Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Last spring the staff made the decision to begin using gluten free bread during communion. We made this decision for several different reasons. However, for me, one of them was the most important. During the communion liturgy when we raise the bread and break it we say that we all become one body because we all partake of the one loaf. This is not the case when we offer two different breads because we are not all partaking of the one loaf. We decided that it was important symbolically and theologically that we change this so that we could all be using the same bread, that we could live into the words of the liturgy and we could welcome all.
Repeatedly throughout scripture Christ is criticized for welcoming and eating with people that others wanted nothing to do with, those who were outside the “norm.” Jesus welcomed and invited everyone to his table, and so we want to make sure that we are doing the same at Christ’s table for communion. Although the church may appear to be the host of communion, that is actually incorrect, because it is the Lord’s Supper. Christ is the host and the invitation comes from Him.
Now I know that there have been complaints about the taste as well as the consistency of the bread. To be honest I don’t think it tastes all that great myself. But, I do not feel that it is an imposition on me to have to occasionally take a small piece of this bread so that we can all partake of the same bread together. Instead, I feel it is something I undertake joyfully knowing that Christ is the host, and just like when we host in our homes, Christ wants everyone to feel welcomed and invited.
We have also heard rumors that there are some who are refusing to either receive the elements or who come forward but then do not eat the bread. This troubles us, but I pray that we will all remember that communion is not about us as individuals. Instead, it is a communion, which literally means a “sharing.” It is a communal exercise. It is about us as a body of Christ remembering Christ’s actions on our behalf, and also about us being re-membered, that is once again becoming one body because we all partake of the one loaf.
We continue to search for a recipe which will give us the best tasting bread we can have, which also remains gluten free. If you have a recipe you would like us to try, or if you would like to help us bake communion bread, please be in touch with either Pastor Joel or myself. And then let us, each and every one of us, as we gather together this Sunday to celebrate World Communion Sunday, break one loaf and become one body.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
As a pastor I know I should be keeping up with what people are interested in, but I find myself getting further and further out of touch what is popular on TV and I wonder if that is a good thing or a bad thing?
On a totally unrelated note, except that it deals with TV, on Saturday Nickelodeon called for a day to have kids get out and play. But they didn’t just call for it they actually put their money where their mouth is, because for 3 hours they stopped showing any shows or doing any advertisements on all of their channels and told everyone to get outside. So congratulations go out to Nickelodeon for putting aside this time and then making sure that kids cannot stay in and watch television.
Monday, September 20, 2010
After the doctors made the diagnosis and told Witten that he could not return to the game, Witten could be seen berating the training staff for twenty minutes. This included him getting right up in their faces and pointing his finger at them and reportedly saying that if the Cowboys lost that it would be their fault. The medical staff held their ground. I hope that Witten will come to understand why they did what they did, although he does say he will play this weekend.
However, I do have to wonder where the coaching staff was during this? Why did they not come over and tell Witten to shut-up and sit down that the doctors were doing the right thing? The impression it certainly left with me was that the coaching staff does not agree with the new policy and so are not going to defend their medical personnel when they follow the NFL rules. So a hearty thumbs up to the training staff for their actions, and a hearty thumbs down to the coaching staff for theirs.
Another hearty thumbs up go to the coaches for the Atlanta Falcons. They were blowing out the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and were again in the red zone when they decided to take a knee of four consecutive plays. They could have just as easily tried to score more points in order to make the game even more lopsided. That would certainly have been what most teams would do, but they didn’t. It’s not often you see good sportsmanship like this in the NFL and so when it happens it should be pointed out. Good job Falcons.
The same could also be said of the coaching staff for the Wisconsin Badgers. Up 20-19 over my Arizona State Sun Devils and with time running out, they too took a knee in the red zone rather than scoring more points. This was the #11 team in the nation squeaking out a victory against an unranked opponent. Certainly a 27-19 score would look better in the sports pages, but that is not what the coaches did. Instead they did the right thing and took the victory, which is really what mattered. So congratulations to the Wisconsin Badgers, you are playing the game correctly.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Players are trying to steal signs all the time. Why do you think catchers go through a range of signs when someone’s on second? Because they want to make sure they can’t signal to the batter what the pitch is going to be, and that’s absolutely fine. How often do we see outfielders try and make it look like they made a catch when in fact they trapped it or it had bounced first? That seems to me to be exactly the same as what Jeter did.
In last year’s World Series, Ryan Howard caught a ball at first that had bounced first. The umpire, however, was blocked out and thought it was a line-drive catch, and the Phillies ended up turning a double play that never should have happened. Ryan Howard knew he hadn’t caught it and yet he did not tell the ump he had made a mistake.
When you look in the history of baseball, the “cheating” in the early days was huge. When there were a lot fewer umps, players would sometimes run directly from first to third if the ump wasn’t looking. It’s part of the game. Now do I think there are limits? Of course I do.
Players and coaches trying to steal signs or seeing a pitcher tip off his pitches, that's fine. Putting someone in the bleachers with a radio and calling in the signs (like the Giants were doing in their famous playoff game against the Dodgers. Bobby Thompson could hit a home run because he knew what Ralph Branca was going to throw), that’s not acceptable.
Reggie Bush has decided to return his Heisman trophy rather than having it possibly taken away. This was a great PR move on Bush’s part, but I’m struck by two things: The first was the reaction of most of the commentators on ESPN. Most of them said that in their minds Bush will always be a Heisman trophy winner, because what he is accused of doing had nothing to do with his on-field performance. He wasn’t taking steroids or doing other things that would enhance his performance, instead it is alleged that his parents were receiving special benefits because of who he was. I really expected ESPN to tow the party line on this but they didn’t, and so I congratulate them.
The second is about the money. I’ve written about this in the past, and posed the simple question, how millions of dollars did USC, the NCAA and even the New York City Athletic Club/Heisman Foundation make off of Reggie Bush? Are they going to give any of that money back? Until they do, this is all just a charade.
And why is Bush being singled out? Certainly he is not the only player to have done this. Study after study shows that people stop committing crimes when they think they will be caught for what they did. Going after one high-profile case does absolutely nothing other than make the NCAA feel good about themselves. And as long as we’re talking about “justice” in this situation, how is it that we allow the NCAA to be the judge, jury and executioner? Where is due process?
AJ Green has been suspended for selling a game-used jersey, his jersey, on Ebay. He has “profited” off his status as an athlete. I just did a quick search for “game used jersey” and found several different sites that will sell you a game used NCAA jersey. So apparently what the NCAA is upset about is that he was trying to cut in on their business.
As Michael Wilbon points out in this excellent article, Georgia and the NCAA are making millions off of Green as well, including selling 17 different jerseys with his number on it. As one head football coach said to Wilbon about major athletic programs, "They're now fully engaged in robbing the poor to give to the rich."
While these students are receiving free tuition, etc., how many of them actually graduate? The number, especially for basketball and football, at most major schools is rather pathetic, and universities are held little accountable for this. It has been proposed, and I agree, that there should be a minimum floor level for athlete graduation rates, and if you don’t hit that target then you are not eligible for post-season play. If that were to happen, which it never will, then maybe we’d return the student to the student-athlete equation for many of these teams.
Although the NFL has made the issue of concussions more of a point, including issuing a poster of it (way to get tough NFL, although, as I said earlier, at least it’s a start), apparently this has not sunk through to many teams. On Sunday, the Eagles had two players, quarterback Kevin Kolb and linebacker Stewart Bradley, receive concussions. As if that is not bad enough, both were sent back into the game.
Now I know that there are some issues with diagnosing a concussion, but there is absolutely no way that Bradley’s concussion could have been “missed.” He was so “punch drunk” as they used to call it, that he couldn’t even make it off the field, but fell down on his stumbling way to the sideline, and yet he was sent back in just a few minutes later. (here is the video) The Eagles are now following the NFL’s new protocol on concussions in having independent doctors confirm what the team doctors are saying, but they are still trying to get both players back for this Sunday’s game.
NFL, if you would like to get tough on concussions and show that you are serious, here are my recommendations.
- Anytime a player gets sent back into a game who has a concussion, the team gets fined $10 million dollars with the money going to fund research into concussions and advertising about their dangers to college, high school and pop warner football players (and the fact that they are finding significant brain damage in football players as young as 19 should itself be enough to terrify us). This fine is per infraction, so the Eagles would have to be writing a check this week for $20 million.
- Every head coach who sends a player into a game who has a concussion will be suspended for 4 games, per infraction. That means that Andy Reid would be looking at sitting out for 8 games. I know the head coach is not making the diagnosis, or even the decision to send him back in in some cases, but he can be the one who sets the tone for what is going to take place on his team. If the same thing occurs when an interim coach is in place because a head coach is already suspended, then the interim is out 4 games. This goes on until they are no longer any coaches on the field.
- Every player who is diagnosed with a concussion must sit out of games and practices for a minimum of two weeks. This can be extended at any time by medical personnel who make all decisions.
- Any team caught violating this policy, or who try and exert pressure on medical personal to clear a player to play will be fined $100 million dollars and the GM and head coach will be suspended from all team activities for 1 calendar year.
Football players take on enormous risks in their lives, and most with live with constant pain and injuries for the rest of their lives. But there is a big difference between having knees that ache when you are fifty because of playing football and not knowing who you wife and children are at fifty because you suffered permanent brain damage when playing football.
There has even been recent work that many head injuries suffered by football players and boxers are masking themselves as ALS. Is it possible that Lou Gehrig did not have the disease named for him, but instead suffered brain damage from the concussions he sustained playing football and baseball? Maybe.
The NFL is looking into an incident in the Jets locker room in which Ines Sainz of Mexico's TV Azteca was greeted by catcalls as she waited to interview Mark Sanchez. She reports that she felt “uncomfortable” and rightfully so. Other players later came out and showed their inner Neanderthal which only got them more in trouble and increased the coverage on the story.
I have two thoughts. The first is that I hope the NFL does something about this. I thought we were way past the time when this was an issue. The second is that Sainz does have to look in the mirror a little bit. I have obviously never seen her reporting, but have seen pictures of her, and maybe they were cherry picked, but all of them showed her wearing clothes in which she was greatly showing off what God had given her in the way of physical attributes. This is not a “she was asking for it” thing, because she does not deserve to be treated this way no matter how she looks.
I have two daughters. I want them to be able to do whatever they want to do, and since they will grow up watching a lot of football and baseball so that they will know more than most of the men they will be around, that might include sports reporting. But I can’t help but notice that most TV female sports reporters are also very attractive. I’m sorry, but that means they are using sex in order to help them. This is not true of all reporters (and ESPN seems better about this then most). Maybe it’s the networks who are pushing them to wear what they do, but at some point one of them also needs to stand up and say I want people to respect me for what I know and the job I do and so I’m not going to wear something that takes the emphasis away from my reporting, and puts it on my physical attributes. For the sake of my daughters I want us to be better than we are.
And finally, the Romeo, Michigan high school football team won their game last week on the strength of their kicker, Ashley Flinn. After their regular kicker went down, the team coach, Jason Couch, who is Flinn’s uncle, asked her to come kick for them “as a joke.” As a joke? Are you kidding me?
The article on this then goes on to say that he shouldn’t have been surprised, because he had seen her kick before. Flinn’s brother was an all-state kicker and she used to go to kicking camps, with Couch, although she did spend most of her time shagging balls rather than kicking them. Are you kidding me?
Clearly Ashley was the after thought for the coach because she was just a girl, and you know girls cannot be any good at sports, especially sports that boys play. Again, I would like to think that we are way past this, but I know were not and these stories just highlight it even more. Good job Ashley, now I just hope you can kick some sense into those around you.
Do you know what NCAA 1-A team fielded the first female football player? It was my alma mater, the University of New Mexico. Katie Hnida was also a kicker.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
But, as Elizabeth notes, “those of us with children or who work in academia or in the Church School KNOW that the year really begins in September!!” Even as someone who loves cold weather and is enjoying the recent change in temperatures, I still don’t know where the summer went. Could it really be that summer is over and we are back into normal our routines? So it seems, and so this Sunday we begin our church school year once again.
Our kids are one year older and ready to learn new things, we have new teachers willing to give of their time and talents, we have new members of the Christian Education Commission ready to undertake a new program year, and the staff has another year of experience and new ideas to try and make our program even better than it already is. How are you participating?
Each time we baptize anyone, we as a congregation take a pledge to “surround (the newly baptized person) with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust of God and be found faithful in their service to others.” In addition, through the reception of new members we also “renew our covenant faithfully to participate in the ministries of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness.” One of the ways we fulfill these vows for ourselves and for others is through Christian education.
Christian Education is always looking for volunteers, and while Sunday school teachers are the most visible aspects of the program, there are other ways to be of service. You can help with the pageant, the Barn Sing, entering information into a database, making sure the supply closet is clean, organized and stocked, helping to cover in case someone is sick, helping in the nursery, becoming a God Squad or Club 67 mentor, or volunteering your time in many other ways. There are tasks that occur over a longer period of time and there are tasks that are very time limited. The long and short of it is there are ways for each one of us to give of ourselves.
But, we ask you not only to give of your time and talents, but we also ask that you participate in one of the numerous classes we have scheduled for this year. Last year we had more than 180 adults participate in at least one CornerStones class. Can we beat that number this year? There are lots of different classes being offered, and perhaps if you don’t see something of interest to you, then maybe you might be willing to offer something.
I hope you will join us this Sunday as we celebrate the beginning of the Christian Education year, but don’t let it end there. We hope you will continue to take part in the various programs we have this year through both your participation as a volunteer and your attendance to increase your own knowledge. As Proverbs tells us, the “LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…”
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
But recently I have seen a large uptick in the number of high end vehicles on the road, like Lamborghini’s, Ferrari’s, Rolls Royce’s, a Lotus and even a Maserati. While I have occasionally seen these around, recently it seems like a daily occurrence that I see at least one of these cars, and so I wonder what’s going on.
I have two theories:
The first is the simple one that the economy is doing better, and so people who can afford these cards are out buying and driving them again. But, I also routinely hear that the economy is not doing better, or at least for some people, so I’m not sure this is the full answer.
The second, and maybe more likely answer, is that people are feeling more confident in driving these cars. With the near destruction of our economy led by greedy people from all walks of life, I think it became temporarily unpopular or maybe even dangerous to drive around in such a conspicuous display of wealth. Now that we are a little further away from the collapse people are feeling able to drive these cars around again and so they are being pulled out of the garage and put back on the street.
A third possibility, and one that’s a lot more cynical, is that the people who are driving these cars simply don’t care anymore about what people think. They are doing fine and it doesn’t matter what is going on in the rest of the economy or country and they are going to enjoy themselves simply because they can, and everyone else can just go to %#@^!
Saturday, September 11, 2010
September 11: A Day for Prayer and Peace
As we approach yet another September 11, we are reminded that the world we live in continues to be fragile place where emotions and tensions run high. There are not many of us who will ever forget where we were on that September morning nine years ago. We should never forget those whose lives were taken away in the horror of just a few hours.
September 11 should be, for all of us, a day of prayer for peace in this world. It should be a day for quiet remembrance and reflection as we seek to find and live in the ways of peace. We think of Jesus pausing on his way into the holy city of Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday. He wept over the city – not so much for what was about to happen to him, but because the people did not know the things that make for peace (Luke 19:41-42). We suspect he still weeps, looking out over the world we currently inhabit.
September 11 should be a day of prayer for rebuilding and restoring relationships, and for reaching out to find ways to work and live together in this world. It is not a day for burning the holy book of another faith tradition. Tragically one person has garnered headlines for advocating such a thing. There is nothing of Jesus in such an action. In fact, as we recall, there was a time when the disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven on the perceived enemies for refusing to receive Jesus. No, Jesus said; in fact he “rebuked” those who advocated such a means. (Luke 9:51-55). Such an action is not the way of Jesus, nor the way of peace and love.
There was a meeting earlier this week in Washington, DC, of religious leaders of many faith communities. The United Methodist Church and its Council of Bishops was represented by its Executive Secretary, Bishop Neil L. Irons. The members of the group, in a formal statement, said: “We are committed to building a future in which religious differences no longer lead to hostility or division between communities. Rather, we believe that such diversity can serve to enrich our public discourse about the great moral challenges that face our nation and our planet. On the basis of our shared reflection, we insist that no religion should be judged on the words or actions of those who seek to pervert it through acts of violence; that politicians and members of the media are never justified in exploiting religious differences as a wedge to advance political agendas or ideologies... We work together on the basis of deeply held and widely shared values, each supported by the sacred texts of our respective traditions. We acknowledge with gratitude the dialogues between our scholars and religious authorities that have helped us to identify a common understanding of the divine command to love one’s neighbor. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all see an intimate link between faithfulness to God and love of neighbor; a neighbor who in many instances is the stranger in our midst. “
“We are convinced that spiritual leaders representing the various faiths in the United States have a moral responsibility to stand together and to denounce categorically derision, misinformation or outright bigotry directed against any religious group in this country. Silence is not an option. Only by taking this stand, can spiritual leaders fulfill the highest calling of our respective faiths, and thereby help to create a safer and stronger America for all of our people.” **
We urge all of us to approach the remembrance of September 11 in prayer and hope for peace; and in resolving to do everything we can individually and collectively to live the way of Jesus. It is our prayer that this weekend be filled with prayers and not the fires of hatred and irrational rage.
Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster
President, Council of Bishops
Bishop Neil L. Irons
Executive Secretary, Council of Bishops
A full statement from the interfaith group can be found here.
In addition, the Mass Council of Churches has a petition called "To Bigotry, No Sanction. To Persecution, No Assistance" calling for an end to the anti-Islamic rhetoric currently being used. I invite you to sign it as you are called. Currently there are more than 2500 signatories, I am #147.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
My first question was how she was defining classic country, to which she responded that it was however I wanted it to be defined. That didn’t really narrow it down, but the answer was easy. I would start with Hank Williams (the original, not Jr or the III) and then Patsy Cline.
Hank Williams – Lovesick Blues, Your Cheatin Heart, or I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
Patsy Cline – Crazy, Walkin After Midnight, Back in My Baby’s Arms
While she agreed with that she said that on the spectrum of country music from classic to modern, they were on the “extreme” and might scare some people away, so who would I recommend that’s a little more to the “center.”
That was a little more difficult, and I think you would have to go into the 70’s or early 80’s. So I did a little thinking and looking through my collection and here’s what I came up with for places to start listening to classic country. These are not necessarily the best songs by these artists, but provide a jumping off point (they are also in no particular order):
Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues
Kenny Rogers – Lucille
Dolly Parton – Coat of Many Colors
Loretta Lynn – Coal Miner’s Daughter
Roger Miller – King of the Road
Tammy Wynette – I Don’t Wanna Play House
Willie Nelson – Momma Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To be Cowboys
Tom T. Hall – Faster Horses
Glen Campbell – Dreams of an Everday Housewife
Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings – Pancho and Lefty or Seven Spanish Angels
George Strait – Marina Del Rey, Amarillo by Morning, Ocean Front Property or All My Ex’s Live in Texas
Don Williams – I Believe in You, Good Ole Boys Like Me or If Hollywood Don’t Need You
Barbara Mandell – I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Pastor Joel returns this week from his well deserved three-month sabbatical during which he spent part of his time studying worship trends throughout the country. The staff will be meeting with him later in the week to bring him up-to-date on what happened here over the past three months, and for him to bring us up-to-date on what he discovered.
Pastor Joel decided to focus on worship during his sabbatical because it was the only area of the five identified by our strategic planning process three years ago that hasn’t really made any progress (the other four areas are conflict management, youth in crisis, adult education, and local outreach). And so Pastor Joel was hoping that in taking on this work, we as a congregation might make be able to look at this topic together. He will be making a presentation to the various commissions who handle these issues and to the rest of the congregation later in the fall.
I know this has caused anxiety on the part of some, and they have wondered what, if anything, will be changed. As pastors we are well aware that many of the things we do in the church are so called “third rails” and we touch them at our own peril. But we also realize that sometimes, in order to grow individually and collectively, change is necessary.
I have been doing some reading lately on traditions and rituals for both everyday events and for significant transitions. Sometimes traditions and rituals run their course and they are no longer as effective as they once were. I’m sure that if you have children then you have had a ritual for putting them to bed, but that ritual has changed over time. Linda and I cannot put Samantha or Abigail to bed now the way we did when they were infants, nor will we be able to put them to bed in a few years the way we are doing it now. Rituals, and even traditions, change as people change. That is one of the rules of life.
Sometimes people want to hold on to things simply because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” In the Protestant tradition we do not hold that tradition is an important enough reason to keep something in place if it is no longer theologically necessary. Sometimes that means we remove it, other times we come up with new theological reasons for doing the same thing, and sometimes we create new rituals and traditions.
I don’t know what changes will be adopted by this congregation, but I do ask that as they are presented that we all keep an open mind and if you have a negative reaction ask yourself why you are feeling that way. Is it just a reaction to change, with which all of us struggle, or is there something deeper?
There is nothing in the church that wasn’t new at some point, and our traditions and rituals vary from denomination to denomination, and even from church to church. When I moved to New England I had to learn a new way of being Methodist. Even though it doesn’t always seem like it, the simple fact is the church is always changing because God is always calling us to do new things and to reach new people. So together let us pray for God’s guidance to give us the answers and to move us in the direction that God needs and wants us to go.