Friday, March 28, 2014

7 Last Words - "My God, my God ..."

Last week we continued our journey through the Passion Narratives of the four gospels with the Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross.

We pick things up with Christ shouting to God, in pain.

It brings up questions of what the atonement of Christ means ... What does it mean that he died for us on the cross?  What is actually happening?  Which of course means we have to talk about the Chronicles of Narnia.

March 23, 2014 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

7 Last Words - "Woman, here is your son ..."

For our 2014 season of Lent, our faith family is following the prescribed order for the Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross, a special way of observing this season by drawing out the final words of Christ from across the Gospels.

I picked up the series with the third word, from the Gospel of John, "Woman, here is your son ... Son, here is your mother."

Who was Mary to Jon the Evangelist?  Who is the beloved disciple?  Why do they matter to John?

March 16, 2014 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Millennials and the "Age of Individualism"

As a young adult pastor (and as an an official YA by UMC standards for the next 3 years), I tend to soak up writing and research on millennial issues.  As we all probably should.  I find it fun to drop a little bit of new knowledge when I have the opportunity to go to one of our older adult Sunday School classes - and they eat it up.  Most of our classes have a real desire to figure a way forward for the church, seeing tangibly the way that young families, college students, and youth have drifted away from the church over time.

I drop in with the latest material from Barna, Pew Research, Relevant Magazine ... And they listen.  They want to know most of all how they can fix things as I'm the age of their children and grandchildren in some cases.  It's always a ton of fun to chat.

But where do I often meet resistance?  When I put the onus on the previous generation for the problems of the current one.

Case in point - this article The Age of Individualism, by NYTimes columnist Ross Douthat.  It's pretty cynical stuff, based on a fascinating report from the Pew Research Center that I dare everyone to read.

Douthat discusses the Millennial generation's penchant for going out on its own.  Becoming more and more individualistic.  No political party is good enough.  Being left wing and right wing at the same time.  Limited trust of leadership.  Not so much the marrying types.  Less patriotic.

It's all kind true, I guess.

But in a way it's super not.  We didn't just enter into an age of individualism - it's been here for a very long time.

Speaking as a Christian, the church is my chosen wheelhouse.  I'm not an expert at much, really.  But I do know this - the individualistic nature of the millennial generation (the 'me' generation as I hear it lovingly called in the church) is a learned behavior.

My faith is my faith.  I don't want you in my business.  Don't hold me accountable.  Tradition is trash.

Some millennials say these things.  Truly however, I can't speak for all millennials, we have no time for a faith that doesn't want to build community.  We have no time that's going to help us do anything that isn't going to help build a better community, better lives for others.  Among the young adults I'm in ministry with on a daily basis the term accountability is something that is longed for.

It's happening in spite of what our parents taught us.  I admit, however, that my parents have gone against the boomer grain - they didn't just go to church when I was a kid, they sought to be the church.  I am who I am very much because they are who they are.

If people want millennials to grow to be less individualistic, less about 'me', it starts with people not just saying this things, offering these bits of analysis.  It starts with conversation.  Conversation, communion, is a tradition that's being trashed.  Time to recycle.  

I'm not saying that the current crop of young adults is totally absolved of the sin of thinking that they can go it alone.  However, ministry happens in community, and community happens in outreach.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Method: Our Wesleyan Way - "Free Grace"

Here's the wrap-up to our 8 week series on Wesleyan beliefs, ending with the big one - GRACE.

It was a lot of fun to dig in here, it's a bit of a lecture on the four steps of grace - prevenient, justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying.  We crammed a lot in, but it was great to end things on a high note!

March 2, 2014 - Celebration from FUMC of Arlington on Vimeo.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Why I'm giving up my time for Lent

In the last few months it's been a little hard to maintain this blog to level I'm used to.  My time is being eaten up lately, by school, work ... but not as much by family.  At least not as much for my family as it should.

Last week I had two mid-terms.  Two weeks before that I had two major papers due in the same week.  I will say this - I'm blessed to have a wife and kid who understand when dad needs to study rather than play, read rather than go out, write rather than sit back on the couch with a glass of wine.

Although we make time for all of these things, it's tough, and we have to literally schedule everything in.  Leanne and I have a family meeting every Sunday night after the kid goes to bed just to walk through the week's schedule.  It's crucial time.  We're both spread out, both trying to bring excellence to our careers while I'm also trying to win at school.

We're doing a whole lot of thing at once these days.  And trying to be awesome at it.  But sometimes we come up short.

A lot of that has to do with time, which there's just not enough of.

So, as a family, and it just kind of happened, we're giving up time during Lent, or rather, giving time to each other as a family, and to our friends.  We're hoping to find renewal, that calm and quiet center, that the season of Lent is calling us to.

Three things have come together in just the last week where we'll be focusing more time for team building, toddler raising, and good discussion.

  1. Leanne went to see author, speaker, and UMC clergyperson, Rev. Leanne Hadley last week give a seminar on family prayer.  Leanne, was pretty fired up about it, so we decided during Lent that we'd give her model of family prayer time with little ones a try during Lent.  The first time was last night.  We read scripture, colored, and prayed as a family, giving little man a chance to share what he could.  All in about 20 minutes.  It went pretty well!
  2. After the kid is off to bed on Sunday nights, Leanne and are reading Love to Stay, by Adam Hamilton together.  We haven't done any kind of book study together since pre-marital counseling.  We figured this was a good one to do together, and the church had everything we needed.  Every marriage needs 'regularly scheduled maintenance', so we're setting aside about an hour to go through a chapter a week.
  3. We're hosting another online Bible study for young adults during Lent.  Sure, this one is technically work ... but, any time devoted to discussion of the Word is good for the soul, and something I don't do enough of in my church context.  Bible study only done at seminary doesn't lead to a balanced theological life.  We kick things off tonight, tying our study to our sermon series on the Seven Last Words of Christ.
Time is at a premium in all of our lives, but it's through the giving of our time that we can not only make room for the friends and family around us, but make room for the Lord to come in and stir things up - which as I understand it, is the whole point of the season of Lent.

How much time do you devote to your people in the name of Jesus?  Maybe rather than giving up caffeine, or chocolate, or Facebook, it's time to think of what we're called to take in during this wonderful season of prayer and introspection.