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?
My congregation just launched a capital campaign. And we typically do a stewardship emphasis in November. Money and the church. It’s a sensitive topic. So why should a Christian give to their local church? How does a congregation talk about money?
The giving of a tithe or offering is revelatory. It says something about you. For the Christian, sacrificial giving is:
Serving Christ can be agonizing. Jesus said it himself, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake . . ." (Matt. 5:10).
Especially for those working in called ministry positions, there is a weight. A burden. A cloud of pressure derived from spiritual forces under responsibility which has eternal consequences.
You've asked, "How much difference am I making? Should I go on? Should I give up? "
Here is some help from 19th century English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following is from his Lectures to My Students.
What do you say in the face of death? What do you say to grieving family, friends, or neighbors? What has been said to you when you lost a loved one?
There’s the awkward moment in the greeting line at the funeral home. There is a hesitation the first time you see a friend after his mom died. There is the debate over whether you should call, stop by, or send a card. Or what do you say a month later, or on the one year anniversary?
Knowing there are a variety of circumstances and contexts, here are a few things to say at death.