The music is out in brassy force, the altar flowers are in full
bloom, and the sanctuary is full of people not seen since December.
Ironically, even the visitors know the story, or imagine they do, and
the lectionary readings are always the same—Matthew or John. What does
the preacher say in her second, or 22nd Easter sermon that wasn’t said
Having had the privilege of serving downtown churches in Columbus, Ohio, and in Chicago, I have watched city churches struggle to respond faithfully to dramatically changing environments. Broad Street in Columbus is a street of churches—stately edifices constructed in a time when many of the members lived in the surrounding neighborhoods. But the neighborhoods changed. Members moved away.
The church suffers from a bit of schizophrenia about Palm Sunday.
Should the focus be on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the
“Hosannas!” of the shouting crowd? Or should the emphasis be placed on
the cross and the “Crucify him! Crucify him!” chants of the people? Is
this a service of exultation or a service of passion?
I’ve noticed an alarming trend in ministry with college students:
they use words better in technological media than in person. Emails,
text messages and even facebook.com posts are often thoughtful,
eloquent and witty. But one-on-one, the same students and I will
stammer about, our words bumping into one another in mid-air.
Every time I happen upon Psalm 16:6, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,” I think about how any of us comes to be who we are. Some of us in ministry can name the incident or date when we encountered a call to this vocation, but for most of us, I think, the call is a process, not an event.
In June a mob of hundreds of people brutally attacked a group of Vietnamese Mennonites, including Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and 20 church leaders and Bible college students, who had gathered for a religious retreat. More than 300 plainclothes police and security forces stormed the host church at night under the pretext of conducting an “administrative search.” The pastor, known for defending the rights of Vietnamese minorities, suffered injuries to his head and chest and was left with broken teeth. For years, Vietnamese authorities have been accused of suppressing Protestants and other religious groups. These churches are prohibited from reaching out to children and evangelizing openly (Ecumenical News).