Monday, October 18, 2004

red and yellow and pink and green...

I love football. We've pretty much established that on this here blog. This past Saturday was the first practice for our game against Nashota House next weekend. (aka the Lavabo Bowl. Aren't we funny). Frank is really a great coach... he taught us a bunch of routes, and I had fun running the drills. He also taught us about how to catch a football so that our fingers wouldn't get jammed. Apparently, I wasn't listening. My finger is still swollen and its sort of magenta-purple-black. It doesn't hurt too much, but it doesn't bend or straighten well either. And... typing is pretty uncomfortable. Since I can't take a break from writing papers for school, I'm taking a short medical leave from here. Its gotta be better for the game on Saturday! Wish us luck!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

So Much for the Personals...

I actually got up early enough this morning to watch the news before I went to my class on "England in the Age of Reform". Watching the news seems like a noble activity, especially during election season. Plus, I like the people on CNN in the morning, thanks to the nice folks I stayed with over the summer. Today's story was not so noble, I'm afraid. I suppose its one way to get dates - but really? This is newsworthy? Next time, I'm sleeping fifteen minutes later and getting my laughs online.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Sermon for Philip

I have a favorite part of the day. It happens about five minutes after Luke and I both get home. I”ll sit down on the couch in our living room/dining room/kitchen, and he’ll start putting away dishes or shuffling through the pile of papers on the table, and he’ll ask “so, how was your day?’ And then start telling all the stories of the day, and he tells his. We tell all kinds of stories. Sometimes it sounds like a play-by-play for the whole day, other times there are funny or frustrating moments to focus on. Whatever the stories are, I know that my day isn’t complete without our little check-in time. There is a closeness that comes from sharing our stories with others, and bringing other people into our stories is exciting.

In some ways, this is how I like to picture Phillip on the road, telling the story of Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch was returning home from Jerusalem, where he had gone to worship. The laws of Temple worship however would have excluded the eunuch’s full participation. He is still hoping to understand his relationship to God, which we see in his reading of Scripture, when Phillip comes along. In the short conversation that follows, Phillip discovers he has a willing listener for the story that changed his own life. Overcome with excitement, Phillip’s story bubbles and flows out with energy and enthusiasm. And Phillip must have been a great story-teller, because the Ethiopian is so caught up in the tale that he wishes to become part of the community of the story- he wants to be baptized. It was a golden opportunity, both for Phillip the story –teller, and our unnamed eunuch, the community-seeker.

Of course, this meeting was neither accidental nor coincidental. God was already at work in the heart of the eunuch, preparing him to hear the story of Jesus. And Phillip was able to hear the prompting of the Spirit and follow immediately. Now, before we chalk this up to the kind of discernment and obedience reserved for saints with a capital S, lets remember that Phillip wasn’t so in tune that he only needed to be told once. The angel/spirit is guiding him all along the way. He very well may have had second thoughts and nagging doubts. Why on earth would an evangelist go to a wilderness road? It would be dangerous, first of all, and there aren’t likely to be many people around, let alone people interested in stopping and listening to the Gospel proclaimed. This is not the way to get big numbers of conversions, its not an efficient use of resources. We’ve all had the same thoughts when opportunities arise: Its not practical. Its not a good time for me. There’s probably a better way, a better idea, a better person to do this. What makes Phillip saintly was that he chose to go anyway, to trust in the voice of the Spirit to lead him to where God was already at work.

Phillip’s resolve may also have been shaken when he discovered that God intended to work with an Ethiopian court official, the eunuch, that day. As a deacon, Phillip’s work was among the poor, the widowed and the orphaned. Someone in charge of an entire treasury was certainly not visibly in need of alms and support from the church. To make matters worse, he was a eunuch and a foreigner. Phillip had every reason to keep going down that road, to find someone who would fit in with the community more easily, someone whose presence wouldn’t be so objectionable. Perhaps this is why the Spirit must intervene again, calling Phillip to the chariot. Phillip once again answers the call, a baptism ensues, and Christianity is carried to a whole new part of the globe. All from the sharing of a story between people who dared to take a chance, and cared enough to listen.

How often do we miss our chances to teach and proclaim? It is natural to compare ourselves to Phillip’s success and feel like we come up short. Missed opportunities are par for the course. It is with good reason that our confession includes things both “done and left undone”. That is why this story is so encouraging. In today’s fast-paced world of multi-tasking, it is so easy to miss the little opportunities to serve, to love, to tell our story. This is why, even in the midst of a broken world where we are faced with human failings every day, we continue to celebrate our successes. They remind us of who we have been and who we can be. The success of Phillip and the eunuch is that both were able to recognize the moment for what it was (with apologies to Senator Kerry): Right story. Right place. Right time.

It was so right, in fact, that now the whole thing has become another story for our community. So what do we get from telling the story of Phillip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch? We are challenged to find those who are hungry to be part of a story, those who have never been invited to be part of the life of the story. We are reminded that God is surprising, we are reminded that God is already at work in the world. We are challenged to look beyond our carefully laid plans and be open to the opportunities to change lives and be changed. I don’t know what opportunities to listen to the Spirit will face you today, this week, this year. I don’t know what opportunities this community will have to live into the story of Jesus. But I am sure that moments will arise. Some of those moments will be missed, and opportunities will be lost. But stories open eyes and change lives, and this one can change ours. Here is the power of telling stories. Because of Phillip, and because of the Ethiopian eunuch, I am also sure we will be just that much more ready to open the door when opportunity knocks and the Spirit calls.

Friday, October 08, 2004


I'm preaching on Monday, in the chapel here at Seabury. We are celebrating the feast of Phillip the Deacon and Evangelist - as in, Phillip who baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in the book of Acts. I love this story, and always have. Maybe that is why I'm having an awful time collecting my thoughts into something that resembles a sermon. Floating in my head are several thoughts, including a line from Into the Woods- "Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor"- and this story about story-telling from Martin Buber (via Elizabeth Johson's Consder Jesus, p. 61-62):
A rabbi related the following: "My grandfather was paralyzed. One day he was asked to tell about something that happened with his teacher, the great Balshem. then he told how this saintly Balshem used to leap about and dacne while he was at his prayers. As he went on with the story my grandfather stood up: he was so carried away that he had to show how the master had done it and he started to caper about dancing. From that moment he was cured." Says Buber, that is how stores should be told."

Somewhere between opportunity and stories lies my sermon. Please do pray that it finds me before Monday! In the meantime, I'll leave with this quote from theology class to chew on for a bit: Dialogue means being gracious enough to say who you really are.

Have a good weekend!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Insert Appropriate 80's Reference Here

Well, looky here! No really. Look. And then cheer very very loudly. In honor of this (and because its due in a couple hours), I'm writing my thoughts about Jesus as Teacher. Here are a couple snippets of my draft thus far:

The Incarnation is a physically specific idea – the scandal of particularity is that Jesus had specific parents, a specific hometown, specific friends. He was not afraid or ashamed of how he lived, or how those around him lived. Rather, he used his surroundings as the starting point for his teaching, as illustration for his stories. This did not mean Jesus accepted the given context as unchangeable or ideal, but his ministry and teaching were inspired and intertwined with the context of Incarnated life.

Jesus message was fundamentally one of hope. Jesus shared not only a vision of a world-to-come, but demonstrated that the kingdom of God is breaking in all around us.

As a teacher and preacher, Jesus knew the power of words. He knew that words matter, how we use them matters, and our silence matters. Teachers are communicators. Jesus was able communicate the vision of God’s life and love so clearly that we are clinging to it nearly two thousand years later.

Congratulations, Dr. Yamada!

Friday, October 01, 2004

Once Upon A Time…

On this day in history in (courtesy of the History Channel):
1856... First installment of Madame Bovary is published
1890... Congress creates Yosemite National Park
1918... Lawrence of Arabia captures Damascus
1936... Franco becomes head of Spain
1955... The Honeymooners debuts

1978... I debuted! And 26 years later, I think John Denver has me covered - "I have to say it now, its been a good life, all in all. Its really fine to have a chance to hang around." Oh, and - second quarter of a century, here I come!