the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


It really doesn't seem that long ago, and yet I can't remember life without her. We have grown to be so much apart of each other. I remember when it all started.

It was actually 41 years ago, I was a sophomore in college, home for spring break. My sophomore year in college was one of the toughest years I had spent to date. Since I was a freshman in high school, I had always had a girlfriend. I broke up with my high school girlfriend just before graduation, but during my freshman year in college I quickly found another, and this time I bought a ring and asked the question. The answer was yes, but before the year was over, the answer had turned to no. I spent my whole sophomore year without a girlfriend. What's worse, I couldn't even get a kiss on a date.

Being one of the few college guys in our church, of course I was invited to all the high school parties when I was home. But the high school kids were so far beneath me. I merely showed up because it made me feel big to have them fall all over the big college guy.

There was a new girl there. I had never seen her before, but she looked pretty good. The dance was a square dance called the Virginia Reel. It's a group dance where you change partners several times durng the course of the dance. I started the dance with a girl I knew and who was just a buddy. Mid way through the dance, I changed partners and found myself face to face with the new girl. She had never danced the Virginia Reel so she spent most of our time together stepping all over my feet.

After the dance, we sat down on opposite sides of the room. We both pretended that we weren't looking at the other. But some how we managed to cross legs at the same time. She caught me looking at her and I caught her looking at me and we laughed. Then she went out of the room. I followed but could not find her. When I asked my friend about her, she told me that she had gone home and that she was a sophomore in high school.

Okay. Too young for me. A baby. Tenth grade. I put her out of my mind and went back to school to finish my sophomore year. When I came home for the summer, I went to work, as I usually did, at a construction site. I worked hard in the summer, saving money to go back to school in the fall. I was tired in the evenings, so I didn't date much that summer. About mid summer, my sister who was a sophomore in high school, approached me with an insistant command. "When are you going to call her?" "Who!" "You have to call her so she'll leave me alone!" It was the new girl from the spring break party. She had found out that I was the brother of a classmate and had been pestering my sister to get a date with me.

"She's too young." I protested. But then I have never been very forceful with the womenfolk, so I agreed to ONE date to get her off of my sister's back.
"Skyrockets in sight!!" Wow! We hit it off from the start. We dated the remainder of the summer. When the fall came and I had to go back to school, we continued to write each other. The next summer, I asked the question for the second time. The answer was yes. A year later on May 28, 1967, Sandra Lunsford became my wife.

In 1973 she gave birth to our one and only child, a son. We have had many ups and downs over the years. I suppose we have had difficulties that cause others to get a divorce, yet we hung in there. We hung in there with each other because, no matter what, we loved one another. We still do. As time goes by I love her more and more. Our relationship gets stronger and deeper with each storm.

Sandra, I love you, Dear. I always will.

Year B - Easter 7

John 17
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

"I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

"Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Sunday, May 21, 2006 Year B - Easter 6

Isaiah 45:11-13, 18-19
Psalm 98
1 John 5:1-6
John 15:9-17


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sunday, May 14, 2006 - Year B Easter 5

Deuteronomy 4:32-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

Happy Mothers' Day!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sunday, May 7, 2006 - Easter 4

Ezekiel 34:1-10
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

I have chosen the passage from Ezekiel over the passage from Acts because, as Raymond Brown has said, it lies behind the good shepherd passage in John which is our Gospel passage for this Sunday. More about this later.
Over at theopraxis, Scott Berkhimer has been writing about a theology of the suburbs. His particular approach to the suburbs has a connection with this good shepherd passage and its background passage in Ezekiel.

The Good Shepherd.
Jesus or the Market?

Why is it so difficult to get young, educated, successful, people into church, or more fundamentally, into a close relationship with God and Jesus Christ? The standard answer to this problem is that the church is no longer relevant to the needs and problems of the modern world, or post-modern, which I believe is the current buzz-word. Our worship services are old, boring and stale. The songs we sing are out of date and do not speak to the needs of a new generation. The basic story of the fall of man, the broken relationship with God, and the need for God's salvation no longer has meaning in a world that is becoming more and more atheistic.

Eric Gill. 1822-1940.
The Good Shepherd 1926.
Relief print on paper image.
Or, so it is said.

Now, I'm sure that there is some truth to the criticisms of the church and in every age we must make every effort to interpret the gospel in terms that are relevant to the current generation. But this approach is rather too simplistic. It's easy to place blame on the Church especially when our own faith is vested in another god. And I think that much of the problem is not with the Church or the gospel, but with churchmen and churchwomen who have placed their own personal faith in a modern myth that does, in fact bring immediate gratification. But faith in such a god ultimately brings destruction of the soul and ruin of the spirit.

What am I talking about? The modern world tells a story that is a story of lack, as opposed to the story of the bible which is a story of abundance. The story goes something like this: True sin is poverty, homelessness, interruption, filth, etc. Deliverance from this kind of sin is made possible by the acquiring of wealth, power and possessions. A certain level of income provides the power to make choices. Choices like where to live, what schools to send our children to, what kind of car to drive, what group to socialize with, etc. But, as the story goes, there is not enough wealth, power and material possessions in the world to go around. The only way to get your fair share, or more, is to get out there in the marketplace and fight for every thing you can get. Is this not the American Dream?

And this dream is embraced not only by corporate America, but by the church in America and in the affluent parts of the world as well. Remember the Prayer of Jabez?

Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, 'Oh that Thou would bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast [territory], and that Thine hand might be with me, and that Thou would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!' And God granted him that which he requested. 1 Chron 4:10.
Here is our gospel:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
This text has become sacred text in America. The pursuit of happiness, especially, espouses the core values of capitalism. Get what you can. Get as much as you can. Don't worry about what others get, that's their problem. If they make the wrong choices in life and they end up with less and wanting, then it is none of my concern. My superiority is defined by what I have and what I have achieved, of course I'm better than them.

That does not sound much like the God who said "go, sell your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, then come, take up your cross and follow me.

I've told you this before but it is so relevant to what I am trying to say here, that I need to tell you again. Stephen Covey writes of a man who spent all of his adult life climbing the ladder of success only to find that when he reached the top it was leaning against the wrong wall. He had worked hard all of his life and finally, when he achieved his goal, it did not bring the inner peace or the happiness that he was seeking.

The problem with this story is that it takes until the end of a life to discover that the acquisition of things does not bring salvation. The energy of youth is spent going after false gods and only after the best years are wasted and all is lost does one realize that where they were going was not where they wanted to be. And that is because there are rewards in following the story of the market. Living in a nice neighborhood is better than living in a ghetto. Sending our children to upscale private schools is better than having them mix with the unwashed masses in public school. Driving a new Lexus or Mercedes is better than an old beat-up derelict of a car, or having to take public transit because you don't have a car. Having a good education gives you more choices in the types of jobs you can get than those jobs available to the high school dropout.

But the false promise of the Market is that these things bring satisfaction, peace of mind, true happiness. They do not. In the end, all the money and medical insurance in the world will not cure an incurable cancer. It will bring you better medical care. It will not change the outcome. All the fine houses, fine cars, membership at the country club will not ease the despair of a failed marriage. The major plagues of the modern world are not caused by bacteria or viruses. They are caused by excess stress over time and excess consumption.

Too often we preach from the pulpit that the true advantage of following God over following the Market (mammon) is "pie in the sky bye and bye." Believe in Jesus and you will have salvation, but that salvation will not come until the endtimes when Jesus comes in glory, riding on the clouds. I think one reason that some preachers preach this gospel is that they also believe in the gospel of the Market. Bad things happen to good people and they can't explain it. Good things happen to bad people and they can't explain it. Life in this world is hard, but wait until the next life. It's like the mantra of the losers of the World Series: "Wait until next year."

The message I want you to get this morning is that God is relevant NOW. That the good life comes from following the Good Shepherd rather than following the wolves, or the thieves or the hired hand. Following Jesus does not save us from the sins of poverty, homelessness, interruption, and filth, because these things are not true sin. True sin is the broken relationship with God. It is living life alienated from the one who can bring true happiness and true peace. The peace that passes all understanding is inexplicable. How can poor people be so happy? How can I enjoy the ride to work in an old broken-down jalopy? How can one find joy in the midst of the pain of arthritis? How can one find peace when every moment they have the craving of a cigarette, another drink or a high from some other chemical? It is inexplicable! That's why God's peace is called the peace that passes understanding.

When we have a restored relationship with God, we no longer want the things that the Market promises. We no longer believe in a story of lack. We believe in a story of abundance. That story is that there is enough of what we need to go around. There is enough love. There is enough food. There is enough shelter. When we believe in the story of abundance we can go and sell what we have and give to the poor, and then take up our cross and follow our Lord.

Thanks be to God!
The problem for the church in the post-modern world is not conforming the gospel to the needs of the world. It's finding a way to articulate that the core values of the Market do not satisfy. That only the core values of God can truly satisfy. I would love to begin a dialogue here on ways to articulate the truths of God and Jesus Christ to a world consumed with consumerism. Please join me.