After the death of George Floyd, there were an abundance of statements on racism and justice. For better or worse, I was hesitant to add to the list of "statements." Instead, I invested time in one-on-one conversations. Scores of them. Two of those conversations were with the brothers pictured above, Pastors Gerard Bolling and John Schmidtke.
In those conversations, I learned something: my assumptions were off. Assumptions about what people thought about racism. Assumptions about what they expected from the church. It prompted me to make a clear statement to our congregation. In retrospect, I should have done it sooner. But this is a long road and demands more than a single statement. Here’s a letter I sent to my church a this week. It's start.
I was doing some video recording in our church building last night. The building was eerily empty. It will be quiet on Easter as well. Is it really Holy Week if no one gathers?
I believe this will be the most authentic Easter in your lifetime.
There’s an old saying, “Never waste a good crisis.” What began as a health crisis has spread to economics, business, education . . . everyday life. God has a history of flipping crisis for his glory.
So what is God working in this?
What is he teaching us?
What good could come from crisis?
A gut check for faith.
You can talk about faith. You can do a Bible Study on faith. But you cannot understand faith until it is tested.
You trusted him when things are good. Will you trust him now? You waited on the Lord when the stock market was at 29,000. Will you wait on him when it’s at 21,000 (or lower)? Will you refuse to give into fear or panic? Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. (Rev. 13:10)
Keep death before your eyes daily.”
This instruction is found in the Rule of St. Benedict (chapter 4) which provides direction for monastic communities of the Benedictine order. Why so morbid? Aren’t Christians to be hopeful?
Even if I knew that tomorrow the whole world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." - Martin Luther
Is it worth all the work?
How much difference does it make?
What do I do when I want to quit?
Pastors feel pressure to have the perfect congregation. We won’t ever say it, but we want to show off our “best people.”
The dynamic (and good looking) young adult.
The talented worship leader.
The pretty couple with the nice house and 2.5 kids.
Those with miraculous stories of conversion after a troubled life of debauchery.
Then we show up to church and bump into reality.
People who resist everything.
People who need more help than they can give.
People with memory loss and mental illness. The gossipy. The hypocrite. The flaky.
The one time of year I'm sure to drink champagne is Easter. About 10 years ago I was reading a book called Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. He said,
“If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast and loud alleluia hymns.”
Champagne is a beverage reserved for occasions of victory, joy, and celebration. Weddings. New Years. Anniversaries. If there is any day we should have a champagne toast, it is Easter. For the Christian, Easter is THE championship day. Here are four reasons I pop a bottle (or two) on Easter:
Sometimes I don't feel like being a pastor.
There are some Sunday mornings at 6:00AM when I don't want to preach.
Sometimes I dread walking into a meeting.
Sometimes I walk into a crisis situation already emotionally exhausted.
Sometimes everyone is looking at me for direction and I don't feel like talking.
It’s common, even for non or non-practicing Christians, to “give something up for Lent.” Fasting during this somber season is an ancient Christian practice. What is fasting? Why should (or shouldn't you) give something up for Lent?
I had a realization a few weeks ago: Jesus didn’t write anything. Unlike many historical figures or religious leaders, he himself left no writings. Yes, we believe the Bible is inspired by God, but Jesus didn’t actually pen it. Why is this important?