There once was a preacher who wasn’t prepared to deliver a sermon one Sunday morning. He prayed to God for inspiration and decided that he would open the Bible to two random sections — one in the Old Testament and one in the New — and that would be the focus of his homily. His finger first landed on Genesis 4:8: “Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.” OK, he thought. Then he flipped open to Luke 10:37: “Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’"
“Excuse me, sir. Do you have any spare change?”
Soon, churches will be celebrating what is often called Rally Day. This marks the beginning of a new church year as choirs and Sunday school classes (along with many members) return from summer’s rest. And to their congregations, leaders of faith communities will be proclaiming messages of hope – hope that allows us to believe life can be a pageant of joy. It is the right message for just these times. It will not be some sweet, saccharine statement that dares to suggest all moments in life are victorious. It is not a proclamation meant to insult the intellect by denying there are real problems to face and overcome. We know our businesses do not always flourish. Our relationships are not always vibrant, and hard work and constant study do not guarantee success.Those who speak of faithful hope and life as a celebration of joy will not be suggesting that life is without anxiety. It does mean, however, that because of our trust in love’s ultimate victory over the powers that would diminish us, we can live with triumphant hope even in the face of difficult times and circumstance. Our faith calls us to reach for the horizons beyond our own troubles and radiating hope to others. Off the coast of Labrador, you will find the towering icebergs that soar high in the air. What is most surprising is that they all sail south. While that might not seem strange at all, it is important to know that they are sailing south against the strong winds that blow against them. What allows the icebergs to move against the wind and waves crashing against them? The answer lies in the fact that the vast majority of their mass is below the surface, and beneath that surface is the mighty Labrador Current. In spite of the buffeting strength of the wind and waves, the icebergs sail south as they are carried along by the unseen current below the surface.The triumph of faithful hope moves in the same way. Against the difficulties of life and the challenges before us, it can carry us through the trials and limitations of life. It is easy to become cynical with our world: unspeakable horrors are visited upon people every day, physical and emotional abuse is all too common in the homes of every neighborhood. We witness how ancient hatreds, made even more deadly through modern weapons, can wreak havoc on a people. So, is it possible to proclaim that life can be filled with the triumph of hope and the celebration of community? I would ask: Do we dare think otherwise? Do we dare give in, believing ourselves to be powerless to confront the forces that would diminish even one member of our human family?There are times when it would seem God asks the impossible of us. There are moments when faith demands more than we think we can bear. Faith in God demands that we not only see a light at the end of the tunnel, but to also know that the light is calling us to move forward, to step with confidence and trust into the darkness that sometimes stands before us. This journey of life is not without its detours and difficult obstacles – but it is our journey to make. And it is our time to make it. Our communities are best served when the power and enthusiasm of faithful hope are brought to bear on the difficulties before us. Lakewood and the surrounding area are well served by many faith communities, each bringing to bear their vision of a better world, and seeking to bring the faithful message of hope to all. by Reverend Mark Thomas,
Senior Pastor, Lakewood Congregational Church
Stop. Take a moment to read Ephesians 4:25-5:2.
In the spirit of pushing the envelope and tackling controversial issues (which I am wont to do), I want to elucidate a national campaign that was birthed in Tremont.
Earlier this year, the church I serve (Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ) decided that our clergy would no longer sign state-issued marriage licenses, nor would we allow them to be signed on our property. To us, this is a pertinent social justice issue. Because same-gender couples are not allowed to get married in Ohio (and many other states), we feel that as officers of the state — which clergy essentially are when they sign that piece of paper — we are complying with a blatant injustice.
But it goes further than that.
Ministerial Musings: Capital Punishment is a Capital OffenseThe Rev. John Tamilio III
“To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven,” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.“Is Adolf Hitler in Hell?” This is a question that inevitably comes up when I talk to people about God’s grace. If God is all-loving and all-forgiving, why would the Creator of Heaven and Earth condemn anyone to the fires of Perdition? Is there even a Hell?
I think there is…and I think there isn’t. Let me explain before I answer the Hitler query.
In my Easter sermon, I mentioned that I am not much of a “blogger.” I simply do not have the time. My wife, Susan, however, recently launched her own “blog” entitled, “Learning to Love and Live the Questions.”
This piece is much more controversial than what I usually write in this column, but I feel the need to get these thoughts out on paper.
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). This is one of the verses that the Pro-Life movement employs; it was one of the verses that an evangelist recently recited to me as he distributed anti-abortion literature (which included graphic images of aborted fetuses) in downtown Cleveland.
Before the steam rises from your ears, nota bene: if you are Pro-Life, fine; if you are Pro-Choice, fine. This article does not seek to engage in that debate; that is not my intention.
After thumbing through the salvation salesman’s pamphlet, I asked him what his position was on the death penalty. He said, “The Bible says ‘an eye for an eye’ so I am for it.” I then asked him to share his views on war. “If you mean the War in Iraq,” he said, “I am definitely in favor of it. This war is helping us spread the Christian message and our way of life around the world!”
I expected that he would respond that way.
Many (though certainly not all) of the Pro-Life people I have encountered are also in favor of capital punishment and war, especially when the latter is advanced under the banner of the American flag, which they equate with the cross of Christ. Call it Constantinianism or Manifest Destiny gone amok. Either way, you get my point.
Are religious doctrines that are used to advocate for the sanctity of life reserved strictly to a woman’s uterus? Are not the lives of the young men and women called to bear arms — not to mention the civilian casualties that inevitably lie in the wake of combat — also sacred? And why do we continually quote the three “eye for an eye” commandments in the Torah, but turn a blind eye to the clemency-laden teachings of Jesus, such as “I desire mercy not sacrifice,” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and dare we forget Christ’s response to the mob who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus valued life…all life.
Is this not an ethic for us all to endorse?
I do not know a single Pro-Choice advocate who is Pro-Abortion. The issue for them is about a woman’s right to chose and to not allow the government to interfere with an individual’s reproductive rights. Believe it or not, you can chose not to have an abortion yourself, but feel as if this delicate and complex decision needs to be determined by each person in a country that advocates freedom for all.
What baffles me is the itinerant preacher I met, who claims that abortion is the killing of human life, but that the life of the individual on death row or on the battlefield is not as sacred. I do not understand this quandary at all.
As God spoke to the Israelites through Moses and Aaron, so God is still speaking to us. We are called to choose life by honoring the dignity and the sanctity of all people, not just some.
The Rev. John Tamilio III is the Religion Columnist for The Lakewood Observer and the Senior Pastor of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Tremont. He can be reached at email@example.com. JT3 lives in Lakewood with his wife and their three children.
When people hear the phrase “the prophetic voice” they often think of “prophecy”: predicting the future, soothsaying, Ouija boards, runes, Tarot cards, palm reading, and the like. From a biblical perspective, prophecy has to do with far more than this.
Liberation United Church of Christ, located at 13714 Madison Ave. at the corner of Madison and Parkwood Avenues, is one of many wonderful spiritual communities in Lakewood that offer encouragement and an enriching spiritual experience to everyone who enters. This year, as the Spring and Easter seasons approach, Liberation UCC would like to extend an invitation to those who may be thinking about attending a church service. Liberation UCC is an inclusive community that truly embraces the United Church of Christ theme of “No Matter Who You are or Where You Are on Life’s Journey, You Are Welcome Here.”
You will most likely be reading this article the day before Ash Wednesday — the day before Lent begins — or maybe during the initial days of Lent. Lent is the forty-day penitential season (not including Sundays) when the Christian community prepares for Easter.
We are in the throes of Lent: the forty day penitential season (not including Sundays) when the Christian community prepares for Easter: the day of resurrection.
Renowned Methodist theologian Laurence Hull Stookey (brother of Noel “Paul” Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame) reminds us that “In the early centuries, forty days was the time sufficient for converts to make their final, intensive preparation for baptism; and thus a pattern for Lent developed. So also the ancient baptismal preparation dictated this period to be a time of particular devotion and discipline” (Stookey 1996: 79). When I was growing up, I had many friends who were Catholic. They had to attend CCD and loathed it, although I was envious — I wished my local United Church of Christ congregation required such formative, religious training. (Yes, I was destined to be a minister!) These same friends used to discuss “the thing” they had to give up for Lent. Often times it was chocolate, playing baseball, or watching the Boston Bruins…something that would help them identify with the passion of Christ. As if Jesus is a Boston Bruins fan. A Red Sox fan, DEFINITELY, but I’m not sure about the Bruins thing. (Besides, I don’t think Jesus could skate. Walk on water? Sure. Skating? That’s another thing. But I digress…)
In recent years, many Christian traditions have taken a different slant when it comes to Lent. Instead of asking their adherents to give something up, they have encouraged them to adopt a spiritual practice over these six and a half weeks. First of all, this presents a more positive, life-giving theology. It is not just shrouded in the doom-and-gloom of the cross (although that is certainly a crucial Lenten symbol). Developing a Lenten discipline will hopefully follow us beyond the empty tomb.
“Peace is not the absence of affliction, but the presence of God.”— Author Unknown Take a moment to read Matthew 6:25-34. Got it? Good. We’ll come back to it in a minute. I came home the other day and found my pension plan fourth quarter statement waiting for me in the mailbox. I opened it slowly, hoping that it might include one of Willy Wonka’s five golden tickets. Instead, it contained a message written in numbers: Pray all you want, Rev. Tamilio, but you will never be able to retire. And then, after I put the statement aside and opened the newspaper, I read even more dire headlines: corporate downsizing contributes to the rising unemployment rate nationwide; more and more urban families lose their homes to mortgage foreclosures; fraudulent investors cost retirees their life savings. I exhaled and looked around the room. There was my wife and our three children. All of them healthy and laughing. Susan had just returned from Giant Eagle, so our refrigerator was filled with food. There were clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads, and I had a job waiting for me in the morning. Pray all you want, Rev. Tamilio, but you will never be able to retire. Maybe that is true. Maybe it isn’t. Regardless, in the midst of a dismal economy, I realized that I had no right to have a pity-party over a piece of paper with numbers that would not concern me for twenty-five years. I am part of a culture that is richer than the vast majority of the world’s population. Something else struck me in the midst of this reflection: the words from the middle of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. (I said we would get back to them.) Jesus was speaking to a multitude of poor folks assembled on a hillside. Many of them did not know where their next meal was coming from, let alone how they would pay the heavy taxes levied upon them by the Roman Empire. They gathered around this itinerant rabbi looking for an answer—a word of liberation. Instead, they were told not to fret: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” Can you imagine them turning to one another in astonishment and asking, “What did he say? Don’t worry? All we do is worry! Do we have a choice?” But Jesus’ words to them are the same words that he speaks to us today. “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your God feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” We need to trust God. We need to trust that God will provide for our physical needs no matter what the stock market or the morose economic prognosticators say. True freedom comes when we realize that we are not in control of our lives—as much as we like to think that we are—and that we need to trust in the grace of our benevolent God to see us through whatever curve balls life throws at us. Is this easy to do? No. But it will enable us to plumb our spiritual depths and uncover an abundance of hope, which is probably what the world needs now more than anything else. — The Rev. John Tamilio III is the new Religion Columnist for The Lakewood Observer. JT3 is the Senior Minister of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Tremont. He, his wife Susan, and their three children live in Lakewood.
The question about the relationship between Church and politics came to the fore of many voters’ minds during the last Presidential election. People were concerned with whether or not Barack Obama was a Muslim and they probed his relationship with his former pastor, The Rev. Jeremiah Wright. They debated the significance of Mitt Romney being a Mormon and how “Pentecostal” Sarah Palin actually was. We are obsessed with the line between religion and politics in this country — those two taboo subjects that your parents warned you never to discuss with friends.
Once I accepted the call to be the new Senior Pastor of the historic Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Tremont (a Just Peace and an Open and Affirming congregation), my wife and I began looking for communities in which we would raise our three children. It did not take us long to select Lakewood.
The service will begin at 7 pm, with a seasonal reception preceding the service at 6:15 pm. Location: The Lakewood Baptist Church (14321 Detroit Avenue; corner of Detroit and Lincoln Avenues)...
The Lakewood Baptist Church is honored to host the Cleveland Metropolitan Chorus for a special benefit concert on Sunday, October 26 at 7:00 pm. All are invited and welcomed!
The Cleveland Metropolitan Chorus is a pan-denominational, non-for-profit group committed to presenting concerts of sacred music and classic favorites throughout the greater Cleveland community.
It was more than 50 years ago when the acerbic comedian made that observation, but there are indeed signs that “church-going” could become a thing of the past...
Currently ministering at the Motherhouse in Adrian, Michigan, Sister Annette served rural and urban people in the Dominican Republic. Her ministry in the Dominican Republic focused on the education and organization of struggling farmers...
This is the first in a planned series of articles about the wide variety of religious establishments serving the spiritual needs of all Lakewoodites. We encourage our readers to submit articles about their religious experiences.
We live in Lakewood where we have two long-term mainstays of life – taverns and churches. Needless to say, they probably serve the same people, not that there is anything wrong with that!