Pastor Kip's e-Letter
May 9, 2012
I am very excited about the summer we have planned at Asbury UMC! On Wednesday, June 13 at 6:30 PM, I am launching the Institute of Biblical Studies, with additional sessions on June 20 and 27, July 11, 18, and 25, August 15, 22, 29, and concluding on September 5 (all sessions are on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM). It has always been my dream to be able to expose the average lay person to the scholarly study of the Bible, which has so deeply enriched my faith, by bringing to the local church leading scholars and theologians, but the cost was and continues to be too prohibitive. Now, through the Office of Communications of the United Methodist Church, I am finally able to do it. Via modern technology they are making available lectures and study curriculum featuring just such persons. Thus, I am thrilled to share with you the subject of studies for this summer's Institute:
Almost two thousand years after his death, Jesus continues to be a controversial figure. Even those who claim to follow him disagree on how to understand his life and teachings, not to mention his death and resurrection. Leading biblical scholar, Marcus J. Borg, will take us on an incredible journey as we discover who the historical Jesus really was, what he taught, and why he still matters today. We will be using Borg's recent New York Times bestselling book, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary as a primary resource. You can register for the Institute and purchase a copy of this book at the Information Station at church this coming Sunday.
Professor Marcus J. Borg is one of the most widely read biblical scholars in our time and has written extensively on the life of Jesus. Borg was the Hundere Chair of Religion and Culture in the Religion Department at Oregon State University until his retirement in 2007, when he then became the Theologian in Residence at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon.
He has also authored nineteen books, including Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time; The God We Never Knew; Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, and The Heart of Christianity, all best-sellers. Described by The New York Times as "a leading figure in his generation of Jesus scholars," he has also appeared on NBC's "Today Show" and "Dateline," PBS's "Newshour," ABC's "Evening News," NPR's "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross, and several National Geographic programs.
Borg has also been national chair of the Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, and is past president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars. His work has been translated into eleven languages, he has lectured widely overseas and in North America, including the Smithsonian Institute, and he holds a doctor's degree in New Testament from Oxford University.
Needless to say, our opportunity to interact and engage with so strong a scholar is unprecedented. Each Wednesday will also feature dinner in the CLC, nursery/child care, and programs for children and youth. Mark your calendar and make plans to join us!
Looking forward to seeing you Sunday!
May 2, 2012
This past week, The United Methodist Church's top legislative body, the General Conference, convened in Tampa, Florida for a time of Christian conferencing. Once every four years delegates (988 for this year) from all around the world meet to determine policy and direction for the church as a whole. The General Conference is the only entity that speaks for the 12.1-million-members United Methodist Church.
The theme for this year's conference is "Make Disciples of Jesus Christ to Transform the World."
Let me share with you the following information from the website of the General Conference:
The 25-member Commission on the General Conference, led by Randall Miller of Emeryville, California, has planned the conference. A local committee from the Florida Annual Conference, under the leadership of Bishop Timothy Whitaker, is hosting the event. The Rev. Jim Harnish, senior pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, is chairman of the host committee. Some 4,000 people will serve in a variety of roles, such as greeters, registration officials, marshals, pages, translators, hosts, guides, drivers, musicians, technicians, reporters and emergency responders. The majority will be volunteers.
The projected cost of the 2012 session is $8.8 million, compared with $7.1 million for the 2008 session and $5.3 million for the 2004 conference. Three percent of the cost is for committee functions and Commission on General Conference expenses; 10 percent covers the cost of the offices of the business manager, treasurer and the secretary of the General Conference; 29 percent is for operations; 18 percent for language services; and 40 percent for delegate expenses.
About $1.7 million of the total will pay delegate travel, and $1.7 million will fund the cost of housing and food - each delegate will be given $125 per diem for meals and housing. The Daily Christian Advocate will cost $400,000, and the computer-tracking system will be $408,000. Renting the convention center is expected to total $160,000. These are examples of what it takes to make General Conference happen.
During the 11-day session, the 988 delegates will review, revise, and expand The Book of Discipline, which regulates the manner in which local churches, annual conferences and general agencies are organized. The book includes policies regarding church membership, ordination, administration, property and judicial procedures. The assembly may modify most disciplinary paragraphs by a simple majority vote, but amending the church constitution itself requires a two-thirds affirmative vote. Revoking or changing the Articles of Religion or the Confession of Faith requires a two-thirds affirmative vote by the delegates; three-fourths of the annual conference members must also agree.
Delegates also revise The Book of Resolutions, a companion volume stating the denomination's stance on a variety of social justice issues. The more than 300 statements in the book are considered instructive and persuasive but are not considered binding on members.
In addition, the assembly approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs for the next quadrennium and elects members to the to the Judicial Council and University Senate, two major United Methodist legislative bodies.
Why am I sharing all this with you? Two key reasons: prayer and praise. Pray for all the delegates and bishops as they seek to work together and lead us forward in to God's preferred future for all of United Methodism. Also, give God praise for the positive impact the United Methodist Church has on the hurting people of the world, and for providing a place for all of us to live out our faith in Jesus Christ!
Don't forget that this coming Sunday we will mark the beginning of the month of May and the first of the final four sermons in our series entitled "Reading the Bible for all the Wrong Reasons" :
Hope to see you there!
April 25, 2012
As a young man, Mahatma Gandhi left his native country of India to study in London. After learning about Christianity, and after reading The Sermon on the Mount and The Gospel According to St. John, he decided that Christianity was the most complete religion in the world. Gandhi was particularly moved by the idea in the first chapter of St. John that God in Jesus "became flesh and dwelt among us."
It was only later, after he lived for a while with a Christian family in East India that he changed his mind and continued to practice the Hinduism that he grew up with. Why? In that household he discovered that the Word rarely became flesh - and that the teachings of Jesus rarely became the reality of Jesus.
How "fleshy" is Jesus in your life? How persuasive is his teaching? How passionate is your practice of the faith? How much does your heart burn within you when the Sacred Scriptures are opened to you? And how often do you recognize the stranger as the living Christ in your midst?
This coming Sunday we will look at what the Bible means when it says that the "Word became flesh and lived among us." We will also continue the sermons series entitled "Reading the Bible for all the Wrong Reasons." I hope you will mark your calendar, bring a friend, and make plans to join me on this exciting adventure in pursuit of God's Word:
See you Sunday!
April 18, 2012
British clergyman, Rev. G. Campbell Morgan was one of the most respected preachers of the early 20th Century. Though he often visited the United States on speaking tours, he was most at home as the senior minister of the famous Westminster Chapel in London. But even though he seemed very confident in the pulpit, he was often plagued by many doubts about the Bible and his Christian faith.
The thought and writings of various scientists and intellectuals that were his contemporaries, such as Charles Darwin, John Tyndall, Thomas Huxley, and Herbert Spencer greatly disturbed and challenged him. As he read their books, listened to lectures, and joined the audience at their well-attended debates at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Morgan became more and more perplexed.
So...what did he do? He cancelled all of his preaching engagements, put all of the books in his professional library in a cupboard and locked the door, and went to the bookstore and bought a brand new Bible. His frustration can be felt as he wrote in his journal, "I am no longer sure that [the Bible] is what my father claims it to be, the Word of God. But of this I am sure. If it be the Word of God, and if I come to it with an unprejudiced and open mind, it will bring assurance to my soul of itself."
After a long and arduous struggle, Campbell penned this in his journal as a follow-up: "That Bible found me!" This new assurance gave him the motivation to continue his preaching and pastoral ministry for many years to come. Campbell would always look back to this time in his life as forever deepening his devotion to the proper study and interpretation of the Holy Scripture.
This past Sunday we began a new sermons series entitled "Reading the Bible for all the Wrong Reasons." My goal is to help you develop a new appreciation for the Holy Scriptures and discover a more sure foundation for establishing your faith. Below are the six remaining messages in this series. I hope you will mark your calendar, bring a friend, and make plans to join me on this exciting adventure in pursuit of God's Word:
May God's richest blessings be yours this week!