D’etre and D’etat: The Difference Between Jesus and Church

I worked at a big fat church for a few years once.

For about five minutes of those few years, the staff was charged to “live in the republic of ideas.”  I wrote what follows earlier today, but it strikes me as the difference between the Kingdom of God’s raison d’etre and the raison d’etat so many churches live and ultimately die by:

It occurs to me that our use of terms like “industrial” or “industrialized” nation reveals rather efficiently the willingness of our power elites (political and economic) to sacrifice most of us for personal gain; to spiritually, emotionally, and economically destroy the creative, academic, merchant and truly small-business class (let’s call it the bourgeoisie) right along with the cynically styled “working class.” We bourgeoisie and/or proletarians freely mingle, and not-so-freely mimic the choices of the power elites (be they Clintons or Romneys) with what we’re told are consumer “choices” but are really the gasping acts of hanging-on desperately performed by human agents too exhausted from surviving to enact true human agency. This is purely diabolical; if there is a God in heaven, that God must not endorse this system. Surely, the central Christian image of God not in heaven but on a cross is in reaction to the system that enslaved Judea, that murdered John the Baptizer, that found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and sedition. That Christ’s message — God is for the margin and not for the power structures we worship — brought about his death at the hands of those power structures isn’t only a sort of proto-theological poetry, it is the essential Christian fact, the essential Christian witness, the essential Christian claim about the nature and person of God. That Jesus spoke of a kingdom different from those of the Sanhedrin and Rome and Washington and Wall Street and Seattle isn’t some spiritual-only conceit. What Christ called the Kingdom of God is not so-called Christendom, not the so-called Church; it is a physical network of willing rebellion.

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What Saturday Night Live Can Teach Us About Church

I just watched the SNL season finale (Mick Jagger/Arcade Fire/Foo Fighters/Jeff Beck/Jon Hamm/Steve Martin/Lazy Sunday 2/etc) on DVR.  It was celebratory: of rock n roll, of Mick, of Andy Samberg/Lonely Island, and, in a very touching close, of Kristen Wiig.

Trade blogs talk about SNL a lot, and specifically about how to make it better.  I’ll make a suggestion:  have awesome, big time shows every week.  Keep Jon Hamm coming back as a reoccurring surprise guest.  Mash up the musical acts.  If the show is always big, it doesn’t always have to be as funny as we all remember it being back in the [insert the decade of your adolescence here].  If you’re going to do it every week anyway, why not do it big? The thing that struck me about the show, apart from the star power, was that it was very intentionally planned to be a certain kind of show.  It was designed to be memorable. It was designed.

That got me thinking about church.  We go big on Easter, Christmas, maybe Pentecost.  And by big I don’t mean one half of the Glimmer Twins, a Yardbird and the drummer from Nirvana.  By big I mean intentional.  By big I mean well-thought out, done with enough lead time for artistic expression, rich liturgical experience, contemplative components, everything.

Christians do church every week.  I dare say the church that’s as intentional as possible as often as possible is rare.

Why do we do church every week?  Sure, there’s the Sabbath commandment, but we often forget that the Christian Sabbath is a weekly celebration of the resurrection of God the Son.  There’s a feast day every week if we’d have it.  A festival, a celebration.  If we’d have it.

Meta Sermons and Social Media

I’m very grateful for the opportunity I had to share the message at First Presbyterian Church yesterday at the 8:45 and 10:10 alternative services. Thank you!

I used social media to frame part of the message, saying that Pinterest had bucked conventional wisdom because it’s a platform where people share inspiring and uplifting things.  By offering a new kind of experience and an environment where generative things are shared and curated, Pinterest now drives more traffic to external sites than Twitter.

A bit of meta fun before I hit the hay:

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Blessings, all, and peace.

Sixth Street Shelter Expansion: A Mission in Allentown, A Call to Faithful Engagement

I want to thank Scott Kraus of the Allentown Morning Call for his reportage on the Sixth Street Shelter expansion. Alan Jennings, Marsha Eichelberger, Tony Sundermeier, and I are quoted in Scott’s piece in yesterday’s edition.  Please read it here, and whether you’re near or far to the locales and missions we’re talking about in Allentown, consider how you might help this project or projects like it near you.

We’re not doing this because it’s a “mission project” and churches “should do mission.”  We’re doing this because we are learning that missional living is the Gospel. The church, any church, exists for mission, and mission doesn’t merely touch everything we do.  Mission, being missional, is how we are learning to see.