Fifty-two years ago today, November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in his motorcade in Dallas. The Cold War was at its most tense; it was one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Many people feared the assassination was part of a larger attack on the United States by the Soviet Union. During the first hour or so after the president was shot, the facts of what actually happened were not clear. There was uncertainty about the fate of Vice President Johnson, who was riding just two cars behind Kennedy. The assassination created the most overwhelming sense of dread among the American people since the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. People out for a typical day of shopping gathered around television sets and radios and wept openly with complete strangers. In some places, traffic came to a halt as people stopped their cars to listen to the radio. As it was Friday, schools dismissed students early. Eventually the grief of people turned to anger, as it often does. Some people turned their anger toward Texas and Texans. Two days later on Sunday, the Cleveland Browns hosted the Dallas Cowboys; people in the stadium held up signs decrying the city of Dallas as having “killed the president.” [Read more…]
I was in eighth grade when I first learned about the major types of narrative conflict. We were reading Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, and I remember how frustrated I became when there were different opinions about what was the main type of narrative conflict in the novel. Was it man against man? Man against society? Man against nature? Or man against self? Of course, back then in 1981, we still used the word “man” to refer to human persons in general. [Read more…]
Recently I read a report from United Methodist Communications titled, “What Does It Mean to Be United Methodist?” This report summarizes the results of a survey conducted of 1250 United Methodists, including 400 lay members, 350 lay church leaders (i.e. past or present committee members), and 500 pastors. The respondents were asked in the spring and summer of 2014 to rate 22 values on a scale of 1 to 5, “not important” to “very important to you.” Not surprisingly, there are diverse opinions about what is important to us as individual United Methodists and there is no substantial agreement about core values. However, there are two values that consistently ranked near the top levels of importance across the spectrum of respondents: “Emphasis on God’s grace” and “Open table – Communion open to all.” That should not be surprising to us. If there are any values that distinguish United Methodists or Methodists in general from other Christian groups, it would be these two values. [Read more…]
(This sermon was titled “Dependence to Service” and coincided with Plainfield’s Big Serve:Change the World, a community-wide effort to serve through numerous projects. The scriptures were Isaiah 5:1-7 and John 15:1-8.)
The last time the lower 48 states experienced a total solar eclipse was February 26 of 1979. The path of totality, as it is called, crossed the Pacific northwest that Monday afternoon and then had its maximum totality in western Ontario at about five o’clock. A solar eclipse can be experienced within thousands of kilometers of the path of totality. I have fond memories of the ’79 eclipse. I was in fifth grade and remember how our classroom teacher, Miss Kappel, on whom I had a huge crush, prepared us for the experience by making pinhole projectors. The school also set up a telescope to project the image of the moon crossing the sun. I was utterly fascinated. Ever since then I have wanted to experience “totality.” [Read more…]
If you’re not currently looking for Jesus Christ, then you should know that he is looking for you … Easter Sunday is not a day to memorialize Jesus or even to simply proclaim the fact of his resurrection.
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.” This is how the Easter story starts in the Gospel of John. Remember, the Jewish day starts at sunset and the text implies that Mary likely arrived at the tomb before sunrise because “it was still dark.” She “saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” And later, after running to the disciples, she said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” [Read more…]