Monday, August 23, 2010

Are you a mushy Christian?

This recent poll about young adults and their faith was really strange to me. This silly little paragraph that stood out the most:
"Among the 65% [of young adults] who call themselves Christian, 'many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only,' Rainer says. 'Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith.'"

I don't know what a mushy Christian is. I imagine from the context of the article that it's people who use avoid words like "Jesus is my Lord and Savior" or who do yoga. The author of the article concludes that because old school notions of Christianity don't work for young folk that they are in fact not very solid in their belief(s).

As a 30 year old pastor, I must confess that I am often the youngest person at most church services I preach at or lead. I often feel like I'm not actually an adult at these meetings and gatherings because of the marked age difference. Yet, I often hear that the church wants to engage young folk (read those 30 and below) and become more welcoming and diverse.

Yet, when we young folk with our full diversity of sexuality, gender expression, body art, piercings, ADHD, physical abilities and yearning to mash up some of the spiritual practices and experiences from other faith traditions that help us understand our Christian stories and rituals better show up in their pews, very few churches are willing to let us be fully who we are. Or if they do, they stare, make comments or smoother you.

In the early 60's the National Council of Churches faced a very similar reality. Young folk were not interested in church and worship that did not speak to their experiences. As a result, churches adapted, experimented and were transformed by the contributions of young folk. The sixties also brought a lot of experimentation and over-indulgence that the church still seems to be recovering from. Perhaps the boundaries got pushed too far in the 60's, but I hope that the baby boomers who got this freedom when they were young will be gracious enough to trust a new generation with the future of the church.

Like it or not, we are the future (and present) of the church.

I invite anyone interested in exploring ways we can claim the moving and meaningful parts of the ancient Christian tradition while making it fresh and relevant to our daily lives, to join me and the fabulous Tommy Dillon as a part of the Community of Travelers (starting September 12th at 5pm).

You can participate in person at St. Aidan's Episcopal or join us online via live stream. Mushy or not, all are welcome to worship with us!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sermon: Salem English Lutheran

Here are the links to my sermon this past Sunday at Salem English Lutheran. Since I don't preach with notes, each of the sermons is unique and fits not only the specific charism of the service and the participants who were there that day.

8:30 Traditional Service
Stream Audio - Download Audio

10:30 Jazz Service

Stream Audio - Download Audio

Date: 08-15-2010
Description: Our darkness is never darkness in your sight the deepest night is clear as the day light.
Key words: darkness,rules,Lutheran,GLBT
Pastor : Megan Rohrer
Sermon : Salem English Lutheran - Minneapolis

Saturday, August 7, 2010

loving God vs. intolerant God

This week I received the above postcard in the mail with a LCMS website link and a Sioux Falls postmark. While I've been getting mail like this on and off since 2000, this postcard is undoubtedly a response to the article about me in the Argus Leader. This type of mail always leaves me with several questions:
  1. Really, does someone think I hadn't heard any of these comments before?
  2. If this was sent in response to the Argus article, I wonder if the sender thought postcards were more affective than exorcisms, or rape threats to "cure" my big gay homosexuality? If only someone had thought of it sooner.
  3. Does the sender not know that the color purple makes people gay? Remember the tinky winky scandal.
  4. What was it that Martin Lutheran meant when he said we could sin boldly?
  5. Do you really think this is a catchy slogan? Would you wear it on a shirt? Put it on the bumper of your car? Have your children hold it on a sign in front of the press?
It occurs to me that I actually preempted this postcard with last Sunday's sermon: Servant or Sucker. Listen to the sermon or download it here. What I didn't post was the children's sermon. So here it is:

The reading according to the gospel of The Little Engine that Could:

A little steam engine had a long train of cars to pull.

She went along very well till she came to a steep hill. But then, no matter how hard she tried, she could not move the long train of cars.

She pulled and she pulled. She puffed and she puffed. She backed and started off again. Choo! Choo!

But no! the cars would not go up the hill.

At last she left the train and started up the track alone. Do you think she had stopped working? No, indeed! She was going for help.

"Surely I can find someone to help me," she thought.

Over the hill and up the track went the little steam engine. Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo!

Pretty soon she saw a big steam engine standing on a side track. He looked very big and strong. Running alongside, she looked up and said:

"Will you help me over the hill with my train of cars? It is so long and heavy I can't get it over."

The big steam engine looked down at the little steam engine. The he said:

"Don't you see that I am through my day's work? I have been rubbed and scoured ready for my next run. No, I cannot help you,"

Don't you think it's sad that the little engine couldn't find anyone to help and never made it up the hill?

Of course the children shouted out that that is not the way the story ends. I then talked about how sometimes when we were short stories from the Bible, Sunday after Sunday, it's easy to forget that it's just one part of the story. A story that ends with God's love, our forgiveness, an empty tomb and God's declaration that we are good.

However, the beauty of the Bible is that the stories are complex. I love them not only because they speak to me and tell me that God love's me, but also because they speak to those that I will work my whole career counteracting.

I love that this Sunday's lectionary text is almost the counter argument to everything that I've written. Jesus is not proclaiming to be the anti-war, homeless advocate that I would love him to be. Instead, he proclaims that he will be argued about, will cause division and to set the world on fire (see Luke 12: 49-56).

On the first reading, it seems like Jesus is the intolerant God proclaimed in the postcard. And yet, when I read it again it seems like Jesus is a truth teller with the self awareness to name the problem that his presence in the world created. He knows the story is headed toward a cross. The writers who wrote the text more than a hundred years after Jesus' death knew that he would continue to be a divisive character in the future.

In the face of Luke's message, I think whenever we see news talking about churches leaving the ELCA over sexuality decisions or we get mail from other Christians saying what we're doing is wrong we should let people know that fighting in the church about Christ and the gospel is old news. In fact, it's precisely what Jesus said would happen.

Yes, it's the truth that there is discord. So what do we do? Perhaps the answer is in the next text:
57“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. 59I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

These verses are not only call us to stay in conversation and seek reconciliation, but they also bring us back to the end of the story, when the little engine makes it to the top of the hill, when God reminds us of our baptism, when we remember that nothing - neather death, nor life, nor postcards, nor genitals, nor what we do with them can ever seperate us from the love of God in Jesus.