“What’s in a Name?”

Yesterday’s sermon was adapted from one we wrote for the latest issue of HOMILETICS, so I won’t be posting the text here (for all you surfing preachers out there, you’ll just have to subscribe!). The audio version, though, can be downloaded from the Park City Community Church web site. It should be posted later today (Monday).

For those who weren’t there, you missed the revelation of my secret identity. I was adopted as an infant (about 2 months old) and I don’t have any knowledge of my birth parents. What I do have, though, is a copy of the adoption decree, which changed my name from "Douglas Alan Crum" to my current moniker. Special thanks to all of you who greeted me as "Dougie" after the service! Maybe that’ll keep me from revealing too much personal nformation in the future…

Seriously, though…I’ve often wondered about that name. Where does it come from? Who is the original Douglas? Where did Alan come from? "Crum," I have learned, is a name with both German and Scottish connections (the German is "Krumm" which means "bent" and the Scottish is a form of the Gaelic Mac Gille Chruim or "son of the servant of the cripple"). Fascinating. That probably explains why bagpipe music really fires me up and why, at the same time, I prefer saeurkraut on bratwurst instead of haggis. There’s a whole history behind that name, though, that is still a mystery to me–one that I hope to unravel someday.

The gist of it all, though, is that our names say something about us…they mark us and mean something to those who know us. In this season of Epiphany, it’s vitally important for us to remember that we bear the name of Jesus and are part of his family–a family with some crazy relatives, yes, but a family nonetheless.

Blogging from the Holy Land

I’m leaving on a short "familiarization" trip to the Holy Land this week in preparation for leading the larger tour in October. I’m not taking my computer–mostly because wrestling it through security and customs is a real hassle, plus there’s the whole different power grid overseas and keeping track of it and, well, you get the picture. My hope, though, is to get hooked up with a terminal in the hotel so that I can post daily blog entries on the trip so that you can get a fresh view of what’s happening. Keep checking back here for updates beginning on Thursday.

PCCC to Host World Premiere Film During Sundance!

Amish PCCC will host the premiere of a groundbreaking new film "The Power of Forgiveness" during the Sundance Film Festival. Though this is an "off-Sundance" premiere, this important film is an invitaiton to explore forgiveness in a post-9/11 world through the eyes of different faith traditions. Journey Films also produced the film "Bonhoeffer" that was shown here in 2003 and subsequently aired on PBS.

A synopsis from the Journey Films web site:

Over the last 20 years forgiveness has come into its own as an area of academic study. Researchers are examining the psychological and physical effects of forgiveness on individuals and within relationships under a wide variety of conditions, ranging from petty insults to sexual assault. Clinicians have developed interventions that guide people through a process that allows them to forgive transgressions and get on with their lives.

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS explores this important work and translates it into a popular, accessible 90-minute documentary film for national public television. The broadcast will be only one part of a national outreach strategy that includes limited theatrical release, a major Internet presence, and print and electronic media promotional campaign, and a variety of national and local conversations that will form The Campaign for Love and Forgiveness. The focus is on the emergent understanding of contemporary research that forgiveness is a valid tool with real potential for personal and spiritual transformation.

The film provides an honest look at the intensity of anger and grief that human nature is heir to. It combines character-driven stories of the most dramatic transgressions imaginable with those that seem more commonplace and thereby more familiar to its general audience. It examines the role that forgiveness can play in alleviating the resulting anger and grief and the physical, mental and spiritual benefits that come with forgiveness. It also looks at what many of the world’s religions teach about forgiveness. The stories of the people we meet assure us that there is hope if we are open to seeking it and accepting it.

The Power of Forgiveness will be show on three consecutive nights–January 21, 22, and 23 at 7:00PM in the Park City Community Church Fellowship Hall. Each showing will be followed by a panel discussion featuring leaders from local faith communities. Cost is a suggested donation of $10 to help cover the cost of bringing the film to Park City. For more details, contact me by email or at 435-649-8131 ext. 11

New Year’s Resolutions and a Reflection on the Hussein Hanging

Well, a New Year’s Day has passed. The Christmas tree is down and tucked away in the crawlspace in the brand-spanking new plastic bins we finally decided to buy instead of stuffing the blasted thing back in its ten year-old original cardboard box. Much football was watched by yours truly (too much, some in the house would say) and I’m feeling rested after a hectic Christmas season…even took yesterday off and had a guest preacher.

I went to the gym this afternoon where, pedaling fast to nowhere on the exercise bike, I started to think about possible New Year’s resolutions. I did pretty well with them last year–things like keeping a journal all year and maintaining my exercise (which I both accomplished). This year I was feeling a little stumped until I came across this great article in a recent issue of U.S. News on "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2007." There are some great suggestions in there. Check out the article and see what fits. I found the articles fascinating and it gave me some great ideas.

The news, of course, was dominated this weekend by Saddam Hussein’s hanging in Baghdad. The debate on the death penalty raises itself again and perhaps rightly so. The New York times had a feature article in the Sunday edition outlining the brutality of Saddam’s life and reign and its easy to believe that he deserved what he got. On the other hand, what does a quick move toward retribution say about humanity and about our relationship with God? There’s no easy answer here, particularly to those of another culture who lost so much because of this tyrant.

Still, I’m not one who is a supporter of the death penalty. I believe that it takes the whole issue of justice out of God’s realm. If we believe that God is just, then we also understand that God doesn’t always give us what we deserve. The witness of scripture seems to be that we are never beyond redemption. Does that apply to tyrants and monsters like Hussein? It’s a great theological question. No matter how you feel about it, though, seeing a noose put around someone’s neck somehow dehumanizes us all as we experience the fear of death in full color.

Come to think of it, maybe we should all make a resolution to spend this year reflecting on what justice is all about. It’s certainly worth a discussion.

Speaking of which, Park City Community Church will be hosting the world premiere of a new film called "The Power of Forgiveness" (scroll down to the film) during the Sundance Film Festival. Check here soon for details about the screenings and plan to join us on January 21, 22, or 23. It will be a great chance to explore these issues in greater detail. 

Random Thoughts from a Holiday Week

This is always one of those weeks that we don’t quite know what to do with in our family. Traveling far afield usually isn’t an option because of work, so we do our best to amuse ourselves and have some family time. Over the last couple of days, our family has experienced the following:

  • We got a Monopoly game for Christmas (the real one, a step up from the junior version) and got it out last night to play. If you’ve never tried it, explain to a seven year-old the concept of mortgaged property. OK, then try explaining it to me, ‘cuz I’m still fuzzy on the whole deal. But seriously, the kids really jumped on this and enjoyed it, though we quit after a couple of hours. It does get kind of boring after awhile, especially if you own only a couple of decent properties and have little cash left because you’re in jail all the time (that’d be me). Funny, I can never recall ever having FINISHED a game of Monopoly in my life.               
  • We also got the game "Apples to Apples" which is totally hilarious, trying to match good synonyms with key words. We were all laughing pretty hard. It’s a pretty simple concept, really, and there are no batteries required. We do a lot of board games at our house becase the video kind, well, let’s just say that the last tiime I tried one was in 1985 and things have changed.
  • We sat down and watched "High School Musical" on the Disney Channel. My kids love the Disney Channel, watching endless repeats of "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody" which is better than, say, WWE Smackdown all things considered. OK, I like the Disney Channel, too, for the most part. This High School Musical thing, though, is really fantastic. There, I said it. I loved it–the singing, the dancing, the story about being willing to break boundaries and follow your dreams. It was two hours well-spent. Go watch it with your kids if, by some freak of nature, they haven’t seen it yet. You’ll be glad you did.
  • We decided to venture down the mountain to Salt Lake City today to do some post-Christmas shopping, which usually means running through all the gift cards the kids got for Christmas. They had a blast going through Toys R Us and Borders looking for stuff. Now here’s what does a dad’s heart good: at Border’s my seven year-old Rob chose a CD–U2’s "The Joshua Tree" without any prompting from the old man. Hannah, who’s ten, went to the Celtic music section and picked up a CD from Gaelic Storm. She’s been playing the violin this year and has really gotten into Celtic fiddling (even listening to Thistle and Shamrock on NPR on Saturday nights). Are these kids cool, or what? Then they bought some kind of goo called "Floam" at the toy store, which is like the old "Slime" we used to play with but is way more interesting. We also went to Costco to pick up a few things and had lunch at the snack bar–fed four of us for about $7.00. That’s my kind of eatin’!
  • Days like this, to me, are the real gift of the season–just a couple of days to be with the family and laugh together. I hope you’ve had a chance to do that this week, too!