Biblical narrative evokes the emotional depth of human experience and
brings forward core questions about life. In this week’s Old Testament
reading, the widow fully expects to die—and soon, because of a drought
in the land.
In my Living By the Word
column on this week’s readings, I comment on Paul’s readiness to boast
of suffering, because it “produces endurance, and endurance produces
character, and character produces hope. . . .” Suffering is a signal
doorway through which the Holy Spirit enters our lives.
Short-term mission trips continue to rise in popularity. In leading such trips and researching their impact, I’ve found that they can have a profound effect on the faith and life of participants, and good work is often done: people living in poverty have their needs addressed by energetic and caring people.
My contract as “intentional transitional pastor” or interim with East Bay Community Church (not its real name) had expired, and I was working on a month-by-month agreement. By the grace of God, the church and I had moved through five developmental tasks proposed by the Intentional Ministry Network. Healing had taken place, and a sharpened vision statement had been communicated. I was feeling affirmed by the church and knew that its leaders valued my expertise and contribution, as well as me as a person. Then one morning I heard the news: the pastoral candidate would preach the next month, with a congregational vote to follow on the same night.
Acts 2 tells of those who, while seemingly drunk with the new wine of
the spirit, actually understand one another’s native languages. What if
we saw here a parable for listening to one another’s viewpoints? So
often, others’ native languages not only leave us bereft of
understanding but perpetuate our dislike and distrust of one another.
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).