Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A glimpse into the future

Baby Preacher

This is what my son, Wes, will probably be doing about two years from now, trying to act like Daddy.

The Never Ending Countdown

I really loved the show "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", not because the show was that great in and of itself (although it was good), but because it provided the weekly fix of intellectual fiction I had been missing since "The West Wing" ended. Either that or I just like Aaron Sorkin's writing a lot.

The main reason I loved this show was because I so identified with Matt Albie (played by Matthew Perry of "Friends" fame), who was the head writer of the fictional SNL type show. He was a very gifted writer but he was often distracted from his work by his personal demons. He was obsessive about the quality of his work and endlessly self critical. Truly a guy after my own heart.

In his office, Matt had a clock counting down the hours and minutes until the show went on the air. No matter how good a show had been, he began each week with a blank piece of paper and 158 hours to fill it. 

One of these days when I have some money to burn (which will be right about never since I have a baby on the way) I'm going to get a clock like that for my office to count down the 158 hours I have each week between Sunday mornings. No matter how good or bad a sermon may have been, I'm essentially facing a blank piece of paper on Sunday afternoon. I have lots of help filling it, of course, from books, colleagues, Roundtable Pulpit participants, and a very intelligent wife who won't let me cut corners in making an argument.

This probably makes me weird, but I get very energized by the challenge this presents. If I preached well, I get to turn around and try to do it again the next week. If I was just OK or flat out bad, I get to try to redeem myself in just a few days.

Now before I sound too narcissistic, preaching is clearly a different pursuit than giving a political speech or performing in a play. The sermon is not simply the sum total of my preparation and abilities, but instead is supposed to be a medium through which the Holy Spirit speaks to and blesses people. Some people say that the best preaching happens when the preacher gets out of the way and lets the Spirit do its thing. But I know myself well enough to know that if I'm unprepared, if I'm too nervous, or if I'm not in the right headspace, then I'm going to stand up there and stammer, tell bad jokes, and generally get in the way of the Spirit moving. Getting the heck out of the way takes a whole lot of work!

I'm writing this post on Tuesday morning at about 10 am. That gives me a little less than 110 hours before church on Sunday. I've got a lot of work to do so I can get out of the Spirit's way. 

Tick tock, tick tock...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Not of One Mind

Some interesting news from the recent Jurisdictional Conferences of the United Methodist Church, which meet every four years to elect and assign bishops for the coming quadrennium: 

The Northeastern Jurisdiction voted to affirm the actions of California pastors who choose to bless same sex marriages, even though they are prohibited to do so by the Book of Discipline (you can read the UMNS story here). The delegates also encouraged leniency on those who choose to practice this kind of civil disobedience as a prophetic witness against what they believe to be an injustice.

In the Western Jurisdiction, Rev. Frank Wulf took the very courageous step of being the church's first openly gay candidate for bishop (UMNS story here). Although he was not elected, Rev. Wulf showed both tremendous personal integrity by being honest about his sexuality and tremendous pastoral sensitivity by his concerns over the backlash from people filled with hate should he be elected.

Also in the Western Jurisdiction, Bishop Beverly Shamana of the California-Nevada Conference issued a "ruling of law" declaring same sex marriages performed by UMC clergy to be "null and void" according to the Discipline, even though they are legal under California state law (UMNS story here). Any ruling of law issued by a Bishop is automatically reviewed by the Judicial Council (our denomination's Supreme Court), guaranteeing a very interesting a controversial meeting of the JC this fall.

I bring this up because earlier this summer at General Conference a legislative committee recommended adding some additional language to the Book of Discipline regarding our official stance on homosexuality. While this language did not change our official position, it did acknowledge that the church is "not of one mind" on the issue and that "good and faithful Christians" are on both sides. This majority report went to the floor of GC and was narrowly voted down. The debate over this language was described by many in attendance as one of the most divisive and hate filled exchanges they had ever seen.

But whether the Book of Discipline says so or not, we are clearly not of one mind on the issue of sexual orientation. Perhaps it's time we laid aside our rhetoric and sound-bytes, came out of our armed camps, and actually had some dialogue with one another. We're not of one mind, and the sooner we admit that, the sooner we can deal with it.

Friday, July 04, 2008

It's a Boy!!!

This morning we took the Intelligender test to determine the sex of our baby, and it turns out it's a boy! (Well, technically it's a 90% chance) I am extremely excited to have a son!

We posted the video of us seeing the test results on our joint blog, which you can see here.

PS- Wish Jessica a Happy Birthday today!