Friday, August 24, 2007

Ridge Church Part 2

A friend of mine was upset about what I wrote two weeks ago in the newsletter. He felt that I was building up Ridge by putting down 1st Church in Hammond. If anyone felt that way, I apologize, that was never my intent. Instead, was trying to celebrate their great history. Unfortunately, a church must change, or die — Ridge Church included — and the vision of 1960, most likely isn’t the same one in 2007. And what is exciting about First UMC in Hammond is that they are discovering a whole new vision, one that fits their current context, rather than trying to be something that no longer exists.

But, what surprised me the most, was that I have not gotten any feedback. I challenged you to share with me your understanding about the purpose of the church, and only one person responded — my friend Christine, an anthropologist, who lives out West.

Christine has been very helpful in getting me to see beyond my paradigms, which sometimes make me blind. She has really helped me to see, how others, who are not so wrapped up in the church, see Christianity.

Over the last several weeks I have thought a great deal about what I understand the purpose of the church to be. And I can say quite honestly, that my understanding has changed greatly over my 23 years in the ordained ministry. I think today, I have a much healthier vision of the function and purpose of the church.

And if I had to define it with two words they would be family (community) and justice. That is what I believe Jesus was most concerned about. Building an inclusive family and making sure that those who live within the family and those who live outside the family live in a just society.
The implications of this understanding are huge. What would it mean to look at our neighbors and see them as brothers or sisters? How do we make sure that everyone has what they need, and no one is better than anyone else?

I am still wanting this to be a dialog.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene

I just finished Bart Ehrman's Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. I think I have read about everything that Ehrman has written, and have had the opportunity to listen to a number of his lectures on CD and had the privilege of seeing him lecture. Once again, I was impressed at the skill that Ehrman presents his argument in a very non-technical way that most people can grasp. He has got to be a lot of fun to have in class.

His premise, in a nutshell, is that we can know a little bit about Peter, more about Paul and almost nothing about the historical Mary. That most of what we know of all three of these important players in the early Christian movement is from a much later time, and is often history created to fit the agenda of a particular group or movement within Christianity.

A great deal is rehashed from his book bashing the DaVinci Code, but how many times do we have to go over the same material. It did make me want to follow up on some of the references that he made, particularly to Karen King's work on The Gospel of Mary Magdala.

The one thing I am still waiting for from Ehrman is an understanding of where he is coming from. He grew up in a fundamentalist tradition (went to Wheaton College I believe) and in a recent BAR (Biblical Archeology Review) article said that he was not a believer. I would love to know what he really believes about Jesus and the early church --- not just from a historians point of view, but from the view of someone who has wrestled with the materials of the first couple of centuries of Christianity --- has seen all (or at least many of the warts), but still is trying to make sense of it all.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the first few centuries of the Jesus movement and the roles that Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene played in them. My biggest complaint with Ehrman is that he teaches at UNC and seems to hate the Blue Devil's, but he does have the good fortune of being married to a professor from Duke!

Monday, August 13, 2007



I know that quite a few of you have been reading. But this is supposed to be a conversation, not a monologue. I want your thoughts, comments, etc --- otherwise, what is the point?

Are ya willing to help me?

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I got a phone call last night while I was picking up Haley from "theater camp." The call was from Community hospital asking if I could come in and see a patient who was nearing death, because the family wanted a pastor to come in and pray with them.

Not a very unusually request, however, the family was not truly connected to Ridge Church. Once I arrived, the serendipity of it was, that we did have a connection. I had presided over the wedding of this woman's grand-daughter in July of 2005. As best I can tell, the hospital did not know that and I just happened to be the person they called.

But that is not what I want to write about.

What struck me --- as I ponder the challenge I gave to you and others on Monday is: "What is the roll of the church." I was called in so that I could help ease the transition, as the woman moves from this life to the next. AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! And if one were operating under the paradigm that the purpose of Christianity is to enable one to have "eternal life", that task was of utmost importance.

But I don't understand that to be the purpose of being a Christian. It may be a result, or as I like to say --- "The icing on the cake," but for me, it is the cake that is of utmost importance. And the cake is relationship with God through an earthly family, that we often call the church.

So when I find myself in situations like I was in, what is my primary responsibility? To "pray" the person to heaven, or to help the family to see the need for a relationship with God through the love of Jesus? And if, I have the perceived power to pray this person into heaven; which unfortunately is the paradigm that many operate under as to the function of the church --- why would they care or desire that relationship with God through that very broken and dysfunctional body that we call the church?

Sorry for my ramblings --- I didn't get a lot of sleep last night.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Harry Potter

OK, I finished Harry Potter a couple of weeks ago, but just haven't had time to write about it. Once again, JK Rowling has done a great job in captivating her huge audience.

Jessica, who read the book the first day, said repeatedly that this was the best book in the Harry Potter series. I am not so quick to agree. While I think that it was a great book, it got a little slow in some places, and I thought the ending was downright lousy. Not that it didn't end the way that it should. The problem was, that Rowling goes into such depth for the first 5/6th of the book and then seems to rush to wrap everything up. The ending was for me, less than satisfying. And the appendix --- well, I could have done without it. It made me wonder if we wouldn't see a new series spin off this one.

If you haven't read any of the HP series, this is not the place to jump in. But if you have been a fan of the series, you want to make sure that you do not miss this one.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Purpose of the Church

When I arrived at Ridge Church, one of the spoken goals was to become a church like 1st Methodist in Hammond. As I understood that to mean, it was to be a church that was taking the lead on issues in the community --- a church that the other churches looked to for guidance and direction. A church that was leading the way, and not lagging behind.

While 1st Methodist in Hammond is no longer that type of church --- Ridge is. There is no greater form of flattery that imitation, and as I drove past another church in town I saw on their sign that they were starting up a after school "open gym" type of ministry. I think that is great, but we have been doing it, and doing it well for 3 years now! That is just one of many signs that Ridge is THE mainline protestant church in Munster today. HOWEVER!

I feel a sense of fatigue at Ridge Church right now. The "workers" all seem tired. Statistics have shown time and time again that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. The same, unfortunately is also true in giving.

Whenever there is that sense of fatigue we are left with two choices. The first choice, and the one most commonly chosen, is to pull back, retrench and do nothing. Unfortunately, you don't stand still --- you fall backward. The second choice is to re-evaluate what you are doing and why you are doing it and reclaim the mission, vision and values of the organization.

So what is the purpose of Ridge Church? "Traditionally," the mission of the church has been to save souls for Jesus Christ. And often "saving" is defined very narrowly to mean, saving from HELL and into HEAVEN. Is that the mission of Ridge Church?

Instead of answering this question myself, I want to pose it to you. What is the purpose of the Church? And are we doing that at Ridge Church? Of course, I have a whole litany of answers to that question, and I will share them in a future blog, but I want you to take a stab at it. (By the way, the staff will wrestle with this tomorrow at our staff meeting.)

The second question follows from the first: what are the most important things that we must be doing to become what we believe we are supposed to be.

I am looking forward to hearing your comments.


As I took out some trash this morning I noticed a scratch on my car. As I looked more carefully, I found that somebody had "keyed" my car. What makes it even more interesting is that the van was "keyed" a couple of weeks ago. NICE!

I was at times a brat as a kid. I was known to throw a few eggs, and even go a little rolling of some people's trees with TP, but I was never destructive. I never broke anything, or damaged anybody's house or car.

The worse part is --- I am pretty sure who did it. We have some neighbor kids, who I would not put it past them.

Why do we do things like that? And if we are dishonest in small things, what will our later life lead to. I feel sorry for people like those that did this. My car can be fixed --- what about their "souls"?

Oh well, I just needed to vent.