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Today marks the beginning of one of the most Holy weeks on our calendar.  Today, we celebrate the presence, the arrival, of the Kin-dom of God! This is the day when Jesus rides into Jerusalem, and receives a royal welcome – even while riding in on a humble donkey.

And yet, so often this message gets blended this Sunday with the message of Good Friday, as churches, who know many won’t show up for a church service on Friday, want to make sure they get in the suffering that Jesus goes onto endure. And I always struggle with this reality – and believe that we really miss something if we don’t properly recognize the coming, the arrival, and the recognition of God’s kin-dom on this earth.  It is not something we are still waiting for, it has come! That can be such a vital message for the work we do.

I also understand, however, the importance of the message of Good Friday. Of naming and understanding the suffering Jesus endured because we didn’t, and don’t, recognize the message of Palm Sunday. So, my question for this morning is (especially for all my pastor friends out there) – how do we strike this balance? Has anyone found an effective way to live out this week in the life of the church – from Palm Sunday, to Maudy Thursday, to Good Friday, to Easter Sunday – while allowing each of these incredible holy days to stand on their own?

Friends, that subject line is one that I sit with quite often – wondering what our denomination will be or look like, as we continue to have major budget issues, as we no longer have a Witness/Washington Office, as we debate issues of sexuality.  And, of course, as we continue to shrink in terms of membership.  In the next, say, 20 years, what will the Church of the Brethren look like?

But, this is also particularly on my mind this week. I am preparing for a trip to Elgin, to serve as the On Earth Peace representative to the Vision Committee, which is called to, “To prepare a document that presents vision and general directions for denominational mission in the next decade.” I certainly don’t have answers to that – I hope, trust, and pray that the conversations had at the beginning of next week with other committee members will help us start visioning what it can be.  But as part of my preparation … what do you think?  What do you see the Church of the Brethren looking like in the next 10 years?  What, in your mind, should the church be going forward?

As young adults, this is our church. It is our future to begin to mold, to imagine into being, to call into being. So … what do you say?

How do we as young adults and church leaders engage with social media sites? While this might seem like an innocent enough question at first, with seemingly easy answers (I use site x not site y, etc.) in actuality it’s much more complex.

I was recently at a local blogging workshop where they were discussing institutional involvement in social media (aka social networking). The presenter was speaking out of his experience working with colleges and universities that are trying to be more active in connecting with prospectives, students, and alumni using current and emerging social media sites. One example that he gave was how the chancellor of our regional campus of Indiana University (IU East) is using Twitter to make a personal connection with people, in addition to several other IU East-related Twitter feeds.

While I was impressed by how well IU East has integrated social media into their public relations, I immediately I started thinking of how different this is from how I use social media on a regular basis.
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We’re halfway through the season of Lent, and a recent conversation with a friend has me thinking about the purpose of Lenten fasts and practices. “It just makes me so mad,” he said, “that people would give up something for a few weeks only to hit it harder when Easter comes.”

I get the cynicism, but I am a fan of Lent. Honestly, it’s my favorite liturgical season (and yes, I realize that having a favorite liturgical season makes me fatally nerdy). Lent seems to create an atmosphere of anticipation – as if, were we able to dive deeply enough and honestly enough into the pathos of the journey to the cross, then we might just be able to experience the unspeakable joy of the resurrection.

Barbara Brown Taylor talks about Lenten practices as wandering out into the wilderness:

…if you have spent a lot of time and/or money trying to acquire whatever it takes to grow your soul without seeing any new buds, then maybe a little spell in the wilderness is worth a try–a few weeks of choosing to live on less, not more–of practicing subtraction instead addition–not because your regular life is bad but because you want to make sure it is your real life–the one you long to be living–which can be hard to do when you’re living on fast food and busyness…

Brethren have long embraced the idea of living on less. We practice simplicity – I think – because it keeps us mindful of “the life that is really life.” In that light, a Lenten fast might be a very Brethren thing to do. Are you keeping a fast this year? Is it growing your soul?

Hey y’all.  First of all, registration for YAC is up – be sure to sign up, it would be great to see you all there.  For that, and for the Spring edition of the YA newsletter Bridge, I was asked to reflect on our scripture for the weekend – Romans 12:4-8 – and the idea of community.  I thought this would be a good place to share that – and I would love to hear your thoughts.

“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another (Romans 12:4-5).”  What in the world does it mean to all be members of the body of Christ – to be individually members of one another?  At first glance, it sounds like an odd sci-fi flick.  The image that pops right into my head is something out of the Matrix, with all of humanity hooked up to a machine to make it function.  But that can’t be right – there is no individuality there.  So, what does this look like?

Here is how I like to picture this, and it is grounded in how i think about God as Trinity.  I imagine the Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit, all in one space, dancing around each other.  The energy created between them, the way you can’t Identify one without seeing the other – that is the essence of God.  But they each serve different roles in bringing the reality of God to us here on Earth.  God the Creator, maker of heaven and earth.  The Son, the redeemer, through whom Creation is brought back into relationship with God.  And the Holy Spirit, sustainer, giving us the real presence of God through which to live out our call as followers.  God is, in God’s very essence and being, a community.

In much the same way, we are called to be a community – the community we create and live out is the real body of Christ on this earth.  And much like God, we all bring different gifts to the table.  Some of us are missionaries, some of us are teachers, some of us are preachers, some musicians.  Some tend the buildings and grounds, some make sure the day to day operations happen.  But what happens when we all dance together, unable to be identified without each other, is that the energy between us brings forth the living Christ and the Kin-dom of God.  We each manifest that reality in our own ways, with our own gifts – and when brought together, we can do amazing things.

But, goodness, this is not easy.  Not a chance.  It is hard, it is radical, and it takes an incredible amount of trust and love for those around you.  It is especially hard for young adults – we rarely stay put long enough, for one thing, to build this kind of community with those around them, and we are also trying desperately to live into our own individual identity, to carve out our own lives, that the community can often get lost in the mix.

Yet, we know it is what we are seeking – it is what fills us, sustains us, and gives us hope.  It is when we feel and know the real presence of God among us – when we are involved in that intricate dance with others, calling God forth.  It is what it means to be church – anytime, anywhere.  William Placher writes, “The last word about things cannot be power if God is love.  And in love, equality need not imply identity.”[1] We are called to live into the love of God that runs so deep, it is the energy that is who God is.

So, join us for YAC 2010, and walk with us as we explore exactly how this happens – trying to define what it is, how you seek it out, how you build it, and how you maintain it.  It is what it means to live in the presence of the Triune God – Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.  It is the calling forth of God’s kin-dom on Earth, and witnessing to the risen Christ.

[1] Placher, William C.  The Triune God:  An Essay in Postmodern Theology.  Westminster John Knox Press.  Louisville, KY:  2007.  pg. 151.