Showing posts from April, 2015

On Grace: A Sermon

Methodist support for North Carolina's 2012 ballot measure banning recognition of all forms of marriage--including domestic partnerships--other than one man and one woman. There are times I wish I could reverse my baptism. Yesterday I was out running errands in the Tanasbourne district. I was stopped at the traffic signal at Evergreen and 185th when two sign-wavers caught my eye. One was promoting the opening of a new restaurant. The other was promoting Jesus. I couldn't get a good look at the sign--I think it was something about him dying for sinners, evangelical boilerplate--though I did glimpse the words "Grace Bible Church" on the bottom of the sign. Turning onto 185th, I saw two more sign-wavers on the opposite corner. I couldn't make out what one of the signs said, but the other was clearly visible, and worded so effectively I was able to hold the entire text in my memory until I came to a stop light where I could enter it as a note in my phone:

Church of the Here and Now

An ancient juniper at Oregon Badlands Wilderness. This is my third post in a row that has the word "church" in its title. I've been wrestling with religion for most of my life. Faith never came easily for me--and, as it turned out, it didn't come the hard way, either. I tried for years to follow the advice Peter Boehler, a friend of John Wesley, gave him during one of his own many crises of faith: "Preach faith until you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith." I tried, and failed: the faith that is Methodism and, much more than that, Christianity, simply would not take root in me. And yet, even as the faith I strained to possess eluded my grasp, I found myself experiencing a gradual warming of the heart from unexpected sources: mountaintops, finish lines, friendships, concerts, novels, workouts, intimate moments. It took me three decades of such epiphanies to put them all together and realize just what I was being tol

The Right Church

Well, no, actually, I didn't. But then, I stopped looking, so how could I find it? Enough with the cryptic rhetorical responses to a cryptic evangelism campaign from the 1970s, already. This is a follow-up to last week's essay on being " done with church ," in which I discussed several reasons why I'd rather do almost anything than go to church on a Sunday morning. That post got more views than my typical curmudgeonly rant--40 so far--which is encouraging. It also got something I rarely have: an eloquent response from a reader. His name is Daryl, and in the late 1970s, we were classmates at Philomath High School. His grandfather had been the pastor of the College Evangelical United Brethren Church until the great merger of 1968, when it became the College United Methodist Church, and the hardline EUBs left to start their own church elsewhere in town. Seven years later, my father became pastor of the College UMC, and baptized me in its immersion ba

Done with Church

Just one of the many things I've had enough of: Calvary. I've had my fill. Sunday morning was Easter, the day around which the Christian year revolves. In the ancient church, every Sunday was supposed to be a little Easter, and Easter itself was, well, the big Easter. Most churches have allowed the Easter to seep out of the other 51 Sundays, but all of them still make a big deal about the Sunday that is above all other Sundays. Anyway, I went to church on Sunday, as I have every Easter Sunday of my entire life. I went to sit with my recently widowed mother because, quite understandably, it wasn't easy for her to be their by herself. My father (as you know already if you've spent any time at all reading my previous posts) was a United Methodist minister, so being in church without him was a hard thing for her. For my part, I'm a former minister myself. I've also been a church musician for more years than I was a minister. When I wasn't prea

Dark Materials

Warning: the following blog post contains spoilers. That was some read. I'm referring to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, a "young adult" fantasy epic that, in my opinion as a sci-fi fantasy geek, compares favorably with J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Madeline l'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time , and C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy  and Chronicles of Narnia. It's a multiverse-spanning work that tackles heavy matters of theology, philosophy, and quantum physics, while keeping its focus on two tween-aged characters, Lyra and Will, who are at the center of the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil. While it's written for the YA audience, the attention to detail in both the world-building and the philosophizing is flawless, and there's plenty in here to bend the mind of this double-Masters degree reader. What grabbed me most--and has given this trilogy its notoriety--is Pullman's upending of Christian cosmo