DCE’s Blog

Evolution of Call

On Sunday, May 1, in worship, Jennifer Secki Shields announced a new direction for her call in ministry. To hear her announcement and the Prayer of Thanksgiving following, click on the link below.

 

Seekers: What We Talk About When We Talk About God

Seekers Study:  Sundays, 11:15 a.m., April 14 to June 9, except 5/26

Rob Bell explains why both culture and the church resist talking about God, and shows how we can reconnect with the God who is pulling us forward into a better future. Using his characteristic evocative storytelling to challenge everything you think you know about God, Bell tackles misconceptions about God and reveals how God is with us, for us, ahead of us, and how understanding this could change the entire course of our lives.

Pick up your copy in the Narthex! or order it for your ebook device.

A Different Ash Wednesday Experience

In an effort to move our vision beyond our own walls, instead of having an evening service in the sanctuary, we will be offering a morning experience beginning at 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. on Wednesday, February 13, at the Broaddale Starbucks (344 W Broad St) in Falls Church.  By offering this in the morning, we will be able to carry the mark of ashes on our foreheads during the day as a witness to our humanity and mortality, and to God’s grace and mercy. By offering this in a public place, where we will not disrupt their business, we will be a witness to the broader community.

So come by Starbucks on the morning of Wednesday, February 13, anytime between 7 and 10 a.m., for your morning cuppa joe or tea, and a cross of ashes.

We will also offer a service at noon in the Chapel.

The Truth About Raising My Children With God

Recently I read “Why I Raise My Children Without God” written by a Texas mother who “just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like [her].”  I empathize.  I am a Christian mom who has spent the weeks since the Newtown tragedy reading a parade of atheist criticisms of my faith and hearing hurtful and preposterous remarks made by people within my own religion.  Unfortunately, these posts, placed prominently on CNN’s site and others, are rife with religious illiteracy.  They do not accurately characterize the literally thousands of people with whom I have worshipped, prayed, and served over the last 12 years nor the tenets we practice and teach.  As such, I’d like to address the points raised by TXBlue08:

Misconception #1: “If God is our father, then he is not a good parent… because good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others.”

To truly love someone, that person must be entirely other and entirely free, free even to reject you, your love, and your teachings.  So it is with parenting.  If you are a parent raising perfect children who say and do only that which pleases you, then you needn’t read any further–this won’t relate to you.  The rest of us, however, understand that sometimes good, loving, well-intentioned parents do, sadly, watch their children make choices that are harmful to themselves and others.  It is not because these parents do not step in and try to intervene and provide guidance.  We love them and try to persuade them, but ultimately we do not control them.

So it is with God our father.  We indeed have free will and should not underestimate the responsibilities that come with it.  Not only do we have free will, but God has made us co-creators, assigning us as stewards of this earth (Genesis 1: 26) and answering us unequivocally, yes, we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers (Genesis 4:9).  Like any loving parent, God tries to lead us to paths of love, peace, and well-being.  Unfortunately, we often choose otherwise.

Misconception #2: “God is not logical”

When we hear comments that innocent children died because God wanted more angels in heaven or that they died because we kicked God out of our schools so he did not protect them, we are right to call them deplorable.  Most Christians think so, too, and when we hear these comments we recognize that they are made by persons who are either novices in the Christian faith or poorly trained in theology.  We certainly do not make the mistake of thinking, as do apparently our atheist critics and most of the mainstream news media, that their views represent what we consider sound theology.

At the same time, those who do not practice our faith often misunderstand the metaphors we use.  A few weeks ago, Lawrence Krauss complained that the grieving faithful say that God “called them home” when referring to the loss of our loved ones.  This is a common phrase when we commemorate the dead.  We do not think that God wanted to call them home, so he initiated their murder; rather, it means that because their earthly life was taken, God responded by calling them home.  It is the difference between the cart and the horse–it matters which you understand as the cause, and which the effect.  Unfortunately, those outside the faith are likely unfamiliar with the use of our metaphors and make erroneous assumptions as a result.

What the Bible does tell us about these tragic situations is that the God who loves us does not appreciate being accused of being the architect of our pain and suffering.  In the story of Job, an innocent man who suffers great loss, grief, and pain through no fault of his own, Job’s well-intentioned friends think he must have brought his grief and calamity upon himself by some sin he committed.  In essence, that God was in some way punishing him.  In the end, God makes clear to Job’s friends that he does not appreciate being accused of bringing harm: “My wrath is kindled against you… for you have not spoken of me what is right” (Job 42:7).  God instructs them to repent–basically, God asserts that Job’s friends owe him an apology.

Misconception #3: “God is not fair”

God has birthed a world that is free–not just people, but the entirety of nature.  God does not play favorites.  Jesus taught, “This is what God does.  He gives his best–the sun to warm and the rain to nourish–to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty” (Matthew 5: 45).   God couldn’t be more fair.  

We Christians follow a man, Jesus, who though innocent, was tortured, crucified and left to die on a cross.  At the core of the central story of our faith is the reality that the world run by humans is not fair.  Jesus and his fellow Jews lived under the yoke of Roman oppression.  It may disappoint people today, as it did in Jesus’ day, to learn that Jesus did not come to magically reverse the unfair fortunes of the world.  Instead, he taught us  that this world would become more just only when we would put aside our own self-interests to focus instead on being in right relationship with God and each other.  

Misconception #4: “God does not protect the innocent”

We pollute and pervert our air, water, and food supplies, then angrily ask why a loving God would allow us to suffer cancer, birth defects, and other medical ailments.  We abuse our bodies, minds, and spirits, abandon practices of prayer and meditation that have served us for millennia, then scratch our heads at the rises in depression, anxiety, suicide, and other mental illness.  We fail to provide adequate support and resources for parents struggling alone to raise troubled kids.  We allow a ban on assault weapons to expire, endure an epidemic of mass shootings, and still cannot seem to muster the corporate will to demand immediate change.  We say we are concerned about violence in our society, but then the latest Call of Duty just hit the shelves and is waiting to be purchased…

Really, we think God is the problem?

When someone claims that God does not exist because God does not protect us, what she is really saying is that we want a magic genie God who gives us a world with no consequences.  We want to have and do whatever we want (or, perhaps, ignore what we don’t want to be bothered with)–then we want this loving God to sweep in and prevent any natural consequences.  When that doesn’t happen, we accuse God of being unfair, illogical, impotent, and nonexistent.  How painful when we are confronted with the truth that our policies, lifestyles, and attitudes create a culture that costs the lives of the most innocent, precious, and vulnerable among us.  No wonder we prefer to blame God.

Misconception #5: “Telling children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch, or hear does not make sense.”

As I write this, billions of neutrinos emanating from the sun are passing through my body, laptop, the entire planet.  I cannot see, smell, touch, or hear them; just because they are beyond the reach of my senses, however, does not make them any less real.  Astronomer Jennifer Wiseman described how we know about the presence of dark matter in the cosmos: “You can’t see it, but you know it exists because you see its effects.”  Likewise, the same principle applies in the discovery of exoplanets.  Astronomers often can’t actually see the new planets they discover; instead, they infer their presence by detecting their effects–tugging and star-light dimming–on their parent star.

In the Christian faith, we often use the metaphor of wind when talking about God’s action in our lives and the world.  You cannot see wind per se, but you know it’s presence by its effects.  We cannot see God, but recognize God at work in us and the people around us.  We refer to this as “walking by faith, not sight.”  Like many phenomena in our universe, we cannot see God; however, to claim that something does not exist because it is beyond the reach of our senses is both intellectually naive and factually incorrect.

I respect that others look at the same world and do not conclude the presence of a loving God.  Ultimately, however, their claim of no God is as much a leap of faith as my choice to follow Jesus.

 Misconception #6: “God does not teach children to be good”

In over 12 years of professional ministry, I have never encountered a theologian, pastor, parent, Sunday school teacher, youth leader, or Christian educator who taught that we should behave because God is watching!  A central tenet of our faith is that we love because God first loved us.  We expect our lives to bear witness to God’s grace at work in us–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.  We endeavor to follow Jesus’ teachings–to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to forgive seventy times seven, to give to the poor, to be generous, to welcome the stranger–because we believe they are the blueprint for building a more loving, just world.  We also teach repentance–that when we fall short in these practices, we owe apologies both to God and those whom we’ve hurt.  Most importantly, we teach grace–the ability to give and receive forgiveness for ourselves and others so that even in the worst situations, we might see the glimmers of hope and new life.

Misconception #7: “God teaches narcissism”

It is no more narcissistic to say that God loves us and has a plan for us than it is for me to say that I love my children and have plans for them.  As a loving parent, I have plans aplenty for the well-being of my children–short-term ones like choosing what to feed them, and long-term ones like saving for college.  Whether or not they cooperate with these plans is another matter (see previous comments on free will).

God calls us toward a life of hope (Jeremiah 29: 11), peace, and joy, but chance and choice still operate along the way.  Christians do not believe that following Jesus gives us some kind of cosmic “get out of jail free card” which allows us to disregard God’s teachings, do whatever we please, then call it part of “God’s plan.”  To the contrary, because we claim Christ, we take seriously the role we each play in determining how loving, peaceful, and just this world is or isn’t.  For that reason, we also reject the notion we are just a very small, insignificant part of a machine in which we have minuscule influence.  We even dare to believe that if people are taught that they are loved and significant, and that their lives are meaningful and purposeful, they might know hope instead of despair and despondency.

Forgiveness: finding peace through letting go

Worship, January 13 – February 10, 10 a.m.

Seekers, January 13 – February 3, 11:15 a.m.  Room 201

There is nothing more crippling than holding onto anger and bitterness. Anger, more than any other emotion, has the power to consume all aspects of our lives, distort our sense of purpose, and destroy our relationship with God. Sometimes our anger is toward others; sometimes it is toward ourselves. But how to completely let go?

In this 4-week study we will explore forgiveness in our relationship with God, with our spouses and significant others, with our parents and siblings, and with others in our lives.

Hardcover copies of the book will be available in the narthex; it is also available as an e-book.

Midweek Prayer Circle

Refocus and recharge each week by gathering
for a time of quiet, contemplative prayer.

Wednesdays, 10 to 10:30 a.m. in the Chapel.

Freedom of Simplicity

Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World

Shows how simplicity is not merely having less stress and more leisure but an essential spiritual discipline for the health of our soul.

Ten sessions on 1st & 3rd Wednesdays, starting October 3 at 7 p.m.

To participate, email dce@christcrossman.org. Participants are responsible for acquiring their own copy which are available as hardcover, paperbacks and eBooks. The author is Richard Foster.