Tag Archives: christianity

Why the sermon?

I’ll be honest I like listening to a good sermon every now and then. I could list a few of my favorites for you; at some point maybe I’ll even provide links to mp3’s of sermon’s that really moved me. There is also a good bit of Biblical support for sermons. Jesus seemed to like to sermonize it up every so often; my personal favorite is the “Sermon on the Mount.” Paul had quite a few lengthy sermons, and the first thing Peter does once he has the Holy Spirit is give a sermon. The word “Preach” shows up in the NIV 123 times (according to Biblegateway). Paul even goes off about the Rights of an Apostle in I Corinthians 9 (which is probably where we get our justification for having a paid pastor). The idea of a weekly meeting for a sermon probably comes from one of my favorite passages Acts 2:42-47.

So by now your probably thinking my goal was to answer the question presented in the title: Why the Sermon? Your maybe even a little bit convinced, or you’ve at least added some Bible verses to support it. So if that’s all you wanted, stop now and read no further.

I still wonder “Why the sermon?” If we are going to follow the Acts passage we should be meeting together daily, and also going to each others homes and eating together; we should be selling our possessions and sharing everything in common. And maybe our pastors should even be doing miraculous signs.
If we are going to hear out Paul’s words to the Corinthians then maybe we should also be advocating for more circuit preachers. Maybe we should stop the calls for money and just be giving it.
And when I look at most of the preaching done in the early church it seems very much the focus was on the necessity of getting the story of Jesus right. It seems the goal wasn’t to have something nifty to say each Sunday, but rather it was to preach the story to those who don’t know it, and to clarify Jesus to those who might have heard a incorrect message concerning him.

Maybe, once we’ve got a pretty good handle on the story and we’ve got a decent idea of what this Christian life is requiring of us (if your still real confused, read Jesus’ words he gives at least one sermon that is quite straight forward), then we should quit the sermons and just starting doing what we are supposed to be doing. What does that look like? I’m not quite sure yet.

What would you do if…

It’s the typical question that get’s asked of anyone who declares themselves a “pacifist.”

What would you do if someone was attacking your family (loved ones)?

It’s the magic card up someones sleeve to stump that said pacifist into agreeing that sometimes violence, and war, is okay and necessary. I’ll be honest this was a difficult question to handle when I first started thinking about pacifism. What made it difficult was the passage we talked about previously, “Love your enemies…” What suddenly happened was that now both the attacker and the victim are my loved ones. It’s like having to change the question to:

What would you do if your wife was attacking your father?
(or pick the two people closest to you)

Now I’m not so sure killing the attacker would be my pat answer. If I love that person I certainly wouldn’t want their death. I love the victim though as well and I don’t want them to die, so the situation is now far more complex then the original question presented.

For me, this question simply confirms to me that thinking as a pacifist, or rather, thinking about what to do with ‘killing’ not being one of the options.

So, What would you do if…

Love your enemies

It’s time to resurrect the “Thoughts on War” topic and address the passage that began my turn to pacifism.
I’d read it before, but not until the days after 9/11 did it hit me with such a radical challenge.

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.*

I was so challenged, and so struggled with what those words meant in our world and for us. I ran into the dilemma that no matter how I looked at it I couldn’t come to a conclusion that killing my enemy could be loving.

So, brother’s and sister’s in Christ who support war, please help me with some explanation of this.

The 8th Night of Hanukkah

This Festival of Lights has come and gone without me lighting the Menorah even once. Being all by my Jewish self has caused my desire for hording candles to overcome tradition. I guess I should bring out the Jew in me and have a small fire in my living room tonight.

So, I caught wind of a handful of email forwards before the holidays; The “Taking the Christ out of Christmas” type stuff. I didn’t pay much attention to it all, at least not before Christmas had come and gone. Now, I’d like to speak my mind on a little of it. Here I am, very much Jewish and also Christian, having celebrated and planning on continuing to celebrate BOTH Christmas AND Hanukkah. I don’t much care whether all the hype during this season started because of Christmas, Hanukkah, or Saturnalia we all want to enjoy the season now, and we should have every right to; ALL of us.
And Christians of all people should know enough to be at least a little respectful of others. If I want to call the tree I stick in my living room a Hanukkah Bush, you really shouldn’t feel threatened, nor threaten me in return.

No church on Sunday

So this Sunday a number of churches will not be having a service. I’ve read a few articles about it and they’ve given some decent reasons why. Most of them emphasize the importance of honoring family time. Some acknowledge the general low attendance of previous years that Christmas fell on a Sunday, and wanting those who volunteer not to feel obligated to come. I think most of those reasons make a lot of sense. But, it does give opportunity to question what the real purpose of church is.

“Church” as we think of today is an essential component of any Christian persons life, at least we hold it to be so. Anyone, you know who is not going to church on a regular basis you probably consider being in a slump, a struggle with their faith, falling away or something other then a healthy Christian. Skipping church for anything but a very good reason is looked down upon as well. So, why the collective decision to forgo church this Sunday?

What I wonder, and I think is worth considering, is that if this Sunday, because it is a time many people will be with others that they love and care about, is an appropriate enough day to skip church, then are there other days that are just as appropriate? And if there are reasons that are appropriate to skip church, then are we saying that church is not essential to be at EVERY week? So what IS the purpose of church then? If spending time with family on Sunday morning is more important THIS Sunday, why isn’t it more important EVERY Sunday?

why a building?

I think my intitial hesitation about the whole building thing came when the church building craze started my last year of high school. My church decided we need to add a $2.5 million addition on to our building. I didn’t realize we were outgrowing the original building in the first place, and now they wanted to add on. And in adding on they wanted it to look really nice, which is understandable since the current building looked quite nice. But I thought to myself $2.5 million is a whole lot of money, and it just doesn’t seem necessary.
Little did I know over the next few years practically every church I went to was doing a building campaign. Some of them really needed it, others I wasn’t so sure. We attended one church for a while and then they started a building campaign for a second building and they where putting an indoor waterfall in it. That was it, I was gone.

Then at some point I started thinking… Why the heck do we need a building anyways? I mean we all live somewhere, why don’t we meet in our homes? It seemed to me that’s mostly what the early church did. I mean, it’s true we couldn’t all pack in to hear the really good preachers, but since when is that what it’s all about? Some would say that’s what small groups are for, to meet in smaller communities in our homes and stuff (I’ll address this later).

I’m not saying church buildings don’t have a purpose, I’ve just started questioning if they are really necessary at all. I mean is it feasible to do the things we do in a church building in our homes instead? And what about bigger events? Is it possible to do those in a place other than our own building?

One of my main concerns about the building is that seems to be all we spend our money on, or talk about spending our money on. The main time you hear about making tithing pledges in most churches it seems is usually related to a building campaign. And then the church goes into debt to purchase the new building before they even have all the money.

That was just a rant of sorts, I really should fine tune it a bit, but there it is raw

Beginning thoughts on Church

Just a disclaimer to begin with: My reflections here are in no way a critique of the leadership or members of any church I’ve gone to in the past or currently go to. I don’t want anyone anywhere, pastor, leader, church member, etc. to feel like my reflections are an attack on them or anyone they know. These are just my reflections on church and they’ve been provoked by my reading of the scriptures.

I also just want to say that I have had quite a good experience in the churches I have been in. My parents started going to Crosstowne Community Church when I was little because of the children’s ministry. I guess we had a really good time there and we stayed through middle school. [Let me take a moment to say my parent’s are amazing and sacrificial. When I think about the choices they’ve made in life, so often it is clear the top priority has been what is best for us kids. You couldn’t ask for better parents.] When I got to high school I had gone to an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Atheletes) camp and really been challenged to actually live out my faith. Somewhere my freshman year I started going to High Point Church because of their rocking youth group. It was a place of amazing spiritual growth for me. In fact that is where my faith really began and flourished. After that I left for college and have had a hard time plugging in anywhere for much time. I have enjoyed my brief involvement at 1027 church in Atlanta, The Church in Lombard, and currently at Mosaic and Edgehill UMC in Nashville. And don’t worry, I’m not leaving.

Now that you got that intro, stay tuned for thoughts on Church…

Starting with Jesus

I’m not exactly sure where to start, so I hope this works. As a Christian, my faith, my belief system, is centered around Jesus. Without question, the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament are valuable and also God’s Word, but without Christ and his teachings, our faith is meaningless. My journey began the summer before my freshman year of college. I was reading through the gospels and also happened to be reading C.S. Lewis’ ‘Why I’m not a Pacifist’ essay in The Weight of Glory at the same time. I’ll be honest with you, Lewis’ essay was compelling, and had I not gotten a large amount of grant money to pay for my tuition, I probably would have joined the ROTC program. I had just cracked open Matthew at the same time and I ran across the Beatitudes.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
Well, that didn’t seem to conflict too much, I mean we would say our military in a time of war are there to do exactly that, to bring peace. But do this with me for a moment a little visual lesson. We are going to read through the beatitudes and I want you to picture in your mind what that person looks like:

3″Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I don’t know about you, but the song, “One of these things is not like the others,” starts to run through my head when I picture a soldier decked out in military gear and a gun in his/her arms. I start to wonder if maybe a Gandhi like figure doesn’t make a little more sense.

(Please remember, I’m going one thing at a time. This isn’t my whole case for why I’m a pacifist or anything like that. If you want to comment please limit it to addressing this passage only. Thanks for understanding).