Why I am (still) a Nazarene

Why I am (still) a Nazarene

  I love the Church.  I love the Church of the Nazarene.  I am glad to be a Nazarene, and I hope I’ll always be a Nazarene.  My grandparents are Nazarene, and I hope my grandchildren will be Nazarene.  

    That’s why I work so hard to change the Church of the Nazarene.  My loyalty and my expectations are equally high.  When I criticize, I hope it’s constructive.  When I lament, I attempt to give voice to our collective prayer that we will get better together.

    Even so, sometimes, it’s good simply to celebrate what is good.  Sometimes, we need to remind reformers why we stay, why this is a family worth investing into.  Sometimes, we need to remind traditionalists that - even in the midst of our work for change - we still value our ecclesial tribe.  

    Here are seven awesome traits of the Church of the Nazarene.  We may not always live up to these, but I think we can all agree that these are at the core of what make us who we are.

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How to Die (Luke 9:18-27)

How to Die (Luke 9:18-27)

We don’t talk about death enough.    

   Life, life, life.  All we talk about is life. How to live better. Three steps to get more out of life. The seven secrets for a deeper more meaningful life.  Blah, blah, blah!

    We need to be talking about death! We need to die better. We need to get more out of death. We need a deeper more meaningful death.

    Your uplifting and inspiring sermon today - brought to you by your favorite depressing pastor - is on the topic of how to die.  You’re welcome.

    It’s not all coffins and funerals though.  Death is part of life.  And I don’t just mean that everybody dies.  I mean that life and death move in cycles.  There are lots of little deaths inside every cycle of life.  In a healthy human adult, about 60 billion cells die every day.

    Something always has to die before there is a fresh burst of really good life.

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Dealing with Darkness (Luke 8:26-39)

Dealing with Darkness (Luke 8:26-39)

   This is one of the weirdest stories in the Bible, and it’s in the Bible three times.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story of when Jesus cast the demons into the herd of pigs.  Maybe it was just too weird to pass up.  Maybe people back then were interested in the weird and freakish just like people today.  Maybe a little bit of tabloid-type newscasting made the Jesus story more interesting.  ... Maybe ... and maybe ... just maybe ... there is an important message here - even for us modern people who find this story so uncomfortably weird.   To get at this meaning, we’ll have to unpack some of the weird stuff.

    For starters, the flow of the story is out of sync.  Luke tells the story with all of these flashbacks and asides.  Instead of telling the chronological sequence of events, Luke has rearranged the material so that it centers around Jesus showing up.  Everything changes when Jesus shows up.

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How You Can Help Cure America's Race Problems

How You Can Help Cure America's Race Problems

   Whatever you think about #blacklivesmatter, #alllivesmatter, or #bluelivesmatter, we can all agree that America has a serious problem with race and policing.  

   I am extremely grateful for our law enforcement officials who come to our rescue in emergencies and who help us reign in criminals.  Police are faced with split second life/death decisions in the midst of extremely intense encounters, and 99.999% of the time, they perform their duties with honor and integrity.  They put their lives on the line daily so that we don’t have to.  That is worthy of our respect.

   Also, let’s be honest about this.  Crime is more common among the black community.  Sure, that’s at least partly because that community is often the urban poor with bad schools and few options.  Racism may also incline us toward a higher arrest and conviction rate for black offenders.  But simple statistics show that black men are disproportionately likely to commit violent crimes.  
   We can and should debate the why and the how of these statistics.  However, we must also honestly admit that when an average white guy (especially a cop) sees a black guy, these violent statistics are in mind. Most white people feel a little bit afraid of black men, even if they don’t want to feel that way, even if they have black men for friends.  Let’s just be honest and admit our racism - and admit that our prejudice is at least partly founded in reality, painful as that reality is. 

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