Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Following Jesus

When I went to college I double majored in religious studies and history. 

I had a deep desire to learn about the religions of the world and to know what it is that they believed and how they understood the presence of the divine to work in their communities.  I wanted to see how the presence of the divine affected their understanding of their history and how they understood the world to work.  (Like if we deserve the bad that comes our way, how we find healing admist our brokenness, how we find purpose, etc.)

I studied Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam primarily.  I had the opportunity to not only to study these other religions but sat in class with people who practiced them.  We got to hear how their own beliefs and lives were enhanced by their own spiritual practices.

My motivation was never to find the "cracks" in the theology of the other world's religions.  And I am grateful for the time I spent learning because it helps to ground me, especially in light of so many voices out there that come from a variety of religious groups that teach and preach intolerance and hatred:  That point to the horrible actions of one and say that is a true reflection of the others religious practices.   

I have dedicated my life to studying and practicing Christianity.  I am blessed to make a living as a spiritual guide for those wishing to follow the teachings of Jesus.  I am blessed to get paid to pray for the sick and to visit them.  I am blessed to be part of a gathering that dreams the BIG dreams God has for our community. 

And as I have studied the way of Jesus for the better part of my life, I cannot remember a teaching that supports intolerance.  Or further exasperating a broken community.  

Jesus' teachings are a guide to a faithful life and not a tool to be used as a weapon against others.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Well I've Never!

I find it hard not to think about the decline of the mainline church.  I grew up in the decline, I am living in the decline, it is all I have ever known.  The language of the decline is normative to me and as much as I don't want to pass that narrative onto my children, I find that I am.  I'll say well we used to do camping trips for our youth back when we had enough kids to do them to my daughter who is in youth group.

And as much as the decline is part of the collective narrative, I find it hard to find a scripture that supports a story of God shrinking, or getting smaller.  The Kingdom of God isn't about a large mustard seed bush that over time dies off until all that is left is one lonely seed.  No it is a story of exponential growth.  The Kingdom of God takes over and is intrusive and turns our expectations up-side-down.

The thing is when we live into the story of the decline and make it the loudest story, the story that guides all of our actions then we place ourselves in the past and we focus on what has happened and not on what is happening or what can happen.  We limit what God can do when focus on what was.

And it comes out in a variety of ways, we might find ourselves saying "well we've never done it that way before."  As if implying and we aren't about to start trying now.  Or we might find ourselves saying "we've done that before and it didn't work."  Implying that we are the same group of people in the same place in our faith journey as we were when we tried it in the past.

I have been part of conversations where the consensus was that "Sunday school" is a thing of the past.  Not that education is, but that doing the education on Sunday mornings is.  This year we pulled out all stops and created a new adult and youth class and have over doubled our adult participation in education on Sunday morning.  

I think it is time that we realize we are the church of resurrection, where anything is possible.  We are the church of the Living God who calls us into ministry.  We are the church of the gospel that has a compelling message for us and for the people in our neighborhoods.  

Easter ... ready ... set ... go!

Matthew 28:1-10 About three years ago I committed to the Narrative Lectionary.   It is a four-year cycle that takes the congregation t...