How Inspirational Is That!

This weekend marks the third anniversary of the launch of NewChurch LIVE.  And what a 3 years it has been. We launched with the all the energy and emotion that so often accompanies a new endeavor.  Since then, as is true for all of life, there have been bright days and dark.   And words fails to describe the blessedness of it all.

At times, God’s works is subtle.  Other times not so much.  The fact that we mark our third anniversary with a service honoring vets with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) seems like God at His not-so-subtle best.  When we launched NewChurch LIVE, this kind of service in some unarticulated way was where we were being led.

Several months ago, in planning our Memorial Day program,  we began the conversation with our guest speaker, Sgt. Matthew Pennington. He was pointed about the need to have support present for vets and their families as part of Memorial Day weekend if he was to speak.  In other words, the Sunday service could not just be a “speech.”  There had to be support and follow up.  Church had to be a Monday morning church.  It was wonderful fielding his questions knowing that that is exactly what you – members of this congregation – are all about.

I say this in the spirit of gratitude.  I likewise offer with a sense of imperative.  Admittedly I am more a pastor than a theologian, more drawn to counseling than academia.   However, I want to share the direction Christian New Church theology clearly points because it the direction we will continue to go.  So putting on a theologian’s hat for a minute …..

Christian New Church theology, centered on the Bible with supporting canon penned by Emanuel Swedenborg, clearly warns about worship/ church divorcing itself from the soul of service.  Such an endeavor becomes a “shell” as it were of what faith could be.  And that “hollowing out” is dangerous, not benign.  The descriptors used by Swedenborg to capture the quality of those kinds of endeavors are stark.  He writes of their lack of simple human kindness and their penchant to “examine and … judge everyone and [they] crave nothing more than to find evil, constantly bent as they are on condemning and punishing … others.”  (Secrets of Heaven, 1079)

That is one stark warning.  And it is NOT a warning about atheism but about misguided religion.  It is a warning to churches about churches who divorce faith from charity, and therefore in terms of religious “practice” focus on the external forms of worship with no thought of deeper realities or activities.

But we get to choose something different.  We get to choose to build a church with a soul – where the external forms are married to a soul of service.  From that place, a place of radical inclusion and hospitality grows, a place “guided by kindness.”  Such a church fills with souls who “hardly even notice the evil in another but pay attention instead to everything good and true in the person.  When [others] do anything bad or false they put a good interpretation on it.  This characterizes angels – a characteristic they acquire from the Lord, who bends everything bad to good.”  How inspirational is that!  It is a place from which to offer the simple call – Lets continue getting a church like that born.

 

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