Churches have a tough time attracting young adults—they have so many other, more interesting things to do. In our conference we are closing several churches a year. I say that we are closing these churches, but actually, we are not able to close any church. For a good, long while, churches choose to receive hospice care, and sadly, that is all they seem to want. They think it is better than initiating any kind of change. And then we just become morticians. These churches eventually die. We didn’t kill them. They just die.
There is sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.
They speak more eloquently then ten thousand tongues.
They are messengers of overwhelming grief, and unspeakable love.
– Washington Irving
Someone asked on Quora, “As a doctor, what should you never promise to a patient?” The answer came from an M.D. who has worked in an emergency room. He said a doctor should never say, “Everything is going to be fine.” He added, “I was told this in medical school, but for some reason I had to keep relearning this fact over and over again throughout my early career. You can say, ‘We are going to do everything we can.’ You can even say, ‘I think things are going to be fine.’ Just, never, ever promise that everything is going to be fine.”
I realize that many people in the United Methodist portion of the body of Christ are weeping tonight. Weeping because they no longer know what their place is in the church. Weeping because they feel isolated, excluded, abandoned, even demonized. Weeping because they believe that Jesus is walking with them but that his church isn’t.
Death Cafés are basically discussion groups, and they can be virtually any size and structure. About all that unites them is the presence of people, tea, and cake. Why would someone go to a Death Café?
For Sale: baby shoes. Never worn.
Have you ever left church filled with rage because of what the preacher preached? Have you ever wanted to kill the preacher?
That’s rhetorical. I really don’t want to know the answer to that question.
My fear is that the picture of my faith today doesn’t look any bolder, any stronger, any more active today than it looked 10 years ago… 20 years ago… 30 years ago… Am I willing, regardless of the cost, to do justice… to love kindness… and walk humbly with God? Would I be willing to be arrested for civil disobedience in order to find that one lost sheep? Are you? Am I willing to stand firm in what I count as Biblical truths… and go against what may be written as church law elsewhere?
“They’ve run out of wine,” Jesus’s mother says to him. “Woman, what’s that got to do with you or with me? Not our party.”
When God says through the prophet Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (43:2), God is not saying, “I will not give you more than you can handle.” Nor is God promising, “This too shall pass.” No, the message is really very different.
One night, the king was roused from sleep by a fearful stumping on the roof above his bed. Alarmed, he shouted, “Who’s there?”
“A friend,” came the reply from the roof. “I’ve lost my camel.”
Do those words pique your curiosity or fill you with dread? Do you expect to be feasting on fascinating facts or drowning in dull details? As we close out the year, we consider a few interesting (hopefully) odds and ends about Christmas and Methodists.
Return once again to that awesome night in Bethlehem as we tell the story and sing carols for the baby king. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
It’s kind of like when you sit in the airport and hear boarding calls for different flights. Most of those announcements don’t matter to you. But when the call comes for your flight, it’s time for you to get on board.
Imagine that you are on a voyage of discovery back in the fifteenth century. Your ship goes down in a storm. You find yourself as the sole survivor on a deserted island. Nobody knows you are there, and there is no hope of rescue. Fortunately, there is water and food available on the island, but the island is deserted of human habitation, and you are all alone. What would you do?
I was not always so negative, so pessimistic. Once, in my youth, my hay day, I thought better of people and their possibilities. I was going to change the world! I’m going to get out there and get those once-racist-sexist-materialistic, homophobic rascals to change for the better. And they can change, if they really want to change, and who better to tell them to change than me? But that was long ago. As a pastor, I got my nose rubbed in the human condition, was made to stare at the sheer ugliness of people.
The expression probably has military origins. When the government or the military believes that certain information is extremely sensitive, the files are placed under severe restrictions. Access to the information is limited only to a few people who absolutely “need to know” in order to fulfil their duties. In these cases, the government does not want someone who is unauthorized or lacking proper security clearances to be privy to sensitive data. God subscribes to the same philosophy of “on a need to know basis.”
I can’t help but wonder if we’ve met the legal experts, the scribes, the perverters of God’s grand temple, and they are us. It makes me wonder, what is the damage that I am currently doing, all the while thinking that I am doing good?
“We're all together, mourning. And it really allowed me to lift up my anguish and say, you know, just put it on God’s hands. And it gave me hope, because, as Pastor Russel was speaking, the sun started to shine, and it’s been cloudy all day in Pittsburgh. The sun was shining, and I felt like that was God telling me that, you know, I’m going to part these clouds. It’s going to be dark and gloomy for a little bit, but I’m going to part these clouds and show you that I’m still here. I’m still lifting you guys up, and that’s what made me smile. And I feel a little bit better.”
“Asking for help is a universally dreaded endeavor,” writes M. Nora Klaver in her anti-self help book, Mayday: Asking for Help in Times of Need.
Whether we’re struggling with getting that heavy bag in the overhead bin on the airplane, or fixing a flat tire by the side of the road, Americans are much more likely to say, “I’m good” instead of “Can you help?”
“I got this,” we’d prefer to say. We’d rather die a thousand deaths than have someone else think that we can’t do things on our own.