I’m taking a class on the Gospel of Luke this semester, and one of my assignments is to engage in an ongoing spiritual practice related to that particular Gospel. So for the entire semester I am reading the Magnificat daily. It’s a passage that I’ve been drawn to in recent years, but it has been particularly illuminating to be dwelling on it during Lent this year, since it is typically confined to the Advent season. Somehow the triumphal language of the justice that God has already accomplished fits with the modern treatment of Advent as a celebratory season. But Lent is a season of penance, which puts an entirely different spin on the text.
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Recently I had a conversation with one of the young parents in my congregation. We were having a far-reaching discussion that included Sunday School, next summer's Vacation Bible School Program, and the changing nature of our culture and church attendance. When I offered the idea that "going to church" is not as culturally normal now as it was when I was growing up, she replied, "That's right! I think we are the only ones who go to church among all of our friends." She continued that she knew that her friends had a wide variety of opinions and emotions regarding faith, from some who clearly were not interested, to others who were more ambivalent. I blurted out, "So, you're sort of like missionaries to your friends." I immediately regretted the statement.
Two articles crossed my screen recently about the Internet and its effect on community.
Which is to say: all I have is stories. I noticed a young family gone absent from worship. She is a gifted musician and actress; they have two young children. She did a benefit concert here once full of wonderful musical numbers; all the proceeds went to cancer research. I had been somewhat connected with them and eventually found her on Facebook, where I noticed that her religious affiliation was "atheist." Oh.
When I became a stay-at-home father several years ago, I slowly realized that all the theology I had studied in seminary, if I were honest, didn’t connect with my new reality of diapers, spit-up and frozen breast milk.
It was after a funeral. I was sitting with a couple who were visiting our congregation, but it turned out they had connections with my husband's church, so we began to chat. And (here's where I get fuzzy) I don't know how this came up or what I said exactly, but I must have said something about "the historical view" or "the critical view" of the Bible, and they both got this stricken, deer-in-the-headlights look.