February 2013

Adult Object Lesson: Luke 13:1-9

Do We Earn Misfortune?

Today’s gospel starts out with the common human feeling of hopelessness and despair. The people are reporting one tragic news story after another, laying each at Jesus’ feet, and asking “Why?”

“Why?” is the question that draws many people to religion. We want to live in a world that makes sense.

Jesus does not really answer his questioners. He is like a mother turning to a relentlessly inquisitive tot and saying “Why? Because! That’s why.”

He decides to tell the story of the fig tree. Divert their attention—another mother’s trick!

You can tell the story of the fig tree, too. You might follow it with another story that might help them see this parable in a different way.

Tell the Story of the Three Little Pigs. 

The Big Bad Wolf blows Or let the congregation tell the story. They probably know it better than the parable of the fig tree and telling it along with the Jesus’ story may help them remember it.

Start the story and ask them what happens next.

There are many versions. So expect some different answers. That will be part of the fun of letting others tell the story. Some tellings of the story have the first two pigs deserving to lose their lives and homes. They were lazy and arrogant, preferring to do just enough to get by and playing away the rest of their lives. They deserve to be the Big Bad Wolf’s dinner. Only the third pig who planned ahead, worked hard, and sacrificed to build a strong home deserved to be spared.

Similarly, the Wolf deserves to boil in the third pig’s soup pot.

The Disney version has the first two wolves running to the third pig’s brick home for safety. The wolf survives having learned a lesson from being burned. Happy endings all around.

It’s human nature to try to make sense of stories and have them apply to our need for fairness and justice. We like when stories have happy endings. We want to love that reformed wolf.

That’s exactly what the people who came to Jesus with their troubles are hoping for—answers that make sense. Bad things must be reserved for bad people in our earthly thinking. What’s the point of religion if good doesn’t flow steadily from its fountain?

But look at the Story of the Three Pigs this way.

  • The three pigs each face disaster.
  • One lives in a straw house.
  • One lives in wooden house.
  • One lives in brick house.
  • The evil one, the Big, Bad Wolf sets out to hurt each little pig. Why? Because he wants to and because he thinks he can. The motive of all villains.

What did the pig who built his house of straw do to deserve losing everything? If laziness and arrogance were reasons for misfortune, many would suffer daily!

The pig who built his house of wood had taken more precaution than the pig who used straw. Shouldn’t he be spared something?  Aren’t their levels of righteousness?

We usually see the brick house as being the solution. Create for yourself a safe world that evil cannot penetrate.

Adults know that there are no such guarantees. There are clever and persistent wolves out there.

True, the wolf was unable to blow down the brick house, but that didn’t stop him. He plotted to lure the pig out of the house. The third pig outwitted him until at last the Big Bad Wolf decides to come in through the chimney. The third pig doesn’t just sit there. He does something. He lights a fire and the Big Bad Wolf gets his just dessert.

None of the three pigs deserved to be the target of the evil. Evil and misfortune happen.

But none of the pigs was a bit the better for simply accepting his lot. The third pig got ready. He used his head. He stoked the fire.

Returning to the biblical story, he took care of the fig tree.

By the way, if the Story of the Three Pigs doesn’t work for you, you can always use Old Testament account of Nehemiah. They share the same basic plot!

Social Media—Revealing the Real You

manbehindthecurtainPeeping Out from Behind the Curtain

2x2virtualchurch.com has been an experiment in using social media in the realm of religion. We started in February 2011, following a WordPress how-to book.

Wait a minute? I just wrote “we.”

2×2 is a “we.” Our members subscribe, comment on posts (usually off line), suggest direction and lend support. We get together every week and discuss 2×2’s direction. But the writing on 2×2, for the most part, is an “I” job.

One thing I’ve learned about social media—it is hard to write that word “I.” I posted for nearly a year without using it. I was thinking about “we,” so I thought it was the fair way to represent our mission.

However, in this journey of discovery as an online ministry, we/I have discovered that the word “I” is more powerful than the communal “we.”

“We” can become a crutch. The person saying “we” can say with confidence almost anything. There will be someone in a group that thinks that way. The more and louder you speak, the less likely those that disagree are going to speak up.

“We” can be an excuse for thinkers with ideas that aren’t fully cooked. It becomes an army of phantom support — like the Wizard of Oz. Pull back the curtain and what do you see?

“We” can become theologically lazy. “Well, if that’s what everyone else thinks, they must be right.”

It can take centuries to undo the sometimes tragic results of “we” thinking.

This is especially hard in church work. Church/congregations are communal in nature. We are used to expressing ourselves as a group. That’s what church hierarchy is about—making sure the voice of the church is authentic to the word of God.

The practice began with authentic concern but has morphed in the modern world (and probably long before the modern world) to being a shield—protecting influence and sanitizing the behaviors of church leaders who we all know are just as human as everyone else—capable of sacrifical love, tempted by selfish interests. It becomes crippling to the millions of church thinkers who don’t have a platform in the church — unless they blog!

When we consider the consequences the power the word “I” carries in church work, it is no wonder we refrain from using it. A Martin Luther or his modern namesake—King, a Ghandhi, a Bonhoeffer don’t pop up until things are really, really off track. Saying “I” in the “we” society of church can make life’s journey pretty rocky.

2×2 has learned that “I” is a more powerful word than “we.” The more personal our posts have become in recent months, the faster our traffic has grown. Admitting that I am one person within the group that sponsors 2×2 (Redeemer Lutheran Church, East Falls) is honest. People connect to individuals more easily than to groups. Online readers appreciate honesty.  They’ll keep you honest, too! A writer thinks twice when he uses the word I in the sentence.

In two years, 2×2 has grown from one visitor per month to 2500 per month, doubling its monthly average in the first two months of 2013. (We suspect little Redeemer, has become the congregation with the biggest following and widest reach of any church in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America —SEPA/ELCA.)

There is power in the vulnerability of the word “I.” That one letter is difficult, at first, to type. The advice was always there in the how-to books: write as an individual. It takes a while to become comfortable with the idea that yes, these are MY ideas. I am putting them out there for others to criticize. It becomes powerful when others add their 2¢. The “we” that “I” serve in writing this blog starts to make a difference.

That’s how we all grow in faith. By practicing the “I” word. And remembering that every “I” is a child of God. Every “I” that is part of Redeemer matters. That’s the story I tell.

I think.

I care.

I love.

I hurt.

I enjoy.

I need help.

I can help.

I was made in God’s image for a reason.

So were you!

What do you think?

Photo: 1939 MGM movie The Wizard of Oz

Blogging Your Sermon—Go Live with the Gospel Online

In general, the sermon is a dead medium. Quite possibly, a sermon is well-reasoned and based in sound theology. It may impart important information about understanding the text. It may be delivered from the heart even when read.

This is accepted in the world of church. Preachers preach. Congregations listen.

Yet frequently the medium of sermon, central to the church experience, lacks the power that live interaction can give—even though they ARE live! Ironic!  Live may not be the most lively!

The temptation, which makes sense, is to preach to the people who are there—to meet the expectations of the people who give their offerings—until the offerings run out.

Today there are far fewer people in church listening. Most of the listeners are over 50 and presumably still have an attention span that lasts longer than 20 minutes (even if our short-term memories are just a memory). There are practically no children in church.

The offerings are going to run out.

Yet the delivery of the 20-minute sermon is still the norm. Preachers preach. Congregations listen. Seminaries are still working hard to teach preachers to do this well.

Some of them do!

Many of them don’t.

One of the faults of the preaching world is that no one reviews or critiques pastors once they complete seminary training. Preachers rarely hear other preachers speak. They are isolated in those pulpits! They are what they are.

There is no place more status quo in the Church than the pulpit.

We listeners at Redeemer have heard a lot of sermons from a lot of pastors. Our versatility in listening to preachers is a by-product of having no pastor most of the time for a decade or so. We had supply pastors. This has continued in our rejected status within the church as we attend other churches and listen to an unending string of “supply” pastors.

In our experience, we have heard some supply pastors give the same sermon unaltered a half-dozen times. We’ve heard a few others ramble about the morning news — preaching the newspaper was the theory. Failure to prepare was often more evident.

We’ve had sermons read to us. We’ve had sermons rambled at us. We have become familiar with formula sermons that build to a climax and drop us right into the post-sermon hymn.

We have heard some good sermons. Good as they were, they aren’t remembered long.

Preaching in a sanctuary is an opportunity to shine—to inspire and reach each set of ears in a personal way. But there is something about the format that no longer resonates with today’s world. It may be too late to recover.

The missing element may be immediacy. Three examples.

We live in a world where news is instantaneous. We are likely to hear it from a stranger nearby—like the guy on a cell phone in the theater lobby during intermission who loudly reports the score of the playoff game to every disgruntled mate who was forced to choose between the theater and the TV screen.

I was in an airplane when the news broke that ObamaCare had passed. Each passenger was busy about their own business, until a young-20-something announced the news. A lively debate was struck crossing the aisles and over the backs of seats. It continued as we filed out the aisle and into the terminal.

I attended a boychoir concert one Sunday afternoon. The choir was very professional and poised. Suddenly, and fortunately in between numbers, the back row of teen boys erupted with inexplicable joy. One of the tenors was wired and had passed the news that the local football favorite had scored a winning touchdown.

News is fresh. Vital. Interesting, Relevant. Necessary to our lives. Catalytic at is finest.

We seem to have lost these qualities in the telling of the Good News.

Delivering the Good News once a week may have fit the slower-paced life of yesteryear. It may still have an important place in today’s world, but it is not the most effective way to reach the most people.

Yet we listeners are locked in. Congregations still pay a hefty fee, often a mission-crippling fee, to make sure there is a preacher present in the sanctuary each week, preaching to a dwindling audience. It is live, but it is not lively.

Blogging, on the other hand, is live in a different sense. It is interactive. It reaches beyond sanctuary walls. It creates a following who are motivated to share. It allows you to address local problems in real time — not waiting until Sunday to muster the energy of the faithful to act. (By then they will probably do little more than pray.) Blogging is THE medium made for modern preachers.

Very, very few have been able to switch gears.

Change comes hard. But it does come. For the art of preaching to survive, it must adapt to the modern audience.

The church audience today is not in church.

We are online.  (Click to Tweet)

February 24 — A Day of Infamy

Today Bishop Claire Burkat of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will gather her little chicks under her wing at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in NE Philadelphia and celebrate its closure. They’ve been moving toward this date for the last year, since they sold the property to the United Church of Christ—and probably still longer.

This is also the fifth anniversary of Bishop Claire Burkat’s attempt to stealthily seize Redeemer’s property in East Falls. It was on February 24, 2008, that Bishop Burkat invited herself to our church supposedly to plan a closing service for a congregation that had never even discussed closing much less been given an opportunity to vote on it as is constitutionally necessary. She brought about nine or ten people with her with no notice, despite the fact that the congregation had warned her that the date she had chosen with no consultation with church leaders was already booked and that the congregation did not wish to meet at that time. The two members of Redeemer who met her that day were soon to discover that her plans had nothing to do with planning a worship service. Among her posse was SEPA’s lawyer who was waiting behind the building and out of sight in a locksmith’s van. When their strategy called for the lawyer and locksmith to make their presence known we don’t know. We had been forewarned by someone in Chicago that she was intending such a move and so when we saw the locksmith van go by, we were prepared.

The bishop’s embarrassment that day, which sparked five years of vindictive law suits, has cost mission and ministry in our neighborhood dearly.

There was never an attempt to work with us — we were not valued enough to be part of the discussion of our future. The names of our lay leaders were dragged through the mud—an attempt to validate Synod’s actions. The work of the laity was treated with total disregard. The people of Redeemer deserved the opportunity to work with and be in discussion with SEPA just as the people of Holy Spirit have been.

SEPA’s Articles of Incorporation forbid the Synod from confiscating congregational property without the consent of the congregation.

The more SEPA congregations allow this very important foundation of Lutheran polity to be ignored, the more endangered each congregation is.

Redeemer’s Ambassadors have now visited 56 SEPA congregations. We know that many of them are no stronger and more than a few are weaker than Redeemer. If Redeemer’s statistics were the reason for closing, about ten to twenty percent of the remaining 160 congregations should also be closed with more suffering the same fate within a decade or two if innovative steps aren’t taken.

We have always known that Redeemer’s property and endowment were the real attractions. In April of 2008, we discovered that Bishop Burkat had offered our property for sale to a Lutheran Agency without a word to our congregation. We learned this from a letter from the agency, dated in early April (only about 40 days after the February 24 showdown), informing us that they had done an extensive site evaluation and were denying the offer of sale. The timing suggests that the property, owned by the congregation, had been offered for sale even before Bishop Burkat came to the congregation—all without the knowledge of the congregation. Clearly NOT Luthean polity.

SEPA needed our money—quick and easy. This devious situation fueled the character assassination, personal attacks and refusal to work with Redeemer that has characterized the court battles. But SEPA seems to be unable to check and balance their leadership — as their constitutions call for.

In September 2009, Bishop Burkat at last achieved her goal. She locked out the members of Redeemer.

Undaunted, Redeemer continues its mission, achieving its greatest success with our online ministry. We have broken new ground in mission which is being recognized by other denominations if not our own!

While some members of SEPA Synod are celebrating the closure of a church, others are meeting on this date in Lansdale and on Monday in Burholme to talk about communications. Redeemer and its website, 2x2virtualchurch.com, could contribute a great deal to a discussion with church communicators. We have a ton of experience!

But we’ve been banished—ex“communicated.”

Settled Pastors in an Unsettling World

“There are no pastors for you.”

Bishop Roy Almquist told Redeemer this at the turn of this century as a prelude for doing nothing to serve our congregation in his second six-year term.

He may have been very right.

It is no accident that small churches vastly outnumber large congregations. People are attracted to small congregations. Sociologically, an ideal congregation has about 150 members.

The model congregation must have 300 members to support the financial expectations of clergy and the regional body—and that’s before they do a lick of ministry or mission. When a congregation gets that big, it loses some of the qualities that attract many people to church.

A broader geographic area is needed to support this model which makes it more difficult for the congregation to stay in touch with the local needs.

The model is presented as economically desirable — fewer churches serving more people. But statistics show that fewer churches are serving fewer people. Statistics overall are down.

This model relies on the concept of a “settled pastor”— a pastor who serves a congregation for some seven years or ideally for decades. This is unrealistic today and is not likely to lead to church growth.

The epidemic of church closures is a result of a failure to adapt—hanging on to a dying model until it is too much work to turn things around—although it is probably still possible.

To survive in a diverse, quickly changing community culture, congregations need flexibility. They need to draw on professional skills that one person is unlikely to have. They may need these services for only six months, but they can’t get them because their money and fealty is tied up in one “settled pastor.”

Perhaps the growing number of clergy taking interim pastor training is a sign that they recognize that the “settled pastor” model will no longer advance the church from either the clergy or lay point of view.

The interim approach — a short-term plug for a hole which will eventually be filled more permanently — may need adjusting. It puts the management of congregations in the hands of the regional bodies—with which the congregations don’t have any day-to-day knowledge or relations. Similarly, regional bodies know only what they are told about the congregations by people with a vested interest. The odds for misinterpretation are good.

Congregational control of their own ministry — the Lutheran way — is slipping away. Attitudes are changing as the regional bodies rely more and more on their power and less on their sense of service. Congregations begin to defer decisions and rights that are constitutionally theirs. It doesn’t take long for this to become “the norm.” Congregations that insist on their rights are ridiculed and shunned—the Redeemer experience.

We will talk about this more in a later post, but this abandonment put us in an ideal position to experiment. And we were experiencing success.

The only answer many congregations hear is that they should continue to pour money down a non-producing hole until they are drained both financially and spiritually. Then, unable to meet the future, there is a grand celebration of the past as the regional body shutters the church and walks off with the spoils. Such a celebration is scheduled this week at Holy Spirit in NE Philadelphia.

We can’t help but wonder what might have been.

Art for Luke 13:31-35 — Jesus Is Disillusioned

O_Jerusalem-1The Fox and the Hens

Next Sunday’s gospel features a moving image that has never quite caught the imagination of artists. He starts his discourse sniping at Herod, calling him a fox. But he quickly moves on. Jesus compares his feelings for Jerusalem to a hen protecting her brood — but the brood is unwilling.

The headline art simply depicts Jesus contemplating the city which housed God’s earthly temple.

dominus-flevit-henToday, in modern Jerusalem, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, there is a mosaic with the words of scripture surrounding the image. “But you are unwilling” drips in red at the feet of little chicks.

Artists seem to be much more comfortable with other biblical metaphors. There are numerous images of rushing streams, stars, bread, the lion and the lamb—even the rooster crowing, but this poignant image of a mother hen never grabs us.

Perhaps this is because the metaphor was first delivered by a disillusioned Jesus. Do we feel guilty?

Perhaps it is because it is a feminine image in a religion long-dominated by men

It is less likely to be taken on by today’s artists. There was a day when most homes had a few chickens pecking the ground in the back yard — a living refrigerator. But the sight is uncommon today.

???????????????????????????????Nevertheless, one young contemporary sculptor rose to the challenge, entering a biblical art contest.

Jesus’ imagery grabs at our hearts and our consciences. We are his little chicks — like it or not.

Adult Object Lesson: Jesus’ View of Jerusalem (Luke 13:31-35)

Joseph of Arimathea carrying the body of Christ.

Savoldo, Giovanni Girolamo (c. 1480 – 1548)
Christ with Joseph of Arimathea

The people of Jerusalem:

Remembering Their Names

Today’s story is about the actions of a city. Jerusalem as a body of people is center stage.

Today’s “object” is the old children’s ditty that is meant to teach the meaning of “church.”

NOTE: The message can be taught to both children and adults, but they are likely to require different emphases. Adults need to ponder with maturity their actions within a group, while children are still learning the skills to act independently.

Here’s the children’s finger game:

Fold your hands with the fingers interlocking and bending over the back of your hand—the most traditional way.

Here’s the church.

Point your two index fingers skyward to make the church spire.

Here’s the steeple.

Spread your thumbs outward.

Open the doors. Where are the people?

There will be no people!

Now fold your hands with your fingers interlocking and bent inside the fold—toward the palms.

Repeat the poem.

Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple. Open the doors.

Now when you spread your thumbs outward. You can see the fingers.

Here are the people.

Today’s Gospel is leading us to think about the people of God as a group. Our actions, as a group, take on personality and power. We think of this as a good thing. It certainly is rooted in the Bible and God’s view of His creation. He names a Chosen People. They carry a lot of weight as such.

Jesus refers to his longing that the people of Jerusalem be gathered together under his protection, but they are unwilling.

When we think of God’s people today, we think of people who do good things and trust and obey God. We think of correct behavior as being found within the safety of numbers—no matter how often history proves this isn’t true.

Jesus starts out condemning Jerusalem, the City of Peace, from the start. They have a reputation, those Jerusalem folks. It is the city that turns on the prophets.

Jesus will ride into this city to the cheers of the people.

Jesus will walk out of the city to their collective scorn.

The path to this drama is foreshadowed in today’s text. We are privileged in reading it to know what is coming.

The people are given one opportunity after another to make things right—at every level of power—but collectively they just can’t muster the courage.

There is no guaranteed safety in numbers — even within the church. Collectively we can still do the wrong thing. In these moments, individuals in the church can shine. It is not easy and often the Church discourages it. They may succeed. Often, they do not.

That’s why saints are called by name.

They act as individuals within groups that are ethically or morally challenged. The problem may be isolated. The group generally may be good. But something about them, at one moment, just isn’t right.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example, stood alone against the Nazis. Martin Luther King, Jr. raised his voice to a nation that wasn’t ready to hear him. Both were killed—one by an authorized group, the other by a lone gunmen who felt empowered by the sentiments of others.

Jesus will have just one person who steps from the crowd on the way to Calvary. Joseph of Arimathea will stand alone before Pilate as the people of Jerusalem assemble on the hill. He alone will not follow that crowd. He will be the one person in a large city to speak up—unafraid or afraid.  He wasn’t part of the inner circle as far as we know—the properly vetted spokesman for Christ. He was one man acting without support of any organization. Many others know that what is going on is wrong. One will act.

We remember his name.

Ambassadors Visit Holy Spirit, NE Philadelphia


Ambassadors visit Holy Spirit before they give up the ghost

Redeemer’s Ambassadors visited Holy Spirit in Northeast Philadelphia on their last Sunday before their closing service. Pastor Sandra Brown invited us to return for the closing ceremony, but we told her, “Closing churches is not our thing.”

Pastor Brown greeted us when we came in and shared with us that everything was OK, they had gone through “the process.” We don’t know what “the process” is. Epiphany met for six months in our church as they went through “the process.” Holy Spirit, it seems, has continued for a year after the sale of their building. At Redeemer, “the process” was a locksmith hiding on a back street and five years of law suits. Our guess — “the process” is whatever works for the synod.

Pastor Brown is on the synod council that voted us out of existence. But there we were — in existence. She seemed to be unable to say our name. She introduced us as from East Falls. We corrected her that we are from Redeemer. But two more times she introduced us as from East Falls. That word—Redeemer—seems to be difficult for synod people to say. Even the bishop can’t say our name without prefacing it with “the former.” Keep pounding that nail.

We still claim that the Synod Council has no authority to vote churches shut without the involvement of the congregation. Call us by any name—Redeemer still exits.

Today there were 13 gathered for worship. After a year of a hopeless “process” you really can’t expect many more. Pastor Brown spoke to the people at length about what to expect next week and what they might be allowed to take from the attic in preparation for the archival vultures. The people seemed to be resigned.

Today’s service was prayer, hymns and selected verses from a few favorite hymns. We joined hands and prayed together. Earlier in the service, Pastor Brown had taken extensive prayer requests and almost everyone contributed. It appears that they will soon be scattered in fellowship, joining a few different congregations. At least they avoided the Redeemer strategy — transfer all of us OUT of the church at the first sign of resistance.

Pastor Brown explained that two churches were meeting here, they and Living Waters, the UCC congregation who bought the property a year ago. Why is it other denominations see promise in city neighborhoods while the ELCA sees nothing?

The trappings of another denomination were obvious—the overstuffed chairs lining the chancel. The sound of trickling water from one of those indoor fountains was in the background. Was that symbolic of Living Waters?

It was not clear why the church was closing. They had a settled minister for 18 years, so short-term pastors weren’t the problem. They are in the middle of a vast neighborhood of row houses, so there is plenty of opportunity to interact and serve. The building is a gem. Beautiful, low maintenance brick throughout, with a nice wing added to the sanctuary and a decent yard. Parking did not appear to be a challenge. We noted long ago, before we heard of their closing, that there was no web site and today a church is not likely to attract visitors without one.

Pastor Brown said only that the opportunity arose to sell the property and that was an indication that the time had come. Yet the congregation was only 73 years old. Pastor Brown had been their pastor for a fourth of their history. The entire life of the church was one average life span.

Pastor Brown reported that she had taken the training to be an interim pastor. This is becoming a popular option for pastors. We have long thought that interim pastors are a detriment. We recently read a noted authority agreeing with us. We think interim ministries, with short, vague commitments and few performance expectations (answerable more to the regional body than to the congregation), serve the occupational needs of today’s clergy — not the parishes.

We will be thinking of Holy Spirit next week as the synod’s clergy come to celebrate the closing service—a kind of macabre ritual. Strange—everyone coming to rejoice while the congregation is mourning. Again, not something we want to be part of.

While SEPA leaders gather to celebrate failure, we’ll be working to keep our church open. The Church as a whole cannot grow without strong neighborhood churches. You cannot serve neighborhoods without a neighborhood presence. Presence in a neighborhood cannot fulfill the message of God’s love while you attack members of the neighborhood.

We were happy to worship this morning with the remnants of an able group who could be the core of such an effort. But others know best.

We wonder if anyone will track what becomes of Holy Spirit’s members over the next year. They should. They should not just assume because memberships are transferred today that a year later, the members are still active. In our experience, which includes observing Roxborough’s Grace and Epiphany, most members of closed churches are unchurched a year later—and stay unchurched.

We left with an invitation. Redeemer meets the first Sunday of the month at 10 am at the Old Academy in East Falls.

Excoriated, Indeed!

fireA link for you!

What is the excuse for the scorched-earth polices of SEPA Synod?

Some version of “we deserve it.”

A Small Congregation’s Mission Reach

Four Small Churches—One in Mission

Pakistan Palm SundayRedeemer’s 2×2 web site has made friends in ministry with several mission churches. The first to write to us was a house church in Pakistan. Pastor Sarwar wrote to us last year about this time. He sent photos of their worship — their members marching the streets of a Muslim city, celebrating Palm Sunday. We prayed for them while they were in hiding during the unrest sparked by a thoughtless movie about Islam We learned from them that a Lutheran Church in their city had burned. We tried to explain to them that the movie did not represent America and that most Americans had never seen the film. My beautiful picture My beautiful pictureSince then they have undertaken a challenge to open 1000 house churches in Pakistan in 2013.

The second was a husband and wife in western Kenya who are taking in orphans to raise with their own children. The husband was attending Bible classes to learn more about leading a church. The mother was busy with the children and making necklaces to raise some money. She sent us a selection. They sent us pictures as they worked to build a house for the children. I promised them some art for the walls. I’d love to send them the painting of Jesus with the children which was on the wall of our educational building — now locked by SEPA Synod.

The third was an energetic pastor with a passion for the many orphaned children in Nairobi. He holds weekend worship events for the children. We sent them greetings and the children wrote back to us. We correspond with each weekly — sometimes daily. They pray for us and ask about our members by name. We help one another as best we can from such a distance and with limited resources. Mostly, we write notes of encouragement.

Glory of Pentecost, KenyaA few months ago, with the permission of each, we put each church in touch with the others so they could share and feel a bit less lonely in their work.

Yesterday, we heard from each church—one after the other in a span of a couple of hours. The notes were short, but the message was astonishing. These three churches, in two countries, and in two very different cultures were visiting one another. First, we heard from Simion, from western Kenya. He told us he was with Silas from Nairobi, about 300 miles away. Then we heard from Silas, who shared that he was traveling with Simion and was going to visit their home. Then we heard from Sarwar in Pakistan, he had sent a missionary to visit with them.

oldacademylrThree churches, each with tremendous challenges, each with the barest of resources to work with, were visiting and sharing the bonds of Christianity. Each had met through 2×2, little Redeemer’s outreach.

We are amazed—jealous that we can’t join them—and thankful that in Christ we are one.

Do not underestimate the worth of a small church in today’s world. Even a small church can do big things in mission. We didn’t need a national church or regional body to coordinate our mission. We just made friends with our blog.

God is doing something new in East Falls and in the world.

Join us!