Friday, December 5, 2008

December 5, 2008

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


It was 1969 and I was driving down Sans Souci Highway from Nanticoke to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on my first motorcycle, wearing a brown flying-fringed leather jacket from Juarez that Ollie got for me when he crossed over from El Paso during his freshman year at UTEP, and shouting along with John Kay:

Actually, uh, it was a Honda 50.

Gotta start somewhere.


Jay Leno and I have one thing in common: "The first bike I ever got was a Honda 350 back in 1971...I remember getting on the freeway, thinking, 'This is fun!'"

Yep, my first real bike was the same as his; and though I didn't run into him when I bought it, riding a motorcycle is something that never quite leaves your, uh, system: "The baby boomers were the driving force behind the new interest in motorcycling...These were the same people who had bought all those little Hondas in the 1960s, who had terrorized the highways on thundering Kawasakis in the 1970s, and who had spent the 1980s raising kids...Now their kids were grown up, and they once again found themselves..."


Getting back to 1969, I think I saw Easy Rider at least a dozen times:

It's still one of my favorite soundtracks; though I've got to be careful with music.

Music aligns the heart, head, gut, and...

For example, when I listen to Sarah Brightman, Grace Slick, or Alanis Morissette, I'm not inclined to think about Jesus.

Susan Sarandon evoked those kinda feelings; until she started makin' Joy Behar look like the queen of traditional values.

Be that as it was, I'll never forget Wyatt (Peter Fonda's "Captain America"), Billy (Dennis Hopper's hopped-up simpleton), and George Hanson (the alcoholic ACLU lawyer portrayed by Jack Nicholson in his first major film role); especially recalling a scene which continues to haunt us:


Wyatt became the archetype of the poet-biker in search of America's soul.

Billy was just a drugged-out-live-for-today-because-he-had-no-clue-about-anything-except-a-physical/emotional-rarely-intellectual-erection.

George was close but confused.

Some metaphors are timeless.


As I warned in the last KD which didn't make it to a lot of folks because cyberspace can be as consistent as the Republicans' search for meaning/identity, going back to Wyoming Valley Pennsylvania for my dad's 80th has evoked lots of good/bad/innocuous memories and resurrected some dreams.

Yeah, I still want to ride again; and once I pay off...

At least one of my older sons, a brother-in-law, and I are planning our own search/ride/whatever before the parousia.

That'll be fun.

But the big dream resurrected on dad's 80th was my romance with pastoral ministry; which I'd kinda lost over three decades in an increasingly apostate franchise and modern ministry more in keeping with babysitting than discipling.

I ceded to the compelling call despite my first mentor's warnings (The Rev. Harold F. Mante) because I wanted to share good news of existential and eternal security through faith in Jesus as personal/corporate Lord and Savior.


Yeah, I thought about that night under Wilkes-Barre's Market Street Bridge after the junior prom, Mountain in concert at King's in 1969, a few pop festivals, driving to Binghamton for beer at 18 because the law said 21 in Pennsylvania, and what it meant to lose when you won the lottery and then stand at the gravesides of peers who fought in a war that must not have been that important because we just walked away after sacrificing so much for our nation's innocence.

But what I've really been thinking about is gospeling; or communicating good news in bad times.

A friend who got fired after being the church's "best preacher and pastor that we've ever had" for reasons which will be debated for the next decade or two in a paralyzing way for that church landed in another church and wrote after I got back from Wilkes-Barre, "I received this e-mail today...'Thank you for coming to our church...So many left before you came and I know you've got your work cut out for you...The remaining members...have held together...with optimism and Jesus as our only leader, which is really the way that it should be...Even when the future is in jeopardy, only praise Him that Christ died for us...We are thankful for you as a human leader...Thank you, in spite of your credentials to be in a far more prestigious place, for listening to God's calling and coming here.'"

As I wiped the tears from my soul's eyes, I read, "I am humbled and thankful to be here."



Last Sunday morning before my dad's 80th surprise birthday party and roast, I went to worship at the First Baptist Church in Pittston, Pennsylvania.

Pittston is the city that didn't quite make it as big as it wanted to be because it was between Joe Biden's Scranton and Flood/Kanjorski's Wilkes-Barre.

I was drawn to worship there by a big banner covering the franchise label: "Spending Eternity in Heaven: Priceless!"


Parenthetically, even mainline denominational bureaucrats who train new church development pastors whisper to 'em to keep the franchise labels as far away as possible from their marketing because today's believers and even curious are turned off by 'em.


If I've got to answer that for you...

I think of the church near Chicago which changed its name.

A few clueless denominational jingoists met with 'em and asked why.

The elders and pastor laughed.

The visitors still don't get it.

Doesn't the Bible say something about eyes/ears that don't...?


Getting back to the Baptists, the Pittston church is in transition.

I figured that out as soon as the African-American pastor appeared behind the pulpit of the, uh, all-European-American congregation.

Immediately, the pastor had problems with his microphone; which made me feel at home.

He was young ("Those were the days...") and bold (I like my coffee like Jesus likes His disciples!) and had no problems talking about Jesus by name as if he had some kinda personal relationship with Him; which proved I wasn't in a mainline church.

He made some comments about people leaving the church without mentioning the, uh, white elephant; and then said, "Let them go! We love Jesus! We're going to follow Jesus! If they don't like it, they need to go! They can come back if they invite Jesus into their hearts so they can get right with Him!"

I knew I wasn't with mainliners; which is a really, really, really big clue to why...

Though I'm a Professor of Preaching at CEDS in addition to my primary call to First, I can drop those facades and worship with/under anyone who loves Jesus and doesn't disrespect Biblical authority for some egocentric ideology; which is why I ended up with the Baptists last Sunday.

Be that as it is and will continue to be until mainliners are born again, here are a few bytes/bites: "We pray today's offering is only used in ways that will honor Jesus...Stop resisting His pulling you to your destiny...If you're not smiling and laughing with me for Jesus, you do not have Him anywhere near your heart...You can't be who He wants you to be if you're stuck in the past...It's time to start drinking deeply of His cup instead of those faith-fainted bottles with nipples on them...I am not called to coddle you in your ignorance and rebellion; but I am called to change you into conformity with Jesus...If you got God, you'll get along...God wants to birth something in you today; but if you won't see Jesus, you can be as pregnant as you want to be and you'll still never deliver...God is telling you to move out of your comfort zone like Mary; but if you won't move, you'll never deliver and it will be all pain and no gain...If you will love God, then you will stop thinking about those people who left because they didn't really love God and you'll start praying for them to be delivered."

It's a tough thought for Baptists, but I know my time with 'em was predestined.


Some folks buy motorcycles and go searching for what only He can reveal and provide.

I'm gonna ride again because I'm done searching and only begun to celebrate.


Blessings and Love!

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