Becoming More Vile–The Sermon Series

Becoming More Vile

I’m excited to begin a July sermon series at Travelers Rest United Methodist with the same name as my blog. We’ll be watching/listening to some popular songs (some written about previously on this blog) and mining them for signs of God’s truth beyond stained-glass and steeples. You can listen to the songs on this Spotify playlist. I’ll post links to our sermon podcast the Monday after they’re preached.

The ‘set-list’ for July:

7/5 ‘All is Not Lost’ (Ok Go)
Gen 15:1; Psalm 46:1-3; Is 41:10; Matt 14:27

7/12 ‘Death and All His Friends’ (Coldplay)
Matt 5:21-22, 38-41, 43-44; 7:1-5,12

7/19 ‘Broken Open’ (Cold War Kids)
Psalm 51:15-17; 2 Cor 5:17

7/26 ‘Beautiful Dawn’ (The Wailin’ Jennys)
Is 65:17-19, 25; Rev 21:1-5; 22:1-2

JET’s Top Ten–AC Edition 2014

Annual Conference Bones

Courtesy of United Methodist Memes (

My fourth annual attempt to write a satirical, lampoon-ish, Onion-esque column about Annual Conference (3 previous years here and here).

Ten More Ways to Make Annual Conference More Vile

10. Seasons 1 & 2 of House of Cards shown in each business session as leadership training for Pastors/District Superintendents

9. Invite Jimmy Fallon to preside as temporary Bishop: opens each worship service with a #FallonMono, each business session features ‘Thank You Notes’ (‘Thank you, Annual Conference Bingo, for making any pastor 40 and under actually pay attention’), and institutes Lip Synch Battles for the best pastoral appointments

8. Ask for the Civic Center to double book us with the Monster Truck Jam–pack out the business sessions with a few monster truck races in between reports. Pyrotechnics are always welcomed (thanks Rev. Scott Johnson)

7. Invite the guys from Pulpit Fiction Podcast and The Moonshine Jesus Show to provide live, running commentary on the Scriptural exegesis of each preacher/speaker/delegate who dares speak into a mic

6. Districts will no longer go by their geographical location but by a number (if Greenville gets dubbed district 12, I’ll bring mocking jay pins for us to wear—thanks Rev. Matthew Greer)

5. Delegates invited to go on a ‘Selfie Scavenger Hunt,’ including taking selfies with Bishop Holston (bonus points if he has his shepherd’s staff), with delegates with moustaches on Monday and wild pants on Wednesday, of themselves making a point of order on microphone #3, and with as many folks at the Tuesday morning award breakfast they can squeeze in (Ellen DeGeneres-at-the-Oscars-style)

4. Anyone wishing to make a motion must sing it into the mic and wait for the Bishop, Parliamentarian, Recording Secretary and Cabinet Rep to push the red button swiveling their chairs around with “I Want You” lit up to accept the motion

3. Instead of using the loquacious language of Robert’s Rules of Order, Bishop simply yells “FAIL” when someone is out of order. Also, repeat offenders should be chastised by an actual “bar of the conference.” (thanks Rev. Brian Arant)

2. Three words: Million Burrito Effort


And (still, for the 4th straight year!) the number 1 way to make Annual Conference More Vile:

1. Expect God to show up, shake us up, and send us out to take what we do there to the world at large, which is our parish (in other words, ‘submit to be more vile,’ as J-Dub put it).


New(ish) Vile Listening

ml_Vampire_Weekend_11_1080Post-Christmas, my iPod tends to fill up with some new music–my family knows a good, easy gift for me are iTunes giftcards! Some albums on my “New Listening” playlist contain some “vile” lyrics you may want check out.

Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt—I’ve got to admit, Eddie Vedder and crew are surprising me lately. I’ve been a fan ever since their debut, “Ten,” came out back in my grunge days when I wasn’t really into God-stuff (and they didn’t seem to be, either). Their later efforts these past few years seem to be leaning more toward the spiritual, and some songs on this newest album talk of forgiveness, prayer, grace, redemption, and come right out and say “I found myself believing I needed God.” Check out “Mind Your Manners,” “Sirens,” “Swallowed Whole,” and “Future Days.”


Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City—this one was a surprise. Their third album moves away from preppy parties on Cape Cod to spiritual pondering and seeking, dealing with questions of doubt and unbelief, ancient vs. modern religion, life, love, death and sin. Although we’re left with more questions than answers, this is a moving description of the many questions of God and faith that many young people live with, and may help the church begin meaningful conversations with folks who are asking “Who’s gonna say a little grace for me?” Listen to “Unbelievers,” “Diane Young” (saying it out loud sounds like “Dying Young”), “Everlasting Arms,” “Worship You,” and “Ya Hey” (saying out loud sounds like “Yahweh”).


Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes—Bruce got me searching for “vileness” on his last album, “Wrecking Ball,” and doesn’t let me down with his newest, which is actually comprised of older songs that haven’t fit on any of his albums as of yet. “Heaven’s Wall” begins with a gospel choir singing “Raise your hand, raise your hand, raise your hand” and is rife with Biblical imagery of God’s healing and mercy. “This is Your Sword” would go right along with a lesson from Paul on the armor of God, “Hunter of Invisible Game” ends with prayers for hope, faith, courage and trust, and you’ve got to love an alternate version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” featuring guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) and the lyric, “He pulls a prayerbook out of his sleeping bag, preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag, waiting for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last, in a cardboard box beneath the underpass.”


Bear’s Den, Without/Within Tour Sampler–I heard these guys open up for Mumford & Sons last Fall and was happy to find this free EP on Noisetrade. “Agape” (Greek word for ‘love’ used by Jesus in the gospels) echoes the African concept of ubuntu (‘I am because we are’) when it states, “I don’t want to know who I am without you,” while their other songs contain spiritual images and allusions.


Mike Mains and the Branches, Calm Down, Everything is Fine–I really got into this band last year when I picked up their first album “Home” on Noisetrade (check out my favorites “Miracle,” “Stereo” and “Beneath Water“) and just got their newest yesterday. Early standouts are “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right” and the title track, which invites Jesus in to “talk about the weather over a glass of sweet red wine and speak to me in riddles about the great divide” as we “stare death in the eyes and sing ‘calm down, everything is fine.'”


Joseph, Native Dreamer Kin–I just found this free on Noisetrade and don’t know much about them other than they’re not a guy named Joseph and their from the Pacific Northwest. But, the music is catchy and seems to talk about things spiritual.