Archive for February, 2009

Ash Wednesday Memory

February 25, 2009 Leave a comment

I had never participated in an Ash Wednesday service until I had almost graduated from high school.  I’d only known that God was calling me to ministry for about nine months and was still exploring what that meant.  On that Wednesday morning, I crossed the street to the Catholic Church as they were celebrating this holy day.  A few of my classmates went with me, they were Catholic except for maybe one other.  When it was time to receive the ashes, one of the other students grabbed my arm and said, “You can’t go up there.  You aren’t Catholic.”  I was as hurt as I was angry and I sat cross-armed the rest of the service.  When I returned to the school for breakfast, I told a few of my friends about the experience and one of the girls said, “Come with me tonight.  I’m Episcopalian and we’ll let you do whatever you want.”

I attended that service with about four other students, all female.  When we took communion, it was real wine.  The friend next to me was a United Methodist.  When she got a mouth full of wine from the common cup she almost spit it back on the priest as she was expecting grape juice.  We got our wine and our ashes and before heading back to the school one of the ladies said, “Wait, I need to wash the ashes off.”  I had seen our Catholic students wearing their ashes all day long and I wanted to go back and show that Methodists could be imposed with ashes, too, so I indignantly asked, “What for?”  The reply I got was “Jesus said you are to wash your face and not look like your fasting.”  I was defeated, so I went to the men’s room to wash my forehead.

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Quick Promo

February 24, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m a sucker for free giveaways but this one appears to be a good one.

Bible Study Magazine and Mars Hill are giving away 20 copies of Mark Driscoll’s new book, Vintage Church. Not only that, but they are also giving away five subscriptions to Bible Study Magazine and a copy of their Bible Study Library software! Enter to win on the Bible Study Magazine Mark Driscoll page, then take a look at all the cool tools they have to take your Bible study to the next level!

I just subscribed yesterday to this magazine (wish I’d waited a day since doing it today would have gotten me 2 more entries into the contest!) because I’m a big believer and practitioner of good Bible study.  I know that Driscoll’s book won’t mesh well in a United Methodist context, but that Bible Study Library would mesh really well with my computer 🙂

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When it Rains it Pours

February 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday morning our phone rang at 7:30 a.m.  I knew before my wife answered that it would be news of her maternal grandfather’s passing.  I’m not clairvoyant – he’s been in hospice for a couple of weeks.  His confidence was in Jesus.  He was in cancerous pain.  The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Today at lunch, our phone rang.  My wife answered the phone and found news of her paternal grandfather’s passing.  He had gone into hospice about a day or so after her maternal grandfather.  His confidence was in Jesus.  He was in cancerous pain.  The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

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Journey Through Israel – Day One

February 12, 2009 1 comment

Like almost everything I’ve written in my life, this is a first draft that I’ll try to update as my schedule allows.  I’d like to fill in some links so that people who are unfamiliar with the Bible or the places we saw can click and get more info – maybe tonight!

For those readers who are unaware, I went with a group to Israel through Educational Opportunities January 14-23.  This group was led by my bishop, Charles Crutchfield, who wanted to take as many of the people he ordained during his first quadrennium as he could.  I counted fourteen of us in the last group picture I have from my camera.  It was a great trip for many reasons, but part of what made it great was spending time with my colleagues – my friends – for a week.  

My first thoughts about this trip will always begin with our flight from Newark to Tel Aviv.  We had to go through extra security to get into the boarding area – something for which I was thankful.  Sitting in that area I watched several Jews, some I might incorrectly call “orthodox” for I have no idea what their background was, pray before we boarded.  I was struck by their body motions and how active they seemed to be in prayer.  When we boarded, I shared a row with a Jewish woman who was as delightful a person as I have ever met.  I’ve never had good luck with seat mates on flights, but I sincerely enjoyed talking with her.  She had children in Jerusalem and was on her way for a visit.  She taught me how to ask if food was spicy in Hebrew so I wouldn’t get anything I might regret.  It was such a pleasure to finally have a good airplane seat mate experience.  We didn’t talk a whole lot, however, as I popped a couple of Tylenol PM so I would sleep as much as possible on the way over.

I awoke in time to hear the breakfast announcement.  My stomach somehow knows!  When I opened my eyes I saw several men and boys with their tallit, tephilim, and prayer books standing and bending at the waist in prayer.  This was not what I was expecting to see but I watched in awe.  Well, awe and fear that one of them might be too close to the emergency exit handle but the announcement of breakfast seemed to get most of the cabin back in their seats.  I ate and later was able to look out my window and see Greece.  It wasn’t long until I was able to see the coastline of Israel and touch down in Tel Aviv.

Once we cleared customs and got our luggage our tour began.  We boarded a bus driven by a Palestinian guy named Khalil and guided by an Israeli woman named Tsippi.  I’ll probably write more about this later, but Khalil was awesome not only as a bus driver but as a guy.  It was a pleasure to have him in our company.  We took off for Caesarea Maritima, just up the coast from Tel Aviv.  This is where the events of Acts 23-26 took place.  Paul was imprisoned and spoke before Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice.  It was also the place where I got to see and touch the Mediterranean Sea for the first time in my life.  

We didn’t stay long in Caesarea before boarding our bus and driving to Megiddo – the infamous Armageddon.  It was fascinating to stand on this hill and to be able to see Mount Carmel to my left (it’s where Elijah put the smack down on the prophets of Ba’al), Nazareth in front of me, and Mount Tabor (where Deborah and Barak put the smack down on Sisera’s army).  We got to see a city gate and an altar from the Bronze Ages and a water tunnel from the Iron Age.  I also ate an $18 lunch there, something I avoided doing from then on!  After Megiddo we went to Nazareth to see the Church of Annunciation – a shrine to the news Mary received from the angel, that she would bear the messiah by the Holy Spirit.  After a quick look through the church we headed to Cana, the place where Jesus’ first miracle took place and we saw a church that commemorated the turning of water into wine.

After the church in Cana, the sun had gone down and we were exhausted so we got back on the bus and went to Tiberius, a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Tiberius would serve as our home for three days.  Our bags were taken to our rooms and then we ate dinner and crashed into our beds.  It was a long day but the next one would begin early so we needed to get a good night’s rest.

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My Israel Prologue

February 9, 2009 2 comments

I know that more than a few of you are waiting for a recap of the trip to Israel I took a few weeks ago.  I’m working on it!.  You may not be interested, but I’m going to use my first Israel post to do something a little different: I’m not going to write too much about the experience itself but instead call out words of praise for my Old Testament professors in seminary.  Don’t roll your eyes!  I had some great teachers at Asbury Theological Seminary and I didn’t return that blessing by being a great student.  Nevertheless, I learned a lot that I still use today as a pastor.  I’m what sports talk-show host Jim Rome would call a Bible “honk” (“geek” to you) and those classes, as well as this recent trip to Israel, have opened my eyes to the Bible in ways I will never be able to digest.

In the fall of 2000 I enrolled in an introduction to the Old Testament class and it was taught by Sandy Richter.  It was her first semester as a professor at Asbury after completing her PhD at Harvard University as I remember.  I told a friend that I was in one of her first classes and he said, “Oh, I feel sorry for you.  These new PhD’s haven’t figured out how to teach on a master’s level.  It usually takes them a couple of semesters to get adjusted so you are out of luck.”  My friend was wrong.  Dr. Richter may be more intelligent than most of MENSA, but the woman can teach.  I can’t describe the difference between good lecturer (she is that, too) and a good teacher in the space I want to dedicate to this post except to say that it is easy to be a good lecturer and a horrible teacher all at once.  Dr. Richter could probably win a Nobel Prize for pedagogy if there were such a thing.  

The reason I am describing her as an amazing teacher is because I remembered my experience in her class as soon as I started seeing the places in Israel we studied in class.  I’m not talking rote Bible information but as soon as we started driving her ubiquitous maps came alive in my imagination and I started thinking, “Holy cow, THAT’S what the Shephelah looks like!”  I remember reading and hearing about the Jezreel Valley and little of it made sense until I stood there.  I started recalling what the differences between the Broze Age and the Iron Age (early, middle, and late, of course) meant to stone cutting and subsequently wall building while standing in Dan.  I even took one of my required texts, the Harper Collins Atlas of the Bible, with me.  The marginalia from class made so much more sense while we looked at places around the Holy Land.

She is the author of a new book The Epic of Eden: A Christian Epic into the Old Testament which is a fantastic book.  I’m trying to find creative ways to entice my church to buy a copy and read it!

My other tribute is to Dr. Lawson Stone.  My first class with Dr. Stone had nothing to do with the Old Testament – it was a seminar class for our supervised ministry experiences.  That was enough to get me enrolled in Exegesis of Jeremiah the following semester.  Imagine all the awesomeness of Jeremiah, Hebrew readings, geek humor, and clips from Tombstone and Monty Python and the Holy Grail all rolled into one class.  Yeah, that was sweet.  Our time together not only plunged me into OT criticism, it added shading and color to the portrait of the Old Testament emerging in my mind from the beginning of seminary.  It’s a little hard to explain in a blog, but I can’t think of the prophets anymore without remembering the first few classes in which my knowledge of prophecy expanded more than it ever had.  When we stood on what our tour guide called the “teaching steps” just below the Al Aqsa mosque on the south end of the temple mount I couldn’t shake the image in my head of Jeremiah telling the people of Judah that God was going to make a new covenant with them (Jeremiah 31) and that he had to come into Jerusalem, a place from which his family had been banished.  It was a sweet moment for me.

Now, if that’s too sweet for you, Dr. Stone is also the guy who, with no words, convinced me that I needed a Mac and that I needed Accordance Bible software on that Mac.  I still have his “Buying the HALOT” document and, of course, opted for the digital version which served me well.  If you must know, when our tour guide, an Israeli, started doing word studies on the fly I went back to the hotel in the evening and checked her against the dictionaries (She whiffed on a Greek term, but as far as I can tell, she hit it out of the park when explaining “unripe” while at Bethphage).

Seminary was my primary preparation for this trip to Israel and these two profs did more to enhance that experience than anyone else in my life and to them I say, “Thank you.”  

For the rest of you, I’ll get to Day One soon!

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