Saturday, May 20, 2006

352 Children's sermons

Last Sunday (Mothers' Day) I attended both the traditional (some liturgy and hymns) and informal (contemporary songs, no liturgy, no robe for the pastor) services, so it was the first I'd noticed we didn't have a children's sermon. I suppose I'd been thinking it was still being offered at a service I wasn't attending (we have 11 services at 3 locations). But then I read this article on 20 reasons to ditch the children's sermon, and the first point was "This practice is a fading fad of the 1970's and 80's, along with avocado-colored appliances." Followed by this: "Children don't miss this practice when it's discontinued. Indeed, some are relieved that they don't have to be nudged into the aisle."

This article is from a defunct Wisconsin Synod journal called the Motley Magpie, and they wouldn't approve of anything we do at our Lutheran church, but still, it is an interesting view point, most likely shared by pastors of many denominations.

There were no children's sermons or children's church when I was growing up. We were expected to draw pictures and fold the bulletin into little boats.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

351 A completely biased review

Reviewing the book or the movie The Da Vinci Code would never be assigned to me; I haven’t read it and don’t intend to see the movie. Why? I don’t like the thriller/mystery genre--never have--codes, corpses, and clues aren’t for me. But more importantly, once I know an author has lied to me about the structure on which he hangs his story, I’m not about to spend my time with him. And Dan Brown is a liar, a cheat, and a tool of Satan. Well, so much for being an unbiased reviewer!

Brown asserts that Jesus never claimed to be God; that this was settled 300 years later by Emperor Constantine for evil purposes; that he was married to Mary Magdalene and she was supposed to lead the church; and that the Gospels are a fabrication designed to meet masculine power grabs. There’s other nonsense, but you can see how this would appeal to nominal Christians who have grown up with the "Jesus is my best friend" theology and unbelievers who rarely have any exposure to the Christian faith except on holidays. So IF you go to see the movie that is being released to the glare of an adoring public and press in May, put on a little son screen by watching a new DVD by Lee Strobel first.

Although I’m not going to the movie, I will recommend "Discussing the Da Vinci Code" (Zondervan, 2006, $19.99) which is a package of a DVD with four sessions, a discussion guide and a small book you can use for personal outreach. I think it would work best with a group that meets weekly--just for the pacing and holding people’s interest. However, if you have a group that is willing to stay on task and spend 90 minutes together (skip the snacks and chit-chat that evening), you can go through all four sessions together in one sitting. You'll have time to touch on the guidebook's questions, and you'll still send your folks out into the world semi-prepared. It is beautifully done, well-paced, and really held my interest. Lee Strobel, the narrator and interviewer, talks to his audience against a background of Paris and London and allows his guest scholars to speak to the issues.

Chicago Sun Times story on what churches are doing about the movie.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

350 Finally, The Dispatch has noticed us!

After seven years of pretty much ignoring the wonderful art shows our Visual Arts Ministry has provided the community, Felix Hoover, who writes for the Faith and Values section, has found us. I'm so excited. Now, I don't think he's ever actually seen any of our shows, but he thought it was really significant that we rejected a painting of an artist of the Upper Arlington Art League. Actually, VAM didn't reject it, but one of our pastors did. And that is very clearly stated in our guidelines--either the ministry or the pastoral staff can decide what is appropriate to hang in our home. That's what a church building is, isn't it? It's not THE "church" because that is God's believing people on earth, but a church building is our members' home where we gather for teaching, fellowship and support. It is the home of our church family--and like it or not, Mr. Hoover, we get the say on what goes on our walls. We're not required to accept art that is in conflict with what we teach our children, and the art gallery is in the Sunday School area.

Our gallery space is also the absolutely best hanging space in central Ohio, and the rejected artist has taken advantage of that--I think he's had at least 12 pieces hanging there in the last two years. He's also been rejected twice. The first time was for a painting that showed adults drinking and smoking. Well, do you want that in your Sunday School space and risk having a parent say, "We can get this on TV; I don't bring my kid here for this." The second was a painting designed to look like the 10 commandments, but was about "tolerance." Painted by a guy who was feeling a bit miffed, but not enough to refuse to show anything at our church--just enough to want to rub it in a bit? I'm just speculating here, since I don't know his motives. Perhaps these 10 principles of tolerance weren't thought up just for this painting; maybe they are truly his own personal beliefs, taken in at his mother's knee. However, the artist isn't tolerant of others beliefs and neither is Mr. Hoover when they make a mountain out of a dollop of paint.

The Visual Arts Ministry spent many hours and multiple drafts developing our guidelines (which include our right to reject inappropriate material), and if anyone would like a copy for their own church ministry, I'd be happy to send as a Word attachment. Truth be told, most of the pieces we've rejected have been because they are unsafe or unhangable with our wonderful Arakawa system--and artists get mad about that, too. Our mistake here was not having a copy of the guidelines available at sign-in for those artists who have joined UAAL recently, since we have accepted this group for many years and most of their artists are extremely cooperative and grateful for the exposure in this high profile space with a lot of traffic.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

349 Even the devil knows Scripture

Our church is in the middle of a series discussing from the pulpit and in small groups, "Seven questions Christians hope you never ask." Pastor Paul was preaching at Lytham Road Sunday (we have 11 services at 3 locations) on "How can you trust a book written thousands of years ago." I jotted down a few notes, but the best I can recall on Tuesday something said on Sunday, is that if a believer wants to convince a non-believer of the authority of Scripture, he or she needs to be reading it, because using passages about its truth for someone who doesn't believe in its value is not terribly useful. In other words, the unbeliever needs to see the truth of Scripture in our lives too. Being able to read the Bible in our own language is one of the gifts of the Reformation, but although we have a high view of Scripture, we have low use, he said.

When I look over to my bookshelves, I can see nine (9) Bibles, and there are others throughout the house. Now, not all these are used--some are sentimental, like my mother's, and the first Bible I received from my parents when I was in first grade. And then there are perhaps six (6) lineal feet of books about the Bible and our faith--concordances, dictionaries, handbooks, and histories with titles like "The art of reading Scripture," "Knowing Scripture," "Church history in plain language," "The meaning of the millennium," and "The top 100 questions."

If the printed Word were calories, I'd be obese. But like many Christians, I can starve if I don't open the Word and let God speak to me in that special connection.

"Let me be 'homo unium libri', a man of one book." (from a prayer of John Wesley)

Monday, May 01, 2006

348 Responding to DaVinci Code

When I hear advice that Christians should use the DaVinci Code movie as a witnessing tool, I just sigh. First off, I'm not going to give these Hollywood hacks $6 or $7 for denying Jesus. Secondly, most Christians couldn't do battle in theology or apologetics. If all you can do is give your own "personal experience" story, you aren't going to win against Tom Hanks and Hollywood. The Gospel isn't the Good News about Norma, it's the Good News of Jesus. Witnessing about our own experience has never been the point--not 2,000 years ago and not today. If you don't have on your full armor(Eph. 6:13)--don't go to the movie. You'll be slaughtered. See DaVinci Dialogue. Comments at my other blog.