The Church Belongs To The The Grandmas, The Rest Of Us Just Play In It

Luke 17:5-10 & 2 Timothy 1:3-7 I want to talk this morning about a subject that has been on my mind—on the mind of every decent pastor—for the past few years, which is how to keep the next generation in the church. It is, as you know, far from guaranteed that our children and grandchildren will grow up to become sustaining members of the community that helped to raise them. There are many possible reasons for this change. The favorite suspect is usually Sunday morning sports, but as I like to point out, that really only came about after many people decided their sabbath days were free for activities other than worship. The reason I'm thinking about this subject is a survey that came out this week that took the radical step of asking people why they left Christianity behind. The survey's authors begin by pointing out that many of the people we call millennials were children of divorced parents in the 1980's and 90's. When parents split, it becomes more difficult to maintain a consistent religious practice, with the result that many families simply stop going to church altogether. That may be why we're seeing religious disaffiliation exploding these days. But if you ask people about why they left, they come up with some surprising answers. Surprisingly few say their church became too focused on politics. Some say the clergy sex-abuse scandal pushed them out. That's mostly in the Catholic church, of course, but it »

The Author does *not* say "let us swim the 800m relay that is before us"

Hebrews 11:29-12:2 It's the Olympics, and as I write track and field competitions are on television, at least to the extent that any part of the Olympics could be said to be on NBC. In any case, they're supposed to have center stage. So perhaps it's appropriate that we talk about running metaphors this morning. (Don't ask me about actual track and field, though. I don't know a thing about it.) I read a pastor the other say that he got a lot happier with his career when he figured out that ministry is not a solo shot like the 400 meters or even a marathon. As he says, ministry is more like a relay race: you take the baton from the guy before you, do what you can, then pass it off to the guy after you. It's the team that wins, not the individual. I like that metaphor. I like it a lot. You try not to fumble the hand-off in either direction, and in the middle, you do the best you can. If you think about it, it applies not just to pastors and their ministries, but to the life of the church in general. St. Paul's has been here for 170 years. In many ways, we're just trying to keep going what we've been handed, and to hand it off to those who come after us. The anonymous author of the letter to the Hebrews (we don't have a name) has the same idea. »

Do not make "one toke over the line" joke, do not make...

Luke 10:38-42 Once again, I find myself having included a second reading, but crawling back to speaking about the gospel. Luke has some magnetic hold on me, I guess. In any case, those of you who have been around the church world for a while may have come across what they call Martha Mary societies. It's another name for a women's guild, with the idea that you're supposed to "work like Martha and pray like Mary." Martha Mary groups are falling out of fashion these days, as are women's guilds in general. There are women's fellowships and Bible studies and small groups, but those plain old guilds with the women who made the funeral dinners are mostly going by the wayside. That's it, Schultz, insult the grandmothers. That's the way to ensure longevity in the church. No, I simply mean to point to a reality that I think we all acknowledge. The church world is changing. People feel like they have less time to devote, and they choose what time they do have in different ways. We know this, we've talked about it before. One of the long-running debates in the church has been whether to focus primarily on spiritual development, or on acts of service. Some people say—with a little justification—that we can't all just show up for worship on Sunday morning and do nothing else. (Why do they always look at me when they say that?) Somebody has to make the coffee and set out »

Tomorrow can break into today--if we want it

Luke 10:25-37 I had intended to speak this morning on God's material blessings, hence the lesson from Deuteronomy. But I think I should talk about what happened in Dallas this week, and St. Paul and Baton Rouge. You would expect no less from me. The Christian gospel at its best lives in a series of interlocking promises. The first of these is that there will be a tomorrow, and a better one. The second promise, which goes along with the first, is that we can have tomorrow today, if we want it. The great hope of the gospel is that tomorrow breaks into today. Third: God is committed to removing the barriers to the fulfillment of this hope. Death and sin, we are promised, will have no more power over us. Fourth and last, because of God's commitment, it is possible to leave the power of sin behind: to be both forgiven and healed. It is possible to live in friendship with the God who desires us to live in solidarity with our neighbors. The mention of neighbors of course brings to mind Jesus' parable. "Who is my neighbor?" the Pharisee asks him, by way of a test. The obvious lesson we typically draw from Jesus' response is, "everyone." We should be like Good Samaritans, compassionate, kind, and helpful to those in need. And this is true. After all, when the Pharisee admits (perhaps grudgingly) that the Samaritan is the best example of a neighbor, Jesus tells him, "Go »