I saw it on the evening news. A woman stood in front of the ruins of her little house. Her electric heater, the little one that she was using to keep warm, had caught her curtains on fire, and the little frame house had burned to the ground. To the TV reporter, she said, “Still, I’ve got lots to be thankful for. I praise my Lord!” And I could see the words on the reporter’s astonished face: Praise God for what?
It was obvious when he came home late, walked into our bedroom, and just stood there for a few seconds before going to his room. In the morning, we discovered he had put his coat in the kitchen cupboard with the dinner plates. Jamie was high again. Nancy became fearful of her own nephew, and probably with good reason. At one point, he had tried to tie his own mother up so he could steal drug money from her. Another night, he broke down her bedroom door to get to her and her money.
When I arrived, a police officer came up to me and asked, “Are you Rev. Shuluga?” I told him I was. He said Tom left a note. I asked if I could read it. He handed me the note. My hands shaking I read, “I talked with Rev. Shuluga. If you have any questions, see him.” Oh dear Lord. I knew Tom’s story. All of it.
We know who Jesus’s kind of people were. The question to ask of ourselves and of our congregations in a sermon on Luke 14 is whether Jesus’s kind of people are our kind of people.
I have a dear friend who does not travel interstates or highways or byways. For John, it is back roads all the way, regardless of the distance. Time is not a factor. Traveling through all the small towns on two lane roads, through the mountains and down the valleys is his idea of a great way to travel. For John, the important thing is not so much the destination, but the journey.
The Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church was held February 23 to 26 in St. Louis, Missouri. What transpired there made me angry. It made me weep. It inspired me to write a song. I’ll be sharing the scriptures and the Spirit behind our new original song, Heaven on Earth, which we’ll be debuting during the service.
There had obviously been some controversy over our church’s first organ. As with most things in the church, there were those who were in favor of it, and there were those who were not. There is nothing like a good old church fight! Those who were in favor of the pipe organ won out, and the organ was installed. However, there were those trustees who were against it and took action. When worshippers arrived Sunday morning, they found the organ out in the middle of Broad Street.
The typical American now buys 60 percent more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago and keeps them half as long. Mooney thinks this is a major problem on a lot of levels. “There’s no rule anywhere that says we have to wear a different thing every day,” says Julia. “Why do we ask this of each other?”
The story Luke tells in today’s scripture passage is familiar to many of us, as is the conventional conclusion about it: Be Mary, not Martha. That is, don’t just keep busy when you should be meditating or spending deep time with God. But let’s look at the story more carefully and see if that’s really what it is saying. Let’s see, in other words, whether we can rescue Martha from history’s dustbin.
Amos prophesied that the coming year of exile for Israel would also be the worst time to be alive for Amaziah personally. His wife would become a prostitute in the city, his sons and daughters would fall by the sword, his land would be parceled out to others, and Amaziah himself would die in exile.
That’s harsh. Not good. A very bad year for Amaziah.
Surveys today indicate that trust of other people and trust in institutions, and even trust of the church is at an all-time low. Some of you may remember when the journalist and television anchor Walter Cronkite was often referred to as “The most trusted man in America.” In this day and age, in a culture that is politically, racially, economically, and in countless other ways, divided and polarized, trust is not an abundant commodity.
Hooray for Winners! How surrendering is really winning.
He is known as Mr. Green Man. Horribly disfigured in an electrical accident (or a lightning strike, according to some versions), this man with eerily-glowing green skin was said to wander the roads at night and chase anyone he came across. Teenagers looking for a good scare still head out to the area at night hoping to catch a glimpse of the Green Man, but they won’t find him. He passed away in 1985. But he wasn’t a crazed lunatic or ghostly apparition. His name was Raymond Robinson.
Imagine that you have committed a crime, but so far, the authorities have not caught onto you. But to escape detection, you need to move around a lot. You create false identities. You use aliases. You are always looking over your shoulder. You have no peace with the law, and the law has a rap sheet as long as your arm against you. But then, magically, it all goes away. Perhaps the evidence room is destroyed in a fire. Whatever. Just imagine that something’s happened, and now you don’t need to run anymore. You don’t need to worry about getting caught. How good would that feel?
According to a recent Barna survey, more than three-quarters of Americans do not often have spiritual or religious conversations. A meager 7 percent of Americans say that they talk about spiritual matters regularly. But here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly don’t do much better than the general population. Only 13 percent of these people have a spiritual conversation about once a week.
How often do you talk about God?
My mother-in-law was a bad diabetic. She always had a large glass of water by her side. I remember her saying, “If they ever bottle this stuff, they will make a fortune.” If she had only lived to see it.
Christians are made, not born. The Christian faith is so odd, so against our natural inclinations, that Christianity can never be a matter of natural development. It is not innate. None of us is born Christian.
Unfortunately, some of the biggest walls we will ever experience are the religious ones. In my efforts at evangelism, in reaching out to the world in the name of Jesus (though it pains me to say this), the greatest impediment to reaching the world and making disciples for Christ has been us, the church.
It pains me to admit it, but apparently, I have passed away. Everyone told me it would happen one day but that’s simply not something I wanted to hear, much less experience. Once again, I didn’t get things my way!
This post-resurrection, rehabilitation breakfast becomes uncomfortable as the dishes are cleared. The joy of the record catch is over. Calling Peter to one side, Jesus shows he’s intent on grilling more than just the fish they’ve hauled to shore. “Do you love me?”