Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obstacles to our Christian Message (part III)...

Another obstacle to Postmoderns acceptance of our message...

We value the DOing of the institution over BEing in relationship:

Modernity says that community is in the methodology and ways we DO church; Postmodernity says that community is about BEing church.

We Presbyterians are gooooooood at this one. Our Book of Order is "clear" and we can use polity to create community. We can structure our way into being the body of Christ. Buzzzz. Thank you for playing. Now don't get me wrong. I love our polity, the spirit in which it was and is written, the guidance it gives, the bounds it helps to set, etc. but it will NOT create community. The ways we DO church should only be lifted up in as much as the DOing helps to sustain the BEing.

At the same time, if a church community believes that it's ministry is worth outliving the people who are there at a particular moment and time, some kind of structure and DOing church must take place in order to create sustainability. In the end though, every time we face a choice, we should be about BEing church.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obstacles to our Christian Message (part II)...

Another obstacle to our Christian message...

We worship the past rather than allow the past to ground our future:

Modernity says that there is one way, the old way, Postmodernity says that new ways must flow FROM the old ways.

Don't get me started. For those who want to toss everything out because it is "traditional" as well as those who think God can only meet someone in one way - your way - you are both killing the church! The sooner we realize that folks will connect with God in a variety of ways, the sooner we can embrace the wonderful complexities of the Body of Christ. Just because one person may not connect with God in the same way another does, does NOT make them any less faithful to God. If we can't appreciate the diverse ways that people meet God we will never REALLY respect the journeys that we each take and we essentially hold ourselves back from truly see Christ in the other. We need to truly embrace the varied ways in which God meets people. God can handle it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obstacles to our Christian Message...

A couple of months ago, I was reading through some of the websites that I regularly visit, and came across several obstacles to our Christian message. The moderator for the Presbyterian Church USA, Bruce Reyes-Chow, had these on his site. They are things that the postmodern world has trouble accepting. The rest of this week, I am going to pass along some of these for your consideration and reflection...

The first is this:

We often promise relief from life's craziness rather than offer ways to experience peace in the midst of chaos:

Modernity says that we can overcome the chaos of life, Postmodernity says that choas is life.

I don't know how many times I hear, "Once _______ is over, it will be calm" or "If we could just _______ then everything will be better." This idea that the chaos of life is to be conquered is such an American way of thinking. Just pull up the boot straps and push through, damn the consequences, and everything will be better. While perseverance is commendable at times, believing that the chaos of life in today's time of globalization and technology is EVER going to go away or be conquered it downright irresponsible.

Christ can offer us the peace that we need. Don't avoid the storm, be calm in the midst of it. Yes, technology and the rapid movement of life can create its own flavor of crazy, but we have always experienced those times of peace of mind, spirit and body even though the rest of the world is still just as crazy. THAT is at the heart of the gospel for me, the peace and wholeness that we are offering in Christ.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Moving beyond tolerance...

We’ve been trying some different things in worship over the last couple of months. Most have gone quite well, some things are greatly appreciated by some, while not so much for others. Over the past several weeks, I think that everybody has seen something they really like, and at the same time, seen something they could do without.

I would like to pass along a quote from Brad Berglund, in his book, Reinventing Sunday

Move beyond tolerance. Tolerance is a beginning, but it is incomplete. Jesus did not say, “the world will know you are my disciples if you tolerate each other.” As Jesus’ disciples, love is the virtue we seek. Tolerance usually means that we bear or put up with someone or something we don’t like. Love, on the other hand, is a decision to understand, respect, and desire the best for another person. As we worship together, love allows us to celebrate a style we dislike, knowing it creates an open heart for someone else.

As we try new things, we can approach them with an attitude of love. Can we love those things we might not really like, knowing that someone else is being touched in way that they weren’t being touched previously? Can we allow those people opportunities to grow, without feeling we’ve missed something?

Friday, April 24, 2009

How Pastors spend their time...

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is Chuck Warnock's blog, Confessions of a Small Church Pastor. I really like his insight, and he passes along a lot of great knowledge.

Last week, he had a story about how Pastors spend their time. Here's what he had to say...

The old joke is that pastors work only one hour a week — Sunday morning at 11 AM. If I could get a gig like that, I’d take it, but the reality is that pastors, and other church leaders have very busy work schedules. I was thinking about this the other day, and here’s how my week gets divided up:

  • Worship Services: 6-8 hours at church for worship and Bible study, depending on the season of the year. We don’t have a Sunday night service; those who do will spend more time just at church for services.
  • Pastoral Care: 8-10 hours per week talking, visiting, counseling church members and others. This includes hospital visitation, homebound members, nursing homes, in-office appointments, telephone calls, pastoral visits, as well as funerals or weddings.
  • Administration: 8-10 hours per week working on bulletins, newsletters, committee meetings, deacon meetings, preparing for meetings, calendaring events, going over finances, and meeting with church leaders.
  • Prayer and Preparation: 8-10 hours per week in sermon preparation, prayer, Bible study preparation, and general study and research for future sermons and Bible studies.
  • Outreach: 6-8 hours per week working with community groups, contacting prospective members, visiting with community members I encounter casually or intentionally to discuss community projects.
I have to admit that my schedule looks very much like his. Some of the activities in the various categories are somewhat different, but the time in each category still holds pretty true. Very interesting....

I pass this along because we're having a guest speaker this week, and i know that sometime on Sunday morning, I hear the inevitable, "How does it feel to have the week off?"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Faithful Church Membership Requires...

I noticed a bookmark today that I have seen several times, but never really paid attention to.
Here's what it says...

Faithful Church Membership Requires...

That I attend it's services regularly, contribute to its support and that i make daily supplication for it in my prayers.

That I give the best I have to it, not of gifts and services only, but also of love and personal helpfulness.

That I avail myself of the Holy Communion regularly as an evidence of my faith and its ministry of grace in my Christian life.

A simple guideline. How are you doing? I suppose it can be summed up in the word "Love". If you truly love the church, as you truly love Christ, the head of the church, you will be faithful...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Peace be with you...

It seems that the week after Easter is always the week we look at "Doubting Thomas." Each year, the Lectionary brings us to this passage. It may be a different gospel, but always the same story. Perhaps that's because at times, we can all relate to Thomas. We want to see the evidence before we believe.

For most of us who follow Jesus, that evidence is abundant. Most of us can look back at past events and see the hand of God providing, guiding, and watching out for us as we journey ever closer to Him.

But what does Jesus say when the disciples see Him? What does He say to Thomas? He says, "Peace be with you." What do you think that meant for the eleven disciples hiding in a locked room filled with fear for what the Jews might do to them? What might it mean for us as we are fearful of things that are happening around us?

Jesus is extending His peace to us, just as He did to His disciples. How do we experience that peace?

To read Sunday's message, click here.


Wow! I am really remiss...

I just noticed I didn't forward my Easter message.

I guess so much goes into the season of Lent, that I went blank after Easter. Anyway, the Easter message this year was the last in our series of Statements from the Cross. The words, "Unto Thy hands I commit my spirit." I talked about that statement, and pointed out that it's a statement that all believers must one day make. It shows a surrendering of our will to God.

I talked about Nicodemus, how he was one that claimed Jesus' body after His death, and made sure that He received a proper burial. Nicodemus was the one in John chapter 3 that was found sneaking in to see Jesus under the cover of darkness. He was shy, didn't want anyone to know. But he finished strong in his faith. It doesn't matter how we start our faith, or how many bumps (or falls) might come along in the journey. We all still have the opportunity to finish strong.

To read the message, click here.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday...

I am writing this post on Good Friday. As I am writing, I am also reflecting on what Good Friday means for us as believers in the 21st century.

If our local area is any indication, most Protestants don't do very much with Good Friday. The Catholic Church is having a mass, but to my knowledge, no Protestant church in the area is doing anything special.

Several years ago the Catholic Church in Alfred had an ecumenical service, with area clergy participating. It was a very special event, and it was very well attended. I very much enjoyed participating. They still have a mass, but it's no longer ecumenical in nature.

Last year we had a service, but we aren't having one this year. I miss it. I miss the participation of the local clergy. I miss the solemness of the service.

We tend to want to rush right to Easter. We love the thought of the resurrection. We love the thought of life after death. We love the thought of a final victory. We love that Easter comes, and with it a certain newness of life, of transformation.

But don't rush through so fast that you forget the cost of which that newness of life and transformation came to us. God loved us so much He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Jesus paid the price for us, but it wasn't pocket change - it cost Him everything. Even death on a cross.

So rejoice over your salvation. Feel the joy that comes from the newness of life that Easter can bring. But also, remember your Savior who made it all possible...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It is finished...

This weeks message was the sixth in our series on Jesus' statements from the cross.

This week we heard the words, "It is finished!" I think it's a statement that in Scripture, an exclamation point is used. I don't know where that exclamation point comes from. I don't know if it was put there by the translators, or if something in the Greek text warranted it. But it implies that Jesus was exasperated, exhausted, and giving up, as if He were quietly saying "it's over, I can't fight any longer..."

Instead, the exclamation point implies a victorious cheer, "Yeh, it's finished, it's over, we've won!"

In this weeks message, I call it a battle cry. A proud statement of fact that Jesus mission is completed, he did everything he came to do, and He did it well!. I explored some of the facets that means, and why it was so important to us as we live our lives of faith.

If you would like to read the entire message, or even listen to an audio recording of the message, click here.

As always, thanks for reading...

Faith First

  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him...