Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day weekend

This past weekend Amy, Hannah and I celebrated the high school graduation of Joey Henning, our nephew. Many of Amy’s family came to celebrate with Joey. He graduated from Ellsworth High School in Wisconsin and is going to attend St. Thomas University this fall.

Friday night was the actual graduation. I was very impressed that the planners of the ceremony were able to fit in two student speeches, an award to a teacher, music, and the distribution of diplomas in less than a hour. I wrote on my Facebook page that attending a small town, graduation is extra special. In a small town almost everyone knows almost everyone. The students who graduated were not just numbers or names to the adults present. Many present knew the stories of each of the students.

My wife, Amy, was thrilled that her high school English teacher received the teacher of the year award at the graduation ceremony. Her teacher is retiring this year after 40 years of teaching. She was influential in Amy deciding to go to college.

It’s been a blast getting to know Joey over the past twelve years. The first time I met him was the summer of 1998. I was dating Amy. She took me to Ellsworth to meet her parents and sister’s family. Joey was only six at the time. He was swimming at Amy’s parents’ pool when I first met him. That night he teased Amy & I about dating each other—in a way that was endearing coming from a six year old. I knew at that moment that I liked that kid.

Now Joey is well over six foot tall and has muscles that make me wonder if I should give him a guy slug. He’s become an accomplished golfer. Today he’s representing his school at a sectional golf tournament. If he makes it in the top ten he will go to state. I’ve already asked him if he’ll give me golf lessons this summer.

Yesterday I was able to participate in the yearly ritual of Amy’s family putting flowers on the graves of Amy’s relatives. We drove to the cemeteries in Eau Galle, Durand, rural Tell, and Mondovi. We ended the day by visiting Amy’s aunt Ginny, who recently suffered a fall. Ginny’s attitude amidst adversity is an example to all of us.

Last weekend was the first time I’ve been away from Chain of Lakes Church on a Sunday since the first Sunday of the year. It was wonderful celebrating the weekend with family.

Check out some of the pictures I took at: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1804020379442&set=a.1804017139361.2099886.1207857227&type=1&theater

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Attending Festival of Homiletics

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Festival of Homiletics in downtown Minneapolis. This is a national preaching conference that takes place in difference cities every May. This is the third time I’ve attended the conference. Over 3,000 people from all fifty states and many countries attended the conference.

Some people wonder how preachers put together sermons every week. One way is we go to conferences like the Festival of Homiletics. The purpose of Festival of Homiletics is to have preachers preach and lecture. Over thirty sermons and lectures were presented by an array of nationally known preachers and teachers. For some listening to so many sermons and lectures about sermons would be boring. I told my daughter, Hannah, that I heard 12 sermons and lectures last week; she told me she would have no interest in that. However for pastors the Festival of Homiletics is like entering a candy shop.

The best presentation I heard was shared by Krista Tippet, creator and host of the radio program, “On Being.” This program started as "Speaking of Faith.”

Tippet sees her radio program as an opportunity to offer voices of wisdom; it’s an opportunity to listen and ask questions of a noted thinker. She said that listening is needed in our world—and Christians aren’t known for listening.

She encouraged us to take our words seriously. She said that people are starved for fresh language to approach each other. She encouraged us to use words that undergird truth, imagination and spirit, words that shimmer, enliven for the common good

She also encouraged us to rediscover the art of asking questions. She shared that the media often asks the wrong questions and because of that the responses really don’t lead anywhere. Often the media puts two answers against each other; the answers are on the extremes.

She quoted the work of Frances Kisling to encourage us to spend time developing human relationships with people of different views. Kisling was President of Catholics for Free Choice and engaged in many conversations with people who had a different view of abortion than her. Kisling said that when talking to people of different views that we should ask ourselves, “What can I see that is good in the position of others?” and “What troubles me in my own position?”

Hearing Krista Tippet speak inspired me to spend more time listening to her weekly show.

I loved listening to sermons last week at the Festival of Homiletics. I wish that the Festival of Homiletics would set up small groups who could interact with the speakers. I would have enjoyed asking questions about preaching of every person whom I heard. For me only listening to sermons and lectures is not enough. I missed the opportunity for interaction.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The end of the world?

So let me get this straight. An 89-year old man predicts that people will be raptured into heaven on May 21st at 6:00 p.m. and then three months later the world will end. The media gives him all sorts of attention even though people have failed to predict the end of the world since Jesus was on earth, and the man had failed once before in 1994 to predicting the end of the world.

Why does the media give this man and his teachings any attention? Like the Terry Jones event, the media fell into the trap that Harold Camping set. I wrote about the Terry Jones event at: http://chainlink-chainoflakesncd.blogspot.com/2010/09/terry-jones-and-burning-of-koran.html

Camping was wrong about predicting the end of the world, but he sure raised a lot of money for his radio station.

Yesterday thousands of preachers across the country went into a pulpit and shared a sermon. At Chain of Lakes Church Rev. Barbara Anne Keely shared a sermon about the Road to Emmaus. The site of the sermon is here: http://blip.tv/chain-of-lakes-church/on-the-road-5194050

I wouldn’t have expected the media to cover her sermon, but what she said had more legitimacy than what Harold Camping predicted.

In no other occupation besides religion does the media pay so much attention to off-the-wall ideas and crack-pot theories.

I had a few laughs with my family over the weekend about the impending rapture as I’m sure many others did. But the coverage of this story is not funny. Because of this story atheists have even more reason to question the legitimacy of Christianity. People who are on the fringes of the church will view the church less seriously.

People like Harold Camping will have much less impact if the media stops giving them so much coverage.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Forum on Immigration

The following is an Press Release our congregation recently issued about a forum we're sponsoring this Wednesday, May 11 called, "Myths of Immigration"

In an attempt to address important community issues, Chain of Lakes Church is sponsoring a presentation called “The Myths of Immigration” Wednesday, May 18, at 7 p.m. at the Lino Lakes Senior Center, 1189 Main St. in Lino Lakes.

The presentation will be led by Katherine Fennelly, Professor at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

“With the controversy that took place last summer in our community of Lino Lakes with regards to the English only issue, we thought it was important to share a research-oriented perspective on Immigration,” said the Rev. Paul H. Moore, organizing pastor of Chain of Lakes Church.

The presentation is free and open to the public. There will be a question-and-answer session following the presentation.

Fennelly has written extensively about immigration issues and teaches several classes on the topic. Her research interests include public policy related to the integration of immigrants and refugees in the United States, and the preparedness of communities and public institutions to adapt to demographic change.

“Obviously Immigration is a controversial issue. We hope that no matter what opinion a person has about this issue, we can share a presentation where people can find common ground. At Chain of Lakes Church we want to do everything we can to address important community issues and to do so in a way that brings people together,” Moore said.

Last fall the congregation hosted a talk by Kashif Saroya, a leader of the Islamic Resource Group of the Twin Cities.

Chain of Lakes is a new church sponsored by the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The congregation celebrated its grand opening worship service in January 2010. Worship services are every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at the Lino Lakes Senior Center.

Additional information is available by contacting the church at (763) 208-8049 or by visiting the church on the Web at www.colpres.org.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A significant night at the Presbytery

Last night I drove to Peace Presbyterian Church in St. Louis Park for the May meeting of the Twin Cities Area Presbytery. I arrived early as the Property Task Force had some important business through which to work. The Property Task Force is planning to have the Presbytery vote on a piece of property for Chain of Lakes Church at the July meeting. After that I sat in the sanctuary and listened to the presentation by Cindy Bolbach, Moderator of the General Assembly.

After her presentation I handed out newsletters for Chain of Lakes Church. While doing that I had the joy of meeting members of the Pastor Nominating Committee of Community Presbyterian Church in Plainview and Rev. John H.G. Curtiss, the pastor whose call to serve the church in Plainview was approved last night. I rejoiced with them over their excitement that John will be their new pastor. I have prayed almost daily since I left the congregation that God will call the right pastor to serve that church. It appears that these prayers have been wonderfully answered.

But clearly the event of the night was the Presbytery’s vote on Amendment 10-A. (More information about 10-A can be found under the Bills & Overtures link at: http://presbyterytwincities.org/resources-2/presbytery-meetings/presbytery-packet/

Put most simply the passage of 10-A means that a person’s sexual orientation will not exclude that person from ordination or installation as a pastor or elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Many events came together to make last night’s meeting monumental. The resulting yes vote on 10-A was the 87th affirmative vote by the Presbyteries which was the final vote needed for passage. (No one could have predicted in advance that Twin Cities Presbytery would issue the final vote.) The Moderator’s appearance heightened the significance of the night. Close to three hundred people packed into the sanctuary of Peace Church, a number that the building couldn’t adequately handle. Local television stations had cameras at the meeting. I know from following the Twitter feed that people all over the country were following the vote. The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press had front page coverage of the meeting in today’s editions.
Strib article is here: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/121605074.html

Pioneer Press article is here: http://www.twincities.com/news/ci_18036950?source=rss&nclick_check=1

The New York Times wrote an article about the vote at:

Believe me—most meetings of the Twin Cities Area Presbytery don’t gather this much attention.

The debate over the ordination of gays and lesbians in the PC(USA) has gone on for too long. It has divided our precious denomination into camps and sometimes feels like war. Churches and individuals on both sides of the issue have left the PC(USA). I have always been in favor of the ordination of gays and lesbians, but also want to work together with people who have a different view on the issue. I’m respectful of the pain that this issue has caused people on both sides.

My dream is to build a congregation where people can find power and strength in what unifies their understanding of the gospel. I want to build a church that interweaves the strengths of the conservative and liberal traditions. I anticipate and hope that people at Chain of Lakes Church will have different views on the ordination of gays and lesbians. Despite our different views we will live into our Core Value of healthy disagreement and ultimately find ways to share the complete gospel and thus impact the community.

But the meeting last night was to take a vote. The liberal side was well organized and made a compelling case for passage of 10-A. I especially appreciated David Colby’s argument that the current language of the Book of Order puts the person and teachings of Jesus as subordinate to the confessions. Andy Lindahl started off the conservative side with a heartfelt case about God’s design for sexuality. Unfortunately the speakers after him veered away from respect and shared their opinions out of anger. I think a compelling case can be made against the ordination of gays and lesbians, but that case wasn’t made last night.

After the presentations it was time to vote. We voted in secret ballot. The final tally was 205 yes, 56 no, and three abstentions.

I know that on this day the reaction to this vote by the world-wide Presbyterian community will be swift and even voluminous. After I finish this blog I’m choosing to continue the work that God has called me to build a strong Presbyterian congregation in the north Metro. After the celebrations and denunciations about what happened last night are over, I ask all Presbyterians to re-commit themselves to starting and developing strong Presbyterian congregations. Without strong congregations it really doesn’t matter who is eligible to be ordained. I’m happy about the vote last night, but my ultimate joy will be determined by the witness that Presbyterians make to Jesus Christ in our local churches.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Welcome Sherri Varsho, new child care worker at Chain of Lakes Church

I am very pleased to announce that Chain of Lakes recently hired Sherri Varsho as our new Child Care worker. Sherri will be present in our Child Care space every Sunday during worship, Sundy School and other events. She is a homemaker, has a five-year old son, and loves to be with kids. The Education team interviewed three candidates for the position and unanimously recommended that Sherri be hired. Hiring her is another reflection of our Core Value at Chain of Lakes to invest in future generations. We are passionate about creating an atmosphere where children, youth, and young adults grow in their faith.

If you have children and are interested in attending worship at Chain of Lakes, please know that your children will receive wonderful care. No matter if your child is an infant or four years old, we will provide excellent care!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Morality of Killing bin Laden

As I was reading the opinion section of the Strib this past Sunday night, my wife, Amy, called out that the media was reporting that Osama bin Laden had been killed. I don’t function well after ten at night, but I stayed up to watch President Obama’s speech. Ever since I’ve tried to keep abreast of this extraordinary event.

Since Sunday night I’ve been thinking about the morality of this action. I was blessed to sort through some of my thoughts yesterday with a group of Presbyterian pastors at a pre-arranged gathering.

With all the humility I can muster I’ve come to these conclusions: 1) as a citizen of the United States I believe the killing was just; 2) as a follower of Jesus Christ I’m torn, but ultimately do believe that the killing of bin Laden was just; 3) as a one human being living on the earth I believe the earth is safer today than it was 48 hours ago; 4) this could be a kairos moment where everyone—particularly those of us in the church—can re-commit ourselves to creating and living out the Kingdom of God--especially the values of peace--here on earth; 5) I mourn that our world is in a place where killing an enemy of the United States is necessary; 6) violence does beget violence, and I pray and will continue to pray that no one else will die.

I wasn’t surprised that bin Laden was eventually found and killed. I didn’t wake up on Sunday morning thinking that bin Laden would be killed on May 1, 2011. But ultimately I believed that the United States would find and punish him for masterminding the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001.

I’m amazed at the operation that the Navy Seal team executed. Though our ends are obviously different, I wish that teams in the church could operate at that level.

As a follower of Jesus Christ I’m torn about whether the killing of bin Laden is just. I have committed my life to living out the commands of love and peace that Jesus taught his followers. I am passionate about creating and living out the Kingdom of God and its values—especially of peace—here on earth, and I believe that the church is the best institution in the world to cultivate the Kingdom.

However I am not a pacifist. I have reluctantly come to believe in the principles of the Just War Doctrine. I believe the war that the United States declared on Al-Qaida was just. If that war is just, then a logical conclusion to the declaration of war on Al-Qaida is the killing of bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaida.

A strong case can be made that over the long-run the capture of bin Laden and a proper trial (like a Nuremburg trial) possibly could have been better for the world. But telling the Navy Seal Team to capture and not kill bin Laden would have put members of that team at risk, and no certainty exists that a trial like a Nuremburg trial could be properly and peacefully pulled off.

I am mortified that anyone would proclaim that bin Laden has gone to Hell. We humans have no authority to make that judgment. Proclaiming that bin Laden is in Hell is an affront to God. Only God is capable of that decision and none of us—obviously!—is God. Sharing our misguided opinions that someone is in Hell can create terrible damage. I am not a Universalist, but I trust God in making all decisions about a person’s eternal fate. Ironically I shared these thoughts in a sermon on heaven this past Sunday. Watch it at: http://www.blip.tv/file/5091714

Furthermore I believe that violence begets violence. Already the expectation exists that Al-Qaida will attempt attacks to retaliate for bin Laden’s killing. Violence should only be used carefully in limited means. The sooner that the United States leaves Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya the closer we all will be to a time of peace. I can find no relationship between NATO’s attempt to kill Muammar Gaddafi last weekend and the United States killing of bin Laden.

We live in an imperfect world. It is sobering that bin Laden was killed last Sunday. No "U-S-A" chants will be coming from my mouth. My hope is that this event will cause all citizens of the earth earth and especially people in the church to re-commit to creating, developing, and sustaining institutions and practices of peace.