Baking Bread and the Life of the Church

“A little yeast works through the whole lump of dough.” – Galatians 5:9

I love baking bread.

There is something incredible about the power of yeast. As the author of Galatians notes, just a bit of yeast is able to be effective when mixed in with the right ingredients. Just a few tablespoons of yeast can be effective for many cups of flour.

When I am kneading the dough, I feel connected with many who have come before me. All those in my family who have used their hands to make bread – both those in the kitchen using the flour and those who have planted and harvested the wheat in the field. It is a practice that is deeply connected with my family. Far beyond my family the practice of baking bread extends across the world and for many generations.

Of course, the practice of baking bread is one that has fallen out of common practice for most families. Homemade bread is a bit of a rarity instead of the norm. Sometimes I think about the life of the church in similar ways. Some generations ago being connected with a local congregation was very common for families across the communities of the United States. However, there are far fewer families connected with a local church today than there were generations ago.

There are any number of resources for families to craft their spiritual life to whatever extent they may choose. Yet, just as store bought bread is no comparison to homemade bread fresh from the oven, so I believe that local communities of faith with people who you know from your neighborhood, workplace or local school create the best environment for children and adults to grow in their faith.

This does not mean that church and congregations are going to look the same as they have in the past, however it does mean church leaders are called to a continued commitment to the communities where they serve and must be willing to innovate and iterate so that God’s love might work through the entire community.

How do you know something is true?

You know something is true when it is measured against something that is certain truth. In my case, I look to scripture as the primary source for understanding the truth about life, the universe and everything. As a United Methodist Christian, I seek to discren whether something is true by comparing it to what I find in scripture. I seek to understand the truth as found in scripture by using my own reason and intellect, the tradition of the church across time and the experience of a community of believers as well as my own experience of faith. These tools guide my search for truth and help me know whether something is true or false.

I recently met with a congregant who shared some deep questions with me. I asked for permission to share them on this blog to more broadly share my response.

Family Christmas Traditions

Over the next few weeks, Nicole and I will have a chance to be with both our families of origin to celebrate. I want to share a few family traditions that I remember from growing up and some that continue today.

  • Kris Kringling – A tradition in my family where we drew names at the beginning of Advent and did nice things for that person throughout the year. A few days before Christmas we would have a meal with special food – especially lil’ smokies and cheese curds – in which we would guess and reveal which person had been doing nice things for us throughout the season.
  • Lighting the Advent wreath – For as long as I can remember, we have had an Advent wreath in our home and would light a candle each Sunday using the Upper Room Devotional as a guide. Nicole and I lit the fourth candle this past Sunday.
  • Grab Bag – In addition to drawing names to give gifts among siblings and cousins, a grab bag would accompany the event. You might know this as yankee swap, dirty santa, white elephant, or some other variation. This is often the most anticipated part of the gathering. Here’s a tip: throwing in a bag of M&M’s makes nearly any worthless piece of junk an intriguing possibility to keep.
  • Program Piece – Before you can receive your present, you would need to perform a program piece. When I was growing up, this was most often a musical number – piano or a few times trombone. My brother, Jonathan, is known for his magic tricks. Nicole and I are working up our program piece for this year.

The bottom line is that it is great to be with family.

Will you please share some of your family Christmas traditions?

What are suburban traditions or rituals?

At the Open Source Liturgy Project there was a good deal of conversation about incorporating traditions or rituals that are native to a particular culture into the liturgy of the church. This is a great plan.

Except…

I live the suburbs and am having trouble coming up with suburban traditions or rituals. Here are some of my thoughts, but I know there have to be better ones…

  • Soccer games
  • Going to Starbucks
  • Walking the dog
  • High school football games
  • Commuting

What else would you add? How could they be incorporated into liturgy?

Good News for All

Last week I posted on Christianity and Other Religions and included my thoughts about how to best respond to someone of another faith. I want to follow up on some of the conversation that I have had via the comments and emails on my assertion that it is more important to share the good news of Christ with non and nominally religious persons rather than persons of other religions.

I have received some excellent critiques that it is the responsibility of all Christians to share the good news with others – regardless of whether they adhere to a particular faith tradition. I agree. I do think that it is important to tell the story of Jesus to all persons in a way that tells of life transformation and gives the opportunity and calls for a response.

I did not intend to assert that Christians should not share their faith with those of other religions. I do believe that this is important. In regard to a relationship with Christ I do not make a distinction between someone who is non-religious and someone with who is faithful to another religion. In the collective, it is important to share the good news with all.

I would like to stay with my original assertion that given the choice of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with an individual of faith and with someone without any faith I believe that I would pursue the relationship with the person without faith. However, I recognize the validity of the counterpoint that someone with some sort of faith structure may have a familiarity with shaping her or his life around a life of faith and thus may be more willing to shift

As you can likely tell, I am still working this out and have appreciated the comments which help sharpen my thoughts. So here is a question about which I am not clear – Which of the following do you think would be someone that would be more willing to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ?

  • A person who faithfully practices a faith tradition other than Christianity?
  • Or

  • A person who does not practice any religion?

I am clear that it is important for Christians to share their faith with each of these groups. What do you think?