So Close

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Apr 272011

I'm glad we let you live, Gracie!

Though Get Low is not mentioned in this article, according to the writer there’s one thing we should have done differently and we would be considered “great Southern writers.” We should have killed the mule. I can’t see how that would have done much for us. I think it was a pretty great movie as it was and killing the mule wouldn’t have changed that. Still, it’s an entertaining read.

So close. Bummer.

Podcast: Easter

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Apr 242011

It took the early Christians three hundred years to figure out what it meant that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter. We, too, are all trying to figure it out. As we look at the Easter story today, we will see what those who were there did. How they reacted tells us how our lives, today, can be impacted by Jesus resurrection. If we let them be.

The Insanity of Easter

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Apr 202011

Imagine you had two big days at work every year. You knew they were coming long in advance. How would you prepare? Would you rest up your energy, get focused, and make sure you did your best and could capitalize on those big days? Or would you schedule a bunch of extra things in the weeks leading up to it so that you were so tired and drained by the time they arrived that you were just glad they were over? 

How most pastors feel after Easter

The answer is obviously the former, but many of us pastors do the latter. That’s definitely how we do it in my denomination, which is Lutheran. We schedule extra worships, Bible studies, all kinds of things to make the time before Easter, called “Lent,” special for the people in our churches. And it is.  So is Advent, the season before Christmas. In both cases the season before the holiday is special, and that’s great. It really is.

But those two more spiritual seasons before the holiday come at a cost. That cost is that pastors, musicians and other leaders are so burned out by the time Easter and Christmas come that we underperform on those days. We’re  not at our best. We aren’t bricklayers or carpenters, where the more time we put in increases our output. When we’re grumpy, tired and just want it to be over, we don’t do our best. We can’t.

It’s not the people in our churches who miss out. They get our best for weeks before. The people who are infrequently or never part of our church are the ones who miss out. They come only on those days, and they get the fumes because that’s all we have left. As a result, we have no energy to even think about how to capitalize on their brief time with us. You would think  someone would have developed a way to engage the crowds of infrequent attenders that are there those days in a way that would lead them to return soon.  To make Easter and Christmas starts rather than ends. But no one has. Part of that is because it would be very difficult to pull off. I get that. None of us even try, though, because none of us have the energy. We’re too tired. Too relieved. We flop on our couch Easter afternoon and the only prayer we can muster is “Thank you, God, that that’s over.”

Pastors, imagine the amazing sermons you could give on Easter if you hadn’t been killing yourself the last six weeks. Imagine walking into Christmas Eve worship like a thoroughbred at the gate, just waiting for it to spring open so you could deliver the powerful message God had been building inside you for weeks.  That may sound like a fantasy, but I don’t think it has to be. Lutheran pastors have masters degrees. We’re smart people. We ought to be able to figure something out.

But lets do it after Easter, ok?

Podcast: Palm Sunday

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Apr 182011

We all think we know who Jesus is, who God is. The first disciples did. They tried to define Jesus instead of letting Jesus define himself. So did the crowd who welcomed him on Palm Sunday. Letting go of who we think Jesus is, and letting him be who he is, is our topic for today

Sister Wives Aren’t the Ones With the Identity Problem

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Apr 142011

Meri, Robyn, Kody, Janelle and Christine

So the Sister Wives are under investigation. I know what you’re thinking: “You watch ‘Sister Wives?'” I watch it in the same way I watch “Glee”- I sit on the couch while it’s on and it occasionally sucks me in. That’s as far as it goes. When I heard in the fall that they were under investigation, I wasn’t surprised. As Fletch famously said “It’s bigamy. Even in Utah.”  So it took a moment of utter boredom on vacation last week to get me to check on their case. I thought the fact that it was a ‘spiritual’ but not legal ceremony might make a difference. I was wrong. In Utah, cohabitating for long enough to be a common law marriage counts as polygamy. I shouldn’t have been surprised I got it wrong. Our laws regarding sexuality are completely screwy (pun intended). And that it’s not so much the Sister Wives who are screwed up. Instead, it’s us.

Think about it: it’s illegal for Kody Brown, the husband, to have two wives. It’s illegal for him to cohabitate with two women long enough for a common law marriage. But he could be having affairs with a dozen women and it’s legal. Two dozen. Musicians have travelled for years with groupies. Snoop Dogg called them his ‘stable,’ and others have followed. No one has ever been prosecuted for having one groupie, never mind a stable of them. Being committed to four people is illegal, but having sex with a tour bus full of groupies is fine? How’s that make sense? And he could be having affairs with a dozen men, but he can’t marry one of them? That doesn’t make much sense either.

I’ve been thinking about it a bit lately, and here’s what I’ve figured out: I don’t care.

“But pastor!” you might say. “Kody Brown is a bad influence! He’s leading people down the path to immorality!” You could think that if I’m not condemning something, that it’s the same as supporting it. You could think that, but I find that dualistic way of thinking to be a logic train to nowhere. Not speaking against something is not the same as supporting it. But that’s not why I don’t care. I don’t care because for too long in this country, Christians have been known for what they’re against.  Just as anyone who’s not a Christian. They’ll tell you we’re against all sorts of things: drinking, gambling, NYPD Blue, the list goes on and on. All kinds of things. At some point, probably everything.

But who knows what we’re for? Not very many. Not even us. We’re supposed to be generous, caring, loving giving. We’re supposed to be sharing and sacrificing and giving so much it hurts, then giving more. That’s what the early church did. They were know for their positives. We’ve become defined by negatives. They grew like wildfire, and we’re shrinking. Is it any surprise? Who wants to be part of something negative?

At first, I thought this was a brand identity problem. That’s when people have misperceptions about who an organization is. But I don’t think that’s it. I see few Christians who care enough to give even a mitten on a mitten tree. We can barely be bothered to give the poor our old crappy microwave we were going to throw out anyway. But when something offends us, we’ll move heaven and earth to let people know about it. We don’t have a brand identity problem.

It’s just an identity problem.

Christianity needs to rediscover who we are. To focus on what we’re for, not what we’re against. To put grace, love and service above everything else. That’s why I don’t care how many wives some dude in Utah (or Nevada) has. Because I’m too busy being for grace, love and service to waste my time being against this. Or anything else.

Podcast: God Believes in You

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Apr 112011

Could you make dry bones live again? Ezekiel thought there was no way, and that there was no way the people would hear the message God wanted him to speak. Today we explore what God showed Ezekiel about himself, and how that makes room for God to do greater things than we ever imagined.

Podcast: Seeing the Miracle

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Apr 032011

What does it take to have faith? For each person it is different, but all of us, regardless of beliefs, miss obvious signs. We’re human. It happens. Limiting how much it happens by being able to recognize the miracles before us is our topic for today.