Sunday, July 30, 2006

These are photos of interest for my previous post. Enjoy and feel free to comment.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Stay here and keep watch with me

Then he said to them,"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Matthew 26:38

I am preparing to leave Kentucky, the Asbury Seminary community, and some of the closest friends I have ever known. I rejoice in this time of entering the ministry and exiting seminary, but there is still much to process. My friend Josh suggested that we spend a day in retreat, so that we as friends could process through this time of transition in prayer, conversation and hanging out with monks.

"Monks?" you say. Yes, Monks. We spent a Monday at the Abbey of Gethsemani, a trappist monastary about an hour from Lexington. It is fully working farm and monastary and you can visit their website here. They sell cheese, fruitcakes, fudge, and other items in a gift shop. They also have about 3000 acres of farm and woods open for exploring.

Josh and I set out to find some statues that our friend at FARMstrong told us about. These statues are of the sleeping disciples and a praying Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When we arrived at the statues, we had been hiking for almost a mile. We were told to be prepared to be moved, but our experiences we amplified by other unforseen events.

At the bottom of a hill, there lies a statues of three slumbering disciples. They are a little larger than life scale, and at the top of the hill, there is a statue of Jesus, on his knees, praying, and in agony. It is very moving and my words of description cannot do it justice.

As I stood next to these slumbering disciples, Josh asked me in a slightly alarmed tone, "Brandon, is that a snake by your foot?" Because of the seriousness of his tone and the reverence of the situation, I knew he was not joking, so I jumped away, and turning back, I saw the thick black snake Josh spoke of. This snake apparently lives under the statue and came up to sun on the warm statue. "How ironic," I thought, after my heart beat slowed to a normal rate, that it was with the sleeping disciples that the snake would dwell.

Josh and I began to discuss the spiritual implications of the symbolism of the Biblical serpent and what this means for the sleeping Chrisitan. Our true goal was to get to the bottom of what it means to be a disciple that stays AWAKE, rather than the sleepers. Jesus asked his disciples to wait on him. But what does it look like to wait for Jesus? What does it look like to be a disciple who remains awake? The conclusion can never be reached if we find ourselves nodding off when we are asked to remain at watch. The serpent will not creep in with those who are alert.

More on this later.

Read more about our time at the Abbey of Gethsemani on Josh's blog here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Willie Nelson, Church Father?

For those of you who know me well, that I am blogging about Willie Nelson should be no surprise. You might even be thinking, "Brandon, your obsession with this living legend warrants such a post." Perhaps not, but to this day, my favorite concert experience is still seeing Willie Nelson play a small honky-tonk venue in Bryan, TX. He is a true showman in every sense of the word.

Well Willie has even surprised me this time. Growing up just a few miles down the road from Willie's ranch and home, I take extra interest in his latest venture. Mr. Nelson grew up in a Methodist Church in Abbott, TX, about an hour south of Dallas. Last year, he and his sister recorded an album composed entirely of the hymns he grew up singing in church. The proceeds of this project were donated to the United Methodist Church.

But this is not what I am posting about. It appears that the Abbott Methodist Church closed its doors last May for what was thought to be the final time, after many years of a shrinking congregation. Mr. Nelson couldn't seem to bear it, so he purchased the church and re-opened its doors to the public. See the article in the Houston Chronicle here.

I am impressed with his committment to keep this a community church and not a concert hall. My thoughts flood immediately to the question of his intentions. Is he doing this to preserve a bit of his childhood and history, or does he have a genuine sense of duty to use his wealth to do real Kingdom Work? Perhaps we should not question his motives, but instead, respect the work that has been done and pray that authentic worship and fellowship that is pleasing to God will happen in this historic United Methodist Church Chapel.