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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why

I'm one of those people who always has to know the REASON for everything. Maybe that's why I became a pastor. I needed an overarching understanding ... and I found instead the person of Jesus Christ.

But we'll get to that. We'll start instead with Why. Why a blog. Why an Overwhelming Jesus.

Six years ago a blog nearly dominated my life. It was called the NDN 'Blades Blog, and it was a huge bulk of my job as a sportswriter for the Naples Daily News in Naples, FL. Actually there was a group of about 20 people or so who called themselves the "Blades Bloggers." They commented incessantly, scrutinized every post, even had unofficial get-togethers. It was actually kind of fun.

Then I left hockey for the ministry. Spent three years studying and one year as an intern pastor in Las Vegas. People would always ask: hey are you going to write a blog?

Writing a blog was easy when it was my job. And when 90 percent of entries dealt with fights or trades or goals. But personal blogs were different. They were for taking daily photos or talking about kids. It seemed narcissistic or egotistical or too navel-gazing for me.

Then I was called as Pastor to St. Philip Lutheran Church in Glenview, IL outside Chicago in September 2013. It's a small but vibrant church bustling with activity, and we're in the midst of finding our way forward in a changing community and a changing world.

God is doing something here. Through some painful times - losing their previous pastor in a minor scandal before I came, and losing our music director and parish administrator just months after I arrived - God seems to be at work, with some new staff members and a buzzing energy of sorts running through Sunday worship and our twice-daily AA meetings and our meal kitchen on Tuesday nights.

But we're all caught by fear. This Pastor included. Fear that the various contingencies of the church: the organ contingency, the praise music contingency, the outreach contingency, the party contingency -- fear I will not hold everyone together and the seams might split.

We have new people coming in our doors - even telling us they want to join the church - and I find myself sometimes holding my breath too much. We're afraid, maybe of that classic scenario at a small church that I myself know all too well. The new person walks in and everyone rushes up: JOIN OUR SMALL GROUP! COME TO OUR PARTY! VOLUNTEER! GIVE US MONEY! SAVE US!!!

We don't do that here. But as we - as I - stand on the precipice of God doing something New here, there's that caution. Do too much. Do too little. Don't overwhelm anyone. Don't scare them off. Don't lose them.

I think that maybe for decades churches, especially mainline, especially many Lutheran, churches, have operated more under fear than faith. That pastors - this pastor included - have operated too much on fear rather than faith.

We've overwhelmed people because we've led with ourselves. Hey, look what our church does. Look what we do! Aren't we awesome? Check out our radical new pastor and her cute little baby. Watch out, he may scream in your ear ...

But overwhelming in itself is not a bad thing. That's why I called this blog Overwhelming Jesus. Not because we're about to overwhelm Jesus - but because Jesus is Overwhelming.

For too many years we - as the church generally and as people who follow Jesus particularly - we've been too quiet about this terrible, incredible, amazing, astounding, revolutionary, irrational secret of the Gospel. We've held it too tightly, keeping it a caterpillar encased in our cocoon of churchy language and private events and theology and liturgy and cliques and ethnicity and culture and potlucks. We haven't always told the full truth about what following Jesus really means.

It's overwhelming. Jesus is overwhelming. If he's not, he's not Jesus.

I think - tell me if I'm wrong here - that people who walk into a church now don't want an overwhelming church but they DO want an overwhelming Savior.

I do. I want God's incredible forgiving love and grace to take my breath away as even the darkest, most broken parts of my life are redeemed by God's justice and God's forgiveness.

Only an overwhelming Savior could hit us where it counts. Could make us get up on Sunday morning and drag into church for the life-giving Word of God and Bread of Life.

Because we could get everything else someplace else. Want friends? Join a MeetUp group. Go to the Community Center.

Want learning? Take an online college course or peruse the community college booklets. Go to the library.

Want service? Local food banks, kitchens, Red Cross, hospitals: they're all desperate for volunteers to help do God's work.

But want hope? Real hope?
Want Faith? Real Faith?
Want Love? Real Love?

You can find God's match for you on ChristianMingle, but I believe only in community - we'll call it church - with fellow believers, studying the Bible and worshiping God together - will we know the love of God that makes romantic love here on earth possible.

In a 21st Century full of beautiful distractions and lovely innovations, only an Overwhelming Jesus - a God proclaimed in full color, a God of incredible grace for ALL and incredible rage against injustice, a God who climbs mountains and enters cities under siege and answers the desperate prayers of men and women in need all over the world - only that Overwhelming Jesus, that Overwhelming Savior, will matter in the face of chemo, of heroin addiction, of chronic unemployment and devastating depression.

See Jesus is, Jesus was, and Jesus always will be Overwhelming. Peter knew it during the Transfiguration. Saul knew it on the Road to Damascus when he became Paul. Martin Luther knew it when he tacked the 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg and sparked a revolution.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew it when he challenged the Evangelical Church in Germany and plotted against Adolf Hitler, only to lose his life.

MLK, Jr. and Nelson Mandela knew it when they used their FAITH to confront racism, segregation, and apartheid - speaking the Overwhelming Word of God against nations who claimed God's Word only for white people.

A quiet priest, carrying out a mass a few months ago in a bombed out shell of a sanctuary in Peshawar, Pakistan, knew it, and so he gave Jesus' body and blood in the eternal hope that an Overwhelming Savior would overwhelm even religious hatred.

And I know it, today, that in order for something amazing to happen here in America and our churches to be reborn - for God to keep working at St. Philip and bringing us everlasting new life - sometimes I have to get out of the way. Stop worrying and fearing and, hey maybe write it all down in a blog.

When Jesus is Overwhelming, Nothing Else Is.

I hope you join me on this blogging journey. I think God might just be teaching us something together, or saving our lives.

8 comments:

  1. I'm in! Great first posting! I am so looking forward to reading more! There is so much that I love that you wrote, but I must say, "When Jesus is Overwhelming, nothing else is." is going to live with me today... I need to stew on & celebrate that statement! Thank you, Angela! So good to celebrate Jesus with you in a blog!

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    1. Thanks so much Bruce. I'm glad we can still celebrate Jesus together!

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  2. Hi Pr. Angela! So wonderful to be able to call you pastor! Thank you for your words today that so support my small group study of "The Christian Atheist". We need to be reminded that faith is not a club membership, but a place for overwhelming love.

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    1. A reminder we all need. I will have to check out "The Christian Atheist." Sounds like an excellent study! Thanks for reading Cheryl :)

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  3. Brilliant! Simply brilliant!!!

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  4. Glad to join you on this journey and thanks for your inspiration!

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    1. Thanks Dana. My inspiration was Kaleidoscope Faith :) Miss those days!

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