What Is All That Racket?!

What Is All That Racket?!

This is a classic dad line. Here we are on Father’s Day and like other holidays, we take time to honor, remember, and give gratitude to someone or something. Father’s day reminds me of family vacations back in the 1990’s. We had a 1985 Plymouth Voyager Minivan… and when they said mini they really meant it. It had 5 seats total, which was perfect because there were 5 of us who needed to fit into the van. So we would throw our luggage and coolers and tents and portable charcoal grills in the back, squeeze into the van and be on our way to some fun summer destination. But , as you might imagine, three children crammed together on the lone back seat on a 5-hour car ride was basically a living nightmare. There would be laughter, pushing, name-calling, car games, singing, whistling, crying… inevitably leaving our father with only one question, “What Is All That Racket?!” usually followed by something like “I will turn this car around” or “No more laughing back there!”

So today I want you to imagine a trip like this… Jesus is driving a minivan, or really a small bus. And crammed into the back of this bus is Saul, which is Paul’s name before he had his conversion experience with Christ. A second passenger is Mary Magdalene, who had 7 demons that needed exorcism. Other passengers are the 12 disciples of Jesus who usually had questions or showed weak faith, Joanna, a follower of Jesus who needed to be cured of her illnesses, and then finally there is the unnamed woman in Luke who was called a sinner who comes upon Jesus at a party… imagine this ride! This sounds like a pretty motley crew making tons of negative noise, you can imagine and almost hear Jesus asking from the front, “What Is All That Racket?!” or, and this is tougher to imagine, but perhaps Jesus is saying from the front, “I will turn this van around.” But, I don’t think it gets to that point….

Let’s go to the scripture. Here Paul is basically saying goodbye to the Cornithians for good, and he wants to leave them with a few important themes, the themes and ideals of Christ Himself. First he says put things in order, which means to mend your ways, have the same mind as Christ, and be restored in that Christ-like love for one another. If we go back to our bus ride, we can see this idea of mending your ways impacting Saul greatly. Saul was persecuting believers, calling for imprisonment and death of believers, and then one day on a road to Damascus he was hit with the light of Christ and heard Christ’s voice. He became a believer. All that negative racket he was causing was transformed into beautiful sounds of grace, love, and communion.

Our second theme is listen to my appeal and agree with one another, live in peace. Which basically means keep listening to Christ, to each other, agree on the basics of faith and life together, live in harmony and encourage one another. If we go back to our bus passengers, we can see this idea of listening and harmony greatly impacting the disciples. They often did not listen very well, especially in the gospel of Mark. They do not understand who Jesus is and what he wants of them and lack faith, they sometimes appear self-obsessed with no signs of improvement. Judas betrays, Peter denies, and the others run. Despite all of that, they came to know Jesus after the resurrection. They listened and encouraged one another. It was them, the disciples who started the difficult work of the early Church. All that negative racket they were causing was transformed into beautiful sounds of grace, love, and communion.

Our third theme is greet one another with a holy kiss. Basically, it means embrace like with the passing of the peace that we do. Know each other as brothers and sisters. The three women on this bus ride understand what knowing Christ is all about. Mary Magdalene is freed of seven demons by Jesus, and then becomes one of his followers. She greets Jesus with a holy kiss when she anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and dries them with her hair. She is the first to hear of Jesus’ resurrection. Joanna had illnesses that Jesus cured, she was wealthy and had connections so when she became a follower of Jesus, she supported the journey. Lastly, the woman who was called a sinner in Luke came up to Jesus and with her tears, she washed his feet and dried them with her hair, she kissed his feet and put oil on them. In this act her sins which had been many, were forgiven. They all came to know Christ, and embraced him. The racket of Mary’s demons, Joanna’ illnesses, and the woman’s sins, were all transformed into beautiful sounds of grace, love, and communion.

This Sunday is also Trinity Sunday. I spared you a sermon on the doctrine of the Trinity because 1, Tom and I have trinity elements in many of our messages, and 2, it is too complex a doctrine to put into 1 sermon or 2 or 3. Instead, we heard about elements of the Trinity… grace, love, and communion. Grace, the grace of Jesus Christ giving his life. Love, the love of God in creating and sustaining us through Christ. And Communion, the communion of the Holy Spirit of the Lord bringing us together in fellowship. Week after week we come together growing in community. This whole benediction from Paul, and really it’s from Christ, is a plea to be New Creation. All of these people riding in the van with Jesus are becoming new creation. They are restoring and reconciling their lives, changing their negative sounds of racket into beautiful sounds that ring like a heavenly choir. So as we ride down the road in our bus, with Jesus driving, let’s make the sounds of a heavenly chorus; acknowledging God’s commitment to us and our accountability to God to be instruments of grace, love, community, and peace.

Amen.

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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Emmaus

Heartbreak, despair, the reality of lost dreams or dreams gone by, doubts around every corner… that is the reality of being human. We continue to journey, sometimes just prodding along, and sometimes that journey leads to darkness. And it is on that edge of darkness where we enter today. The 23rd chapter of Luke ends in complete darkness with the death of the one they thought would save them. The tomb was closed up, the quiet sabbath surrounded those who dressed Jesus’ body. Hope was lost in that death-filled darkness.

Chapter 24 begins with a glimmer of hope as the morning sun rises over the empty tomb. There are 3 sections of chapter 24. It starts with Easter morning with the story of the empty tomb and the men in dazzling clothes who send the women away with the news. Chapter 24 ends out in Bethany, with a blessing from Jesus as he is carried up from earth to heaven. But it is in the middle section of this chapter, the story of the 2 disciples walking to Emmaus, where the church lives. We live between the abandoned linens of the empty tomb and Jesus’ ascension to heaven. here with the 2 disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, we encounter a not-so-strange stranger on the journey, a stranger who renews their hearts.

But before this stranger comes along though hopelessness is there on the road. There are 2 disciples, one is Cleopas, the other is unnamed. Luke left a blank space for us to fill in our own names as the 2nd disciple. Imagine walking back from Jerusalem, whispering with Cleopas all of your questions, lost hopes, lost dreams, true mourning there on the road. The 2 had hoped that Jesus was going to take his role as the messiah, instead he was arrested, carried a cross to a hill, and was crucified on that cross. This was not the way their passover festival was supposed to go.

Beuchner writes, “there was nothing left to do but get out of town. And where did they go? They went to Emmaus. And where was Emmaus and why did they go there? It was no place in particular really, and the only reason they went there was that it was some seven miles distant from a situation that had become unbearable.” It’s human nature to just want to get out of those unbearable situations. Barbara Brown Taylor, one of my favorite preachers says, “Luke is the only gospel writer who tells us the story of what happened on that road, but everyone has walked it at one time or another. It is the road you walk when your team has lost, your candidate has been defeated, your loved one has died – the long road back to the empty house, the piles of unopened mail, to life as usual, if life can ever be usual again… It is the road of deep disappointment, and walking it is the living definition of sad, just like the two disciples in today’s story. Hope in the past tense, (she says) is one of the saddest sounds a human being can make.” Their walk so far was like Noah’s time on the ark, days after days of storms and wind and fierce water and wild tides. Until a man, a stranger to the disciples (even though they knew Jesus), joins them on their journey. He reminds them of the stories and statements from scripture and you can feel the mood of the walk changing. Barbara Brown Taylor goes on to write, “the blindness of the two disciples does not keep their Christ from coming to them. He does not limit his post-resurrection appearances to those with full confidence in him. He comes to the disappointed, the doubtful, the disconsolate. He comes to those who do not know their bibles, who do not recognize him even when they are walking right beside him. He comes to those who have given up and are headed back home, which makes this whole story a story about the blessedness of brokenness. Jesus seems to prefer working with broken people, with broken dreams, in a broken world.”

The two disciples were so encouraged by this stranger’s words that they didn’t want him to go. When they got to Emmaus they invited him to have a meal and stay the night. Then he takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them, and this is when they finally recognize Jesus. They were probably part of the 5,000 that was fed by 5 loaves of bread and two fish, they’ve seen the light of Christ in the bread. It’s when he breaks the bread that they are brought back from the shadows of death and realize the light of Christ, the life in Christ. They had hit a wall of gloom and suffocation, they reached out to the man with their questions, they cried out beyond themselves, and even though they did not know it was Jesus with them, their crying out was answered with a tap on their shoulder from God. As Jesus told them about the scriptures and broke the bread, he reminded the 2 disciples of what God was doing. The heartbreak of the cross gave way to hope in their hearts. Their journey had been like the Ark on the raging seas, but like the rainbow at the end of Noah’s tale, in the bread they are reminded of God’s covenant relationship with creation, and that God will never leave God’s people.
Funny things will happen on the way to Emmaus, and Emmaus was never accurately place, so everywhere could be Emmaus. There will be challenges that threaten to pull us into darkness, but perhaps we will see the glimpses of light that shine through, the everyday moments that tell us to look more deeply with our hearts. Beuchner writes, “the sacred moments, the moments of miracle, are often everyday moments, the moments which, if we do not look with more than our eyes or listen with more than our ears, reveal only… a stranger coming down the road behind us, a meal like any other meal. But if we look with our hearts, if we listen with all of our imagination – if we live our lives not from escape to escape, but from the miracle of one instant of our precious lives to the miracle of the next – what we may see is Jesus himself, what we may hear is the first faint sound of a voice somewhere deep within us saying that there is a purpose in this life, in our lives, whether we can understand it completely or not; and that purpose follows behind us through all our doubting and being afraid.. to a moment when suddenly we know for sure that everything does make sense because everything is in the hands of God, one of whose names is forgiveness, another is love.”

Here we are in the middle, continually walking to Emmaus… and the blessing of it is… we never have to walk alone.

Amen.

What Are We Waving In the Air?

Palm Sunday is a complex and confusing day. You can’t really get around that. It is the beginning of the end of Jesus’ journey to the cross. Because Palm Sunday is really only the beginning, I’m going to offer up a lot of questions here, for all of us to journey with through the entirety of Holy Week.

This is the day on which Jesus entered the city in triumph with shouts of Hosanna, but in a few short days those shouts would turn to cries of Crucify Him!

Imagine being swept into this emotional experience:
> you welcome Christ and say here is my savior, but a few days go by and you’re shouting Crucify. You go with the crowd and seek what they seek.

But what is it that the crowds were seeking? Why do they herald his entrance but then participate in his violent departure? Did they not see what Jesus was teaching with miracles and acceptance of the outcasts and the poor and marginalized? Did they see Jesus as a threat to their imperial kingdom? Why did they switch sides so quickly?

And what motivated these crowds? Was it fear? Was it power? Further, what motivates us? What do we seek in Jesus? What do we believe he has come to accomplish? Why do we pledge our allegiance to him on Sunday and yet all too often turn our attention elsewhere the rest of the week? What sort of answers are you giving in your head?
They’re probably a lot like mine.

When I imagine myself in the masses of Jerusalem, and I’ve gone from Hosanna to crucify… I feel shame, guilt, regret. I don’t know who to believe anymore or what to trust, maybe I can’t even trust myself. I start focusing on what’s wrong with me and my failings. And that happens to us today. Some days I think, boy, I was not a very good
Christian today. Why do we go from Hosanna to Crucify? I think these are some of the questions we have to ask in Holy Week.

Palm Sunday really opens up humanity for us to see ourselves. In the crowds we see that we want control, we want it all to make sense. But we can’t control jesus’ healing, Jesus doesn’t use conventional methods, he does one thing for one person and something different for the other. He healed a man after he had been sick for 38 years. Gee, that’s a long time, maybe it’s easier if we humans just take things into our own hands. At least then we would have some control! And that’s what happened t Jesus in Jerusalem, humans took matters into their own hands. Do we echo that today?

Are we afraid of Jesus? Were the people in Jerusalem afraid of Jesus? Afraid that he’ll
do things that don’t make sense, like use broken, even faithless people to help others? Afraid that we can’t control him and he’ll break the rules, like forgiving sinners, being and living with social outcasts? Are we afraid to not be in control? Paul says in our scripture to strive side by side with each other with one mind. That’s really the opposite
of trying to have control. That’s humility, and Paul is saying that Christ on the cross is the all-time best example of humility.

Hope seems to break through when we stop trying to save our own selves. When Christ shows up in our hearts (and this is why we’re afraid of him) we learn that we reach life only through death. We learn that light is our friend only when we are sick of being in the dark.

But even in those times of yelling crucify, or those times when we feel the heartbreak of our experiences, we realize the power of Christ on the cross. Without the pain, you wouldn’t seek the comfort. Without the confusion, you wouldn’t need wisdom. Without being lost, you wouldn’t need Someone to find you. Without the utter hopelessness that you feel at times in relationship, you wouldn’t need a hope that is out of this world.

We like to be known as creators, as people who make ourselves. But what if we thought of ourselves as sub-creators, continuing what God has already put within us? Wanting to stay in control or create on our own can keep us humans from knowing and experiencing the real God in our lives, the God of the cross.

Robert Blys wrote a book called Iron John: A Book About Men, and in it he writes, “the church wants a tamed man – they are called priests. The university wants a domesticated, sophisticated man – they are called tenure-track people. The corporation wants a sanitized, powerful man.” We humans know deep down that we really need a wild man. One who will love us when we wander, consume, hurt, regret, feel guilt, have confusion, sin. Peter Hiett, a pastor writes, ” don’t be afraid of Jesus, he is the wild one you long for, so wild he’ll hang on a cross and sacrifice everything for you. All he asks in return is your freely-given, open heart.

In Matthew 21 the people ask “who is this?” And that is the best question to ask
ourselves during Holy Week.
> Who is this that is hailed by peasants, lepers, crippled-people, prostitutes and day laborers as messiah?
> Who is this though a simple country man, rides into the city like a king?
> Who is this whose devoted followers soon turn on him as the disciples disperse, his friend denies, and the crowds accuse?
> Who is this who is tried by political and religious elite and found an enemy to the establishment?
> Who is this who is dragged through Jerusalem to the execution grounds, hung on a cross, abandoned and forsaken?
> And lastly, who is this who comes not in power but in weakness, not in might but in vulnerability, not in judgement but in mercy, not in revenge but love?

We all long for something now, we don’t want to wait for heaven, to wait for 38 years for something great to happen, and we don’t want to wait during Holy Week for Easter to come. We don’t like these dark feelings. But here on earth we get moments, moments of understanding in the midst of craziness and suffering; moments of community in the midst of isolation and lonliness, moments of forgiveness in the midst if shame and struggle; and moments of hope in the midst of hard, monotonous work. So now we must wait for Christ in this Holy Week, where he will be crucified and buried. Waiting is hard, its scary, risky, humbling, we lose control. This week we will have moments of great joy and moments of great struggle, we will live like exiles and then find others to walk with us along the way. We’ll take two steps forward and 3 steps back. But we get to listen, we’ll get moments when Christ will speak right to us, and in those moments we will prepare for when all things are new.

Grazing Outside the Door

 

Tolkien writes, “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Jesus says I Am the Door, I Am the Good Shepherd, and these statements stem from Jesus giving sight to a blind man. After gaining his sight neighbors brought him to the temple to testify, there he was questioned by the Pharisees, who believed the once-blind-man was born completely in sin, and Jesus should not have healed him. The man who could see said I am a disciple of the one they call Jesus. The Pharisees said they were disciples of Moses, who spoke to God, we do not know who Jesus is!

The once-blind man was thrown out of the temple, and the Pharisees were upset that he was healed and that he was healed on the sabbath. But even after being thrown out of the Temple, this man blind from birth is saved from isolation when he is healed by jesus, saved from marginalization, saved from everlasting darkness, he will finally know sustenance and security because he can see, he is kept safe, fed, sheltered, nourished by the shepherd, and the shepherd stands at the entrance of the pasture, guarding the flock. The door to new life.

Jesus said I am the door, and a door has two functions, exit or enter. When you exit you leave something behind. Whatever is behind the door (joy, sadness, hope, etc.), when you exit you leave it there. Sometimes when you leave it is permanent, never to return to where you were before. We all have things that we ought to leave behind (Habits, attitude, relationship). It is important to acknowledge our failings, face up to shortcomings, and then in the grace of Christ exit them. The truly tough thing though is letting them go, looking at them and not truly leaving. At Camp Fowler as new staff we got schedules to keep with us of the day’s activities. Sometimes these schedules are easy to lose or misplace, or even thrown away. It’s a metaphor for those of us throwing away our tomorrows because we can’t leave behind those things that darken our tomorrows, we need illumination and sometimes that comes with a true exit.

When you enter you get out of the cold weather into the warmth of home, out of the rain into where it is dry, out of fierce wind into where it is calm, out of the danger of being outside into the comfort and security of the inside. New life, abundant life is the potential of our entering.Those who enter find security. There are open doors just waiting for us to enter, sometimes though we can’t move forward to tomorrow because we are tied to too many yesterdays. And sometimes when we enter there is great anxiety waiting for what might come. We feel a pit in our stomach and a slight hesitancy in our walk. Here in these 40 days there are many open doors to take, and a lot of anxiety in trying to shed our burdens, exit those things that are holding us back. However we realize Christ is walking right along side us.

In the days of Christ the shepherd was a wanderer, covering vast territory, a land arid and bleak where grazing was in short supply. This was a life of vigilance in rugged place, also a life of great burden, had to care for those sheep in the vast emptiness with the dangers of common life. Shepherd and sheep became dependent upon one another. Even at a well with 4 different shepherds and their sheep, the sheep and shepherds still know one another. The sheep listen for the voice of the shepherd, they know their shepherd and their shepherd knows them. In what ways do we listen for the voice of the shepherd. Is it audible among all the other white noise going around us?

The door that is Christ is not narrow, and the same goes for the shepherd’s love. The good shepherd must always be seeking, searching, and trying to find the sheep that need care. The good shepherd knows, cares, protects, and his love is not narrow. To see value that is not obvious, to find the wanderer who is lost, to make things strong so that they can last, to cultivate deep roots that can sustain, to be a light in the darkness, to renew those who are broken, to make something royal in the ruts of the common way. This is the work of the shepherd. Here in Lent we seek to fashion our lives in the image of the good shepherd.

Sheep always live in community, you hardly ever see one sheep, and there isn’t really a singular form, just plural, sheep. Christianity is the only religion that calls God a lamb, and we’ve spent 2,000 years avoiding vulnerability. Paul says when I am weak, I am strong, but we’re frightened of experiencing this strength.The sheep in all their vulnerability are in this together, the sheepfold actually frees us up to live lives to the fullest in God’s grace. We don’t have to worry about power failure. Jesus said I came that they might have life-indeed, so they could live life to the fullest. Sometimes we reach too hastily for an answer instead of letting ourselves be invited to a process.

The following is from My Creator, My Friend by Bruce Larson.

If you do good people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives: do good anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow: do good anyway.

People favor underdogs, but they follow the top dogs: Fight for underdogs anyway.

What you spend days building may be destroyed overnight: Do it anyway.

People really need help but they attack you if you try to help them: Try to help anyway.

Give the world the best you have and get kicked in the mouth: give the world the best you have anyway.

In Lent we are called to challenge ourselves in the wilderness, right alongside Jesus, our shepherd, our door to new life. Even if the lenten journey seems long where there is no destination in sight, journye anyway.

In the 40 wilderness fasting days Jesus stared down 3 demons who said, 1.) You have to be successful. 2.) You need to be righteous and religious 3.) the need to have power and get everything under control. Until we stare down these 3 demons within us, there is no possibility of getting out of the wilderness and proclaiming the kingdom of God. Here Jesus proclaims he is laying down his life for the sheep. Who are we, what is our condition, what is our situation? The Good Shepherd will lay down his life in a world in which thieves and bandits are real, there are powers that threaten human life, dignity, and hope. The wolves come, human vulnerability is open to all forces. That is where Jesus’ story comes into our lives and where he leads us through the door to life through God’s saving grace.

Prayer. Simple. Great. Profound.

Have you ever tried to get up and say a prayer, maybe at a family meal, around Christmas or Easter… and you open your mouth and the words you are saying do not seem to be enough? You feel almost empty because the words you are looking for do not come. We try to make the prayer more complicated than it has to be because we want our words to be profound, however, sometimes it’s easier to forego the use of many words. Anne Lamott prays, “Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you, help me, help me, help me. Amen.” Is that not profound? Well, yes, I think it’s profound in it’s simplicity, and the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving is profound in it’s simplicity too.

At it’s core the GPoT that we say during the Lord’s Supper is Trinitarian. We give thanks and remember all that God the Father has done and is doing in creating the world, a fountain of life, goodness, and abundance for the world. Then we give thanks and remember all that Christ has done and is doing as the way, the truth, the light, the Word, the resurrection and the life in the world. In the end we pray for the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the world; Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Simple! Profound! The GPoT is a  meandering stream, not a brilliant waterfall. We meander through the Scriptural story from Creation to Jesus’ redemption, and in the stream, as if peering around the next bend, we lean to the future and prepare to be the body of Christ in the world.

With the struggle we humans have with words, sometimes it’s easier to show what we are desperately trying to say. That is where the sacraments shine light. The Lord’s Supper shines light into the world to overcome the darkness, and whenever celebrated, it becomes a moment when the meaning of the Word comes to life. So we realize that our sacraments are not just about remembering, but living into the body of Christ and saying once again that we are part of God’s story of grace through Christ, lived out with the Spirit. The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving reminds us to live in God’s grace where words can be simple and fruitful, yet profound in God’s love.

We gather at the table and we pray thank you, thank you, thank you, help us, help us, help us, because we share in God’s unconditional and continuing grace. We raise our hearts and minds high, where Christ lives in the glory of the Father, knowing that the work of Christ is the ultimate sign of God’s steadfast love. We remember, not only the grace of God and Christ, but the saints of the church who have come before, and our common union with them. We move forward with God the True Giver, who helps us return to fruitful living. And with our common bread and wine, we pray that God shows us signs of Christ and the Holy Spirit being in our presence. 

The meal and the prayer are life-giving and enriching, and is nourishment for us in the broken body of Christ. I Believe the meal and the prayer put us back together so we are whole and united in Christ.

History Repeating?

The Church of the 15th and 16th Century and Today’s American Church

I see a lot of parallels in these periods, and as we know, sometimes unfortunately, history tends to repeat itself. Sometimes it’s not unfortunate though as we tend to grow when we get a second chance. I’ll just throw out some parallels I see.

There’s the obvious connection with church leadership corruption. We see it in today’s Vatican bank and other church leadership throughout the world. I heard on the radio about the corruption in the Chicago Archdiocese and the victims of 30 abusive priests! If you’re an everyday Christian, or really just a human in general why would you be part of an institution with this type of corruption and abuse? There is also a newer book out that sheds light on how the Roman Catholic Church as an institution actually helped support fascism during the Mussolini era, morning masses were important props in the pageantry of it all.

I look at the councils back then that struggled with bringing needed reform, and then there were rivalries within the councils and the whole councils-in-control idea just failed. I can’t help but think of the stories I heard about the General Synod meeting from a couple years ago and how divisive it became and how it struggled with bringing needed reform to the church.

Like the medieval church and people of that time, Americans are flooded with different views and there seems to be a sense of “going back to the sources.” Not just biblical and within the church itself, but within society. We’re seeing a turn back to supporting local stores, products, food, etc. In the cities people actually have gardens on rooftops! Perhaps in our society we are feeling the need to live simply. To go back to a time of communal love, giving of yourself, and service.

The economic conditions of the masses seem far from improving, just like during the collapse of Christendom. And those masses are starting to include our local churches that do not have the resources to continue. And along with this lack of resources, are churches still seen as defenders of the poor? Or is that now left up to secular groups who have the means to assist in society?

I suppose I can’t really call the people of the Reformation cynical, but today a trust that used to be given to institutions 50-70 years ago (Government, Churches, Schools, etc.) has given-way to a nation of cynical people, who do not have any reason to trust institutions. Whether it’s because of Watergate, lack of education funding, high tuition, old and outdated ideas, scandal, corruption, lack of a welcoming community, etc., institutions have shown that they can’t always be trusted. Has that made us more individualistic, having an attitude of self-reliance? Do we as individuals in a society of individuals now look for God elsewhere and not in churches, because we fear church as an institution? Have Christians alienated themselves because church-jargon became untrustworthy a long time ago?

Millennials seem to be a new version of humanists searching for religious liberty (and I suppose I’m an old Millennial). Churches seem overprotective to them, God is missing from their church experience, and they want the feeling of doing mission, something more physical and tangible and less intellectual. They search for answers and the common ground between religion and sexuality and strive for open-mindedness and a free expression of doubts. With Milennials taking over many sections of society, church is greatly affected because they trust church less than older generations do. I think they are looking for a church that will allow them to work through their own spiritual questions and where they feel genuinely understood. Is this new humanism or am I way off

Communal Prayer

Jean-Jaques von Allmen writes this nugget of gold. “It is in each case the same Christian prayer, made in obedience to the same commandment, disciplined by the same content, and turned towards the same hope and the same expectation. And I think that that is right: if common prayer is the regulative prayer, the prayer to which the other prayers of Christians, must be referred, yet it is not the only prayer that Christians make to God; but these other prayers find their meaning and truth in the fact that they are, as it were, the echo, or the prelude to common prayer.

I think this makes a difference in how I think about prayer because it points to the body of Christ. We are many but we are all one in Christ. The idea of our individual prayers being echoes or preludes of our communal prayer is very interesting. When we prayer communally we basically come to the understanding that we are part of the body of Christ. Humanity experiences similar things, different things, but we can come together as one in Christ when we pray. When we find truth in our turning towards the hope found in God’s grace. In communal prayer we recognize each other, we understand each other, in communal prayer we are no longer strangers with everyone else in the church, but brothers and sisters in Christ. When those ideals of communal prayer echo into our individual prayers, we individually gain better perspective that we are part of something greater than ourselves, and we are part of something that makes us one. The truth and power of God’s grace penetrates even deeper within our nephesh when our communal prayer reminds us that we come together as one. Through communal prayer, all of our prayers are enriched with a sense of togetherness. I hope to make the content of my prayers based on this idea.

“Said in the name of the world, common prayer allows the world to survive in spite of all that is dragging it towards death, and this respite that the Church’s prayer offers the world allows the world still to be reached by the gospel.” I thought this was fresh thinking! Common prayer offering a respite for the world, a moment to hear, teach, spread the gospel with our common prayer, our common identity. That’s pretty cool. I think this also speaks to offering. The work of the church, the work of one identity, one body of Christ, is an offering to the Lord. This respite with common prayer allows Christians to offer up their lives to God. Offering with a connection to common prayer is way more than just money or even gifts or insights or talents, but a sign of commitment to God, and serving God in the world. Very cool stuff.