Selected posts from around our network of affiliated bloggers
The Internet is awash with reactions to Caitlyn Jenner’s photos in Vanity Fair magazine. Some thoughtful stuff, and plenty that’s predictably … less than thoughtful. I write this post with some trepidation, because there’s still much for me to learn, and I hope those who have walked this road will offer correction with a generous spirit, for it’s in that spirit that I write this.
The question is one my first boss liked to ask at staff meetings. It's important to say he was asking through the perspective of visitors. First-timers or travelers. Equally for people who would come to make the church their home and those who would never visit town again. For all of these, on a Sunday, when does a church first feel strange?"When you go up to communion," one of us offered one time.
Is it possible to be too generous? I think so. Church leaders can be too generous with their money, their time, and their forgiveness, in ways that are not good for them or the people they are being generous with.
When I arrived at Old South Church about a decade ago, I was fortunate to have found a church home that, though it had never had a female pastor, was well-acquainted with the leadership of women. The organist–music director was a woman and women held posts in the board of deacons and trustees. There were a few women that I was drawn to almost immediately.
I submit that there are two kinds of ministers: ministers who’ve been hurt by the church, and ministers who haven’t been hurt by the church, yet. I suppose you could apply this bifurcation to any group of persons.
A couple of weeks ago I led a workshop at the Festival of Homiletics called The Word in a 140-Character World: Faithful Preaching in the Digital Age. It was a variation on the Spirituality in the Smartphone Age material I’ve been presenting for a while now. I speak and write a lot about technology, and at the heart of much of my work is discernment.
Worship doesn’t always work. It doesn’t work when your student pianist can’t get through a whole hymn verse without stopping and starting three times. Or when the toddler who accidentally bumps his head drowns out your sermon’s climactic crescendo with his screams. Or when your congregation, who faithfully shows up Sunday morning after a long weekend of mission projects, only has enough energy left to go through the motions. Worship experiences are certainly not all under our control. I work hard at worship, though, because I believe it deserves my hard work.
Years ago I was turned onto a quote from my friend Amy’s Facebook page. I remember reading it over and over again back then— thinking about how true the paradox was. Life is full of both beautiful and terrible things. But, lately I think of these words all the time: This is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) That, folks, is the worst verse in all of holy scripture. Many Christians, though, love it. I hate it.