Saturday, February 26, 2005

15 Minutes

Carrie and I were recently featured in an article for the Diocese of Pittsburgh website. If you are interested in reading it, click here. This will also give you a chance to see the MAJOR upgrade to the diocessan website. Great job diocese of PGH media staff!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Purpose of Sunday Worship

What is the purpose of the principle Sunday service in a Christian community? I suppose that depends on the specific community, but what should it be. Is it a good idea to make Sunday worship into "seeker" friendly evangelism? Is Sunday worship even a viable option for bringing people into the church. I would like to propose an historical answer to this debate.

In the earliest days of Christianity, the Eucharist was the main weekly service in a Christian community. When this took place, the service happened in two parts; the service of the word and the eucharist itself. This is roughly similar to the service found today in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Historically, if you were not baptized you were made to leave the room directly after the service of the word where the person leading the service would say, "The doors, the doors." Thus the Eucharist itself was only for the believers in the congregation. This divide became even more pronounced when Christians began to be persecuted for their beliefs. The privacy of community worship became a matter not just of theology and belief but of life and death.

So what makes us think today that we should use the liturgy for the Eucharist in a seeker friendly way. It seems that this would water down the significance of this form of worship for the members of the church while remaining rather cryptic to "seekers". Would it be better to make a point of having "seeker" friendly events during the week so that we could reserve the Eucharist for our baptized members?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Injustice to Social Justice

I have become more and more aware this year of the injustice that conservative Christians have been doing to social justice. It seems that "social justice" has become a code word for "liberal church." While this may be true now, I certainly don't think it should be. Matthew chapter 25 talks about how at the last day the sheep will be separated from the goats. The main criteria for this separation seems to be based entirely on justice issues (feeding the poor, clothing the naked etc.). This is certainly not the entire message of the Gospel, but we must not forget that it is part of that message. Remember the words of Isaiah as he proclaims the coming of the Messiah:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;*
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;*
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn; (Is 61:1,2, ESV)

I believe the historical root of this problem began in the middle of the 20th century when the more liberal side of the church began to throw out all of the message of the Gospel leaving only the parts about social justice. I, along with many others, would call this the "Social Gospel" and it is not at all what I see as good teaching. It is an injustice to the Gospel as it makes Jesus into a mere moral teacher and not the Christ, the Son of God. As a result of this Social Gospel, conservatives began to distance themselves from work with the poor becasue they saw this work as associated with a liberal agenda.

I believe that it is important for us to return to biblical Christianity for whatever that means. We cannot cease proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the way, the truth, and the life. This also means, however, that we must do those things which he taught us to do. We need not be scared of what the liberals do or don't do, instead we need to concern ourselves with what God calls US to do.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentines Day

I just wanted to remind the world that in six short months I will be marrying the most wonderful, loving, caring, beautiful, Godly woman that I have ever been blessed to know. I love you Carrie and I cannot wait to marry you!


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ash Wednesday

Before you read this post, you might want to check out the following biblical passages:

Isaiah 58:1-12
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Disclaimer: The following post is not intended to condemn the practice of Ash Wednesday observance, it is simply a reflection of something that popped into my head while at church this morning!

If you are wondering what these passages have in common, they are the lectionary texts that we read every year on Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent). The thing that I find somewhat ironic is that both the Isaiah reading and the one from Matthew seem to contradict the main practice of this holy day, the imposition of ashes. The reading from Isaiah talks about how God doesn't desire for people to fast by dressing in sackcloth and ashes, rather it suggests that God would prefer a fast that involves sharing bread with the hungary and clothing those who are naked.

Similarly, the passage from Matthew warns us to, "beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your father who is in heaven." It then continues to say that when you fast you should not look like you are fasting, and when you pray you should do so behind closed doors. The Ash Wednesday practice, however, is to wear ashes on your forehead all day.

Again, I am not saying that we should abandon the practice of the imposition of Ashes, in fact, I think it is one of the better things that we observe each year. I am saying, however, that we need to think critically about what it is that we are doing. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of 40 days of introspection and reflection. The idea is that we need to look at those places in our spiritual life that are the most dirty and to ask for forgiveness. I would argue that the imposistion of ashes could be a valuable tool in that process. However, I think it would be wise to pay attention to the words of Isaiah. Maybe we should end our Ash Wednesday service by going out into the world and doing something for the cause of social justice!

I pray that you would have a holy Ash Wednesday wherever you are!

Sunday, February 06, 2005


It is just about impossible to be a Christian without doing so in the context of a community of believers. I know that the darkest times in my life have been those during which I was not actively connected with a church. I think that much of my difficulty with last semester had to do with the fact that Carrie and I had not yet found a consistent place to worship each Sunday. Now that we have started to settle into Christ Chruch in White Fish Bay, I am feeling much more at ease.

So much of what Jesus did in his ministry on earth had to do with building communities that worshiped together and that loved and cared for one another. I suppose I have always known this, but recently it seems to be jumping out at me from all kinds of different angles. I have been thinking a lot about various ways that one might go about planting a church. I am starting to think that the best way to reach unchurched people would be through small Christian communities that demonstrate the love of Christ. These don't even have to look like churches, in fact it might be better if they didn't!

You can preach the need for a relationship with Jesus all day long, but I think more people would respond to a small, loving group of Christians who demonstrate that love. St. Francis said that we should preach the gospel always but that we should only use words when necessary. I think there is a lot of value in this assertion. No one can be the body of Christ by themself, this is too large a burden. If we carry the burden together, however, we can be much more effective.

Blog Stability

OK, I think I may be done making changes for awhile. This is the new blog, and I think I will leave it right here, the template may continue to change, but this is where it should be located.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A New Beginning

Well folks, I have gotten entirely too fed up with comment spam. It is for this reason that I have decided to join the thousands of other people who already use blogger. I am already impressed, the ease of use it amazing! Also anything that keeps comment spam out of my blog is fine by me!

With this new beginning will also, I hope, come a new zeal for posting. I know I have said this before, but I really mean it this time:)