Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Living Advent: Happy New Year!

Living Advent: Happy New Year!

This Sunday, November 27th is the first day of Advent.   The question that I have for you is:  How might our world be different if we lived in sacred rhythm of the Advent Season? How might we avoid getting swept into holiday frenzy? How might our eagerness for instant gratification change if we practiced living Advent every day?

Could living in the sacred rhythm of the Advent season change our lives, our church – and the world – for the good?

Using this daily “Living Advent Calendar” is designed to help us be in right relationship with ourselves, with family and friends and neighbors, with creation, and most importantly with God.   If you didn’t get a copy of it last Sunday at church, you can download it from our church website here:   Living Advent Calendar

You can choose to use this calendar on your own, but perhaps you will have a richer experience if you “live it” with your family, friends, and/or church community.  Perhaps you could find a partner or group of people with whom to discuss and reflect on the daily invitations.  Perhaps you could meet once a week with your partner or group and talk about your experiences as well as pray for one another.  Instead of Sunday morning adult education classes, find someone during the “coffee time” to ask, “What daily practice was hard for you this week?”  Or, “what practice did you like the most?”  Or, “which practice refreshed or challenged you?”

As a church there is no greater time to bear witness to our culture about the peace and joy that Jesus gives us than in the midst of the hustle and business of the Christmas season.  Let’s join together and practice Advent. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

MSCF #8- Stand By Me

Liturgically speaking, this is a really cool couple of weeks of the Christian year.   The reason is because they are the last 2 weeks of the Christian year.  (The first day of Advent, Sunday, November 27th begins the new Christian year.)  And in church in these couple of weeks we get to talk what we don’t often talk about:  the end times.

But the reason I like these last 2 weeks of the year is because that even when the Bible is talking about the end of the world, the message of the gospel is pretty simple:  Those who follow Christ don’t have to worry.  I don’t mean this in a “left behind” sort of way, as in we to celebrate our escape while everybody else gets punished.   Rather, I mean this in the I-am-a-huge-worrier sort of way.  Will my family be ok?  Will God judge me worthy of heaven?   But in the midst of the worry the simple and powerful message of the gospel comes in:  just be faithful.  In other words, just trust the one who keeps his promises and keep doing the work that He calls us into no matter what day it is. 

The interesting about this whole thing is that as I was turning on my computer to write this blog entry, the song “Stand by Me” came on in Starbucks and I heard the words:   

If the sky that we look upon

Should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble to the sea

I won't cry, I won't cry, no I won't shed a tear

Just as long as you stand, stand by me.”

The writer of this song, Ben E. King, must know his Bible and that great promise Jesus gives us in it:

Matthew 28:20:  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

Making Sense of the Christian Faith #7- The Body of Christ

Why go to church?  This is a big conversation that is being had in our culture today and quite frankly, the (national and local) statistics say, less and less people are choosing to be a part of a local church.

I have to be honest and say that it is a scary conversation for me as a pastor because…well… it is my livelihood.  Maybe more than that it is a question that tugs (and sometimes flat out yanks) at my insecurities:  Is the church relevant to people anymore?  

I don’t mean to start a debate and because I am writing a blog (not a book) I don’t want to go too far into what is a very complex issue.   I also believe that the constant challenge of every church should be this question:   How do we remain faithful to the gospel and connect with people in the culture?  But there is a wonderful image that Lose gives in the book that captures beautifully the reason why we should go to church.  The image is breathing.

“The Holy Spirit” says Lose, “breathes us in so that we can be called and commissioned and breathes us back out into the world to make a difference.  Breathed in, breathed out.”  At church as we worship, as we hear the word of God and we celebrate His sacraments:  we are breathed in by God and we breathe in the Holy Spirit.  And in the process we are brought back to that simple gospel truth that we are beloved children of God, that in Christ we have forgiveness and we are made new so that we can be fully alive.  And then we are breathed out, so that we can go out and experience life the way it was meant to be lived, a life of service to our neighbor, a life of joy. 

And breathing is a rhythm.  It is not too long before we breathe in that we need to breathe out.  It is not too long before we breathe out that we need to breathe back in.  No, it is not to long at all.   In fact, according to God, it is about every 7 days…  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chapter #6- You have beautiful feet...

In Making Sense of the Christian Faith Chapter 6 we are looking at the concept of “atonement.”  In other words the question: “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?”  It is the question that has been with Christianity ever since the beginning and it was a controversy even before Paul penned these words when writing his 1st letter to the Corinthians:  but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:23)” 

For many this question is a non-starter to faith.  It is just too much to believe that God would become flesh and then (to add to the scandal of it all) die on a cross.  And yet, it is at the center of what we believe.  We can’t get away from it no matter how many diamonds we put on the crosses that we hang around our necks.  Each of the gospel stories has the death and resurrection as its central event. 

So the questions become:  Does it make sense to you?  Does it make enough sense to you to understand why it needed to happen?  And… here’s the real question… does it make enough sense to you to be able to try and explain it to your children, your neighbors, your (fill in the blank).  If not, read Chapter 6.

I say this because lately I have been looking at the big picture of faith in our culture.  Sadly, less and less people know the Christian story these days.  A simple reason for this is that less and less people are telling it.  One of the reasons for this is because it is a hard story to tell.  It takes work.  And there is a risk, not everybody is going to believe it.  Some might even scoff at us when we tell it.  But, and here is the thing, for some it is going to be liberating, life-saving and the best story they have ever heard.  This is why it has come to be known as “the gospel” which means “good news.” 

Let’s not forget that it is a really beautiful story to know.  It gives life.  It tells the story of how much God loves us.  It helps people to make sense of life.  Let’s not forget that it is a story that is meant to be told even if it feels a bit risky or hard to tell.  Let’s not forget we have beautiful feet.

Romans 10:15:  “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!       

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

You are a Theologian... I am serious.

Thinking theologically about the Incarnation…

Have I already lost you?  Are you eyes already starting to glaze over?   Are the words theological and incarnation more potent than the average over-the-counter sleeping pill? 

We have been talking theology now for several weeks and, I have discovered that when it comes to theological concepts like the Incarnation, many people say things like, “I believe that in Jesus, God became human so why do I need to think any more about it?” 

The answer is because these questions are still being asked, maybe not by us but by many others.  Not just by Muslims and Jewish people who want to understand that Jesus was a great teacher but not divine, but also by, for example, many young people within the Christian church who have never learned about this concept because the older people have stopped passing it along. 

So my encouragement as we cross the halfway point of reading this book is: keep reading.   Keep reading not just for you but also for those around you.  More than likely, there are people around you  who might have questions about God that you can help answer.  In fact, you might just be the theologian that God has put in their life to talk about the Incarnation.  Or maybe I should say it this way, you might be the person that God has put in their life to tell that beautiful story about a God who loves us so much that he is willing to come to us, in all our messiness, in all our chaos,  and remind us how much He loves us.