Sunday, September 20, 2009

Grace and Redemption - "You have to move on"
Some of you know that I am a big fan of REAL football, or what people here in the US call "Soccer." ;) Last night during the Kansas City Wizards game, a real life example of grace and redemption showed itself.

Jimmy Conrad, the captian of the Wizards and one of the most respected players in the league, committed what were really the only two mistakes in the game for the team, but those mistakes lead directly to the other team's two goals. After the second goal for FC Dallas, every time the camera showed Jimmy, his face looked worn and defeated. There were visible bags under his eyes. In the paper this morning, he said it felt like the weight of the world was on his shoulders.

How many times in our lives have we made mistakes that have been costly, either to ourselves, our loved ones, or even to someone we may not know? Sometimes these mistakes make it feel as if the weight of the world were on our shoulders, and that the entire world is going to wait and watch, anticipating and even rooting for us to make another mess of things. Sometimes it seems as if the only one on your side is the devil, waiting for you to make one final mistake that will cost you everything.

Thankfully, God is always on our side, cheering us on, granting us the grace that we do not deserve, but that we so sorely need in order to be able to move on with our lives. And thankfully for Jimmy Conrad, he was left in the game. In the 80th minute, a ball was delivered toward the Dallas net that one of their defenders tried to direct over the crossbar for a corner kick, but it was too low and the keeper had a hard time handeling the ball. Jimmy was there to head in what would be the game winning goal for the wizzards. He had been given another chance and he took advantage of it. He was the first one after the game to admit that he was not happy about the way he had played the game that evening, but he was also the first to be glad that he had made up for his errors.

God gives us all second chances. While I usually don't care for sports metaphors in sermons or using them as preaching illustrations, the way Jimmy played last night shows, I think, how we are all called by God to use the multiple second chances we are given to turn our lives around. To God I give thanks for grace and redemption.

Rev. Rob

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What IS Resurrection?

Ok, so it's been awhile. I'm sure you've all missed my blog... or not ;)

anyway, a lot has been on my mind lately, some of it even good, so here is a tasting of some of it.

I just got done taking a course called "interpreting biblical narratives" with one of the coolest professors I've ever had, and it was one of the best classes I've ever taken in seminary. but during one of the class times, we got into a discussion about what Jesus' resurrection means. I don't remember exactly how the original question was framed, but the prof turned it a little bit and re-framed the question to "what IS resurrection?" we had an incredible discussion after that, and i am sure i didn't take adequate notes to really recapture the essence of the discussion, but pretty much it boiled down to this: resurrection is a renewal of something that had died [spiritually or metaphorically] into a way that is new a vibrant. i think of so many instances where i have seen or heard of people or even whole congregations that have needed to die to their old ways and be renewed so they can truly live the way God intended them to live.

my final project for this class, due in a couple more weeks, is to write an exegesis on a narrative that we select ourselves and then to also write or sketch out or actually do a performance piece of the narrative. the point of this second part is that what good does the exegesis do that we as pastors do if we can not convey what we have read and interpreted to those we encounter in our faith walks, IE, the congregations we serve? i chose Ezekiel 37:1-14, AKA the valley of dry bones (the head bone is connected to the...neck bone. the neck bone is connected to the...shoulder bone. the shoulder bone is connected to the... arm bone etc, or however you want to sing it.) I have seen and experienced places or people that are dry or dead and need the word of God breathed back into them so they can be renewed. some of these places or people i often wonder if they were truly alive to begin with, or are they, as a friend of mine calls them, "dead grey masses?"

so as not to spoil all the fun, when i am done with the "presentation" piece, i will post it after it has been delivered. until then, i will be praying for all who need to experience the renewal that resurrection brings!

in Christ's love,

rev rob

Monday, March 16, 2009

reflections on a "models of God" assignement and other ponderings

I just finished an assignement for my systematic theology class where I chose to write about "models of God" from two theologian's points of view and what images and languages they use in these models. Let me tell you, trying to describe the indescribable is VERY difficult to do, even if you are basically only reporting on what other people said! It really opened my eyes up to the diversity of thought on God. I am very glad that people write about these things with such passion.

Some of the observations I have about God from this assignment: I come from a liberation theology point of view mostly, which starts with the assumption that God has a "preferential option for the poor." This may seem contradictory for a white guy who grew up in the 'burbs to have an affinity for this theology, but I think my parents, even though I did live a somewhat sheltered life growing up, did try to instill in me some empathy for other people and their condition in life. I even look back at my Scout troop and the variety of economic conditions kids from the troop came from. True it was restrictied to my neighborhood, but that neighborhood was somewhat diverse as neighborhoods go. But no matter who's homes we met in, I was taught to be appriciative of the hospitality they provided, no matter what level of hospitality they were able to extend. This has been able to translate for me to one of my ministry settings. Since my church appointment is part time, I fill some of the other time by being in charge of the community meal on Saturday mornings at a church downtown that serves mostly homeless people (we refer to them as sojourners, and if you have visited this church or even heard of a church that uses that term, you know which church this is.) So every weekend I see how God is active in what we would call "the least of these, our brothers and sisters."

But what is still troubleing for me is my response to this segment of the population outside of that particular setting. Yes I am able to help provide a meal, but then when I leave I still see people on corners with cardboard signs asking for help. I don't give anything to them on the corner, but I help them with a meal at the church. Am I really able then to do as much as I can or should? I have a colleague who blogged about this same feeling a couple weeks ago, and I can say that I empathize with their concerns around this - and this colleague is one who has a strong social justice passion the way I do, maybe even a stronger passion! But the question is always "Where is God in all of this?" Where is God in my willingness or ability to help or respond only in certain ways or situations, Where is God in my recognition of my own White Privlege that I struggle with so much? Where is God in my ability to ignore what is going on around me when there are many who do not have that luxury? do I just care too stinkin' much? (and can i blame that on my parents? jk!)

anyway, my faith seems to be in a good place at the moment. as good ol' JW was constantly asking "how is it with your soul?" seems pretty good right now, dispite some of my questions about discribing God. It is an imperfect task, but one that I think we need to struggle with. As Paul wrote to the church in Corninth, our wisdom is nothing compard to God's, and our greatest strength is tiny compared to God's weakness. We just have to trust that we are doing our best to discern and cary out God's will here on earth. that is my prayer, and that is the prayer I leave any of you who have taken the time to read this.

God bless y'all!

the irreverant rob allen

Monday, February 9, 2009

finding my legs

Well, i am finally starting to get settled into the church i am serving. i'm not sure that there was anything that was keeping me from settling in, or if it was just all of us getting used to each other, but these last couple of weeks have been very good. i have a very loving and supportive congregation who let me be who i need to be. i was able to make a couple of minor changes in how the worship flowed, and i think that really helped.

one of the things that i think has helped me settle in was just relaxing. i thougt at first that i needed to preach from the pulpit, that being there would make things "right" or some bla bla like that. but after taking a weekedn to go to denver to celebrate my grandfather's b-day and then returning, i stayed out of the pulpit, didn't bother to robe up, and just stood out front and talked. no notes. my wife had been bugging me to preach without notes for a long time, and at my last church (actually my first church) i had tried that for a while. worked well for a while. the first time i preached without notes was a sermon on simon-peter getting out of the boat to walk on the water to jesus. so i figured what beeter time to get out of my own boat and step out on faith! it is working well again, and i feel that there is a connection with the congregation that actually gives more authority to the preacher when there is that connection that the pulpit, which to some represents authority, can not provide. of course, you have to back what you say with authority with how you live your life or everyone will just think you are full of it.

enough of the midnight ramblings. if you look at the time this was posted you would think i am off my rocker for writing this late. or early. or somthing. hope this makes some sort of sense for a middle of the night update.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thoughts on change

with all the changes in the world going on, this may be a good time for me to reflect on some of them.

44 - wow. what can i say. this is obviously the biggest change that everyone is talking about right now. i have to say that the first time i had ever heard of Barack Obama was not during the campaign, but when he spoke at a renewal put on by sojourners, a progressive christian magazine whose editor is Jim Wallis (someone who i hugely admire). Mr. Obama's speech, which was published on sojourner's website at the time (don't know if it is still there) was about the meshing of faith and politics, and it was given at a time when "faith" and "politics" in the same sentence was code for "conservative, white evangelical christian." the political right still had a tight grip on the conversation, but their death grip was loosening. but this speech that Obama gave almost brought tears to my eyes because i felt he was saying things i had been thinking for some time, but also saying things that needed to be said. you could say i was smitten. when i was a community organizer a year or so later, some of us were in dc to visit our senator, Claire mccaskill. we were in the office building (heart, i think it was) waiting for someone in our party to go to the bathroom and senator Obama got off the elevator. some of the guys in our group jumped up to shake his hand. i wish i had, but i usually would have viewed that as brown-nosing. principles-be-damned, i wish i had done it. then about 8 months later he announced his candidacy on a very cold morning. i wanted to hear his speech, and again i was impressed. this guy gets it, and now he is our president! what a change from someone who drove our country into the ground to someone who will start the healing process. this will take many years and maybe several more administrations, but i think we are headed in the right direction. i know he is not our savior (Jesus has dibs on that title and role), but i think Obama will be a great leader.

the church is changing also. in my last post i wrote about minister's school at tan-tar-a. lots of posts in the blogosphere have been discussing this event and i have had some conversation with some of my colleagues about the event and the emerging church that we talked about there at the school. the emergent movement is difficult to describe, but basically it is an organic way to do church that honors the traditions that have worked, returned to talking about theology in a very serious way, and works to include everyone. at least that is the idea. i find aspects of the movement promising for the united Methodist church, which is in need of another big renewal. i see the way the church is weighted down with bueacracy and i am convinced that John Wesley would be rolling in his grave. but as i posted on a couple people's blogs, i wouldn't still be trying to get into this system if i didn't think the church was still capable of discerning and doing God's will in the world and in the community. so i will be learning more about what the movement has to offer and see what i can do to integrate it into the church i am serving.

i am constantly changing too. i feel that my preaching style is still evolving and improving, and my leadership and pastoral skills will be changing and improving as i settle into my new appointment. I'll keep y'all posted on how that all goes.

in Christ's love

rev rob

Thursday, January 15, 2009

relfections on minister's school and emergant chruch

i just returned from the missouri united methodist church's minister's school in tan-tar-a, a resort on "the lake" in missouri. the main focus of the few days we were there was how to use technology and learnings from "the emergant church movement" in our own churches. well, setting up this blog is step one of this engagement. ok, actually it is step two, because step one was me starting to read about the emergent chruch movement with a couple of books. first i read "the great emergence: how the chruch is changing and why" by phylis tickle. great book. i actually used some of the material in my sermon last sunday. the second book i started reading (i still have a bit to go) is "the new christians: dispatches from the emergent village" or somthing like that. the author is tony jones, and he was one of the main featured guests. i think he was also the one that pushed most people's buttons. this morning there was a "conversaton" between him and the bishop that really should have been moderated because it wasn't the most respectfull conversation (that goes for both parties). it wasn't jerry fallwell ugly, but i was kinda dissappointed.

aside from that, the minister's school was really well worth while. i have left it with more questions than answers for my ministry. the main question is "ok, now what?" the big problem with the emergent church movement is that there isn't really an owner's manuel. there is not a set of directions. that is one of the beauties of the movement, but also a frustration of a somewhat liniar thinker like i am. i can see that there are things tony said and is in his book that i actually already use, but how to work some of these ideas into such a complex structure such as the united methodist church is going to take frying some synapses on my part.

anywho, i hope that if you have taken the time to read this and that you were there you will comment on my reflections and keep this dialogue going.

btw, i will be heading out to colorado tomorrow to see my grandfather, possibly for the last time. not sure what kind of shape he is in. he turns 93 today. happy bday papa. i love you.

in christ's love


Welcome to my blog

Hey there. this is my first attempt at a blog, and my laptop battery is about to run out. I have a lot on my mind, so i will make sure that i get them on here.

in christ's love,

rev. rob