Pastor Paul’s Easter Message

A New Kind of Christianity

We are having an interesting time in Sunday school. We are studying Brian McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christianity. With a wide variety of perspectives around the table, I’ve enjoyed the give and take.

One of the first things that we had to wrestle with (and it lurks behind the whole discussion) is the title. It begs the question, do we need a new kind of Christianity? Isn’t God the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow? Isn’t the Bible I pick up today the same Bible my parents (and theirs) picked up?

Well, yes … and no, says McLaren. He and many others are surveying the landscape of church and world and noticing that many are in need of good news. There are many who are not receiving that good news through traditional expressions of the gospel and church (and, indeed, many who struggle with and have been wounded/excluded by them). Is there a new way of expressing/living our faith that speaks to our world and our context today? Are there new ways of doing/being church?

I think these are healthy (if tough) questions. From the Apostle Paul, to Martin Luther, to Martin Luther King, Jr, faithful Christians have always asked “what does the good news of Jesus Christ mean for us, and how does it address our needs and circumstances today?” Jesus said ” … every student well-trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.”

Jesus loves us so much he wants us to discover a faith that renews our life, that speaks to our issues, and that reaches our generation. Many in our day may be in need of a new kind of Christianity, but we are all looking for the same living Jesus.

That’s the neat thing about our faith. It reaches us where we are with what we need. That’s good news. Jesus doesn’t wait for us to come to him, he comes looking for us.

It’s almost Easter. With the cross and empty tomb, God offers us a fresh start with new and bright hope for both today and tomorrow. May this Easter be just that for you.

Peace, Paul

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  • Breakfast Encounter

    Last Friday morning, I stopped by my GP’s office to let them draw some blood for a test and to get my flu vaccine for the year. Because of the blood test, I had to ‘fast,’ arriving for the blood draw without having any food that morning. When the phlebotomist had drawn the blood and given me the shot, I went to a nearby diner to get some breakfast. Little did I know I was about to witness something extraordinary.

    While I was eating my pancake, egg, and piece of sausage and reading a book about Oscar Romero, a young man went up to the counter to pay. I didn’t notice any of this, of course (occupied as I was with not only Oscar Romero’s life and ministry to the poor of El Salvador, but also all that butter and syrup…) until the young man started yelling at the woman behind the counter.

    “Swipe it again!” is what drew my attention.

    She did, and the card must have been denied a second time. She ran it again, and the look on her face told me the same thing happened. Denied.

    The young man was getting more agitated and saying things to her under his breath. I was paying more attention now, and she asked if he had another card she could try.

    “No! I don’t have another bleeping card!” he yelled at her. Except he didn’t say bleeping.

    Now I’m not a stranger to harsh words. I’ve said them myself. Usually when I’m trying to get a rusted bolt off an old machine and it finally comes loose, taking some of my knuckle skin with it. And I think I quietly swore under my breath in January of 1988 when the Washington football team beat my beloved Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, 42-10. There have been other times too. But never, ever at a person.

    Upon being sworn at, the young woman stared at the man like she didn’t know what to do (how could she?). Tears were about to appear. And the air in the room went real still. Like in the movies. I’m sure the background music was still playing, but it seemed deathly quiet at that moment.

    I was about to get up and walk over to the counter—not exactly sure what I was going to do once I got there—when another man who had been eating nearby wandered up real slow, eyes staring at the young man. He was a tall guy, with white hair under his old IFA ball cap, probably in his sixties. He asked the young woman, “What seems to be the problem here?”

    And that’s when the young man made what I thought was a fatal mistake: he answered when he hadn’t been spoken to. “It’s nothin’. My card won’t work,” he spat back.

    I thought a fight was about to break out, but the older man, his eyes searing into the young disgruntled one’s face, reached for his wallet and said to the cashier, “Aubrey, I’d like to pay for this young man’s meal, if that’s okay with him.” And after getting out some cash, he put his hand on the young man’s shoulder, not one of those friendly pats on the shoulder, but one of those firm grips that, well, made me think he was making sure the lesson was going to stick.

    I’ve had those kinds of hands on my shoulders a few times over the years. Perhaps from a coach, maybe from my dad once or twice; they happen when a boy or young man really needs to start paying attention.

    And after staring at him for what seemed like an eternity, the old guy said, “Be kind.” And then walked away.

    The young man left the restaurant and climbed into an oversize truck that was parked right out front, cranked up the volume on his radio, and left some rubber on the road as he departed.

    I went into the church office sometime later to finish my sermon, but I kept thinking about angry people and hurt people and kind people and people who teach lessons to those who could use them. I also thought about people who have a head full of kind words who refuse to tolerate ugliness.

    I hope I can be someone like that.

    I have a feeling Aubrey earned a whole lot of tips that morning. She deserved them.

    Be kind.

    That’s all for now.

    —Pastor Derek

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