On Sunday, as I led the church I serve at in prayer, the prayer naturally related to the Reformation. Four hundred and ninety five years ago today, a monk and professor by the name of Martin Luther nailed a list of issues he had with the church up on his local church door and – unbeknownst to him at the time – unleashed what we now call the Reformation. As a Protestant, I view the Reformation as a good thing, yet I also prayed a prayer for unity in the church.
Have you ever had the experience where you had a conversation that seemed relatively ordinary until after the fact? Most of us have experienced this sort of retroactively meaning in our lives. Life would be different now, because what was normal ended.
Droves of male students were flocking to a meeting on campus during my first year in seminary. I do not remember what it was called, but it had to do with why there aren’t more men in churches. I walked alongside one male friend who was all pumped up about the event; he was commenting about “effeminate” churches.
Here we find ourselves on Christmas day yet again. This year the meteorologists have forecast the weather in St. Louis at 50 degrees for later today – less than ideal for any dreams of a white Christmas, though certainly closer to what one might find in Bethlehem. Christmas is here, but with the warmth of much of this December, it almost feels delayed.
She was very old and very sick, and she knew that she did not have long to live. This was a few years ago. She was the great aunt of a friend, and I ended up speaking with her for awhile, though we did not know each other.
As we have just passed through Holy Week, we reflect on one of the strangest juxtapositions of events a person could encounter. A Jewish carpenter turned preacher goes from being hailed as the next king to being brutally tortured and executed in the span of five days. Then, completely against the normal way things are supposed to happen, the tragedy becomes a celebration when that apparent victim returned to life triumphant. That’s not just the “good news” the church is called to preach, but also what it is called to live.
Another Christmas is upon us. Christmas carols are playing on radio stations, the decorations are sparkling and the shopping season is winding down. The first Christmas, of course, wasn’t anything like this: there were not any of the decorations and the merchants certainly had not been anticipating the day. On the first Christmas, the people went about their business oblivious, not recognizing the Christ. Decorations aside, is that really any different today?
This December has been one of being still for me. As much as I wanted to go to all the parties, the concerts, the light shows and all of the other celebrations of the season, it just was not meant to be. This scourge of a cold bug that my family passed back and forth, and which seems to have left half the population around here coughing, hacking and sneezing through the season, has turned into a gift. Looking back on it, I have probably observed more “Christmas” this year than other years in recent memory.
As we enter the season where we anticipate Christ's birth, it is natural for us to contemplate the spiritual dimension of life. As you think about what it means to stand between the physical and spiritual, you won't understand it. That's okay; I don't either.
The American culture has a tendency to gravitate towards charismatic personalities. For all of the foundational principles of the separation of powers in the U.S. government, we have a bad habit of essentially handing over power to one party and then scratching our collective head when things go wrong. The same, unfortunately, is true in churches. The problem is the problem of monoculture.