Tag Archives: hope

Sermon Excerpt: Learning to Marvel

Here is a (mostly) unedited excerpt from the sermon I preached this past Sunday at West Groton Christian Union Church. I hope you find something here that grabs your attention, and turns your heart Godward, today.


(Exodus 16:2-16) This morning’s text is of course the famous story, as you might know, of manna…. which as we already noted, means “What is it?”

So I think it’s kinda funny that when we call this bread “manna,” we have named this bread, the “what is it?” bread! There’s a lot of great lessons about God’s grace to pull out of this story of manna, but I think the fact that it’s named after an expression of CONFUSION is perhaps the most interesting part of the story for me. What is interesting, is that after the people say, “manna?” to Moses, he explains it for them. “It’s bread, you goofs. It’s what you asked for. You see? God listened to you. God hasn’t forgotten about you.” Manna was their God-sign…. and you’d think it’d be a pretty obvious one, wouldn’t you? Yet they still looked at it and were dumbfounded! “What is this stuff?”

The truth is, that’s why we must look for God, because if we’re not looking, if we’re so wrapped up in ourselves, and our own problems, that we forget God, God’s mission, and God’s people, God’s creation…. we can even look at God’s care for us straight on, and still miss it completely.

So when we look for glimpses of God in our midst…. there’s another step we take…. so that what would be confusion, turns into MARVEL. We are AWE-struck. We are TAKEN IN by the beauty, the love, the sense of belonging, the compassion, the justice…. Just like Moses translates the scene for them, so that the Israelites look at this strange stuff on the ground, and stop seeing “stuff…..” they start seeing BREAD. LIFE. HOPE……so must we look for God in our lives, because when we do, it gives the ordinary, the new and challenging, and even the confusing, “stuff,” meaning…. we can find Bread. Life. Hope.

We can look at our stories of the past (where we’ve come), and LEARN, to MARVEL at God’s past care, and the sense that God is taking you somewhere that will really make a difference.

We can see ordinary trees and rivers and LEARN, to MARVEL at the Beauty of God’s creation, and consider His loving craftsmanship for all things, including ourselves…. seeing that as its said, “God doesn’t make junk.” Or we can overcome with the charge we’ve been given to be caretakers of the earth.

We can see love in our relationships, and LEARN, to MARVEL at the power of love to grab us, to change us, to make us better people. To see ourselves as deeply and fully loved, and worthy of love. To share that love with others, freely and selflessly.

We can encounter great music or art, and LEARN to MARVEL at the creativity that God has placed in every human being.

These are all acts of prayer, but of course we can, and should, also sit and pray, perhaps sit in the silence, and instead of praying a rote blessing, or praying “for” things we THINK we need, or saying lots of words, we can just sit… and LEARN to MARVEL at God Himself.

We are indeed “pilgrim people.” We all are on journey with God, not just as individuals, but as a community, together. And that journey goes through ebbs and flows, ups and downs, as all journeys do. But there is one who has “pilgrimed” before us. And in the thick, and thin, moments, we can see Him… sometimes clearly, sometimes as if through a haze, but he’s there. If we seek Him, in the ordinary, the everyday, in the “what is it?” moments, we will be able to see Him in the Big, life-changing moments, too. And if we as a church community, can LEARN TO MARVEL, together, as we step forward into uncharted territory… we will find ourselves to be exactly what we’re called to be… a community of hope. An oasis in a desert. The people of God.

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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in sermon


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“Easter Philosophy”: Faith can be a crutch (Rollins). It can also give life (Jones).


Yeah, I’m still FOB (Flat on Back) today.  Thanks for asking.

Yesterday’s post featured a “vlog” of me responding to a great discussion between philosopher Peter Rollins and pastor/theologian Tony Jones (who just defended his Ph.D. dissertation yesterday at Princeton) that occurred on Easter in New York City.

(I’m still not happy with my vlogging attempts so far, btw.  If anyone has some ideas as to how to improve them, I’d be happy to hear them.  [Anyone else find it immensely awkward to talk to a computer screen?] )

But yesterday I offered some passing thoughts regarding Rollins, who is far more interested in the present-day manifestations of resurrection-living in faith communities, than in the historical facts of the resurrection itself.  (Which sounds Marcus Borgish, and it kinda is, but I think his objectives are quite different.)  I wondered what the implications were for his take on resurrection for missional church behavior, and I tried to summarize his take on the relationship between faith and doubt in comparison to my own.  By comparison Jones makes a case for a physical resurrection, not by prooftexting or using apologetics, but by talking about what makes a story about a physical resurrection compelling, fitting, and beautiful.  In many ways, their positions well summarize the two primary so-called “postmodern” approaches to Christian philosophy today, although the divide is not nearly as dramatic as it was in the modern era. 

When we say “I love God,” is this really what we mean?

Today, in contrast, I want to mention where I particularly resonate with Rollins, and then talk a bit about (what else?) faith.  Follow me, beyond the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in theology


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Video: Quick response to “Resurrection Story” (Rollins and Jones)

I’m trying the “vlog” thing again.

And I’m doing it while bed-ridden. 

Apparently I’m trying to combine as many things that make me appear pathetic at the same time as possible.   Hmm…Maybe one of our parishioners who saw me yesterday was right when they chortled that I must have somehow subconsciously willed myself to injury, for the sake of attention-getting.

(Actually I got to thinking that maybe, whenever we share ideas and opinions online, we should choose some sort of position of humility from which to type/make videos.  Maybe if we were all supine, or prostrate, when we submitted our thoughts, we all wouldn’t be so quick to feel superior or judgmental, and remind us that our capacities are ultimately limited and broken.   But I digress…)

Yesterday for Easter, Revolution in NYC hosted Peter Rollins and Tony Jones, presently two of the most influential voices in emerging/progressive/post-evangelical/etc. circles.  The two “debated” (loosely defined) the meaning and hope of resurrection, and luckily for us, the entire thing was recorded.  If you have 40 minutes or so today/tomorrow, be sure to check it out.  It’s a great summary of what I perceive to be two of the most pertinent and commonplace positions in postmodern Christian philosophy. 

[For those who want to know, it’s the postanalytic philosophical world now largely represented by Alasdair Macintyre as well as others, and the theistic turn in Continental postmodernity articulated, among others, by the followers of the noted deconstructionist Jacques Derrida.  I throw this in just to say that, while many of you might listen to Jones and Rollins and immediately try to fit them into conservative/liberal camps, the divide between the two of them really isn’t as clear as one might think, and while there are similarities, the goals of the new philosophical conversation are quite different from the goals of the more typical modern (read: pre-post-modern) debate. ]

So today, you can take a look at my short(ish) response to the conversation, which is largely a 1) question and a 2) thought re: Rollins’ perspective (not to pick on him unfairly; considering that he could do gymnastics around me, intellectually-speaking… and considering that he has in fact helped me a great deal, despite limited exposure, to articulate my own thoughts). 

Tomorrow (hopefully) I will share some more thoughts.  Until then, be sure to check out the audio, and (so long as you promise not to find me too pitiful) video below:

VLOG 4-25-2011: re: faith, doubt, Rollins, and Jones.


Click here to find the Rollins/Jones discussion from Easter morning.

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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in theology


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