Last Updated on Monday, 28 September 2015 10:00
It is said that the inscription on King Arthur's tomb read: Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus -- "Here lies Arthur, the once and future king." The legend of Arthur is the story, lost and wonderful and sad, of a king who began his reign with such promise, a good and just king, but ends in tragedy and grief and death. But a prophecy speaks of Arthur reigning again in the future.
The Arthurian legends were based on the story of King David in the Bible. David is the most fully realized portrait of any biblical character except Jesus of Nazareth. He is a deeply complex and tragic figure: a soulful poet, a great warrior, a man after God's own heart, an adulterer, a murderer, an indulgent but neglectful parent, a man full of passion and tragedy. In David, we see the human condition in all its complexities and contradictions.
And, in David, we see a glimpse of true greatness, a just king who delivers his people from oppression and reigns in peace. That promise is finally fulfilled in his son, Jesus. Jesus is repeatedly called the Son of David, born in the City of David, who would sit on David's throne. There are over 50 mentions of David in relation to Jesus. Which means the New Testament is telling us that you can't understand Jesus without immersing yourself deeply in story of David.
We are going to begin a new sermon series, the bulk of which will focus on David, but also looking at Samuel, the last of his kind, the final prophet-judge of Israel, at King Saul, the first king of Israel and a deeply tragic figure, and many other surrounding characters - Jonathan, Abigail, Michal, Joab, Mephibosheth, Nathan, Bathsheba, Solomon, and so many others - that make the story so richly detailed.
We are going to begin a new And in the end, we will come to a deeper appreciation of Jesus, the Once and Future King.
[Illustration of David and Goliath by Gustave Dore.]
Last Updated on Saturday, 05 September 2015 18:48
I think the chief benefit of a sabbatical over a typical vacation is that it affords you time that is truly unstructured. Normally in a vacation, I find myself scrambling to catch up on long-delayed errands and then, after that, preparing for the return to work. And I admit I did a fair amount of the same during my sabbatical. But I also experienced days and weeks on end without an agenda, wonderful unscheduled time in which I found myself at last pulling back and really thinking meaningfully about life and ministry. For that, I am deeply grateful.
So here are a few things I learned, in no particular order:
(1) Christina and I visited a different church each Sunday. Let me tell you, visiting a new church is a daunting and lonely experience. You feel like an outsider intruding on a family reunion. The best experience Christina and I had is when we met a nice couple who genuinely took an interest in us and extended their friendship. It made us want to return to see them again.
(2) I read a lot of books during my sabbatical. The best, by far, was Washed and Waiting by Wes Hill. Wes Hill is a gay celibate Christian. I found his personal story deeply compelling, his writing easy to read and his theological vision of the Christian life (in which he is resolved, though he feels strong, unremitting same-sex attractions, to a life of chastity and holiness) profoundly beautiful. I commend it highly to everyone.
(3) I have come to discover a few simple maxims about summer vacations with the kids:
- Gifts shops are more engaging for my kids than the amusement parks which contain them.
- We made several long roadtrips and we discovered another child is vastly superior to the most expensive car toy.
- Kids grow up too slowly (I feel this most of the time) but there will be stabbing moments when it is too fast. Paradox.
(The photo above is of our trip to San Diego.)
(4) I truly love the rich community of our church. I love the friendships and just sharing life together. I’ve missed very greatly the weekly rhythm of seeing everyone. And I appreciate all the more the profound privilege of pastoring this congregation. I’m filled with gratitude and awe.
(5) Finally, as I think about the future of our church, I've come to this deep conviction. I want us to be a church where the gospel is not just a slogan or a mere intellectual idea, but a real, palpable, transforming power. The gospel changes lives, or it is no gospel at all. I'm committed to that more than ever.
So thank you everyone for extending me this break! I come back renewed and excited for ministry. See you all soon! --Pastor Michael
Last Updated on Saturday, 09 May 2015 14:32
Pastor Michael will be taking a 3-month sabbatical starting June 1.
Here are some questions for Pastor Michael:
Okay, so what is a pastoral sabbatical?
This is a time for me to get away from the day-to-day ministry responsibilities to pursue pastoral growth through study and reflection, and revitalization through prayer and rest. This is both for the sustainability of pastoral life and for the benefit of the church, as I will return, by God's grace, renewed and invigorated. This is a long-term investment in pastoral development and for the health of the church.
What will Pastor Michael do during his sabbatical?
Oh my, where do I start? First, I plan to read a tall stack of books. Do some advance reading on the upcoming sermon series on the Life of David. Work on long-term projects, like develop a deacon training program. Work on research-intensive Sunday school lessons, like a long-planned series on Eschatology; write a Sunday school lesson on homosexuality (as popularly asked); map out the next "Skeptics Night" talk, this time on the supposed conflict between science and Christianity. Read the Bible and pray a lot! But more than that, I’m going to try to get balance in my life. Many of you know I have a tendency towards workaholism (see unrealistic list of work projects above). So I want to practice a healthy life-rhythm. I’m going to exercise. I’m going to spend time with the kids and go on dates with Christina. We’re planning a week-long vacation in San Diego.
Will we be seeing Pastor Michael and his family around?
Yes. First, because of the rules of the PCA, only ordained pastors are permitted to administer the sacraments. So I’ll be around on those Sundays. And second, I genuinely enjoy being around you guys and I would miss you all terribly if I was absent the whole time. But, for the most part, I do plan to take this opportunity to visit other churches, so we’ll be absent then.
What will happen at IGC during the summer?
Pastors Wade and Harry will take over the day-to-day ministry operations, with assistance from Andrew Ong, who will help with the preaching load. We have a full calendar of events coming up: including a church picnic in May, an outing to Muir Woods in June, a missions trip to Honduras in July, and a service project at Marshall in August. God is at work in our church! Please pray for Wade and Harry. Please pray for me as I continue to pray for you.
Last Updated on Thursday, 12 March 2015 14:50
In the movie, The Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon plays a character who has a chance encounter with a woman played by Emily Blunt. They're immediately attracted to one another and fall in love. But then mysterious agents in fedora hats appear – they work for the all-powerful "Chairman" (read: God). According to the Chairman's "Plan," Matt Damon and Emily Blunt were never supposed to meet. And so the mysterious agents attempt to rewrite history – rearranging memories and separating the two star-crossed lovers. In the movie, there’s a scene where Matt Damon confronts the agents: "if I'm not supposed to be with her, how come I feel this way?" The agent responds coldly, "it doesn’t matter how you feel; what matters is what’s in the Plan."
In the tagline of the movie, it says, "do you believe in the power of free will?" And as we see Matt Damon and Emily Blunt running from the agents, the movie invites us to cheer on the characters as they resist the fate pre-determined by the ominous Chairman.
While the movie is a bit ham-fisted in its protest against the idea of predestination, it nevertheless captures our modern culture's objections against a God who foreordains all things. Starting March 15, Pastor Michael will teach a three-part Sunday school series looking at the biblical teaching on predestination and addressing the following questions:
(1) What about free will? (Class 1)
(2) How can God blame us then? (Class 2)
(3) Doesn't this make God the author of evil? (Class 2)
(4) Doesn't the Bible say God wants all people to be saved? (Class 2)
(5) Isn't predestination is unfair? (Class 3)
(6) What about John 3:16? (Class 3)
(7) What about faith? (Class 3)
(8) So then does God choose randomly? (Class 3)
(9) What about evangelism? (Class 3)
You can also catch the recordings of the lessons here.