A Song for My Ordination.


Someone wrote me a song as a gift for my ordination.
Two songs.
Best. Gift. Ever.
You can hear the songs and the sermon / call story that inspired them via the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church podcast ministry.
On Sunday morning at Hennepin Avenue, in anticipation of being ordained a full elder in the United Methodist Church this Wednesday evening (livestream link), I preached about my call story. I offered highlights of my life from childhood to adulthood when I was open to God and when I was closed to God. If you didn’t know, I have had times in my life when I was a strong atheist, wanting nothing to do with God and definitely not the church. I am not ashamed of that, nor do I condemn atheists because while there are many reasons people are atheist I have certainly been there. It was a sermon of vulnerability and I knew I could trust my congregation with my story.

Ken Medema

Ken Medema is a superb musical artist. He’s written many inspiring pieces and even a children’s musical based on the Book of Jonah (my first sermon at Hennepin Avenue – filled with a metaphor of vomit! – was in response to the children performing Medema’s The Big Fish in worship, so we have come full circle). His live concerts often consist of him asking someone from the audience to tell him a brief story from their life and he responds with an original song, writing the music and lyrics on the spot. One of the first things Ken will tell you about himself is he is blind, so he’s taking notes in his mind as he listens to you. It is truly amazing.
Before worship, he and I spoke and I knew that everything he’d offer today would be in response to what came before, including my sermon. In that sense, I knew the song he crafted would be about servanthood and walking the journey. What I didn’t understand is he would truly put my life to music.
Ken made my life a song. There’s no other way to put it.
First, I was moved to tears as I listened to my life as a song. It was unexpected and such a gift. I sat in the preacher’s chair, up on the chancel and behind Ken while he was at the grand piano on the floor. After worship, the only comment I received more about the song’s beautiful content was

Read moreA Song for My Ordination.

Pay Attention to the Public Ten.

Last week I made my first blog post in a long while (yeah, yeah, I know) about why I am ignoring the allegedly “more than eight” pastors and theologians who call for an “amicable separation” within the United Methodist Church over differences of understanding human sexuality. This week is a new story, a new companion … Read more Pay Attention to the Public Ten.

Ignore the Anonymous Eighty.

“More than eighty pastors and theologians” do not deserve my attention. That’s whom has allegedly signed to / crafted / believe in a press release calling for an “amicable separation” within the United Methodist Church over differences of understanding human sexuality. You’ll note I didn’t link to the press release and soon you’ll realize why. … Read more Ignore the Anonymous Eighty.

A Closer Look #14 Greenhouses of Hope

A Closer Look
Today I have a review of Greenhouses of Hope: Congregations Growing Young Leaders Who Will Change the World edited by Dori Grinenko Baker, a collection of essays depicting various special – and powerful – ministries in congregations that might give one hope in up-and-coming young leadership. You can also read, rate, and comment on my review at Amazon.

Dori Grinenko Baker has cobbled together a selection of essays on Christian congregations that have freed themselves “to experiment with both newly imagined and time-honored ways of following the path of Jesus,” a phenomenon she gives the name “Greenhouses of Hope. (2) Thus, each chapter is an essay from someone in each congregation’s community who can write from such an experience and offer insight into how their context came about, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and how others might be inspired to try something similar. In a way, it’s a collection of examples of ways to do meaningful ministry, as if each writer offers, “This worked for us and there might be inspiration here for you” and invites the reader to come and see.
The faith communities explored here are all very different than the traditional-style Christian congregations I grew up in and readers must be open to

Read moreA Closer Look #14 Greenhouses of Hope

UPDATE: Simpson Shelter Has Taken the Lead; Help Them Keep It.

2013.02.20 Please Help Simpson Shelter With Your Vote
Update: Simpson Shelter moved into first place in the voting last week. Help them stay in the lead and win a $25,000 kitchen makeover. Will you please help?
What’s the contest?

The Family Handyman magazine and IKEA are co-sponsoring a contest called “Rescue Remodel” running through March 30 to award one community organization an IKEA kitchen makeover worth up to $25,000. Here’s what the contest at RescueRemodel.com says:

Deserving community organizations from across the country were nominated by their communities to win an IKEA® dream kitchen through our Rescue Remodel Contest. The organization with the most votes will receive a dream kitchen renovation valued at $25,000. And since it’s all from IKEA®, it will be full of smart and innovative ideas to make their lives a little bit easier so they can better serve our communities.
When I first posted about this contest, Simpson Shelter was behind by 2000 votes. Now it’s taken the lead by

Read moreUPDATE: Simpson Shelter Has Taken the Lead; Help Them Keep It.

Please Help Simpson Shelter With Your Vote.

2013.02.20 Please Help Simpson Shelter With Your Vote
You can help a homeless shelter win a $25,000 kitchen makeover with a few clicks. Simpson Shelter’s work is important to so many men and women. Will you please help?
The Family Handyman magazine and IKEA are co-sponsoring a contest called “Rescue Remodel” running through March 30 to award one community organization an IKEA kitchen makeover worth up to $25,000. Here’s what the contest says:

Deserving community organizations from across the country were nominated by their communities to win an IKEA® dream kitchen through our Rescue Remodel Contest. The organization with the most votes will receive a dream kitchen renovation valued at $25,000. And since it’s all from IKEA®, it will be full of smart and innovative ideas to make their lives a little bit easier so they can better serve our communities.

I make no comment on whether the other four organizations up for the prize are worthy. Obviously, they are. They’re all very worthy and deserving of such generosity. What I can tell you, however, is that I’ve witnessed first-hand what Simpson Shelter does for homeless men and women. Volunteers from across the twin cities metro come in to cook and serve meals which they, the volunteers, also bring. They do this in the kitchen in the basement of Simpson United Methodist Church – a basement which is now fully dedicated to providing services for homeless men and women who need help.  Volunteers from the church and other organizations join in with a small staff to offer services for homeless persons in crisis, in need, and in hope of transitioning to being a person with a home.
And at this shelter, it’s not just beds and it’s not just meals. It’s savings accounts. Volunteer social workers. Volunteer lawyers. Volunteer health care professionals. Showers. Donations of hygiene products, socks, underpants. A comfortably couch and a big screen TV. Dignity. It’s a monumental undertaking and while I would prefer there would be no need for homeless shelters, there is need. And Simpson Shelter does amazing work to fill that need in their own little way.
Here’s a brief video from Simpson Housing Services and I have a little to add below:

Read morePlease Help Simpson Shelter With Your Vote.

Sorry, God, That's Not Our Policy.

2013.02.07 Sorry God That's Not Our Policy
This morning I read a news story explaining that the pastor from the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in Newton, CT had to issue an apology to the LCMS president for participating in a prayer vigil two days after the murder of innocent adults and children because leaders of other faith traditions also participated.
Here’s a highlight from Pastor Rob’s apology letter (read the entire letter for context here):

To those who believe that I have endorsed false teaching, I assure you that was not my intent, and I give you my unreserved apologies. If any of you know church members or friends or family who are now confused because of my participation, believing that the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod fully endorses the doctrine of anyone else who was on that stage, please correct this confusion lovingly, and I will personally be happy to help in any way that I can. Feel free to pass on my apologies for having given that impression.

Here’s an excerpt from LCMS President Harrison’s open letter response (read the entire letter for context here):

Read moreSorry, God, That's Not Our Policy.

Chuck Knows Church Is Awesome.

2013.01.15 Chuck Knows Church
One of the stumbling blocks to persons unfamiliar with church trying church is, well, being unfamiliar with church. It’s hard to feel at ease when there’s a bunch of stuff one doesn’t understand. There are a lot of reasons why people claim themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” a way of saying there’s at least something appealing about faith but an institution organized around faith is a turn-off.
I get that. I’ve been there.
I also think that, aside from many of the ethical and moral issues these people may have with religious institutions, there’s another reason that’s not often explored as much: for someone who hasn’t been in a church in a long time or ever or with much regularity or beyond Christmas and Easter, knowing what’s going on and why can be a frustrating stumbling block that can leave one feeling

Read moreChuck Knows Church Is Awesome.

Your Friday Recommendation #36

Some of the teenagers in my youth group have been coming together for a year to perform in short videos that satirize The Office. Rather than an annoying boss who disrupts an office setting, our videos feature an annoying youth director who disrupts his youth group. Writing the script is always an exercise in excruciating … Read more Your Friday Recommendation #36