Every Good Friday I want to quit being a pastor. Seriously I do. The problem is not Holy Week. It’s me. Every year as I approach Good Friday and remember how all Jesus’ disciples abandoned him, and how Peter denied him, I remember times when I have failed as a pastor. I’ve been a full time pastor for almost 25 years. I’ve had lots of opportunities to screw up. I remember too many of them. I remember a woman with Post Partum Depression that I did not recognize and my failure to respond appropriately. I remember so many failures of omission I can hardly bear it. Broken promises. Phone calls I failed to return. Screw ups to the left of me. Screw ups to the right of me. On Good Friday I unwillingly face my failings and want to go work in tech.
I stand with Peter and the other Apostles. I know the times of God’s grace and the acute pain of my failings. I hate it. I remember the scripture “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b) I think my prayers are not worth much. So many mistakes, missed opportunities, and lapses of judgment. I can’t quit though. I know I am still called, and place my hope in the truth that God can use my mistakes for good. Thank God for that! Thank God also that Sunday is Easter and Holy Week is short. Each year I find it harder to bear. Good Friday breaks me.
There is more to life than life and death. So much of our cultural attention is focused on squeezing the most out of life and easing one’s death that Easter always comes as a welcome shock. The first simple sermon “He is risen” was a game changer. It was so shocking Jesus’ disciples could not believe it at first. When the truth settled into their hearts, they became cultural misfits. The truth they knew changed the way they experienced life and changed what they feared. Before this truth took hold of them they feared death. They feared being ostracized and persecuted by people they had grown up to respect and love. But this truth set them free from worldly fears and frustrations. Jesus had risen from the dead. Death was defeated, eternal life was true and available to Jesus’ disciples.
Their world view changed. Their paradigm shifted big time. Describe it any way you like. This news changed their hearts and drove all the behaviors that flowed out of their hearts. This is new life. Those of us who call ourselves Christians struggle to live fully in the new life. We seek to find our way into the mystery of living in the world but not being of it. We often find ourselves betwixt and between and so the message of Easter hits us like a sweet shock. The further our hearts and behaviors reflect the truth of Jesus’ resurrection the less surprising the message of Easter is. The degree to which we have settled into the world’s understanding of life and death is the degree that the message of Easter is alien to our lives. It comes as a shock. Like an unexpected light shower on a scorching day, it intrudes into our life with a refreshing promise of a better life.
The Apostle Paul wrote of this tension in his own life.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25)
Paul’s distinction between flesh and spirit is another way of describing the tension that we know so well. Wouldn’t it be nice if the message of Easter would take such total root in our hearts and minds that we could live in complete freedom and joy, unburdened by the temptations to an earthly life that call to us daily. The ever present rich irony is of course that the degree that we are free in Christ is the degree that we truly enjoy God’s created world and our time in it. Our faith is not magic. We are changed and transformed by the renewing of our minds. The truth of Jesus’ resurrection sets us free, but we must learn to live freely. The struggle with temptation is the training we receive for eternal life. We must learn to both believe and act in belief. As Paul writes later in Romans 10:10, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
If our lives do not conform to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection we live a sort of Christian half life. And so we have Lent, a season of repentance for the myriad ways we choose death over life. Why do we choose the pleasures of this earthly life over the joy of a life lived with God? We choose to do the things we know God does not want for us. We are driven by dreams of fulfillment that offer temporary satisfaction but always disappoint us. We live compromised lives. Lent reminds us that we have a choice. We can choose to grow more Christlike. We can choose life. We can live more into God and really enjoy the fruit of God’s Creation.
This is Easter Preparation: to honestly examine the truth of our lives in the light of the hope of a life lived with God, and choose to love God more than life.
A Bakery in New Zealand has come out with an advertising campaign featuring their take on the “Hot Crossed Bun”. Why? This raises the question whether the adage “All Advertising is Good Advertising” is true. I guess if your business is called “Hell Bakery” this might work as a bit of humor. For readers who do not recognize the symbol on the bun, it is the Satanic Star. It is in place of the Cross of Jesus.
It is offensive. It garnered instant attention in the New Zealand press. The marketing budget was maximized, but at what cost to the the future business and to the bakery’s reputation? Now I guess if you call yourself “Hell Bakery” you are not worried so much about your reputation. I can think of much cleverer ways to draw attention without this offense. For example why not use a traditional hot cross bun in the ad with the slogan “Go to Hell…Jesus did” Of course Jesus rose again, and that makes it funny.
One of the jokes I share with some friends in the parish is a list of advertising slogans that we will never use. We censor ourselves. Why? Because we need to filter our marketing to ensure our image and identity are supported and not harmed by our funny slogans. Recently a local church put up a slogan on their church sign just before the start of Lent: “Get your Ashes in here”. It was funny, but belonged on the list of funny slogans that never get used. It was humorous but does damage to the “brand” of this nice church.
I expect that this bakery has also harmed itself. It may be their most successful advertising campaign budget wise but I expect it will harm their business. I know after this I wouldn’t shop there. Here is the full story. (Hat tip: TItusOneNine)
One of my professional weaknesses is project planning. I have a tendency to make plans and then forget what was planned. Worse, I have a definite tendency to make plans without involving enough people in the planning process. I don’t think I am alone in this. The result of this weakness is that I have developed a dislike of planning. I can get along quite well flying by the seat of my pants. The problem of course is that without planning, nothing changes. Let me say that again. Without Planning, Nothing Changes.
I like change. I would like to see St. James grow and thrive. This requires change. Change requires planning. Last week I installed some planning software on St. James’ website. This is open source software. It is free, and it seems to be quite effective. Pat Morse & I are slowly bringing in more users. We have also created a guest log in that allows anyone to log in and look at what we are doing. Here is the login page the login id is “guest” without the quotes. The password is “guest” without the quotes.
By using a web based software solution planning can be done at anytime by anyone with access to the software. This means I can start planning a project and someone else can add a task that needs doing as part of the project. Today I set up a project for Rose Sunday. Rose Sunday is the day we bring in roses from our gardens for the Altar. The roses are then taken to a women’s shelter. I identified five tasks that need doing for this project. I probably missed something. The others collaborating on the project will add more tasks or edit the existing tasks. And they can do their work at a time that is convenient for them.
Another benefit of dotproject is the ability create a new project and copy all the tasks from a previous project. This means that next year when it is time to plan for Rose Sunday we can simply copy the project, fine tune and assign the tasks. The planning software becomes a record of how we undertake projects.
Accountability is a great benefit of this software. When I log into dotproject I am met with a list of all the tasks I have to complete for all the projects I am involved in. I cannot forget. In the project view I can see how my task contributes to the overall project. Everyone on the team can also see. If I fail to complete my work, it is evident to everyone involved in the project.
For a portable church this software provides a powerful way to plan collaboratively. It also has the great benefit of being free. Here is the website for dotproject.
A couple of years ago someone who said that allowing same sex marriage would lead to allowing polygamy would have been accused of fear mongering or using the “slippery slope” argument. Personally I was never persuaded by this argument as the argument does not positively present why marriage is between one man and one woman. Nevertheless, I tip my hat to all who made the argument. In 2005 Canada made same sex marriage legal. Today the Supreme Court of British Columbia is hearing closing arguments on a polygamy case. One of the husbands involved has 19 wives. The other has only two. Apparently the defense is basing its argument on the changes made to the Canadian law allowing gay marriage. (Hat tip Anglican Mainstream). Here is an article from the Christian Institute.
Supposing for a moment that the defendants in this case win, and polygamy becomes legal in Canada, what will be the impact on the cultural understanding of marriage? Will polyamory marriage be far behind? If it too is allowed, what does “Marriage” mean in such a context? The social consequences are clear and well known. In the European Union for example the number of children born outside of marriage has doubled over the last ten years. Why? The reason is quite simple. It is the same reason why the divorce rate in California is middle of the pack in the USA. People aren’t getting married. When the definition of marriage is so blurry why bother? It will be interesting to see what happens in Canada.
I suspect that the pressure on the churches to support same sex marriage will diminish over time as “marriage” itself becomes a religious statement instead of a social statement.
Well this post doesn’t have a good title. It does have an important thought though. Tonight I read a story from Nigeria in which an organization representing sex workers objected to Anglican Archbishop Orombi’s call on the Nigerian police to arrest men who solicit for sex and not just the sex workers. The organization had an argument that I hear all the time that is astonishingly persuasive. That the argument works makes me despair about the future of mankind. Let me breakdown the argument.
It goes like this: “You didn’t give me Apples; so now you must give me Oranges.”
They argue that because the Church has not effectively alleviated the unemployment that leads to prostitution, the church should not take a position and that society should decriminalize the sex trade to make it safe for prostitutes and the people who hire them. Here is the Story.
Think that through for a moment. By their logic no one who did not effectively address the perceived reason for a thing may comment on it regardless of their motivation. It is the end of the informed opinion. This is not a particular surprise. This is the logic of revisionism applied to people not in their camp. The logic begins with the Victim card and progresses to a demand. Its simple and astonishingly effective. And it eliminates the prophetic voice of the church.
So what does the church do? I think there are two responses that need to be made in the face of such an argument. They need to happen at the same time. One is to accept the critique and examine it faithfully. Has the church tried to address the causes that lead to prostitution? Is the Church working to help prostitutes leave the trade or never enter it? The second response is to reject the logic that limits the discussion to the convenient framework of the critique.
The Church’s critique of prostitution is rooted in a belief that God intended sex to be enjoyed in marriage and not turned into a commodity. The church needs to respond theologically and with kindness. The Church, to be faithful, must keep God’s will in the debate. It is logical.
Over the years my disciple of Daily Morning prayer has been uneven. I regret this. Of course that means I am now saying Morning Prayer on a daily basis with very few missed days. I have always prayed on a daily basis, but the daily office of Morning Prayer provides a healthy disciple with it’s balance of confession, scripture, praise, intercession, and mission. It’s spiritual Chiropractory. Slowly attitudes shift as a more intentional walk with God begins to bear fruit. Spiritual maturity is the consequence of a realigned life. Chiropractors align the spine. The Daily Office aligns the spirit.
The best and most used website for the Daily Office is mission St. Clare http://www.missionstclare.com/english/ this is where I go each morning for the days office.
Archbishop Duncan visited St. James this past Sunday. It was a joyous occasion. Many guests attended as well. Members of four of our missions attended. St. Johns in Orinda, Amazing Grace in Roseville, Holy Spirit in Folsom, and St. Michael’s in Los Gatos were present. A large portion of St. Luke’s Chapel in the Hills (Los Altos Hills) and members of Christ the King (Campbell) also attended. We also enjoyed having members of St. Edward’s Episcopal Church with us. What a day it was.
Archbishop Duncan received a member of Amazing Grace into the Anglican Church in North America and confirmed two members of St. John’s in Orinda before ordaining Victor Schreffler and Cindy Stansbury to the sacred order of Deacons.
Cindy will serve at St. James as an assistant Pastor. She will focus on Pastoral Care. Prior to her ordination Cindy completed a Master of Arts in Ministry degree from Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Cindy is a founding member of St. James. She has served as Senior Warden in times of significant transition and is well loved both in and outside of St. James.
Victor will be planting a new church in the East Bay. This new mission is called Spirit of Christ and will be located either in Berkeley, Walnut Creek, or Concord. Victor and his wife Becky are leading a discernment process with potential members of their new team. Prior to being ordained in the Anglican Church, Victor served the Church of the Nazarene for 29 years. His decision to transition to the Anglican Church was the result of a long process of personal discernment.
Congratulations Cindy and Victor. We look forward to watching your unique ministries unfold.
We have all seen solar powered lighting and phones. It has gotten fairly ubiquitous. How about a solar and wind powered light? This is very cool. Consider also that this is in a very salty location. You just have to love engineers who dream these things up.
The solar panel is obvious as it sits above the lamp fixture. The windmill is less obvious. This one was turning at the time. The park that I saw this light on is on the windward side of the island. Wind is very common here.
Archbishop Duncan, Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, is coming to the Bay Area March 11 – 13. There are two public events everyone is invited to. they are:
Lay Leader Reception with Archbishop Duncan, Saturday March 12th, 3pm – 5pm
This reception will be held at the Claeys Lounge, Soda Center @ Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. Clergy are welcome at this event, but it is specifically geared toward’s laity who would like an opportunity to meet and chat with Archbishop Duncan. The Soda Center is near the entrance to the campus at 1928 St. Mary’s Rd., Moraga. However, I’ve never been there. I recommend you allow some time to enjoy a stroll on campus.
Ordination of Cindy Stansbury and Victor Schreffler on Sunday March 13th, 10am.
Archbishop Duncan will preside, preach, confirm and ordain at St. James Anglican Church in Saratoga. Two members of St. John’s in Orinda will be confirmed. A member of Amazing Grace in Roseville will be received. Cindy and Victor will be ordained.
Cindy is a founding member of St. James who completed a Master of Arts in Ministry Degree at Nashotah House in preparation for ordination. Victor served as a Pastor in the Church of the Nazarene for 29 years prior discerning a call to launch an Anglican Church in the Bay Area. Victor will be planting a new church in either Berkeley or Walnut Creek…or both.
A pot luck finger food reception will be held following the service.
Please note that St. James moved this week and now worships at the Joan Pisani Community Center in Saratoga.