Saturday, July 30, 2011

Celebrating differences--in a different way

This last Tuesday night I led the a book discussion on the controversial book called “Love Wins.” We had a large group for a July night in the summer—8 from Chain of Lakes and 5 from Presbyterian Church of the Way. This book has become controversial because the people who disagree with the book freaked out about what was written. Rob Bell asked the question of whether the traditional view of Hell exists—the one where people are tortured for eternity. Because of that some people on the conservative edge want to throw Rob Bell out of their community.

This willingness to throw people out of the community is not specific to conservatives—those on the liberal side do it too.

On Tuesday I shared three traditional views that the church has taught about Hell. Those views are the classic position that people are tortured in Hell forever; the view that people’s bodies and souls are annihilated at death; and the view of Universalism where everyone eventually experiences heaven.

I shared with the group that I would love to be in a church where all three views of Hell were expressed among people AND where the community saw these differences as a strength. My dream is Chain of Lakes will be a group of people who sees differences in theology as something very special—that eventually we have the courage to celebrate differences.

These differences won’t undermine our unity. Instead we see that following Jesus will lead us to different understandings of the Scriptures and our tradition.

If you are reading this and are part of a congregation, let me ask this question, “How deeply does your congregation celebrate different understandings of the gospels?” If people come to different conclusions on an issue, do you see that as a strength, or do you do the classic Minnesota thing and try to ignore these differences—eventually not talking about them.

The world needs a church where we tolerate different views and celebrate them. Look at our world right now. For the last month we’ve had stories every day how the Congress and President can’t sign a deal to extend the debt ceiling. The story everyday is the same. People can’t agree. It’s Groundhog day every day. Same story—different actors.

I don’t know what the people at Chain of Lakes thinks about the current debt crisis. I hope over time that Chain of Lakes Church would be a place where we expected some people to agree with Obama’s plan; and we expected some people to agree with the Senate plan; and we expected some people to agree with the House plan. We didn’t see different views as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of strength. If we heard a view that was different from our own we would not heap scorn on the person, but instead we would invite the person out to lunch to listen to their views.

I believe that the world is waiting for this type of church.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Love Wins Book Discussion

Staring this Tuesday, July 26 we at Chain of Lakes Church are partnering with Presbyterian Church of the Way in sponsoring a book discussion on Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” at Carbone’s Restaurant in Circle Pines. The discussion will take place on the next four Tuesday evenings—7/26, 8/2, 8/9 & 8/16. I’m leading the discussion for three of the four weeks. We’ll meet at 6:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to have a meal beforehand. Carbone’s is an excellent Italian restaurant and is located at 9200 Lexington Ave in Circle Pines.

Bell’s book is the most controversial religious book of the year. By questioning whether Hell exists, he received the wrath from many on the conservative edge of church. The polemic against him was strong and unrelenting.

During this book discussion we are going to try to put this controversy into perspective. People have debated the doctrine of Hell for thousands of year. These arguments aren’t new—but the current passion that people have about them have raised the stakes for what a person is to believe. When we gather we’re going to share light and not heat. We’ll look at what the Bible says about Hell. We’ll look at different views of Hell that the church has held. We’ll encourage people to develop their own perspective on Hell. We’ll do all this while discussing “Love Wins.”

I’m excited about this gathering and encourage people to attend. People don’t need to have read the book before attending the first gathering this Tuesday night. Registration is helpful, but not required. If you know that you are coming, E—mail me at

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Presbyterian partnership

Last night was the first Wednesday night worship service among six north Metro Presbyterian Churches. We gathered at Presbyterian Church of the Way (PCOTW) to worship. We at Chain of Lakes helped co-host the service with PCOTW. Originally we were hoping to have the worship service at the Lino Lakes Senior Center, but it wasn’t available last night.

This worship service is a result of a Presbyterian partnership group that has met for at least a year. Representatives of Chain of Lakes, PCOTW, Arlington Hills, North Como and the Presbyterian Churches in White Bear Lake and North St. Paul have gathered to see if we can partner in effective ways. I haven’t attended the meetings, but have read the minutes. The group is discussing how effective partnership can take place in music sharing, maintenance, technology, administration, procurement, advertising, and social media.

Last night we worshipped together. We picked beauty for the theme of worship. All the songs had the theme of beauty. Kellie Burriss did a terrific job of sharing a solo after the sermon. I shared some reflections in the sermon (which I called a faith story) about the beauty I experienced recently when my family traveled to the Rocky Mountains. The Spirit was wonderfully present during worship. I talked to one worship leader afterwards who shared that it was very nice to attend a service and just worship instead of being a leader.

I don’t know where the Presbyterian partnership will lead, but last night was a very successful start to our common worship. Approximately 70 people attended and people from five of the six churches were there. The service can be viewed at:

The next service will be Wednesday, July 27th at North Como Presbyterian at 7:00 p.m. The final Wednesday service will be on Wednesday, August 10th at North Presbyterian Church at 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Road Trip

I have always enjoyed road trips. My parents were both teachers, so when I was a boy our family would frequently go on long road trips in the summer. I remember traveling via car to the West Coast for at two weeks; the summer after my fifth grade year we camped our way to the East Coast and then came back through Canada; on Christmas vacation during college my family drove 40 hours straight from Big Pine Key, Florida to Minnesota. In 1996 a high school friend asked me if I would drive a car from Salem, Oregon to Minneapolis. I flew out to spend a few days with him and then reveled in the three day trip.

My wife, Amy does not match my enthusiasm for road trips. Until this past week our family has never gone on an extended road trip via the car. However when some friends asked me last winter to officiate a wedding in the mountains outside Estes Park, Colorado I couldn’t help but lobby for a road trip. So last Wednesday Amy, Hannah and I loaded in the car for a two-day trip in the car. By road trip standards it wasn’t long—a little over 1,000 miles. But for the three of us this was something new. I had half jokingly asked the congregation at Chain of Lakes to pray for the three of us the Sunday before we left.

We had some normal hiccups on the trip. The first night we were planning on staying with some family in Omaha, Nebraska. I had been warned that the high water there has caused some road closures, but I assumed that detour information would be shared. My naiveté cost us an extra hour of driving. We thought we were caravanning to the wedding in the YMCA camp. We missed the caravan, received incorrect directions and then I drove way too long in the wrong direction. I thought the camp would be just around the corner. Twenty miles later Amy shattered this fantasy. We were a hour late to the wedding; and my guilt was terrible. Fortunately everyone was in good spirits and the wedding went off wonderfully. Now we have a story to share.

The beauty of the road trip is we see things that we could never imagine. The above picture shares one of the few entertainment options that rests above the Interstate in Kearney, Nebraska. Also on a road trip at a certain point we all have to be in charge of keeping ourselves entertained. Eventually we had no choice but to play a game, engage in conversation, or choose to enjoy the scenery.

There is something uniquely American about taking a road trip over the 4th of July weekend. Doing it with my lovable red heads was priceless.