My thoughts on life, faith, and ministry in the world.

 

Making Connections

Why do you have faith? Why do you come to church week after week? Why did I see most of you last week at two or three meetings until 8pm? How did you come to darken the doorway of a church for the first time? Why did you stay? Why did you leave come back?

I suspect the answer would change upon when in the course of history you asked someone. In colonial America, the answer to most of those questions would be “it was the only church in town” or “it was the only Presbyterian Church in town”. That is a fair answer. In the 1800’s, it might have been during one of the great revivals or after hearing a great tent preacher that one came to faith. In the early twentieth century with the rise of Sunday school classes, it might have been that “I was invited to a Mariners Class by my next door neighbor.” At other times it would have been because of tracts, door to door evangelism (or door to door Jesus salesmen depending on your perspective), an ad in the newspaper, radio or TV broadcast, a brochure left on the front door, an Alpha course, altar call, church camp experience, youth group, or some combination of all of the above. You might just be a “cradle to grave Christian” and born into the faith.

“Relationships” might be a further answer to all those questions: a vital and hopeful relationship with Jesus Christ and an uplifting and prayerful relationship with others of faith. Relationships led you to faith, grew you in faith, helped you back to faith, and now sustain you in faith daily. Evangelism methods change with the wind, but the common factor is the relationships that are necessary to make them connect.

After all, this was the evangelism method perfected by Christ. It was in relationship with apostles that they came to believe. It was in relationship that the crowds of disciples gathered around Christ. It was communities of faith and love that sent forth individuals to grow faith and connect new communities.

At Connecting Point Presbyterian Church, our mission is to “Connect Christ and community to add faith to life.” We are about building relationships and deepening faith. We are about being that missing connecting point in a our community. How are you feeling called to live this out?

Holy Places

What makes a place holy? What fills a location with meaning? In our modern world, do we even believe that a building can feel properly spiritual? Where does God’s spirit reside today?

Last month when I was in Austin for a seminary event, I had the privilege of worshipping with a group of graduating seniors as they transitioned into ministry. The event did not take place on campus or at the chapel, but offsite at a naturalistic resort and spa in the Hill Country outside of Austin. All the buildings were separate from one another and tucked in the midst of the hills and mesquite trees was a small stone chapel. Surrounding the chapel was a stone wall that created a courtyard with a gate for entry. Running through the courtyard was a small stream that constantly produced the sound of a babbling brook. The isolated chapel itself was built of white limestone with large wood and glass French doors on three sides. The entire chapel could be opened to nature and overlooked hills, valleys, and the dry streams of the Hill Country. It was a magnificent space. A holy space. Truly an oasis in the sea of modern Austin where God’s presence was noticeably present.

Elie Wiesel writes somewhere of a man who while passing by a certain place in the woods stumbles upon God. He bows down and worships his creator in that place and builds a small stone monument to mark the spot of his holy encounter for the future. Years later, the same man ventures into the forest again to find God at that spot. As he treks, he finds neither God nor the stone monument of the original encounter. Saddened, he bows down beside a creek, prays to God and apologizes for not being able to find God once again in the woods. God takes pity on the man and appears to him next to the creek. Again the man marks the space for later. Years pass and again, the man, older now, seeks out God in the woods. After a short, tiring trek, the man finds neither the monument next to the creek nor the original marker. Discouraged, he prays again. Again God appears even though the man was nowhere close to the holy sites of his previous encounters. Wiesel concludes the telling of this story by saying that the holiness was not in the place of the encounters, but in the act of seeking out God faithfully.

In Matthew 18:20, Christ says that “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” I pray that is true as we design our first building as Connecting Point Presbyterian Church and as we make plans for the future. I pray that our effort is rewarded with God’s presence. Over the next two weeks, we will meet Sunday mornings at the Hilton Garden Inn for services and luncheons at our regular worship time of 11am. The purpose of these meetings will be to plot a course together for the future and to meet with the architect as a congregation. The Building Team has made great progress, so far, but now is a great time for input from the congregation, as well.

As we gather together now and for the future may we prayerfully create a space of holiness and encounter with God.

Lines, Lines, Everywhere a Line

"Lines, lines, everywhere a line" the song should have gone. From the line of cars standing still in traffic, the line of people waiting for curbside check-in at the airport, the line of people waiting to check bags at the Southwest ticket counter, the security line, the line at Starbucks, the line at Cinnabon, the line to get on to the plane, everywhere there were lines, long lines, and that was before we even took off. The line for the hotel check-in on Kati and I’s Las Vegas Anniversary Vacation was over an hour long. And we were lucky, the computer went down at another hotel. The line there stretched out of the gigantic hotel and lasted up to 12 hours. Lines, lines, everywhere a line.

I did notice something odd about the lines more this time than normal: those skipping the lines or at least cutting to the front. I travel a good deal and maybe it was the busy summer travel season, but I both envied and loathed, more than usual, the A-listers at the Southwest counter at Dallas-Love Field, the business travelers going through the “short line” at the TSA security checkpoint, and the hotel reward card members skipping the excruciatingly long, Noah’s-ark-two-by-two like line at the hotel check-in. I notoriously hate waiting, but I think there was more to it. I hated the very visible two-class system. The haves and have nots of travel. As I said, I envied them too, but my greater wish was that we would all be in the same boat.

In the big scheme of life, there are people dealing with far greater maladies that having to wait in a line. I get that. I acknowledge that. I also believe that Jesus was talking about far more serious things than waiting in a line to start a vacation when he said that “the last will be first and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16), but that is what came to mind as the line waiting stretched to 30 minutes or more while others “cut” ahead. It brought to mind the great reversals we find in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. I thought about issues of fairness and justice. “Was all this line waiting and line cutting just a giant metaphor for our modern society?”, I wondered. The self-interested getting ahead and leaving behind all the rest of us.

In Matthew 25, it depicts “the Son of Man coming in all his glory and all the angels with him”. This is the scene of Jesus, the great shepherd, separating the sheep from the goats, the righteous from the unrighteous at the second coming. He rewards the righteous: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Today, are we helping one another enough or simply helping ourselves get ahead? We (read: I) envy those at the front of the line, but should we? Are our values in line with the gospel or the gospel of our time? Are we prepared for the reversal of fortune Jesus predicts? Are we sheep or are we goats?

Losing the Moral Center

Many things change as we grow up. We get taller. We constantly grow out of clothes (or wear through them). Our voices change. We become more independent. Somebody once quipped that “the sooner children learn to talk, the sooner they learn to talk back.” I think thats true too of growing up and a big change for parents. We test limits and get into trouble. We learn from mistakes. We make new friends and lose old ones as they move away. We go to school, learn to drive, and so much more.

Along the way somewhere another important change happens: The world goes from black and white to some shade of gray. One of the most memorable scenes from early in the TV series Two and Half Men is the moment that the young Jake Harper realizes with the help of his morally questionable Uncle Charlie that he does not have to be sorry to say “I am sorry” to get off the hook for misbehaving. Jake’s perfectly pitched response: “I think I just lost my innocence.” Whether it is lying, getting away with stealing a cookie from the cookie jar, sneaking in after curfew, or some other situation, somewhere along the way the moral coloring of the world changes for us as we grow up. For me, I think it came the first time I yelled “Well that’s not fair!” at my mother, which garnered her obvious response of “well the world is not fair.” When I understood that and its implications for the choices of life, my world changed and my innocence was lost.

Now, hopefully, we go back down the right paths of life. We choose to make the moral decision. We realize that as gray and complicated as the world is, there are better and worse choices to be made. As complex as life becomes, we decided we should do the “right” thing. More and more, though, I have begun to doubt that is happening. I think we have lost our moral center.

Last summer in England, what began as righteous protests, became youth led looting, taking advantage of many days of chaos for personal, practical gain. A situation arose and young adults took advantage of it without fear of moral consequences because they lacked them. On Wall Street, the pragmatic choice in the middle of the gray moral quandary of world finance has been to make as much money as possible without mind to the future, the little guy, or the effect on main street. For many, self-interest has trumped any notion of the common good and even human decency. In the sphere of the church, congregations and institutions of the church are increasingly weighing survival (read: not upsetting donors or parishioners) ahead of moral and prophetic voice. We/they stay silent, compromise, or obfuscate so much of the moral high ground as to be no different than the secular world. And many individuals would rather stay quiet than ruffle the feathers of friends and families. They would rather compromise themselves through silence or inaction than rock the boat. And the world of politics might be even worse.

In so many scenarios, the pragmatic decision has won out over the moral decision in the midst of the increasingly gray, increasingly complex moral quagmire that is the modern world. And yet in scripture and faith, I am drawn back time and time again to Jesus instructing us to have the faith of children (Mark 10, Matthew 18, and Luke 18). Perhaps a less complex faith, innocent faith is what the world needs today. Or I am drawn to what Christ says about the light in Matthew 5 and Luke 11. The light does not belong under a basket, but on a stand. Our moral light should not be hidden, but shining brightly in a world needing direction.

The world is complex today. The world we live in is complicated today. We should compromise. We should work together. We must live in the gray. But perhaps, in the midst of all that, we are overdue to tilt the arch of history toward justice and righteousness a little more by our action and words than we are now too.

Living in an Age of Worry

"There is no fear in perfect love. Perfect love drives out all fear." (1 John 4:18) was one of the first verses I memorized when I was new to faith. I was in the chaos of college and adjusting to a small piece of the reality of adulthood.1 John 4:18 was, in many ways, my first real encounter with the life-giving, hope-filled version of the gospel. It was also much needed at the time. I was afraid of all the next steps of life I was facing and it was heartening to discover that in Christ and in God’s love, there was hope, love, acceptance, freedom, and joy. That was powerful to me. It still is.

Later, I would read elsewhere in 1 John: “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” I would see in these lines the hope the world needed. “There is nothing propositional about these statements. These statements are written and believed as matters of fact. They simply exist. They are. They are reality. Even if they do not match our experience. Even if they do not match our feelings. Even if they do not match the world at our doors, they are written as divine affirmations of the way the world truly is.”, I would write in a journal at the time. And that was fundamentally new to me. That was a different kind of faith of which I was unfamiliar. It was a faith that was perfectly dependent on and absolutely faithful to God’s love, will, and providential care. It was a faith solely reliant on God and from God’s side of the arch of history.

It was only later and after reading in greater detail 1 John that I saw all those verses in their actual context. These powerful affirmations of love, hope, faith, and fearlessness fall amongst strong verse about sin, deception, evil, and antichrists. They perfectly describe just how bad things are and can get. They have become even more powerful for me today because of that. They are not empty optimism or naïve faith. They represent firm and certain knowledge founded in the perfect love of God. They represent hope, but hope buildt upon nothing less than the promises and actions of Jesus Christ with full knowledge of the broken reality of this world.

We need a faith like that day: a faith without fear. The singer/songwriter John Mayer dubbed this “the Age of Worry” in a song on his recently released album. I think this is correct and justified. Turn of Fox News or CNN. Watch the local news at the end of your day. Check your Facebook or Twitter feed. From any of those sources, you could easily (and often) come to the conclusion that the globe is spinning apart. Civilians are being killed by the dozens in Syria. Every morning the world’s financial giants, look to Greece and China to see if today is the day the global economy falls apart. We hear word of the latest natural disaster today. And perhaps even more frightening to some, the very fabric of our society seems to be in the midst of the greatest upheaval since the 1960s. This is the “age of worry”. This is the time of fear.

And yet, we are confronted in 1 John with the very realistically faithful: “There is no fear in perfect love. Perfect love drives out all fear.” Do we love? Do we have faith? Or do we have fear?

Road House on the Church “Being Nice”

Patrick Swayze’s cult classic movie Road House is an unlikely source of good advice on church leadership and Christian faith. Do not get me wrong, it is great movie, perhaps Swayze’s best role, but a movie about a bouncer in a rough and tumble bar in Jasper, Missouri is not overflowing with “churchy” content. (There is a funny joke about Presbyterians, if you ever get around to watching this movie by the way.) One exchange where the bouncer Dalton (Swayze) explains his philosophy on keeping order to his new bouncers in the bar should be particularly helpful to Christians everywhere, though. He says, “If somebody gets in your face, I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won’t walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can’t walk him, one of the others will help you, and you’ll both be nice. I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice.” 

"Being nice" is something Christians are usually good at doing or at least once were. Particularly in the Sermon on the Mount, we catch a vision of what that is about. We should be well versed in turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), loving our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 5:43), and even loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We seek to help others. We are generally concerned about the welfare of others above ourselves. Christians are often pacifists they take these commands so seriously and far.

And yet, “nice” is not many people’s perception or experience of Christians today. We fight. We fight against one another and others. We are self interested. We are selfish and judgmental and mean and hypocrites and the list goes on. Go ask a non-Christian what they think of us and you will hear your own list. As Ghandi reflected, “The message of Jesus as I understand it is contained in the Sermon on the Mount unadulterated and taken as a whole…If then I had to face the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, ‘Oh yes, I am Christian.’ But negatively I can tell you that in my humble opinion, what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount.” I would suggest that things might be worse still since Ghandi made this statement after generations of deep feuds on issues concerning worship, music, theology, salvation, eschatology, mission, women, ordination, etc.

I wonder if the church might benefit from heeding the message of the Patrick Swayze’s Dalton to “be nice” or even more so the words of Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount? Is it beyond our capacity to turn the other cheek, love our neighbor, even love our enemy? And can we do that particularly when they are sitting down the pew from us? Would it benefit our witness to the world, not to mention our own faith lives, at all to be thought of, once again, as “nice”, even “too nice”?

And maybe, if we were nicer, it would be more meaningful in those moments when it was the time to not be nice.

A Holy Calling to Live

The Young Adult Bible Study this week looked at the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12. If you remember, in the parable a rich man has more crops than barns to store them, so he tears down his barns and builds bigger ones. Once they are full he decides to basically retire: “relax, eat, drink, and be merry” (vs. 19) he says to his Soul. The story takes a turn for the worse when the rich fool learns that “this night, your soul is required of you” (vs. 20). He was rich in the possessions of this world and poor when it came to God.

At the same time that the Young Adult Group was reading Luke 12, another group in the church is reading Billy Graham’s new book Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. Graham’s book covers a similar topic both to Luke 12 and many others who have recently taken it up, including John Piper in Don’t Waste Your Life, namely “Should Christians ever retire?” or “Is a Christian’s work ever done?”.

This question brings to the forefront a deep divide between our culture norm and what we find in scripture. In our society, the smart person will work and save their whole life, invest wisely, plan shrewdly, and upon reaching some target date, retire to a place with a beach view or at least a desert climate. The idea is to work hard and then play hard enjoying the “golden years”. With the average life span increasing and continued medical advances, those golden years of fun and sun can continue on for quite some time.

As both Piper and Graham note, this extend time of rest is not without problems. Many couples upon retirement discover that they actually liked the activity and identity that working gave to them. Many retirees enjoy the “extended vacation” that the beginning of retirement brings, but quickly realize that retirement is not all it is cracked up to be. Even the record breaking gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps found himself depressed in the weeks following the 2008 Olympics and the mini-retirement he entered. Indeed, one of the greatest times of increase in the suicide rates of men is in the year following retirement.

We might discover a reason for this in scripture: purpose. For many, their job and the dream of retirement is a purpose. For others, their faith and family are their driving force. For still others, they see the entirety of what they do as a sacred calling, a holy vocation. Wherever you may fall, the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 is instructive for us, particularly as it acts as an alternative to ways of the world. Are we rich in possession and poor to God? Do we mind our business to the exclusion of God from our lives? When we come to an ending point of one piece of our lives (a graduation, a layoff, a marriage, a divorce, a retirement, a death) do we look around and discover God missing from the scene?

Whether old or young, Michael Phelps or Billy Graham, working, retired, or just starting out, you have a divine call and purpose by virtue of your life and baptism. There is work for you to do. Look around and you will see the need. Be silent and listen for the call God is offering to you. So often in life and at so many stages of life, we are called to precious more than we normally enjoy. We are called to God, God’s presence, work, and glory in this world. At no time does our purpose and call stop.

Seeing the intersections of these thoughts, I am reminded of the words of Henry David Thoreau in Walden, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Live your life. Live your life for God and in service of your high calling. Live with purpose.

Church Off of the Books

The recent step into scandal at Chesapeake Energy here in Oklahoma City has brought to the forefront again the silent danger of not knowing what is going on around us and of how much perception is often faulty. Chesapeake Energy has been integral to the rise of Oklahoma City over the last decade and employees thousands of residents. They are also huge givers to local charities. Their success has been Oklahoma City’s success. We are tied together in more ways than just that their name is on our downtown arena. What happens there effects all of us.

When reporters from Rolling Stone Magazine and Reuters recently discovered possible issues at Chesapeake, it sent shock waves through the community. While researching a story on “fracking”, a controversial method for extracting natural gas, the reporters uncovered a billion dollars in loans to the CEO of Chesapeake Aubrey McClendon that was previously unknown. Further investigation also uncovered a $200 million hedge fund that McClendon ran on the side from 2004 to 2008 that traded in oil and natural gas contracts, a possible conflict of interest. The Securities and Exchange Commission is now investigating.

While none of the reported issues so far at technically illegal, they point to one of the greatest problems of our time: not knowing what is “off of the books”, what is happening in secret around the edges. Moreover, this is a growing practice of businesses and governments.

To all outside sources, Greece was a flourishing country as the calendar shifted from 2009 to 2010. By a combination of methods, Greece was able to hide or keep off of the books the fact that their national debt was more than double what was reported and among the highest in the world. By participating in exotic financial instruments called derivatives and legal, but dishonest accounting practices, Greece was able to live will beyond its means while sitting on a time bomb for its own country and the world economy. As I write, the world markets are again dropping again over instability in the Greek economy.

Silence is the deadly enemy of the church. The recent and still ongoing scandal concerning the abuse of children by Catholic priests, points to the great harm that can be done when silence and secrecy become the rule of the church. Silence also plays havoc when churches are involved in their own financial scandals. More than a few accountants or boards have perpetrated far reaching financial frauds through creative bookkeeping and lies. Debts, losses, and negative information has been kept off book. All in the name of saving face or making a ministry appear more successful than it is.

In the secular or religious world, it is easy to believe that by hiding sin or failing that you are protecting those around you. It is easy to believe that the white lies and half truths might even benefit everybody involved. It is even easy to believe that a lot may be to gain through questionable practices. But in and outside the church, history has shown that everything eventually comes into the light of day and Christ. And often by then the problem is infinitely worse. In your life and faith, live in the light and truth of Christ. Hold firm to what is true. Be authentic. Be transparent. Be honest with yourself and your world. Let the chips fall where they may. And know your only true hope is in God.

Believing in Times of Trauma

Every day after lunch, I read what is called the “Daily Office Lectionary”. It is my daily bible devotional reading. The Daily Office Lectionary is an assortment of scripture passages assigned to particular days throughout the year. Every day there are a number of Psalms, a selection from the Old Testament, something from Acts or the Epistles, and part of the Gospels to read. It is a good way to continually read the bible and read parts of the bible you might miss on Sunday mornings. It is also an excellent way of stumbling over biblical connections you might miss or forget otherwise. And that is exactly what happened on Monday.

I have made the connection between Romans 8:36 and Psalm 44 before. Romans 8:36 says, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” That is a direct quotation from Psalm 44 and one of the first notes you come across in the margin of your bible or study material. I had cross referenced the link long before it popped up in the lectionary readings on Monday. Romans 8 and particularly Romans 8:31-39 is one of the most used passages in funeral services and is also one of the most hopeful statements of faith in the entire bible after all. I have read it many times before and it is one of my favorites. It is powerful because from the quotation from Psalm 44 above, Paul goes on to write, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This passage represents a significant “divine yes” to humanity in Christ. I was familiar with it.

Until this week, I do not think I have read the passages chronologically, though. That is to say before Monday’s lectionary, I had never read Psalm 44 before Romans 8:36 and that makes a tremendous difference. If you have not read Psalm 44 recently, please do. Psalm 44 is a cry for help. It is a faithful lament to God for rescue. In many ways, it is the plea and prayer we most often lift up: “God I love you. I believe in you. Why is this happening to me?” The Psalm finds its climax with the quote from Romans 8:36, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” It then moves on to beg God to “Awake!” (Psalm 44:23) and “Rise up; Come to our help!” (Psalm 44:26).

This passage and the connection to Romans 8 is so remarkable when viewed chronologically because it highlights just how much Jesus Christ was (and is) the answer to long repeated prayers. And more so, how ironically, it is exactly by dying as the slaughtered sacrificial lamb, like in Psalm 44, that Christ is the answer to that cry for help. It is through his life, death, and resurrection that we are united with God and it is shown that nothing can separate us from God (Romans 8). It is for these kinds of whimsical, providential encounters with scripture that I am so thankful for it and for God’s hand in our reading it.

How has scripture come alive for you? What powerful connections have you made?

Tomorrow IS Coming

Tomorrow is coming. A report out this week said that Social Security will run short in 2033. Medicare will run out of money in 2024. The federal deficit is approaching 16 trillion dollars and cconitnues to climb. Who knows when the natural reserves of oil and gas will be exhausted in our country or around the world or the environmental cost that will be exacted to get every last drop, but it will happen. We are surrounded by aging infrastucture. We are protected by an aging military. We send our children to aging schools. We are governed by an aging politcal system that appears more and more inadequate to address the problems of modern life. People are worried about tomorrow.

The church is no better prepared for tomorrow. More churches close than are planted. More churches are in decline than are thriving or growing. Faith is decreasing in this country not increasing. We alienate through our inward and outward fighting more than we attract. More pastors approach retirement than are trained to replace them. The ones that are trained are waiting without a place at the table saddled with more debt than they can afford. Our churches are aging. Our church members are aging. Our denominations are aging and appear inadequate to address the problems of the modern faith life. People are worried about tomorrow.

All of these issues individually (and more that I have not mentioned) would be and are alarming alone, but even more so when coupled with the reality that we are largely failing to address them. None of these trends are new. None of them are novel to our time. None of them should startle politicians, pastors, voters, or the faithful. What should deeply frighten us is our failure to act and resistance to action. But tomorrow is coming.

Oil and gas reserves are limited. We can extract the resources in better and newer ways, but eventually even our technology will fail us. And yet, we have an entire economy based on fossil fuels. At what point along the way are we going to do more than explore other options? The same could be said for the national debt. At what point along the way are we going to take substantive steps to changing course? In the Presbyterian Church (USA), there are few plans on either the presbytery or national level to address the thousands of dying and decaying churches or the overall lack of churches to replace them. Suggestions and weak aspirations, but little or no actual action. We are largely resigned to watching churches slowly wither away. As Will Willimon once said to a shocked audience, “I am the leader of a denomination centered around a generation of people that God is killing off.” There is perhaps too much truth in that statement. But tomorrow is coming.

The inaction often masks the real human cost for today and tomorrow. The inaction, compromise, or half measures become the story instead of the need behind the issue or the impact on tomorrow. During the healthcare debate, we heard endless statistics of “X amount of Americans live without health insurance” or “X amount of people will now be insured by this Act.” Again this is a growing problem facing our country, but one that we have been aware of for generations. Even in taking action, we lose sight of the real humans that make up those statistics. People literally dying waiting for something to be done are simply the “others” still not covered by our moderate actions. In the church, what of the faces and stories behind the “X decline in membership this year” or the “X amount of churches closed this year”? And what more of all the ones that suffer waiting for something to change? Much has been made of the increasing number of religious “nones” in our society, we are responsible for that and will one day have to answer for that. But tomorrow is coming.

Tomorrow is coming to the country, to the church, to the world, and to you. As much as we have made ourselves gods of our own secular and religious domains, the march of time is inevitable. Diana Butler Bass argues in her latest book Christianity After Religion that the great visible divide of our time is not between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives or liberals, however we would define those labels, but between the old and new, between the past and future, between old answers and new ones, between status qou and change. The novel is not intrinisically good, but today’s and tomorrow’s answers seem to be before us, if for no other than yesterday’s answers are failing us. Are we brave enough to seek out and implement those answers for tomorrow?

For some time now, I have been reluctant to too fully embrace the future and much needed changes. I have been amongst those supporting half measures, partial fixes, incomplete answers, and not bold enough action. I have riden the fence and guarded the middle. I have sought compromise where more should have been done. I fear that I have now become part of the problem.

I love Jesus Christ. I love tradition. I love the best of our collective past. I am guided by the bible. I will continue to be. I will also continue to seek consenus and partners in the common struggles we are all facing. The answers are in front of us though. Yesterday’s solutions are crippling us and our ability to thrive in the future into which we are all headed. Change is coming to the church and society. Inaction or recalcitrant attitudes only put off again to another tomorrow issues that must be faced today. Waiting will not do. Inaction will not do. Tomorrow is coming. It is time to act.