Pastoral Series - Church Matters

Church Matters: an honest atheist

   The other day I was thumbing back through some of Christopher Lasch’s very wise books. Hard to pin him down: conservative? liberal? religious? secular? Perhaps for this reason, his writings are always wise and make you eager to rethink things you’ve assumed, and to deepen what you believe but only superficially. Here’s something he…

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Church Matters: Without

   It’s Ash Wednesday, one of my favorite holy days of the year. It’s not fun. The mood isn’t sunny optimism. It’s dark, somber. You get a black mark on your forehead. You grieve your brokenness. You confess your sin. God is with us – so we, in response, do without. And it’s only the…

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Church Matters: Grace Not to get Tired of Asking

   Annie Dillard tells about worshipping for a season at a little church on Puget Sound. One Sunday, the priest was kneeling, guiding the congregation through the service – when he paused, looked up, and said “Lord, we say these same prayers every week!” Dillard said “Because of this, I like him very much.” Church…

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Church Matters: Friendship and Courage

   At his last meal with the disciples, Jesus said to them, “No longer do I call you servants. I have called you friends.” Jesus is my friend, and your friends – and so we in the church are friends. We need friends, even the most introverted among us. Church at its best will provide…

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Church Matters: Learning to Talk

   Church could be, and should be, but often isn’t, a school for learning how to talk. I love Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s thought – that just as a child learns to talk by observing and mimicking the parent’s talk, we learn to pray by soaking up God’s word in Scripture so we’ll know what to say…

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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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