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Giving Up Boundaries With Jesus The Boundary Crosser (via Sarah Condon)

It’s a constant challenge to live in the truth that people are our ministry, not an impediment to our ministry objectives. It seems modern ministry strategies judge people not on the degree they cling to Jesus, but on the degree they usefully support the local church’s program objectives.
From Sarah Condon at Mockingbird.

And nothing made the Pharisees angrier than Great Aunt Boundary-less Jesus. Because he took their boundary ridden law and raised it to completion in himself. He both ignored the boundaries and finished them. The failure to adhere to boundaries was no longer useful, because Jesus had come to be the Boundary. And mercifully, he had decided to let everyone through, no matter what.
By and large, I believe boundaries to be utterly useless, at least when it comes to the Gospel. I am not an idiot. I understand that there are people we need boundaries with. Abusive family members, angry people on the internet, and (maybe) even addicts. Boundaries in and of themselves are not bad. But as is her usual tendency, the Church takes a self-help concept and makes a gnostic gospel out of it.
The worst use of boundaries comes from the mouths of the pastors and priests of the church. All too often a “boundary” is insisted upon when the people in the pews are struggling with loneliness or mental illness or are simply annoying. But we label them as difficult and relegate them to the gnashing of teeth beyond our magically “self-actualized” boundary.
And woe be it unto the parishioner who has been labeled evil or even demonic for the sake of creating a hedge grove of shunning. But the hard truth is that people are not automatically evil if they get in the way of ministry. They are just people being very people-y. We would do well to remember that Jesus might have been able to cast out demons, but he had dinner with “difficult people” on the regular. And he loved them. Just as they were.
Of course, I am not certain that this insistence upon boundaries in the church is sheerly the fault of ordained people. I heard the word “boundary” used in seminary at least as much as I heard the name of Jesus invoked. Also worth nothing, you would be hard pressed to find many seminary professors who have run churches for any length of time. They do not know (or perhaps remember) that these are real people we are categorizing. They are not solely their sins. They are not their only their obnoxious tendencies. They are people marked beloved by God whether we like it or not.
In numerous parts of my life, I am unsure of What Jesus Would Do. But I do know what he has done. He was the great Boundary Crosser, the finisher of all of the boundaries we place around one another, and the Rescuer who crosses all of the practical and personal boundaries to get that one difficult sheep back into the fold.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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The Hardest Thing For Anyone To Swallow, Especially The Winners, Especially You, Or Me, Is That We Are Objectively Loved (via Duo Dickenson at Mockingbird)

A post at Mockingbird by Duo Dickenson that contains phrase after phrase that I turn over and over in my mind.

But later, for many of us, maybe most, who have defined ourselves not by love but by demonstrating an ability to be lovable, failure is guaranteed. If perfection is your standard of lovability, you are doomed to an unloved life.
+++
We are judged by everything we are given. Every paycheck, every gift, every look from a stranger conveys more than the moment (but, also, is completely confined to it).
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If the world can reveal our worth or confirm our legitimacy or celebrate our value, it can also display our terminal inability to perform. And it is terminal.

Read Who You Are You When You Don’t Win at Mockingbird.


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Why Church Should Be Nothing Like Cross-Fit (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

I’ve been dabbling a little bit in personal fitness for a while now, so I’ve got lots of respect for those who exercise.
This article by
Connor Gwin on Mockingbird
interacts with popular thought about why gyms and exercise fill a space in some modern lives that used to be filled by church.
It wants to tease out that the thought that people can find more personally meaningful “content and wisdom and community” in gyms is because the church has been conditioning them to expect the wrong thing.
There are texts in the New Testament that utilise athletic metaphors, but they are not based so much in self-improvement as they are in increased resting in the finished work of Christ in order to grow more like him.
From the article:

What troubles me is that we so easily make the jump from church to gym.
This argument of the Vox article starts from the assumption that religion and religious institutions are “providers of content and wisdom and community.”
From the outside, this is an easy assumption to make. Those of us within the church can fall into this trap too easily as well. The church is not just a provider of content and community. Ritual is not “this really helpful way of making people think of something greater.” The church and the rituals contained therein are forms of participation in reality as opposed to the delusion of my own sinful understanding.
The church does not exist to “make people better” like CrossFit. The church exists first and foremost for the worship of Christ and the proclamation of his Gospel. This sole focus serves to remind people who they are and to proclaim the Good News that we cannot make ourselves better but there is One who makes us whole.
The church is not a provider of spiritual wisdom, but foolishness. It does not exist for improvement or even growth. Saying that CrossFit is the logical home for those who no longer darken the doors of the church is an indictment of the church more than anything.
It shouldn’t be an easy walk from the pew to the weight bench, but it is made easy by a Christianity that looks more like a spiritual fitness program than a Gospel balm.
Any mention of “nones” and someone will mention the “dones,” those who are burned out and tired of giving their all to the church. For the “dones,” the prospect of endless burpees sounds better than one more sermon about the next political issue they need to care about or the next moral ladder they need to climb.
What is happening in the church when the Workout of the Day sounds like better news than the Gospel?
Jesus is not a personal trainer or a guru espousing wisdom. Jesus is Lord, and he calls to each of us, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Not The Way That Ministry Works (via Sarah Condon)

Sarah Condon, writing about fame and self-destruction offers a peculiar, yet not alien observation about the background of some of those who enter pastoral ministry.

I have a mentor who often says about ordained people, “Something bad happened to you if you want to be a priest.” Meaning that people are attracted to ministry as a means by which to fix what is broken. Maybe we come from tough family situations and/or we have an endless and neurotic need for love and attention.
I was once in a clergy conference where the speaker asked how many of the people in the room had a mother who often “took to bed” or who was actively an alcoholic. In other words, how many people had mothers that they felt they needed to take care of when they were children? Easily 75% of the people in the room raised their hands.
For these people, there was the hope that the Church might be the Mother that would care for them. This is, of course, not at all the way ministry works.
And it is not the way fame works, either…
…fame, like the ministry, is not going to heal any deep wounds. In fact, it will exacerbate both.

Read the whole post here.


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J.B. Roane And The Case Of The Belated Apology by Larry Parsley

At Mockingbird Larry Parsley offers a piece of short fiction featuring J.B. Roane – Pastor for Hire.
Rev. Roane is engaged by a man named Thornton who needs his assistance in conveying a belated apology.
“I’d like to hire you for job. It’s a little out of the ordinary. I should be able to do it myself, but dang it, I just can’t.”
If subsequent offerings remain at this standard I’d look forward to a collection.
Have a read at Mockingbird.


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Jesus And The Easter Effect (via Bryan Jarrell at Mockingbird)

An article at Mockingbird that reflects on the point that Jesus’ resurrection has a far more profound impact than someone simply coming back from the dead:

Reading the resurrection stories in the gospels, there are plenty of themes that the four authors want to emphasize. One among them is that the resurrection was a bodily resurrection—scars were preserved, fish was digested, hands were placed in wounds. Another is that the resurrection was an embarrassment to worldly powers, with heavy stones moved, Roman soldiers terrified, and religious authorities spreading cover-up propaganda. Equally as important to the story, however, is that The Resurrection is an act of divine love to the undeserved. Jesus appears to weeping women, terrified men, doubters, runaways, people who don’t know their bibles, and disciples who quit the business and went back to their day jobs. It’s almost as if a qualification for meeting with the resurrected Jesus is being a really bad disciple of Jesus.
Which is to say, The Resurrection isn’t just that someone rose from the dead. The reanimation of Lazarus didn’t inspire a women’s rights movement, nor did the resuscitation of the Rabbi’s daughter inspire a generation of self-emptying plague doctors. The good news is that the one who rose from the dead is, specifically and uniquely, Jesus of Nazareth, friend of sinners, love incarnate, son of God, and full of grace. It’s this particular Jesus that caused the disciples to reconsider time and space and Sabbath, and also, love and forgiveness and the entire nature of the divine. Replace this Jesus with anyone else, and the whole movement falls flat.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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He Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good…and Fills Your Stocking Anyway (via Carrie Willard at Mockingbird)

We never really did the Santa Claus thing, but we made sure everyone got lots of presents.
Regardless.
One mother’s struggle to observe some of the cultural expressions of Christmas without yielding to its anti-gospel narrative of performance rewards.
A taste:

My six-year-old asked my nine-year-old this question in the backseat of my car recently, and I tried to squelch the “of COURSE he is!” that was dying to escape from my throat.
The nine-year-old, who is the tallest innocent I’ve ever met, said that yes, he believed that Santa is real. The six-year-old had his hang-ups. “What would make you say that he isn’t?” I asked from the driver’s seat, imagining a list of logistical challenges that one man might have distributing gifts around the world.
Instead I got:
“I just can’t believe that he thinks we’re so good,” he said. “I mean, everybody sins. All the time.”
Read the whole post here.