Archive for October, 2013

One Year Ago: Sandy

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

One year ago we sat through Sandy.  As a young boy growing up in Pittsburgh, Hurricane Agnes, 1972, was a seminal event.  My memory of Sandy is a strange one … watching kegs of beer float down the Allegheny river from a street in Freeport Pennsylvania.

For much of this generation, Hurricane Sandy will form the same indelible mark.

The memories though for me are far different for Sandy than for Agnes.  They are memories of the ways in which people stepped up.  As a 7 year old in 1972, much of that was lost on me.  One simply can’t see human need in the same way as a child vs. as an adult (and maybe that is a God-given protection).   That stepping up took the form of Jenny and Delana’s supply drive, several trips to the area, the last which included a Christmas party dinner of pizza, beer, and fellowship.

So yes there are tragedies.  And yes there is the human spirit.  A spirit that speaks confidently into those events like Sandy that there is a great connection, one person to another, that is blessed and greater than any storm.

The Taliban Approach

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Many of us carry anxiety with us around the current Federal Government shut down and the dangerously close proximity of default.

I labor as a pastor wondering what to write, what not to write, how to speak for the church without being political etc… Numerous loyalties swirl through my head.

So what do I know and what do I think God calls pastors to say?  I think what needs spoken to is the ugliness that fundamentalism in all its forms, political or religious, creates.  Such fundamentalism is the scorch-and-burn politics so rife in the metaphorical Taliban approach.    And I believe that fundamentalism is property of the right and the left.

The only way out of that dilema, that dividing of the field as it were, is vision.  ”Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  (Prov. 29:18)  That means where there is vision, the people come alive.  Where there is vision, we transcend fundamentalism.

None of that is easy.  Creating and then communicating vision is difficult.  Allowing the graceful space for self-generated buy-in is even more difficult.  Yet that is where the future lies.  The church’s role in that arena can settle into a unique space … except when we author the Taliban approach ourselves.

We are living, in the religious world, within that tension between fundamentalism on the one hand and on the other, the new forms being born.  Very interesting isn’t it to think that Pope Francis and 16-year-old child activist Malala Yousufzai essentially, underneath their specific agendas, so obviously carrying the same DNA forward.  Both are deservedly cast more and more into the role of our current moral thought leaders.  And they both speak to the freeing nature of a loving faith, not the fundamentalist nature of faith more interested in judgment than healing.

Their thought echoes the New Church perspective that God’s love in us grows as we grow to love ALL of God’s creation, every human being.   That vision extends us well beyond fundamentalism.  That vision, obviously, does not balance the budget, save Obama’care or make best friends of political enemies.  What it does do is point us to something higher than the petty camps we so readily divide into.  That is the space from which solutions grow.

The Blessed Inefficiency of Religion

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Our lives are often consumed with “efficiency” – how to fit more into less. Time in this view is a bully, robbing from us, stealing from us.  Never enough.

And then we try to add “religion” onto that flawed model.  Faith then becomes one more thing to do with no time to do it, one more addition to the growing list.  Alongside of Sunday morning soccer for the kids, it doesn’t fare so well at that “efficiency” game.

I want to speak to faith and church being something different.   I want to speak to the blessings of inefficiency.  The fact is that there are clearly more productive ways to spend a Sunday morning than at worship or a weekday night in a small group.   Religious activities are no doubt inefficient.

But so is reading a book when the last chapter will reveal the answer

Or  allowing the 2 hour arc to play out in a movie instead of fast forwarding to the climatic ending

Or simply taking the time to listen one another.

As Seth Godin noted in citing the above, “In fact, you could do that, but when you do, you’ve surrendered to efficiency and lost some life, some surprise and a lot of growth.”

So maybe try a little disciplined “inefficiency” and see what happens.  When we step out of the efficiency trap, miracles can happen.

Sitting in the Old Church Reminded Me of Pittsburgh

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

I had seen the sign for months … “Chapel Open 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.”  And I went.

The chapel was empty.  Few lights on.  One small sign-in book.  One line read “I come almost every morning”, the next line, the most recent entry, written a week ago was a simple name.

And the smell hit me.  For those who attended generational churches, remember the smell?  Slightly musty, wood, paper. Beauty.

Yes I find God deeply in those places, in those old churches, now brokenheartedly vacant.

I looked at the windows, each beautiful, each lovingly inscribed at the bottom with “in honor of.”  No doubt this empty room filled that day in 1928 when Randolph Edmond Mason was laid to rest.

And it might sound strange but I am sad for those days … I sat in that church for awhile.  And in the same degree I am sad, to that same yet opposite degree I am excited about church being rediscovered.  As Christians, we cannot live outside of resurrection, that things do indeed die but that a loving God brings from those ashes life, a “resurrection assumption” that keeps hope even while knowing human endeavors are frail at all times.  Hope and sadness.