Friday, May 30, 2008


I've decided to quit publishing my sermons on this blog. Instead, I will post them (as .pdf files) on the church website: Look for the "Sermons" link on the left-hand column.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Same-Gender Marriage

The recent ruling by the California Supreme Court striking down a state law that was approved by the voters of California a few years ago which defined marriage as between one man and one woman will no doubt cause a great deal of controversy. I am fully aware that there are good, moral people on both sides of this issue. I am also aware that our congregation is not of one mind on this issue. And so I address the matter with some fear and trepidation.

On the one hand, it seems that the dictates of fairness and human compassion would lead one to celebrate the court’s decision. After all, aren’t all people “created equal” and all entitled to “equal rights?” Isn’t the attempt to exclude homosexual people from marrying each other just another form of discrimination? Aren’t we going through some of the same moral enlightenment that we did in the 1960's when the Civil Rights movement took the country by storm?

These are persuasive arguments.

Fairness and compassion have replaced truth and wisdom as the guiding principles of modern moral thought. The four justices of the California Supreme Court who voted to overturn Proposition 22 acted out of an extreme sense of fairness and compassion. But I honestly wonder how wise it is and what relationship it has with truth.

My concern is with the redefinition of “marriage.” In all of history, no system of philosophy and no major religion has ever defined marriage as anything other than a union of male and female. Granted, in ancient times, polygamy was permitted and encouraged. But never were persons of the same gender united in a relationship termed “marriage.” And yet, in a very short period of time (can you imagine anything like this happening 30 years ago?), four state supreme justices and millions of their supporters have succeeded in changing something that has stood for millennia. I submit that no one can know the upheaval that this will cause in our society if it is not over-turned.

The United Methodist Church, through the General Conference, recently reaffirmed its stand against same-gender marriage, affirming that marriage is to be defined as between one man and one woman. It further reaffirmed the prohibition of United Methodist ministers conducting same-gender weddings, or allowing same-gender weddings in United Methodist churches. There were efforts to change that stance, but they failed. The Judeo-Christian Scriptures consistently affirm marriage to be between male and female persons. If the decision of the court is allowed to stand (if a constitutional amendment either at the state level or the federal level defining marriage as between a male and a female is not passed), it will not be long until those who hold to traditional, biblical values and who refuse to conduct same-gender wedding ceremonies, and churches that refuse to allow such weddings to be held in their buildings will be labeled “heteosexists” and will most likely convicted of “hate speech” for voicing traditional values.

To assume that this is simply a matter of fairness and compassion is naive. I call the congregation of Chino UMC to pray, seriously pray about this. Consider what upheaval this decision may cause society and the church. Pray for those wounded by years of perceived unfairness who feel vindicated by this decision. And pray for those who are wounded by the decision itself. Let us search the heart of God for wisdom and truth.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

God's Grace Even in Jail

This past weekend, I was once again involved in the Epiphany Ministries weekend at Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino, and once again, God showed up in a big way! It amazes me each time, but it shouldn't. God's grace is especially available to those for whom life is hard.

And life is very hard for young men who are incarcerated!

The weekend is much like a "Walk to Emmaus" or Cursillo in some traditions. It is essentially a short course in Christianity with a large dose of hospitality and love thrown in. The young men are surrounded by people who show love to them--real love, the kind that Jesus demonstrated. For many of them this is the first time anyone has ever loved them. Most of them have been abandoned in some way or another, abused or otherwise forgotten. They have turned to abusing others and have been caught. For most, love was never a part of their lives.

The difference between when they first walked in on Friday morning and when they walked out on Sunday evening is nothing less than miraculous. Young men who were hardened (or trying to be) in order to protect themselves on Friday morning, find that by being loved they can show love in return and enjoy themselves. One young man said it best: "Here, I don't have to worry about who's behind me!" I told him, "That's right! Jesus has your back!"

Thank you for all who prayed for the weekend. And thanks to all of the team members who worked very hard to make it happen. But very special thanks to the Lord for truly making it all happen, for the young men, for the staff at the facility, and for the team.

It was amazing!