Monthly Archives: June 2013

Cultural Christianity

Kay and I had lunch with an old friend from college days recently.   This friend has been a minister all of his working life and now at age eighty is taking on another church to minister to. In the discussion, the term “cultural Christianity” was used by my friend.   I perceived that for him it meant a return to “the roots” of old time Christianity.   While that is possible in the way we continue to worship, as in the past with older people who wish to “go back to the good old days; these people are dying  and are not being replaced by like-minded Christians.   The present generation needs to have the ancient truths addressed in ways that they can understand. It is my view that “old time Christianity” was just as “cultural” as today’s Christianity but reflected a different culture.  Today’s culture has changed.  It is no longer the culture that I grew up in during the 1940’s and 50’s.   Young people who are entering adulthood today have no idea what the culture was like 60 years ago, and frankly could care less.    Christianity has always had to adapt to the culture that it is a part of.   It’s problem is adapting to the culture but not being taken over by the culture.  We must take what is eternal about the message that we bring as Christians—true—-but we must bring that message in terms and ways that the present culture can understand or else the message will be lost. By our attaching our Christian faith to a culture that has passed away we take away from the Christian faith its  ability to function in the present and to remain  a possibility for the future. What do you think?

Update on Bread and Cup

Some good news!   Friday some of the volunteers will set up  some protection from the sun and will pack sack lunches for those that have not received the word that Bread and Cup has been cancelled.   They will have to meet outside the church as the board has said that they cannot enter the church.   The sack lunch will have a note on it explaining what has happened.   An active search is on for a new venue to continue this very successful ministry.

A Ministry to the Hungry and the Needy is abolished

It seems ironic that after my last Post (You See What You Look For), a heartbreaking example of this has come about in my life. In 2011, in response to a mission statement of First Christian Church Hutchinson, a lady named, at that time, Kay Deal (about a year later she changed her name to Kay Bell when she became my wife) founded The Bread and Cup Ministry as a ministry of the church to the homeless and the needy. Last Sunday by vote of the official board of First Christian Church, Hutchinson, this highly successful ministry was abolished. Kay’s response to this deserves to be read and I’d like to place it now on my blog:

What a sad day for the people of Hutchinson. What had been a refuge for the tired, hungry and lonely has been abolished by the official Board of First Christian Church. The Bread and Cup Ministry of First Christian Church in Hutchinson was established December 18, 2011, to care for the homeless and needy, and has been open every Friday since that time. It has grown from 2 people on the first Friday to anywhere from 60-100 people being able to get out of the weather, relax, play games (if they chose) or to just sit and talk to people who really cared about them and were on a first name basis with most of them. No one was turned away unless they were causing trouble, which can be expected on occasion, but that was not the majority.

Friday was chosen as the day to be open because that is a day the Christian Soup Ministry is closed, and we could provide them with a hot meal, leaving them only 2 days a week to not have a meal provided. How many of us go 2 days with nothing to eat?

There have been many faithful servants to this ministry. To name them would be a disservice, lest someone be left out. You know who you are and how much your faithfulness was appreciated. Not only have people contributed food and clothing, but many businesses and churches in Hutchinson have also participated. Without all of you this mission would not have been the success it has been.

In addition to food, people have been able to receive vouchers for laundry services (paid for by the Bread and Cup Ministry), clothing from a huge clothing pantry and occasionally a “Care Package” of canned or easily prepared food, to take home, especially at the end of the month when resources are short.

The Mission Statement of First Christian Church, Hutchinson is “To be a nurturing community to a hungry world.” It is so sad that fear of people that may not smell as good as you want, or have manners as good as you want, or social attributes that you find so attractive, are not going to be allowed in your “beautiful building”! Will Jesus be allowed to enter if He visits?

These are the words of Jesus taken from Matthew 25:37-40: “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Kay Bell, Founder of Bread and Cup Ministry

The people, God’s children all, will come Friday with expectation of a good meal and instead, with no warning, will find a locked church. How very, very sad!

We See What We Look For….

What do we see when a homeless person confronts us for money to buy food?

      Do we see a probable drug addict?

      Do we see a pest?  An aggravation?

      Do we see a lazy person who won’t work and lives off  others?

     Do we see a person who is rightly bearing the consequences of bad decisions?

     Do We see a demand on our time and hurry away?

     Do we see dirty clothes and smell an unbathed body and avoid the person?

All of the above and many more may be our actions and thoughts as we see this homeless person standing before us pleading for money.   We see what we look for!

The question I have is:   How many of us see “one of God’s children?”  

Because standing in front of us is a child of God—created in the image of God according to Genesis  (see Genesis 1:27–“So God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.   God blessed them…”

This image of a child of God is the image that we see as followers of Jesus the Christ  if we look at  the person through Jesus’ eyes.   If we are looking for one of God’s children that is who we will find.   And in the name of Jesus the Christ we will reach out to that child of God with God’s love and compassion and respect    —-just as Jesus did long ago in Galilee when he reached  out to the prostitute, the leper, the cheating tax collector, the blind beggars, the Samaritan woman at the well and so many others.   We will reach out as fellow-children of the  God who loves and blesses all His children and we will help in what way we are able to.   We will hug that homeless person even though he or she  may be dirty and smell bad.   We will see and respond to them as one of God’s children to another—with love and compassion.

Richard Rohr writes:   “We cannot be timid about this clear teaching of Jesus after centuries of Christians fighting over their formulations and rituals while unable or unwilling to see God in one another, in other races, in other religions, in the poor, in the weak…”  (R. Rohr, Enneagram. xxi)

What we see is what we look for.  If we look for God in other people we will find one of God’s children looking back at us, and our actions and thoughts will be guided by God.  We will look at them as one of God’s children, created in his image, and we will love them.  For, as I John 4:7-8 tells us:   “Beloved, let us love one another, because loves is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.   Whoever does not love, does not know God, for God is love.”

The Battle of the Wolves: Which side are you on?

There is a Cherokee Proverb I have read that says:   There is a Battle of Two Wolves Inside Us All:” 

One is evil.  It is anger, jealousy, pride, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority and ego.

One is good.   It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth. 

Which wolf wins the battle in you?   The one you feed!!!”

Which wolf do you feed the most?   Which wolf is being fed by our Kansas legislators and governnor?  Which one is being fed by our churches?   Which one is being fed by our national politicians?   Which one is being fed by our Republican politicians?   Which one is being fed by our Democratic politicians? 

Think of this proverby the next time you read your newspaper and the next time you vote.   Think of this proverb with each decision you make!   Which of the Two Wolves is being fed by your decision?  

You can pet the good wolf—-but the evil wolf will destroy you and those around you.  

A Nation of Fear

If we would put as much effort into loving our fellow humans as we do now in fearing them and arming ourselves to kill them, we would not live in paranoid fear of each other as we now do..   Fear dominates Kansas and most of our nation.

That we are in constant fear  of each other is evidenced by the headline in the Wichita Eagle on Thursday, June 6, 2013—“More apply to carry guns”.   In reading the article I found that during the last 10 months of this fiscal year in the state of Kansas, 22,124 applications for concealed carry of guns have been made!!   That is 22, 124.    That is up from the 12,408 applications in fiscal year 2012 and 9, 418 applications in fiscal year 2011.   Twice as many the first 20 months of this fiscal year than the two years before  added together!!  Of course in Kansas there is no law now against open carrying of guns by anyone.  

The same edition of The Wichita Eagle editorializes (Activist, Reckless Session”)  about the laws passed by our current Kansas legislature who “disregarded preferences for the regents (of our colleges) as well as cities and counties in forcing them to choose between allowing concealed guns in their facilities or spending big bucks necessary to secure entrances with guards and metal detectors.”    The legislature’s argument was that we  must protect ourselves from such things as the Boston bombing and the shootings at schools by everyone arming themselves.   (Please enlighten me how anyone with a gun could have prevented the Boston bombing?)

Why are we buying so many guns and applying to conceal their carrying?  Because we have become a nation filled with fear of each other and therein lies a  huge human problem!   It is the same problem that Jesus faced and the reason he was executed.   As Richard Rohr, in his book “Immortal Diamond” puts it:   “ Jesus’ death was not solving any cosmic problem whatsoever, but revealing to us our own human problem:  that we fear, and we kill what we should love!

Rohr states elsewhere in the same book:  :  “The anger and mutual disrespect that I find among both conservative and progressive Christians today is really quite disturbing.  It feels aligned much more with political ideologies of Right and Left than any immersion in the beautiful love of God.   Jihadism and Zionism have (also) become the death knell of any remaining beauty in religion for many sincere seekers all ove the world.   It is all so sad that we would regress so far in the name of God, who wants only to lead us forward.”  (p.91)

If our religion does not transform our fear into compassion and love for our fellow-humans and instead leaves us with fear and hatred for them, then our religion is more a part of the problem of our times  than the solution, and it has nothing to do with a God of love!

Our fear is really one of the fear of death.  Americans do not handle death well.   We do all we can to prolong life and avoid death.   Only when circumstances force us, do we admit that sooner or later we all will die—some sooner, some later.    As Rohr again states in “Immortal Diamond” ,  “our fear of death is actually our fear of God.  If we resolve the God issue, we normally resolve the other (fear).   To totally resolve the God issue would be to totally resolve the death issue.” 

If we see God as being fully and finally revealed in the person of Jesus the Christ and his earthly teachings and ministry, , which Christians claim to do, then we cannot fail to see a God of unconditional love and compassion for his creation, including all of us.   If we truly believe in God’s unconditional love for us we will no longer be fearful of death, whenever and however it comes to us! 

Read Paul’s letter to the church at Rome,  chapter 8, verses 31-39:     If God is for us, who is against us?   He who did not withhold his own Son but gave him up for all of us will he not with him also give us everything else?….Who will separate us from the love of Christ?   Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?….No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The consequences for us individually and as a nation to continue on our present path of fear of each other and arming ourselves to kill each other  will lead to our destruction at our own hands!!