The Church of Rome has been in the news a lot, lately. Ho-hum. Peoria Church is over half the size of Rome and you don’t see us stir up the whole world over a new pastor selection, do you?
Wait – did you wonder about what I just wrote? “Peoria Church is over half the size of the Church of Rome.”
Technically speaking, yes. You see, Peoria Church sits on about 60 acres, 50 of which we farm. The farm money helps keep our property in good shape.
Vatican City, the capital of the Church of Rome, is on 109 acres. Peoria Church is over half that size.
And I think our building is nicer.
If you take it from the perspective of membership, that’s another matter. There are approximately 3.6 million Catholics for every Peorian. So, they do have us on the attendance thing. But who tracks that stuff, anyhow?
In the religious world, the biggest story (the vacancy of the papal seat in Rome) may seem like one that doesn’t affect us here at Peoria Church. We are not Roman Catholics, we don’t have popes, and much of what we do is very little like Catholicism. Why would the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI make a difference here?
Whether or not we are Catholics isn’t really the issue: the Catholic Church is the biggest player on the Christian “game board” and what they do affects the rest of Christianity. It has been that way since the early reformers. In fact, “reformation” and “Protestantism” are reactionary labels. What did they want to reform? Catholicism. What is the “protest” about? Catholicism. It has been that way since Rome split from Orthodoxy 1,000 years ago.
Examples are legion of Catholicism’s influence in non-Catholic Churches. In Vatican II, Rome set in motion reforms that impacted liturgy, Church structure, theology, and culture. These movements directly impacted mainline Protestant Churches: they imitated many of Rome’s reforms. (In our purple hymnal at Peoria, the Eucharistic liturgy of the United Methodist Church mirrors the core liturgy used in the “Novus Ordo” mass.) Traditional symbols and buildings gave way to modern designs, a movement picked up by evangelicals. Traditional hymns and chanting in the Church of Rome gave way to folk tunes, then “rock tunes” and then politically correct versions of traditional hymns. In 1950, the most popular hymns in the Catholic Church were Holy God, We Praise Thy Name and Hail, Holy Queen. In a Catholic hymnal published in the mid-1990’s, Holy God… wasn’t even in the collection and Hail, Holy Queen was relegated to a supplement. In Protestant Churches, familiar hymns gave way to music that was unsingable on one hand or shallow on the other.
Benedict’s retirement leaves Catholicism open to directional changes. In 1955, who in the Roman Catholic Church would have imagined that by 1962, they would be saying Mass in English, eating meat during Lent (even on Fridays), standing instead of kneeling for most prayers, etc.? A new pope has nearly absolute authority in Catholicism. Whether or not he is popular doesn’t really matter. Benedict supported traditional marriage, was strongly pro-life, and advocated for deeper spirituality in the Church – positions which were very unpopular with liberal Catholics in the U.S. and other western countries. But he’s the pope, so dissent had to just live with it.
A new pope gives us reason to consider our own faith. Why aren’t we Catholics? Is it the Marian theology? Is it the high liturgy? Is it the celibate priesthood (that one always gets me)?
Maybe more importantly, as Rome does some soul searching, perhaps we ought to as well. What do we expect from Church leadership? What aspects of our faith need to be brought more into focus? How can our walk with Jesus Christ be more meaningful and intentional? What is our role in the universal Church, as a just one, little Church in an Indiana cornfield?
Let us pray with our Catholic brothers and sisters as they seek God’s guidance for a new pope. And let us thank God that He has called us to be who we are in His Body as His disciples.
A List of Helpful Suggestions for Retailers, Restauranteurs, and Others Who Relate to the Public
In an ideal world, an article on How to Handle a Barefoot Customer would be very short and read like this:
“Good morning [afternoon, evening], sir/madam. May I help you?”
However, we do not live in an ideal world. There are, unfortunately, people who still consider being barefoot in public something of an anomaly. There are some who still see it as somehow unclean or unhealthy or inappropriate.
This article is for those people.
How to Handle A Barefoot Customer: The Approach
1) Remember that the Barefoot Customer is in your place of business to purchase something or to obtain a service. They are there to spend money. It would be extremely unusual to find a barefoot customer with any other purpose in your establishment.
2) An appropriate greeting should be extended: “Welcome to Bloomingdale’s. May I help you?” No other comment is necessary. No attention should be brought to the barefoot customer’s shoelessness. No good businessperson makes a comment about any other customer’s appearance, do they?
- “Why, Mrs. Black, have we forgotten to wear a brassiere today?”
- “Mr. White, your baldness seems diminished by how grey your hair has grown.”
- “Excuse me, Ma’am, our section for women your size is, well, we don’t cater to women your size.”
3) After discerning the barefoot customer’s need, do what is necessary to meet that need. It is courteous to end such a service with a remark like, “Is there anything else?”
How to Handle A Barefoot Customer: Safety
1) Safety is everyone’s first concern. No one wants to hurt their feet less than the barefoot customer. Most barefoot customers will appreciate the retailers’ concern for their safety.
2) A case might be made (by some) that someone being barefoot in a place of business is somehow unsafe. The thoughtful proprietor should do the following:
- Be sure all the shards of broken glass that normally lay about most places of business are cleaned up
- Mop up all the spilled chemicals and other hazardous materials that are so common in public areas
- Extinguish all piles of burning substances in the store
- Secure shelves of product to be sure that items stay on the shelves rather than falling off as they always do
3) If the business operator is unable to provide safety, as suggested in #2 (above), be sure to acquire safety shoes, gloves, goggles, etc., for all customers entering the store.
How to Handle A Barefoot Customer: Policies
1) Prohibiting barefoot customers is merely a loss of business. There are no state health department rules against bare feet. The common expression, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service,” is just that: a common expression.
2) Customers are not subject to the same OSHA regulations that employees are. Barefoot people should follow OSHA guidelines when they are in the workplace, but not when they are customers.
3) A barefoot customer is bringing nothing into an establishment on their feet that a shod person is bringing in. There is no need to be concerned about spreading germs or disease whatsoever.
How to Handle A Barefoot Customer: Unruliness
1) In the unlikely event that a barefoot customer becomes unruly, see your policy book regarding how to handle customers that become unruly. Flip to the “Unruly Barefoot Customer Section.” Follow company policy.
I hope this article is helpful for those who provide services and other business for barefoot shoppers.
Every year since I can remember, the holiday cycle goes like this:
* Right before Halloween, Christmas decor and ads appear. The black and orange Halloween candy gets marked down as fast as the red and white candy canes go up.
* The month of November is dominated by Christmas ads, catalogues, sale flyers, early-bird specials, and the big build-up to the so-called “Black Friday”.
* Everyone wrings their hands that Thanksgiving is getting drowned out by Christmas.
* As municipalities begin erecting Christmas displays, some party-pooper** threatens to sue for ‘violation of Church and state’. This leads to one of two reactions: 1) municipal leaders wimp out and don’t allow any displays; or, 2) municipal leaders dig in and vow to fight with all their resources to keep their creche on the courthouse square
* Sometime after Thanksgiving, the “keep Christ in Christmas” campaign begins
* The afternoon of Christmas Day, everything switches to getting ready for New Year’s Eve and on Dec. 26, the stores put up their Valentine’s Day displays
Every year, it’s about the same.
My biggest concern (besides being ‘allowed’ to shop barefooted), is that no matter how hard anyone tries, Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas.
Christ in Christmas isn’t found in the shopping, is He? We give gifts at Christmas in remembrance of two things: the Magi brought gifts to the Christ Child and St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) brought gifts to poor children hundred of years ago. But Christ Himself is found in the giving, not in the shopping.
Christ in Christmas isn’t found in the Christmas decor. A few weeks ago, Karen and I were in that most WASP-ish of eateries, Cracker Barrel in Kokomo. (We are WASPs, after all, and we like fatty, sodium-infused foods ). As we browsed the Country Store (sic), there were racks and shelves full of “Christmas” items: ornaments, gadgets, clothing, themed gifts, etc. It took a lot of digging for me to find the two Nativity scenes they offered for sale. All around Kokomo there were illuminated snow flakes and Santas, jingle bells, winter scenes, etc., all of which are beautiful, but they are not Christ.
Christ isn’t even found in the Christmas muzak the stores play. I love it that stores play Christmas carols. But I find it off-putting that “O Holy Night” gets sandwiched between “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” I remember a few years ago when some beer company corrupted “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” into “Oh Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” The message of peace through Christ found in “God Rest Ye…” was displaced by young men partying and ogling beer-swilling women.
Christ in Christmas isn’t found in the courthouse creches, either. Don’t get me wrong, I like courthouse creches and I don’t have a problem with them. They are a reminder of the “reason for the season.” But more often I am reminded by the creche that Christ in society is largely ignored. Traffic streams past, people talking on cell phones or hurrying to work, and they barely notice the Babe in the manger scene. I think that if it weren’t for those lawsuits or some juvenile delinquent stealing the Christ Child figure from the manger, most people wouldn’t even notice that the creche is at the courthouse.
The thing is, Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas. All those things, as wonderful as they are, are not Christmas.
Christ can be taken out of the shopping, the muzak, the displays, the commercials, etc., because He really isn’t there to begin with.
Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas because Christmas marks the event that Christ was “put into” the world, never to be taken out again.
For those of us whose faith is in God through Christ, Christmas is an immutable reality. It was that way for centuries before shopping and Black Friday and Rudolph… the Christ Mass was a day of prayer and worship, preceded by a 40 day period of fasting known as Advent. No trees, no lights, no jolly old elves. Christmas for Christians was – and is – a day to “Hail th’Incarnate Deity.”
Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas as long as there are people who respond to God’s gift to the world in Christ. Our initial response is a personal one: we believe. However, that is not our only response. We are asked to respond to Christ every day by loving our neighbors, praying for those who persecute us, assisting the down-trodden, seeking justice for the poor, tending to the sick and imprisoned, being thoughtful of the shut-in, and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in a world that is depserately hungry for it.
Keep Christ in Christmas? Absolutely. How? By passing all the trappings and getting to the heart of it: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the Only-begotten, full of grace and truth.”
>[** A word about party-poopers: I don't care if it's Jehovah's Witnesses, the ACLU, atheists, or some off-beat sect, anyone who spoils someone else's good time is a party-pooper. Christmas is the Christian's 'good time'. There is nothing to be gained by writing laws about Christmas displays other than creating more party-pooping, which only engenders ill-will and divisiveness. I don't care whose 'civil rights' are being violated or not - if we can't be civil in the first place, then what good are civil rights to begin with? I say, quit 'pooping the party' and either join the fun or create your own fun. It's not worth the negativity to fight each other about things like Christmas.]
Back about 1950 years ago, the Apostles and others began writing their experiences of God through Christ. We call them Gospels and Epistles. They were following in the tradition of their Jewish forebears, whose Bible most of us now know as the Old Testament.
The copies of the Gospels and Epistles were passed around from Church to Church, sometimes in fragments, sometimes at great risk to the passers. Like the Old Testament, their words were sacred, precious, and handled with great care.
Men and women gave their lives to protect those words.
Priests, prophets and scribes toiled meticulously to copy and re-copy the manuscripts verbatim.
Laymen and women committed huge portions of them to memory in order to retell the stories from one generation to the next.
In the Church era, great Councils met to clarify points of doctrine found in the Scripture. In the liturgical Churches, copies of Scripture (especially the Gospels) are carried around with high reverence. In synagogues, scrolls of the Torah are kept in tabernacles and read soberly for the congregation. For many Protestants, the family Bible is one of the most valuable possessions in the home.
And now, some Texas cheerleaders (and others) have been making huge banners with Holy Writ on them for their football teams to break through as they enter the field.
One banner reads: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
Over the centuries, these words have encouraged martyrs in their deaths, prophets in their mission, and saints in time of grief and persecution.
To our 21st century Church they mean, “Go Team Go!”
Another banner reads: “We are more than conquerors” (Rom 8:37).
Was St. Paul talking football? Not really. This is what he was talking about:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things, we are made more than conquerors, through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:35-36).
The blood of martyrs, the voice of prophets and Apostles, the message of grace, all in tempera paint and newsprint, ready to be ripped to shreds by hyped-up football players in Texas.
But, isn’t this a witness?
“To what?”, I have to ask. I’m all for free and public expressions of faith. But my question isn’t whether or not it’s a witness, but whether or not this is appropriate use of God’s words.
If these Bible verses on the football field (and other spots of questionable display) are a witness to anything, it is a witness to the fact that the American Church is soft. We have become so much a part of the culture that we have no prophetic voice left in the culture.
The only persecution our young people seem to know is having to take books home to study.
The only famine they experience is not having enough money for Taco Bell.
Their only sense of danger is having to find ways to avoid being caught in doing all the things non-Church youth are doing.
If there is any witness in this, it is that we have taught Christian youth very poorly about the sacredness of the message. Instead, they have been trapped by cleverness of words. Instead of teaching the heart, the Bible has become a quippy catch-phrase book.
Am I being too serious?
Maybe. But why ask me? Why not ask the Christians in Moslem countries who have to keep their Bibles secret and who treasure every word because of persecution. Would they make a spectacle of the words they keep so dear out of fear of their governments?
Why ask me? Ask the kids who clamor over New Tesaments when the Gideons give them away in South America or sub-Saharan Africa or the crowded nations of southeast Asia. There are never enough and often their Testament is the only book they own. Would those kids use those Testaments as props for the local pep squad?
Why ask me?
* Why not ask the Anabaptists who were driven from home and farm, often martyred, for their fealty to the written Word?
* Why not ask the pioneer Americans who built schools and homes based on daily readings of Scripture?
* Why not ask the Christians in the arena, some of whom may have heard the Apostles speak those very words live and in person?
(Maybe the Romans could have written Bible verses on paper that the lions could charge through on their way to their victims.)
The cheerleaders won the first round of their case in civil court, and I think that is good. Free speech is free speech, after all.
But maybe they’re not being asked the right question: Does it really honor God and the Bible to do what you are doing?
Does using Sacred Writing fulfill the instruction of the Apostle Paul: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
I think the answer is evident.
(Written for the back of the bulletin for Oct. 7, 2012)
Today is “National Pulpit Freedom Sunday”. It is an effort by some pastors and Churches to defy (and encourage overturning) what is called the “Johnson Amendment.” The Johnson Amendment prohibits the use of Church pulpits for political gain or endorsement. The amendment has never been enforced; however the threat of enforcement has created a fear in some pastors and Churches. This has been particularly true recently in some states where homosexual marriage and related issues have been hotly contested.
As your pastor, I would like to let you know a few of my thoughts on this. First, I agree with the concept of “Pulpit Freedom.” The Johnson Amendment is patently and clearly unconstitutional. It is a plain violation of free speech and freedom of religion. The federal government may be able to regulate shouting “fire!” in a movie theater, but it has no right to impinge the free expression of ideas or of worship. The First Amendment can be an unpleasant double-edged sword (Westboro Baptist Church abuses these protections in much the same way pornographers do), but it is a fundamental, God-given right to every American.
Second, I am not participating in PFS because I do not think that Church should be a place of political demonstration in any way. The organizers of PFS and I would likely agree on many political subjects and I don’t have anything against them. But not everyone in Church does or would. Just because I am of one political persuasion doesn’t mean that I should express that from the pulpit or in the prayers of the Church. The Church is about God, about His great love for all people, about salvation and Jesus Christ, about living as a disciple, and learning how to love your neighbor as you love yourself. In my opinion, if a pastor has time to preach politics then he is not spending enough time preaching about the things that the Church is about.
Third (and may be most important), is that the Johnson Amendment will not change the way I preach. It hasn’t yet. There are significant moral issues that the Bible addresses and I have never felt hindered or limited in preaching those things. The fact that some in our society politicize moral issues doesn’t make them political issues. The Church has always spoken God’s Truth about moral issues. I will not stop doing so, whether or not someone turns a matter political. I don’t have a corner on the Truth (and we don’t at Peoria Church), but with the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the Church Fathers, the Councils, and ample precedent, we have many ways of knowing what God’s Truth is.
In the past, Christian preachers didn’t need Constitutional protections in order to preach the Gospel. They challenged governors and kings, economic systems and pagan religion. They weren’t worried about going to jail or being fined; many of them paid for their faith with their lives or with “dungeon, fire, and sword.” Even now, Christians in Moslem countries face persecution and martyrdom for simply wearing a cross around their neck. Their Churches are raided, vandalized and destroyed. They need no Johnson Amendment to protect them. They are living their faith as Jesus Christ calls each of us to, in spite of government laws and bans on Christianity. When your pastor to kowtows to the government on spiritual, Biblical, and moral matters, then it’s time to find a new pastor.
In conclusion, I do thank Peoria Church for the freedom and latitude to preach the Bible. Some in denominations find themselves having to stick to the ‘company line’ or endorsing issues or concerns that are, in fact, political. Though we are just a small corner of God’s Church in our little plot in Butler Township, God continues to do wonderful things for us. I believe this is because He has seen your faithfulness to Him since 1856. Our forebears may not have been perfect (and neither are we), but our congregation today is the result of their boldness and freedom in preaching what the Bible teaches and lifting up God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And to Him, be all the glory.
Gospel: John 10:9-16
I go through these moods in ministry: Up and down. Energtic then apathetic. Deeply spiritual then shallow and convenient.
At times, I worry about my parish. I guess that’s part of my role. I wonder how the shut-ins are doing, what’s keeping the youth in line, how are the little ones doing. I’m concerned about our married couples and how can I help them build stronger marriages and I’m concerned about our unmarried couples and how I can help them find their way to marriage.
Often, I pray for the people of my parish. In my mind, I go down the pews, row by row, according to who usually sits where. I think about this one’s job situation or that one’s grandchildren. I ask God to help that family that has a financial problem, and this other family where the love has grown cold. Then I worry about the ones I’ve forgotten.
I sometimes get frustrated that I don’t have the time that a congregation like ours needs. There isn’t enough time to visit like I should. I can’t follow up with visitors like I need to. I can’t keep up with our many inactive members and their lapsing families. I can’t run the programs and ministries that other clergy in other congregations can.
My job keeps me busy enough, so to be pastor “on the side” is fraught with limitations.
When I start feeling like this, I remember that, in truth, I am the assistant pastor.
I’d like to think that I’m not as bad as the hirelings the Lord describes in John 10. I’d like to think that when the “wolf” comes, I won’t flee, as Jesus Christ describes. I hope that I care about the “sheep” enough not to run away when trouble comes our way.
But, I am a hireling nonetheless. The sheep aren’t mine. Even the sheepfold isn’t mine. As much as I love and care for the people at Peoria, there is One who loves them far more than I ever could. In fact, He owns them. He paid for them with His life. That is a price I am unable to pay. I know everyone at Church, and many who are not at Church, but Jesus the Shepherd knows them from the inside out.
I have my ups and downs, my moods, my prayers and my frustrations. I don’t have the time, the money, the energy. I can’t be everywhere for everyone.
But that’s okay.
There is One who is the Shepherd. He has no ups and downs, no moods, no frustrations. He doesn’t need more time because He transcends time. He needs no money because He owns it all already.
And I am happy to simply be His assistant.
The Virgin Mary’s Birthday – Sept. 8
By Pastor Brian Daniels, Peoria Church
As Protestants, we are often skittish about discussing the life of the Virgin Mary. We look at some things in the Orthodox Church and in the Roman Catholic Church and we think, “They worship Mary.” Consequently, we go to the other extreme and have little or nothing to do with her. This is too bad. There is much we can learn from Mary, much that can deepen our faith in Jesus Christ, whom she bore.
First, it is important to know that Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians do not worship Mary. They honor her, they show her very profound respect, but they do not worship her. But why do they honor her so highly?
They honor Mary so highly because of all the people on earth whom God could have chosen to bear His Son, Mary was the one chosen. Mary alone is the woman who bore God’s Son, in the flesh. Mary alone nursed the Infant Christ-child. Mary alone changed His diapers. Mary alone taught Him things of life as a little boy and young man. And even though Jesus Christ is God in the flesh – and knew everything that Mary was telling Him even in His infancy – as Mary’s Son, Jesus Christ submitted and obeyed her. “He humbled Himself…” (Phil. 2).
Secondly, by remembering the life of Mary, we bring ourselves close again to the realities of the spiritual life. All of the events of Jesus Christ’s life happened in real time, real places, real buildings, with real people. The Virgin Mary wasn’t just a character in a Christmas pageant – she was really, truly, Jesus Christ’s mother. She was not much different than any of the women who sit in the pews at Peoria Church every Sunday.
This is immeasurably important. It can be tempting to divorce the “spiritual” world from reality. We can say all the prayers that we want, but if our love for God doesn’t extend to real human beings – like Mary – then it is fruitless. We can read all the Bibles we want, but our faith must be in the real world, dealing with poor man and women – like Mary.
Thirdly, we remember that Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of God, had a family. We are all God’s children by adoption through Christ (Romans 8:15-17), but Jesus Christ had a human family that He grew up in. Mary had parents, Ss. Joachim and Anna, who would have been Jesus’ grandparents. Mary had a cousin, St. Elizabeth, who was the mother of Jesus’ cousin, St. John the Baptist. St. Joseph, Jesus’ step-father, had sons, Jesus’ step brothers.
Life in a family is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? Your family knows you “warts and all.” And they love you in spite of it. The fact that God had a family doesn’t mean that Mary and Joseph and the rest are any better than anyone else (like a ‘royal family’ might think they are). Instead, the fact God had a family demonstrates to us that life and love, family and relationships, are where real living takes place.
Yesterday, Sept. 8, is the traditional date for observing Mary’s birthday (Nativity of the Virgin Mary). By remembering that Mary had a birthday, we recall the reality of her life. And in that, we recall the full reality, that “God sent His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).