The night is coming to a close. The books are tucked away and sleeping. The beagle is downstairs trying to talk her way out of a night in the box. And I have a few moments to look back over the day.
Did I walk today the Jesus walked?
Okay, did I take one or two steps the way he did?
This is a new way of putting the question as I pray my bedtime prayers. It seems much more pointed than the way I have done these reflections in the past. Oddly, it has even less wiggle room to let me off the hook for my sloppy and slothful ways.
Did you walk today as Jesus walked or did you walk the way of someone else?
Had Abraham not had faith, then Sarah would surely have died of sorrow, and Abraham, dull with grief, instead of understanding the fulfillment, would have smiled at it as at a youthful dream. But Abraham believed, and therefore, he was young; for he who always hopes for the best becomes old, deceived by life, and he who is always prepared for the worst becomes old prematurely; but he who has faith retains eternal youth.
– Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
From The Violence of Love, a collection of the words of Roman Catholic Bishop Oscar Romero:
How beautiful will be the day when all the baptized understand that their work, their job, is a priestly work; that just as I celebrate Mass at this altar, so each carpenter celebrates Mass at his workbench, and each metalworker, each professional, each doctor with a scalpel, the market woman at her stand, is performing priestly office! How many cabdrivers, I know, listen to this message there in their cabs; you are a priest at the wheel, my friend, if you work with honesty, consecrating that taxi of yours to God, bearing a message of peace and love to the passengers who ride in your cab.
From Gregory the Great’s The Book of Pastoral Rule:
No one does more harm in the Church than he who has the title or rank of holiness and act perversely. This is because no layperson presumes to refute the delinquent. Moreover, because such a sinner is honored by the dignity of is rank, his offenses spread considerably by way of example.
Evangelical and Arminian Baptist Roger Olson offers his perspective on the vitality in the mainline, including this observation about megachurches.
I have lived in quite a few American cities and have observed growing old-line denomination churches—some of them bursting at the seams. In almost every case they are charismatic or evangelical ethos-wise and exist in some tension with the hierarchy and especially the liberal theologians of their own denominations.
And here is his observation of one of our main ills.
All that is to say, much of the vitality of old-line Protestantism has faded due to the loss of an adequate spiritual-theological center. Old-line Protestant denominations have absorbed one aspect of American culture so completely that it is killing them—tolerance. And here by “tolerance” I mean fear of objecting to anything except intolerance.
I’d be interested in particular to your take on his suggestions at the end of his post.
Here’s an interesting and complicated study by the Public Religion Research Institute looking at religion, politics, and economic views of Americans. It has too much information for me to analyze here, but you are encouraged to give it a read.
I do want to share one quotation that interested me:
Religious progressives and religious conservatives also hold different views about what being a religious person means. Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) religious progressives say being a religious person is mostly about doing the right thing, compared to 16% who say it is about holding the right beliefs. By contrast, a majority (54%) of religious conservatives say being a religious person is primarily about having the right beliefs, compared with less than 4-in-10 (38%) who say it is mostly about doing the right thing.
The numbers are not surprising, but as someone who reads a lot of John Wesley’s writings, I notice that both categories miss what Wesley argued was most important. Indeed, he often wrote that religion was hardly at all about right beliefs or doing the right outward actions. Religion, he said, was about loving the right persons (God and neighbor) and being transformed by that love.
I wonder if the survey had categories for that kind of response.
Posted in a public place by about a review of the new Superman movie. The review puts an emphasis on the Messiah themes and images from the film.
I think this is why I have never liked Superman. He is a Jesus figure who is not really like the Jesus I prefer at all. He’s the Jesus that most dominionist Christians want- bumbling around saving people but not really relating to people at all-an alien. The Jesus I prefer is more human (but still divine).
I’ve been trying recently to hear the way people talk about their faith. This caught my attention because of that.
My life is full of 30-minute delays: The times when 30 minutes after I have a conversation, I realize something important that I wish I had noticed or said in the moment.
I can’t provide many details of my last case. It involved a pastoral encounter. The summary is this: 30 minutes after it was over, I realized that my focus had been on earthly concerns and comfort rather than eternal issues. I’d dealt with clay jar concerns and neglected the treasure inside.
Pondering this, I was reminded of one of the pieces of John Wesley’s writings that sticks with me.
I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity!
These words have been on this blog since its creation. But how easily I forget them. How easy it is to treat people as just so many animals moving from birth to death. But they will live in eternity after this life is over. And as a pastor, it is my task to help guide them to a happy destiny. Salvation begins in this life, but extends forever.
This observation does not lead me to conclude I should be out screaming in the streets or even that I should press people in clumsy ways. But I do fear I am too often more interested in earthly comfort than eternal destiny.
Have I done what I can and should to make sure people I encounter do not drop into eternity unprepared? Do I act as if the last line of the Apostles Creed is actually true?
A pastor at the Church Leaders site writes about what he sees as the problems with “accountability groups.” In short, his critique is that they lack grace, often are poor environments for true conversation, do not achieve results, and can be easily gamed by those who want to avoid their true purpose.
His solution is to focus on grace, building each other up, distributed leadership, and establishing groups of various sizes for various tasks. The last item would include larger groups for more general accountability and smaller, more intimate groups for real deep sharing.
Is it just me, or does it sound like this fellow just described early Methodism?
William Birch is a Calvinist turned Arminian, a strong believer in biblical inerrancy, and man who, in his own words, struggles with same-sex attraction.
He has written a post on the last issue, but reflecting all three. I will return to it and read it again many times, I predict. Since I do not at the moment have a well-formed reaction to it, I simply link here for your reading.