Christian Century featured a bunch of folk talking about new media this month. While I think the questions of how to get our news is important, I'm still waiting for some serious thought about how our modern life is affecting church communities' connection with one another.
Regularly, someone tells me they "never" check their home voice mail. Often, people wonder why church choir or committees don't get the same attendance they used to. Our youth don't even seem to use email anymore (it's all facebook, baby).
In my church, people get that there's often no stay-at-home spouse anymore. What they don't get is that often at least one of these spouses spends A LOT of time on the road. This scene (that's sunrise, not sunset in the background) has been part of Will's life every week this month.
I'm still waiting for someone to really examine --without reactionary "it's all bad," or booster-ish "hop on!" cliches-- how our virtual lives affect the "real" life of church community, where some things still do happen face to face, or at least voice-to-voice. This stuff is supposed to make our lives easier, but it sure hasn't made them simpler. Any suggestions for a balanced view of this?
After reading way too much this week about why Esther and James might not really rate, I'm starting to feel like commentators have Kanye West syndrome. "Look at me! I'll tell you what the best was!"
Do we really need to devote this much print to whether something belongs in the Bible? I mean, these books have survived THOUSANDS of years (which is way more than I can say for any commentary except the Talmud)! Isn't it time we shut up and just read them until they yield their juices?
I've not been in a blogging mode lately: the complexity of the lives of people with school-age kids is starting to sink in for me this year. Our 2nd grader has a startling amount of stuff to track. Thanks to those of you who -- for whatever reason -- still check in on us now.
One could preach a whole sermon this week on "books of the Bible theologians think don't belong there." Esther and James both have their detractors. But wow, plenty one could say about both.
Or one could preach a whole sermon on Psalm 19.
Or, one could preach a whole sermon on cutting off limbs, fire, brimstone and millstones. Is Jesus really that sadistic? I've talked to preachers who are really worried that far too many Christians still take these words literally, and don't understand the rhetorical device of exaggeration that Jesus is using. I don't know that we need to worry that much. I mean, "shock value" is pretty much the only value in 80% of today's video games, action films and reality TV. We understand that sometimes people just want to get our attention.
After several weeks of hearing Jesus talk about the cross in Mark's Gospel, and several weeks of the disciples' disputing it, ignoring him, or changing the subject, I think the two vignettes in this week's gospel call us to finally look in the mirror.
The disciples are worried about "those people," and the fact that their ministry might detract from Jesus' ministry. Jesus, clearly, is not worried.
What does concern him is the ways we get in our own way, and the ways we cause others to stumble.
This is a text that keeps us professional ministry types up at night. I mean, who does not worry that, however inadvertently, we have caused someone else to stumble in their faith? The ways in which we who represent "the church" can unwittingly offend, confuse, bore, wound or ignore others are astounding. It doesn't matter that we don't mean to -- at least Jesus doesn't say it's the thought that counts.
Don't let anything --even your very own sense of wholeness -- stand between you and the kingdom of God. And don't ever stand between someone else and the kingdom either.
Even without the exaggerated violence, these are tough words indeed.
Nadia Bolz-Weber and Seth Donovan, both from House for All Saints and Sinners in Denver, will be with us to preach and do our adult forum that day. I never felt hip enough to call myself emergent, and now I really KNOW I am not worthy.
But seriously, check out Nadia's reflections on our ELCA's recent Churchwide Assembly. Gospel, that.