Oct 23 2014

nashvillian pastoral: our morning cocktail

Are your mornings too stressful?  Trying to get kids up, dressed, fed, washed, not killing each other?  Trying to get your teeth brushed, coffee drunk, make sure you have your shirt on right side out and remembered to comb your hair?  Or…

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/our-morning-cocktail/

Oct 23 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Why Not To Go To Church: Is This Pew Taken?

Disclaimer for Members of St. Luke UMC and Shipman Chapel: This musing arose from a comment I heard outside of the church earlier this week. This comment was not about a specific congregation or a particular pew. It was a general observation. I will not ask you to change seats this Sunday. I will not institute assigned seating. This is the first in a series of posts intended simply to make all of us, in local churches and beyond, think about why so many people choose not to attend church.

“I know how churches can be. I wouldn’t want to take anyone’s pew.”

I hear a lot of reasons why people don’t go to church: everything from theological differences to work schedules to football games to a desire to sleep late. What I did not expect to hear was this statement: a fear of entering a new place with new faces and sitting somewhere that someone else regularly sits. Many of us churchgoers probably have stories of being on one or both sides of the pew: as the person uncomfortably sitting where someone else is staring or the person uncomfortably staring at the person who is sitting.

Why do we in the church care so much about where we sit and stand?

Some of our answers to that question are practical. Those with hearing difficulties want to sit closer to the speakers. The person who has to leave during the final hymn to help direct traffic in the parking lot wants to sit towards the back for a less disruptive exit. The parent with a young baby in the nursery wants to be close to the aisle in case the nursery worker comes looking for him or her.

There are also sentimental explanations. The grieving widow wants to sit in the place where she sat for 50 years with her late husband. The great-granddaughter of a charter member sits on the pew given in memory of her relative. We want to sit with our longtime friends, some of whom we only see on Sunday morning.

We also love “our” pews because they are as familiar to us as the Apostle’s Creed or the Doxology. To sit in the same spot with the same people and sing the same songs can be spiritual comfort food. The world may be rapidly changing, but on Sunday morning we discover familiarity in our traditions—which come to include our seating.

All of this to say: I understand why we love our pews. The explanations are as complex as we are because human beings are complicated. But….

Do we love our pews more than we love the people who sit on them?

Are we more concerned with familiarity than we are with hospitality?

I am immensely grateful for the honesty of the non-churchgoer who told me why she didn’t go to church. We laughed about the way we can be about “our” pews. We confessed to the ways that both of us have been territorial about “our spots” in classrooms and churches. But there was a deeper truth in her observation.

She was afraid of causing a disruption.

She halfway expected rejection.

She saw herself as an outsider.

We in the Church have an awesome and difficult responsibility to counter these preconceptions of fear, rejection, and exclusion.

Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. (Mark 4:36, New International Version)

Just as he was: A weary Jesus gets in the boat with no façade.

Just as he was: The disciples welcomed him and organized their journey.

All Jesus needed to be was “just as he was.”

The church needs to be a place where we can be just as we are—and welcome each other just as we are. Through worship, God transforms us to be more than we could be on our own. Worship is not about our power but rather God’s power imparted to us as his hands and feet in the world.

There were no pews on the disciples’ boat, but I do wonder if they had their favorite spots. I wonder if they argued as much about who got to sit where as they did about who would sit at Jesus’ right hand.

A storm arose. Jesus told it to be still. The wind ceased. The water obeyed him. A powerful stillness settled around the boat. The exhausted man who had been sleeping next to the disciples was now the same voice that spoke the water into being at Creation.

When they reached the shore, I doubt that they discussed who had been sitting where.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/why-not-to-go-to-church-is-this-pew-taken/

Oct 23 2014

Allan R. Bevere: The Character of God and the Nature of Scripture: Reading the Bible Incarnationally #5– Fundamentalist and Progressive Interpretations of Scripture are Simply Two Sides of the Same Coin

I’ve been meaning to get back my series on reading the Bible Incarnationally, but I have had other obligations that have prevented me from doing so. The via media Methodists have published a post on rejecting both the fundamentalist and progressive options in reading the Bible. They quote Stanley Hauerwas:

…the debate between fundamentalists and biblical critics is really more a debate between friends who share many of the same assumptions. The most prominent shared assumption is that the interpretation of the biblical texts is not a political process involving questions of power and authority. By privileging the individual interpreter, who is thought capable of discerning the meaning of the text apart form the consideration of the good ends of a community, fundamentalists and biblical critics make the Church incidental.

 The power of this text shows up in an excessive theological conservatism that has transposed fidelity into certitudes that are absolutes about morality as about theology, as though somewhere there are rational formulations that will powerfully veto the human ambiguities so palpable among us. The power of this text also shows up in overstated theological liberalism in which every woman and every man is one’s own pope, in which autonomous freedom becomes a fetish and all notions of communal accountability evaporate into a polite but innocuous mantra of “each to her or his own.”

Indeed, and in so doing both fundamentalists and progressives end up with their own brand of civil religion. James Hunter writes that civil religion is

a diffuse amalgamation of religious values that is synthesized with the civic creeds of the nation; in which the life and mission of the church is conflated with the life and mission of the country. American values are, in substance, biblical prophetic values; American identity is, thus, vaguely Christian identity” (Hunter, To Change the World, p. 145).

The truth of the matter is that both fundamentalist and progressive readings of Scripture have become all too predictable and all too uninteresting. There is indeed a better way. The via media post states it well. “A focus on the person and work of Christ as the primary hermeneutic lens through which to read Scripture thus upends the Pharisees on the left and the right, for whom the only lens is The Agenda.  The teaching and the way of Christ are best determined and lived out in the community of faith, the Church.”

As I have said before, if there are modern day Pharisees, they are not the legalists. They are the fundamentalists and the progressives who functionally reject the way of the cross (Philippians 2:1-11) in favor of the kind of power that marginalizes and seeks to eliminate those who refuse to get with their agenda. Their hermeneutic is indeed determined by their agenda.

Hauerwas is correct. Both approaches to Scripture have corrupted our use of the Bible.

I will address the Incarnational lens and the Old Testament in the next post.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/the-character-of-god-and-the-nature-of-scripture-reading-the-bible-incarnationally-5-fundamentalist-and-progressive-interpretations-of-scripture-are-simply-two-sides-of-the-same-coin/

Oct 23 2014

Rebekah Simon-Peter | Creating healthy, vibrant churches by building bridges of understanding: 3 Ways to Mess Up Worship

There are lots of ways to experience meaningful worship.  And unfortunately, just as many ways to make worship meaningless. In my experience, these are the top 3 ways to mess up worship. Talk about God…but don’t leave space to experience God. Call for silent prayer…then fill up the space with music or rush on to […]

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/3-ways-to-mess-up-worship/

Oct 23 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: Major on the Clear Stuff

I get disturbed when I see people around me disturbed by the latest Bible mystery, or obscure interpretation of prophecy. These things sell books, and bring in offerings, but I don’t think they produce better followers of Jesus.

I don’t have a problem with discussing difficult or controversial passages, but the church has been living [...]

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/major-on-the-clear-stuff/

Oct 23 2014

salvaged faith: Spiritually Blind

I mentioned earlier this week a youth group conversation about Mary Magdalene and demon possession.  There are so many different ways of understanding what demon possession might have been about … Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/spiritually-blind/

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