Holy Week: Spy Wednesday

Wednesday of Holy Week is traditionally known as “Spy Wednesday” because on this day Judas made a “secret” bargain with the high priest to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. 
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. 
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” 
Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 
Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”    Mathew 26:14-25 NIV

We identify with the disciples when they ask, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” 

After all, we would never act like Judas did.

Yet, we miss how the story begins …

What are you willing to give me if …

Truth is that’s how we live most of our lives … bargaining.

We bargain in our relationships with one another and with God.

On this day of Holy Week we discover we aren’t that different than Judas.

And even as we discover this and seek to dismiss it, we sound just like him,

Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?

Jump on the Band Wagon!

A bandwagon fan is a phrase used among sports fans and sports writers to describe a fan that only roots for popular or successful sports teams. This kind of fan is typically despised by fans who consider themselves to be die-hard fans.

In sports, bandwagons fan support their team only when they are winning. They will often “jump” on or off the “bandwagon” of teams depending on the their most recent success. Bandwagon fans will often leave a game before completion because their team is losing. Bandwagon fans will cheer for another team if their team is not doing well – just to cheer for a winning team. Bandwagon fans will only support their team when they are successful, but will claim they have always supported the team.

However, just because a sports team wins frequently does not mean the team will have bandwagon fans. A team must not only win but must also have dynamic and popular players on the team for a successful bandwagon to begin rolling. This is what is called the bandwagon effect. This effect results in people doing (or believing) things because so many other people are doing (or believing) the same thing.

60370_1612026063526_1140087_nI have never been accused of being a bandwagon fan when it comes to sports teams. I live and die with my teams – Purdue and The Minnesota Twins.  There is certainly evidence of bandwagon fans all around – faded jerseys, claims of allegience, March Madness will do that to folks.

Which bandwagon have you jumped on/off?  Why do we call it a bandwagon anyway?

Literally, a bandwagon is a wagon that carries the band in a parade or circus. The phrase “jump on the bandwagon” was first used in American politics in 1848 as a result of Dan Rice. Dan Rice was the first truly great American clown, as well as the first clown star of the circus. Dan Rice was born in New York City in 1823. He made his first appearance as a circus clown in Galena, Illinois in 1844 at $15 a week. Gradually his popularity grew and it became so great that he was able to buy his own shows, both wagon and riverboat. He is often regarded as a forerunner of Will Rogers. By 1862 he was earning over $50,000 a year (over a million dollars in today’s terms). Rice and President Lincoln were good friends and Rice was often referred to as the president’s court jester.

In 1848, he campaigned for Zachary Taylor for president. Rice used his own circus bandwagon for Taylor’s appearances, gaining great attention by way of the music. He would invite Taylor to ride on the circus bandwagon in the circus parades. As Taylor’s campaign became more successful, more politicians sought a seat on the bandwagon, hoping Taylor’s popularity would benefit them as well. People would comment, “Look who is on Taylor’s bandwagon,” inspiring the phrase “jump on the bandwagon.”

By the 1900 presidential campaign, bandwagons had become a standard fixture of campaigns, and ‘jump on the bandwagon’ was now being used as a derogatory term, implying that people were associating themselves with something without considering what they had associated themselves with. And as they current saying goes, “now you know the rest of the story.”

Perhaps Palm Sunday was the first bandwagon:

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” 

 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

 “Blessed is the King of Israel!” 

Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”  

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 

So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”                John 12:12-19 (NIV) 

Who knew that a donkey could carry that many people? And yet, by the end of this week, we will ask, “Where did they all go?” The bandwagon will be empty by week’s end and our wagon leader will walk the streets alone.

As John wrote about Palm Sunday, it seemed the whole world was following Jesus.  That would not be the case later in the week when the crowd would turn and yell, “Crucify!”

So as you gather with friends and cheer on the team of choice, consider for a moment the choices you make as part of the crowd.  And then ask yourself,  “Where you will be when the cries of Hosanna turn to shouts of Crucify?”

I know where I want to be, but the illusion of victory is hard to resist.

See you Sunday, I’ll be in the parade waving palms.

Music that speaks to the Soul …

Rick Elias passed away this week.
You likely won’t hear about it, but you should.
Rick was one of the good guys in the ‘Christian Music Industry’.
His debut album in 1990 is still one of my top ten favorites and worthy of playing on repeat.
Rick was also a founder of the Ragmuffin Band.  A group that went on to keep the dreams and music of Rich Mullins alive for many years.
I will miss Rick and in missing him, I am reminded that I miss Rich.
Rich died too soon as well.  I can still close my eyes and see Rich Mullins sitting at the back of my church reading mail in his flip flops, Mickey Mouse Sweatshirt, and torn jeans.
I miss the music that Rich would have written.
I miss the messages his music would have given.

Music has always been a part of my faith journey.  When I couldn’t find the words, it seemed others understood me with their songs.  Rick and Rich were two that captured my soul.

And so on a quiet Indiana evening driving on US 40 near Richmond, IN (his hometown) there he is . . . singing on my car stereo . . . teaching me still . . . reminding me with words that are old, but still new.

The Maker of Noses by Rich Mullins

I believe there is a place where people live in perfect peace

Where there is food on every plate
Where work is rewarded and rest is sweet
Where the color of your skin
Won’t get you in or keep you out
Where justice reigns and truth finally wins
Its hard fought war against fear and doubt

And everyone I know wants to go there too
But when I ask them how to do it they seem so confused
Do I turn to the left?
Do I turn to the right?
When I turn to the world they gave me this advice

They said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head
And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He’s the one I have chosen
And I will follow Him

I believe there’ll come a time
Lord I pray it’s not too far off
There’ll be no poverty or crime
There’ll be no greed and we will learn how to love
And children will be safe in their homes
And there’ll be no violence out on the streets
The old will not be left alone
And the strong will learn how to care for the weak

And everyone I know hopes it comes real soon
But when I ask ’em where I’d find it they seem so confused
Do I find it in the day?
Do I find it in the night?
When I finally ask the world they give me this advice

Well they said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head
And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He’s the one I have chosen

It’s time to pull out those old CDs and let somebody else speak for my soul.
Thanks Rich and with a nod to Rick this has been my confession of love.

Opening Day

Pink Backpacks for Everyone!
Baseball as some strange traditions.

A few years ago an article at mlb.com spoke to this strange tradition saying,

the reliever with the least amount of service time is assigned to tote it to the bullpen.

It’s loaded with gum, candy, sunflower seeds — whatever the pitchers need to get them through a game. Asked if he would be carrying it on Friday, which was when he could make his debut in the ‘pen for the first time since 2002, Zambrano laughed and said, “No.” 

“No chance,” Marmol said, smiling. Russell has the backpack now.

“I’m pretty sure I’m keeping it,” Russell said.

You have to get to the ball park early to see the parade of pink backpacks that nearly every team has for the ‘rookie’ to carry to the bullpen. It is fun to watch as the season progresses and someone new gets to carry the pack.

What joy there is for the one who no longer has to carry it!

There is even joy for the one who is carrying it at the start for it symbolizes having made it.

This long standing tradition in baseball got me to thinking . . . What if as Christian Men we were asked to carry pink backpacks as glaring symbols of our inexperience?

How quickly do you think would we ‘recruit’ someone to become part of the team so they could carry the Pink Backpack?

Perhaps we should issue PINK BACKPACKS to all the men of the church to carry around until they pass it on to the next rookie (disciple).

When is the last time you passed the backpack of faith and service to someone else?

Does Size really matter?

Even pastors fall prey to this age old lie. I recently read an article by Dave Ferguson entitled ‘Winning at any size’ in Outreach Magazine.  I have to be honest I would have blown right past the article except the opening line of the article was: “being a baseball fan all my life” – He had me hooked so I read the article.

Ferguson went on to discuss a study by Economics professor Michael C. Davis regarding the correlation between winning baseball teams and attendance.  I know, exciting stuff.  Davis’ study concluded that high attendance will not produce a winning ball team, but rather a winning team will produce high attendance.  Tell that to the Twins and Reds!

WOW! I hope we didn’t use a lot of Government funding to discover that little gem!

And yet the concept was not lost on Ferguson or me … As churches we have to stop trying to grow our attendance … We need to focus on changing lives because a winning church is changing lives … and changed lives will produce better attendance.

It seems for all that was done to attempt to attract people and draw them into the church – the one thing that was never accounted for was all the transformed lives within the congregation.  It was (in the final analysis) these changed lives that drew others in.

Methodists declare the mission ‘creating disciples to transform the world.’  And while I get that – we have chosen to focus our intention on living our faith in ways that matter as our missional context.

Over the past decade, I have heard countless stories of  transformed lives as a result of the challenge to live your faith.  And the honest challenge to live one’s faith is resulting in people living their faith – and that is growing the church and transforming people, families, and communities.

Lesson Learned: If you want to grow a church, focus on people.

Changing lives one at a time will do more to grow your church than any effort to market or advertise.  In other words, if you build a winning team – the people will come to see what is happening.

Have you helped anyone live their faith lately?


3 Simple Rules the World Needs

I am appreciative of social media as an outlet, but I am also concerned by the disregard by which it can be used. I am grateful that our Indiana UMC Conference leadership has chosen to develop a policy for the use of social media based on the teaching of John Wesley and his 3 rules for holy living.

One of the benefits of social media is that it provides the opportunity to share views, thoughts, joys and concerns about all areas of life. Our social media contributions can be very effective tools for ministry if we are careful to apply caution before we post. We will be careful that our posts are not “doing harm” by insulting or damaging the reputation of others. We will make sure our posts are respectful and in good taste. And we remember: Everything we post – status updates, comments, tweets, blogs – becomes public immediately after we click ”send” (even if we’re using a limited access setting). We can’t take it back once it’s out there, so we will use discernment with everything we post.

Rule #1 Do no Harm

TO THINK ABOUT: Is the post “doing harm” to the reputation of the church, Christ or another person or organization? Can the post be interpreted as harmful, offensive, rude or distasteful? If using the post as an outlet to vent, is there a more productive, less public way to do so?

Social media is one of the most effective methods of church networking and communicating today. When used properly, it can have a significant encouraging influence on our readers and become a powerful tool for delivering the Gospel message to a large audience that extends beyond our contact list. It is a great tool for networking and providing the world with news about our church and ministry. It also is a very useful tool for obtaining feedback and ideas from our audience and can be used to gain insight for sermons, Bible study topics, worship times, needs of the community, etc. The “good” and positive uses of social media are endless.

Rule #2 Do Good

TO THINK ABOUT: Can the post be described as “good”? Will it help the Kingdom and fellow believers? How will it be perceived by non-believers? How will the post be received by people with different cultural or faith backgrounds? Are we communicating effectively by asking questions in addition to providing information?

Rule #3 Stay in Love with God

Social media is a great way to find meaningful devotional materials, thought provoking blogs, inspiring worship videos and media resources, and current articles and tools for our ministry. Users have reported that their social media usage helps keep them informed and enthusiastic about their ministry on a daily basis. While it can definitely help us “stay in love with God,” it also can be very distracting. We will make sure our use of social media does not occupy so much of our time that we are no longer participating in meaningful Bible study, devotional times, worship and conversations with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Social media can serve as a tool to aid, promote and conduct discussions, studies and devotional times, but should not be our primary source of interaction with the world.

TO THINK ABOUT: How is/can social media helping me to stay in love with God? How is it hindering me? How am I helping others stay in love with God by my social media contributions?

You can access the full document here.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s prayers for the faithful capture the wonderful spirit that made him Ireland’s patron saint and one of the Church’s most beloved missionaries.  He was born in Britain shortly before the 5th century.  He was taken captive to Ireland by raiders at the age of 16. He lived there for six years as a shepherd under harsh conditions and became intensely devoted to God in prayer, as he puts it, “because the spirit was then fervent within me.” Tradition has it that divine dreams inspired both his escape from captivity in Ireland and his return there later in his life as a bishop.

A Variation of St. Patrick’s Prayer:

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,

May the Strength of God pilot us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Host of God guard us.
Against the snares of the evil ones.
Against temptations of the world
May Christ be with us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Christ be over all!

May Thy Salvation, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and evermore