Thursday, April 15, 2010

Soren Kierkegaard on "Spiritual Laziness"

From "The God of Intimacy and Action"
"Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of their houses and waddle down Main Street to their church. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and takes its place then the duck minister comes forward and opens the duck Bible. He reads to them:

"Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagels. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings. God has given you wings and you can fly like birds!" All the ducks shouted, "Amen!" As the ducks left the service they commented on what a wonderful sermon it was. And then they all waddled home."

The author makes the point that to change, to act on what we hear, we must be intentional in our spiritual growth; we must seek to become more like Jesus. A church that is pursuing Jesus, becoming more like Him will want to get up, go out and help the poor, heal the sick, fight for justice for the poor and oppressed - all those things that Jesus did.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Apologetics Redefined

Following the worship service at Dickie Doos Bar last Sunday night (see post on January 25th) Rev. Todd Jordan briefed me on the preparations Caldwell 1st U.M.C. is making for their revival beginning May 16th. Foremost on the list is taking out a half-page ad in the local paper. Ironically, the primary focus of this ad is not to specifically advertise the planned event to be held at the Burleson County Fairgrounds but rather to issue an apology to the community. During the hour-long trip back home that night it struck me just how badly an apology is due to so many of the communities that our churches serve. Allow me to explain:

15 years ago I was chair of the board of trustees in a fair-sized urban church in the Houston, South District. Because of my position I was named to serve on the newly-created Houston South Parish formed to consolidate the assets and remaining congregation at the closing of a smaller satellite church, Temple U.M.C. Since the membership had dwindled down to just a handful it sounded like a good idea on paper. But as an elected community leader bent on achieving social justice for the residents of our declining neighborhood I was inwardly outraged by what we as a connectional church were doing.

Although then-current census tract information revealed the highest population, lowest per-capita income, and the most single-parent households in the history of the neighborhood, we closed the doors to Temple U.M.C. Rather than reaching out in Christian love, lending a helping hand, or embracing the “least of these” when the mission fields there had been never more ripe for harvest, we pulled out, packed up, and sold out.

Today, 15 years later, Houston South Parish is a consolidation of 5 area churches all closed, save one. It grieves me deeply for having been a part of this history of events and I see it as a testament of our lack of faith as a church. I sincerely believe that as long as we continue to be unfaithful to our true calling as Christ’s disciples and to our Wesleyan roots as a church we will (rightly) continue our decline as a denomination.

Due to its commonplace in our connectional culture we have accepted church closure as a normal occurrence. What a travesty that is given our rich heritage for church-building and ministering to those in need wherever they are encountered. How can we turn this situation around? I believe that it really isn’t all that difficult to be the authentic church of Jesus Christ in today’s world. All you really need is a little faith, a congregational culture dedicated to ministry in their community, and a humble spirit for service. You might begin with an apology…

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Reflections for Holy Saturday

This Lenten Season has been an especially transforming time for me, spiritually. I am very conscience of God moving in my life and the in lives around me, bringing change, healing, and again, transformation. For that reason, the image of the cross now instills a new sense of awareness within me. I know that I have been changed this year into something new and that I have no desire to go back to what I was before. I also recognize that there is nothing, no aspect of my life, that I can or need to withhold from Him. Sweet surrender, indeed.

We will finish our coursework in a couple of months and will then be done with our studies. I wonder, where we will each wind up serving and in what capacity? Regardless, I know that God has a plan for every one of us. The fellowship that we have enjoyed in class, as brothers and sisters together being equipped for His service, has been a major portion of the transformation that I have experienced. Through what you have shared from your hearts in class, I have been inspired to become a better disciple. I have been moved by the conviction of your spirit and your dedication to authentically living out your faith as you have been so called.

Additionally, I can see and attest to the transformation which has occurred in each one of you. Just as powerful as your own Christian witness to me is the awesome evidence of His mighty work that I see in each of you. It has been an honor for me to be a part of our studies together as your classmate and I consider it a privilege to soon go forth with you in service. May God continue to bless each of us.