I started Think and Let Think a few years ago as a way to compile my thoughts, sermons, and theology. After starting at my first church in 2013 the blog quickly became an easy way for parishioners to access the sermons from Sunday if they were unable to attend. However, over the years the audience of the blog has grown far beyond the people I serve in the local church and in 2018 the readership more than doubled.
Below are the 10 most popular posts from 2018…
A few years ago I (foolishly) attempted to preach about the controversy surrounding the name of a high school in the community I was serving in. This year the school board voted to change the name and when I reposted the sermon it became (in 24 hours) my most visited post of the year…
“We make so many assumptions of people without ever doing the good and difficult work of learning who they really are. We see a bumper sticker, or we hear an accent, or we observe a skin tone, or we read a Facebook post, and we let that dictate who they are to us. When truthfully, what we make of those limited observations says far more about us, than about the ones we see.
“Are you the only one in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place these days?” “What things?””
Relative controversy seems to be a theme on the blog this year, and when I decided to write about my feelings regarding churches that offer “Ashes To Go” I inadvertently started a social media battle about the theology (or lack thereof) behind this liturgical practice…
“Ash Wednesday is not supposed to be easy or convenient; that’s kind of the whole point. It is a disruption of our way of being, a reminder of our finitude in a world trying to convince us that we can live forever, and because the practice is not self-interpreting, it requires the context of a liturgy in which we can begin to understand what we are doing and why.
And I use the term “we” purposely. I use “we” because Ash Wednesday is not about individual introspection and reflection. It is a practice of the community we call church.
While the world bombards us with the temptation to believe we can make it out of this life alive, the world is also trying to convince us that we don’t need anyone else to make it through this life at all. According to the world, the individual triumphs. But according to the church, no one can triumph without a community that speaks the truth in love.”
I was blessed to preside over a lot of weddings this year and one particular homily captured the strange and wonderful thing we call marriage.
“Marriage, being the remarkable and confusing thing that it is, means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.
Marriage is only made possible when you know who you are such that you are willing to enter into the mystery of the other with your whole self.”
In response to the reports about the warehouse in south Texas that was filled with children separated from their families after crossing over the southern US border, I decided to write down some of my thoughts regarding the so-called “Christian response.”
“We don’t like to talk about divine judgment in the church these days. Most of us are far more comfortable with a God of peace and mercy and justice if it doesn’t require anything on our part. But the psalmist is frighteningly wise to call for the Lord to judge the nations and to not let mortals prevail. Whether we like to think about it, or even admit it, the Lord will judge us for how we treat the least of these.”
My youngest sister got engaged this year and I couldn’t help myself from posting the letter that I wrote her.
“I gave thanks to God not because you’ve found your partner, or that you were asked in accordance with your romantic desires; I gave thanks to God because your engagement is a sign (and reminder) of God’s covenant with all of us.
When the day of your wedding arrives, I will stand with the two of you by the altar, and I will ask you to make promises (read: covenants) with each other about the future. A future that you cannot possibly imagine. And I will save more theological reflections for that particular moment, but until that holy time, I will share this – there is a difference between the promise that is now present on your finger, and the promise that marks our hearts.”
Jeremiah is often overlooked in the great pantheon of the prophets, and I found myself gravitating to his words a lot in 2018.
“If you take a step back from all of this, from the pageantry and the pedagogy, from the liturgy and the lighting, being the church is a pretty weird thing. We take time out of our schedules every week to sit in a strangely decorated room, to listen to somebody wearing a dress talk about texts that are far older than even the country we’re in, and then we do the even weirder practice of pouring water on people’s heads and eating a poor Jewish man’s body and drinking his blood.
We are pretty weird.
But, because Christianity has become so enveloped by the world, we often see and experience what we do as being normative. We make assumptions about ourselves and others based on the fact that this is “what we do.”
But if we only focus on “what we do” instead of “why we do it” then we neglect to encounter the weirdness of who we are.””
The strange and problematic relationship between the church in the state is getting more and more complicated to the degree that many American Christians consider their national identity before their baptismal identity. (This one got me in some trouble)
“The 4th of July does not belong to us not because Christians are against America, but simply because our hopes, dreams, and desires have been formed by the Lord. What we experience across the country as we mark the independence is fun and full of power, but it will never compare to the weakness that is true strength in the bread and wine at the communion table and the water in the baptismal font.
Americans might bleed red, white, and blue, but Jesus bled for us such that we wouldn’t have to.”
Taking a cue from John’s epistles I asked a lot of people the same question: “If you could say anything to your/the church, without consequences, what would you say?” And I got a lot of answers.
“Fair warning: some of this will be hard to hear. It will be hard to hear because at times the messages can be convicting, just like John was. Some of them are short and to the point, some of them are a little longwinded and introspective, some will leave us scratching our heads, some will make us lift our chins with pride, and some will make us droop our heads in shame.
But that’s the thing about communication today – sometimes we say what we’re thinking without thinking about how it will be received. And maybe that’s okay…”
The United Methodist Church will be voting in February about our denomination’s language about human sexuality, and in order to prime my church for the unknown future, I preached about what happens when we label particular people as being incompatible with Christian teaching.
“Paul does not say the mission of the church is to tolerate the behaviors of others.
Paul says the church is called to be one.
But can’t we all just get along? Can’t we be one by just being nicer to each other?
There is a tremendous difference between loving one another (like Christ), and being nice. Being nice often means being quiet, and not calling out the behavior of others. Loving like Jesus however, often means speaking up and actually calling someone out.”
Easier said than done.
Obedience is often a dirty word but I wanted to recapture the theme of obedience in scripture and how it often pans out in the world and in the church today.
“It is precisely because God loves us, in spite of us, that we can love others. It is in the recognition of our unworthiness that we can actually meet the other where they are and, in spite of differences, we can love one another.
We follow, we are obedient to this law, not because being close to Jesus helps us get what we need or want.
We follow, we are obedient to this law, because we believe that being close to Jesus allows God to fulfill whatever God wants to get out of this world!”