In today’s Seven Minute Seminary, Efrem Smith challenges the church to view the poor and incarcerated as groups who can dynamically be disciples and make disciples as part of the church body.
The megachurch infection may lead to the eventual death of Christian connection, also known as the church. Let me explain. In 2014/2015, I did a series of “Mystery Worships” where I visited a different church each week and wrote a newspaper column about it. After noting a “meh” response to one church we attended, I thought I’d [Read More…]
I argued theology recently with a clergy acquaintance who said that he would continue to follow Jesus—and teach others to do the same—even if the classic Christian doctrines were wrong (not to mention the Bible, from which these doctrines derive) and Jesus were merely human. When I asked him why, he said that his personal experience has taught him that […]
“Unwrap & Unfold- Unbound” (May 14, 2017) An emerging butterfly– or human child– is strengthened by the process of breaking free. Much as we might wish we could save our children from hardship, and much as God might wish to save us, God’s children, from hardship, the struggle is part of what strengthens us so […]
This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.
The Rev. Jeremy Smith analyzes the long-term impact of the Judicial Council ruling on the Western Jurisdiction’s election of Rev. Karen Oliveto as bishop.
The beautiful, impractical thing about Mary’s unthinkable act of worship all those years ago is we can still smell the perfume today.
I need you to be ok with me exactly as I am. I’m not going to radically change in the next five minutes, so who I am is who you have to deal with. This is me: all my faults, past mistakes, recent failures, tears I’ve shed and held back. This is me: celebrations, dances,… Continue reading Exactly… →
Article Submitted by Rev. Dennis Meaker: Rev. Dennis J. Meaker is an Elder in the Tennessee Conference. He entered the ministry in 1998 and will be retiring in June of 2017. Many trials taking place under the United Methodist Judicial Process in the last 15 years or so have involved matters where there were few disputed […]
I wonder what people thought as they saw me google and download pictures of Harry Styles for the title picture above… but I’m envious of his hair…
Not many folks in the Bible can claim that they killed a lion with their bare hands. But Samson did just that.
Even before birth, Samson was set aside for a special purpose. An angel appeared to his mother with pretty specific instructions:
“You are barren and childless, (I mean, geez. Sensitive much, Angel?) but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
Samson’s hero origin is more of a mutant (being born with power) rather than something happening to him to obtain superpowers (Peter Parker and the enhanced spider; Matt Murdock and the chemical spill; Barry Allen and the lightening storm; Steve Rogers and the science project; Bruce Wayne… well, his parents dying and leaving him their fortune).
He did well in keeping the Philistines at bay but it seemed like there was plenty of uneasiness surrounding his leadership and his short fuse and penchant to do erratic things on the spur of the moment (I mean, he referred to his wife as a heifer… Pro Tip: Never, and I can’t emphasize this enough: never call your significant other a “heifer”).
Then came love (for, like, the third time).
He was a boy.
She was a girl.
Can I make it anymore obvious?
Did Delilah ever love Samson? Or was she always in it for the money? And really — did Samson ever love Delilah or was he just infatuated with her and was still rebelling against his parents by being the Romeo to Delilah’s Juliet?
But she got what she wanted. And, sister got paid. Well, I don’t exactly know how to convert 1100 shekels of silver to US dollars. Also, Philistine Rulers said they’ll each give her 1100. I don’t know how many rulers came up to her. But let’s just agree between you and me that she got paid.
Sure, she had to prod and nag him until he was sick to death of her persistence (hey, hey — I’m just quoting the Bible, Judges 16:16).
He must’ve had (and I quote a modern philosopher’s literary work: Shake it Off) “hella good hair.” It was the hair. Samson told Delilah, “it’s the hair. That’s where I get my manliness from. My hella good hair” (The Bible According to Joe 16:16) Side note: Did he ever wonder why she was so persistent on finding out about his secret? Did he even care to know? I mean, when I came home one day and my wife said to me, “We’re getting life insurance policies,” I was hella suspicious. I was paranoid and slept with one eye open for the next few weeks after we received our policies.
Still, he must’ve known something was up though, right?
When she first asks him for his secret, he tells her to tie him with fresh bowstrings and he’ll lose his power. The next day, he wakes up tied with fresh bowstrings and the Philistines in his room ready to catch him.
That’s pretty suspicious…
Then she pleads for his secret again and he tells her if someone braids his hair into 7 braids and weaves into a fabric, he’d lose his power.
Again, the next day he wakes up with his hair did into 7 braids! And with the Philistines in his room again ready to capture him!
Is he dense? I mean fool me once…
Is he so blinded by love that he can’t put two and two together? Because, I would do anything for love. But I won’t do that.
Does he simply not care?
2 things I never noticed before:
1) Delilah called someone over to cut Samson’s hair while he was sleeping.
2) Samson still had his hair in 7 braids from the previous lie about his strength before it was shaved off.
I find both things rather hilarious, though I can’t put my finger on why.
We’re told that when his head was shaved, “his strength left him.”
It was the hair. That was in 7 braids.
… Hella good hair.
Actually, more disheartening and painful than his strength leaving him, we’re told that, he did not know that the Lord had left him. #ouch
The Philistine Rulers also gouged out Samson’s eyes. #rude
But the story has a happy ending. Sort of. Okay, it has a redeeming ending. Samson is paraded out to a huge party that the Philistines had thrown. They were mocking Israelite’s Champion; the one that had done much damage to them.
He was led to pillars to lean on and he prayed to God for one more burst of strength.
And then he proceeded to kill on his comedy routine because, …wait for it… he brought the house down!
Okay, there was no comedy routine, but Samson literally brought the house down — the whole house. (Although, his motive for strength in his prayer was revenge for his two eyes…) He killed more Philistines in his death than when he was alive, the author tells us.
Sure, as a kid the act of superhuman strength was what drew me to Samson’s story. The dude caught 300 — three hundred — foxes and tied them together by the tails 2 by 2, lit the tails on fire, and let them loose in the Philistine’s village. Talk about a senior prank (actually, don’t. That’s arson. And PETA will never let you sleep).
Another time he took a donkey’s jawbone and killed a thousand Philistine’s with it. A “fresh” donkey’s jawbone!
Today, as a kid masquerading as a grown adult, the most powerful part of Samson’s story is Judges 16:22: But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
“Uh, Joe,” you can point out. “That’s biology. It’s what hair does. It grows back.”
“Not all the time,” I might respond. “Look at LeBron James.”
But there’s more to this verse than just the actual, physical hair growing back.
The new growth of hair symbolizes hope — that this situation can still be redeemed by God. And really — that God never did leave Samson. In his deepest moment of pain and shame, God was there symbolized by the growth of hair.
Sure, Easter Sunday in 2017 happened on April 16.
But Easter isn’t a one-and-done deal. Easter doesn’t end sundown of Easter Sunday. Every day is Easter because we serve a Risen Lord everyday.
What that means is that we always have hope — even if it’s hope hanging by… a strand of hair. But even the faintest of light can help us in the midst of darkness.
God is always working — often in hidden ways — to redeem; to save; to heal; to love even if we are unaware of God’s work.
But also — it means that no one is too far from God’s reach.
King David broke 5 commandments in one story and yet he is known as the man after God’s heart.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Samson spent most of his life seemingly blind to God’s purpose. Perhaps he came to recognize his purpose after he actually became blind, captured and bound in shackles. Yet, his hair grew back.
In that prison, grinding grain; weakened; shamed; destroyed — God was there.
And in his last prayer, God was there.
And that goes for you and me, too.
While we’re treading waters in the midst of a storm;
or walking through the valley of shadow of death;
when we’re being swallowed up with shame and pain;
when we are confronted by death and mortality…
God is there.
God is here.
We always have hope in Christ’s resurrection because our story will never end in defeat. We share in Christ’s victory.
Now be honest with me. Could I pull off the Harry Style’s look? One can always hope…