C. S. Lewis on Prudence

Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it. — C. S. Lewis [1]

Prudence is important, though often overlooked because it usually goes unnoticed until it is absent. Prudence is one of the four “the Cardinal Virtues” (the others are courage, temperance, and justice). These virtues were recognized by both the ancient philosophers and the (slightly less ancient) early church theologians who added the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

[1] C. S. Lewis, “The Cardinal Views,” in Mere Christianity (1952).

Blunter Than I Am

Lillian Daniel is often blunter than I am. That means that she’s often saying what I’m thinking. Below is one such example. I’m just going to let it stand on its own.

Someone was complaining to me about why she had stopped going to her church, saying, “You know, when I was sitting there in worship I just didn’t get much out of it.”

To which I replied, “Well, it wasn’t directed toward you.” [1]

[1] Lillian Daniel, When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church (Grand Central Pub, 2013), 173.

It’s Fair Sunday

All week long I’ve been trying to think of ways to observe fair Sunday today (July 30, 2017). And all week long, I’ve been forgetting that we normally just encourage people to wear their western wear to church. My apologies for the (very) late notice.

The Lord and His Prayer

We had a lively, engaging discussion of Lillian Daniel’s When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough this morning at The Breakfast Club. Our next book will be N. T. Wright’s The Lord and His Prayer. We’ll have paperback and audio cd copies available in the narthex soon. It’s also available as an e-book and as an audible download. The next gathering of The Breakfast Club is scheduled for Saturday, August 26, 2017, at 8:30 a.m. at the Hitching Post Restaurant.

Arrogance Posing as Humility

I’m re-reading When Spiritual But Not Religious is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church in preparation for the Breakfast Club this coming Saturday. In the chapter on prayer, Lillian Daniel talks about the need not only to pray for the high minded things that we would be happy share with other people but also to pray for the little things that are unique to us, the prayers that we suppress because we feel that they are unworthy.

That kind of thinking, that reluctance to ask God for what we really want, is arrogance posing as humility. It seems humble to not ask God for our own desires, and to put other larger matters first. But doing that seems to imply we have power in all this. As if by asking God to cure diabetes before asking for a raise, we might actually affect God’s priorities. Do we honestly think that if no one asked for anything trivial, and everyone got focused on world peace, God would finally see that we had reached some quota and say, “Right, now that four billion and one people have asked for it, I will make it happen. But don’t anybody ask for a cottage by a lake right now, or I’ll get distracted.” [1]

There is a fail-safe system built into prayer. Prayer is not the monkey’s paw. [2] God’s not going to do something that not in our best interest just because we were stupid enough to ask for it. Lillian continues:

Sorry, but I just don’t think our prayer requests have that kind of power. So why pray then? Prayer is about connecting with God, about having a relationship with our divine creator. God desires that with us, and because God loves us so much, God actually cares about our trivial wants, our big dreams, and our petty grievances. This is humbling news indeed. We can come to God with anything, and God will work with it. [3]

So ask away. Take whatever you have to God in prayer and let God work with it and on you.

[1] Lillian Daniel, When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church (Grand Central Pub, 2013), 39-40.

[2] “The Monkey’s Paw,” Wikipedia, July 22, 2017, accessed July 27, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monkey%27s_Paw.

[3] Lillian Daniel, 40.

Not by Might or Power

Today’s quote ties into this coming Sunday’s sermon:

” … now may be a good time to remind ourselves that ours is a kingdom that grows not by might or power but by the Spirit, whose presence is identified by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” — Rachel Held Evans [1]

[1] Rachel Held Evans as Quoted in Jonathan Merritt, “Q&A: Rachel Held Evans on the Ills of American Christianity, and Leaving Evangelicalism,” Religion News Service, March 10, 2015, accessed July 26, 2017, http://religionnews.com/2015/03/10/qa-rachel-held-evans-ills-american-christianity-leaving-evangelicalism/.

Kansas Kudzu

I just polished off a big bowl of Malt-O Meal* and I’m settling into work on next Sunday’s sermon. I had great success crowdsourcing part of this morning’s sermon and I want to try it again. Here’s my question: is there a Kansas version of kudzu?

*A reference to this morning’s sermon.

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, http://www.netflix.com.

[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