Ascension Sunday Sermon

video of my sermon on Luke 24:44-53 (the Ascension of Jesus) May 16th, 2010 at Glenn Memorial UMC

As friends, family, and students have requested, here is the video of my sermon on Luke 24:44-53 (the Ascension of Jesus) May 16th, 2010 at the 8:30am Worship Service at Glenn Memorial UMC (glennumc.org) in the Little Chapel. (the audio is not super awesome–sorry)

For a pdf of the sermon’s text, click here (no plagiarizing please)

New Orleans, college campuses, and the Church

This week we’re on vacation…jackson park fencewell my wife is at a conference and I’m walking around the city of New Orleans taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the food of course. In my walkings around the French Quarter, City Park, and the Warehouse district I’ve noticed how many tourists I see with very nice digital cameras taking lots and lots of photos. I guess New Orleans is a very photogenic city. Its historic nature and subsequent variety of people and architecture make it a great place to “people watch” and take pictures…although hopefully you’re taking pictures of the scenery and not the pedestrians.

There is always something going on here in New Orleans–a prime example: after I searched for 15 mins to park ourbrass band 2 car to check into the hotel I found a spot on a side street in the French Quarter. As I was getting our luggage out of the car and BAM!–right in front of me emerged a brass band and following parade moving down the street. It was out of no where and I’m not even sure why it was going on, but it was and it was awesome. Every time we come here to visit friends, there is always something going on–if it’s not Mardi Gras, it’s a Jazz festival, crawfish boil, or something else. It seems to me that the people  in New Orleans like to do things–not just talk about them.

I feel like that is what a college campus is like or supposed to be like. sandwich makingCollege is about learning–but (hopefully) not just about the theoretical part of things. Sadly many classes are about theory and the proper procedure, but are generally lacking the practice or application section. However, all the students at Emory are encouraged to take part in extra-curricular activities and service projects. Many of the students in the Emory Wesley Fellowship are very involved in campus activities–everything from being resident advisors (RA’s), being involved in student government as class representatives, and leading service trips for Volunteer Emory and even making sandwiches to help support people struggling with homelessness in Atlanta. Outside of service opportunities, there are many other interests and activities vying for attention from the student population.

Basically, there is always something going on at a college campus too. Whether for good or ill, I think that college students are about doing things. They’re interested in talking about things, but they also couple that talking with action and living out what they learn and what they believe.

This brings us to the Church. I won’t take this space to be too critical of the actions of the Church, that is the body of Cathedralpeople claiming Christianity as their faith tradition. I’ll leave that discussion for a later, more interpersonal time. However, the Church, when it is truly being the Church–the ekklesia, the gathered people–the Church is about action and about transformation. The life and teachings of Jesus motivate us to join in the movement of God towards the reconciliation, healing, and transformation of and for the world.

Now, the nexus of these topics is found in Campus ministry: young adults and college people who are about living out the good news and love of God through action to and with thier neghbors in the world. That is what campus ministry is about.

If you’re heading off to college, Emory or otherwise, and you’d like to get involved in a living, breathing, action inducing faith tradition, then check out a campus ministry like the Emory Wesley Fellowship.

As always, email with comments or questions. –Joseph   jmcbray@emory.edu

National Student Forum: Dr. Eboo Patel

Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others.

This weekend (May 21-24) I’m here in Shreveport, LA at Centenary College attending the National Student Forum of student forum logothe United Methodist Student Movement–basically a gathering of United Methodist college students who are from all over the US. Also there are 50+ UM campus ministers and chaplains (I’m now one of those as the Emory Wesley Fellowship Director!) It is a pretty awesome gathering of people in the United Methodist Church who are deeply passionate about young people, the church, and the world. Our theme is breaking barriers and building bridges.

Today at the conference Dr. Eboo Patel founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core spoke to the students and later to the Campus Ministers about coming together despite differences, pluralism, and serving others. The Interfaith Youth Core, is an organization who “builds mutual respect and pluralism among young people from Eboo Pateldifferent religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others.” Patel is a young, energetic, extremely intelligent and well-read communicator.

He spoke to us about the importance of building the “beloved community” of which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke. Dr. Patel, a devout Muslim, shared his belief that MLK, Jr.’s vision of the beloved community consisted of and was informed/formed by two things: 1) his being deeply rooted in the Christian faith tradition, and 2) his relationships with people of other faiths. Patel encouraged and challenged the students and campus ministers to grow more deeply in their faith, noting that in deepening their own faith traditions they will encounter truths that resonate deeply with other faith traditions. He talked about the interfaith encounters and relationships of Martin Luther King, Jr. with Ghandi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel to demonstrate that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only a great leader for the civil rights movement and a great leader for the Christian movement, but that he was also a great interfaith leader.

Dr. Eboo Patel gave of his time and energy to share with us an articulate, challenging, and thought-provoking vision of young people coming together and leading people from different faith communities to serve the needs of the world through service to others. His message was and is encouraging, insightful, and it is gaining momentum–one conversation and one interfaith leader at a time. May it continue.

mississippi bridge

Approved!!

So, last week 50+ people desiring to be United Methodist elders and deacons went before the Board of Ordained Ministry of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church to be essentially “interviewed” to be approved or not to be placed in ministry in the UMC. UMC logo

In short, I “passed,” although the official words are that I am “deferred pending appointment.” Many did not make it through, but must repeat some parts of the paperwork and interview sessions. This is a difficult verdict to hear because in preparation for the Board, every candidate has to go through a lengthy candidacy process (it takes at least 3 years) which includes Masters in Divinity, a 3 year graduate theological education basically, on top of your undergraduate degree and ministry experience. My paperwork wound up being close to 80 pages double-spaced as they ask a difficult set of questions ranging from “How do you see the Holy Spirit working in the World?” to “What does it mean to say that Jesus Christ is Lord?” to “What is the nature and mission of the Church?” Basically, the Board wants to see if you can articulate theology–that you can write and speak coherently about God, humanity, and their interaction.

My experience with the Board, although challenging, was a positive one that left me feeling both encouraged and hopeful. Encouraged–that more experienced ministers and pastors on the Board were willing to listen and appreciate the passion and call of a young person who is hoping to enter the ministry. Hopeful–that things are changing in the Church and that the Church has a future with young people in the world and in ministry.

road to somewhereNow what?! We wait for a little longer to see if there is a place where my gifts and talents match the needs of a church or ministry. This is how the Methodist itineracy system works. So, join me in praying for all who met with the Board: that we may find ministries to which we are well suited and that will enable us to fulfill our calling to serve God and neighbor. But, for the next two weeks my wife and I are simply going to celebrate that I was affirmed by the Board of Ordained Ministry–for each day has enough worry of its own.

Snow in Atlanta!

Next time it snows during a worship service, I too may be tempted to run outside and enjoy the snow.

snowy streets

So, a rare and exciting thing happened yesterday…it snowed 2 or 3 inches here in Atlanta. I’m not sure, but I think that the last time it snowed this much was back in what many Georgians call the “blizzard of ’93.” I was only 10 years old when that happened–wow.

For us here in the southlands it is a rare occasion when we get to see snow, much less enjoy it–and, since it was a Sunday, we actually got to enjoy it a little bit. Even if we still had to go to work today…

glenn umc snow

Because of the rain and the cold, we decided to drive to church,  Glenn Memorial UMC on Emory’s campus. As the Rev. Dr. David Jones was beginning his sermon entitled “Spring Training” he made an observant comment to the effect that it certainly was “spring” outside, as it had just begun snowing. We watched as everyone in the Glenn congregation turned their heads to the windows on either side of the sanctuary and there was a small amount of “murmuring” from the congregation–both young and old. Rev. Jones’ sermon was about Jesus’ being tempted out in the desert and about how Lent was in part a remembrance of this–but that we should not bear any difficult situation or circumstance by complaining or “murmuring” as the hebrew puts it in the Exodus story, but that we should tighten our belts, listen to the wisdom of our parents and grandparents from the depression era, and celebrate the good things that we do have–even as we are in the midst of difficult times.

A few minutes after Rev. Jones announced the snow fall outside, one of the children ran down the side aisle shouting “its snowing!” Then he ran back in, unaware or not caring that the whole of the church was watching and “murmuring“–and then ran back outside. Rev. Jones didn’t miss a beat, but mentioned that if two of the older, more established members ran outside, then we’d really be in trouble. The congregation laughed and the worship service continued in the singing of hymns, the serving of bread and wine, and the fellowship of God’s people–all while the year’s first snow fell softly round.

Snow people After getting home and having some homemade chicken noodle soup, Frances and I made some snow people. We had a great time as playing in the snow is something that neither of us had done in a while.

Next time it snows during a worship service, I too may be tempted to run outside and enjoy the snow.