A dying church

A pejorative term directed against some congregations is that they are “a dying church.”  Either because most of their members are elderly or because they don’t get a lot of new members or because they don’t seem exciting enough.  I have always thought that this is rather wicked to say, since we have no idea about the true spiritual life that may be pulsing inside of these Christians, however elderly or not-growing or unexciting they may be.  Then our pastor, Rev. Douthwaite, preached this sermon on Palm Sunday:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. And we also prayed: Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience.

What does this mean? Do you know what this is saying? With these words we are really saying: Lord, help us to die. Help us be dying Christians. Help us be a dying church.

Ah, no. That doesn’t sound right! We don’t want to be a dying church! We don’t want to be dying Christians, do we? That sounds like failure. We want to be successful, we want to be admired, we want to be big, we want to be glorious. A dying church sounds . . . like . . . a story gone horribly wrong.

But this is exactly what it means to have the mind of Christ. We are to be a dying church, because we have a dying Saviour. For only by dying can we live. . . .

But what has Jesus done? What is this story we are hearing again today and will remember all this week? This story is not a story gone horribly wrong, but of our Saviour using suffering and death for life, for good. That what looks like defeat is really victory.And so we are a dying church because we have a dying Saviour. This is not our doing – our Saviour pulls us into His dying; for to die with Jesus is to live.

And so in baptism we are pulled into His death and resurrection.

We hear the preaching of Christ crucified and are pulled into the story of the cross.

We die in repentance and are raised in absolution.

The dying and rising body and blood of Jesus are put into your mouth, to pull you into that same dying and rising.

You see, that is what set the Apostles free to face death when they went out into all the world – they had already died with Christ! They had nothing to fear.

That is what set the early martyrs and the Reformers free to face death – they had already died with Christ! They had nothing to fear.

And this is what sets you free to face whatever this world and its evil prince may throw at you – you have already died with Christ! You have nothing to fear.

And so it is only by dying with Christ that can we then live. For dying with Christ, we live a life that suffering cannot take away, that the sins of others cannot take away, that the struggles of this world cannot take away, that disasters and tragedies cannot take away, that laying down our lives for others cannot take away, that not even death can take away.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church.

How Democrats and Republicans amuse themselves

A study of political affiliation and use of media has found that, contrary to  popular assumption, Republicans are more active online than Democrats.   Republicans are also more likely to watch “The Office,” like sports, and watch the History Channel.   Democrats prefer newspapers, “Ugly Betty,” Comedy Central, and basketball.  At least in the Midwest, the focus of the study, though some of the results are thought to be transferable more broadly.  Here are more details from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which takes a Wisconsin-centric view of the data:

Democrats and Republicans not only vote differently and see the world differently, but they get their information and entertainment from very different places.

A new study on media consumption in the Midwest illustrates how this works in individual media markets like Milwaukee.

Heavy radio and Internet users here tend to skew Republican, while big television and newspaper users skew Democratic.

Viewers of Fox News, the Golf Channel, the History Channel, the Speed Channel, ESPN and Country Music Television lean Republican.

Viewers of MSNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Lifetime and Bravo lean Democratic.

“We know Wisconsin is polarized politically. We’re also polarized in how we pay attention to media,” says UW-Madison political scientist Ken Goldstein, who did the report for a research group he launched last year, the Midwest Foundation for Media Research.

Milwaukee is a microcosm in many ways of national patterns in partisan media consumption. . . .

“Sports channels skew Republican, which is a (more) male audience, and women’s channels skew Democratic,” says National Media’s Will Feltus, who was part of the Bush campaign’s media team in 2004.

Primetime network shows follow partisan patterns as well; nationally, “Survivor” and the “The Office” skew Republican; “60 Minutes” and “Ugly Betty” skew Democratic. . . .

The heaviest newspaper readers score the highest for political engagement and skew somewhat Democratic in their politics. Big TV watchers are even more Democratic but less engaged. Heavy Internet users tend to skew Republican, not Democratic as is often assumed. And radio users skew Republican, reflecting in part the role of conservative talk radio. . . .

Golf and car racing have a more Republican following; basketball and hockey have a more Democratic following. The Brewers don’t skew in either direction. The Packers skew a little bit Republican (as do sports fans overall, which is consistent with the fact that men are more likely than women to be both sports fans and to be Republicans).

In a separate analysis Feltus did last year on “The Politics of Sports Fans,” he wrote that sports fans nationally tend to report higher than average rates of voting.  That’s especially true of golf, college sports and big league baseball fans. (They tend to be older and have higher income and education levels, which correspond to higher voter turnout).

Fans of pro wrestling and monster trucks, however, reported much lower than average voting rates.

via How Democrats and Republicans use the media (very differently) – JSOnline.

How do you account for these differences?

He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows

On this Good Friday I urge you to read and to meditate upon that astonishing prophecy of Christ’s Passion and His redemptive work in Isaiah 53.  In doing so, consider these words:

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his stripes we are healed.

We are familiar with the notion that Christ on the Cross bore our transgressions and our iniquities, though we can never plumb the depths of that truth.  But we don’t hear much about how He also bore our “griefs” and our “sorrows.”  What does that mean, and what difference does that make in our lives?

Good Friday conjunctions

This year Good Friday falls on April 22, which is also the new environmentalist holiday of Earth Day.  (It is also “89ers’ Day,” the anniversary of the Oklahoma Land Run in 1889, as all of my fellow Oklahomans should know.)   Some churches, usually of the more liberal persuasion, are trying to honor Good Friday and Earth Day together, recommending ecological gestures to honor Christ and suggesting that Christ died for the Earth.

He did die for the world.  And the whole creation suffered from the Fall and is in travail until the coming of Christ.  So can we make legitimate connections?

Easter and Baptism

Did you realize that you were buried in the tomb with Jesus?  And that on Easter morning when He rose from the dead, you did too?  That’s what your baptism accomplished, according to the Bible:  “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

Was Easter originally a Pagan Holiday?

The charge is that the word “Easter” derives from the name of a pagan fertility goddess “Eostre.”   It is said that Christians took over a spring festival devoted to this deity.  But this article by British historian Anthony McRoy debunks that claim: Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday? | Christian History.

Briefly, the connection to Eostre was made by the Venerable Bede, the medieval church historian, but we can find no other mention of the goddess or any festival associated with her.  Prof. McRoy accounts for what may have been Bede’s misunderstanding with some other etymological accounts of the origin of our word “Easter.”

Besides, English and the other Germanic languages are  the only languages that calls the Festival of the Resurrection “Easter.”  Everyone else calls it some version of “Pascha,” which derives from the Hebrew word for “Passover.”  And the holiday was celebrated extremely early in the church’s history, evidently by the 2nd century.  And its original celebration in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean sea shows no connection at all to any pagan festivals.


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