The Danger of Opposite Values

In his timeless work Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observes that the devil often introduces errors into the world as opposing pairs. Consider the contrasting extremes of legalism and permissiveness. Neither of these extreme positions aligns with God’s intended path. However, individuals who fear legalism may inadvertently drift toward permissiveness, while those concerned about moral laxity might tend toward legalism.

Lewis suggests that our focus should remain on Jesus rather than fixating on avoiding spiritual errors. By doing so, we can safely navigate the middle way—a balanced approach that avoids extremes and leads us closer to the Lord’s way.

Holy Laughter Sunday

A very old Easter tradition that is, apparently, making a comeback is Holy Laughter (or “Bright”) Sunday.  This day is observed the Sunday after Easter.  The ancient church leaders concluded that the Lord “tricked” Satan with the resurrection.  Satan, they thought, believed he had won when Jesus breathed his last on the cross.  The old adversary thought he had orchestrated the events of Holy Week and now, after his failure in the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness years earlier, he had succeeded in stopping the Lord’s great plan of salvation.

But it didn’t work out that way.

On the third day Jesus rose from the grave, Victor over sin and death; providing salvation for all who will believe.  It had all been God’s plan the whole time!

So, following Easter celebrations the Church leaders thought it proper to have some fun, rejoicing in the trick the Lord had played on the devil.  They told jokes, played tricks on one another, and had parties.  The boys picked on the girls (apparently, “soaking” with water was popular) and the girls retaliated, as they have through the ages.

Churches around the world are bringing Holy Laughter Sunday back.  Pastors are telling their best jokes, people are having fun at church, rejoicing in the Good News of the Resurrection.

Personally, I’m all for finding ways to keep the joy of Easter going.  What do you think?

Advice to young pastors: Minister to Children

In Matthew 19:14 Jesus says: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I understand that it is common for people of that society to bring their children to respected rabbis to receive a blessing. People who see Jesus as a worthy teacher want him to bless their children but for some reason the disciples don’t want them to interrupt the “important” work Jesus is doing to stop and deal with children.

Jesus famously welcomes the children and uses them to reenforce his teaching on how to live in the Kingdom of God.

One way the Church tries to follow this “let the little children come” directive of our Lord is by practicing child baptism, or baby dedication. Churches often make a serious effort to minister to children by staffing a children’s department in the church program.

While I appreciate the need for children’s programming in the church, I think we need to be careful to involve them in the larger life of the church. It is worth the effort to find ways to connect our boys and girls to the worship services. While I don’t think we need to turn Sunday morning worship into a big “children’s church” I do think we can make an effort to include children in our regular worship services, if not every Sunday, at least on a regular basis. Children should be familiar with what we do in church even when the service isn’t all about them (in a Christmas program, for instance).

Pastors should be able to craft sermons that are easy for elementary children to follow. If needed, most children’s workers can suggest handouts, crafts, visual aids to help children connect to a well-planned sermon meant to minister to both children and adults. Also, it is likely a good thing for the pastor to practice a bit of self-discipline in regard to sermon length and material.  Granted, I’m not thinking so much of an every-Sunday approach here (although some carry it off nicely) as I am of maybe a monthly “family Sunday” or something similar.

Really, Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to take the children off to another room and teach them a children’s lesson. Rather, he included them in what he was doing right then and there.

Christmas is a hard time for a lot of people

I have a sermon about Grinches that will steal our Christmas. I haven’t shared it in a couple of years but I’ve certainly been reminded recently of the Grinch of expectations.

Many of us have bought into Hollywood’s version of the “perfect” Christmas when the unexpected gift suddenly appears under the tree, the snow falls at just the right time, and some old hurt is wonderfully healed.

The fact is that not only is does this time of year have its fair share of unwelcome things but the expectations of the season serve as a magnifying glass on them, making them feel even bigger than they would normally.

Since this is, indeed, a “Season” we attach things more easily to it. If a loved one passed away unexpectedly in the summer we will associate it with that time of the year in a more vague way than if they passed away the “week of Christmas.”

In recent days I’ve been reminded of how people I care about are going through unwelcome things this year. There are surgeries, job loss, health worries, financial stress, and other things that take the luster off of Christmas for these good people.

The cure for this is a realization that we are real people and not actors on a Hollywood film stage. Magical things are not likely to happen and for us, life goes on, with both good and bad things coming our way.

The core of Christmas isn’t magic. Rather, it’s Christ. God loves me and sent his Son into the world to be my Savior. The glory of Christmas isn’t a lack of problems so much as it is the knowledge that God has come to be with me in all of life, including the unwelcome aspects.

I may not get the surprise gift of a fancy new car in the driveway on Christmas morning, and, in fact, I may deal with some bad news instead. Still, “Emmanuel” – “God with us” is true. That’s what makes life worth living not only at Christmas, but all the year through.

Advice to young pastors: Preach the Gospel

The Apostle Paul said: “For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). The anchor of our preaching must be the Good News of Jesus. It is so easy to get drawn into social commentary or political concerns or something similar. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place to address current issues. However, they must always be addressed in the context of the Gospel message. “Our nation believes thus-and-so but, in Christ, the Lord offers us a better way.” It is so easy for the preacher to use pulpit time to denounce everything that is wrong while neglecting the hope that Jesus brings to the world. In the 1 Corinthians passage Paul is challenging the church’s treatment of himself. They have taken him for granted and even accused him of trying to boss them around. Paul defends himself, but also states, “we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” For him, it is all about getting the Good News out. Pastor don’t squander your pulpit time on other stuff. When you do point out sin in society do so only to offer hope for the sinner. Our calling is clear: preach the Gospel.

Coronaverses Wrap up

I started posting #coronaverses in response to all the anxiety I was seeing in people of faith.  In addition to legitimate concerns it seemed to me that much of our news media was intent on scaring people.  There seems to be a fine line between trying to stay informed and becoming obsessed and overwhelmed.  As I was praying about this the idea of doing my very small part of reminding people that the Lord has given us hundreds of precious promises in the Word.  I thought that tagging the posts as #coronaverses was an interesting play on words that might catch people’s attention.

Anyway, while there are still very serious health concerns people’s attention has begun to turn toward reopening things in our nation.  With that in mind, I’ve concluded the series.  I do hope this small effort has helped someone along the way.

God bless.

Pastor Scott's Ministerially Speaking