Make Someone Happy: Invite Them to Church

Want to improve someone’s mood? A Gallup survey showed a strong correlation between church attendance and positive emotions, even when controlling for variables like age, education, and income. People who come to church regularly are, on average, happier than people who don’t.

That could mean trouble for Alaska. In a Pew Center survey of the importance of religion in people’s lives, Alaska ranked in the bottom five states in nearly every category, and was last the category of “Worship Attendance.” If you run into someone who’s unhappy, it might not just be the lack of sunlight in our short winter days that’s got them down.

Why not invite them to church? Maybe it will perk them up!

Sometimes, Christians get confused about evangelism. They think it’s their responsibility to make converts or even to make sure their friends get into heaven. That’s not true. Only Jesus can do those things. Evangelism is just sharing good news. (Look it up, that’s what the word means.) Evangelism is just telling people what you’ve found and inviting them to check it out for themselves. (See John 1:39–51 for an example.)

People won’t think you’re weird for inviting them to church. (Unless you’re weird some other way.) Researcher Thom Rainer writes, “82 percent of the unchurched are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to attend church if they are invited. …to restate it: More than eight out of ten of the unchurched said they would come to church if they were invited.” (The Unchurched Next Door)

On top of that, Easter is the #1 most likely time for unchurched people to come to church. So invite a friend or neighbor to church next week. You might make them happy!

Here’s some things to avoid:

Who Was He?

I liked this video:

Something More from Moving Works on Vimeo.

One man's life changed the course of history for billions of people across the globe. He is both revered and reviled, famed and feared and you know who he is without a single mention of his name.

Download this Video and Watch More at www.movingworks.org. Incredible Score by Tony Anderson (www.tonyandersonmusic.com). Additional Note: Arial Earth image owned and licensed by NASA.

Christians and Cake-Baking

Should there be a faith exemption from nondiscrimination laws? Should a wedding photographer be required to offer his services to gay couples the same as to straight couples? Should a baker be able to refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on the grounds of her faith?

I won’t speak (here) to the legal issues except to quote Martin Luther King: “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” I think it’s probably best to use the law to prohibit bad behavior rather than to require good behavior. But the law doesn’t concern me as much as the underlying faith issue.

Should Christians bake cakes for people whose lifestyle they disagree with? Kevin Deyoung asks that very question and suggests the answer is no, because to do so would be to compromise with a sinful culture.

Let me explain why I disagree.

What do you know about Joseph, the guy who wanted to divorce Mary quietly? Do you remember what his job was?

Joseph was a carpenter, according to Matthew, and, according to Mark, so was Jesus. The Greek word used in both places is tekton, which refers to craftsman who made things of wood. (Mark Driscoll says that Joseph and Jesus “worked construction,” which is a pretty good way to get the point across.)

What else, besides houses and cabinets, is made out of wood? Hint: Jesus died on one. They had three crosses on Golgotha that day.

Nothing in the Bible says so, but it’s not inconceivable that Joseph did the rough work necessary to fashion the beams used by the Romans to crucify people.

According to Matthew, Jesus’ family fled to Egypt during the reign of Herod the Great, and returned to Nazareth after he died. Not long after Herod died, someone named Judas the Galilean led a revolt that was centered around Sepphoris, the Roman capital of Galilee, about four miles from Nazareth. The Romans crushed the rebellion, burnt Sepphoris to the ground, and crucified 2000 participants. (See James Tabor’s summary or go look at Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 17, Chapter 10, and The Jewish Wars, Book 2, Chapter 5.)

The Romans needed 2,000 crosses. Where did they get them? Probably not by shipping them from Rome! More likely, they bought (or simply commandeered them) them from the nearby villages. If the Holy Family was back in Nazareth by then, it’s not at all unlikely that Joseph worked on some of those crosses.

If Joseph did work on crosses — and remember, this is speculative — he probably found it repugnant. As a Jew, he wouldn’t have liked the Romans: not their culture, their religion, or their occupation of his country. And nobody approved of crucifixion — which was the point of using it.

As someone with reason to think a lot about God’s purposes in the world, Joseph’s theology would have informed his opinions. But if the Romans told him to make crosses for them, Joseph would have had to do so, unless he wanted to wind up on one himself. And if Joseph didn’t get caught up working on this project, others in his trade — siblings or cousins, perhaps — certainly would have been.

That wasn’t the last time the Romans crucified anyone in Galilee, either. It’s no great stretch of the imagination to think that Joseph (and possibly even Jesus) worked on crossbeams from time to time, long after that revolt was crushed.

Is this all too speculative? Then consider Colossians 3:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.

Why did the writer say that? (Ephesians 6 is essentially the same.) He wrote it because slaves don’t get to choose what they do and don’t do. Slaves have to obey their masters, and if they refuse, they’re punished. The only alternative available to a slave is passive-aggression: they can obey unctuously when their master’s paying attention, and then spit in the soup when he’s not looking. But that’s ruled out by the New Testament. Instead, slaves are told to do just as good a job even for a cruel master as they would do for Jesus himself.

What particular things do you suppose the writers of the New Testament letters were thinking about when they gave that instruction? There’s no telling. But it was probably something you wouldn’t want to do. It was probably something you’d find objectionable.

You don’t have to like this. Maybe you think the Bible ought to have told slaves to rise up in rebellion and throw off their chains. Fine. But it doesn’t. Other books say different, but the New Testament tells slaves to do what they’re told. (To be sure, masters are told their slaves have been freed and slaves are their brothers.)

Christians have always had to do things they didn’t approve of. So why should a Christian baker or photographer be exempt from the reality that applied to carpenters like Joseph, if not to Joseph himself? Why should Christians today be exempt from the reality that certainly applied to the slaves who may have been a majority in the early church?

So my counsel would be to go ahead and take photos at the gay mens’ wedding. Bake a wedding cake for the lesbian couple. Or, rather, bake it for the Lord, like you do everything. Then, when the lesbians have their wedding, they’ll say, “I don’t agree with Christians, but all the best bakers are Christians. They have superior products and deliver superb value. I wonder why they do that?”

I’ll close with this clip of Jim Burgen talking about this same topic but widening it not just to commercial transactions but to every interaction:

(Cross-posted from Pastor Luke’s other blog. Update: fixed some grammar.)

Songs for January 26

Gathering Music:

1st Hymn: I Sing a Song of the Saints of God, blue Presbyterian Hymnal # 364. (Another version.)

Response to Forgiveness:
He Has Made Me Glad, black UM Faith We Sing #2270

Children:
Until Jesus Comes, green UM Worship and Song #3050. (No video found!)

Special Music:
Two Fishermen, black UM Faith We Sing #2101

2nd Hymn:
Here I Am, Lord, blue Presbyterian Hymnal #525. (Another version.)

Sending Song:
Will You Come and Follow Me, black UM Faith We Sing #2130

Songs for January 19

Gathering Music:

1st Hymn:
Christ is Made the Sure Foundation, blue Presbyterian Hymnal #416

Resp to Forgiveness:
He Has Made Me Glad, black UM Faith We Sing #2270

Children’s Time: Until Jesus Comes, green UM Worship and Song #3050. I couldn’t find this online. Sorry!

Special Music:
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

2nd Hymn: Lord, Speak to Me That I May Speak, blue Presbyterian Hymnal #426

Sending Song: Song of Hope (Canto de Esperanza), blue Presbyterian Hymnal #432

Songs for January 12

Gathering Music:

1st Hymn:
In Christ There is No East or West, blue Presbyterian Hymnal #440

Resp to Forgiveness:
He Has Made Me Glad, black UM Faith We Sing #2270

Children’s Time: Until Jesus Comes, green UM Worship and Song #3050. I couldn’t find this online. Sorry!

Special Music:
Wade In the Water, black UM Faith We Sing #2107

2nd Hymn: Spirit of the Living God, blue Presbyterian Hymnal #322

Sending Song: We Are Marching in the Light of God, black UM Faith We Sing #2235b

Songs for December 22

Cracks in the Advent ice this week, with Christmas songs starting to dominate the mix:

Gathering Music:

1st Hymn: O Come All Ye Faithful,
Presbyterian Hymnal (blue) # 41. (We don’t have an organ, so our treatment might sound more like this version by Casting Crowns.)

Response to Forgiveness: Good Christian Friends, Rejoice, Presbyterian Hymnal (blue) # 28 v. 3

Children’s Time: Until Jesus Comes, UM Worship and Song (green) #3050. I couldn’t find this online. Sorry!

Choir: Emmanuel, Chris Tomlin

2nd Hymn: God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen, UM Worship and Song (green) #3052

Offertory Response: Good Christian Friends, Rejoice, Presbyterian Hymnal (blue) # 28 v. 2

Sending song:
Jingle Bells

Fancy Church Buildings

I’m preaching a message on Haggai 2:1-9 inspired by the phrase “Desire of Nations” found in the advent song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

The point of the passage is that the Second Temple that Ezra was building didn’t look very impressive to anybody who could remember the first one built by Solomon four centuries earlier.

Haggai was writing about 520 BC, so there’s nobody today who remember’s Solomon’s Temple. Apart from what the Bible says, we do know a little bit about the Second Temple from the Arch of Titus in Rome that celebrates its destruction in AD 70. Clearly, they used menorahs:

Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus



(Click on a picture to see it enlarged).

What might Solomon’s Temple have looked like? From the text of Haggai, it seems to have had a lot of silver and gold decoration. How much? We can look at some churches built in the past for a clue.

Here’s the altar of the St. Peter’s Cathedral in Worms, Germany:

Cathedral of St. Peter

Cathedral of St. Peter


Apart from its altar, St. Peter’s really a pretty austere place, as Gothic Cathedrals go. But it’s decorated with some seriously weird art. For example, what’s with this guy?

Death? or Resurrection?


Of course, Germany’s no patch on Italy. Here’s the church of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs in Rome, across the street from the train station:

Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs

Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs


(For some scale, the guy tying his shoe in the second picture is leaning on the wall located about 4 o’clock across the floor from those two people in the foreground of the first picture.)

But that’s just a church in Rome. What about the Vatican itself? Here are some pictures from the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica:

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica


There’s a statue on your right when you enter the building:

Michelangelo's Pieta


But even the Vatican isn’t fancy, compared to the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Valetta, Malta.

Co-Cathedral of St. John

Co-Cathedral of St. John


The only problem is it needs more gold leaf, don’t you think?

More gold leaf? Coming up:

Co-Cathedral of St. John

Co-Cathedral of St. John



“I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more gold leaf.”

Beside gold leaf, they also used a lot of Maltese Crosses in their decorating.

Maltese Cross

Maltese Cross


But it’s not just gold leaf and Maltese Crosses. There’s also a lot of marble. The only problem? They use it to make skulls and skeletons:

Skeleton in Marble

Skull-Themed Art


(Cross-posted from Pastor Luke’s Mess of Pottage blog.)