God, I’m a the point in the chaos where I am wondering if I am allowed to be happy
Because the world is shitty right now. People are sick and dying. Politicians and governments do nothing and there is real suffering in the world.
And God knows the last recession, we were living on the edge, skirting bankruptcy, playing Russian Roulette with the bills, the credit cards, the job searches
I remember counting property after property for sale in 2010
This time the hurt is less visible. Those who are sick are quarantined, the hospitals are off limits, and poverty is hidden again and again (like we did) because it is a sign of shame.
I am all to aware the the suffering I know is but a microcosm of what is really going on.
So when things go right, when I realize we have enough room to live in, or we enjoy celebrating the youngest turning 9, or I get in to the program I applied for. I wonder is it ok to be happy?
Lord, I thank God for things like the Nap Ministry and Queer Theology and Black Girl Magic which remind us of the value of rest and joy, and that these things must be practiced especially in the midst of chaos.
Lord I give thanks for a moment to soak in the sun, the opportunity to zoom and pray for one another, and the early Christmas tree lights and carols that are seeping into consciousness.
Lord God I thank you for the beauty of snowflakes, the reminder that safe at home can mean cozy at home and the gifts of pets, hot chocolate, and my favorite music.
Help me to celebrate the little things, God. Help me not to forgo joy, but instead to embrace it, and let these moments strengthen me so that I am more able to go on.
Remind me that you give joy to everyone, even those who suffer, and that denial of joy is not helping anyone, I pray.
This Thanksgiving, please give me, and help me to celebrate whatever pieces of joy might happen. Especially give me the spirit and strength to recognize when these pieces of joy sneak up and surprise me.
Help me to enjoy them.
And appreciate them.
And give thanks for them, I pray.
Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
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“Don’t try to explain the Incarnation to me! It is further from being explainable than the furthest star in the furthest galaxy. It is love, God’s limitless love enfleshing that love into the form of a human being, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully divine. Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?” -Madeline L’Engle
A lot of young people don’t go to church (I know your shocked, your really, really shocked).
Here is my vast knowledge about church
1. Its a good community…its a good way to have intergenerational interaction, its a good way to ask hard questions (at the good churches anyway)
2. Church Shopping is tough: churches are desperate (which isn’t that attractive) and its hard to church shop when you feel unsettled, and lets face it, with the way the economy is, most people are fairly unsettled, especially the young people. I have been at the same job for 4ish years…that is VERY unusual for a person my age. If you don’t have a steady job or don’t know if your going to have to move (again) within the same year, its hard to make time to church shop.
In theories churches should be helping with this process (how about get to know your town guides? New to the neighborhood events that aren’t creepy? My church does a playgroup that allows a little bit with this)
3. Churches need to advertise themselves as a pace of transition (ie we are a stable place to come while your transitioning)…too much to Churches self-advertise or give the impression that this is where to go when you start to sort out your beliefs or your all set on where you are in life. This is OPPOSITE of what church should be, church should be a place to be crazy, screwed up and confused, a place to support people who are figuring it out…….Maybe churches should be more like college and less like a government.
4. Young Families Basic Needs: tend to include activities at a time of day they can actually manage, Sunday School that is enjoyable, Family friendly events, Adequate Rooms for children, Babysitting for events that are not suitable for children, changing tables, cribs, and preferably a space in the Worship area for kids to worship during church (try getting that one done, its almost impossible)…want to welcome families? Go out of your way to give them a real space to be….
5. Try to focus more on the Sabbath piece of church. Every single person I know is stressed and overwhelmed, if church could be a place of sanctuary, rest and sabbath we might actually communicate our message better.
6. That whole forgiveness of debts thing: do that. We preach forgiveness of debts, practically everyone I know is WAY in debt, yet we do nothing to practice what we preach….um….yeah….
7. Engage, engage, engage, find as many opportunities as possible to serve the community, to experience the community and to get to know the community (this is that piece of advice every single leader of churches gives)
8. Do NOT talk about young people as the “future”; first off, they are already people, not just future people (get my drift?), secondly this gross genera9lizing of who the young are is not appreciated
9. Try not to be judgmental: To be human is to be judgmental, its how we separate the “us” from the “them” its a defense mechanism, its natural, and its sad….we don’t need to judge other people, that’s God’s job. Plus! loving is our goal, good news is our job, and judging people adds to their problems. I used to have someone call me up at night and tell me what I needed to worry about…guess what…that is the opposite of helping…
10. Have Faith: Preach Good News, practice joy, dwell in the spirit, worry not about today or tomorrow, consider the birds, consider the lilies of the fields, they toil not, but God takes care of them…
“Christianity is, by its core nature, more akin to folly than it is to the Pope’s massive corporation. The central dictate of Christian doctrine is humility, in imitation of Christ’s ultimate self-humbling. Christians are mocked, persecuted and small: the powerful so-called Christian empires are the real perversion of the Gospel, not the Holy Fool.” p. 127 to Play the Fool by Laurie R. King
Prayer of Confession: God, we confess that we forget to pray prayers of thanksgiving. Too often we let the worries and complaints overwhelm us. Forgive us, God. Set us free from the sin that tries to hamper our steps. Help us to pray instead of worry, to praise instead of grumble. Put in our mouths a song of your glory. Let it be as merry as the day is long, so that we might know hope, peace and life eternal. (Silent Prayer)…Amen
The Eastern Orthodox Church holds a non-juridical view of sin, by contrast to the satisfaction view of atonement for sin as articulated in the West, firstly by Anselm of Canterbury (as debt of honor) and Thomas Aquinas (as a moral debt).] The terms used in the East are less legalistic (grace, punishment), and more medical (sickness, healing) with less exacting precision. Sin, therefore, does not carry with it the guilt for breaking a rule, but rather the impetus to become something more than what men usually are. One repents not because one is or isn’t virtuous, but because human nature can change. Repentance (Ancient Greek:μετάνοια, metanoia, “changing one’s mind”) isn’t remorse, justification, or punishment, but a continual enactment of one’s freedom, deriving from renewed choice and leading to restoration (the return to man’soriginal state). This is reflected in the Mystery of Confession for which, not being limited to a mere confession of sins and presupposing recommendations or penalties, it is primarily that the priest acts in his capacity of spiritual father. The Mystery of Confession is linked to the spiritual development of the individual, and relates to the practice of choosing an elder to trust as his or her spiritual guide, turning to him for advice on the personal spiritual development, confessing sins, and asking advice.
Confession is a statement of who you are, where you are and the striving to go beyond that! It is a statement comprised of self knowledge and belief: seeking the deeper actions of understanding and faith.
I know the church is theoretically dying, that its full of old people, judgmental and is out of date….but here is what I like about church
1. The Music<–need I say more, no where else am I permitted to belt out the hymns I know, sort of know and fake knowing with no commentary on my performance and more commentary on how “fun” the music is!!!
2. Insta-Community: Its not perfect, but this is an intergenerational community that intentionally hangs out once a week, and (in better situations) more. Moving to a new community, church is still a great way to feel supported!
3. Sabbath: The rest of my life seems to be about “me” “my situation” and “where we are right now” from monetary woes to relationship troubles to personal epiphanies (yay), the church is a place to take a rest from myself and take Sabbath, to focus on the community.
4. Hope and Joy: Very few places are a haven to practice hope. It is much easier to critique society and the people within it then to intentionally practice hope (even while we acknowledge our deeply rooted brokenness and imperfections). The demands to be perfect are WORLDY, the celebration of life to be joyful and hopeful are Christian (i.e. Good news! For more on this read my LOL Pastor post)…We not only confess what is true now, but hope, pray and preach of the community that can and will be thru Christ….think about that.
5. We are a bunch of like-minded people striving to experience something different: Most churches are 99% one race and 1% another. Yet, even though we aren’t good at it, and even though churches can be trapped into being an “us” “them” relationship, our call is to preach to the ENTIRE WORLD. (or one of my new favorite phrases…all creation). To experience God is to experience something fundamentally different than oneself, the very fact we are open to that experience gives me hope for the church.
6. Relationships: I know of no other place than in Worship that we get to work on all of the relationships in our lives–we give ourselves time to figure out how to better our loving of our neighbor, self, enemy, friend, stranger and God. HOW COOL IS THAT? The only thing close is therapy, and that tends to be more specific. Yet in church we give at least an hour a day to work on ALL of the relationships in our lives (to me this reason alone is worth it)
7. Faith: Church is a place to come wherever you are on your faith journey (despite advertisements to the contrary). It is a community of differing beliefs that come together to build the richer and deeper experience of faith. If you don’t believe everything or even anything one week, you have a community, holding onto faith for you whenever you need it….
8. Empowering: Got a local passion or need? Church is a great way to funnel a real and hands on mission. If you feel called to so something, then the church is designed to equip, volunteer for and experience that mission. When churches falter on mission, its because they often lack the motivation or energy for a project, but if you are feeling compelled church can be a great place to real-ize that call….
9. Everyone is Welcome: This is a struggle for churches and individuals…church’s often hold a few curmudgeons, some fussers and one or two explosive personalities. Why? Because we are trying to practice universal love–like a family you may not like everyone in your congregation, yet you are working hard to get on with them. And this is a volunteer organization, we aren’t putting up with each other for money or a promotion (most of the time), we are doing it because individuals are important, because there should be room for everyone and because we value the fact that you are practicing your faith, even when it doesn’t look exactly like mine. We falter, we have power struggles and arguments, we say stupid things…but we also a a safe haven for the sick, the bossy, the imperfect, the tired, the annoying, the messy, the uptight, the mentally ill, the ostentatious , the loud, the meek, the ones who think they are perfect, the slow, the way too fast, the sick, the short, the tall, the bad singers, the mumblers, the addicts, the religious, the areligious, the sometimes/allthetime/onlyChristmasandEasterattendees. We don’t do as good a job as I’d like, but that’s because (let’s face it) these bunch of crazies are the ones welcoming you at the door, and heaven knows we have our own brokenness to struggle with…but we’d love to welcome yours too!
10. People like to talk about God–even people who don’t believe in God, like to talk about who God is (and isn’t) where God is (and isn’t) and how that plays a role in their lives. My friends would often broach the subject: in bars, at parties, during or after movies, on walks, wherever and whenever they are…..People like to talk about their spirituality…..Church is a place to do that…a place to kick around your ideas about what may or may not exist, to do the spiritual work of figuring out where you stand and (more importantly) what implications that has on your life…..
Sermons are art, sometimes they rock, and sometimes they don’t. Its less of a quotient of how many hours you put in, and tends to be where you are emotionally, are you feeling creative, is your imagination engaged, can you connect to your audience, is it relevant and yet provoking.
I’ve always said, I wish every sermon was a masterpiece, but since its art, it doesn’t work that way. There are practices and disciplines that help you to be a better artist, but never any guarantees.
If we aren’t approaching Sermons as an art, but instead only as a form of communication or education, then we are not encouraging creation, we are merely communicating about it. And I really think that is missing God’s point. If its art, then the format is far more open then are first and second definitions of sermon imply!!!!
Sören Kierkegaard, 19th century
“Christ turned water into wine, but the church has succeeded in doing something even more difficult: it has turned wine into water.”
Only the church can do that! Take Jesus’s Wine and turn it back into water–how do we do this, by constricting God
Item 1: Grace
Do you know what grace is? Its abundance. Grace is giving room for someone else in your life, so that they can be themselves. Its giving space to someone else. God’s grace is abundant–God moved Godself aside to make room to create us, so that we can be something other than God.
Christians job is practice that hospitality, to make room for EVERYONE in the church, and to make certain that we aren’t trapping God in our structures, limiting who God is and when God is relevant.
Consider if we said music can only be delivered thru a tape deck, music would be dead.
Item 2: Church is Boring
When we say God can only exist in a formal church, when we say our understanding is the “correct”
(this is the opposite of open-sourcing church which is the way all information is going see Open Source)
If we make God ordinary, everyday; unexceptional and predictable.
We constrain God to what we understand her to be (see what I did there?)
We would rather tame Jesus than trust him (hence the above)
In fact, as I explained my job to a Japanese man who I am tutoring in ESL–he said that he found it amazing that we were applying a 2,000 (whereabouts) document to everyday life, and he asked how that worked, and I said that was basically my job, to talk about why its still relevant today and give the big message of God’s Grace and Love through the little stories and messages in the Bible…
“ah” he said “so your a translator” smart man that 🙂
Item 3: the Story (wedding at Cana) John 2:1-11
Mission: to Party people into the kingdom (through hospitality, wine and grace)
Jesus makes space for us, and gives us abundant love–making space for us, and we as the church should be doing the same
Item 4: the Translation (otherwise known as timing is everything for God, and we need to see God acting beyond the here and now to make the here and now better!–this is a deep thought for a parenthetical, oh well)
1. I’ve been praying about some kind of immigrant service due to a congregant’s problems getting a santioned-job-and-also-visa…plus I’ve been tutoring ESL on the side (again, this is what I do because the kids gotta eat). An offer came in last week for an immigration center to rent space for an office from us (rent, can you believe it) how perfect is that?
2. My church enjoys the “perfect” location, being high in demand for functions–we have been leveraging that into money…instead we are going to make the move to try to be theological & intentional in how we use the space (I’d like to have a ceremony dedicating the spaces of the church)
3. A congregant once suggested that we get snuggies for everyone in the church–our church is cold and hard to heat (ah the beauty of the 70s A-frame building). We could be known as the snuggie church–some people might feel that isn’t “proper” but lets face it I think being warm and comfortable is a more realistic presentation of God than shivering in nicer clothes….
The point is that God gives to us abundantly, and she does so by giving us new ways to understand, by giving us new people to enjoy relationships with and by full-on giving us permission to party people into the kingdom (who doesn’t love a wedding?)
Item 4: Happiness and Holiness
Plus! Jesus consecrates happiness
Sometimes, the church has forgotten that our Lord once attended a wedding feast and said yes to gladness and joy,” Robert Brearley writes. “God does not want our religion to be too holy to be happy in”(Feasting on the Word Year C, Vol. 1)….suppose we took every time we are happy as a holy time (note I did not say that we are only holy when we are happy). What if we celebrated, promoted happiness and in that way opened the way for God’s glory in the world?
Jesus is calling us to abundance, to happiness and to grace–and we need to be certain the church is concentrating on those instead of on the programs, the pews, the property, and the payments. These things do not make a church. People and Prayer do!!!
PS Here is today’s Coffee with Jesus, Apropos much?