An Exodus For The Rest Of Us

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This week on the Strangely Warmed podcast I speak with Teer Hardy and Jason Micheli about the readings for the The Liturgy of the Passion [Year B] (Isaiah 50.4-9a, Psalm 31.9-16, Philippians 2.5-11, Mark 14.1-15.47). Teer serves as the associate pastor at Mt. Olivet UMC and Jason is the executive pastor of Aldersgate UMC (both in Northern Virginia). Our conversation covers a range of topics including talking about ourselves as little as possible, the freedom to fail, memorizing scriptures and prayers, an accursed way to die, shame, the gospels as television channels, the nude dude, and disappearing from the story. If you would like to listen to the episode or subscribe to the podcast you can do so here: An Exodus For The Rest Of Us

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On Why We Need The Passion On Palm Sunday

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The team from Crackers & Grape Juice recently spent an afternoon interviewing the one and only Dr. Eric Hall (Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen Professor of Peace and Justice at Carroll College) for our lectionary podcast Strangely Warmed. During our time together we talked about the readings for Palm Sunday during year A from the Revised Common Lectionary and Eric gave us a lot to think about particularly regarding Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem. If you want to hear the conversation, and learn more about Jesus Christ Superstar, the parody of the passion, and the average lifespan of a donkey, you can check out the podcast here: Palm Sunday – Year A

 

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Devotional – Psalm 146.1

Psalm 146.1

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!

Weekly Devotional Image

On Thursday afternoon I made my way over to the parking lot at Gypsy Hill Park to prepare for the UMC Trunk or Treat. The pastors and lay leaders from the Staunton area United Methodist churches had been planning the event for a number of months and it was my responsibility to set up the parking lot and organize the first wave of volunteers. For months we had collected candy and advertised in the local community and I was anxious to see how it would turn out.

In our earliest conversations we thought we would be lucky to receive a few hundred children and their parents for our Trunk or Treat. We continued to organize, plan, and pray for the event and when it was time to start trunk or treating a long line had already started to form; All of our hard work was about to come to fruition.

Over the next two hours the line of people never dwindled. Volunteers were running around in order to maintain the safety of the young children while also replenishing the candy supplies that had run low in some of the trunks. Children were dressed in some of the wittiest and most delightful costumes as they came forward with grateful hands to receive a peace of candy. And every trunk was attended by a faithful Christian eager and willing to share God’s love through the tiniest of gifts.

At about 7pm I left Lindsey with the candy at our trunk and made my way to the top of a hill for a better vantage point; I wanted to see how well the line was moving and if people were still enjoying themselves. I resisted the temptation to turn and look until I got to the very top and when I did I was stunned. From where I stood I could see no end to the numbers of children and families that had gathered in the park. I tried taking a picture and I could not even come close to capturing everyone in it. By the time the Trunk or Treat came to a conclusion over 3,500 people had come through.

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When I stood on top of the hill and looked out at what the United Methodist Church could do in connection I wanted to praise God. Only an almighty and powerful God could call us to work in community with one another instead of in competition. Only a faithful and loving God could stir our hearts to give generously to this wonderful community. Only a redemptive and sustaining God could accomplish something in us as powerful as our Trunk or Treat.

We truly serve an almighty God who is worthy of our praise!

 

Devotional – Exodus 20.1-3

Devotional:

Exodus 20.1-3

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. 

Weekly Devotional Image

I love football. Every fall I look forward to the change of seasons with particular excitement because football becomes an exciting, and weekly, obsession. During the week I check up on certain players and decide who to start, and who to bench, on my fantasy football team. Before I leave for work I rely on the updates from ESPN to keep me informed for the coming conversations about football that I will have on a regular basis. After church on Sundays I quickly put on my throwback Redskins jersey and prepare to scream and cheer for a team that has recently left me disappointed.

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Football season is fun, thrilling, and all encompassing. Before worship starts on Sunday mornings I can count on having at least 5 conversations with particular church folk about college and professional football. It has created allegiances that people are proud to display via jerseys, hats, bumper stickers, flags, and even tattoos. The obsession with football is so prevalent that it has now become nearly impossible to do anything in our culture with football sneaking its way in.

I love football, but sometimes I worry that I love football too much. When God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites in the wilderness, he commanded them to have no other gods. Today, many of us worship other gods with greater vibrancy and devotion than we worship the triune God. Football is just one example of how we begin to worship other gods in our lives to the point that we lose sight of the incarnate God in Christ who still moves and speaks in the world today.

Can you imagine what the church would look like if people supported, adored, and loved it as much as they love football? Think about how many conversations you would have on a daily basis about what God has done for you, how visible your faith would be if all your jerseys were replaced with shirts covered in scripture, how church would be the true highlight of Sundays rather than a football game.

For me, football is a god that I sometimes put before our God. I catch myself having more conversations about how my team played last week than I do about the abundant grace and mercy of the Lord our God.

What gods have you put before the Lord? How different would your life look if you put the Lord of heaven and earth above all things?