Yes, Caesar, whatever you say, Caesar

veterans-dayWithin limits, of course.

If you know me at all, you can imagine how confused I was to hear this yesterday at our church’s Veteran’s Day Luncheon:

Note the order here: the nation was telling the churches to celebrate this day.

I reacted, but controlled it. Someone else had the floor. This gave me time to figure my response.

The State doesn’t tell the church what to do!  How dare they? Who do they think they are. The wheels of thought spun inside me, measured by the knowledge that I was surrounded by people, many of whom had served in war, and at least some of whom don’t have exactly the same ecclesiology I do.

As the speaker concluded, she shared that this description of the history of Veteran’s Day came from The United Methodist Church.

My thoughts took an abrupt turn, but not full 180.

Promoting and enduring peace and honoring those who offered themselves to the cause of freedom and justice were certainly worthy values that I could encourage, even lead, my church to uphold.

I’m still nonconstantinian, but I have realized that maybe there is more left to render to Caesar than I thought before yesterday.

Cry in church?

Would you be comfortable crying in your church?

A pastor friend of mine recently shared with me this scenario. A congregant had visited with him about a particularly stressful event she had just been through. Among the suggestions my friend offered was to attend worship. (the congregant had not attended since the event)

She admitted her hesitation: that she would probably cry .

While I COMPLETELY understand this feeling, I want church (or, more specifically, the worshiping congregation) to be THE place or setting or group where one feels most comfortable to cry.

What do you think? Would you feel comfortable crying in worship? Are you (am l) the kind of person in whose presence others feel comfortable letting tears flow?

What are you into?

I already posted about this over on emergent Waco, but I want to go further here.

In a conversation with one of our youth here, I was told that he wasn’t “into religion.”

I pondered what all to do with that statement, and answered that sometimes I didn’t think I was all that into religion either.

His response, when I asked what he meant, was that he used to go to church, when he was little, but then someone told him he didn’t have to go anymore, and he quit going.

Is that what not being “into religion” means?  I can’t tell you how many people have told me they feel like they can worship God as well on the golf course or lake as in church (not that they do; just that they can).   So, perhaps, all those people just aren’t really “into religion” either?

I don’t mind telling you, I’m still a bit mixed on it all myself.  One of the few specifically memorable experiences I had at seminary was reading Bonhoeffer’s writings about “religionless Christianity.”  Those words wedged into me in a way that I’ve not since been able to shake.  They haunt me – more some times than others.

The only place that religion is defined in the Bible, James 1:27, says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

I don’t think that is what anyone means who says they aren’t “into religion.”

I think what they usually mean is that they aren’t into church.

There are aspects of church I’m not into, either.  When church is about maintaining a decaying bureaucracy, I’m not into it.  When church is about going through some supposedly spiritual motions because “we’ve always done it that way,” I’m not into it. When church is getting more people into a social club, I’m not into it.  When church is about offering people a hypothetical “get out of hell free card,” I’m not into it.

When church is about self-congratulatory stands against the next thing youth culture has adopted, I’m not into it.  When church is about fine-tuning definitions of who’s in and who’s out, I’m not into it. When church is about how many pipes an organ has or how great the lead guitarist is, I’m not into it.

On the other hand, God is not worshiped and cannot be worshiped, the same way on the golf course or lake as in the church. I suppose one can offer help and hope to widows and orphans from the green or a boat, but to keep oneself unstained by the world – ah, there… you’re going to need help.

We followers of Christ, we people of God need each other. We absolutely cannot make it on our own.  For this, if for no other reason, we need the church; we need religion.

Where the church (or religion) isn’t about the people of God caring for widows and orphans and helping one another remain unstained by the world, it really isn’t being the church. Where the church (or religion) is truly living as the Body of Christ, mutually supporting, admonishing, edifying, correcting, encouraging, challenging to remain unstained, that’s what I’m into.

What are you into?

That’s what I’m into.