Archive for April, 2010

I made a mess of me…

Posted: April 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

No that headline isn’t a personal confession.

It’s just a song by Switchfoot and it’s on their last album.  And it’s been a big hit lately with the three-year-old crowd that sits to the right and behind me in the “rocket seat.”

Lately, she’s started making musical requests.  I pump my fist a little and say, “YES!” when she makes a request to hear those “Foo Fighters!” Sometimes she’ll ask for that “Our God is Greater” song (by Chris Tomlin on the Passion: Awakening CD) and then there’s “Mess of Me.”

“Play that Mess of Me song, Daddy! (Or, Dean, depending on whether she’s having one of those days when she likes to call me by my first name!)”

It’s a song with this chorus:

I’ve made a mess of me I wanna get back the rest of me
I’ve made a mess of me I wanna spend the rest of my life alive
I’ve made a mess of me I wanna reverse this tragedy
I’ve made a mess of me I wanna spend the rest of my life alive
The rest of my life alive!

She in her very-cute-girl sort-of-way will shorten that chorus down to just, “I’ve made a mess of me. I want my life back.”

And as I hear this, I, the pastor on the transformation journey, can’t help but find a great sermon “bottom line.”

I’m great at making messes. It comes naturally to me. I’ve had that tendency to do it my entire life.  Now I generally don’t make messes of other people’s stuff and things.  I generally make myself a mess.

I at times have found myself to be very quick and intuitive and if i acted right then when that intuitive impulse things would have been amazing.  But then the thinker part of me takes over and it has to think back through the steps and it has to ask all of the reasons why I should or shouldn’t do this.

And eventually, the thinker gets back to the same point that the intuitive part of me was making a lot sooner.

I make a mess of me.

But I’m glad that even in those times that I’m mind-locked on issues and things to do, in those times that my head just won’t engage on a sermon text, in all of those times when I coulda, shouda, woulda, I’m glad there’s something for me that’s far more redemptive than I’d ever be able to do on my own.

So, yeah, I do make a mess of me at times, and I do want to get my life “back” and I’m glad for those encounters with the Resurrected Jesus and the Holy Spirit that give me that ability.

And I’m thankful for three-year-old messengers who like to rewrite song lyrics.


A busy six months ahead

Posted: April 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

I realized today that it’s been awhile since I took the time to sit down and write something of significance here.  I’ve just had so much going through my head lately that I’ve needed time to process it.

At the beginning of the year, I made a personal commitment to preach nothing but the Lectionary for the next three years.  If you aren’t familiar with the Revised Common Lectionary, it’s a breakdown of passages that can be used for sermons.  Each week typically has four possible passages including an Old Testament lesson, a Psalm, a Gospel Lesson and something else from the New Testament (typically one of Paul’s letters).

And it’s been interesting to me to see how the passages of scripture speak to where I am and what I’m thinking about in the church.

Today’s passage was John 21:1-19, the narrative of Jesus’ third visit to the disciples following the resurrection.  Jesus finds them fishing — the disciples have returned to doing what they were doing before they even met Jesus.  However, they were given a new mission, to continue the work of Christ, in their encounters with the resurrected Jesus.  When we have those encounters with Christ, our lives just aren’t the same again.  We can’t go back to where we used to be and expect it to be exactly the way it was.

Something in this passage hit me about the church.  There’s this tendency in churches to do things safe, to try to do things the way the world has always done them.  Churches have to follow some of the rules of this world, but in many ways, the church, the community of faith, is not of this world.  Something spiritual is needed to grow something spiritual.

And I looked at the church where I serve.  It’s a group of people that I love and I feel honored to have spent the past two (well almost two) years with them. But I know that they are capable of something amazing and incredible.

So today, I set the groundwork for it.  Six months from today, Lupo will move.  This move won’t be in terms of new buildings or a new location, but it will be a move in terms of where our spiritual and faith thermometers are.  We’re going to reintroduce ourselves to the community we’re located in and to Greenwood as a whole.

We’re going to take a long hard look at ourselves and ask some tough questions. We’re going to have to makes some tough, uncomfortable, maybe even painful decisions.  But, God is in this.  I’ve never felt as strongly about something aside from my own call to ministry.

And I’m looking forward to seeing what God can do.

Today, at the close of the service, I asked those in attendance to commit to two things:

(1) Praying regularly for the church, it’s people and those we will reach; and

(2) To commit ourselves to the things that we pledge when we join the United Methodist Church — that we will support the church with our Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service and Witness.

Now, we’re on the clock.

“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). — John 20: 15-16

Sunday, I had the honor of delivering an Easter sermon. In fact, it was my second Easter sermon as a pastor in the United Methodist Church and I can understand why pastors who have been doing this for much longer than I have get stressed about it. Easter’s a big deal!

During Sunday’s sermon, I was focusing on the Lectionary passage from John 20:1-18 with the account of Mary Magdalene running to tell Peter and John that the body of Jesus had been taken. Even in the text, we are told that the disciples still didn’t get resurrection. After Peter and John look in the tomb (and we are told they believed), they do a strange thing. They go home…

And Mary is left outside the tomb, weeping for Jesus who she still thinks has been taken away. She looks in the tomb, sees the angels and tells them that she’s looking for her “Lord.” She turns around and Jesus is there, but she mistakes him for the gardener and tells him she is looking for her “Lord.”

In my sermon on Sunday, I had a line that said, Mary came face to face with resurrection even if she didn’t recognize it at first.

Then, Tuesday night, I was talking to the Lander Wesley Fellowship, the campus ministry I have the privilege of serving, and that phrase gave me a much different thought. Mary didn’t just come face to face with resurrection when she saw Jesus. She experiences it.

Jesus calls her by name and she recognizes who he is. She uses the term of familiarity. She calls him, “Rabboni!” (teacher). And in the account of Matthew, Mary falls to the ground and grabs his feet.

Mary experienced resurrection here. She was in a situation where there was seemingly no hope. She thought Jesus was dead. She saw him die on the cross. And to add to her dilemma, she believed that his body had been stolen from the tomb. Things were dark and desperate in Mary’s life.

But. But. But…

When Jesus speaks her name, there’s this moment at which everything changes. The darkness and the void of hope turn to light and a world that is filled with hope. Mary’s never going to be the same again.

And I am so glad when I think about it, that resurrection is our story too. During the Lander Wesley Fellowship, we talked about people and situations we had encountered where there seemed to be no hope, but something happened. Something unexpected and unexplainable and the situation changed dramatically.

Resurrection is unexplainable and awesome. It’s totally unpredictable!

Thank you God for resurrection!

And now what happens?

Posted: April 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

I decided to take a break from the writing for a few days as I worked my way through Holy Week. It’s a busy, busy week in the life of a pastor.

For me, this year’s Holy Week included going out to eat with my college ministry students, leading a worship service for Holy Thursday, going with the family to the church’s egg hunt on Saturday and leading a sunrise and a worship service on Sunday. In the middle of that, I found time to do some more reading from the Message translation (which helped to prepare sermons on the resurrection) and I had a lot of fun keeping my daughter while my wife was out of town on a business trip.

Everyone has so much going on at Easter. Kids are worried about spring breaks from school. Families are in the middle of egg hunts and get-togethers. There’s never a shortage of things to do during this holiday.

Yet, somewhere in that busyness, there’s a story that transforms the world forever.

At noon on Good Friday, Jesus was nailed to a cross and it was raised into place. At 3 pm on Good Friday, Jesus declared, “It is finished,” and died on the cross.

He was most definitely dead. Graveyard dead. His mother, Mary, knew it because she stood nearby and watched as it happened. His disciples knew it because they scattered. They were afraid someone was going to do the same thing to them. The Roman Soldiers knew it because they checked to make sure.

And from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, Jesus was dead and in a tomb. Dead.

And then on Sunday morning, when people start to come to the tomb, they find the stone is rolled away. The body is gone. Jesus is risen and he’s back at work.

Because Jesus is resurrected, so are we.

Happy Easter