The Department of Defense recognizes June as Pride Month. The month of June was chosen for LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. Since then our country has made lots of progress. So:
Today is a Ascension Day. Most of the time, churches will push the observance to the following Sunday, so more people have a chance to attend. Why should Ascension Day matter to you?
1. If you have a German background you would be pleased to learn that Ascension Day doubles as Father’s Day. Also it comes as a national holiday that is traditionally celebrated with lots of day-drinking.
2. The theological message of Ascension Day is that the resurrected Jesus went back to heaven. On a practically level that means that Jesus is not here! There is Good News in the fact that the church cannot engage in a Führer cult following a person here on Earth.
This week will you find a church that celebrates this important holiday?
Some weeks in the life of the church look so unassuming. What could possibly be special about this week? Well, as pastor I am obliged to give you three perspectives on the next few days that you may otherwise have missed:
The window named “Ascension” at St. John’s United Church of Christ
Thursday, May 25, is Ascension Day. It is a major holiday in the Christian tradition. Everybody remembers how Jesus was born on Christmas and was resurrected on Easter. But the final step of the Jesus story is just as important: his ascension into heaven. Luckily for you we will focus on that story next Sunday at St. John’s United Church of Christ so you won’t miss a thing. Yes, a pastor is a teacher and I am obliged to remind you of the things you need to know about the Christian faith.
Friday, May 26, is the beginning of Ramadan. It is a major holiday in the Muslim tradition. Now you may say that as church that’s none of our business, but it is. Because let’s be honest here: How seriously have you been taking the Lenten fast really? I shared my struggles with breaking my caffeine habit. But can you even imagine what it would be like to not eat between sunrise and sunset for an entire month? Our Muslim brothers and sisters live powerful examples of a spiritual practice that we need to get better at again. Yes, a pastor is a spiritual leader and I am obliged to connect you with practices you need to consider.
Monday May 29, is Memorial Day. It is a major holiday in the United States. Now you may say that as church that’s none of our business. And to a certain extent that is true. Most Christians in the world have never been to the United States and don’t know what this country celebrates on that day. But for people who live here it plays on an important theme that the Christian tradition has also: Reconciliation! After the Civil War both North and South had regional observances for their own war heroes. By the end of the 19th century a nationwide day had reconciled the memorial into one day for all. That is also what our church’s message is in a nutshell: “That they may all be one” (John 17:21) Yes, a pastor is preacher and I am obliged to find the Good News in all places.
This week I challenge you to look for Christ in the heavens above, try a new spiritual practice for yourself, and work towards reconciliation in our country and around the world.
In 2009 President Obama received mixed reviews for his famous Cairo speech. Now Donald Trump’s Riyadh Speech is in the books. The 45th president seems to care much less about religious matters than his predecessor. Here is a comparison of their word count when it comes to key spiritual issues:
Obama uses religious verbiage almost three times as much as his successor.
What is your take on this? Do the words a president uses matter?
Dr. James Emery White warns against “The Great Danger of Orthodoxy”. Basically the point he is making is that Christians are too concerned with their focus on the presumable “right believes”. Instead he proposes a balance of Orthodoxy (believing the right thing) and Orthopraxy (doing the right thing).
Now, let me be clear: I claim orthodoxy for my faith. My theology is rooted in the ancient ecumenical creeds of the church. It matters to me that there is a path to reconciliation after reformation era condemnations. And yes, especially in American culture I can see how overzealous orthodoxy can be a problem.
But can too much Orthopraxy really be a problem, too?
Let me explain. One of the fundamental splits that the church has suffered, the Great Schism of 1054 is still in full effect. It practically cuts Christianity in half: East and West. From a standpoint of Orthodoxy I am all Western, meaning I firmly stand by the filioque as an important matter of believing correctly. But that is not really what was at stake at the time.In reality it came down to a political power struggle over who ruled the Roman Empire. This supposed question of Orthodoxy was really a failure in Orthopraxy.
Christians have not sufficiently practiced Jesus’s dictum “Love your neighbor as yourself”. As matter of fact I think Jesus dismissed Orthodoxy over and over again: When some said you could not feed your friends on the Sabbath, he told them to set their priorities straight. When a man asked him, “what must I do to go to heaven?” Jesus’s answer is always: “Practice love!”
Yes, too much Orthodoxy can cause problems. But how can too much Orthopraxy cause problems? What are minimum standards of thinking and believing that make a person Orthodox? Because here is the real crux of the matter: If you tell somebody they believe the wrong thing or the wrong way, you are not practicing love. If anyone wants to impose their Orthodoxy on another person they are neglecting their Orthopraxy.