Subway Prophet

…and the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls…

Leave a comment

Devotional: Seeing Dimly

[Written for the Memorial UMC 2015 Advent Devotional. Side Note: Our son was born on December 3, 2015]

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Ever since we found out we were having a baby it has been hard to wait. What will our child look like? Who will s/he become?

Pregnancy is a surreal experience. It is hard to believe that the child we have only seen in black and white blurry images on an ultrasound machine will soon be born and cradled in my arms.

In this season of Advent, it’s hard to wait for Jesus to be born, and for Jesus’ return. What will the Kingdom of God look like? What will our world become?

Being a Christian is also a surreal experience. It is hard to see God at work amidst the suffering and violence in our world and in our lives. Where is the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed?

I am thankful that God gives us glimpses of the Kingdom every bit as blurry and exciting as a sonogram. I see these blurry, exciting images in the community on Wednesday Nights, in the love and support of Sunday School classes and small groups, and in the joy and curiosity in our children.

These glimpses of the Kingdom remind me that God is actively working in our world to bring an end to suffering and to make all things right. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray, “God of hope, give me eyes to see your Kingdom around me so that I can share your hope with others.”

Leave a comment

Advent Devotional: God with Us

[Written for the Memorial UMC 2015 Advent Devotional-December 2]

But now, says the LORD— the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you. I am the LORD your God, the holy one of Israel, your savior. I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place (Isa 43:1-3)

Throughout life, bad things happen that we do not expect: A job transition, a medical diagnosis, conflict in a relationship, the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, Scripture never promises an easy life for those who follow Jesus. In fact often it promises the exact opposite. The comfort for me from Isaiah, however, is the word, “when.” The prophet knows that life has seasons of overwhelming floods and fear inducing fires. This is just something we should know up front. We are not called to expect God to eliminate this reality, what we can expect is that in the midst of it all, God will be with us and that God will not let us go.

In the season of Advent, we look forward to the coming of Christ. We remember the entrance of God into our world. God became human knowing full well the difficulty of life on earth. In His life, Jesus experienced rejection, pain, grief, injustice, betrayal, and more. For me this is a comforting reminder. When I am wondering where God is in the midst of a crisis, Isaiah’s words remind me that God is with us through it all. Having experienced everything life could throw at Him, we can be assured that when things in life come our way, we do not have to be afraid. God is with us. Jesus Christ, God in human form, has been there, conquered that, and will help us to weather the storms of life.

Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for never leaving me or forsaking me. When I feel like I am drowning, or the fires of life make me afraid, help me to remember your presence beside me and give me the grace I need to continue walking with you each and every step of the way. Amen.

Leave a comment

Advent Devotional: Prepare the Way…

[Note: This devotional was written for the annual Trinity UMC Advent devotional book. If you would like to receive the rest of them through Epiphany, click here and sign up for the “Daily Scripture E-mail.”]

“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” (Malachi 3:1–2 NRSV)

Something I have been doing a lot recently is packing. It is the hardest part of getting ready for a trip. It is tough deciding what you need and what you need to leave behind. However, the best part of the process is imagining what you will be encountering, so you know what to bring. This is what is happening in this passage. Malachi’s messenger proclaims the Kingdom of God and tells us to get packing. Because we hear Jesus’s declaration that the Kingdom of God is drawing near (Mark 1:14), we can begin to imagine the day with no poverty, war, injustice, pain, or death. It is this vision we receive which orients our lives; which actions and habits we need to keep, and which we need to leave behind. Do our priorities today mirror God’s ultimate intention for the world? Are we preparing ourselves and our world now for the Kingdom of God?
Prayer: God of Grace and Love, you have made us your children through the life and death of Jesus Christ our Lord. As we celebrate his birth and await his coming again, let our celebrations turn to actions so that Your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Little John Wesley being used as a sermon illustration at Bearpark MC

Little John Wesley being used as a sermon illustration at Bearpark MC

Leave a comment

Lenten Reflection

Wow. Things have been rocking along and it seems weird to not have posted in a month. Oops. To break this trend here is my Lenten devotion for Trinity UMC, Gainesville. Please note the Hauerwasian influences.

SCRIPTURE: When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” – JOHN 19:26–27 (NRSV)

Within the election cycle for as long as I can remember there have been laments from politicians, pastors, and other people about the need to restore “traditional family values.” What are traditional family values? So often this term is used as a political boxing glove to attack a person’s political opponent. Scripture has a lot to say about family, however, for the New Testament, not much of it is positive.

For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; – Matthew 10:35–37 (NRSV)

What could Jesus have meant? Is Jesus on the side of the rebellious teenager or disappointed mother-in-law? Or is something else going on? As always, our interpretation of the text is enlightened by the context. The next few verses continue the story.

…and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. – Matthew 10:38–39 (NRSV) What Jesus is promoting is not divided families, or unhappy homes, but instead Jesus is stating that he came to inaugurate a new type of family. The Christian family is one which is not united by genetics or marriage, but by the waters of Baptism and new life found in Jesus Christ. True family is not who sits around the table for Easter dinner, but the community which gathers around the bread and wine for Holy Communion. This is what we see beginning at the foot of the cross. At the point where Jesus is demonstrating the fullness of God’s love for humanity, Jesus demonstrates how we are to live that out. Mary had other sons, and the beloved disciple had a mother, but at the foot of the cross Jesus’ last act before he dies is to create a family. In a Christian family, people are not divided by their last name, but all are unified in the name of Christ. The Christian family certainly has its disagreements. Political, moral, and personal beliefs differ amongst us all, but they do not need to divide us. When we live our lives at the foot of the cross, we allow Jesus to form and shape our families as well as our lives. And it is only when Jesus gives us our chief identity as Christian that we can fully understand what value a family can be.


PRAYER: God who is our Father and Mother, thank you for adopting us into your family where we are all brothers and sisters. Help us to live as your children in peace with one another, and seeking to grow and mature in our love of You. AMEN

Leave a comment

Reflections on an Ash Wednesday

““Beware of practicing your pie before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1–6 NRSV)

One of the most frustrating days for me is Ash Wednesday. Lent is my favorite season of the Church calendar, so it always frustrates me when people make the practices all about them. “I will give up chocolate so that I will lose weight” or  “I will give up Facebook so that I look like I am truly sacrificing when really I just want to be more productive.” Of course these decisions are not made in secret, but instead are the result of a large scale, trumpet worthy, deliberation (More on that later).  For this reason, I usually do not give up anything and instead add something to my daily routine avoiding the many questions.

Today I was particularly attuned to the trappings of Ash Wednesday. When I went to class this morning my eyes were peeled for black smudges. Everyone I met got searched for their mark. Had they been to the early morning service?  Did they have that holier-than-thou look? Still being undecided on my precise Lenten practice, I formulated my answer for the inevitable questions. This continued during the Divinity school’s Ash Wednesday/Eucharist service as I watched as everyone went up to the station, pious heads bowed, and heard that they were worthless—dust.

When it was my turn, I went, bowed my head in reverence and preparation, and while being marked with ash, heard the words: “You are dust, and to dust you will return.” As I walked back to my seat I saw on the foreheads of everyone around me the same black mark I had just received. In that moment, instead of judgment I felt a connection with those around me. They were all marked as well-fellow sinners!  We were all repenting and preparing together.  As I sat down I realized how in my righteous judgment of so many people’s piety I had individualized this day just like everyone else. It seemed a so obvious, yet so easily forgotten fact. Nothing we do in life is done alone. Fasting, prayer, supplication need to be done in your “prayer closet,” but also in community. If anyone is going to stay on the wagon of repentance, we are going to need each other for accountability and support.

For the rest of the day, as I spotted more and more people’s ashen foreheads I thanked God that they were there with me. We bore our crosses together. And I hoped that they, and all of you will help me keep my Lenten (and life) attempt to give up judgment and self-righteousness.

1 Comment

Christmas (and) Time

On this Christmas Eve, I share with you my contribution from the Trinity UMC Annual Advent Devotional. Thank you to Jim Cook, who asked for my submission and for all of the work he did on it this year!

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 1:8, 22:13)

Advent and Christmas are peculiar times of year because they are all about time. We count down the number of shopping days and we sing of the twelve days. In worship, we mark this time with candles as we wait expectantly for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. All of these things serve as a reminder of our place in this time. We are reminded of the finite nature of time, and how much more of it we wish we had.

However, there is another aspect of time which many people become acutely aware of. As we go through the familiar rituals that come during this time of Advent, we are unexpectantly brought back to our past. As we gather for family dinners we become acutely aware of those whose seats are now empty. We note the absence of that special laugh, or particular casserole. As we watch the glee of young children ripping open packages on Christmas morning, do we not harken back to our own excitement? In these moments we seem to live in two times at once, then and now. Found in both the first and last chapters, this passage from Revelation both proclaims this and lives it out the transcendent nature of God who is beyond time. This reality of God, however, takes on new meaning in the story of Christmas where we celebrate God breaking into time, taking on finite human nature as seen in the smiling baby lying in a manger. I think we fail to comprehend the amazing mystery which that baby represents. That God would “empty himself taking on the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” (Phil 2:7), and yet remain the eternal God. So, in the times of celebration and remembrance, joy and sorrow, newness and nostalgia, remember Immanuel—God is with us. And remember that as we live in the tension of yesterday and today, and the reality of our limited time, that God enters into that time bringing the peace and presence which can only come from the one who is the timeless creator of time.

God of grace and mercy, you have given us this time on earth to be Your people and to live into Your Kingdom. Help us to marvel in your infinity and wonder at your love, the love which enters into our today to prepare us for tomorrow. Give us Your peace, Your wisdom, and Your grace so that we may share that grace with those we come in contact with. In the name of Your Son, our Savior, Amen.