In my second year of college, I decided to attend church off-campus with some friends. Our weekly drive downtown took us past run-down storefronts, and one of them in particular caught my attention. The sign over the top of one of the stores announced it as a school, but it looked to me like it could be a church. "School of Love and Prayer" read the large white letters of the hand-painted sign. As a double major in Philosophy and Greek, I snickered at the school. I wondered aloud if most people majored in love or in prayer, or if perhaps there were some double majors.
Novelist Reynolds Price claims that Jesus' teaching "has resulted in the most far-reaching movements of mercy, tolerance and human freedom..." ("Jesus of Nazareth: Then and Now," Time, Dec 6, 1999, p. 94). For this reason he also asserts that Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-29, "Come to me," offer the old welcome. Even though Price professes that Jesus cured him from cancer, he cannot accept Jesus' final instruction to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20.
Not long ago I showed a visitor around Grand Rapids and brought him to my church. His comments about the sanctuary were intriguing; he saw the space differently than I did. I couldn't be objective, since what I have experienced there is more important than the space itself. And yet that space has shaped me, our congregation, and our worship, as all spaces do.
Everyone here agrees — Filipinos love fiestas. The word "fiesta" will bring a smile to the face of almost any Filipino. After all, a fiesta is a special time with friends, a time for fellowship, food, and lots of activities. Each year brings numerous fiestas. Sometimes people are busy for weeks preparing for them. It is surprising, how even those facing many problems in their day-to-day life set them aside and participate in the festivities.
Fiestas and Why They Occur
When a doctor steps into the room and tells you, 'I'm sorry ... it's malignant," you have heard words that are about the hardest for anyone to hear. They are words that pack an emotional wallop, and can shatter your sense of wholeness in an instant!
We all know that someday, unless our Lord returns, our earthly "tents" will cave in; we are all going to die. But I know it differently. My "tent" was nearly blown over. As I walked close to the cliff's edge I could sense how far a fall to death might be, how frightening it was for me to encounter the end of my days on Earth. Our Christian faith assures us that death is the experience of transition to a far better life with our Lord in heaven, where a room is well prepared for each of us. I have known that and I have believed that all my life.
For the past couple of years I've been asking adult education classes I've been conducting on sermon-listening, What makes a sermon a good sermon? I explain that I'm not looking for "the right answer." Rather, I want to know how thoughtful listeners honestly evaluate the sermons they hear week in and week out. The answers I've been hearing are very helpful. They fall into roughly three clusters.
Spirituality is one of those terms widely used today by Christians and yet frequently misunderstood. Much of our understanding of the term comes from popular religious usage, which often is plagued by a dualism that draws a sharp contrast between body and soul, material and spiritual realities. In this view, the "spiritual" is generally valued as good, and all material, earthly things are considered evil.