Pastoral Series

Church Matters: General Conference

   Tomorrow I fly to St. Louis for a big church conference. Our United Methodist denomination has its General Conference every 4 years, when we map out strategy for the worldwide church, examine our mission and methods, and strive to be accountable to one another – and hopefully to be inspired. Men and women, clergy…

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Church Matters: Denominations

   Why so many churches? And so many divisive labels on churches? You’d think we could get our act together and be one church. But how good would that be? I drive by a little church in the country and see an older gentleman out mowing the yard. He’s big, in a little church. Every…

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Church Matters: Valentine’s Day

   I try to ponder what we’d call “romance” back in Bible times. No Hallmark cards or flowers or chocolates, no date nights, no online sites to meet people. Life was hardscrabble, you labored hard all day, fell exhausted at night, and repeated it the next day. Bugs, battling the elements, tooth decay… If you…

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Church Matters: Spiritual but not Religious

 My friend Lillian Daniel published a lovely book a few years back called When “Spiritual But Not Religious” is Not Enough. With sparkling wit and uncommon wisdom, she skewers the viewpoint that you can be “spiritual” without being “religious,” that my personal feelings and spirituality actually work out better than trying to be part of…

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Church Matters: Obligation

  I love Luke 4:16, which tells us that, on the Sabbath day, Jesus went to the synagogue “as was his custom.” People seem to adore the 10 commandments – but are not so attentive to #4: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Back on January 3, I asked what you guys thought…

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Church Matters: Other Unpleasant Facts

  As I’m preparing for Greg Jarrell’s visit this evening (A Riff of Love!), I’m reminded of T.S. Eliot’s words (which move me so often). I regularly return to what he articulated about the church and why it matters. “Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws? She tells them of…

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Church Matters: A Riff of Love

   This coming Monday at 7pm, Greg Jarrell will be with us to play some jazz (A Riff of Love!), and tell his fascinating, incomparable story. I say “incomparable” – but there are comparisons, people who’ve done what Greg has done, people like Dorothy Day, Clarence Jordan, St. Francis and Jesus himself. We tend to…

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Church Matters: Politics?!?!

   The words “church” and “politics” are not very cozy with one another. Back on January 3, I asked what you guys thought and wondered about regarding church. Quite a few spoke of the problem of “politics.” But in two different ways. There’s “church politics,” as in the way decisions get made, who has power….

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Church Matters: Song

   There are not many clubs or venues where you show up and sing with other people. The Churchill Society might sing “God Save the Queen,” and you might chime in on the Star-Spangled Banner at a ballgame. But at church, we sing, together, several times each week, and lots of different songs. I realize…

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Church Matters: Friendship

   C.S. Lewis valued his longtime friendships with J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and others – and felt that friendship mirrored what the Kingdom of God is and will be more clearly than anything we know on earth, even more than family. Church is friendship. We get confused though, as we think a friend is somebody…

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