Dealing with False Dichotomies: "Don't go to church, be the church"

Have you heard this one before?
It's pretty popular these days to have people say, "Don't go to church.  Be the church!"

As if the two were mutually exclusive.

As with many false dichotomies, this one comes from a place of good intentions.  Saying "be the church," is a way of pushing back against the false idea that merely going to church on Sunday is what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Now, there is absolutely a sense in which we are called to "be the church."  For instance,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

However, Scripture also speaks of church as the local assembly of believers who gather together around God's Word and sacrament…

Follow Me: The Call to Discipleship

Recently I've been re-reading a fantastic book by the late Martin Franzmann called Follow Me: Discipleship According to Saint Matthew.  This post was inspired by that book and will also be used as my newsletter article this month. 

“Follow Me.”
With those two words Jesus called individuals to be His disciples.
Note well, this was not merely a Rabi calling a student to come and learn from him.  In fact, Jesus never even permits others to admire him as a teacher.  When the rich young man (Matthew 19:17) and both Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) and the Jews in John 7 express admiration for Jesus as a great teacher (or Rabi), Jesus dismisses such talk.
Jesus is no mere teacher, but the Messiah.  And when He calls individuals to follow Him, He isn’t calling them as a teacher to come and simply learn a better way to live.  He isn’t merely calling them to follow His teachings, but to follow Him!
“Follow Me” Jesus said to Galilean fishermen.  They left their nets and followed Him. “Follow Me”…

Lessons from the Bible and Baseball

"Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer." - Ted Williams 

From spending hours playing baseball and wiffle ball in our backyard with my brothers, to little league, American Legion league, high school, and college, baseball has been a pretty significant part of my life for a long time. One of the great things about baseball is that it teaches you.  It teaches you lessons about life and how to deal with difficulty.

For instance, as a pitcher I had to learn that getting upset about things didn't help the situation.  If I jammed a hitter and he was lucky enough to have the ball fall in, even though I did my job, the batter reached base.  If a fielder booted a routine ground ball, I didn't do anything wrong, yet the batter was now on base.

It was frustrating when things like that happened, but if I let it get to me, things got worse in a hurry.  I had to learn to control my emotions, to bloc…

The Gospel in Narnia III

C.S. Lewis was a master storyteller and his Narnia books are fantastic stories.  But for those who are willing to look closer, there are layers beneath the basic story that are rich with meaning.

At the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace was as unlikable a character as you'll find in the Narnia books. He was arrogant, selfish, and lazy.  There comes a point when Eustace wanders away from the ship (to avoid having to help work on repairing it) and finds himself in a downpour.  He hides in what he discovers to be a dragon's cave and finds all kinds of gold and other treasure in the cave.  In his greed, Eustace pockets as much treasure as he can, then he lays down and falls asleep.  When he wakes up, much to his horror, Eustace discovers that he has become a dragon.

As a dragon Eustace begins to recognize just how awful he had been.  He wants to be better.

Eventually, the lion called Aslan (the Christ figure in the Narnia series), comes to Eustace and helps him.…

20 Ideas for Holy Week

Oftentimes Christians feel like they should do something during Holy Week (besides attending services on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday).  So here are some ideas that you might consider using during Holy Week.  Consider picking one or two things and then make sure you put plans in place to make it happen.

Read a gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) from start to finish, either by yourself or with your family.Pick a hymn and learn it by heart (listening to it on an mp3 player, spotify, YouTube, etc., can be help you do this).Memorize Scripture. Here are some good verses, that you might not yet know, but are very much worth memorizing.
Colossians 2:13-14 
Romans 6:3-5 
Revelation 1:17-18
John 20:21-23Review the catechism, using each day of Holy Week to review one of the 6 chief parts.Pray for your pastor and all pastors as they prepare to proclaim the gospel.Pray for your fellow church members, going through a directory and praying for each member by name.Ask y…

The Stone and the Holy House: A Parable on Christ's Holy Temple...the Church

There once was a stone.  This stone wasn’t a particularly large stone and it was rather oddly shaped.  It was kind triangular in its shape, but not a beautifully well proportioned triangle or an exotic triangle with sharp lines, but it was only somewhat triangular in its shape.  It had one really jagged edge and one dull, rounded edge, and it was somewhat concaved in the middle.
This stone wasn’t a particularly beautiful stone either.  It wasn’t distinctly black or white, but grayish.  And it didn’t have any reflective qualities, but it was rather dull.
This stone wasn’t particularly large, it was oddly shaped, and dull. 

It was not a special stone.
And yet, it was a special Stone. 

The Stone knew both of these things to be true, that it wasn’t a special stone and yet that it was.  It was special, not because of any particular quality that it had or because it stood out amongst other stones, but because it had been chosen by the Builder.
The Builder had picked up this stone, a long…

Easter Egg Hunting in the Bible

Soon enough we'll have Easter egg hunts happening all over this country. In fact we'll be having a glow in the dark Easter egg hunt at Hope this year.

But there's a different kind of Easter egg hunt that happens all year long.  It's the hunt for "Easter eggs" that have been placed into games and movies.  The always reliable Wikipedia defines this kind of Easter egg as follows:
An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, a hidden message, or a secret feature of an interactive work (often, a computer program, video game or DVD menu screen). The name is used to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt.[2] The term was coined to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game Adventure that led Atari to encourage further hidden messages in later games, treating them as Easter eggs for players to find.Pixar movies are well known for having Easter eggs sprinkled throughout their movies.  Video games too, are well known for such Easter eggs.

The thing about…