the Millenials

Posted on Dec 31, 2013 in Theology blog | 0 comments

post by Jack Irwin     My blog for Sunday, Dec. 15th, as I sit at home this morning, nursing a stiff back and saving energy for the wonderful Chancel Choir’s Christmas Concert this afternoon.

I read the paper every day.  Maybe this is an anachronistic activity, but it is something I have done most of my life since college, since I feel it connects me with the world.

For my students in the construction courses that I teach at College of the Canyons, I bring in articles from the paper about construction failures, accidents and other related articles that appear in the paper.  I want to encourage my students to be aware of the construction world out there, beyond the classroom, a world in which, hopefully, they will one day participate, after they complete their studies in Construction Management and an internship.

While I was chair of the church’s Adult Education Committee, I instituted a new item on the meeting agenda which I called “Religion in the News.”  Again, we can read about all sorts of issues, events and opinions about religious life in, of all things, not the google news (which, incidentally, has barely any religious news), but in the anachronistic paper “newspaper.”  We have had a lot of fun and serious talk on the Adult Education Committee talking about “what’s happening” in religion and faith, whether the conflict of Christians and Muslims in Egypt to what does immigration policy have to say about religious (or vice versa).

I always had two strategies in engaging my committee in these reviews of “religion in the news.”  One was just to connect to the world.  The other was it would inform us on what courses to devise for Life Academy, since we always wanted Life Academy to be on the “cutting edge” of what is going on and what people, communities, countries and the world are really interested in and really dealing with.  And so some of our courses that evolved from this perspective are the Science and Religion courses and the recent course by Rev. Magdy Girgis on the State of Egypt.  People have well attended these courses, which indicates to our committee, that they, like us on the committee, are interested in “current events” that have to do with or border on or intersect religion.

Today, while eating my warm oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon and honey, I read through the Sunday Daily News.  On page 13 was this headlined article, “Bells toll in Newtown for school shooting victims.”  This Saturday, Dec, 14, 2013, was the one-year anniversary of the shooting of 26 by a young deranged youth in the Sandy Hook Elementary School n Newtown, Conn.  What has this to do with us, beyond the recurring shock value of this past event, which has been followed up by similar school shootings, most recently last week in Denver’s Arapahoe High School, where thankfully, only the shooter was killed (by his own force).   This Saturday at 9:30 am, the time the shooting started at Newtown, the bells of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown rang 26 times, as the names of the victims were read.  Bells also rang across Connecticut and flags were at half mast, at the requests of Connecticut’s governor.

But not only in Newtown and Connecticut did the bells toll.  Our President and the First Lady lit 26 candles in the White House.  Our President talked about this in his radio address that day.  In Denver, just a day after the Arapahoe shooting, a gathering of 200 sang and prayed for Newtown.  In Tucson, in the memorial garden to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s and others, an observance for Newtown was conducted.

What has this to do with us?  For whom does the bell toll?  For the victims and their families?  For the perpetrators?  Or for us? I have not heard anything about this national calamity in our community of faith.  Perhaps it is being mentioned today, and hopefully it is.  But the bell tolls for us — for our insularity from the world, into our religious world, disconnected from the realities, perhaps protected, guarded, refuged from the harsh realities of life out there.  Perhaps it is overwhelming to bring the world into worship.  But perhaps it is more alarming that we need to bring worship into the world, into our neighborhoods, into our local community, into our national community, into our global community, for we are part of each.  Perhaps this is what those, like the Millenial generation, who are disaffected with “the Christian Church,” have been saying to us.

The bells toll for us.  For our relevance in and to the world around us.  Is the church a castle on the hill with fortified walls and gates to protect itself?  Or is the church a city set on a hill, whose gates are open to all to come in and whose gates are open for all inside to go outside into the world?  Jesus did not command his disciples to build church buildings with strong doors.  Instead, before He ascended, His admonition to his disciples was, “Go out into all the world, preaching all that I have commanded you, making disciples of all nations, baptizing people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  The Jewish leaders wanted the Jews to come and congregate at the Temple to worship, which was the focus of Judaism.  Are we. too, focused on the temple we call the “church”?  Jesus turned this inside out.  The focus is no longer worship at the Temple but on the world out there.  Worship is the place to reenergize we who call ourselves “followers of Jesus” for the task He set before us.

The bells toll for us and call us to go out into all the world.

Jack Irwin



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