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October 31, 2016, 6:00 AM

No Separation of Praying and Living

As we wind the Church year down (ending on November 26), thoughts turn inward and reflective as the fall light dims and temperatures beckon firelight.  A constant theme in Jesus’ preaching, especially in Luke’s gospel, is the nearness of the kingdom of God - it is “within you,” we are told.  In other words, God is present, not just in the monumental events that shape human history, but in even the most menial daily tasks unseen by the eyes of culture and history, from the epitome of humility that Jesus demonstrated by his acceptance of the cross to washing a cup.  We see that theme played out again and again in Christian traditions from traditional English to the “earthy” Celtic.

John Keble (1792-1866), Anglican priest and a founder of the Oxford Movement (or the “Tractarians”) who was noted for his devoting to recalling the Church to its ancient sacramental heritage, wrote:

The trivial round, the common task,

Would furnish all we ought to ask;

Room to deny ourselves; a road

To bring us, daily, nearer God.

Seek we no more; content with these,

Let present Rapture, Comfort, Ease,

As Heaven shall bid them, come and go;

The secret this of Rest below.

Only, O Lord, in thy dear love

Fit us for perfect rest above;

And help us, this and every day,

To live more nearly as we pray.

Esther DeWaal noted in The Celtic Way of Prayer that the Celts “learned that there was no separation of praying and living.”  She offers a glimpse of this inseparableness from an ancient source:

God with me lying down,

God with me rising up,

God with me in each ray of light,

Nor I a ray of joy without Him,

     Nor one ray without Him.

Christ with me sleeping,

Christ with me waking,

Christ with me watching,

Every day and night,

     Every day and night.

God with me protecting,

The Lord with me directing,

The Spirit with me strengthening,

For ever and for evermore,

     Ever and evermore, Amen.

            Chief if Chiefs.  Amen.

Fall’s dimming light and a beckoning fire summon to deeper reflection of the kingdom of God within.  There is no separation of praying and living, nothing too monumental or too trivial to honor God if done in “earthy” faith.




August 31, 2016, 12:00 AM

I am clueless about social media, but maybe you can help me out here.

I am clueless when it comes to social media.  Until last month, I was not on any type of social media, including Facebook.  Even now, I’m still trying to figure it all out and what I want to be on social media for and how I can use it for something other than telling people where I have lunch on a given day. 

As I’ve noted a number of times in various forums recently, we are not just moving toward, but are already in, a post-institutional era in the Church in which a rapidly growing number of people claim no affiliation with any faith tradition.  After millennia, the Church in a position it has never been in before and few leaders in the Church know to respond, imperiling the Church’s mission.  So, I’ve done a ton of study about social media lately and even met with the diocesan communications guru to help me through the questions because what my study revealed is that I am missing a monumental opportunity for St. Paul’s and the gospel by not being on social media.  (This, by the way, is also part of the reason why I’m taking the Marketing 101 class at Ivy Tech this fall semester.)

Within a few hours of creating my Facebook page, I started getting all kinds of friend requests.  I wasn’t expecting to “go live” just yet, not until I got a better handle on it, so here is what I posted for the time being (you can go check out the Page): “Glad to be getting so many friend requests, but I have no idea what I'm doing!  I'm working with a diocesan person this morning to get a handle on all this social media stuff, especially because I want to do so much more than just tell you what I had for lunch (yea - or is it yay? - Chipotle!).  Actually, maybe you can help me with this.  I want to focus on something like "God moments" or providing a different vision for life from all the fear-mongering and violence we see every day.  I'm open to ideas - but guess I gotta friend you before I can get such feedback.  Stay tuned.”

So…I remain clueless, but maybe you can help me out.  What do you think social media, and in particular my use of social media, should be, especially for the Church and the gospel?




August 1, 2016, 9:02 AM

A different vision: living wildly for God

Living wildly for God.  I write this during my week at Waycross, the theme for the week being living wildly for God; that is, in the midst of so much that would seem so contrary to what God envisioned for God’s human creation - all the fear and greed and hate and violence that seems to be becoming so much more the norm than the exception - that we do something wild for God an offer a different vision.

One of the activities I had the campers do was to build a human modern sculpture, an abstract piece of living art that came out of the memory verse for the day: Acts 4:1, 4 - When they were all gathered together in one place, all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.  The point being, if they are able to all come together in one place (at Waycross) and be brave enough to stand up on front of the rest of camp and cooperate (love one another) enough to build that sculpture, they can do the same thing anywhere they go and thus offer the world a vision of cooperation and courage and love.

That is the value of doing things like this with young people: they are the ones coming behind us to lead.  But it is our job to lead them, so there is really no difference for any of us who claim the Christian faith as the basis for our life’s work.  Things like the recent shootings in Orlando and Dallas, the massacre in Nice, France, the increasing threat from heroin and meth even in Columbus, and countless other such events are beyond comprehension and are at a level we have never seen before.  It calls for us to look at that and ask ourselves what our faith compels us to do.  I mean, how wild would it be when someone spews venom toward another person or is doing something to tear this world down for us to take a cue from the campers at Waycross and build a living piece of art that says, “We will cooperate with one another; we will have the courage to stand where there is injustice or violence; when hate seems to be winning the day, we will offer this world a different vision and love as we have been loved by God”?

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July 1, 2016, 12:00 AM

How Can I Serve You Better?

I mentioned in a sermon last month that we are down by more than two hundred in worship attendance compared to this time last year.  Easter was essentially at the end of spring break and it’s like people left for spring break and didn’t come back.  It seems to be part of the general trend beleaguering the Christian faith in this day and age in which the institutional church - the structures and hierarchies of organized religion - are holding waning appeal for a rapidly growing number of people.  That is definitely a trend that has led to much of my recent personal study (for example, on generational characteristics and use of social media) because, as I said in that sermon, I don’t preach a gospel of fear, but I do fear for the preaching of the gospel.  Fewer people to proclaim good news by word and example, fewer people to hear and experience the good news.  Long and short of it, we are not just moving toward, but are already in a post-institutional era, though we are still operating like the world revolves around the church, as it once did.  What is alarming is the impact it is having and will continue to have on St. Paul’s.

I know how to operate in the institutional church model.  All of us do because that is what we were raised in and how the Church has operated for decades, indeed centuries.  But the Church is now in a place it has never been before, uncharted territory, and few of us really have a good idea (any idea) of what model will resonate with the masses, largely because that model has yet to be formed.  In one sense, that is quite exciting because our generation (in the broad sense, meaning any active in the Church, leadership or otherwise) gets to develop what the Church will be for coming generations who are formed by technology: social media, on-demand, consumerism, entertainment, artificial intelligence...  But not if the trend as noted above continues.

So I’d really like to know, just among those of us who claim St. Paul’s as our church home (especially those whom we are seeing less and less of): What will draw you (back) into community?  What do you need to form you into mature disciples of the risen Christ?  What would interest you enough to (re)engage in the mission of the Church?  I am here to serve.  How can I serve you better?

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May 30, 2016, 12:00 AM

No, because... or Yes, if...

No, because… or Yes, if…  That is the difference between getting mired in the status quo or being proactive in the mission to proclaim the gospel in the 21st century.

Think about No, because…  There are always a hundred (a thousand) reasons not to do something: not enough money, not enough people, not enough energy, not enough, not enough, not enough - of anything.  It is approaching mission and leadership from a position of scarcity, of fear, of not trusting God’s Holy Spirit to inspire us to creative ideas and the resources to see them through.  It stops conversation before it even gets started.  Nothing left to do but, often with a sense of desperation, try to hang on to what once was - the status quo.  Trouble is, that’s not working out too well for the Church.  The decline of the importance of faith begun in the 1960s is seeing its inevitable outcome in the rapidly increasing numbers of people who have had no exposure to the life the gospel has to offer, no interest in whatever goes on in that old building over in that neighborhood.  (The percentage of people claiming no affiliation to any faith tradition - the Nones - has doubled in just the past seven years).

And the Church’s response?  How can we reach out to people who already aren’t interested when we’re struggling just to pay the light bill (or to keep the columns from crumbling)?  Meet people where they are with the good news of God in Christ?  No, because it may mean things can’t be the way I’m accustomed to.  No, because we don’t have the money, no because we don’t have the resources, no, because there isn’t enough…  End of conversation, end of proclaiming good news, and honestly, because without adjusting to ministry in the 21st century, what we know and love about our faith won’t even continue - end of the status quo.

Now think about Yes, if…  We still don’t have any more money than we did before, we still don’t have any more resources than we did at the beginning of this sentence, much less any more energy.  But if the proclamation of good news is still the primary purpose of the Christian faith - of Christians in the expression of their faith - then what happens when we engage mission and leadership in the 21st century from a position of abundance and hope and trust.  We still have all the same issues, but it allows God’s Holy Spirit to inspire us to creative ideas and often unexpected resources to see them through. 

Can we reach out to people who already aren’t interested when we’re struggling just to pay the light bill (or to keep the columns from crumbling)?  Yes, if we are careful about our priorities and adjust them accordingly.  Can we meet people where they are with the good news of God in Christ in a way the will resonate in the 21st century without losing what we know and love about our faith and has grounded the Church through the centuries?  Yes, if we are willing to allow the Spirit to help us become accustomed to ways of ministry and worship that is inspiring to a broader spectrum of people than just for myself.  Is it possible to stem the tide of the now decades-old decline of the Church that is reaching fever pitch?  Yes, if our money, resources and energy are directed toward being proactive in our mission to proclaim the gospel rather than getting mired in maintaining the status quo (that otherwise won’t be maintained anyway).  No, because… or Yes, if…  That is the difference.

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