Archive for May, 2011

Working with Others: An Invitation

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Working through our series on work, titled “212″, has been a quite a joy.   Finding purpose at work is important – very clear on that.  And finding purpose at work is not easy.  The challenges grow from an uncertain job market, difficult relationships as well as interests and passions that do not easily align with the task at hand.  And maybe that is where the crux of choice enters – we can move forward leaning into all those anxieties or we can move forward leaning into our strengths and sense of purpose.

Gratitude, as always, plays a key role.  Gratitude opens us up to humility.  Humility, in a brilliant paradox, can allow us to exercise our strengths even more effectively as we start to move from a spirit of self-forgetfullness.   Restated, imagine how much you would be able to offer if the roar of self-conscious criticism were silenced in a healthy way.

So “212″ Part IV hopefully allows a place for gratitude – gratitude for those who have helped us find that sense of purpose.

Below is the email template to send out to those you care to invite:

This video invitation is being sent to you by a friend who sees in you someone who humbly uses their God given gifts to do things one degree differently – moving it from 211 degrees where water bubbles to 212 degrees where water boils.

We want to warmly invite you to join us Sunday June 5th, 10:30 AM, at NewChurch LIVE as we honor the “212′s” in our life and talk about work in terms of giving a gift.

And here is the actual video invite ….

Bring someone who makes a difference!  Send it to the “212′s” in your life.

To High School Seniors in the Class of 2011

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Dear Seniors,

I wanted to take this opportunity to just share a few thoughts as well as wish you all the best moving forward.  I want to start with what you already know – these are uncertain times.  A recent survey noted the following.

In the survey, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010,” involving more than 200,000 incoming full-time students at four-year colleges: The emotional health of college freshmen — who feel buffeted by the recession and stressed by the pressures of high school — has declined to the lowest level since an annual survey of incoming students started collecting data 25 years ago.

So what is one to do?  The answer is relatively simple – “figure it out.”  We just will figure it out.  To figure it out takes passion, creativity, forethought, curiosity.  I believe it will also take us engaging spiritual resources in a new way.

The concept of “quality of life” as an economic term is ending.  “Quality of life” will be increasingly determined by other factors.  Enter God.  His Kingdom seeks to be born on this earth.  New Church Christianity is not an “evacuation” strategy for leaving this earth and its worries behind.  It is a strategy for engaging this earth, allowing His Kingdom to descend into life – “As in heaven, so upon the earth.”  There is your job!

He put you on this planet at this time simply because you are part of the answer.  Maybe, just maybe you are here to be part of a new generation that will figure it out.   With a big smile, I can say quite honestly, I think you are just that!

When you run low on fuel, NewChurch LIVE is here to support you.  Watch online. Listen to a podcast.  Stay in touch.  We wish you all the best, we wish you a blessed future.


Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

We broke the current series – “212″ – into 4 sections.  The first was to look at Strengths and how they may be God’s way of pointing us to Purpose.  The second part of the series looked a simple concept – God guides us through the opportunities He gives to us.  The tasks then, listed, are the following.

  1. What are your Strengths?
  2. How might they point you to your God given Purpose?
  3. What are the Opportunities in front of you RIGHT NOW to exercise those Strengths as a way of furthering Purpose?

As a minister, we need to take our own medicine.  So I started listing all the opportunities in my life, right now, to exercise with humility God given strengths in a purposeful way.  The list was jaw dropping because it took a minute or two to notice that (a) the opportunities were endless and (b) I was only leveraging a small percentage of the ones open to me.

No small thing.  See there is heaven in that place.  From the book Heavenly Secrets: “Since angels … are in goodness from God, they desire nothing more than to perform useful services. These bring joy to their life … and happiness.”   The ah hah was simple and profound.  What God is saying is that through that joyous endeavor to reach out and serve in the areas open to us, life pours, and with that life comes joy and happiness.  Leaning into opportunity is more than getting ahead, more than building a resume.  It is actually life, heavenly life.

We may be limited in terms of the opportunities we have eyes to see.  That being said, the opportunities God gives us are limitless. Then maybe in some odd way we become, in God’s Grace, the Strength, the Purpose, the Opportunity.

Join us this Sunday in a full family service (no KidsLIVE) as we look at overcoming the obstacles that get in the way of us moving those opportunities forward.

How Do I Find My God-Given Gifts?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

We search for purpose in our lives.  How do we find purpose?  How do we find what we were created to be?  Look at your God-given strengths. Those strengths – the finger prints of God – will point you towards your purpose.

I have used “Authentic Happiness” for years as a way of discovering strengths.

  1. Go to the “Authentic Happiness” website.
  2. Register (Top Right)
  3. Take the “VIA Signature Strengths Survey”
  4. Print up your top 5 Strengths
  5. Discuss with someone how these might connect to your purpose in life.  Remember your purpose may be connected or it might not.

A Sermon for Graduating Seniors

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Below is a sermon I will be giving to graduating Seniors at the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn.

Senior Blessing Service 2011

Welcome to the Senior Blessing Service.  Our goal here is to welcome you to the adult life of the church.  That may sound very lofty.  It is not.  Welcoming you to the adult life of the church is welcoming you to reality.

Of course there are other realities – many, many of which are currently up for question.  You are entering a world very different from the realities of several decades ago.  At that point, the path was clear – college, career, pension, retirement, Florida.  For many of the women, that would include a long time at home with children.

The reality is different.  People are less satisfied with their work – lowest satisfaction every measured according to one survey, accompanied by the highest stress level every measured for incoming freshmen.[1] Record stress going into college.  Record job dissatisfaction at work.   Add in global warming, population explosion, wars in the Middle East  – you are going to get dinged somewhere along the line.  What is a graduating senior to do?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6: 19-21)

You might then say – ‘But wait, that is not “real.”  Jobs, checking accounts, college – those are “real.”  Church is nice and all but …’

And you can choose that – Mammon that is real, and a church that is “nice but….”  As the New Church so beautifully notes, you are free.  And that freedom extends the whole way to what is “real.”  You will create your own reality.  Just please do so carefully.  You cannot serve God and Mammon.[2]

What is a “mammon” reality?  It is the belief that your worth is directly tied to your finances, you job, and your stuff – a false god.  I can say absolutely, in the end, all those will disappoint.  They cannot give you happiness.  They can give you the means to do incredible things for your family and others in this world but that is a different proposition.  In and of themselves, money, careers, and possessions will disappoint.  (Layoffs)

And that is wonderful news!  Because they WILL disappoint – not might, not probably, but will.  The call is to find that rock on which to build our house.  Welcome to the God reality.

God’s reality is one that acknowledges that we need to make a living etc… but that making a living is far different than actual living.   Actual living is serving – putting our lives into God’s hands, seeking His will, finding where He is at work in the world and seeking to fill that need.  Money, career, and possessions then assume their rightful place as of secondary concern/ as means to useful service.

The faster your generation can get to that God place the better for all of us I deeply believe.

Dig to the Purpose.   I speak here not of “purpose” in a light way but purpose in its deepest sense.  You need to answer that question – What is your purpose?  You will employ that answer in everything you do and we spend precious little time considering its import.  “Every love has a purpose.”  (TCR)  You are a form of love.  Trust me, you have a purpose.   Find it, find it, find it.  (Pause of 30 seconds – light 3 candles)

Finding that purpose, digging into it, entering it not as a consumer but as a producer – that is entering the life of the church.  We often confuse church with buildings, and sacraments, and statements of belief.  But church is where the Lord is known.  It is where deep compassion and wise love are exercised in service to higher purposes.  Buildings, sacraments, beliefs are there to support those processes.   They are not the goal though.

I want to close by sharing an example of the importance of entering into your life’s work, into the God reality, into the adult life of the church.  Several years ago I read an article about a retiring Hall of Fame Football Player.  The question posed to him was “What do you want inscribed on your tombstone ?”  He said something to the effect of “He spoke to the meaning of God for his generation.”  Now there is purpose!  I think you are a bunch of future Hall of Famers.  You have been blessed with a unique education and a deeply transformative Christian faith.  Speak to the meaning of God for your generation.  Don’t just speak it with words.  Speak it with your whole being – with everything you are.

[1] The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s survey, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010

[2] Mammon: False god of riches and avarise

“Love Wins”

Friday, May 13th, 2011

The changes in Christianity are immense.  Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins”, may just be as this author notes a “game changer.”  I love that idea because Bell’s concept so clearly resonates with many of the core concepts of New Church Christianity.  There is a bigger picture.  Change is occurring in the New Church and throughout Christianity.  It is a change to be embraced.

A Game Changer

May 04, 2011 by John M. Buchanan

When an attendee of Rob Bell’s congregation said that he was certain that Gandhi is in hell, Bell responded, “Really? Gandhi’s in hell? We have confirmation of this? Somebody knows this? Without a doubt?”

Some of Bell’s evangelical brothers and sisters are horrified by his wavering on the doctrine of hell, and Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theo logical Seminary, says Bell’s new book, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, is “theologically disastrous.” “When you adopt universalism . . . you don’t need the church, and you don’t need Christ, and you don’t need the cross. . . . This is the tragedy of nonjudgmental mainline liberalism.”

But Peter Marty, who writes about Bell in this issue, believes that Bell is on to something important—maybe even something game-changing. And as Bell himself says, “[I've] long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian. . . . Something new is in the air.”

Something new is happening. Denominations are struggling to discover new ways to be church. New partnerships are formed between different Christians who share a common sense of mission, and people of every faith are struggling to relate to people of other faiths in a world that has brought us into closer contact than ever before. Within Protestant Christianity, Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are examples of leaders who graciously reach across the old conservative-liberal theological divide to make common cause with others concerned for a just society and an authentic, respectful evangelism.

It distresses me when people on my side of the divide are accused of arriving at our theological and ethical positions out of a desire to be politically correct instead of out of vigorous study of scripture and theology. It’s also a mistake to lump conservative evangelicals together and accuse them of narrowness and bigotry. I come to my positions on ordination and sexual orientation, reproductive choice, health care and relations with people of other faiths not in spite of scripture but because my study of scripture leads, nudges and prods me. Maybe both sides need to stop relying on generalizations and unkind accusations and give the other the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he or she takes scripture and biblical authority seriously.

Rob Bell is accused of universalism when he imagines Gandhi in heaven. Any of us is subject to the same kind of accusation whenever we suggest a little less certainty and judgmentalism about whom God finally favors and blesses. The point is that when some of us come to that new openness it is not because we ignore the Bible but because we are compelled by scripture’s certainty about God’s steadfast love, the amazing grace of Jesus Christ and St. Paul’s assurance that in Jesus Christ, God intends to reconcile all things.

When the great theologian Karl Barth was charged with being a universalist, he reportedly denied it, but then quoted 1 John: “Christ died for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” If you are worried about universalism, said Barth, “you had better begin worrying about the Bible.”

Hope and Optimism

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

As is important to note, “Church is a decision to hope and an invitation into the imperfect.”

“Hope” and “Optimism” can be held as slightly different phenomena.  I have met people – and I can be one – with an almost compulsive need to be optimistic.  I don’t like hearing sad stories.  I even struggle to remain in my seat during a sad movie – which means I see about 2 movies a year.  That saccharine”optimism” masks frankly a discomfort with pain and struggle. I am challenged by looking at it “in the eye.”  Ministry is shifting that in time but it is often a struggle.

And what I am learning is that I can sit with others who are in pain, who struggle, and see a deep hope grow in areas where I, in my human smallness, could not imagine hope taking root. And this hope is a sober and at the same time generative hope – one that is able to witness the struggle of life as well as God’s calming and compassionate hand gently holding lives in turmoil.

The miracle for me is that I can decide to hope!   And if I decide to hope, I can then face the imperfect not with a response that recoils from pain, but with response that is able to access compassion – a word literally meaning to “suffer with.”  This hope goes a place where simplistic optimism never could.

Life is filled with hope, if that is the decision we choose to make.  We are after all in the Presence of God – a Presence that deeply loves us and continually calls us home.  That love remains regardless of circumstance – a secret found most profoundly in those whose lives have suffered trials of fire.   To know is to know the imperfect and to know a soul deep, a bone deep hope.

So in that spirit of hope, take 15 minutes and enjoy this short video!

Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I want to honor the challenges and blessings of parenting. As one author, on the birth of  child, we hear rounds of congratulations.  What we don’t hear are the rounds of truth telling, that yes, it is time for congratulations, and a time to acknowledge a new degree of vulnerability, born into one’s life right along with that child.  From that point on, a piece of our heart will be walking the earth.

And what we learn of love over that time, is incredible.  Imagine how it starts – mother and child – each looking deeply into each other’s eyes.  There is a communion there that is unique to motherhood.  I know I could observe it but it was not mine – it was my wife’s and our beautiful children’s.  That love though must move over the years from the back-and-forth of the mother-child bond to something far greater.  It will break out of that circle, sometimes gracefully and sometimes not. And what is born in that breaking is a greater love rippling out beyond that particular relationship.

So happy Mother’s Day!  From the single moms, to the struggling moms, to the moms who woke on Mother’s Day to breakfast in bed, we wish you God’s blessing.  May we be reminded of Mother Teresa’s Quote, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”  That is the very engine of motherhood.

Osama Bin Laden

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

What a surprise to wake with the news that Osama Bin Laden had finally been located and killed. The news for me frankly was not one of joy, but of saddness.  The sadness grows from realizing the immense toll violence and hatred takes on the human condition.

I remember teaching secondary school students about Bin Laden and terrorism using the “9/11 Report.”  What struck me most was his resolute rejection of all things Western, all things non-Muslim, and all concept of political solution.  That type of fundamentalism – Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Atheist – is ugly regardless of its source.

So what are we do?  How we are to hold days like today?  For some there may be place to celebrate.  That being said, I believe more strongly that it is a time for prayer.  Evil is a real force.  It is not imaginary or made up.  Evil seeks destruction.  It practices deceit and intolerance.  And our first response must be to always guard against it growth not just in the world but within ourselves.  Celebration that comes from a warped desire to rejoice over vengeance speaks to our lower selves, the part in us that separates the world into “us” and “them” – a place that finds no space for compassion.  The line between vengeance and justice is slim.  It is difficult to argue that Bin Laden’s death did not serve the interests of justice.  But if vengeance creeps into our hearts, what then has “won?”

My prayer is for deep compassion.  My prayer is not only for the 1,000′s who perished on 9/11 but for the blood shed that that depraved act unleashed.   My prayer is for our country, that it may keep its heart.  My prayer is for the world that in this Easter season we find in Christ a message of reconciliation, a world in which the “Lion and Lamb shall lay down together.”  And as prayers end – may there be peace.