Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ryan Howard and the Pittsburgh Pirates

I want to join the many Philly Phans that are thrilled to have Ryan Howard connected to the team for the next 5-6 years. He is the man. Yes, he strikes out a lot. Yes, first baseman often break down in their mid-thirties. But who cares when someone is hitting 45 homers and driving in 135 runs. I mean, who does that year after year? Literally no one has each year for the past four years.

People have said that he stinks compared to Albert Pujols. Yes, I would say that Albert is the best overall player in the majors...but he is going to stay in St. Louis. (By the way, I love when guys, even Yankees, stay with one team for their whole career.)

And at the end of the day, if Pujols makes $30 million a season, and Howard makes $25 million, and Howard hits more homers and rbi's, but Pujols has better average and slugging percentage, I'm happy with Howard. Plus, $30 million for Pujols will be about 30% of the Cardinal's payroll, while Howard's pay is 16% of the Phillies. Are Howard's stats twice as bad as Pujols? If not, he is a great deal. And his deal allows the team to have a premier slugger and build a supporting cast.

My heart goes out to the Pittsburgh Pirates. I don't know how you turn it around. They have such a great city and a great stadium. I wish they could field a better team. I mean, Milwaulkee is crushing them. It isn't even close. How do you break cycles of dysfunction?

Grazing, Raising and Rising

For the rest of the Easter Season, I will be using the lectionary readings as the basis of my sermons. The lectionary is a three year cycle of Scripture readings that allow the church to read through most of the Bible.

For April 25th, the Scripture readings were Psalm 23, John 9:22-30 and Acts 16:36-43.

Psalm 23 speaks to us about sheep grazing. One of the images of God's followers is sheep, with God being the Great Shepherd. A question that emerges from Psalm 23 is What is your spiritual diet? Psalm 23 declares that the Great Shepherd will be with us, through the green pastures and the valley of the shadow of death. Through it all, goodness and mercy shall follow us. In our spiritual lives, we need to graze upon goodness and mercy.

The passage in John is the words of Jesus in response to the religious leaders of his day. The leaders were raising the question about the authenticity of Jesus. Jesus said, "my sheep will know my voice". There are many competing voices in this world. And the loudest most pressing voice is not always the one to follow. Do you follow the voice of the Great SShepherd? The promise of Christ to his sheep is that in the midst of the varied seasons of life, we will not be snatched out of God's hand.

The Acts passage, which describes a disciple named Dorcas rising from the dead, is one of the reasons why the lectionary is so valuable: it makes us read the meaningful and the challenging passages of scripture. Most of us will never see a miracle like this, and it can even hurt us as we read it, for we wonder why a miracle like this could not have happened to someone we loved who has died.

the Easter Season is about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ's followers become living illustrations to the world. Just as Christ died and rose to new life, we are called to die to our sins, and to be transformed by Christ's new life. How do we model the resurrection power of Jesus Christ?

Thursday, April 15, 2010


During this Easter season, the Good's have had several exciting events and moments unfold. I'd like to celebrate them today.

As a followup to my Good Friday post, over 60 people came out to the Sunrise service, that was fantastic. It is great to get the four congregations together to celebrate.

One of the parishioners has been accepted in the PhD program at Duke, so I would officially like to recant my "Boring" comment of them winning a national championship.

That also got me thinking about making a list of all the colleges and universities that people connected to the churches I have served have attended while I was in their midst.

The church had the Good News Ringers and Singers from the Good News Home for Women in Flemington come to offer their gift of music last Sunday. It was great to have them.

This Sunday, we will be baptizing Kate, a delightful 3 year old in the congregation, and our daughter Isabelle. I cannot thank God enough for our two children, they bring a smile to my face everyday.

The Church will be hosting a gospel group called the Skyline Boys this Sunday. I'm really excited about this event for everyone, but especially for a man named Jason who had the vision to bring them to Stockton.

Last week, we hosted a local poet named Ray Brown for a poetry reading night. I'm always interested in trying something at least once. I hoped we would get at least a handful of people to support Ray, a decorated poet from Frenchtown. We had 25 people attend the event, with a nice mix of church folk, Ray's following and town visitors. What a great night! I'm thinking that for next National Poetry month, the church should hold a poetry Festival. Comment below with your thoughts!

I had a great conversation with our neighbor Roger, whom I learned is a kindred spirit when it comes to small town living, town design and what it takes to grow community.

Had a delightful time with the Kean students yesterday, who 'sacrificed their break' in order to get out early. They celebrated, but admittedly, I also enjoyed arriving home earlier. Both sections of the class have been great this semester.

Dad was generous the other night and picked up the tab during the visit to Lowe's. We got the girl's playground area looking sharp. And as my semi-annual physical workout, it felt good. Mom stopped by during dinner and it was fun to sit around and eat together.

The community garden is coming together in neat ways. 7 people showed up to clean up the ground last Saturday. We will be planting cool crops soon. And the school is climbing on board to be partakers of the community garden experience. The garden is growing, literally, and symbolically!

This morning, Sophie played in the sandbox and the playground area, and it was amazing to watch her play. I also planted a cherry tree. I look forward to watching it grow, as a symbol of the beautiful gift of life in Stockton that has been given to us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Deep Emotions: Pure Joy and Love

A summary of my last two sermons:

Throughout Lent, we have talked about deep emotions within the human spirit. These emotions are universal to the experience. On the other side of Lent, during the Easter season, we will continue looking at these emotions.

Joy, or pure joy, came to believers on that day when Christ resurrected from the dead. Triumphing over the great enemy of death, Jesus delivered a transformative event in history and for the spiritual life. The act of Jesus rising gives hope to all people, and allows us to experience eternal life. When we experience the power of resurrection, there is pure joy.

Last week, we talked briefly about love. We read from the passages of Song of Solomon 8:6-8, I Corinthians 13 and John 13:34-35.

A few weeks ago, there was a mention of Corinthians in an episode of 30 Rock. Liz, in an attempt to confront an ex-boyfriends fiance, gets roped into a spot in the wedding. She laments, "Somehow, I'm doing a reading from Corinthians". Go Corinthians! The passage of Corinthians 13 is the classic passage on love. Love is patient, love is kind...Three remain, faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.

Love calls us to expand our circle. If the circle of people we love and interact with is small, then love calls us to widen that circle just a little. If our circle is larger, love calls us to widen it even more.

The two loves that Scripture emphasizes is a love for God and love for neighbor. Does the Bible talk about the love of marriage, or love of family? Yes, a little, but not nearly as much as how we love God and neighbor.

During these past two weeks of sermons, our worship experiences have been quite wonderful. On Easter morning, over 6o of us gathered at Dilts Farm Park to observe a sun rise service. It was good to be together as neighboring congregations. At Stockton on Easter Sunday, the sanctuary was full of flowers, with young ones doing Easter egg hunts and people of all ages gathered together.

Last week, on the 2nd Sunday of Easter, we were honored to have the Good News Home for Women Ringers and Singers share their gift of music. What a wonderful group that joined us for worship. You can learn more about this group at www.goodnewshome.org/

We also had a Poetry Reading Night that had 25 people in attendance. I was really surprised by the response. And that is what the new life brought forth by the resurrection season is all about: Being open to being surprised by the power of God's Spirit.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Praise to God

For the record, Duke beat West Virginia, and Butler. Oh well, we caught a glimpse of the upside world of the kingdom, but alas, it was not to be. Duke is the champ. BORING.

About 11 years ago now, I interviewed for a job 5 minutes from the Duke campus. From time to time, I think about how life would have been different had I taken that path.

Which brings me to the brief point I would like to make today. I have really been blessed the last few weeks. I can't put my finger on all the reasons why, but I wanted to blog how grateful I am. To God, from whom comes every good and perfect gift. To Aurie, for her and our two beautiful children. To Aurie, for getting us organized: we have seen some very tangible blessings lately because we leapfrogged some organizational issues and have remained ahead of the curve.

I know that being organized is not an eternal promise, but we have enjoyed the benefits. And I know that blessings aren't always promised, or if we come to assume they are ours by right, will set ourselves up for the fall. But when they are present, it feels good.

All glory to God this beautiful spring day.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Congrats to Butler

I always enjoyed the movie Hoosiers, filmed on the campus of Butler University. Butler just won its game to advance to the National Championship Game. They will be playing this game in their home city. What a story! I'm watching the coach give an interview, he looks like he is 23 years old. And now a player, who looks about 15. When did I get so old???

Where art thou, O Kentucky? Kansas, where are you?
Hip Hip hooray for the little school called Butler U.
In a world of giants, sometimes a magical season comes.
Take on the giants, and be victorious, O little ones.

Hey, I never said I was a poet. You know it!

Go Butler. Now I will root for West Virginia, who has a player with the last name of Butler. Butler v. Butler. Lawyers everywhere would be proud must also be cheering for this matchup.

But I will not be awake for the next game, or at least, I hope I won't. I have to save my strength for Josh Beckett and the Sox to take on the Evil Empire tomorrow.

Good Friday Thoughts

This year, my wife's birthday and Good Friday were the same day, providing for a unique balancing of emotions.

Lately, I have been grateful as I have contemplated the cross. The mystery of God bringing salvation and showing love through the ultimate sacrifice. I have not wanted to be assuming as I look at the cross, nor have not wanted to be a spoiled brat, "knowing" that Jesus died for me. I have wanted to be grateful, acknowledging my personal unworthiness, sinfulness, need for righteousness and inability to be right with God just by doing it myself. We need Christ's love. The cross is hard to consider, but we need it. And I am grateful that God acted upon our need.

Today, errands and commitments have taken me to and fro, forgetting that yesterday was a day remembering a cross, and not thinking too far ahead about resurrection.

I think one of the things that we miss the longer we are Christians is the total surprise of the resurrection. Today, we observe Good Friday, and we leave a service or prayer knowing we will go and remember the resurrection hours later. It wasn't like that the first time around.

On Friday, I talked about the great exchange. Christ's life for our sins. Christ's death for our life. Our life for eternal life. Good Friday also reminds me that Great is the mystery of our faith.

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

We will affirm that classic creed tomorrow during Resurrection Sunday. A growing number of us will meet at Dilts Farm Park at 6:30. It is a gathering of 4 different congregations, and there was a wonderful sense of community last year, my first celebration with the group. We will then gather with the Stocktonites at 11am. I am grateful for such a loving congregation. They give witness to the grace and glory of Christ, and provide a wonderful model of a people trying to be the body of Christ.

God has sent a few surprises to our family lately. We were blessed before these surprises, but the surprises have reinforced God's goodness to us. I look forward to seeing the surprise of resurrection tomorrow and throughout the 7 weeks of Easter.