Things I Learned from My Father

1. To try and be a good father to my own children

2. A healthy distrust for the evangelical subculture which dominates much of Protestantism

3. A love for dogs

4. To tell my mother “Thank You”

5. Responsibility

6. How to comb my hair

7. How to tie a bow-tie

8. The difference between being “whelmed” and “overwhelmed”

9. The third and most important part of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, reason. Does it make reasonable sense?

10. How to make slaw

Richard Bryant

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Originally, There Was No Sin

Augustine – The Captain Morgan of the “Original Sin” Idea

1. Eating an apple handed to you by a snake in a garden?  No.  (Snakes don’t talk or have opposing thumbs.  Saint Augustine and his 4th century pals really made the idea of babies born with innate evil a “big deal”.)  Let’s keep going.

2. Separating immigrant children from their parents when the parents make an asylum application to enter the United States? Yes.  (BIG TIME SIN, WHAT WOULD JESUS THINK?)

3. Housing immigrant children, separated from their parents, concentrating them in camps, away from their families? Yes.  (BIG TIME SIN.  AGAIN, WHAT WOULD JESUS THINK?)

4. Denying appeals for asylum in the United States based on claims of domestic abuse or gang violence? Yes. (WOULD JESUS ENDORSE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?  HELL NO!)

5. Marrying the person you love, even if the person you love is of the same gender? No.

6. A North Asian country with 270 GULAG style prison camps that executes, starves, and works people to death? Yes. (HUGE SIN, WHAT WOULD JESUS THINK?)

7. People who die while raising funds through a go fund me to pay for routine medical care? Yes. (ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  WHAT WOULD JESUS THINK?)

8. Over-prescribing opioids in rural areas? Yes. (NO WAY THAT JESUS ENDORSES DRUG ADDICTION?)

9. Sin is an unbreakable curse which has befallen all of humanity? No.  (JESUS CREATED HUMANITY! CURSES AREN’T IN HIS REPERTOIRE.)

10. God created us to love and be loved. Evil should be named and addressed. The antidote to sin is love.

Richard Lowell Bryant

Jesus For People Who Have a Hard Time With Jesus

1. What do we know about Jesus’ birth? The historical Jesus was a Galilean, Jewish peasant born in the year 4 BC. Most scholars doubt he was actually born on December 25th. The early church gave Jesus this birthday many years later (and for a variety of reasons.) Perhaps the earlier date had been lost or forgotten. Some argue that pagan Roman festivals were already held on the 25th, so one might have merged with the other. What matters is this: Jesus enters human history around the year 4 BC.

2. How did Jesus die? He was crucified around the year 30 AD. He was executed by the Roman Governor of the Province of Judea. His name was Pontius Pilate. Jesus’ message and activities threatened and undermined the power of the religious and political authorities in Galilee and Judea.

3. Why did Jesus die? To some Jesus was too political. To others, Jesus was too religious. Some of his disciples wanted Jesus to be a military, political, and religious leader. It might be argued that Jesus died because he refused to be a general and wasn’t sufficient political or religious enough to please those who supported him.

4. What was Jesus’ message? Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. He preached that a time would soon come when God would make all things right, new, and just. The imminent coming of the Kingdom of God would mark a total disruption of the existing social, political, economic, and religious order. “On Earth, as it is in Heaven”, as Jesus describes the Kingdom in the Lord’s Prayer.

5. How did Jesus teach? Jesus was a storyteller. He taught in parables which resonated with the working people who lived in rural Galilee and Judea. These parables are stories rich in morality, deep in meaning, and could be easily retold. Jesus was not a preacher in the sense most Americans understand preaching.

6. Is Jesus a Christian? No, Jesus was not a Christian. God is not a Christian. God is God. Jesus had no idea about our modern concept of denominations. Jesus was a 1st century Palestinian Jew. Churches, over the past two thousand years, have made Jesus a Christian. Jesus is worshiped by Christians as the Christ (from the Greek word Χριστός, Christós which means “the anointed one” a translation from the Hebrew word “Messiah”). When he died, Jesus didn’t envision Christianity becoming a global religion. It was after well after Jesus’ death that his friends and associates took Jesus’ ideas beyond Galilee and Judea. Notably, Paul of Tarsus is credited with helping bring Jesus’ message to Gentiles (non-Jews) around the Roman Empire.

7. Is Jesus the Son of God? Yes. Are you the Child of God? Yes. We are all God’s children.

8. Was Jesus aware that he was God’s son? I’ll answer with another question. Are you aware of the presence of God working in you? I hope so.

9. Is Jesus in Heaven? The resurrection is a living reality. Jesus is everywhere. God works in a divine milieu, to paraphrase the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin. Jesus is all around us if we’ll only take time to notice. We’re missing Jesus in the present if we are caught caught up searching for a medieval image of heaven.

10. Who were Jesus’ disciples? Jesus’ closest friends and neighbors became his disciples. Through the work of the disciples, Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom becomes a reality. Jesus himself is not the kingdom. We, all of God’s children, help our brother Jesus build the Kingdom of God. This is what disciples do. We are the disciples.

Richard Lowell Bryant

Richard’s Short Guide to Heresies

1. Transconsubstantiantarianism – the desire to use Communion bread that’s easier to chew.

2. Sedevacantism (Empty Seatism) – sitting in the back pew and attempting to glean the same level or spiritual insights one might gleam from the front pew.

3. Harmoniousism – a belief that doing religious work (even interfaith activities) together results in strength and unity. While this is not a heresy, many people believe such “harmoniousists” to be heretics. They are wrong.

4. Aegyptia reditusism (Egyptian Returnism)-a heresy which teaches that life was better under Pharaoh, before Moses (sometimes also extrapolated to include Jesus of Nazareth). This heresy is easily identified by a desire to return to a time prior to God’s salvific intervention in our lives. Those who express this heresy have often forgotten the oppression, hardship, and pain marked by the era prior to God’s intervention with Moses and/or Jesus.

5. Usism – A uniquely North American phenomenon; the heresy that Jesus was (and still is) a white, English speaking Protestant.

6. John Wesleyanism – a heresy, common among Methodists, which attributes every ancient ecclesial practice, saying, or tradition to John Wesley.

10 Rules and Ideas for Anyone Dating My Daughters

1. Please stop by Staples and pick up a ream of paper. I need to run bulletins for Sunday’s service.

2. Do you know what Hot Topic is?

3. You must have plenty of phone chargers.  Their phones are always dying.

4. I follow everyone on Snapchat and Instagram.

5. I know Robert Mueller

6. I know Vladimir Putin

7. Are you a UNC fan?

8. How many bumper stickers are on your car? (There is an acceptable number. It is less than one.)

9. Bring a copy of your transcript. (Certified is preferable)

10. Seriously, what is Hot Topic? Why do they keep sending us stuff? Can you figure it out?

Things Ain’t What They Used To Be

1. After almost twenty years of full time ministry, I’ve never really gotten into praying with my hands up. I’m much more comfortable using my words and leaving my hands down.

2. I don’t like phrases from scripture that become Christian jargon. The only hedge of protection I know is in my yard.

3. I also think the word “anointed” is over used. Outside the church, people don’t get how we talk.  We shouldn’t make ourselves hard to understand.  You shouldn’t need classes to “speak Christian”.

4. We need to talk more about Mark 3:20-35. Is Jesus the crazy relative we feel more comfortable trying to contain with our own standards of conformity? I think so.

5. I miss participating Sunday School. Specifically, I mean coloring pictures of Jesus on Sunday morning.  Now I spend my Sunday mornings getting ready for worship.  Coloring was fun.  However, worship pays better than coloring and I have mouths to feed.

6. It’s possible to take the Bible seriously but not literally. I feel like I say this all the time.  Is anyone listening?  Why is this so hard?

7. Intinction is my preferred method of giving and receiving Holy Communion. That being said, I still think it’s a little gross.

8. I think the last good year to be a United Methodist was 1986.

9. A relationship with Jesus is more important than a personal relationship. It’s personal by default.  You don’t define any of the other important relationships in your life (spouse, children, or parents) as personal.  They are simply relationships.  Drop the jargon, focus on the substance.

10. Stop looking for God in the usual, scripted, well-defined, pre-printed places.

11. Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash are dead.  You can’t have a Holy Trinity with only Willie Nelson.  I guess I am a Unitarian Nelsonite.  So be it.

Richard Lowell Bryant