Saturday, March 26, 2011


One of the things I remember most about seminary was the large focus on community.  It was wonderful having so many people with whom I could share meals, go to class, and worship.  Naturally, many friendships came out of such a community, and we would often do many more activities together (e.g. bowling, flag football, hanging out on P3, etc.).  That sense of community was so important as part of my formation.  As Jesus said it Matthew 18:20, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

This idea of being together as part of a community is a big deal.  This is why we come together as a worship community on Sunday.  This is why we have parish dinners.  This is why we go on mission trips as a team or teams.  When Jesus sent out his disciples, he did not send them out on their own.  He did not say, "Here is your mission.  Go out and do all this work by yourself."  Instead, they were sent out two by two.

Being a follower of Jesus is not about doing work on our own.  We are not called to be one person representations of the church.  We are called to be the Church, the body of Christ.  As part of the confirmation class I am leading, I asked the youth to give some examples of what they liked about our church.  Every single answer they gave had something to do with belonging to the church community.  They felt accepted.  They could sense that they were a part of something greater than themselves.  They knew that they were part of the Church, and not just St. Timothy's.

Today I invite you to take advantage of being a part of a community.  This could be your church community, a dinner group, a book club, the people in your neighborhood, or whatever community you are a part of.  Take advantage of this opportunity to be with other people and find in them an expression of what it means to be part of the Church.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ontological Epistemology

Have you ever been in a conversation where someone says a word you've never heard before as though everyone on the face of the planet knows exactly what it means?  I know I have.  That explains a good portion of the first theology course I took in seminary.  I have also been on the other end of this scenario, throwing out words like aumbry and thurible in casual conversations.  When confronted with these situations, I have found that there are three typical responses that occur.

One response is to complain about it.  The speaker is "clearly" using elitist language, using such words only to set his or her self above those that do not understand.  The problem with this response is that not all people who use such words are doing so with the intention of having others being unable to understand.  In fact, this would defeat the primary purpose of communication, which is conveying ideas to each other.  Asking the speaker to use more common words seems like a reasonable request.  We should realize, however, that the words that we do not understand are often a part of the speaker's world that they are common from the speaker's perspective.

A second response is to pretend to know what the speaker is talking about.  Sometimes we can figure out the meaning based on context and, while we won't know the exact meaning of the word, will be able to figure out the general message.  Unfortunately, we cannot always determine the meaning of the word, and the speaker's message, however good or important, is lost to us.

The third typical response is to take these situations as opportunities to expand our vocabulary.  We ask the speaker (or others around us who may also know) to define or explain a word that is new to us.  I cannot remember I heard this, but there is a quote that goes
A wise man was once asked, "How do you know so much about so much?"  The wise man responded, "By never being afraid to ask questions about anything to which I am ignorant."
Sometimes, the only way to know something is to ask the question.  I think that, as a society, we have somehow decided that asking certain questions makes us less intelligent.  The truth is quite the opposite.  Asking those questions is how we gain knowledge.  Admittedly, there are times when asking the question would not be appropriate.  If there are any church words or theological terms that you come across and don't understand (like aumbry, thurible, ontological or epistemology), ask about them.  Please remember that there are appropriate and inappropriate times to ask, though.  I would appreciate it if you did not shout out, "What does epistemology mean?" in the middle of one of my sermons.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Feeding the Hungry

The intention of this blog is for me to write some daily theological reflection.  Today, however, I came across this video and think it speaks for itself.  All I will add is a correlating Bible passage.
 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’-Matthew 25:31-46

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


As we come to the middle of the week, I find myself still reflecting on the sermon that was preached at church last Sunday. The theme that has caught my attention is the idea that we need to be willing to lose some of our cherished assumptions in order to allow God the create something new in us. This reminds me of a shirt I got at a youth conference 5-6 years ago.

The front of the shirt has just one word on it: LOSER. As I'm sure you can imagine, this leads to a lot of interesting conversations when I wear the shirt. Perhaps a sign of how much good there is left in the world is the large number of strangers who, upon seeing me wearing this shirt, will come up to me and try to "convince" me that I am not a loser. It is at that point that I let them know this is actually a biblical reference and show them the back of my shirt which reads:
Whoever finds his life will lose it.
And whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 10:39
Too often, we go about our lives ignoring whatever God has planned for us.  We make our own plans and tell God that they are more important.  We make elaborate and busy schedules, and what do we end up with?  A life that is somehow beyond our control.  A schedule that controls us instead of us controlling our schedule.  We find ourselves stressed and ridden with anxiety.  We find that whatever control we thought we had was more illusory than real.

What would we find if we gave over to God that need to control our lives from the beginning?  Perhaps our need for control would step in occasionally, and we would still have stress and anxiety.  Or, maybe we will find that God really does have a plan for us that is already worked out.  All we have to do is listen and do as we are called.  I still struggle with this, so I do not know the outcome.  What I do know is that, at worst, our lives will be the same as they are now.  At best, we will find that God has created something new in us that could only be there because we first allowed ourselves to lose.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Lately, I have been thinking a lot about call stories in the Bible.  Particularly, Jeremiah's call has been standing out.
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’
Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.’
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’
-Jeremiah 1:4-10
I used to think that this call story resonated with me so much because both Jeremiah and I were preparing to answer God's call at a young age.  The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that age is just an excuse.  The real fear is of being too inexperienced or not qualified enough.  There's nothing special about me.  What do I have to offer?  I get a sense that I'm not the only one to struggle with these thoughts.

Earlier this morning, I was talking with a friend from high school, and she said, "God doesn't call the anointed.  God anoints the called."  I have heard that saying many times before and have even said it a few times myself.  Today, however, this hit me in a whole new way.

Sometimes, when we find out exactly what it is to which God has called us, we realize that we are simply not prepared for the task.  God is calling us to these tasks, not because we are the best candidate, but so that God's glory may be made known in us.  How much more will God's glory be able to shine if the least likely of us are used to further God's purposes?

If you feel yourself hesitant to do what you feel God is calling you to in your life, do not say, "I can't.  I'm not the right person for the job."  Instead, go and do what God has called you to do, and do not be afraid, "for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Someone's You

Of all the things in this world, few have the power to affect my emotions the way that music does.  Some songs almost literally resonate within me, and I find that I cannot keep myself from moving along with the music.  I get caught up in the moment and, sometimes, lose sight of everything else around me.  For a brief period of time, it is as if the only things in existence are me and the song.  Of course, the most powerful of these moments for me are when that song helps me gain some perspective on my relationship with God.  As I was driving to my favorite lunch spot today, one of these songs came up on my iPod.

For a while now, my brother and I have "dabbled" at writing songs.  Back in August, he took that dabbling a step further when he released his first album, McArthur's Message.  The song that popped up on my iPod today was "Someone's You" from that cd.
Was a time when I
I was by myself
Was a time when I
Really thought I had no one

Was a time when these
These ivory keys
They were my strength
Now I know I have someone

That someone's You
There is so much more to this song, but I think this portion captures the essence best for a short quote.  The song is about moving from a time of feeling as though we are alone and have only ourselves to rely on into recognizing the presence of God in our life as a companion and source of strength.  The more I listen to this song, the more I hear echo's of the first 3 verses of Psalm 18:
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
   my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
   my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
   so I shall be saved from my enemies. 
I don't think that my brother was intentionally drawing on this Psalm when he wrote "Someone's You",  but I do think that both my brother and the psalmist were relaying the same message.  Sometimes, it may seem that everything in this life is going against you, but God will give you the strength you need.

If you find yourself struggling with anything, give it over to God.  Allow God's strength to be your own.