Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding 3rd

I found third gear driving up I-65, through the green fields of Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I found it again through laughter and catching up with a seminary classmate and her family in Buffalo, NY. Third gear’s RPM slowed down at Niagara Falls, overwhelmed by the sheer force of nature and the nation’s oldest state park.

My list of top books to read is shrinking – 16 down and 20 to go. Lake Ontario, and especially a homey cottage on Sodus Point, NY (between the lake and Ontario Bay), helped me slow down and pay attention to the rhythm of the universe: sunrise, pottery, lake tides, good food, cool breezes, lighthouse museums, millennia-smoothed rocks, rain showers, sunset. Yeah, this is definitely 3rd gear!

We drove home through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. Some things look a lot like home, but others are amazingly different. Home is a great place to return, not to mention a helpful resource from which to prepare for another adventure. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011


At every turn, we approach the biblical text as if it were an annotated code instead of what it actually is: a portable library of poems, prophecies, histories, fables, parables, letters, sage sayings, quarrels, and so on.
[McLaren, Brian D. (2010). A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (p. 79). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.]

McLaren asks some very relevant and fascinating questions about the lenses through which we read the Bible, and particularly the way we interpret Jesus. His analysis of the difference between the “Bible as Constitution” that comes from the Greco-Roman First Century C.E. Middle Eastern politics and culture and the “Bible as Messy, Complex Narrative” that comes from Hebrew Second and Third Century B.C.E. politics and culture resonates with modernity’s struggle with preaching. It is uncomfortable for our logical, linear culture to be left hanging with stories that defy specific understandings and questions that refuse simple answers, and yet that is precisely what both the Bible and Jesus give us. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Where Have You Been? Where Are You Now? Where Are We Going?

Those are the questions I hope we’ll answer when our sabbatical is over. They are multi-faceted questions, not just about geography, but also about life-events, life-choices, life-lessons, and more. They are questions that will take time and patience for us to answer.

As a pastor, I will have multiple venues through which to proffer my answers: sermons, newsletter articles, e-mails. I want you to begin thinking about the ways we can give you opportunities to answer these questions. You can probably get permission (from the Session) to preach, if you want, but you don’t have to.

Sabbatical is about perspective, as much as it is about renewal; about examination, as much as determination. It gives us a chance to look at our lives, our mission, our future from perspectives to which we are not ordinarily privy. It’s like changing positions on the team—playing infield instead of outfield; like moving to the other side of the sanctuary or the gym for worship; like going through that desk drawer that we’ve been filling with memorabilia for so many years, reminiscing about the stories that these objects elicit, but also dreaming and visioning where, how, and if they can point us toward and be used in the future that lies before us.

To be sure, we will have some history on which to catch up—what happened to whom, and who did (or didn’t do) what. But I hope that much of what we find the energy to discuss is about what we learned and where we believe God is calling us. I am slowly piecing together my own answers to these questions, and I hope you are doing the same. I look forward to the unfolding of our conversations and answers, as well as to the clarification and energization (Yes, I see that spell-check doesn’t recognize this word.) that are available to us.

Friday, June 10, 2011


My truck is a 5 speed. As I move into sabbatical, it feels like I am trying to learn to downshift. For the past 15 years (21 if you count Fort Valley, GA) I have tried to operate in pastor-overdrive mode. Now I am trying to learn how NOT to operate in pastor-overdrive for a while, so that, when we (you and I) shift back into it in August, we will not only have more energy and passion, but more focus and wisdom, so that we might more clearly discern the places toward which God is and will be calling us. 

I feel—as I near the second Sunday of not preaching, leading worship, and involvement in all other interrelational/pastoral duties—like I am now in 4th gear; still cruising at a pretty high rate of speed, but beginning to notice a slight deceleration. I'm looking for 3rd, and will let you know when I find it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Undone by Easter

Limiting our preaching to immediate, practical impact and instant, quantifiable results prohibits preaching from being uniquely biblical. PowerPoint Preaching pushes for a selection of timeless general principles—rather than relationship with a complex person who is on the move, moving through time, our time, yet not bound by our time, not bound even to our wise general principles.
[Willimon, William H. (2010). Undone by Easter (Kindle Locations 415-418). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.]

I was taken by Willimon’s reminder that the message of Easter—the message of the gospel—the message of Christian faith—is not something that can be properly reduced to a few salient points that can be memorized, or pulled out of a wallet, or fit on a bumper sticker. The message of Easter is a time-intruding, life-altering relationship with the death-defying one who questions us at every turn and creates a story in which we must live and move and have our being from birth until death, and even beyond. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011


One man fed hungry people;
many wonder why there is hunger.
One man healed sick people;
many question why there are disease & illness.
One man accepted people for who they were;
many judge and reject.
One man asked and listened;
many talk and talk.
One man saw and cared;
many ignore and couldn't care less.
One man came and gave;
many leave and take. 
One man offered peace and tolerance;
many traffic anxiety and fear.
One man loved and forgave;
many are indifferent and vindictive.
One man poured out grace in abundance;
many hoard and hide it.
Lord, I am just one;
help me also become as One.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Friday, June 3, 2011

Death by Bullets

I have bullets—both the kind that work with guns, and the type that emanate from Power-Point; more of the latter than the former. Bullets are useful in their own way, but both types should be used carefully. They are each fraught with danger, and have their own limitations. One can end your life; the other may impede its comprehension.

Easy the way, not always best
to get from “A” to “B.”
Shoot first, questions later,
precludes journey’s wisdom.

Bullet, fired as projectile,
but also point boiled down,
as if life can be distilled
from swirling waters in

the vat of our existence
by fire and force extruding
through tiny coiled pipe,
dripping proof by proof.

Bullets have their way,
intoxicating us into believing
their once-and-for-all density
as single-answer forevermore.

Death is mostly what they convey,
one draining blood from bodies,
other sucking breath from imaginations,
both flattening earth to two dimensions.

Two transcendent gifts:
resurrection repudiates ammunition,
story re-inspires connective tissue,
giving existence eternity and meaning.

Putting them both together,
eastering-up our own narratives,
gives necessary tools to daily face
all the chaos and questions creation can muster.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Not as Planned

I don't know why I thought you could sign-up to receive e-mail notifications when a post is made to the blog. This one doesn't work that way. I wish it did. That's another reason I've given serious consideration to changing blog-hoods. I'd like to move to a nicer street with Neighborhood Watch, where the folks living nearby keep an eye on your house and let you know when there's suspicious activity.

If you aren't being notified when a new post is made, what do you get for the trouble of becoming a "follower"? Perhaps the only thing you receive is the ability to make comments without having to show your Passport to Homeland Security each time. What do you think?

I'll try to leave a trail of bread crumbs so you can find your way back.

Sacred Places

 When you find them—or maybe it is when they find you—you know it. Following is a story that I found and saved some time ago. It is not my story, and I am not sure of this version’s author:

 There is a wonderful Hasidic story about the child of a rabbi who used to wander in the woods. At first his father let him go, but over time he became concerned.  The woods were dangerous; who knew what could be lurking there?  He decided to discuss the matter with his son.  One day he took him aside and said, “You know, I have noticed that each day you go out into the woods.  I wonder, why do you go there?”
The boy answered his father, “I go there to find God.”
That is a very good thing,” the father replied gently.  “I am glad you are searching for God.  But, my child, don’t you know that God is the same everywhere?”
“Yes,” the boy answered, “but I am not.”       

NaCoMe is one of my sacred places. It is one of the places where I have found myself and others “being” in a different, sacred way. I cannot explain why this is so. I am not even sure I want to explain it. I would rather just experience it—revel in it on occasion.

I was there today, briefly. It was not long enough, and yet it was long enough. I wanted to stay, but I didn’t. Even though it was a brief stay and I am no longer there, I have been refreshed. I have renewed that NaCoMe-Space within.

May you recognize, return to, and revel in your sacred places this summer.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins