The final word is love

The end of Dorothy Day’s autobiography:

“But the final word is love. At times it has been, in the words of Father Zossima, a harsh and dreadful thing, and our very faith in love has been tried through fire.

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The hard discussions on race

Let me set the context again when it comes to posting something on race and racism. The “big event” for me was the shooting of Philando Castile last summer. So many high profile shootings had been boiling over to that point, but when this shooting happened in my metro area to a man who was simply pulled over for a minor traffic violation (and having a “wide nose” like a robbery suspect…) I was stirred in a way that hasn’t let up. And I can’t let it up. I pray I can’t let it up.  Read more

Lament — Philando Castile

Lament isn’t always theologically correct. Lament isn’t always nice and neat.

Lament isn’t always soft… or done in time to get to lunch.

Lament is brutal because the soul has been assaulted. It is a crying out in pain because in that moment… in that time… there is nothing else to do.

Lament is personal. Lament is communal.

America doesn’t do lament. But we need to.

Lament is deep in my soul because “the system” failed the family of Philando Castile this week. Lament is deep because among the friends I have there is a sense of, “Here we go again.” And “reason” doesn’t help. “Statistics” don’t help.

The soul has been assaulted.

Lament needs a space in our community. The hurt needs to fly out of the soul and those nearby need to stand aside and let it happen. Instead… we judge. We judge because we think that’s not what WE would do… or a “civilization” would do.

Black or white, lament needs to fly out of the soul and allow the pain to have a way to exit. And it won’t make sense a lot of the time.

I was with another family this week who suffered the loss of a teenage girl. There were a lot of “F” bombs. A lot of bad theology. And it was loud.

And I wept with them. I sat with them and let the soul cry out.

There are feelings we have in the moment that ultimately may or may not be true… but in that moment have a sense of truth. The soul has been assaulted.

My soul has been assaulted in a tragic loss this week. My soul has been assaulted in a tragic court decision.

And in this moment, I am at a loss to say, “Trust the system.” In this moment… I do not “trust the system.” The system keeps failing minority communities. And, quite honestly, that system may end up failing the very law enforcement community it was designed to try and help.

In this moment I am not going to say, “Now… protest nice, y’all.” Not in this case. Philando Castile was compliant that night… and he is dead. A bad cop (and that doesn’t reflect on the meaning that he can also be a “good person”) was ill-prepared for the job and he is home. And free.

The soul has been assaulted. And lament needs to flow.

For now… let it. There isn’t a “right way” for this to happen.


Transparency in the Body of Christ

“It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community


The place of community in the Body of Christ

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone… Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community


The “bigness” of the gospel

I am working my way through a book called Lessons from the East: Finding the Future of Western Christianity in the Global Church by Bob Roberts, Jr. I’ll have a review of the book later, but there are some key thoughts to pass out along the way.

The challenge is to live deeply as Christians IN the public square. It is about what we can do to bless a community rather than just simply talk about what we’re against.

Key question:

How big is your gospel? What would it look like for your love to extend to the leaders of government, business, education, and other domains?

It’s a key question I’ve asked myself and my church for several years. How does that look? How are we known in our community?

Words that sound incredibly strange from Bonhoeffer

These words may have truth, but in our day they seem to be incredibly strange:

When another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God’s Word demands it. The practice of discipline in the community of faith begins with friends who are close to one another. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked when a lapse from God’s Word in doctrine or life endangers a community that lives together, and with it the whole community of faith. Nothing can be more cruel than that leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than that severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin. When we allow nothing but God’s Word to stand between us, judging and helping, it is a service of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine community. Then it is not we who are judging; God alone judges, and God’s judgment is helpful and healing.

“Well… what is sin?”

“Well… who are YOU to judge?”

The way to wholeness and healing is to recognize there is a sickness. We need that calling out in our lives once again.

There really isn’t “personal” sin

Every act of self-discipline by a Christian is also a service to the community. Conversely, there is no sin in thought, word, or deed, no matter how personal or secret, that does not harm the whole community. When the cause of an illness gets into one’s body, whether or not anyone knows where it comes from, or in what member it has lodged, the body is made ill. This is the appropriate metaphor for the Christian community. Every member serves the whole body, contributing either to its health or to its ruin, for we are members of one body not only when we want to be, but in our whole existence. This is not a theory, but a spiritual reality that is often experienced in the Christian community with shocking clarity, sometimes destructively and sometimes beneficially. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Eat at Yafa

When we find ways as a church to connect well with our community, it charges me up. Last night was one of those times.

Our community puts on a big parade every year to celebrate the city and it’s always well attended. Our church usually puts on some event to join in the celebration. Over the years we’ve tied to to giving away food on our parking lot and having a band play.

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Part of the crew that helped on parade night.

This year we took a different approach. Yafa Grill is around the corner from the church. On parade night their parking is completely cut off from traffic because of the parade and no one can get in or out for 2 hours. Yafa is a wonderful Middle Eastern place and Fouad cooks up some marvelous food. Every year he struggles to make it through and the parade night is not a “big business” night for him.

This year we approached him and asked if we could help. We would give him money to cook up samples and help defray his costs. We would make small flyers advertising this sample was courtesy of our church and Yafa Grill and he agreed to allow a coupon to be put on the back. Then our church volunteers would pass out samples along the parade route and tell people where it came from. Fouad also had us attach the small flyers to his takeout menu so people could see his full menu.

I told Fouad to just put a couple of chicken chunks per skewer or a couple of pieces of gyro meat per skewer and let people have a taste. Fouad wasn’t having it. He made whole gyro sandwiches and cut them in half. THAT was his sample size for the gyro. He then made FULL skewers of chicken as his “sample” as well. We could not possible have covered his costs for that night.

We passed out samples and were easily a big hit along the route.

As a pastor, it’s one of those nights where you watch people spring into action and help, wanting to bless a local business. You see a local business person perk up and see some ways to do some very simple marketing. It’s an incredible blessing.

My whole ride home I just couldn’t quit smiling.

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