Archives For Podcasts

Theologian Kendall Soulen was our guest this week for Pub Theology.

Kendall is the author of The God of Israel and Christian Theology and The Divine Names(s) and the Holy Trinity. He teaches theology at Wesley Theological Seminary here in DC. Most importantly, he’s a Karl Barth fanboy too.

A special thank to Andreas Barrett who hosted this installment at his home with his exceptional home-brew.

Mark your calendars. Next installment is December 11 with Rabbi Brett Isserow: ‘Putting the מָשִׁיחַ Back in X’mas.’

Over 30 people came out to talk with Kendall. After beginning with a gloria toast to the Holy Trinity, I asked Kendall to answer the first question he asks his students on their midterm: Evaluate the following statement. Faith is personal; it doesn’t matter what you believe so long as you’re sincere.’

You can listen to it all here below or in the sidebar to the right. You can also download it in iTunes here.

If you’re receiving this by email, you’ll probably need to click over to the blog to listen.

IMG_5884-300x200This weekend is confirmation in my church. After a year long process of catechesis, about 40 youth will make good on their baptismal promises to follow Christ in the way that leads to both death and life.

Since it’s confirmation weekend, it seems an appropriate for a student themed podcast.

Teer sat down with Dugan Sherbondy, the author of Sow What?, a few weeks ago while at a middle school youth retreat. They discussed current trends in youth ministry as well as what might just be the next BIG thing (if you can actually guess that). Dugan is a youth pastor and speaker who lives in Phoenix, AZ by way of Illinois. He is passionate about helping students articulate their faith, as well as obscure dinosaur facts.

You can check out more about Dugan on his website, www.dugansherbondy.com

DuganSherbondy-SowWhat-CoverMockUp-300x300You can listen to the interview below.

You can also download it in iTunes or, better yet, download the free mobile app, which you can use to listen to old installments of the podcast and look for future ones.

 

brianzahndmainbookThis week on the podcast we’ve got Brian Zahnd, author and the founding pastor of Word of Life Church in Missouri.

About a decade ago, Brian had an epiphany/spiritual crisis that eventually led him away from his previously held evangelical, word-faith Christianity and into a rediscovery of the sacramental faith of the ancient Church.

The result, in my opinion, is that Brian preaches the most theologically robust sermons of any preacher in America, rooted in the faith and understanding of the ancient Church Fathers and Mothers.

Because his is a pre-Western vision of Christianity, I think it’s one perfectly-suited for the post-Christian West.

Like me, Brian is a huge fan of David Bentley Hart, Bob Dylan, the National.

Like me, he’s a literature and art snob and I even get him to confess it.

The author of Beauty Will Save the World and Unconditional- both of which I highly recommend- Brian’s upcoming book is A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace.  51t1N+J6DgL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Check it out.

Here’s the interview.

My underling left God’s work to go work for THE MAN so until I learn how to splice and dice you’ll have to listen sans the cute cue music.

You can also download it in iTunes or, better yet, download the free mobile app, which you can use to listen to old installments of the podcast and look for future ones.

Brian BlountThanks to logistical wizardy of Teer Hardy (Ryan to my Michael Scott) we’ve started to do a weekly podcast here at Tamed Cynic.

For this installment, we’ve got the President and Professor of New Testament at Union Seminary, Brian Blount.

Dr. Blount was my teacher when we were both at Princeton. His work has focused on the Kingdom of God, the Gospel of Mark and the Book of Revelation. His new book is Invasion of the Dead: Preaching Resurrection.

For this podcast we discuss resurrection, revelation, zombies and whether contemporary Christians should preach what Paul said or do what Paul did. 

Come back to check out future installments. We’ve got Stanley HauerwasBrian Zahnd and Robert Two Bulls in the queue.

You can listen to the interview here below in the ‘Listen’ widget on the sidebar.

You can also download it in iTunes here.

Better yet, download the free mobile app here.

UnknownWe’ve come out of the gate with gusto at the Tamed Cynic Podcast, being privileged to have conversations with some of the best voices and minds in the Church.

Will Willimon was our first guest on the Podcast and now he’s here for redux…

There’s a question 2/3 in about #’s that points out the curriculum I developed for 4th and 5th graders, Tribe Time, a virtue-based program that spends 2 years on the Book of Leviticus. You can find out more about it here

For those of you who don’t know Will Willimon, he was recognized by Baylor as one of America’s 12 Best Preachers. The Pew Foundation lists him as the 2nd most read author among Protestant clergy, selling over a million copies. Take that Beth Moore.

The former dean of Duke Chapel and former Bishop of North Alabama he currently teaches at Duke and pastors Duke Memorial United Methodist Church.

The very best of my preaching is just a shallow imitation of this master artist.

As a young seminary student, Willimon’s sarcastic, caustic demeanor freed me to be me in the pulpit.

You can find his blog and links to his books here.

Bishop Willimon was our guest preacher this past weekend and afterwards agreed to do a Q/A forum on Church Leadership.

0To listen to my previous interview with Bishop Willimon click here.

Be on the lookout for the next installments. We’ve got Brian Blount, Brian Zahnd, and Robert Two Bulls in the queue.

You can listen to this Willimon interview here below in the ‘Listen’ widget on the sidebar. You can also download it in iTunes here.

Better yet, download the free mobile app here.

cynical-mug1Thanks to logistical wizardy of Teer Hardy (Ryan to my Michael Scott) we’ve started to do a weekly podcast here at Tamed Cynic.

For this installment, we’ve got professor (North Park Seminary), author (Prodigal Christianity), church-planter and pastor (Life on the Vine).

As I mention in the video, David Fitch’s Prodigal Christianity reads like the practical, church field guide to Stanley Hauerwas’ and Will Willimon’s classic book, Resident Aliens. After leaving a successful career in business, Fitch returned to school, studied Hauerwas and now brings a biting Anabaptist edge to thinking about the mission of the Church in a post-Christian context.

Check out David Fitch’s blog (he ranked just ahead of me on Christian Piatt’s ‘Best’ List last year!).

Be on the lookout for the next installments of the podcast.

We’ve got Stanley Hauerwas, Brian Zahnd and Brian Blount in the queue.

You can listen to the Soulen interview here below in the ‘Listen’ widget on the sidebar.

You can also download it in iTunes here.

Better yet, download the free mobile app here.

mcknightScot McKnight needs no introduction to most Christians with an internet browser. His Jesus Creed blog at Patheos is one of the top-trafficed Christian blogs on the web.

Scot’s a professor at North Park Seminary in Chicago and over the years has become a friend and mentor. His book, the Death of Jesus, was ground-breaking in unpacking Jesus’ own self-understanding of his death in terms of the Passover.

His more recent book, The King Jesus Gospel, is a must-read for anyone for whom the season of Lent and Easter is important. In it, McKnight methodically shows how what we so often define as the Gospel (Jesus died for you) is not the Gospel as the New Testament defines it.

Be on the lookout for the next installments of the podcast.

We’ve got Stanley Hauerwas, Ched Myers and Brian Blount in the queue.

You can listen to the McKnight interview here below in the ‘Listen’ widget on the sidebar.

You can also download it in iTunes here.

Better yet, download the free mobile app here.

“…the meaning of life is connected, inextricably, to the meaning of death; mourning is a romance in reverse, and if you love, you grieve and there are no exceptions—only those who do it well and those who don’t.”

- The Undertaking LynchHat

For our third installment of the podcast, we’ve got a heavyweight of the literary world: Thomas Lynch.

Thomas Lynch is quite simply and without exaggeration one of the best damn writers in the English language. And, it turns out, he’s a delightful human being too.

A renowned poet, essayist, and fiction writer Lynch is something of an oddity in the book world for also being a full-time undertaker. Lynch is the inspiration behind the television series, Six Feet Under, as well as the subject of a PBS Frontline Documentary.

the_undertaking.largeI first encountered Lynch’s work at Princeton when I was assigned his book of essays, The Undertaking; Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. It’s elegantly written and achingly beautiful and was a finalist for the National Book Award. You should stop and buy it right now.

His poetry is likewise beautiful and frequently takes up the same themes of death and life and holiness.

His most recent book is co-authored with theologian Tom Long on grief and death.

Why Mr Lynch accepted my invitation for an interview I have no idea but I’m glad he did. He’s on my Mt Rushmore of writers so I make no attempt to hide my adoration. You’ll have to suffer through my fanboy conversation about Seamus Heaney’s poetry.

Near the end Thomas Lynch answers my theological twist on James Lipton’s 10 Questions, which will have to become a podcast tradition (least favorite theological word: ‘Shalt’). He closes out our conversation by sharing a new, unpublished poem.

thomas-lynch-480Oh, I almost forgot: I’m now on his Christmas Card list.

Be on the lookout for the next installments of the podcast.

We’ve got Stanley Hauerwas, Scot McKnight and Brian Blount in the queue.

You can listen to the Lynch interview here below or in the ‘Listen’ widget on the sidebar.

You can also download it in iTunes here or on the app here.

 

I’ve served notice on the guys at Homebrewed Christianity. Thanks to logistical wizardy of Teer Hardy (Ryan to my Michael Scott) we’ve started to do a weekly podcast here at Tamed Cynic.

We kicked things off last week with an interview with the peculiar prophet, Bishop Will Willimon. Check it out here if you missed it.

Today we’ve got a live Pub Theology interview I did with Dr Kendall Soulen at Forge Brew Works.  Kendall-Soulen

Kendall Soulen is one of the most significant theologians the United Methodist Church can claim as our own. You can find his books here. I highly recommend his book on the Trinity and think any pastor is irresponsible if they don’t own a copy of the God of Israel and Christian Theology.

After a bedroom voice intro by Teer Hardy, the Pub Interview lasts about 45 minutes with another 45 of Q/A from the crowd. Be sure to listen to Kendall answer the 10 Questions at the end, my theologically spin on James Lipton’s questions from the Actors Studio.

If you like what you hear, come out to future Pub Theology events.

Be on the lookout for the next installments of the podcast.

We’ve got Stanley HauerwasThomas Lynch and Brian Blount in the queue.

You can listen to the Soulen interview here below in the ‘Listen’ widget on the sidebar.

You can also download it in iTunes here.

Better yet, download the free mobile app here.

UnknownThe guys at Homebrewed Christianity better watch out. We’re going to start doing a weekly podcast here at Tamed Cynic.

To kick things off, we snagged Will Willimon.

Jesus must have a sense of humor, and I love the irony.

A year ago I got in trouble with my bishop for posting about farts on this blog.

Last week I found myself on the phone with Methodism’s most famous and important voice, Bishop Will Willmon, making jokes about sex and mas%$#$@#$%^ (‘it’s sex with someone I love).

All sprinkled with a generous helping of curse words.

We edited some- but not all- of it.

The rest is vintage Willimon: pithy, deeply theological and as arresting as a slap across the face.

Which, by the way, is how he describes Karl Barth’s effect on him.

For those of you who don’t know Will Willimon, he was recognized by Baylor as one of America’s 12 Best Preachers. The Pew Foundation lists him as the 2nd most read author among Protestant clergy, selling over a million copies. Take that Beth Moore.0

The former dean of Duke Chapel and former Bishop of North Alabama he currently teaches at Duke and pastors Duke Memorial United Methodist Church. The very best of my preaching is just a shallow imitation of this master artist.

As a young seminary student, Willimon’s sarcastic, caustic demeanor freed me to be me in the pulpit.

You can find his blog and links to his books here.

Bishop Willimon will be our guest preacher on Sunday, March 30 and will host a ‘Lunch with the Bishop’ Forum that same day.

Be on the lookout for the next installments. We’ve got Kendall Soulen, Stanley Hauerwas, Thomas Lynch and others in the queue.

You can listen to the Willimon interview here below in the ‘Listen’ widget on the sidebar. You can also download it in iTunes here.

Better yet, download the free mobile app here.

y_holy_eucharistIt’s Sabbath Day and more so than language or nationality or skin-color or songs or church structure, the one thing that binds Christians all over the world- excepting the scriptures- is the sacrament.

Bread and Wine.

Or Grape Juice.

Holy Communion. The Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Table. The Eucharist, Paul calls it, the great giving of thanks.

As much as the sacrament unites Christians it has divided them too. Con vs Trans Substantiation. Is it a grim memorial of a last supper or a joyful foretaste of a feast to come when the Kingdom does?

The word sacrament has the ring of exclusive specificity to it. It’s just a fancy word for ‘mystery.’

I think it best if all the old arguments stop there.

Here’s an old sermon (3 years now) on the Eucharist. You can listen to it in iTunes too or download the free Mobile App and listen there.

 

The Gospel in Glasses

Jason Micheli —  February 12, 2014 — 1 Comment

Jason PouringHere’s my sermon for Valentine’s Day based on Genesis 29:

Alright, so men, just so we’re looking out for each other: Valentine’s Day is in 5 days.  The last thing you want to do as a guy is forget Valentine’s Day or give the kind of gift on Valentine’s Day that implies you forgot about Valentine’s Day until the very last minute.

 

I mean, I’ve never done that, but I’ve got a friend who has and he tells me you don’t want to forget Valentine’s or give the kind of gift that says ‘Geez, I almost forgot about you.’

 

Valentine’s Day is crazy.

 

Did you know this year Americans will spend approximately 17.6 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day? It’s true.

 

And the average American will spend $126.03 on their special someone- an amount that makes me look ‘thrifty.’

 

Five days from today Americans will give 224 million roses to each other. They’ll spend 1.6 million dollars on candy, 4.4 million dollars on diamonds and the average American will spend $4.52 on a Valentine’s present for their dog.

 

And I haven’t even mentioned the Valentine’s Cards, which in 5 days will number about 145 million units- 145 million boxes of cards.

 

Hallmark alone will sell nearly 1500 varieties of cards.

 

And some will come with hearts and others with flowers. Some will be sappy and others will try to be funny.

 

And the kids cards will come laced with sugar and preservatives.

 

And all 1500 of those cards will look slightly different but behind every one they all have the same basic message.

The same basic message that the Beatles first gave us:

 

That love is all you need.     Love is all you need.

 

Now I know some of you are excited about Valentine’s Day and the last thing I’d ever want to do is burst someone’s bubble, but you know that’s a lie right?

 

It’s a nice sentiment for a pop song or a rom-com, but as biblical truth it’s what theologians call ‘complete crap.’

 

Far be it from me to be cynical, but the message that love is all you need is a lie. It’s not true.

 

Love, whether we’re talking about your love for your spouse or your love for your children or their love for you, is NOT all you need.

 

The money we spend on Valentine’s Day just reflects a culture that tells us love is what gives our lives meaning and value. We live in a culture that tells us you’re nobody ‘til somebody loves you; consequently, some of us will let any body love us.

We live in a culture that tells us if we just find the perfect person- or have the perfect child- then everything else that’s empty in our lives will be filled.

 

Love is all we need to live happily ever after.

Those are all lies.

You can call me cranky if you like, but you know I’m right.

Anyone who’s ever been married or had children knows love isn’t all you need.

 

On your wedding day you say with a twinkle in your eye: ‘Of all the people in the world, I choose you.’

 

But after the day you say ‘I do’ there are other days when you just want to pull your hair out and scream: ‘Of all the people in the world, I chose you?!’

 

Just ask my wife.

 

So, no. Love is not all you need to live happily ever after.

It wasn’t enough to keep the Beatles together.

It wasn’t enough to rescue some of your relationships.

And it wasn’t enough to keep Jacob’s life from unraveling and damaging everyone in it.

Speaking of Jacob, just as an aside, you need to appreciate the degree of difficulty I’m dealing with today.

 

A few of you may already know that I have a certain affinity for those silly, crude and even offensive parts of the Bible. So you should know that today’s scripture passage contains the Hebrew equivalent of the F-word, as when Jacob says to Laban: ‘I want to ___________ your daughter.’

In Hebrew, Rachel is described as having a ‘hot body’ while her older sister, Leah, whose name means ‘cow’ in Hebrew, is said to have ‘nice eyes,’ which is a Jewish colloquialism for ‘she has a nice personality.’

And then, to top it off, Jacob, the hero for whom the People of Israel are named, gets completely wasted and hooks up with the wrong sister.

Can you even begin to appreciate how difficult it is for me not run wild with this story and offend everyone in the process? It was all I could do not to title my sermon ‘Beer Goggles.’

 

As tempting as the silly parts of this story might be for me on other days, today I want to take the story straight up. I want to be serious.

 

Because once you push aside the preposterous Jerry Springer parts of the story, this story is more common and more relevant for our community than you could possibly guess.

 

By my conservative estimate, I’ve done about 1500 hours of counseling with couples during my ministry: couples jumping into marriage, couples struggling through their marriage, couples jumping into parenthood in order to fix what’s broken in their marriage, couples getting out of their marriage- after a long time or not long at all.

 

Confidentiality means I can’t tell you who those couples are. I can’t point to them or tell you if you’re sitting next to one of them, though some of you are.

But that doesn’t matter because I can tell you: when those couples come to my office, there’s a better than even chance their names are Jacob and Leah.

So, I think it’s important you know their story.

 

[Pull out two glasses. ‘Leah’ is half empty and ‘Jacob’ is full] 

 

Jacob and Leah’s story- it has everything to do with the stories they brought with them to their marriage. It almost always does.

The story starts with Jacob.

Jacob has an older brother.

Jacob’s Dad always preferred his brother to him. [Pour out some water from his glass, letting it drip everywhere]

 

When you get past all the drama and bad decisions in Jacob’s life, that’s what it boils down to.

 

His Dad always insisted ‘I love you both the same.’

But even when you’re a child, you know better. You notice. You notice if your parent’s are really listening, really paying attention to you, really enjoying you.

 

So Jacob grows up in his brother’s shadow, and the anger and hurt Jacob feels because of his Father gets expressed as resentment towards his brother. [Pour out some water from his glass, letting it drip everywhere]

 

And Jacob’s Mom, she deals with it the way all abusive families cope. She tries to compensate for what her husband won’t do. She turns a blind eye. She pretends the problem doesn’t exist. [Pour out some water from his glass, letting it drip everywhere]

 

But that never works.

 

Eventually it comes to a head. It always comes to a head.

 

So when Jacob is older, he hurts his brother- in a way that can’t be taken back. And, if he’s honest, he does it to spite his Father.

 

In just one self-destructive moment: his brother hates him, his relationship with his Father is ruined forever, and his Mother is forced to take sides. She doesn’t choose his. [Pour out some water from his glass, letting it drip everywhere]

Jacob’s never had his Father’s love. He’s lost his Mother and brother’s love. He has no sense of God’s love.

 

He has no one in his life. He has no direction to his life. He has no meaning for his life.

 

He leaves home, completely empty inside. [EMPTY his glass]

 

The next part of Jacob’s story starts at a well.

 

But it just as easily could’ve taken place at a college or a club. In an office or at a party. Or over the computer.

He meets a woman. [Leah’s CUP]

 

He takes one look at her and he convinces himself:

She can fix what’s broken in my life.

She can give me what I’m missing.

She can fill the emptiness inside me, he says. And he calls that love.

He’s like an addict, using the idea of this person to escape the pain in his own life, which makes him vulnerable to being taken advantage of.

 

Maybe he doesn’t realize it, but Jacob’s not looking for a soulmate.

He’s looking for a salve. Or a savior.

 

Jacob marries this woman, hoping she can fill what’s missing in him.

 

His need keeps him from seeing who she really is. He doesn’t see that she has an emptiness insider her too. [hold up her glass] and that she can’t possibly fill what’s empty in his life. 

 

[pour her water into his so that he’s only half-filled].

 

So after they get married, he finds that emptiness is still there inside him.

 

And that brings conflict. It’s not long before he’s shouting at her:

‘You’re not the person I thought you were.’ [Pour out some water from his glass, letting it drip everywhere]

 

‘You’re not the person I married.’ [Pour out some water from his glass, letting it drip everywhere]

 

‘Why can’t you be more like this….’ [Pour out some water from his glass, letting it drip everywhere]

 

Eventually he stops speaking to her much at all. [Pour out some water from his glass, letting it drip everywhere]

 

Until finally Jacob’s married with children and discovers he’s even emptier on the inside than he was before and he’s long way from happily ever after. [EMPTY his glass]

Then there’s Leah’s story. [FILL her glass]

 

On the one hand, she’s the causality of Jacob’s need, but on the other hand, she does to him exactly what he did to her.

 

Leah grew up in the shadow of her little sister.

 

Her sister was a knockout, always the center of attention. [Pour out some water from her glass, letting it drip everywhere]

 

Compared to her, Leah was unlovely. [Pour out some water from her glass, letting it drip everywhere]

 

Or at least that’s how Leah saw herself; such that, she didn’t believe anyone would ever love her because she didn’t believe she was worth loving. [Pour out some water from her glass, letting it drip everywhere]

 

 

And one day she meets a man, whose heart has an emptiness every bit as big as her own.

She meets him at a well, but they could’ve met anywhere.

 

Even though she knows he doesn’t really know her, doesn’t really see her for who she is, she marries him.

 

She marries him because she thinks he’s the only one who will ever marry her.

 

So she pins her hopes for happiness on this man, only to find one day that her emptiness is still there.

 

And that he can’t fill what’s missing in her life. [pour his empty glass into hers]

 

It’s not long before the marriage starts to suffer and strain from the emptiness both of them bring to it. [empty her glass completely]

 

So what’s Leah do?

 

She thinks children are the solution.

 

She thinks kids will fix her marriage and win her husband’s love.

So she has a little boy.

She names him Reuben, and she says to herself: ‘Surely, my husband will love now.’ [POUR water into a shot glass]

But no, it doesn’t work that way. Never does. Though you’d be surprised how many think it will.

 

She tries again. She has another little boy. She names him Simeon.

And this time she says to herself, ‘Surely my husband will pay attention to me now, will listen to me.’ [POUR water into a shot glass]

 

But with each child she’s pushed further into unhappiness.

 

She has another boy. She names him Levi. And she says to herself: ‘With three kids, now my husband will become attached to me.’ [POUR water into a shot glass]

 

But kids can never fix what was broken before they were born.

 

Three kids later, Leah finds herself still empty on the inside.

 

 

It’s not in the story today, but I can tell you how the rest of it goes because I’ve heard it too many times.

 

Leah turns to her children to bring her the happiness her husband hasn’t, to fill what’s missing in her life, to give her life meaning and purpose.

 

But no child is big enough to fill what’s missing in their parent’s life. [EMPTY the shot glasses into Leah’s glass, should only fill her 1/4 of the way

]

And no kid should have to bear such a burden. They’ll only get crushed underneath your expectations.

Because if you look to your children for validation, to fill an emptiness inside you, you’ll need them to be perfect.

 

And when they’re not-because no child is- there will be conflict. [EMPTY Leah’s glass completely]

 

And it’s not long before everyone is left feeling empty inside.

 

And a long way from happily ever after.

Love is NOT all you need.

 

 

Psychologists call this a lack of differentiation, a lack of the ability to be a complete, fulfilled individual within the context of a relationship.

 

But Christians-

 

Christians call this idolatry: Looking to others to give you what only God can give.

Let’s not beat around the bush. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how long you’ve been married or whether your kids are young or grown.

 

For a lot of us, this is the primary way we break the first commandment.

For a lot of us, this is the primary way we break the commandment: You shall have no other gods but God.

 

Scripture says God is love; it doesn’t say love is god.

 

You can’t replace God with your spouse or your partner.

And you can’t replace God with your child.

 

No spouse or friend should have to love you that much and no kid can.

Until you realize that, you’ll always be frustrated with your kids and you’ll never stop complaining that you thought you were marrying Rachel only to discover you’re living with Leah.

 

For some of us, our relationship or our children play too big a role in our lives precisely because God plays too small a role.

 

I mean, we forget that the first vows a bride and groom make aren’t to each other but to God.

 

If we make too much of our marriage, or of our relationship, or of our children, we make too little of God. And when we put too much pressure on our marriage and children, we depend too little on God.

 

I’m not saying you should love your spouse or your kids less. I’m saying you should love God more. Because the bitter irony is that when we make too little of God in our relationships, we cut ourselves off from the source of Love.

 

Trust me, this is just on-the-job knowledge: focusing too much on your marriage or your relationship or your children is the best way to undermine them.

 

I mean, some people need Jesus Christ to come in to their hearts not so they can go to heaven when they die but so their relationships here and now will stop being a living hell.

 

Because you can only be generous with what you’ve got in the bank to give. If your only source of meaning and love and purpose and happiness and validation and affirmation and worth is another person, then you can never really love them.

 

The only way to say ‘I do’ and keep on saying ‘I do’ day after day is to first be able to say: ‘I’m a sinner saved by the grace of Jesus Christ.’

 

When God has the proper, primary place in your life-

Your friend can let you down, and sure it upsets you but it doesn’t undo you.

Because you know God will never let you down.

 

When God has the proper, primary place in your life-

Your spouse can speak the ugliest truths about you, and you don’t have to run away.

 

Because that (the cross) has already spoken the deepest, darkest truth about who you really are and from that God said: ‘I forgive you because you have no idea what you’re doing.’

 

When God has the proper, primary place in your life-

You can have patience with- and even forgive- the flaws and sins in someone else.

Because you know God has been gracious to you.

When God has the proper, primary place in your life-

Your spouse or your friend can take you for granted, and yes it will disappoint you, but it won’t demolish your self-image.

Because you know to God you are infinitely precious and worth dying for.

 

 

     [Pull out another glass and baptismal pitcher.]

 

There’s another story.

 

Jesus was on his way to Galilee, and along the way he stopped in Samaria.

 

At a well.

 

Jacob’s Well.

 

Jesus meets a woman there. She’s carrying an empty bucket.

 

But it’s the emptiness insider her that Jesus notices. The emptiness has carried her from man to man to man to man to man…

 

And Jesus says to her: [Pour water into glass, let it fill up and then overflow out on to the floor until pitcher is empty.]

 

I am Living Water.

 

What I can give you is a spring of water that never stops gushing, never stops flowing, never dries up.

 

I can fill you, Jesus says.

With love. With meaning. With purpose. With value and healing and worth and validation.

 

I can fill you, Jesus says.

So that you can give love, not need it.

 

And she left that day, gushing to everyone about what Jesus had done for her.

 

She learned that day what the Beatles never did and what Hallmark still hasn’t:

 

The only way to live happily ever after is to first be happy with who you are in Jesus Christ.

 

lightstock_1219_max_user_2741517-e1382974207582We just kicked off a new sermon series ‘Revolution of the Heart’ wherein we’ll unpack the story behind our funny church name ‘Aldersgate’ as well as to explore what Jesus means when he invites us to ‘repent.’

The word repent in Greek, metanoia, literally means ‘turn around.’

A revolution.

Jesus’ Kingdom is about a revolution of the heart.

Here’s an old sermon on how what we mean by Trinity and Incarnation has very practical, every day consequences for how we’re called to live. You can also listen to on the side widget, on the mobile app or in iTunes under ‘Tamed Cynic.’

Let No One Tear Asunder

Jason Micheli —  February 3, 2014 — 14 Comments

1391011150566.cachedThis weekend I concluded our marriage sermon series by reflecting on how the issue of marriage, in particular homosexuality, threatens to split the United Methodist Church.

In it, I tried to survey the four broad perspectives that exist within the larger Church and within my own congregation, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each view. Ephesians 2.13-22 was my text.

Here’s the audio. You can also download it in iTunes or, better yet, download the free mobile app.

 

Marriage: Someone Better

Jason Micheli —  January 21, 2014 — 2 Comments

lightstock_78926_xsmall_user_2741517Here’s the weekend’s sermon from our series on marriage and relationships. The text is 2 Corinthians 3.12-18. To illustrate Paul’s point about us being transformed from degree of glory to the next, I brought in my rock tumbler.

You can also download the sermon in iTunes here under ‘Tamed Cynic.’

Better yet, download the free Tamed Cynic mobile app here.

 

And here’s the text: 

Since this is a sermon series on marriage, let’s just cut to the chase, shall we?

Here’s my advice for a happy, healthy marriage. As Dennis likes to say: Are you ready?

Here it is:

     Always.

Always.

Always put the cap back on the toothpaste. Or have separate sinks.

Oh, and if you’re ever watching The Office on Netflix and she turns to you and asks: ‘Am I your Pam?’

Say yes.

I offer it to you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Just kidding.

Ali and I- we have a great marriage. And I think we have a great marriage because we discovered early on what was the source of conflict in our relationship. We discovered early on what is the problem in the relationship that makes us fight.

It’s…me.

I remember our very first fight after we got married. I wanted to go out with the guys like I’d always done before, and Ali wanted me to stay behind with her and cut the cake and toss the bouquet.

Ali and I recently celebrated our anniversary.

We’ve been married 11 or 12 years. We celebrated our anniversary with flowers and a romantic dinner. During the dinner I looked at her in the candlelight and I said with my best Richard Gere squint: ‘Of all the people in the world, I chose you.’

And Ali looked back at me through the candlelight and she said: ‘Of all the people in the world, I chose you?’

Ali and I have been married a dozen or so years, but we actually met and started dating 20 years ago. It was love at first sight. The first time she looked at me through my binoculars I was goner.

Actually, Ali and I first met at swim team practice. I’d like to think it was my Baywatch body and snug Speedo that first made her smitten, but if tight-fitting, inappropriate athletic clothing made people fall in love with me, then I would have a congregation full of secret admirers.

 

For our first date, Ali and I went to see Jurassic Park, a movie in which a woman and 2 children are captive to 1 juvenile man’s narcissistic, irresponsible behavior.

Back then, Ali described the movie as frightening.

Today, she describes it as foreshadowing.

20 years. That’s crazy, right?

Ali and I dated for 8 years.

8 years! Which I think demonstrates that I was really good at commitment.

Ali, on the other hand (not to mention every other woman I’ve ever asked) thinks it demonstrates that I was really good at avoiding commitment.

8 years! That’s a lot of movies and dinners out. And you know, it’s funny. It just shows the difference between courtship and marriage. In all those 8 years of popcorn at the movies and dinners out, I can’t recall Ali ever once noticing that I smack my food when I eat.

Now that we’re married…different story.

8 years- that’s a lot of jewelry too. Every birthday, Valentine’s Day and anniversary.

I think it says a lot about marriage that for Ali’s birthday this past week I got her not diamonds or gold but a lithium-ion cordless driver-drill. That’s what she asked for.

It wasn’t even wrapped in a negligee. Because she asked for that too.

I think a lot of you know I grew up in a broken home; I didn’t grow up knowing what a healthy marriage looked like.

Ali though grew up in a great family. A healthy family. A Leave It to Beaver family. The kind of family of which I never imagined I’d one day be a part.

Most husbands complain about their in-laws but my in-laws are different. Mine even let me call them ‘Mr and Mrs Keller.’

You might not know that Ali grew up Catholic.

And Ali likes to say that because she grew up Catholic, she thinks of our marriage as a sacrament.

Specifically, the Sacrament of Penance.

She says that surely a lifetime with me will be enough to get even the worst of her dead relatives out of hell.

A life of hell for some lives in hell, she likes to say.

 

Even though she grew up Catholic, it was Ali who first encouraged me to become a Methodist pastor, and back then I thought that was a tremendous gesture of support. Of course, at the time Ali assumed that pastors like priests had to take vows of celibacy.

So I’m not exactly sure what she was encouraging.

 

    Anyway, as you know, Ali and I have 2 children. Kids certainly change things.

    I like to say marriage is different now that we’ve got 2 little boys in the house.

    Ali likes to say marriage is different now that she’s got 3 little boys in the house.

 

And I suppose that’s fair.

I’m sure Ali never imagined that the shy, sophisticated, Ivy League, French-film watching gentleman to whom she once said ‘I do’ would one day be teaching her boys to burp the starting lineup for the Nationals or that he would one day be ranking her boys’ farts by both sound and scent or that he would prove genetically incapable of putting the toilet seat down.

But if she never imagined it back then, nothing surprises her now.

When St Nicholas brought the boys a telescope for Christmas, Ali knew that quickly the Ur-anus jokes in our cul-de-sac would outnumber the stars in the sky.

And when we gave Gabriel a microscope for his 8th birthday, surely she anticipated that soon, heeding the siren call of science, we would be sticking snotty boogers on slides.

Still, every now and then, whether it’s my potty humor or the sheer amount of time I spend on the potty, I can spy the question dart across Ali’s face.

Just as I’m sure every now and then, for reasons silly and significant, she sees the question dart across my face:

 Are you the same person I married?

 

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Are you the same person I married?

     And as every married person knows, that question always has 3 correct answers.

The first correct answer is: No, I’m not the same person you married because marriage changes a person.

But at the same time, the correct answer can always also be: Yes, I’m the same person you married; you just didn’t know fully who you were marrying.

And of course the third correct answer, maybe the best answer, the hard Gospel-truth answer is: I don’t know. You tell me. Because now that we’re married, you know the person I am better than I know myself.

 

I’ve been a pastor for 13 years. I’ve taken hours and hours of counseling classes. I’ve worked with I don’t know how many couples. I’ve got shelves of books on marriage in my office, but it’s in my own relationship that I learned the fundamental rule of marriage.

I call it Jason’s Rule. It’s my take on Hauerwas’ Rule

Jason’s Rule goes like this:

You never really know the person you’re marrying until after you’ve been married to the person you’re marrying. 

Whether you have a terrific relationship or a terrible one, Jason’s Rule always holds true.

I don’t care if you’ve already lived with the person you’re marrying or if you’ve filled out a hundred e-Harmony compatibility questions, Jason’s Rule always prove true.

You never really know the person you’re marrying until after you’ve been married to the person you’re marrying.

And if that sounds scary, just consider that Jason’s Rule has an even more frightening corollary:

You are never as fully known as you are known by the person to whom you’re married. 

You are never as fully known as you are known by the person to whom you’re married.

     Marriage isn’t just a process in which you discover who the stranger is that you’ve married.

Marriage is a process in which you discover who the stranger is that you call ‘you.’

To borrow St. Paul’s metaphor, marriage unveils the ‘you’ you really are.

That’s what makes marriage such a beautiful leap of faith, but that’s also what makes marriage such a rough and tumble process.

It’s why even the best marriages aren’t easy or painless.

 

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(pull out the rock tumbler and his/her buckets of rocks)

Because when you’re in love, all you can see are the person’s good attributes.

You think she’s a gem. A flawless gem.

She’s beautiful and affectionate and fun and trustworthy.

 

You think he’s perfect. Perfect for you. A jewel with only minor imperfections.

He’s handsome and compassionate and tender and can make you laugh.

 

When you’re in love, not only do you see only the person’s good attributes, you develop expectations about marriage based on those attributes.

 

You think he’s thoughtful, always remembers to open the car door for you, so you expect that when you’re married he’ll always remember that your drink at Starbucks is a tall, skinny, sugar-free, decaf, soy, vanilla latte, extra hot, no whip- and if he doesn’t remember he must be sending you a message.

 

Or you think he’s brilliant. So you develop an expectation that he’ll never have a problem remembering that the proper way to fold a bath towel is first in half, lengthwise, and then in to thirds, from the sides.

 

Or you think she’s sensitive and empathetic so you develop an expectation that when you communicate like this (long, sullen cavemen silence), she will understand perfectly that what you meant was:

‘Honey, your critical comments about the messy house make me feel unappreciated for making you handmade pasta for dinner.’

 

Or, let’s say, you think she’s beautiful and affectionate and so you develop an expectation for what she won’t wear to bed. And you think he’s understanding and a flannel pi’s are so comfortable so of course he’ll understand why you’re wearing those to bed now that you’re married.

(I got that example from a friend)

When we’re in love, all we see are a person’s good attributes and then we develop expectations about marriage based on those attributes.

Here’s the other thing:

When we’re in love, before we’re married, not only do we have an incomplete understanding of the other person.

We have an incomplete understanding of our self.

We bring in to marriage a self-image that’s been formed by the judgments and praise of people who don’t know us as well our spouse eventually will know us.

Consequently, as we live our lives with someone else, we discover that we’re not the same person we thought we were.

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So what happens?

What happens when you take 2 love-blind, self-blind people and put them inside a marriage?

Because in a marriage, there’s not a lot of room to hide. You’re exposed.

All the veils are pulled away.

It’s not that there’s no secrets in marriage.

It’s that there aren’t as many secrets as we would like.

In marriage, the two of you are brought into close, inescapable, day after day contact.

And now, the other’s flaws and imperfections, which seemed small or insignificant before, now that you’re inside a marriage- they appear larger and are always right there in front of you.

Where before you fell in love with an outgoing person, now that you’re inside a marriage you can see how his outgoing personality stems from how emotionally needy he is.

Where before you only saw how carefree she is and you loved it, now that you’re inside a marriage you see that she’s not just carefree she’s unreliable.

Where before you loved how confident he is, now that you’re inside a marriage you realize that confidence is actually arrogance and makes him dismissive to you.

Maybe you fell in love with the way he showed patience and respect to everyone, but now that you’re in a marriage you notice how you’re the only person he’s not patient with.

Maybe you fell in love with how much he enjoyed children, but now that you’re inside a marriage you realize he expects you to raise them just as his mother did.

You see, it’s Jason’s (foolproof) Rule:

You never really know the person you’re marrying until after you’ve been married to the person you’re marrying.

And don’t forget the corollary to Jason’s Rule:

You are never as fully known as you are known by the person to whom you’re married.

So once you’re inside a marriage, it’s not just the other person’s flaws and imperfections that are revealed. It’s your own.

Maybe, before, other people in your life had pointed out your shortcomings.

But it’s different with your spouse.

Because when you’re inside a marriage, your flaws and shortcomings are on display day after day.

And it’s different with your spouse because your flaws and shortcomings hurt them more than anyone else and, as a result, directly or passively, they’re going to point them out to you.

So whenever you put 2 love-blind, self-blind people into a confined space like a marriage, it’s not long before their rough edges start to rub against each other and knock into each other and cause friction and stress.

And even in the best of marriages, it’s not long before you’re wondering:

Are you the same person I married?

But notice, it’s not your spouse who’s unveiling your flaws and imperfections.

It’s marriage.

 

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I know this will come as a shock: I was a nerd as a kid.

One of the things I did as a boy was polish rocks into gems.

And so I can tell you that if you just put 2 sets of rocks into this tumbler and nothing else, 1 of 2 things will happen.

     The first possibility?

They’ll just bounce past each other, over and over, like strangers, without ever effecting each other.

You could leave this on for a lifetime and at the end all the rough edges will still remain, nothing about them will have changed.

They could spend a lifetime occupying the same space, but you’d never guess they’d done so because they’re still the same as they were before.

They’ve never done more than just slide past each other.

 

That’s one possibility if you put 2 sets of rocks in to a tumbler and nothing else.

     The other possibility?

They’ll just immediately start knocking into each other.

Their rough edges will rub against each other, chip away at each other.

Quickly, it will get noisy inside there.

Heat will gradually build up from the stress and the friction.

And if you try to add a few other rocks to the mix to save the situation, it won’t work.

 

Eventually, who knows when, they’ll break each other apart along with the rocks that came along later.

 

Tumbling requires this special grit compound.

It’s the essential ingredient. It’s what allows them to knock around inside there; so that, they smooth and polish and perfect each other instead of destroy each other.

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You can’t put 2 people and nothing else inside a marriage anymore than you can put 2 sets of rocks and nothing else inside a tumbler.

You can’t put 2 love-blind, self-blind people and nothing else inside a marriage and expect them to ever do anything but bounce past each other for a lifetime or destroy each other.

Something else is required.

Grace.

When we speak of God, the word ‘grace’ refers both to God’s unconditional love towards us, and the straight, ugly truth about us.

You can think of St Paul: ‘While we were yet sinners because God loved us Christ died for us.’

Just as when speak of our relationship with God, the word grace refers both to love and truth, when we speak of our relationships with each other, the word grace also refers to love and truth.

Grace is an important ingredient for any relationship, but it’s essential inside a marriage.

     Grace is about clarity and charity.

     Grace is the ability to tell the truth about your spouse to your spouse in love.

Grace is the ability to tell the truth about your spouse not to your coworker, not to your best friend, not to your counselor, not to someone in your small group, not to your mother.

Grace is the ability to tell the truth about your spouse to your spouse in love.

Grace is the ability to tell the truth about your spouse to your spouse not in spite, not to settle a score, not to get back at them for something they said 9 days ago- and, by the way, isn’t it interesting you’ve been counting.

Grace is the ability to tell the truth about your spouse to your spouse in love.

     Which implies you’ve already forgiven them in your heart before you ever speak the truth from your lips.

    And, perhaps more importantly, grace is the ability to hear the truth about yourself from your spouse and trust their love.

Grace is the ability to hear the truth about yourself from your spouse and not get defensive, not retaliate, not explain yourself.

Grace is the ability to hear the truth about yourself from your spouse and trust their love.

It’s is an important ingredient for any relationship, but grace is the essential ingredient inside a marriage.

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For instance,

I can be self-centered.

And selfish.

And egocentric.

I know that will come as a surprise to all of you who assumed I’m an easy person to be married to.

It did to me.

I didn’t know.

Until Ali told me.

It was a few years ago.

She told me not in anger- okay, a little bit of anger. But not in spite or malice. Not in the moment of a disagreement or when I had my defenses up.

She told me after she’d already forgiven me.

She told me, she said, because she loved me.

She told me what she saw. The flaw in me.

And how it effected her. And us. And the family.

And how it effected me, from being who I could be.

 

And I tried to hear her. And not get defensive. Not get angry.

And not joke it away, which, you’ve might’ve guessed, is another flaw I have.

Sometimes marriage shows you a really unflattering reflection of yourself and you’re tempted not to look at it or take it seriously.

But I did.

And I said I’m sorry.

And then I said thank you.

And she just looked at me as if it were the most obvious thing in the world and said: ‘That’s my job.’

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That’s just it- it is.

Her job.

     Grace- truth with love- it is her job.

And it’s mine. And it’s yours. It’s part of our baptism.

St Paul says that each of us is being transformed.

We’re moving, Paul says, from one degree of glory to the next and from there to the next degree of glory.

We’re being ‘unveiled’ of all our sin and pretenses until we meet God face-to-face.

The way John Wesley puts that: Each of us is a sinner by grace moving on to perfection.

The way Jason puts it: We’re each of us rough-edged rocks, with flaws and imperfections, being polished into the gems God always intended us to be.

St Paul says that each of us is being transformed.

Moving from one degree of glory to the next.

And St Paul says that happens through grace.

Truth with love. Love with truth.

     Truth without love isn’t grace.

Telling your spouse the truth you see about them without love- that’s not the essential ingredient. It will just add to the friction.

 

And love without truth isn’t grace.

Loving your spouse without ever telling them the flaws you see in them- that’s not the essential ingredient either. It just leaves everyone as rough and flawed and unperfected as they were at the start.

      And perfection- turning rocks into gems, moving from one degree of glory to next- is the whole point of life.

     And it’s the purpose of marriage.

     Perfection of the other, turning rocks into gems, moving the other from one degree to the next degree of glory and them moving you- that’s the purpose of marriage.

That’s why what can be scary question at the beginning of a marriage: Are you the same person I married?

Is the the very best thing a husband and wife can ever say to each other at the end:

‘I’m not the person you married. Thank you.’

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* A few of the above jokes were taken from here. For further reading, I highly recommend Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage