Archive for May, 2015

An Afternoon in Kensington

Friday, May 29th, 2015

“Tensions we manage.  Problems we solve.”  I don’t know there are that many problems we ever truly “solve.”  I do know there are ways to manage the many tensions we face both in ourselves and in our communities.

Spent a sunny, hot Wednesday afternoon with an incredible group.  Tagged along.  Their goal … to serve the addicted and homeless in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, arguably the most blighted and drug infested section of our city.   Not there to solve the problem.  But there to shed a bit of light in the form of small care bags, bottled water, sandwhiches, a kind word.  The kind of light Christ asks to walk in, asks us to offer.

Three “rules” for that walk…. (Secrets of Heaven 1844)

  1. Love God
  2. Love Others
  3. Oppose Hatred
Pretty simple.  And a profound way to move through life.

Work and Wait

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Perseverance.  A gift.

With all things we love, we can expect those very things to be attacked.  The greater the love, the greater the attack.  That I believe is why so many of us struggle in marriage and struggle with family.  Imagine it this way … hard to get upset about those things where we are at best indifferent.  Easy to get upset about things around which we care a great deal.

Enter perseverance.

Perseverance simply says “Stick with it.”  It calls us to trust in God’s bigger story, in God’s larger truth.  It moves us beyond the fog of emotion, distortion, anxiety, and obsessiveness and simply says “work” and “wait.”

Perseverance brings us home.

The Decline In Christianity And What We Can Do About It

Friday, May 15th, 2015

A recent study by the Pew Foundation noted a widely commented on phenomena – that Christianity is declining in the United States.

None of the results of the survey surprise.

So for those who find in Christianity a life giving faith, humbly pointing outward in service, embedded with the ability to not only transform lives but society, what is there to do?

Some would answer – time for church to change. Agreed.  There is much to change.  Andy Stanley’s poignant line, “Most churches are answering questions people are not asking” summarizes neatly the bedrock claim to change. Churches tend to wed themselves to a certain liturgical approach well divorced from the needs of the congregation.  That approach in turn becomes the reason d’etre for the church’s existence as it seeks to define itself not by its interface with the world but by its form of worship.  So churches and the pastors that lead them bear a degree of responsibility to change.

Others would answer – time for parishioners to change.  Time for us to reclaim that Christianity is a religion of service and of sacrifice.  Sacrifice is a hard claim given our cultural penchant for consumerism and a desired “ease-of-use” Christianity where there is little behind the curtain.  Where little is asked and the easiest way to build a church appears to be the greased and easy way of the prosperity gospel.  So parishioners bear a degree of responsibility to change.

And what would I answer?  What do I believe we can do?

Lets live it.  Lets live this faith.

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. (Matt. 5:41)


Can we trust God?

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Obviously, the simply answer is “yes.”

But how?  What does trust look like?  How can we trust when much of our world and much of lives appears so deeply broken?

Maybe part of the answer is understanding trust differently.

Starts, possibly, with this.  Trusting and testing – two different things.  Trusting God is not a matter of laying out our “case” and seeing if God comes through.  That speaks too much of our agenda and leaves too little room for God’s.  It also makes God’s love a completely conditional endeavor.

Trusting is more then a matter of the heart.

Swedenborg, in writing of Christ, held that He completely trusted in an ultimate victory.  However that trust was not built on a case.   It was based on intention. The intention … “salvation of the entire human race … motivated by pure love.”  (Secrets of Heaven 1812)


So trust can be felt, trust can come come alive when we turn, when we recenter our lives around purposeful love.  Recenter our lives on extending care. Extending care out into the world.   A movement away from testing and towards trusting.

There is so much as a pastor for which there are no answers.  And even where answers fail, trust still lives.

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

The Nature of Failure and Ministry

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Much is being written today on the nature of failure and ministry.

One author, after attending a church growth seminar, noted how the presentations were “flawless and the drive home crappy” because the polished and glitzy nature of those very presentations left him feeling guilty, insecure, and an utter failure.

Through bruising loss and set back upon set back, this pastor came to see that the goal should not be “success” but “faithfulness” – faithfulness to the mission regardless of outcome.  What occurred in turn for him was a rather profound transformation where the dominoes of (a) failure followed by rejection followed by shame were replaced with (b) failure that led to yielding that led to acceptance that led to an honoring.

Pastoring, in the end, at its best, is about helping us all to value the right things, to heed and hear God’s voice, to do the work God has given us to do.  First things first.  Remembering why.  Why we are here – a loving faithfulness to God and other. Calling us to faithfully do this thing called “church.”



What if it were really all that simple?

Friday, May 8th, 2015

How does God see different faiths?  The New Church perspective …

God does not differentiate religious movements by their doctrine … but by the way their members live what is taught.  All doctrine – if it is true doctrine – looks to a life of love as its fundamental principle.  What is the point of doctrine but to teach us how to be human?   [If we put] love for God and serving others as the chief concern of faith… one church would come out off all the different churches … and the Lord’s kingdom would come on earth. (Secrets of Heaven 1799)

What if it were really that simple?