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First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Week 2 — The “Back To The Drawing Board” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Talked about Jack & Rose on the Titanic, Johnny & Maria in West Side Story, and me and Brooke Shields in college. Really.
  • Gave this bit of free advice: some people ask questions not because they want answers but because they want an advantage.
  • Stated that gender is a) binary; b) God’s decision; c) inherently good; AND that marriage for a man and a woman. Assertions that were both biblical and common sensical a half-generation ago and yesterday were applauded by folks for their boldness.
  • Let people know that when Jesus could have redefined marriage in Matthew 19, he reinforced it instead.
  • Landed at this bottom line: A good marriage has a little to do with chemistry and a lot to do with history.


So we are talking about love and marriage and romance in this series and when it comes to that general subject few things are more alluring and more enticing than LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. Whether it happens at a party, in a class, at a bar (!), on an elevator (!!) … we just sort of long for this moment where the chemistry is so thick, the attraction so overwhelming that neither of you can help what happens next. Isn’t that what happened with Jack & Rose on Titanic? (AV) Or, in an earlier generation, with Johnny & Maria in West Side Story? (AV) Such chemistry!
There was that time I was sure it was gonna happen to me. Some of you know that Brooke Shields (AV) & I went to the same college. She was a freshman & I was a senior. There was this big garden in the center of our campus, and one day I was walking in this direction, all alone. Who is walking all alone in the opposite direction? The Brookster herself! And she is eating an APPLE! Me, her, garden, apple … hello! … all we needed was the snake! It was meant to be! Well, she DID marry a tennis player (AV, Agassi) for awhile. Love at first sight. Better living through chemistry. Some of you married that person, some of you heard about it in your parents’ marriage, some of you were married to someone and then HE OR SHE saw someone ELSE and the chemical attraction was irresistible and now you’re single and they’re … what? … seeing if chemistry sustains blending. There’s chemistry, there are pheromones & Hollywood spends a fortune convincing us it’s true & makes a bigger fortune when we lap it up.
And it’s been going on a long, long while, this assumption that a good marriage requires great chemistry. It’s behind a question that the Pharisees – a group of religious leaders & legal experts – as Jesus as he is headed towards the culmination of his ministry in Mt. 19. Check 19:3a:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him.

I am so impressed with how much you _____________ One of the nicest things you’ve ever done is _________________ Something special about you that not many people know is _______________. I suspect those answers will be way, way better than LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT any day. read more

RIP, Brad Stoffel

Two weeks ago, in the middle of the workday, I received a call from Brad Stoffel’s mother, Evelyn, conveying the sad news that Brad had died of natural causes at the age of 57. read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Reflections From A Sunday Night Leader Gathering

This past Sunday evening something unprecedented happened in the life of Good Shepherd: 400 leaders gathered together to eat, play, laugh, sing (in English and Spanish), pray, listen, and weep as we unveiled a new seven year focus for our church. Here’s what the closing worship looked like: read more


This is a repost of an essay from 2016 that generated quite a bit of … conversation! … when it first appeared in Ministry Matters, United Methodism’s largest online conversation platform. With a hint of nostalgia, here it is again:

I’m spiritual, not religious.

We hear it from skeptical family members, from tweed-jacketed professors, from latte-slurping elites, and we fall all over ourselves to agree, to affirm and to identify. In fact, on more than one occasion, when people respond to the news of what I do for a living with the spiritual not religious dictum, I have answered back with a bright-eyed, “that’s great! Same with me!”

Because is not Jesus the end of religion? Isn’t religion for people who are afraid of going to hell while spirituality is for people who have been there? Don’t we want to walk by the Spirit? When people tell us they are spiritual-not-religious, doesn’t that mean we need to change our churches to fill that gap and meet that need? Doesn’t the whole S-N-R parlance suggest that our family members, professors and sophisticates yearn for the liberating truth of Spirit-fueled faith rather than the shackles of man-made religion? It seems this modern phraseology and modern urges are prime territory for Acts 17, understand the culture, more U2 songs in church please!, relational evangelism.

I’m in this alone. I have a connection with God/Divinity that is unique to me. I will not be bound by rules that I find inconvenient or unappealing. My knowledge of sacred text will be limited to: “Don’t judge me!” (That IS in the bible, isn’t it?) I am unwilling to submit myself to the idea that there is a community of people who have wisdom, strength and hope that I need to make life work. I don’t have to hang around with hypocrites. Newer is better and younger is smarter. Best of all, I can make God into my image and thus never have to wrestle with the implications of what it means that I am made in his. My highest responsibility is to be true to me. read more

ReGroup, Week 4 — The “When You Believe Your Own Headlines” Sermon Rewind

Yes, a sermon rewind post on Wednesday, not Monday. I took Labor Day off. Not that I am believing my own headlines, mind you. Because Sunday’s sermon was about the dangers of doing exactly that. It touched on why prosperity is so much more dangerous than adversity. And it landed at a bottom line that seemed to speak to many people: You will SUSTAIN success when you MAINTAIN desperation. read more