Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Survived :-)

So Renee and I have officially survived our first Christmas together.  We’ve done Christmas with my entire family and now we’re in Ohio with Renee’s family.  I’ve also successfully transitioned from 24 to 25 today… yup, hit the quarter century mark.  

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Jesus and CNN

So last night I caught the tail end of CNN’s program on Jesus and I expected that when all was said and done I’d be very disappointed.  Surprise of surprise, I wasn’t: they did a really good job.

I only caught the tail end where they were discussing his death and resurrection.  They appealed to a wide variety of scholars including Roman Catholic scholars as well as Bart Ehrman and NT Wright.  I think they accurate captured the reason for Jesus’ death and didn’t try to just blame the Romans or blame the Jewish authorities, and instead got it right that they two were in cahoots.  They also did a good job with the resurrection, and made the point that while science can’t explain the resurrection, none of the supposed explanations adequately explain the faith that developed in subsequent years.  They closed with this comment from NT Wright, “The best explanation for the rise of the Christian faith is that Jesus was in fact raised from the dead on the third day.”  

It was also nice to see that “objective” scholars (typically Crossan, Marcus Borg, etc.) didn’t get much attention as they often do because those “evangelical” scholars can’t be trusted because they have an agenda (as if Crossan and Borg don’t?).  

Anyway, my accolades this morning go out to CNN for a job well done.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Intelligent Design and the Public Schools

     So Intelligent Design has gotten a lot of attention lately, especially with the ruling in the Dover case in Pennsylvania.  The case at this point is moot, because the citizens of Dover voted out the whole school board because of their actions.  (To which Pat Robertson warned the citizens of Dover that they had voted God out of their city and to not be surprised if natural disaster hit them… thanks Pat, you’re a real gem.  It’s no wonder people can’t stand Christians, anyway)

My beef with “evolution” is this: it’s not proven.  In fact, no scientific theory is proven.  I was trained in physics so I spent literally hours working with Newton’s laws.  Newton’s laws are not proven.  In fact, to the contrary, they have been found to be less than useful in situations where objects are traveling near the speed of light.  Does this mean that Newton’s laws are wrong?  It’s the wrong question.

Scientific theories are precisely that – theories.  They are explanations of observed phenomena.  They may be more or less useful and accurate, but they are theories nonetheless.  I am not a biologist but unless biology has been exempted from the ordinary rules of science (sarcasm duly noted) one must admit that this is what the theory of evolution is: its an explanation of observed phenomena.  It’s not a fact, its not proven, it’s not some sacred cow that doesn’t deserve to be tested.  

If I taught high school physics it would a high crime again science to teach only Newton’s laws because we live in world where Newton’s laws don’t provide good explanations for everything, but they do do a pretty good job of explaining a lot of what we deserve.  

So here’s my point: does intelligent design deserve teaching in our public schools?  I’m not sure, I’m not up to date on my Intelligent design knowledge.  But let’s be real and honest and stop trying to deceive everyone into believing that scientific theories are unquestionable.  

My second point is this: there is an official religion of public education, secular humanism.  I am not going to say whether this is a bad thing, but let’s stop pretending that by seeking to keep all religion out of public school we’re not appealing to another religion, we are.  Any statement about god is by nature a theological statement, so to say that god does not exist, or god is not, or even god is a pink banana is a theological statement.  Thus, by preventing the teaching of anything about god our public schools are in fact embracing secular humanism as their official religion.  Again, I’m not saying this is a bad thing.  I think if our schools we to embrace another religion it would undoubtedly be far more trouble that it’s worth.  But my point on this is the same as intelligent design, let’s be honest about it rather than pretending that evolution is a proven fact and that there isn’t a public endorsement of a specific religion.

SU Basketball

So despite being a Syracuse basketball fan for my whole life, and following them closely since my Junior year of college, I had never actually seen them life in person.  However, I remedied that situation last night and took care of part of my dad’s birthday present as we went to see SU vs. Illinois-Chicago last night.  Minus the end of the first half, when Ill.-Chicago went on a 10-0 run to close the gap from 32-20 to 32-30, it was a good game.  SU came out and went on a 7-0 run at the start of the first half to get the game to 39-30 and from there on in the game was never in doubt.  

SU didn’t shoot the ball especially well (Gerry McNamara’s 2-13 from beyond the arc is case in point) but Terrance Roberts’ 19 points along with McNamara’s 18 led the way to victory.  I think it’ll be interesting to see how this team does when the Big East Season rolls around.  It is a shame that Pitt build such a small stadium and henceforth doesn’t sell any public tickets for Big East games.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Home Sweet Home

So I arrived “home” yesterday.  I put “home” in quotes only because “home” for me (and I think many people my age) is a strange concept.  Having spent the last six years in Western PA I feel much more “at home” there than I do in Rochester.  That being said, “home” is a really nice place to be and since I haven’t seen my parents since August, it’s good to finally see them.  

Today I am recovering from some sort of illness that caused my tonsils to explode in size to the point where it hurts to swallow.  However, with the help of lots of sleep and extra strength Tylenol, I am doing quite well now.  I am also getting a chance to do some much-needed reading today.  Dr. Purves has decided that for our Jan 12th meeting of our independent study, we need to read 191 pages… 130 to go for me, on top of my reading for Missiology, T/E of Karl Barth, and trying to finish Beyond Foundationalism before February 9th.  Needless to say, I have a very full book bag.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas Break

So, three weeks down in the semester, seven to go.  We started Christmas break on Friday and I celebrated by driving down to Maryland.  Beth and Jeremy are getting married for well, actually, the third time.  The first time was over the phone back in September, they were legally married over breakfast last week (Jeremy’s dad can sign marriage licenses) and then tomorrow they’ll have their “public witnessing of the marriage vows.”  I’m doing double-duty as homilist/best man.  Today is the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, followed by the wedding tomorrow afternoon.  Monday Renee is moving from Laurel, MD north to Columbia so that’s Monday’s task.  Tuesday I am set to drive home to Rochester.  Wednesday my dad and I are going to Syracuse to see the Syracuse vs. Illinois-Chicago game.  Thursday evening Renee is flying into Rochester.  Friday is Christmas with my dad’s side of the family, Saturday is Christmas eve with my Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Bob (and family) where we celebrate my cousin Paul and my mom’s birthday (both are Christmas day babies).  Christmas morning we’ll celebrate Christmas at home with my parents, then venture off to see my mom’s side of the family (That side of the family is so big and we have so many kids that we rent out the town hall – no joke).  Then we’ll be in Buffalo on the 26th (Renee’s first hockey game and first trip to McPartlands, only the greatest restaurant in Buffalo) and then on the 27th head to Ohio for Christmas with her family and my birthday (I’ve hit the quarter-century mark).  Then New Year’s Eve we’ll be with Renee’s dad’s family.  On the 30th we have a reunion at Crestfield (which Kevin conned me into preaching at) and then on the 2nd I resume classes and Renee flies back to BWI.  

Hmm… vacation?  I think not.

So, somewhere in there I need to keep up on my Hebrew vocab, and read a whole bunch of pages for classes as soon as I get back.  So while I get a stress-free Thanksgiving on the trimester plans, it makes Christmas uber-busy.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Emerging @ PTS

So, as some of you know I’ve been working on pulling together an event here in February.  ESF (Evangelical Student Fellowship) is a group that I’ve been active with since I started seminary and would say that it’s been a crucial part of my seminary experience.  Last year I joined the leadership team and remain apart of that this year albeit in a slightly different (but better suited role).  In many ways ESF’s leadership has been a model of how leadership should work.  We all trust one another, so the leadership team serves to empower and rather than control.  ESF has, in my time in seminary, hosted a number of different discussion panels and forums on various topics including inclusive language, The Passion of the Christ, Faith and Politics and I think something else that I can’t recall right now.  Anyhow, it was suggested to me to work on something similar on the emerging church.  So, I sat down with Dr. Sunquist (our esteemed advisor) and Rich (one of our co-presidents) and we laid some groundwork for it.  That weekend I went to the Generous Orthodoxy Conference, hoping that I could meet John Franke and convince him to be apart of it.  So, the first day of the Conference I introduced myself to him and we sat together during the first general session.  I mentioned “We’re having a discussion forum on the Emerging Church…” before I finished the sentence he said, “I will come at my own expense to be apart of that.”  Mission accomplished.  

So here’s the (very) preliminary plans for the day:

Noon:     John Franke @ ESF (Dining Room #1)
3:15:      John Franke, “The Many and the One: Toward a Theology of Christian Pluralism” (Room #4)
     Responding: Rev. Dr. John Burgess (tentative)
4:30:     A Conversation about the Emerging Church: Featuring John Franke and Emerging Church leaders from around Pittsburgh

Sunday, December 11, 2005


This weekend was our Sr. High Winter Retreat with Pittsburgh Youth Network @ Laurelville.  A few highlights…

  • Being picked to battle two other youth leaders with a dead eel, by trying to break an egg that was held in place by a pair of stockings… and then smelling myself for the rest of the time with a delightful mix of dead eel and rotten egg…

  • Cabin time discussions with the guys

  • Winning our first snow football game without even scoring a touchdown…

  • Watching Cory knock a guy down with his nose

  • Watching Jarrod show off his CMU football skills

  • Enjoying 20 minutes of silence in the freezing cold

  • Watching the weather get worse and worse the closer to home we got

  • Spending a weekend with a great group of kids

Thursday, December 08, 2005

No Church on Christmas Morning?

This morning in missiology the issue of megachurches who are not having worship on Sunday came up.  It turned out to be a lively discussion.  While I have a critique of many seeker-sensitive megachurches I nonetheless think they have a great deal to teach the post-mainline church about what it means to critically engage culture.  For many of these churches, which have committed themselves to being family friendly, having worship on Sunday morning, especially following huge services on Christmas eve, would be more of a burden than a genuine worship experience.  The cultures to which most of these megachurches aim is one that does not traditionally celebrate worship on Christmas morning.  While that is the case in some settings, for them its not.  

My other beef is this – when since has worship been reserved only for Sunday?  I understand the theological significance of gathering on Sundays, but many churches have found that worship services on Saturday evenings are well attended by a different segment of the population?  Is it most important that we gather on Sunday or that we gather?  To me its the latter.  

I think what so many post-mainline churches fail to recognize is that the culture shift has had a dramatic influence on our families.  Even from when I was growing up kids are programmed at a younger and younger age between the 102 things that they're involved in.  Some decry this as proof of the downfall of American families, and there may be some truth to that, but it also is showing an increased interest in providing opportunities for kids to be actively involved in things, rather than simply turn them into a bunch of tv-watching latch key kids (which was what my generation was).  If the church can give people a gift on Christmas morning by saying "hey, stay home with your family and enjoy a day together" then so be it.  Dr. Sunquist said, "Christmas isn't about family" and he's right, but in our culture family is a crucial part of family celebrations and if the church fails to understand that I think its made a crucial error.  

I am not saying churches shouldn't have services Christmas morning, but I'm just saying that we should be careful in judging the decisions of other churches as to what they decide.  

Side note: Matt Bell made a great comment at lunch about the stone-throwing that we here in seminary tend to do when it comes to mainline churches, "its out of envy more than anything".  Ha, isn't that true?

Derrida was right?!?!

So for any of your philosophical purists, you will undoubtedly be unhappy with my post because I am going to engage a postmodern philosopher without much knowledge of him.  That being said… Tuesday confirmed something that I have long suspected and only recently come to really understand.  Jacques Derrida, considered the father of deconstructionism was really onto something.  A text, regardless of the author's intent does take on a life of its own.  

We were assigned to read Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics III.4, the section on Man and Woman (pgs 116-181 for you purists).  In the final part of this section Barth addresses the issue of "orders" in creation, basically arguing that because man and woman are not the same (man is A, woman is B) and A precedes B, etc.  (I won't go into the detail of the argument).  Needless to say, we were dealing with sensitive issues relating to gender roles and Barth said some strong things.  There is only one woman in the class and that was a shame because it would have been great to have multiple female perspectives.  However, this woman, who I've come to respect a great deal, gave what I thought to be a compelling critique to Barth's work from a female's perspective.  What's interesting is that I didn't get the same read of Barth as she did, but I can see where she's coming from.  So who's "right"?  Well, I think that's the wrong question.  

As I read Barth's section, especially as one planning on getting married in less than six months, I found Barth's discussion helpful and in some parts convicting.  To her, she found Barth's theology oppressive and dangerous, to the point that it would encourage pastors to counsel women who were in abusive situations to remain there.  So why is this?  Well, regardless of Barth's intent what he wrote (and corresponding the words used by the translators) have contexts all their own, and depending on how one defines those words one's understanding will change.  So what Barth's meant by "orders" and what he intended to say isn't necessarily precisely what we understand when we read him.  So, since I want to rescue Barth, I'm going to argue that he never intended to present a platform which would encourage pastors to counsel women to remain in abusive relationships.  But, we must recognize that he could be read in that way.  

Shortly after the national youth workers convention I told my dear friend Matt that I was going to write a blog entry entitled "Why I am Not a Christian".  Now, what I intended by that statement was the term Christian is so socially loaded that identifying myself as one will in some cases put a whole bunch of labels on me that I don't believe to be accurate.  However, as Matt pointed out, by using the title of Bertrand Russell I would be also placing a whole bunch of labels on myself that I didn't want either.  The same holds true with my use of the word postmodern.  In my PIF (fancy Presbyterian title for a resume) I use the word postmodern.  As my pastor pointed out, that term is a loaded one, and might scare people off without just cause.  

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Isn't this the truth?

"Among the immediate data of existence there is certainly no greater riddle for man that the fact of the existence of woman and the question as to her nature.  And on the other hand the same applies to women… To live humanly means never to escape the astonishment of one's own sex at the other, and the desire of one's sex to understand the other'

- Karl Barth (Church Dogmatics III.4, Pg., 167)

Lesson Learned

Lesson learned… never loan a book to BJ Woodworth, he'll burn it on you.  

"and another book" =  my copy of Preaching Christ Today by TF Torrance.  

Alas, I'll always remember BJ every time I took at that book.  

Note: I'm actually laughing quite hard as I write this, I am quite thankful that it was only my book that was burned, and no BJ, his computer, his car, or the Union Project.  Plus, talk about the word catching fire.  

Where I Stand

I came across this post on emergent-us that is a pretty accurate description of where I am right now theologically/politically, etc.    

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sunday's Sermon

So tonight I preached/led worship at Northmont again, and I was really nervous.  I remember the only other time I've really been nervous preaching at Northmont was January of my first year, when it was my very first time preaching there.  But tonight I was going to hit kind of close to home with some slides showing our churches' membership loss over the last ten years and the corresponding worship attendance figures (which aren’t nearly as gloomy).  Even though I've been there for two years now I still get nervous when I preach sermons that are a little more critical of our church.  At the same time, I didn't want to come down too hard, because there's a lot of good that is going on in our church.  So my quandary was how do I balance preaching a sermon on how the world has changed and the church needs to respond without sounding like I'm scolding people.  The answer?  Wait for the Holy Spirit.  

My key insight in tonight's sermon you'll only find on the audio recording because it didn't come to me till I got to the end of my outline and realized I hadn't wrapped it up at all.  The passage tonight was from Isaiah 40, which is the beginning of Judah's restoration.  My key insights was that when changes happen God doesn't get rid of the old and start brand new, he transforms what already is into something new.  So, things are "the same" but different.  In other words, what is is reformed by God into something which is the same but different.  One could say that the Christian church is like this – we're the same but we're all different.  This is why in the church history is so important as the "trajectory" from which we come.  We're not bound to history, it doesn't dictate to us what we become, but it should inform and guide us.  My other key tonight was to point out in the life of our church where we have responded well to the changing world, which actually was quite easy as we've had a group in our church who has become focused on "reaching out" in everything we do.  

Anyway, as usual everything is available @

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Me = Emergent?

So something quite scary happened yesterday – Bob Reufle told me that in Dr. Burgess's Theology/Practice of Christian Worship course…

EXCURSUS: I took Theology/Practice of Christian Worship second term of my first year at the recommendation of a number of the older students, and have not once regretted it.  It's one course in which the theological/practical are not divided at all.  Everything that is discussed in that class deals directly with theological and practical issues.  I think its one of the most useful "practical" courses I've taken in seminary.  I find myself using my knowledge from that class every time I write an order of worship.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED COURSE.  Plus, Dr. Burgess (I've had him for 3 classes plus an independent study and now a fourth class this term) is an excellent professor.  

Anywho, so Dr. Burgess is teaching the class again.  Apparently Dr. Burgess asked the class how many people were familiar with the Emerging Church Worship and followed that up with a comment, "If you've been around Brian Wallace for any period of time you certainly are aware of it".  Yikes!

I guess the reason I laugh at this comment is that I feel that I'm just trying to play around with some of stuff that people have labeled "Emergent".  Truth be told I think its hard to get a grasp on what the label "emergent" actually means, but I think what Dr. Burgess means by the term is worship that is focused on being intentionally multi-sensory and interactive.  Tomorrow night for example I am going to be doing a traditional sermon but I'm going to try and incorporate interactive elements during the sermon.  (Compared to last time where I introduced the scripture and then we had an interactive conversation).  But I am going to try to include stations where people who aren't auditory learners can interact and engage (I'm not sure how yet).  

But nonetheless, I had to laugh at my name being used to describe something "emergent".  

Friday, December 02, 2005

Da Vinci Code

In the past two weeks I have encountered two interesting blog posts relating to the Da Vinci Code.  One was from Scot McKnight, noted New Testament Scholar.  He asks the simple question: Why do so many people want to believe that the Da Vinci Code is true? (

The second is from Dan Kimball, who writes that is he thinks the Da Vinci code will present a greater opportunity than the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  In his words, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is an insiders show – you understand the metaphor Lewis was using if you know the story of Jesus Christ.  If you don't know that story then you'll probably love the story, but miss the Christ-metaphor.  He also makes the great point that he hopes people see The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and become interested in Lewis and read Mere Christianity.  (

I think what both McKnight and Kimball get is that too often the church looks at things like the Da Vinci code and proceeds to give a parent-like scolding to the society thereby ghettoizing itself.  The reaction from those outside the Christian community: "Dan Brown must be right because the church is obviously scared of it".  What if a church rented out a theatre and afterward had an honest discussion about the movie?  Just imagine the teaching moment!  This is a classic case of what so many people are realizing: When you're in a missionary setting you can't pretend to be some big shot and issue a parent-like scolding.  You need to serious engage culture.  In many ways we need to look to Origen, who sought to seriously engage his culture around him as an example of what we need to do.

I do need to note that Origen was eventually declared a heretic because in some ways he over accomdated the faith to the world of greek philosophy.  However, he is still very useful – I recommend John Franke's assessment of Origin in The Character of Theology Pgs. (92-100)

Karl Barth and Creationism/Evolution

I ran across this on the First-Theology Yahoo Group which gives us an insight into what Karl Barth would say to the on-going evolution/creation/intelligent design debate:

Here is a letter from a granduncle to his grandniece written thirty years ago:
Basel [Switzerland], 18 Feb. 1965

Dear Christine,
You have had to wait a terribly long time for an answer to your letter of 13 Dec.--not because of indifference, for I am sincerely interested in your welfare, and that of your mother and sisters, and am always pleased to have good news from Zollikofen [near Bern, Switzerland].
Has no one explained to you in your seminar that one can as little compare the biblical creation story and a scientific theory like that of evolution as one can compare, shall we say, an organ and a vacuum-cleaner--that there can be as little question of harmony between as of contradiction?
The creation story is a witness to the beginning or becoming of all reality distinct from God in the light of God's later acts and words relating to his people Israel--naturally in the form of a saga or poem. The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain the same reality in its inner nexus--naturally in the form of a scientific hypothesis.
The creation story deals only with the becoming of all things, and therefore with the revelation of God, which is inaccessible to science as such. The theory of evolution deals with what has become, as it appears to human observation and research and as it invites human interpretation. Thus one's attitude to the creation story and the theory of evolution can take the form of an either/or only if one shuts oneself off completely from faith in God's revelation or from the mind (or opportunity) for scientific understanding.
So tell the teacher concerned that she should distinguish what is to be distinguished and not shut herself off completely from either side.
My answer comes so late because on the very day you wrote, 13 Dec., I had a stroke and had to spend several weeks in the hospital.
With sincere greetings which you may also pass on to your mother and sisters,




So every so often I get in a poetic/reflective/nostalgic mood and tonight was one of those nights.  This afternoon I attended the colloquium with Dr. Burgess and afterward walked over to the bookstore to pick up an order of books for the church.  As I was walking back it had begun to snow, and I was struck by how odd everything seemed.  

I remember my first year of seminary well.  I came to PTS directly from Grove City and immediately found myself enjoying the work but extremely lonely when I first arrived.  This didn't last long though as I developed friendships rather quickly and sooner than I expected, PTS was home for me.

Winter has come quickly here in Pittsburgh.  Earlier this week it was in the 60s, tonight it dropped below the freezing mark and the snow has been falling steadily.  My Christmas lights are hung and my candle sits, unlit since I keep forgetting to buy a lamp.  The normal signs for PTS around Christmas are up, as it is once again time for Lesson in Carols performed annually by the PTS Choir.  

Two major things happened my first year of seminary.  I started to volunteer at Northmont and I really started to develop a love of learning.  I actually stumbled upon Northmont accidentally (well, it was well within God's plan) and was by Christmas just starting to get settled in there.  I remember the first weekend of December I went on a retreat with the Sr. High Youth Group.  I was looking at those pictures the other day and was struck by how much has changed.  Only about two of the kids that went on the retreat are still in youth group.  For the most part the others have graduated.  Odd

I've just started my second to last term of seminary and it's starting to hit me that the end is coming and how oddly at peace I am with that.  I remember when I graduated from college I felt completely not ready to step out into the "real world" and for good reason – I wasn't.  God had more in store for me an hour south here at PTS.  But now I'm ready.  Well, more ready than I expected I would be.

As Spring rolled in my first year I landed myself in a class full of second and third year students: Theology and Practice of Holiness with Andrew Purves.  I was scared to death.  The reading was higher level than I had tackled before and I was intimidated by the other people in the class who knew so much more than me.  I was really quiet in class for a while, slowly finding my voice before one day catching Dr. Purves on some minute detail regarding Calvin's use of the word "impute".  After that I slowly gained confidence, but continued to find myself struck by how much I was learning from my fellow students.  Then it happened, something finally clicked for me that had never clicked before.  I went to Grove City and was taught classic 5 point Westminster Calvinism.  Something about it just didn't sit right with me and it didn't seem to jive biblically with the full breadth of the scriptures, but it seemed to, for the most part, provide a decent model for salvation.  I remember one afternoon sitting in a carrel in the library struggling my way through Karl Barth's chapter on Sanctification in IV.2 and I came across a sentence that said that Sanctification and Justification were presuppositional doctrines to one another.  For some reason then it clicked with me, that the ordo salutis that had so troubled me in college was indeed flawed.  At the time I couldn't explain why, but Karl Barth gave me a language with which to critique where I had come from

My course load is much lighter this year than in the past, 11 credits last term, and only ten this term.  It's nice, a good opportunity to slow down and relax a bit my last year.  Minus Hebrew which I will just never like, my classes are wonderful and I'm really enjoying them so far.  Yet, I can't believe where I am now from where I started.  I sit here now in my third year in the same church doing youth ministry, as well as picking up some small group stuff.  Things that just a year ago I would have dreamed impossible I now do without even thinking about it.  I am looking at a ministry resume that lists a page of what I've done at Northmont, including preaching once a month, interim youth ministry work, and small group work.  A year ago doing small group with adults would have terrified me, but now it seems like second nature.  Here's the really awesome thing – its not that I've worked hard to improve myself, but God has truly equipped me to minister in the setting in which he put me.  I could not do what I do now two years ago.  

Looming ahead of me at the close of my first year was CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) and a summer at home in Rochester, NY with my parents.  I wasn't nervous about living with my parents for a summer, I knew we'd do fine (and we did).  But, CPE had me nervous.  I had heard horror stories about CPE and didn't know what to expect.  Plus, I knew I'd be dealing with tragedy and wasn't sure I was ready for that.  Sure enough, CPE was filled with tragedy.  I baptized six babies that summer, five of whom did not survive more than a day after their baptisms, and in some cases they survived for only a matter of minutes after I baptized them.  I dealt with car accidents, stabbings, cancer, AIDS, and domestic violence on a weekly basis.  Right after CPE the son of our former pastor committed suicide.  It's hard to say whether he was a "friend" of mine per say, but we had gone through confirmation class together and his brother and I were the same age and I would definitely call him a friend.  Anyway, it hit our congregation hard, and I was slated to be in the pulpit that following Sunday.  The week prior I went running and had chest pains, followed a few days later by a full anxiety attack brought on by some heart burn.  While my anxiety attack paled in comparison to anything else I dealt with that summer, it showed me something: tragedy effects those around it a great deal.

I have learned in a painful way that life's tragedies do not go away.  Heavy on my heart tonight is Elora, a girl I have known for a little over a year who is 13 and in critical condition at Children's Hospital fighting to stay alive.  She's already dealt with her share of tragedy, after being struck by a car when she was only 2, and now is battling leukemia.  I also know that the wife of a beloved servant here at the seminary is in intensive care over at Shady Side Hospital.  Just this week the wife of a staff member here ended her six year battle with cancer.  Things in this world are truly not the way they're supposed to be…

Yet, as I dwell on tragedy tonight I am reminded by my lights and the somewhat cheesy WOW Christmas album playing in the background that although this world isn't the way its supposed to be, our hope does not lie in this world, but rather that Jesus Christ, who inaugurated the Kingdom of God 2000 years ago at his birth, showed us what it really meant to be human and did give us hope, that in the end all things would be made new, and by virtue of him we may share in this life today, life as it is supposed to be.  

I laugh at myself now, because as I sit here tonight I look at the pile of books that I hope to someday read.  I think about my aspirations now, for what I want to do and where I want to be in three years, and think back just two years ago to my first year of seminary and have to wonder, where will I be in two years?  Will I continue to look back at myself and laugh?  Somehow I suspect I will.  You see, that's the problem with following Jesus.  He says, "Follow me" and you have to.  The problem is he doesn't give you a map, because even if he did we couldn't read it and it would distract us from the much simpler yet far more complicated task of following him.  When I finally decided that I would follow Jesus with my vocation I stepped into a world of the unknown and yet here I am, ready to do the same thing all over again, ready to step into the unknown.  The other problem with following Jesus is that Jesus' life was marked by frustration and tragedy, therefore it should be no surprise that following Jesus still leads us into the paths of tragedy, but we affirm and believe that all things will be made new, and we are called to be apart of that, simply by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, even in the light of the worst tragedy.  

PTS Audio

So today I began a new project here at PTS: PTS Audio.

A few months ago I purchased an RCA Digital Voice Recorder for recording my sermons and then producing MP3 files of them to burn to CDs to send to churches in the coming months.  I then got the idea that a lot of good stuff goes on on-campus and it might be nice to have a way for people to access it.  Hence, the idea was born.  PTS Audio

Today we had three events worth recording: Chapel, Evangelical Student Fellowship, and Colloquium.  I have now successfully imported all three events and have them available for download on  You can also get the podcast @

Upcoming events I hope to make available include
  • 12/8: Panel on the Eucharist featuring Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Baptist voices

  • 12/8: Presentation by Dr. Ron Tappy and Dr. Kyle McCarter on the Tel Zayit Stone

  • 12/13: Installation address of Dr. Edith Humphrey

  • 2/9: Emerging Church Conversation and Lectures with John Franke

Yes – I am a geek, but slowly PTS is moving into the 21st Century.