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July 5th, 2015

Who Has My Back?

What’s the worst that can happen to me? What then?

Acts 21:27-36

Landmark ruling

This is at least an interesting, and for some an unsettling, weekend to celebrate America. Nine days ago the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) gave same gender couples equal access to the legal right to marry, a decision that divides Americans, even American Christians, down the middle. As someone who has opposed and still disagrees with that decision, I nevertheless found myself (along with my wife Linda and Pastor Lori) among those who celebrated it at the General Synod of the United Church of Christ last weekend. Ten years ago, on July 4, 1995, the UCC was the first Protestant church in America to formally advocate for “marriage equality.”

For many people, the SCOTUS decision represents a landmark ruling for freedom, the freedom to be who you are, the freedom to live choose your sexual and religious expression. For others, this decision isn’t about freedom at all. It’s about the loss of morals and the breakdown of the family. And for some, it’s about the loss, or at least the potential loss of religious freedom. A Barna Institute poll released after the SCOTUS decision revealed that 56% of all Americans and 93% of evangelical Christians are concerned about the loss of religious freedom after the Supreme Court ruling. Read more »

June 30th, 2015

Encouraged

I’ve never been more encouraged about our conference than I was during the 50th anniversary celebration of the UCC’s Southern Conference, June 18-20 in Greensboro. I often wondered whether the UCC’s motto, “Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here,” apply to those of us who are ECOT – evangelical, conservative, orthodox, or traditional? After last week, the answer is yes. Why? Read more »

June 22nd, 2015

Baptism is about what the Father does when he brings you “in” to his family.

Acts 19:1-7

Weird Babel of Tongues

How would you answer the question the Apostle Paul asks in Acts 19:2? If he looked at you and said, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” what would you say? I think it’s a great question, and before I’m done, you will know the answer.

A few hours after I wrote that opening paragraph for my sermon a 21-year-old racist white kid murdered nine black Christians at a church Bible study in Charleston, SC. What’s the connection between the Charleston shooting and Acts 19? I will return to that question.

Over the past hundred years or so, a branch of the Christian family tree has emerged that reads passages like Acts 19 differently than I do. Commonly known as Pentecostals or charismatics (I’ll explain the difference in a moment), they comprise about one-fourth of the world’s Christians, almost 600 million strong.

The Pentecostal movement’s beginning is usually traced to April 18, 1906, the same morning San Francisco residents dealt with the deadliest American earthquake in American history. Read more »

June 19th, 2015

When you use Romans 1 to clobber someone else, you get clobbered by Romans 2.

Romans 1:28-32

June 19, 2015 – Southern Conference, United Church of Christ

Conservative, white, Reformed, and old

Aren’t you glad you get to listen to preachers on a hot Friday afternoon in Greensboro? I think I’d rather be eating ice cream. The purpose of this preaching festival is to put on display the different preaching styles across the Southern Conference. In case you’re wondering, I’m the conservative, white, Reformed, old guy.

The classical Reformed preacher sticks to the Bible. Ulrich Zwingli smashed altars and organs in the 16th century. He removed stained glass windows and icons and replaced fancy vestments with academic robes. No new hymns – just sing the Psalms. No eye (or ear) candy in church for the German/Swiss Reformed. No thinking about ice cream in church. Focus on the Word of God read and explained. We’ve moderated that a bit.

Partly because I’m Reformed and partly because I’m Bob, I tend to preach to the left side of the brain – where you think, not the right side, where you feel. But if I’m to invite you to think, I need to get your attention. I figured announcing a text from Romans 1 at Southern Conference might help serve that purpose! So might the presence of a stepladder in the chancel behind me. Read more »

June 14th, 2015

Humility is honest about the ego but chooses a servant mentality.

Acts 18:18-28

Flourishing with differences

Last Sunday after church, Linda and I were sitting with a few folks from Corinth at the baptism lunch for the Hucks babies. Jeffrey White made a comment about Corinth that stayed with me all week. Later I asked him to write some of those thoughts:

The new trend in congregation growth seems to be the mega churches, which scare off a lot of the traditional people, and excite contemporary worshipers.  As other churches decide to split to start something new and or different, Corinth seems to flourish with both.  Corinth allows my family the option to choose within the body of our church, instead of forcing us to make a drastic decision, with one or the other. You and Paul are so different but mesh so well.   Both of your leadership styles are very well suited to work together in our Corinth team.

We started the two 11:00 services about a decade ago, meaning we’ve been doing it this way about 500 times. We’ve tweaked our process here and there, but I don’t think about it that much until a pastoral colleague or a Corinth member or guest says, “Do you know how unusual it is to have two 11:00 services simultaneously and not have a sense of competition or rivalry?” There’s also our 8:30 service, where we both preach. Keep Jeffrey’s comment in mind while we look at Acts 18.

Read more »