The Beginning

A Sermon for the First Sunday of the Narrative Lectionary

Genesis 2:4-7b, 15-15; 3:1-8

I’m very excited to begin our journey through the Narrative Lectionary this week, which will take us on a sweep through much of the Bible between now and Pentecost Sunday next May. I’m excited about this because I love to tell this story—the most important story ever told.

Like any good story, it’s the kind that invites us to find ourselves within it. The difference, however, is that this story is actually THE story—the one that matters the most; the story in which all of our stories find their true meaning.

And like any good story, it begins at the beginning—this one from the VERY beginning. We’re only going to spend three weeks in Genesis on our rapid tour through the Bible, but this is a foundational story for the rest of the story. Like any good novel, the first few chapters set up the narrative, introduce the main characters, and provide the engine for the rest of the plot.

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My Hopes for the WCA

wcaI will be attending the first gathering of the newly formed Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) on October 7 in Chicago, along with a “remnant” of orthodox colleagues in the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference. The recent election in the Western Jurisdiction and appointment of an openly lesbian bishop to our annual conference have raised the stakes for those of us who serve in the West and in other jurisdictions and annual conferences that are in open defiance of our Discipline. 

I have been excited to watch the formation of the WCA as a unified voice for orthodox United Methodists. Nearly a thousand have already registered to attend the one-day gathering, but very little has been said about what will actually take place on October 7. There is great anticipation that this meeting could be a watershed moment for United Methodism, but I also sense an equal amount of skepticism that the gathering will simply be a continuation of the strategies of the various orthodox renewal movements that have been part of the UMC for the past several decades. Groups like Good News and the Confessing Movement have done good work holding the line, lobbying for traditional doctrine and discipline in the church, and acting as a voice for orthodoxy in the midst of the denominational leadership’s continuous left turns toward a progressive theological unitarianism. Recent events, however, have indicated that the time for lobbying, politicking, and voting has passed.

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From Almost to Altogether

A sermon given at the Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church Camp Meeting on August 7, 2016

Text: Mark 12:28-34

campmeeting4Well, our Camp Meeting day has finally arrived. I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time, and though we’re only here for the day, our history tells us that gathering in the outdoors for worship is actually one of the most Methodist things we could possibly do.

In 1739, John Wesley took to the fields of England to begin preaching to common people. That was very unusual at a time when “proper” preaching was only considered to have taken place if it happened inside a church. But at the invitation of his friend George Whitefield, Wesley “submitted to be more vile” and, on April 2, 1739, preached to about 3,000 people near Bristol and some 4,000 more the next day—all this without the aid of microphones—just a clear voice filled with conviction.

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A Pastoral Letter to the People of Tri-Lakes UMC

TLUMC Church Family,

The Western Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church met July 13-16, 2016 in Scottsdale, AZ. The primary purpose of the jurisdictional conference is to elect and assign bishops to annual conferences within the jurisdiction. The jurisdictional conference meets every four years and, this year, there was one opening for a bishop. Bishops are elected by a slate of delegates from each annual conference in the jurisdiction. 

On July 15, the Western Jurisdiction took the unprecedented step of electing a married lesbian, Karen Oliveto, pastor of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco, as its new bishop. On July 16, they assigned her as the resident Bishop of the Mountain Sky Area (which includes our Rocky Mountain Conference and the Yellowstone Conference). This election took place despite our denomination’s Book of Discipline and its express prohibitions against “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” serving as clergy in the UMC. Essentially, the Western Jurisdiction decided to set aside the rules established by the UMC General Conference, which sets the Book of Discipline. A request has been submitted to our denominational Judicial Council, the church’s version of the Supreme Court, for a ruling on the validity of this election. That ruling will likely be presented in late October of 2016.

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Malachi: Putting God on Trial

MASTERPIECE CONTEMPORARY God On Trial Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 9pm ET on PBS Who is to blame for the greatest of all crimes? Facing extermination at Auschwitz, a group of prisoners solemnly weighs the case against the Lord God, in God on Trial, airing on MASTERPIECE CONTEMPORARY. Shown (left to right): Stephen Dillane as Schmidt, Stellan Skarsgard as Baumgarten, and Rupert Graves as Mordechai. (c) Neil Davidson/Hat Trick Productions for MASTERPIECE

MASTERPIECE CONTEMPORARY
God On Trial
Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 9pm ET on PBS
Who is to blame for the greatest of all crimes? Facing extermination at Auschwitz, a group of prisoners solemnly weighs the case against the Lord God, in God on Trial, airing on MASTERPIECE CONTEMPORARY. Shown (left to right): Stephen Dillane as Schmidt, Stellan Skarsgard as Baumgarten, and Rupert Graves as Mordechai.
(c) Neil Davidson/Hat Trick Productions for MASTERPIECE

Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate and survivor of the Holocaust, died this past week and there were a lot of rightfully reflective articles about his life and work in the media. If you’ve read his work, you know that it is powerful because it came through the lens of intense suffering and hope.

One of the stories that has circulated about Wiesel was that one night in the dark corner of a barracks in the Auschwitz concentration camp, three rabbis decided to put God on trial. They charged God with working against the covenant made with his chosen people and accuse him of being the one responsible for their suffering. Wiesel said he witnessed the trial, which ended by not calling God guilty, but rather, in the Hebrew chayav, which means, “He owes us something.” In 1977, Wiesel wrote a play based on that night titled, “The Trial of God.”

It’s not unprecedented for people to put God on trial, of course. In 2007, an agnostic state senator Ernie Chambers from Nebraska filed a law suit against God charging him with “making and continuing to make terroristic threats of grave harm to innumerable persons, including constituents of the plaintiff…” The suit goes on to blame God for all natural disasters, diseases, and death that befalls people.

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