Along the Road
A Blog by John Brashier, Associate Pastor

Why Go?

Posted by John Brashier on June 11, 2015 @ 2:15 PM

This is the second take on this blog today as somehow the first one vanished. A couple of people "liked" it on FaceBook and I clicked that link a few moments ago from FB and Twitter only to find it was going to a post I made a couple of weeks ago.

Begin again...

I am often asked, "Preacher Man, do I have to go to church to be what God wants me to be? I don't have to go to meet God for I can..." It is here you could insert a million things you've heard people excuse themselves for attending church. I could share my thoughts with you on the subject, but I won't.

Instead, I will share this with you. I read quite a few devotions each morning in my "mat time" during my yoga practice. One that I have read for almost 25 years is Frederick Buechner's "Listening To Your Life." It is a compilation of Buechner's early writings. The book was a gift from my friend Tim Youmans. Tim was a youth intern for me at the church I served in Baton Rouge and he had been a part of the first full-time youth minstry position in Oklahoma. Tim is now an Episcopal priest in Oklahoma City working with an Episcopal school as teacher/mentor/chaplain/priest.

So, now that I've taken a ride down past avenues, here's the best answer I could give as to why go to church. It comes from today's reading in "Listening."

"To Find What We Have Lost"

What I mean is that if we come to a church right, we come to it more fully and nakedly ourselves, come with more of our humanness showing, than we are apt to come to most places. We come like Moses with muck on our shoes - footsore and travel-stained with the dust of our lives, our failures, our deceits, our hypocricies, because if, unlike Moses we have never taken anybody's life, we have again and again withheld it from other people, even those who are dearest to us, the love that might have made their lives worth living, not to mention our own. Like Moses we come here as we are, and like him we come as strangers and exiles in our way because whereever it is we truly belong, whatever is truly home for us, we know in our hearsts that we have somehow lost it and gotten lost. Something is missing from our lives that we cannot even name - something we know best from the empty place inside us all where it belongs. We come here to find what we have lost. We come here to acknowledge that in terms of the best we could be we are lost and that we are helpless to save ourselves. We come here to confess our sins."

And, thanks be to God we all have been forgiven. I hope you embrace these words today and they help you along the road!

Mae Dean Ellington Smith said...

Posted on February 21, 2017 @ 1:03 PM -
Hope one of these days I get to meet you in person. It seems that you know at least one of my relatives from Texas -- a cousin who is about 12 years younger than me -- Judy Ellington Yarborough, who lives in Dallas, Texas.

Jeanne said...

Posted on April 05, 2016 @ 3:14 PM -

Very thought provoking. Now I will listen to your sermon that I missed Sunday. If I had been reading my emails every day in a timely manner I would have gotten the message that the meeting scheduled for 1:00 Sunday had been rescheduled. Instead I skipped second service so I could drive at a reasonable speed and eat lunch, etc. Will listen to your sermon while I clean.
J.R.

Tim Sean Youmans said...

Posted on June 14, 2015 @ 9:53 PM -
Well look here. It's me! And you. And Fred. Love you and miss you. Fr. Tim Sean Youmans+

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Soulful Living

Posted by John Brashier on May 21, 2015 @ 2:16 PM

I subscribe to a daily email from Richard Rohr, a very interesting and progressive theologian. The last few days as I have prepared for my Sunday message from John The Revelator's early take on Jesus telling them that once he left the "Advocate" would come. And, not until Pentecost happened did they reflect and say, "Oh yeah, we remember when he said this would happen!" Rohr's email today, as he continues to talk about Francis of Assissi, says:

"Precisely because both Jesus and Francis were "conservatives" in the true sense of the term, they conserved what was worth conserving--the core, the transformative life of the Gospel--and did not let accidentals get in the way, which are the very things false conservatives usually idolize. They then ended up looking quite "progressive," radical, and even dangerous to the status quo. This is, of course, the constant and consistent biblical pattern, from Abraham to Moses to Jeremiah to Job to John the Baptist to Mary and Joseph. With courage and wisdom, great seers invariably end up saying something like Jesus did: "The Law says, and I also say. . . ." (Matthew 5:20-48)."

Seems to me that is a pretty radical thing. None to different that what happened at Pentecost and being slapped up side the head at that "Ah ha" moment. I am not really fond of the term "conservative" or "liberal," so his wording there reminds me of how we have abused those terms to marginalize whoever / whatever we feel is "wrong" in our opinion. What Rohr says once again triggers something in my soul that can't deny I am guilty of just what I have written. Yet, I know somewhere deep in my soul there really aren't liberals or conservatives. There are only people, who as Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I shared with our students here at Wells last eve about Pentecost. I told them if you've ever been to a mall at Christmas then you have some idea about what happened that day in Jerusalem. There is a certain unidentifiable joy and expectation in the air and I have no doubt it was resplendent that Pentecost! I always think of the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus and how the Gospel says, "...our souls burned within us as the revealed the scripture to us along the way..."

For some reason I felt that this morning as I read Rohr's post. So often I have those "Emmaus" feelings and know in my soul I have moved to a closer presence of the Spirit. I realize those "key moments" sustain me and keep me mindful of how radical it is to seek that welling up of one's most inner spiritual place. I truly believe that those bring a resplendent peace to enable me to live as one who made people feel a "love so amazing demands my life, my all,"

Here's to the journey! Peace, JB

“Something More Than Free”

Posted by John Brashier on May 13, 2015 @ 2:42 PM

Everyone loves to get something free. Well, at least if what they receive for free is something they perceive to be of value. Is anything ever truly free? Doesn’t that ‘ol sayin’ come into play here? You know the one, “Nothing is ever really free, it always costs somebody something.”

 

I happened to win a couple of things this week. I won a 32” flat screen TV in a golf tourney. Also, I entered a contest to create a music playlist for an outdoors radio show. The show’s producer thought I had the best list. So, I won a t-shirt, a 3 pack of elk calls and a nice rifle case. Were the prizes I won really free? Well, as far as me literally “paying” for them yes, they were free. Yet, it still cost someone something to provide those items. And, I had to make the golf swing to get the ball closest to the hole and the playlist had to be researched through all my tunes. You see, nothing is really FREE in this life. Ultimately, we live in a “land of the free.” Still, if not for the “home of the brave” that gave their vital sacrifices, there would be no “land of the free.”

 

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” So we ask, “What is the truth?” I think truth is many different things to many different people. For me the truth is finding the place with God where I don’t have to wear a mask, a place where I have the freedom to continually seek and search for that truth. Nelson Mandela says this about freedom, For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” There is a great responsibility in living a life of freedom. Paul writes that there are times when our freedom, though well within it’s rights, causes others to lose sight of freedom and become selfish. Yes, living a free life is not free at all. I believe one of the most important strands running through the tapestry of freedom is we are free to make mistakes. Mistakes cost us. They bring pain, sorry, misery you name it! Still, it is from the freedom to make mistakes and live that makes us truly something more than free!

 peace,

JB

"...through a glass, darkly..."

Posted by John Brashier on May 07, 2015 @ 1:36 PM

Well, at least that is the way Paul puts it as he writes to the church in Corinth. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. What does it mean to “see through a glass darkly/” Maybe to see “through a glass” — a mirror — “darkly” is to have an obscure or imperfect vision of reality. Paul explains that we do not now see clearly, but at the end of time, we will do so. Does that frustrate you? Aren’t there times when we’d love to see the future now?

 

I have thought about that question a few times in my life and wished could be true. Yet, more often than not those wishes were quieted by Paul’s promise and the words of the Psalmist, “be still and know that I am God.” What if I could see the future and find something terrible on the horizon, instead of something wonderful? I imagine I would live life dreadful of that futuristic destiny and be anxious everyday. Whereas, not knowing affords me the capacity to live a deeper, richer life on a daily basis depending on the words of Christ who promises to always be near and provide.

 

Yeah, I know. I’ve heard and read that last sentence in the previous paragraph more times than I can remember. I often hear say when I hear that phrase, “It’s too good to be true.” Then I catch myself and realize maybe the truth of it is that it is too good not to be the Gospel. And, I think that is probably what Paul was alluding to. There is a joy to be had as we seek God on a daily basis, not clinging to the events of yesterday or the hope of tomorrow. We are “frail and feeble as dust,” the saying goes and because we are this day and this present moment is all we have. So, live abundantly knowing that it is not about having plentiful resources. Even though when we begin a day with insufficient resources and life seems dark, we must contemplate our thoughts on the present moment. This is where we live in the present; it is the place where the dark becomes clearer. Awareness of the here and now is a rich blessing, helping us to focus more wholly on the Holy. 

Peace,

JB

"Soak It Up"

Posted by John Brashier on April 30, 2015 @ 10:06 AM

“It’s graduation time! Well, at least for some. Over the next few weeks young men and women will complete a significant chapter of their lives. It’s called High School Graduation and is passage from one “chapter of life” to another.

Five years ago my oldest son, Grant, graduated from Clinton High. Seven years ago he was preparing for the toughest challenge of his short-lived life. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I will tell you that he is almost 24 and there is no remnant of cancer left in his body. As a way of dealing with his diagnosis, treatment and subsequent remission I wrote a daily blog on CaringBridge. I am not sure why, but the other day I went to the site and perused it for the first time in over a year. I found an entry that was on Grant’s high school graduation day and thought I’d share here with you.

 “Last Friday evening my son, Grant, graduated from high school. As I type he is with some friends in Destin for his senior trip. Grant is the “middle child” and oldest boy of ours. I find it hard to believe he has graduated. I am not sad, well, not any sadder than I was when Courtney graduated. Maybe it’s the fact, I’ll have two in college at the same time. Ouch!  So often when I talk to other parents about their children’s graduation the general theme I pick up is; “it went too fast, I wish I’d have taken time to enjoy it more.”  I can honestly say, I don’t feel that. I DO feel an extreme sense of pride, joy, and hope. Sure, I made mistakes as a parent, but I know this, I soaked it all up! I can’t look back and say; “oh, I wish I’d have been more involved.” As a matter of fact, the first thing I remember…” And, I listed ALL the events in his life I remember! It was the longest blog I think I wrote for the site!

I concluded my list with these words: “Grant you will make it in life, my son. You have a steely resolve. So, though I haven’t been the best parent, I know I made plenty of mistakes along the way. Still, I gave you all I had and will give you more. In the words of my late friend Ken McKenzie, “keep on smilin!’” love ya, Dad.”

It is my hope and prayer for those of you who graduate this year you will soak it up! Be grateful for the roads God has led you on and how God steered you to a clearer path when you wavered from God’s direction. And, if any parents read this, I challenge you to get out pen and paper and make a list of your child’s pilgrimage to this time in his/her life.

My wish for you all, “May God bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true, may you always do for others and let others do for you, may you build a ladder to the stars and climb every rung, may you stay forever young.”

Peace,

JB

 

"We're All Cracked and Crumblin'"

Posted by John Brashier on April 22, 2015 @ 2:48 PM

(inspired by Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes of Love's tune "Good Luck Charm")

Not something we like to hear, for sure. Yet, when you think about it, you begin to crack and crumble from the day you breathe your first breath. There are also things that begin to be born in you as well. As the old Navajo mantra says: “There are two wolves within you that you can feed within, one evil, one good, which one gets fed is up to you.”

 

We have choices every day in which we choose to feed the positive, the holy, the righteous, etc. And, we have choices to feed the negative, the vengeful, the cold-hearted, etc. How do you decide which one gets your energy, your love, your deepest desires? When you find there’s nothing special about that the big hole in your heart, that everyone has one and how we nurture that hole is what comes out in our lives.

 

Here’s how Jesus puts it: “How can you speak good things if you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of good treasure, the evil person brings evil things out of evil treasure.” Picture it this way. Let’s say each you are a water pitcher. You are constantly being filled and poured out. What do you allow yourself to be filled with and what flows out of you when the pitcher is empty?  

 

If you could give your life away as a good luck charm for someone, would you? Sainthood is for those who know you lose it to save it. “Out of this terrible death, John says, came eternal life not just in the sense of resurrection to life after death but in the sense of life so precious even this side of death that to live it is to stand with our foot already in eternity. To participate in the sacrificial life and death of Christ is to live already in his kingdom.” Buechner

 

You get to tell your part of the story. You get to live it, for better or worse. You’re cracked and crumblin’, as you live out this fractured disintegrating life can even the untrained eye see what seeps and sometimes springs from the vessel you have become?

Peace,

JB

Paralyzed By Doubt

Posted by John Brashier on April 16, 2015 @ 12:06 PM

He said, “Unless I place my hand in His wounds I will not believe.” Maybe that’s why he go the nickname “Doubting Thomas?” Last Sunday I preached about Thomas and rather than a doubter, I find Thomas to be an incredible risk taker.He was willing to follow Jesus down whatever road he led Thomas and the rest of the followers, even down death's dreary lane.

 

He was willing to speak up and say he did not understand what it was that Jesus was talking about, and asked him to explain it in simpler terms.Apparently, he didn't feel the need to stay in the locked and shuttered room with those who reeked of fears.

 

He was willing to admit that he needed something more tangible than just stories about "something that happened." Paraphrasing Eliza Doolittle, he said, "Don't talk of resurrection, show me now." And Jesus responds in kind by saying, “Thrust your hands inside my wounds they’re for you to inspect!” And Thomas in a way no one in the Bible ever responded to Jesus. When Jesus tells him this he jumps right into the river of love and says, “My Lord AND My God!”

 

He took the risk to proclaim aloud what the others were feeling about Jesus.

 

Doubter? Maybe.  Cynic?  Perhaps.  Risk Taker?  Definitely.

 

Paul Tillich said the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. For me, Thomas is a role model, not because of his 'doubts' but because of the risks he took in following Jesus, challenging Jesus, proclaiming Jesus.

 

Perhaps Thomas is the beloved disciple of John's Gospel!?!

Peace,

JB

"A Word From The Tomb"

Posted by John Brashier on April 09, 2015 @ 9:57 AM

“HE IS RISEN!! HE IS RISEN, INDEED!!”

 

“I’m thinkin’ ‘bout eternity, some kinda ecstasy gotta hold on me” Bruce Cockburn

 

Today we recognize God’s victory over our mortal deaths and embrace our birth of eternity. As I read the Scripture passages for today I can’t begin to understand or fathom what those first disciples were thinking as they raced to the tomb once they heard Mary’s story.

 

Just hours earlier they were feeling guilty, ashamed, downtrodden, etc. Now there was an undeniable hope alive! Could it be that Mary was telling the truth? The adrenaline rush must’ve been quite resplendent!

 

They had immersed themselves in what they thought was going to change their way of life as seekers of the one true God. They had watched the blind see, they lame walk, the dead come back to life and even more. John says, “This is just a part of the story, the world doesn’t have enough books to contain all the miracles of Jesus.”

 

Jesus had inspired them to seek God, not religious rituals. He told them love is greater than hate. He transformed their thinking to a place that enabled the timid to avoid the trendy tide and not doing what the ceremonies the religious leaders of the day embraced.

 

One of the lines that had engaged my soul this week is, “You’ll see Him there, exactly as He said.” He had told them and told them of his impending death and resurrection. Yet, in their self-pity they didn’t remember. So, over the course of the next 40 days before he ascends they, one by one begin to remember the things he told them. Things that only seemed true because he rose from the dead.

 

The resurrection uplifted their spirits! The resurrection enriched what Jesus had taught them! The resurrection deepened their love for God. What will you allow the resurrection to do to you?

peace,

JB

You’re Better Than Your Past

Posted by John Brashier on March 26, 2015 @ 2:58 PM

I think that is what Jesus is trying to get his disciples, religious leaders, etc. to hear in his message as he journeys toward the cross. He tells them things like; “this world is not my home” and “if you tear down this temple I will build it again in 3 days.” It’s definitely what I have heard Jesus say to me as I have traveled this Lenten season of 2015.

 

This week I was doing some sermon prep and I came across the verse where Jesus says, “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Rich Mullins translates those words in his song, “You Did Not Have a Home” –

 

Oh, You did not have a home

There were places You visited frequently

You took off Your shoes and scratched Your feet

'Cause You knew that the whole world belonged to the meek

But You did not have a home, no, You did not have a home

Birds have nests, foxes have dens

But the hope of the whole world rests

On the shoulders of a homeless man

You had the shoulders of a homeless man

And the world can't stand what it can't own

And it can't own You 'cause You did not have a home

 

 

We seem to be so consumed by our past at times that we can’t enjoy the “home” Christ has built for us this very day. Yet, every day we wake up and look through the doors of our past, where we have nowhere to lay our heads in peace. It’s odd to me how when we live for the day our past becomes irrelevant, and when that happens, it’s those days we see things we’ve never seen before. Things like Christ casting our past as far as the east is from the west.

 Peace,

JB

 

Tricia said...

Posted on March 26, 2015 @ 6:49 PM -
thank you.

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"Bound to come some trouble..."

Posted by John Brashier on March 13, 2015 @ 1:50 PM

That’s what Jesus told the disciples shortly before he was to be crucified. Man, they had no idea!!

 

Our Lenten lunch speaker, Bishop Swanson reminded me of that verse this week. He said, “When you sign up to follow Christ, you sign up for trouble.” I let those words sink in for a few moments at that point, even jotted them down in my Moleskin journal and rejoined the Bishop’s homily.

 

It’s about 4:30 as I type these words and I find myself sitting right back on the front pew, where I was a few hours ago and the words “bound to come some trouble,” are beating deep within me. I realize that truth has made me who I am today. Even the uneasiness in parts of life these days “trouble” defines me even more.

 

People speak of how if you appease God, please God enough, be pure enough, etc. you’ll be blessed with great material things. If you don’t believe me, turn on the TV and you’ll find plenty who dwell in churches bigger than castles promising the peasants in the church if they just give a little more, do a little more, give a little more then they will live in castles too!

 

Rich Mullins sings these words in the final verse of, “Bound to Come Some Trouble” –

 

I know there's bound to come some trouble to your life

Reach out to Jesus, hold on tight

He's been there before and He knows what it's like

You'll find He's there

 

It’s trite and even somewhat cliché’ to say, “God is with you in the valley more than on the mountain.” I think what I am relearning this Lenten season is trouble comes in all ways and in different ways for different people. Seeking God seems more “intentional” during Lent, and for some it is. Maybe Paul was right when he penned, “…I have been found to be content in whatever state I am.” Seems to me that whether in the valley or on the mountain if God is with you, there can’t be a better place to be.

Peace,

JB

Tricia said...

Posted on March 26, 2015 @ 6:49 PM -
Amen

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