E-Flat Major (A Poem)

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No matter what time of day
I still hear the notes
I cannot play
without the pain
Of the ruler
coming down
upon my knuckles,
the Thumping sound
sharp aches
hurting pride
no matter how
hard I try
I still hold
E flat major
in my soul.
My fingers move
as far as they can,
and I hear the chord
in my hands.

–Richard Bryant

Thoughts On Baptism and Ploy of Original Sin Matthew 3:13-17

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What is the big deal about Baptism? Is it just a holy bath with some sacred words said over you by a preacher? What does it matter today, whether it happened to you when you were a baby or an adult? Does it matter if you were sprinkled, poured, or dunked in the river? How does it change your life? Does it erase “original sin”? What difference does Baptism make?

To answer these questions, we must understand how we got to baptism as we know it today. Baptism didn’t fall from heaven as in its current, well-defined form. What is baptism intended to do? What is the practical and spiritual benefit of being baptized? How does baptism change your life? Is baptism crucial to our salvation? Jesus told his disciples to go out and baptize people, but is it needed to get into eternity? Remember, back in the middle ages; people would wait until right before they were about to die to be baptized. They didn’t want to sin after their baptism and nullify the impact of baptism, preventing them from getting into heaven. Most of us are baptized as babies, and then we go about living and sinning. How did that notion change? When did that shift occur?

Do you understand what I’m saying: people of faith viewed baptism as something so sacred that it wiped away all our sins, something we did at the end of our lives to guarantee our entry into God’s presence to something we now do at the beginning of our lives, fully aware of our sinful nature. At some point in Christian history, theologians and people, not God, decided that Baptism became a symbolic act that addressed original sin, not our daily sins. And if we were managing our daily sins and asking Jesus for forgiveness in something such as the Lord’s prayer and our original sin was addressed by baptism, our likelihood of living a virtuous life and having a shot at heaven was better than average. Someone came up with that idea and invented it out of whole cloth. Jesus, Paul, or no one else in the Bible said to wait until you’re about to die to be baptized, baptize babies, or baptize people when they can decide for themselves. We made up the rules.

This theology of Baptism, whether the medieval wait-until-you-die method or the modern, do it when you’re a baby to address original sin, and the community of believers will raise you according to Christian standards, are nowhere to be found in the Bible. They are the work of theologians, written 300-plus years after the death of Jesus and John the Baptist, by regular people trying to write rule books for the early church. They tried to connect an ancient Jewish purification ritual to what evolved into an early Christian initiation rite, then create a practice that has remained unchanged for a thousand years. That was until the Protestant Reformation, and the first Baptists bought a swimming pool.

 John was baptizing people for the forgiveness of sins, not purifying people for entrance into the temple. John wasn’t preparing people to become Christians or baptizing them in the name of the father, son, and Holy Spirit. What we read about, what John said, what Jesus experienced, and what we do are different expressions of similar practices.

Much human intervention went into creating what modern Christians call Baptism, what it means, what it represents, and how it plays a role in our faith. It’s a very subjective sacrament. We know this, and we see evidence of this because most denominations have different views on how they regard baptism when they baptize people, how they baptize if they baptize people more than once, does baptism erase original sin, and so on. Churches of all shapes and sizes share language, theology, and some commonalities in Holy Communion. It’s not the same with baptism. Most denominations have made their rules about baptism as they go along. First, they say, “We think this is what God wants us to do.” Then the next denomination comes along and makes different rules.

Baptism is a variable.  Baptism’s meaning is subjective and, in our day, depends mainly on your denominational tradition. Besides, Jesus telling us to “go baptize” doesn’t explain what he means by baptism, his theology of baptism, when to baptize, and how to baptize. (Remember the debates about “John’s baptism” or “Jesus’” baptism, what were those differences?) Whether baptism is about original sin is never covered. We’ve filled in the blanks and hope we’re right. That’s a giant leap to infer meaning from Jesus’ understanding of a vast theological concept. Essentially, we’re trying to read the mind of God from a few words in a 2000-year-old text. Talk about presumption. (Maybe that’s our original sin, presuming to know the mind of God?) I prefer to err on the side of caution. I don’t want to guess what Jesus meant. I think that’s where Christians get into trouble. I want to go with what I know.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Baptism evolved from a Jewish purification ritual. People had to take a ritual bath to go to the temple. This had nothing to do with moral or ethical cleanliness (for the most part) but with becoming clean after all those things in daily life (sex, death, menstruation) that made a person unclean and unable to enter the temple grounds and participate in the ritual life of the Jewish community. Living life made you unclean. Doing ordinary things in ordinary ways leads to ritual uncleanliness. That’s not sin; that’s just living. So people would go to a ritual bath, enter on one side and come out the other clean. Then they go to the temple. This is what large portions of Deuteronomy are about. How to stay clean in life.

If you committed a moral transgression, that would have to be addressed with a sacrificial offering in the temple. If you needed to atone for murder or another violent crime, you had to be made pure to enter the temple first for the right offering for that specific sin and forgiveness to be sought. The water didn’t forgive you of the murder. Instead, it cleansed you of your daily impurities and got you to a place where you could enter the temple. Once in the temple, you could address a more in-depth sacrifice with the priest for the more severe offense you’ve committed.

What John does in the desert has nothing to do with temple worship. He’s baptizing people for the forgiveness of sins. It’s a new thing, independent of the sacrificial system in the temple (recognizing the corruption in the temple) and trying to renew the spiritual life of ordinary Jewish believers.  He’s not starting a new church. There are no babies in pretty white outfits. It’s a simple proposition. John is a prophet. People trusted him to cleanse their souls more than they trusted the priests in the temple.

Jesus gave John’s actions validity. When he showed up at the Jordan, it changed the entire baptismal dynamic. This was to be more than an off-the-beaten-path symbolic step in the river. Instead, something bigger was happening. Once Jesus arrived, John realized that forgiveness was more significant than he had imagined. With Jesus on the scene, Baptism wasn’t ultimately about sin, the depth or depravity of sin, but the expansiveness of forgiveness. This is what Jesus brought to the riverside. 

Whereas we usually focus our discussions of Baptism on sin and repenting, Jesus, here in Matthew 3, has two clear and distinct emphases: forgiveness from sin and being beloved. Far from stepping into the waters, the river, the swimming pool, and the font and being reminded of washing away the stain of original sin, we are reminded that baptism marks us as part of a community from the beginning of our time in God’s community we are forgiven (what I call original forgiveness-not your identity as a sinner), and that forgiveness is made manifest in being called “beloved” of God. In this way, Baptism is not a choice we make or a choice our families made for us as infants. Ultimately, baptism is a gift to us from God. It is a means of receiving God’s grace, freely entering our lives.  I don’t think we need to make up an elaborate theological system as to how baptism works. Isn’t being told that through this one action, we are God’s forgiven beloved enough? Why do we need more? Why is our trust in God’s providence lacking?

What do we do about our original sin? Doesn’t it need to be addressed? Isn’t this what baptism is all about? Again, this is a question first posed by Saint Augustine and refined by later generations of Christians, one that Jesus never mentioned or discussed. To Jesus, sins were rather ordinary, a fact of life. Nobody was so broken that they couldn’t be put back together or redirected toward God. Instead, as we talked about last week, Jesus restored people to a right relationship with God. We didn’t understand that God had blessed us and the full implications of that blessing. God wants to be in a relationship with us. Our failure to comprehend God’s over-the-top willingness to love us-that’s the root cause of sin, not whether Eve ate an apple from a talking snake. (Besides, the word sin doesn’t appear in the Bible until the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 3.)

Blessings are God’s original trademark. Creation began not with condemnation and evil but with God proclaiming blessing over the entire world, exclaiming, “It’s all good.” Somewhere along the way, we stopped seeing God reaching out with blessing after blessing and began to focus solely on sin and judging others. At our baptism, God redirects our priorities. This is what we read in the Gospels and what we hear the voice of God reiterate as if proclaiming the blessings of Genesis again, “You are my beloved, and I am well pleased. Be blessed.”

The gospel is not a story of sin. It’s a love story. If you listen to the message from most churches, you’d think God is obsessed with sin. It’s the other way around. We’re obsessed with sin. God is consumed with love.

Sin is about division. Sin separates us from God. Everything Jesus does is about bringing people closer to God. God is inviting us to stand in the water together. In the waters of creation, recreated in the waters of Baptism, we are reminded that God did not create us to be originally sinful.

On the contrary, we were made in God’s good image. Sin is not at the heart of our being. Even in our most malformed moments, we are the body of Christ. Therefore, when God looks upon us, even the disaffiliated community of Christians called Methodists, God calls us beloved and blessed.

Jesus is about restoration, healing, and wholeness. Our brokenness can be mended. The dirt on our souls can be cleaned. By accepting the invitation to embrace a life of watery-infused, creation-inspired fullness, we can live holy lives, even on days with severe ups and downs.

–Richard Bryant

A New Year’s Resolution-Embracing the Universal(ism)

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I’ve been thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. You know, the kinds that aren’t abstract, are doable, relatable, and reflect changes I’ve considered making but never followed through with or dared to start in the first place. With three or four days left until the official start of the New Year, today is as good a day as any to take a whack at my list.

I believe 2023 will be the year I stop believing (or giving lip service to) in a place called “Hell.”

After much consideration, I’m not sure I’ve ever believed in a literal “Hell .” In high school I read Dante. After living in Russia for two years, I started to think that if there is a Hell, it is as he described: cold and frozen. It’s also somewhere east of the Urals. I saw the cartoons; Bugs Bunny ended up there regularly but always managed to make it back to this side of eternity. I never gave it much thought where bad people went they died. As a child, I suppose, I thought people simply disappeared. I had this image, shaped by the first Superman movie, of villains floating perpetually in space, separated from God and surrounded by total darkness. If there was a Hell, that’s what I pictured it to be. I didn’t know to call this idea “Hell” but that’s what I thought happened to bad people when they died.

I grew up middle class in the middle of North Carolina in the mid-1980 in a mainline United Methodist Church. I am as middle as they come. We were there every time the church door was open. For the life of me, I can’t remember (even in the one revival I recall being held in our congregation) anything said about Heaven or Hell, and if we didn’t change our ways or accept a Jesus on specific terms, we’d end up in Hell. I didn’t drink or party like some kids. So my memory is pretty good. The youth group was fun, and I can’t recollect any fundamentalist or evangelical-style brainwashing. We weren’t a cult or a cult trying to pass as a church. I grew up in what I thought was a typical United Methodist Church. I only met people with radically different religious experiences once I went to divinity school. I thought everyone must have grown up in a bland, centrist church like mine. One of the reasons I wanted to become a minister is that I thought Methodists could spice things up a bit. I didn’t want to bring tent meetings back to Methodism, but we could be much more engaging. I found the Bible thrilling. It was full of great stories, and we were doing a pretty dull job presenting the “greatest story ever told.” 

I remember one occasion when I was probably in middle school or had just started high school, and I asked our pastor about Judas. It was after a Maundy Thursday service.

I wanted to know, “If it was in the divine plan for Jesus to die and be betrayed by Jesus, why were we so hard on Judas?” He didn’t have an answer for me. I still have that question. That’s probably about as close as I came to questioning Heaven, hell, and universalism (a word I’d never hear until I went to college). I wanted to know about Judas’ role in the crucifixion. If Judas was integral to the plan, how could we damn him to Hell? Wouldn’t Jesus, who forgave everybody, forgive him too, especially if Jesus needed him at a cosmic level? His eyes glazed over.

He told me to go home and pray about it.

I’ve been praying about it for over thirty years now. And you know what; I think Judas was forgiven.

I can’t point to one single event, encounter, verse, book, or theologian which pushed me to the universal side. It’s probably rooted in my service as a pastor for over twenty years. I know I was well down the path toward universalism long before I read Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. Reading Bell was like going to group therapy; I realized there were other people like me, and I’d found a safe space to share my feelings, even if it was only within the pages of a book. 

I keep coming back to scriptures, both from Paul: Romans 8:37-39 and 1 Timothy 2:1-4. When Paul says in Romans 8:38, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruler, nor things present, nor things, to come, nor powers, no height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I believe him with every fiber of my being. Paul says nothing will separate us from God’s love. How that works, I am still determining. I cannot read that passage and think the God who wants to overcome anything and everything in all creation to be with those he created would let an idea, yes, an idea, like “Hell,” get in the way.

Paul opens his second letter to Timothy with a call to prayer, “I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people-for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This and good and pleases God our Savior who wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”

God wants everyone to be saved. That’s Paul speaking, not Richard. Why would God create a system then set the rules in opposition? Why would God want something for everyone then prevent God from obtaining it? Why would God not get what God wants? I thought nothing separated us from God’s love, yet if “Hell” exists, God denies God’s own will for humanity. Is God God if God is constantly overruling his own will? Why should anyone be left behind if God is as powerful as we proclaim? I am no longer content with the idea that God cannot or will not accomplish God’s desires for the reconciliation of all creation.

While serving in Northern Ireland a few years ago, I preached during a Holy Week service in Londonderry. A couple of days after my sermon, the circuit superintendent invited me for tea. He’d heard concerns about my sermon; some in the congregation had picked up “universalist themes .” I am trying to remember what I was preaching, but it had nothing to do with universalism. It was one of the bread of life texts from John. Nowhere in my mind did the idea of universalism occur when preparing the sermon. Yet, here, publicly, for the first time, my superintendent questioned me about being a universalist. He didn’t ask if I was a universalist. Instead, he asked, was that what I intended to say, and I answered truthfully, “no, I didn’t.” Looking back on that sermon in 2014, I guess I accidently beamed universalism. To be honest, I was a little mad at myself. The only time I’ve been officially called out by anyone in the church hierarchy for being a universalist and I did it unintentionally. I wish I had known that’s what I was about to do. I’d have made a much bigger statement: Protestants and Catholics will all go to Heaven.

I believe God wills and desires the salvation of all. I guess that makes me a universalist.

No one can prove Heaven exists. You also can’t empirically prove Hell exists, though I’d expect some Southwest airlines customers could make a good argument for the latter. Scholars like Bart Ehrman and James Tabor have described how both ideas developed over time through interpreting scripture, literature (Dante did more to shape our vision of Hell than anything in the Bible), and western history. It takes faith to believe in God. How much more faith does it take to believe in a God who wants to torture those who that same God created? (More faith than I’ve ever had in a God of love.) I don’t have faith in a God of cruelty and torture. I do not have enough faith to believe in a God that loves enough to create us and then, if we screw up bad enough, kills us because our God-given free will made us irredeemable. I’ve never had that faith. I don’t want it. You do you. It doesn’t work for me. I’ll keep my faith in the God of Love, and we’ll work it out in the end.

This began as a discussion of New Year’s Resolutions. I want to lose both theological and physical baggage. I think it’s time to bundle up and go for a walk. See you outside!

–Richard Bryant

Talking, Doing, and Making a Difference

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It’s hard to go through life feeling like your hands are tied. You see global problems and significant issues and want to act. But you can’t do anything. Your hands and feet are bound. If you could, you’d run to aid those who are suffering. You’d shout at the top of your lungs to draw attention to the cause of those you’re trying to help. That doesn’t work, either. When you open your mouth, you have no voice. The voice you do have is shouted down. No one can hear you or pays attention to your words. This is what I experience and feel when I watch the news. I see reports from Ukraine or the US/Mexico border and want to do something tangible to end the war and alleviate the rampant human suffering on display.

My first inclination is to pray. I have to admit I don’t know what to pray for, so I pray for an open-ended end to suffering, pain, and violence. Almost a year into Europe’s most significant land war since 1945 and after watching thousands of impoverished migrants who’ve walked for months across jungles to come to the United States, this seems like a paltry response, given the gravity of the respective situations. Here I sit, in my warm and comfortable home (office, church, etc.), muttering a few words after observing the misery of others and expecting the God of the cosmos to do something, anything, to alleviate the suffering strangers half a world away. I’m so tired of watching nothing happen, the evidence of war crimes becoming more apparent, and refugees not being welcomed into the United States of America. Recently, I’ve thought about my need to involve God in praying for the Ukrainian war or the migrants. I want the war to end and migrants to be welcomed not simply because I am a Christian or pastor but because it is the right and moral thing to do. People deserve to be treated well because of our shared humanity, not solely because a religious text instructs us to do so.

I guess, in some way, through my prayers, I’m trying to make myself feel better. At least I’ve done something, I’ll say to myself. I’m aware, I care, and I’m informed. I know God’s not unaware of the needs of the Ukrainians or the migrants, but somewhere deep down inside, I think my “seconding the motion” helps. Then again, who am I to tell God what God obviously already knows? Shouldn’t I be doing something rather than just talking about the problem?

Once I’ve said it, I feel like I’ve done something; I can check it off my list and then move on to the next item on my agenda. The thing is, here recently, I don’t feel better. I feel worse. I feel like I should be doing more. I feel like the more I pray, the worse the situation becomes. I see how overwhelmed the people trying to aid the migrants are with each passing day. I want to do something besides close my eyes and talk to God. I ask myself, “Where’s the middle ground between going to the Polish border or El Paso and sitting in Hillsborough and waiting for God to move on Vladimir Putin’s non-existent heart?” I don’t have an answer to that question. We’ve sent money to UMCOR. I’ve raised money and tried to help people on the border. If there is a blank, I’ve filled it in. All I know is this: our words aren’t cutting it.

What happens when Christmas is over and the willingness to be charitable fades? To borrow a phrase that’s popular at the moment, none of our altruism seems effective. The good we (collectively as Christians and as a denomination) do is all short-term, motivated by the emotions brought up by the Christmas holiday. We’ll keep praying and waiting on Vladimir Putin to do what Dr. Seuss allowed the Grinch to do-experience a change of heart. That’s the only way this stupid, vicious war will ever end.

–Richard Bryant

Advent 2: It Was Never Easy Being Johnny – Matthew 3:1-12

The road to Graceland goes through Tupelo, Mississippi.

The road to Bethlehem goes through John the Baptizer.

It must have been hard to be John the Baptizer. I don’t mean the odd diet and living in the harsh desert environment. John chose to be an ascetic. He willingly embraced the Hebrew prophetic lifestyle. I am saying that it was hard to be related to Jesus of Nazareth. Can you imagine living in the shadow of the person who defined how civilization came to define history? Before him, time was measured in one manner. After his birth, we changed how years were counted. How easy was it to relate to Jesus in your family, especially if you had even the faintest understanding of his role?

Mark’s gospel tells readers that Jesus had brothers and sisters. Imagine the unique qualities of those relationships. What did you know or not know of your brother’s humanity or his divinity? These questions fascinated the early church. The infancy gospels, noncanonical works telling stories of Jesus’ childhood and family, tried to fill in the gaps surrounding Jesus’ missing childhood years. They are weird and read more like science fiction than the accepted miracle stories of Jesus walking on water or feeding multitudes.

What’s notable about Mark’s account (3:31-35) is that his mother, brothers, sisters, and broader family are worried about Jesus. They know he’s coming off as crazy. Some of those in Nazareth didn’t take kindly to the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter making grand theological arguments. To claim to be able to heal and even hint at a messianic identity put his life (and their family’s) in danger. Besides, wasn’t his cousin John the real religious one in the family? Didn’t he leave home, live alone in the wilderness, and pursue God with a small group of devoted followers? John was the guy, the prophet in the family, right? Jesus worked in the shop and made speeches in the synagogue. John, the man they hadn’t seen in years, the distant cousin, the black sheep, he’s the one with real religious potential.   

Yes, it was never easy being John the Baptizer. You knew you were destined for big things. God had given you a message on par with the most critical and socially challenging prophets in the Hebrew Bible. People heard your words and responded accordingly. The rich were uncomfortable. The poor listened to you, and it was unmistakable; God was on their side and would not let them down. You preached a need for a fresh start when everyone else was comfortable with a miserable, dirty, rotten status quo. You lived with such integrity and ferocity that some people came to believe that you, John, a poor boy from Galilee, might be the one to free Israel in the manner of Moses or Joshua. John knew he was a prophet and prophet alone. Someone else from Galilee would come and, like Elijah and Elisha, take his mantle and continue his work after his death. Because prophets do not live long, especially those who make rich people angry, hold a mirror up to reality, and ask the world to practice what they preach.

John was human, like all of us. John has no claim to divinity. He was an eccentric yet effective preacher. He said all the right things, did everything he was supposed to do, and would never see how Jesus would take his vision to a place he never imagined. John’s life was no rose garden and should not be idealized. Yes, it was never easy for John the Baptizer. Like a country music singer (think Jimmie Rogers or the Carter Family) from the mid-1950s who led to people like Elvis and Johnny Cash (whom only a few die-hard fans remember), he lived hard, died harder, and wrote songs that people would sing forever. Without John the Baptizer, we might not know Jesus. We need him because I believe you can’t have one without the other. We need John to see Jesus and Jesus to hear John.

–Richard Bryant

Start With Forgiveness

Have you ever wondered why we say the prayers of confession and proclaim forgiveness before celebrating our congregational prayer celebrations and concerns? Is that just the way United Methodists worship? Yes, that is true. You’ll probably find that pattern in most congregations. However, there are theological, Biblical, and spiritual reasons we speak this way.  These reasons could impact your Thanksgiving dinner.

Forgiveness precedes gratitude. It isn’t easy to be genuinely grateful if we need to forgive someone or something. In church, we begin our prayers of confession by addressing God, acknowledging our brokenness, and our need to be forgiven and forgive others. Forgiving others is a central component of what Christians call the “Lord’s Prayer.”  How can we honestly acknowledge gratitude for our lives, blessings, families, and friends if there are some we cannot forgive? Can we share a common table and proclaim our genuine thankfulness to God and others if there are those sitting around our table that we need to forgive? If our hearts are burdened with hatred, remorse, and vengeance, is any of our gratitude nothing more than empty words? Without forgiveness, some internal or external acknowledgment of the need to move beyond past wrongs and hurts, gratitude grows in shallow soil. Life is too short to waste on superficialities. Jesus calls us to forgive from a place deep within ourselves where our emotions are raw and fragile. It’s in that same place, where we’d prefer not to go, where we begin to understand the depth and gravity of the forgiveness embodied in his life, death, and resurrection.

While I write out of the Christian tradition, I see this as an idea rooted in our shared humanity; not solely unique to a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple.

Before you sit down tomorrow, who do you need to forgive? Is it yourself? Is it a sibling, parent, or friend? Thanksgiving should begin with three words, “I forgive you.” Say it in any manner you feel led. Free yourself, your soul, and the lives of those around you for genuine gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving.

–Richard 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

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

I’ve Arranged My Books

I’ve arranged
some of my books,
even the ones,
behind the nooks,
the tall ones,
a few wee tomes too,
antinomianism stands in pride of place,
Zeitgeist waits,
to know its fate,
turning around,
then I see,
I can arrange my books,
in any way,
for they are mine,
bought and paid.

–Richard Bryant