Lessons In The Leaves


I spent this afternoon engaged in a typical fall activity – raking, mulching, bagging leaves.  I did it all. While doing so I thought of a couple of “Lessons in the Leaves.” 

The first lesson was “Gratitude.”  Gratitude has never been my response to the chore of “leaf maintenance.”  I’ve been grateful for the brilliant red leaves falling from our maple trees creating a soft carpet on our ground – until it was time to bag those leaves.  Then my gratitude quickly turned to complaining.

But not this year.  For some reason, each sweep of the rake brought with it a breath of thanks…

Thanks for the beauty of the leaves.

Thanks that I’m still able to rake and bag. 

Thanks for the change of seasons…

How’d I make a switch from griping to gratitude?  I wish I had a simple recipe to share. I think it’s just about being present.  “What is there right now that shows me the beauty of love?  The beauty of God?”  

Which made me think of the second lesson: Change.

Things change.  Seasons change.  I change.  You change. Methods change.  Theology changes.  I may have lost you with that last one…

It’s a common understanding of conservative Christianity that theology never changes.  Progressive Christianity understands that theology is fluid, never static.  

I guess that makes Martin Luther a progressive.  We celebrated last week on October 31, not just Halloween, but the beginning of the Protestant Reformation – the day Martin Luther nailed or mailed his 95 thesis to the church in Wittenberg Germany.  

Martin Luther and the other reformers – re-formed – the church’s theology.  

They changed it.  Drastically.  

Yes, theology has changed.  Is changing.   Will change.

That fact scares some people.  I get that. I mean, where do you stop changing? It’s the slippery slope argument.  Change is hard because the things we are asked to let go of have been important to us.  It was hard for Peter to let go of the Scripture’s prohibition against eating certain foods.  Yet, who can deny that God changed?  At least God changed his word (Acts 10:9-16).

There are things I believe today I didn’t believe a few years ago.  And there are some things I believed a few years ago that I don’t believe today.  How about you?  I wonder if a lack of change reflects a lack of thought?  That was true for me.  

One thing hasn’t changed:  Love.  

I wonder if the way to tell if one’s theology is “right or wrong” is to observe if it leads or doesn’t lead to being more loving?  Paul is talking theology in Galatians 5 – the theology of circumcision.  For centuries the theology on circumcision was set – Any true follower of God had to be circumcised.  Period.  

But Paul’s theology changed. And he challenges others to change, to allow love to shape their theology:   “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love” (Galatians 5:6).

If my theology doesn’t make me more loving, maybe I need to change it.  Maybe I need to change me.  

Changing leaves.  Changing theologies.  Changing people.  

The Church as a Bar

churc it's a bar

I’ve been thinking a lot about beer and wine the last few days. The text for my teaching Sunday was John 2:1-11. You know, the “water to wine” story. So all week, I was studying with a Bible, commentaries, computer and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Weddings and wine” reminds me of a letter Martin Luther wrote his wife in which he said, “I keep thinking what good wine and beer I have at home, as well as a beautiful wife…you would do well to send me over my whole cellar of wine and a bottle of thy beer.”

I keep thinking of the same things.

Martin Luther spent a lot of time at the Black Eagle Tavern where he spent many evenings after supper drinking rounds of bock beer and discussion heavy and light topics with his drinking pals.

For some reason, drinks and discussion go together.

Our church, The Venues, has followed Luther’s lead. One of our “venues” is a downtown bar on  Saturday night. On a weeknight, one of our men’s groups meets for study and discussion in a bar. Our Sunday venue is a normal church building but our values are bar-like.

Remember the theme-song from “Cheers”? Sometimes you want to go…

Where everybody knows your name. We want to be known.

And they’re always glad you came. We want to be wanted.

You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. We’re all struggling with something.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same. All welcome. All valuable. All loved. All

We create space to listen to and learn from each other.

Christians don’t always listen well. We tell. But listen? Why should we listen when we have so much to say?

Christians don’t always learn well from others. We instruct others. Others learn from us. You have the questions, we have the answers. You have the problems, we have the solutions.

But to be bar-like is to value others opinions, critiques, insights into life and spirituality.

It is to listen to others.

It is to learn from others.

The truth is I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t have it all together.  My understanding of God, of life is continually in process. In fact, I’m a work in process.

You don’t have to drink a beer to be bar-like. Some don’t like beer. Some shouldn’t drink beer.

So have a root-beer.

But let’s be bar-like.