Mythic Adventures

Sacred Stories from around the Globe

How Our Conception of God Can Become an Idol

This is a short sermon I preached at Portage Chapel Hill United Methodist Church at the early morning Communion Service on Transfiguration Sunday, February 10, 2012. If the members of the congregation were going to “give up something for Lent,” I suggested giving up our current conceptions of Jesus and spending Lent praying for clearer vision of who Christ really is.

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An Unusual Setting for Worship

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, by Benjamin Britten, is an unusual piece of music to use as a worship setting, but that’s what I recommend. Click on the link below to hear why (4:49):

 

The excerpts played here are by the Boston Pops Orchestra under Arthur Fiedler.

Want to try the meditation yourself without my voice-over? Click the link below:

An Urgent Invitation

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Earlier today I was the guest preacher at Keeler United Methodist Church, a beautiful old country church just east of St. Joseph, Michigan. The structure is over 170 years old, and as soon as you walk into the sanctuary, your gaze is directed toward Christ in the garden, praying.

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I especially like the fact that the person who is preaching sees another image — one that reminds us to feed his sheep. You might have to look closely to see the picture between the two windows in the back, but it was much more visible for me. It was an honor to preach in such a lovely setting, and the One of whom I spoke seemed very close indeed.

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My sermon was entitled, “An Urgent Invitation.” My text was Luke 9:57-62. I talked about what it means to follow Jesus today, and I presented some mental snapshots of what our lives will look like if we’re truly doing that.

Click the link below to listen (25 min).

 

 

Radio Interview

On Thursday, June 9, 2016, I was once again a guest on iWork4Him with host Jim Brangenberg. We talked about my book, What Does God Do from 9 to 5?

To listen to the hour-long broadcast from Tampa Bay, Florida, click here.

For more about Jim and his show, here is a link.

A Farewell to Students

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As a faculty member, I’ve listened to lots of commencement addresses, but here’s what I wish I could say to my students as they prepare to leave us…

To our graduates:

We congratulate you on finishing a challenging course of study.  We hope that you have learned much and learned it well, and that you will become productive members of your communities and of this nation.  But now, after all that you have learned, there is one question that remains to be answered—and it must be answered by each of you individually:

What is the great problem to which you will devote your life?

Some of you can afford to ignore this question.  If all you’re interested in is making money, be on your way, then, and have joy of it.  If all you want is fame, good luck.  If you really just want to settle down and work at a job and earn a good living, we wish you the best.

But if you want your life to be more than that—more than grubbing for money or fame, more than the routine of going to work day after day after day and then you die—if you want your life to make a difference, so that people will know, long after you’re gone, that you lived, and that your life mattered… if that is your choice… then this is the one question you must not ignore.

What is the great problem to which you will devote your life?

You have completed the courses which we believe to be of the most use to you at this early stage of your career.  You have been given basic information on a number of subjects.  We hope that you have gained proficiency in thinking for yourself about those subjects and in expressing your thought clearly in writing and speaking.  You have learned a great deal about one particular field.  In short, you have been equipped to address certain live issues—issues which are of importance to our society or to some segment of society.  This has all been preparation.  Now the story begins, and the shape that your story takes—the quality of life that you will live—depends primarily on your answer to this question.

What is the great problem to which you will devote your life?

Did you notice, once you cleared away your required courses, how your classes started to become more open-ended, and how you were invited to see, from the inside, the current issues in your field?  Did any of those issues reach out and beckon to you?  Were there any questions or problems which quickened your pulse, or which made you stay behind to talk to your professor or your classmates after the hour was over?  Did you ever hear anything at this school that made you realize—even if only for a moment—that there might be something worthwhile left to do in this old world, and that it might be something for you to do?

For if you have learned only facts… only theories… only skills… then you have missed the most important part of your education.  You needed to learn facts and theories and skills so that you could build on them to wrestle with the problems in your field—for it is those problems to which you will be expected to contribute at least some small part of a solution.

Are you entering the field of education?  The main problem is still a live one: What is the best way to teach a person something?  As an educator, you are going to devote the next years of your life to solving that problem.  Are you committed to it?  Is that the great problem to which you will devote your life?

Some of you are headed for law enforcement. The community in which you are employed could either turn against you or work together with you to maintain peace. It’s up to you how you will approach them. Is that the great problem to you which you will devote your life?

We could list each major course of study and look for the open-ended problems that are just waiting for you to solve them. Is there something in your field that has reached out and claimed you? Something that keeps you awake nights, thinking about it?

Everything up to this moment has merely been a prelude.  Your education was supposed to awaken you to what needs to be done, and to equip you to do it. Over the past few years we have pushed your poor tired brain almost beyond its capacity for this reason: because you are now being entrusted with the great problems of the human race, and we are looking to you to help us solve them.

As a result of the time you spent here, you now know a little about history, about science, about the arts… but can you identify the great problems that are facing your society?  Did you pay attention to what needs doing?  Are you ready to pitch in, ready to make the world a better place in some way?  Are you full of ideas about how you will improve on our past mistakes?

What is the great problem to which you will devote your life?

Answer that… and the path will open before you.

Who Is ‘Us’?

The Apostle John caught a non-member healing people in Jesus’ name and told him not to do so because he “wasn’t one of us.” Christ’s response to John provides a timely message for all of us who follow Jesus today. (This was a sermon I preached at the Chapel Hill United Methodist Church of Sodus, Michigan, on September 27, 2015.) Click on the link below to listen (20 min).

 

Episode 104 The Lens

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 6, Paragraph 1, John Calvin introduces the idea that the scriptures serve as a lens through which Christians view the world. Although that imagery is useful, I argue that it is simplistic. As Christ shows in Matthew 5, he himself is the lens through which we ought to view all the rest of the scriptures. Click on the link below to listen (15:00).

Episode 103 The Cost of Being a Christian

A reflection on Matthew 5:29-30.  Click on the link below to listen (10:02).

Episode 102 Be Perfect

In Matthew 5:48, Christ tells us to “be perfect.” Although I’ve never been stirred by talk of perfection, in this post I explain why this passage deeply inspires me.  Click on the link below to listen (14:29).

Episode 101 It’s Not For Wimps

This is a sermon I preached at Portage Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Portage, Michigan (USA) on February 16, 2014.  The text was Matthew 5:21-26, and it was read by Rev. Hazel Winterburn. Please click on the link below to listen (26:08).

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