In Remembrance: Nancy Greenstreet Crittenden, 1947-2013

8580408850_6d45ee21e6This summer marks five years since we suddenly lost my wife Tracy’s mother. What follows is the sermon I preached at her service of death and resurrection.

Prisoners of Hope: The Eulogy for Nancy Ruth Crittenden
Delivered at Memorial Baptist Church in Staunton, Virginia
June 28, 2013

     It was Good Friday 1997 when I was a seminarian at the Divinity School of Duke University and made the decision to travel back to Virginia, to the Northern Neck to spend Easter with my family, worshipping in the churches in which my parents were raised, the churches where I had spent the Easters of my childhood, reasoning that when I graduated and entered our United Methodist appointive itinerant system as a clergyman, I would no longer have this opportunity to spend Easter in these congregations, as I would be serving a church of my own.
However, that Good Friday evening, I changed my mind. The transmission of my little pickup truck was proving ever more sketchy in its reliability, and I was afraid of getting stranded in the dark atop the Rappahannock River Bridge, so I pulled off the road and called a classmate of mine serving a congregation in rural Louisburg, North Carolina, asked if I could spend the night, and spend Easter with him, and he agreed.
In retrospect, where I went wrong was in failing to call my girlfriend and tell her of my change in plans, my girlfriend Tracy Crittenden, one of Nancy’s daughters, Tracy who became my wife fifteen years ago. This was before cell phones were ubiquitous and she had no way to find me. She never received the call that I had arrived safely at my parents home, which led her to the obvious and inescapable conclusion that I had driven into a ditch and been eaten by wolves. When I returned to Durham on Easter afternoon, my answering machine was filled with frantic messages from Tracy, Nancy, and one from the State Police, who had apparently heard about the wolves.

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Summer of Forgiveness: Giving Up All Hope For A Better Past

8580408850_6d45ee21e6Note: right now, we currently cannot update our audio page. I will add a link when it is working again.

Reveille United Methodist Church

10th Sunday After Pentecost – July 29, 2018

Isaiah 43:14-25

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: For your sake I will send to Babylon and break down all the bars, and the shouting of the Chaldeans will be turned to lamentation. I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense. You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

When I was serving in my first pastoral appointment after seminary, I was serving a congregation in the Denbigh area of Newport News. While there, I befriended a Newport News police officer named Jeff whose wife taught with Tracy in Hampton. One night, at a barbecue, he was telling me about his work, about the challenges of it, and how he sometimes wished he had become a firefighter (because everyone loves firefighters).

Jeff went on to describe for me how difficult it was for him to be a police officer, even when he was off duty. Although he was on the force in Newport News, he lived in the neighboring town of Poquoson.  And even though he had no jurisdiction there, the residents had no qualms about seeing him off-duty, still in uniform, and telling him how to do his job. Jeff told me that he would stop to pick up milk on the way home from work at a store near his house, and how he would almost always be accosted by a resident of Poquoson filled with unsolicited advice. The conversation almost always would go like this:

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Summer of Forgiveness: Forgiving the Unforgivable

Note: right now, we currently cannot update our audio page. I will add a link when it is working again.
8580408850_6d45ee21e6

Reveille United Methodist Church 

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

Luke 23:32-43

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

So far in our “Summer of Forgiveness” sermon series, we have discussed the spiritual, psychological, and physical effects of forgiving someone who has harmed us. In the second sermon, I discussed the mandate to forgive that Jesus issues where he compares what God forgives us for to an enormous debt, and how what we must forgive one another for is a much smaller debt. Both of these sermons were rooted in verses from Matthew chapter eighteen.

So to recap, forgiveness is good for us, which is important, since as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are required to do it, required to forgive.

However, as we all know, things are not as simple as this. Sin exists on a spectrum, with some sins being much, much easier for us to forgive than others. This is especially true when we consider the effects of sin. Steal from me, for example, and you can repent and give back what you took.

Yet some sins, many sins, have painful, lasting, if not permanent consequences for us. What about those things? How can we forgive the seemingly unforgivable?

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Summer of Forgiveness: As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

8580408850_6d45ee21e6This is sermon two in this series. The audio is here:

Summer of Forgiveness: As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us – Seventh Sunday After Pentecost – July 8, 2019 – Matthew 18:23-35

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

One of the strangest things about the Christian faith has to be the ways in which it commands things that most of the world regards as mere feelings. For example, in our United Methodist wedding liturgy, nowhere does the couple say “I do” (present tense). Instead, they say “I will” (future tense). The question is not “Do you love him/her on your wedding day?” It is “Will you love him/her down the road when you have both changed and some of the gloss has worn off the marriage, or at least, some patina has developed.

Jesus loves this. He loves to command us to do things that we believe we only have to do when we feel like it. Love God. Love me. Love one another. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies.

Jesus has this way about him where he is able to command us to separate how we feel from what we do, as we have a tendency to keep feeling and doing a bit too close together sometimes. Forgiveness is no different. Forgiveness has little to do with our feelings or even our judgements; whether we feel like forgiving someone or whether we feel like they deserve our pardon.

Rooting forgiveness in our feelings and our judgements can pretty easily keep it hidden away forever, so in today’s text, Jesus removes forgiveness from our feelings and judgements and roots it in something deeper and eternal: the depth of the forgiveness of us by God.

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Summer of Forgiveness: Seventy-Seven Times

8580408850_6d45ee21e6This is the first sermon in our July, 2018 “Summer of Forgiveness Sermon Series.” The audio is here.

Summer of Forgiveness: Seventy-Seven Times – Matthew 18:15-22 – July 1, 2018

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

This morning, I will be sharing with you a story that first appeared in the Sunday Washington Post Magazine on March 22, 2009. The title of the article is “The Truth About Forgiveness,” and it tells the story of Baltimore resident Bernard Williams and his son Vernon. Nearly twenty-five years ago Vernon was shot to death by his neighbor, one month after turning seventeen. The shooter’s name was William Norman. He would later tell police that the neighborhood kids had been intentionally setting off his car alarm, sometimes multiple times a night, and on this night in May, it happened again. He said that he wanted to shoot near the kids with his military-grade semiautomatic rifle, but that the window blind had fallen and caused him to shoot Vernon. In 1995, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received the maximum sentence: 30 years in prison. He was 30 years old.

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Peace! Be Still! (A Sermon for June 24, 2018)

8580408850_6d45ee21e6You can listen to the audio of this sermon here

Peace! Be Still!
Fifth Sunday After Pentecost — June 24, 2018

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

This past week was KIDZ Camp at Reveille, a ministry that provides elementary-age children with different daily, local mission opportunities as well as opportunities to learn and grow in the faith. Each year, I am given the opportunity to spend time with groups of these children in twenty minute segments for an activity called “Wesleyan Ways,” something I use as an opportunity to help the young people process the missions work they did earlier in the day in a distinctly Methodist context using the life and ministry of John Wesley as a backdrop.

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Sermon for Sunday, June 3: The Doctrine of Compassion

8580408850_6d45ee21e6You can listen to the sermon here. The full text is below.
Second Sunday After Pentecost — June 3, 2018 – Mark 2:23-3:6

 One sabbath he was going through the cornfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ And he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’ Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. 

~~~

If there is one subject in this world about which I know almost nothing, it is auto racing. So imagine my surprise when last Sunday, between morning worship and an afternoon funeral, I found myself immersed in an article about the Indianapolis 500.

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Reimagining Pentecost as a College Graduation

8580408850_6d45ee21e6What follows is the sermon I preached today at Reveille United Methodist Church. I entered the pulpit to Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” and wearing an academic robe and a mortar board and tassel, proceeded to imagine Saint Peter giving a graduation speech to the Jerusalem University Class of A.D. 33.

The Valedictory Address to the Jerusalem Class of A.D. 33 by Simon Peter

Douglas Forrester

Reveille United Methodist Church

Pentecost Sunday – May 20, 2018

Acts 2:1-21

Greetings honored guests at the graduation of the Jerusalem University Class of 33. I would especially like to greet those of you who have come long distances to be here in today. Greetings to all Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs. Welcome. This is an important and joyous occasion which has been a long time coming, and I want to say how wonderful it is to be here in Jerusalem, speaking on behalf of the inaugural graduating glass of 33. Truly, it is an honor to stand before you this day.


Frankly, it is indeed something of a miracle that I am even here today at all. I never considered myself to be either a public speaker or an academic. In fact, I never imagined being a student at all. However, our class had such a tremendous teacher who did amazing things for us, and who helped us to regard our lives, the world, and one other in an entirely new way.
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Guest Post: A Sermon by Council of Bishops President Bishop Bruce Ough

Screen ShotLet’s be open to Christ changing our minds, Bishop Ough tells fellow bishops

DALLAS – Council of Bishops President Bishop Bruce Ough has urged his fellow bishops to be open to Christ changing their minds as they counter disagreements and to be prepared to lead The United Methodist Church into unchartered territories.

Bishop Ough issued the challenged Sunday, February 25, 2018, at the opening of the special meeting of the Council of Bishops as the top leaders in the denominations began to receive an updated report from the Commission on a Way Forward.

In a sermon entitled “On Changing Our Minds,” which also dubbed as his presidential address, Bishop Ough called on his colleagues to unbind Methodists and guide them home.

“Let’s help our people empty themselves of the need to control one another. Let’s help our people empty themselves of their fear of the future and their fear of a changed church. Let’s help our people empty themselves of their obsession for security. Let’s not hinder or harm one another. Let’s take our people off the map. Let’s be open to Christ changing our minds,” he said.

BELOW IS THE FULL TEXT OF BISHOP OUGH’S ADDRESS
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