Jesus: King

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I was sick this Thanksgiving—I’m sick every Thanksgiving. Every time, my immune system goes on vacation and a virus comes in and throws a house party.  It’s like the best food of the entire year and I can’t taste anything. Don’t worry, I’m not bitter. Why would I be bitter? My mom said to me, “At least you didn’t feel terrible alone.”

I love Thanksgiving because this is one of the few days out of the year that we choose to sit around with our families with nothing on the agenda—bar eating. I think this is why, with Danielle’s family, we always play board games. In my family, you play board games only when there’s absolutely nothing else to do. It’s a last resort, a last ditch effort, for some kind of entertainment. When you can’t eat another turkey sandwich and the Detroit Lions are getting beat—then (and only then) you get out the board game. We’re so competitive and there’s been too many Monopoly boards that have been flipped over in a Boardwalk rage. Danielle’s family will make a game out of a piece of cardboard, a couple of action figures, and a dice. I give them a hard time, but it’s actually a nice thing; we put the screens away and look each other in the face for a few hours. We don’t often pass the time away with laughter nearly enough. Continue reading “Jesus: King”

Jesus: Priest

“So what should I call you?” That’s usually one of the first questions I’m asked when I start working with a new congregation. I get it—Ryan seems informal and there’s a whole host of titles that you could choose from. There’s ‘Pastor,’ but I haven’t yet earned enough respect or trust to be called your Pastor, which means shepherd. I look too young to be called “Father,” even though I did have one parishioner call me ‘Padre.’ He was neither Mexican nor Hispanic, but he had the deepest southern accent: “Paw-Dray.” Then, there’s Reverend. I programmed my iPhone to call me that, which means revered—holy, honorable (I’m not sure what that says about me). Most congregants decide that Preacher or Minister is the safest, and I’m wondering why people don’t just call me Ryan. I am glad that no one calls me, “Brother Ryan.” Doesn’t that sound so Baptist? The name that you give me says something about the work that you expect me to do: a preacher preaches, a minister serves, a reverend practices holiness, a pastor shepherds the flock. This is to say that I’ve noticed that there is one nomination that I’ve never been given: priest. It’s not in a Methodist’s vocabulary. Continue reading “Jesus: Priest”

Jesus: Prophet

Before my brother in-law got married we took him to a palm reader for a bachelor party rite of passage. I’m not advocating for this, but we needed to know the fate of his marriage. The groom was less than enthused, but he also realized that there were far worse places we could take him, so he obliged. We pushed him inside the house and left with the car so he had no option but to open up his palm and receive his fate. She predicted a happy marriage, twins—two girls. She nailed the marriage and the girls. So far, no twins. Would we call this a prophecy? Modern sensibility tells us that a prophet is a fortune teller—the woman sitting at a table in downtown Asheville with a crystal ball.

Many folks are shocked to learn that the Hebrew prophets weren’t fortune tellers. They don’t make many predictions about the future other than large, sweeping generalities.  Sure, there are Scriptures that predict a Messiah.  Isaiah tells us that child will walk among us and he will be prince of peace, mighty counselor. He later says that there will be a suffering servant. But most of these references are pulled out of context. No Jewish theologian would have sketched a portrait of a Messiah who shows up as a homeless Jew, born in a stable in Bethlehem, and grew up in backward Nazareth (nothing good comes from Nazareth). Continue reading “Jesus: Prophet”

Skeletons (Bones)

A favorite professor of mine challenged us to write our own every couple of years. Now, I realize that’s a bit dark, so I’ve never taken him up on his offer. Here’s how I’d love for it to read: Ryan Snider died at the ripe age of 115. He had been retired for seventy five years (optimistic, right?) and spent his time between his four houses, one for each season. He leaves behind 10 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren. And also, 15 New York Times Best Selling books. That’s all fantasy. We never know when we’ll go, much less will we have control over what someone else will write about our lives. Continue reading “Skeletons (Bones)”