Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

I decided to celebrate with a bit of funny. Click here to see my elfish New Year greeting. Here's a taste:

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Family Christmas Fun...

Family Christmas Fun...
Originally uploaded by whatnext. Hills, Minnesota. We had Christmas dinner with several dozen of Sara's relatives. What a riot! I think I gained about twenty pounds just by seeing how much food there was.

Photo © 2006 by Christopher D. Drew
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Monday, December 25, 2006

The Star Marks the Place

The Star Marks the Place
Originally uploaded by whatnext.
This is the spot that marks the traditional exact place of birth of Jesus Christ.

"Fitted into the paving, shines a 14 pointed silver star marking the exact spot surrounded by the Latin inscription: HICDE VIRGINE MARIA JESUS CHRISTUS NATUS EST. 1717. (Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary). Of the 15 lamps burning around the recess, six belong to the Greeks, 5 to the Armenians and four to the Latins." [Description from]

Photo © 2006 by Christopher Drew

Merry Christmas!

Sara and I are with her parents in Luverne, Minnesota, after spending over a week with my parents in Salt Lake City, Utah. May the blessing of Christ's peace be with you all.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Trail of Lights

Trail of Lights
Originally uploaded by whatnext.
Coming in at about one mile in length, the annual Austin Trail of Lights attracts over 350,000 visitors each year. Sara and I finally made it here, in our third year of seminary studies.

Photo © 2006 by Christopher D. Drew

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Happy New Year - Advent II

2. Advent
Originally uploaded by Gakas.
The collect for the second week of Advent, taken from the Presbyerian Book of Common Worship:

God of all peoples, your servant John came baptizing and calling for repentance. Help us to hear his voice of judgement, that we may also rejoice in his word of promise, and be found pure and blameless in that glorious Day when Christ comes to rule the earth as Prince of Peace. Amen.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Annual Polity Bowl Makes the News [Updated]

This story ran in the Austin American-Statesman this morning. Obviously, the headline writer is not familiar with the word "polity." Click the story link to see pictures from previous years, including a famous shot of our seminary president. I'll post the results later today!

Update: The final score was

APTS 20, ETSS 16!

A reporter/photographer from the Austin American-Statesman covered the entire game. Hopefully we'll be in tomorrow's paper!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"Christ-Follower" vs "Christian"

I caught these videos over at Hot Air, of all places. At first I thought the idea was clever, but I now have nagging feelings of ambivalence because the ads rely on a false dichotomy. What do you think about these parody ads by the Community Christian Church?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas Meme

This responsory list is making the rounds in the blogosphere. Thanks to The Anchoress for inspiring me to supply my own responses (I needed the break from my remaining school projects):

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Yes. Er... I have to pick? Okay. Whatever tastes better spiked with good Presbyterian Scotch. I'll go on a limb and suggest that eggnog wins the taste test. I'll try it out and let you know. Maybe.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa wraps, baby. The element of surprise is a key Santa-esque mark of authenticity.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White, the white light pierced into the darkness of the world.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No. I prefer to kiss only my fiancée, and we don't need encouragement from some silly piece of shrubbery.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Way to early, I'm afraid. We're in Advent, people! Christmastide isn't for several weeks.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? This is going to sound kind of lame, but I love mashed potatoes and giblet gravy.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? I remember my dad walking around with the 8mm movie camera with a HUGE lamp to light the scene.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I learned the truth late in grade school. A friend disclosed the truth at church, of all places.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Never! (Almost.)

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Mom has always decorated the family tree. She's so good at it that I've told her she should turn pro. Seriously.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Totally love it. I'm a snowboarding fanatic.

12. Can you ice skate? Yes. Generally, I'm the source of great amusement when I ice skate.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Sara gives me most meaningful gift I've ever received - her love.

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you? The Incarnation. Without that, we'd be lost.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Pumpkin Pie with real whipped cream.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Christmas breakfast with the family.

17. What tops your tree? An angel.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? I love watching the reaction of those I've given gifts.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? The Truth from Above.

20. Candy canes: yuck or yum? I love 'em. Sticky good.

21. Favorite Christmas movie? Why, A Christmas Story, of course. A classic. "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."

22. What do you leave for Santa? Chocolate chip cookies and an ice-cold glass of milk. This was an easy thing to remember, because chocolate chip cookies with ice-cold milk happens to be one of my dad's favorite evening time snacks.

Don? Karen? Sara? David? What say you?

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Happy New Year - Advent I

A happy 1.Advent
Originally uploaded by Allseasons.
The collect for the first week of Advent, taken from the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer:

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

First Sermon to the Church

The audio recording from my sermon last Sunday has been posted online. Click here to listen (the sermon is at the top of the list) or right-click here to download a copy. The sermon text can be read below.

This was the first time I've ever preached to the people of God assembled in public worship, so this was a big day for me. I'm happy to report that all went well. Feedback was positive and critiques were constructive. I would also welcome additional feedback from those of you who read this blog!

[Click to Show/Hide Sermon Text]

What Sort of King are You, Truthfully?

John 18:33-38a
Christ the King Sunday

© 2006 by Christopher D. Drew

Focus: Jesus makes the claim that he is King of a Kingdom that transcends our understanding of royalty and power and gives witness to the Truth. Our human institutions of power are ultimately subject to the authority of One Lord of Truth.

Function: To encourage listeners incorporate the claims of this One Lord of Truth into their family and professional lives, and in the covenantal relationships we have in the Church.

These past weeks I have been participating in Ron Ragsdale’s Midweek Moment class that is viewing and responding to John Eldredge’s wonderful book and video series called EPIC. I really like the class because it does a wonderful job of relating our stories with the grand story of God revealed to us through Scripture and in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Early in the series, John Eldridge asks the penetrating question “What sort of tale have we fallen into?” As I have read today’s gospel text, the story of Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus, and have reflected on the time of the year, I ask myself the same question. What sort of tale have we fallen into?

Part of the answer is supplied by the calendar. This Sunday is referred to in the great circle of the church’s calendar as Christ the King Sunday. It is a significant inflection point in the recurring story of the universal church. Having just celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, a holiday meant to acknowledge our place in the history of this nation, we now draw our eyes back once again, on Sunday, together with the world, to the risen Lord as we lay the groundwork for Advent. (Can you believe it? Advent is almost here.) The story of Christ the King is linked closely with the end-time theme of the first week of Advent and forms the narrative bridge between the “old” Christian year and the “new.”

This is a tale that moves swiftly as we march on toward Christmastide, so we might still be disoriented from having fallen into it. Our place in time is marked by images of the royal Christ. The forum for this image is the story of a trial, a trial where we are challenged to ask ourselves, “Just what it is about this man, Jesus, who we call and particularly acknowledge on this day as King?” We’re entering a story containing intrigue, the nature of God’s Kingdom, and the substance of what it is we call “truth.” As we consider Jesus in light of our text from the gospel of John, let us all keep in mind the question “What sort of tale have we fallen into?”

Let us pray:

Holy and merciful God, send your Spirit to illuminate our minds and hearts as your word is read and proclaimed in this place and time. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, whom with you and the Holy Spirit we praise and honor and glorify this day and every day. Amen.

John 18:33-38a

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

34 "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"

35 "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"

36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."

37 "You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

38 "What is truth?" Pilate asked.

Our thinking about royal power and kingdoms is shaped and influenced by both our popular culture and by our politics, and our reactions to royal power run the gambit from ridicule, to suspicion, to fear.

Some of you may remember the popular family sitcom about the 1950s called Happy Days. You might remember that Ron Howard (who is now a famous film director) played Ritchie Cunningham. His dad, Howard Cunningham, aspired to and later became “grand Pooh-Bah” of Leopard Lodge No. 462 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He became the make-believe “king” of the local fraternal group. It seemed clear to me, when watching the show, that a certain social prestige was associated with the somewhat silly title “grand Pooh-Bah.” The term usually generates some degree of amusement, even laughter. “Grand Pooh-Bah” was created by Gilbert and Sullivan for their musical The Mikado.

In this operetta, the haughty character Pooh-Bah holds numerous exalted offices, including Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Buckhounds, Lord High Auditor, Groom of the Back Stairs, and Lord High Everything Else. The name has come to be used as a mocking title for someone self-important or high-ranking and who exhibits an inflated self-regard.

In our culture, we sometimes view royalty or superior social status with a similar degree of derision We frequently ridicule at the bumbling fool who has been put in charge for no other reason than by accident of birth or because the more qualified employee got wise and went looking for a better job elsewhere. We laugh because we have some sense of how inadequate any human is to the task of being royal.

Royalty isn’t all fumbling and bumbling incapable fools, though. There’s sinister side to royalty as well. In America, we treat kingdom talk with deep suspicion, borne out of our national historical struggle against Great Britain, and because we have adopted a system of government founded precisely upon the suspicion of those with ambitions to lead. Throughout history Kings (and Queens) of the earth have been said to hold their power through a “divine right” borne, in part, on an allegiance to the King of Kings! But the record of history causes us to view these claims with suspicion, too. And our suspicion is not unjustified. History is full of personalities who, having been proclaimed King or Queen, and having understood themselves to have the approval of the King of Kings, then utilized their power and authority for the perpetuation of all manner of evil: famine, slavery, and genocide are a few of the most unsavory examples. We are a people who don’t like the idea of a King. We are resistant to the notion that an entity apart from ourselves could ultimately hold sway over even the most basic decisions of our lives.

Even so, while we refuse to put a crown on anyone because we’re suspicious of one person who has all of the power, we’re not altogether immune to the tendency to put our trust in one, single entity, either. We frequently fall back into the view that a party or platform can save us. We had an election earlier this month. For some, this was an occasion for great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Our party lost. The gig is up. For some, there were feelings that ALL was lost. That the power to change things for the better had been transferred to those who have a wrongheaded approach for that which is best for this nation.

For others, the election was a time for great celebration. What was once lost has been regained. It’s our gig now. For some, there were feelings that NOW, we finally have a shot to get things right. The power to change things for the better had been transferred from those who have a wrongheaded approach for that which is best for this nation.

Now, you see the commonality between these two statements? Underneath both statements is this notion that we can rely, if not on a king, then on the political process (when we’re the winners) to save ourselves. And it is for this exact reason that we have the representative republic form of constitutional government. The other side cannot be trusted.

Is this power? Political institutions that fade in and out of first place? I think our gospel writer is suggesting something totally different. Today’s reading challenges us to rethink the notion of power, of having a king in our lives; one to whom we pledge total and complete allegiance; one who we acknowledge to be Lord of Life, one who Revelation 1:5 tells us is “the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the Earth.”

Our reading today is preceeded by the acocunt of the angry and suspicious crowds who have handed Jesus over to the Roman authority, Pontius Pilate. Pilate asks the crowd what Jesus has done, and according to John they gave the very vague answer: “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate decides to interview Jesus to find out what is going on such that the peace of the forthcoming Passover celebration is threatened.

Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” This is a question firmly rooted in Pilate’s worldly experience in the Roman Empire. In the other Gospel accounts of this same interview, Jesus answers briefly, “You have said it.” But the expanded and detailed account in John’s gospel gives us a view into something much larger than a potential political dispute between Rome (represented by Pilate), and Israel (represented by the Crowds, the Chief Priests and others). John’s account is much more detailed because he seems very interested in witnessing to the Lordship of Jesus. This is reflected in Jesus’s next recorded statement, one that appears to be based on a suspicion of Pilate’s motive for asking his question. Does Pilate suspect that Jesus might be something more than the crowds have thus far portrayed? Jesus tests Pilate to see if his suspicion is accurate: “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asks, “or did others talk to you about me?”

Pilate’s reply is almost a scoff, “I am not a Jew, am I?” It seems, then, that Pilate is only familiar with Kingship as it relates to the context of Empire. The suspicion that he may be on to Jesus’ true nature is therefore unfounded. So, if Jesus is not a “king” in the sense that Pilate understands, then why has Jesus been brought to him at all? Pilate asks Jesus about this, “What is it you have done?” The chief priests and “people” have handed him over. Why all this trouble on the day of Preparation for Passover?

“My kingdom,” says Jesus, “is not of this world.” His Kingdom is not from around here. It’s not a Kingdom as we understand Kingdoms – with territory and replete with armies to defend, supplant, and conquer. No, not this King. Instead, we have the King who rules in a way utterly not like that found on Earth. If Jesus’s Kingdom were an earthly Kingdom, wouldn’t you expect armies of supporters responding to his command? Yes, indeed we would. But not here. Indeed, Jesus makes it clear that his Kingdom, because it is not of this world, is therefore not a threat to Roman authority per se. Instead, this is a Kingdom with the God of Love as its foundation. A love founded upon a kind of powerlessness that defies human expectation. A love founded upon the full faithfulness of the one loved. Jesus is our perfect exemplar of such love. It is a love that cannot be understood apart from the work of Jesus and the new commandment he gave in chapter 13:14 where he said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Jesus answers Pilate’s exclamation “You are a king, then!” in the affirmative. “You are right in saying that I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Yes, there is Truth, and a Way, and Life. It encounters us in the voice of the stranger, in the outstretched hand of the victim, of the less fortunate. The Truth is Love; and Love is commanded by this King. And it is for this reason that we give all glory and honor to our King. He is not the King who is representative of the truth. No. We ask, “What Kind of King are you, Jesus, truthfully?” He answers, “Your King is Truth and bears witness to the truth.” The truths we rely on in order to save ourselves are therefore inadequate to the task. There is no salvation to be found in our worldly Grand Pooh-bahs, or our political parties. There is no salvation to be found ultimately in any earthly institution. Our salvation rests with the King who is also Truth – and who rules a kingdom built on a foundation of Love – the Love that God has for the Son and that the Son has for His disciples. That’s you and me, folks. And we are not called to place our faith in an illusion. If we did, then we are to be greatly pitied. Our faith is real and founded upon the Truth of Christ, Jesus Christ the Nazarene. The one who was born before time, came into the world in the manger, the one who out of love for us was crucified for our salvation, and the one who will indeed come again. This, my friends, is the magnificent tale we’ve fallen into.

The truth is in Christ, but that’s not apparent to everyone. I invite you now to imagine that you are in this story, and that your name is Pontius Pilate. You’ve just met this man, Jesus, whom the crowd has accused of criminal acts. You investigate the man apart from his nation and its priests. You are able to conclude that he poses no direct threat to Roman Rule. But then this man starts talking about a different sort of kingdom, one for which there is no standard of comparison. This man makes the claim that he is a King of this weird, bizarre Kingdom founded not on the exercise of power but upon the power of love, a love is which amazing because it is premised on a kind of mutual laying down of power. Not only that, but this man tells you that he is witnessing and testifying to the truth – THE truth. Pilate’s answer indicates that he knows the tables have been turned, and that he’s been put in the dock by Jesus. Suddenly, the earthly judge is being judged by Truth. His response, “What is truth?” tell us that ultimately Pilate is unable to comprehend the full nature of a kingdom built on a foundation of love instead of raw human power.

Pilate couldn’t understand this different sort of Kingdom? Can we?

I think we can. Why? Because he have the spirit of Truth to help us, and we have the continuing sustenance of the waters of Baptism. The truth of Christ’s Kingdom is proclaimed by the local and international mission work of this church, by its charge to educate both young and old alike about Christian life and ongoing work of the Church in the world. We rehearse life in the Kingdom each week in the drama of our public worship, where the audience is not you or me but the Father, the Father’s whose kingdom has come, will come, and is continually breaking into our “reality” through the bread and wine, the body and the blood, of his most precious Son Jesus. It is to this place that we return to encounter the Lord of Truth.

Now, isn’t this an unlikely way for a kingdom to come and for a King to rule – in a meal of bread and wine, in baptismal water, and in caring for our neighbors? It is. It is a worldview different from the one we’ve been conditioned to by our culture. We are all called, as Jesus was, to bear the Truth into the world. We are all Christ’s ministers, and we are all called to share in Christ’s witness to the truth in the world. Moreover, we are called to witness to the Truth in Love, which means that we mutually lay down our power and engage the other as we engage ourselves. I believe this is what is meant with the Golden Rule. And of course, this image of power in powerlessness seems deeply contradictory. And it would be, if the power we witness to in Christ were simply a contractual arrangement between you and me and between other individuals in our church. But that is not how we’re called to relate to one another. We are a community in a covenantal relationship, which is a structured in a way much more open to the foibles of our human depravity, but also much more open to the potential fullness of human lives built in the image of Christ. We come into these covenantal relationships with trust, but also with forgiveness, because we all know we will, at one time or another, fall short of our true selves, the true selves Christ the King imagines for each of us. We also know that these relationships are not bilateral, because in as a covenant people we are not only obligated to each other but also to The King.

So this is the story we’ve fallen into. Christ witnessed to the Truth with Pontius Pilate and through the signs and wonders attested to in the Gospel. We, in turn, are called to witness to the truth using our human means. These include the Church and its missions, and the political realities of the world in the place and time in which we are born, and it includes the sacramental way in which we encounter Christ as Body and Blood, as Bread and Wine. We are cast in a story where we are continually invited to the table to dine with the King. As we receive the Cup and the Bread from the King, we are simultaneously empowered to serve each other in love and in truth as the King’s cupbearers and stewards.

Friends, this is the joyful feast of our Lord Jesus Christ, our King.

The people of God will come from the East and from the West, from the North and South, to sit at table in the Kingdom of God. This is the Lord’s Table, and our Savior invites those who trust him to share the feast which he has prepared.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Text

I'm scheduled to preach on November 26th. Here's the blurb the church created for that Sunday, taken from a nifty Bible Reading Program that's updated each quarter.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Book Review: An Army of Davids

An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government and other Goliaths by Glenn Reynolds (Nelson Current, 2006, 289 pages; $24.99, hardcover;

Glenn Reynolds is popularly known on the internet as Instapundit, the über-blogger who has a do-it-yourself vocational history including such titles as “beer brewer” and “independent music label producer.” Mr. Reynolds is also a Presbyterian.

The premise of the book is stated pretty clearly in the lengthy subtitle. I’m not sure that David can be equated with the “ordinary,” but that’s an argument best reserved for another day. What I can tell you is this: Mr. Reynolds has done readers a wonderful service by noticing an important phenomenon: that “big” no longer guarantees success. Small is the new big, and the reason is that being small is now easier than ever before thanks to the explosion of cheap, out-of-the-box technology. Opinionmaking is no longer the reserve of big house newspapers like The New York Times or news organs like the Presbyterian News Service. Blogging is now a normative way of obtaining news and opinion, frequently from individuals with specific expertise in their area of interest. One no longer needs to sign with a big label in order to distribute music – products like Garageband make music making easy, and the web makes independently produced music easy to distribute. Today, successful big companies are the ones that help others keep things small. Reynolds cites eBay an example of this strategy - a big company that helps thousands of small sellers make their living using the eBay platform.

Given the biblical title and Reynolds’ Presbyterianism, I was a bit surprised that his thesis didn’t carry over into the rapid decline of “big” mainline denominations and the rise of one-off, nondenominational mega churches. The new “big” also means that individual members, deacons, elders, and Ministers of Word and Sacrament can now be their own opinionmakers. Mark D. Roberts is one of the most prominent Presbyterian pastors blogging today and has opined at length on theological matters ranging from The Davinci Code to the infamous “gospel” of Judas. Presbybloggers have also taken on big denominational issues. Individuals in the Presbyblogger circuit opined extensively about Louisville’s 2004 attempt to promote a divestment strategy that many felt unfairly singled out the nation of Israel. The blogosphere also weighed in heavily on the Peace, Unity, and Purity report. The effects of these opinion makers have, I’m sure, been felt at this year’s 217th General Assembly.

Glenn Reynolds has identified one of the big trends of contemporary American society, and Presbyterian readers will appreciate his insights and ideas.

Copyright © 2006 by Christopher D. Drew.
Originally published in the November 2006 edition of Presbyterians Today.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Voted

I Voted
Originally uploaded by outdoor_type.
You're turn!

Frederica Mathewes-Green...

... closes her commentary on Haggard this way:
So it is a mistake to present Christianity the way some churches do, as if it is the haven of seamlessly well-adjusted, proper people. That results in a desperate artificial sheen. It results in treating worship as a consumer product, which must deliver better intellectual or emotional gratification than the competition. And that sends suffering people home again, still lonely, in their separate metal capsules.
Read the whole thing.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

A Haggard Haggard

UPDATE: Ted Haggard's letter of confession, read at yesterday's services. ...Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa – "Through my own fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault..."

In news greeted with shock and, by not a few persons, unsuppressed glee, Rev. Ted Haggard has resigned as president of the massive National Association of Evangelicals. Now, after completing its own investigation, New Life Church has removed Rev. Haggard as Pastor.

The church should be applauded for taking quick action, given Haggard's admitted behavior.

Now I find myself reflecting on this passage from scripture:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.
(Luke 18:9-14 NRSV : In Greek)
I have three questions:

First, to those who openly admit happiness at today's news: Can Rev. Ted Haggard be said to be the Pharisee, or the tax collector, in this parable?

Second, given your own reaction to the news, would you classify yourself as a Pharisee or tax collector?

Third, are you sure?

[New Life Church press release (PDF)]

Airport Security

Having just run the airport security gauntlet twice in as many days, I found this video to be quite funny.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In San Francisco

I'm in the city after my annual check-up with my Presbytery's committee on preparation. All is well, and the cafe au lait is delish.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Preemptive Grieving

My good friend David writes:
I feel another kind of sick. It may be difficult to describe, understand, or respond to... but I have had this sinking feeling for the past semester or so. This feeling is attached to my relationship with my cohorts (students at the seminary) and especially within my entering class. Over the past year, as we have taken more electives and less of the core curriculum classes--we have seen less of each other. We seem to be a less cohesive group. We are following our individual calls more (as it should be) and preparing to leave the seminary for parts unknown. There is anxiety entering into this secluded seminary environment... who will find a call, who won't, who will keep in touch, who will abandon the ministry, who will burn out, who will bloom, who will be spirit led and spirit fed?
I share my friend's anxiety. Much of it can be explained by what David wrote, but I also suspect that some the "separateness" that has intruded in our relationships is not entirely the result of conflicting academic schedules, but also a natural result of an unconscious awareness that many of our close temporal relationships will, despite our best efforts, die. Now, I hope this does not happen, but many seminarians have previously experienced the death of multiple relationships as a result of moving into lives of ordained service to the church. We know what it's like to see relationships die, and I wonder if symptoms of separateness are somehow a preemptive, protective response?

In any event, David encourages us to pray for one another. Hear, hear! But let's also celebrate together, hard, before we leave this place. Communion in the Body of Christ ultimately means that none of our relationships will stay dead. We have, after all, the hope of a new heaven and new earth, with renewed relationships girded up by Christ's love for us.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006


"Four Fingers Do Not a Hand Make."

But four does mean no more ordination exams to take.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Friends Overlooking the Earth

I don't think I ever posted this shot of some seminary friends. The picture was made from an amazing viewpoint located above the Monastery at Petra (Jordan). From here, we could gaze into the Negev in Southern Israel.

© 2006 by
Christopher Drew

Friends Overlooking the Earth
Originally uploaded by whatnext.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Holy Bath

From Paulgi: "The traditional festival in São Bartolomeu do Mar, occurs through out August and culminates on the 24th with the famous “Banho Santo” (Holy Bath), which the locals believe has the power to protect children’s health and alleviate sickness."
Originally uploaded by Paulgi.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006


In his 1908 masterpiece Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton explored the phenomenon of modern theologians who deny the reality of sin. "The strongest saints and the strongest skeptics alike took positive evil as the starting point of their argument," Chesterton wrote. "If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can make one or two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat."

There are no cats in The Conservative Soul, the new book by Andrew Sullivan. There is, however, tautology, narcissism, and enough moral relativism to light Manhattan for ten years.
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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Number 37

πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
(Matt 28:19 NRSV)

Today is the 37th anniversary of my baptism into the Body of Jesus Christ.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Australian Opinion

George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, writing opinion for The Australian:
Australians are entitled to an answer from me on controversial Catholic or Christian teachings. And we Australians are entitled to specific answers from our friends on aspects of Islamic teaching, for example on the Suras of the Sword 9:5 and 9:36 in the Koran. It is disappointing when such requests or criticisms are met only by accusations of ignorance or abuse, while the specific points are studiously avoided.

Reciprocity is a fundamental notion in our dialogue with Islam: not in the sense of promising evil for evil, not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but as a requirement that the civil rights we extend to all here are also to be extended to Christian minorities in all Islamic countries. This is presently not the case.
More here.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Stick Foods

We took the opportunity to visit the Minnesota State Fair during a recent excursion to Minneapolis. The food-on-a-stick selection was epic in size.

More foods-on-stick here.

Fair Fare on a Stick - Mocha
Originally uploaded by whatnext.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What Would We Do Without Research Experts?

From today's "Cubicle Culture" piece in the WSJ [subscription only]:
"Multitasking doesn't look to be one of the great strengths of human cognition," says James C. Johnston, a research psychologist at NASA's Ames Research Center. "It's almost inevitable that each individual task will be slower and of lower quality."
Well, no duh.

Back in my consulting days, I remember a good friend admonishing our team to "work smarter, not harder." He meant well, but for many people working "smarter" means multitasking by blabbing on the cell phone while negotiating dangerous automobile traffic, or, as I've seen many times, letting your luggage fall on top of someone's head while you untangle your old-fashioned, non-Bluetooth™ headset from the armrest three seats back. No conversation is unimportant these days, and I’m left wondering: What has become so important? Will the potential client sale collapse prior to the conclusion of my daily commute? Will a subordinate employee be unable to perform any work whatsoever without the last-minute instructions from the too-narrow aisle on this Canadair 50-seat regional jet?

Great power can be discovered within the confines of a tiny on/off switch. Let us resolve to use it a bit more often.

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Monday, September 11, 2006


CBS ran the documentary 9/11 last night, largely without interruption. Fury, sadness, and lamentation are all still present. I feel like flying ol' Gadsdens flag once again:

In Memorium

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Back in the Saddle - Seniordom "Attained"

I'm writing this on the Lord's Day, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. With that dating in liturgical time, I thought it might be nice to finally get back in the game; really get back in the game. Having now completed the first week of the Fall term, I have the following observations:

First, seminary is wonderful. I've missed my friends and colleagues, I've missed my apartment, I've missed the familiar sights and sounds of hawks flying overhead, I've missed the creek, I've missed the park, I've missed far more than I thought I would spending the summer with my family in Salt Lake City. I've missed the "academic" life, the life of stressful deadlines and unfamiliar tongues. I've missed the library, the chapel, and our other colleagues in ministry, our professors. With the tolling of the new chapel bell comes yet another scene in this mysterious novel of learning.

Second, I'm ready to take on more, including better self-care. I think I've been in coasting mode, surfing the internet amidst a life passing by, taking more time to do routine tasks, neglecting the maintenance of self and of sanity. Having witnessed, on average, about one death per week over my 11-week Clinical Pastoral Education experience, I realize now, more than ever before, both the importance of our mortality, as well as the incredible gift of the promise of immortality. We truly live in the "thin place" as kingdom citizens, the place of the "now and not yet." These are theological terms, but they are practical theological terms. We cannot bring the kingdom here, but we are the kingdom. Strange, isn't it? It's a fleeting sense of both the familiar and non-familiar, of places scene even without being present, of a present that is also the fulfillment of everything, all time and creation, under the guiding hand of the Known Unknown, our heavenly Father.

Part of taking more on is fulfilling one of the components of the great commission. I was reminded of this during today's sermon on Matthew 28:19-20:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matt 28:19-20 NRSV)
"Teaching" (διδάσκοντες) is part of our evangelistic call. Accordingly, I've taken on a new role of Teaching Assistant for the seminary's Greek exegesis course.

This will be a very busy semester. In addition to normal classwork, teaching, and internship responsibilities, there is also the matter of completing wedding plans. I'll try to keep y'all in the loop. In the meantime, might I make a request, dear reader? Please pray for the seminary staff, professors, and students. We are comforted and encouraged by them.

Grace and peace to you all!

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© 2006 All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Westminster Presbyterian Minneapolis

The sculpture's caption is from Galatians 5:1, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

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Visiting the Twin Cities, Drinking Coffee

I'm currently here:

Sara and I are visiting the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to attend a wedding in which Sara has a bridesmaid role. The Twin Cities are about 25-30 degrees cooler than Austin, so we're both enjoying a long-needed reprieve from studying, exam-taking, and sweating.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Luke 4:1-13 [Updated]

UPDATE: Finished! All we need to due now is turn it in by 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning!

Three of the ordination exams are now complete, and the remaining exam, Bible Exegesis, is due this Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m.

For the exegesis exam, individuals can pick a selection from the Old or New Testament. This year, the Hebrew Old Testament selection is Hosea 5:16-6:6. The picture on the right shows a Greek text open to Luke chapter 4, from whence the exam's New Testament selection is taken, Luke 4:1-13.

With all your heart
Originally uploaded by jakebouma.

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© 2006 All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Prayer Request

I'm safely back in Austin, Texas!

But there is no rest for the weary (yet). Beginning at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, the Presbyterian Church (USA) will be administering the four standard ordination exams required for all candidates for the office of Minister of Word and Sacrament. Those of us studying for exams are feeling a bit anxious, as you might expect. Words and prayers of encouragement would be deeply appreciated.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Trinity Redux

I hope to soon publish my thoughts on the recently completed General Assembly. Until then, here is an amusing editorial cartoon that appeared in the Tulsa World newspaper.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Grandpa Died in this Chair

It's tough to visit your hometown and clear out the belongings of those you lived with for your entire life. Grandma's house is now largely vacant with the exception of some miscellany. This piece is particular tough to see. My grandfather died of colon cancer in this chair. Now it sits alone, watching over the empty house. It's as if Grandpa is still sitting there, making sure everything is okay.
Grandpa Died in this Chair
Originally uploaded by whatnext.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Temporary Relocation

Your blogging seminarian friend is about to temporarily relocate to his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah. Reason: I'm doing one unit of Clinical Pastoral Eduction at a local hospital. Total Mapquest milage: 1,491.05 miles. Below is the two-day itinerary:

Day One: Austin to Colorado Springs

Day Two: Colorado Springs to Salt Lake City
Jodi will be along for the ride, which will be interesting given the cramped quarters.

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© 2006 All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Major ::What Next?:: Announcement! [Updated]

I have exciting news: On May 19, 2006 at about 2:50 pm (CDT) on the top of Mt. Bonnell overlooking the Colorado River, I asked my sweatheart if she would marry me.

Sara said "Yes!"

We're both very happy, and looking forward to a lifetime of adventure. Special thanks to Jessica who was instrumental in making this a surprise. I'm deeply grateful for the help!

The present wedding target date is March 10, 2007. Here are a few pictures to memorialize the event (click to enlarge):

The Proposal

The Kiss

The View

The Ring

A surprised fiancée

Very Happy Couple

[UPDATE: Here are a few more photos courtesy our friend Jessica.]

A little celebration followed

First engagement toast

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

John 14:15-26

Watch the video

A hermeneutical bridge into John 14:15-26. This short movie is meant to visually represent the relationship between Jesus' love command (13:34) and the Paraclete (introduced at 14:16). I chose a variety of images and set them to the Thomas Tallis' (ca 1510-1585) mystical piece entitled "If Ye Love Me."

My translation:
(14:15) If you love me, my commands you all will keep. (16) And I will ask the Father, and another Helper he will give to you all, so that he might be with you all to the end. (17) This is the spirit of truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You all know him because he remains with you all, and he will be in you all. (18) I will not leave you all orphans. I am coming to you all. (19) In a small time the world no longer sees me, but you all see me; because I live, you all also will live. (20) In that day, you all will know that I [am] in my Father, and you in me and [I] in you all. (21) The one having the commands of me and keeping them, that one is the one loving me; the one loving me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and I will make myself visible to him.

(22) Judas (not Iscariot), said to him, “Lord, what has happened, that you are about to reveal yourself to us and not to the world? (23) Jesus answered and said to him, “If a certain person loves me, my word he will keep, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and we will make a room with him. (24) The one not loving me does not keep my word, and the word which you all hear is not mine but is of the Father, the one having sent me.

(25) These things I have said to you all while still abiding with you all. (26) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, that one will teach everything to you all, and will remind you all of everything which I said to you all.
All work for the semester has been completed!

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Power of Jesus Christ

I came across this great photo while searching for Holy Spirit iMovie fodder. Great work.
The Power of Jesus Christ
Originally uploaded by 7sam.
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Bill Cosby Scolds Christians

One gets the sense that comedian Bill Cosby is fed up. The following appeared in the Washington Post today:
Entertainer Bill Cosby yesterday chastised churchgoers who preach religion but fail to confront problems that plague their communities.

Speaking at the University of the District of Columbia, Cosby emphasized the importance of social responsibility and urged his audience to keep a vigilant eye on their children. The District is one stop on a nationwide speaking tour that has taken the controversial comedian to 18 cities over the past year and a half.

His appearance in Washington came almost two years to the day after he took the stage of Constitution Hall and triggered a contentious national debate when he criticized poor African Americans for speaking ungrammatically and failing to raise children properly.

Cosby made no mention of those remarks yesterday. But he continued his message that salvation lies within communities, rather than outside.

"I have no problem with Jesus or God," he said in the afternoon as he addressed an audience that included many foster parents and grandparents and social service providers. "I have a problem with people sitting there and saying that Jesus and God will find the way. I have a problem with Christian men who won't dress up and go down and confront the drug dealers."

"I got a problem," Cosby added, "with people not knowing where the gun is hid and that the child has one."
Cosby's community responsibility challenge continued with a message to those who ignore their children.
Cosby said: "I'm calling you out, and I'm holding you accountable. If you're having a problem, visit the Jesus in your heart."
That's a good message for all of us, regardless of background.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

BBC Interview Confusion - Video

[Update: Click here to watch the video if the links below don't work.]

Are you stressed and need a quick, fun break? If the answer is "yes," then check this out (via
Two Guys
Guy Goma was waiting in the reception area at the BBC's headquarters in London the other day when someone came in looking for a guy named Guy. The Mail on Sunday reports that Goma raised his hand, whereupon he was "ushered into a studio and fitted with a microphone" for an interview.

The producer had the wrong Guy, and Goma was introduced as Guy Kewney, "an IT journalist and founder of" who was scheduled for an appearance to comment on a trademark lawsuit between the Beatles' Apple Corps and Apple computer. The video (which you can download or stream) is hilarious; the look of panic on Goma's eyes when he realizes what's going on is priceless.

But he quickly regains his composure. "Were you surprised by this verdict today?" asks the hostess? Replies Goma:

"I am very surprised to see this verdict to come on me, because I was not expecting that. When I came, they told me something else."

Goma then answers a couple of more questions by talking about the wonders of the Internet--a subject he knows something about, since, as Kewney reports, Goma "was applying for a high level IT job with the BBC."

The producer who mistook Goma for Kewney obviously had no idea what the latter looks like. Goma is black, a Congolese national, while Kewney is white and bearded.
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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Final Stretch

Business abounds. I have one paper left to complete, an advanced exegesis for John 14:15-26. :: Cranking ::

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Unknown Dancing Seminarian

Watch the video

This "act" was witnessed at a variety show here at the seminary. I will allow the performer to retain his anonymity, thereby avoiding any potential litigation.

Shockingly, the performer then used The Ribbon to garner additional laughs:

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Repost - Greek Exegesis Video

Watch the video

I created this video for an advanced Greek exegesis class in the gospel of Mark. Please let me know what you think.

Here is my smooth translation of Mark 15:22-39, inspired in part by the video:
(15:22) They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the Place of the Skull. (23) And they attempted to sedate him with a concoction of wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it, leaving him fully venerable to both pain and fear. (24) They crucified him, dividing his clothing by throwing a die to determine who would get each piece. (25) They crucified him at the hour of morning prayer, nine a.m. (26) There was an inscription containing the charge against Jesus that read “The King of the Jews.” (27) They crucified two robbers as well, one to the right of Jesus, the other to the left. (29) And the people passing by the scene began to cruelly mock Jesus, shaking their heads around and saying, “Ah ha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, (30) Save yourself and come down from the cross!” (31) The chief priests and scribes were also mocking Jesus among themselves, saying “He saved others, but he cannot save himself. (32) Hey Messiah! King of Israel! Come down now from the cross so that we can see and believe your royal majesty!” The robbers on either side of Jesus made also mocked him. (33) When it was time for midday prayer, darkness like a shadow came over the land and remained until the afternoon prayer. (34) At three o’clock, Jesus cried out this prayer of lament with a loud voice, “Eloi! Eloi! Lema sabachtani!” Meaning, “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?” (35) Those standing near heard the lament and, mistaking his words as a call to Elijah, said, “Look! He calls Elijah.” (36) A certain person ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink saying, “Hold on. Let’s see if Elijah comes to rescue him.” (37) And Jesus, after giving a loud cry, with a large sigh expelled his last breath and died. (38) The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (39) The centurion standing opposite of Jesus, when he saw how Jesus expelled his last breath and died, said, “Truly, this man was God’s Son.”

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Faux Pax


The same thing happened to a former work collegue. I made her pay by featuring the mistake in a PowerPoint slide show. It was all good fun.

Talking with Children

From OpinionJournal's De Gustibus column by Brian Carney:
"Do we have nucular bombs?" he asked, meaning America. Yes, more than 1,000 of them, I told him.

"Why do we have them?"
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sunday Evening Recommended Reads

Mark Steyn: "Here's the lesson of the past three years: The UN kills."

Frederica Mathewes-Green opines about the persistent admiration of Jesus and the upcoming 5/19/2006 release of The Da Vinci Code:
When the DaVinci Code hoopla is all said and done, it will still be Jesus that we’re talking about. It’s Jesus whose face on the cover sells a million magazines, whose name instills widespread awe. Even people despise Christians paradoxically admire their Lord. In discussions of religion nearly everything is up for grabs, yet on this one point there’s widespread agreement. Why do people instinctively admire Jesus?
Hugh Hewitt is noticeably contrarian when it comes to GOP prospects this November:
Suddenly, the debate is back where it ought to be, on the war, judges, taxes, spending and also border security. The 12 words have [become] 15:
  • Win the war.
  • Confirm the judges.
  • Cut the taxes.
  • Control the spending.
  • Secure the border.
Democrats stand for the opposite of each proposition.
Shane Raynor writes about the importance of eating together:
Although it often seemed like a drag at the time, I now have fond memories of family meals when I was growing up, especially Sunday lunches. I also remember my mom making me turn off the TV when we had dinner. I thought she was being so old-fashioned then. Now I know why she did it. The truth is, that was the only time we were able to talk some days.
I have fond memories from the family dinner table as well. I can remember the times that my sister and I strategized about making our green beans "disappear."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Harmonica Man on the Corner Says...

Happy Saturday!

Harmonica Man (my moniker) was bouncing around and waving his happy sign at motorists driving along Guadalupe. His harmonica performance was terrific.

[Taken this morning at 29th and Guadalupe, Austin, TX]

Harmonica Man on the Corner Says...
Originally uploaded by whatnext.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Forgetting Sovereignty

How often we forget that God is sovereign. I was reminded of my own inability to remember while reading Müller's and Schönherr's Afterward to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's magical little Prayerbook of the Bible:
Christian prayer is not a natural self-expression directed at God, an uttering of spiritual needs, but rather a way to God. Only Jesus Christ can go this way...At its core, then, prayer is a praying along with Jesus ... Christians, then, do not pray as their own spirit and feelings happen to dictate. The Spirit of Christ in them teaches them how and why they ought to pray. (pp. 180-181)

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Da Vinci Code: Be Prepared

Prolific Presbyterian pastor Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts has created a wonderful FAQ for the upcoming release of the movie The Da Vinci Code.

In Honor of May Day...

A memorial to those who became victims of communism.

[Hat tip to Instapundit]

100 Years of Azusa Street

It went largely unnoticed here in Austin and on campus, but last week was the 100th anniversary of the Asuza Street Revival. The revival marked the birth or Pentacostalism in the United States. Since 1906, Pentacostalism has exploded across the globe.

Professor Cecil M. Robeck Jr. (of Fuller Theological Seminary)
Once you have been touched by God at such a deep level, right down to the tongue that you speak, and your ability to speak the language that you've been trained in all of your life leaves you, there is no turning back.
Krista Tippett:
Outsiders often focus their attention on the aspects of this movement they find most puzzling, especially its ecstatic forms of worship. I am more struck this week on Azusa Street by the improbable mix of humanity this faith can bring together. And the transformative power of its whole-body spirituality is visible and palpable. It is difficult, nearly impossible, to apply a lens of rationality and objectivity to the experiential faith of Pentecostalism. But all of us — journalists, policymakers and citizens — must find new ways to understand and take this movement seriously, for it is changing our world.
I might add that future leaders of other denominations must pay close attention as well.

More here at Speaking of Faith.