Subway Prophet

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


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Meet St. Cuthbert

So, I know that today is Palm Sunday, which is super important, however, it is also the feast day for my favorite saint, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. In the United Methodist Church, we do not have saints. They have never been an important part of Wesleyan spirituality, however, I have always had a strong attraction to saints, and my own faith is always strengthen when I read about their lives.

I first heard of Cuthbert during the year I spend studying in England. He was a shepherd, then monk, then Bishop in northern England in the 7th century. His life was marked by humility, simplicity, a love of nature, and reconciliation.

Foundations of Cuthbert's cell

The foundation of the monastic cell where St. Cuthbert would go and pray on the island of Lindisfarne. The tidal patterns cut off this island from the main island at high tide. 

My favorite story is from one of Cuthbert’s many times when he would leave the monastery and pray. Once a younger monk followed Cuthbert to see where he went and observed him wading into the ocean where he would frequently recite the psalms. When he came out, otters came and helped to warm his hands.

St. Drewbert

Me imitating St. Cuthbert’s prayer in the ocean at Lindisfarne. Sadly no otters washed my feet when I came out.

St. Cuthbert is buried in Durham and I would frequently visit his shrine in the Cathedral which was a short walk from my dorm room.The Cathedral and his shrine were places when I could palpably feel God’s presence and was for me a tremendous means of grace during a wonderful and difficult year.

On this day each year, I have a cup of tea, remember my friends in England and the ways in which God shaped my understanding of my call to ministry, and I give thanks to St. Cuthbert for helping me understand how to better follow Jesus.

Cuthbert's Shrine, Durham Cathedral

The shrine of St. Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral. 

Here is the prayer for today from the Church of England:

Almighty God, who called your servant Cuthbert from following the flock to follow your Son and to be a shepherd of your people: in your mercy, grant that we, following his example, may bring those who are lost home to your fold; through Jesus Christ, you son, our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

 

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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


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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


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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. 


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A Forth of July Prayer

Days such as these provide an easy temptation for many in the Church. As Americans we celebrate our national heritage, our independence as a nation, and the essential values on which it was founded. However, as Christians we recognize that our values as followers of Jesus Christ are distinctly different than those of our nation. St. Augustine described two cities. A City of God and a City of Man. We as Christians are dual citizens, but our primary allegiance needs to be to the God who is creator of all and in whom all powers find their source. There are many ways in which American culture arises out of a Judeo-Christian heritage, but there are also many ways in which it arises out of the 18th Century Enlightenment tradition. The Church has always flourished best when it works outside the political order as a prophetic voice for those who are powerless and weak, and those who are forgotten and ignored by the leaders of the City of Man. So, today I celebrate the Forth of July, I light fireworks, and eat barbecue, but I also pray this prayer which I wrote for worship on Sunday:

Sovereign God who created all people on earth and in whom all power is located we are thankful for our country. We are thankful for the ideals this country was founded on: liberty, justice and equality for all. But God, so often our country falls short of these ideals in pursuit of our own selfish ambition. For our complacency, as its citizens, in allowing these things to happen, we humbly repent and ask for your strength and courage to work towards making this country and all the other nations of the world places where justice rolls down like a river and justice like a never ending stream.

God you have given to all people certain inalienable rights including those of life, liberty and the ability to pursue a relationship with you, which is our true happiness. Be with those who, because of political oppression or economic injustice, are denied these rights. Help us work to through or in spite of our government to help all persons to achieve these rights

God, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords be with those who are in leadership of this nation and the other nations of the world. Give them wisdom to govern with integrity and with hearts for those who are weak and powerless. Give them ambitious hearts, not for their own ends, but for a more peaceful and prosperous world for all of your children. Let them rise above the short term needs of their party or their re-election and instead seek to serve you with every thing they do.

God, as we enter into another election cycle free us from the temptation to worship our political process. Remind us that our broken world cannot be fixed by an election or a political office, but that it is in you where we can find a hope for a better future. You are the one in whom our hope can rest assured and in you we find the solutions to our problems.

God, on this weekend where we celebrate our nation’s independence from foreign control, we recognize that we, ourselves, are still in need of freedom. Freedom from the tyranny of sin, addiction, greed, and selfishness which control our lives. God we also recognize that there are those in our lives and the life of the church who are under the controlling power of illness and pain. Free them from their suffering and give to them the life of health and wholeness which you so much desire for each and every one of us. Amen.