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Archive for October, 2015

Bartimaeus’ Cry

A Sermon on Mark 10:13-16 and 46-52

“Hush, Bartimaeus! Be quiet! Don’t make a scene!” MANY people scolded him. They spoke in the same harsh way as the disciples had spoken to the adults who tried to bring their children to Jesus. Mark uses the very same Greek word to convey their sternness.

Instead of helping Bartimaeus make contact with Jesus, they tried to shut him up. Was it because they thought he was an eyesore, a nuisance, an embarrassment that they didn’t want any VIPs to see? Bartimaeus sat by the roadside with his cloak spread open to receive coins passersby might toss his way. Maybe he resembled a homeless person curled up in a blanket in a doorway.

Bartimaeus was one of society’s least ones, a person whose life mattered less in others’ eyes—though polite people would be reluctant to admit that it mattered less. All lives matter. Right?

“Be quiet, Bartimaeus! We don’t want to hear it!”

Be quiet! Don’t make a scene. Through the ages that’s what countless people longing for things to be better have heard. People just wanting to exercise their rights as citizens, for example. People just seeking a decent living and who don’t want to be redlined out of safe neighborhoods. Be quiet! Don’t stir things up!

People just wanting to use the gifts God has given them—women who hear the call to preach, for example, still being told in so many places “Be quiet! It’s not your place!”

Parents of children with special needs petitioning for an appropriate education for their children being told “Go away! Don’t take resources away from our normal children!”

People deeply hurt by derogatory or unjust remarks made about themselves or others, but they don’t speak up. They swallow the pain because how well they have learned, “Be quiet! Be polite! Don’t stir things up!”

People with smiles plastered on their faces, but inwardly they struggle and cry. “Keep quiet,” they tell themselves. “Don’t let anybody see. Don’t let anybody hear. Don’t burden someone else.”

And many have internalized, “Don’t even bother the church. Don’t bring your brokenness to church. You at least gotta look like things are alright.” (more…)

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*at least not THAT kind of youth group.

Here is a challenging post on not segregating youth into youth ministry silos.  Its catchy title: Blowing Up the Youth Group Model. 

I recognize that people in in different age groups and generations do need to spend time with their peers.  However, I’ve long thought that the typical youth group ministry aimed at “hooking” youth interest with entertaining, exciting, and often expensive programs led by a high-energy professional actually vaccinates youth against full participation in the church.  Too often graduation from high school and from the youth group has also led to “graduation” from church.

While it might not feel like a blessing, it is indeed a blessing not to be able to have such a program.  The small number of children who spend significant time being nurtured and mentored by mature Christian adults in a small faith community grow in discipleship, and they often end up being leaders themselves.  When they move away to pursue education and careers, they can end up being the most mature leaders in a larger church because they grew up being active in the church’s ministry and not just consumers of the church’s ministry.

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I recently came across this quote from Eugene Peterson. It comes from an interview he did with Jonathan Merritt of the Religion News Service:

JM: Eighty-one years is a long time. As you enter your final season of life, what would you like to say to younger Christians who are itchy for a deeper and more authentic discipleship? What’s your word to them?

EP: Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people. If people were leaving my congregation to go to another place of work, I’d say, “The smallest church, the closest church, and stay there for 6 months.” Sometimes it doesn’t work. Some pastors are just incompetent. And some are flat out bad. So I don’t think that’s the answer to everything, but it’s a better place to start than going to the one with all the programs, the glitz, all that stuff.

– See more at: Faithful to the End: An Interview with Eugene Peterson.  

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Simply inviting people to church isn’t enough.  Here is a post from Karl Vaters on being church for people who don’t go to church.  Among his recommendations:

  • Build relationships with no strings attached.
  • Talk about life, not just your church.

Read more at 11 Ways to Be the Church for Those who Don’t Go to Church.

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