35 Things to Know Before the World Ends

This end of the world/rapture business is getting out of hand.  I was interviewed on News Channel 10 on Thursday about why the world will not end. I can’t believe a guy like Harold Camping and his crazy predictions make news.  CNN followed his crusade and I think they are helping it be news worthy.

If you want to know why the world is going to end, here is the back story from my March 6, 2011 Times Union blog post.

If you believe it’s true, you better get ready! The rapture is happening soon!  Get your dogs and cats a place to stay!

There are a lot people getting into this rapture business. So ‘d thought I’d help with a little guide for the end of the world on May 21, 2011:

[Read more...]

Why You Should Listen to Brad Pitt on Christianity

In a recent Q & A for his upcoming film, The Tree of Life, Brad Pitt said:

“I grew up with Christianity, and I remember questioning greatly some things that didn’t work for me, [and] some things did…I grew up being told that God’s gonna take care of everything and it doesn’t always work out that way, and when it doesn’t work out that way, then it’s God’s will. I got my issues man, don’t even get me started…I got my issues… Many people find religion to be something inspiring. . . . I myself find it very stifling as an individual.”

Clearly, this preaching/teaching that Brad Pitt received was way off base. If his perception of Christianity is about “God’s gonna take care of everything” then his church, parents, and pastor failed him. Has anyone listened to his issues? Or, have people just preach “at” him?

Is this why Christianity is failing people? Is the wrong message being communicated? Does no one want to listen? No one wants to listen to other people’s struggles?

If Brad Pitt has issues with this type of Christianity, then I do too.

[Read more...]

Liturgical Evangelicals

I’ve made the case many times on this blog that several Baptist/evangelical/congregational churches are becoming more liturgical: printed prayers, responses, confession, creeds, lectionary, robes, candles, and hymns.  Evangelical and Baptist churches are following the Liturgical Calendar and worshiping in several non-traditional worship styles.  Notably Taize and Iona. Robert Webber wrote in 1985 that Evangelicals were beginning an attraction to the liturgical church.

What are we to make of this? Are these Evangelicals trying to be something they are not? A gimmick? Two articles are worthy of your attention on this trend to answer these questions.

The first is by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (fellow Eastern University grad) who writes in Christianity Today: [Read more...]

The Facebook & Marriage Problem

Is it permissible for a spouse to post pictures on Facebook that display flirting with shirtless men? What’s the big deal? It’s harmless, right?

That was a listener’s question on a local radio station which features email questions on relationships, marriage, or even popular culture. I tried to call in to this radio show and throw in my two cents: Ah, are you kidding? (lines were busy, thought I thought I’d post my response)

As a pastor, I often meet with couples in premarital counseling and martial counseling. Engaged couples often balk at the idea that their partner would never cheat on them. Married couples often seek counseling when things are at the worst point in their marriage. Sometimes, it’s too late. Other times, marriages can be repaired.

If you want to know why almost half of all marriages end in divorce in this country, look no further than the example of this listener’s Facebook question.

One of the radio hosts remarked, “What’s the big deal!?! It’s harmless.” [Read more...]

Church of England Attendance Up: What It Means for American Churches

Is God still dead in Europe? In the past few decades, report have shown that church attendance and membership are in steep decline in Europe.  However, last year a report confirmed stable church attendance among United Kingdom churches.    Now, the Church of England reports that attendance in cathedrals is up by 7% this year.

Is this just a Royal Wedding bump?

Not likely.  (The Royal Wedding was only a few weeks ago and Westminster Abbey is not a cathedral.) Certainly, excitement around the royal wedding and the televised wedding service could spark some people to get to church Sunday morning. However, it is unlikely the Royal Wedding will encourage a large increase in church attendance.

The Religion News Service reports that Rev. Lynda Barley, head of research and statistics of the Archbishops’ Council, said that non-Sunday church attendance was up 10% in 2010, and “steady growth” in the past decade.

Are traditional churches heading back from the bottom of decline? [Read more...]

Who invented God? Rowan Williams knows

… was the question a little six-year-old asked, but no one seemed to have an answer. Her father, Alex Renton (an atheist), was shocked that his daughter’s Scottish school would make the class answer the question. The girl, Lulu, looked to her father for an answer to the question.  He replied that they didn’t believe in God, but her father still wanted a religious answer for his daughter.

The dad wrote the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Presbyterians.  They didn’t reply. The Scottish Catholics wrote a long and complex answer.

Seeking more answers, he also sent a letter to the head of the Anglican Communion, who happens to be Rowan Williams (the same Rowan Williams who officiate the recent royal wedding). Rowan Williams replied:

[Read more...]

Ding Dong The Wicked bin Laden is Dead

Like you, I was captivated by the story of brave American special forces storming into the compound of a known terrorist who was responsible for coordinating the American attacks on September 11, 2001.  There was rejoicing in the streets. Cheering in this country and others.

Christians thanked God and held celebrations.  Osama bin Laden is dead! We killed him and all is well! Rejoicing was pronounced.

Really? Rejoicing in killing? Most likely, they rejoiced that closure had occurred.

But, did the killing of Osama bin Laden give closure to widows and families of September 11th saints? [Read more...]

UPDATE: Sean Hannity wrong on fellow pastor

UPDATE: Religion Dispatches and others have found the video of Wallace Charles Smith and his comments:

This speech is not a sermon in a church, but at Eastern University’s Windows on the World.  Windows on the World is a speaker series that features ideas, thoughts, and feelings of popular speakers. In the academic environment, Smith offered his thoughts that racism was not solved by the election of Obama.

Original post:

Wallace Charles Smith (a fellow American Baptist Churches pastor, my former seminary president, and fellow American Baptist Home Mission Society board director) was thrown into Sean Hannity’s cross hairs this week after President Obama attended Smith’s church on Easter. The Washington Post Reports:

The Rev. Wallace Charles Smith said the church has received more than 100 threats since Fox News channel’s Sean Hannity aired a tape Monday of a speech Smith gave in January 2010 at Eastern University in Saint Davids, Pa.

Shiloh Baptist Church in the District said it has received threatening phone calls and e-mails after an Easter visit from President Obama and a conservative television commentator’s subsequent playing of a videotape in which the pastor said that those espousing racial prejudice do so “under the protective cover of talk radio.”

What did Sean Hannity say that started all of this? It’s not what he said, but what he edited:

[Read more...]

Prayer for Good Friday

Prayer for Good Friday

O Christ, your life was no triumph, you carried a cross; may we walk along the same road as you.

O Christ, by your suffering you learned faithfulness; you became a source of eternal salvation for the whole human race.

O Christ, when threatened you did not retaliate; enable us to forgive to the very end.

O Christ, you see the pain of those who are exiled and abandoned; take their suffering upon yourself.

O Christ, when lies and worries try to separate us from you, your Holy Spirit is always with us.

O Christ, you are the happiness of those who follow you: enable us to live by your trust.

O Christ, our life is hidden with you in God; that is a joy that touches the depths of the soul.

Strengthen us, Eternal God, and we will wait in silence and peace until the light of the Resurrection rises upon us. Amen.

Prayer from Taize

Prayer for Maundy Thursday

Prayer for Maundy Thursday

Loving Provider,
you gather me in this upper room with your son,
to be fed by your love.
At that supper, Jesus told us to “love one another”
and I know that is the heart of his gift,
his sacrifice for me.
I ask that I might find the source of my own heart,
the meaning for my own life, in that Eucharist.
Guide me to the fullness of your love and life.
Amen.