Monday, March 31, 2008

Once: Ordinary is never Ordinary.

Rotten Tomatoes gives it 97%. Jen lent us the DVD. Nathan and Cassie said we had to watch. Brandon called it a 'sacred piece of filmmaking'. Tubeo drew parallels to the gospel. They were right. Once is simply a beautiful film. I've now watched that first duet 4 times.

Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice/
You've made it now.

Here is my thought: the synopsis on the DVD jacket describes the movie as 'chasing your dreams'. But I think that this description is wrong. I think the movie is about the fact that if we are willing, we might see possibilities amid the ordinariness of living.

Granted, not many people write music as extraordinary as they did. But many of us feel very ordinary and incapable. Just about everyone has been broken-hearted. Many of us recall a memorable week in which we were carried along by the possibility of love. Lots of artists record their songs hoping for others to recognize their creative skills. Many of us have 'Hoover-Guy' jobs. We stumble over our words. We say dumb things. And we all want more than we have right now.

This movie takes an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and lifts them up above the fray: Ordinary is never ordinary.

Take this sinking ship and point it home/
We've still got time.

A ordinary English Anglican once said:
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
PS Jen -- Movie is back to the store -- with no fine. :)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lady Wrestlers? Lady Wrestlers?

1 Minute, 17 Seconds in. A must view moment in comedy.

The Funniest 30 Seconds on YouTube

Funny on so many levels. My 2 year old laughs as heartily as I do.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Final-- Judas' Easter: Separating from Judas.

(This is the final of 7 posts on the Easter Judas had to have. The text is Luke 22:3-23.)

So Judas is a problem, yes. But in many ways, he represents the whole world gone wrong, and overrun by evil. Judas is a manifestation of Evil. Evil that will be dwelt with. Like John said: "He came to his own, and his own did not receive him." And yet Jesus says in V22 "Woe to him who betrays the Son of Man." For Messiah Jesus will defeat evil.

But -- Judas is us. We are, by nature, Judas. And we need someone to separate us out from him and bring us forgiveness, and give us a new start. We need to avoid the 'Woe' – the curse of being found unfaithful like Judas.

Like John said: "He came to his own, and his own did not receive him. But to those who received him, he gave the right to become children of God."

The story of Judas ended badly. It ended in suicide. It ended with the deep despair that comes with infidelity. Especially the infidelity to your creator. We need a different path.

Where will we find this path?

The answer here is in the middle section of our text (Luke 22:3-23): The Lord’s Supper. The Last Passover. A celebration of forgiveness in the person and work of Christ.

Tom Wright said of this text: "For the blend of betrayal and celebration at the supper is preparing us for blend of tragedy and triumph in the cross itself."

(Then the rest of the sermon is a reflection of Christ's work on the Cross as an answer to sin and the problem of evil...)


Pic on Flickr by Pastorbuhro's.

#6- Judas' Easter: There is a Goat in the Tank

(7 Posts on the Easter Judas had to have. The text is Luke 22:3-23.)

So Judas has his hand in the till.

I know a gentleman who has a phrase to describe this phenomenon in all of us. He calls it the 'Goat in the Tank'. Now, this is a little crude, but it makes the point.

My friend went away to a farm once for a vacation. And noticed that the water tasted funny. He noticed it over several days. So he got the farmer to look in on the problem. And the farmer took a look in the tank and fished out -- you guessed it -- a dead goat.

I presume from then on they decided to buy bottled water!

But my friend thought about it, and he realized that our hearts are like the tank. There is something wrong in all of us. There is, what we might call, a 'goat in the tank':
Sin inside each of us.

A deep frailty.
A devastating flaw.
A predilection to hurt.
A selfish thing going on.

There is, in short, a goat in the tank. And Judas’ love of money was what eventually lead him to betray Jesus.

One post to come...

Pic on Flickr by Bevoman03.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nathan Tasker is Homeless (Guest Blogger)

A break in my Judas posts.

Nathan and Cassie Tasker have a roof in Nashville. But they are visiting us in NYC (in case you haven't been reading the Blog). They are a source of joy to Laurel and me. They joined Christ Church NYC for our regular time with the homeless men at the New York City Rescue Mission. He wrote a note on his Facebook page, and I reproduce it here as my guest blogger. Nathan points out that 'we are all homeless until we find our home in Jesus'.

This is Nathan singing on Monday night at the Rescue Mission. I'll let Nathan speak for himself:

Last night I played some songs at the New York City Rescue Mission. For 136 years, New York City Rescue Mission has been reaching out to homeless men in Lower Manhattan, providing emergency services such as food, clothing, shelter, counseling and spiritual hope. And last night, I got to be involved in a very small way.

Once a month, a team from Christ Church New York, led by my great friend Justin Moffatt, head to NYC Rescue Mission to lead the guys there in a small chapel service. They sang some hymns (or at least listen to us sing the hymns!) and heard a talk from the Bible. Many of them were exhausted and therefore asleep, however others sang along and listened. It is such a varied range of circumstances that lead people to this point in their life. Addiction, unemployment, mental illness, family breakdown all serve to tear hope from so many guys, leaving them alone and homeless on the streets of NYC. My heart ached for the lives that are stuck in a sad kind of limbo, but it also made me grateful for the work that the staff at NYC Rescue Mission do. They are like the giant fingers that come down and pull the needle out of the groove in the record, allowing the music to go on (or something like that!).

I couldn’t help but think about the life of Jesus during the service. After all, He once said He had no place to rest His head – as far as we can ascertain, Jesus didn’t have a permanent residence during His time on earth. That would’ve made Him homeless! And the truth of the Gospel is that we are all homeless until we find our home in Jesus. Really, the difference between the guys I met last night and myself, is that I have a roof and four walls that I own to go home to. Spiritually though, we are the same. Without Jesus, I am broken, in need of a home, healing, forgiveness, a new start, life.

I would almost go so far as to say that the message of Jesus made more sense in that humble environment than it often does in our beautiful church sanctuaries. Brokenness had a smell last night that couldn’t be covered up by Sunday's best clothing.

One last thing, Matthew 25 (“what you do for the least of these, you do for me”) rings in my ears, reminding me that my response to the poor, the needy, and the homeless directly reflects my love for Jesus, and my understanding of His love for me. You have no idea how much I wish I could rationalize, and theologize my way out of the truth of Matthew 25 – life is a whole lot easier when you only have to concentrate on your own spiritual growth! But that is not the way of Jesus, and I need to remember this and be deliberate in the way I live it out.

It’s not easy, and I think that is part of the reason that God places us in community. I need you to encourage and remind me of the things I would rather forget or put aside. And we need each other to go out and shine the light of a new community, rescued by God, for God – a community where hope is bigger than hopelessness, where we journey together toward a home that is being prepared for all who believe.

I sang “Glory to His name” last night. The last verse sums up the hope we offered those guys, who I won’t forget…

“Come to this fountain so rich and sweet
Cast thy poor soul at the Saviour’s feet
Plunge in today, and be made complete
And we’ll sing Glory, Glory to His name”

Soli Deo Gloria,


Come and hear Nathan in concert this Thursday. You can also RSVP on Facebook.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

#5- Judas' Easter: Was Judas a pawn in a game?

(7 Posts on the Easter Judas had to have! The text is Luke 22:3-23.)

And you may say, "Well, Judas is just a pawn in a cruel game; an innocent in the hands of cosmic powers. This all this unfair".

But earlier in the life of Jesus, the Apostle John records an important insight into Judas’ character. (And it also provides a snapshot on how the post-resurrection disciples viewed Judas' own heart.)

It's recorded in John 12:4:

The context here is that a woman has lavished expensive perfume on Jesus out of love.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages. " He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Like Pharaoh in Egypt, Judas was no 'saint' being overtaken unfairly by God. Or by Satan. No – he has something within him that eventually lead to the betrayal. He was like a gambler, who eventually HAD to sell his friends.

Because, like us, his heart was orientated a certain way.

2 Posts to come...
Pic on Flickr by Auntie P.

#4- Judas' Easter: 'To betray, you must first belong'

(7 Posts on the Easter Judas had to have. The text is Luke 22:3-23.)

But something more is being said here from Luke:

That evil comes not just from an external and/or hostile source. But that evil also comes from within. And specifically, from within the friendship group of Jesus. It does not come from 'those bad people' outside, those who aren’t our friends; it does not from the Gentiles; and not from a group you could easily demonize.

In Jewish history, there is always this undercurrent that the enemy is outside: Other nations; other people are to blame. But the gospel makes it clear that sin is HERE as well as THERE. (and Judaism itself makes this clear as well). That sin is on the inside, as well as outside.

Jesus says that from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts. Paul says: all have sinned. Jew, and Gentile; slave and free; male and female. Us and them.

It is no surprise, then, that the betrayal happens within the disciple-group.

Harold "Kim" Philby, high-ranking member of British intelligence and a Soviet Spy said this: 'To betray, you must first belong'. Yes. And we belong to God in creation, and yet we have all been unfaithful to our God.

3 Posts to come...

Pic from Wiki of Kim Philby.

#3- Judas' Easter: The true enemy of God is Evil itself.

(7 Posts on 'The Easter Judas had to have'. The text is Luke 22:3-23.)

What is it about Judas?

The text tells us that Satan entered Judas: V3
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them.
Like you, I have a lot of questions about this verse. There are many who are troubled over a verse like this. But at least this much is being said: Judas represents all that is wrong with the universe.

The true enemy of God is not any one person (it was not Judas acting alone). The true enemy of God is not the government. The true enemy of God is not Egypt (it was the time for Passover) or Rome. The true enemy of God is Satan himself. Evil itself. And at this point in the Gospel, St Luke is making that clear to us.

It was Satan acting against Jesus.

Satan is present in the Garden of Eden, seeking whom he may devour; and evil enters the Upper Room on that Passover Day, intent on the life of Jesus. It is Satan who means ill. It is Satan who seeks to destroy all that is good and of God. It is Satan who seeks God's destruction.

And the Scriptures make clear that you and I are both victims and agents of that evil. We, too, are 'in Adam'.

We need a Savior...

4 More posts...

Pic on Flickr by EcoSnake.

#2- Judas' Easter: Dante's Inferno

(7 Posts on the Easter Judas had to have. The text is Luke 22:3-23.)

What is it about Judas?

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, written in the 14th Century, the Italian poet 'paints a picture' of the layers of Hell. (A picture, it is worth saying, that is far far far beyond anything said in Scripture.)

Who does Dante place at the very center of Hell? Perpetually held in the jaws of Satan?

Judas. For betraying the Messiah.

Throughout History, Judas has come to represent all that is wrong in a world lacking fidelity. Even today: We may call someone 'Benedict Arnold' if we want to hurt someone who has betrayed us. But to call someone 'Judas' is to cut to the heart.

5 More posts...

#1: The Easter Judas had to have.

7 Posts on the Easter Judas had to have! These are some reflections on Luke 22:3-23. This was a part of a sermon I did on Maundy Thursday night.

Judas represents a world gone wrong.

Judas has always been a mysterious character in history: Appealing and repulsive at the same time. And notice that Luke 22:3-23 is framed by references to Judas: V3-6 begins our text, and v21-23 ends our text. Judas' Easter is the 'bookends' surrounding Jesus' last Supper before his death. That, in itself, says something interesting about the person and work of Jesus.

What is it about Judas?

What about the others? Peter troubles us for his denial. Thomas troubles us for his doubt. Everyone else ran away. But Judas? Heck, Judas betrayed the Lord our God. He was close to him for 3 years, and yet sold.him.out.

Jesus, who is worth more than the universe he created, was sold out for a mere 30 pieces of silver. Scary.

6 More posts...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Nathan Tasker Live in NYC

"Nathan Tasker Live in NYC".

Now that has a ring to it.

Nathan Tasker is one of Australia's premier Christian singer-songwriters (Australian Artist of the Year in 2006). Nathan writes and sings songs that tell the story of Jesus in a profound way. And he tells something of his own story along the way. See his website HERE. I have Blogged about Nathan several times, and you can read that HERE.

Christ Church NYC is hosting Nathan next week. He will perform in concert on Thursday 27th March, and share his songs and his journey. It will be enjoyable, reflective, and thought-provoking. 7:30PM at 111 East 87th St (Between Lexington and Park Ave).

Nathan will also sing at a Mission for Homeless Men on Monday Night, lead worship at NYU Navigators on Wednesday Night, and maybe even grace our Home Group on Friday Night. Should be good.

You can RSVP on Facebook, by clicking HERE.

Email me if you wish to know more...


Sunday, March 16, 2008


There was an accident today on East 50th and 51st St -- a crane fell and at least 4 people are dead. Read about it HERE. Keep the families in your prayers.

The crazy thing from my point of view is that my office is the building just to the right of the brown one above. (Our office is near the 'B' in the words 'Building destroyed' on the map). I walk past that demolished building every day. There was a little pub at the bottom of that building.

I often work on a Saturday afternoon at the office (but not today). I am deeply thankful to Jesus for life, but an events like this confirm in me that my life is a mere breath, and must be reckoned with seriously.
Psalm 35:5-7: You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

'First Things' blog about Christ Church NYC

Commendation is good. Anthony Sacramone over at 'First Things' wrote a post on Christ Church NYC this morning. Read the Blog post by clicking HERE.

Anthony points out that the "Anglican Communion is quickly becoming a synonym for entropy. But there are still bastions of orthodoxy that unabashedly hoist the flag of traditional 39-Article Anglicanism as it reaches out to the unchurched and the unbelieving in the big city."

It includes these words:

So, as a break from the usual TEC/Anglican needling, I thought it would be nice to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. To which end I give you Christ Church NYC. [...]

So if you’re in the NYC area and interested in learning about the Christian faith as read through an Anglican lens, or are already an Episcopalian/Anglican looking for a congregation that preaches the gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not the Times, the Guardian, the Voice, and the Jesus Seminar, Christ Church may be just what you’re looking for.

You also can read Dr Paul Barnett's 'The Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism' by clicking HERE. And also my Blog Posts interacting with Dr Barnett HERE.

And 50 Points for guessing where the picture was taken.

Monday, March 10, 2008

After Church Pic...

Twenty Points if you can tell me the exact location of this picture.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sacrifice your Seat at the Sold Out Conference

Just exploring an idea...

You know the new form of Corinthian Hoo-Haa: Chasing after 'great' preachers, always linking to them, forming fan-clubs on Facebook, downloading and listening to the back catalog of every online sermon of your favorite preacher, sometimes just to hear what all the talk is about. This is especially real here in the US, since we are entering what one blogger called: "The Conference season."

I am on the record as being nervous about Christian Fan-Clubs, unless it is a fan-club for Selwyn Sexton. I base that on Paul's warnings in his two surviving letters to the starry-eyed Corinthians. (Of course, I think that most well-known preachers would certainly *not* want you to join their Fan-Club. They are mostly humble men who want to draw attention away from themselves.)

The reason that Christian people often give for this (following, downloading, quoting, loving, promoting) is that the gospel is being preached in a fresh and relevant way, and that lives are therefore being saved and changed.

And I, too, love that the gospel being preached in a fresh way. And I, too, yearn for lives to be changed.


Praise God.

Here is a genuine idea, then, that hopefully combines your love for the Gospel, together with the challenge of sacrificial love. Here is an idea that I think captures the way of the Cross. Here is an idea that kind of tests whether our behavior is Corinthian:
If you have a hot ticket to a Christian conference with a gifted communicator, why not give up your seat to a non-believer? A not-yet-believer? Let's say that the conference you want to attend is completely sold out. Would you sacrifice your seat for a person who was not yet a Christian?
This is a genuine question. And I don't want it to be theoretical. If you think that this is right and godly, you could very easily contact the conference organizers, and say that your ticket is available if such a person contacted their office. Or let that be known in your church. You can get the Downloads afterwards.

I don't want to spoil a party or anything. I love going to these conferences too. But am I right that this could that be a gospel way forward?

Pic on Flickr by Alistairh.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

#2- The Gettysburg Principle: Make it only 279 Words.

Regarding my previous post - Here are my thoughts on Lincoln's address:
  • It's short.
  • It's inspiring.
  • It does not meander.
  • It is part of the larger narrative of American history ("Four score and seven years ago") and references itself within that narrative. ("Now we are engaged in a great civil war...")
  • It exegetes a moment of history ("We have come to dedicate") and yet speaks beyond that moment ("that we here highly resolve ... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth").
So I get it.

In relation to Sermon Preparation, I now propose The Gettysburg Principle:

'Make your sermon only 279 Words ...(before you ruin it.)'

That is, don't write out your sermon hoping for 4000 words, beginning with a poorly conceived 'hook', and then meandering your way through the 2000 mark, while seeking to guess an ending.

Here is my plan to stop my own meandering. For my next sermon...
  • I'm going to write out the entire sermon in 279 words. No more, and no less.
  • I'm going to work hard choosing each of those 279 words.
  • I will make sure these 279 words are the entire sermon and able to be delivered on their own. (They are not just 'the Big Idea'; or a 'main sentence'; or a goal; or a synopsis.)
  • My 279 words will need to exegete the biblical text drawing from the grand narrative of the Christ story.
  • I will then ask myself: Are these 279 words worth hearing? Do they take us to a new level? Do they give us a bigger vision of God? Do they propel us to new possibilities of faith for the Glory of God in the face of Christ? Do they challenge the complacent soul and give hope to the hungry heart?
  • I will then deliver these 279 words to Dr. Laurel (my personal literature expert) for rigorous scrutiny.
  • Then, and only then, will I add any more words or thoughts or ideas or illustrations or applications. And these extra words will be added only to explore and deepen and enhance those 279 words.
  • So I may end up with a normal sermon length. Or maybe not. But only when I've gathered my 279 words will I be confident that I will neither meander, nor repeat myself.
Otherwise, our words may be lost like the 13,607 words belonging to Edward Everett. History has blown away Everett's 2 hour speech in favor of the wonder of Lincoln's 279 words.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Pic on Flickr by Andertho.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

#1- Gettysburg Address and Sermon Preparation...

I've certainly got old thoughts on Sermon Preparation, and you can read my MO for preaching here. But last weekend, I had a new thought that came while I was reading Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (as you do). It is not that profound, but still helpful to me. I won't tell you my thought until tomorrow or Thursday. In the meantime, you tell me:

What do you notice about the Gettysburg Address as a piece of communication?

Here it is:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Keen to hear your reflection.

Pic on Flickr by stuck in customs.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Long View

The Wedding Vows from the Prayer Book:
I, N, in the presence of God,
take you, N, to be my wife,
to have and to hold
from this day forward,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death us do part;
This is my solemn vow and promise.
Gordo is alright. Gordo wrote a post on marriage. And someone else posted a comment on his Blog saying that for 10 long 'unrelenting' years, things had been difficult. 10 years! It is comments like this that make me understand why we don't write our own vows. Here is the comment made by Gordo's correspondent:
We have been married for [many] years. For much of that time my wife has been more or less depressed, and we have just come out of the end of a ten year period of it. This has been the longest unrelenting period of it. Perseverance pays off, because at the moment we are like newlyweds, though rather experienced newlyweds. Life has certainly had its joys and sorrows, but we are now both more committed to one another than ever.
That's righteous. And it is the long view.

Pic on Flickr by Prosaic-.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Joy in Portland, Seattle, Central Park, and Yale

A Brief update of some comings and goings:

Wedding in Portland:

I had the pleasure recently of flying out to Portland, Oregon for a wedding. Andy Edmundson was 16 when I met him 11 years ago at Christ Church, St Ives. It was a delight, then, to officiate at his wedding to the beautiful Megan Lawrence. I got to know Megan, and her fun family and dedicated friends. My wife and I had a lot of similarities to Eddo and Megan re marriage in the States . Just before the wedding, I said to him, "Who would have thought 11 years ago that we'd be sitting in this room on Oregon minutes before your wedding?" Great People.

Friends in Seattle:

On the Sunday morning, I drove from Portland to Seattle. I went to visit a church, but the highlight for me was visiting with my old University friend, Megan, and Benjamin, Coco and Eowyn. Very entertaining people. I think I could probably talk to Benjamin for about 3 days non-stop. The other highlight was driving alone from Seattle back to Portland via Astoria, in Oregon. I traveled through quiet forest areas and logging country. Nice. I arrived in Astoria at Sunset. It was stunning. Click HERE to see my Google Map. Oh, and I'm never driving without GPS again.

Snow in Central Park:

It has been a mild winter. But it snowed last week. We got to walk though Central Park after church. The Little Man loves the snow.

Steaks at Yale:

We didn't actually get to go to Yale. But we visited the Yale Club near Grand Central. Rhys Bezzant has become a good friend over 20 years. Rhys was Melbourne, I was Sydney. So our times together were limited. Rhys is now studying at Yale (on Jonathon Edward's view of the Church). Rhys visited Christ Church in the AM, and then he took us to the Yale Club for dinner that night. He regaled us with stories of meeting Hillary Clinton together with other assorted adventures.

I might have some pics of Grace and Sarat's wedding sometime soon.

That's a wrap.
Pic of Astoria on Flickr by Eyes Wide Open Artworks.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Grace and Sarat

I am marrying a couple from our church tomorrow. Grace and Sarat are a wonderful couple. I am looking forward to seeing how their marriage reflects God's love for the world!

They are getting married at The Riverside Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Riverside is a church that was funded initially by a Rockefeller. It is quite a privilege to marry my friends in this classic NYC landmark.

Wikipedia tells me that past speakers at Riverside Church have been Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro.

Fidel Castro?

So I am guessing that I will be slightly more evangelical and orthodox than previous speakers. My text will be Colossians 3:12-17.

Keep Grace and Sarat in your prayers.

Pic on Flickr by schnuffi0301.