I was asked to write a brief biography, and to perhaps give an idea of what to expect from my ministry at First United Methodist in Medford. Rather than begin in the usual way, listing my education, family relations, where I was born, and my hobbies, I have chosen to begin with what compels me.
It is the Gospels. I don’t mean this in general terms, as in the church’s generic message of good news to share. Rather, I’m driven by the four New Testament Gospels named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I am compelled by the particulars within each and what they have to say of the life, teachings, and passion of Jesus. The printed words jump from the pages for me, and I tend to interpret my life and ministry through them.
Jesus’ teachings have been embedded in my memory. I’ve kept them close through the seasons of my life, and I continually find in them new meaning. When I am old and my mind goes, I may still remember them. Possibly they will spill from my mouth.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket….
Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
’…[H]ow often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’
Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you….
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The parables have been written into my life. I can recognize most of them from the first words, like the beginning notes of a familiar tune. I have turned them over and over again in my heart and my head. Often, I am left confounded by their meaning, frustrated that I have not been able to take hold of them. But I also have been enlightened and led.
Lost sheep, lost coins, a prodigal son, a tax collector, and a sinner.
A wedding feast, sheep separated from goats, and a farmer who casts his seeds without regard to fertile ground.
And then there are the miracles that can seem so out of date. We are two millennia away from a first century understanding of how creation works. It was simple then, and we have since been enlightened. We understand gravity and how disease is spread. We have glimpsed a hundred million light years into space, with clues of how time and space began. Yet what mystifies us has only expanded, and with it the greatness of God enlarged beyond measure.
A blind man sees, and a lame man walks. A mother’s child is raised from the dead. Thousands are fed with a basket of fish and bread. And Jesus calms the storm over Lake Gennesaret.
The Passion, the story of Jesus’ arrest, betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection, is our story. It is the story for the oppressed, the poor, the outcast, the sinner, and the brokenhearted. It is the church’s story to tell, that God will not be put to death. Christ is risen, and somehow Christ will come again.
What else is there to know about me? I can be impatient, and sometimes I have to hold my tongue and push myself to listen. I’d rather spend a day outdoors, even if it’s raining, than be stuck inside. I relieve stress with exercise. I am a long-distance runner, and my knees are beginning to feel the effects of years of foot pounding. So, lately I have been swimming. I like to read, especially novels that take me to faraway places and other worlds. I like Dr. Whoand walking the streets of big cities. I am the father of two children, a son who is a journalist and a daughter who is a physician. I was born and raised in New England, but I have spent most of my adult life in Western North Carolina. I graduated from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
Why have I come to Oregon? For reasons of church polity and because of who I am, it became untenable to serve in a United Methodist Conference that has been home for thirty years. I am grateful that you chose to receive me. In time we will get to know one another.
Most important is that I come with the Gospel. It has set me free. By it I know that I am loved and hope that I am able to love nearly as well in return.