Archives: Proper 12

The Church Is Dying, And It’s the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us

Average Sunday attendance: down.

Membership numbers: down.

Yearly pledge income: down.

The statistics don’t lie.

For the past forty years, accelerating like a train down a mountain for the last fifteen years, the Episcopal Church and indeed the entire Christian mainstream has been losing strength, losing growth, losing life.

If even the megachurches are hemorrhaging members, what hope do we have?

The Episcopal Church is dying.

It’s no secret. Everyone knows it is happening. Continue reading

How and Why to Pray

Today we’re going to keep talking about what we need to prioritize in our transition time, and the number one thing we can do for ourselves and our church is pray.

Our gospel story today is from Luke, and we see Jesus praying, talking about prayer, and using prayer in his ministry in the Gospel of Luke more than any other gospel.

Luke tells us that Jesus “often withdrew to a lonely place and prayed,” (5:16), that he prayed on the mountainside and stayed there praying all night (6:12), that he prayed alone (9:18), that he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and thanked God publicly (10:21-22), and of course we know his prayers in Gethsemane and from the Cross.

Here in chapter 11 of Luke, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to do what they see him do so frequently: pray.

We in the Episcopal Church are great at liturgical prayer. We have profoundly beautiful words handed down to us in the Book of Common Prayer that stir our hearts and bring us into the living presence of God.

We can find the sweeping majesty of God and the intimate comfort of God all brought to life between the pages of our little prayerbook.

We also use spontaneous public prayer, often at the beginning or end of meals and meetings, and it can be a great way to unify the hearts of a group in a shared experience, bringing that experience before God.

But we don’t talk enough about private prayer, and it is such a rich field of spirituality.

In fact, it is the lifeblood of our Christian walk. It is the way we communicate with God.

The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians to pray without ceasing.

Sometimes trying to maintain an active prayer life can seem like a chore, but there’s a quick cure for that. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Kings

Today’s scriptures are a tale of two kings, both born in the city of Bethlehem.

One would lend his name to his birth city; it became known for ever after as the City of David.

One would bring a star to his birth city; people followed it there to worship him in the manger that was his cradle.

David was the great king of the Hebrew Scriptures, the archetype for all who came after him and originator of God’s favor on the throne of Israel.

Jesus was the great king of the New Testament, the king who cared nothing for political power and turned the definition of kingship inside out.

But this is not a simple story of compare and contrast.

David is far too complex a figure for us to simply dismiss him with the old interpretation of, “Well, the old kings of Israel tried but they were no good so it’s a good thing Jesus came along.”

David is one of the most deeply human figures in the whole Bible.

He reaches sublime heights of worship and leadership, and commits monstrous sins that result in almost destroying not only his life, but his family for generations afterwards.

Perhaps what fascinates us the most about David is the unique designation that he alone bears in the entirety of scripture: he was a man after God’s own heart. Continue reading