Ash Wednesday... or Valentine's Day?

It’s Valentine’s Day... but it’s also Ash Wednesday so bring your loved one to church and remember that you’re both going to die one day 

Show Up and Be Seen

You know when you’re talking to someone, and they reference something you don’t get, but it feels like it’s important, so you nod along as if you know exactly what they’re saying?

I do this all the time.

Well, we do it because we think that if we show we’re different or that we don’t know the same social cues we won’t fit and we’ll be left feeling lonely.

Except, what often happens when we do this is that we end up feeling small and inadequate and more disconnected from the person in front of us.

The reason is because you know they’re not talking to you anymore; they’re talking to an illusion you’ve put forward. An illusion you’re going to have to keep up if you want to stay in the conversation.

This is why it’s incredibly freeing once you get in the habit of saying, "I have no idea what you’re talking about, but it sounds fascinating so tell me more."

That is a sentence I am working hard to build into my vocabulary by the way.

That might seem inconsequential but here’s why it's significant. 

When your goal is to fit in, and you don’t, you often feel shame; you feel embarrassed, you feel small. And every one of us has felt that before. I don’t care how popular I think I am (that was a joke).

On the other hand, when you know you need connection, and you recognize that “fitting in” can get in the way of that you can approach things differently. You can promise yourself you're going to show up and be seen and trust that others are going to reciprocate.

Now if they don't, it still hurts, and you might feel sad. You might feel disappointed. You might grieve. You might even be upset by it. But what you won’t have to feel is unworthy of love and connection because you're not the problem.

This is one of the ways to think about the difference between alone and lonely.

Alone is a function of our social circumstance and it can good, or it can be bad, and sometimes it’s truly vital to be alone.

Loneliness though is often a function of our sense of social value. A question of whether we are worth connection, whether we deserve to be loved, whether we are searching for intimacy or whether we are the barrier to it. The only way to overcome that is to show up and allow yourself to be honestly seen. 

Understanding the difference between "fitting in" and "being seen" can do a lot to shift our feelings of loneliness.

Boxing Day and the Feast of St Stephen.

Boxing Day and the Feast of St Stephen.

The feast of St. Stephen is the first celebration of the new Christian year following the arrival of the Christ child. It's also a celebration of the guy who ran the soup kitchen.

What Exactly is All Saints Day?

What Exactly is All Saints Day?

A lot of us may associate All Saints Day with the Catholic Church but it is actually a moment in the Christian calendar celebrated by many different Christian traditions. 

"All of the places of our lives are sanctuaries; some of them just happen to have steeples. And all of the people in our lives are saints; it is just that some of them have day jobs and most will never have feast days named for them."
— Robert Benson

#MeToo and the Women at the Well

#MeToo and the Women at the Well

This week I'm reflecting on the #MeToo hashtag, places of privilege in culture and the whether or not we really understand the story of the women at well in John 4?

Was Jesus Naive?

Was Jesus Naive?

I've been reflecting on last week's post and the response I've gotten to it. 

The thing is, the more I talk about nonviolence the more I realize that a lot of Christians think Jesus was a nice guy with a good heart but his ideas don't really work in the "real world."

The problem is part of following Jesus is believing that his "way" in the world his a viable political option. That's what it means to call him Lord.

Nonviolent Social Resistance

Nonviolent Social Resistance

With all of the uproar over the #TakeAKnee protests across the NFL it could me thinking about the conversation we have been having about nonviolent social resistance in the book of Jeremiah.  In chapter 29, God's advice to the exiles taken into Babylon is to build a house, plant a garden, celebrate weddings, and pray for the peace of the city. This is what Daniel L Christopher-Smith calls a manifesto for "nonviolent social resistance" and this is still exactly what we are called today.

The Nashville Statement

The Nashville Statement

So, a group of Evangelical leaders under the banner of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood put out a statement this week that not only called for traditional understandings of gender and sexuality but also took it upon themselves to deny the title Christian to those with more progressive positions. The statement also seems to at least suggest that egalitarian believers who do not see a hierarchy in the relationship between men and women are not truly "Christian" either.

While I find the text of the Nashville Statement decidedly unpastoral and frankly unkind it does not surprise me or even bother me that a group would call for a traditional understanding of sexuality in itself. Many faithful Christians for thousands of years have held these views, the majority of faithful Christians in the Global South hold these views today. However, to reduce "Christianity" to agreement on these issues is an unfortunate misreading of what orthodox means. James K. A. Smith has written a good article exploring the problems with expanding "orthodox" beyond the historic creeds of the faith [read it here] and indeed, at Commons, we hold to those historic creeds as our statement of faith [read it here]. There are always going to be issues of disagreement within the body of Christ and we must remain faithful to each other if we are to remain faithful to Christ. [Jn 17:20-21]

In that spirit I offer my response to the Nashville Statement adapted from the work of Father James Martin. The intent is to express a kind, pastoral and gracious expression of orthodox Christianity that any faithful follower of Christ could and should affirm.

I affirm: That God loves us all. I deny: That Jesus wants us to insult, judge or further marginalize LGBTQ people among us.

I affirm: That all of us are in need of grace. I deny: That LGBTQ people should be in any way singled out as chief among sinners.

I affirm: That when Jesus encountered people on the margins he led with welcome not condemnation. I deny: That Jesus wants any more walls between him and those he loves.

I affirm: That LGBTQ people are full members of the church. I deny: That God wants anyone to feel that they don’t belong especially if they choose Jesus.

I affirm: That LGBTQ people have often been made to feel less than by many churches. I deny: That Jesus wants us to add to any suffering.

I affirm: That LGBTQ people are some of the holiest people I know. I deny: That Jesus wants us to judge each other, when he clearly asked us not to.

I affirm that the Father loves LGBTQ people, the Son calls them and the Holy Spirit guides them. I deny nothing about God’s love for them.

Is God Really Too Holy For Us?

Is God Really Too Holy For Us?

Sometimes we have some really unhealthy ideas about God's holiness and how it separates us from him. As part of our series in Romans we came across Romans 3.23 which talks about how all have fallen short of the glory of God. Now that's a sobering verse but taken in context we looked at how this is part of Paul's polemic against thinking that one group (jews or gentiles) are better than the other. We are all in the same predicament and all offered rescue in Jesus. So what about some of the other verses that seem to talk about our separation from the divine?