Tag Archives: community

halloween revisited

activity-bucket-costumes-1406352

So I’ve been at Nashville first a little over three months now. I’ve seen homecoming, The Harvest Celebration and even gotten to lead my first fall youth retreat. But last week I got to experience something that I am sure is going to grow to be a favorite of mine as far as all church events go; The Community Fall Fest. There’s food, candy, decorated car trunks, balloon animals, inflatables, music and costumes…so many cool costumes. I love seeing all of the kids, and “adult kids” (present company included), coming to the church in their costumes for a night of fun and festivities. In fact, it seems that more and more each year people are really getting into the Halloween spirit. And yet, sometimes we in the church struggle with what to do when this holiday full of spooks and ghosts and ghouls rolls around each year.

I guess we could start by taking a look at our own history. After all, Halloween began as part of Allhallowtide, a Christian feast holiday. According to HistoryChannel.com, “In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; All Saints Day…The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween.” Halloween was originally part of a Religious feast intended to honor those who have gone before us. And yet so often we see all of the hullabaloo of Halloween today feeling like something different from it’s Christian roots and as becoming something else entirely. Even as I am writing this I am thinking about all of those who feel like Halloween is a dark holiday to be avoided at all costs…and I respect your opinion, but think with me for a moment. Try putting yourself in the place of one of the kids who got be at our Fall Festival last week or who looks forward to Trick-or-Treating tomorrow night. You’re telling me that for a day I get to dress up like someone else, go around to my neighbor’s houses and they give me candy? It’s almost kind of magical. And who doesn’t love another excuse to eat candy?

I have always looked at scripture a little differently and I hope you will amuse me here. To me, one of the saddest verses in all of scripture is found in I Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” So often we think of this as the natural maturation process, but what if it is talking about the loss of the natural wonder and love that comes with childhood? I think all too often we are ready to grow up and we miss the joy and simplicity of living that can be seen through the eyes of a child. Maybe if we began to see this holiday again through the eyes of a child and all the joy I saw last night we might be able to see it a little differently. Maybe the treat is found through the trick of seeing Halloween as a child. And maybe holidays like Halloween can be enjoyed in a new light as we seek to reclaim the world yet again through childlike wonder and joy.

Advertisements

family

Friendship Together Bonding Unity Youth Culture Concept

Last month my family got to experience something pretty special…family. I know that sounds a bit redundant, but that is what happened. For three weeks my kids were able to spend time with cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles. I know that may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but when you live 2,000 miles away from the closest relative, it’s kind of a big deal. We all arrived back in Texas just in time for July and you know what I’ve begun to experience that’s pretty special…family. For for my first Sunday back I was welcomed with a loaf of bread and squash in my office (I’ll let you guess which one of these I appreciate more. Even last night we had visitors drop off watermelon to aid my wife in the passing of a kidney stone (evidently it helps, although the jury is still out). I’m coming to realize that maybe family knows no genetic linkage when it comes to the family of God.

In his epistle to the church in Galatia, Paul writes these words. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  -‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:2‬ The word for burdens in this passage is baros and it is best translated as weight or load. When we help each other with the weights, loads, burdens, even life itself, we fulfill the law of Christ. Jesus himself had this to say in the gospels, “Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’.” – Matthew 12:49-50 The family of the church is made up of those who do the will of God, who fulfill the law of Christ, who carry each other’s burdens.

Sometimes in today’s world I wonder what the church has to offer. I mean, between social media and the internet and limitless entertainment, what does the church really have to offer? But I think the answer is quite simple…family. You see, when we carry each others burdens, encourage each other, deliver bread, squash or even watermelon, and love each other we embody God’s kingdom on earth and shine God’s light to the world that so desperately needs something genuine. Salvation still comes from God through the church for the world. The community that we live out through the local church is trans-formative if we truly live out the law of Christ. I’m reminded of of the lyrics of one of my favorite Avett Brother’s songs in regards to this.

“We came for salvation, We came for family, We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away.                                                                                                                                          We came to break the bad, We came to cheer the sad, We came to leave behind the world a better way”

May we embody the family of God in the world around us today.And may we leave behind this world a better way.


action and truth

Last night we gathered for our regular Wednesday night church gathering. And I’m not sure if it was the result of Daylight Savings Time or the fact that so many have been sick, but we had a very intimate gathering (that’s pastor talk for a small crowd). But we sat around the table and we began to discuss what Relational Holiness/Mission looked like. We talked about healthy relationships in a digital world and helping new people feel connected to a local church body. We talked about the challenges of the contemporary world and how the church is called to embody healthy and whole community as a reflection of the Divine Life of the Trinity. And the best part about this discussion…I was the only one around the table under the age of 40.

The description of the conversation above may have sounded like a gathering of Gen X’ers or Millennials, but I am so excited to say that this conversation took place with people who are old enough to be my parents and possibly even my grandparents. I sat with these amazing church people as we discussed problems that church faces with it’s mission in the 21st century and that had as much or more insight into the dilemma as many of my peers. They spoke about days gone by when they would incorporate people into the local church by having them into their homes, going out to eat with them, having volleyball nights or picnics. Our verse for the evening even reflected this approach to ministry and sharing the gospel. “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

It’s funny sometimes how there truly is nothing new under the sun. Often times the younger generation (present company included) think we have a monopoly on forming healthy communities. But honestly this isn’t something we need to reinvent. Our elders have been doing this for a long time…how do you think the gospel got to us anyway? So I have a challenge for us today. Let’s take that passage of scripture from John’s epistle at face value. Let’s not just give lip service to ideas or concepts or strategies etc., but let’s love with actions and authenticity and truth. I look at the world around us even now and am astounded at the words we hurl back at forth at each other…sometimes even lined with scripture. I think we have all had enough words. Let’s love. Love truly. Create churches and communities where people feel loved and connected to something bigger and greater then themselves. After all, Christ himself said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35 Those you are called to love may not always look like you, think like you, believe like you or lead life like you, but that doesn’t diminish or negate your calling to love them. May we find true salvation and holiness in the communities we are called to give our lives to.

 


we really do

Yesterday I was in a funk. I’m not sure if you are familiar with this terminology or not, but it basically amounts to a feeling of being overwhelmed, anxiousand even feeling physically ill. And what does one do when they are in a funk? Well dive deeper of course. I withdrew, isolated myself even further and simply tried to disconnect from everything. The only problem with this is that anyone who knows me knows that I am an extrovert. And the last thing an extrovert needs to do is withdraw from others. So by the end of the day, with my wife’s help,  I had doagnosed said funkiness and started to reconnect and finally went to bed feeling a little less funky. It’s almost as if we really do need each other. 

At face value this seems like a really simple statement. Yeah sure, we really do need each other…but at what costs? In his letter to the church at Rome the apostle Paul writes these words, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans‬ ‭12:18‬. Live at peace with everyone? That seems like a pretty tall order. Especially in a world where we are rewarded for our individualism. Especially in a world where we are defined by our differences and by our distinctions and by the lines that are drawn in the sand every day to make sure we fall on one side or the other. But surely this is not the case in the church… Contemporary culture often serves as a wonderful assessment tool for the health of the church. Is the church reflecting the culture, or is the church transforming the culture? Right now we are surrounded by a culture that is at best divisive and at worst hostile to the ideaof healthy community…so how is the church doing?

The word most often used in the New Testament for the church is the word ekklesia. It means, “the called out ones” and it was a explication of the church’s distinctiveness. The church is always meant to be a different embodiment characterized by love and unity and community. In fact, the term heresy is translated from the Greek hairesis, which means, “a taking or choosing for oneself”. In other words being divisive by finding difference over commonality. The very first way heresy was understood was as the division of community. And now we as the church are meant to be a model of healthy community for the world and are we doing this or are we just reflecting contemporary culture?

One thing we need to understand in all of this is that unity doesn’t always mean uniformity, but it does mean that we live at peace with one another. We really do need each other but when we reflect the cultural wars and attack and belittle and show disrespect to the members of the body of Christ, we divide His body all over again and this should not be so. It was once said of the characteristics of the church that we come to our ideologies and doctrines in the following fashion: In Essentials Unity, In Non-essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity. Maybe this is the way forward; remembering that the things that bind us together and the things we have in common are stronger than the differences we allow to divide us. We really do need each other. I don’t think I can say that enough. And the world needs to see that we understand and live this out; living together at peace reflecting the Christ who called us out to be a community in a world that really needs us. 


it’s okay to come home

I can’t recall if I ever went through this phase or not. But I know with certainty that this was definitely a phase my now 9-yr-old went through. Some form of disciplinary action would take place in our home and all of a sudden it was too much for him to handle and he would declare to all within earshot that he was running away. Now he never really made it past the backyard. And there was never really any long-term planning involved other than grabbing one or two favorite toys, but the spirit of the action was understood. At some point though either my wife or I one would beckon him back in the house and all would be restored again.

It reminds me of the parable I was able to share this last week a couple of times. A son runs away from home after wishing for the inheritance he would receive upon his father’s death i.e. wishing his father dead (sounds like a dramatic running away story to me). He waste the inheritance on wild living and then ends up in a very desperate situation and finally comes to his senses and heads home. Here’s where the writer picks it up, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” – Luke 15:20. And we love reading about this reconciliation but I’ve always thought that perhaps there could have been more. I can’t help but think about the older brother watching the father while the son was still in the distant country. Everyday as he would head into the fields he more than likely would see his father on the front porch staring into the distance. He knew his father’s heart was breaking and yet he just kept busy…doing what he thought his father wanted him to do. When in all truthfulness the father just wanted the younger son home. Had the older brother truly understood his role in reflecting his father’s heart he would have gone to the distant country, found his younger brother and told him, “It’s okay to come home.”

I look at the church today and I wonder which older brother we are reflecting. Are we busy about what we think is the father’s business? Or are we actively pursuing the younger brother or sister and telling them “It’s okay to come home”? Are our churches truly a place where the lost know, “It’s okay to come home?” Are we creating environments and programs to suit our own needs or do we truly reflect the heart of the father reaching out to the runaway son/daughter and telling them, “It’s okay to come home?”

My son was probably never in the backyard for more than an hour in his attempts at running away. But I like to think he knows that at the end of the day regardless of how long he stays out, how far he strays away, or how much he thinks he has failed us that it’s okay to come home. May the same be said for us when we think about those who aren’t home yet with our heavenly Father.


language of love

Last night I bore witness to an outpouring of love that I have rarely seen in the church. And the craziest part about it all was that it was all on Twitter. It didn’t necessarily begin that way, but that is where it fully blossomed. Last night I gathered with a large group of people in the home of a family who have been fighting a horrendous battle with cancer for quite some time now. We surrounded the family with prayer and celebrated communion together as a gesture of solidarity and love. But much to my surprise that was only the beginning. I got home about an hour or so later and jumped on Twitter (part of my nightly ritual) and was blown away. All of a sudden students involved in my ministry and students I have never even met had begun a community revolution.

There were countless prayers, encouraging posts, and more all being tweeted on behalf of this family. The local high school, where the oldest daughter attends, was even preparing itself to be awash with Pink the next day to honor the mother’s battle against Breast Cancer. And although their football game for Friday was scheduled to be a “Black Out” all of a sudden it became a “Pink Out”. The local news station even picked up on the phenomenon and aired a news story earlier this morning. And all because of Twitter.

Now I know that in the church we have a lot of discussion about effective ways of spreading the gospel and preaching Christ, but I am reminded of Paul’s writings in his letter to the Corinthian church, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (I Corinthians 13:1). Sometimes I know people have been discouraged by the use of Social Media and are worried about where it might lead. But last night I saw love in the language of my students revealed in one of the most amazing ways possible. Last night Twitter became more than a resounding gong. And it didn’t involve a sermon…it didn’t involve a Biblical exposition…it started with a 140 character limited post and it showed love from a community for a real family in a very real way. And we are all better for that.

#PrayForTheStorys


%d bloggers like this: