Weeds and Wheat, Is God an Irresponsible Farmer?

The recent years in the Anglican Communion have been filled with strife, and schism. We argue over liturgy, we argue over women’s ordination, we argue over gay marriage…Are you sensing a common theme here? We argue. And more than argue, we split, we schism, because we can’t have THOSE PEOPLE, whomever you define those people as, with us, infecting us and corrupting us. Yet the Bible has something important to say to this. I was moved to write this sermon as a challenge and a response to all of our bickering based on the parable of the weeds. It is my hope that this sermon will provide encouragement, and exhortation to greater love and charity with those we disagree with.

Proper 11 Year A, Gospel according to Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” 36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Mat 13:24-30,36-43 NIV)

Is God an Irresponsible Farmer?

How many of us in here are farmers? Hmm I would venture to say here in urban South Florida that few if any of us have ever farmed. Some of you may have some plants or a garden, however. Today’s gospel lesson from Matthew 13 comes from a series of parables in which Jesus describes what the ‘kingdom of heaven is like’…The particular parable we heard this morning is often called the parable of the weeds.

In it Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sows good seed, but an enemy comes in the night and sows weeds among the wheat. In the ancient world that Jesus is living in there is no grocery stores, and there are no fast food restaurants. People’s lives depended upon their being able to successfully farm. There was some industry where you might trade in the marketplace for things you need, but by a large the people either raised crops or livestock to support their household. So Jesus here is using an analogy for the kingdom of heaven that everyone would have understood. Yet, we as urbanites in South Florida do not raise our crops, so in to understand what Jesus is saying here we need to know a little bit about farming.

Farming is all about maximizing your yield. You want to get the most crop as you can, in order to support your family and to have surplus to sell at market. So to get the most food possible you want a good seed. Farmers would carefully sort their seed so that they had as few rocks and weed seeds in them as possible. You wanted the purest seed possible. In modern farming we plant our seeds at the best possible depth to ensure the right amount of soil moisture and sunlight and we do this using heavy machinery, back then the farmer would sow, or scatter seed along the ground. Some might get eaten by birds, and some might not sprout, but the farmer trusted enough would take root and grow. Then the seeds sprout and the farmer would send workers into the field to pull weeds, why? Because weeds compete with the wheat for water, sun, and nutrients. So you want to pull them up as soon as possible before they have a chance to grow deep roots that will mix in with crop.

Here however Jesus tells a parable that flies in the face of every farming principle. Even though the enemy has come and sown weeds, the farmer tells his workers to not go and pull the weeds, why? “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.” (Mat 13:29 NIV) It seems here that God is being an irresponsible farmer…Why would he allow weeds to grow until the harvest?

Some of you may no longer be thinking about the gospel but are instead asking by now, how on Earth does Tracy know so much about farming? That’s not what we’re sending her to seminary for is it? Few of you know this, but I’m originally from Indiana, and my family lived on almost 2 acres up until I was 7 years old, and when I was still a small child we had ¾ of an acre for a garden. We had a peach tree, 2 apple trees, and every year we planted a few rows of corn, green beans, carrots, and tomatoes. We would plant in the spring and then we’d harvest and can enough in the fall to last us through the winter. It was a wonderful, except for one thing, the weeding. My Dad has really bad allergies to weeds, and so he would send my sister and I out into the garden to weed, and again you wanted to get the weeds out early before the took over and choked out your other crops. But imagine if you will a 5 and a 10 year old out in the hot sun weeding…We just wanted to get done, so sometimes in our haste we pulled the wrong thing. To a five year old dandelions are a lot prettier than pea plants, so I would leave dandelions and pick pea plants…I’ll tell you a secret. I also didn’t like peas. Now eventually my parents caught on and we were taught better on how to weed, and supervised, but I still remember a time as a small child when a dandelion was a pretty flower, and a pea was icky, and I wonder if this isn’t at the heart of why God allows the weeds.

Later in the Gospel lesson, Jesus takes his disciples aside and they ask him to explain the parable of the weeds…What does it mean? And Jesus tells them…The sower, the farmer as we would call him is the Son of Man. Son of Man is a title Jesus uses to refer to himself. He is the new Adam, creation made new and restored. The seed is the people of the kingdom. The seed is the people of God, and the weeds are the people of the evil one, and the field is the world, and the weeds and wheat will grow together until the end of the age when the angels are instructed by Jesus to harvest. First the weeds will be pulled, bundled and thrown into the fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Verse 41 tells us that at the end of the age the angels will finally weed out everything that causes sin and all who do evil will be destroyed, and the righteous will shine like stars in the heaven (verse 43 now).

Again it seems God is not a very good farmer, why would he allow things and persons that cause sin and evil to persist mixed into the world, mixed into his kingdom, and mixed into HIS CHURCH until the age? We in the church occasionally attempt to do a little weeding ourselves? We are wary of THOSE PEOPLE, those other people, who sin. They’re doing crazy dangerous stuff and we don’t trust it, it’s not good it’s not Godly, and so what do we do? The initial impulse is to beat them with doctrine and Scripture, and tell them all how they are Wrong, Wrong, Wrong….and if such a gracious truth in love approach doesn’t convince them of the error of their ways we do one of two things: we kick them out, or we leave. Because we can’t be in fellowship, we can’t be in Communion with THOSE PEOPLE. They’re wrong, and they could corrupt us…Why would God allow this? Why would God seemingly encourage this mixing of wheat and chaff, wheat and weed to remain?

I think back to when I was a child and sent out into the garden to weed. Even in my sincere efforts I occasionally missed a weed, but also in my youth and immaturity I mistook things I didn’t like for weeds. I sought to get rid of peas which were good for me, and kept the dandelions because they were pretty, and I liked them. I think we in the church are equally in danger of this. Because we don’t see things through God’s eyes we sometimes mistake things we don’t like or understand for being sinful and weeds. In the Episcopal Church great verbal battles have been fought over whether you should use the 1928 prayer book or the 79 prayer book, whether rite I is better than rite II, whether we should only sing hymns, or allow that heathen sounding praise music in.

Far more serious battles have occurred recently over the ordination of Women to Bishops in the Church of England, and we continue to battle over the ordination of homosexuals, and same sex marriage. The progressive wing of the church is all for it, the conservative wing is adamantly opposed, and many have even left the church. Then the rest of us are left in the middle trying to make sense of it all. Regardless of the sin, be it homosexuality, pride, or anger sin seems to abound in the church and in the way we treat each other. We have ceased speaking with charity with the people who disagree with us, because we know we are right.

Yet God tells us, and allows sin and sinful people to remain, and instructs the workers NOT TO weed them out because the wheat might be damaged when you pull out the weeds. Why is that? The farming metaphor breaks down a bit here because we are not a stable crop. Wheat is wheat from the time it is a seed to the time it sprouts to the time it is harvested and ground to make flour is still wheat. A dandelion is a dandelion from seed to sprout to flower. Yet we in the church know the kingdom of God is not so rigid.

As the old song goes, Amazing grace how sweet the sound, I once was lost but now am found! Dear friends I stand before you as a solid Christian, God willing I will one day a priest, yet I tell you truly…I was once a weed in the kingdom of God. I was a sinner extraordinaire. For a time, I had an excuse. I wasn’t raised in the church and didn’t know any better. But then in college I started attending a church regularly. Yet I was still a weed. I was bitter and angry over hard life experiences in childhood. I swore, smoked, drank underage and had a tattooed, pierced and purple haired body that screamed out of my rebellion. Yet, I was graciously welcomed. I continued on as a weed among the wheat until slowly day by day I saw myself transformed. I saw myself conformed into what it means to be a Christian. I wish I could tell you that when I was baptized in college I heard the angels sing, and the old me transformed immediately. In reality, I was happy and I was wet. Yet, the old me didn’t die right away. Yet something happened in my baptism, and in my life in the Christian community because gradually, the old me died away and I became dedicated to following Christ. Eventually I ended up here, to be one day a priest…and I thank God for his incredible grace shown forth in that community.

It would have been easy to see me as a bad influence, a weed, a person too wounded and too broken by the world, but my friends I tell you this…The good seed sown by Christ doesn’t just grow into fullness and get harvested, it also has the potential to infect and utterly transform the weeds. By the power of grace a weed can become wheat, a sinner can become a saint, and flesh can be conformed to the Spirit. In the church we are tempted to conform to the world’s ideals of farming, where the crop must be protected at all costs. We weed out the garden with regularity, and as a result have become a fractured and broken church. Let us instead trust in the graciousness of the Father who created the world with goodness. Satan has sown evil and sin into the world, yet the Father loved us enough to send his Son Jesus to sow good seed again and to restore creation by taking on flesh living and dying as one of us. Most of all let us not succumb to the temptation to judge and to weed ourselves, instead let us live in the tension of being side by side with weeds in the field. Let us pray for those we would weed out, that instead the Holy Spirit may come into their lives and transform them from weeds into wheat. So that at the last day we may all shine like the stars. Amen.

Awaiting Zechariah’s fulfillment

I am taking yet another preaching class…my motivations are less than ideal…I need to graduate, and to do that I need another credit in proclamation. I received feedback on my first sermon for this class that it was excellent, but likely to go above people’s heads. What do you think? I think its challenging, but I think it’s a message people need to hear. My sermon text is designed to be spoken not read, so it had some capitalization for emphasis and colloquial grammar…What do you think dear reader?

Sermon Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, Year A, Track 2. Lectionary for July 6

Zechariah 9:9-12, Ps. 145:8-15, Romans 7:15-25, Mt, 11:16-19, 25-30


Today is a day of wonderful lessons, that all seem like wonderful things we need to here. In the Psalm we heard “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great kindness…” Romans 7, talks about struggling with sin…who cannot relate to Paul’s lament “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do.” Many times in our lives we really need to hear about God’s compassion and how even the saints and apostles struggled with sin and temptation…So it may come as a surprise to many of you that I’ve chosen to preach on the Old Testament lesson today.

Why preach on 4 measly verses of the Old Testament? After all, many of us would be hard pressed to even FIND Zechariah in the Bible without turning to Table of Contents, and when we did we’d find him listed there along with several others under the heading “MINOR PROPHETS”….Minor or lessor means he is unimportant right? not quite…

Well to understand Zechariah’s importance, first we have to find him. The book of Zechariah is the second to last book in the Old Testament. He is one of 12 Minor Prophets in the Old Testament. Zechariah was a prophet and a priest. The book contains a series of visions that foretells not only the physical restoration and renewal of Jerusalem, but of the spiritual renewal of God’s covenant. Most significantly for us, Zechariah is one of the chorus of prophetic voices that foretold the coming of Jesus Christ. In Zechariah this morning we heard in about the coming of Zion’s king, chapter 9 verse 9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Some of you may be thinking, hmm gee that sounds familiar. Well it should. Just a few months ago during the Palm Sunday liturgy we heard from Matthew chapter 21, verses 1-5, the story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” (Mat 21:1-5 NIV)

Jesus fulfilled Zechariah’s words in verse 9, so again some of you may again be thinking we don’t need to pay much attention to Zechariah here, after all it’s already been fulfilled, right? Not quite…

This morning’s passage goes on to foretell the time when the LORD will establish peace in Jerusalem. Zechariah 9, verse 10 describes the time when God will take away the war chariots, the war horses, and will break the battle bows. All we have to do is turn on the news to realize that this has not yet happened. Israel and the Promised Land is still a war torn country. Today’s warfare features battles between Israelites and Palestinians, instead of Israelites and Canaanites. And the technology is bombs, mortars, machine guns and even nuclear weapons as opposed to chariots and bows…

Yet verse 10 also tells us that, he, Jesus will proclaim peace to the nations and his rule will extend from sea to sea, to the ends of the Earth. Jesus did come, not as the triumphal military king the Israelites were expecting. No he came lowly, riding on a colt. He did proclaim peace, and also salvation and the forgiveness of sins. The claims of peace in the middle East seem ludicrous, and fantastical.

I have jokingly, or not so jokingly heard it remarked that the only way to bring peace to the middle East would be to level it into a parking lot. Indeed much of this country’s military efforts over the last decade have been consumed by operations like “Shock and Awe” and “Iraqi Freedom.” Bombing to bring peace…yet we see on the news that the region is still war torn and unstable.

This past week we celebrated Independence Day. The commemoration of this country’s signing of the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent war for Independence. My family has the tradition of watching the musical, 1776 every Independence Day. There is something quite humorous about hearing the future President John Adams singing about being obnoxious and disliked. The musical also relates the horrible compromise made with the South to remove language about slavery from the declaration of Independence, a wrong that wouldn’t be righted until the Civil War, almost 100 years later.

It seems our country has a history of fighting to right wrongs. Throughout history violence has been used to right wrongs and redeem honor. Yet the Bible has placed strict limits on violence. The law limited revenge to an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth. Then Jesus went even further by telling us to turn the other cheek and when someone takes our coat, to give them our cloak as well. Did Jesus really intend for us to let ourselves get pushed around? Taken advantage of…Don’t we have a responsibility to bring about peace and right wrongs?

In Zechariah 9 verse 10 we hear that the LORD is the bringer of peace. The Lord is the one who breaks the bows of warfare. Should we also trust in the Lord to break our modern “weapons of mass destruction.” It seems naïve to think such a thing. Yet a portion of Zechariah has already come to pass, why should we not trust in its promises?

God promises his people in verse 11 that he will free their prisoners from the waterless pit. God has a covenant relationship with his people. We hear in Romans chapter 11 verse 17, that we are  “ingrafted branches” onto Jesse’s tree and we now share in the same nourishing sap. We share in God’s promises of peace, salvation, and the setting of the captives free.

Unfortunately, we know that for many of those promises to come true we need to wait for Jesus’s coming again, when we are promised a new heaven and a new earth, a new life with Christ, and a New Jerusalem, fully restored. It is a difficult thing to wait upon the Lord. Yet in Zechariah 9, verse 12, God enjoins his people to “return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope, even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”

What does it mean to be a “prisoner of hope”? In part it means to obey God, to wait and to trust in Him and His ultimate plan for salvation. It is all too easy for us to rely on ourselves, on our country, and on violence to protect us, to restore us. Yet God promises that the prisoners will be freed, and that Israel’s splendor will be restored double, not through violence, but through the coming King. We have already seen Jesus come once, he came just as promised, “righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Because of this we can trust in the rest of God’s message, that war will be ended, peace will be proclaimed and Christ’s rule will extend to the ends of the Earth. In the meantime we must remain prisoners, not of war, but of the hope we have in Christ that one day all things will be brought into subjection, and all peoples will worship him.

In the meantime we must live in the tension, waiting for Christ’s coming again. Our King came once lowly, riding on a donkey, to live and die as one of us, to preach peace, reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins. Peace is promised in Zechariah along with a kingdom that covers the whole Earth. Christ’s kingdom will not come through redemptive violence, where we can, let us be agents of peace. Working to turn the other cheek, both in our personal lives, and the life of the nation. As John 13:35 and the popular worship song says, “They will know we our Christians by our love.” Within this community, the greater church, and the nation let us lead lives of radical love that witness to Christ. Redemption and peace is not accomplished through fighting…Indeed the work of redemption and reconciliation has already been accomplished through Christ’s death and resurrection. While we await his coming again in glory, let us focus on Christ’s commission to us “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Trusting that Jesus is with us “always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus was not a meat puppet-Incarnation

I posted a few weeks ago about a philosophy I call “meat puppetry.” It is the idea that our bodies are machines simply being utilized and driven around by our minds. The mind/soul is the control, and the body is subservient. This way of thinking about the mind/body connection is wrong, and leads us into some pretty wrongheaded theology. You can read more about that in my initial post on Meat Puppet Theology. But today, I want to talk about the ultimate example of why bodies are important: JESUS HAD ONE! Jesus was Incarnate.

Not only was Jesus, Son of God, begotten by the Holy Spirit, He was knit together in Mary’s womb. Jesus was a man of flesh and blood, as well as God from God, light from light. I’m not going to do an exhaustive study of all the verses pertaining to the Incarnation (you can look at one such list here), John 1:14 will be sufficient here to illustrate my point:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:14 NIV)

The Word, present from the beginning became Incarnate, or put on flesh, to live and die as one of us. The reason God came to live among us as a human was eloquently stated by Gregory of Nazianzius: “What has not been assumed has not been healed.” (Ep. 101, 32: SC 208, 50)

Christ could not redeem humanity without assuming it fully. At the same time, he would have had no power or authority to extend salvation to us were he not fully God. The blessed miracle of Christ being fully human, and fully divine was necessary so that his death for us was sufficient.

By his taking on flesh, Christ redeemed flesh. Yet, the scandal of God in flesh does not end there…

Every year we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, this year’s was a few weeks back on May 29th.  The ascension of Jesus is described by Luke 24:50-53: 50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

I’d like to point out to you, Jesus did not shed his body! His saving work complete, Jesus did not leave behind his body to return to heaven. He ascended, STILL INCARNATE, still in flesh to return to heaven.

What does this mean for us? There are a lot of profound implications here, but the first and foremost is that flesh is important to God.

Flesh is not scandalous, inherently sinful and worthy only of use as a vessel to be quickly discarded after its purpose is finished. No, Jesus’s flesh is worthy of ascension into heaven!

It also means that when we pray, we pray to a God that understands flesh. Jesus knows our limitations, our aches, our pains. He also knows what it means to have a glorified body. We are assured that at the resurrection we too will attain glorified bodies. 1 John 3:2 tells us ” 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. “(1Jo 3:2 NIV)

For my next few posts I’m going to be talking about the mind/body connection within all of us, and how we are to treat our bodies as followers of Christ. We are an Incarnation people! This is a topic near and dear to me as I’ve sinned against my own flesh and God many times in my past. My healing has come only as I’ve learned to value the wholeness of my humanity, my own incarnation. I hope I can share that healing with you in my next post: Confessions of a Priest on Plastic Surgery.


Tracy (The Young Anglican)

I am not a meat puppet- Incarnation Living

Have you ever thought of yourself as a soul taking your body for a drive? I call this “meat puppet” theology, and it isn’t healthy.There is some incidental foul language in my post this week because of an embedded link from a popular science website. 

We spend much of our time and effort trying to “put things in perspective.” The problem is that a perspective is not objective or universally true. There are always a variety of perspectives to choose from.

Perspective, according to Mirriam Webster, simply means a particular attitude or way of viewing something. Sometimes we can choose the wrong perspective and it can have a profoundly negative impact on our life. The above example, viewing humanity through the lens of “meat puppets” or “ghost driving meat covered skeletons” has been liked by over 60,000 people on Facebook and shared over 20,000. This perspective is clearly popular! But it is a harmful perspective.

IFL, I F**king Love Science is a page full of “sciencey coolness,” and interesting discoveries.  I know the language may offend some of my readers (I apologize but I cannot censor the direct link embeds). It is meant in the exuberant exultant, this is so cool, science is amazing way. I follow this page because science is AWESOME!  I love learning about the wonderful things we can observe and learn about creation. IFL is a catchall for some of the coolest innovations as well as the merely fascinating like The Science of Why Bacon Smells Good. The blog also posts scientific studies that address critical issues such as mental health. I particularly liked this post about the negative effects of mental illness; mental illness is more likely to cut your life short than heavy smoking.

The problem is that IFL is not just dedicated to showing the coolness of science. They are also promoting a worldview that embraces rationalism. Rationalism is a belief or theory that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response. The problems that stem from rationalism are not immediately apparent. After all, reason is good thing and so is knowledge. Yet the idea that reason and knowledge can be divorced from our emotions and our body is made absurd in the practice of human life.
What’s wrong with this post about ghost driving meat covered skeletons made of stardust? It promotes the idea that we are meat puppets. Meat puppets are machines that our consciousness drives around. Why is meat puppetry bad?
There are several things dangerous about thinking humans are meat puppets:

  1. Meat puppetry rejects the true incarnate nature of humanity
  2. It promotes viewing the body as a machine, and detracts from holistic living


I will address each of these in the coming weeks as I’ve chosen to devote quite a bit of my blog this summer to the topic of Incarnation, but today I will focus on the incarnate nature of humanity.

What is Incarnation?

Incarnate means not just having a human body (a meat puppet driven by a brain), Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines incarnate as being invested with both human form and nature.

Incarnation then is

1 a (1) :  the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form (2) capitalized :  the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ

To put it simply Incarnation is the union of mind, or consciousness (or ghost as the IFL meme puts it) with the body. The fullness of being human requires both the mind and the body. The mind depends upon the body, and the body depends on the mind.

The Word was present at the beginning of creation. In him was the light  of all humanity, yet the Word, became incarnate and put on flesh, to become Jesus Christ to live and die as one of us. Then he was bodily resurrected to continue his teaching, before ASCENDING STILL INCARNATE, still in flesh, back into heaven. Jesus Christ, incarnate is present in the Godhead, the Trinity, the 3 in 1.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it…14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

 Incarnation vs. Meat Puppet View in light of Scripture

If we were meat puppets, or ghosts driving meat covered skeletons, why would the second person of the Trinity, come down from heaven, and take on flesh. Flesh is IMPORTANT to God. What’s more, human flesh now sits enthroned in heaven. If the only important thing were our human consciousness then surely Jesus would have shed his body to ascend into heaven.

Our bodies are important to God, and they are important to us. I look forward to delving more into what it means to be more than a meat puppet for God. If you have any topics, questions or thought about what it means to live incarnate, comment below.  For the next post I will be talking more specifically about the Incarnation of Jesus, “Jesus was not a meat puppet.”


Christian Response to The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins Straw Man

Every Christian needs to be ready with a Christian Response to The God Delusion. Why? Richard Dawkins’ name is often invoked as the reason why Christianity has been debunked. In The God DelusionDawkins constructs an elaborate argument to put social pressure on people to become atheists. Yet his whole argument rests on a “straw man” version of Christianity that bears little resemblance to Christianity. If we are equipped with a Christian Response to The God Delusion, not only will our faith not flag, we may plant a seed that weakens an atheists antagonism to the gospel. That is, after all the heart of what apologetics ministry is.

Richard Dawkins Straw Man ChristianityToday’s posting features my debunking of Dawkins’ argument with liberal aid from Alister McGrath and Johanna Collicutt McGrath’s, The Dawkins DelusionI encourage you to read on. You, dear reader, will one day face the challenge that Dawkins has shown God is a megalomaniac, jealous, fanatic who is ridiculous to believe in. This post will equip you to answer that charge.

Continue reading

Love is an Open Door: theology from Frozen

What do apologetics, evangelism and Disney’s “Frozen” have in common? Love! Most people would say fairy tale love has nothing to do with the gospel love of Christ, but as I jammed out in the car to the Frozen Soundtrack with my, soon to be 2, little girl, I picked up on some words in one song that sparked this post.

The song can be viewed in all its quirky glory here:

Love is an Open Door – Frozen Clip on Disney Video

Spoiler Alert:

Hans is not her True Love! In fact, he’s using her to get to the crown. So should we just chuck the song as the dreams of a naive girl soon to be dashed…No

Check out this particular lyric:

“Say goodbye to the pain of the past, We don’t have to feel it anymore…Love is an open door”

The Love described here is a healing love. Perhaps that’s why we as a generation are all chasing love like crazy, at earlier and earlier ages. We are looking for a romantic love to complete us, and heal our pain. But as Anna found out, and our divorce statistics reflect, rushing into this kind of romantic love isn’t working! It’s not healing us! It’s causing further harm by stealing childhoods, early and unsupported pregnancies, quickie divorces etc…

Does that mean a true healing love doesn’t exist? On the contrary; it does! It was exemplified by Jesus’s actions on the cross. God scandalously came to live and die as one of us because HE LOVES HIS CREATION. God wants us to be in right relationship with Him, to “Say goodbye to the pain of the past, We don’t have to feel it anymore…Love is an open door.”

A romantic relationship that is quirky, wonderful and healing does exist. My husband and I have been married for 5 years. We met working for Disney and have survived my losing my mother to a quick battle with Pancreatic Cancer, separation due to military service, and general family dysfunction. But we thrive because we recognize that our love is only a reflection of the love God has for us. The triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an inherently relational God.

We hunger for relationship because we are created in God’s image. Right relationships are founded in sacrificial love, as Jesus demonstrated to us.

Thomas Long: The Witness of preachingTaking this ethic of “love is an open door” deeper into apologetics and theology…

Thomas Long in his book The Witness of Preachingtalks about sermon illustrations as being more than just a window to look in at the gospel. Unfortunately, if the window is dim, dirty, poor, or opaque people focus on the window and not the view beyond. A sermon illustration should not seek to be not a window to glimpse the biblical text and truth through. Rather, a sermon illustration should be an “open door” which invites our hearers into the biblical text.

I’m going to amplify Long here, and say that not just for preaching but for apologetics and evangelism, our whole lives should be open doors which invite people in to the biblical truth that Jesus’s death on the cross means that love really is an open door.

To read more about living a love that invites people to know God you can go back to my previous post Love/Hate Relationship with Faith, Hope, and Love.

For some more reflection about the theology of Frozen you should check out these other blogs:

This one reflects on some of the more problematic theological elements from Elsa http://epictheology.com/2014/05/12/faith-and-film-frozen/

A reflection on the transfiguration that occurs from love http://abroadplace1.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/love-is-an-open-door-why-i-love-frozen/

This one highlights the sacrificial love of the sisters as a type of Christ’s love http://marianninja.blogspot.com/2014/01/do-you-want-to-build-snowman-sanguines.html

Love/hate relationship with Faith, Hope, and Love

faith, hope, love

Image credit: mercyrains @deviant art

I’m pretty sick of love. Not all love, but the love that says…We just need to love people…The greatest of these is love, so that’s ALL we need to do ….pardon me if I lovingly gag. Love without faith and hope is a pretty pitiful thing that amounts to no more than tolerance. Allow me to explain more fully…

My gut negative reaction to this Scripture comes not from the words themselves, but the way people have chosen to apply them.

1 Corinthians 13:13 says this, according to the NIV translation, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” You can check out other translations here,  but every translation describes love as being the greatest, greater, or best. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, Love is the best….What’s wrong is the way we then APPLY it.

In our Western world, Good is Ok, but I want only the BEST. We chuck out everything else, and focus exclusively on what is the greatest. I would argue that this is dangerous, and harms Christian practice. Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:14), Love without faith and hope is sickly and anemic. I argue, it ceases to be love at all, and is nothing more than tolerance.

Wikipedia tells us love is a virtue of “benevolent concern for the good of another.” Yet what is good for another? Take the hypotehtical, yet very real, example of Jane. Jane is a drug addicted homeless person, panhandling for money. What is more loving, to give her money, or to not? To engage her or ignore her?

What is good for Jane? The real answer is for Jane to be motivated and empowered to change her life and circumstances that contribute to/led to the addiction, and to be healed of her addiction. Yet that is hard, and frankly most of us don’t hold much hope for that…So we do one of three things: 1. give her money, say God Bless you, and hope she spends it on food and not drugs. 2. Give her no money and tell her to get her act together. 3.  Fiddle with our cell phone/radio knobs and ignore her. Are any of these really loving? Probably not…Why?

We’ve equated loving with being nice to people. So perhaps giving money is nice, but it wasn’t loving if it enabled Jane to further self harm and took her farther away from God’s purposes. Telling her to get her act together might be decribed as tough love, but it denies the real systematic issues that may be preventing her from just pulling her act together. Ignoring her may be seen then as the easy way, I’m not helping, I’m not harming. Yet this might be the most harmful of all. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan? Crossing the street didn’t solve anything. When we just ignore people like Jane, we deny that they are our neighbor, and that they are a person created in God’s image. We ignore them because we have no faith, or hope that there can be any change in the situation.

St. Augustine wrote a Handbook on Faith, Hope and Love, and described the relation of faith and love thusly:

” Now this is the true faith of Christ which the apostle commends: faith that works through love. And what it yet lacks in love it asks that it may receive, it seeks that it may find, and knocks that it may be opened unto it.246 For faith achieves what the law commands fides namque impetrat quod lex imperat. And, without the gift of God–that is, without the Holy Spirit, through whom love is shed abroad in our hearts–the law may bid but it cannot aid jubere lex poterit, non juvare.”[1]

Our faith works through our love and love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The logic “we just have to love people” is a lie, or at best only a partial truth. Our love is an outworking of our faith and hope in a God that truly changes things and heals hearts and minds.

I too am guilty of treating the “Janes” I come across without really engaging in relationship building. Yet I am praying that God will help me love the seemingly unlovable. As it gets hotter and hotter here in South Florida, I’m keeping bottles of water to give to those I meet. Another good idea is to keep hygiene kits to distribute directly, or donate to shelters, a list of what to include can be found here.

[1] Augustine’s Enchiridion Chapter 31, point 117. Found online here http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/augustine_enchiridion_02_trans.htm#C31




Adventures in Ministry, Fundraising, and Humility

Who am I? and Why am I asking you for money, and fundraising?

I am the loving wife of a United States Coast Guard service member, Will Dugger.

I am the devoted mother of, one soon to be 2 years old little girl.

I am a candidate to the Holy orders of Priesthood in the Episcopal Church. I am a wife and mother called to ordained ministry to increase the faith, hope and love of Christ in the world. I was lost, but now am found and I want to share the Good News, and healing, that I found in college at Purdue University’s Wesley Foundation, to the whole world.

My call to ministry:

My call to ministry began in the wonderful Christian Formation process at Purdue University’s Wesley Foundation. After a turbulent childhood, I arrived at Purdue University a deeply wounded person. I was invited to attend an event at Wesley Foundation, and over the next 4 years, they became the tangible arms of God. They fully embraced me, even through my weird purple hair phase. Pastors Glen and Lana Robyne patiently answered my questions, not easy ones either, but things like the problem of evil and suffering in the world, and perceived Biblical inconsistencies.

Over 4 years, I was taught, for the first time, both in word and deed what it meant to be a Christian. I was baptized my Junior year. My senior year of college, I began attending a group that explored a “Call to Ministry.” Over a series of mission trips, retreats, and Wednesday night devotions that I led, I realized God wanted to use me to be a means of healing and reconciliation to wounded and broken people. The time was not yet ripe for me to enter into ministry, however, and I sensed a “Wait upon the Lord.”

So, when I graduated from Purdue in 2007, I was somewhat at loose ends, and deeply nervous. As it turns out there was a reason for my time of wait. My very first call to ministry, was my own broken and wounded family. My family, in very brief, had been torn apart by separations, fighting, mental illness, neglect and abuse. Yet, the beginning seeds of reconciliation had already been planted. Shortly after our first family Christmas in years, my mother was hospitalized. In January 2008, my mother was diagnosed with terminal, Pancreatic Cancer. She died that April. In so short a time, a lot goes through a family system. I was able to share the peace of Christ that I found at Wesley Foundation, and had continued finding at Church of the Messiah, in Winter Garden, FL. My mother and I had many talks about God, leading up to her final days. She died reconciled to God. She had left over Scientific doubts and personal turmoil. In her final days she received last rites from Father Richard Borden. He and Messiah’s youth minister, at the time, Anne Matthew’s came and ministered to my family. My father was able to talk to a priest for hours. I cannot say exactly what happened, except the work of God. My mother’s death became the catalyst for a time of turmoil, but also a time of healing. My sister found faith and was baptized in July of 2009, and my Dad began attending church with me whenever he was in town.

My husband, Will Dugger and I also met during this time of waiting, that wasn’t really waiting at all. He and his family, have incredible devotion to God, and the Episcopal Church. They walked alongside my family through my mother’s dying, and embraced us with the more love and compassion than I could have ever expected or imagined. We were married April 18th, 2009, just shy of one year after my mother’s passing.

The time of waiting, that wasn’t waiting at all, but was ministry to, in and for my family had come to a close, and I sensed God telling me, “OK, now!” I began to work with Father Tom, of Church of the Messiah to discern what a calling to ministry meant for me. The surprising answer was priesthood!

I entered the process of discernment in the Episcopal Church, and was affirmed and uplifted. I began seminary at Asbury Theological Seminary, in the Fall of 2010. For my first two years I had almost a full scholarship, and was working at Church of the Messiah as well, first as an intern, and then as Children’s Minister. Into every well laid out plan, a little turmoil inevitably ensues. My plan to graduate with my Masters in Divinity in 3 years, and become ordained was thrown off. God’s timeline included the birth of our wonderful daughter in 2012. My husband entered the military in 2012 as well. Up until now, our household had required 2 incomes. He entered the military, making a great sacrifice, so that we would have the economic freedom for me to “just” attend seminary full time, and stay home with our daughter. Thus my “3 year plan” became a 4 ½ year adventure. Part of balancing the calls of wife (and a military wife at that), mother, and priesthood meant that our original plan, me transferring for my final year of seminary at an Episcopal, had to be rethought.

By the graciousness of my Bishop Greg Brewer, I was allowed to complete my M.Div. at Asbury Theological Seminary, and conduct my Anglican Year of studies as a distance student at Nashotah.

So where do you come in?

Much of my scholarships and diocesan support are set up on the assumption that you will complete your studies in three years and remain a full time student year round, including summers and January term.

I chose to take the Summer I gave birth off. I spent it getting to know this wonderful daughter the Lord knit together in my womb, and reweaving our family after my husband’s boot camp experience. This time off resulted in my school support dropping by almost $10K. We soldiered on, making up the deficit with loans.

Now as I approach the end of my seminary career, I need your support. Because I’m dual enrolled at Asbury to finish my Master’s in Divinity this summer, and Nashotah House, to do my Anglican Studies, I’m maxed out on the amount of federal loans I can take out in a year, and there is still a shortfall. Hence, the fundraising.

God is not telling me to wait, however. Through the prayers and discernment of my Bishop, Father Tom, Father Bob with whom I’ve served as an intern at St. Benedict’s in South Florida, where my husband is stationed, I’ve sensed God’s call to complete the work he has begun in me. This sprint to the finish is a financial challenge, but God’s timing is perfect. The diocese has stepped up their support of me by $3500.

I have never before asked for financial support from my congregation and my greater church family, but I need to now. Will you be instrumental in completing the good work that God has begun in my life? First and foremost, PRAY! Not everyone is called to give, but EVERYONE can pray! Pray that the means to cover the finances will be provided.

If in your prayers you discern God calling you to part of His means for my financial provision, then please GIVE with a cheerful heart. You can do so by going to this website, http://www.gofundme.com/funding-seminary

I hope that by hearing my story your faith that Christ is Risen! and at work in the world has been strengthened.

God Bless you,

2217_696464881768_7561_nTracy (Bridge)Dugger

day of prayer

National Day of Prayer, So what?

Thursday, May 1st is a national day of prayer.  So what? Do we really believe this is going to change anything? It might!

I think it depends on the attitude in which we approach this “Day of Prayer”…Do we come willing to accept guidance? Or are we just looking for blessing?

Standish, in his book Becoming a Blessed Church, describes a spiritual affliction. This affliction manifests itself in “little expectation that members will experience and encounter God, or connect what they do to God’s purpose, presence, and power.”

It sounds absurd when put like that, but its true. In our churches we don’t expect to encounter God’s purpose, presence, and power. We pray because we know we are supposed to. We pray because, “Eh, it can’t hurt.” and We pray because we’ve run out of other ideas. We pray because it is a “Day of Prayer.” God save us from this type of praying!

A seminary professor of mine, Father Gabig, described prayer as “wasting time with God.” He did not mean that prayer is a waste of our time. He meant that our prayer is like the time we spend with our families, and our friends, where it doesn’t matter what we do. We just want to spend time together. Prayer begins here, spending time with God. When we spend time with God and in His presence, we become attuned to His purpose, and we unleash His power.

I pray to you now God, may tomorrow be a time when we become attuned as a people, as a church, and as a nation to your presence. May we seek your Purpose for us, rather than merely asking your blessing on our own agenda. And may we allow your Holy Spirit to be at work in us, not just tomorrow, but everyday in our daily life and work. May we, by your grace and power, become a people who pray without ceasing, always seeking your presence, purpose, and power.

If you don’t know how to pray or what to pray for you can check out the Book of Common Prayer’s list of Prayer’s here.

To find Day of Prayer events in your area you can go to the official day of prayer webpage: http://nationaldayofprayer.org/ their event finder can put you in touch with local places to go and pray.

Finally, if you are looking for a way to become more in tune with God’s Purpose, Presence and Power as a Church, or Church leader, I HIGHLY recommend this book: Becoming a Blessed Church Becoming a Blessed Church:  Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and PowerN. Graham Standish; Alban Institute 2004WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Happy Easter or Festival of the Resurrection?

Do you celebrate Easter, or do you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Some would say this is just semantics…but are Easter and the Resurrection the same thing?

This is a tough topic, but I think it must be said. At the Church I attended on Easter we had the Easter Bunny come by and we had an egg hunt for the kiddos. We also had AWESOME music…Handel’s Alleluia Chorus, He is Risen. The Risen Lord Christ was proclaimed in the liturgy and in the word John 20:1- 18…BUT we fell short in one area…

The talking points of the sermon were these :(this is straight out of the bulletin)

Five most common regrets expressed by people
on their death beds:
1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to  myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

After these talking points the priest talked about the gospel. How Mary was so wrapped up in her own worries that she couldn’t see the risen Lord right in front of her.

So what’s the problem here? Everyone was happily nodding along with the points…The central message of the sermon that the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior means that we are to live a happy life without regrets. That is NOT the message of the gospel. It is my contention that when we talk about Easter, we leave room for confusion about what we really are celebrating, and why.

Back to my topic…Easter is the English/Germanic name for the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, see here for more details on the origins of the name Easter. So in theory, because Easter is just another name for the Resurrection feast there is no problem with using it. But in reality there is a deep problem. Easter as a term has lost its theological freight. We no longer associate it with the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We associate it with plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies. There is nothing wrong with eggs and bunnies. They too have Christian origins, see here. But, rather than supplemental symbols to help us see the fullness of what Easter means for Christians, Easter eggs and Easter bunnies have stolen the show. They have been allowed to overshadow the Resurrection.

My final point for using Festival of the Resurrection, is this. Easter has become just a day. It is a holiday where nominally Christian people post “Happy Easter” or “He is Risen” on their facebook. Yet Easter has no impact on their daily lives. Its a fun family day, but its over by Monday. The candy is all discounted, and the decorations put away until next year. Easter has become synonymous with Resurrection Sunday.

In the Church year Easter is not just a day, it is a season. Eastertide or the Festival of the Resurrection lasts from Easterday until the day of Pentecost. The fullness of the season allows for time not just to remember an event long past, but also remember that this event is ongoing in its consequences for the World. Jesus is the firstfruit of the Resurrection that awaits all in the last day.

Let us recapture the FULLNESS of Easter, not just as a day which somehow makes us feel better about our lives, but as a real celebration of the historical miracle that Jesus was raised from the dead to new life, and that we can have new life in him.

It is my contention that the word “Easter” has lost its theological meaning and significance. We either need to reeducate our people on its true meaning, or stop using it. Either way we cannot allow it to be a veil that distances the hearer from the true meaning of what we are celebrating: Alleluia, Alleluia The Lord is Risen!