To Whom Shall We Compare Jacob?

I need your help. I want to crowd source part of my coming sermon. I’m preaching on Genesis 28:10-19a, the story of “Jacob’s Ladder.” My usual summary of Jacob’s character is that he is not someone you would want to buy a used car from, However, Tim Holm has pointed out to me that I’m hard on car salesmen (although he says I’ve been getting better*). At any rate, describing Jacob as someone you wouldn’t want to buy a used car from is out. I need another description. Any suggestions?

*Perhaps because I had such a wonderful experience buying a used Toyota Camry from Holm Chevrolet. I’ll admit that this is a shameless plug, but we really did have a wonderful car buying experience.

A Note About Funeral Services

Recently there has been a question about whether or not previously appointed pastors can come back and participate in a funeral at Abilene First United Methodist Church. The answer is yes. We were given some great guidance in this matter by former Bishop Scott Jones. Our practice is for at least one of us to serve as host for all funerals held at Abilene First United Methodist Church, but we gladly welcome former pastors, other United Methodist pastors or pastors from other denominations to come and participate in the service (including the delivery of the sermon). We will happily issue an invitation under ¶341.4 of The United Methodist Book of Discipline (2016).

Kimmy Goes to Church

Jenny, Liz, and I are fans of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but it was with fear and trepidation that I started watching the episode titled “Kimmy Goes to Church.” The show satirizes everything, and to a satirist, the church is a target rich environment. It was touch and go throughout much of the episode, but the climax of the show produced this line, delivered by Kimmy Schmidt, the main character, in front of the gathered congregation:

“So … I guess real religion is about knowing we’re not perfect but trying to be better. Together.” —Kimmy Schmidt [1]

There are three key points about the nature of the church in the quote above:

  1. We know we’re not perfect.
  2. We’re trying to do better.
  3. We’re doing it together.

Drop any one of those points and the whole thing falls apart. [2]

Note: Unless you already watch the show, I don’t think there is much of a point in watching this episode. I don’t think it would make any sense at all to someone unfamiliar with the backstory.

[1] Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, writers, “Season 3, Episode 9: Kimmy Goes to Church,” in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix, May 19, 2017,

[2] I know, I know there are a lot of other ways the whole thing can far apart.

VBS Announcement and Update!

For VBS (Vacation Bible School) Volunteers: There will be a training and orientation for VBS volunteers today, Sunday, July 16, 2017, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

For VBS Attendees and Their Parents: This year our joint VBS (Vacation Bible School) with Trinity Lutheran Church will be held at their place (302 North Cedar) from Monday, July 17 through Wednesday, July 19 from 6:00-8:30 p.m. with supper being served from 6:00-6:30 p.m. On Thursday, July 20, from 7:00-9:00 p.m., there will be a VBS cookout and pool party at Eisenhower Park. VBS is open to kids three years old and up through fifth grade. Registration forms are available in the Church Office

What’s Lost, What’s Found

Posting has been and will continue to be light because I’m on spiritual renewal leave this week. One of the things I’m doing is rereading Godric: a Novel by Frederick Buechner. (One of my seminary professors made it a practice to reread Godric every year.) There is a lot of deep wisdom in the book, but it is all so moored to and intertwined with the story that’s hard to break a nugget loose to share with you. Below is my best try. The speaker of these words, the protagonist of the book is Godric, a medieval hermit, immersed in God.

But this much I will tell. What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup. [1]

When I find myself immersed in God the words ring true. But if I am not immersed in God, they appear as balderdash. If they don’t mean anything to you know, I encourage you to try again later.

[1] Frederick Buechner, Godric: A Novel (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1983), 96.

The Real Problem of the Christian Life

Wisdom from C. S. Lewis:

The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. — C. S. Lewis [1]

[1] C. S. Lewis, “Is Christianity Hard or Easy?” in Mere Christianity: A Revised and Amplified Edition, with a New Introduction, of the Three Books Broadcast Talks, Christian Behaviour and Beyond Personality (London: HarperCollins Publ., 2001), 198.

This Coming Sunday

This coming Sunday, July 9, 2017, I’ll be preaching on Matthew 11:25-30, but that’s not what will get me out of bed in the morning. Instead, I’m really excited that we’ll have Braden Adams accompanying the congregation on drums (I believe for the first time) and special music by Emily Shrader. (Emily has been worshiping with us while playing “Dainty June” at the Great Plains Theatre.)

An Offer of Rest, a Guarantee of Persecution

In my sermon preparation, I came across the following quote from one of my old seminary professors, Emilie Townes. I don’t know if I’ll have room for it in the sermon, but it’s too good not to share:

The discipleship to which Jesus calls us not only offers us rest but also guarantees us persecution. — Emilie Townes [1]

Not only is important to prepare for persecution, but we also need to discern between actual persecution and the mere loss of a previously privileged position.

[1] Emilie M. Townes, “Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30: Theological Perspective,” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Year A, vol. 3 (Louisville (Ky.): Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 214.

On Standing for Communion

Yesterday I mentioned a theological rationale from church historian Justo Gonzalez for standing while receiving communion:

“At an earlier time, the practice was not to kneel for prayer on Sundays, for that is the day of our adoption, when we approach the throne of the Most High as children and heirs to the Great King.” — Justo L. González [1]

Gonzalez is writing specifically of prayer, but the rationale applies to receiving communion as well. As I mentioned yesterday those who want to kneel after receiving communion are welcome to go up to the altar rail and those who wish to receive communion while kneeling are invited to the weekly Wednesday communion service at 5:30 p.m.

I was reminded of this quote because although I had previously read his epic two-volume history of Christianity, the audio version recently became available and I’m enjoying the listen. I’m listening through my earbuds because making everyone in the office listen to it would probably constitute the creation of a hostile work environment.

[1] Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, vol. 1 (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), 144.