9-11-2001

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Never forget.

While it might seem cliche given that almost every social media post today as had this phrase, it is important that the events of 9-11-2001 not be forgotten. Thousands of people lost their lives that day in a senseless act of violence. Our world is completely different now; that fateful day changed the way that we as Americans view the world and the threats leveled against us. This does not mean that we do not have hope. We cling to the hope that new day will come. We cling to the hope that a new era of peace will come. As a follower of Christ, I cling to the notion that Christ’s ultimate message of rooted and grounded in love, peace, and justice.

17 years have passed since that morning.

May we never forget.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

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The Crazy Life of Dad and Daughter

Like many 8-year-olds, my daughter has a dream— to be on YouTube.  So we decided that we have some fun and make some videos. Below is our first one. Check it out and if you like it please subscribe; don’t do it for me, do it for the 8-year-old.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


 

Theology On Tap: Longview

I am part of a group of ministers that decided several months ago to start a new venture: Theology on Tap.  We meet at a local brewery and have panel discussions on topics ranging from immigration, nationalism, and difference between denominations with regards to communion and baptism.

This past Tuesday our local paper did a story on our meeting; we had 125 people show up and hear stories about the Christian response to immigration.

Check it out!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


 

We Need Unity More Than Ever

My latest for the Longview News-Journal


 

This summer, I saw the power Christians have when they set aside denominational lines and work together to serve people in need.

I was shocked by the sheer destruction and devastation of Hurricane Harvey when it hit Texas almost a year ago. Image after image of flooded houses and Cajun Navy rescues were being shared on the news and social media. At the time I had picked the location for my congregation’s youth mission trip, but as soon as Harvey moved out of Southeast Texas I knew that we had to change our plans and go and serve.

I’ve participated in many mission trips over the years, but this trip was unlike any I had ever been a part of before. I contacted some colleagues in ministry and inquired if they would like to join our trip. They accepted. Three churches came together for one mission trip: First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Longview; Trinity Episcopal Church (Longview and Marshall); and First United Methodist Church, Longview.

We joined together to serve the people of Orange and Vidor for a week in June. We worked together, laughed together, ate together, worshiped together, and shared holy communion together. At the beginning of the trip I told the group that we were not Disciples of Christ, Episcopalians or Methodists on this trip, but simply all followers of Christ trying to live out the call of the Gospel in the world around us.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus commands the disciples to go out into the community and care for the people. Jesus gives them the authority to heal and cast out demons. The disciples went out two by two and did the work they were asked to do. Did they just help those who believed like they did? Did they help those who voted like they did? Did they help those who lived like they did?

The author of Mark doesn’t tell us who they helped, just that they did. Nowhere in the Bible does it say only help those who you like or who you believe are worthy. The Catholic theologian Thomas Merton once wrote, “Our job [as Christians] is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.”

If there is anything that our country, state or city needs it is to witness the unity that takes places when people put aside the artificial labels that we affix on ourselves. Politicians tell us that we need to “set aside our differences and come together,” but rarely does that happen.

This mentality, unfortunately, has even crept into our churches. We hold to our way of doing things and do not see the value of learning from others. On this trip, we were exposed to various worship practices, styles and beliefs, but we were all grounded in the common notion that Jesus is the Christ and his call for the church is that we might be one, serving, worshiping and loving humanity together.

For one week in Southeast Texas, 41 people chose to be followers of Christ together, regardless of their skin color, beliefs of about God, income status or orientation. None of that mattered because we were all serving the same God, the same Christ, partaking in the same holy communion.

May we all learn from this experience. Instead of trying to see which church can get the most people in a certain place or have the biggest ministry program, let’s combine our efforts and see how much can get done. Let’s remove our ego out of the equation and simply leave Jesus’ call on our lives to love our neighbor, all neighbors, just as much as we love our very own selves. This would make a significant impact on our churches, city, state, and nation.

We need this unity now more than ever.

Sermon: Set Our Hope On Christ

I preached at First Christian Church (DOC), Longview, Texas based on the text Ephesians 1:3-14 on July 15, 2018.

Below is the sermon link.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Sermon Link

Sermon: “Who’s In and Who’s Out”

Today I preached a sermon titled “Who’s In and Who’s Out” based on Mark 6:1-13. Listen to it here.

 

Sermon: Light (May 27, 2018)

Below is the sermon I preached at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Longview, TX based on the scripture John 3:14-21.

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The Radical Love of Christ

My latest for the Longview News-Journal.


 

Of all the emotions that humanity processes, there is one that with fills our hearts or makes us cringe thinking about it: love. If you ever speak to children about love they will equate it being surrounded by worms or snakes. It is not something that they want to talk about. Love is that mysterious emotion that is hard to describe yet we know it when we see it or feel it. We throw the word around in everyday conversation: “Oh I love that!,” “I love carrot cake!,” or “I really do love you.”  English is not very helpful with the notion of love. There is just one word to encompass love for our children or spouses to really liking something. To complicate the issue further, Christianity has love as one of its foundational tenants and beliefs. Christian love is a completely different notion of love. In the Gospels, Jesus states that the summary of all the laws and the teachings of the prophets is to love God and to love your neighbor as much as you love your own self. Christians, for the most part, are excited to proclaim that they love God; they want to be on God’s side and have felt the goodness and mercy found in God’s powerful, perfect love. It is the second part of Jesus’ statement that causes some discomfort for us. Loving our neighbors is not as easy as it sounds; we like to think that we are as loving as Jesus was or we are really close. No one likes to believe that they are not loving or kind; we are called live out the ways of Jesus and that includes loving others.  Unfortunately, we redefine love on our terms, setting up condition after condition that must take place before we grant someone our love. The general thought is if you are mean to me, then I have the right to remove my love; if you make choices that I don’t approve of then I have the right to remove my love. Love in this scenario becomes a commodity, something that can be bought or sold or traded whenever we deem it necessary or beneficial to us and our wellbeing. We begin to rationalize our actions and even look for obscure theological rational to make our case.

We think that we are right and justified for not loving people. We believe that we can tell God our reasons, layout for God our case and God will say “you make a valid point. Sure go right ahead stop loving that person. I grant thee permission.”

However, if we can make that proclamation, doesn’t then God have the right to do it back to us?  Thankfully, that is something outside the nature of who God is, what God is capable of. Scripture reminds us that God is love, the source of love, the ground upon which we love.

Christians say it to each other, we sing it on our hymns, we place it on our billboards, t-shirts, bumper stickers and marque signs; we proclaim it boldly and triumphantly: God is Love!  However, we don’t like the scripture that reminds us that we are called to love each other. It goes against the model that we have set up for ourselves. Throughout all of human history, there have been conflicts between groups of people, races, classes and social status. Often when one group gets power they tend to look down on the other deeming them inferior or lacking in the requisite social capital to contribute to society. Jesus’ mission and ministry were based on the notion that all people were worthy of love and welcomed by God, all people were to be seen as a brother or a sister. Sure, people will mess up or make mistakes but so does everyone.

Jesus’ teachings were radical. They called for the ending of division, the breaking down of barriers that separate each other. Today we find more and more barriers in our world and sadly our churches. Many Christians do not model inclusive, radical, counter-cultural love. For change to happen in our community, state, and nation, the insider/outsider mentality must stop. God’s love has no bounds and neither should ours. God’s love is transformative and so should ours be. I John 4 poses the question, how can we say we love God who is unseen when we fail to love our brother and sister who is seen?  If we say we have God’s love in us then it should be evident to all people, in all places and at all times.

Sermon: Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

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Below is a sermon I gave at First Christian Church, Longview, Tx on April 29, 2018, based on I John 4:7-21.

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The Issue of Politics and Religion

My latest for the Longview News-Journal


 

In life, we are taught or socialized to believe that there are two areas in which we should refrain from speaking about during dinner conversation: politics and religion. This sentiment comes from the notion that these two areas are quite divisive. Broad-ranging opinions are found on both sides of either argument. Instead of trying to learn and hear one another, we have taken up the position of avoidance. This tactic will ensure that no one will have their feelings hurt or having a shouting match at the dinner table. In the 21st century, this idiom has long been ignored thanks to the internet and social media. The internet was advertised as a place for people with like-minded thoughts, and beliefs could share and learn from one another. It was heralded as an open forum full of opportunity for learning and discussion. While this is a grand, almost utopian, idea, it is far from evident today.

Today, social media are hot spots for people to share their believes and opinions. In 2017, a study found that 67% of Americans get some part of their news from social media. As the popularity of these platforms has grown, so have the boldness of the rhetoric that people are propagating. Sadly, there is little to no tolerance of conflicting viewpoints or opinions. The quest for learning and shaping one’s thoughts is gone; all that is left are tweetable one-liners and half-truths.

As a minister, I am called to proclaim the message of God and Jesus. The Church as a response to faith enacts ministries and activities so that God’s love, mercy, grace, and justice can be shared. What happens then when the lines of politics and the religion blur? I have heard in every church I have ever served “I don’t want politics preached from the pulpit.” What they are truly saying is “I don’t want to hear politics that I disagree with preached from the pulpit.”

There are prohibitions against non-profit organizations endorsing or contributing to any political candidate or campaign. This is known as the Johnson Amendment. During the 2016 election, Donald Trump and some of his supporters spoke out against the amendment.   After the inauguration, President Trump signed an executive order rescinding the amendment.

I have wrestled with this idea of politics and church. How involved should a church be in its community, state and nation’s politics? As a citizen, I participate in the election process, but most people would never know which particular candidates I am supporting. I have made a choice not to put a bumper sticker on my car or a sign in my yard endorsing a party or candidate. Why? As a minister, I am called to serve my congregation regardless of their political affiliation. I never want a yard sign or a bumper sticker to be a barrier for someone. I know many ministers who do not practice this, and that’s fine. We all find different ways to share our views and outlook on life and theology.

Faith is political; it is countercultural, and at times it is radical. The problem that a lot of Christians have today regarding the interplay of faith and politics is the recognition that faith is not partisan. Some ministers across this country have stated that Jesus would have been a Republican or a Democrat or even a Socialist. Thousands of people each year write in Jesus’ name on the election ballot. Once I heard a minister try to get around the Johnson Amendment by listing the ways that his congregants should “Vote Christian.” The only issue with that particular angle is which branch of Christianity is the one I should align my vote?

Too many people believe that since they identify with the Republican or Democratic party that they must adhere to the primary issue stances and talking points. They then take these political ideals and superimpose them on to a religious structure. This is a gross misuse of faith. Our faith in God and Christ should not be used as a weapon to prop up some political devices and schemes. By carefully examining our theological positions we then should make decisions as people of faith not as a member of a party.

I believe that churches should provide opportunities for listening and learning from different perspectives and understandings of God and how it drives them to act in the world. These conversations and interactions will give those gathered a fuller view of who God is and how God is working in other’s lives. If we can erase the labels that we place on each other and remove the prejudices we assign groups of people, then we then will come to the conversation with listening ears and open hearts.

Having conversations about “hot topic” issues are difficult because they can be profoundly personal or emotional. This does not, however, mean that congregations should not speak about them. Instead, the community should wrestle with what it means to live a faithful Christian life in the face of evil and destruction. It is too easy to externalize the problem and blame “society” or “social media” or some other group; it takes the pressure off us and assigns to blame to a situation too large for a church to handle.

Christian Piatt, a Disciples of Christ author, once wrote, “If we can’t ask the tough, keep-you-awake-at-night questions within our faith communities, then what good are they?” Piatt’s question is a tough one and one that many churches do not want to hear. Are we willing to wrestle with the concerns that people are struggling with?  Are we willing hear people out and listen to their concerns and feelings? Is the Church ready to have these vitally essential conversations?  I hope so.

Let us come to together united under the banner of Christ and God’s restorative justice. We can have differences about taxes and immigration, but we need to be unified in the message that Christ’s call for all of us was to love God and love each other.