Category Archives: God, Church & Stuff

Why Do We Put on Big Church Events?

So why do you do what you do? Why do you read your Bible? Why do you pray? Or why don’t you, for that matter? Why does your church have church services? Why do you have mission trips? Why do you put on a Vacation Bible School?

I was wondering these things during Vespers tonight. It seems that too often we put stuff like this on just because that’s what we’re supposed to do. We have worship services every Sunday, that’s why we’re having one today. We put on a big VBS production every summer, that’s why we’re doing one this year. I was thinking that it’s kind of sad if that’s what we reduce it to.

Is anybody sitting down and really thinking about your summer Bible School? Are you planning it because you want to bring in neighborhood kids and tell them about Jesus, or is it just your volunteer activity for the month? The kids deserve more than that. The world deserves more than that. God deserves more than that.

The world looks at me and wonders why. The kids I graduated with will wonder why I went to a Christian school. They’ll wonder why I started that Bible Study. Hopefully they’ll wonder why I acted the way I did, although I can’t help but wonder if I acted any different then anybody else. They’ll wonder why I write what I do. Why does he do that? What does he see in this Christianity stuff? I can’t let my answer be seen in some half-hearted, doing it because that’s what I’m supposed to do way. Do everything you can to the best of your ability, not just to meet the pastor’s expectations. Not just to fit the bill of the typical summer program. Do it to give the best answer you possibly can to a watching world.

Their eyes are filled with wonder, their hearts of full of questions. Provide them with answers, not more questions.

“It’s not supposed to be like this.”
“It’s not supposed to be anything.” (from the movie Pleasantville)

The Church Crumbles and Falls

The church crumbles and falls. You stand there aghast. What do you do? Some walk away, leaving the crumbs to rot. Will you turn your back? Will you walk away? Where are the ones willing to roll up their sleeves? Who will muddy their hands and mend the hurt and pain? Or will we watch the crowd disperse and when no one’s looking slap some putty in the cracks and call it good? This can’t go on. I’m just a kid, what can I do? Sometimes I wonder who really knows what they’re doing. You wonder why the world looks on and laughs, well look around you. You won’t even mend the cracks. Where’s the unity? Where’s the body? We can’t move on without a foot, without an eye, without an ear. A heart is not enough. A mind is not enough. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The parking lot of the church is paved with apathy. The pain is deep and it’s not easy, but you can’t just throw your hands up in the air and leave us here to make it on our own. We need you. Stick your definitions in the trash and wipe that self assured look off your heart. You are not right. God is right. The narrow minded will be blown away when all is revealed. How dense can you be? How foolish are we? Jesus, light of the world, shine your love upon this broken vessel.

Monastic Traditions, Patch Adams, Random Quotes

I’ve learned a few things today. First of all, I learned that monks, monasteries and that whole realm of Christianity that we kind of tuck away in the corner–they just might be on to something. Often times we as Protestants (I’m speaking for myself here, so don’t feel that title has to apply to all of you) look down on the monastic fathers and that whole tradition as a bunch of routines that aren’t heart felt. You say a prayer, you read a psalm. What’s the deal?

Yeah, I’ve been reading more of St. Benedict. Today in the commentary I read a story from a collection of monastic tales. A visitor asks a monk, “What do you do in the monastery?” The monk replies, “Well, we fall and we get up and we fall and we get up and we fall and we get up,” (100). Isn’t that the case in every Christian life?

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The Rule of St. Benedict

The following is a collection of quotes from a book I’m reading for one of my classes. It’s the Rule of St. Benedict, a 1500 year-old classic. A lot of the quotes I took were from the commentator’s comments. I included the page numbers from the version I have, if that will be of any help (some people who read these ponderings are actually in this class, so it will help them): “The Rule of St. Benedict: Insights for the Ages” by Joan Chittister, The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992

“Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” (St. Benedict, 19)

Those are Benedict’s introductory words. It sounds like wise advice from a father. Something I wish I could say about my ponderings. ;) The rest of these quotes seem to echo what I was talking about yesterday. It’s kind of odd how that happens, although I doubt it’s a coincidence.

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Check Out My Snazzy Easter Bonnet

Easter Sunday. The day more people show up in church than any other day. And this morning was no exception.

Everyone comes out, dressed up in the best they have. I don’t quite understand that, either an attempt to out-do one another, or trying to show God just how good we are. Look at me in my three piece suit. Check out my snazzy Easter Bonnet. I must be good if I’m dressed this nice. Is this some kind of left over Puritan tradition, or did Jesus really put on his sharpest tunic before clearing the temple?

I also find it odd that little or no attempt is made to make things understandable to the “unchurched” person. At my church every Bible passage was read from the Kings James Version, which even to my “Christian” ears sounded undecipherable. Before the offering was taken, my pastor told the visitors that they need not give. He explained that the people of the church had committed themselves to a budget, and this was how they met that budget. Of course then he went on to say that it’s everyone’s rightful duty to give–effectively undoing what he had just said. And then there was the responsive reading. We had just finished singing “He Lives,” and before beginning, the man leading the responsive reading said, “And if you don’t believe he lives, here’s proof,” and he proceeded to read the passages describing Christ’s resurrection (again in the archaic King James Version). Now certainly to a Christian, that’s proof. But he was clearly talking to the unsaved that were there that day. Proof? Quoting Bible verses at somebody is proof? I couldn’t help but question that.

You can tell I had a rather cynical attitude the entire time. And what happened? How effective was this sub-par outreach? After the sermon, two people came forwarded and accepted Christ, two more had raised their hands, but didn’t want to come forward, and nearly a dozen raised their hands asking for prayer in dealing with spiritual issues in their lives. Perhaps I should shut my cynical mouth, and realize that God is going to work no matter how things are done. Of course that doesn’t mean we should put no work into a service, thinking that God will work despite our laziness. But perhaps it does mean that I should be a little less judgmental of what I think is a church service that doesn’t speak to the unsaved.

Wearing Jeans to Church

“I can’t believe the news today / Oh, I can’t close my eyes / And make it go away / How long… / How long must we sing this song?/ How long? How long…/ ’cause tonight…we can be as one / Tonight… / Sunday, Bloody Sunday / Sunday, Bloody Sunday / Sunday, Bloody Sunday” (“Sunday, Bloody Sunday” by U2)

“The problem’s not Hollywood, the problem’s not Washington / The problem’s a weak divided church of schizmed Christians.” (“Unite” by the Supertones)

How is it that I can walk into a church and feel judged because of my grubby blue jeans and scruffy tennis shoes? Do torn jeans instead of a suit and tie make the difference between a Christian and a hell bound punk? I certainly don’t remember Jesus pausing to comb his hair and put on his best tunic before marching into the synagogue. When is this going to end? When will the church be able to stand as one unified body? Or will we continue to squabble as the world looks on and laughs?

Prayer is a Conversation with a Friend

High above a nearly full moon lights up the night sky, a round white ball in the middle of the emptiness. As I stand there and wait, things begin to slow down and I can actually see. My eyes watch as the gray puffs of clouds roll across the black tapestry. Frowning, I see that they’re about to block my view of the moon. But as they slowly move past, the glowing orb isn’t lost in a cloudy haze. It shines on, despite the foggy covering. It glows just as brightly as it did before. I look again, thinking my eyes deceive me and that the moon is below the clouds. But the clouds are passing in front of the moon, and its silvery glow is shining through as if the clouds weren’t even there.

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Dealing with Death

How does a man remain so resilient in the face of death? I met him at the church I’ve been attending recently, and since I met him his mother has been battling cancer. She died a week ago Wednesday, on Ash Wednesday. He was back in church this week, and seemed to be doing surprisingly well, all things considered. He somehow looked fragile. He looked visibly shaken, and you could hear his voice wavering, but he was there. He looked like he could break down crying at any moment. This from a smiling Native American man in his thirties or forties who’s usually leading the church in songs with his guitar.

Him and a friend sang a song of thanksgiving today. It was a Native American song, and the lyrics were something along the lines of, “thank you God.” Hard to believe that a man could thank God after something like this. After the message he lead the circle (or “congregation,” for you conventional types) in a few songs about life and God breathing life into us. He talked about watching his mother breath her last breath, and knowing that she was now with her Maker.

The last time I saw Jim he handed me two cocoa seeds. This was a few weeks before his mother passed away. I can’t remember all of what he said, he always puts it so poetically, but he was marveling at how life is wrapped up in a such a tiny seed. The seeds still sit on my desk.

How can a man deal with such heartache? Jesus Christ. That’s the only answer I can possibly come up with, and I’m sure that Jim would agree with me.

Isn’t Grace Amazing?

“I’ve been washed in the blood/I’ve been cleansed by the Lamb/Tryin’, Tryin’, Tryin’ to be better than I am.” (“Let It Go” by The Felluz)

Isn’t grace amazing? It’s too bad we sing ‘Amazing Grace’ so often we don’t know what it means anymore. I don’t think I ever really understood what grace meant until I took a Christian Theology course here at Bethel. I always thought grace was just when someone was really nice to you. It’s kind of like doing something gracefully. It can also be an old woman’s name or a prayer. But grace means so much more than that.

You see, when we sin something needs to be done about it. God had mercy on us, and he sent his Son to pay for our sin. But he can’t just pardon our sin and let us go on our way. God has a better way. He has mercy on us and forgives us of our sin, and then he gives us grace, the ability not to screw up again. It doesn’t mean we’ll be perfect. It just means we have the ability to avoid sin.

“Amazing grace/how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me.”

May God Bless You With Discomfort at Easy Answers

Well, I have a four day weekend and I’m takin’ off. So you won’t hear anything from me until at least Sunday night. But knowing my record, it’ll be Monday. So I leave you now with a prayer that our campus pastor, Keith Anderson read during chapel last semester. I found it rather inspiring.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you will live deep in your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people and the earth so that you will work for justice, equity and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer so you will reach out your hand to comfort them and change their pain into joy. May God bless you with the foolishness to think you can make a difference in the world, so you will do the things others say cannot be done. Amen.