Saturday, January 29, 2011

joyce wedding

On Thursday Michael Joyce and Kaylee Brink became Mr. and Mrs. Joyce. For your joy and inclusion I decided to post my wedding sermon. The setting was a narrow and tall, steepled church in Port Gamble, Wa. There was no ornamentation in the building except for a single gold cross on the left side of the altar. It was high church, with stained glass and bleak interior, kept that way to ensure that no one worships created things rather than the Creator. The processional started. The music changed from "The More I Seek You" to "So This is Love" to cue the bride. Everyone stands. They do not care about the blank walls and hard pews. Everyone is staring at her. She is staring at Michael. That is what they will remember. My words were true and perhaps someday they will listen to the recording, but that day they listened to each others eyes and returned to earth only to respond in affirmation, "I do!"

What God has joined together, let nothing and nobody separate!

Here is the wedding sermon:

Ephesians 3:14-21 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family on heaven and earth derives its name, that He would grant you [Michael and Kaylee], according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

The reason Paul prays is that you may comprehend love. Right now you both are beginning to feel full (You might be thinking, “Oh, is that what the strange feeling in my stomach is.”). You know what it means to feel full, because you have felt hungry. Right? You both felt it in different way: Michael talking it through with me and other guys in the dish pit at the Coffee Oasis, Kaylee trying to pull further away from Mike only to find that that did not help her stop thinking about him. Hunger is the feeling of Adam in the garden as God brings the animals to him one at a time and he realizes that none of them were remotely attractive. Adam’s hunger was specific—he hungered for Eve. Today is a day of feasting--of not only loving, but being completely loved by the one you love. Love is here, love is happening right now in this room.

Is this what Paul was praying that we would comprehend—this love? The answer is yes, and more. Returning to the story of Adam and Eve will help us understand what Paul refers to as the “riches of Christ.” In Ephesians Paul writes, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” You see, even at creation God had bigger plans than we immediately see. Adam’s hunger turned to fullness upon meeting Eve. In Ephesians when it says that a marriage is like Christ and the church, it means that from the beginning when we saw marriage—the hunger for satisfaction— we were meant to understand that our greatest hunger can only be satisfied by God. We We were made with hunger so that we could taste of love and be filled. And today we get a taste of God’s love in the marriage of Mike and Kaylee.

Let me share with you, for a moment, what the love of God tastes like. God’s love includes people. People, you and I, were never meant to be separate from God, but made to be joined with him at all times. We see in marriage there is no longer an “I” that does not involve the other person. In joking people will tell you, Mike and Kaylee, that you are losing your freedom—but the love of God that you share is not stifling, it is breathes life into the one loved. Together you are making a covenant which makes one person out of two. Mike, that means there is no such thing as “my night to hang out with the guys” without Kaylee’s agreement. Kaylee, this means being willing to be loved and to let Michael in when gray clouds are hanging over your head? This is the beauty of submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ: you are placing yourself in the care of someone who willingly and daily lays down their life for you. And this, this will make you fall in love with Jesus all the more as you realize through the profound and difficult act of marriage, that God has laid down his very own life to join you inseparably to himself.

Michael and Kaylee, to show the love of God in this way will mean being stretched. We read in Ephesians that the love of God is vast: “How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” God’s love being vast and your best love being limited, you will feel like you are asked to do things beyond your ability. Like when Bosley is sick and needs to go to the emergency vet at 2 o’clock in the morning. That is a love opportunity. God is making your love bigger. Oh, but have we not discovered that God is doing something bigger here today

The Apostle Paul tells us that the love of God does thing “far greater than we could ask or imagine.” It would have sounded foolish to ask that two pals in preschool, who walked in and out of each other’s lives, sharing more tough times than easy times, would be married today in a this beautiful old church in the name of Jesus. Do you believe it? For the last several months we’ve had to keep pinching Mike remind him that it is real. He has been known to walk up on unsuspecting people and tell them, “Guess what? I am dating Kaylee Brink.” Guess what? You are nearly married to Kaylee Brink.

Now as part of Michael and Kaylee’s desire to express their absolute indebtedness to Christ and His love expressed to them on the cross enabling them to love one another, they are going to share the Communion together. At His last meal with His followers before He died Jesus said to them, “This bread represents my body which is for you, this cup represents my blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of your sins”. After the lighting of the unity candles, symbolizing the uniting of two lives, Mike and Kaylee will take communion together to remember and hold in their hearts Christ’s love for them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ruth 3: Pursuing Redemption

Hope again fills Naomi's long darkened mind. Hope makes the wounded heart ready to talk about love again (though it does not have the power to make love any more safe of an endeavor). Ruth is willing. John Piper calls this “strategic righteousness.” God is orchestrating something beautiful, but it is not yet clear to those at ground level. He is still asking them to act in faith. Ruth is willing—“all you say I will do.” The actions that Ruth and Boaz takes are steps towards righteousness. Boaz has every opportunity to take advantage of Ruth, but he does not. He continues to protect her. Pursuing redemption has the look of purity. They are man and woman, they want to get married, they are in a barn in the night, and they pursue righteousness. Hollywood sighs and searches for a different storyline; But something far better is happening than a fleeting moment of indulged passion. They are planning for the future--a righteous future, built on the foundation of honoring God. Morning is dawning on their lives and they choose not to lose it with a moment of purposeless sex. They had been pursuing righteousness and they continue to together. Notice how this decision does not diminish, but increases their joy. They have not lost anything. They have gained so much by waiting and hoping and placing themselves in the refuge of God.

no greater love

Preparing for Mike Joyce and Kaylee Brink's wedding. My first wedding to officiate! "Greater love has no man than this that he lays down his life for a friend." Why? Because there is no greater likeness to God than sacrificial love.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Alone Together": An MIT Professor's New Book Urges Us to Unplug | Fast Company

"Alone Together": An MIT Professor's New Book Urges Us to Unplug | Fast Company

Ruth 2: Finding Refuge

We are heading in to Ruth 2 on Sunday, January 23rd. In walks a worthy character. Boaz is introduced. Who is this man? The presentation of a stalwart male into the life of two widowed females thickens the plot considerably—even in antiquity. The story is masterfully told. We are not allowed to look beyond the seemingly insurmountable difficulties, we sense the struggle and bleak unknown, but we see a ripening character in Ruth. Ruth desires to work and desires to submit to Naomi. The town sees this and admires her. In humility Ruth does not notice the attention given to her and still sees herself as “a foreigner.” More than anything Ruth is puzzled at the good favor she is receiving—“why have I found favor?” It is not that Ruth is simply good natured, she is a woman of God—“under whose wings [she] has come to seek refuge.” Boaz notices these praiseworthy qualities and uses the means God has given him to bless her. Boaz is the first stable piece in the story. He is not moving any time soon. He has land, the respect of his employees, maturity. It also appears that things are blessed around him. He is blessed, but single. How hard that must have been! No heir and no one to share his blessing with. But God had a bigger story. For both Boaz and Ruth, God is their first satisfaction and it has tremendous affect on their lives. This is the foundation that God builds a life of great blessing upon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

a frightful emphasis

"[Tomorrow is] work, work, and more work from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." - Martin Luther

"Luther, examining his church, noted a frightful emphasis on works, but little value given faith. From this burning conviction sprang the reformation--a movement shifting balance from physical to spiritual; from works to faith. Someone aptly said, 'God requires soul worship and men give Him body worship: he asks for the heart and they present Him with their lips: He demands their thoughts and minds, and they give Him banners and vestments and candles.'"
- taken from No Easy Road by Eastman

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Books: Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl

"You are spoken. I am spoken. We stand on a spoken stage. The spinning kind. The round kind. The moist kind. The kind of stage with beetles and laughter and babies and dirt and snow and fresh-cut cedar."

Nate (N.D.) Wilson has produced a book that incites worship. The kind that unites the high and low together. Those who seek hallowed churches with expensive glass or those who can only afford to breath the air, but suck it often in big gulp, using both mouth and nose, to feel the pleasure of having more than enough. Born and raised in the Palouse (Moscow, Idaho), N.D. brought me back to the land that I love with creative prose that I have never seen the likes of before. It is obvious that he has a rich sense of experience, while at the same time not devaluing the cries of the mind for helpful explanations. Since I started the book I have described the world differently: the world is the grammar of God, and the expanding universe is the overflowing chorus. His language is not only truth, but it is substance. He spoke, and it was...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

fog the window and marvel

I did not marvel at the falling snow last night. To be quite honest, I was never impressed that every snow flake was a different shape, though willing to admit it is an astounding fact. I was more impressed by its unity and freedom, its disregard for fashion and bribe. Snow is no hired militia. It is a vast army that comes and goes together, reminding governments that there is One greater and delighting children everywhere. As a child I knew inherently that snow could be trusted. Anything that made the mountains its permanent home must have a beautiful soul. And how it added to the decor of the remote lodging! When I was a child the snow beckoned me to come outside and catch it up in my hand as soon as it touched the ground, throwing it up to see it fall in large edible clumps. Lick my lips to catch the remnants. Tossing, moving, fashioning pieces of impermanent art, this was a snow day! Last night I ignored the snow. I did not mind it falling. The snow soldiers quietly set up camp around my house in typical fashion. It was only visiting for a night. I didn't mind. I did not fog the window by pressing my face against it to see the army enter my yard and I did not exhaust myself in play until they melted away. I wish that I had. I wish that I still had that desire. I wish that I still heard the snow beckoning.

This Sunday we start a new sermon series on the book of Ruth. Here is the summary of the first week:

Date: Sunday, January 16, 2011
Chapter: Ruth 1
Title: Following a Strange God
Abstract: In the time that the judges ruled in Israel God moves two widowed woman back to Israel. One is a sojourner, who left hopeful and returned stricken, and a foreigner, of whom we know very little about. Why would Elimelech take his family to Moab? What would make Ruth stay with her mother-in-law? Why does Naomi appear unmoved by Ruth’s sacrificial commitment? Bitterness has not allowed Naomi to see the blessing of Ruth. It is important to not jump into the brighter points of the following chapters. This chapter is very real. It is a struggling heart trying to make sense of tragedy. Naomi does not doubt that it is God who is acting in all these affairs, she only wonders why He would do such things. Chapter 1 does not give the answer. What chapter 1 does offer is a first look at is the strong and developing character of Ruth. She has chosen the God of Israel as her God. A husband is not her hope; it is the God, whom Naomi reluctantly serves, that she follows to Bethlehem.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

putting together the proverb puzzle

Jacob, Elena, and myself are working together to build a curriculum for the Oasis Center in the afternoons. The curriculum consists of teaching through the aphorisms of proverbs. I have been surprised to discover things that I should have already known. For example: Things won through difficulty will be held as a greater prize (ha! I am thinking in aphorisms now). The hearts of the youth are rebelling because they find most of what is taught or preach to them plain boring. Drugs give a high, gangs give a bond, sex gives passion. Children desperately want to feel and the church has too often given them rules instead of experiences. The book of proverbs offers a timeless teaching tool because it asks us to look back and forth between wisdom and experience and to decide which is true. Here is a little of what I have learned (borrowing some ideas from Leland Ryken's "How to Read the Bible as Literature"):

Ultimately a proverb is to cultivate a moment of epiphany. The modern story writer James Joyce once described a moment of epiphany as the point in a story where a spiritual or intellectual eye adjusts its vision to an exact focus. A proverb is just such a moment of intellectual focus. A proverb captures the clearest and most affecting moment, the point of greatest light. In the end, as foretold in the beginning, all wisdom revolves around one unifier: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. All life, rightly understood, displays this to the wise person. Each proverb provides a verbal snapshot that contains particular insight that can be visualized mentally, painted on a canvas, lived; however, only fitted together can the puzzle of experiences show its greater identity.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

into the new year

Every time the year changes guard it seems like we have substantial change also taking place at the Oasis. Last year it was buying the Port Orchard location (CO3 or "POCO"), the year before it was the purchase of the drive-thru, and now we are finding ourselves once again growing with the hire of a business administrator. The week between Christmas and New Years offers a brief reprieve from the blistering pace of life and work, allowing us a few days and a handful of hours to explore where God is leading in the upcoming years. And we shall follow, as the hymn says, "Lead on, O King Eternal / We follow, not with fear / For gladness breaks like morning / When'er Thy face appears." I have found my limitations to be nearer than I expected. My mind has been taxed and my capacity to love overburdened. And here I find "we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love" (Romans 5.3-5).

"The man with a cross no longer controls his destiny; he lost control when he picked up his cross. That cross immediately became to him an all-absorbing interest, an overwhelming interference. No matter what he may desire to do, there is but one thing he can do; that is, move on toward the place of crucifixion...Let a man become enamored of eternal wisdom and set his heart to win her and takes on himself a full-time, all-engaging pursuit. Thereafter he will have room for little else. thereafter his whole life will be filled with seekings and findings, self-repudiation, tough disciplines and daily dyings as he is being crucified unto the world and the world unto him." [A.W. Tozer]