Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From a secular source...

I've been reading Hemingway's account of life in Paris in the 1920s, in his book, A Moveable Feast. In one section he writes, "It was all part of the fight against poverty that you never win except by not spending. We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other."

Perhaps overly romanticized, but Hemingway's words make me think that would be a good life. If we live and love simply, is that not the basis for doing considerable good in the world for others? And yet the poet Linda Weltner writes that the consumer culture shouts at us from every vantage point, saying "Not enough, not enough," and torturing us with all those things we have not yet bought, not yet acquired.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What can I do?

Radical, individual heart change is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition for the advancement of justice. Injustice thrives because too many of us do nothing about it. We do not hold injustice clearly, unmistakably, and urgently in our field of vision.

There is a great distance between the privileged world we inhabit and take for granted, and that other world where tragedy, disease, destitution, and oppression are rife. We misperceive suffering as their problem, not ours.

We live with a clear conscience, believing that we are not the perpetrators of injustice while also believing that injustice is beyond our power to change.

Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor

Monday, March 7, 2011

A class this long? Surely not!

The prominent theologian Stanley Hauerwas attempted to join a Methodist church some years ago. The pastor told him that before he could join the church, he would need to attend a new member's orientation class that met each week for a year. Hauerwas replied, "I dutifully and gladly did this."

It is rare for a pastor to lay down this requirement for a prospective member. But there is little doubt that the experience is life-changing. Even the very existence of such a program is likely to create congregational renewal.

From the editorial, Going Deeper, The Christian Century, February 22, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

A miracle!

In the early 1920s, my grandmother, a template Methodist, was smitten by and betrothed to an Irish Catholic. She converted, somewhat reluctantly. The priest splashed a little water on her and said, "Geraldine, you were born a Methodist, raised a Methodist. Now, thanks be to God, you're a Catholic."

Some weeks later she was grilling steaks in the backyard on the first Friday in Lent. A neighbor, smelling the barbecue, upbraided her for fixing meat on Friday. She got the garden hose, sprinkled a few drops of water on the sirloins and said, "You were born cows, raised as cows. Now, thanks be to God, you are fish!"

Thomas Lynch, The Christian Century, February 22, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Back in the saddle...

My apology to readers for being offline for about a month. I'm cranked up again, and ready to continue my conversations with hearty church souls. Please check in at least weekly.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A surprising new church...

A new church has started in Colorado Springs, dedicated to helping people in the depths of their crises. The pastor of this church is Ted Haggard, disgraced minister of the New Life mega-church he founded some years ago. His new church has about 300 members.

The vast majority of churches in North America have far fewer than 300 members. Are ministers who are untainted by scandal incapable of creating congregations of 300 members? Even 300 members is a relatively small church.

To me, this is a clarion call for pastors and lay leaders of good faith to review their role and purpose in this place and time. There is so much loneliness and sadness in the world. Shouldn't the church have a powerful message to draw them in?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rent-a-church weddings?

As an associate minister, UCC minister Lillian Daniel got stuck with the non-member weddings. She writes about being ordered around by engaged couples and listening to their rants about organized religion. She was treated like a service for purchase, similar to the caterer.

She brings this up in a review of G. Jeffrey MacDonald's book, Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul. MacDonald writes that the religious marketplace is full of people looking for a church that meets their desires, a church that requires very little of them.

Instead, MacDonald argues that people ought to be looking for a church that shapes their desires. He says people need a faith that requires commitment, sacrifice, and the occasional denial of our whims and desires.

The Christian Century Magazine, January 25, 2011