Friday, February 27, 2015

Lent #2: Evangelism Beyond the Event

       Traveling has been one of Martha’s and my deepest gifts. We have been privileged to travel to a number of countries since we took our first foreign trip as a couple to France, Italy and Austria. Something profound happened to me on these trips in the context of history, new friends, new foods and new Christian communities.
         I am also an amateur photographer, so I have lugged camera bags and tripods all over the world. When there was a particularly moving sight, I would try to capture that image. Then, after returning home, the film would get developed into photographs and Martha and I would put them into albums and store them on the shelf. Then, on cold and dreary nights, we would haul out the albums and recollect our fond memories of our travels or of our children growing up.
         I need those albums to keep some memories from fading and being forgotten altogether. Many times in looking back over pictures (now made more challenging by the digital volume I have assembled) I will have an “O Yeah!” moment when I recall a person, place or event and reflect on how it formed and blessed me.

         The early church had a great experience called Pentecost. Acts 2:1-4 tells the story of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the waiting disciples in Jerusalem, the huge crowd that was drawn, and the sermon Peter then delivered and the great conversion that followed. But such amazing experiences can be fleeting and ephemeral. The text for this Sunday looks at how God guided the disciples to keep this experience alive and lasting. Read Acts 2:42-47 and discover the marks of this healthy post-Pentecost church.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lent #1: Wait, Welcome, Witness

         I need to learn to wait better. As I get older I realize that I’m a bit compulsive about time (ask the staff!). From where I sit typing this, I can see five clocks not counting my wristwatch hidden beneath my shirtsleeve. I like to arrive early for meetings and I regularly check my watch during events. And when someone schedules an appointment with me and is late, I get impatient.
         Waiting is hard because it means I’m not in control, I’m not in charge. And I like being in charge. It’s my personal myth that I’m in charge. But the spiritual reality that I’m more and more aware of and appreciative of is that God is really in charge and my job is to wait for God’s timing.
         That means more silence for me and less talking, arguing, cajoling or blaming. That means more prayer over relationships and situations over which I have little or no control.
         This is the situation for the early church in Acts when Jesus told the disciples just before his ascension to go back to Jerusalem and “wait for the gift my Father has promised.” (Acts 1:4).
         For the next seven weeks of Lent into Easter, we will be discovering how God used the early church to spread the good news of Jesus to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth. And it begins with waiting. As you prepare for worship on Sunday, reflect on what you are waiting for in your life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

Today begins the journey to Easter with a stark sanctuary and a bowl full of ashes. Resurrection is only as good as sin is bad. I recoil from the ashes in an attempt to justify and explain my behavior. Yet I am drawn to the ashes. If you are in town (Santa Barbara) join us tonight at 7:00 p.m. for a service of Taize music, lessons, a meditation and ashes.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Transfiguration Sunday is a different kind of Sunday. It has about it the spectacular and almost mythic elements of appearances of men long since dead. There are flashes of light, overwhelming clouds, bodiless voices, and Jesus standing with his disciples facing the road to Jerusalem and the cross. What does this Sunday mean for us, form? I don't think it's about any sort of spectacle. It's about change. Is change really possible in me, in others, in the church?
The answer is YES. As I was writing this on a Saturday morning E (I'll keep his name anonymous) stopped by. I met E. about 6 years ago in jail, while he was serving some serious time for a serious crime. He had accepted Jesus behind bars and then I showed up to witness his slow and joyous transformation into a gentle man of God. Now he has been out 3 years and lives in a motor home. He has a job, goes to a local church, is involved in a men's ministry and bearing fruit. When I first met him outside the walls of the jail, he was in chronic and fragile need. God has built him up and grounded him in his Word. E. is a walking example of a transformed, transfigured life. What a gift to have the job I have!!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Rejoice (Phil 4:4)

I love preaching! I am deeply grateful for the privilege of preaching to the same congregation week after week, year after year. We grow together in the Word and in our worship style and chemistry. I am increasingly reluctant to not preach, though I know it is good for both me and the congregation to hear different voices and styles proclaim the Word.
Sunday the new Superintendent of the PSWC, Paul Wilson, is preaching on one word: Rejoice from Philippians 4:4. I don't do well being told and exhorted to rejoice (I like giving orders and not obeying them!). But I think I really need to hear what Paul has to say to us (read ME).

Friday, January 09, 2015

            I confess to getting stuck on the terrible events going on in Paris with the terrorists killing journalists and then the hostages in the final confrontation with the police. And even now people are speculating about whether these events are over or not. But that’s what news attempts to do, to let us know what’s going on, whether that is about sports, the economy, politics or weather. We have a hunger to know what’s happening in our world.
            On Friday morning I spent over an hour with Pastor Sameh from Kasr el Dobara at the home of Maggie and Amir Mikhail. I felt like I was in the center of the newsroom for the spiritual life of Egypt. I pumped him with questions and he told me thrilling news of what’s going on in the church in Egypt! But even more than that, his account told me what Jesus is doing in the world today. I have invited Pastor Sameh to preach at MCC on Sunday and I can’t wait to hear more good news!
There is a lot of darkness out there to be sure. The news media feeds on our fears and a lot of bad news like the killings in Paris. But that’s not the whole story. There is more light than darkness. God is on the move in some big and exciting ways. And that’s also the theme for this season in the church year: Epiphany. Epiphany is all about the light that  shines in the darkness and will not be overcome.

So be sure to come to church on Sunday to hear “what’s really going on!”

Friday, January 02, 2015

Epiphany Season begins

         Epiphany is one of my favorite seasons in the church year. It is the period of time between January 6th and Ash Wednesday (February 18). I like it because its about the growth and spread of the Gospel from the arrival of the Wise Men to the maturation of Jesus and the calling of his disciples into ministry with him.
This Sunday we will begin a new series of sermons that will go through the season of Epiphany examining the book of Philippians along with the Gospel readings on the life of Jesus.
Why are we beginning this series? It seems like a natural outgrowth to our emphasis in 2014 on “Welcome one another just as Christ welcomed you to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) We have been sincerely working on being a church that intentionally practices welcome to the new and to the old, to the stranger and to the friend. The book of Philippians is a great picture of what we are welcoming each other into: the church. So each Sunday will be an exploration into what kind of life it is that we are called to live together.

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