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Showing posts from December, 2008

What in the World is Happening to Christian Churches....

About a month ago I posted a reflection about this issue. Here is a shorter, revised version of that reflection.

There have been a number of articles, over the last few years, in the news and circulating in emails, about the collapse of the Episcopal Church. These articles cite as an example of the demise, the crumbling budgets of parishes and dioceses, and lay blame on liberal influences on church teachings. In response I have some thoughts, most of which are grounded in the studies of sociologists concerned with the state of Mainline Christian Denominations and the Episcopal Church in particular.

To understand the situation with some depth it helps if we begin by looking back 150 years ago and then progress forward to the situation today. Beginning around the year 1850 a world view known as “modernism” was developing. This point of view grew out of the development of scientific methodology, asserting that “for every question there was an answer.” By 1870 the concept of scientific rea…

In the beginning was the Word....

A Reflection on John 1:1-14

A few weeks ago we pulled out our boxes of Christmas decorations and began to decorate the house. One box was marked, Nativity set. Now, I have three or four sets and I wasn’t sure which one this box contained. Turns out it was an old, relatively inexpensive one given to me by a former client, and therefore treasured because it came from her. Slowly I pulled out the pieces and set it up: three wise men, a donkey, the crèche, and Joseph. Carefully going through each piece of newspaper and wrapping paper to make sure I had all the pieces. But in the end I realized that two were missing…..Mary and the baby. How, I thought, can you have a nativity set when Mary and the baby are missing? A donkey or a sheep can go missing and the story is still ok. A shepherd too, maybe even one of the wise men could be missing – and well we could just pretend he was coming along later….but, there is no nativity set with Mary and the baby….Thus far I have yet to find them…and no …

A Christmas Reflection

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There is an ancient story about the richest man in town. Although his house was next to the church, he spent every Sunday sleeping through the worship service. One morning he awoke early, just in time to hear, through the open window, some verses of scripture where God instructs the children of Israel to place twelve loaves of bread on the holy table.

The man, in his half awake bewildered state, believed that God had spoken to him directly, instructing him to place twelve loaves of bread on the holy table, the altar in the church. The man felt somewhat honored at the thought that God needed him. But, given that he was wealthy enough to do anything, he also felt somewhat foolish that all God wanted was bread. That did not seem very important. Nonetheless the man got up and made twelve loaves of bread.

Later, the man entered the church with his bundle of bread and wondered how he could possibly leave it without being seen. Finally the room was empty and he was able to place the…

The Great Experiment

A reflection on 1 Thessalonian 5:16-24 for Advent 3B

Some 26 years ago, when I was working in theater, I had my first experience of sushi. Sushi, for those of you who may not know, is steamed rice pressed into a small bite sized cake upon which a thin piece of raw fish is placed. During that time I had colleagues from New York City who came to Chicago several times a year for performances. On one of those trips we went to a local Sushi restaurant on Clark Street called, Happi Sushi. Now, I had never had sushi before, but I was willing to try it. I let my colleagues order the fish and then, with great enthusiasm, dove in.
The required side dishes for proper sushi eating include: soy sauce for dipping the sushi, marinated ginger root for cleansing the palate between pieces of sushi, and this green garnish that looks like mashed avocado. Assuming it was avocado I enthusiastically dipped my piece of sushi into the soy sauce and then into the ground avocado, and popped it into my mouth. Imag…

Christian Formation

Last week I found myself in the middle of a delightful conversation when a group of five women gathered for lunch and a discussion to plan the upcoming Lenten Program for our church. I knew all five, two were parishioners, and two will be presenters at the Lenten program, and me. It was however the first time the others had met each other, including the parishioners. So, it was really wonderful that the conversation went so well.

In the course of the conversation one of person raised the idea of "Formation." This lead to a conversation about what it is. What is Christian Formation? Her idea, the one who raised it in the first place, is that formation is the way God speaks to us and we respond. Over the course of time God speaks into our being and our efforts to respond to that movement of God in us, is formation. I didn't ask this at the time, but I suppose this is particularly true when we decide to be intentional in that response to God, when we intentionally work on ou…

A Response to the "Demise" of the Episcopal Church...

There have been a number of emails sent round in the last few days about the demise of the Episcopal Church. These emails cite as an example of the demise, the crumbling budgets of parishes and dioceses, and lay blame for this demise on the liberal influences on church teachings and thought. Much is made of the idea that liberal thought has watered down Jesus until he has become meaningless. In response I have some thoughts, most of which are grounded in the studies of sociologists (Diana Butler Bass, among others) concerned with the state of Mainline Christian Denominations and the Episcopal Church in particular.

To understand the situation with some depth it helps if we begin by looking back some 150 years ago and then progress forward to the situation today. Beginning about 150 years ago the world was adopting what has become known as the “modern” philosophical and sociological view. This point of view asserted, following a scientific methodology, that for every question there was a…