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A Dying Church

The Easter Cross at the Table

I appreciate my friend Karakay Kovaly for pointing me to this excellent read by Mark Yaconelli about the state of church in the US and how a lot of faith communities are struggling to keep up with our fasted pace culture. One of the key paragraphs for me is this one:

Because, hidden beneath its anxiety to keep up with the culture, hidden beneath its grief and disorientation, there is a deeper problem: This church doesn’t know how beautiful it is. The people of this church have somehow been tricked into believing the lie that declining memberships, outdated hymns, prayers, and liturgies that use antiquated language equal some sort of spiritual failing. If this church would only embrace its sense of failure, it might be freed up to find that it holds great treasures.

I’m the first one to admit that the way the Table worships has its strengths and weaknesses. We don’t have the budget or focus to make a slick presentation. We get a little disorganized, have mics that go bad, or start a song in the wrong tempo from time to time. Often, it is the simplest and surprising of things that connect with people, not the elaborate theological constructs and experiments that we labor hours on. We are just people after all, who are doing our best to encounter and point to this Being beyond us who has given us a sense of hope and guidance in this life. More often than not, we over complicate everything.

Dying is scary, but one of those deep rivets that runs through our faith is that death is not final… just another beginning. Out of death, new life mysteriously emerges. That’s one of the stories of Easter. Even if you believe that Jesus probably didn’t come back to life, we still contend that this movement of people experienced something so unforgettable and life changing through this person that it has continued to this day. In the end, it’s just people, struggling, grasping, celebrating, hoping, and yearning for that new life to take deep root in their life and in the world all around.

For anyone who checks us out or joins the pub for an evening, I hope they see that first. When I look at our gathered crowd on a Sunday morn or around the table on a Tuesday night, it is what I see – a beautiful people, a beautiful church. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve such a group of folks and join in the process of dying to the brokenness of my life so that something whole and new emerges.

Stand Up

We’re doing this tune on Sunday as an alternative Palm Sunday piece, but we will close our service with “Were You There” to move us into the pain and suffering of Holy Week. I love finding different music that breathes new life into the traditions and scripture of our worship. Credit really goes to Doug over at his blog. Awesome work.

Is Easter all about heaven?

Hi, I'm Nathan, and I'm being attacked by a bear.Tonight, as our pub group chewed on questions of heaven and hell, I got to thinking – is Easter all about heaven?

Easter is typically a day for apologetics, the defense or explanation of faith. Lots of people darken the doors of church even if they don’t show up for the rest of year, so that might make sense. The common themes of Easter are good ones – resurrection, new life, promises, angels, victory over death, come from behind victories, and heaven. The basic modern story of the Christian faith is repeated – believe in Jesus, and experience eternal life.

Of course, in this new postmodern or post-postmodern world (whatever all that means), some of those basic assumptions are being questioned. Like – what do we really know about heaven? What do we really know about hell? Are some of those ideas really grounded in scripture? Is being a Christian really all about eternal life?

I guess I am sort of thinking out loud here, but I might suggest some alternatives to deepen our understanding of Easter.

For example, while I have not read it, I love the title of Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. What a cool couple of words to summarize Easter! Yes, Jesus conquered death, but in the bigger picture, God’s love overcame all obstacles… and won.

Dr. Dan Moseley, retired professor from Christian Theological Seminary, preached an amazing Easter sermon at National City Christian Church a few years back about lingering in our pain, using the examples of Mary and Peter returning to the tomb after the death of Jesus. As they acknowledged that pain, as they vented it, new life suddenly emerged. Their eyes were opened.

Or finally, Easter as an event that calls us to reorder our lives. If death is not the final arbiter, if evil’s power becomes muted in the presence of God, and if life emerges even out of the deep pain and chaos of our lives, then how do we live differently? Isn’t the world turned upside down?

Wow. Deep thoughts, late on a Tuesday.

I think you may hear some of that this coming Sunday at Easter, as we all struggle to hear and respond to Resurrection happening in our lives and world, every single day.


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