Many are the paths that can be suggested by people for leadership in the church. Will Willimon wrote a book entitled Lead With a Sermon. Besides being an interesting sermon, he offers an interesting take on leadership. He writes that pastoral leadership begins with a proclamation from the pulpit. He has specific reason for this, as he states below.

Christianity is a “revealed religion”; it happens when humanity is confronted by a loquacious God. We are unable to think about a Trinitarian God on our own. The truth about God must be revealed, spoken to us as the gift of a God who refuses to be vague or coy. It is of the nature of the Trinity to be communicative, revelatory—the Father speaking to the Son, the Son mutually interacting with the Father, all in the power of the Holy Spirit, God speaking to God’s world.

Hymns and Worship

I’m uncertain about what I remember of my early years in the church. I do not have a strong early memory of singing hymns, but I do remember at the age of five, when I was staying with my grandparents, I would act as if I was playing the organ on a stuffed chair in their living room. I also know for a brief season, I sang in a children’s choir at a nearby Presbyterian church. After that I know I was not exposed very frequently to Christian hymns for the thirty years I was not in the church.

So in the late 1990s when I returned to the church, began to attend weekly, and eventually took a role in weekly Sunday worship I felt it was an absolute necessity to learn something about hymns specifically, and music in the church in general. It was only in this manner I came to not only realize the importance of hymns but to grow in appreciation of music as a means of grace for worship and praise of our Lord.

Hymns originated in ancient times, having been found in ancient Greek and Roman texts. Thomas Aquinas described hymns “as the praise of God with song; a song is an exultation of the mind dwelling on eternal things, bursting forth in the voice.” [] Centuries later during the Reformation, Martin Luther and some other reformers produced numerous hymns for the church, including Luther’s “A Might Fortress is Our God.” Luther and his followers understand hymn singing was a means of teaching the people the tenets of the faith.

Charles Wesley, one the most prolific hymnists of all time, successfully spread Wesleyan theology (the basis of theology for not only the Methodist Church but also for numerous other denominations) throughout Europe and the United States.

Choirs are late edition to worship, appearing in the 1860s when reformers were attempting to refine hymns. This would have been something foreign to reformers like John Wesley and the founders of Methodism, who exhorted congregations to “sing lustily and with good courage.” He also admonished them to “beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.” Finally, Wesley wrote “Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.” [The United Methodist Hymnal, vii]

Stanley Hauerwas says…

Stanley Hauerwas frequently clarifies my own muddled thinking, as he does in these words:

The gospel is the proclamation of a new age begun through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That gospel, moreover, has a form, a political form. It is embodied in a church that is required to be always ready to give hospitality to the stranger. The gospel is a society in which difference is not denied but used for the discovery of goods in common. It is, as Yoder observes, a society called into being by Jesus who gave them a new way to live.

He gave them a new way to deal with offenders – by forgiving them. He gave them a new way to deal with violence – by suffering. He gave them a new way to deal with money – by sharing it. He gave them a new way to deal with problems of leadership – by drawing on the gift of every member, even the most humble. He gave them a new way to deal with a corrupt society – by building a new order, not making the old. He gave them a new pattern of relationships between man and woman, between parent and child, between master and slave, in which was made concrete a radical new vision of what it means to be a human person. He gave them a new attitude toward the state and toward the “enemy nation.”

That is the politics begun in Christ. That is the “good news” – that we have been freed from the presumed necessities that we inflict on ourselves in the name of “peace,” a peace that too often turns out to be an order established and continued through violence.

Sports Idolatry

In response to some comments I saw on Twitter and Facebook after the Nationals win of the World Series. I’m a fan of baseball, and I liked the determination of the Nationals as a team that banded together as a community seeking to win baseball games. But, some of the comments sounded idolatrous to me. So I responded in this way:

I appreciate that a number of the players of the Washington Nationals are professing Christians. I also appreciate that many of MLB teams have professing Christians on the team. I appreciate the witness of the Gospel that they provide to others in the team and the larger community. The humility and generosity in their deeds and speech is refreshing. That said, God does not support one team over another. Nor does He need their victory to add to His glory. His glory is in the sacrifice on the Cross, in the triumph over death through the surrender of Jesus. Humanity’s games can not bring glory to God, no more than human works.


Some Wisdom from Eugene Peterson

I think some wisdom has legs and can walk across different contexts and still be effectively applied. This from Eugene Peterson

Peterson believes listening is also the key to prayer. As a pastor, he often heard people complain about prayer. He believes the problem is that we treat God like an answer man, “but we don’t know enough about God to know what to ask.”  His advice, “listen” to what God says.

He also suggests God’s people memorize the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms.  Even though the Psalms don’t always look like prayers, they can saturate our lives with words of Scriptures and are a way for us to talk to God.

This Is What Eugene Peterson Thinks Is Wrong with the Church Today

The Need to Celebrate Saints

Yesterday, Monday, the church gathered to celebrate the Life and Resurrection of a saint. Miss Trula, by all reports, was truly a saint in Fieldale and its surroundings. Though I did not know her personally, the more than a hundred that gathered did. I saw in them, and her children and grandchildren, the fruit of her life. And that is the glad news and also the admonition to remember that we all leave a legacy of one kind or another. Miss Trula left a legacy of joy and hope of life in surrender to Christ. Let us go and do the same. Amen.

Just Thinking Out Loud – Endings

This week I have had sometime to reflect on endings, especially as it is addressed in the biblical narrative. In the Bible there are many endings: endings of a journey, life endings, endings of kingdoms and even peoples. At the same time there seems to be always new beginnings born out of these endings. There is the shoot of Jesse, born out the ending of a reign of kings, with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. There is Jesus’ own death, with the Resurrection and Ascension.

It seems to make a case for endings for churches, with the prospect of a new birth, or even a resurrection from the dust of the old.

God is in every day living.

Some wise words from Mike Glenn, on the Scot McKnight site; “I think too many of us forget this in our everyday living. We get so busy rushing from moment to moment, we never stand still long enough for the Presence of Christ to seep through us into the moment. We’re constantly distracted by our gadgets and social media. We always have to be at the next place, and rarely do we fully disengage from the place we just were.”

What can we learn from the Black church?

Thursday evening and Friday evening, I had the pleasure to attend the Brady Theology and Lecture Series at Northern Seminary in Chicago. The speaker this year was Reggie Williams, a gifted writer, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus, and a gifted speaker. He spoke eloquently and vividly about how Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a White Aryan brilliant theologian at a very early age, engaged the Black Church at Abyssinian Baptist in Harlem, NY in 1930-31. That one year encounter dramatically changed Bonhoeffer’s understanding of engagement with race and ethnic social-economic issues in his homeland of Germany. It led one to think of how if more White evangelical churches engaged with their Black counterparts how we could find new answers to racial hatred in this country.

Also significant for me was the panel discussion that was held on Friday morning in the last session. The conversation of what the Black church experiences brings to the table of for formation of both Whites and Blacks was very interesting, especially the comments of David Swanson, a White pastor of a multi-ethnic church in Chicago. He spoke from a reserved and humble position of the need for White pastors and congregations to engage the Black faith community with equal parts of humbleness and submission to their engagements in the community rather than assuming superior positions of power due to one’s Whiteness.

One can listen to the panel discussion on the Northern Seminary Facebook page. It is well worth the time.