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on the ELCA

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met in a church-wide assembly last week and, among other things, debated, considered and adopted “a social statement as well as policy changes that now allow congregations to bless and hold publicly accountable those in same-sex, lifelong, monogamous relationships, as well as to call GLBTQ pastors in such relationships to serve as their clergy.”

I don’t know if we have any Lutheran CCfB’ers or not, or how many of you might have Lutheran friends who followed this while it was happening, but, as you might imagine, this was a big deal.

There’s a beautiful blog post by an ELCA pastor recounting her perspective on the debate leading up to the adoption of the ELCA’s policy changes, asking the question, “where did Jesus stand at the ELCA assembly?”

(For those of us not Lutheran, it may be enlightening to point out that this is an allusion to Luther’s famous statement, “here I stand, I can do no other.”)

A bit of a teaser from the article:

“To be sure, there are places to go in the ELCA for triumphalism. But while celebrating a victory is understandable, these are not the words of eternal life.

To be sure, there are some places in the ELCA where you can hear the words of angry indignation and revolt. But while disappointment is understandable, these are not the words of eternal life.

There are words of eternal life, but they are not our words.  So let us not go to ourselves because as deeply as we hold our beliefs about inclusion, or social justice, or as deeply as we hold our beliefs about social conservatism or personal morality, we do not have the words of eternal life.  We have our beliefs, our convictions, our understandings of scripture, and, hear me clearly — these are not to be taken lightly or walked away from.  But they are not the words of eternal life.

…So let’s again look to Christ and not ourselves, because in the end there are no winners and losers, there is just what there has always been, the good news of Jesus Christ, The Holy One of God.  To whom else shall we go? He has the words of eternal life and offers all the inexplicable gift of his own self, body, blood, and word. And bids all come and eat.”


a postscript on Tillich from RB

One of the more startling statements in Tillich’s sermon, “You are accepted,” is this one:

“It would be better to refuse God, and the Christ, and the Bible, than to accept them without grace.”

Tillich goes on to explain that the reason for this startling pronouncement is his conviction that, without grace, even spiritual truths can only serve to deepen the sin and brokenness of human relationships (with self, others, and God).

We had a great discussion the Sunday following the presentation of Tillich’s sermon, and we talked a bit about this statement, as well as Tillich’s view of sin and corresponding view of grace. It was–seriously, y’all–one of the best discussions of Tillich’s theology I’ve ever gotten to be a part of.

Today I followed a link to a sermon at Highland Church of Christ by Richard Beck, in which he talks about the ways in which Christianity can get in the way of being a Christian. It’s right in line with Tillich’s point: without grace, even our religion–the thing that’s supposed to help us become better, kinder, more just–becomes just another way we screw up. It’s worth a listen. (And when you’re done, you can vote below for whether or not the men’s public restroom sermon illustration goes on the list for Best or Worst Sermon Illustrations Ever.)


dead German guy preaching this Sunday

So, this Sunday we’ll be hearing from Paul Tillich.

For John Cleese fans who may recall this line from the short-lived comedy Fawlty Towers, I add, “You’ll love it! He’s German!”

He’s also dead, so I’ve volunteered to channel him from the Great Beyond. By which I mean, I will be reading his most famous sermon, entitled, “You are Accepted,” from a book.

It’s a beautiful sermon, very theological and existential and Tillichian (which is a word, I didn’t make that up), but also, extremely moving. As I’ve practiced it this week, I’ve teared up nearly every time at the crucial paragraph that gives the sermon its title. I hope I don’t on Sunday, but you all are forewarned. It’s powerful stuff we’re dabbling in here: Tillich wants nothing less than to create a moment for his listeners in which they experience God’s grace.

I’ve experienced those rare moments of grace many times in the unlikely setting of the PS 261 cafeteria. I anticipate yet another astonishing and unlikely moment this Sunday, as we listen to the words of this member of the communion of saints who now, I can only trust, lives eternally in the experience of that grace which is still for the rest of us so rare and momentary.


children and church

As a parent, church is one of my favorite places to take my daughter.  She loves “Brooklyn church.”  We even have a song about it that we sing on Sunday mornings to express her anticipation: “we’re going to go to Brooklyn church, Brooklyn church, Brooklyn church, we’re gonna go to Brooklyn church, because it is so fun.”  That’s just the first verse; the song goes on forever, because she names everyone she wants to see at Brooklyn church, and everyone gets their own verse.  Generally the song ends with, “we’re gonna see Aunt Sarah…and she is gonna chase me…and I’ll get scared and run.”  At that point Clare is usually overcome with delight and the song is done.

I love it that at church, even if I can’t see/hear where she is or what she’s doing, I can count on the fact that someone else is watching out for her.  It’s not just that it’s a couple hours of free babysitting. 🙂  I love it that Clare gets to experience a whole community of grown-up people (well, you know, we’re mostly all “grown-up”) who care about her and watch out for her and teach her, just like I do.  And this constitutes “normal” for her.  She knows I love her, and her daddy loves her, but she also knows that this whole roomful of people love her too.  And she loves them: she makes up stories about them and takes them on imaginative excursions with her and sings songs about them and names them as friends.

And that’s beautiful.

This coming Sunday we will welcome and bless CCfB’s two newest and youngest members.  As part of the thanksgiving and blessing service, the full assembled community of CCfB will be asked,

“Church, will you as a community of faith and family of God welcome these children into your loving care, share responsibility in their growth toward fullness of life in Christ, and surround them and their parents with your love, encouragement and support for the strengthening of their life together?”

And we will answer,

“We will, with God’s help.”


this is really cool (for Bible nerds)

The world’s oldest Bible, Codex Sinaiticus, is online.


on God the Great Physician and Jesus the Healer

Hi everyone,

Last week I was moved to blog about the thoughts generated by our worship service at CCfB over at my personal blog, rudetruth (named thus as a paraphrase from an Emerson quote, in case anyone’s wondering).  As we’re keeping up the blog here (and, BTW, any CCfB person out there who’d like to contribute from time to time, just say the word) I thought I’d re-post it here.

Check in from time to time to see what’s happening, what’s coming up on our calendar, what just happened, and what we thought about it. 🙂


Yesterday [last week], one of CCfB’s longtime members spoke to us on the topic of vocation: specifically, the challenges of integrating his Christian faith and daily work. He is a physician, as is his wife. He spoke personally and candidly, and it was riveting. Stories of turning of machines; of saying the words, “I’m so sorry” to families in waiting room; of confronting the dilemmas of social injustice in treating the uninsured and the homeless; of struggling to resist the pressure to treat sick bodies rather than sick people.

As he spoke I thought of Jesus’ healing miracles, and how Jesus must have confronted these same challenges and pressures in his ministry. So many people pressing in, demanding help. So many unsolvable problems. So much to do, and only a finite opportunity and limited options. No wonder Jesus withdrew to mountains to pray, and climbed into boats to get away from the crowds. And yet, the stories of miraculous healings demonstrate above all that Jesus never neglected to deal with people holistically: body and soul and spirit. My own theological preoccupation with embodiment has led me to think of the healing stories as emphasizing the importance of the body–which is true–and yet, the testimony from this physician reminded me that in the profession of healing there is a danger of reductionism that many fall into, and the struggle is to keep oneself open to the reality that these material bodies are people, with emotions, families, goals, fears.

And never has the metaphor of God as the Great Physician been more meaningful to me. What was once a purely intellectualized theological grasp of that metaphor has been enriched with this glimpse into what being a physician really means.

Welcome to the Christ's Church for Brooklyn blog. We are a loving community of believers who seek to be the hands and feet of Christ, in service to our neighbors in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn and beyond.
July 2018
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