Thursday, December 21, 2006
Let us pray for all those, throughout the world, who believe in the Gospel:
That they may grow in grace and humanity.
Let us also pray for all churches, that they may not lay up treasures on earth or become
monuments to a past age,
Clinging to what is already dead and remote from people of today,
But that they may be converted and receive the spirit of Jesus, our Lord,
who is the light and life, hope and peace of this world, for ever and ever.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Yesterday while traveling along coastal Maine I passed what looked like a church building with a big sign outside proclaiming “pictures with Santa”. I was moving along and didn’t see if it was an active church or just a church like building turned into something else.
What struck me was the juxtaposition of a religious building and Santa. This symbolic joining crystallized in my mind what I’ve know for a long time; Santa and Christmas are perfect representatives of our cultural religion. If we step aside and pay attention we can see it plainly. The Holiday celebration now fully represents our cultural values and beliefs. These include the necessity to buy things, the spiritual satisfaction of gift giving and getting, the appropriateness of over-spending to name a few.
A colleague of mine shared the news story at the end of this blog. Briefly, the Hillsboro, NH, Christmas Tea was cancelled after the pastor of the church hosting the event asked to read the Christmas story from the gospels along with “The Night Before Christmas.” The quote below comes from an article published by the Concord Monitor (see the link below):
"Andrea Kaubris, administrative assistant to the Chamber of Commerce, said sponsoring a religious event would violate the Chamber's bylaws, which require it to remain nonsectarian. Even though the holiday is Christian, Kaubris said the celebration is "a commercialized treatment of Christmas just because that's what the whole Christmas season has come to. It's about the kids, and it's about the merchants in town."
Rather than bemoan the loss of Christmas to the culture, I suggest we reclaim it in our homes and churches. Let the culture have its Holiday celebration, but let us offer something different. Let us offer Christ, Emmanuel. Leave Santa and all his trappings to the culture and offer the real Hope of the World to our communities.
Let us use this time as an opening to share the good news. For many know the secular holiday does not satisfy their spiritual need. Buying lots of things does not fill the hole in our soul. Christmas parties does not quench our longing for true community. Mistletoe does not meet our needs for intimate relationships.
We are bearers of the light of Christ, heralds of Hope, voices crying out in the wilderness for the people of our community and world. There is still time in this season to find ways to share the coming of Christ to others. How will you celebrate Emanuel? Will others see the difference?
Grace & Peace,
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Below is a news story in the Chicago Tribune which has me thinking. It is about Larry Stewart, secret Santa. I do not know his religious preference or if he even has any. What I do recognize is his desire to bring joy, unexpected joy, to people in the Christmas season. Take a look at the article.
While I have grave concerns about the commercialism of this time of year and about Santa, I am moved by the acts of generosity which we often witness between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This season seems to call out the best and the worst in us. We will read stories like Larry’s as well as stories of fist fights in store isles over some popular toy.
Forget Kriss Kringle-- Santa's name is Larry
By Maria Sudekum Fisher
November 20, 2006
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For 26 years, a man known only as Secret Santa has roamed the
streets every December quietly giving people money.
He started with $5 and $10 bills. As his fortune grew, so did the gifts. In recent years, Secret
Santa has been handing out $100 bills to people in thrift stores, diners and parking lots.
So far he's given out about $1.3 million. It's been a long-held holiday mystery: Who is Secret Santa?
But now, weak from chemotherapy and armed with a desire to pass on his belief in random
kindness, Secret Santa has decided it's time to reveal his identity.
He is Larry Stewart, a 58-year-old businessman from the Kansas City suburb of Lee's
Summit, Mo., who made his millions in cable television and long-distance telephone service.
His holiday giving started in December 1979, when he was nursing his wounds at a drive-in
restaurant after getting fired.
"It was cold and this carhop didn't have on a very big jacket, and I thought to myself, `I think
I got it bad. She's out there in this cold making nickels and dimes,"' he said.
He gave her $20 and told her to keep the change.
"And suddenly I saw her lips begin to tremble and tears begin to flow down her cheeks. She
said, `Sir, you have no idea what this means to me."'
Stewart went to the bank that day and took out $200. He's hit the streets each December
He allowed the news media to tag along. Reporters had to agree to guard his identity and not name his company.
NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus will join Stewart this year in Chicago when Stewart hands out $100s in honor of Buck
O'Neil, the first African-American coach in the major league baseball.
Doctors told Stewart in April that he had cancer of the esophagus and it had spread to his liver.
Now Stewart wants to inspire others to be generous. "That's what we're here for," he says, "to help other people out."
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
As I travel around to local churches I am often struck by the difference I find in congregations. It has little to do with the order of worship, the condition of the church building, the size of the congregation or the geographic location.
When I enter a church and watch the interaction of its participants I look for signs of joy.
Is there laughter in the air? Do they seem to have fun? Do they take themselves too seriously? Do I find JOY breaking out among them.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
The scene is repeated in some form across many of our churches. Groups of teens and young adults congregate, in parking lots, on church lawns or front steps. Sometimes they are noisy. Sometimes they are skateboarding. Sometimes they are smoking. They talk, they joke around, they run around, they listen to loud music.Some where unusual clothing, sport physics defying hairdos,
Adults are often intimidated by them. Usually someone tries to run them off. We talk about them in negative ways We strategize how to get them to change or adapt to us or to leave. .
What if we saw those kids not as a nuisance, but as an opportunity? What if we thought of them as the most important people in our community?
What if? What if we saw them as Jesus waiting outside our doors?
What if we made it our mission to reach those precious children of God? Why, we might just change our communities. I know it would change us and our congregations.
What if you decided today to make it your mission?
Grace & Peace,
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The congregation began visioning for the future. A realtor reminded them of the significant equity they had in their property. On the east side of town significant growth was projected. After a process that was less than perfect, but well intentioned they came to a time of vote to stay or not. The vote to move passed by 2 votes! They decided to move forward with the move and when they did, a third of the congregation stayed behind.
There has to be ways for congregations to make quicker decisions, while allowing time to discern and build consensus. Do you have ideas about this? How has it worked in your experience?
I do not have any simple answers. But just wanted to share my ruminations.
What do you think?
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Friday, August 4, 2006
I have no intention to even try to summarize or capture all that is happening. Rather, here are some random thoughts and musings.
Perhaps we need to hear that for ourselves; Do not be afraid.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
(If no one comes to mind for you, then I challenge you to begin looking in your neighborhood, in your church, at work, at school, wherever you spend time. They are out there.)
Thursday, July 27, 2006
The week was tiring and rewarding. We were on the go much of the day. Each adult counselor shared responsibility for the safety and nurture of each camper. My most commonly used phrases included:
“It is time to quiet down.”
“Put down that stick.”
“Wow that looks great!”
“Please pass the______.” ,
“You guys were great!”
I think you get the idea. Camp counseling for me is an exercise of offering nurture and grace while keeping the campers safe. Sometimes a difficult task. It seemed the kids that were the most challenging were often the kids who needed love, acceptance and grace the most.
He had a hard time staying with the group. More than once we were dispatched to find him, after he had disappeared. It is not that he sought to be difficult, but rather he marched to a different drummer than the rest of us.
Friday, June 16, 2006