Archive for May, 2012

Text: Acts 2:1-21

Thoughts: I love this passage from the Pentecost. How can you not?  It’s the birthday of the church.  In preparing a sermon from this passage, I felt I needed to relay the story and what is going on.  I opted to teach through the text and to work slowly through the 21 verses.  I opted this week for The Message.  I love the use of the word “thunderstruck” in the text!  Pentecost comes at an important time.  The followers of Jesus are feeling their way through life without Jesus physically present. Pentecost turns the Holy Spirit loose!

Images: I was listening to some music in the car this week and came across Jason Gray’s song, “The Sound of our Breathing.”  It’s a strong image of our breath being tied to the name of God.  The Spirit of God is God’s breath, the wind that blows through Pentecost.  I also tried to think of a visual to demonstrate what it is like when the church is fully inflated and then a way to make the contrast of what it’s like when we waste our breath.  I decided on a beach ball.  See the picture!

The audio for the sermon this week might be a little off.  I will try to clean up the file when I return back home from some time off.

Click here for audio of May 27: We’ve Got the Power

Sources: The book, “The Names of God.”  Jason Gray’s “The Sound of our Breathing” and the notes on the writing of the song.  Numerous reflections on the name of God.


The “Core” is not a movie that’s going to make my list of best movies ever.  It’s a decent, yet flawed, action movie.

However, it was on in the background a few nights ago and I found myself stuck on some images from that movie.

The movie, if you’ve never had the chance to watch it, is about the attempts to respond to a global disaster.  Due to some manmade experiments, the earth’s core dies and disasters begin to ensue.  The answer?  Build an improbable vehicle that can tunnel all the way to the Earth’s core.  Then, when you get there, set off a nuclear blast (it’s always a nuclear blast!) and restart it.

The problem?  The greatest scientific minds of the time miscalculated the size requirements for the blast needed to relaunch this dead core. The one large blast that they have prepared is not enough to reset the system.  The crew makes it to the core and it seems they don’t have the tools to finish the job.

I started to think about that in terms of life and organizations. How many times have I thought that if I could just fix one thing, redo this one issue, or, in church, start this one new program that the system is going to correct itself and start to move forward?  We can pour everything into one megablast and it still fails to move the system forward with sustained motion.

The improbable crew on the improbable ship on the improbable mission can’t turn around and head back to get more explosives.  This is it!  There’s no cavalry riding over the hill. Is this how things end?

Then, one of the brilliant minds gets an idea.  What if we don’t put everything into a single blast that will ultimately fail?  What if, instead, we create a series of smaller, well-timed blasts?  Each blast creates energy and momentum that is picked up and pushed forward by the next blast.  Instead of putting everything into one effort doomed to fail, they place their hope in a series of events that have the energy and the momentum to bring hope.

Sometimes the word that I hear is “excellence.”  And it’s a good thing to give your best at everything you do.  But, what if we become so focused on “excellence,” and we pour so much energy into being as good as we can be and planning for all of the contingencies, that our major event, program, etc., makes an impact, but ultimately fizzles.  What if we neglect the followup and the next step.

What if a system needs and requires regular blasts that take advantage of the momentum and keep the system moving forward?

I love the model that I see at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.  The events on the church calendar have an intentional design to push things forward.  Christmas Eve services draw many who have not experienced church and those those services point to a series of sermons and events at the church that begin in January. It seems that many of these January series are designed to deal with an issue that most everyone thinks about — relationships.  Then that series of events leads to the next season and to the next.  Each builds and pushes the system forward.

I love track and field and I love to watch relays.  When a relay is well executed, both runners are in motion and there is a seamless exchange of the baton.  It is an event in which the outcome hinges upon the success of the runners to built momentum, to execute and to stay in motion.   When runners have to stop, when the hand off is botched, the momentum disappears.

In many ways, I look at General Conference as an attempt to drop a megablast and restart a system.  The Call to Action and Plan B were both defused before they even had the chance fire.  Plan UMC was rendered a non-event by judicial review.  And there was no system reset and relaunch and many seem disheartened at what has happened.

But what if there is really a different way to restart the system?

Maybe just maybe, the relaunch of the system begins with local congregations rebuilding momentum, thinking intentionally, using a series of small blasts (events — not actual explosions… but I guess that would make the news!) to start the system moving again.  And what if more and more churches did that and it started to change districts and districts that were moving impacted conferences and conferences that were moving impacted the entirety of the system.

Jesus’ ministry seems to be patterned this way.  Jesus’ ministry does not involve a single huge announcement that follows shortly after his baptism.  Instead, the movement is built by encounter after encounter after encounter that eventually all lead to the moment that gives life to the entirety of the system.  Resurrection changes everything.

And maybe it’s interesting that following resurrection, the command of Jesus was to go and tell others, to make disciples, to baptize all over the world.  It’s a series of mini-resurrections that are taking place all over the world.

Which really makes me think of something from the Core.  The system could never be corrected from the earth’s surface.  The crew had to actually go into the mess and the muck and go straight to the center of the problem.  As the movie ends and the healing of the earth begins, it is an event that really flows from the bottom up.

It’s time to relaunch the core.

Notes: I find this passage to fall in an interesting place in the book of Acts.   It comes after Jesus ascends and makes the promise of the coming baptism of the Holy Spirit.  And it fall before the events of Pentecost.  In Feasting with the Word, the author for this section says that the disciples seek a structural solution to a spiritual issue.  So, in dealing with this passage this week, the word that kept coming to mind was transition.

I ran across a quote from former baseball player Willie Stargell that said, “All of life is a transition.”

The disciples are living in transition — moving from Jesus in their presence and looking to the day he returns.  How do we handle life in the transition?  They handle their unfinished business; they look for others to share in the journey; and they take a chance to move forward.

May 20: Sermon audio for WHAT NOW?


>> Link to the sermon:  Click Here for May 13 Radical Hospitality


This was a tough sermon to deal with because it really takes in action that is happening over 48 verses in Acts 10.  I felt strongly that I had to share the story of Cornelius because it is essential to the statements that appear in Acts 10:44-48.  I was struggling with a place to begin and my thoughts kept going back to Starbucks, a place I think is one of the most hospitable that I encounter.  That led me to their website and to the mission statements.  I also knew that Bishop Schnase talked about radical hospitality in his book, “Five Practices,” and I felt like it would help to add something to the message.

Text:  Acts 10:44-48

44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on everyone who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 They heard them speaking in other languages and praising God. Peter asked, 47 “These people have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. Surely no one can stop them from being baptized with water, can they?” 48 He directed that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited Peter to stay for several days.

>> Link to the sermon:  Click Here for May 13 Radical Hospitality

Notes:  Thanks to some technical issues, I was not able to post sermons for a few weeks.  I will post two older ones later this week.  Now, let’s concentrate on this week!  I love a good story and I love to hear one and to tell one.  There’s a great story flowing behind this passage from Acts 8:26-40.  I started to explore Philip’s life as a disciple and I noticed how often he was willing to “go.”  He goes and tells Nathaniel about meeting Jesus. Philip goes to Samaria and starts a church.  And then Philip gets another message to go “Going” is already a part of Philip’s nature.

It’s a strange passage and a strange encounter on a dirty, dusty road between Jerusalem and Gaza.  Philip asks the man he meets if he understands the scroll of Isaiah from which he’s reading.  And the man’s reply is classic: How will I understand without someone to explain it to me?

The mission of the church is to share in the journey with others, to start where we all are and to help us move closer to the image of Christ.

Click here for May 6: ALONGSIDE