Halloween for Christians? 
Monday, October 31, 2005, 03:29 PM
While both heaven and hell are part of our theology, many of the traditional Halloween trappings don't fit well with the purpose of our church. We don't celebrate death, the underworld, or spirits other than the Holy One. Ours is a resurrection faith in Jesus Christ, not a descent into hell with ghosts, goblins, and ghouls.

So states an article in our Ideas church publication which goes on to discuss various alternatives to the ghouls and goodies theme of today.

As a father and a pastor, I've been asked about Christians and Halloween over the years. Here are some of my thoughts on this day.

Making fun of demons and scary things might be a good thing for Christians to do...Romans 8:38-39 tell us demons can not defeat the power of God's love.

It is the only neighborhood celebration we have any more. Folks come out and actually meet and talk to their neighbors. This might be example of God turning evil to good. Again we turn to Romans 8:28

There is medium (some translations add “witch” as a section heading) and talking to the dead in the Bible. Found in 1 Samuel 28 it seems to imply it is a lack of faith and trust in God and God's prophets that makes people turn to mediums.

Even though we know that Halloween is all in good fun, Christians should not confuse folks who are new to the faith. Our freedom shouldn't be the cause of another losing her or his way. Paul explains this in Corinthians 8.

Hoping you find God's good in everything that crosses your path….

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Yield for Spirit Work 
Monday, October 24, 2005, 03:27 PM
Working on my sermon about loving God, with all our heart, soul, and strength, I considered spiritual formation and an article about it in the Fall 2005 issue of Cornerstone, a magazine from the Presbyterian Foundation. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has an Office of Spiritual Formation to call for more attention to a holistic understanding of Christian life that included the heart as well as the head.

The world has child care, hospitals, educational opportunities, social services, fellowship and community groups, concerts and drama, (I even saw a funeral home with grief counselors, memorial services and support groups!) All these ministries the church has pioneered and traditionally provided, all to the glory of God and for the good of God's people.

What secular people lack now is a soul care center. A place for God in their lives and relationships. There is no where in the secular world one can go to find help in the spiritual disciplines that help us be more attuned to God's spirit working in our lives and in the world.

We live in a pleasure-seeking, results-oriented society. The idea of spending the time and effort spiritual discipline invite is alien to most. And so souls starve.

We have a precious gift to share with our friends and neighbors who are going fast to nowhere building massive houses that are not homes, spinning from one shallow relationship to another, seeking thrills of the moment instead of faith for eternity.

In our study groups, prayer groups, funeral dinners, retreats, weekly worship, prayer partners, we have something unique and needed by others...lets invite them to make God's house their soul's home for the holidays.

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Do You Hear What I Hear? 
Monday, October 17, 2005, 03:24 PM
Eastminster Presbytery came to install me as pastor yesterday. Elders and ministers gathered in worship to receive both the congregation's and my promises to the responsibilities of being pastor and people together in ministry.

I struggled with all the fuss around my installation service and reception. Good people gave up precious time to participate, some traveling hours to attend. Even my children were shocked to find out that the installation service was a complete additional Sunday service! Considering all this, I wondered if installations were really needed.

“The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said a angel has spoken to him” — John 12:29

I like the imagery of spirituality as notes in the bass cleft of life. The busy melody line gets all the attention. Just as many people believe that the melody is all that is needed for a song, non-spiritual people fit all of life into a single simple tune.

The spiritually minded hear more than the easily recognized melody. They listen for the fullness of the song. Spiritual folk find more complexity in life than what can be described by engineering blueprints or legal documents. They hear God's music in their life's soundtrack.

So, listening to the melody, the installation service is a familiar tune sung yet again. A person starting a new job is hardly a show stopper heard amidst the din of daily life. Yet, listening beyond the almost sing song recital of questions and answers...we can hear God's symphony swelling, adding purpose, depth and breath to the foreground notes of “I do” and “I will”.

Hoping to make God's beautiful music together…

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Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?  
Monday, October 10, 2005, 03:22 PM
I used to call it: “Stump the Pastor”. Our youth leader had a better name: “Meet Godzilla”. It is a time for youth to quiz the pastor on Life, the Universe and Everything.

The questions ranged from where dinosaurs are in the Bible to a thoughtful question about how I decided to be a minister. Maybe there is youth that is feeling a call to ministry...or perhaps they can't believe that I got one! (Let's pray it is the former.)

A couple of the questions were about theodicy, how the existence of a good God can be reconciled with the existence of evil. Or just call it: “The Problem of Evil”. One of them was the question made famous by Rabbi Harold Kusher's 1983 book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

Besides Rabbi Kusher's work there are volumes written on why bad things happen to good people. But for a start, last night I pointed out what Jesus has to say about that assumption that there even were good people for bad things to happen to:
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” — Mark 10:18

Whoa! If Jesus isn't good...who am I to say I or anyone else is worthy of the good person position in our question? The lack of anyone that is good fits in well with the Presbyterian tradition that gives us the Prayer of Confession in our Sunday worship...all of us have sinned.

So the question is turned around: Why does the Good God care about the non-good people; why does God care about me? Why is any part or time of my life blessed? Another question without an answer; for nothing we did earned us God's love. God decided to love us; God decided to love me for no good reason.

Trying to wrestle with the more profound question of the problem of good….

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Homecoming and Reunion 
Monday, October 3, 2005, 03:18 PM
This week finds me returning from my first college homecoming in a quarter of a century. My 25th college reunion was last Saturday at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

Seeing friends and acquaintances from years ago who were at once same but different was a spiritual experience. It seems like yesterday we were together but when the litany of jobs and children, triumphs and tragedies were shared it was apparent that much had gone on since we were last on campus together.

While in college we were separated by real and imagined insults, the Greek system of fraternities and sororities, past and possible romances, politics and lifestyles, last weekend we were all together talking of jobs and careers, mapping the places we've lived, and sharing pictures of our children just a little younger than we remember each other being.

We were the same people, but our relationship was different. The pressure to jostle for position in class rank or popularity was gone. All the differences between us as classmates were dwarfed by the overwhelming unity of being part of the same class in time and space now gone.

As I walked in the homecoming parade with my class of familiar strangers, receiving surprising cheers from onlookers, I thought maybe this is what heaven is like, what is called resurrection hope. Not an escape from the world, but a transforming of it. All of our divisions and problems so important and large redeemed, and a new community formed by our realization that we shared a common bond...and those around us cheering us for coming home.

Looking forward and working toward my next college reunion...and my ultimate one in heaven with God's alumni.

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