Thoughts on the Ecumenical/Interdenominational Service at Interplay. Part I

I know this event took place several weeks ago, but reflection coupled with procrastination would dictate that I would not get around to it until just recently. As it were, I attended this event with anticipation once I heard from it. Not only was a friend involved in the worship service, but I was naturally curious to see how this would all play out- particularly because interdenominational church services tend to play out in such a way that removes much of the offense of the cross, so that all that remains is a very mushy, muddled, vague and unclear presentation of the Christian gospel. I’m not saying that this is what this was, but rather I think it is how it tends to play out more often than not.

As it were, for me, the centerpiece and the focus of any church service is the reading and preaching of the Word- as that is where we hear from God most clearly, directly and authentically.  And while the whole service was about 90% music, there was a brief message  that only lasted about 7 or so minutes, and given by Rick Kirschner, who is the General Manager of KAOS radio. and I’ve transcribed the message, with comments to follow soon.

Thank you again. For all the musicians today who performed and ministered. Again, my name is Rick Kirschner, I’m the general manager of KAOS radio and I love that song so much, because I think…it personifies really what we try to do with the radio station since 2007. Our mission is to expose hope through music, talk and action. You don’t have to look very far in the community to see that… not this community necessarily, but different communities that people are hopeless, and they need encouragement. So the radio station’s purpose, we are a nonclassic religious licence, but our radios stations purpose is to bring hope and encouragement to people of all faiths, of all creeds, of all cultures, and that’s our mission. So we say… exposing hope through music, talk and action. Now we started the station in 2007 and some of you know me from there, but I’ve got a new role now, in the community, and I’m really honoured and blessed to be part of the local bylaw division. Now, before you get mad at me, how many people here have ever had a bylaw ticket, a parking ticket in this community? Put your hands up. Come one now everybody in the house the wings are coming alive. Yeah. Come on. How many people have ever had a speeding ticket?

Ahh. Ok. What was yours for Peggy? For both? Peggy, how do you get a parking ticket and a speeding ticket at the same time? Oh two different times? So you’re a really big lawbreaker! Oh Gord, is she like that all the time, or do you have to ring her in? Anyway, but how many people- there’s a couple of people who were honest enough to say they got a ticket in this town, but many people know there’s lots of times you did things that you could have got a ticket for, but you didn’t? Put your hands up, be honest. Yeah, well me too. Me too I got lots of those. So I want to let you know this morning that you’re among good company. I got this story about an English novelist William Golding tells with the light of the policewoman in Wickshiretown, England who gave him a parking ticket the day after he won the 1983 noble peace prize for literature. “Can’t you read?” she said as she gave him the bylaw ticket. So we’re…in good company. You know what each of us gets a ticket…we break laws….laws are put in place so that we can live an orderly life, that we can live a prosperous life and  we can live a prosperous life, and we can have success in our lives. Well there’s a higher law and there’s a spiritual law God says… some people, the Muslims know it as the Qu’ran, the Christians and the Jews know it as the bible. And many people follow different laws to govern their activity, and govern their morality so that they can live happy and successful lives. And a happy and successful afterlife. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t do well keeping that law either all the time. Can you- can anybody want to admit that you know maybe you can’t keep God’ law all the time? It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s hard to keep. And the good news today, and the only one solid message that I want to share is that none can keep all those laws. None can keep all those things. Scripture tells us Jesus said “there’s no one that does good, there’s no one that can keep this high standard.” And so give yourself a pat on the back and say “you know what- it’s impossible, stop striving so hard, you can’t do it all by yourself.”

But the good news we have with any law, like when we get a ticket here on earth we go before a judge and he convicts you yes or no, but you know, when we break God’s law, we have to go before a judge one day and there’s two ways you’re going to stand before him- you’re either going to stand with an advocate- a good lawyer, or you’re going to stand all by yourself. And the promise is, the word of god says “there’s none that does right” you can’t uphold that standard. Our only hope is that we’ll stand there with somebody. And the news today, the good news is that from the Christian perspective, from the Christian worldview, there is somebody that will stand with you. His name is Jesus Christ. He died on the cross two thousand years ago to take the place for our sin, to pay the penalty for our mistakes for breaking the law. It’s very simple, it’s good news. We can’t do it alright ourselves, so God sent someone to live on earth to help us, and then when we go before that great, that judge someday, that he’ll be there with us. That’s the good news, that’s the message.

Now I don’t know about you, but back to the local bylaws, there’s just- I can’t remember them all. I’m trying to learn them. I’m a new bylaw officer and I’m trying to learn them, and there’s a lot of them. The good news with God’s is, and this is what I want to focus on today, that when they ask Jesus what is the greatest commandment, what is the greatest law altogether, well he says this is very easy. You don’t have to remember the hundreds and hundreds and thousands of rules and laws that the people put in place, but he says you just gotta remember two- number #1, Matthew 22;36, you shall love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law that’s in the bible. Two things. – love God, do your best to reach out to reach out to him like we sang this morning. Say “God, you may know him you may not know him….God, I can’t do this on my own I need your help.” I met and talked with a girl yesterday, and she’s was telling me some difficult situations she was in. I said have you talked god about this?” she said no, I don’t feel worthy, I haven’t been living for him, I haven’t been doing anything, I don’t even know him. I don’t feel right to talk to him.” I said well that’s the good news with God, it’s not about how good you are, its not about how good we are. There’s many religions that you have to do lots of great things do be able to make it to God. The good news about Christianity and the bible is that we can’t do enough great things, so God came down and was with us. He took the initiative. He moved in and helped us in our weaknesses and in our infirmity. Isn’t that good news today? Someone say hey that’s good.

That’s good. So the only thing he requires of us now to reach out to him the best way we can, and honestly and with openness and say God I need your help please help me. But he does require us to love other people. Doesn’t matter who they are, it doesn’t matter what religious group,  it doesn’t matter what church they go to, it doesn’t matter where they work, which one of the plants they work, which one of the radio stations they work at, we are required by God to be great lovers. Now not great lovers, but love people. Woo. Some married woman over there is getting really excited about that. He wants us to love people unconditionally. To serve people, to care for people, that’s the… that’s the indicator that we’re connected to him. So I encourage you today, I don’t know if you know him, but reach out to him today, reach out to the lord Jesus Christ and say “Hey, here I am, as excellent or unexcellent that I am, and he’ll come and meet you right where you are.  He’s meeting me every minute, even as I speak, cuz I don’t like standing up and speaking like this, I say god come and help me, cause this is hard for me but hey- God does it, he makes up the difference in all our lives. Thanks very much, we have one more song, and then we are going to eat some more pancakes.

Well, that’s it. What do you all think? Did you like his presentation? Was it clear and did it get the gospel across in the way that it was intended? I’ll be giving my thoughts in about two days or so.

Quote about the Bride of Christ

For many of these churches, gone is the offense of the cross and the centrality of the salvation and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. Gone is the deep preaching and exegesis of the word, practical church discipline and the emphasis on the sacraments. Gone is the preeminence of the teaching of justification, sanctification and glorification.  Instead, Jesus is just a footnote in a 45 minute spirituality-laced, pop-psychology pep rally. Jesus is just a chaser to help the moralistic therapeutic deism go down. They throw the audience a few gospel crumbs, but even then they are stale and meager- a formula of esoteric and unclear vagaries. These churches are unrecognizable to the point that they’re no longer operating as the Bride of Christ, as much as they are acting like his Widow.

How many Church Ladies are having abortions in Fort McMurray?

When I wonder how many church ladies in Fort McMurray have had abortions, I do not mean that I wonder how many have gone to a clinic and have received a dilation and curettage,  a suction aspiration, or a prostaglandin chemical abortion. While I’m sure there are some who have gone that route and have killed their babies in that manner, I would hope that they would be in the vast minority, and I’ve no doubt that most if not all of the Churches in the city would condemn and preach hard against such an action. Instead though, I am referring to something that is all but too common in the Christian Church today and likely never preached about- which is the abortifacient element in hormonal birth control.

Using contraceptives and birth control as a Christian believer is quite the new concept. In fact, up until the 1930′s, every single Christian sect and denomination for the last two-thousand years had condemned it. Anglicans were the first to accept it’s usage,  announcing in 1930 at the Lambeth Conference that contraception would be allowed in some circumstances. They eventually caved and promoted its wholesale usage, and over the next four decades the rest of the mainline Protestant churches followed suit and turned it from what had once been considered a horrific sin into a novel convenience that is accepted and encouraged.

The recounting of that history speaks to the fact that for the modern Christian couple, birth control, and specifically hormonal birth control, is a non-issue. There is no morality attached to it anymore.  There is no question as to whether it might be a bad thing. The only consideration to its “badness” involves the side effects. They don’t wrestle with whether or not it might be sinful or might have farther reaching implications, but rather they  ponder and wrestle with which brand will cause the least nausea, the least weight gain, and the least impact on her sexual libido.

But here’s the dirty little secret about hormonal birth control pills- many of them have an abortifacient element to them. Birth control pills act in three basic ways, and using a combination of  varying doses of estrogen and progestin-

  1. They suppress ovulation. That is, they prevent the woman’s body from releasing an egg.
  2. They thicken the woman’s cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg.
  3. They alter the lining of the uterus and create a hostile environment so that the zygote [fertilized egg, the first stage in the life of a human being] cannot implant.

My concern in this is not with the first two points. Those are the primary mechanisms whereby most pills work and function, and they are not abortive. But there is a reason why hormonal birth control is so effective, 95-99 % or so, and that is because many of them have a back-up method, a fail safe if you will, and we see how this works in the third statement. To make the point even clearer, the developing baby receives his/her oxygen and nutrition through the uterus, so if the zygote-baby cannot implant, he/she starves to death. This is, therefore, an abortion. This is no secret and this will be right on the labels of the birth control pills. In fact, here are a few sources which say as much-

“Hormonal birth control pills work by reducing and thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. They also keep the uterine lining from thickening, which prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.” -FDA Website

Both combo and mini pills have the potential to “prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus” -Planned Parenthood, “You and the Pill”

“Even if ovulation and fertilization do take place, hormonal methods provide another method of protection: changes to the uterine lining. … the usual hormonal variations are masked, and the lining rarely has a chance to develop enough to nurture a fertilized egg.” – Physicians Desk Reference Family Guide to Women’s Health

If life does in fact begin at conception, you simply have no way of knowing how many of your fertilized eggs you are destroying and aborting. Whether or not that is your intention, that’s what you are inevitably doing. You have no way of knowing whether or not your hormonal birth control worked this month by suppressing ovulation and preventing conception altogether, or if in fact the egg and sperm were joined in conception, and then starved to death because you purposefully made your uterine walls a nightmare to grow and live and thrive in. I’m not saying that it is common. In fact, it is probably quite rare, statistically speaking. But even if it’s happening a fraction of the time, is it worth the risk?

Which begs the question- if life begins at conception, and the pill at least some of the time works by introducing elements that destroy a fertilized egg, why are so many women in church on the pill? How many of them are unknowingly aborting their babies each year? How many, in an effort to control the amount of kids God blesses them with are in fact destroying some of the children that God blessed them with? And now, more importantly, what are they going to do now that they know that’s what they’re doing?

I’m not suggesting that it’s happening every time, but it is happening some of the time, and that should be enough to give every woman pause.  And it should give every pastor pause, to think to himself whether or not he is serving the best interests of his flock when he says nothing as the women in his church commit this grave sin.  Hormonal birth control is not a morally neutral thing, not if it destroys life. It is not a non-issue, not if it is systematically making it impossible for conceived life to implant, no matter how minutely and infrequently that happens. There are deep, hard questions which arise out of it, ones that can either be a balm or a curse to their spiritual life, and I pray that these Church ladies who are contributing to the abortion of their children, as well as their husbands who are equally responsible for their fertility and the choices they make regarding it, would not violate their conscience for the sake of convenience.

Let’s talk Church

Several weeks ago I contacted a man who recently gave a sermon at a local church. I had spent several hours doing a sermon review, and had contacted him for clarification on a few salient points that he had made. Instead of answering through email, he invited me out to talk about it in person. What a fantastic opportunity! There are some people who have this idea that I write from afar and don’t care to meet the people I am writing about. Far from it. I was more than eager to get together and discuss his sermon and the church he attends as a whole.

The man, who shall remain nameless, was incredibly gracious and accommodating over the next couple hours of fellowship and discussion.  I told him some good and encouraging things. I told him some hard things. At one point I told him “Your church loves loving Jesus, I’m just not sure they love Jesus“. I don’t want to say too much about the conversation, but it was fairly heavy, and covered church history, altar calls, regeneration, praxis, doxology, women in preaching roles, friendship evangelism, church discipline, divorce, preaching styles and effectiveness, and so forth. To say it was wide ranging would be an understatement.

And the point I wanted to make was two-fold. First, that I was extremely grateful that this man took the time to talk to me, even though I think he probably disagreed with much if not most of what I said. I told him his Church was good relationally, and this would be a prime example of that. The second was that meeting this man further reinforced the balance and care and benefit of a doubt that I  need to give people when reviewing their sermons. I think as a whole I already do this, but in retrospect, through knowing this guy a little bit better, I was able to identify one part of the sermon review that I would definitely reword, with a few caveats, in order to better represent his position. And so if you are reading this, thank-you, and may God bless.