Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Questions We Don’t Ask

This morning I was watching the great sage of our society, Stephen Colbert.  (I am much too old to watch it live–thank the internet gods for posting it early in the morning!)  Last night Stephen (I call him by his first name since he is a neighbor from Charleston) interviewed Alan Alda.  They didn’t talk about M*A*S*H or any of his movies, bu rather about science!

Alda is promoting the World Science Festival which is happening this week in New York.  As a part of it, and as a way of encouraging young people, Alda is seeking an answer to a question that has haunted him for years.  “What is a flame?”  He asked it as an 11 year-old and really didn’t get a satisfactory answer.  (How would you answer that question?  Harder than it seems, huh?) Now imagine that a scientist was asked to respond in a way that an 11 year-old could understand!  That is the task for the Flame Challenge.  Scientist have offered their answers, and the judges are thousands of 11 year-olds all around the globe.  The winner will be named this week.  You can learn more and see the finalist here.  I have my favorite, but I don’t want to bias the selection!

What made this so interesting was the fact that I also received an early morning email from a Christian artist interested in doing a concert at Providence.  What struck me was that he quoted that famous/infamous song, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”

But what is that flame?  What is that spark?  What exactly are we talking about?  Do we have any idea at all?

Why is this pertinent?  Because this Sunday is Trinity Sunday.  It seemed rather simple when I wrote down that idea for the sermon Sunday…but now that it is Thursday and it is writing time I find myself asking, “What is the Trinity?”

It is a lot like, “What is a flame?”  We know..or at least think/pretend we know.  We can’t really say we don’t, because, well then, I won’t have a sermon and everyone will think I am a Unitarian! But how do you answer that question–in a way that an 11 year old, or even a 54 year old in 2012 will understand?

Many times we just respond, “It is a mystery,” or “It is a metaphor,” and it is…but those only work if we have some idea of what we are talking about, what we are trying to say.  It works as long as we don’t ask the question.  But once you do….then…

What is a flame?

It really is harder than it seems!


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John Ballenger is the pastor of Woodbrook Baptist Church in Baltimore, MD. I hate him!
I should explain! John is one of those savants who has the ability to read a text, read the Greek, and see things that I could never see. Even if I read the text for a year! It is gift…and it causes me to covet.
He has some good words here, and rather than copy and paste them, just read them for yourself. Paste them on your heart, and then get to work!

a preacher musing

As we now move into summer,
with its inherent expectations of rest and vacation,
a thought.
We recently considered selections from Romans 8 in worship,
including a verb in Romans 8:28 typically translated “works together”—
“all things work together ….”
That’s actually the Greek verb from which we get our word “synergy.”
So I have offered before the translation:
“Thank God there is a synergy for good for those committed to love
even within circumstances far from good.”

One significant etymological observation
with so much relevance for us:
the word “synergy” (working together)
also contains the root for our word “energy,”
itself rooted in the Greek word ergon (which means work)—
which means,
think about it,
that energy is rooted in good work,
not work in an abundance of energy.


We think, “Well, we’ll work together on the redeeming of creation
when we have some energy for that.”

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I Knew It Would Happen!

I just knew it was bound to happen!  From the moment I heard Pastor Charles Worley’s hate-filled words at Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, NC I just knew it was a matter of time!  After all, Providence…Baptist…Carolina,,,obviously they are all the same!  Right?

So it really was no surprised when I woke up to the following email this morning:

You are disgusting and should be ashamed of yourself. Jesus never meant for the Bible to be used to spew hate, anger, and lack of compassion. You should read a lot more and realize that homosexuality is not a choice. Can you please tell my why anyone would choose this? I know you have no valid answer. Maybe one day you will have a gay grandchild then maybe you won’t be so ignorant. You are a disgrace to your Church, Protestants, & your Congregation.

Of course, the first temptation is to just hit delete.  After all, the writer “knows not what he does.”  But too often that is what we do.  We refuse to respond when people put words into the mouth of Jesus, or confuse us with complete idiots, or speak for a God that we don’t recognize!  And so I decided to respond.  (I know you are shocked!)

Here is my response:

Dear (name withheld)
I really had wondered how long it would be before we received an email such as yours.  Let me say that I completely understand your outrage at the remarks made by Charles Worsley the pastor of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, NC.  My guess is that your email was directed to him, and not to Don Flowers, Pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Charleston, SC.
I understand how such a mistake could be made.  Any time a person sees “Baptist,” the assumption is that “they are all alike.  Let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.  Baptist come in all theological, political and ethical persuasions.  That is the wonderful/horrible thing about being Baptist.  We deeply value the freedom that each individual has to read and interpret scripture under the leading of the Holy Spirit.  It is an individual interpretation–not a “Baptist interpretation.”
With regard to Pastor Worley’s comments, I agree with you that they are disgusting, full of hate, anger and totally devoid of compassion.  In short, they don’t have anything at all to do with Jesus!  I say that as a Baptist minister, and even as the pastor of Providence.  I dare say that there are no members of our congregation who would agree with his remarks.
This is a different kind of congregation!  if you take the time to view our website,, you will see that our vision statement, on the home page, clearly says, to be a loving, inclusive, Christian community…”  We do not have a litmus test concerning sexuality, obesity, greed, anger or any other issues concerning who is welcomed here.  As I have said in a sermon, “Providence is open to all who know they are in need of the grace of God…and who does that not include?”

Perhaps my failure has been in allowing Pastor Worley to get the press while remaining silent, knowing/hoping that the world would see him as the homophobe that he is, rather than seeing him as a spokesperson for God and Baptists.  Your email has awakened me to the realization that luxury is no longer possible.  Thank you for your encouragement.  I hope you will read the article by Dr. Bill Leonard who truly expresses the feelings of so many of us.
In the future, though,  I hope that you will distinguish between individuals Baptist churches, pastors, towns and states.  It is just as un-Christ-like to brand every Baptist as crazy!
If you are ever in Charleston, SC, I hope you will come and worship with us at Providence to experience the kind of community that i truly believe you are seeking!
Dr. Don Flowers, Jr
Will it make any difference?  I don’t know!  But I can hope–hope that this individual learns something about what it means to be Baptist, hope that the Pastor Worleys of our world will not get all the attention, hope that I might have the courage to speak out for the Jesus who loves me…and all of God’s children!

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