Advent:Joy

6387678603_06242e8695_zThe Candle of Joy

Come, festively sing while awaiting the birth,
join angels in dancing from heaven to earth.
Wave banners of good news, lift high thankful praise.
One candle is lit for the joy of these days.

 


Mary Anne Parrott, 1988, © 1995 Chalice Press
(from Chalice Hymnal, no. 128). All Rights Reserved.
Photo Credit: “014” by Joe O’Meara via Flickr. Used Under the Creative Commons 2.0 License.

Advent:Peace

6387677425_c5c894c1d6_zThe Candle of Peace

Come quickly, shalom, teach us how to prepare
for a gift that compels us with justice to care.
Our spirits are restless till sin and war cease.
One candle is lit for the reign of God’s peace.

 


Mary Anne Parrott, 1988, © 1995 Chalice Press
(from Chalice Hymnal, no. 128). All Rights Reserved.
Photo Credit: “013” by Joe O’Meara via Flickr. Used Under the Creative Commons 2.0 License.

Well… Now I Have No Idea

When I heard that a grand jury in New York had decided not to pursue charges in the death of Eric Garner even though there was video evidence of the NYPD officer taking him down in a choke hold, my first thought was “So now what?  What do we do now?”

I know I am not alone in this, people from all walks of life have expressed their shock and disbelief that this tragedy even took place.  Our eyes are being opened to a world that many of us did not know or want to know existed.  A world of distrust, fear and separation.

The way the church responds to this will be one of great importance.

No more can this simply be just a problem ‘those people over there’ or in that state, rather this is something that effects us all.

I wish I had more concrete answers but I don’t and I’m not sure when they will come.

All I know is that the church and religious leaders have an opportunity to make connections and have meaningful conversations about the world we live in and the church’s role in our community.

During this time I was reminded of the words found in James:

It is a sin when someone knows the right thing to do and doesn’t do it. –James 4:17 (Common English Bible)

May we remember the God of peace and love and grace this Advent and forevermore.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Advent: Hope

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The Candle of Hope

Come surely, Lord Jesus, as dawn follows night,our hearts long to greet you, as roses, the light.
Salvation, draw near us, our vision engage.
One candle is lit for the hope of the age.


Mary Anne Parrott, 1988, © 1995 Chalice Press
(from Chalice Hymnal, no. 128). All Rights Reserved.
Photo Credit: “010” by Joe O’Meara via Flickr. Used Under the Creative Commons 2.0 License.

Advent 2014

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Advent is here.
Advent is the time in the church calendar when we wait for the coming of the Christ child. It is marked by the observation of the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Each Sunday of Advent the church observed a different theme of this journey: hope, peace, love and joy. Candles are lit as the light of the world (Christ) is drawing closer to us.
During this time we are called not to run to the manger but to wait… that’s right…. wait… for Christmas.

Waiting can be difficult in our ultra high paced society. We do not like long lines, emails or voice messages. Waiting for so called ‘fast food’ can send our blood to boil. What do you mean I have to wait? Well how long will it be… I expect to have my burger or chicken or whatever ready and at the appropriate temperatures when I cross the threshold of the door!
We want to get straight to the point as quickly as possible. This is why Twitter is so popular; Twitter forces you to construct your thoughts in 140 characters or less. Tell me what you want and move on.

We are a society on the move and for many of us we are practically sprinting. We cannot stop, we cannot slow down and we need to get more done today so we can repeat the dizzying process tomorrow.
Sure we take time to slow down but usually its because our bodies give out on us or we are “strongly encouraged” by our loved ones to relax and take some time for ourselves.

There is something freeing in slowing down. We are able to take in all that is around us and see how God is moving in our lives in ways that we would have looked right over had we not taken a moment to be reflective.

How are we using this time of Advent to prepare and to wait? Are we rushing for store to store buying mountains of gifts, trying to equate our love for someone by how big the price tag is?

How are we using this time of Advent to wait and to be reflective about what the coming of the Christ child means not only for the world or for the church but for us as followers of Christ? Don’t we want Christmas to be something more than pretty lights, too much food, elf on the shelf and Santa? Cant this time of Advent propel us into a deeper sense of the Divine around us and with us?

These are the thoughts that we take with us during this during to the manger… we aren’t there let but we know where we are going.

Below is a video that will explain Advent in about 2 minutes.  I hope and pray that this Advent is not filled with stress but with hope and expectation of God coming to Earth as a baby.

There are several devotional books available online to further your Advent experience.

 

May you encounter Christ’s hope, peace, love and joy this Advent season.

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan

 


Photo Credit: “Advent candles” by Markus Grossalber via Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License 2.0.

EDIT: 12/3/14– grammar and additions

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that your Thanksgiving was filled with good food, warm hugs and a reminder of all of the blessings that we have been afforded. May we keep these in our mind as we journey to the manager this upcoming Advent season.

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan

Voter Lookup

Not only is tomorrow my birthday (hint hint) it is also Election Day.

WordPress has put together this neat tool to ensure you know where to go vote.

 

3 Reasons I Wouldn’t Send My Daughter to a Christian School

My latest for Sojourners


In the past few months I have come to a rather substantial conclusion: I cannot slow down time. I have tried my very best and it still has not worked. Try as I might my oldest daughter is now four and a half and is practically sprinting her way to “big kid school.”

My wife and I have been discussing this next phase of our daughter’s life. Sadly, school districts are falling into massive debt, being subjected to low performance in the classroom and even apathy in educating the next generation. Schools have become too focused on state test scores and benchmarks and have removed the art of learning from many classrooms.

Now private schools are becoming more mainstream, offering alternatives to public education, more flexibility, and more opportunities to the students. For many private schools there is a common element: they are associated with a religious group or Christian denomination. These schools started out as an extension of the ministry of the church as a way to respond to the needs of the community. But over time many popped up as a rejection of the educational system and their “removal” of God or prayer the school. Many parents see disconnect between the mainstream educational system and their Christian households.

But I see a certain danger in some of these Christian alternatives. It might sound counter-intuitive for an ordained Christian minister to say, but there are a couple of reasons why I would not send my daughter to some Christian schools.

1.     Limited biblical interpretation.

In their statements of faith, some schools come across as if they have it all figured out. Don’t get me wrong — I believe the Bible is important and foundational for the church and Christianity. But the issue that I have is the school is giving my child the interpretation instead of allowing her to question and reason her own faith. The art of asking questions is at the heart of the educational experience, but if we have set up a Christian understanding in schooling that is akin to “means what is says, says what it means,” then we have limited learning, exploration, and growth. Kids (and adults for that matter) need to be allowed to offer the tough questions of faith. These questions need to be answered with honest, truthful answers — not bumper sticker slogans and clichés. Stop telling people to “just have faith and believe.” What about when that “unbelief” starts to creep in? Some schools take hardline stances on the interpretation, intent, and even “proper” translation of the Bible.

 

2.     Misunderstanding vocation.

Some schools dabble in areas in which a place of higher learning has no business being. For example, I was looking on a school website about their beliefs and was shocked to see that there was a section on marriage. That’s right … marriage. And not just any marriage, but heterosexual, biologically male and female, together forever marriage. Why in the world is the school worried about teaching second graders about marriage? Answer: It is there way of prompting their view of marriage, and they want to ensure all of those who enroll their children that heteronormativity is assumed.

3.     Creationism.

Some schools reject science — namely, the theory of evolution. Evolutionary science is seen in some Christian circles as the arm of the devil meant to pull us further and further way from the truth. These schools use the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 as their guide when navigating the waters of science and creation. There is one tiny problem: The Bible is not a science book, history book, geography book, or even a math book; rather it is a book of faith — a book that was composed over centuries to bring humanity the fullest encapsulation of the Divine. People have turned to the words of Scripture to guide them in difficult times, to mend broken spirits, and to be connected with the God of the universe. Any other use of the Bible is a misuse of the text.

So, I have trouble with some Christian schools.

I just can’t do it; I cannot send my daughter to schools that promote these things.

No one will tell my daughter how to experience God.

No one will tell my daughter that only way she can fully participate in the church is teaching Sunday School because the “men of God” can only preach.

No will tell my daughter not to question her faith because this is how we grow and learn.

No one will tell my daughter that her view of God is wrong because it does not fit in a box where people have placed God.

And I mean no one.

Maybe we should listen to Pope Francis and be reminded that

, “God is not afraid of new things,” and stop surrounding ourselves with people who just think and believe like we do. Let’s be open to new understandings of the Bible, God, and Jesus. Let us promote areas where questions can be raised in a safe and constructive environment.

If this were to happen, real learning in all aspects of life would be greatly enhanced.

Book Update

 

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And Greatest Of These Is….