Sunday, December 7, 2014

John the Baptist

"John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." 

I speak with you in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!

We hear the very first words of Mark’s Gospel tonight. It’s safe to say that Mark was trying to understand Jesus, at least enough to explain Him in a way that would attract more followers. Interestingly, Mark does not start with a birth narrative for Jesus. You’ll never see a Christmas pageant based on the Gospel of Mark. No, to start explaining Jesus, Mark first presents John the Baptist. Furthermore, to frame John the Baptist, to give him some context for the audience to understand him, he references prophet Isaiah. Isaiah is mentioned in the text, but the quote is part from Malachai and part from Isaiah. Malachai refers to sending one ahead of you to the prepare the way, while Isaiah 40 speaks of a voice crying out in the wilderness. The mixture here is interesting because the book of Malachai talks a lot about God’s judgment. Interestingly Isaiah 40 marks the shift in that book from Judgment to Reconciliation. The first 39 chapters of Isaiah deal with judgment, specifically God judging Israel and sentencing them to exile. Isaiah 40 is the shift to the journey home, to Israel’s repentance, to Israel’s reconciliation with God.

It could be said that we live in a time of Judgment like the Israelites of Isaiah’s day and like the war torn Judean province in John the Baptist’s day. I mean it’s hard to look out the window, or open the newspaper, or scan a twitter feed to see horrible news. Grand juries in Ferguson and New York City fail to indict, not convict or acquit, merely to indict two police officers in the killings of unarmed black men. Isis is still waging war all over the Middle East, we are again sending troops to Iraq, we still have troops in Afghanistan, and right here in North Omaha gangs have decided to use school bus stops as killing zones. It the midst of this Church of the Resurrection is discerning whether to fix this building or go on yet another adventure. We could very easily see ourselves in a time of judgement.

This is where John the Baptist becomes helpful this morning.

See, by binding these two prophets together, especially with their themes in mind, when referring to John the Baptist, Mark’s Gospel does two things: 1) it clearly places John the Baptist in the prophetic tradition of Israel, and 2) highlights that John’s preaching about Jesus is a turning point from judgment to reconciliation. The turn from judgment to reconciliation is not made on denial rather repentance. John the Baptist definitely called for repentance. He was not playing nice with the powers that be. No, he called them out for their sins and called for repentance. If he hadn’t been calling for repentance there would not have been any reason to kill him. And the same goes for Jesus.

We are in another moment when the institution and systematic sins of our society are being called out. The invitation for reconciliation is out there, but in order for there to be reconciliation we can neither deny nor forget the problems of this day. There must be confession and repentance. Now, if I can be so pretentious, let me speak to white America a moment. It’s time for white folks, myself included, to become intimately aware of how the system is set up in our favor. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I’m talking about. I was on free and reduced lunch as a kid, pretty much all the way through school. In high school my dad lost his job and we went on Tennessee’s version of Medicaid called TennCare. And most importantly, because of Pell Grants and a music scholarship, I got paid to go to school for most of my undergraduate years. At the beginning of every semester I would go to the registrar’s office and they’d pull up my account and then because my federal aid was larger than tuition and fees, they’d cut me a check and I’d be on my way. No one ever questioned my ability to perform on the collegiate level just because I received federal aid. No one ever suggested I was there just because of some affirmative action, and no one ever went on Fox News and claimed I was “a taker” versus “a maker”, that I could just pull myself up by my boot straps if I took more personal responsibility. Nope, no one ever did that, rather they cut me check and told me have a good day.

Another example is my own experience in the ordination process here in Nebraska. When I went through the process here, I flew through it like a greased pig. Many of the women who went through at the same time, reported a much different experience. Furthermore, our own deacon Juanita is one of only two African Americans ordained through this diocese ever. Now, I am very proud to be ordained through Nebraska and even more proud to serve in this diocese. There is a lot of good here, just as there is a lot of good in American society.

My point is not to demonize or disparage our country or our diocese. No, my point is simple: if we are going to move past the racial sins of not only the past in this country, but the racial sins of now, the systemic inequality of now, the ever widening gap between those whose lives matter and whose lives do not, white folks in America have to name our privilege, confess our advantage and ask for forgiveness.

John the Baptist made straight the paths for the Lord. He called the powers that be to repent so they could move from judgment to reconciliation. Comfort my people, comes through confession. I pray our nation repents, receives forgiveness and moves towards reconciliation, and I pray it starts here today with us. Amen!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Salted Belgian

Last night I had the Salted Belgian Chocolate Stout by New Belgium brewing company.  Lately I have been gathering with a couple of my colleagues to do what we call Sermon Sharpening.  We each bring our sermons for the next Sunday, pass them around, read, mark, and outwardly improve them.  It's a writer's workshop for preachers basically. 

Last night I really needed it.  My sermon for Sunday was a meandering hoard of exegetical thoughts.  However, my good friend and colleague, Fr. John Adams, helped a great deal.  He was able to see a path, a linear structure that I was hiding in the writing.   He suggested somethings to cut, to reorder, and to re-write.  I am humbled and grateful for his suggestions. 

Sermon writing has been a solitary thing for me over the last ten years.  While that has worked, I am finding it is a refreshing and rejuvenating practice to share my sermons with my peers, to get their advice, and to offer my own. 

Come join us Sunday at Church of the Resurrection, and see if John really helped me or not.

On to the beer...I highly recommend the Salted Belgian.  It has those hints of coffee and bitterness that give a stout depth and complexity.  The saltiness is a just counterpoint to the chocolate.  It's a must have.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Let this same mind be in you....

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus
In the name of the inclusive, adamant, and loving God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!

13 years ago, over the New Year holiday in the middle of my year as a Resurrection House intern, I was on the planning team for the Lutheran Student Movement National Gathering in Phoenix Arizona. After four days of prayer and worship, joy and laughter, not a little bit of flirting, I stayed behind with a smaller group for a mission/service trip to Nogales, AZ. Nogales is a border town; so there is Nogales AZ and Nogales Mexico. We actually went over into Mexico and visited families on the Mexican Side. This was 2002 and in the decade before that a couple of factories had been built on the Mexican side and the population of the Mexican town had exploded. Thousands of people had come there looking for work, and they had come so fast the town was not able to keep up building infrastructure. A large shantytown had “built” up around the actual town. I use the term “built” because most of the “home construction” consisted of cargo palates covered in roofing paper turned on their side to form “walls”.

We visited a woman. She was a single mom and she was considered middle class in the neighborhood, because the house she shared with her daughter had a concrete slab floor and cinder block walls. She technically had running water because there was a tap outside the house. Her electricity consisted of one light fixture in the dining area, one plug in the kitchen and one plug in the second room of the two-room house. So, here I am sitting at her table having lunch—at this point I had a master’s degree in music, I was headed to seminary at one the oldest and most prestigious seminary in the Episcopal Church—and at one point she looked at me said, “How come you Americans have so much stuff and yet there’s so much depression and people committing suicide?” I didn’t have answer for that. Later, she again looked me dead in the eye and said, “How come your country has the death penalty when only God should decide who lives and dies.” I didn’t have an answer for that either. She continued to pelt me with convicting truth after convicting truth. And I am sitting there about to commence my second master’s degree, unable to answer. It was quite a sight…
I think this relates to our gospel story for this morning. Jesus is teaching in the temple and the religious leadership just isn’t getting it. They can neither comprehend the meaning of Jesus’ teachings nor accept his authority. The people who should have been able to grasp the truth, the people invested with conveying the truth could not hear the truth even when it was right in front of them. The religious leaders, the civic leaders, the so-called “right people” could not believe. On the other hand the sinners, the outcasts, those considered by the leadership to be unworthy, they got it, they understood, embraced, and began to follow Jesus.

This teaches us two things, if we are willing to learn: 1) we must keep our ears open to unlikely sources. We never know when an unlikely source will deliver a message from God for us. When I was in Nogales, I should have been the source of truth. I was way more educated than my host, but she was speaking truth. By the grace of God I was willing to listen, but I hope it teaches all of us to keep our ears open to hearing God from unlikely sources.

Second, we must ask questions, its how we learn. We must continually question everything. Now, listen to me closely: never take anything I say at face value. I am a religious leader. I do the best I can everyday, but I am just as susceptible to the blindness that the leaders in the gospel succumb to as any other leader. Ask questions! Wonder, study, learn, and as I said before listen, especially to unexpected sources. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” My brothers and sisters, I want the truth to come to us. However, to do that we must listen, especially to unexpected sources and ask questions. That’s what it means when Paul writes, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” It is imperative that we make an intentional practice of listening and questioning, because that is how we get on board with what God is doing in North Omaha. It was a tragic week in this part of town this week. Four people were shot on Wednesday alone. One of them, J.T. Swift was high school student who Jodie had at Morton just two years ago. Now the cross teaches us that where suffering is, God is present. So, I know God is present in North Omaha. I know that God is at work in North Omaha. I also know that for us to discern what God is up to, and how we get involved, we must listen to unexpected sources and question those in authority. I invite join in doing just that. Amen!

Sermon from 5 October 2014

“…Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

In the name of the creating, redeeming, and sustaining God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!

Last week, this week, and in the weeks to come we are going to hear stories from the Gospel according to Matthew of Jesus preaching/teaching in the temple. Now the author of Matthew’s gospel doesn’t give us everything Jesus’ says in the temple during the last week of his life. What we get, like today's Gospel passage, are the parables that increasingly increase the displeasure of the scribes, Pharisees, temple leaders, and ultimately the Roman authority as well.

When we hear these stories we need to keep where they are pointed in mind. We need to remember that Jesus’ actions persistently and irrevocably point him toward the cross and our salvation. Reading these stories and knowing where they are headed, I end up asking a couple of questions: 1) Why Jesus didn’t just back off? There were plenty of evidence that Jesus knew the Hebrew scriptures intimately. He could have chosen to preach on those passages that support the temple and its operation. That would have kept the powers that be at bay, and he could have gone back to gallelie and continued to grow his ministry. So why poke the dragon, if you will? 2) How does salvation work? How does the life, brutal death, and miraculous resurrection of one man 2000 years ago cause our salvation? How does it reconcile us to God?

Oddly enough the answer is the same for both questions: Love. Not only because God loved the world so much God sent Jesus, but Jesus loved us and indeed all so much that Jesus stuck with mission. It was out of love that Jesus shows us the very limits of love. We all limit our love and concern for a host of reasons, but Jesus shows us that limiting our love, especially whom we are willing to love. Jesus in these parables that anger the powers is calling for them to open their eyes to love God has for sinners and saints, the rich and the poor. Calling for them to be less concerned about power and more concerned about love.

Love is also why salvation works. See, Jesus was sent to save humanity, and it is humanity that kills him. Jesus feeds humans, heals sick humans, teaches humans, and it is all humanity that nails him to a tree. Now, I don’t know about y’all, but I can tell you for sure, if y’all nailed me to a tree in the hot desert sun; left me to die; and by some miracle was raised from the dead, forgiveness would not be on my mind. It'd be zombie time and I would be after you. But not Jesus. Nope. He does not seek vengeance nor retaliation. Jesus loves all humanity so much that Jesus was willing to forgive humanity’s rejection. The miracle of the resurrection is not resuscitation rather forgiveness.

My brothers and sisters we are invited into that forgiveness each and every time we gather around that table and receive the feast of our redemption. But, my brothers and sisters, we dare not approach God’s altar for solace alone and not for strength. We dare not come to this holy meal seeking just our own salvation. Rather we must humbly approach God seeking to be caught up in God’s reconciling work. We must come and receive the body of Christ so that we may go and be the body Christ willing to love as Jesus loved. My brothers and sisters, never forget what Jesus did for us. Never forget how much Jesus loved us, and never ever forget that because there are no limits to what God’s love can do, there are no limits to what our love can do. Amen!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sermon 081714

I have been posting about beer and about my sermons on here for over a year.  You have seen the beers, but you have not seen one of sermons on here. Well, here one is. I hope you like it.

“And the foreigners…these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer”
I speak with you in the name of the Loving, Creating, and Expansive God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen!
  • Teach Alleluia We Sing Your Praises

Thanks for bearing with me.  I know that was out of the comfort zone for some of you, but you all just auditioned for the choir.  You are all accepted, see you at rehearsal Wednesday night.  
I’m going to come back to the words of that song; so, keep it in the back of your head for a bit.  First, though, let’s talk about this Gospel Passage.  This is one of my favorite stories from the Matthew’s Gospel.  The whole exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite Women is fascinating, but I had forgotten the bit before we read of his meeting her.  Jesus is critiquing the Pharisees for not having the vision to see beyond the rules.  Now, I do not want to bag on the Pharisees.  I believe they were faithful people just trying to follow God as best they could.  It is really tempting to want to just follow rules, to have a check list, to know I have done a, b, and c so I’m included. Furthermore, it can be REALLY tempting to say I’ve done a, b, and c so I’m included, but those folks over yonder haven’t so they are excluded.  They don’t look right, eat right, talk right, and were born wrong so they’re out. If we are honest, we all do that to some extent or to different degrees in different contexts.  I know that we all do that because even Jesus did it. 
He criticizes the Pharisee for excluding, then immediately goes to Tyre and Sidon, non-Jewish territories by the way, and runs upon a Canaanite women and says that he’s only there for Jews.  He even goes so far as to call her a dog.  But then she checks him.  Now did you hear me, this woman in what’s now the Middle East in the first century, pulls Jesus up short and says “but even the dogs are cared for, even the dogs are the responsibility of the God.”  The miracle in this passage is not the healing of the daughter.  Nope its that Jesus learns.  Jesus expands his own vision by listening to an outsider.  Jesus learns the lesson he is trying to teach, because he listens to an unlikely voice.  That’s another reason we need to continue to grow the Church of the Resurrection.  Not only because the more people God feeds at the altar, the more people we can feed in the world, but if our vision is to expand—if our understanding of God’s love; our understanding of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ—is to deepen and further enrich our life, then we need outsiders, guests, visitors, new people, different people constantly in our midst. 
Now, we have a tradition of rich hospitality in this congregation.  I would stack our ability to welcome people up against any congregation in the land.  We work hard to welcome all as we would welcome Christ.  BUT we must invite people with the same spirit, frequency, and depth as well. 
Now, the spirit of our invitation is very important.  It needs to be like Coconut Crème Brule’.  Here’s what I mean by that: While I was on sabbatical Jodie and I got to spend a week together without the kids; the first time we had done so in four years. We had date night every night for a week, and we thoroughly explored the culinary offerings of Philadelphia and New York City.  It was glorious.  One night we were at this placed called Monk’s in Philly.  It is an amazing place.  It totally looks like a dive bar, a couple of women even got in a fight in the bar area while we were eating.  But they had a dedicated pastry chef on staff and these amazing desserts.  Jodie had Coconut Crème Brule’, and after the first bite—I mean she hadn’t even finished chewing—and she was like, “Oh my God, Jason you have got to try this.”  That’s the spirit with which we should invite people to God’s holy meal…”Oh my God, you’ve got try this.”  This is where it’s at.  This is where God comes to be with us. 
See, the Eucharist, what we do around that table is an offering and a promise.  It is inherently related to Jesus’ table ministry, which was a foretaste of the kingdom of God and where Jesus was constantly criticized for including sinners and outcasts.  William Crockett writes of the Eucharist as, “both the offer in the present of the possibility of a new kind of relationship with God and with one’s neighbor, and an anticipation of the fellowship to be expected in the future in the consummated kingdom of God.”  My brothers and sisters, “Oh my God, you gotta try this.”
This feast is a reminder of the Cross, that Immanuel, God With Us, is willing to go into the darkest places of human experience.  This week has been vast number of people on this planet.  From the middle east to Ferguson, Missouri, and from the death of Robin Williams to whatever is going on in our personal lives, this week we most certainly do not and will not deny there is darkness in our world. We all know the darkness of which I speak. We all know there is darkness in everyone, places of fear and brokenness desperate for a reminder that we are not alone.  This week we need a reminder that God is present even in the darkness and the blackest night is as bright as the noonday sun to God.  We need reminded of God’s Love…”Oh my God, my brothers and sisters, you got try this.”
This week as conversations about race and violence again make the news; as conversations about the militarization of police, and the racial dynamics of law enforcement erupt…this week as our nation is put to the test to see if the constitutional right to peaceably assemble truly extends to all or is it just for white people, we need more Eucharist and less bullets.  This week you gotta tell someone “Oh my God, you gotta try this.”
A bit ago we sang the verse of the song I taught you:
“Christ the Lord to us said
       I am wine, I am Bread
              Give to ALL who thirst and hunger.”

Give to ALL who thirst and hunger.  My brothers and sisters, there is a lot of thirsty people in Omaha; thirsty for peace, for love, for some sign they are worthy…this is where it’s at.  Christ the lord comes to us in this holy meal.  He is present with us in the most real reality of the Eucharist.  So present that when we receive him, he is not only with us, but within us.  We become Christ bearers; equipped, empowered, enabled to go out into a world desperate for Jesus.  Come to this table, not for solace alone, but for strength—the strength to carry Christ out in to the world and compassionately proclaim to all, “Oh my God, you gotta try this!”  Amen!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Iron Sharpening

There's a verse in scripture that says that iron sharpens iron.  Yesterday I was joined at my watering hole by Rev. John Adams.  He's a good friend and one of the smartest people I know; so, I invited him to get a beer and us swap sermons.  The hope was that we would sharpen each others preaching and both our congregations would benefit. 

While we chatted scripture, inclusion, theology, Jesus, and preaching I sipped on this:

It's the Deschutes Black Butte Porter XXVI.  (Check out the link for some great food pairings.) They make the Black Butte Porter year round, and it is delicious in and its itself.  Every year, however, they do a special anniversary batch that they age.  The 26 is over the moon amazing.  It starts off tasting like dark chocolate when it is first poured.  As it warms up though, the flavor profile transforms into something like Pinot Noir.

Preaching this week is a challenge.  The Gospel passage is the story of Jesus and the Canaanite women from Matthew, which is difficult enough alone.  Added to it, or course, is all the mayhem going on in the world from the Middle East to Ferguson, MO., and from the death of Robin Williams to the Ebola break out.  With all that it is easy to lose sight of the Gospel in all this.  I did my best to point to only place I am always sure there is Good'll have to come to Church of the Resurrection on Sunday to find out where that is.  If that wasn't enough of a teaser, here's a word cloud of my sermon:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Heresy and Dogma

Yesterday was the first time back at my Omaha watering hole, Krug Park, in over two months.  When I went on Sabbatical, I didn't make it over to the Benson much.  It was great to be back, and I wasn't surprised at the great offerings of beers on tap.  I had not found a lot of great beers to try in Philadelphia or New York City; so it was great to get back to a bar that really appreciates beer.

I will wholeheartedly confess that I picked the beers I tried solely by their names.  It seemed only meet and right to balance Heresy and Dogma.

 First up was the Heresy Bourbon Stout by Weyerbacher.  There's so much going on flavor wise with this brew that I couldn't tell it was a bourbon stout.  Oatmeal presents as the main flavor with slight notes of coffee and chocolate.  It's a rich, complex, but nicely balance beer.  It is very smooth with little to no alcohol burn despite its high ABV.
Next up was a bit of Dogma by Brew Dogs, you know just to balance things out.  This one was also delicious though a bit sweeter than the Heresy because it's a Scotch Ale and not a Stout--despite the color.  Anyway, the sweetness comes from an infusion of Heathered Honey.  However, it's just a touch of sweet.  It is far from cloying and is balance by bitterness.

You'll notice how these beers look very similar.  The photos do not do them justice, but the Dogma has a hint more brown hue to it, while the Heresy is solid black.  Thus it is in theology as well.  Heresy and Dogma often look very similar.  One might say on occasion that Heresy is Dogma yet to be accepted.  On other occasions, Dogma carried too far will become Heresy.  Me, I just say that these two beers both taste great and live up their names.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Beer Tourism II

Today was another great day for beer.  The weather has been beautiful and cool; a nice breeze, great food, and delicious beer.  What more could you ask?  While today was good, let's start with last night.

Last night, we went to Monk's Cafe, which has exquisite food in addition to good beer.  The pulled pork sandwich was up to my southern standards, and I had this delectible brew pictured to the right.  It's the Blood Moon from Dogfish Head Brewing.  I had heard about Dogfish Head before heading east, and even tried one of their beers--thanks to John Adams.  Leading with an inciting nutty aroma, this beer draws you in.  The front end taste is woody and smoky followed by a full bodied middle.  The finish is clean and the consistency is full but not thick.  I really enjoyed this beer

 At lunch today, I hit a burger place near the hotel.  It was okay--kinda like five guys, but with a bar.  I ordered an Ommegang Witte and I was not disappointed.  It's a bright wheat beer perfect for midday.  Fresh, crisp, and light it won't way you down for the rest of the day.  However, it was not watery and did possess flavor.  

Tonight, we were walking back to the hotel.  It was so cool and breezy we stopped at an english style pub and sat outside.  As luck would have it, our water was from wales; so his accent really sold the ambiance.  I had the Double Chocolate Stout on Nitro pictured to the right.  Easily the second best beer I have had in Philly (the first was the Blood Moon).  Ironically it is from Wells and Young out of the U.K.  Here I am in the city where we threw off the yoke of English tyranny and the best pint of stout I can find is English.  It's too ironic even for hipsters.  Anyway, this beer is delicious.  It's a lot like guinness but not as heavy and with a dark chocolate finish.  There wasn't a sweetness to it; so it definitely led with a stout flavor.  The chocolate finish rounded off the beer nicely.

I have enjoyed my beer excursions here in Philly, but I have to say the best beers I have had are from out of town.  Philly's got a lot going for it, especially the food here.  But most of the local brews, while okay, I didn't feel were special enough to even picture here.  In other words, you can get a great pint in Philly, but it's likely to be from Delaware.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Beer Tourism Day One

So, I'm in Philadelphia supporting my wife.  She is a Staff Developer for A.V.I.D. and is leading a math strand of their summer institute.  Don't worry if you don't know what A.V.I.D. is or a staff developer or a math strand.  Those things have nothing to do with beer.  The important thing is that we left the kids with grandma in Columbus, OH; so I get to hang around, write music, see friends, and...wait for it...drink BEER.  

I hit up a brewery, a sports bar, and the hotel restaurant today and had four good beers.  Not bad ratio bay any means.

First up was the Barrel-Aged Bier de Garde from Nodding Head Brewing.  Don't let the little glass fool you, this was not a dainty beer. Since it was aged in Burgundy Barrels it had the aroma of wine.  The front end was sweet; the middle was bright and refreshing, and the end just a hint of bitterness to remind you that you're drinking beer.   It's a very good beer.

This is the Monkey Knife Fight also from Nodding Head.  It is a pale lager spiced with ginger and lemongrass.  I haven't had a beer like this before, and I'm not sure I would drink something like it on a regular basis.  However, it was an interesting flavor and on a warm to hot midday in a city I found it refreshing.
At the sport's bar I had the Yard's just off Walnut: a Belgian Brown collaboration between the Fieldhouse Sportsbar and Yard's Brewing.  I failed to take a picture of it, but it was a decent brown.  I plan to tour yard's before the week is out; so more about it later. In the evening, my wife and I hit the hotel restaurant, and I had this beer to the right.  It's a Lancaster Milk Stout.  I liked it, and I do believe my heart will always belong to stouts (or maybe I should say my liver). Anyway, it had a rich middle and very clean end.  The front end was maybe a little watery, which keeps it as just a good solid stout but not great like the Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout which I have written about before.

All in all, a fine day for beer tourism.  Tomorrow, I am headed up to NYC to see a friend.  I hope to find some tasty brews as well.  I'll let you know what I discover.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dogfish and Dragon's Milk with a side of Jesus

 So, I'm on sabbatical.  I had the intention of blogging more, but I've been writing music instead.  I haven't even made it to my watering hole.  Despite that failure, I have gotten to try some really great beers.  Even better they were gifts from friends.

The first picture is the Palo Santo Marron from Dogfish Head in MD.  It is a delicious brown with complex vanilla and caramel flavors.  It starts with a great aroma and finishes with a clean aftertaste.  The amazing thing about this beer is that it is 12% ABV but full of flavor.  Some high alcohol beers just taste like rubbing alcohol.  Not so with this rich brew.  In fact, I didn't realize it was a high ABV beer until I finished it and read the label.  One of Resurrection House alumni, who just got his first gig after seminary back here in Omaha, brought this to me.  It was a gift from his dad because I had turned him onto Stone Brewing's Russian Imperial Stout.  One of the things I most value about the Beer community is the sharing that goes on.  YUM!

Anyway, this is the Dragon's Milk Ale aged in oak barrels from New Holland Brewing company.  This one is also high in alcohol, but it is very full of flavor.  The primary notes are dark chocolate and coffee.  It's kind of like a beer version of a mocha latte.  My good friend Joel Pakan, one half Tangled Blue brought it to me when they were in town for a gig last week.  We had a cook out and split this amongst ten people or so at the end of the evening.

There is a richness to community, a deepening of connection and compassion.  Somehow raising a glass allows us to tap into this sense of community.  Maybe that's why Jesus started a radical table ministry in his day? Just maybe?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sabbatical Preparations

I am 8 days away from sabbatical and decided to do a little prep work for it at my watering hole.  I have actually been here several times recently, but I haven't had a chance to blog about it.  One of my intentions on Sabbatical is to write more in this blog; therefore, why not start today?

For no particular reason I decided to have a German beer day.  If you are into flavor, you can't go wrong with German beer, especially if it's made by monks (please note my professional bias in that last statement).

Today I had the Ayinger Maibock and the Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel.  Okay so Franziskaner is made by Spaten and not technically monks, but it still holds the tradition.  Also, I'm Irish so I'm not going to let the truth get in the way of a good story.  Both were delicious, however I prefer the Franziskaner.  It is a tad bit darker, creamier, and with more flavor.  The Germans have realized that flavor is more important than just hop level and a high ABV.  So you really can't go wrong with either of these beers.

More importantly, I had a great conversation with my barkeep Alex.  See, he's a Boston Red Sox fan, and I am Yankees fan.  There are two reason why we are able to maintain a really positive bar tender-customer relationship: Boston fans and Yankee fans know they don't exist without each other, and, more to the point, we both love really quality beer.  In an earlier post, I wrote about a good brew's ability to create community.  Therefore, I would like to posit today that if beer can bring a Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan together, does it have the power to bring Michigan and Ohio State fans together.  I believe it does, and that it is a sign of the kingdom of God erupting into and reconciling the world.  You should probably note my professional bias again on that last sentence.

Look forward to more posts on great beers here while I'm on sabbatical.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Green Flash Double Stout

Tonight I has the Green Flash Double Stout and it is perfect for this cold rainy day in Omaha.  The aroma isn't very strong but it starts with a rich dark taste.  The finish is clean with a just light bitterness to it.

I am preaching this week on grief and that in grief God acts, especially the act of the Resurrection.  So a heavy subject needs a heavy beer.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Matt's Burning Rosids and the art of Community

So on March 6th, I had this beer almost pictured here:

It was so delicious I almost forgot to take a picture of it.  I also didn't know what to write about it.  Words just seemed to fail to describe the complexity of this beer.  Every sip was literally a different delicious developed flavor, but everything was in balance as well.  

This beer is the Matt's Burning Rosid's from Stone Brewing.  They brewed it in honor of one of their brewers that died and it was his recipe.  It is a Imperial Cherrywood Smoked Saison--told you it was complex.  Anyway, you should definitely check out the story behind this beer on Stone's website--AFTER you finish reading this post!

Earlier this week it dawned on me what to write about this beer in particular and beer in general.  I was talking with one of my interns, Alyse, who has a passion for coffee.  She is not a mere caffeine addict.  No, she knows techniques and processes to draw out and develop complex flavors in a cup a coffee.  It dawned on me that her feelings about coffee mimic mine about beer.  I have written here before how I would be just fine if beer didn't have alcohol nor calories but could keep the complex flavors.  Also, I have ranted about trends in beer, specifically the Let's-Throw-As-Many-Hops-In-A-Beer-And-Call-It-An-IPA trend where the art is sacrificed for flash.  Furthermore, I believe sharing a pint with friends and family is indeed sacred.  It builds community and bonds of shared experience.  To take those ideas a step further, or rather to explore why beer has this quality let me hypothesize that the care, patience, and skill it takes to brew a quality beer or a kick ass cup of coffee infuse the conversation shared over a glass or a cup.  This infusion deepens the conversation and builds community.  

It's not unlike the communion at church (note the similarity in communion and community), maybe that's why Jesus spawned a radical table ministry.  When we gather around simple things like water, malt, barley, and hops or coffee beans, or bread and wine that have been shown much care and attention, then the bonds between us become more cared for and more intentional.  

In Christianity we speak of God as a Trinity of three in one.  Essentially we say that we know God as a community, not as individuals but in relationship.  Things that bind us in relationship can bind us in God, can cause us to be caught up in the glory and expanse of God.  Therefore in the immortal words of Martin Luther, "I drink this beer to the glory of God."

Go forth my friends and raise a pint (responsibly, of course).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

In Preparation for Lent

In honor of my article for the upcoming Lent edition of The Nebraska Episcopalian on the veracity of the so called Beer Fast, I am having a Doppelbock by Hoffbrau.  The article is below:

Ask a Priest

“Is the lenten beer fast real, or just a myth?”

With lent fast approaching (no pun intended) I was once again questioned at my local watering hole if the so called “Beer Fast” was legit. There is a legend that monks in Germany developed Doppelbock (a type of strong beer) to subsist solely upon during the season of Lent.  They would not eat, read chew, any food during lent but would consume, possibly, four doppelbocks a day as their only source of calories and nutrients.  Doppelbock was first brewed by the Paulaner Monks at  Neudeck ob der Au outside Munich, Germany in the 1600s.  They had copious amounts of grain and for seasons of fasting such as lent they would use their grain to brew Doppelbock instead of baking bread.  While Doppelbock is quite stronger than your typical American Lager (i.e. Miller Lite) it is also loaded with nutrients and vitamins.   Consequently, this beer became known as “Liquid Bread”, it is also known as “Fastenbier” or Lent Beer. 

It appears the concept of observing the lenten fast by only drinking beer is a real thing.  How strictly or piously the monks went about their fast, one can only guess.  This concept was tested in 2011 by Iowa journalist and homebrewer J. Wilson.  He drank four doppelbocks a day during the week and five on the weekends.  He reports that after initial bouts with hunger he began to experience a sharp level of clarity and a heightened awareness of the difference between needs and wants.  You can read his article here.

While the lenten beer fast can be a tool for spiritual development, let me offer a word of caution.  Not all fasts are suitable for all people.  Just as an anorexic should not fast from food, and alcoholic should not embark on a beer fast.  There are two keys with fasting, during lent or any other time: discipline and motivation.  It’s the discipline not the chemistry that heightens focus.  While there are a host of nutrients and vitamins in a well brewed Doppelbock, it is not a magical elixir; rather, the intentional practice of self denial leads to less distractions which leads to greater focus.  Motivation matters a great deal as well.  If your motivation is simply to drink beer than that is all you will get out of the experience.  However, if you are seeking to grow closer to God, to become aware of how little you actually need and how much God provides, then subsiding on a just a few beers a day may assist in that effort.  Therefore, no matter which fast you choose this Lent, seek more of God and less of this world.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Oak Aged Old Rasputin 2011, and the need for Courage

This is the 2011 Oak Aged Old Rasputin from North Coast Brewing.  It's about 12% ABV so not for the faint at heart.  However its aged in bourbon barrels and the depths of flavor just keep unfolding with every sip.  Now, while I really love my watering hole, it really needs a fire place for this beer.  Not only would the warmth of an open hearth with hard woods crackling be nice, the smokey aroma would complement the beer very well. The aroma of the beer is liquorice and the middle is full bodied with a hint of coffee.  There is a bit of alcohol burn in the finish, but that is to be expected with this high an ABV.  I won't be having two of these tonight, but this one is mighty fine. 

I'm preaching on the courage of Mary and Joseph this Sunday.  We had a lot of people at church last Sunday, and I am hoping for a repeat.  The Church of the Resurrection is a special place and the more people we gather around the altar for God to feed, the more people we can feed out in the world.

The barkeep at my watering hole just gave me a fantastic piece of news.  During Beer Week in february they are doing an O'dell Brewing Cask day.  One cask will be a Peanut Butter Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout.  The Lugene is one of the few beers I have had more than once here at the waterhole.  I can't imagine what a peanut butter version will be like. Stay tuned folks this is about to get real!

Sermon Preview for Feb. 2nd

This is a word cloud with my sermon for Sunday as the source.  Be sure and come check out the real thing on Sunday at Church of the Resurrection, Omaha. 

Wordle: The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Do do that VooDoo

This is the VooDoo American Stout

It's really good.  It has a dark rich charcol flavor but it is not overly bitter.  There is only a hint of sweetness.  It's a mad crazy windy day today in Omaha. I just had a guy from Chicago tell me it's too windy in Omaha today.  So this beer fits perfect.  The chocolate aroma followed by the bitter (but not hoppy middle) with its clean finish is perfect to cut through the wind today. 

I've noticed that I pretty just rave about the beers I drink on this blog.  I don't think I have ever done a negative review.  I actually get tasters of a lot of beers at my water hole, but I only buy a full glass of beers that I'm likely to really enjoy.  My brothers and sisters life is way too short to drink cheap beer nor beers that don't favor your pallette.  I know IPAs are REALLY trendy right now, but just throwing hops at a beer is not artistry.  A well crafted beer has balance and depth, it's rich and smooth.  I'm still searching for an IPA that really emboys that flavor profile, but until then I'm going to stick to malty beers.  

Up next is the Schokolade Bock from Millstream Brewing.
This beer, some how, smells like dark chocolate, but tastes like milk chocolate and carmel.  Its Delicious!!!!  Where the VooDoo was simple this beer is complex the flavors are layered and balanced.  Each sip contains a new flavor to discover.  

Brewing beer is an art form.  It is not about the alchohol!  Just producing a beer with a high ABV is like the pop music scene where reaching adolescence is considered an achievement.  Brewing a well crafted beer, mastering a complex process that takes timing, patience, and precision on the other hand is equivelant to the craftmenship of Bach, or Amish Furniture, or cooking really good Soul Food.

I feel the same way about preaching.  Words simply strung together are at the best a speech.  While words combined with a sense of rhythm and form delivered with attention to volumne and drama can rise beyond motivational to become a sermon.  They can become an expression and incarnation of the living Word of God in the midst of the community.  This is the standard to which I aspire.  I don't know if I will ever reach it, but I believe the aspiration and effort, the prayer and the sweat, are pleasing to God.  Furthermore, like horse shoes, close counts in Preaching.  If I apply my whole being to the art of preaching yet only come close to incarnating the word of God, that is still efficacious to the community, the body of christ.  So, I shall continue to aim for the highest heights even if I only succeed in discovering a new height to conquer.