Friday, March 27, 2015

A Servant

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was John 12:20-26:

Today we conclude our series looking at the spiritual disciplines by looking at the discipline of service.  I’ve opened up the other sermons in this series with a joke, but I’m not doing that today not because I think this topic is more serious, but instead for the simple reality that I couldn’t find a good joke to use, as all the jokes I could find had to do with worship services, but that’s not the service we’re talking about here.  The service we are talking about is about reaching out to others, and yet it’s about so much more than that as well.  As part of today’s service we are going to be receiving new members into the church, and that involves vowing to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.  None of those things are independent of each other, and all of them go back of course to the earliest days of Methodism.
Methodism began at Oxford University when Charles Wesley, who was a student there, asked his brother John, who was an Anglican priest and also an Oxford Don, which is a fancy English word for professor, to come and help he and his friends deepen their faith lives and spiritual practices.  And so together they formed what came to be known as the holiness club, and they gathered together several times a day to pray and read scripture, and they fasted twice a day, and they asked each other how it was with their soul to have mutual accountability for their lives and what they were doing.  But one of the members, William Morgan, said this wasn’t enough, and persuaded John and Charles to visit one of the prisons in London, which they did, and continued to do so, and so a faith lived out became one of the key characteristics of Methodism.  Indeed, John Wesley was always much more concerned about orthopraxy, that is right action, over that of orthodoxy, right belief, a tradition which carries on today, with some of the most famous organizations helping people in need, like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, originating in the Methodist church.

Monday, March 16, 2015

We Had To Celebrate

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Luke 15:11-32:

On the day that Pope John Paul II died, he was greeted at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter, and is told that he has complete access to heaven and can go anywhere anytime that he likes, but first that God would like to meet him.  John Paul said he would love to do that, but wanted to know if heaven had a library.  Peter said, “Well of course,” and John Paul said “well there is something that I have been puzzling over for a long time and could never find a satisfactory answer in the Vatican’s archives, and so I wonder, before I go a meet God, could I go to the library first?” “Of course,” St. Peter replies, and so they head off to the library.  The Pope spends two years in solitary research, never coming out, never interacting with anyone else, and then one day, people hear a cry of anguish coming from one of the study tables.  When people rush over they find the Pope there, with a large book in front of him pointing to one line and crying out “there’s an r! There’s an r!  Look, there’s an r.  It says is celebrate not celibate!”

Today we continue in our series on the spiritual disciplines by looking at the discipline of celebration.  The two words, discipline and celebration, don’t really seem like they go together, after all that appears why some people aren’t having a lot of fun, or celebrating much, because they are being disciplined.  But celebration is a discipline because it is something we have to decision about; we have to choose to be joyful and to choose to celebrate.  In Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, he has celebration as the last item that he talks about because he says that all of the other disciplines put us in such relationship with God that they lead us directly to the practice of celebration, of making a joyful noise to the Lord as Psalm 98 and 100 both say.  And so as I was putting together this series, I originally had celebration as the last topic, which would then lead us into the celebration at the beginning of the service for Palm Sunday.  But today, the fourth Sunday of Lent, has some significance in the tradition and history of the church.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Whatever You Ask For In Prayer

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Mark 11:22-25:

A Pastor had a kitten that climbed up a tree in his backyard and was afraid to come down. The Pastor coaxed, offered warm milk, etc.  nothing worked---the kitty wouldn't come down. The tree was not sturdy enough to climb, so the Pastor decided that if he tied a rope to his car and drove away so that the tree bent down, he could reach up and get the kitten. That's what he did, all the while checking the progress of his car. He then figured if he went just a bit further, the tree would be bent sufficiently for him to reach the kitten. But, as he moved the car forward, the rope broke. The tree went "boing!!!" and the kitten instantly sailed through the air---out of sight. The Pastor felt terrible. He walked all over the neighborhood asking people if they'd seen a little kitten. No. Nobody had seen a stray kitten. So he prayed, "Lord, I just commit this kitten to your keeping," then went about his business.  Later that day he was at the grocery store and met one of his church members. He happened to look in her shopping cart and was amazed to see cat food. This woman was a cat hater and everyone knew it so he asked her, "Why are you buying cat food when you hate cats so much??" She replied, "You won't believe this," and told him how her little girl had been begging her for a cat, but she kept refusing. Then, a few days earlier, the child had begged again, so she finally told her little girl, "Well, if God gives you a cat, I'll let you keep it." She told the Pastor, "I watched my child go out in the yard, get on her knees, and ask for a cat. And really, Pastor, you won't believe this, but I saw it with my own eyes. A kitten suddenly came flying out of the blue sky, with its paws outspread....and landed right in front of her!!!"  Never underestimate the Power of God and His unique sense of humor.

Today in our series on the spiritual disciplines, we look at prayer.  Although prayer is a spiritual discipline in and of itself, it also plays a role in nearly all of the other disciplines as well.  When we looked at fasting two weeks ago, I said that while you could pray without fasting, that you cannot fast without including prayer.  It’s integral to that process, at least to be fasting for spiritual reasons.  In confession, which we covered last week, it too involves prayer.  It can be part of a prayer, which is certainly what we do when we say the Lord’s Prayer, but even if we are making a confession that is not part of a prayer, that confession should be bathed in prayer, both before and after the prayer is made.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Yes, Lord, I Have Sinned, But I Have Several Excellent Excuses

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Psalm 32 and 1 John 1:5-2:2:

Years ago, the chaplain of the football team at Notre Dame was a beloved old Irish priest.  At confession one day, a football player told the priest that he had acted in an unsportsmanlike manner at a recent football game.

"I lost my temper and said some bad words to one of my opponents."

"Ahhh, that's a terrible thing for a Notre Dame lad to be doin'," the priest said.  He took a piece of chalk and drew a mark across the sleeve of his coat.

"That's not all, Father.  I got mad and punched one of my opponents."

"Saints preserve us!" the priest said, making another chalk mark.

"There's more.  As I got out of a pileup, I kicked two of the other team's players in the in a sensitive area."

"Oh, goodness me!" the priest wailed, making two more chalk marks on his sleeve. "Who in the world were we playin' when you did these awful things?"

"Southern Methodist."

"Ah, well," said the priest, wiping his sleeve, "boys will be boys."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

When You Fast...

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The texts were Isaiah 58:1-9a and Mark 1:9-15:

Today we begin a new sermon series which will take us through the season of Lent in which we are going to be looking at spiritual disciplines.  We are only going to be looking at five of all of the spiritual disciplines, but all of these practices’ purposes are to help us strengthen our faith and to deepen our relationship with God.  But, a caution to always keep in mind is that many of them, or maybe even all of them, can be practiced without putting God first, of merely being an outward sign without signifying any inward change, which is why God is chastising the Israelites in the passage we just heard from Isaiah.  One of idea to keep in mind is about the word discipline.  Most of us don’t really like the word discipline, even if it has the word spiritual in front of it, or maybe especially if it has the word spiritual in front of it.  When we hear the word discipline what do we normally think of? (punishment…)   While that is certainly part of the meaning of the word, there is more to it than that.  There is an area of knowledge, especially in higher education, so I could say that theology is one of the oldest disciplines and then there is activities or exercises done, usually following a set of rules, that allow us to increase our skill in something, which is more the discipline we are thinking of here.  That’s what athletes do when they begin practicing.

If you want to become a world class athlete, you can’t just practice your craft for 20 minutes every other day or so.  It has to be something which you do for long periods of time every day, which means you have to choose what other things you are going to eliminate from your life and you take on the discipline in your life of doing what is necessary in order to reach your goal or to attain a certain level of mastery in what you are doing.  So what the spiritual disciplines do is very similar.  They are a set of practices to help us achieve our goal, and hopefully we have such a goal, of deepening our faith, of becoming better in what we do and what we know about our faith, and most importantly of coming into better communion with God.  And so today we begin with our first spiritual discipline and it is the one that most people think of for Lent and that is fasting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

We Are Mortal

Here is my sermon for Ash Wednesday:

They say that 19 year olds males make the best soldiers and the worst drivers for exactly the same reason.  They think they are invincible, that they are immortal, and so they do things that most of us who are older wouldn’t do because we think it’s stupid, although some of us might be willing to admit that we were prone to do exactly the same thing when we were 19.  But we don’t do it now because as we get older two things happened.  The first is that we got smarter and the second is that we became forced more and more to recognize the basic reality of death and realized that doing stupid things can put our life at risk.  And yet, even knowing that we mortal, for most of us death is still not something we necessarily focus on.  Sure there are times, like in middle age when it occurs to us that we are closer to 60 then we are to twenty, and so some people go out and get younger spouses, or they buy a sports car in order to feel younger, unless, like me, your wife won’t let you buy that car.  And I know that some of you are passed even 60, but bear with me.  Death is a present reality, something we know that’s there, but not necessarily something that changes what we do, our behavior, our actions, our thoughts, unless something happens that cause us to come face to face with our death.

Last year Bishop Bledsoe, who is the bishop for New Mexico, faced his own mortality after finding out that most of the arteries in his heart were clogged and his cardiologist said that he was lucky to be alive, and so he reports that he began to look at life different, to see each and every day as a gift, not to take anything for granted and to begin doing some of the things that he had always wanted to do.  In that, Bishop Bledsoe is not alone, because that is the response of many if not most people in a similar circumstance.  But I find that response a little strange, especially for us as Christians, because we should be facing or own mortality at the very least once a year, and that time is today.

Transfiguration: Light in the Darkness

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 and Mark 9:2-9:

One of the conversations that are routinely held amongst clergy, although not really shared amongst those outside, is the difficulty we encounter in talking about the same stories over and over again, especially for those stories that occur every year like Christmas and Easter, and we wonder how we are going to find something new to say about them.  And then there are others, like the story of the transfiguration, a story which we encounter every year on the last Sunday before the season of Lent begins, first with the party we know as Mardi Gras and then Ash Wednesday, that cause us the same anxiety, although as we can tell we don’t get the same turn out for this story as we do at Easter and Christmas, but that doesn’t make it easier to come up with something new to say.  And I know your hearts are breaking for me, complaining about the preparation I have to do when I only work one day a week.

But in addition to today’s story, today is also the one year anniversary of the death of my 9-year-old nephew Wyatt.  In some ways it seems like so much longer than a year and in some ways it seems so much shorter than a year.  Some of you remember that time, and we thank you for your help getting us through it, and for those who weren’t here yet, Wyatt went into the emergency room with a severe headache and, according to his doctors, in a perfect storm of problems, died a week later when a blood clot in his brain caused swelling in his brain that couldn’t be controlled, taking his life.  Yet, there is a link to that tragedy and the story of Jesus’ transfiguration as well as Paul’s statement which today comes from his second letter to the Corinthians.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Evangelism: Preach It

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The texts were Mark 1:29-39  and 1 Corinthians 9:16-23:

Normally when we think of someone spreading the gospel message, of doing the dreaded word evangelism, there are several images that pop into our heads, or at least pop into my head.  The first is of someone, nearly always a stranger, who walks up to us carrying their Bible and saying something like, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.”  And the second is either of Jehovah’s witnesses or Mormon’s coming to know on your door.  Recently, Linda and I were in our front yard and two Mormon’s came by, and I told them that I was a minister, and so they said something along the lines that I was clearly devoted to my faith and they just like to talk theology with people, to which I responded, “No, you really don’t.”  These are people that most of us don’t want to have to talk to or with which we want to deal.  We want them to go their way and leave us alone, and we definitely don’t want to be the people that others think of doing the same thing.
Even though on its face it the passage we just heard doesn’t seem like it is related to the passage from last week in which Paul was talking about the incredibly fascinating subject of meat that was sacrificed to idols and the idea of community, but it is a continuation of that idea, because of what Paul says that he is willing to do in order not only to be a part of a community of believers, but also what he believes that it means to be a follower of Christ.  One of the crucial things that is happening in this passage, and was also the case in the passage we heard last week, which are the verses before these, is that while Paul is certainly telling the Corinthians what they should do, it is not as orders, but instead by instruction because it is what Paul himself is either doing or would be willing to do or not do.  Because what we heard last week was that if eat meat sacrificed to idols would cause someone else to fall, then Paul himself would not eat that meat.  And then today he says that in order to reach others, that he is willing to become like a Jew for the Jews, like one outside the law for those outside the law, which would be gentiles, and to become like the weak, which is how he describes those who don’t eat meat because it has been sacrificed to idols, so that he might win the weak.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Naming It

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The passages were 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and Mark 1:21-28:

Several weeks ago as I was looking at the upcoming scripture readings, I was a little surprised to see today’s gospel passage; because I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t remember this story.  I certainly remember different times in which Jesus cast a demon outside of someone, although we shouldn’t think of this like the exorcist, this is not Linda Blair with her head spinning around, but I didn’t remember Jesus ever casting out a demon in a synagogue.  There is a duplicate of this story in the gospel of Luke, but as far as I can tell in my research this is the only time in the gospels that something like this happens within the walls of the synagogue, or for our purposes within the walls of the church.  And, I think there is something significant about this because it means that there is evil even inside the church, or at the very least there are disruptions and behaviors inappropriate enough that Jesus feels that he needs to call them out, and that is not something we are really good at addressing or talking about.  Some of it is because we are not good at naming evil, or at least naming it appropriately.

We could probably all agree that Hitler and Stalin were evil, but then that attribute gets applied to others.  It wouldn’t take much to find people comparing President Obama to Hitler or Speaker of the House John Boehner to Stalin, well maybe not so much for Speaker Boehner.  But we’ve sort of come to believe that if we disagree with someone that first of all that must make them wrong, and second it must make them evil.  How did we get to that point?  I use those two names because over the past two weeks I have been called both of those things by someone who is disgruntled with me, although since I started out as Hitler and then became Staling I’m not sure if I’m moving up or down the scale of evilness.  But how do we deal with things like this is the church?  How do we deal with people who disagree with us? How do we deal with things with which we disagree in the church?  Can we name them? Can we call out wolves in sheep’s clothing?  And how do we make such decisions and distinctions? Can we make those distinctions?  And if we do, how do we know that we are right and not just overreacting?  And do we respond to with hatred and loathing or do we respond to it with love and compassion?  What role do individual desires, beliefs and opinions have in and against those of the community?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gategate

Recently our dog got out because someone left the side gate at the house open.  We, of course, hired an independent counsel to do a full investigation to make sure we found out exactly who did it so proper blame could be assigned and we could all feel better about ourselves, even if we did nothing to make sure it didn't happen again.  And, since it seems we had to, we added "gate" to the end of the name to make sure everyone understood the seriousness of the situation.

Obviously this is a little satirical, although not the part about the dog getting out, but can we stop making everything the equivalent of Watergate, especially adding "gate" to everything?  And how did that become the standard, or the name, by which everything was set?  Why don't we name things after abscam, or even better the Tea Pot Dome Scandal?

I understand that "deflategate" sounds better than "deflatescam" or "deflatedome" but it's a little tiresome.  It's time for the news media to begin to be a little more creative or at least more intelligent about things.  I also can't help but think that a lot of this has more to do with who did it then what was done, especially since most of the media have disdain for Bill Belichick because he has, seemingly, such disdain for them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

God's Call: Are You Serious?

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The texts were Mark 1:14-20 and Jonah 3:1-5, 10:

I like Jonah.  I like Jonah a lot, because Jonah is a lot like me, and I suspect that Jonah is a lot like some of you as well.  We really have two different call stories in the passages we heard this morning.  The first is the call story of the first disciples.  Jesus has heard that John the Baptist has just been arrested, which is the event which kicks off his ministry, and so he goes to Galilee and proclaims first a call for repentance, and then the reason, because the kingdom of God has come near.  And immediately, those are Mark’s words, a word he uses a lot in his gospel, Jesus goes to the Sea of Galilee and calls Peter and James and John and Simon to come and follow him, and they get up and go.  They leave their nets and their boats and their family behind, and they follow Jesus, immediately.  And then there is Jonah.

The passage we heard from Jonah is actually already in the middle of the story, that is why it says that the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.  Now many of us are at least somewhat familiar with the story of Jonah, if for nothing else then being Jonah and the whale, although there is actually no whale in the story.  It’s a whale of a story, but there is no whale in the story.  But I want to remind us all of the Jonah story so that we can know what’s going on in the passage we heard and also to then compare and contrast it against the call story found in Mark.

Jonah is a prophet, and his story is found in the Hebrew Scriptures amongst the prophets, but the book is very different than other prophetic writings, because it isn’t a series of prophetic statements.  Instead it is a narrative about Jonah and his dealings with God, much more like what we are used to seeing in the Genesis stories, or in some of the later histories, like the stories found in kings or Samuel.  But Jonah is living in Israel when God calls him and tells him to go “at once” to Nineveh and cry out against their wickedness.  Now the city of Nineveh is said to be a great city, and a very large city, that it would take 3 days to walk across, which means that it’s about 60 miles in diameter.  Nineveh is also not a Jewish city as it’s located in modern day Iraq and is known as the city of Mosul.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Assumptions

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was John 1:43-51:

Today’s message is going to be very different from how I normally preach, because it’s going to be focused on four stories, and it’s also a little more personal than I normally like to be because these are also my stories.  But this message has been sort of bouncing around my mind for a while now, and I thought today was an appropriate time to say it.

The first two stories are about perceptions, or we should probably say assumptions.  When I was attending Harvard, I had to go to the cashier’s office one day and there was a long line waiting to talk with someone, and in front of me there was a very large man.  He was probably 6’4” and at least 250.  His neck was bigger than my thighs.  He was huge.  Now Harvard does not offer any athletic scholarships, nor do any of the other Ivy Leagues, although they still do quite well, including being undefeated in football this year and beating UNM in the NCAA tournament two years ago.  But that’s just bragging, but anyways this guy was huge and I instantly thought, I wonder if Harvard lowers its academic requirements in order to recruit and bring in some athletes to play for the school?  Does anyone want to make a guess as to the race of this particular student?  He was African-American.  The moment I asked myself the question I realized the outright bigotry that went into it, the assumptions that I had made, not only about him but about others like him.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bad Sportsmanship in "Urban" Areas

Congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes for winning the national championship last night.  They totally dominated the game, and you have to to overcome 4 turnovers.  The over/under on Ezekiel Elliott was 165 1/2 yards rushing.  I said before the game that if he hit the over that Oregon would lose, and of course he went way over.

On the same note, that was not the Oregon team I saw play most of the season.  How much of that difference was Ohio State and how much was them simply having lost too many players to injury and suspension?  Totally unknown, but the better team on the field last night won the game.  (Although it certainly looked to me like Oregon hadn't done any tackling since the Rose Bowl, because they forgot how to even attempt to do it properly, and that was not them at all.)

Urban Meyer has certainly proven that he is one of the best coaches in college football right now.  If he is not the best, he is certainly right there in the conversation.  Going into the game many commentators said they were picking Ohio State simply because of Urban, not because they thought they were the better team, but that because he would do what was necessary to win.  I think that was apparent, and he certainly earned a lot of respect from me, until the end.

Late in the game, Oregon went for it on 4th down, because they had to, and didn't complete it, giving the ball to Ohio State around the 14 yard line with what I think was a little more than 3 minutes to go. I really wondered what they were going to do, and the play calls sent in seemed to indicate that Urban was simply going to run down the clock, get a first down, and then sit in a victory formation. Because either Oregon's defense got incredibly stout all of the sudden, or Ohio State wasn't trying very hard to score.  They then got their first down, and all they had to do was kneel down a couple of times and the game was theirs.

But that is not what they did.  Instead they kept running the ball, scoring with only a few seconds left on the clock.  I won't write what I actually said, but it was bush-league and totally bad sportsmanship. The only thing scoring there did was to drive up the margin of victory, which didn't matter.  They were already up by 15.  If this were the NFL, you might see them do it because the NFL is about money and entertainment, so what they can do different things.  But let's be honest and say that they don't even do that in the NFL (unless the coach hates the other coach. I'm looking at you Bill Belichick).

But this isn't the NFL, and college football is supposed to be teaching these athletes something, it's that whole student/athlete thing, and one of those things should be sportsmanship. Urban Meyer had that opportunity last night to send that message and he failed the test.  He, in fact, failed miserably.

In 2010, Wisconsin was playing a game in which they were leading 20-19 and driving the ball as time was expiring.  They got inside the 10 yard line and then assumed the victory formation and they won the game. They could have scored and increased the margin of victory, but they didn't, and they still won. That is good sportsmanship.  What Urban Meyer did was not, and I have yet to hear a single commentator call him out for it which is also a travesty.

I congratulate the team for their victory, but I have lost all respect for Urban Meyer because he is not coaching or teaching his players, and those who play who watch, the proper respect for the game and his opponents.  He also needs to be careful because, as Gregg Easterbrook says, when you taunt the football gods, bad things tend to happen.

Update: Shout-out to Tony Kornhesier who is the only commentator I have heard who called out Urban Meyer for this, and Michael Wilbon, agreeing with him, said that if he did that in the NFL "he would get one of his players killed."

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Books Of 2014

These are the books I read in 2014.
  1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  2. A Redbird Christmas by Fanny Flagg
  3. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
  4. Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond
  5. Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald B. Kraybill et al.
  6. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
  7. Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom S. Rainer
  8. Basilica: The Splendor and Scandal of Building St. Peter's by R.A. Scotti
  9. Becoming Mr. October by Reggie Jackson and Kevin Baker
  10. Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of Forgiveness Instinct by Michael McCullough
  11. Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era by Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts
  12. Boys Will Put You on a Pedestal (So They can Look Up Your Skirt) by Philip Van Munching
  13. Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1938 Olympics by Daniel James Brown
  14. Branch Rickey: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman by Lee Lowenfish
  15. Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing by Norm Stamper
  16. Breakpoint by Richard Clarke
  17. By Sorrow's River by Larry McMurtry
  18. Censuring Queen Victoria: A Story of Royal Correspondence and the Creation of the Icon by Yvonne Young
  19. Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean
  20. Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most by Marcus Borg
  21. Cubed: A History of the Office by Nikil Saval
  22. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
  23. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  24. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
  25. Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, the Torments of Low Thread Count, the Never-ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil and other First World Problems by David Rakoff
  26. Dying to Cross: The Worst Immigrant Tragedy in American History of Jorge Ramos
  27. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
  28. Experiencing Forgiveness by Charles Stanley
  29. Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase
  30. Five Practices of Fruitful Living by Robert Schnase
  31. Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York's Underground Economy by Sudhir Venkatesh
  32. Folly and Glory by Larry McMurtry
  33. Forgive for Good by Dr. Fred Luskin
  34. Forgive for Love by Dr. Fred Luskin
  35. Forgiveness is a Choice by Robert D. Enirght
  36. Forgiveness: Finding Peace through Letting Go by Adam Hamilton
  37. Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone
  38. Frank Lloyd Wright and His Manner of Thought by Jerome Klinkowitz
  39. Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
  40. Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler
  41. Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
  42. I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer
  43. I Don't Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster
  44. I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church by Paul Nixon
  45. I Refuse to Preach a Boring Sermon by Karyn L. Wiseman
  46. In One Person: A Novel by John Irving
  47. Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones
  48. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester
  49. Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street by Michael Lewis
  50. Lincoln Letter by William Martin
  51. Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
  52. Making Sense of the Bible: Recovering the Power of Scripture Today by Adam Hamilton
  53. Mickie and Willie, Mantle and Mays: The Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age by Allen Barra
  54. My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places by Mary Roach
  55. New Mexico Baseball : Miners, Outlaws, Indians, and Isotopes, 1880 to the Present by L. M. Sutter.
  56. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  57. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
  58. Partners in Prayer by John Maxwell
  59. Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend by Mitchell Zuckoff
  60. Relaunch: How to Stage an Organizational Comeback by Dr. Mark Rutland
  61. Revelation: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels
  62. Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World by Ronald J. Sider
  63. Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn
  64. Sin Killer by Larry McMurtry
  65. Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson
  66. Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
  67. Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning
  68. The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester
  69. The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel
  70. The Chalmers Race; Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoie and the Controversial 1910 Batting Title that Became a National Obsession by Rick Huhn
  71. The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
  72. The Deadliest Cast Member by Kelly Ryan Johns
  73. The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory Freeman
  74. The Gathering Wind: Hurricane Sandy, the Sailing Ship Bounty, and a Courageous Rescue at Sea by Gregory Freeman
  75. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
  76. The Inner Circle by T. Coraghessan Boyle
  77. The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick
  78. The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth about Junia by Rena Pederson
  79. The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester
  80. The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind
  81. The Planets by David Sobel
  82. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
  83. The Reappearing Act by Kate Fagan
  84. The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's so Good about the Good News by Peter Gomes
  85. The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Performance by David Epstein
  86. The Wandering Hill by Larry McMurtry
  87. The Way of Forgiveness: Letting Go, Easing Stress and Building Strength by D. Patrick Miller
  88. Tomorrow-land: The 1964-65 World's Fair and the Transformation of America by Joseph Tirella
  89. Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and other Phenomenon from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory by Stacy Horn
  90. Unconditional Forgiveness by Mary Hayes-Grieco
  91. Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2014 by Bob Sehlinger, Seth Kubersky and Len Testa
  92. Way of Forgiveness: Letting Go, Easing Stress and Building Strength by D. Patrick Miller
  93. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Blue Christmas: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Here is my sermon for our Blue Christmas service:

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer"
It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Except for many of us it’s not the most wonderful time of the year.  People may indeed be telling us to be of good cheer, but let’s be honest and say that we want to smack some of them upside the head, because we can’t.  and how could we be?  The season is not made for those who mourn, those in pain, those suffering loss, those who have no idea what the future will hold.  Everything around us is telling us that we should be joyful and cheerful about how wonderful the season is, how marvelous  the lights and the decorations are, and that if we would only try, if only we would make an effort, that by focusing on the other stuff we could forget everything else we are going through.  We should focus on having a merry Christmas and a happy new year, but how can we when merry and happy might not even be part of our vocabulary?  And let’s be honest that in this moment, it is not the most wonderful time of the year.