Call for Papers: Weaponizing Scripture

Weaponizing Scripture?

Second Annual Graduate Student Colloquium in Scripture, Interpretation and Practice

March 22nd-23rd, 2015 at the University of Virginia

The 2015 Graduate Colloquium in Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice welcomes submissions of original research from graduate students on the topic “Weaponizing Scripture?”

Religious communities have frequently appealed to their scriptures in contexts of conflict. Sacred texts play a role in defining communal boundaries and in furthering their own formative and institutional goals. Conversely, individuals and groups who are antagonistic towards particular traditions deploy those traditions’ scriptures against them. Political and military leaders, resistance movements, and minority groups may all cite scripture as a warrant for action. The Word(s) of God can even be portrayed as a weapon itself.

This conference, then, will explore cases, both historical and contemporary, in which scripture serves as a resource for/against the communities that are formed by it, as well as how it is instrumentalized for formational, popular, political, and/or polemical agendas. It further seeks to uncover ways that scripture transforms the character of the debates and purposes for which it is deployed. Accordingly, papers could examine such cases intra-traditionally, ecumenically, inter-religiously, or between religious and secular spheres.

We seek participants who will address this topic from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives — historical, legal, theological, hermeneutic, ethical, political, and more. The following list is meant to be suggestive of topics rather than provide categories and is therefore not exhaustive:

  • How is scripture a resource and/or an instrument in the following contexts?:
    • in social/political movements (Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Abolition, The Civil Rights Movement, Latin American Base Communities, Islamism, the Christian Right/Left, and so on)
    • within political and/or everyday speech
    • as warrant for
      • religious or political ideological stances, including secular ones
      • violence and war
      • non-violent action
      • social justice/activism
    • within religious traditions
      • as a means of formation, or as a means of inclusion or exclusion
      • in doctrinal arguments (classical or contemporary)
      • towards the reform of traditions and religious sects, or the formation of religious institutions institutionalization
  • Phenomena such as:
    • Portrayal of weapons in scripture, including depictions of scripture itself as a weapon
    • scriptural commentary, scriptural reading strategies, scripture interpreting scripture, rewritten scripture
    • religious groups/movements defined by a specific scripture or set of scriptures
  • Philosophical questions:
    • What is the place of scripture in nurturing our religious traditions?
    • What does it mean when a political leader cites scripture as warrant for a military action?
    • Is there a difference between scripture used as a warrant for a specific action verse scripture used as a means of forming particular communities?
    • Does scripture function as a warrant within communities?

Plenary Speaker: Dr. Sohail Nakhooda

Dr. Nakhooda is a scholar of both Islamic and Christian traditions, who, as senior advisor to the current Libyan ambassador to the UAE, played a significant role in the recent Libyan revolution. He is Co­-Leader of the Islamic Analytic Theology project at Kalam Research & Media (KRM) in the UAE, in association with the John Templeton Foundation. During the Libyan revolution he worked as Secretary of the Libya Stabilization Team and also with the Support Offices of the Executive Team of the National Transitional Council of Libya. He was also former advisor to HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan; a Junior Fellow of the Royal Aal Al­Bayt Institute; and Founder and former Editor-­in­-Chief of the award­winning Islamica Magazine. We have sought him out because he provides us a unique window into the role of scripture both within religious tradition and in the political and even military spheres.

Proposals in the form of a 250-word abstract should be emailed to by January 15th, 2014. Acceptance notifications will be sent out by February 5rd, 2014. Final papers, not to exceed 2000 words, must be submitted by March 14rd, 2014. For up-to-date information please check out our website:

We are grateful for the financial support provided by the following sponsors:

Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life; Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University; Project on Lived Theology; Society for Scriptural Reasoning; Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures; Office of Diversity and Equity; Department of Religious Studies; Virginia Center for the Study of Religion

United Methodist Centrist Movement is a Third Way, but it is not Via Media


English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is another plan aiming to combat not the problems of the United Methodist Church but manifestations of those problems. It is put forth by members of an Annual Conference in Ohio. They call it a centrist plan and it is a third way. However, as I must remind you, the middle or third way mentality is not via media.

Let me also say that like others who have taken the time to write a plan, prayerfully, I trust that these authors have crafted this plan with a love of the United Methodist Church and a distaste for the constant wrangling over one issue. Any perceived attacks on them in this post is due not to my intention, but to my inability to fully craft it with as much grace as possible. I am frank, and sometimes that comes across rough. That is not my intention. I honor those who put something forward in good faith.

Others, more capable than I, have addresses some of the issues. My goal in this is to address it from my position, that of via media.1

The first line is likely a deal breaker. It reads:

The United Methodist Centrist Movement is made up of clergy and laity who love our denomination and believe the local church is the hope of the world

Isn’t this one of the problems in the UMC? We has forgotten that we are supposed to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. Second, we have forgotten our connexional foundation and the universality of the UMC’s polity. It should be that what one UMC congregation teaches as doctrine and intent, another does as well.2 Indeed, this very line is at the heart of the problems in the UMC — our increasingly small communities centered not on our connexion but on individual personalities or geographic locations. We even see the rise of individualistic, and often baseless, interpretations of Scripture far, far removed from the greater Christian orthodoxy and Wesleyan orthodoxy not to mention Reason and Tradition. We cannot even agree on the role and definition of “experience.”3

They propose to do away with the General Conference, the only real voice for the United Methodist Church. As Watson has said, there is a bureaucratic mess generated with each GC. Yet, instead of tackling that particular issue, they want to do away with it and instead allow regional conferences to take its place. This would, within a short time, create the bureaucracy of the GC at the regional level. It would also lead to regional conferences becoming denominations within a short time. Not only that, it would likely cause us in the United States to abandon the voices from today’s Central Conferences, given they are more conservative than many of our jurisdictions. This is not the image I want to see promoted. This is colonialism, even if it is a reverse of what we usually understand as colonialism.

Their call to the current itinerant system is interesting. I agree it needs to be overhauled, with something along the lines of forced itinerant systems. One of the issues I believe we face today is the cult of personality, where pastors stay too long to be effective. This occurs in our larger UMC churches, where the pastors suddenly become the dominant voice. Not the DS, the Bishop, or even Staff-Parish. The pastor is now in control. Overall, I am not sure their plan here is all that bad.

Their section on “Mutual Respect” is more American than anything. It gives power to those who break the BoD, ending any responsibility for their actions. What good is it then to have the Discipline if it is merely a soft guide?  Mutual respect is first earned when we share in mutual responsibility. What about the mutual responsibility and accountability of Bishops? What about the respect to the Book of Discipline and our individual responsibility to it.

In the end, this plan is truly a third way plan because it runs away from the actual root of our problems. In effect, if something is a problem, they only seek to change the reaction to it, and not the root. That is not a pattern we need to set.

There is nothing here in rediscovering our doctrine, our creeds, our connection to the Great Tradition. Indeed, there is little in here that actually moves us forward, rather than backwards (congregationalism).

The Centrist Movement is Third Way, but it is not via media.

You can find and you should read the plan here: The platform and beliefs of the United Methodist Centrist Movement.


the best thing about this plan is that it has killed A Way Forward. Rev. Mike Slaughter is one of the authors/supporters of this plan. 

I’ll edit this later, but wanted to put it out there now. 

  1. I do not speak for VMM, but speak as one who believes via media is the correct way forward.
  2. Note, this does not mean conformity in thought, but unity in doctrine.
  3. Experience means the Christian “new life” and it is but a tool in interpreting Scripture.

Quote of the day – George Orwell on #Pacifism

Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.

via George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism,” May, 1945 .

Thought this might start a conversation…

a quick snapshot and video of the Canon Comparisons in #Logos6 @logos

I am doing a Fouetté rond de jambe en tournant right now because of this new feature.

First, the video:

Now, some screen shots:

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.42.14 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.40.59 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.40.54 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.40.50 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.39.37 AM

Over at Patheos: Progressive Brands, Sexism & DudeBro Politics: #CloseGamerGate

link to original post: here

Because this was now being handled in public, I was fortunate to receive the support of hundreds of people on Twitter – as well as attacks from others. I always expect some form of trolling, but I did not expect one of the attackers to be an editor at Salon, Elias Isquith, who questioned what my potential rape meant for “hashtags” and “brands”. “- Sarah Kendzior, On Being A Thing

Encountering the Emergent Church Brand

For a span of 2 years, my final semester of undergrad up until my second year in seminary,I tried and miserably failed to fit myself in the white Calvinist evangelical mold. As a black man in his early twenties, I didn’t fit in anywhere in predominantly white Christian educational settings. Some of my first friends in seminary were a group of white Christians who were well read with Emergent Christian literature: Tony Jones, Doug Paggit, Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren will all names that were dropped during our weekly Tuesday night taco dinners.  I would eventually leave the Neo-Calvinist movement on my own terms and started to see some freedom in the Emergent Church movement. Two of the more influential books on my journey were Scot McKnight’s The Jesus Creed and Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. My Calvinist friends (who had not read these book/authors) were calling me a heretic for even reading these books, and as I look back then seven years ago, I can laugh.

I once preached a sermon on the Emergent church as the future of Christian tradition, and I even taught a Sunday School class on Black theology and Emergence Christianity.  However, I began to experience disaffection with the Emergent Church. All of the topics and controversies that the EC leadership wrote about/spoke about still made Whiteness as the center. Believers from marginated contexts were welcome to the table as long as they tacitly submitted to the ways of the dominant culture. In essence,  Emergence Christianities have become more about personal brands and the platforms of their recognized overwhelmingly White male leaders rather than being about the “future of Christianity.” You see, since we only live in the here and now, all talks of the “future of Christianity” are speculative. Yet, there is much money to be made when small groups of people decide to severe the multiracial Kingdom of God from any notion of the future. The “future” winds up looking very much like the status quo, and defenses (yes, even “progressive ones”) of the status quo are quite profitable.

Liberationist Killjoys And DudeBro Christianity

At Killjoy Prophets, there is a two-fold mission: first, we desire to center the experiences of Women of Color in Christianity, and secondly, we work to end DudeBro Christianity. Now, we often get asked, “what is DudeBro Christianity?” First of all, DudeBro is a descriptor of character traits; it is a politics in which any person of any gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background can embody.  DudeBro Christianity is the passive embodiment of dominant cultural norms that conceal commitments to White supremacist and male supremacist narratives as defaults. The bodies of women and People of Color are made to be objects of contempt. The practice of DudeBro Politics includes someone who insists that all social encounters occur on their terms.  The future of Christianity is their private property (“post-Christendom”); like the plantation oligarchs, People of Color and the bodies of women are to be supervised by DudeBro Christian leaders.

Emergent Christian leaders often make excuses such as, well many PoC and women just do not have a big enough platform to draw a big enough crowd for conferences. In other words, profit is the driving force behind abstract discussions of “the future” rather than the Kingdom of God, which is justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  DudeBro Politics is the anti-Christ, posing as an angelic voice of progressive Enlightenment in order to deny faithful victory over the sins of White Supremacy, rape culture, and economic exploitation. DudeBro politics can play out in non-liberating events such as a White Cisgender queer male informing me that I use too strong of language when describing economic policies as anti-black racism. DudeBro Christianity is when for the sake of inclusion in the United Methodist Church, a White CisHet man uses his privilege to compare the General Conference to date rape. In order to build her brand as a magenta politics leftist, one political theologian dismissed Sarah Kendzior’s claims to being threatened with rape. Jason is right: in order for DudeBro Politics to remain the pre-eminent regime in this kyriarchal, White Supremacist economy, men have to control the bodies of women and PoC.

“but I think it’s pathetic for some [recognized Emergent Church leaders] to stand around and comment on the failings [of Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill Church], while cowardly never admitting your own sh*& (which is strikingly familiar!!) misogyny, mental and emotional abuse all hidden behind a new found liberalism and feminism because the times they are a changin’, jumping on the same sex marriage band wagon because its the hot new ride in town, and you just might get to be relevant again…these people are very cunning and smart and they will use anything (theology, controversy, sensationalism) and anyone to get ahead. it’s a clinical diagnosis and a pathology that looks like this kind of carnage, and they ALWAYS leave bodies in their wake. soliciting white male leaders of the emergent church willing to cover it all up for their crony. wipe out evidence on organizations website. lies and betrayal.”- Julie McMahon, comment, Tony Jones On Mark Driscoll, What Came First, The Thug or The Theology?

On Ending DudeBro Christianity, #GamerGate, & #NotYourShield

Emergence Christianities and their leadership has unfortunately found itself more often than not on imperialist quests for fame and fortune rather than being in solidarity with the least of these. In the process, as Julie McMahon pointed out, brand-creation and marketing leave the bodies of the marginalized in its wake: objectification, emotional, physical and mental abuse, gaslighting, racist microaggressions, and “post-modern” defenses of White Supremacy. Progressive spaces such as Emergence Christianity have made it okay for others to promote themselves at the expense of others (women mostly). For example, the whole #GamerGate #NotYourShield movement is a whole group of gamer dudes violently backlashing against women gamers who have spoken up versus misogyny. Last week, my friend Drew Hart discovered that a #NotYourShield sock puppet had been using a picture of his to advance the racist*, sexist agenda of #NotYourShield / #GamerGate.

#GamerGate is more than a few Internet trolls. They harass their critics, take down their blogsites, spread vicious rumors, and send emails promising gun violence and sexual assaults towards women who dare speak out. It’s time for progressives to find new ways to brand themselves, and this should start by rejecting DudeBro Politics. It means living by the preferential option for the marginalized (women & People of Color), preferring to choose human life and people over profiteering and brand-making.  Such a rejection also means a public rebuke of #GamerGate / #NotYourShield.    #CloseGamerGate #CloseGamerGate #CloseGamerGate

“[…] upon this rock I will build my church; the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”- Matthew 16:18 KJV

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “The Gift”

  • I refer to #GamerGate/ #NotYourShield as racist because of #1, the persistent blackface sock puppeteering that they do, and #2, their reliance on negative stereotypes of Blacks as thuggish, criminal, and culturally “backwards”/homophobic.

There are always two sides

 – One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

via Pope Francis speech at the conclusion of the Synod Vatican Radio.

And the middle, of course. Doesn’t this sound familiar? I mean, to those following UMC politics (I hate that) and the lead up to the General Conference in 2016, this above statement by Pope Francis as he closed the first portion of the Synod on the Family is familiar. It is exactly what is going on in the UMC.

Two Books to consider for all you #rapture hounds #leftbehind (@ivpacademic)

There are two books you need to read if you put any stock in the rapture mythology. The first is the ancient commentary by Oecumenius. I can think of no better commentary (theological, not so much textual) than his.

The Eastern church gives little evidence of particular interest in the book of Revelation. Oecumenius of Isauria’s commentary on the book is the earliest full treatment in Greek and dates only from the early sixth century. Along with Oecumenius’s commentary, only that of Andrew of Caesarea (dating from the same era and often summarizing Oecumenius before offering a contrary opinion) and that of Arethas of Caesarea four centuries later provide any significant commentary from within the Greek tradition.

William Weinrich renders a particular service to readers interested in ancient commentary on the Apocalypse by translating in one volume the two early sixth-century commentaries. Because of the two interpreters’ often differing understandings, readers are exposed not only to early dialogue on the meaning and significance of the book for the faith and life of the church, but also to breadth of interpretation within the unity of the faith the two shared.


Um, my book:

Also, anything by Scott Hahn and Michael P. Barber.

Another painting – I blame the slight loss of oxygen

This is my first painting since my whatever-it-was-freak out-episode.

The first picture is what I started with. I have no idea what I’m doing.



believe without a reason

I was listening to the Michael W Smith song “Missing Person today, and I was struck by the line:

And like a child he would believe without a reason

I find this more than just a little bit annoying. Firstly, its a misuse of what Jesus says in Matthew about “becoming like a child”.

This means to unlearn everything the world has taught you to value, and to relearn how to live in the kingdom of God.

Secondly, How can you “believe without a reason”? There is no possible way you can believe something without a reason. At the very least, you believe something because someone you trusted told you something. 

Its an old and very stupid thing that Christians, particularly evangelicals, hold on to. I can remember many Pastors preaching this. “Just believe like a chid” – WELL WRONG. Children believe like children, but then they grow up.

Christians do not, and should not “believe without a reason” – just like when you are at school, or anywhere else for that matter, if someone tells you something, or teaches you something, you dont “just believe it” – you take it with a grain of salt, and you go away and find out, or get a second opinion, consult an expert.


No, friends, there is no such thing as “believe without a reason” – and it marrs what would is otherwise a cool song (and Christianity!)

Orthodoxy for those living with doctrines

Nazarene-logoI’d like to continue my line of thought from my previous post while swinging to the other “extreme”.

After having grown up in a Disciples church and not having any creeds or doctrines in front of me to guide me or direct me, I reflected upon my Disciples upbringing and could not help but notice that nobody actually took the time to explain to me that I needed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I cannot remember anyone showing me that I needed to ask for forgiveness for my sins. The Disciples church i grew up in spent so much time wandering around through people’s opinions on things that orthodoxy was never an issue. And, that’s the issue….

After high school, I pulled myself out of church for about 3 years. I felt church was a waste of time and I also felt I hadn’t learned anything. I wanted to do my own thing for a while and I did. I slept in. I stayed up late. I stayed up all night, many times. I did what I wanted to do.

But, anybody who knows what this life following the Lord is like knows that God does not leave you alone. My best friend from high school had found Jesus while trying out for the Marines. He didn’t make it, but he did find Jesus. He came home determined that all of us in the beer drinking circle of friends was going to find Jesus. I was the only one who responded. Maybe the Lord brought him home just for me. Maybe that’s a bit narcissistic.

My best friend had grown up in the Church of the Nazarene out on the south edge of town. I knew nothing about them. My Disciples upbringing had left me sheltered. I had no understanding of other churches or belief systems or doctrines. After asking Jesus to come into my life in June of ’92, I followed my friend out to the COTN. Since I had no formal teaching in doctrine, I ate up everything they put in front of me.

In Feb ’93 I began school at Mt Vernon Nazarene working towards ordination. For the first 4 or 5 years I just nodded my head in approval to everything they put on the table. It was quite a change going from a church where nothing was ever mentioned int he way of doctrine to a group that put everything on the table. The Wesleyan-Armenian viewpoint agreed with me. It made sense. After having accepted Christ, inviting him into my heart, responding to the knock at the door of my heart, the teaching about grace and faith working together made sense to me. God draws us in by his grace, but we need to respond in order to enter this life and actually be a part of it. The Calvinist viewpoint did not agree with my taste buds. If God simply picks and chooses who gets to go to heaven and hell, our existence seems pointless here.

During my junior & senior years of high school I worked at an IGA grocery store in my hometown of Shelby, OH. I missed alot of church on Sundays because you got paid time and a half to work that day. We also got an hour break for lunch. For the longest time I would frequent the deli and grab 4 of these subs made of bologna, salami and some swiss cheese on a sesame bun, with a 20 oz Mt Dew. Every Sunday that I worked this would be my lunch time break food. Plowing through 4 of these small subs and downing that Mt Dew. Ah, nothing finer. Then came the day when I sat down and began to partake. Part way through the first sub it just hit me. These little subs were disgusting. Maybe it was because I had been eating them so often that I simply was getting tired of them. It was my steady diet, especially on Sundays. I put that sub down and threw the 3 1/2 left into the trash can. Several months later I remember trying it again, as if, taking that time off had corrected my taste buds. It did not. I threw them away and I never went back to them. There were other foods to try. These little lunch meat subs were not going to do the trick anymore.

All these years later, after I had accepted Christ, after i was 5 years or so into my schooling for the ministry, I remember getting this similar feeling in my gut over the doctrine that was being plugged into my heart and soul. While I did not agree with that viewpoint in much of what Calvinism promoted I could see some truth in it and related to it through the immaturity I saw in my own walk at that point in my journey. I was seeking and pursuing more and wanted to walk with Christ. That seemed to be the major push in Wesleyanism. To seek to be like Christ. I did not see that same emphasis in much of Calvinism. However, the idea of being ecumenical with others in the Christian faith – Baptist, CMA, Church of God (Cleveland, TN or Anderson, IN), and anyone else who showed up at McDonald’s on a Wednesday night after church – I felt the need to find a common ground we could converse and discuss on.

What I saw being promoted in my Nazarene ranks was a superiority to others outside of our faith group. I heard it on Wednesday night during bible study. In the early 90’s we studied the book The Upward Call. Written by four prominent Nazarene leaders, I can actually recall the point being brought forth in the course of the book and our study that the only place we could find truth and true support and fellowship was through our own ranks and with people of our own Nazarene group. I can recall the Wednesday night when that came out of the mouth of the pastor’s wife who was leading our study. That was not how I flt in my heart and spoke up and let it out. “I get a lot of fellowship with all the church people who show up at McDonald’s on Wednesday night!” That viewpoint, of course, was not received with a chorus of cheers.

At college, in my course of study classes for ordination, I felt and heard more of an emphasis about how we as Nazarenes had everything right and other had it wrong. Any one here who has spent some time with the Nazarenes might have experienced something similar. I heard lots about the “three C’s” and heard them labelled as such. The Calvinists. The Charismatics. And, the Catholics. They had it all wrong. We had it right. We had the right doctrines and the right emphasis. Those outside of our faith group had it wrong. The Calvinist didn’t have the right viewpoint on salvation. The Charismatics misused the gifts, especially tongues. The Catholics had a bad example of church government and spirituality. There was something about all of this that just wasn’t settling right in my gut. I recall driving home one night from Mt Vernon in deep thought about how all of our viewpoints could work together. Everybody had their place and each part could fit in next to one another if we would take the time to listen to where we were coming from. I was having a harder and harder time dealing with the separatist mindset of staying away from other churches and faiths.

What is it about seeking orthodoxy that makes us rear the ugly head of superiority over others with a different viewpoint? Some of us have recently seen the insults of Martin Luther who wrote extensively in support of the Protestant faith we promote. Yet, he was not afraid to say exactly what he thought of those who did not share the same explanation for what he, himself, believed. Do we have any of that spirit of superiority within our ranks at the UMC? Oh, my…did I just open a can or worms? I do that occasionally. In my six years of Course of Study work at MTSO I can say I’ve heard a hint of just that. We might tend to tone it down a bit, but I have noted where there has been a sense of our right vs. their wrong. The current tussle within orthodoxy vs progressive views is a prime place to seek out such unneeded attitudes.

Sometimes I appreciate my Disciples of Christ upbringing. We were told creeds and doctrines were divisive and man-made. All we needed was the bible. Yet, I was and still am, in many instances, a person who needed a bit of guidance and help in what we need to believe. Just reading the bible wasn’t enough. We need some help to understand what is there. In seeking out that understanding, we run the risk of finding explanations and doctrines that don’t mean a hill of beans to our faith. Things we will pick up and inherently dig in only to, at some point, take it away from our mouths and go, “What the…”  It’s all part of the process.

I’ve been seeking out orthodoxy for some time now. Many times I feel as if I still don’t have a grip on the right things to believe. My desire is not to be arrogant about what I only think I understand. My desire it be transparent and open about what I need to research and contemplate. I might find a lunch meat sandwich I’ll regret later. I might find something really really good. And, I might actually learn something from just reading the bible.

If this makes any sense to you, help me…join me…follow me.

I’m seeking out orthodoxy. Maybe we’ll find it together.


Hi there. My name is Jeremy Shank. I am a local licensed pastor in the West Ohio Conference of the UMC. I have been added to the Unsettled Christianity blog as a contributor. I blog mainly for the purposes of working out my sermon material for Sunday morning. Below is a message I preached back in 2012 upon arrival at my, then, new appointment. Hope you enjoy and I’ll have fresh material as we go forward.

There’s a first time for everything

Formal introductions can be painful, stressful and just downright uncomfortable.
And, not at all because of the people you might be meeting for the first time.
Just because, it’s difficult walking into a new setting or relationship and not knowing what those people will think of you.Will they like how I am dressed?
Will they take one look at me and think ‘I don’t like this person’ ?
Will they like my family?I think of the first time I met my wife’s family.

She brought me home to meet the family over a holiday break during her sophomore year of college.
I sat in a chair while she caught up with her family and talked.
Nobody really said much to me. I just sat there.
Kind of irked me a little bit.
In my mind I saw this as a time of formal introduction.
Their chance to get to know me and who I am.
And, I really liked this girl, so I really wanted to get to know them.

Introductions are rough.
The Rev Dr Randy Stearns was an instructor of mine at MTSO and taught my class on evangelism. He spoke a line that will stick with me . He said, “Some people are just not going to like you.” OUCH!

That’s just how it is. Maybe it’s the way you’re dressed. 
Maybe they just take one look at you and think, ‘I don’t like this person’. 
Nothing you can do about it.

Man that hurts!
You try to make a good impression and they don’t like you, sometimes for no good reason.

Paul was writing to the Corinthians for the first time.
With all the emphasis we put in our culture upon ‘first impressions’ I wonder if Paul and the people of his time thought about any of that.

1 Corinthians 1
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God

Ok. Normally when we pick up a book in our culture, there is a preface, an introduction and a nicely printed jacket around the book that goes into much detail about the author.
Where he/she went to school.
What kind of degrees they earned.
How long they have been doing the current work they are invested in.
Their spouse, their kids, even info on the family pet.

“Hi, I’m Paul. Apostle of Jesus Christ. God sent me.”

It doesn’t get much more simplistic than that.

Well, it’s usually about this time in my blog entry that I go see what Webster’s has to say on the matter.
Webster’s rolled the word back to it’s basic form from ‘introduction’ to ‘introduce’.

Definition of INTRODUCE
transitive verb
1: to lead or bring in especially for the first time
2 a : to bring into play
b : to bring into practice or use : institute
3: to lead to or make known by a formal act, announcement, or recommendation: as
a : to cause to be acquainted
b : to present formally at court or into society
c : to present or announce formally or officially or by an official reading
d : to make preliminary explanatory or laudatory remarks about
e : to bring (as an actor or singer) before the public for the first time
4: place, insert
5: to bring to a knowledge of something

As I begin to play with the definitions here, I want to stay focused on Paul and why he makes so many of the introductions in his letters so simple.
Is it because he has so much to say that he doesn’t bother with a long intro? Maybe.
I’m leaning towards the idea that Paul never felt he truly had to explain himself to anyone.
There are places in Paul’s letters where he goes into deeper detail about himself.
But, when he does talk more about himself, it’s usually to make some point about Christ.

“I’d like to introduce myself, but more importantly, I’d like to tell you about what Christ has done in my life.”

So, as Paul writes for the first time to these Corinthians, he doesn’t spend a lot of time on himself.
The focus should not be on his credentials, or his education, or who his rabbi was in Egypt.

“I’m an apostle of Jesus Christ, sent by God.”
And, that’s all you need to know.

And more over, it’s as if Paul doesn’t need the Corinthians to go around the circle and introduce themselves.
He already knows who they are.

1 Corinthians 1
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is who I am, this is who you are, now lets get down to business.

This sounds like an almost harsh way of getting to know someone.
I have colleagues in the ministry here in the United Methodist Church who can come off this way.
I don’t want to listen to you ramble on with your stories. Just get to the point.

It should be noted here for historical purposes that Paul had already visited with the Corinthians around 52 A.D.
He went there and visited and worked among them and then wrote them a letter some time later around 54 A.D.
Maybe this is why his letter starts off the way it does.
They should know who he is.
They should know who they are in this picture.
They should know that Paul is God’s apostle and they are the “holy people”.

And, if they don’t know that, they are going to know it by the time they get done reading Paul’s letter.

Paul will begin to ‘introduce’ to them the idea that God has brought them to a new life in Christ.
That God has given them gifts and called them to do ministry.
He will introduce them to the greatest gift of all.
He will lay before them the emphasis of following Christ and not a man.
He will speak to them of what is yet to come and the ability to live in the grace God provides here and now.

Maybe this is the first time they are ever hearing these things.
Maybe they have never truly understood what God’s purposes are for them.
Maybe God called Paul to this for that very purpose; to introduce them to Christ and what this new life involves.

Recently, I got to meet with the Pastor-Parish committees of the Thornville & Pleasantville United Methodist churches.
I am going to be heading there in July of 2012.
My hope is that they know what my purpose is in coming to them as their new minister.
My hope is that they already have some idea of what God wants for them in their respective areas for ministry and mission.

And, if they don’t, they’re going to understand it by the time I get done working there.

You might be feeling as if I cut a story short earlier.
I was explaining about my now in-laws and how I felt a little left out during our first meeting.

I remember my now wife asking me how I felt the first meeting went.
I told her I felt kind of awkward because nobody really said much to me.
So, she went and told her folks and they graciously had me in for dinner the next week in an effort to get to know me.
And, buddy, they went out of their way, especially her dad.

In the midst of our conversation he left the table and was gone for a bit.
When I looked up he had come back.
With a pair of the ‘Billy Bob Teeth’ in his mouth.
He leans over his daughter’s shoulder (who did not see him come in)
And, (In his best southern accent) “Well hey there deary, I want to thank you for coming to dinner tonight.”
My now wife was thoroughly embarrassed.
The rest of us were rolling.

I found out what I was getting myself into after I was introduced to it.
And, I married into it, anyway.

Best decision I ever made.