarily his social writings.  I was interested how one connected the active life with the contemplative life, or how could I work for social justice without burning out.  I knew I wanted to work for social justice, but I also knew I was not a protestor or what most folk think of when they think of activist.  I knew there had to be another avenue.  In some ways I'm still looking for it.  I also need to add that in divinity school I began to have dreams about Lax, where he and I could have deep and meaningful conversations.  About what?  I have no idea, I just know that they happened and that when I awoke I was grateful for our time together.  

And then one day it occurred to me, "I ought to go and find one of Lax's poetry books".  (this was the time when I was reading, exclusively, The Beat poets.  I would go around quoting as much as possible Howl and singing Tom Waits' version of California in my imitation of his cigarette stained voice.  Well I found Lax's a book or two of his poetry at the University of Rochester library.  And I thought,





I just wasn't ready for his poetry.  I read the poems like I read Schleiermacher, way too fast and with my eyes closed.

Then sometime: in Rhode Island or was it in New Orleans?  where i don't know.  somewhere, someday, out of the blue a dude said, "So I hear you want to discuss the poetry of Bob Lax?"  I said sure, but the person never gave me any contact info or how to talk about it or what books of poetry we would discuss.  I can only say, in the pastoral life - stuff that like happens more than you would imagine.  

Kids, moves, other interests, bicycles, Gravely tractors, gumbo, fried chicken, snow...they all took my soul in other directions and I forgot about Merton & Lax...

Two summers ago I applied for a summer writing workshop at the Institute for Ecumenical Studies housed at St. John's University in Collegeville, MN.  One of my church members suggested that I apply for Michael McGregor's offering.  So I did and I got in.  

I went there to write about, well hell I can't think of the original paper (really, I do have a pretty good memory, at least i thought i did).  Anyway Michael asked me to write about a tangential story that I included in an essay at the last minute.  It was an essay on prayer and vocation.  It was the most difficult essay I ever wrote (I'm still editing and working on it).  And then get this, I learned that Michael had just finished a biography...of ROBERT LAX!  Allow me to put a shameless plug in for this book: buy it.  

When Michael came to Minneapolis for a reading last year I happily went, happily bought a copy of the biography and happily started reading it.  But I didn't get past the first six pages.  I liked the book but I couldn't get into it.  So I laid the book aside and went on with my reading life.  As I worked on my sermon series on Job for the Fall of '16 I picked up the Lax bio and slowly started again.  It was like working on a crossword puzzle after you laid it down for a couple of hours.  Whatever kept me from reading the bio before was no longer there.  Every night I would read just a few pages.  I wanted to read more but I couldn't read it fast; I wanted to savor each page.  

I finished the book on Saturday afternoon.  With seven weeks left until the Trump presidency I feel this was the best investment of my time.  What a great book, what a fascinating life, what a piercing soul.

I haven't had a Lax dream for sometime, but as I read the Lax bio my dream life was enhanced by a factor of 12 at least.  But get this, on Thursday I received a letter from a scholar in San Francisco who had just published a book on Lax's contemplative life and thought my spiritual community would like it.  You can't make this stuff up...  


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Calling Theo Epstein, Calling Theo Epstein...

It was not until divinity school that it occurred to me how central the idea of blessing was to Judaism and Christianity.  This revelation came from the combination of a NPR (in divinity school I started listening to state-run radio) story on a book of Jewish blessings, fabulous Old Testament teachers, and fellow students who pointed out the calling of Abraham.  Since this revelation I have focused most of my pastoral ministry (and pastoral theology) on blessing.  I define blessing as simply calling out or acknowledging or giving thanks for the goodness already present within someone or something.  

It is amazing how deep a pastor can get in the lives of people by focusing on blessing.  

But this presidential election forced me to alter my understanding of blessing.  I was only focusing on the positive side of blessing and not looking at the other side: cursing.  

I believe this election cycle has cursed America.  

By cursing I mean simply calling out or acknowledging the evil already present within someone or something.  How else to explain the feelings I have toward people I love and care deeply for because they voted for Trump?  How else to explain the feelings others have toward me because I was an adamant anti-Trumper.  (I need to confess here that I was not a pro-Clinton person, yes I voted for her but it was not an aspirational vote that I hoped it would've been).  How else to explain the basket of deplorables comment, the hate-filled and racist language at Trump rallies?  How else to explain the 700+ hate acts since the election? 

How do we reverse the curse?  I know Theo Epstein can work wonders (i.e. Red Sox and Cubs World Series - sorry baseball fans but I know there are some folk who do not know their baseball well enough to get the Mr. Epstein reference) but I don't think he can help us out here.  

Here is my way to try and reverse this curse.

1.  A National Pardon for all the people that voted for Trump.  There is no use holding onto the anger for the 62.2 million people that voted for Trump.  True, they may not want a pardon, but we need to do this for ourselves.  

2.  Organize, Resist, and Community.  We have moved beyond party politics.  Now it is about justice, mercy, fairness, equity.  We need to be prepared when the policies of hate are enacted.  We will need community to sustain us in this struggle of resistance.  Because social progress cannot go backwards.  
3.  Love the Blessing, not the Curse. Call out hate speech, racist acts, xenophobic acts, misogynistic language, behavior and acts, and damaging policies.  But realize we are all human beings and if religious teachings teach us anything is that we all have our own inner demons we need to keep in check.  We may like to believe we are superior but we are just a few steps away from similar behavior, acts, thoughts, and language.  Keep an abiding faith in the image of God within others, even if it is barely visible or hidden by deep pain and hate.  It's there, and it is the job of our religious imaginations to see it.  

4.  Humbleness.  As a white male I realize that my disbelief at the curse released on our nation is a late-coming realization.  Many Americans have lived with the effects of this curse on their lives everyday.  I am deeply sorry it took me this long to see the curse.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bicycling in the Trump Era

A cursory search on a mega-lo-search-engine has turned up zero images of President-Elect Donald Trump riding a bicycle.  (For the record I did find images of Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, Ford, & Kennedy).

Nevertheless, I propose that Trump will reinvigorate bicycle riding during his presidency (as a form of social protest)

It appears Trump will roll back many environmental gains: the Paris Agreement, Clean Power Act, Vehicle Emission Regulations.  And it appears he will open up federal land and offshore areas for exploration.  Some counter these backward measures with predicted movements of the deified market.  "The Market" will take care of it all.  Indeed, "the market" may just do that - cheap natural gas makes coal a poor investment and pulling out of the Paris Agreement will allow China to achieve the pinnacle of green technology exporter.

I, however, have a different approach.  Under the Trump presidency it appears we cannot count on input measures: regulation, a carbon tax, an active EPA, and etc.  We will need to focus on output measures: specifically, using solar powered vehicles - i.e. bicycles.

Solar powered?  Indeed!  Because of photosynthesis we are solar powered creatures which power the bicycles, thus solar powered vehicles.

We are not powerless.  What if enough Americans started riding bikes and stopped driving their cars? What if fossil fuel companies started losing money because the demand for gasoline dropped because Americans started riding bikes more?

Every now and then the woman who chose to marry me comments, "You think bikes are the answer to everything, don't you?"  Sometimes I do.  Indeed we need structural change, we need massive changes to the way run our economy and lives.  But I think we need some kind of small individual/community gains to inspire and generate greater gains.  Is there enough time to reverse the damage we've done to the environment?  I don't know, I hope so.  But we have to change culture before we change society.

Therefore, I think we are going to need to ride bicycles during the Trump era for two reasons: one, as a generative act; and two, for our health.  I predict I will be frustrated and angry more days than not over the next four years.  I'm gonna need to ride off my anger, anxiety, and  frustration.  I imagine you will too.  Along the way I will not only do my body some good, but also I will meet other bicyclists and form a new community.  This new community will find power in ourselves and will need power to confront and challenge a Trump presidency and prepare the way for structural change.
So you want to counter the Trump presidency?  Get on a two-wheeled solar powered vehicle and let's have at it.

And like Bill McKibben has told us: is it permissible to burn gasoline when we drive a car or ride in a train/plane to attend an environmental protest/rally?  Indeed, it will be the best gasoline you burn that year!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New Wikileaks Emails Exposes the Truth of Mainline Protestantism

Under the cover of darkness Wikileaks Dumped more than 2 million emails from Mainline Prostestant pastors exposing quarrels over capitalizations for calls to worship, hand wringing over week-to-week attendance and donations, and most of all the inane requests people asks from their pastors.  

Wikileaks spokesperson Jill Walters explained, "We were hoping for so much more from these emails.  We were hoping for scandal and hypocrisy.  For God's sake we were hoping for a crisis of faith.  But no, they were actually amazingly boring.  We didn't even read all of them.  In fact, we didn't even want to upload them to the wikileaks page but one of the interns clicked on the upload button instead of the trash button.  Oh well, we'll probably take them down tomorrow."  That didnt stop Rev. Bill Allen from worrying though, "I cannot believe they were able to hack my emails.  I mean I've turned off my Dell laptop every night since I got it in 2001.  How could they have accessed it?  I feel like so much of my private life has been exposed for the world to see.  Everyone now knows I lied about liking Ms. Franklin's meatloaf, that I don't think Marvin Becker should be in the choir, and that i think we use the definite article way too much in the bulletin.  This will ruin me I tell ya.  I hope you're happy now Assanged (sic)."  

The emails, although terribly inocuous, tedious, and circular point to a growing trend in Mainline Protestantism: malaise.  Dr. Dana Helper Trout, an expert in the field of struggling churches, explained that once Mainline Protestants adopted sabermatrics, first used in baseball and made famous by Bill James, for worship attendance, sermon effectiveness, singable hymnody, ushering speed, and performance lighting you can see the inward focus of Mainline Protestantism and its demise.  Dr. Helper-Trout's only hope, as she sees it, "is that these emails will get people to focus on what matters most: loving God, loving your neighbor, loving your enemy, and loving yourself. Once churches start discovering and ministering in their neighborhoods.  Once pastors start reaching out instead of worrying about the future then maybe we'll see some flourishing."  

Until then, who knows if Wilma Bettendorf's boiled bacon pancakes really are Rev. Smalls's favorite.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

Book Review

A few years back articles began appearing in The Christian Century (not the amazing and ubiquitous Brian Doyle articles) but the occasional articles by Terra Brockman.  Her articles concern the goings on at a small scale (but not real small) family farm in southern Illinois.  I love her articles, but I also hate them.

Hate them?  Yeah, I said that.  I hate them because deep down I wanted to write them.  I hate them because there was a time when I thought I would return to the old family farm in north central West Virginia and live out my days farming it.  I spent hours dreaming about Rambo and Grimes Golden apples, the asparagus patch, polled Herefords, grapes along the fence, Rhode Island Reds (or "big ladies" as my great aunt called them), the spring fed well (with its own two foot long salamander), and roots music.  But then, but then the coal companies came and bombed the mountainsides to smithereens!  (pre Mountain Top Removal)

I was 14 years old when my great aunt died.  We buried her at the old family cemetery across the road from the old home place.  We laid her in the grave with daffodils blooming, verdant aromas, and everyone close together. But when the minister read the 23rd Psalm I turned around and looked in terror at the valley of the shadow of death as I stared at the crosscut mountain.  I knew then my life wouldn't go as planned.

Over the years I have toyed with the idea of farming.  In Rhode Island I had a 1/2 acre garden plot but that will be as big as I get in this life.  After we buried Artie another family member died, my first cousin.  His death brought on a new calling - redemption.  And that is why I love Terra Brockton's essays.

They enable me to smell upturned earth, aging manure, or fresh picked lilacs.  They enable me to feel the warmth of a hen nestled up to my chest (if only for a second).  They enable me to pick up a calf and think if I could pick this calf up each day by the end of summer I could pick up 400lbs.  They enable me to dream again.

So if you haven't read Seasons on Henry's Farm, get you going and read it.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

On Being King Eglon's Attendants...

I don't know how much sleep I've lost, I don't know how much productivity has been lost, I don't know how much stress has entered my body and not left it because of the 2016 election.  But I know my answers to those situations would equal a number too high.

Like most people I too am worried about what will happen on Nov. 9th forward.

As a pastor I have been searching the scriptures trying to find a story that resonates with our current situation.  And I think I have found one.  King Eglon.

King Eglon was the Jabba the Hutt of biblical times (in the book of Judges).  The Israelite spy, Ehud, stabbed and killed King Eglon.  The bible only records King Eglon's death, it doesn't say what happened next.  But imagine the mess from his death; someone had to clean it up.  And that mess is the metaphor for today: lack of civility, the degrading language and action toward minorities and women, lack of empathy, lack of an aspirational movement.  And someone needs to clean up this mess.

So who will clean this mess up?

I think faith communities will be the ones most responsible for cleaning this mess up.  We are the communities (but not solely) who have in our lexicon the words of forgiveness, reconciliation, and transformation.  So how do we exercise these words for the good of the whole?  I am not sure just yet.

Trump supporters expressed a real pain that Democrats need to acknowledge.  Democrats expressed issues that Republicans need to acknowledge.

How is it that the party of working people is now the party of mainly the college educated?  How is it that a party that lifts up tax cuts (when we all need tax revenue for good schools, affordable health care, working infrastructure, & etc) is now the party of the working class?  Such reversals that I cannot quite figure out.  I don't put all my faith in politics and policies but they are reflections of the commitments we have as a society.   And there is a need for issues to be raised: the environment, the poor, justice and environmental and societal integrity for Native Americans, peace to name just a few.

I'd rather be a prophet, I'd rather be a pastor, I'd rather be a writer, but it looks like I (and you) will be one of King Eglon's attendants cleaning up the mess.  

so you know what I'm talking about...Judges 3:12-26

And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.
And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.
But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him.
And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.
Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.
When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.
And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.
And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In Search for a Friend

On many occasions while talking with divinity school classmates, deans, and colleagues the question always arises: What did I not learn in seminary that I wished I had?  Normally, I answer something like this, "You know, I really enjoyed seminary.  Once I entered parish work I realized there were many things I needed to know, however, I viewed these inadequacies as on-the-job training.  So I read books I didn't finish in school, I read books on topics I needed help on, I took a unit of CPE, honed up on pastoral care, read or listened to as many Beecher lectures as i could, & etc."  And this response usually falls on ears that desired a different answer.  But lately I've come up with a new answer. 

What did I not learn in seminary that I needed to learn?  

I wished my professors would had told me or warned me how difficult making friends would be.

I wished they had said something like: making new friends once you are ordained is not impossible, but it is difficult.  And then followed with this imperative: despite the difficulty and frustration you must do it, because you will need them.  

In 1978 I attended preschool class at St. Andrew's Methodist Church.  This class provided me with nearly 95% of my friends in elementary, junior high, high school (and even college).
Back row, fourth from the left - that's me.  We all had Ms. Davis for gym class, we all drank Slush Puppies during mid-morning break, we all were scared by Mr. Miller in Biology class, we all went to Marshall Football games on Saturdays, we watched each other grow 2-3 feet, gain give or take a 100lbs, we all wore Jams shorts, feasted at Tudor's Biscuit World, watched movies at the Drive-In Theatre, saw Main Street turned into a pedestrian plaza, and suffered through the Arch Moore governor days. Some of these people in the above picture married one another, some moved to other parts of the state or nation before graduating high school, and some have gone over into glory. 

I'm not seeking to reconnect and reestablish the friendships from preschool, I use the picture as a door to a world where friendship was so much easier.  We had no choice but to be friends, we were in class together each day, played sports in the afternoon and summers together, went to church together...  

But as an adult friendship is not that easy.  A good chunk of this is my own fault, I transferred college, and seminary, I moved four times in 12 years.  Sure I am on facebook and sure I have 600+ "friends."  600+ "friends" not really.  What a scam to call them all friends, more like mild acquaintances.  Sure my close friends are on facebook and we use it strengthen our friendship.  And I have made a few new friends via facebook but to call them all friends... To make the journey of friendship as simple as confirming a request, that aint friendship.  Plus, on social media we reveal what we choose to reveal.  Me, I reveal pithy stories that I think are humorous, or righteous declarations against injustices that I perceive, or promote things going on at church.  By and large it is not a medium of cultivating and creating friendships.  

I thought about taking an ad on craigslist for a friend, but they do not have a category.  Also, what would I say on this ad?  Who would respond?  I've sold several items on craigslist, there is no way I would want to wade through all the responses (if folk responded).  

So I am curious folks, especially those of you with Rev. in front of your name, how do you make friends?  

Generally pastors make friends with other pastors.  But with religious life in America dwindling it seems everyone is in competition with one another.  It is not a zero-sum game; it's not a competition.  And we want to avoid honest speech, no one wants to say - You know I'm giving it my all and it still aint enough to get the church to a healthy place.  A few months ago I was in an Executive Committee meeting where we discussed a name change to an organization.  I proposed, "The Network of Small Struggling Churches."  My proposal was not accepted, but you get the point.  

So in this new world, how do you make friends?  

Friday, October 14, 2016

Just Words

I wish I had cable so I could watch the baseball playoffs...
i keep hearing the "just words" defense by the tr*mp team for his "locker room-i.e. bragging about sexually abusing women-talk"
The phrase "just words" is such a hollow & empty phrase. Words shape reality. Words, in the scriptures, initiated creation. Words matter.
In October of 2006 Jerry Fallwell was interviewed on 60 Minutes. During the interview he bashed the prophet Muhammad. His "just words" were relayed in Bombay, India which sparked a riot between Muslims and Hindus. By the time the dust settled from the riot 5 people were killed and over 50 were injured. Just words...
More than ever during this election cycle I keep waiting to hear Just Words: reconciliation, deep love, repentances, environmental justice, living wage, reparations, equity, peace, and other just words. till then...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Biblical Bribing: A Confession

A little bit of history:

I walked down the aisle of the First Baptist Church of St. Albans, WV and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was 16.  I realized from the get-go that I was behind and needed to catch up.  I needed to read the bible, I needed to learn how to pray, and more than anything I needed a navy blazer!

My grandmother got me a navy blazer, a Richard Foster book gave me a tutorial on prayer, but reading the bible...I didn't know where to begin or how to do it.  So I started at both Genesis and Matthew.  I got through the gospels and a little bit of Paul in the New Testament.  I got through Genesis and Exodus then lost interest around the 3rd chapter of Leviticus, so I skipped to Joshua then pretty much stopped my Old Testament exploration.

Religion classes in college and biblical studies classes in divinity school forced me to read the bible a few times through.

But I've often wondered how I would get my children to read their bibles.  So far, not much luck.  Sure they kind of pay attention to my sermons.  Sure they will read a verse or story during a Sabbath dinner (when we are able to do them).  But this week two things happened that have made them want to read the Bible.

One, last week I finally got around to ordering The 100 Minute Bible.  It is a flattened bible, one you can read in say...a 100 minutes.  The kiddos saw this and took it as a challenge.  They said, "Hey dad, I bet I can read that in less than a 100 minutes."  I replied, "Oh yeah, read it under a 100 minutes and give me some details and I'll give you a donut."  HOOKED!

Two, this week I began a sermon series on the Book of Job (for a non-bow tie sermon I thought the first one went quite well).

Judson Sermon 20160918 "Have You Considered Job?" from Jacqueline Thureson on Vimeo.

I have been telling the kids I would like for them to read the Book of Job and let me know what they think of it.  But I've gotten nowhere.  So last night I proposed to the kids: read the Book of Job and then give me a three paragraph review and I'll take you to the grocery store and you can pick out your own pint of ice cream.  HOOKED!

Should I bribe my kids with donuts and ice cream to read the bible?  I suppose it is better than guilting them to read the bible.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Pastoral Marginalia: Donut Update

Dear Reader,

If you know me at all you know that I have a serious gluttonous affair with fried (or baked, preferably fried) dough formed in the shape of a circle with a hole in the middle cut/punched out.  And if you know me at all you know that I am an old soul who likes his donuts plain and his coffee black.

Donuts are my kryptonite, no doubt about it.  My deepest fear is that years from now my doctor will tell me that in order to continue living I'll have to cease to eating donuts.  Take away beer (or any form of alcohol), take away coffee, all manners of chocolate, but to think about a future without donuts...

But donuts are more than just donuts.  For me they are revelations of the pastoral life.  One of the most truest forms of grace happened a few years ago when a parishioner (whom I butted heads with on several issues) was working in the southern part of Rhode Island one day and despite our flare ups, stopped by the world's greatest donut shop and bought me a donut, then drove to the town where the church was at and bought me a cup of coffee, then brought them both to the church for me to enjoy.  It was an amazing and delicious donut, but more than that it was the thought and grace behind the donut and the act that transformed that mixture of oil, flour, water and sugar into the bread of life, albeit sugary and fatty bread of life.

Now I'm ready to tell you about the donut here at Judson...

In August I celebrated my fourth year of service as the pastor of Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis.  I knew from day one that my soul had found a home with this congregation.  And I knew I was at the right place when congregants wanted to talk with me about their favorite donut shop.  And I especially knew I was at the right place when after just a few weeks of being on the job a gentleman walked into my office one day to give me two plain donuts for my morning coffee break.  Like I consume all donuts I devoured it in a few bites (kind of like that video of the hippopotamus eating a watermelon).

As I went to tear into donut #2 someone else knocked on my door.  Not wanting to be rude and offer them a whole donut un-soiled by my grubby/sticky/donutty hands I quickly placed the donut in the top drawer of my desk.  (Now reader you need to know that I have two offices at this church.  A downstairs office, where this scene took place, which serves as my "public" office.  And an upstairs office which serves as my study.  You also need to know that I don't like to spend much time in the downstairs office because there are no windows in it and the lack of sunlight coupled with the glare of a computer screen triggers migraines and that my lack of time in the downstairs office lends more credibility to what I'm about to tell you).

Yadda, yadda, yadda...

A few months later I opened the desk drawer that I placed donut #2 in.  And to my disbelief the uneaten donut looked exactly like it did when it was first given to me (think of the macdonalds hamburger in Super Size Me).  So every few months I take a gander at the donut and it has remained the same.

here it is:

like the Oaks or Mamre, or the 12 rocks the Israelites gathered from the Jordan...years from now the donut of Judson will be described in the language of Holy Writ as "it is there unto this day."

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A New Blog, why not...

Several years ago, 11 years ago to be exact, I started a blog: Theobilly.  I enjoyed theobilly, but over the course of time the blog ran its course.  I then started a new blog and new platform, transition pastor over on wordpress.  But I always felt like transition pastor communicated the wrong message (that I was here at Judson for a short-term stint, which is the farthest from the truth) and I couldn't stand wordpress, even though some folk love it.  oh well.  Then I basically stopped blogging and put more emphasis on facebook.  But not everyone is on the facebook and facebook, although a useful tool, is a time vacuum, for me at least.  So I am back to blogging.  

What will you find here on this new blog.

1.  Bicycle posts.
2.  Pastoring posts.
3.  Food posts.
4.  Used sermons.