Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Religion & Politics

This last Sunday we focused on this question: "Why do Christians hate Obama? Why are churches not a place where Conservatives and Liberals love Jesus together?" This was a question that we gathered over the last couple weeks. There is one part of the question that I would like to say more about ------ and then see what you all think.

There are times when we do not want to hear from people that have different opinions or points of view. As a result of this we will perceive what someone is going to say about a subject, and then shut them out from a meaningful conversation. We might perceive them as "Conservative" and therefore not want to hear from them because we think of them as narrow minded and cold. Or we might perceive someone as "Liberal" and therefore not want to hear from them because we think of them as idealistic or morally relativistic. But, what Christ offers us is a new humanity that is found at the cross. Where we are all gathered on level ground, and can only stand pointing at the one who reigns and rules from the cross shaped throne. At the feet of Jesus, he makes all things new ------ even this new reality of breaking down the walls that have divided us [Ephesians 2.13-16].

In order to live into this new reality it takes work on our part. The best way I have learned to live into this new reality is through the habit of listening by way of relationships. I have to continuously put the person that is in front of me ahead of my own desires or wants. I have to lift them up and encourage them to share their story with me. And in that sharing there is trust and mutual love.

Every morning my family and I gather for morning prayer. We decided to start praying the "Apostles' Creed" along with our prayers. We took a version that includes "he descended into hell". I was not used to praying that part of the Apostles' Creed. Before I would just pray: "he suffered under Pontius Pilate. Was crucified, dead, and buried. On the third day he rose from the dead." It took about a year for me to change the way I prayed the Apostles' Creed. It was hard work ------ and I continuously struggled through it with my family. They sometimes had to stop me and say ------ no, pray it this way. And after a year it became a habit. And now I know it in my heart and mind.

This is what I mean by the hard work of sharing mutual love and trust. It is hard work to listen to others. It is hard work to be friends with people that we disagree with. It is hard work to love people that share a different point of view. But this is part of the hard work of living into this new reality that Jesus has made and is making. The new reality of a new humanity that is found in him. Where there are not the dividing walls ------ but instead where we can acknowledge that we are sons and daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

When it comes to loving Jesus alongside folks that differ from you, how have you learned to live in mutual love and trust?

Friday, February 20, 2015

WikiWorship - February 22nd @ 9.45am


On Sunday, February 22nd at 9:45am we are gathering at Hell's Kitchen (118 Princess Street - Wilmington) for WikiWorship.  We will be looking at this question: "Why does a God of love and forgiveness and compassion use such negative and horrific things in life to teach?  ie: Monkey Junction murder."

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Annually

My family and I have been back in Wilmington for a year and a-half.  Since the time we have landed on the ground we have lived into a new reality ---- the reality of being on mission.  Our mission has been to embody hope in real and tangible ways.  While doing this we have been stretched in ways we have found exhilarating and scary ----- but during that whole time God has overwhelmed us with grace and love.  We are so thankful for the terrific people that we have had the opportunity to journey beside, for we know that relationships are the key to living out this missionary journey.  We just want to say a sincere thank you to all of you for your generosity and support.  Because of you all we have been able to take steps with assurance ------ knowing that we are there to help carry heavy burdens together ------ while at the same time there to celebrate what the Holy Spirit is accomplishing through our efforts. 

Very few things at The Anchor have happened for a second time annually.  Two of those things we did in the last couple weeks.  We gathered together with candles in hand and worshiped the God who came in the flesh on Christmas-Eve.  And we also went on Christmas day to a nursing home to celebrate Jesus' birth with those who he cares so much for ------ those who are lonely and sick.  As I looked around and saw the faces of people, that were strangers to me a year ago, I saw family.  People that have poured their life into the journey of following after Jesus, and I have had the opportunity to pour my life into the journey as well.  And we have done it together!

We have dedicated our lives to following after the one who is worthy of our time, energy, and attention ---- but we haven't done this as Lone Ranger Christians ------ instead we have done it in community, as family.  We didn't have to have a committee that told us to do this, or an air-conditioned building, or ample parking spots, or fog machines, or a light show, or an advertising budget, or marketing consultants, or fancy torn jeans, or rent a building, or flashy evangelistic gimmicks, or the "We Love Our City" t-shirts, or the "mission-day" push (whatever that means?) ------ instead we have just decided to live out the love of Jesus by embodying hope where God has placed us.

This is humbling, and in many ways it feels like we are approaching the manger scene like the shepherds that first happened upon that poor, ostracized family 2000 years ago.  We are approaching this scene with awe and wonder as we hear Jesus say to us "See, I am making all things new."  

Let's pray: Make us new O God ------ so that we might be servants to all those you love ------ as we are moved with compassion to embody hope in the situations and circumstances you have placed us.  Let us continue to do this in simple and sustainable ways ------ and in that, may we continue to participate with Holy Spirit in your Kingdom coming to earth, as it is in heaven.  AMEN!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Saint Nicholas

Yesterday was the Feast of Saint Nicholas.  This is a time to remember a great bishop that lived in modern day Turkey.  [For all of my friends that don't believe in Bishops ------- just remember they are in the Bible]  He served in his city with the love of Jesus.  DeAnne brought this up to us on Friday and said we should read his story.  We have a great set of books about the saints of old called: Early Saints of God by Bob Hartman.  In this book we are told that Nicholas found out that there were three children that were going to be sold into slavery because their parents had found themselves in debt ------ and in order to pay the debt they would sell their children into slavery.  Nicholas made a plan to give the money to the family without them knowing that it came from him.  He did this out of his love of God and his love of the people God had entrusted to him.  The small bags of gold miraculously showed up on the day that the children were to be sold.  Thus, they were set free from slavery and bondage. 
I wonder what that would look like in our own lives?  To not go around proclaiming how generous we have been.  To not go with trumpets and fanfare [in modern day terms that is social media] sharing what great generosity we have accomplished.  Instead to be a humble servant of God ----- who did  not come to be served, but to serve.
Nicholas lived a life of sacrifice for the common good of all.  Let us go and do likewise, as we participate with what the Holy Spirit is already doing.  Forget all the pomp and circumstance ------ forget the fanfare and horse & pony shows ------- forget the trumpets and bugles ------- forget the Christmas parties and charity events -------- forget the shoe boxes and endless gift giving -------- forget the red sweaters and $80 Christmas trees ------- and instead take on the form of a servant and love your neighbor.   

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Luke 21.25-36

In Luke 21.34 it says: "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap." We believe that Jesus will come again and that we will see him coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Therefore, the entirety of our lives are to be lived for him — we are to live holy lives — loving the Lord our God with all of heart, soul, and might — and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. But instead, we allow the cares of this world to weigh us down and cause our hearts to grow cold to the ways of the Lord.

We give into competing with our neighbors about who has the fanciest car — we compete with our co-workers for raises and promotions, not caring if we leave them in the carnage of our own self-absorption. We let someone driving too slow or too fast allow us to lose our focus on loving our neighbors. We allow gossip and back-biting to steer our angry and vengeful thoughts towards family and friends. We settle into lifestyles that promote bad health — justifying all of that by saying that we will live differently starting January 1st. We settle into the warm and inviting hell — where we could make ourselves the center of the universe — and constantly turn in upon ourselves and gaze at our own insignificance. We comb the aisles of clothing and toys — hoping against hope that something will bring us happiness. We worship the gods of commercialism — bowing before their plastic altar — as we sign our lives away to Visa, Master Card, Discover, and American Express. We search for the cheapest goods and services — the whole time riding on the backs of modern day slaves that work in sweat shops that span our globe — in places like Thailand, Indonesia, and Mexico — names that are emblazoned on the backs of plastic angels that announce a phony “Joy to the World!”

And Jesus says to us, in the midst of our depravity — guard your hearts against the cares of this world — the cares that take your focus off of the ways of Christ — and instead flee from the wrath to come.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Advent - Give us Rest!

December - a month that oftentimes causes our blood pressure to go up. During this Advent we pray that "God will give you rest." We would like to invite you to come and worship with us and learn more about the rest that is found in Jesus Christ. We will be focusing on the Gospel of Luke during this time --- below you will find a schedule of our services. We have a warm and passionate atmosphere where God will meet you as you are. Sunday morning worship is at 9am at Chandler's Wharf in their Atrium (225 S. Water Street - at the corner of Ann Street & Water Street in downtown Wilmington) We have a place for you!

Sunday, November 30th @ 9am: "Oh Great God, Give Us Rest" - Luke 21.25-36
Sunday, December 7th @ 9am: "Have You Seen This Place, It's All a Mess" - Luke 3.1-6
Sunday, December 14th @ 9am: "Take This Song, From a Crooked Heart" - Luke 3.7-18
Sunday, December 21st @ 9am: "Open Up Heaven's Glory Light" - Luke 1.39-55
Wednesday, December 24th @ 9pm (gathering at Hell's Kitchen - 118 Princess Street): Communion & Candlelight Service - Luke 2.1-20
Thursday, December 25th @ 10am (gathering at Azalea Nursing Home - 3800 Independence Blvd.): Visiting & Singing at the Nursing Home

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"The Barge"

This last Sunday we celebrated our time on "The Barge".  It was so cold ------ which I think was a good reminder of why we need to go inside.  When you don't have walls up at a church ------ both metaphorically & physically ------- there is some extreme discomfort that comes with that.  But, we have also experienced what worship can be like.  It can be in open spaces, it can be in the public square, it can be easy & simple, it doesn't have to cost a lot of money, it can be open to people from all walks of life, and it can be a time to live into God's Kingdom in imaginative and creative ways. 

As I have reflected back on our time of being on "The Barge" I am overwhelmed with the generosity of Carl Marshburn, who owns the Henrietta III and "The Barge".  He has been so kind to us and so generous with his resources.  I can't say thank you enough. 

Also, I am in awe of the many people that have made The Anchor their home through our time on "The Barge".  You all have truly been a blessing to me and words cannot express how grateful I have been to journey with you all through this time.  You all are passionate in your love for the Lord and in your love for one another.  I have beautiful images in my mind of standing and singing ------- and people are walking along the River Walk getting a glimpse at what "church" can be.  I have images of eating donuts and drinking coffee ------ and in that simple moment walls of division come tumbling down through that grace-filled act.  I have images of dogs coming to worship -------- and in that simple act God smiles as all creation tells of God's glory.  I have images of strangers holding hands and praying ------ I have images of people sharing their experiences with tear-filled eyes ------- I have images of reading scripture -------- I have images of black people & white people & asian people singing with one voice ------- I have images of children running -------- and in that moment, I hear Jesus say: "I make all things new". 

Thank you for a great summer of worshiping together with all of you saints of God.  I am humbled by the fact that I can call all of you my friends.  Let's live lives that are radical ------ and let's do it together.  Let's cast aside all the religious baggage, and the dividing walls of hostility.  And instead let us live lives for the common good ------- for in that grace-filled act we are proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hebrews 11.1-19

This coming Sunday we will be focusing on Hebrews 11.1-19.  This has one of the most famous passages from Hebrews in it.  It is verse 1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  This sets up the rest of the 18 verses.  Over and over again we hear the words "by faith".  We see "by faith" in vv 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 17.  And in the midst of this pericope we then hear of a longing for a heavenly city.  In v16 it says: "But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one."  The question that comes to me from this verse is whether we desire that better country? that heavenly one?

In Burlap to Cashmere's song titled "The Other Country" they sing:
Draw near the lamb's awaiting
Where the river runs thru the sky's align
From that painting of a ship
We have all been chosen
To the painter's creation
In his dream design
I can feel it over the line
I see the other country
I see the other side
Do not be afraid of this earthly city
Do not be afraid when the pharaoh's nigh 


In the midst of the stressful and divisive political season let us remember that we do not need to be afraid of the pharaohs that are trying to divide us and strike fear into us.  Our hope is in something greater than the republican party or the democratic party.  Our hope is found in something that is bigger than the political juggernaut that is trying to destroy everything in its path.  Instead, we as the church see something different.  We see with eyes of faith another city ----- a heavenly city ------ a better country.  For the slain lamb of God has called us to his side.  And uses people like us to make things new.   

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hebrews 1:3

Hebrews 1.3: "He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.  When he had made purification for sins, e sat down at teh right hand of the majesty on high."

In Jesus we truly see who God is ----- and in Jesus we see the imprint of the divine that has come in the flesh.  He has impacted us with the good news of God's grace.  That impact truly changes us and has caused humanity and the very cosmos to change. 

Christ's word has power ----- the power to sustain all things.  That sustaining word holds together the very fabric of the universe.  And the telos is found in Christ becoming the all in all.  For this great God YHWH has made a purification for sins.  Before, this bend that humanity caused in the creation had great influence upon the very cosmos.  But now, Christ has made a purification which affected that bend and is making straight the path before us. 

This imprint that God has placed upon the universe is found in a person.  In the person of Jesus we see the powerful word revealed.  In the person of Jesus we see humanity being created again.  In the person of Jesus we see God's glory.  In the person of Jesus we see YHWH ----- the great I AM. 

This changes everything.  For Christ sat down ----- so that we can know how to stand.  Christ died ----- so that we can know how to live.  Christ was born ----- so that we might know how to die.  Christ spoke ----- so that we might know how to listen.  Christ healed ----- so that we might know how to trust.  Christ fed ----- so that we might know how to eat.  Christ purified ----- so that we might know how to be.  Christ rose from the dead ----- so that we might speak from the ashes. 

A long time ago I wrote in a poem: "I am heaven and you are my answer."  There is a question ----- I am not sure what it is ----- and I am not sure where it comes from ----- but, I do know the answer to it.  It is us. 

The question is found in the homeless guy on the platform in the NYC Subway saying: "The angels have dirty faces."  The question is found in the loneliness and isolation of the man who sits at home by himself listening to televangelists and memorizing his Bible ----- but can't bring himself to be in fellowship with other believers.  The question is found in the business owner asking: "What's in it for me?" ----- knowing the whole time that wasn't the real question.  The question is found in the jailer who falls as Paul & Silas's feet saying "What must I do to be saved?"  The question is a heart beat, a smile, a step, a drop of water, a blade of grass ----- and the answer is us! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hebrews 2:9

I was writing in my journal about Hebrews 2:9 and I thought I would share a portion with you.

"but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."

I don't feel crazy for seeing you ----- but I do feel a great deal of love for you.  I do see Jesus.  I see you in DeAnne and our kids.  I see you in my friends.  I see you in baptism.  I see Jesus while mowing the grass.  I see Jesus in sunsets and dirty walls.  I see Jesus in the homeless guys waiting on a ride Sunday mornings to go and eat breakfast.  I see Jesus in marriage vows and confession.  I see Jesus in forgiveness and scripture.  I see Jesus in communion.  I see Jesus in the river.  I see Jesus in love and repentance.  I see Jesus in his disciples as they laugh together.  I see Jesus in my parents.  I see Jesus in my grandmother telling stories of God making us all different ----- like snow flakes.  I see Jesus in our inabilities and lack.  But I do see Jesus.

Jesus' glory is based on his suffering ----- and it is through his suffering ----- God tastes death.  I love you Lord ----- and I am thankful that you tasted death for all of us.  It is because grace that you tasted death.  It is God's grace that allows us to see you.  It is God's grace that made you a little lower than the angels.  It is God's grace that makes us part of the everyone.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Acts 17.1-9

This coming Sunday we will be focusing on Acts 17.1-9.  In this passage Paul & Silas go to Thessalonica.  While in Thessalonica they go to the Synagogue and argue for 3 days about how the Messiah was to suffer and rise from the dead.  Many people believed what they were saying ----- and not just the Jews ----- but also the Greeks.  Because of this many of the Jews became jealous (v5), and formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.  They went to the city government officials and said: "These people have been turning the world upside down" (v6).

Imagine just for a moment being the people that are accused of turning the world upside down?  What a great compliment that would be in today's day and age.  The church would be living into its peculiar and radical nature of proclaiming that there is another King ------ and it is not Caesar, or President Obama, or Shimon Peres, or Senator Kay Hagan, or Senator Richard Burr.  Instead our allegiance is to the God who overcame death, hell, and the grave.  Imagine the powerful establishment throughout our cities forming mobs to thwart this proclamation.  What a compliment that would be!

So my question is ------- why does this not happen? 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

One Year

I have been contemplating a lot lately what a year can do.  We moved to Wilmington, NC on June 18th, 2013.  As a family we have thoroughly enjoyed the friends we have made, and the many doors of opportunity that have opened for us to be actively involved in the life of our community.  I feel like starting in a new place as a family has granted us a time to grow closer with each other. 

As a pastor I feel like this has been a year to grow in faith.  To peal away the many layers of what it means to be the church ------- and attempt to get down to the core -------- it is an intriguing and exhausting process.  Continuously I have people ask me how it is going?  I have learned that I don't even have the language to answer that.  For my vocabulary has changed ------ and that is mostly due to the fact that I can't use words like buildings, land, and money.  When you stop talking about buildings, land, and money ------- what are you left with? 

What you are left with is discipleship, but it is not a discipleship that is programatic or didactic or top-down management.  Instead it is a discipleship that is relational, compassionate, restorative, and eclectic.  It is a discipleship that has to do with following Jesus ------- because followers of Jesus actually follow Jesus.  Therefore, we do not follow buildings, land, money, programing, smoke machines, laser shows ------- which in many ways are just an expensive ad for something cheap.  Instead we follow a revolutionary Messiah who calls us to lay down our own lives for the benefit of others ------ for the common good. 

As I reflect upon this last year I have hope.  Hope for what the church universal can be.  For we are called to a life that is radical ------- but at the same time so simple.  We are called to a life that looks like Jesus ------- not to a life that is a never-ending committee meeting.  The Holy Spirit fills us with the power to embody hope to the world.  And in that calling to lay down our lives, we will find who we are truly to be.  This is the place where we have peeled back all of the distractions of what people have made the "church" ------- and instead we can go and be the church by being a sent people ------- for God so loves the world that he has sent us.