Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Spirituality of Crawfish

This past Sunday Evening I had a profound spiritual experience. It wasn't at church. We had a lovely evening worship service at church. We sang to the Lord, and I talked about fasting. Ironically, most people must have been fasting from Sunday Evening church because most of you were at a feast across the street. As soon as church was done, Sarah and I joined in on the feast as well. A couple in our church hosted a crawfish boil. I love crawfish. I grew up going to crawfish boils as crawfish literally were crawling all around the area I grew up in. There were all kinds of people there. People from our church, our community, family members, and new friends. Kids were running around, jumping the pool, and playing with each other. Parents were enjoying the friendship and fellowship and of course the crawfish. People reconnected with one another. Older people were there. Younger people were there. Church people were there. Non-church people were there. It reminded me of a story in the Gospels.
Jesus had just called Matthew, a tax collector, to come and follow him as a disciple. Before they set off on the road though, Matthew threw a party. There were young folks there. There were old folks there. There were good Jews and tax collectors there. There were sinners and saints. In the middle of it all was Jesus. Many of Jesus' greatest spiritual stories and lessons came over a party at a dinner table. I think that is what I love about the picture of Jesus given to us in the Gospels. While he made it a regular habit to worship in the synagogue, He found just as much spirituality in a party as in the church. Maybe we in the church ought to learn from Jesus and see God outside the church. Like at a crawfish boil.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blogging - Hope

I have not been blogging on this site in a while because I have been blogging over at my church's website mertensfbc.com. Here is one of the blogs I wrote. I will be posting others here later.

Hope is something that we talk about often, but something that is hard to articulate. I recently read a novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, that ended with very little hope. It was a tragedy in the way that Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet are tragedies. It was a wonderful piece of art, a compelling story filled with metaphor, but one that was devoid of redemption. One particular line stands out to me in the book: "Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed, ready to eat them alive. You swam a river of chance and coincidence. You clung to the happiest accidents - the rest you let float by." This line broke my heart when I read it in the book. The author, through the eyes of the teenage boy Edgar Sawtelle, assumes that life is all chance. Circumstances happen and that you have to go with the flow and cling to the good. The only problem is where is the hope?
The story that we find ourselves in the Gospel Message of Jesus is one filled with suffering and sorrow. Life does happpen. Bad things do happen. People in their thirties get cancer. Babies die before they are supposed to. But the Good News about Jesus is that history is moving somewhere. The Good News of Jesus is that he took life's best shot, took all our violence, sin, and suffering on the cross and then redeemed it. At the resurrection, Christ brought new life and continues to bring it today. So, yes, suffering is still real. But we no longer suffer devoid of hope. We have the hope that one day we will be redeemed fully into the arms of God. We have the hope that God is making all things new and that life is not a series of random happenings, but caught up in God's work to bring resurrection and new life to the world! That is a story worth living for.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Prayer of St. Patrick

As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Where Does the Sermon Go from Here?

I love preaching. I love everything about it. I love listening to good preaching and gaining insights into preaching from some of the finest commincators in the world. In fact right now I am listening to Ephrem Smith, an African-American pastor from Minneapolis. If I do a phd, I will study homiletics and preaching. I love studying the Greek and the Hebrew of the text. I love studying the world of the text. I love studying our congregation and our world to apply the text. I love looking for stories out in the world to help teach scripture. I love praying and thinking through the best way to commincate to my congregation. I even love the manuscripting and sculpting of the sermon. Sundays are my favorite time of week as the delivery comes from the fruit of labor during the week. Sometimes the fruit is more ripe than others, but God uses the foolishness of my study and my limited communicating skills (at least I hope).

However, I have had several discussions and read several articles and books on where preaching is going. The preaching event itself comes from a greek word that means to proclaim. So a sermon is something that proclaims the Word of God. That does not necessarily mean a professional minister who can read the Greek and Hebrew and uses a microphone on Sunday. Proclamation seems to be more than that in the scripture. Seems to me from scripture that proclamation of the Word of God is both a speech event and a lifestyle. I am saying this because there are some rumblings within the church that my generation might be the last generation of professional preachers in America. The church is dealing with a cultural shift both on the outside and within. Music has already been experimented with. Traditional liturgical churches have stepped away a little bit from their tradition, and traditional free churches have sought beauty and worship in the liturgy. The only part of worship that seems to have remained unchanged is the sermon. That seems to be next. Doug Pagitt has already written a book about this. In an email exchange with a popular preacher, she revealed that she believes that the church will find new ways to proclaim the Word of God through speech in a more communal fashion. This is both exciting and scary for somebody like me who loves to preach. I think there will always be a role for a speech event and for God to use a speech event. But what about you? Where do you think the sermon is going in churches on Sundays?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Words from a Dead Woman

If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again

I shall not live in vain!

- Emily Dickinson

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I hate running. Why run when you can drive? Why run with no purpose? I understand running when you want to dunk on somebody. I understand running when you want to hit somebody. But why run with no purpose? After all I live in Texas with our Texas-sized trucks with airconditioners that would cool the North Pole.

That being said, I just got back from a four mile run, and the first one where I've run four miles in under 36 minutes. You see, I am training for a half marathon, something that I never thought I would do nor have the capability to do. I still am not fond of running, but I find that I am learning quite a bit about myself, my relationship with God, and God's spirit working in me. Running the half marathon is a daunting challenge for me, especially since I am still struggling with four and five mile runs. But what I am realizing is that I have had the capability all along to do it, but I have not had the right practice or properly used my body to do it.

Living the way of Jesus is a daunting challenge. How do you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you? How do you daily take the cross, an instrument of death? You lose your life to save it? How does that work? How do I do God's work in the world? What I am discovering is that God has given us the ability through his grace and the Holy Spirit to do his work. I have to respond by doing the practices that allow God's grace to work in my life. So times of silence, prayer, Bible study, worship, and service all have a new meaning for me. Paul says it like this: Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It's Been a While

It's been a while. I will get back to blogging regularly. In fact, my wife and I this week are doing another TV fast, so I may blog a couple times this week. But today, I want to leave you with this prayer:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting father, you have brought me in safety to the beginning of this day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I might not fall into sin or be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me in the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.