Last Sunday, I made a challenge to the congregation that may have caught some people off-guard.
As part of our series on the Sabbath, I challenged people two commitments:
1. Attend worship services every week, even if you are out of town 2. Use a "Releasing Prayer" every night before you go to sleep (see below)
I don't think that people were shocked that a pastor thinks people should attend worship. That is not exactly "breaking news". What caught some people off-guard was the challenge to attend worshipevery week, even if you were out of town. For some, that brought back some dark memories of growing up under some oppressive rules; a kind of religion they are trying to avoid. One of the reasons people like New Hope is because we don't normally approach faith with a lot of Do's and Don'ts. Normally, we want people to attend worship because the want to, not because it is implied that they have to- or even that they are expected to. So why the change?
"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
There are two great traditions after Thanksgiving:
Back Friday and shopping for Christmas
Watching "Its a Wonderful Life"
We have already started the first, now its time to savor the second.
Tomorrow I start a new sermon series, "The Gospel According to George Bailey". For the next four weeks we'll be exploring how the message of Christ is embedded in this film. More than just a sentimental journey, its a chance to rediscover the heart of Christmas and the key to a life that is truly wonder-filled.
Two traditions: One is supposed to be good for the economy. The other is definitely good for the soul. Come tend your soul as we begin with, "Searching for a Wonderful Life".
I know this is a little late in the week to be posting quotes from last Sunday, but I have been asked by a couple of folks about the two that I used, so here they are!
The first is from Stanley Hauerwas. He was co-author of a book that changed the way I think about church and ministry in 1989: Resident Aliens. 25 years later and I still think it is one of the most relevant and challenging books I have read about being the church in the modern world. Hauerwas has continued to be prolific and profound. This quote is from his commentary on the gospel of Matthew:
The real challenge of the resurrection is whether we live lives that would make no sense if in fact Jesus had not been raised.
The second quote is from an author I discovered this year. His name is Christian Wiman and the book is, "My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer". I find myself going back to this book time and again.
“The task is not to believe in a life beyond this one, but to perceive it.”
Christianity is more than just embracing a set of beliefs and propositions. It's more than just hoping that someday, God will bring new life. It's about being open to the realities of what God is doing in our midst- right now. It's about living into the possibilities of what God has made possible in Christ.
Do you know what some churches call the Sunday after Easter?
One Sunday is full of energy, celebration and people. The next Sunday typically has the lowest attendance of the year. The energy is low and so are the expectations. Some churches even us Easter as the final big Sunday of the year and start easing into Summer. All the energy has gone into a big celebration, but there isn’t much thought that goes into “what’s next?”
Thankfully, that doesn’t happen at New Hope. This Sunday is anything but “dead” and this season is anything but easing into summer. Last week, I talked about being “open” to a reality that the resurrection made possible. Easter is supposed to be more than just a big holiday. It’s supposed to signal a new beginning. Because of Easter, we can talk about the abundant life and affirm that we were born to be fruitful and fulfilled. Its more than an Easter slogan that we celebrate and then put away until next year.
It takes more than talk. It even takes more than just attending a big holiday. The fruitful and fulfilling life takes effort and intention. The Fruitful and fulfilling life is still a “God Thing” but its not particularly mysterious. There are things that you can do to make “fruitful and fulfilling” more than just a slogan. It can be a way of life. It can be the irrepressible direction of your heart. It really can.
Last Sunday was Easter- and it was terrific. This Sunday begins to answer the question, "Now what?”
Several people have asked about the prayer from Ted Loder that I used in worship on March 2. It is titled, "I Need to Breathe Deeply, Lord" from his book, Guerrillas of Grace and I copied it below. We have used a Loder prayer from time to time in worship, and with good reason. He is a constant source of inspiration.
The second request was from last Sunday (March 9) and the reading I used in the sermon. It was from a piece called "When Christians Love Theology More Than People." It was originally written by Stephen Mattson and relayed through a post by Jerry Kieschnick. If you are familiar with the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, you'll appreciate this even more.
I love finding nuggets of wisdom and insight, and I love passing them on. Enjoy!
+ The poodle in the microwave + Walt Disney had himself cryogenically preserved + The killer in the back seat + The Kidney thieves + Bloody Mary (I'm still not going to say, "you-know-what" in front of a mirror!)
They get told so often that people assume they are true. Usually no harm is done. They make good stories around a campfire. Then there are what I call, “Urban Legends of the Christian Faith.” They are sayings that get repeated so often, we believe they must be true. They sound spiritual and in fact, there is some truth in them. But these Urban Legends do more than just entertain. They can do harm. That is why the sermon series in September is dedicated to setting the record straight on “Urban Legends of the Christian Faith.”
That ‘s the line that weaves its way through and defines, the movie, “The Best, Exotic, Marigold Hotel”- this week’s movie in our Sacred Journey series. It’s a charming movie that raises some tough questions.
Life is definitely not “alright” for the characters in the movie.
They have arrived in India (not because it was on their Bucket List but because they had no choice). They are retirees and none of them could afford the care and housing back home. No one wanted them. As sick and elderly, they were "outsourced" to India. They are lured by the prospect of a grand, luxury hotel in which they might retire, have surgeries, convalesce and perhaps, live out their days in comfort. They arrive only to find that reality doesn’t “quite” match up with the brochure.
Glad you're here! My name is Russ Kane and I have the privilege of being the pastor of an amazing church called, New Hope Presbyterian Church. It's a place where people "Find a Home, Build a Life and Make a Difference." This blog is a journal of our life together. Welcome!