Ponderings on Sharing the Peace

Its interesting to ponder the sharing of the peace, especially so as to how it is practiced, or not practiced across a multitude of churches. Near as I can tell, its origin of the practice spun out of the need to make oneself right with others prior to eating the bread and drinking the cup. Ie one was to seek out those who they had wronged and make amends during this time slot in reference to 1 Cor 11. Alas, over the centuries the practice and meaning of the practice has changed…

I remember my doc years ago telling me how much he disliked sharing the peace, as in his opinion, hand to hand contact followed shortly thereafter by communion was just asking for trouble from an infectious disease perspective. I think of a friend of mine who was in the last stage of cancer, who couldn’t shake hands as he was undergoing chemo. I’m not so sure how loving ones neighbor plays out in this, especially across a diverse congregation where its likely not prudent for everyone to engage the same way. Tradition / peer pressure conformity is a powerful thing to go up against, no matter how wise individual approaches might be.

That being said, I have come across some fascinating approaches to sharing the peace. In some churches, it is done with a wave of the hand, or a nod of the head, thus precluding any human contact. In one church, vials of hand sanitizer were present in every pew next to the Bibles and were diligently used by everyone. While hand sanitizer is not 100%, its a whole lot better than doing nothing.

And yet in some churches, sharing the peace ends up being a massive hugfest, which in todays climate due to things like #metoo and #churchtoo is thankfully becoming less and less prevalent… to say nothing of being off putting to visitors, or perhaps offputting to visitors not of the same mindset.

And yet for some, the human connectedness of a handshake or hug is a huge deal and helps them connect with the congregation at large. I think of my late wife, and how she’d have me roll her ambulance gurney from one side of the aisle to the other for her to shake hands with folks in the pews. The little kids thought it was pretty awesome, as well as some of the seniors. For her, despite being immuno compromised, the connectedness was of much greater importance than was the risk of contracting another’s illness. And yet for others, like my friend who passed away a while back, the mutual hand wave was more than enough.

When theological constructs run afoul

I heard an interesting one today, namely that the Gentiles who do not have the law in Romans 2:14 actually were Christians. Apparently said individual held to a very strong form of exclusivism, such that even a plain text read of Romans 2:12-16 had to be tweaked in order for the theological construct of exclusivism to not be infringed.

For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

I’ve seen the similar things spin out amongst those who hold to forms of OSAS (once saved always saved) when they encounter a previously on fire hard core Christian who now no longer is. I think of atheist Bruce Gerencser, whose fruits of the spirit as a pastor were probably brighter than most every Christian I’ve met over the years… and because some hold to OSAS, their only recourse is to say Bruce was never a Christian in the first place. Granted, its impossible to truly judge anothers heart… but how an individual lives can serve as a pretty good indicator. Bottom line, I’m certain he was a Christian, and he will tell you with great certainty, he no longer is today… and I think some of the OSAS camp find that to be a really scary deal.

This is not to say that theological constructs are necessarily a bad thing. I think they can be helpful tools along the path of faith… but like many tools, they are not universal, and realistically, at some point in time they likely should be examined in depth. Perhaps to the point of deconstruction and reconstruction for some, perhaps especially so for those who wish to teach.

I think of the year I spent dissecting the Nicene Creed, to say nothing of digging deep into the filioque controversy. At the end, my beliefs did not change, but I had a greater appreciation for the Orthodox faith, and I also had an element of understanding as to why things were the way they were… and also why some would take issue with this or that.

Bottom line, faith and mystery are quite conjoined… when mystery is removed, and faith is bent to fill a need for certainty, sooner or later trouble is likely to be found.

Vomiting in Church

Being that I misread the RCL Lectionary for this Sunday and pondered about Ephesians 5:10-15 instead of 5:15-20… I got hyperfocused on Ephesians 5:11-12 as while 12 passes the common sense test, it seems totally out of whack with the rest of the chapter.

Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.

Now, taken literally, verse 12 easily leads one to think we ought not to talk very explicitly about the evil perpetrated by some. From a common sense point of view, we’ve all said, egads, I didn’t need to see this, or I didn’t need to hear this, or from a biological point of view, I really didn’t need to smell this. One of the things I see cycling through the news cycle is the horrors of sexual abuse and the church… and some are saying illuminating evil is just too hard, its too scandalous, they don’t want to hear it… so just say evil was done in the church and let it lie at that. I even heard someone quoting James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

I think such folks are totally missing the point. When evil is left in partial darkness or so sugarcoated to limit its impact, it will often continue, perhaps not in the same form, but when not fully illuminated, festering is a possibility.

I think there are some parallels with folks experiences during WWII. I remember a WWII vet telling me about stacking up dead bodies like cordwood. He told of his experiences with tears in his eyes. Another WWII vet friend got shot down over Germany and said he saw so much horror, it took years before he could leave the bottle alone. These men experienced the horrors of evil up front and personal and carried it the rest of their lives. They would not try to sugar coat it or limit the lights illumination, as it was more important to them that such horrors not happen again.

Granted no one wants to see sensitive folks vomiting in church, or having nightmares, so there needs to be some level of language discretion, but it should never go so far as to leave things in secret, or through vagueness reduce the impact of such when it comes to prevention.

Related to this is that not everyone is going to have a voice, some folks will be unable to speak and thats ok, as even a little light from others can go a very long way. Consider a handful of victims at Willow Creek which has now grown multifold due to the light they shone. Consider the findings of ~20 person grand jury in PA, whose actions have lit up the phones with even more victims calling in. Contrast this with the scandals of fifteen years ago, or the hidden nature of evil within small independent churches…. when illumination is covered over by well meaning folks so as to protect the church from scandal and/or folks constitutions.

I think Eph 5:12 is probably telling us how bad the evils were, ie that they are so evil, it is disgraceful to speak of them… and despite this, it is even more critical that they be fully illuminated and therefore exposed.

Do It Now Ephesians 5:16

In my first semester as an undergrad, I had a professor similar to Professor Kingsfield in the TV series Paperchase. You had to be prepared, you had to have your wits about you, and you had to be confident in your answers. If you blew it due to a minor mistake… he’d go off on a rant about his class being idiots, and would then give everyone more homework, or would decide it was quiz time right then and there. If you weren’t prepared, he’d chew you out, and then ask you to leave and only come back when you were caught up and prepared to learn.

He seemed to have a belief that the entire class should bare some level of responsibility for the errors and actions of its individual members. Part of that comes out of the socratic method… ie if a given student is not prepared to engage, the whole class suffers from their lack of participation. Another part of it was real life, as in the business world, a bad employee can required 3-5 more employees fix the problems created by the bad employee, do said employees work, plus do their own as well.

Granted, his class had pretty high attrition rates as a fair number of students couldn’t handle the stress levels. In today’s world, such an approach would be considered highly abusive. You’d have helicopter parents hovering all over the place, he’d have complaints, on ratemyprofessor.com, and he likely would have never gotten tenure. Then again, he was part of the greatest generation, he fought in WWII and had risen from Private to the rank of Major, he’d taught for decades, he knew a lot not only about the subject material, he knew a lot about life.

The amazing thing is, that despite the pressure cooker aspects of that class, the life skill taught have long exceeded the usefulness of the course content itself.

One of those skills was time management which often came across as:

DO IT NOW if you don’t do it now, its probably not going to get done…

The big quesion with this of course is do what now? And in the case of the professors class, it was pounding through the hard to understand material, he was very clear as to what he was referring to with his DO IT NOWs.

And just as he was clear, I think Paul was pretty clear too wrt to DO IT NOW in his letter to the Ephesians.

Eph 5:15-17
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Youthful lusts, Its really not about sex

I came across 2 Timothy 2:22 in my previous writings on temptation, and wondered what Paul was talking about when he brings up youthful lusts. As such, I pulled up Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown to see what they had to say.

There are many lusts from which our greatest safety is in flight (Ge 39:12). Avoid occasions of sin. From the abstemious character of Timothy (1Ti 5:23) it is likely that not animal indulgences, but the impetuosity, rash self-confidence, hastiness, strife, and vainglory of young men (1 John 2:14-16), are what he is here warned against: though the Spirit probably intended the warning to include both in its application to the Church in general.

Which then prompted a further study on the matter. Like a lot of things contest is key… this verse is in the midst of a lot of context, none of which, even when pulled and stretched seems to connect with sexual morality, or as the commentators state animal indulgences.

It seems to be reasonably clear this section of scripture is about dysfunctions related to youthful exhuberance. Ie, jumping the gun, trying to teach before one is ready, or has earned the right to do so, being overconfident, or focusing on appearance rather than substance. Paul Penley seems to knock this out of the ballpark with his The “lust” all young people have, and how we missed it do to bad Bible interpretation. As an older guy looking back at his younger days, his post seems spot on.

Fortunately there were some exceedingly patient oldsters who pulled me aside and said hey, think about this. Had they not stepped up, I might well have become one of those Bible bashers, the ones who angrily say, the scripture clearly says…. except that the Greek to English translation is a whole lot more grey than black and white so say nothing about the bit where we see things dimly, even apart from translation issues.

Consider the ramifications of 1 Timothy 1:6 with respect to youthful lusts. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

Even beyond warning against such, 1 Tim 2:22 is also a very clear warning against lone rangering (to go it alone), rather than to study and practice Christianity in community. I think of the extreme out there conspiracy theories and strange theology types I used to run across when I co-led CF. Such folks often believe they have the absolute truth, and only theirs is the correct path even though, in most cases, such is a repeat of failed ancient beliefs or practices… Its as if the promoters of such never studied history, or perhaps worse, never had a person call them aside to say hey, you know XYZW taught something like that way back when and it didn’t work out too well.

I’ve seen related issues of overconfidence and lone-rangering play out in some deliverence ministries, where in folks get in very far over their head and get really jammed up. Its not just missing medical or psychological issues either, deliverence much less major exorcisms are nothing for the unprepared to mess around with . I even had a pastor friend who despite decades of education and experience in said arena ended up in a whole lot of hurt.

A unique aspect of studying and practice in community is challenge and engagement with failure. As a young long ranger, its pretty easy to coast along, and not get tested a whole lot. However when studying and practicing in community, ideas will get poked at prodded at. In such a model, errant theology is more likely to fall by the wayside, or at minimum, ideas will be highly scrutinized. Another aspect of study and practire in community is that its usually broken community. The temptation to power trip, to quarrel, or even to throw selected words of Jesus under the bus is a clear and present danger #churchtoo for example… but such is also where community can pick itself up and dust itself and its members off. Granted, there is a fair bit of idealism in that statement. Some communities can and do shred their must vulnerable members.

1 Cor 6:10 not popular on Christian Radio

So I’m listening to Christian Radio on the way back Friday night, and there is some radio preacher hyper focused on sexuality in 1 Cor 6:9… so much so, that the latter parts of 1 Cor 6:10 were practically obliterated from his sermon. I get the point, the last thing he needs to do is divert his audience attention. Then again, its also not telling the whle truth… and considering Jesus talked about greed a whole lot more than he talked about sex, its crazy making. Sure, no one wants to think they are coveting, thieving, or extortionist individuals, but when the majority of the world lives on under $5/day, and in the US, such is what many spend on coffee… it makes one wonder.

Granted, its not just coffee, its our economic system. Each quarter needs to have better performance from the prior one to keep investors happy. And said investors aree not just the wealthy wall street types and venture capitalists, its folks with 401K’s and retirement accounts too, its most everyone in some capacity.

In companies which operate under forms of pay for performance compensation, its even the individual worker. As a business consultant years ago, I’d walk into an outfit and get the lay of the land so to speak… and if there was pay for performance systems going on, you can bet there were all sorts of games put in place to jimmy it, or in less political correct terms, steal it. And perhaps while not truly a criminal matter, things like keeping dual sets of books, bypassing automated systems, or plain and simple accounting games to make one look good at the exception of others are forms of stealing. And while one may think, hey its fine, its the way business has always been run…

Does anyone have any outrage over the following:

  • Consider teachers who either inflated test scores, or shared the answers to standardized tests with their students to make more money.
  • Consider VA employees who played accounting games with the system to make vets time to be seen numbers look really good, even if said vets were actually hung out to dry.
  • Consider the VW employees who played games with their test methods / results, in order to get their cars accepted into the US.
  • Consider Federal Pacific employees who faked UL safety testing and records to sell their electrical panels, which then burst into flames.

My guess is most folks will take issue with the above in one way or another… but if there much difference between the above folks and those who:

  • Keep a double set of books, one to provide on-demand, and one which reflects the truth? It’s not just those out to play a fast one with their taxes, consider today’s electronic trucking logs which prevent truckers from tweaking their driving time. When the electronic logs became mandatory, the outrage was incredible, truckers said they couldn’t make money, shippers said its going to cost them more, and deliveries were going to take longer, and the above has all come to pass. Pretty much most of the industry was faking logs to get by…
  • Bypass automation, by using pen and paper such that information can be tweaked to look good and make goals before being entered into the computer, even if its not really a true picture of what is going on.
  • Justify the theft of intellectual property, as its too hard or too expensive for a small church to comply it’sh the law. After all, they are using the music, print, or video to accomplish the work of God.

Such is why I tend to think 1 Cor 10 ends up being one of those hard verses to engage with. It’s everywhere, even if its not an overt thing… and the mindset that it’s not ok is a dangerous thing.

  • It can drive an audience away, and when an audience leaves, so goes one’s revenue stream, whether a pastor of a church or a Christian radio preacher. It’s easy to preach against forms of sexual immorality, as folks engaged in such will self-select out of specific churches and media audiences. Such is why it’s much easier to preach against teenage premarital sex than it is to preach against adultery in the church.
  • A culture of subtle theft and greed is seemingly impossible to change, as the economic upheaval to do something different is beyond the pale.
  • Scripture doesn’t return void. And when scripture returns, collective consciousness gets poked at, and eventually light ends up shining in places which are dangerous to the life of organizations, which include Christian radio and churches.

Lead us not into temptation, what gives with that?

In James, it says God doesn’t tempt man.

And yet, we also have the Lord’s prayer directly from Jesus where he directs us to pray “lead us not into temptation”

In a related vein, we have the spirit leading Jesus up to be tempted in Matthew 4.

We also have Paul stating that God will not allow us to be tempted more than we can withstand in 1 Cor 10:13

We also have the book of Job where God allows Satan to nearly destroy him.

Is this one of those hard questions that might be left as something to be glossed over rather than one to be dug into? Many fear going in depth on this, as it is a hard thing to ponder. It’s perhaps all too easy to say its an issue of the precision of language. Ie, God doesn’t tempt us, he allows us to be tempted. Such an approach leaves us an out, and perhaps we should just take the bit about God not truly tempting us on a matter of faith. Ie, God is good, God would not tempt us… and we must not question God’s goodness or his sovereignty.

But, it sticks in my craw.

What is the ultimate difference between God doing the tempting vs God allowing the tempting. It still happens, and ultimately is not God responsible, even if he doesn’t do the actual tempting? It seems like the gamesmanship a lawyer or politician would try to use to pull a fast one. How does that square if God is truly good as the scriptures say he is? How are we to square this with the Jesus words about millstones and causing a little one to stumble? Is allowing Satan to do so vs doing it Himself really that much of an out?

I believe there are some times and places for leaving hard issues like this as a matter of faith… but I don’t believe such applies here. Rather, I think their might be a path to navigate through it, albeit the below is just my opinion


I believe God does lead us to temptation as a means of testing and growth, but we must also remember that Satan can just do it (1 Peter 5:8) and (Ephesians 6:11-12), plus I think we might seek out temptation all on our own. The later is I believe what Paul is referring to in when he tells us to flee from idolatry in 1 Cor 10:14, flee from the temptation of riches in 1 Timothy 6, flee from youthful lusts in 1 Timothy 2:22, and flee from sexual temptations such as prostitution and adultery in 1 Cor 6:18

And for other matters, God gives us to the tools to overcome temptation via 1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

The way of escape looks to be a couple things, standing firm on the one hand and pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness on the other.

Ephesians 6:15 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

1 Tim 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

It would do no good for God to keep us in bubblewrap, leaving us to our own devices to eventually wiggle out of it on our own, only to be swept up in evil as we have never exercised, or perhaps even been aware of the tools God gave us.

We grow when we learn how to overcome temptation as Peter talks about in 1 Peter 5:9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

The loss of Christian consciousness in the US, is it public schools?

Periodically, I see the following meme circulating around on facebook, or something like it as quite a number of folks are detecting things are amiss.

school lamb

Being it was a battle between Christians that brought about state supreme court rulings keeping the scriptures out of schools, I’m not sure how having the govt taking care of Jesus words in Matthew 28 (making disciples / teaching them to pray) would play out across a diverse body of Christ.

Beyond that, I find it especially interesting, that the pivotal state supreme court ruling which removed the scriptures from the public school (which has been referenced a whole multitude of times in faith and school legal proceedings over the last 100+ years) included the following from one of the judges.

The priceless truths of the Bible are best taught to our youth in the church, the Sabbath and parochial schools, the social religious meetings, and,
above all, by parents in the home circle. There, these truths may be explained and enforced, the spiritual welfare of the child guarded and protected, and his spiritual nature directed and cultivated, in accordance with the dictates of the parental conscience. The Constitution does not interfere with such teaching and culture. It only banishes theological polemics from the district schools.

And yet, many persist in blaming public schools for societies ills… I just saw this one today.


Out of the 15,000 secular hours, which appears is on the high side of things for most states (6.5 hours a day, for 180 days a year, for 12 years), how much of it truly is ungodly? I mean, math, art, English, history, science etc are neither Godly or ungodly, they are mere tools to prepare the young to go out in the world. Perhaps even more so, the focus on critical thinking in many of the common core standards is exceedingly beneficial in an individuals faith walk… albeit perhaps less so in a pastor-centric theology as contrasted with a Biblical one.

Granted, for those who ascribe to a young earth view, the teaching of evolution will be problematic, but that is is only a very small part of the 15,000 hours, perhaps 300-400 hours tops in general science and biology classes.

And for those who feel anything other than abstinence-only sex ed is ungodly, less than 20 hours on average are devoted to sex ed over the entire K12 curricula.

Literature can be an area of concern for some Christians, but again, we’re talking about a relatively small percentage of hours, as controversial literature generally doesn’t show up until the later years. As such, I’d estimate this at 200-300 hours tops.

Bottom line, out of 15,000 hours of secular education, there is at best 750 hours of instruction where some Christians might consider such ungodly.

During that same 12 year interval, said students will be exposed to 30 plus weeks of Sunday school at one hour a week for 360 hours of instruction. 52 hours per year of Sunday services which equates to 624 hours, plus if the parents are committed to Christian ed at home to the tune of 2 hours a week, another 1200 hours of home study.

Now, if said students are only coloring pictures of Noah’s ark, or in later years just watching videos in Sunday school, then yes they are sort of doomed before they start…. but that is the fault of the church, not the public school.

The only area where public schools and Christianity seriously run into one another is in the arena of extracurricular scheduling and the loss of Christian privilege. It used to be that Wednesday or Thursday was a designated church night, and schools would avoid stepping on the churches toes. Today, in many locations, kids programs run every day of the week, including Sunday during worship time. I often remember seeing the soccer fields jammed to capacity on my travels from church to church on Sunday morning… but parents can drive school schedules if they desire, or they can place Sunday church as a higher priority than soccer, or they can engage with worship on Saturday, or some other day as well.


The lost of Christian Consciousness in the US

Christian morality has been a driver of public policy since the days of Constantine, but I think somehow we are loosing collective Christian consciousness. Granted, history is filled with Christianity doing crash and burns… but I tend to think as Shaun Grove stated, something has changed.

A friend of mine with Mennonite roots was pondering along that line of thinking a while back too. He suggests that the last 2 generations of Christians have presented worldviews where:

Forgiveness is replaced by Vengeance

Peace is replaced with anger.

Love is replaced with mean-spiritedness

Faith is replaced with Fear

I’ve observed the same, and I’ve also noticed situations where folks talk about Judeo Christian values, except that when queried, said values often reflect recent traditions of men or pop psychology, rather than the words of Jesus. I think about the sentiments expressed in a couple recently anti-beatitude songs by U2 .

Blessed are the arrogant,
For theirs is the kingdom of their own company.
Blessed are the superstars,
For the magnificence in their light
We understand better our own insignificance.
Blessed are the filthy rich,
For you can only truly own what you give away,
Like your pain.
Blessed are the bullies,
For one day they will have to stand up to themselves.
Blessed are the liars,
For the truth can be awkward.

As I stated earlier, history is filled with Christianity going off the rails. As little as 50 years ago, Christians took over zoning boards in many US cities and played the discrimination game with housing, intentionally excluding Jews, Muslims, and those of other faiths, or of no faith, to say nothing of matters of class and race. Going back further, consider how Christians have treated native Americans over the years, words in the treaties were rarely worth the paper they were printed on. If we roll back to the time of the Puritans, its almost a replay of the parable of the forgiven debtor. The Puritans left England to pursue religious freedom, only to turn around upon arrival here to persecute the Quakers. And it’s not just an American thing, Calvin had Servais killed, the Catholic church had the crusades… pretty much, if there was a moral high ground held out in the scriptures, Christians throughout the centuries downplayed it in the pursuit of other things.

In today’s world, the words of Jesus about greed and coveting are truly hard to hear as they impact most everyone, as contrasted with ear-tickling morality that rarely rings explicitly personal. As Pastor Shane Holden of First Free says, the Bible mentions greed and caring for the poor many thousands of times, and yet Christianity is not known for its preaching against greed and covetousness. Add in the folks on radio and tv avoiding the same, and is it any wonder that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus gets buried in the noise, to say nothing about Jesus words about lovings one’s neighbor.

And yet despite the moral failings of Christians, a form of Christian consciousness has always streamed from the pulpit, albeit not without difficulty. I remember a pastor friend told me about preaching about the rich young ruler… with the result that 2-3 wealthy families including a congressman left his church never to return. Another pastor friend of mine got chewed out for being too political when he brought up Matthew 25 in his sermon.

Consider the atheist Bertam Russels words about Ghandi.

“It is doubtful that the efforts of the Mahatma would have succeeded except that he was appealing to the conscience of a Christianized people”

His approach of non-violence ran smack into Christian consciousness… had it not, he likely would have been killed and the status quo would have remained.

But where is this Christian consciousness in today’s world? If its presence is iffy now, will it exist in the future? Consider generation Z and their views of Christianity — from a Barna survey.

For Gen Z, “atheist” is no longer a dirty word: The percentage of teens who identify as such is double that of the general population (13% vs. 6% of all adults). The proportion that identifies as Christian likewise drops from generation to generation.

More than half of Gen Z says church involvement is either “not too” (27%) or “not at all” important (27%). Only one in five says attending church is “very important” to them (20%), the least popular of the four options.