A sermon preached by the Rev. Beth Maynard on the Last Sunday after Pentecost ("Christ the King")
This fall over four sessions in Adult Forum, we’ve been looking together at what goes into vibrant church life. I’ve done some teaching on four areas of Christian life that all need to be functioning well, and functioning such that they are integrated, in order for a church to be a healthy manifestation of the Body of Christ for its own place and time. And then I’ve been hearing from parishioners about their own experience of all four.
The four areas we’ve talked about are Community, Formation, Worship, and Mission. We looked at Biblical and theological foundations in each of those four areas, studying key passages of Scripture and considering quotes from a few writers. And in each area we also talked about what happens when churches skip the process of fostering these four building blocks of Christian life and instead substitute things that seem similar but have different results. ...
A sermon preached by the Rev. Beth Maynard
If you ever take a trip to Europe which includes visiting the area around the Dordogne River, as Mark and I did about 5 years ago, you will have the pleasure of seeing a whole series of castles. They’re sort of lined up, up on the cliffs, on opposite sides of the river, eyeing one another warily – or at least, remembering the time centuries back when they had to eye one another warily. What they’re looking at more often now are hordes of tourists.
We avoided the hordes by going in October, but we still wanted to see the countryside. One morning we were awake early and we decided to try and get in a visit to at least the exterior of one of the castles, Chateau Beynac, before doing our main plan for the day. So we drove to the chateau.
Or at least we drove to where it was reputed to be, because the autumn morning mist was so thick we could barely even see the signage. We operated on guesswork to make our way around the back of the village and up the cliff, and we came upon a parking lot, which seemed to be a good sign, but nobody was there, all the gates were closed, and there was no chateau to be seen. ...
A sermon preached by the Rev. Beth Maynard on All Saints Sunday
I’ve seen two or three places this past month a story about a church trend called “Mass Mobs.” Maybe some of you have too. Mass Mobs began at Roman Catholic parishes in Michigan as a way of taking off on the “flash mob” trend, and the idea is to recruit large numbers of people to show up for one Mass on one day to fill a church to capacity. The media seem to view this as a heartwarming success story, which is no surprise since when the topic is religion, the media often miss the point.
But it bothered me that the quotes from the people at the churches seemed pretty off-point too. In the coverage from NPR, one priest said how moved he was that a Mass Mob let attendees briefly recapture “this feeling of what it was so many years ago, when the churches were filled." A layperson at that same parish said that even if people didn't get involved at her church, she hoped they’d at least “send some money sometimes, just to keep these old parishes surviving."
Now I've heard that kind of talk from leaders in a wide variety of denominations, including our own, and it always makes me think: What a way to view the Christian enterprise! Imagine, in any other area of life, someone taking that kind of attitude. Imagine, say, a restaurant that didn’t focus on excellent cooking or service, but wanted you to eat there so it didn’t have to close. Imagine a team who didn’t strategize about how to win the upcoming games on their schedule, but spent its time reminiscing about past victories. Imagine a doctor who said, “Don’t bother coming for checkups, just send me some money sometimes.” Yet somehow when churches articulate those kinds of things as if they were all we had to hope for, nobody blinks. ....