Tag Archives: church

Why I’ve started to dislike Easter

I think Easter is supposed to be the cornerstone holiday of Christianity, at least that’s what I grew up thinking in my Evangelical upbringing. After all, Jesus died to pay the price for all our sins and then he rose again, finalizing it and making it clear that God approved of the sacrifice. It’s a great opportunity to remind us all how important it is remember our sins and to commit our lives to him and to believe that he really did do this for us.

I don’t really like going to church on Easter anymore. I mean, I’ve heard this same message a hundred times… Easter doesn’t make it any more real to me. I just end up feeling like the pastor is using the opportunity of a packed church and a suffering savior to get more commitments to follow Jesus. But I don’t think there was anything in Jesus’ death and resurrection that was saying believe that I did this and you will go to heaven. There was nothing in his death and resurrection accounts where he said follow me and make me your God.

I also don’t really like working in the hospital on Easter. I have done this the last two years. Last year, I spent most of the day with a family of 30 or more relatives waiting to hear whether a 14 year old boy, who had a completely unexpected stroke, was going to die. And prayed with a man who held his newborn child who had died in delivery. This year, I had to talk with a family whose father and husband, most likely dying from full body shut down, after the doctors found a softball size tumor on his last day of checkups after pushing through metastasized melanoma. We talked about letting go, about grieving, about the fact that he might not go home.

If I had to choose between the hospital and church on Easter, I think I would choose the hospital. To me it feels closer to real life and rings truer to what Easter is all about. Granted, God’s presence is as present at church as it is in the hospital, but in the hospital people have to wrestle with it more… and God’s presence, the work of Christ in the universe, the person of Jesus should be wrestled with. Always, and without exception. I guess I’m just not into “Hurray for Jesus” anymore. I’m not into easy answers, or sealed in blood, or done-deal salvation. If Jesus is the “blue-print,” as Richard Rohr often mentions, if he is the full representation of God, or the ultimate archetype of truth in the universe, his death and resurrection are not a series of facts that must be believed for eternal salvation. His death and resurrection are not a story to be told with much theatrics and passion with the hopes of getting a few more Christians to add to the Book of Life.

If Jesus truly is the revelation of the Divine in humanity, his death and resurrection are a cosmological statement that says, “See, this is what God is like. Death happens. It is a necessary part of human life, it is a necessary part of the spiritual life. And when we die, God comes through with hope and new life. It has been this way, it is this way, and it always will be this way. If you are afraid to die, you will not face the new life.” My sin did not put Jesus on the cross. The reality of life put Jesus on the cross, just as reality of life raised him from the grave. And is it a unquestionable proven fact that he rose? No. But then again, sometimes archetypes say more about truth than fact does anyway.

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Community, nature, and chaos

The church community I am a part of often shares meals together as a community. I have been noticing something that has given me cause to wonder. There is always a direction given before we start getting our food: “Women and children first.” Granted, I recognize this is a matter of respect and an effort to affirm their worth, but something else happens. The men hang back, and sit with, the other men, and the women find their places with the other women and children. It is a pattern that separates us into specific roles and ways of being as a community.

So I thought, what if the men went first with the kids? That would mix things up! Maybe make for some uncomfortability, maybe some new and creative ways of taking care of each other. Maybe a little chaos and disorder even.

Nature requires chaos and disorder for resiliency… is it any different for human communities seeking resiliency and health?

M. Scott Peck, in his book, In Search of Stones, writes in his chapter on Adventure that he loves storms. And not just small thunderstorms, but massive, dangerous Category 1 tsunamis. The thing he likes about storms is that they demonstrate the power to throw humans out of their element. Nature takes control for a while. It is the way of nature that chaos, disorder, and diversity are necessary and inevitable. I think also of forest fires and how our human efforts to control them have been a detriment to the natural life cycles of forests.

All nature requires chaos, disorder, and diversity to create resilient ecosystems and earth communities. Is it not the same for human community as well? We need to mix it up, to diversify the places that we gather, the rhythms that we participate in, the food that we eat, and the people that we spend time with. This is truth… a basic psychology, anthropology, community-building given. Don’t let each other get too comfortable. As one who is passionate about community resiliency, I for one will be promoting this till the day I die.

What we dwell on tells us who we are

IMG_2393That last post, I would say, is an effort to dream, to give thanks, to wonder, and to celebrate. All bad comes with some good if we are looking for it. All good comes with some bad… even if we aren’t looking for it. Isn’t that so true? Our dreams, the things we dwell on (on our worst days AND our best days), reveal to us about who we are.

A friend reflected to me that he has to marvel at the reflections of some people at various events he hosts. A woman told him once that she felt that all the subjects of his pub conversations were about sex. Hmmm… I wonder what she is trying to resist. How true it is that the things we try to resist are the things we focus on the most. Sometimes we see the negative in others and the positive in our selves, or the other way around. We see the positive in others and the negative in ourselves.

She is so in shape, I have such a hard time exercising. They eat so poorly, I have made the most healthy food ever. They are so obsessed with sex, at least I can keep a pure mind. It’s so cold here, I would rather be in a place that is warm. They don’t know how to work hard and so are poor as a result, I’ve worked hard and have money to spend. Ultimately, there are attachments… physical body, food, sex, comfort, money. The things we dwell on tell us so much about ourselves.

But there are layers there, aren’t there? I obsessively read fantasy novels these days. And is it obsessively or diligently? And is it because I want to show that I have achieved something, or because I want to escape, or because I am just bored? Or maybe it is because it feels good to work my imagination and to open up a world of dragons and battles and adventure. It could be all of the above. Who knows?

When it comes down to it, we must simply pay attention. Knowledge and observation teach us much and give us freedom. Freedom to let go, freedom to move on, freedom to feel.

One more story to further illustrate my point. The family and I went and met a friend at a new coffee shop this morning. We opted for this rather than getting geared up for church. Brendan even said at one point, “Church?” Of course, there are the thoughts in my head of the need for spiritual support, the desire to worship and sing, the feeling of lack of Christian spiritual guidance in my life, the importance of Brendan being with other kids, and the fact that we would not be spending the money on coffee when I had already made some at home.

Getting out of the car, Kat laughed at the ease of going out for coffee versus going to church. “It sure is easy to get going for the coffee shop on Sunday morning that church,” she said. It’s true. We didn’t do the customary church-going family tradition of battling our way to the car, silence on the road, and smiling at the greeters. Rather, we had a date on our only free morning of the week, while enjoying the creative ambiance of this finely crafted coffee house and having good heart-to-heart conversation with our dear friend. It’s all about what we see, and as I have said so many times before, we ultimately see what we are looking for.

Reflections on tradition and community

My friend Marc, had some questions regarding tradition and community in response to my reflections on our ceremony, and I think it’s worth a post.

I am curious to know what place (if any) you think tradition has in the concept of community. Communities are constantly changing — people come and go, they age, structures are built and torn down, etc. — but perhaps ceremonies (weddings, graduations, national anthems sung before ball games, etc.) play an important role in maintaining a steady hand amid all the flux. Certainly, there are plenty of ways to have a wedding, but at what point is a wedding no longer a wedding and becomes something else? Is it OK if it becomes something else entirely? How does that affect the community? Are certain communities more adaptable to change and, if so, is that adaptability something that can be intentionally developed or does it just happen?

I am currently working toward a Master’s in Public Administration, so I am so eager to hear your thoughts about tradition, change, and how communities can address the two. (Government is infamously slow to change, but I think the public’s longing for tradition can play a big role in that.)

There is a huge place for tradition, ceremony, and ritual in community. As Marc said, communities are constantly changing and yes, government has been slow in adapting… I would say, to an extent, religion has as well. Tradition helps us stay grounded in history which is absolutely essential if we are to adapt to change well. It’s a paradox really. Adapt yet ground in history. So, we as a community must know and celebrate (or even lament) our history, and yet we must continue to build new ways of doing ceremony and ritual.

Tradition often gets developed unintentionally, but ritual and ceremony MUST be developed intentionally. Continue reading Reflections on tradition and community

City Church and things changing in Bend

**Edit:I have made some changes to the following post and comments as I realize it is terribly bad form to begin naming churches in negative ways. I never want to slam churches and what they are trying to do.

Please know that I apologize for the deliberate naming. My feelings don’t change, but better to not name.

Also, in no way am I trying to link City Church with anything else that other churches are doing. My comments are my own and not belonging to City church as a whole.** With that said:

I gotta say I’m proud. Proud of my good friend, Kevin Wright, one of the pastors at the community I am getting involved at, City Church, here in Bend, OR. He has just recently been on the program, The Story, on public broadcasting.

Here’s the LINK for the audio.

City Church | Bend OR

This all reminds me of a post I put up a few months back, about the inevitable division that I see happening within Christianity and within Bend as well. It’s a painful time we are facing right now and going to be facing soon. My thinking in the fall of 2008, was that here in Bend we would see a number of individuals really get raked across the coals because they are trying to think and do Christianity outside the box of traditional Christianity. I had no idea that it would happen so soon.

The dissolving of Oasis I didn’t see coming so soon. I think sometimes we try and soften the impact by letting people know what we think in small doses or doing what we can to change our language to help others digest it better. My thinking is that the same people are going to be effected. It can happen all at once or we can prolong the pain and stretch it out.

Another friend of mine just had a very frustrating and saddening dismissal from his church. This church here in town let him go as there was apparently too many students thinking for themselves and asking questions. At a time when the students were more excited than ever about following Jesus and my friend was more fulfilled than ever in youth ministry, they decided not to renew his contract. He was to be done in two weeks. After many rumors, much incomplete information given, and church politics, my friend and his wife could use some prayer.

So all this has happened in the first two months of 2009. What’s next? I am kind of glad that I am able to do what I am most passionate about independently of the overarching perceptions and pedestals of a church hierarchy. While it is so difficult to imagine, at this point in life, that I will not be paid to do ministry… there is a bit of freedom there. I am called to be a spiritual leader, no a professional pastor-person. We need more spiritual leaders (who actually are not always liked and are not always paid). The spiritual leaders among us need to realize that this must be our first priority and MUST not be compromised.

So yah, 2009 is going to be hard. I imagine many of us trying to do new things will be challenged to our limits. I would give things about a year and hope that in 2010 there will begin to be fashioned a very strong and authentic community expression. We will come together again. Keep listening…