Saturday, December 24, 2005



I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn an oath to David my servant: I will establish your line for ever, and preserve your throne for all generations. (Ps. 89:3-4)

Let ' s jump for a moment on this day before Christmas to its counterpart in the Christian liturgical year...the Feast of the Ascension, traditionally celebrated on the fortieth day after Easter. As on Christmas we give praise to the God who comes straight down from heaven in the person of Jesus, on Ascension Day we celebrate his going straight up, taking our own human and frail, but resurrected, flesh with him, in order to be crowned the Sovereign of all sovereigns.

The Ascension, that almost-forgotten feast of western Christianity, has its foundation in Christmas-the two go hand-in-hand, and lie at the heart of our bond in Christ. To borrow a metaphor from B.B. King, "love comes to town on Christmas, " and on Ascension Day we will take Love' s train to the Heavenly Places.

Then, you and I and all humanity, are invited to share in the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, in whom we are united in baptism. You and I are joined in Christ in the mysterious union of the Holy Trinity itself! No wonder that in the Eastern church children, and the newly baptized, and newly wedded couples, are crowned with garlands of flowers, symbolizing the royalty we have in the God who came among us and then carries us up to reign with him on the throne of God.

We Americans, sadly, in our squeamishness at royalty, abandoned all of that. What a pathetic loss! So on this day of preparation and waiting and busy-ness, when we meditate on these verses from Psalm 89, and listen to God's words establishing the royal line of David, know that ultimately, God has you in mind. You, with all your pain and preoccupations, all your worries and hidden fears, God is coming to your house tonight to invite you to a new life of peace, courage, freedom, and holiness. God will come to your house, the house of your soul and body, restoring its dignity and holiness, and then invite you to God's house.

God comes down that we may rise, lifted by him to the skies;
Christ is born for us that we born again in him may be.
(Christopher Wordsworth 1807-1885)
Hymn 88, Hymnal 1982 (Church Publishing)

-exerpt from a publication by the Higher Education Ministries Arena.
used with permission

Friday, December 23, 2005







update: he's been located. he's been on a hunt to find the perfect location for his and erin's wedding reception.... the myst-o-ry has been solved!!! SWEET!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005



Tis the Season straight up Tennessee Style!!! Pres. Bush decked the halls of East Tenn. two days ago when he pardoned two moonshiners....

Could it be Bush's version of Jubilee? hmmmm.....

Saturday, December 17, 2005


One of my favorite singer/songwriters is Sufjan Stevens. His music tends to be quirky and introspective narratives about life, biblical stories wrapped in a twisted perspective. His music has found its way into several tv soundtracks. I found out yesterday that he has a 3 volume set of Christmas music which as it turns out- IS GREAT!!!

Check it out for yourself!!!

Vol. 1

Vol. 2

Vol. 3

Friday, December 16, 2005


.... and I thought I was "a little special" for being able to recite word for word the movie Star Wars as I watch it....

"no.... there is ANOTHER..." (you gotta watch this)


Too alarming now to talk about
Take your pictures down and shake it out
Truth or consequence, say it aloud
Use that evidence, race it around
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He’s ordinary
Don’t the best of them bleed it out
While the rest of them peter out
Truth or consequence, say it aloud
Use that evidence, race it around
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He’s ordinary
Kudos my hero leaving all the best
You know my hero, the one that’s on
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
He’s ordinary

"There Goes My Hero"- The Foo Fighters

Funny, how the Advent Gospel narratives have so much "hero" imagery in it. Mary receives the news of the miraculous birth that she is to have and she immediately heads to her "hero's" home- Elizabeth. A couple of weeks ago we hear of one of Jesus' "heroes"- John the Baptist, who is not only kinfolk but apparently thought by some to have been a mentor to Jesus. Who are the ordinary heroes/mentors that have come before us that have paved the way for our faith to grow?

wanna hear the song sung with special guest and one of my fav heroes (in a twisted me sort of way)? click here

Tuesday, December 13, 2005



I had never met anyone quite like Tommy. I don't really know if I had comprehended that his career was actually simply being there for the pre-teens and teenagers at our methodist church. All I know is that Tommy was special. I knew that from the first day I met him.

He was a small man and was very gentle in his personality. In fact what I remember most was the playful abuse he received from the older guys in the youth group. Shanks, wedgies, followed by severe tickling and laughing. We were a rowdy group at times, but Tommy LOVED us all. Looking back he reminds me of what I envision Saint Francis to have been like. Maybe I felt like a leper as a quiet 13 year old. Maybe Tommy's love for me and his ability to express to me the potential he saw was exactly what I longed to hear from someone.

I didn't grow up going to church. I didn't know church lingo, rituals or the church "way of life". I did know that when I showed up to that youth group- there I would encounter security, friendship, and Tommy.

A couple of years earlier storms had set in- set in my life. My parents separated. I spent more time staying with my grandparents, an aunt and uncle, and my grades began to severely drop. Grown ups who were concerned for me would have "serious talks" to discover what was going on. I withdrew... further and further into the exclusive and hidden places within. I can't recall now if I ever showed how I felt on the outside but chaos reigned on the inside.

But in the midst of the craziness I found my way to Dalewood UMC and its youth group. It was the youth group that became my anchor for a life that was at the mercy of strong winds and currents. There were nights that I ended up at Tommy's house for a "Guys Night Out" to hang out, eat and late night chats. Like I said before- the guys in our group were pretty rowdy. When we stayed over at Tommy's house- no doubt that he'd have to get up several times in the night and lay the law down while we all rolled our eyes, laughed at how crazy and pissed he looked and trying to look like we were too cool to care that he was frustrated. But then we all fell asleep spread out all over his house. There was a comfort and peace at that house, in those nights.

After a couple of years Tommy left our youth group for a time of discernment. He felt that he was being called to the Catholic priesthood. It was terribly hard to see him go but I remember being happy for him. I even helped him move out of the parsonage into his new place. As when all youth leaders leave- time did not stop, our youth group survived and even grew closer and stronger. As time went on I talked to Tommy less frequently, and that was ok.

I suppose it was a fall night, I was hanging out at Jen's parent's home, probably working on homework or maybe watching Beverly Hills 90210. These were common practices my jr. year in high school. The phone rang and Jen's mom answered. I don't recall how long she was on the phone I just remember that she came over to me and Jen afterward. With tears in her eyes and not quite knowing how to share it- she told us that Tommy had taken his life. I must have shut a lot out because I can't recall what I felt, what went through my mind, or even how long it was between that night and the funeral. I remember wondering if maybe something would have been different if I had called him, or checked up on him more.

Those of us in the youth group who had been close to Tommy found out that he had been dealing with depression for a long time but had told no one. Finally he had lost hope and gave up.

With the death of Tommy it felt like the end of a part of my life. That man who had given so much of himself to us was gone, and the possibility of having him around was gone.

Again, time continued to pass and I thought about Tommy's death less frequently until at some point I only thought about it occasionally. I was in college, into my second year when the God of Israel and Jesus, who had been absent for at least a year and half, began to make God's presence known to me again. I began volunteering with my old youth group back home and my passion to learn and discuss issues around faith began to grow stronger. As I worked with our youth group I felt the same kind of love for the teenagers that I had felt as a youth toward Tommy. In the midst of this, God seemed to be speaking quite loudly to me that I was being called to ministry.

I felt like a very unlikely person for this, but isnt that the way it usually goes? I had a million reasons to not be a youth pastor- I'm introverted, I'm not the least bit athletic, I'm unorganized, I have a tendancy to create awkward silence in conversations with people, I have a wierd taste in music, I read boring books, blah blah blah and the list goes on.

But God reminded me of those who came before me... God reminded me of Tommy- a very unlikely person to be a youth pastor- who's youth all were taller and bigger than he (except maybe the 7th grade girls), a quiet and soft spoken person with a very gentle nature. But look what he had done for me...

In every end there is a beginning. In every relationship where there is the love of Christ shown- Christ Incarnate dwells. Even when we think that we've come to the end of one experience in life- New Life is birthed out of it. That is the way and spirituality of Advent.


Sunday, December 11, 2005


Take the Narnia Quiz and find out....

Actually, I scored as Lucy.... "You have a strong sense of responsibility toward others and a deep respect for other people, even strangers, though you are not always sure what the best course of action is. You are Lucy, the brave child who who is wise beyond her years and kind to all she meets."

according to Wikopedia: "Lucy can be said to symbolise the natural virtues of humankind, whether manifested as "childhood innocence" or in its more mature forms as depicted in the later stories. In many instances, especially in a scene in Prince Caspian where she follows Aslan even though her siblings are unable to see him and believe Lucy is lying about seeing him, she seems to represent faith."

Thursday, December 08, 2005




What might you do to make poverty history?


"A Prayer Practice for Youth Pastors During Advent"

I came across this rendition of the Lord's Prayer for Youth Workers and thought it was pretty cool. So I thought I would post it and invite those youth leaders who are looking for a simple prayer practice during Advent to consider using this rendition of The Lord's Prayer for Youth Workers for the next few weeks and journal your response to these words:
1. Pray it for you.
2. Pray it in light of your family,
3. Pray it in light of your ministry, your neighbors, your friends.
4. Use it as a way to grow in intimacy with your God our loving Parent.

The Lord's Prayer for Youth Workers:

Heavenly Father…
Father… Abba… Daddy. I take comfort in knowing you are my Father…a Father who is intimately concerned and connected to his children—to me, to my closest friends, to my students. Heavenly Father… I look at the world from my small, limited vantage point. But your vantage point is Heaven…a place of complete knowledge and infinite power. A place where nothing escapes your site, your scope, your attention, your reach…yesterday, tomorrow, today.

Hallowed be your name…
I praise your name—the I AM. It’s sacred, holy, unique, and glorious. May my thoughts and
words reflect your Name, your character, your purposes and your person so that people see you
clearly in my life and in my community—the church. When I think of you, may I pause in wonder.

Your Kingdom Come…
May it come today and may I believe that it is coming more today than yesterday. Jesus, you
said, “The kingdom of God is near”. I believe that, because you, the King, came near. May you
draw near in my life today. Change me as you have promised to do. May my gathering with other believers be a tangible expression of your body. And may we, your body, come to the hurting, the needy, and the desperate places on earth—to the poor, the broken, the hurting, and the powerless. May it come to the students I so desperately love—to their homes, schools,
workplaces, and hangouts. May it come to their single parents. May it come to our

Your Will Be Done…
Bend my will toward yours. May I seek to know your will and your timing. May I trust you to do your work in my life, my world, and the world that you so passionately love. May we not see your world as a lost cause, but seek to bring heaven back to earth, through the assurance of
redemption and the hope in the cross.

Please provide…
My prayer is a declaration of dependence. I need you today, tomorrow, and every day for the
things that seem impossible and even for the things I feel I have under control. May I discover
your continual provision and realize personally, that in you, Jesus, all things are held together. I
may never measure up to the standards and expectations of church members, so-called friends,
and co-workers. But you sustain me.

Forgive and Make Me Forgiving…
Heavenly Father. Forgive me for my sin. I hate that word–Sin. I would rather call it a mistake or lack of judgment. But it’s sin—rebellion, treason, and hatred toward you. Have mercy on me,
based on Your righteousness Jesus. Thank you for speaking in my defense (I John 2.1). And as I
experience Your mercy and grace, may I pass the same on to others who have wronged me.

Lead Me, Deliver Me…
…away from the things that tempt me… money, sex, power, acceptance, approval, success.
Keep me from spiritualizing my life, rather than dealing with the realities of life and the pitfalls that await me apart from your leading. May my “quiet times” be times of clinging to you, declaring that I need to be lead, lest I perish.

Ultimately, I Have Hope…
For Yours is the Kingdom
Yours is the power
Yours is the glory
Forever and ever

And may I never take the prayer you gave me, Jesus–the follower’s prayer, lightly.

The Follower’s Prayer
Group Mag—Mar/Feb 04
Amen. So be it. May it be true. Right on.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


We never know what the friends and readers of our blogs are going through in their lives when they happen upon our pages and thoughts. A word may spark a memory or thought and send someone to a place that they remember... or a place that they weren't ready to go to.... or maybe you have the opportunity to say exactly what someone needs to hear....

Whatever the situation, let's you and I, bloggers of faith, remember those who visit our sites and ask God to be active, healing, loving, merciful and compassionate in tender moments of pain and celebration in their lives.

J., my thoughts are with you and family...


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

3 DAYS, 54 MINUTES....

SEE THE 9 MINUTE TRAILER HERE (don't watch unless you really want to see an overview of the ENTIRE movie)

I've been waiting for this since I was 7 years old!!!

Hopefully I'm going with some friends next week!!

Sunday, December 04, 2005



Today was my first Sunday at Hermitage. Jen, Abby, Jonas and I were introduced at the 8:30 contemporary service and then again at the 11:00 traditional service. Then tonight we had youth group and it was really good. I am simply overwhelmed at how welcoming this group has been to me. Tonight was no different.

I found myself thinking about my kids at Blakemore and West Nashville tonight. I hope they are doing well. But I feel very confident that this venture at Hermitage is God filled. Yes, this is a good Advent.

Friday, December 02, 2005



Tonight was my first night with the youth group at Hermitage UMC. It actually went really well. On Monday I met with our Christian Ed. Director, Linda, who told me that she was planning on doing an Advent program for tonight that was going to be intergenerational. She wanted it to be based around the music of Advent. So I told her that I would be in charge of shaping it into a more experiential alt. style worship time. Linda was excited because she said that many of the people at Hermitage had not experienced something like this before and that it would be really new for them.

Well that may have made her excited, but I was nervous. We called the experience THE WALK OF THE MAGI based around the idea that the magi must have travelled a really long time following the star before they made it to the house of the Christ child. They really had no idea where they were going, they just simply followed the star.

We had A LOT of youth there and a great mix of adults, as well. So we began with Linda talking about what Advent is.

Then I invited them to the first prayer room: EXPERIENCE 1: “THE TIME IS NEAR”
1. First two stanzas of “People, Look East” UMH 202 is sung
2. Reading: Isaiah 40: 1-11
3. Experiental Meditation
4. Last 2 stanzas of “The Time is Near” is sung
5. As people exit they take a glow in the dark star


Items needed: roll of newsprint, markers, plastic glow in the dark stars

Invite participants to make a list of all the things they have to “get done” between now and Christmas… they should write directly onto the newsprint anywhere they want.

Once they have finished that list they should then make a new list- one that lists things that they might do to prepare for Christ’s arrival- prayer, fasting, serving the poor, etc… etc…

As they leave the experience invite them to take a plastic glow in the dark star as a symbol throughout Advent that God has called them to follow the star.

1. First two stanzas of “Send Your Word” UMH 195 is sung
2. Reading: Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13
3. Experiential Meditation
4. Last 2 stanzas of Send Your Word sung.
5. Magi leads everyone out of experience and to continue following the star


Items needed: sharpy markers and plastic glow in the dark stars from first station.

At this station the practice of Lectio Divina will the central activity. Allow the participants a few minutes to center in, and then 1. read the scripture passage slowly once and invite the participants to listen for a word or phrase that jumps out at them. Ask them to then simply to “hang out with that word or phrase”. 2. Read the passage again and this time ask them to imagine a life experience where that word or phrase is involved- what do they see, hear, feel, taste, smell? 3. Read the passage again and ask them to simply ask God to give them insight on how they might live out this word or phrase during Advent. 4. Invite them to write their word or phrase on their star and to take it with them.

1. First two verses of “O come, O come, Emmanuel” UMH 211 sung
2. Reading: 2 Peter 3: 8- 15
3. Experiential Meditation
4. Sharing of experience along with joys and concerns
5. Closing Benediction


Items needed: playdough

Invite participants to imagine what they hope the world to be like one day. Using clay invite them to create a symbol of their hope for the world.

It ended up going very well and I was really impressed at how receptive the youth were to the contemplative aspect of what we did. I ended by relating the magi journey to our journey together- that none of us knows quite where God is going to lead us but that we're all on this journey together and that's part of the fun (and anxiety) of being where we are in this.

I'm really looking foward to Sunday night and getting to know them all a bit more.



Thursday, December 01, 2005


Newly released U.N.AIDS figures revealed that there were 3 millionAIDS deaths during 2005:

570,000 of which were children. 5 million people have been newly-infected with HIV, sending the total number of people infected worldwide up from 37.5 million in 2004 to 40.3 million -- the highest ever figure.Those living in Africa and young people continue to be worst affected by the pandemic. Two-thirds of all new infections tookplace in sub-Saharan Africa and over half of all new infections worldwide were amongst those aged 15-24.

The report estimates that 350,000 lives have been saved thanksto anti-retrovirals. But increasing the availability of drugsin developing countries remains difficult due to a lack of funding; inadequate healthcare systems; and unfair trade rules that put the profits of pharmaceuticals ahead of public healthneeds.It is clear that world leaders need to act now and turn their promises into action and get AIDS treatment to all who need itby 2010.

read more about this here

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Is this the next wave for youth ministry? Mark Oestreicher from Youth Spcecialties hopes not. I think if Abingdon Press picked up on this trend we could revolutionize youth ministry!!! In fact it'll put a whole new spin on SAFE SANCTUARIES.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Ok, so this is not my regular kind of post. So tonight Jen looks at me from her daily online sweepstaking ventures (yes I said it- i blog and she does sweepstakes) and she says, "hey I entered Jonas and Abby in a holiday photo contest. Can you tell all your blogging friends to go and vote for them?"

So I said, "Honey, you know that I dont use my blog for shameless exploitation of our adorable children. My blog is a venue for serious deep theological thought. There's no way in Hades that I'll write a post that promotes the commericalization of our children!"

....I'm so glad my wife and I are on the same page.....

So hey everyone!!! Jonas and Abby are in this really neat holiday photo contest and Jen and I would love it if you went to this website and voted for them. Check it out here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Part 1: "Unto Us A Child Is Born"

Another advent season has made its way into our lives. As I sit here thinking about this season (MY FAVORITE SEASON!!) I can't help but think of the darkness that clouds my joy. The world just seems to be in conflict more than in years past. There is a feeling of fear that just seems to surround our culture- and it seems that often times when fear begins to drive our culture- facism begins to feed and thrive. The war in Iraq, genocide, deception from our national leaders, the aids epidemic, and even conflict within the church- all these things are just surrounding me.

But despite these events- the holy rhythm of God's time pushes me toward the light of HOPE. "Unto us a child is born" rolls back and forth like a small cradle in my mind. I think about Jonas and Abby and how even in the midst of the mess of the world I have hope that they will live in a different world- a world that has been transformed by Christ's peace.

Was it God's plan to birth Jesus- to have come to us a vulnerable, small and fragile child? Our hope- THE HOPE- for the world came to us as a baby. And this little baby who broke into our history transformed that history with his life. This little baby- whose mother fed him her milk in the wee hours of the night, and sang songs to him the songs of her faith; whose father taught him to work with his hands and passed on the traditions of his father's father- was God's "THIN PLACE" where heaven and earth met in a sensuous dance, being reconciled into one.

And here I am now on a Tuesday night thinking about the gift that each child who is born is to our world. For with each child contains the potential to be a "thin place" for our world to help it look more like the Kingdom of God.

I think of how within my own congregation when a child is baptized the congregation commits to the nurture, care, and discipleship of that small person. Could it be that we do this because we hope that one day this child will grow up to be part of a world that is differentthan the one we live in now? Are we committing to equipping this child with the faith and practices to embody God's love in such a way that (s)he will help shape the world we live in? If we don't believe that there's hope for the world and hope for that child, then I wonder if we shouldn't make the commitment to each baby we baptize.

Maybe with each little baby that is born around the world God is saying to us, "See, unto you a child is born! There is still hope that the world will be the way I imagine it to be- so don't give up. I'm at work, I'm doing my part! Just bring these children up knowing the stories and walking in "THE WAY" and they'll do the rest... THE KINGDOM IS AT HAND...."

Saturday, November 26, 2005



I'll be reflecting on Advent for a while beginning Monday. I may be posting less since I'll be getting adjusted to my new postion at Hermitage UMC.

Shalom all!!! and Happy Advent/New Year!!!

Friday, November 25, 2005



A stranger is someone who is disconnected from their regular life-giving relationships and connections. That can be a fairly neutral thing if you have enough resources to take care of yourself. However—especially in this society—if you lack such resources as money, education, or competence in multiple areas, you are very vulnerable. You are separated from family, work, church, education. That’s what characterizes homeless people and refugees, and sometimes international workers.

Walter Brueggemann says “Strangers are people without a place.” That’s the most succinct definition. People with resources often have a place—they may just not be in it at the time. The people who are most vulnerable are those who genuinely are without a place, and without the resources to do anything about it.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Happy Thanksgiving all!!!
Christine on "John Wesley and Hospitality":

You see in John Wesley (who spans the 18th century) a recovering of most of the practices of hospitality—the shared meals, the activities in households, the key sites for hospitality like small groups. But he never calls it hospitality. I think it’s because the word had become so corrupted. He uses the word, but purely negatively, because it’s associated with excesses in entertainment. Also, he was working with mostly poor people—and since hospitality, for them, was associated with wealth and power, they were not going to see their own practice of it as hospitality.

The word hospitality with a moral sense attached doesn’t really appear again until people like Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, and the Catholic Worker movement in the 1930s. They talk about “houses of hospitality” (where they cared for the poor and people off the streets) as one of the key pieces to their efforts.

They use the language of hospitality, and they don’t mean it as entertainment. One of the criticisms more recently is that hospitality is sort of “nice”—that in a world needing liberation and justice, hospitality can appear pretty tame. I think the Catholic Worker movement understood from the beginning that hospitality is not tame; it is a form of resistance. Welcoming people is a form of respect and care.

I read through an essay that Dorothy Day wrote about Hospitality Houses. I'm amazed at her dedication to serve AND stand alongside the poor and marinalized of her time. I am in awe of her ability to organize and and be a part of many of the nonviolent protests of her time to bring attention to those who were forgotten about or uncared for in American affluent society. But then she also lived among the poor in intentional communities of hospitality.

Just before reading this I happened to read my friend, Daniel Greeson's, blog about his visit to Simple Way and Camden House. I am thankful for those who in our time of great consumerism and greed respond to Christ's call to live in community among the marginalized.

In fact I'm a little envious of those who make the leap of faith toward living in intentional community. Part of me longs for that kind of lifestyle and community.


Craig Moore over at Methodist No Spin Zone is having an interesting conversation about paying apportionments, and Forest Glen UMC's controversy with the Ohio Conference.

Now I'm not sure who is in the right or wrong in this situation. I have a hard time putting all the blame on a 17 member congregation who was already in the process of leaving the UMC. Maybe they made a mistake by withholding money from the conference that they indeed owed the conference. Mistakes happen every day. If this is the case then putting locks on the doors of the church and threatening tresspassing charges is, at best-a bit much, and at worse- simply a prickish thing to do.

However, if this congregation, no matter how small it may be, was withholding apportionment payments prior to this to make a political protest, which is in the rumor mill, then I am less sympathetic toward their plight. Behind each apportionment penny that we give, there is a real live human who has blood, who breathes, eats and sleeps and relies on our support. I'm sure that I don't agree with everything our apportion dollars go toward, but I also know that the ministries we support are ministries that one congregation could never support alone. By all churches giving what they can there are many many people who are supported. I'm not ready to do them harm by condoning a protest such as withholding apportionments.

If we're in a disgreement with our leaders let's effect change in ways that are prophetic without doing harm to those who are working in the trenches and those who are economically and socially at the margins.

...Funny how we get bent out of shape when a conference basically says it has the "right" to deny a group entry into a church building because their "practices" are incompatible with our understanding of connectional polity (stewardship, and christian life together).

but we have no problem denying some people membership into our church for the same reason.

If I were on the outside looking in at the United Methodist Church specifically at these two situations I would presume that we have a real problem with the spiritual practice of hospitality.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Scott Langord, of the Radical Preaching Community (of which I'm a part of, too), is featuring a week with Dan Bell- a Radical Orthodox thinker who engages Liberation Theology.

This is GOOD STUFF!!!

Day 1: Day One With Dan Bell

Day 2: Bell on Capitalism and Desire

Day 3: A Crisis of Ecclesiology

great job scott!!!


Christine on the "loss of hospitiality in the church":

There are several key points at which the practice of hospitality in the church began to change. One is after Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire and took on significant social responsibilities for the larger population. At that point the Church had to deal with the reality of a lot more needy people, and simultaneously a lot more resources. You see the very beginnings of the institutionalization of care. Hospitality is by definition personal and somewhat intimate, but as institutions grow and develop, the hospitality itself becomes more distant. I try to communicate in the book that I’m not casting that as a “fall from grace.” I just think it was a response to a need, with unintended consequences. I don’t think they saw the downside coming. When you read about how they celebrated the first hospitals, you realize that they only saw the good stuff, which was that people who hadn’t been taken care of were now being cared for.

Secondly, care for the poor and the sick was increasingly distinguished from “hospitality” to people with resources and wealth. As the church began entertaining the wealthy, “hospitality” became a way of consolidating power. Care for the poor began to happen at more of a distance. Interestingly, the language of hospitality continued until the beginnings of the modern period, long after the practice of hospitality had shifted, and you read people like John Calvin worrying about the loss of the practice of hospitality.

By the time you get to the 18th century, the language changes. Samuel Johnson said, “Hospitality is not effective in a commercial society.” He’s talking about hospitality as entertainment, and that it is no longer seen as an effective way to consolidate power.

We, the church, ordained and laity, really ought to take an inventory of our congregations and ask ourselves, "who is not represented within our congregations"- are they persons of color? are they persons of different socio-economic status? are they persons of different sexual orientations? are they....?

The idea is not to go out and recruit people in the name of inclusivity, because they are not present in our church, but to be open to God's Holy Spirit that speaks in diversity (acts 2). If that family shows up who are homeless, are immegrants who speak little english, or same sex partners show up looking for a faith home then those who practice hospitality will extend the peace and love of Christ to them because they represent to us "Christ the Stranger".

This practice is not about doctrine, about "the right theology", about "who's a sinner and who isn't, it's simply about offering sacred space to those weary pilgrims who wander through your doors with a whole life experience that you nothing about until you've befriended them. In fact, more than likely you won't know their background until you've committed to a level of trust and friendship with those persons.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Thank you Sen. Frist!!!

Sen. Frist played an important part in bringing the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act to the floor for a vote. His efforts in recent weeks were key in ensuring the bill’s passage. If you live in Tennessee, like I, please thank him for his leadership on passing substantive legislation on the ongoing crisis, and for reminding Congress and the administration of their responsibility to save lives and to restore peace in Darfur. In addition, encourage Sen. Frist to continue to advocate for maintaining strong provisions in the legislation as it moves forward in the House and to conference.

I don't always agree with our government officials' stances and I usually let them know when this is the case, but I also believe that we need to let folks know when they have made decisions that we support, as well.

email Sen. Frist here.

for more on Darfur, check this out.


In my ADD style of web surfing I came across Brother Amos, a 39 year old military veteran turned benedictine monk. Read about him here, I found the article and his lifestyle fascinating. He is a novice at Mepkin Trappist Monastery.

"It's when God calls you. You can definitely see by the men and women that come into our order and others that it is a calling from God." - Bro. Amos




Christine Pohl on "What is Hospitality":

Hospitality in Greek is "love of strangers." That is the first thing we have to get our heads around. Welcoming strangers had great significance for the early church. Hospitality meant welcoming outsiders into personal space, mostly a home, and offering them food, shelter, and protection. For Christians, hospitality always had physical, social and spiritual dimensions. It had a strong component of recognition and respect—which was most characteristically expressed through shared meals. They understood that who you eat with says a lot about who you respect and value.

I think that maybe hospitality is the most needed spiritual discipline that the church could practice in the 21st century.

The central idea of hospitality is the idea that God is wholly "Other" to us. We find in welcoming those who are "other" to us- the poor, the marginalized, those who are the "untouchables" of society into our midst and serving them that we welcome Christ into our lives.

Monday, November 21, 2005


This week's "A WEEK WITH..." series will highlight the Christian Practice of "HOSPITALITY". Our spotlight will feature author, activist and thinker, Christine Pohl.

Christine D. Pohl (Ph.D., Emory University) has been on the Asbury Seminary
faculty since 1989, and has worked for years in areas of urban ministry, public
policy, and women’s issues. Her articles have appeared in various journals on
topics ranging from medicine to social ethics to moral betrayal. She is the author of MAKING ROOM: RECOVERING HOSPITALITY AS A CHRISTIAN TRADITION.

This should be a lot of fun!!!

Friday, November 18, 2005


Well today was a pretty fun day. I had the wonderful opportunity to hang out with some pretty cool people doing what I really enjoy- set up an area for creative prayer.

The Youth Specialities Convention has hit Nashville and so all weekend, through monday, nashville will host those quirky fun loving church leaders called YOUTH PASTORS.

So I showed up at the convention center and met up with my good friends- jay and gavin and also made new friends- lily, jerilyn, and jeannie. Together we transformed nooks and crannies on the bottom floor into creative prayer stations.

i leave tomorrow for my last retreat with blakemore/west nashville. jen, jonas and abby will be coming along too for the west nashville umc fall retreat. so i won't actually be able to make the rest of the youth specialites convention- so gavo, jay, and friends- have a great time.

although, i think jonas and i will be crashing lily's workshop on monday morning at 9am- "how to create experiential worship in an airplane hanger". now doesn't that sound like fun!!!

shalom all,

(2nd picture borrowed w/out permission from; thanks gavo)



The Examen was developed by St. Ignatius Loyola who was a practical kind of person which is reflected in this daily method of
prayer he recommended to his brothers. They prayed it numerous times per day as part of their daily rhythm of life.

It is is a prayer where we try to find the movement of the Spirit in our daily lives as we review our day. There are five simple steps to the Examen, which should take about 15 minutes to complete. Many people make the Examen once around lunchtime and again before going to bed. This prayer can be made anywhere—on the beach, in a car, at home, in the library.

The following is just one interpretation (of many) of these five steps to discerning the movement of Gods Spirit in your day.

Before you start: Try to be in a place where you are least likely to be disturbed, and where there is the least amount of
external noise. Perhaps you light a candle or change the lighting when you pray to symbolise the start of this activity. Then sit comfortably and still yourself. Relax, be aware of your breathing, your body and how you are feeling.


We are always in God's presence, but in prayer we place ourselves in God’s presence in an especially attentive way. God knows intimately. He loves you in the deepest way possible and desires for an intimate connection with you. In John 15 Jesus says ‘abide in me and I will abide in you’ – his invitation is to make our HOME in him. As you still yourself be aware that God is
present with you, in creation of your surrounds, your body, in those around you. Remind yourself of his presence with you and desire to BE with you. Be still and know that you are with God.


After a few moments, begin to give thanks to God for the gifts of today. Special pleasures will spring to mind: a good night’s sleep, the smell of the morning coffee, the laugh of a child, a good meal or lesson learnt. As you move in gratitude through the details of your day give thanks to God for his presence in the big and the small things of your life.


Before the next step of reviewing your day, ask that God’s Spirit might help you to look at your actions and attitudes. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to understand the motivation of your heart, to see the gifts of God and how you’ve responded to them. Ask that you’d learn and be shaped as your reflect. Remember, this is not a time to dwell on your shortcomings rather, it is a gentle look with the Lord at how you have responded to God’s gifts. It is an opportunity for growth of self and relationship with God.


This is the longest of the steps. Here you review your entire day, watching it like a movie that replays in your mind. Be sure to notice the details, the context of what happened and how you acted. As you look through the day, notice especially your motives and feelings. This is not psychoanalysis, rather it is a time for you to discern your daily motives, actions and reactions. Don’t try to fix everything in this stage, just examine how conscious you have been of God’s presence and actions in your life.

As you review you may wish to ask yourself some of the following questions.

1. Did I give time to God each day in prayer?
2. Did I have false gods in my life that I gave greater attention to than God, like money, profession, drugs, TV, fame, pleasure, property, etc.?


3. Did I curse, or break an oath or vow?
4. Did I get angry with God?


5. Did I miss worship through my own fault?
6. Did I take time out this week for sabbath rest?
7. Did I set aside a day of rest and a family day?
8. Did I show reverence in the presence of Jesus?
9. Did I receive communion if it was offered?


10. Did I disobey or disrespect my parents or legitimate superiors?
11. Did I neglect my duties to my husband, wife, children or parents?
12. Did I neglect to give good religious example to my family?
13. Did I fail to actively take an interest in the religious education and formation of my children?
14. Did I cause tension and fights in my family?
15. Did I care for my aged and infirm relatives?
16. Did I give a full day's work for a full day's pay?
17. Did I give a fair wage to my employees?


18. Did I kill or physically injure anyone?
19. Did I get angry, impatient, envious, unkind, proud, revengeful, jealous, hateful toward another, lazy?
20. Did I give bad example by drug abuse, drinking alcohol to excess, fighting, quarreling?
21. Did I abuse my children?


22. Did I willfully entertain impure thoughts or desires?
23. Did I use impure or suggestive words? Tell impure stories? Listen to them?
24. Did I deliberately look at impure TV, videos, plays, pictures or movies? Or deliberately read impure materials?
25. Did I commit impure acts by myself (masturbation)?
26. Did I commit impure acts with another - fornication (premarital sex), adultery (sex with a married person)?
27. Did I avoid the occasions of impurity?
28. Did I try to control my thoughts?
29. Did I respect all members of the opposite sex, or have I thought of other people as objects?
30. Did I abuse my marriage rights?


31. Did I steal, cheat, help or encourage others to steal or keep stolen goods?
32. Did I fulfill my contracts; give or accept bribes; pay my bills; rashly gamble or speculate; deprive my family of the necessities of life?
33. Did I waste time at work, school or at home? (yes blogging counts)
34. Did I envy other people's families or possessions?
35. Did I make material possessions the purpose of my life?
36. Did I seek justice and peace in my community or within the global community?


37. Did I lie?
38. Did I deliberately deceive others, or injure others by lies?
39. Did I commit perjury?
40. Did I gossip or reveal others' faults or sins?
41. Did I fail to keep secret what should be confidential?
42. Did I bring disunity in any way to the church where I should have worked for harmony?


The final step is our time to lay things on the table with God. Here you talk with God about your day. You share your thoughts on your actions, attitudes, feelings and interactions. Perhaps in this time you may feel led to seek forgiveness, ask for direction, share a concern, express gratitude etc. There may be an area you’ve felt challenged on or some action you feel you need to take out of this time. Resolve with God to move forward in action where appropriate. You might like to finish your time with the Lords Prayer.

added this morning:
joel got me thinking and so i invite anyone reading this to consider:

thanks joel,these questions are from the traditional examen before confession in the catholic tradition. you raise a good point.

are there questions that ought to be eliminated and are there questions that ought to be asked that aren't in here?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Every year in the UMC bishops have that wonderful job of trying to appoint elders to various churches. Sometimes this works very well and sometimes, well, ummm... it just plain sucks.

Well I have an answer to the problems that arise... a new model for how a bishop might appoint pastors and increase the number of United Methodists in the meantime.

Nothing brings people in like a little pop culture sensability.

So I invite all of our currently active bishops to check this out and let's revolutionize the appointment system:

I Present "Elder Idol"

Check it out and comment on how you think this idea might get played out in our appointment system.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Can a "practicing __________" be a baptized Christian?

hmmmm..... here's one take on it.

any thoughts from our quirky theo-thinking community?


i was tagged by gavo and sooooo........

Amount of Music on Your Computer
33 GIGS (I have a usb harddrive that contains every cd that I own rendered to mp3 or wav.

Currently Listening To: Takk- by Sigur Ros

Five Songs That Mean a Lot to You
1. Send Me On My Way- Rusted Root
2. The Scientist- Coldplay
3. Ideoteque- Radiohead
4. My Name is Jonas- Weezer
5. Dodo- Dave Matthews

Top Five Albums: (in no particular order)

1. Magical Mystery Tour- The Beatles: this was the first "real" album that my parents gave me. I fell in love with every song on the album. When I was a kid I used to pretend to be Paul McCartney or John Lennon and sing the songs.

2. Morrison Hotel- The Doors: this is my favorite Doors album, the songwriting is great. Jim Morrison had a profound influence on my writing when I was in high school and college.

3. Kid A- Radiohead: this is just a f*&#ing great album. What can I say? I LOVE IT!!

4. Some Devil- Dave Matthews: his solo album is better than DMB albums. The songwriting, the honesty, the earthiness of this album makes it one of my all time favs.

5. The New Deal- The New Deal: being a musician/songwriter who has moved more into the electronica scene, discovering a band who has blended two genres (rock and electronica) has been fascinating, inspiring and eye opening.

Last Album Bought
Takk by Sigor Ros

Recent Discoveries?
Matisyahu (hasidic reggae is very cool)

The baton is hereby passed to:
1. Shane Raynor
2. Daniel Greeson
3. Thunder Jones
4. Beth Quick
5. Ciona Rouse

Monday, November 14, 2005


I enjoyed putting together the WEEK WITH... STEPHEN LONG. I hope you enjoyed it too. I caught up with Steve at the beginning of the week and asked him a few questions. So now I'm sharing them with you. Enjoy!!


Jonathon: Steve,thanks for taking time out to do this interview for the folks who check in and read The Phaith of St. Phransus. One of the newer and exciting movements in theology is Radical Orthodoxy. And I know that you have been a part of that conversation. In what way can Radical Orthodoxy inform how we "do church" as United Methodist?

Steve: Radical Orthodoxy, in its current form, may not be able to inform how we "do church" as Methodists. It tends to be more of an intellectual exercise, bringing back to theology the importance of philosophy and even metaphysics. It may have more to do with how we train clergy into the theological tradition. Our history as Methodists has been to think of the formation of clergy primarily in terms of the so-called "social" sciences. Thus we focus on sociology and psychology and neglect doctrinal, philosophical and metaphysical issues.

I often chide the church's leadership in that everyone knows her or his Myers-Briggs score, but few clergy would be able to explain the doctrine of the enhypostaton. The reason for this is that the church hierarchy sets forth psychology and sociology as useful and practical tools for ministry, but not doctrine. Whether or not pastors can explain how Christ's two natures are related in his single Person and how that Person is related to the Second Person of the Trinity is no longer recognized as "practical" for Christian ministry.

If Radical Orthodoxy can inform the church as to what it means to be church, it will be to recover from its loss of theological nerve and begin again to take seriously the kinds of knowledge Mr. Wesley himself told the clergy we should have in his excellent "Address to the Clergy." We need to recover a theologically educated clergy, and not just a clergy who have academic credentials from an education based primarily in the social sciences. We are losing a theological and philosophical articulacy today, and I think this is associated with a loss of obedience; for obedience is not a virtue of the will. There is no such thing as "blind" obedience. Obedience is a virtue of the intellect. As the Dominican Herbert McCabe argued, obedience comes from the Latin -- ob audire -- whether to listen. If we do not have an articulate and faithful telling of the Christian story, theologically and philosophically compelling, then we cannot have obedience. Radical orthodoxy could help the leaders of the Church become more articulate, better tellers of the story, instead of functioning primarily as bureaucrat managers or therapists, which is what an emphasis on sociology and psychology inevitably turns clergy into.

Jonathon: Can you think of some practical ways that the theology of Radical
Orthodoxy inform and get played out within the context of a local

Steve: My initial response is: 'no, next question.' Radical orthodoxy is an elite, academic exercise. Even those within it call it a "sensibility." It is not really much more than a sensibility as to how one goes about the task of doing theology in the University, which I think is important because the modern secular University polices all conversations about God so that they are harmless. This often happens through university chaplains who are hired and paid well in order to make sure no outbreak of religion or piety occurs on campus. I am glad philosophy departments in secular universities are reading and engaging Radical Orthodoxy, even if it is primarily to point out its limitations. But what role does it have in the local church? That is more difficult to determine. At its best, what it does is confuse the assumptions that one either has to choose between an evangelical, orthodox Christianity and a progressive politics.

Radical orthodoxy would require recovering certain key liturgical acts. We would have to have Eucharist every Sunday. We would need to begin to confess, with the vast majority of Christians throughout the earth, the Nicene Creed. I think recovering something like Wesley's General Rules and viewing them as a basis for our common life would be helpful. These rules would have to be updated and they would have to be embodied and offer the Methodist people a distinct way of living, both as Christians and as Methodists.. They could be as simple as reminding the Methodist people that we don't play the lottery and as complex as setting forth certain economic practices in which we cannot participate at the risk of losing our freedom to come to the Eucharist table.

I tried to show the similarities between Wesley and Radical Orthodoxy in my John Wesley's Moral Theology: The Quest for God and Goodness. I think there are a number of important similarities.

Jonathon: Does having an emphasis on Trinitarian ontology affect how a church
"practices" its faith together? What might be the practices that would
reflect a more trinitarian idea of church?

Steve: I think I mentioned a few above. I do think we need a substantive form of catechism which teaches our people that our pledge is the Nicene Creed and not the pledge of allegiance to the flag. If we could simply accomplish that recognition, we will have gone a great way toward listening and responding well to the Holy Spirit in our midst. That would not, of course, mean that the Kingdom of God has come, but it would help us begin to see that all this discussion of diversity, open hearts, open minds, open doors (even though the doors remain locked after hours) is really just in service to the pledge of allegiance to the US flag and what it stands for -- e pluribus unum. There is really nothing at all radical to this. It just makes Christianity and the church ineffectual, a consumer choice among a variety of choices.

Jonathon: For those of us in the UMC who feel the need to be "bridge builders"
among conservatives and liberals- what do you see as the best "practices" or ways to engage that vision?

Steve: I guess it depends on what bridges you want to build. I don't know what people mean when they say conservative and liberal and the need to bring them together. Are they talking about the Republican and Democratic parties? Are they talking about communitarians and social contract theorists? Are they talking about orthodox versus 'progressive' Christians? Are we to build a bridge between those who think Christ was Incarnate and born of the Virgin Mary with those who think he became the Christ at his baptism? I want to know what bridge I'm building before I begin the labor. I worry about all this need to bridge differences these days; it too easily legitimates the dogmatic 'inclusivism' that says we are inclusive; you are not and therefore we exclude you exclusivists, all in the name of inclusivism. That is language performing a contradiction. I want to build a bridge that begins with orthodox, evangelical, catholic and anabaptism theology but moves away from the troubling right wing market fundamentalism. I want to build a bridge to those who have been really tending to issues of poverty, violence, life at the margins (and not those who have simply made a cottage industry out of talking about it) without leaving faith behind. I also want to build the bridge with faith that seeks reason, not a faith that is anti-intellectual or a reason that falsely thinks it has somehow moved beyond dogma.

Jonathon: I know you've been doing some work on Radical Orthodoxy in conversation with Wesley. Why are the two compatible?

Steve: This is simple: Christianity. I have no more stake in being radically orthodox than I do in being Wesleyan. Both are only useful inasmuch as they help order our lives to the Triune God and follow Jesus on the way that leads into truth and life. There are other less significant reasons I think they have much in common -- a Christian platonism grounded in a sacramental and metaphysical understanding of creation is a key one.

Jonathon: For the American church- how do we respond to social/polital issues in such a polarized time and not alienate one another? (We're so poloarized
even within our congregations)

Steve: I'm not sure we can. I think we simply have to embrace this alienation as God's judgment until someone comes along who can offer a compelling vision for our way forward. That has not yet happened.

Jonathon: Who have been your major influences to help inform your theology?

Steve: Of course Stanley Hauerwas. He went to Duke the same year I did and when I first met him I found him somewhat obnoxious. He offended my evangelical piety. He was my advisor and kept telling me to take theology courses even when I told him the courses I had to take were required for graduation! He grew on me over the years because of his profound piety and love of God. There is also Karl Barth, Henri de Lubac, Hans urs von Balthasar, Aquinas, Anselm, Julian of Norwich.

Jonathon: For those who want an "on ramp" primer to Being Methodist In a Postmodern Context, what books would be good to read?

Steve: Read anything Phil Meadows is producing. We need to get his important work out. I would also read the work of Michael Cartwright and Amy Laura Hall. I've already mentioned my own John Wesley's Moral Theology so I won't be so crass as to mention it again. Hauerwas's work remains an important development within Methodist theology; it seems to scare most people. Perhaps Bishop Willimon's work is a good place to start. I would also read Archbishop William's On Christian Doctrine. Anglican theologians are doing some really important work that we Methodists could benefit from greatly -- Milbank, Pickstock, Connor Cunningham, Michael Hanby. And of course the best presentation of RO in the US is James K. Smith's Introducing Radical Orthodox.

Jonathon: What might a "radically orthodox" United Methodist Church look like on Sunday morning?

Steve: I don't think I would ever use "radically orthodox" as marks of the Church. I would stick to one, holy, Catholic and apostolic.

Jonathon: In your honest opinion- do you think John Milbank indeed looks like
Harry Potter on steroids?

Steve: I've never known John to use enhancement technologies to get a theological advantage, but now that you mention it. . . .

Jonathon: Steve, thanks for taking the time out to be a part of THE PHAITH OF ST. PHRANSUS.

ON THIS DAY... Monday Nov. 14- St. Gregory Palamas

Gregory Palamas was born in Constantinople (?) about 1296. He became a monk of the great community at Mount Athos, near Thessalonika. Here he was one of the formost supporters of a theory of contemplation called Hesychasm (or, after him, Palamism). The Hesychasts claimed that, by suitable spirtual disciplines, those engaged in contemplative prayer could come to see the "uncreated light" of God. Their opponents objected that this doctrine was inconsistent with the unity and the transcendence of God. At first, Hesychasm was condemned as heretical and Gregory was excommunicated.

However, in 1347, thanks chiefly to the unwavering support of the monks of Athos, Gregory was brought back from exile, cleared of heretical charges, and made bishop of Thessalonika. After much controversy, his position was declared orthodox by the church of Constantinople in 1351, but by then he was worn out and an invalid. In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in his ideas.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

ON THIS DAY... Sunday Nov. 13

WE REMEMBER... St. Bryce

Bryce was not everybody’s idea of a saint. "A real menace," said some, "well intentioned but difficult." His boss, St Martin of Tours, whom he succeeded as bishop in 397, let slip the remark: "If Christ endured Judas must not I endure Bryce." His zeal as a missionary carried him through and drew admiration and support from the common people.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

my sermon for sunday nov. 13, my last sunday at blakemore/west nashville umc

1 Thessalonians 5
1I don't think, friends, that I need to deal with the question of when all this is going to happen. 2You know as well as I that the day of the Master's coming can't be posted on our calendars. He won't call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would. 3About the time everybody's walking around complacently, congratulating each other--"We've sure got it
made! Now we can take it easy!"-suddenly everything will fall apart. It's going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman. 4But friends, you're not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? 5You're sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. 6So let's not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let's keep our eyes open and be smart. 7People sleep at night and get drunk at night. 8But not us! Since we're creatures of Day, let's act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation. 9God didn't set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. 10He died for us, a death
that triggered life. Whether we're awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we're alive with him! 11So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it.

(around the altar have tall chicken wire fence encasing it with a sign on the front of fence that reads, "KEEP OUT")


There was a little girl who lived in a small town not a lot unlike where we live. Next door there was a neighbor girl about the same age. They enjoyed playing together almost every day after school and in the summers. One day the little girl's grandfather began building her a tree house. He cut the wood and began building. Pretty soon she had a little treehouse in her back yard that was just her size. She had furniture and posters, a table with a tea set and her favorite toys in the tree house.

One day the little girl next door noticed the treehouse and yelled up into it to the little girl, "hey, can i come up and play?"

A voice from inside the treehouse yelled back, "No, this is my treehouse, keep out!!!"

The neighbor girl went away sad while the little girl continued to play with her favorite toys in her new treehouse. A few days later at the neighbor's house, hammering could be heard. The little girl looked in the yard next door and to her suprise, right next to where her tree house was, another treehouse was being built by the neighbor girl's dad.

In a couple of days,there stood next to one another TWO TREEHOUSES. And on both treehouses there were signs on the doors- MY TREEHOUSE- KEEP OUT!!

Early one morning both girls were outside playing in their treehouses- one having a tea party the other cooking breakfast for all her favorite dolls. The little girl realized that she and "her friends" were pretty hungry. Tea was good but it didn't satisfy their hungry bellies. "Oh man", she said.

"What's wrong" came a small voice from inside the other treehouse. "I have just had tea but now I'm hungry and I don't have anything to eat or to feed my friends."

"That's funny", said the neighbor girl, "I just fed my friends breakfast and now we're thirsty and we don't have anything to drink."

The little girl thought for a moment, "do you want to come over and have some tea?"

"I can't", said the neighbor, "you have a "keep out" sign on your treehouse."

"Oh", said the little girl. "Well I could change it. I could change it to "WELCOME".

The neighbor thought for a moment and said,"I could bring over the leftovers from breakfast and you and your friends could share it."

So that day the little girl took down the sign that was on the door of her treehouse that said "KEEP OUT" and replaced it with another sign- one that read, "WELCOME". And on that day, two little girls enjoyed tea and breakfast together and after they were finished, they asked the dad and the grandfather to help them build a bridge that would connect their treehouses so
that they could always visit each other when they wanted to.


There's a lot that I want to say to you as a congregation- as friends and family. I want to say things like- for the last 5 years I have felt less like a staff person and more like a friend and family member to a beautiful church and beautiful people.

I want to say something like- I have been part of a youth group that has made it easy for me to feel like I've suceeded because my youth have taught me and given to me as much if not more than I feel that I have given to them. The youth of this church and West Nashville have embodied the kind of community that we all dream about- one that says "Welcome" and not "keep out". I have seen kids from all walks of life show up through the doors to the youth room and not get turned away but embraced with open arms and listened to.

Where did these kids learn that remarkable ability to say "WELCOME" instead of "KEEP OUT"? Well, from those who model it- THIS CONGREGATION.


We are living in a time when it is very easy to get caught up in playing the game of who gets to be in and who gets to be
left out. Our political leaders play that game, decision makers play the game all the time. And yes, even in the church, our UM church- we play that game- way too easily sometimes.

And as I look at recent events- some events even made by within our own denomination, I wonder why fear has to be such a motivator to build walls and exlcude.

It's real easy to say he or she doesn't talk like we do, look like we do, dress like we do, have the same skin color as we do, so I'm not sure this would be the right place for them to be. And in very subtle ways we create invisible fences around the "table", around our church and in God's eyes, we've just denied someone grace, the chance to experience and receive God's grace.


It's funny but one of the things that I'll take with me from Blakemore and West Nashville is the memory of two pastors with very different preaching styles but two very similar messages, who standing at the table with bread and cup in hand look out at us and one says- "IN THE UNITED METHODIST TRADITION THIS IS NOT OUR TABLE- THIS IS GOD'S TABLE- AND SO ALL ARE WELCOME" and then I think of the other pastor who says, "THIS IS AN OPEN TABLE, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A BAPTIZED CHRISTIAN TO PARTAKE- IF YOU ARE SEEKING A RECONCILING RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND NEIGHBOR THEN THIS IS FOR YOU."

You may hear about leaders and decisions in our denomination who try and put fences around the table, around the doors. We as a congregation, youth group, sunday school class, etc... may even from time to time struggle with or be tempted to put up a fence and hang a sign that says "keep out".

But today the gift and story that I take with me is of a church, a youth group, a group of frends, a family who strives to make sure that the fences are never put up and the sign that hangs out front always says, "WELCOME" not to our house, but God's house.

when you came in this morning you should have received a piece of string. This string represents God's presence in our lives here at Blakemore and God's desire for us to be people who welcome all God's children. So I want you to spend some time
thinking about those places in your life where you have created fences seperating yourself from others. And if you'd like to invite God into that place and bring healing then come to the fence and tie your string to it- as a sign that God is at work on those fences that we create. If you feel led, you are invited.

("It's Only Fear" by Alexi Murdoch plays while congregation comes forward to tie strings on fence)


(facing the altar with fence around it; take the KEEP OUT sign down)

I think I'll take this down- this isn't us... does anyone think that this is us?

(youth come up and take the fence away; turn sign around and it says "WELCOME"; and place sign on altar.

Thank you for 5 wonderful years of ministry, partnerships, and frienships. Jen and I will be leaving our membership here cause we know where home is.

And as I travel on down the road let me leave you with words that Paul left with the thessalonian church , "speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it."

In other words- you've got a great treehouse here, invite everyone over for tea and breakfast.




One of the places from which the term 'heart religion' emerges in Wesley's thought is his sermon "Catholic Spirit." The phrase "if your heart is as my heart then give me your hand" is often quoted out of context to imply Wesley set a religion of the heart against Christian doctrine."

Wesley is discussing different worship styles — how one administers the Lord's Supper and baptism and how these are the cause of division in the various churches (although he was clear that Methodists should have a common and uniform way of doing this which was in the Discipline up through the mid-twentieth century.) He simply recognized the legitimacy of other traditions doing it differently.

Then he asks, "My only question at present is this, 'Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart." (p. 87). This is often used to argue Wesley was more concerned with the state of one's heart than with matters such as doctrine or worship. But he then goes on to explain what is meant by a "right heart" and he says, "But what is properly implied in the question? . . . . The first thing implied is this: Is thy heart right with God? Dost thou believe his being and his perfections? His eternity, immensity, wisdom, power; his justice mercy and truth."

Note that his first response to this question implies proper "belief" which is a doctrinal matter. He then says "Dost thou believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, 'God over all, blessed for ever?"

Note the second thing implied in this "heart religion" is a belief in Jesus' divinity.

Then he asks thirdly, "Is they faith filled with the energy of love?"

Fourth — "Art thou employed in doing 'not thy own will, but the will of him that sent thee'?

Fifth — "Does the love of God constrain thee to 'serve' him 'with fear'?

Sixth — "Is thy heart right toward they neighbor?"

Seventh — "Do you show your love by your works?"

These are the seven questions Wesley says constitute "having the same heart." And then he says, "If it be, give me thine hand." Some wrongly interpret this as an indifference toward doctrinal issues.

Friday, November 11, 2005



In modern theology both Evangelicals and liberal Protestants often do this move. It comes out of the Middle Ages, and it says that the way I know God is by knowing myself—God's being and my being are on the same plane. If you really want to know God you need to know who you are, then you have a direct, unitical access to God. What becomes crucial is experience. In evangelicalism you've got to have an experience. But liberal Protestants do the same move—if my experience as an individual can give me access to God simply by my being I don't need community, church, or another language. I don't need to be formed into by catechesis. All I need is this experience. It does all the work. I think that the experience becomes a commodity—a fetish. There are churches which exist to fabricate that experience. But it doesn't sustain us.

i wonder how seriously we take the liturgy that we have that's in our um book of worship and the um hymnal. one of the gifts that i see that the wesley's gave to us was there poetic sensibility through charles' hymns and the anglican tradition that shines through our liturgy.

our baptism liturgy is very communal in nature- not the least bit individual (personal- yes, but not private) ; our sevice of word and table- very communal.

the rich liturgy that we contain in our tradition has the possibility of shaping and forming us into a distinct denomination that can be both open and welcoming to human diversity AND adhere to scriptural authority. we just have to allow space for the liturgy to inform our worship and way of life.