Moses

Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. He thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight..."
“Earth is crammed with heaven, And every bush is aflame with God But only those who see, take off their shoes The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Lent 3

Reality Check 101

Reality Check 101 is workbook designed to help your congregation understand its unique mission, community context, and divine calling. It can be used as a guidebook for a goal setting (though Bill avoids that word) retreat, or as a group study to discern what the church should focus on in the coming year. Each chapter has study questions and suggestions for implementing what you have learned. The chapters are self contained and can be used in any sequence. Reality Check 101 is designed to be a flexible resource, a tool box for church change. 
Reality Check 1010 topics include:

Reality Check workbook  - ebook
Back cover, print version of Reality Check 101

Seeking God for God's Sake

He shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling...

Psalm 27 does an odd thing, it has a number of high security phrases like, “The Lord is the stronghold of my life,” and “set me high upon a rock.” It appeals to the fortress mentality of our faith, as if to say that is the reason for religion. It being Lent, I was struck by the wilderness and the 'seeking God for God’s sake' quality of the Psalm. David is saying, I only want to seek the Lord’s face, nothing else matters. What David really found in the wilderness wasn’t security from madman Saul, but the mystery of God in the night. Jesus also retreated into the wilderness and into his all night prayer sessions, not because he found people threatening, but because the mystery of seeking to know God is fundamental to the human experience.

 

The common book of prayer does an apt thing in the responsive reading of Psalm 27:5, instead of  speaking about God’s tabernacle, it says, “He shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling...” How important are the secrets of God to us? It is easy to get the wrong idea about our reason for practicing religion. It’s not like we go to church to buy an insurance policy. I know this doesn’t preach as easily as the fortress aspects of Psalm 27. Jesus wasn’t going for the easy message when he told Nicodemus that the spirit of God that allows us to be reborn is like the wind, blowing where you do not expect it (John 3:5-9).

Sunday, February 24, 2013
Lent 2

Gone like Monopoly's Iron

Old technology doesn’t die, it just becomes irrelevant. Think about it, everything from the telegraph to the trebuchet still exists. When humankind moves on and leaves an old way of doing something in the dust, it doesn’t get rid of the old. Things that are irrelevant, are simply parked in a back ally. This is my chief concern as I write a weekly blog for leaders serving mainline denominational congregations.

Change More than Your Website

Churches are in the communication business. We tell people about Jesus, explain the relevancy of the Bible, communicate prayer needs and joys, publish the where and why of our fellowship gathering, and beg people to give. Few things have changed so dramatically in the last thirty years as the ways people communicate and how they prefer to receive information. From the time of Martin Luther down to the time of Martin Luther King, people went to the church and looked at the church door or church bulletin to see if there was anything happening this week. Today, those that faithfully read the bulletin or the church newsletter are few and gray. Even the idea of regularly going to the church building or calling the secretary for information seems quaint. 

The Nature of Our Nation

A wandering Aramean was my father...

The Old Testament scripture that calls us to confess, “A wandering Aramean was my father...” seems a strange place to begin Lent. I always associate Deuteronomy 26 with Thanksgiving and turkey, but it makes a cool contrast to Luke 4 where Jesus is starving in the wilderness. Lent is a good time to wrestle with the big questions of life and to fast for long enough to get a more spiritual perspective on it all.

 This Lent, lets begin by traveling outside the walls that usually separate church and state and pray a hungry prayer for our political circumstances. There are three questions that we need to ask about our community and nation.  Deuteronomy 26 provides an unexpected answer to each:

Q1) What is the nature of our nation and our civic life together?
A1) We are wanderers. We are a people formed from former slaves, immigrants, and dispossessed native Americans. We started as a weak few, storm tossed and fragile. Now in our state of luxury, we dare not become isolationists or build electrified border fences. Lent should whack us out of social self pity and “let them eat cake” attitudes. 

Q2) What external circumstances should we be aware of?  
A2) The world is a place where oppression is common. In the midst of history, God has acted to take us as a people out of slavery and made us to be a nation. In this land that we did not build or win for our selves, God has made us secure. We have found milk and honey. 

Q3) How then should we live? or What is our vocation as a nation? 
A3) We should enjoy our abundance and be thankful.  We should offer up our due tithes and join in worship. We should invest in the world; do justice, love steadfastly, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

Sunday, February 17, 2013
Lent 1

About Bill

Bill Kemp is the author of nine books including Holy Places, Small Spaces: A Hopeful Future for the Small Membership Church (Discipleship Resources, 2005), The Church Transition Workbook: Getting Your Church in Gear (Discipleship Resources, 2004), and “Going Home: Facing Life’s Final Moments Without Fear,” (with Diane Kerner Arnett, Kregel Publishing: March, 2005).

Bill taking pictures

Busy Dying

If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.
- Bob Dylan 

The Spirit of God is Upon Me

In his sermon recorded in Luke 4:14-21, Jesus says that his mission involves certain people. He is not targeting, Wall Street lawyers, feral cats, or Baltimore Ravens fans, unless they happen to be one of the following groups:
    •    the poor
    •    the captive
    •    the blind (could be physically, spiritually, or both)
    •    the oppressed (and by implication, those drowning in debt)
Have you made the list? One of the things I struggle with is clarity of mission. By saying these named groups outright, Jesus is drawing a line in the sand. It will eventually get him crucified. His mission did not involve ousting the Romans. His list did not include the religious elite. He didn’t put on his agenda support for the Temple or the existing forms of worship, even though he personally participated in both Temple and Synagogue rituals.

His listing of missional priorities made this part of the sermon sound a bit like Obama’s second inaugural address, and was every bit as political. Jesus backed up his words by going out and living with the poor. He accepted those who were held captive to prostitution by the gender inequality of his world. He healed the blind, those who were mentally ill, and those held captive to physical illnesses. He labored to teach those who had been blinded by the false dichotomies of the Pharisees. He challenged the separation of economics, politics, and religion, that continues to keep many people around our world oppressed. Most importantly, he formed a fellowship called Church, that would continue his ministry to the list.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Who Does Jesus Target?

In his sermon recorded in Luke 4:14-21, Jesus says that his mission involves certain people. He is not targeting, Wall Street lawyers, feral cats, or Baltimore Ravens fans, unless they happen to be one of the following groups:
    •    the poor
    •    the captive
    •    the blind (could be physically, spiritually, or both)
    •    the oppressed (and by implication, those drowning in debt)
Have you made the list? One of the things I struggle with is clarity of mission. By saying these named groups outright, Jesus is drawing a line in the sand. It will eventually get him crucified. His mission did not involve ousting the Romans. His list did not include the religious elite. He didn’t put on his agenda support for the Temple or the existing forms of worship, even though he personally participated in both Temple and Synagogue rituals.

His listing of missional priorities made this part of the sermon sound a bit like Obama’s second inaugural address, and was every bit as political. Jesus backed up his words by going out and living with the poor. He accepted those who were held captive to prostitution by the gender inequality of his world. He healed the blind, those who were mentally ill, and those held captive to physical illnesses. He labored to teach those who had been blinded by the false dichotomies of the Pharisees. He challenged the separation of economics, politics, and religion, that continues to keep many people around our world oppressed. Most importantly, he formed a fellowship called Church, that would continue his ministry to the list.

Sunday, January 27, 2013
Epiphany 3

Heart Driven Church

Reality Check 101 talks about how important it is that each congregation discovers its vocation or calling from God. Discerning congregational vocation is a lot like figuring out how to play a hand of cards.  Some congregations will discern that they are called to play the hand that God has dealt them in Hearts, that is by focusing on their heart for mission.

Light Misunderstood

...the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

“What is light?” I asked my father.

“Well, that depends upon what you need it for.”  My father was somewhat an expert on the subject, having worked on optical design, first for Sandia Labs, and then at Goerz. “When you design a lens, light is like the waves that you see upon the sea. All of the colors of the rainbow are but different lengths between the peaks and troughs of light’s waves. But when you take a closer look, pondering the smallest bits that fall like dust upon a photocell or a roll of film, then you best remember that light is really a particle.”

This was my first encounter with what is known as a paradox. Two understandings that are both true, yet opposite. At Christmas and the holidays, paradoxes abound. 

To name just a few:
    •    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as an example of family values.
    •     Peace on Earth, promised. Then Herod slays the innocents.
    •    Wisemen with extravagant gifts and Jesus’ uncompromising emphasis on simplicity.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Christmas Eve

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