Monthly Archives: June 2012

You Can’t Say That!

It showed up on a Facebook post.

During the sermon, Don spoke for one of David’s brothers saying, “SHUT UP!” It was at this point that a squirmy four-year old looked up at me with the Home Alone face, clamped his hand over his mouth, pointed in the direction of the pulpit, and wagged his finger. #bustedbyapreschooler — at Providence Baptist Church

My response was that wasn’t the worst thing I said in THAT sermon…but it got me thinking.  What are the things that we shouldn’t say in church?  What are the topics that we can’t mention in a sermon?

In some ways it is always a struggle.  In any congregation you have a wide range of ages.  So are there topics that are inappropriate for a 7 year old?  Can you do a sermon on Mother’s Day without offending women who are childless?  How does a Father’s Day sermon hit someone who had an abusive father?  It is coming up in a few weeks–that text about David and Bathsheba.  What are we supposed to do with that?  Ignore it–with a wink, wink, nod, nod?

Ignoring the issue, hoping, praying that it will just go away, is always an option!  There are lots of churches that are ignoring issues–especially those surrounding sexuality.  We did so last week as a part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly.  Even though the most crowded breakout dealt with the recent (Baptist) Conference on Sexuality and Covenant there really wasn’t any mention of it during the plenary sessions.  (You can find the videos here)  There was a personnel committee report that said that they were making no proposals “at this time.”  But everyone knows that we must–at some time!

I do understand why!  We were dealing with a major restructuring–and kudos to the committee for the good work they did!  We were celebrating with Daniel Vestal on the occasion of his retirement after 15 years of stellar leadership.  This wan’t the time.

But when is the time?  When is the time to ask the hard questions, those that cause us to really get to the core of what we believe and allow those beliefs to be revealed in our actions?

Of course, we can just ignore them, hoping that they will go away–only the issues are going away.  Just the people, who realize that we are terrified, hypocritical or completely out of touch.

Can we say any of this in the sermon?

This originally appeared on the blog for Associated Baptist Press, a great source for new concerning the church as well as Baptists of all stripes.  You can sign up for daily news updates as well as other insightful blogs on their site.

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Bills We Never Expect

Each month there are some bills that we just expect.  We know that we have to pay the mortgage, the electric bill, the credit card bills where we have put all the groceries.  We just know that those (and so many more) are just the cost of livin.  We expect them.  But every now and then we get hit with one that we just didn’t see coming.

I am not talking about the bill for the new tires on the car, or the dishwasher repair, or even the new roof.

No I am talking about the bill that comes when your teenage daughter discovers she is pregnant, and you discover that your health insurance doesn’t cover those costs.  You really need to check!  Most family insurance covers maternity benefits for mom, but not daughter.  Families don’t discover that until too late!  Yet another reason to have a conversation about sexuality and values and contraceptives!

But I have just learned there is a conversation that is needed on the other side of life!  The Wall Street Journal reports that  “Twenty-nine states have “filial support” laws that could be used to go after patients’ adult children for unpaid long-term-care bills.”  That’s right!  In a majority of states, children can be held responsible for the long term care of parents.  I didn’t see that one coming!  (You can read the article here.)

This is another conversation we must have–this time with our parents.  What preparations have they made in the good chance that they need long term care?  Who is responsible for the payments?

It is also a conversation we must have as a society.  We are really getting caught in a Catch–2222.  We don’t want to teach children about contraception, nor do we want to pay for babies born to children.  We complain about rising Medicare cost, but can’t ration care, nor even have the beds to care for adults who are living longer.

So who will pay the bill?

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The Sermon Asked the Question

In the sermon from Sunday we heard God remind the people of Israel about unexpected consequences  (I Samuel 8:4-20)  and how often we never think about the consequences until it is too late.

Then…

Sen. Lindsey Graham says South Carolina should open its coast to offshore oil and natural gas drilling — and share in any profits from strikes of fossil fuels.

At a news conference Monday in Columbia’s Five Points, Graham, R-S.C., introduced a plan that gives South Carolina the option to allow for oil and gas exploration from 10 to 50 miles offshore…Monday’s announcement occurred at the same time big business groups released a report showing offshore drilling could create thousands of jobs and annually produce $87.5 million from sales, income and royalty taxes. The 18-page report was produced by Miley and Associates for the Palmetto Agribusiness Council, S.C. Citizens for Sound Conservation and the S.C. Energy Forum.

At a time when we continue to deal with high unemployment the lure of  thousands of jobs is tempting.  But will anyone ask, “What if…?”

Gulfport, Mississippi’s deserted beaches following the BP Oil Spill

It was not THAT long ago when the Gulf Coast watched at least one entire tourism season evaporate following the explosion and spill from a BP Oil Rig.  Anita and I saw the result first hand, as we drove down the Gulf Coast in August.  I couldn’t help wonder, “What if this happened in Myrtle Beach, in Hilton Head, in Charleston?”  What would happen to SC if suddenly an entire tourism season disappeared?

I guess we can move forward with this plan.  After all, it would bring jobs.  Maybe we can just pray that the oil companies have learned their lesson and this won’t happen again.

But shouldn’t we at least ask the question?

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Just the facts

In the old TV show Dragnet, Sgt. Joe Friday was famous for his line “Just the facts, ma’am.”  But sometimes I think we really don’t want the facts.  We prefer the spin.  Fortunately there are groups who will still give us just the facts.

The Center for Disease Control conducts the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) every 2 years with High School students to discover what risky behaviors they are involved in.  Some of them might not seem that important–riding a bike without a helmet, not eating vegetables in the past 2 days, not getting enough exercise.  But others make us stop and shudder.  At least I hope they do!

The latest results were just released.  Here are a sampling, comparing the US and SC.

Question

US

SC

Has ridden with a driver who has been drinking alcohol (in the past 30 days)

24.1%

26.3%

Drove when drinking alcohol (in the past 30 days)

8.2%

*11.1%

Carried a gun at least 1 day (in the past 30 days)

5.1%

*10.2%

Drank alcohol for the first time before age 13

20.5%

24..1%

Had at least one drink of alcohol on at least 1 day (in past 30 days)

38.7%

39.7%

Ever used marijuana one or more times(during their life)

39.9%

*44.1%

Ever had sexual intercourse

47.4%

*56.6%

Had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13

6.2%

*10.5%

Had sexual intercourse with four or more persons (during their life)

15.3%

*21.3%

Did not use birth control pills before last sexual intercourse

82%

*82.6%

The asterisks indicate where there is a significant difference between SC and the United States.  You can see the whole report and compare your home area here.

If you go through and look at past years you will see that we are making progress!  That is the good news!  But…

As we head toward Father’s Day, I do wonder what these facts have to say about us as a nation, as parents, as fathers.

There will be more about this!  But today, just let the numbers sink in.

  • 15.8% of students had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months before the survey.
  • 20.1% of students had been bullied on school property during the 12 months before the survey
  • 25.6% of students had been offered, sold, or given an illegal drug by someone on school property during the 12 months before the survey.
  • Among the 33.7% of currently sexually active students 60.2% reported that either they or their partner had used a condom during last sexual intercourse and 23.3% reported that either they or their partner had used birth control pills.

Just the facts, ma’am!

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Things We Don’t Mention

One of the joys of my morning is opening my email and reading Writer’s Almanac.  If you don’t know of this gem you need to quit reading this and go immediately and sign up.  (OK, maybe not immediately.  Finish this entry THEN go sign up.)  Every morning Garrison Keillor (of Prairie Home Companion fame) has a short spot on Public Radio in which he shares the birthdays of authors, and shares a poem.  It come on in the middle of the day and I miss it, but through this email I get to read it.  It is always full of wonderful information, as well as a poem!

Today I learned about Orhan Pamuk.  (Didn’t know about his either?  Well here is what you need to know.

The Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk (books by this author) celebrates his 60th birthday today. He was born in Istanbul in 1952 and grew up in a fairly wealthy and Westernized district. He studied architecture and then journalism, but at 23 years old, he decided to become a novelist. He lived with his mother and wrote full time, and seven years later, he published his first novel, Cevdet Bey and His Sons (1982). He’s worked as a novelist for 30 years and has never held any other kind of job, and apart from three years he spent in New York, he’s lived his entire life in the Istanbul district of his birth.

In 2005, Pamuk gave an interview in which he made remarks about the Armenian Genocide and the mass killing of tens of thousands of Kurds. He said: “Thirty thousand Kurds have been killed here, and a million Armenians. And almost nobody dares to mention that. So I do.” Criminal charges were filed against Pamuk in Turkey, and his statements resulted in a new law making it illegal to make anti-Turkish remarks. There was an international outcry, and several noted authors — including Gabriel García Márquez, Umberto Eco, John Updike, and Günter Grass — spoke out in Pamuk’s defense. The charges were dropped early in 2006.

What hit me was that line, “Thirty thousand Kurds have been killed here, and a million Armenians.  And almost nobody dares to mention that.”  

That came the same day reports are starting to filter out of Syria about another massacre, this time in al-Qubayr.  This comes on the heels of recent reports from the massacre in Houla.  Al Jazeera reported that, “There were 35 persons from one family. Those persons have all been killed and most of them are women and children,”

Now there have been reports in the American media, but where is the international outcry?  How many children have to be killed before we decide enough is enough?  How many times do we have to walk past the “Never Again” monuments before we say “Never Again?”

I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised.  Syria, Somalia–they are so far away and it really doesn’t pertain to us.

And if there were 25,565 juveniles arrested in SC last year, at least they weren’t in my neighborhood!  And if there were 6,847 15-19 year olds who gave birth in SC 2010, at least they didn’t live in my house!

What can I do?

Maybe a start would be just to mention it!

 

My guess is, though, at lunch today we will talk about the Heat and Celtics, and Spoleto and the rain and maybe what we will have for supper.  The really important stuff.

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I So Want This, I Think

Sitting in the doctor’s office this morning with my mother gave me time to catch up on all the magazines that I don’t get at home.  There is the way-back issue of Sports Illustrated (circa 2009,) a few copies of Better Home and Garden (I just don’t think Anita can ever get our yard looking like that–not unless we win the lottery!) and surprise-surprise, the current issue of Time.

As much as I wanted to read all the articles (we are a Newsweek family at home) most were too long to begin knowing that at any moment we would be called.  Time is so short now!  So I just flipped through till I came across this article.  It is by James Poniewozik, and let me know about a new device, Auto Hop,
that will allow me to skip prime-time commercials automatically–if I had the Dish Network.  Is this a great world or what?

Only Poniewozik had to go and raise the ethical question.  Is this stealing a show?  After all, these shows are paid for by commercial dollars.  Advertisers are the ones who are paying millions of dollars to make sure the Bachelorette gets to go to London next week.  Is it moral to skip over them, to ignore them?  (Ok, do morals even count when you are watching the Bachelorette?  Really?)

As Poniewozik points out, it is a new world–one that TV producers, advertisers and watchers will have to come up with a new paradigm.  As he says, “Your business used to be about giving everybody the same thing the same way: same Bat-channel, same Bat-paradigm. That’s over.”

The same thing is true about church.  Not that long ago we knew that 11:00 on Sunday morning was when worship happened.  That’s All!  If you were too sick to go to church you were too sick to go to the pool.  No self-respecting individual would mow their grass on Sunday morning.

But now…We drop the number of printed worship guides because there is a soccer tournament.  Some churches have done away with printed worship guides all together–relying on screens and other demonic devices.  I even hear about some people reading/listening/watching sermons online.  (For the latest sermons from Providence click here!)  And not even on Sunday!

It is not easy shifting paradigms as we move into a post-Google world. How we watch TV, how we worship, how we interact with each other–it is all changing–sometimes too fast for our comfort, especially for those of us who work in church.  We can protest all we want about how that really isn’t what God intended, and how if people really loved Jesus and me they would be here at 11:15 on Sunday morning (or at the very least at 9:00!)  But the truth is that our world is changing and we are going to have to ask some really tough questions–like what does it mean to follow Jesus?  Is Tweeting theologically different from taking notes?  Would Jesus still read out of a scroll?

Someone has to ask these questions.

In the meantime, I really do want an Auto Hop!

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2115627,00.html#ixzz1wx2FXPOk

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Branding and Baptisms

This is what this blog is all about.  This won’t make the sermon.  It isn’t even close to having anything to do with Trinity Sunday.  I was looking for a quote that I remember (at least I think I remember) from this book.  I spent time leafing through the pages, just trying to find that line I so wanted–and really do need–but to no avail.

Instead I came across this.

My church has picked up the idea of building advertising into its return address, so in the upper lefthand corner of its envelopes the name of the church is now followed by “Committed to Social Justice and Spiritual Growth.”  Fancifully (but only partly so) I have found myself playing with an alternative wording that would read, “Committed to Making People Real,” for that is not a bad way of describing the religious project; the effort to transcend phoniness.  The whole object of religion, it might be siad, is to enable people to come as close as possible to God’s infinite reality.  That should be easy, because God is so real that we should respond like iron filings to his magnetic pull.  Actually, though, it is difficult, because we are so unreal that there is not much in us for God’s pull to grab hold of.  Would it not be refreshing to learn from a church’s return address that it was “Committed to Making People Less Shallow?”

Huston Smith.  Why Religion Matters.  pg 231.

We do baptisms in the Wando River.  We walk out into that river, staring across to the Wando Shipping Terminal.  We know that at some point that river just drops off–into deep, deep water!  We don’t go out THAT far.  It would be too terrifying to go THAT far out.

Perhaps baptism is the symbol of our faith.  Even when we don’t know it.

Maybe we should start doing deep-water baptisms!

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