Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I got an email which entailed a section from the book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. One quote in particular stood out to me. "The hope of emergents, their ministry, their message is, more than anything, a call for a reinvigoration of Christian theology—not in the ivy towers, not even in pulpits and pews, but on the street. ... "

In the general church and in the Church of the Nazarene there is much debate about the emergent church. I've heard name calling, seen pointing of fingers, and even heard words like heretic used.

I don't align myself with the emergent movement... however, I don't dis-associate myself either. In actuality, I'm weary of those against and for the movements. Yet, the quote above taken from Tony Jones book draws me to wonder how any thoughtful, heartfelt follower of Christ can turn their back on a movement and a people striving to invigorate Christian Theology.

Christian Theology for a lot of people, in their minds and in their daily lives, is dead. Yet Jones draws the connection that all of life is based on our Christian Theology. He stresses the message of the church is to reinvigorate the people with the passion of following Christ. And to this, I resonate.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

a Dedication Service letter

Dear Phineas Lee,

We were excited to hear we were having a boy and took special care in choosing your name. Yes, you do share your first name with the founder of the Church of the Nazarene, but it is also the name of a zealous follower of God in the Old Testament, who was the son of Eleazar and the grandson of Aaron the priest.

Like Phinehas of the Old Testament, you too are from a line of priests – pastors. God made a covenant of peace with Phinehas of the Old Testament and our hope and prayer is that your life will also be a covenant of peace. May you be a leader in all you do and an instrument of peace to all whom you come in contact with; regardless of their status or relationship.

Your middle name, Lee, stems from a family name on both sides. Grandma Smith and Great-Grandpa McPherson both share this name with you. We chose your middle name because of the faith and commitment of these great people. Both of their lives speak to their faith and commitment to God and family. Their legacy of love carries on to you, and our hope is that you will exhibit these same qualities throughout your life’s journey.

Your Christian heritage is rich and long standing. We love you and pray you will have a long lasting home of peace in the Christian faith of your family. As your mother and father, we pray for you, thank God for his mercies, and commit to raise you in the love of God, the Everlasting Father.

1 Samuel 1:27-28 reads: “I prayed for this child and the Lord has given me what I asked of him. So now I'm giving him to the Lord. As long as he lives he'll be given to the Lord."

On this special day of dedication in the life of our family, we want to express to you how much we love you. We love you more than we can ever express and we thank God for the blessing of your life.

We love you,
Mom and Dad

Monday, May 4, 2009

good shepherd 5.3

In our Gospel text this morning, Jesus tells us: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. In 1 John we’re reminded that 16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” John goes on to tell us we are to love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

They will know us by our love for one another.

On Tuesday, Mark and I were driving in the big yellow truck toward Harry’s place. On 45th street as we approached the freeway bridge, we saw a few of our homeless neighbors. One of which we know by name. We commented to one another that we don’t see him as often as we used to.

As we waited for the stop light, I told Mark I was struggling with this week’s passages. I was struggling with it on several levels, but the point that stood out at that moment was the second verse of our text from 1 John. “17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?”

The passages for this week were weighing heavy on me as we drove up and down 45th and we saw our neighbors and friends in need. It was good though, because as we drove and talked… I was reminded of the changes of our city and our society. I was reminded of the changes between our lives and those of the First Century Christians. Mark pointed out to me that a lot of the people of the scriptures lived within a small portion of land… their towns and cities were not crowded in the same ways. The poor being helped were the same poor seen day after day… at the wells and in their towns.

This week I was frustrated and confused on what to talk about in regards to these texts. I was hearing us being called to lay down our lives – as the good shepherd does, but wondering how to do it. I heard the reminder of our need to love our neighbors, which I think we do. I heard the directive to love – not with affectionate words, but by actions of truth.

So, I was hearing all of this, and I was trying to figure it all out. How do we, with our limited resources… do any of this? How do we give to everyone in need? There are so many! There are so many here in Wallingford. There are so many in Seattle. There are so many!

I was becoming overwhelmed. It was as though there was just so much to do, it’d be better to do nothing, to just quit. Perhaps it would be easier to quit driving up the street. Maybe it’d be simpler to quit going up 45th, quit walking over the bridge, quit going everywhere so we don’t have to see those in need. We often don’t know how to help, do we? We don’t always have the answers… we don’t have everything figured out, and it’s hard!

When we’re honest, and we take an honest look at our society, it’s pretty messed up right now. Beyond the norms of living in the city, with sky rises, condo’s and the hustle and bustle, the cities are crowded, have gangs, pollution and homelessness. In the cities there are a lot of people hurting. Here in Wallingford, in our neighborhood, we have friends who have been out of work for months. We have neighbors who are losing their homes to foreclosure.

Recently we’ve heard the social services – the shelters and food banks – might lose government funding. Many of the shelters are struggling to stay open as giving is down across the board. The economy is dropping… and here we are, with this call to lay down our lives and live out our love in actions. And it’s hard. It is hard. It’s hard to talk about this on Sunday when I called the cops on a guy Friday cuz he was passed out with his pants down exposing himself behind the dumpster. It is hard!

So, what do we do? What do we do to live out Jesus’ call? What do we do to make a difference in our city, our neighborhood, and our homes?

I think of two things when I think of these questions; the first is a book I’m reading and the second - my high school basketball coach.

Bree is in a book club with a group of friends…and they’ve read all sorts of books. They’ve invited me several times, but it’s never been books I’ve wanted to read. But the next book on their list is “A year of living biblically” which I got for Christmas, and have been excited to read. So, I’ll be part of the book club this next month as we talk about “The Year of Living Biblically.”
I’ve been slowly reading the book for a few weeks now, and so far, it has been pretty interesting. I’m not done, so if I share a little bit, I don’t think I’ll ruin it for anyone. But I want to tell you a bit about it.

It is written by A.J. Jacobs who at the beginning of the book basically describes himself as a purely secular individual. Religion has not been a part of his life, at any time. But as his young son begins to grow, he wonders about the people of faith and their Bible and what it is they’re doing, wondering if there is truth to their lives, actions and beliefs. So, he decides he would take on an adventure of living a year prescribed by the rules of the Old & New Testament scriptures.
As the author learns the rules and rituals of the Old Testament, he begins practicing them, living them. The first thing he does is start to grow out his beard. It’s pretty awesome. He does these things to understand their purpose and meaning. He and his wife are trying to have a second child in the midst of this year, and as he dives into scripture he begins to wrestle with the “be fruitful and multiply” passage.

Throughout the year he does some silly things which he doesn’t fully understand. But, as he is journeying through the year, he begins to find meaning, compassion, and understanding of the people and practices of the Bible. Prayer which at the beginning of the book was forced and awkward slowly becomes meaningful. He slowly relates to the scriptures, longs for the times of prayer, and identifies with others practicing their faith.

We hear from Jesus our call to lay down our lives for others – as he; the good shepherd did for us. We hear the Apostle John encourage us to love our neighbors – not with words, but with actions of truth. But how do we do it? How do we do all of this here in this city in this country? How do we do it in 2009 with our seemingly limited resources?

As I thought about these passages calling us to Love – I was also drawn to the passage from Numbers 25 where God makes a covenant of peace with Phineas, the grandson of Aaron the priest. As I thought about these scriptures, last week’s text came to mind as we heard Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. Several times in text we can hear Jesus says: “Peace be with you.”
There seems to be a connection between Loving and Peace. I guess the 60’s taught us that too… something about Peace and Love. Well, we know God is Love. We know Jesus came from God, Jesus is God, and that Jesus is love. And of all the things we hear Jesus say, we continually hear him say – Peace. Peace be with you. Love, be people of love. Be people of peace. Be peacemakers… be lovers of the unloved. Be people who create peace in the lives of the hurting, the broken, and the disenfranchised. Jesus says we will be known as his disciples by our love for one another.

In the book I’m reading, the author seems to be slowly becoming, if nothing else, tolerable of those in the faith community. As he is intentionally immersing himself in the Jewish lifestyle – his eyes, ears and, I’d argue, his heart are opening to the story of God’s people.

I believe this is part of my story too… This is my heritage, my testimony. This is how I came to know the Lord. This is how I was immersed in the Spirit of God. Like our son Phineas Lee Smith was dedicated this morning, I too was dedicated. I too was brought up in the house of the Lord. I too was plunged into the life of the church, others, and faith.

As I mentioned earlier, the second thing these passages have made me think of is my high school basketball coach. He had a saying: practice doesn’t make perfect… practice makes permanent.
We heard this quote all the time… Practice makes permanent. He would always encourage us to practice the correct rhythms and movements. Practice the correct techniques. He wanted us to practice running, practice dribbling, practice our shots, our defense. His full quote was: practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect permanent.” This is what he wanted from us. He wanted perfect practice so we would have perfect permanent. He was insistent that we practice the right way, so at the right time, when the pressure was on, the right technique with the right movements were used. He taught us that practice makes permanent.

It seems as though my basketball coach’s words ring true for us in regards to our life in God. It seems as though we must practice our love of God and of others. We must practice our peacemaking. We must practice our faith…

I see these two illustrations (the book, and basketball) as a symbol of our loving lives in Christ. To me they symbolizes how when we delve into the life of our lord, when we are focused daily, our attention is drawn to him. As we daily align ourselves around God’s love for us and his call for us to love others… we slowly begin to be absorbed into his mindset, the mindset of God.
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He lays down his life for those he cares about, for those he loves. And we, like him, are to lay down our lives – perhaps this is figurative, I don’t know. But we are to lay down our life, we are to know his voice, hear him calling, and follow his leading. Love leads peace in the midst of darkness.

Practice makes permanent. When loving seems hard, practice. When being people of peace seems difficult, practice. When grace seems impractical, practice grace; when you’re tired, burnt out, wanting to wander… practice that discipline of self sacrifice to the Lord. Practice your faith, practice your love. Let your love be one of action. The apostle John tells us to love, but not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Love in truth and action! Let God make a covenant of Peace with you. Let him make a covenant of love with you. When loving is not on the agenda, remember your covenant, and practice the peace of God. When an obstacle is before you remember your covenant, and practice the love of God! Allow God to love through your actions of truth and love. Allow your actions of love to be God’s hands and feet to this broken world.

Our series right now is titled Resurrection to Reality… Let the resurrection of our Lord and Savior become reality. Practice your faith of love, lay down your agenda, lay down your plans, and support someone else. Support one another. Love in ways that surprise even you. Let God’s resurrection, become reality. Let it become a reality in your life and the life of those around you. Let God’s resurrection, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, become reality as you practice the love he so generously bestows upon each of us.

"We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. We are to love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. Love in truth and in action."

Go forth in God’s care, taking love everywhere you go. Go forth in God’s name, taking Christ everywhere you go. Go forth in God’s grace, sharing mercy with everyone you meet.
As you go, love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. Go and Love.