Monthly Archives: April 2014

This Is My Father’s World

“…in the rustling grass I hear him pass; He speaks to me everywhere.”
Maltbie D. Babcock, This Is My Father’s World, 1901

Williamsburg, Virginia

A beautiful day in our town, Williamsburg, Virginia

It’s funny how things get connected when you stop long enough to think about them. Yesterday was one of those Thornton Wilder, Our Town kind of days. The weather was spectacularly beautiful, Marion went to a graveside funeral for a childhood friend who died of cancer, and I replaced the radiator in her minivan.

The radiator was a mail-order replacement that I gave her as a Christmas gift (lucky her—I’m just sayin’). Between work and family commitments and waiting for the weather to be just right for the job, it took me four months to get to it. While wrenching in the driveway, I was listening to music, and got into a bunch of songs by Chicago. Between the gorgeous weather and thinking about Marion’s childhood friend and the kind of life they lived growing up in small-town Williamsburg, when Old Days played, I found myself daydreaming about Wilder’s Our Town. It’s a beautifully crafted, melancholy play about the ebb and flow of life in small-town America. Everyone would love to live in Wilder’s fictional Grover’s Corners, and be part of that Pulitzer-Prize-winning community.

But the play ends with a fatalistic dialogue about life beyond the grave. “There are the stars—doing their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky. Scholars haven’t settled the matter yet, but they seem to think there are no living beings up there. Just chalk…or fire.” That kind of melancholy makes me wonder what kind of ‘scholars’ Thorton Wilder trusted.

Somewhere in my childhood, long ago and far away, the words to Maltbie D. Babcock’s pastoral hymn This Is My Father’s World got engraved in my soul.

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world, he shines in all that’s fair; in the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!

So what happened to Marion’s friend? That depends upon whom she trusted. Me? Thankfully, I have plenty of reasons to appreciate the beautiful world and wonderful family and friends all around me (and how that all came into being). Not everyone does. Got it. But if you’re inclined to pin your faith—or lack thereof—on your circumstances, consider the words of the apostle Paul:

“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
2 Timothy 1:12 (NIV84)

The truth is everything is connected—whether we appreciate it or not.

Excursis

Courtesy of Grooveshark.com, here are some of Chicago’s Our Town songs I was listening to out in the driveway: Old DaysDialogue (Part 1 & Part 2)(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long, and Alive Again.

 

 

 


A Multi-Site Ministry Market

Loud music, monster-sized video screens,  all in multiple locations. Is this the future of church?

Loud music, monster-sized video screens, all in multiple locations, with a single highly-visible teaching pastor. Is this the future of church?

What will tomorrow’s evangelical church look like?

Every now and then, I like to sneak off on a Sunday and check out what other churches are doing. One of the fastest growing movements in America currently is the multi-site church phenomenon. Within the past year, two new multi-site churches have entered our local community, and people are coming out of the woodwork to attend. So I had to find out for myself what the fuss was all about.

American culture is changing rapidly as the traditional Protestant Christian consensus is breaking down. How do churches compete with all of the very exciting things to do on a Sunday morning aside from church? As the culture gets more atomized, evangelical churches have found it challenging to know how to reach out to an increasingly disaffected and distracted population.

Enter the multi-site church. Essentially, such a church is simply a community with one senior pastor that meets in multiple places. But what makes the multi-site movement unique is how these communities hold together and their strategy for growth. Let me walk you through one multi-site church experience. Your mileage may vary, but at least you will get the flavor as we dig into this…
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Raised?

Millions of people will attend churches on Easter celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus. But is it just a nice idea intended to make people feel better? Is it true, or is it based fundamentally on a lie?

From a new book for seekers, skeptics, and Christians who just are not sure: Raised?

Anything worth believing is worth questioning.”

I have not read the book, but if the following set of videos is any clue, it is a grippingly honest journey of doubt, cycle, faith, and life ….


Syncing Up Easter

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In 2014, the date for Easter for all Christian churches is synced together on the same date: Sunday, April 20. Have you ever wondered how we got the date for Easter?

The Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. is most famous for giving us the first formulation of the Nicene Creed, which confirms in Christian teaching the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation of God in the Jesus Christ. But it also served to resolve a dispute within the church as to when the Resurrection should be celebrated on a yearly basis. Different communities within the early church celebrated the Empty Tomb on different days, which tended to be a bit confusing within the Roman empire. The church leaders meeting at Nicea settled on a system that unified the celebration to be held on the first Sunday after the “Paschal Full Moon.”

The problem is that exact determination of the “Paschal Full Moon” was not always strictly tied to the astronomical full moon, but rather to different sets of tables used to compensate for dissatisfactions with the Jewish lunar calendar. The Christian system relied originally on the early Roman Julian calendar, which is still used by much of the Eastern Orthodox church. By the later medieval period, errors in the Julian calendar were becoming noticeably undesirable, so an effort to create a new calendar was put together. The most famous contributor to this effort was Nicolaus Copernicus, who in doing research for the new calendar derived the new 16th century theory of heliocentrism, the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun, not the other way around as in the geocentric system. Our modern Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar in the Christian West in the late 16th century, but it was not fully adopted in Protestant countries for several centuries later as it was perceived to be a “paganized” Catholic idea by many Bible purists.

Speaking of that, the Eastern Orthodox church holds to the name Pascha, derived from the idea of Passover, for the description of the Resurrection celebration. In contrast, the word Easter might have some pagan origin in that it could be derived from “Eostra” or “Ostara”, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring. But as the use of this term comes hundreds of years after Christians started to celebrate the Resurrection, it would be completely anachronistic to claim (as some do) that Easter is merely a pagan corruption of Christian faith. Even in the Western church, the Latin name for the Resurrection celebration is still Pascha. The Empty Tomb predates the whole bunny and eggs traditions by centuries, though I must confess I love the chocolate versions of these other traditions.

So this coming Easter or Pascha Sunday is a great opportunity to worship the celebration of the Resurrection with nearly all Christians throughout the whole world on the same day. It does not always happen.

Additional Resources:

Look here for an easy way to calculate the date of Easter, and more background on the calculation process.

For a further defense against the idea of the pagan origins of Easter, consult here, as well this article from the Christian History magazine.


The Trials of Jesus

Lessons in Lent

The Gospel accounts of the trials of Jesus before Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod have considerable agreement, and some interestingly unique statements. While all four accounts agree on the essential details of what happened early in the morning of Good Friday, only Luke records that Jesus was interrogated by Herod Antipas (see Luke’s Sources). Only John—writing long after the three synoptic Gospel writers—adds the detail of the name of the location in Jerusalem where the trial took place (Gabbatha). And in writing that one word John left a great clue for modern archaeologists to find the location of the trial before Pilate.

There is so much to be gleaned about the veracity of the Gospel accounts from reading about the trials of Jesus. The accounts are not identical—but they are not inconsistent. An argument could be made that if this material was contrived, all four accounts would be…

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