Friday, December 20, 2013

Advent IV and Founder's Dirty Ba&@/rd

This is the Dirty Ba$@/rd by Founders Brewery in Michigan.  It's a hearty, rich beer, dark but not over powering, full bodied but with a clean aftertaste.

I'm drinking this beer because it tastes good, but the name is apropos to the season.  This Sunday is Advent IV and next week Christmas begins.  It seems we rarely focus on the questionable parentage of Jesus, but anyway you slice it Jesus was in fact a Ba$/@rd.  Mary and Joseph were not wed at his conception and possibly not at his birth, as the story goes.  By definition he was of illegitimate birth.  The nativity, like the cross, is evidence that God goes into the messy circumstances of our lives.  We need not transform ourselves into perfection for God to come; rather God comes into the mess and transforms us.

May you have a blessed Advent IV and welcome the Christ Child on Christmas.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Funeral Sermon for a Friend

So, last week I was drinking bitter beers for my bitter mood over the death of a friend.  I was honored to preach and preside at her funeral.  It was a testament to her love for this community that over 275 people showed up to her funeral.  It was a  particular challenge to preach this funeral because I needed to personally grieve, but also not make it about me.  When I sat down to write, I stared at the screen for a long time.  I didn't know what to say.  Finally, I realized that I could only tell what I knew.  Below is the text of this sermon, interspersed with the Beers I am drinking today at my watering hole. The Gospel Passage was John 6:37-40.

“This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” [John 6:40]

I speak with you in the name of God who will never lose us, never let us go, and never forget us. Amen!

So, I woke up every morning of the last week to a world without Chrissy Simmons in it. I don’t know how that is possible. How does the earth literally keep moving without Chrissy’s sheer force of will driving it ever forward? I don’t know the answer to that question, and I don’t know if I ever will. But I want to tell you somethings I do know.

I know that Chrissy was loyal. She was loyal to Carl, loyal to this congregation, and above all a loyal faithful servant of God. There are few people whose life touched as many people as Chrissy’s. You just have to look at this packed room and know that she touched a lot of hearts. She did this not through power or position; rather through service. She truly loved her neighbor as herself, and she did it to a degree to which few can compare. 

Time for a beer break:

This is the 2011 Imperial Russian Stout from Stone Brewing.  It is fantastic!!! There is little bit of spice up front, but it is malty smooth almost like a milk shake. The flavor is rich but balanced with a clean finish.  Even though it is 10% ABV the alcohol is not overpowering.  
Back to the Sermon:  

I also know for sure that I was a little afraid of Chrissy. She was, most likely, the most intense person I have ever met. She was passionate. She felt nothing lightly, every emotion was intense, every opinion strongly held, and she shared her opinions and emotions with everyone. She quite possibly was more intense than another Matriarch of this Congregation who I loved deeply and was also a little afraid, Mrs. Lorraine Sailes.

Most importantly, I know that God loses nothing. Chrissy is most certainly caught up in the risen life of Christ today. She is most certainly a driving force of the Kingdom of God this day, and she is most certainly raising Cain with Mrs. Lorraine over the heavenly potluck.

But where does that leave all of us? While we most certainly rejoice that Chrissy is caught up in God, we are left with a gaping painful wound as well. What will we ever do without her?

Time for one more Beer before I answer that...

This is the Jubelale from Deschutes Brewing.  It is a little hoppy with medium body.  Interestingly enough there is almost a celery aftetaste.  The aroma is really light.  All in all its a good beer, but not my favorite holiday beer.

Alright, time to finish the sermon:
  This question leads me to what I know next. No one person can ever replace Chrissy, in our hearts, in our community, and in our life together. However, I have an idea, and I think it is important. No single one of us could do it alone. It will take all of us together. What if we all let our light shine just a bit brighter today? What if we all loved a little more today? What if we made our loved ones smile one extra time or laugh at one more joke? What if we made a stranger smile one extra time or laugh at one more joke? What if we all served our neighbors, this congregation, and our community just a little more. Maybe....just maybe...if we all do this together then we can approach, maybe even come near, the amount of Light and Joy that left us last week. 

Finally, I know this without a shadow of doubt, if we don’t try our very best--I mean our absolute very very best--you better believe Chrissy will have something to say about it. Amen!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bitter Beers, Dark Beers, Comfort in a Glass (to the tune of Soft Kitty)

My apologies for not blogging more lately, but life happens.  I made it out to my watering hole this week, and finally found an IPA that I could swallow (forgive the pun).  I know IPAs are REALLY trendy at the moment, but I don't like them.  I keep trying them every now and again, because folks just keep raving about hops.  The problem is that when I pick one up to drink, they generally smell like feet then taste worse.  I have probably tried fifty IPAs in the last year with the same reaction.  Except this week I tried the Mountain Standard Time, Double Black IPA from O'Dell Brewing company.  As you can see, it is a beautiful dark beer with a light tan head.  The aroma doesn't reak of gym socks so we were off to a good start.

Now truth be told, this beer still leads with bitter.  There are a lot of hops in this sucker, but bitter isn't the only flavor.  There is a depth to it with hints of carmel and a smoothness that buffs off the rough edges of the hops. 

Maybe it was because I was in a bitter mood (more on that later) but I liked it enough to drink a whole glass of it.  I can't say that about any other IPA I have tried.

I also had Lucky Bucket's Certified Evil (did I mention I was in a dark mood, no pun intended).   This is a fine beer.  It is both smooth and strong, like me.  The flavor is rich and well balanced.  Lucky Bucket blends some Certified Evil aged in Cabernet barrels with some aged in oak barrels. There is a hint of bitterness just to remind you there are hops in here too, but the oak and Cabernet aging give it a rich, hearty flavor.  Plus, since I am such a loyal patron of my watering hole, they gave me not one but two of these commemorative glasses from their Halloween Party.

I also tried this new beer from Guinness last night at home. We might have lit the grill for the last time this season; so it seemed fitting to open a harvest themed beer to go along with the burgers and sausages. Now Guinness claims this beer is different. I couldn't really tell. It tastes like Guinness, which is by no means a bad thing. However, the only difference I noticed was that it was a bit thinner than a regular Guinness. That might make it more drinkable for those few who find Guinness to be too thick for their tastes.

So why the tendency toward dark and bitter beers this week? Because a pillar of my congregation died suddenly this week. She was young, only in her mid-forties, and collapsed out of the blue Tuesday night. She was one of the most loyal, dedicated, talented people I have ever known. A gifted baker and cook she expressed her love for people through food. Her carrot cake is the only carrot cake I ever enjoyed, but her chocolate mocha cake with peanut butter frosting was a religious experience. It preached! One bite of that and you would give your heart to Jesus all over again. She was also a musician, with a fine voice. Over the last year she had begun taking voice lessons and her tone had acquired a new depth and richness that was capable of lifting our hearts to heaven. In a couple of hours the congregation will gather for our 'regular' Sunday worship. It will be the first time we are gathered without her, and it will be hard.  We will grieve. We will also take heart in the promise of Resurrection.  Rest in peace and rise in glory Chrissy Simmons.  We will miss you.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Persistent Widow and the Winter Ale

Today I am starting with the Jubelale by Deschutes Brewing. 

It's a very balanced winter ale.  Clove, Chocolate, and Hops are held in balanced harmony like a nice meaty chord from a symphony by Brahms.  Its full flavor and hearty texture it well suited to get through a hard winter.  This beer, a roaring fire, a thick novel with a romantic period symphony blaring from your stereo is the way to go.

Preaching wise the Gospel this week is the parable of the persitent widow from Luke's 18th chapter.  It is paired with Jeremiah's vision of the "the days [that] are surely coming".  I can't read that passage without hearing my favorite band Tangled Blue's rendition from their advent album.  Check that track out!  It's good stuff, and also a good compliment to the Jubelale Winter Ale.  

The challenge with this reading is to not make God seem like a concierge that is at the ready to answer half prayerful whims.  Rather the story is about being faithful to God even when there appears to be evidence against a loving God.  Paired with the Jeremiah reading which promises divine amnesia toward our sins, and we should be inspired to be faithful and respond with persistent trust and striving for justice for the oppressed. 

Next up is the is the Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale.

This one hits you with a lot of pumpkin on the front end.  The spice is all on the backend, but the finish is clean so the allspice and clove are discernable.  Shipyard suggests pairing it with pumpkin pie.  I think that would be way too much pumpkin.  They also recommend a BLT which makes way more sense, it needs a salty food to compliment the sweet of the beer. 

Well, I didn't get to do the side by side comparison of Odell's Eugene and the Samuel Smith Chocolate stouts. BUT, I did float the idea with the bar tenders and hopefully that will happen this winter.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shine-Stroud Wedding and Chocolate Stout

We had a wonderful time at Lara Shine and Daniel Stroud's wedding this weekend.  I got to hang out for a bit at 1823, the campus pub of Virginia Theological Seminary.  It's no coincidence they have an Englishman for a Dean and recently opened a "proper pub" on campus.  It was great to visit with alumni from Resurrection House, one of my old Profs from Seminary, and try this Double Chocolate Stout from Wells and Young Brewing in the UK.  It's good, but I wouldn't say it is as good as the Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout by O'dell Brewing which I have written about here. The chocolate flavor is prevalent but not overwhelming.  However it was a little thin, almost watery, as opposed to creamy.  Nonetheless it was a decent beer by which to raise a glass to Lara and Daniel's Happiness!  Congrats to the happy couple.
Tonight, I also had this pint of Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout.  It's supremely delicious! I would put it up there with the Lugene Chocolate stout mentioned above, maybe even a little better.  I would have to put them both side by side to be sure...hmmm that's a really good idea.  Hopefully Krug Park will have both on tap soon.  I paired this beer with a grilled hamburger from B & B Meat Locker of Wynot, NE, one of our favorite vendors at Omaha's Farmer's Market.  We also roasted some root vegetables and onions.  This beer fit perfectly with the menu, a hearty beer for hearty fair.

I didn't preach this weekend, a well needed break.  I love preaching week in week out.  The rhythm of prayer, study, and preparation is life giving and might be the best way that I am a disciple.  Nonetheless, having a week of not preaching on occasion helps keep the creative ground fertile.  It's like resting a field for a season so that the soil can regain nutrients. So, I am excited to gear up for next week's sermon.  Prep begins tomorrow and culminates with editing at Krug Park on Thrusday with, hopefully, a side by side comparison of the Lugene and Samuel Smith Stouts.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How to listen to a sermon.

Last week my wife joined me for a beer at Krug Park, my favorite watering hole.  We got to talking about sermons and how I might get better at preaching.  It is a hard craft to develop because critical feedback is hard to get.  Someone telling you they enjoyed the sermon as they walk out the door doesn't tell you how it affected their life or faith, if at all.  As my wife savored the Weyerbacher Imperial Ale pictured below and written about here, we began to realize that folks might not know how to critically listen to a sermon.  

For example, I was in a used book store the other day and I picked up a listening guide to Charles Ives' Unanswered Question.  This is a piece of music that is as mysterious and complex as it is simple and direct.  The listening guide not only pointed out features of the music to listen for but encouraged a particular attitude or state of mind to approach the work.  When I went home and listened to the piece I could hold the structure of the whole piece in mind even as I heard the details of each note.  I could "hear the forrest and the trees" if you will.  Therefore, a listening guide for sermons in general might be helpful in a similar way.

Try this one on for size:  when listening to a sermon think of the following acronym: P.R.A.Y

  • Participate -- be an active listener and don't be afraid to agree and disagree, or encourage and motivate, the preacher vocally.  
  • Response -- what is your immediate gut level response to the word preached.  Is it conviction or motivation, inspiration or gratitude, boredom, joy, anger or something else.  
  • Action -- What action, if any, are you motivated to take? What is God calling you to do through the sermon?  
  • Yearning -- What are you still yearning for after the sermon?  Is it more clarity or less conviction, more hope or less direction? What questions are you inspired to ask?
Now if this acronym is helpful for you, then I have an invitation for you: Come hear me preach, then join me for a beer (my treat) and critique my preaching on this outline.  It will help you listen and help me become a better preacher, both of which will strengthen God's Kingdom.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Beer and the Power of Table Fellowship

Not to over state the obvious, but I love beer.  However, it's not the alcohol that I am after.  In fact if someone could remove the alcohol--and the calories while they are at it--from a good stout I would keep their company in business.  I am after flavor.  I love the myriad tastes of beer from Belgian Whites to a good Dark Chocolate Coffee Stout and even the occasional Lager, its the taste of beer that I enjoy.  Take this beer for example:

It is the Imperial Pumpkin Ale from Weyerbacher.  Even though summer seems to be hanging on by its finger nails I decided to try this fall seasonal beer last Thursday.  It is delicious.  Some pumpkin beers go over the top with the pumpkin and end up cloyingly sweet; so sweet your cheeks will flex back to your ears.  Weyerbacher avoids this by balancing the sweet with a delicious array of fall spices especially clove.  Visions of fall--of football, leaves falling on the campus quad, and crisp fall air--come to mind drinking this beer.  As an added bonus, even though it is an Imperial Ale the alcohol flavor is not overwhelming.  Weyerbacher has successfully produced a well balanced seasonal beer, a beer that transcends the drinking experience.  As I mentioned, this beer will take you to your favorite memories of fall.

Speaking of transcendence, there is another factor with beer that might be even more important than flavor: table fellowship.  There is something deep, ancient, maybe even primal about eating and drinking with others.  A good friend joined me the other day when I tried this beer, and his conversation and company made the beer better and vice versa.  

Another couple of friends of mine, Chris and Phileena Heuertz, have a deep understanding of the community built by table fellowship.  They have spent the last twenty or so years seeking and serving Christ in some of the worst slums and barrios on the planet.  They both have written about learning deeper levels of community developed through table fellowship, often through the generosity of some of the poorest people in the world.  Be it a fine Malbec from Spain, Beer Lao from Laos, or boiled water in Calcutta, Chris and Phileena find deep roots tapping holy waters in sharing a glass with friends.  A year ago Chris and Philleena founded Gravity: a Center for Contemplative Activism.  They are striving to help activists cultivate a spiritual life so that they can, "Do Good Better".  They teach spiritual practices and disciplines that enable activists to sustain their ministries through the struggles, heart-ache, grief, and labor of healing this broken world.  In honor of Gravity's one year anniversary and for what they have taught me about table fellowship and community found through a shared glass, I commend the following spiritual practice: when next you have a beer savor the company you keep as much as the flavor.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Local Village

I didn't make to Krug Park this week, but I am praying on this today from the website of The Simple Way.

We have a dream of a village in the middle of the urban desert – with a little cluster of row homes sprinkled about and a neighborhood where folks are committed to God and to each other. Some are indigenous to the neighborhood. Some are missional relocators. Some have gone off to school, trained as doctors, lawyers, social workers, business folks… and they have returned to the neighborhood to offer their gifts to the work of restoration. The houses are small, and that is all we need – a place to lay our heads… because most of our life is lived on the streets, on the stoop, sweating in the practice of resurrection, planting gardens on abandoned lots, rehabbing vacant houses, and making ugly things beautiful again. Every morning we greet the day with prayer, and in the evenings we share a meal or grill out on the street. We have a dream of a village and it’s coming to life. Maybe sometime there will be a village center where folks can cook healthy breakfasts for the kids as they head off to school. Maybe we’ll have a tool library so folks can check out a saw or drill for the day… maybe an exercise space to lift weights, run on the treadmill or do an aerobics class to keep our bodies healthy. Perhaps in that center there are laundry machines that we can all share and a game library where kids can borrow a game for the afternoon. A place to gather and dream and plot goodness.
It’s a dream for a village that shares things in common, that laughs in the face of a recession… a space that makes sure possessions and privileges are available for all… and when something breaks there are many hands to fix it. Call it new urbanism… or intentional community. We call it a village that gives the world a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. May God continue to breathe life into our dreams and to move the universe towards the beloved community that God is longing to see come on earth.
I am praying to have a similar dream, or whatever needs to be dreamed here in my neighborhood of Maple Village and the Belvedere Point Neighborhood of the Church of the Resurrection. Please pray for and with me. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Prophetic Fire

So, I missed posting from Krug Park last Thursday because a congregant came by for a wonderful chat.  Beer is great, preaching is better, but beer with friends is insuperable in its incarnational worth.  I did, however, keep track of my beers; so that I can offer them up to you now.

1st: Old Stock from North Coast Brewing.  

Good Beer

There was a bit of sweetness to this beer, but not near as much as expected considering the 12% ABV. (I ate a lot of carbs before I drank this beerWith notes of oak and peat to balance the sweetness, there is an allusion to good scotch with the flavor.  The alcohol does not over power, but it is present enough to remind you to only drink one of these at a sitting--lest your taste buds, legs, and common sense cease to function. Great beer though!

A note on preaching this week before I move on to beer number 2.  The readings this week were a spot difficult; as all the ranting and raving I witnessed from fellow preachers on facebook foretold.  Jesus is clear in all the gospels that there is a price to discipleship.  Following Christ involves sacrifice.  As if the cross wasn't a clue, we can often forget this fact.  But when Jesus gets graphic about that cost--calling for sons to be pitted against fathers, daughters against mothers and so forth--it can be a bit difficult to preach the "good news".  Nonetheless, I tried to go straight at it and not avoid the harshness of the Gospel passage (Luke 12:49-56).  Here it is if you want to give it a look:

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and the Fires of Baptism 

Back to the beer!

2nd: Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout by Odell Brewing Company 

I LOVED THIS BEER!!!!! It was absolutely delicious. It was smooth and creamy without a bitter aftertaste.  While it was definitely more sweet than bitter, it wasn't cloyingly sweet.  There's body and depth to this beer.  The aftertaste and aroma was a lot a really nice cigar.  In fact it would be great as an after dinner beer while enjoying a cigar and listening to Mahler's 5th Symphony, or if you are really hard core the finale of Mahler's 9th. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

What does Set Theory have to do with Jesus?

So, I promised on Friday I would publish my geek sermon: so, tell me if you think it worked or not. (More beer later this week.)

Sermon from 8/11/13 Luke 12:32-40

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.
I speak with you in the name of the adventurous, life giving, ever present God.  Amen.
My son Isaac has a doll figurine of Buzz Lightyear the character from the Toy Story Movies.  Does anyone know Buzz Lightyear’s catch phrase, his motto?
[To infinity and beyond]
I want you to keep the concept of infinity in your heads today because we are going to talk about the infinite nature of God.  Before we get to that though I want to offer a warning and a challenge.
The warning is since today is the blessing of the backpacks, and many of our kids and young adults are going back to school, plus we have many educators and school staff in the congregation, I want to honor that by offering a little math lesson today.  Consequently, the challenge is that even if math was not your favorite subject, DO NOT TUNE OUT and start thinking about your grocery list or what you are going to do tonight or if Honey Boo Boo will ever get elected president.  I challenge you stick with me on this, it will make sense and it will relate to today’s Gospel passage in the end.  
Okay so here is the math lesson:
Let’s start with this concept of infinity.  What does it mean to say that something is infinite, that it goes on for infinity?  
[That it goes on for ever]
Right, infinity is a description of size, of how large or small something is.  If something is infinitely large then it can’t be any bigger.  Also, if something is infinitely small it can’t be any smaller.  
Alright next concept is that of a set.  This one is easy.  A set is just a collection of items.  A chess set, for example, is the group of pieces needed to play chess.  Now,we can combine these two concepts: we can have sets of numbers that are infinitely large.  One example is the set of numbers called the counting numbers.  Everybody count to five.  1,2,3,4,5  Right so, you started with the number one.  The set of counting numbers starts with 1 and goes on from there.  It doesn’t stop with 5, or 10, or 50, a hundred, or even a million.  It goes on guessed it...infinity.  The set of counting numbers is infinitely large.   Now, there is another set called the set of whole numbers.  It is very similar, in fact almost exactly like the set of counting numbers except it starts with 0 instead of 1.  So, it begins 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and goes on for...infinity.  The set of whole numbers is also infinity large.  Now, we almost have an interesting conundrum here because the set of counting numbers and the set of whole numbers are both infinitely large, they are the same size, but there is one more number in the set of whole numbers, remember that added zero.  
Now, you might be thinking at this point, “Preacher, what in the world does this have to do with Jesus.”  I’m going to tell you.  Hang with me; we are almost there.
So, the set of whole numbers has more numbers in it then the set of counting numbers, but yet they are the same size.  That’s a bit different than other sets.  For example I come from a bigger family than Jodie.  There are three kids in her family and five in mine.  My set of siblings is larger than Jodie’s.  But these sets of numbers, that we are talking about, are the same size.  So, how can we describe the difference if not in terms of size?  Well, what we do is say that the set of whole numbers is more dense than the set of counting numbers.  It’s like if you have a piece of wonder bread, and a hearty piece of homemade nine grain whole wheat bread.  They might be the same exact size but there is a whole lot more stuff in the whole wheat then the wonder bread.  
You with me so far?
Alright, so the set of whole numbers is more dense than the set of counting numbers. So, now is when we get to God in all this.  We say that God is infinite.  In other words God is the same size as these number sets.  However, it is obvious there is a whole lot more in God than in a set of numbers.  Therefore, applying what we did with the sets of whole and counting numbers, we could say that God is the densest of infinities.  God is infinitely large and there is more in that infinity than any other infinity.
Now, we are almost to the Gospel.  You can do this.  You can stay with me.  Keep listening.
If God is the densest of infinities, then God has in any given situation, context, or relationship an infinite number of options, an infinite number of choices available to God.  God can choose anything.  So, what does God choose in God’s relationship to us?
Now, we have finally come to the Gospel.  See, the Gospel says today, Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  God chooses to give us the kingdom.  There can be nothing more gracious than God making that choice.  I mean if you read the bible or even a brief history of the Christian Church, these stories of God’s relationship with us, then you see just how unfaithful, disobedient, unruly, ungrateful and displeasing we have been to God. But yet God chooses give us the Kingdom.  That’s some amazing grace right there.   
Now, we become more aware of just how gracious God’s choice is when we remember that God is the densest of infinities.  God has an infinite number of options for what to do with us, and yet God chooses to love us, to forgive us, to even die because of us, be risen from the grave and still choose us.  So, my brothers and sisters, if God chooses to love us, to indeed give us the kingdom, when God has an infinite number of other options to choose from, and despite what all we have done up to and including the very killing of God, then why, why, why would we ever be afraid.  
Fear not, my brothers and sisters, not only did you learn a little math today, but it is also the Father’s good and gracious pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Do not be afraid to love your neighbor, do not be afraid to forgive as God forgives, do not be afraid to stand for justice, to practice peace, and to generously give of yourself.  Do not be afraid to approach this Holy Altar and receive that which we could never deserve.  Do not be afraid to come to God’s table and receive the Body of Christ.

And by God my brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to take that body of Christ out into the world and freely and radically give it away.  Do not be afraid, my brothers and sisters, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Amen!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Buzz Lightyear, Set Theory, and Rye Porter

So, this week's first beer is the the Rye Porter by Peace Tree Brewing company from Knoxville, Iowa.  I haven't had anything by this brewery before and honest to God I picked it because the tap looked cool.

Of course it doesn't hurt that the bartenders at Krug Park know my tastes at this point, and assured me I was on the right track with I inquired about this brew.  This is a smooth beer with very clean finish.  I get both coffee and dark chocolate notes in a full bodied beer.  There is just a hint of bitterness that cuts the creamy texture just slightly.  It's that hint of bitter that takes this beer from good to "mighty fine" as my big brother John would say.

More beer in this post below...

On the preaching front I have recently finished the book The Jazz of Preaching by Dr. Kirk Jones, and in one of the chapters Dr. Jones challenges preachers to risk sharing more of themselves just like the great Jazz improvisers such as Wynton Marsalis, Louis Armstrong, Wayne Shorter, and Sarah Vaughn risk themselves in every solo.  So, this week I am stepping out on a limb and sharing a bit of my geek side.  I am trying to draw an analogy between Set Theory in mathematics and the infinite grace of God.  The challenge of course is not to bore the hell out of the congregation.  We are a growing parish and if I drop a boring sermon into the mix would hinder that growth.  Nonetheless, I find the beauty and elegance of math--even though I am no mathematician--to be one of the ways I encounter God.  So, hopefully my enthusiasm and energy will keep people engaged to the end of the sermon.

Enough about that, back to the beer.

I actually failed to blog last week.  I got to talking with one of the bartenders and ran out of time.  So, let me make up for that.

First up last week was the St. Bernardus Trippel.
It was a good Trippel, but I like their Abt. 12 better as well as New Belgium's Trippel.  Nonetheless, it was decent and refreshing.

I followed it up with the Drago Russian Imperial Stout from Onion Brewing Company.

This was another pick because of the tap.  It's the sickle and hammer from communist Russia, which I thought was a risky marketing in the heartland of America; so I gave it a shot.  It's a very nice imperial stout but not over powering with the alcohol.  Full flavored and rich I would definitely recommend it.

The last beer this week is the Oatmeal Porter from Zipline Brewing in Lincoln, NE.   It is good, but not 'mighty fine' like the Peace Tree Rye.  I didn't take a picture of it, but it has decent flavor.  Unfortunately the bitterness overwhelms the other flavors.  It is not as balanced as the rye. Zipline is a young brewery; so while this wasn't my favorite beer, I will try other offerings from Zipline.  I expect very good beers from come them. 

Well, that's the beers for this week and last.  After I preach on Sunday, I'll post the sermon text here and you can decide if I shared my geek side in a compelling way or if I should never mention math in a sermon ever again.  Or you are always welcome at Church of the Resurrection at 10 a.m. Come for worship stay for lunch.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tea, Buffalo Sweat, and Prayer

I am a little under the weather today; so I am not visiting Krug Park for my traditional two beers new to me.  Instead I hit up my local Scooter's Coffee Shop to do my sermon editing. 

I am a big fan of Scooters.  Their coffee is great and their service is always fast.  Despite my ability to main line coffee, I went with an Earl Grey Tea today trying to get over this allergy induced congestion I got going on today.

Now, have no fear.  I did get to try a new beer last night.  My wife was out last night so I had a chance to do some music composition.  I am working on a piece for my friend Brian Hogg's Little Big Band at Northern Kentucky University.  An the rich and complex flavors of an oatmeal cream stout seemed like the perfect pairing for the Oliver Nelson-esque sounds I sought.

So, I tried  Tallgrass Brewing's Buffalo Sweat.  It is good, as one would expect from Tallgrass, but not my absolute favorite stout.  Then again nothing will eclipse Guinness in the realms of stout.  I like the rich body and the clean finish.  However, it was a little thin almost watery.  Nonetheless, if you are looking for something that isn't as thick as Guinness but still a good stout, the Buffalo Sweat is a good option.

On the preaching front, this week's gospel is Luke's account the story of Jesus teaching the disciples what we have come to call the Lord's Prayer.  The challenge here is the end of the passage includes the famous, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened to you," bit.   It is all fine and dandy to say that God answers our prayers except... What about the faithful who spend years praying for things never to get an answer? Like the couple with fertility issues that prays for a child, or the wife who prays for deliverance from an abusive husband. What about the man who prays to be healed of cancer or the women who prays for her son to stop using heroin?  I struggled with that a lot this week.  You should come hear my answer Sunday at Church of the Resurrection.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Doppelbock and Extemporaneous Preaching

This week's first beer is the Wolfgang Doppelbock by Great Divide Brewing.  According to their website the Doppelbock style beer was used by monks to sustain them through lenten fasting or other times of penitence, it was the original "liquid bread".  This is one more bitter than sweet, but there is definitely a hint of dark fruits in there.  The touch of sweetness is quite helpful.  Their is depth and quality to this beer, which is to be expected from Great Divide.

On the preaching front, my summer seminarian is preaching his final sermon of the summer on Sunday.  I expect it to be fantastic because he knows how to, "bring the Word" as it were.  Nonetheless, today I am writing about last week's preaching experience.  I worked hard on my sermon last week, which you can read here, and a big shout out to Krug Park for my editing experience last week.  It greatly improved the quality of the sermon.  However, when it came time to preach it, I just could not deliver it. 

See, I woke up Sunday morning, like a lot of preachers, to the news that George Zimmerman had been acquitted.  The parish I serve is the product of a merger of a white parish and black parish; so I didn't feel I could ignore this public event.  I try not to let flashes of public attention sway my preaching too much.  I think holding to the long view better insures I'm paying attention to what God wants me to preach.  However, on that particular Sunday, with the question from the Good Samaritan Story of "Who is my neighbor?" hanging heavy in the air, and the beautiful people I humbly serve at the Church of the Resurrection, it would have been inappropriate and a failure of leadership not to speak to it.  

So, I preached about it. 

I found out about it Sunday morning, and I didn't have time to write anything; so, it was an extemporaneous morning.  Now, I can preach extemporaneously.  Sometimes that feels better for a particular sermon, and I have no fear of it.  This time, however, there was the added challenge of not saying something stupid.  On Sunday morning, there was an explosion of comments, sermons, articles, rants, and explicative outbursts on everything from Facebook to CNN and a lot of it was stupid.  On all sides of the issue people were reacting not responding, and I didn't want to be yet another white dude adding to the stupidity out there.

So, what did I say?  I don't remember everything, and to some degree I am very glad there isn't a record of it; however, I tried to stick to what I was most sure.  I was and I remain certain that George Zimmerman did not think of Treyvon Martin as his neighbor.  When Mr. Zimmerman got out of his vehicle that night he DID NOT think, "that's my neighbor".  I don't know what exactly he was thinking but I know he wasn't thinking that.  Jesus, challenges us to expand our concept of neighbor; so, I challenged congregation to answer Jesus' challenge.  Furthermore, I reminded the congregation of what Martin Luther King Jr. preached about the Good Samaritan story: we are not only challenged to be the Good Samaritan but to reform the whole Jericho wilderness road so that anyone can walk it at any time of day and night. 

I don't know if it was the right thing to say or not. I probably never will. But I know George Zimmerman did not think that Treyvon Martin was his neighbor. I know he should have. I know God loves us and challenges us to love each other as much as Jesus did. And, I know we have a lot of work to do.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Spaten Lager, Pepper Beer, and the practice of Piety

Today's first beer is a Spaten Lager.  I don't always drink lager, but when I do it might as well be German.  Actually, I rarely drink lager, but my recent trip to Ohio complete with Yuengling lager inspired me to try one today.

I have to admit, there is just something refreshing about a well brewed lager on a summer day.  The weather is beautiful today here in Omaha, and the Spaten was a nice complitment.

The second beer is unique.  It is Krug Park's Chili Trek Ale.  Some guys from Krug Park went to O'dell Brewing and brewed a few kegs of this special.  It is a delightful balance of pepper and malt flavors with a touch of hops.  Kudos to these guys for offering up something special for us customers.

The sermon this week is about Piety.  I know that some think that piety is the same as legalism, but I am making an argument that faithful practiced piety is both healthy and sustaining.  Come check it out a the Church of the Resurrection Sunday at 10.  An amazing lunch follows the service and the music rocks.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I am on vacation in Ohio; so I won't be at my favorite watering hole tomorrow, nor will I be editing a sermon.  However, I'm east of the Mississippi so I can get Yuengling Lager, which is deffinitely my favorite lager and generally the only lager I drink.  I am also headed to Camp Mowana to be the chaplain for family camp this weekend and senior high camp next week.  

Jodie and I met at camp Mowana and were married in the chapel there.  I am very excited to be back and very excited about the theme: Faith Alive.  It is centered on five basic spiritual practices: 1) Reading Scripture, 2) Worship, 3) Prayer, 4) Hospitality, and 5) service.  Coincidentaly these practices have played a renewed importance in my own faith life of late; so, I am stoked beyond belief to explore these with the families this weekend and the high schoolers next week.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy Anniversary

Today's sermon editing beer is Great Divide Brewing's 19th Anniversary Ale.  It's a nice balance of sweet and hop.  It tastes thicker than it looks and even though the ABV is over 10% it tastes like about a 7.  It's good, but I like their Yeti series better, and last week's Coffee Ale.  Then again, it might be awhile before something surpasses the Coffee Ale.

Pride Prayer Vigil

So I didn't edit this one at Krug Park, or any bar for that matter, but I did get to preach a the Harvey Milk Pride Prayer Vigil last night and meet Broadway Star and Contestant on the Voice, Frenchie Davis.

Beer and the Word of God

Let me introduce this blog: It's about Beer and the Word of God.  I am a priest and I like to drink beer, some might think that is a contradiction.  However, in the word's of Martin Luther, "I drink this beer to the glory of God."  Now, that being said, my beer consumption has to be limited for at least two reasons: 1) I am trying to lose weight and the beers I like are loaded with calories, 2) I am not nor do I wish to become an alcoholic.  Therefore, I generally have only two beers a week while I'm editing my sermon for the upcoming Sunday.  I like to go to Krug Park here in Omaha where they have over sixty taps and about another 200 different beers available in bottles.  

Now, I also do this because Jesus tended to eat and drink with folks, a lot.  So much so he was even accused of being a drunkard, see Luke 7:33-35.  Jesus used the time where people relax and socialize, times when they often feel the most community, to teach love, forgiveness, acceptance, and grace (Luke 6:37-38). Therefore, what better place for me to hone and refine my sermons then in a bar?  It's a great place to strike up a conversation and tell someone about Jesus, plus there's beer.  What could be better?

Enough of an introduction, let's get to the beer and the sermon.  Here's last weeks sermon editing beer: Boulevard Brewing Company's Coffee Ale:

This beer is delicious!!!!!  It has a wonderful coffee aroma and great balance of coffee and beer flavors.  I even got a hint of chocolate in there, which we all know how well coffee and chocolate go together.  However, since it is an Ale and not a Stout, it is not thick and has a refreshing drinking sensation.  Now, I love me some good Stout most of the time, but there is a time and place for everything under heaven.  I usually try a different beer every week , but I might just have to get another one of these.  

So, that was last week's beer.  Here is last week's sermon for Pentecost 4, Proper 6, Year C:

“She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair.” Luke 7:38
May I speak with you in the Name of God; who invites us all to receive forgiveness. Amen 
Our gospel passage this morning is full of shocking invitations.  First, Jesus accepts an invitation to a large dinner at a pharisee’s house.  This is shocking because already in the Book of Luke tension between the pharisees and Jesus has started to mount.  Now we don’t know the motivations of Simon the pharisee.  Was he looking to learn from Jesus, possibly even become a disciple?  Was he looking to trap Jesus in some breach of custom or the law of Moses?  We don’t know, all we know is that when Jesus is invited, even by a potential enemy, he accepts the invitation.  Consequently, when we call upon Jesus, when we invite God incarnate into our lives--no matter if we are a sinner, a saint, or both--we can be confident Jesus will accept the invitation.  

Now, Jesus does not verbally invite the sinful woman to wash his feet nor anoint his head. But let’s ponder this woman’s courage for a moment.  First off this is a small town culture. We might find it hard to connect with the small town worldview living in Omaha, but you need to know that in small towns everyone knows everyone’s business.  Luke doesn’t name the woman’s sin, but he say that her sin is known.  She is notorious.  She is shamed.  Believe me when I tell you shame in a small town is an intense and weighty burden to carry.  This woman walks into a room where people probably stare and openly gauk at her audacity, where people whisper and point, maybe even sneer and scoff.  

Yet, when she enters the room, she must be sure.  Something must know something that confirms that her offering will be accepted, that Jesus will welcome her.

Now, it’s a big risk for her to take. Women weren’t supposed to talk to men in public, much less touch them.  So, when this notorious, shamed, woman is touching the honored guest of the dinner, she probably risked the pharisee dragging her out of the house by her hair and beating her, and that being alright with everyone in town.

Yet, again she must be really sure.  Something within her assures her the offering will be accepted.  

This leads me to believe that Jesus lived invitation.  His existence, his words, his actions, his very breath offered an invitation to the woman.  Jesus’ way of being gave her the confidence that she would be welcome and her offering accepted.  Without saying a word Jesus instills faith in her that she would be forgiven.  Would that we all live in a way so that others would just know that God loves them and forgives them, welcomes them and accepts them.   

That’s the message that Jesus invites Simon the Pharisee to learn.  Jesus invites him to listen to a parable first, telling of two people each forgiven debts, one large one small.  Jesus asks a question with an obvious answer: Who values the forgiveness more?  Simon offers the obvious and right answer, the one who was forgiven more.  Now we might think that when Jesus turns to the woman and forgives her that she is the one with the greater sin.  In a way, she is, but Jesus gives a scathing critique of the pharisee’s hospitality.  It is a big deal for Jesus to blast Simon for being inhospitable.  Hospitality codes were of major important.  Jesus might have been saying that the Simon presumed he was righteous and the woman as impure all the while it is Simon who is failing to live up to code.  I think Jesus is using a rhetorical devise to say the pharisee is the bigger sinner. Jesus uses his observation of Simon’s neglect to strip away Simon's pretense of self-justification and the arrogance and hostility that emerge from it.

Now, there is something for us to learn here, especially those of us like me who grew up in the church.  I started going to church nine months before I was born. I have been involved in almost every aspect of Church life and church communities that there is from various traditions and regions of the country.  When I was 13, I was too old for our vacation bible school, but since I was the preacher's kids I had to be there...such is the way things go in a small town.  So, my dad had me work in the kitchen.  Like a host of Southern Baptist congregations, the kitchen was run by the senior matriarchs of the congregation.  The kitchen was run like a top too, the swiss army had nothing on these ladies.  The attention to detail and the level of precision these ladies brought to their ministry was a glorious and beautiful thing.  However, throwing me in there was like sending a pacifist to an NRA convention, one of these things was not like the other.  Now, it took some doing, and I had to use every ounce of charm that my 13 year self possessed, but by the end of the week they literally made me an honorary kitchen lady.

I also remember a business meeting we had at that same church about that same time.  My dad brought up an evangelism project for the congregation to talk about and there was absolutely no discussion.  I mean crickets.  The next topic of business was new doors for the church and an hour and half fight broke out over glass versus wood.  I mean it almost came to blows. I still to this day do not know what glass or wood doors have to do with Jesus, but some of my brother and sister christians sure had some serious opinions about it.  Now, I’m not telling those stories to brag.  I am saying that I get how churches and more specifically how church people work because I am one of them and have decades of experience immersed in the depths of Church life.  If anyone can say, “I’m a church going Christian,” it’s me.  If anyone could say, “My righteousness if justified by my church attendance and membership,” it’s me.  But as we heard from the apostle Paul this morning, “we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.”  We cannot be justified by our membership or affiliation, by our history or our tradition.  We can only be justified by faith in Jesus the Christ.  

Furthermore, the challenge for us all, including and especially me, is to realize that we live in a generation where more and more people didn’t grow up in church.  More and more people are not intuitively aware when to kneel or when to cross themselves.  More and more people have never heard of the either the New or the Old Testament.  More specifically, less and less people know the current Book of Common Prayer from 1979 is the so called “new prayerbook.” To bring it home to our community, more and more people aren’t aware of whose pew to avoid and whose seat not to take at lunch.  And I believe this phenomenon is the greatest opportunity the church has had in at least fifty years, maybe longer.

Remember the outcast woman we were talking about earlier, the one Jesus lifted out of her shame in order to shame the pharisee.  Now, in this day and age, we get the chance to live like Jesus.  We get the chance to not be concerned about who sits where and whether the carpet is red or blue or cool-ade stained as it ought to be.  We get the chance to be about Jesus, to practice prayer, worship, and scripture in a way that welcomes all into every aspect of our church life. Especially this year, as we embark on our Year of Invitation as part of the Unbinding the Gospel Series, we get the opportunity to live invitingly and to welcome any and all into every aspect of our church life. From the vestry to the choir, from the altar guild to st. Teresa’s Guild, from the garden to the kitchen, from the Core Outreach to the Purls let it be known that all are welcome to meet Christ here.  Let it be known, my brothers and sisters, that no matter what we are doing it’s about Christ and Christ welcomes all.  

But to live that way we must accept Christ’s invitation to forgiveness.  We must come to this altar stripped of our pride and self righteousness.  We must come to this table bare and unburden by self justification.  We must come into God’s presence acutely humbled by our shame and sinfulness.  We must come and accept Jesus’ invitation to make an offering confident that it will be accepted.  We must come and experience forgiveness in the Body and Blood of Christ’s sacrifice; so that we can go out there into a world just as broken and battered as we are and BE christ’s invitation to wholeness and holiness of life. My brothers and sisters, Jesus invites you today to accept his invitation to be forgiven, his invitation to be inviting.  Will you accept Jesus’ invitation?