The first Sunday of Lent is the best time of the year to talk about sin.
Many people in the church, especially the mainline church, are stuck when
it comes to the overlap of sin and sensuality. No one really wants to be
the pastor who comes over all judgmental about sex.
If you've ever changed a diaper, you know that when the baby has a diaper removed, especially a cloth one, there's usually a rush of energy, often laughter, and a convulsion of kicking and rolling and sheer exultation in the freedom of having legs set free from the bondage of damp and sometimes soiled cloth. Babies have no problem with nakedness. It's a relief.
I have finally gotten around to putting away the green garden hose I tripped over all fall. After some extended travel time, the sudden frigid weather caught me off guard. Trying to coil cold plastic hose in a chilly garage seems impossible. Getting the job done properly requires time and patience. I was determined to take hours if necessary and to do it with humor and the long view.
Learning to see in new ways is one of the most difficult tasks of the transformed life. Old habits of selective vision, old choices about what to leave out and what to focus on tend to dominate us, even as we search for new ways of living that are in closer communion with the life of the Spirit. Transfiguration--that mysterious transformation of vision that is narrated in today's readings--is a radical, if brief, way of illumination.
Construction of religious buildings is at its lowest level since record keeping began in 1967. Declining participation and financial funding and a shift away from megachurches are cited as reasons for the decline. Congregations are also deciding to put more money into ministry rather than structures. The building of religious structures peaked in 2002 and has been decreasing ever since, though there are signs that it may have bottomed out in 2013. Mormons and Muslims, both with growing populations, are exceptions to this trend (Wall Street Journal, December 4).