5 Things I Love About the United Methodist Church

1. I love the way we can say the Nicene Creed one week and ask for testimonies the next. Our lives are living examples of the liturgy. Whether it’s printed in a bulletin, hymnal, or our DNA, we bring the “work of the people” to church and the wider community.

2. United Methodists worship with every generation of Methodist who has gone before us. We also understand that our presence in this place is impermanent. We are called to have our horses, cars, and saddlebags ready for the next move. There is a place beyond our comfort zones that needs the liturgy, hymns, gospel, and message. We all must be ready to see them timely delivered.

3. I love coming to church with other people who know where I am in life, where I’ve been, and are praying for me without my having to ask. The work of the people* is undergirded by embers of prayer, stoked day and night.

4. I love the United Methodist Church because we try to do the right thing. This is because, at our core, we are not fundamentalists. We never have been. Since our arrival in the United States, Methodists have been marked by their moderation. Our vision of Orthodoxy, mixed with the common sense of the quadrilateral, might be one of the greatest theological achievements of the late 20th century. We want to do the right thing by God and our neighbors.  Alienation isn’t in our genes.

5. There is always room on some pew for you, your family, and your friends in our church. No one will be turned away. I love the United Methodist Church because we don’t lock our doors figuratively or literally to anyone. If the door is closed, knock. I will come to let you in. If all the seats are full, I will give you mine.

*The word liturgy, derived from the technical term in ancient Greek (Greek: λειτουργία), leitourgia, which literally means “work for the people” is a literal translation of the two words “litos ergos” or “public service”.

–Richard Lowell Bryant

Important Ideas to Remember

1. Listen to the people around you. Honor their journeys. Your life will be better for it.
2. Pass on the kindness you’ve received.
3. Let your Thank You really mean, “I am grateful”.
4. Take fewer selfies. Take more pictures of leaves, trees, and clouds.
5. Stay hydrated.

–Richard Bryant

The Late Modern Produce Machine

 

Bienvenue to the
produce machine.
I am broke do tell,
even today,
because I can’t spell:
zookene,
maters,
bale peprs,
taters,
hallo peno peprs,
or
them small blak things,
I confuse with large flies,
that look something like,
Little gray paes with black eyes.

–Richard Bryant

Some Confessions in Honor of Saint Augustine

Earlier this week, we remembered the 1665th birthday of one of the most important theologians in the Christian tradition.  Saint Augustine of Hippo, the Neoplatonic philosopher and Bishop of Hippo bridged the gap between late Roman antiquity and the early Church.  We are who we are because of Augustine helped us become.

One of St. Augustine’s early works was The Confessions.  It is a classic work of Christian theology and autobiography.  In short, he defines the genre.  The Confessions may best known for this quote, where Augustine says, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.”  What a rascal!

In honor of Augustine’s birth, here are a few of my own Confessions.

  1. After twenty plus years of full-time ministry, I feel awkward and self-conscious when I pray with my hands in the air. I’m more comfortable using my words and leaving my hands down.
  2. Some phrases become part of our entrenched prayer vocabulary. We use them so often they can lose the beauty of their intended meaning. I’m looking at you, “hedge of protection”.
  3. Outside the church, people don’t understand our “insider” language. We shouldn’t make ourselves challenging to understand. We have a vocabulary, by al means. However, everyone should be able to learn as they go.
  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 standards of conformity? I think so.
  5. I miss 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.
  6. It is possible to take the Bible seriously but not literally? I feel like I say this all the time. Is anyone listening?
  7. Intinction is my preferred method of giving and receiving Holy Communion. It may not be the “old way” (of American Methodism), but it is the “oldest way,” which Jesus likely knew.
  8. Were we to compare United Methodism to a rare wine, I’ll prefer the 1738 Herrnhutt from Saxony. It’s a husky, smooth blend of English and German piety.
  9. A relationship with Jesus is, by default, a personal relationship. You don’t define any of the other meaningful relationships in your life (spouse, children, or parents) as personal. They are simply relationships. Be cautious of jargon (this goes for any part of your life), focus on the substance. Be in a relationship with God.
  10. It is easy to walk past a resurrection moment or to go in search of a Resurrection encounter only to realize; God’s right beside you, riding shotgun, ready to talk, and up for the journey.

Richard Lowell Bryant

Things You Can’t Live On All Alone

This is, by no means, a comprehensive list.  It is, however, a gathering of items when taken separate or together, one might not sustain oneself, on any single item alone, in any meaningful way.

  1. Bread
  2. Salt
  3. Pickles
  4. Radishes
  5. Pickled Radishes
  6. Salty Pickled Radishes
  7. Ketchup
  8. Onions
  9. Liver
  10. Liver and Onions

A First Look at Luke 20:27-38 (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)

 

There are many intricate theological points highlighted by this week’s Gospel reading.  However, I believe the text can be summarized as follows: how does Jesus deal with bullies, those who antagonize him publicly, those who seek to trap in him in unwinnable arguments, and those who have no intention of listening to his message?

The Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, are not interested in Jesus’ answers. Their goal is to make Jesus look foolish by responding to their outlandish setup of a question. What can we learn from this encounter?

  1. Debating the furniture of Heaven or the thermostat in Hell is a lose/lose proposition. No one knows the realities of Heaven and Hell. John Milton and Dante have done more to shape our images of the underworld than anything in the Bible. The truth: none of us know. We’ve read passages of scripture that give us a vague idea. The truth is, we don’t know. Like so much, we go on faith.
  2. The Sadducees absurd questions weren’t designed to be answered. If you encounter something similar, Ignore them. That’s what Jesus did. He doesn’t get down into the weeds.
  3. Realize the difference between now and eternity. For human beings to set the rules for Heaven, in any meaningful sense, is taking power away from God. God sets the rules, especially in eternity.
  4. When Jesus was answering this question with the Sadducees, no one but Jesus understood the resurrection. Jesus redefined the meaning of the resurrection. You can’t debate people if one side is talking about apples, and you’re discussing oranges.
  5. If you’re laying verbal traps for people to “catch” people with whom you disagree, you’ve already lost. We don’t get other people into Heaven by asking trick questions. That’s called being a jerk.  Resurrection is God’s business.
  6. The Sadducees ask the patriarchy question of the week, “Whose wife is this?”  In their set-up attempt to bait Jesus, the “woman” is still treated like property in death.   No, just no.