Archive for April, 2018

The Need to Invite: Thoughts from Rev. Mac Frazier

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Mat. 22:8-10)

The theme of invitations occurs frequently in the Word of the Lord. Sometimes, it is the Lord inviting His people to follow Him. At other times, it is the Lord instructing His people to go out and invite new people. One particular kind of invitation that happens repeatedly is an invitation to a feast.

A feast is a gathering in which people come together to eat and drink with one another, but also to enjoy one another’s company and conversation. At it’s best, a feast is a party in which people grow closer to one another while learning from one another’s perspectives and from one another’s wisdom from experience, while also enjoying nourishing and delightful food and drink. A perfect feast is an event that nourishes both the body and the soul of all who attend.

Feasts in the Word (as in life today) are often held to celebrate some important event, either to commemorate something important from the past (e.g. holy day feasts) or to kick off something wonderful and new (like at a wedding). The greatest of all feasts in the Word is the sharing of the last Passover meal among the disciples, which we commemorate in the church every time we celebrate Holy Supper.

Given all that can be said of feasts, it is not hard to see how a feast in the Word is also a symbol of a key function of the Lord’s kingdom—both of heaven and of the church. Whenever we gather together to worship, to serve others, or to support one another, we are participating in a spiritual feasts.

And feasts don’t work if you don’t invite anyone to come. A party without invitations is a sad affair. But whom should we invite?

Repeatedly, in the Lord’s Word, we are taught that it is not enough to just invite those we are already close with, nor is it good to invite with the idea of benefiting oneself. Rather, we are to go out and invite people who are in need of help, who are outside of our inner circle of comfort, and to do so in a way that focuses on their benefit, not ours.

Friends, there will eventually be no Glenview New Church if we do not get our heads around the idea that it is our responsibility to invite new people in. We can handle some of the “inviting” through things like paid advertising, signs out on the road, and other such impersonal, institutional means. But in the end, the invitations that work the best are the personal ones. A sign, a website, an advertisement—these can’t really communicate love the way a one-on-one conversation can.

Break out of your comfort zone. Try inviting someone.

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” (Luke 14:13-14)

- Mac Frazier

One of the most revolutionary Swedenborgian concepts for us to embrace….

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Emanuel Swedenborg wrote…

Anyone who lives a life of love for others knows everything there is to know about a life of faith.” (Secrets of Heaven, 1798)

That is revolutionary stuff.

What does it mean for me as a Pastor?

  1. The goal of Sundays, small groups, and service is to help people become more loving
  2. We must care for each other, for the planet, for the less fortunate.  “Care” is a primary metric.
  3. Faith must move from historical faith to living faith.  Living faith arrives when the heart comes center, and love then gains its own wisdom
  4. Repentance means ridding ourselves, with God’s help, from what gets in the way of being loving

Of course I want to have a conversation with God and His Word in its many forms.  AND, most importantly, I want to listen with all that I am to the conversation people are having with God.  Their conversation will be different from mine.  It will be beautiful.

What a blessing to discover what people already know of God.  What a grace, as a church, as we share together what other people are doing in the world.

“Solving interesting problems is the best work we can do.”

Monday, April 9th, 2018

I love the line from Seth Godin, “Solving interesting problems is the best work we can do.”  I would add “And building is the best legacy we can leave.”

We live in a culture that appears to have shifted its focus from building things to being entertained by things.  And churches are here to build things!

We face many interesting problems to solve.

  1. What does it look like to serve people in this era of rapid change?
  2. How do we create a viable in-person community when Sundays are no longer a sacred space but a space in which churches compete with hockey, soccer, travel, and online options from Joel Osteen to Rick Warren to Andy Stanley to Joyce Meyer?
  3. How do churches create a rhythm of sustainability?
  4. How do we remain focused outward, embodying the deeply-sourced acceptance latent in the Swedenborgian idea that “the multiplicity of heaven is indescribable.”

These are very real questions.  And the most interesting problem to me is this… How do we embrace and embody the Christian message, seeking to humbly serve God and others as best we can as God gives us to see it?

There are practical questions.  And there are missional questions. Both are interesting.  Both important.  The New Church perspective … solve the big one first and allow the answers to the other questions grow from that place.

Every time we gather on a Sunday, every time we serve together, every time we connect it is an attempt to answer those most interesting questions.  Living our way to the answers we seek.

The ever-present invitation remains this … Solve the interesting problems.  And build.

Hope Restored

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Five stories of hope over the past week…

  1. We planted our Easter Flowers, collected just a week ago, at Interfaith Housing Alliance,  a local homeless shelter. The director proudly showed Angela where the flowers from last year’s planting were coming up.
  2. Harry died at 90.  His last Christmas toy/ present to his two sons? Drones.
  3. In preparing for Minwah’s funeral, a loving wife and mother of two adult sons, her younger son chuckled at the memory at debating with his mother what they would listen to on the way to school – a local FM music channel or “Hooked on Phonics.”
  4. Doing work in a hotel, hearing the cleaner enter the room next year, and talk online to a toddler grandchild while he cleaned the room.  I could not understand a word they said but the joyous tone said it all.
  5. Officiating at our oldest son’s wedding. Seeing a few days later, his wife honored by a local hospital as Julie BLAIR.
All of it Holy.
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Somehow that holiness and hopefulness connect.
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Maybe this is how.  Maybe we can learn learn to see it is all as holy. Even in the broken places, where we travel often, there is always a preciousness hidden somewhere.  In the husbands tears. In the family’s connection.  In the toddler’s laughter.  In the son’s pride.  In memory.
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Holy, holy, holy.
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And hope restored, at least in part, at least for today.
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Honoring the 50th Anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King’s Death

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

So much I could say here.  I know, personally, that MLK’s message deepens with time.  Becomes more and more a miracle over the years.  And a call.

My favorite document … “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.”  Addressed to clergy, lines like those below are always cause for serious soul searching.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

So we honor this anniversary with a moment of thoughtful consideration of a life well lived and an ever-present, pregnant call towards a better world.

Cardinal Virtues

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Christianity, historically, holds to four cardinal virtues.

  1. Fortitude
  2. Temperance
  3. Prudence
  4. Patience
And I love this little word play!  The word “cardinal” goes to the root “cardo” which means “hinge.”  These four cardinal virtues are “hinges” upon which the door of the spiritual life swings.
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The “hinge.” Not the destination.  The “hinge.” Part of the means.  Part of Jesus’ words, “Behold I stand at the door at knock.  If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them.”
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Much of religion confuses love of control vs. love of other people.  In much the same way, it is easy to center on the religious message in regards to moral virtue as the be all and end all of all spirituality. But it is not.  Moral virtue is a means to an end and the end is always, always love.
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The door matters.  And so do the hinges.  Both there to move us to where we deeply desire, in our souls, to be.
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