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Category: church

07/31/07 04:14 - 86ºF - ID#40329

Fun stuff coming up . . .

Ok, maybe not as much fun as a Soul Asylum concert (which I have to miss! Dang!), but still better than one would expect.

In addition to the regular goings on at my church (like worship with sermons from yours truly, every Sunday at 10am), there are three special events this month.

1. My "installation." Ok. I will be the first to say that installations for people are weird. Dishwashers get installed, not people. But the rules say that I have to be "installed," so that's what we are doing. Which basically means that friends and people from other churches join in having a celebration that thanks God that I am the pastor at the church. So it's the closest thing to a "Drew party," that I will ever let the church have. Still, there is a guest speaker and a reception with gourmet mini-pizzas afterwards. Special music, too. It happens this Sunday at 7pm.

2. Vacation Bible School. Wow. You thought "installation" was badly named. Why would kids want to go to school on vacation? Bible school at that? Still, its better than it sounds. Lots of fun for the kids, and I will have a special class for the grown ups. Why is that fun? Because the kids are studying old testament stories and I am teaching the "adult" versions of them--and they are pretty darn intriguing. Plus, everybody gets a free dinner. Gotta like that, right?

3. The Elmwood Village celebration of Community. This is on the 25th, right after the last act on the Saturday night of the Elmwood Arts Fest. It's not just my church, but lots of different communities from around the Elmwood strip thanking God/a higher power/whoever/each other for the nice things about this place and asking God/whoever/etc. to help us in the ways that we fall short. We're going to sing some happy uplifting songs, too. All that, and the it will be quick enough to let everyone get on with their Saturday Night celebration. What could be better?

Good stuff going on at Lafayette Church. Hope to see you there. Shameless plug over.
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07/29/07 09:06 - 78ºF - ID#40302

been a while . . .

I haven't posted because I was on vacation. The beach is nice.

I also took a quick sample of the garden walk. Also nice.

It inspired me. I will have a nice water garden next year.
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Category: sermons

07/17/07 04:33 - 78ºF - ID#40147

Another sermon: My addiction

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 27He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" 37He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Hi. My name is Drew, and I am addicted to being right.

I discovered that I was addicted to being right when I realized that I would always try for the last word in any discussion. This would lead to fights over the smallest things. But I am not only addicted to being right in the small things. I want to be right when it comes to politics and religion. My addiction to being right has cost me friendships, and it has also hurt my relationship with God.

I never thought that it would hurt my relationship with God, because it always seemed like the people that talked the most about God WERE always right. People that talk about God talk about God with conviction, and they live their lives with conviction. They say things like, "if God is for us, who can be against us?"

Which means that church enabled my addiction to being right all the time, at least for a while. It was a place where I met other addicts, and it was a place where we got our fix of being right, every time we compared ourselves to the wrong people that didn't go to church, or went to the wrong church.

Come to think of it, while some Christians re- enforced my beliefs, others indulged my addiction by believing different things. Church life gave me a whole new list of things to argue about. I could argue theology, soteriology, eschatology, worship style, stewardship, hymn selection, the color scheme of the sanctuary, clothing choices, what kind of car a person ought to drive, what kind of food that we serve--anything at all, it seemed, could be turned into a "spiritual issuse," with a "right" and a "wrong," and I would always be on the right side.

My faith turned into an exercise in making sure that I was right. I wasn't alone. So many Christians in this country spend so much time focusing on being right that they never get around to doing right.

We'd rather argue than work.

We'd rather try to change another persons mind than change our own heart.

I'm addicted to being right. Fortunately, I know that I have this addiction, and I am working on it, so I guess I am a recovering addict, but I know that I will always be addicted.

Would you please stand up if you would like to admit being addicted to being right.

Here's the good news for those of us who are standing. While churches sometimes feed this addiction, especially when they aren't healthy, the church also breaks us of this addiction.

Confessing our sins is one of the practices that we do to fight this addiction. Every week, together (and hopefully every day, on our own), we look at ourselves and ask: "How have I been wrong? How I have I fallen short?" We admit, again and again, that we cannot be good enough without the grace of God.

And the stories like the ones we hear today are great for breaking our addiction.

Lets look at our Gospel lesson for today.

The lawyer in this story had an encounter Jesus, God in flesh. During that encounter, Jesus gave him a mission--it wasn't new, it was something that had been part of the Jewish tradition for ages, but it was a clear and concise. Jesus said, "if you love God, and love your neighbor, you will have life."

What more could he want? He found the meaning of life. Jesus gave him purpose. Jesus gave him a job.

but then there's that one phrase that is a hinge that turns the whole story. "But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus . . ."

The lawyer shared our addiction.

Following God's mission wasn't enough. He wanted to be right. He wanted the last word.

Can I give a piece of advice? Don't try to have the last word with God.

That's what King Jeraboam wanted to do in our first reading.

The King of Israel thought he deserved the last word with Amos. After all, he was the King, ruling in God's place. And Amos came and told him he was wrong.

This is when Israel and Judah were separate nations. The King was King over Israel, and Amos was from Judah.

Worse than that, Amos was not a professional prophet. He was a shepherd from another nation that came and told the King that he wasn't doing the right thing.

This King, by the way, was good for the religious community at the time. Everybody made their sacrifices. Everybody went to church.

They made a big show of how much they loved God, but they ripped off their neighbors. They didn't care about justice.

And Amos told the King that they were not being faithful.

And the King didn't want to hear it.

The King didn't want to hear it from anybody, but why especially should he listen to a foreigner, an uneducated shepherd, a nobody with no credentials?

When we don't like to admit that we are wrong, we especially don't like to admit that an outsider is right.

But God likes to use outsiders.

The king was wrong. Amos was right.

And it gets even worse when Jesus tells his story.

Jesus flipped the script in his story.

I could imagine the story being told. The stage is set with the man getting attacked by robbers.

But! says Jesus, "along came a Priest,"

and the crowd cheers,

"but the Priest walked past"

but soon a Levite, another church leader came by

and the crowd cheers again

The priest was limited by his rules and duties, but Levite was a good guy that was bound by less rules. He could have done something. The crowd knows that he can be the hero.

but the levite walked past.

And then the Samaritan comes around the corner

The hated minority comes around the corner

The religious heretic comes around the corner

The illegal alien comes around the corner

The enemy comes around the corner

The outsider comes around the corner (PAUSE!!!)

That's what people heard when Jesus said, "Samaritan."

and that man becomes the hero of the story.

The supposed good guys were actually the bad guys. The bad guy ended up being the good guy.

This story is still relevant today.

People see us church folk just as this story shows the Priests and the Levites to be.

We worry about appearances, and we ignore those that suffer.

We say that we're the good guys, but we act like the bad guys.

And who shows mercy?

People come to church and they feel judged. They are more likely to find mercy at the bar. Or the gay pride festival. Do you know why the Unitarian church is full? It's not because of their theology--it's because they show mercy.

The people that are supposed to be our enemies are, in reality, our examples.

The supposed enemies of our faith practice it better than we do.

The story of the Good Samaritan is hard therapy for people that are addicted to being right.

But our addiction will kill us.

And in loving God and loving our neighbor, in showing mercy, in breaking our prejudice against Samaritins, we find life.

Dueteronomy 31 says it. It was our call to worship:

God has placed in front of us Life and Good, Death and Evil.

We can imitate the Samartains and live, or blame them and die.

When I was being controlled by addiction, I thought that I could only find life in being right.

But real life came when I let God be right.

Are you trying to justify yourself? I'm inviting you to quit. Cold Turkey. Let it go. How will you do that?

Find your Samaritan--an outsider that shows mercy--and imitate him or her.

Life is available to you in these four words:

"Go and do likewise."

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Category: religion

07/11/07 10:33 - 68ºF - ID#40064

Just one more pope thought

According to the latest re-release from the Pontiff, other churches (such as mine) aren't real churches because salvation only comes through the Catholic church.

Now, I don't believe that this is true at all, but lets pretend for a second that it is.

Why not share? If you get to choose who gets to heaven, do us a favor and spread it around already! Jesus earned it, not you--so why hog it!? There's plenty to go around!
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07/10/07 10:08 - 83ºF - ID#40045

look down

There's been some good discussion in the comments of the last post. So this is to ask those that don't check comments to look at them
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Category: religion

07/09/07 04:46 - 83ºF - ID#40025

Catholic church closings

Submitted this to "My View," and got rejected. Their loss is your gain!

"The body is one and has many members, . . . If one member suffers, all suffer together with it." 1 Corinthians 12:12;26

As a pastor of a Presbyterian church, I am suffering with my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.

We've closed buildings, too. What sad occasions.

The diocese has made some hard choices. A shortage of priests, a population decline, and lower giving has put all churches in a difficult place. My hope is that, though we may close buildings, every church will grow in our love for God and neighbor.

I am the Pastor of the Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church, a church that has (sadly) not yet shared in the Elmwood Village's re-vitalization. Hopefully, this will soon change, but sometimes I wonder if Lafayette's building will one day join the growing list of former-church buildings.

We have just over 50 people attend most Sundays. In a sanctuary that seats 1200, that means that we have about 1150 empty seats.

In addition to the common Christian value of following Jesus, Presbyterians also value stewardship.

Other Christians value stewardship, too, but we focus on it particularly.

This old-fashioned word reflects a timeless responsibility. God has given people resources to manage on God's behalf. We have a responsibility to care for creation, to be efficient, and to be generous.

Every day I ask myself if we are being good stewards of the God's resources. Honestly, I don't know. Some days it seems to be such a waste, heating and maintaining a giant structure when others have great need. Other days I see the glory of God reflected in the building's architecture and the ways it serves the neighborhood. I remember that our building represents the commitment of thousands of people, to God and to their neighborhood.

I share these thoughts because all churches must face the hard questions of stewardship. My Roman Catholic brothers and sisters are practicing this discipline now, and they have my prayers. Many have attacked them, but we owe a debt of gratitude. In addition to faithful worship, they provide quality, affordable education, services for immigrants and care for the disabled. Their ministry, like ours, is not perfect, but it deserves continued support.

Even so, I know that many Catholics are frustrated with their church. To you I say, please do not lose hope. We believe in a God who raises the dead, and this same God cannot be stopped by closed buildings, a priest shortage, or anything else. God can reconcile you and your church--and you ought to pursue that goal.

Again, If you have given up on the Roman Catholic Church, please re-consider. I suspect that you miss Christian community in worship and service, and you can find that in your Parish, even if it has merged. However, if you cannot achieve reconciliation with the Roman Catholic church, you may want to prayerfully consider a Christian community where you have a say in its stewardship. You are welcome in our community and in other churches--if only for a time--until we can all be reconciled.

Finally, I know that there are plenty of people who have given up on any sort of Christianity, in part because we have done such a bad job of stewardship. I confess: we fall far short of our ideal. We may not reach this ideal soon, but the church needs these prophetic voices of criticism to push us toward it. Would you consider working with us? Criticism is easy. Will you help us be faithful?

Stewardship is hard, but together, we can make best use of all that we've been given to love God and neighbor.
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Category: food

07/07/07 08:10 - 78ºF - ID#39993

Review: India gate lunch buffet

Service: Good

Food quality: Good enough. I didn't write down the proper names of the dishes, but there dishes with peas, chick-peas, and eggplant. There were also chicken dishes.

Food Variety (it is a buffet, after all): Not good enough. There weren't any cheese-based dishes, which I particularly love.

My wife just interrupted me to tell me that this review should be funny. "People won't read it if it isn't funny," she says.

"They will," I think to myself, "if they like to eat Indian food."

I like to eat Indian food.

So, based on this fact, I like India Gate.

I guess I am not a very professional restaurant reviewer. Basically, if I don't get sick, I like the place. India Gate not only didn't make me get sick, but I liked the food enough to get more and more food. Too much, in fact.

Dessert was rings of honey that had been solidified and fried. (They have a name, but I didn't take notes. Remember, my first mission was to eat. I can't hold a pencil in my left hand, and I sure wasn't going to take the fork out of my right!)

I depended on (e:Jenks) for the above description of the honey-things. I also saw that she ate them with rice-pudding. I like rice pudding as long as I think it is something else. Why don't they just call it pudding and keep us all happy? Everybody likes pudding. I pretended that I didn't see the label and ate the stuff mixed together. Very sweet, very rich, very good. (hmmm, fried honey, sweet and rich? Go figure)

Anyway, I like eating and I like reviewing, but I work for a church and I am not made of money. What's that? I am getting a word from above! Somebody out there needs healing. If you send money to me today, healing will come into your life.

Just kidding. I could've made a better appeal, but I really didn't want to go to far with blasphemy.

Coming up next will be my review of University Hots. It will also be a good review, because (as I mentioned before) I like to eat.

This is an opportunity for all of you who own restaurants. The only thing that I like more than food is free food. Give me free food and you will get a good review.

Again, I never said I was professional.
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Category: food

07/05/07 01:43 - 79ºF - ID#39926

Indian food?

The trip to the Indian Buffet referenced in my last post is going to happen. Any one else want to eat Indian food at noon tomorrow (Friday)?
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Category: food

07/04/07 11:54 - 64ºF - ID#39911

Brunch and Casinos

Last Sunday my wife and I decided to eat Brunch at the Elmwood Lounge. The appearance of the inside is just as smarmy as the outside. I quite like that, although they pushed it RIGHT to the edge of scary.

Six Dollars gets you coffee, a drink (oj, champagne, or a Bloody Mary) an entree, and a dessert. The price is right. Some places would charge $6 for just the drink.

Of course, the old adage, "you get what you pay for" still holds true. Some come expecting a buffet, because for us gluttons, "brunch" and "buffet" have become synonymous. Here's a refresher on definitions for your convenience.

Brunch (definition provided by Jacques on the Simpsons): "It's not quite breakfast, it's not quite lunch, but you get a nice slice of cantaloupe on the side." It's a meal where I can have fish and chips and my wife can have eggs Benedict, and we are still eating the same meal (which we did).

Buffet: Often prefaced by "Old Country," "Number One lucky Chinese," or "Best deal in town free with one hour of slot play," a buffet is the favorite restaurant for people who prefer variety or quantity over quality. It's also a popular training ground for competitive eaters and various food- born illnesses. It consists of many foods, which the diner selects and puts on a a tray. Sometimes a diner must pay by the pound, or limit his or her (ok, lets face it--his) seafood choices, but this defeats the purpose of the buffet. A buffet is not, by definitiion "all you can eat," but unless you like walking for your food, or food served warm, the "all you can eatiness" is really the best reason to go.

Ok. So I was hard on Buffets, but I can kid because I love. If anybody wants to try the Indian Lunch Buffet on Elmwood, I'm game.

Back to the review. Coffee was fine. Server put the coffee pot on the table, which was surprising, but really, nothing should be surprising at this place.

Wife's eggs looked fine. My fish was better than expected, but not great. It was served with coleslaw that was all white, and fermented (think cold sauerkraut). Is this a Buffalo thing? I like my coleslaw fresh and heavy on the mayo.

Dessert was tapioca pudding or jello. Both had good whipped cream on top, which made up for their serving lame desserts.

Overall: Three stars. I will return, but not with anybody I want to impress.

As for the casino: Next time somebody says that there is no money in Buffalo, I will refer them to the people standing four deep in line to put money into a vending machine that dispenses its product (the same money that was put into it) inconsistently, unfairly, and always in less quantities than it came in. Greed and/or desperation can really make us stupid.
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Category: sermons

07/02/07 04:30 - 70ºF - ID#39888

By Popular demand!

I haven't posted sermons in a while, but Mr. Deadlier asked, so here it is.

PS. I got away from my notes, so this is just an approximation of what I wanted to say. You gotta show up for the real deal!

Ooh, that reminds me: Two people visited us last Sunday. (Maybe a gay couple, but I'll feel bad if I assumed that and was wrong). Estrippers, by chance? If so, speak up, so I can justify posting from the office!

Luke 9:51-62

51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.

57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." 59To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 60But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 62Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

Can you imagine a business person with a great idea, that they are sure will make money, who has no collateral except for her house? Every business venture has risk, and she knows she could lose her house. But she believes in her idea, so she quits her current job and mortgages her house, putting all she has into her new product. If she succeeds, she will be wealthy. If she fails, she will not only be broke, she may have no place to live.

Can you imagine somebody loving an idea enough to risk their house?

How about this. A fire fighter gets a call to burning building. It's bad, which means two things.

1. Time is of the essence--every second he delays, the more likely it is that people will die.

2. There is a very good chance that he could lose his life in this fire.

He knows that he might die, but because time means everything in this moment, he cannot pause--he rushes out to fight the fire, not even taking time to say good-bye to his family.

Can you imagine somebody acting with such urgency that he cannot stop for his family?

What about Martin Luther King, Jr. Here's a Christian man, that knew that he was putting his own life at risk. But did you know that his house, where his wife and daughters were, had been bombed? His activities led to THEIR lives being threatened.

Martin Luther King had to not only consider risking his own life for his mission, but he also had to be honest about the possibility of losing his family.

Can you imagine somebody doing something so important that it risks the lives of the people they love the most?

So maybe we do understand this shocking gospel reading a little bit more.

In this reading, Jesus tells us that following him might lead to homelessness. Following Jesus might lead to cut ties with your family. Following Jesus might even mean no chance to say goodbye.

This is a high price.

However, as we've discovered, somethings are worth a high price.

Friends, the call to follow Christ is not any less than the call to invest in a great idea. Nor is it any less that the call to save lives, or to fight for justice.

In fact, the call to follow Christ IS a great idea. It saves lives, and it brings justice.

And so it requires radical commitment.

This is different than the standard message that churches usually give. What we usually here is something like this.

God wants you in church on Sunday morning for an hour, maybe two. And then he would like it if you did one more thing with the church, during the week. If you don't lie, cheat or steal and you give us four hours, and ten percent of your income, then you are a good person.

There's a value to that message. If each of us gave 10%, and spent four hours here, we would get a lot more done, and have plenty of money for God's mission. We would be an amazing church, at least by most standards.

But does Jesus say "Give me four hours and 10%?"


He asks for you lives. 24/7. 100%.

Which means that we don't give ourselves to our homes. Or our families. Every ounce of our energy is lived toward God. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. 100% of our income. 100% of our time. 100% of our energy. 100% of our thoughts.

I've spend a lot of time in youth ministry. Talk to youth ministers and do you know what they will tell you is the number one enemy of the church in the USA?

Soccer practice. Soccer practice, and band practice, and homework, and all of those other things that kids say when you ask them if they can go to church.

Can you imagine the soccer practice kid in this story of Jesus. Jesus says, "Come follow me." And the kid says, "I'll be right there, after soccer practice."

"Ok--I'll hold the reconciliation of humankind with the divine until after you are done with your practice."

Doesn't sound very likely, does it.

But soccer is good, right? School is good, right? family is good, right?

yes. at least most of the time. and being in church is good almost all of the time (although there's more to following God than showing up here, this is a good place to start!)

But none of those things are the best thing.

Following Jesus is the best thing.

And how do we follow Jesus?

We trust his Spirit, which is in us and among us.

So we can be loyal to Jesus over soccer, but guess what, Jesus might lead us to soccer, because soccer players need Jesus. Jesus most likely will lead us to care for our families, and to care for our homes. But Jesus comes first.

Which sounds harsh, putting Jesus absolutely first, but it really is freeing, because when we follow Jesus, the Spirit guides us.

And the Spirit guides us through the hard questions that we face.

Our radical loyalty to Christ is incredibly freeing, because it becomes a guide for all that we do. When we exercise, sleep, or eat, that is part of our mission, building up our bodies to follow Christ.

When we read, listen to music, or take in the sights and smells of the natural world, we are refreshing our spirits, so that we may follow Christ in this world.

When we make beautiful music, or paint paintings, or write stories, we are illustrating the way the world is, and how God is working in it, and thus following Christ in bringing others into God's mission in this world.

When you are guided by the spirit, School becomes the place where you live your mission. So does soccer practice, so does work. so does home, even vacation is your chance to become refreshed for God's mission!

We don't follow Jesus with the time we have left over. We follow Jesus all the time: to soccer practice, to work, to school, to our families.

And we do this because of the wonderful gift of Holy Spirit takes us there.

It's all consuming. Listen to these last words from Paul, using Eugene Peterson's translation:

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.

Which is why we are going to practice the spiritual discipline of eating today. Eating isn't just something we do. It defines who we are. If I eat nothing but donuts, I will look one way, if I eat fruit and vegetables, I will look another way.

When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we welcome Jesus to be a part of us. All of us. Just as this bread and juice travels into every last cell of our body, so do we, invite Christ to permeate our entire being. You know what we'd look like if we ate donuts. you know what we'd look like if we ate vegetables. Today, I invite you to imagine what we look like when we are nourished by Jesus Christ himself.
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