A Faith more than 'Love Jesus and Try Harder'

Bishop Martyn Minns

We welcomed Bishop Martyn Minns to Redeemer on Pentecost Sunday. +Martyn was the founding missionary bishop of CANA until his retirement in 2014 (he was succeeded by +Julian). Prior to becoming a bishop, he served as the rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, VA. 

+Martyn was born in Nottingham, England, and prior to his theological training in the US, graduated with degrees in mathematics and statistics from the University of Birmingham in England, and served as an executive with the Mobil Corporation in NYC. 

+Martyn and Angela have five children and a bunch of grandchildren.

Pretty Much Ignored

Everyone knows Christmas and Easter are integral to the Christian faith. But what about The Ascension? Is it integral as well? And if so, why is it pretty much ignored? Maybe because it always falls on a Thursday...forty days after the Resurrection, and ten days before Pentecost. Maybe we just don’t understand its significance. Yesterday was The Feast of the Ascension. Did you know?

But have you ever wondered why Jesus said in John 16:7 that it was better for us that he go away?

It’s because The Ascension has profound implications for the Church as a whole, for you, and for Monday mornings.

It’s too good to be ignored.

Darah’s question

“Mr. Pfenson, can I ask you a question?”  She was sitting in the front row.  I steel myself for what’s coming, because you really never know where that question leads...

I am the true vine

Robert Burns is the head Protestant Chaplain at the United States Naval Academy and a dear friend of Redeemer. We were thrilled that he would come and preach to us.

Good Shepherd

Dave Bena, Assisting Bishop in CANA East preached and led our worship on this day for our confirmations.

Both/And

In a culture that seems to be growing increasingly ideological, “both/and” is something you’re hearing less and less. We’re increasingly attuned to “either/or”: Democrat or Republican. Environment or Economy. Conservative or Progressive. Paper or Plastic (I know, this last one’s not truly ideological, but I really prefer paper even though I feel guilty about it).

The Church, because it’s full of human beings, isn’t immune from an either/or way of seeing things in its orientation to worship. It’s often expressed as Word or Sacrament.

But Jesus, on the evening of the first day of the week in Emmaus practices both/and.

In fact, it’s how he’s known.

Peace. Receive. Go.

Jesus said 'unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit' (John 12:24). What does he mean?

Jesus went to his own death with the certainty that through his suffering and resurrection the whole world would be blessed. Sounds great but what does it mean? We will hear on Sunday how he appeared to his Disciples when they were afraid, and sent them to do the impossible.

Much fruit has come from Christ's resurrection. You're probably already living it.

Meaningful or Meaningless?

Read the following paragraph at normal speed. Don’t skim or give up halfway through.

A newspaper is better than a magazine. A seashore is a better place than the street. At first it’s better to run than to walk. You may have to try several times. It takes some skill, but it’s easy to learn. Once successful, complications are minimal. Even young children can enjoy it. Birds seldom get too close. Rain, however, soaks in very fast. Too many people doing the same thing can also cause problems. One needs lots of room. If there are no complications, it can be very peaceful. A rock will serve as an anchor. If it breaks loose, however, you will not get a second chance.

Now, ask yourself: Is this paragraph meaningful or meaningless?

Harbinger

Holy Week begins this Sunday with Palm Sunday, also called The Sunday of the Passion. From triumph to death—from Sunday to Friday—it clearly signals what lies in the week ahead.

There is, however, another harbinger lying just beneath the surface in this week’s lectionary.

A short and beautiful hymn, quoted by St. Paul, signals why Jesus did what he did on Thursday...and why we’ll do what we do.

Merch in Church

The church where I grew up regularly hosted visiting musical groups. They’d always have their LPs (yes, LPs) and other stuff—their “merch”—to sell, but at our church they weren’t allowed to do this. At least not in the foyer where most people entered.

The rationale came from John 2:13-22 when Jesus cleansed the temple. Jesus clearly didn’t like it when folks hawked their wares around the temple, and therefore we shouldn’t sell stuff around the sanctuary.

To be sure, the place of worship in first-century Israel and the auditorium of a conservative Baptist church in Southern California don’t exactly correspond, but true to Jesus’s words, my church didn’t want the place of worship to be co-opted as a place of commerce. And that much is right.

But is merch in church really the heart of the issue...or is it something more invisible and insidious? 

Cardinal Point

There are cardinal numbers, cardinal directions, cardinal virtues, and Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. None of which have anything to do with either the bird or the color.

Cardinal is the Latin word for hinge, like a door or a gate turns on.

This week’s Gospel describes a cardinal point in the ministry of Jesus.

From Peter’s perspective, in one brief moment the whole thing takes a turn. And not for the better. 

WWJD vs. WDJD

“WWJD”, wrote Dallas Willard, “is speculative; whereas WDJD is substantive.”

WWJD explains a lot about why most in the modern Western church preferred roses rather than ashes Wednesday.

WDJD, however, explains a lot about why Lent matters.

Patterns versus Particulars

Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of Mark begins with an invitation.

What follows immediately are three short stories I believe Mark presents as a model of the big “G” Gospel. Together, they offer a beautiful and vast invitation to the kingdom.

It’s when we read them together, rather than dissecting them into minute particulars as we so often do, that a pattern emerges...and that ought to grab our attention, because patterns tell a bigger story than particulars.

And living faithfully in today’s world—even the mundane parts—requires a bigger story.

I Like Being Right

There I said it. It gives me great pleasure to be correct and point out the errors of others. Within the household of faith this is especially enjoyable because if the other person is proven wrong and I was correct, then I have surely saved their soul.

The Lectionary this week collides with my proud heart like the arms of a mother scooping up her children before they run into speeding traffic. I might cry about it but one day I'll understand how right she was.

As we will pray in the Collect "...in our time grant us to be right about everything..."

No. In our time grant us your peace.

One Word

What do work, worship, service, ministry, and the arts all have in common? One word.

Habitual Furniture

C. S. Lewis wrote, “The matter of our story should be part of the habitual furniture of our minds.”

The big stories situate us, and they must be told and retold till they become like the familiar furniture in our home; even in the dark, we can know precisely where we are.

As we look at the year ahead and the everyday work God has given us, we’re going to look again at the big story…the four-chapter story that reminds us, in the dark, where we are.

Minor Characters - Genesis 1:1-5, Mark 1:4-11

As theologian Sam Wells says, discipleship is about learning to be a minor character in someone else’s story.  What strikes us about the beginning of Mark’s gospel is that this was part of Jesus’ own journey in life as well.  Why did he need to be baptized?

Worth Living - John 1:1-18

Our Advent readings were stirring and strange and frightening. God is coming to earth! What could that mean for a people so weak and sinful and defeated? How could we bear it?

Yet God chose to come as a child. Judgement and justice begin to look very different when there is a baby in a crib. Surely he came to change the world and rescue people from their misery, but how this happens is not with pronouncements from flaming mountains.

No, he became flesh and dwelt among us.