Failure Matters

December 8th, 2017

In a challenging era of adaptive change, where the future of churches arguably relies on the increased growth of a service-oriented centeredness, community, curiosity, and experimentation as opposed to a solely Sunday-oriented theology, congregation, certainty, and tradition, we need to comfortably sit with this … that failure matters.

Working hard enough, embracing change, calling us all back both to the center of our faith and at the same time calling us out into the world … all this means we will fail.

Hopefully failing forward, and hopefully coming to embrace that “failure matters” because the mission matters enough for us to try hard enough that we will be met with failure time and time again.

Failure (and the fear of failure) gives you a chance to have a voice….

Because failure frightens people who care less than you do.

Seth Godin

On the other side of failures lies resilience and discovery.  A “stilling of the waters.”   A peace-filled voice saying in one of my favorite passages of scripture, “This is the Way.  Walk in it.”

Sometimes a Picture is Worth 1000 Words

December 5th, 2017

Sometimes a picture is actually worth a 1000 words.  This picture is…

This is Bill and Carol.  Married 50 years. Celebrating that threshold with friends and family at a church service in Sarver, Pennsylvania, my hometown.

I know this … that at the end of work done well, there is this preciousness, this realization of the very deep goodness of life.   And that “end of the work” circles right back into what is new and alive.

So we gathered that day.  We heard from Billy, from Hank, from Kate.  There was laughter and tears.  Cherished memories. A group blessing.  “All joy is a remembering.” And this sure was that.

How did Christianity Outlast the Roman Empire?

December 1st, 2017

A big question.

By the time of Christ’s death, his followers had been winnowed down, by some estimates, to around 125.

Yet that group grew.  Flourished. Not as revolutionaries and rebels in a military sense but as ambassadors.  Ambassadors to a new way of being.

How did Christianity Outlast the Roman Empire?

  1. Christians just kept telling a better story
  2. Christians just kept living a better story
That story starts at Christmas.

What does gratitude actually DO?

November 20th, 2017

What Gratitude DOES….

As Thanksgiving approaches with all it deep feelings around gratitude, I have been thinking a great deal about two things.

First, how do we continue to speak to gratitude, to list our blessings, even the one’s that come in broken circumstances?

And second, if we can somehow attach our souls, open our souls to gratitude, how would we then live? In other words what does gratitude DO in our lives?

Imagine a Thanksgiving table…

  • Round I … what are you thankful for?
  • Round II … and what are going to do with that?

Gratitude is an emotion, true. But it is also an action. Powerful to witness those who feel that deep gratitude for the gifts life has to offer, and then in turn move that gratitude out there into the world in all kinds of life giving ways.

If I believe life is fundamentally good … even in the broken places.  If I notice the gifts … even when times appear dark.  Then maybe it is time, with a smile, and with my beloved, to ask what is it that gratitude DOES?

A thankful soul is a giving soul.

Caring vs. Outrage

November 10th, 2017

We are clearly called to care.   As Emanuel Swedenborg noted…

“All spiritual truths focus on caring as their fundamental principle and their aim. The teachings of the church are pointless unless they have caring as their goal…. Worshipping God means living a life of caring.”

And a fine point, a fine line exists between caring and outrage.

Outrage may move us to care.  But outrage is never an end in itself.

Outrage can never take the place of care and the healing actions we are called to take, actions that are the point of it all.

A long, angry tome of outrage on Facebook does little to move the world.  Love in action, however, does.


Faith separated from goodwill kills

November 1st, 2017

A simple formulation…

Faith separated from goodwill kills everything. Faith united to goodwill brings everything to life. (True Christianity 365)

Goodwill is magic.  Goodwill enlivens the faith that heals.

Goodwill is not merely a nice add-on but a critical driver in the spiritual journey.

“Faith separated from goodwill kills” … we saw those words made true in yesterday’s terrorist attack in New York City.

We see those words true in our own lives anytime we give into a more figurative homicidal impulse to “kill” another.

And the solution is right there… Faith united to goodwill brings everything to life.

Courage.  May faith communities embody goodwill so deeply and courageously that healing comes.


The Quietness of Faith

October 26th, 2017

Faith is a quiet, important endeavor.

It matters in this slow, deep way of a silent companion… a choice to do important work.

Important work is easily dismissed by the audience. It involves change and risk and thought.

Popular work resonates with the people who already like what you do.

Viral work is what happens when the audience can’t stop talking about what you did.

Every once in awhile, all three things will co-exist, but odds are, you’re going to need to choose.

Seth Godin

Solving Problems vs. the Search for Scapegoats

October 17th, 2017

I loved a recent article by Kelly Oliver. In that article she shared a significant point…

… outrage, censoring and public shaming has begun to replace critique, disagreement and debate.

Much of that outrage, censoring and public shaming stems from a human propensity to scapegoat vs. a disciplined dedication to solving problems.  I might capture the scapegoating view this way, “If the problem is “out there”, my only option, given I can do nothing about it, is outrage.”

And yet, as Christians, we are asked to engage.  The whole concept of “incarnation” is based on engagement, on the spiritual joined to the natural, realized in the here and now, “As in heaven, so upon the earth.”

For those in the New Church, that embodiment runs from the high and mighty endeavors of our lives to the mundane and simple.  Integrity.

Maybe this… maybe we are here, as a church, to be a place where we can recapture a sober yet powerful approach to solving problems.  Doing so of course means embracing the discomfort of “critique, disagreement, and debate.”  And it means also embracing this simple Swedenborgian concept … that love in action is what remains.  Somehow those two combine … the work AND the hope.

Nothing easy there.  But it sure beats scapegoating where nothing happens because the fault always outside our power to be agents of change as God gives us to see it.

What can you do?  Join us.  That simple.

Forgiveness? Las Vegas?

October 2nd, 2017

We awoke today to the heart breaking news around Las Vegas. Tragic. Senseless.

It is hard to hold.

And how does forgiveness fit in? How can we start on that path when an event so raw and unnerving leaves us reeling?

The answer simply is that I don’t know.

I imagine however, from a Christian perspective, the best we can do starts small with grieving the loss. Moves to helping in the ways we feel God is calling us to help. And connecting as best we can with those we love … a reminder of the deep preciousness of life.

As Christians, our God is not a God of vengeance. Our God is a God who faces the very worse of humanity, as seen in the story of Easter crucifixion, with the fragility we can so readily connect with at times like these, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” as well the very best of God-given depth we can connect with captured in these words, “God forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Both doubt and forgiveness, part of the Easter crucifixion story.

Doubt and forgiveness, part of our story too.

And as Anne Lamott so poignantly reminds us, that despite all the darkness in the world, grace will always bat last.

That I know to be true.


Christianity and the Art of Hospitality

August 31st, 2017

So maybe the Christian message, in one simple form, can be heard as this … In coming to understand God’s love for us, we work as best we can to reflect or share that love using Christ as a model.

And that life does give a model, a clear model.  And key to it … the art of hospitality.

That hospitality in turn may possibly be the most radical of Christian practices.

The challenge is straightforward…

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you  (Matt. 5:44)

And the practices are very real, brought together in Communion and Christ washing the feet of this 12 closest followers.

Table fellowship.  Service. With those we like and with those we don’t. With those similar to us and those not. With saints and with sinners.

There is no “out” in this for liberals.  There is no “out” in this for conservatives. There is no place for cynicism.  No place for anger.

All there is is an “us” and moving forward, as best we can, in the challenging spirit of love and reconciliation.