One Post… Two Sermons

Below are two sermons I preached on January 12 and 19th.  Enjoy!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

“You Are Not Lacking” (January 19, 2014- I Cor. 1:1-9)
[audio http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/49fhp0iukn/you_are_not_lacking.mp3|titles=You Are Not Lacking|loop=no|animation=no]

“And The Spirit Descended” (January 12, 2014- Matthew 3:13-17)
[audio http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/mkx6hjw5rw/spirit_descended.mp3|titles=And The Spirit Descended|loop=no|animation=no]

What A Difference 3.8 Million People Make

Two months ago today I clicked publish on a post about Victoria’s Secret Spring Break Collection called “Bright Young Things.”   The aim of the letter was to let Victoria’s Secret know (as well as whomever would listen) that I disliked their marketing to a younger demographics and how they set up an unattainable standard of sexuality and beauty.

To date the letter has been read/viewed on this site nearly 3.8 million times from all around the world.  The letter is still be read today and shared over the internet.

To date the letter has been shared on Facebook over 765,000 times, on Twitter over 5100 times, almost 100 times on LinkedIn and over 550 times on Google Plus.

I want to take this time to say thank you for everything!

Because of the exposure I received, I have begun to contribute to a few websites- the Good Men Project, Sojourners and RadicalParents.com.  I am humbled and honored to contribute to these great sites.  I will try to post my articles here whenever I can.

I have been completely overwhelmed by all of this and I all of you to thank.  Without you sharing, liking, emailing and commenting- none of this would have ever happened.

I still have not had an official response from Victoria’s Secret (and I do not expect to), but another clothing company did.

About month ago Fruit of the Loom contacted me to let me know that they had seen my letter online.  They liked it and wanted to send my daughter “age appropriate” underwear.   They sent my daughter 10 pairs!  She was so excited to get them in the mail.

Fruit of the Loom

I want to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to Fruit of the Loom.  Thank you for generosity and for thinking of my daughter! (The items pictured can be found here and here.)

Thank you again!  Keep reading, sharing and liking!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Disney Princesses, Merida’s Makeover, and Empowering Girls

My latest piece for Sojourners


Having a 3-year-old daughter opens your eyes to a world that you did not know existed, the world of princesses. Disney has cornered the princess market; there are currently 11 official Disney princesses, and if you are brave enough to travel to Disney World/Land or even a Disney store, you will soon find out that there is a plethora of accessories — dresses, placemats, and cups (just to name a few).

Disney has come under fire in the past for focusing only on Caucasian women — Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and others. But over time, non-white princesses were introduced, like Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Tiana.

Disney’s latest princess was Merida from the film Brave broke most of the Disney princess rules. She didn’t like pretty gowns, she liked to shoot bows and arrows, and her crowning glory was frizzy, wild red hair. Some people believed that Disney had finally broken the mold of the “damsel in distress” model of princesses that has been a dominant theme throughout many of the films. The trend actually started with Pocahontas and Mulan; maybe the theme of strong women role models would continue. Brave was a cute film with a wonderful message. Merida had a round face and was rough and tumble with her triplet brothers. She didn’t want fancy dresses or even want to be a princess; Merida just wanted to be Merida. She was the example of girls being girls, no matter how they look.

However, in a recent update, Disney decided to take the idea of Merida in Brave and throw it out the window. Merida, for her official induction into the Disney princess cohort, got a bit of a makeover. Merida 2.0 was taller, skinnier in the waist and had a slimmer face. Her famous bow-and-arrow set are missing, and her iconic wild hair has been tamed.

After the uproar that followed, Disney quietly pulled the newer version of Merida.

But my question for Disney stands: Why? What was so wrong with Merida that it warranted the change?

Disney made a statement with the creation of Merida, and it inspired girls around the world to live into who they wanted to be, not what society wanted them to be. Merida’s makeover told girls that, yes you can be who you want to be, but at some point you are going to have to fit in.

Brave’s director called the change “atrocious” in an interview with the Marin Independent Journal.

She continued: “When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”

Girls today need characters and princesses that are strong and powerful and reflect the society of today. I know that no one princess or character on Disney will ever be 100 percent inclusive of all people, but Disney at least needs to try.

Maybe sexualized images are more marketable, but that is not the point — empowering our girls is. I’m pleased that Disney has reversed its decision to alter one of their best examples of an empowered girl. I hope the trend of strong princesses started by this character continues.

Film Review: For The Bible Tells Me So

Film poster for For the Bible Tells Me So - Co...

Film poster for For the Bible Tells Me So – Copyright 2007, First Run Features (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most divisive topics that is dividing the Church today is the issue of homosexuality.  For decades (if not longer) this has been an issue (whether we like it or not) on the forefront of Church. Recently some denominations have had decisions and votes on whether or not to ordain open homosexuals; it has caused dissension, grief, hurt feelings and in some cases it has cost ministers their job. Many churches and even denominations have decided that in the interest of keeping everyone happy, they have not or will not broach the discussion at all.

In matters of church conflict or even church doctrine, the normal question to ask is “What does the Bible says regarding this issue?” It is a natural place to start.  However, there are varying ways on which the Bible can be interpreted and thus a problem can emerge.

The film, For The Bible Tells Me So, explores the issue of homosexuality as it relates to the Church and Christianity. This film tries to demystify the stigmas that have been placed on a certain group of people and tries to look at the issue from different angles.

Film Synopsis from forthebibletellsmeso.org:

Can the love between two people ever be an abomination? Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate? Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families — including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson — we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

This film dives into the Biblical text from a number of different perspectives trying to encapsulate the essence of the text as the original authors intended.  Scholars from many different denominations and faiths weigh in on this issue.

This film is presented in a way that brings in new ideas and understandings about homosexuality and how the Bible has been used and mis-used to subjugate a particular group of people. The interviewees do not hold back with their position and thought process when it comes to the controversial issue.  They are open about their feelings and in some cases have regret for the way that they treated their child when their child came out.

One of the positives of the film is that it does try to show different view points with regards to how different families  react to their children telling them they are homosexual– not all families reacted the same way then or even now.  For many it has been a journey that they have to take one day at a time.

I believe that this film is an excellent conversation starter no matter what side of the issue you are on; the key (as with many controversial topics) is that those watching must do so with open eyes, hearts and minds.  For many Christians this has become a hallmark issue; it has become the benchmark of righteousness and orthodoxy.  It is easy to hear something counter to your belief system and immediately get defensive and stop listening.  It is in those moments of struggle where we can learn and grow.  It is through difficult situations and conversations when we are able to open up to the possibilities of seeing a particular issue in a new light.

The website for the film also has two discussion guides (here and here) for further study and dialogue.

Overall, this film is well done and thought provoking.

I highly recommend it.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars
Film Website

Watch this film on Netflix

In Christ,

Rev. Evan
(Trailer Below)


Trailer

Reflection on Boston and West

I was in Phoenix all of last week.  I was attending a retreat for young ministers.  The retreat was jam packed and I had little time to check email and did not have any TV access at all.  It was only through twitter that I even heard about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, the shootings in Watertown, the factory explosion in West, TX and the “man hunt.”

As information was flying across the internet I was able to catch a glimpse here and there.  As the days progressed and more and more information was being made available it was a difficult pill to swallow.  It seemed like it was an unrelenting barrage of tragic events.  Some of the people I was with in Phoenix stated that they were glad they were in Arizona during all of this, not because it was away from the action but because they knew they would be glued to their TVs while the events unfolded.

So what can we learn from these events?

First, don’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear on the news.  In the first few hours of the bombing and the West explosion, there were so many conflicting reports.  News agencies try to get the best information they can but sometimes the first information that is reported is either false or extremely over exaggerated.

Second, the human condition is alive and well.  Humans unfortunately at their core have the ability to enact violence and hatred on one another.  Whether it is racial tensions, religious objections, ideological differences, humanity can be a viscous beast. When tragedy strikes we reflect on how this could have possibly happened. We begin to think of ways this could have been prevented and sometimes that leaves us feeling empty and agitated. I know this is a dismal view when it comes to humanity, but is something that we as the human race have been trying to fix for millennia. Wars, hatred, violence, genocide and human rights violations are in our past; you don’t have to look that far to find this in history.

However, not all hope is lost. (see below)

Finally, humanity is not as flawed or selfish as we once thought. Yes, I know this might be hard to completely understand given the death in Boston (and the previous point), but I read report after report of first responders and police officers running TOWARD the blast sites in a effort to help others. Even the runners of the marathon continued to run to the local hospital to donate blood for the victims AFTER they had already ran 26.2 miles. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of supplies were collected in the days after both Boston and West. People recognized that those who fell victim to the bombings and accident at the plant did not intend for this to happen. We as a species have a great emotional gift called empathy. Our hearts break when we hear of tragedy and mourn right along with people even if we ourselves are not effected.


As a minister I began to reflect on the message of the Gospel and how that message was being played out in these cities. A colleague and ECLA minster, Rev. David H., tweeted something that stood out to me. (See below)

For me, the message of the Gospel is more about love and grace and care than anything else. Christ reminds us that his time on this earth is one marked by serving and loving than by being served. Christ’s redemptive and radical message of wholeness and grace is one that should inspire others to do the same. Christ’s message is one of self-lessness; it is a message that makes us look outside of ourselves to facilitate a world where peace, love and justice reign.

Maybe Rev. David is right… if the message of the Gospel of love and wholeness can not be shown in times of uncertainty and instability then maybe we should close up shop. However, Christian’s from all walks of life clung to the notion of God being ever present in the lives of those effected and walking right beside them.


May we continue to pray for those effected by the tragedies in Boston and West. May God’s comfort and peace and grace and wholeness be poured out.

Come Spirit Come.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

When Starbucks Is Thought Provoking…

"my morning pick me up"

“my morning pick me up” via Instagram

Today I went out to run a couple of errands and more importantly to get a haircut. For the past few days I was starting to resemble Grizzly Adams or at least a distant cousin. After I dropped off my daughter at pre-school I made my way to get my hair cut at location near the church. I arrived at 9:30, but they did not open until 10am. Not a problem… why? Two stores down is a Starbucks.

I made my way into the establishment and purchased a Grande Tribute Blend and took a seat. I read emails and tweeted and like many High School girls I took a picture of my coffee and posted it to Instagram (see above). It was posted to Twitter and Facebook and I received a comment pretty quick on Facebook.

The comment was from a colleague in ministry in Indiana– Jay. He had an interesting experience at a Starbucks when he was getting his “morning pick me up.” He just recently started a blog and I thought his first post was quite thought provoking.

Here is a snippet of the post.

What I had just experienced is commonly called “Paying it Forward.”

It sounds like a really nice gesture, and it is. But as I was going through this experience, I was quickly thinking and processing my feelings. First was obvious, FREE COFFEE!!!! Then I thought, “How long has this been going on today?” I had seen a story on the local news about how one Starbucks in town had 50 some-odd people “paying it forward.” Then I thought, “I can’t be the guy who breaks this cycle and look like a total jerk. The social pressure to continue with this trend was very high. Then after I gave her my card, I thought, “Wait a minute, what if the person behind me just ordered a $10 coffee?!?!” I obviously did not have that kind of budget.

As I fell into the social pressure that was placed upon me by complete strangers, I pulled out of the parking lot, finally with my coffee, and I thought: ”WHAT IN THE HELL WAS THAT?!”

Jay took the experience of free coffee and the guilt associated with not “paying it forward” and views it in the lens of social justice and the Christian response.  This post is an excellent example of public theology and how Christians are called to be the light of Christ to all people at all times.  Good job Jay 🙂

I highly recommend that you read the entire blog post, click here to do so.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Review of “They Like Jesus, But Not The Church”

It’s no secret, the church is in a decline.  Attendance and support for the Church has been in on a steady downturn for many, many years. A whole host of reasons have been given on why this is.  Some blame MTV and iPhones, others blame parents for not taking their children, while others blame extra-curricular activities and sports.  Whatever the problem might be, rarely does anyone blame the church itself and the people that are attending it.

Dan Kimball is a minister and author.  He noticed that when he met people and got to know them that there are a great number of people who like Jesus, but not the Church.

The book discusses what the Church has done to foster these views, and how to address them. Kimball encourages Christians to leave the “Christian bubble” and listen to what non-Christians are saying.

Through a series of interview Kimball articulates six objections that people have with the church. At first glance a person is who in the church and has a connection with God because of it might be defense and even dismissive. Therein lies the problem. Kimball argues that Christian live in a “Christian bubble” and therefore think they know and understand those who do attend church or even believe in God.

Here are the six objections

Objection #1: The church is an “organized religion” with a political agenda;
Objection #2: The church is judgmental and negative
Objection #3: The church is male dominated and oppresses females
Objection #4: The church is homophobic
Objection #5: The church feels Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong
Objection #6: The church is full of “fundamentalists” who take the Bible too literally.

Kimball does a good job of showing both sides of the issues, expect for number four; on this particular issue he touches on the accepting side of the issue but still comes down (and pretty hard I might add) on the side of homosexuality is sin.

Selected quotes from the text:

“The more we focus on what we stand for instead of what we stand against, the more we will line up with Jesus and his teachings about the kingdom of God, and the more we will be seen as a people who will believe in truth and love.”

“We need to be open and honest about the difficult passages and odd stories in the Bible. It seems more people are doing their homework about the Bible outside the church than they are inside the church.”

“Our goal should not be to get people to ‘go to church.’ We should be inviting people to participate in the life of the church community and to participate in the activity of God, not merely inviting them to attend our worship services.”

Kimball’s book may not be the end all be all to Christian evangelism and prevalence  but I believe that this book is a good conversation starter. Kimball glosses over a few things here and there but for the most part drives home the point that the church has to do something to reach out to the emerging generations.

I think that this text would be good for the leaders of a church or even an evangelism committee. The point of reading this text is to start conversation, not to change minds… that takes time.

Link to Amazon

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Happy Reading!!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

God, Football and Theology According to Ray Lewis

My latest article on houstonbelief.com


All eyes were on New Orleans Sunday night as the 47th playing of football’s biggest game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Amid the $3.8 million 30-second commercials, blackouts and amazing plays, one player, Ravens Middle Linebacker, Ray Lewis was the focus on much of media’s attention. Lewis at the beginning of the playoffs had stated that he would retire after 17 years with the Ravens; this was his last run at another Super Bowl win. He has been in and out of the media light during his career; he was charged with obstruction of justice in a murder investigation and even been accused of using a banned substance.

However, after the Ravens had clinched their second franchise Super Bowl victory, Lewis was asked how he felt being a Super Bowl champ again he answered:

“It’s simple: when God is for you, who can be against you?” [Quoting from Romans 8]

So what exactly are you saying there Mr. Lewis? Was God only on your side or the Ravens’ side? Is God not a 49ers fan? Did the good people of Baltimore unite in prayer more fervently than those on the West Coast?

I am not denying that God gifted Ray Lewis with the ability to play a position in football better than anyone else; I am not denying that Ray Lewis has a relationship with God. Could his answer possibly have been an excited utterance, just something that he said in the moment? Maybe, but then again maybe not.

Was God’s hand in the mix during the Super Bowl? Did God cause the black out or cause the ref not to call passing interference that would have swung the game to the 49ers? And if God’s hand was in the mix why was the favor only for one team in league or 30 teams? God was just as much on the side of Ray Lewis as God was on the side for all of the 49ers, the Houston Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars and every other human on the planet. No amount of status, fame, fortune or access to resources grants a person “more favor” with God. It just doesn’t work that way.

When it comes to public theology, one has to be careful. We have to be careful that we are not using a text for a purpose that it was not originally composed for. This is a very difficult skill to learn and one that has plagued the church for centuries. The Bible has been used for almost every major political, socially and “hot topic” issues; it has been used for having slaves and for the emancipation of slaves, for the promotion and denial of women’s rights, for and against the affirming of homosexuality.

When we come to the Bible we are bringing our own preconceptions or even our own “agendas.” If one is looking for a passage to make their theology work, well guess what, they are going to find it.

So congrats to Ray Lewis and the 2012-2013 Baltimore Ravens.

May we remember that in winning and in losing that ALL are all God’s children. God doesn’t love one person over another.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


 

And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part X (Inauguration Edition)

My latest blog on Houston Belief


I’ve said many times before that I believe that some people who were Christians and left the faith or those who reject Christianity altogether do so not because of any objection to the teachings of Jesus Christ. They object to the actions of Christians themselves.

This is just another example of how one stupid act can make all Christians look bad.

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill in Seattle, Washington has been known for his outlandish statements. Generally he takes to the social media and makes wild statements about what it means to be follower of Christ or how a certain group of people should act.

Normally I just roll my eyes and have a good discussion with other minister friends but this time, he went too far. Now I am not saying that his previous 538 wild statements were somehow deemed “ok” by me, but I think that this one deserves special attention.

Driscoll took to the mighty Twitter on Inauguration Day and tweeted this:

Really Mark? Really? Please inform the masses in what class at Western Seminary did you learn the complex inter-workings of knowing a person’s faith? Last time I checked you and the President were not sharing a brew on the White House lawn.  So then how are you capable to judge someone’s faith and intent?  How are you able to say that he does not know God, that he does not believe in the Bible?

BIG WORDS MR. DRISCOLL, BIG WORDS.

Just another reason why people aren’t Christians and yet again it has NOTHING to do with Jesus. If the image of Christianity is one of judgment and self-righteousness, well we might as well close the doors and go home. The idea that Christians have some sort of mystical power that allows them to peer into the soul and heart of others is a stretch.  This is not the image of Christianity that I want to be promoted.

Could it possibly be Mark that the President and you might have different understandings of what it means to live out the gospel? Is it possible for the two to co-exist?  I am assuming that in your mind they can not.  This my friend is saddening.  If all of Christianity believed in your version of the gospel, it would be pretty plain and monochromatic.  But Christianity is diverse, rich and multi-layered.  Sure we can disagree on theological concepts but if the fact remains that we are doing it as a response to the Gospel and the faith that we hold dear I do not see a problem.  Sure people can take it to the extreme like Westboro Baptist, but isn’t this tweet just as extreme?

Driscoll’s words fly in the face of what Jesus actually taught in the Bible that he claims he knows but the President does not.  The problem with his words not only are they extremely judgmental, but they make all faithful followers of Christ look bad.  Not every Christian believes that the President is not a Christian, not every Christian believes in the same understanding of God, Jesus, the Bible, the authority of the Church or even sin.  Just becasue you might not have voted for the President or even like his policy choices, the President (whether you want to admit it or not) is created in the same image of God that you and I are.  Belittling the President or anyone for that matter is down right wrong.

As Christians in the 21st century we are called to become more than just talking points, cliches and tweets.  Christianity at its core is based in relational loving and caring.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

MLK, Jr. Day- Book Recomendation

When I was in seminary one of the most popular elective courses was a course on the life and ministry of Martin Luther King, Jr.  To be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about his life and especially his ministry   Sure I knew the basics: Civil Rights Movement and “I Have A Dream.”  Little did I know I was missing so much.

I never knew how he got started, how his father was a big influence on his life.  I never knew how he struggled with his position as leader of the Civil Rights Movement.  I never had read “The Letter From Birmingham Jail.”  I never knew how much his faith was impacted because of the movement.  I never knew of his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech the night before his assassination in Memphis, TN.

One of the best books I read regarding the life of King was Let the Trumpet Sound by Stephen Oates.  Oates has a way of telling the story of King in a way that transports you back to the South in the 1950s and 60s.  The book tells of King’s childhood and is rise in the church as a minister and how he help start the bus boycotts and lead rallies and gave speeches until his last day.

King’s dream is something that is still being worked out, but his impact on the United States and the cause of justice is immeasurable.

May we remember the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.–

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

In Christ,

Rev. Evan