Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Next Year's Preaching

I want to say, "Thanks" to everyone who gave me some feedback on what I should concentrate on preaching in the coming year (in this case the "year" starts in September). It was nice being in conversation with everyone, and you're comments were helpful to get me to the point where I could start mapping out the series for next year. I even got some ideas that I wouldn't have thought of in a million years, the best of which was doing a series on the 12 Apostles. A series on the Apostles is intriguing, and I might begin researching that series in the coming year, 'cause that'll take a good amount of work to do it well.

Anyway, here's what's coming up at Central in terms of teaching themes:
  • The 10 Commandments: The next series leaves me with 10 weeks to fill from September through the middle of November. Qohelet pointed out that, gee-whiz, there's 10 Commandments so it fit well and the topics are straight-forward enough that I could keep developing the other series while it was in progress (His first suggestion was less helpful, "Something on Jesus"). So, we'll be doing the "Thou Shalts" this fall.
  • What's Time Got To Do With It?: This was a nearly universal selection by people, even among my "non-liturgical" friends (which surprised me). I won't be preaching directly from a lectionary (though, I have done that in the past and I think it's a wonderful discipline). Rather, I had already started work on a discipleship curriculum that would walk through the Church Year in 10 - 12 weeks and I'm adapting the bulk of the Readings from that (the gaps are filled in with "Year A" texts in the Common Lectionary though). We'll start this series two weeks before Advent with a sermon on the nature and function of the Bible, and one on the rhythm of life that is prescribed in the Tanakh. After that, we're off to the races. I've yet to decide what to do about non-sunday feast days (some, by happy circumstance, already fall on Sunday in the coming year).
  • Kingdom Living: This series, which was first used in CrossPoint, will begin after Pentecost. This fits well because Ordinary Time is designed to talk about the mission of the Church.
  • The Politics of Jesus - will come in Fall of 2008. I want to do a series on the political impact that Jesus' message had in his day, and ask if the political impact it has on our day should be similar. I'll be researching this one throughout the coming year.
  • The End Of All Things - Will actually conclude What's Time Got To Do With It? It'll go through Advent with a second coming focus.
  • Mission Focused Life - Will start in January of 2009. I'm already working on the materials for this series in preparation for the January 2008 Student Chaplain Retreat. This will end up being my next devotional study book if it pans out well.
See how you helped? Now we're mapping stuff into 2009! Thanks!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Kensington Fire

Several weeks ago the Kensington Neighborhood of Philly had a 7 Alarm fire which destroyed much of a city block. The fire started in an abandoned warehouse/factory in which other fires had already taken place, but nothing had been done to remove the hazard to the community. It's impact is felt more personally for me since several of my friends from college live and work in that very block with a group called "The Simple Way."

One friend, whose movie studio is across the street, created this short film on the fire and it's impact.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Conversation Filled with Sighs...

Central had it annual Church picnic down by the river this past Sunday. We have a great time, and invite the Harbour community to join in the fun by listening to the band (Blue Grass this year) and we give away free hot dogs for an hour or so to all who want them. We use the picnic as a way of growing as a community, growing awareness that our community needs to be permeable, and invite folks to come down to the Harbour Club House for worship during the following week. It's a good time, and I think we present a good witness for the Kingdom.

During the hot dog hour a man who is a member of a local church came up to me and, knowing that their congregation recently lost it's "dual-yolk" status, I asked him how things were going. "Well, OK, you know we lost our pastor, right?" I responded in the affirmative and asked him how they were doing, "OK I guess, I don't know why he decided to leave, I mean he knew what we were coming in. He wanted to do Adult Education, and I told him that he didn't have enough time on Sunday to do that."

I asked him about the other six days of the week, and if maybe he wanted to do some education on those days. He said, "I guess he could have meant that, I mean he did a history of [his tradition] back in the fall a year or so ago and I thought that was good - but we have our independent bible group and we're happy with that. He knew we were happy with what we had coming in, I just don't get why he left."

As generously as I could I said, "That's why he left. You were happy with what you had and what you were, but the role of a pastor isn't to keep you happy, it's to help you be disciples. If you weren't going to go anywhere, he wasn't going to stick around for that." He blinked a bit and said, "I guess I can understand that, I still don't get why he didn't see what we were coming in though. Now we've got some options. We can find a retired pastor to come to us part-time, I don't see that happening. We can close, I really don't see that happening, or we can just get pulpit supply in on Sundays and keep doing what we're doing."

Before I could recommend that their church had decided to be dead, so they should be honest and just close it this gentleman said, "Thanks for talking," and went and watched the band. As I replay the conversation in my head I shudder to think of how close Central was to that point - where not only was it not going to budge, but also lose it's ability to budge. We were fortunate, we had many more resources and some spark of passion for the Gospel left in the Church - but even still there were grumblings of "we're happy, you knew that coming in" for a good 2 1/2 years before I could sense Central starting to breathe again; and 3 1/2 years because I began to see it's breathing in action. In the end I think the bulk of people here decided to be faithful, even if they're still forming the picture of what that means in their minds - and it made all the difference. I hope we never forget.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Planning Ahead, feedback wanted...

I'm getting ready to map out the sermons for next year and for the first time in a while I'm really not sure what on earth God want's me to set up as a series (I think this because so much of my pastoral work for the congregation is being done apart from preaching [i.e. the restructuring seminars and individual discipling). So, as I've so often said, I need some help here. Let me give you some ideas that are banging around in my head and PLEASE give some feedback. There's three rules for feedback though:

  1. Ambigous sugguestions like, "something on prayer" really aren't helpful - when making a sugguestion be specific on what and why. So, "10 weeks on meditation would be nice" would be a good specific sugguestion, ok?
  2. Saying, "I'll like whatever you come up with" is right out. I mean, the pat on the back is ok I guess, but comments like that just toss it back on my lap and I've already said I need some help figuring out where to go.
  3. Comments to the effect of, "Why do you need to plan ahead, why don't you let God lead you?" will earn the offending party a metaphorical whack with the wiffle-ball bat. Planning ahead is what gives me the freedom to be lead by the Spirit (otherwise I'd always be freaking out if something came up outside the normal routine, like, "I'm sorry but I can't teach you about spiritual disciplines I've got sermons to write....")

Sill with me? Great! Here's some ideas bouncing around in my head:

  • "Around The Story in 80 Sundays" - not really 80 Sundays, this would examine the Christian story as found in the Bible as framed by either the Apostle's or Nicene Creed.
  • "Kingdom Dreams" - from CrossPoint, resurrect this series for the general Church (including the "prologue portion covering genesis 1 - 11). It covers the promise of the Kingdom through the story of the Bible to the end of the Gospel.
  • "Kingdom Living" - again, from CrossPoint - this covers how the promise of the Kingdom got worked out in the Church from Acts to Revelation (and, therefor, to our current day). This would be a good follow-up to the above.
  • "A Mission-Structured Life" - This idea is already going to form the basis of the Student Chaplain Retreat in January (by the way they really want to come back, nicely done everyone). You can read my first thoughts on the idea here:
  • http://wezlo.blogspot.com/2007/07/theological-musings.html
  • "What's Time Got To Do With It?" - This follows the Christian story through the use of the Liturgical Calendar. I'm already planning a discipleship curriculum based on this concept - the sermon series could follow a lectionary, or my own mish-mash (both would be OK).
  • "Mystics 'R Us" - a look at Worship, The Church, and Christian living (really, all the same thing) from the perspective that discipleship springs from what's commonly called a "mystical union" between the Triune God and his Church.
  • "The Politics of Jesus" - we could take some weeks to look over Jesus' statement that would have had political implications in his day and age ("Give unto Caesar" type stuff). It's an election year, that might be interesting...

Only a couple of these would span the year (and even then only in sections). Gimme some thoughts on what you are sensing God wanting to tell the congregation...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I've been Simpsonized...

Well, a fellow Christdot admin has Simpsonized me. More than that, he progressively changed me into a Simpsonized Klingon (a joke that sprung from my habit of typing /me bangs head on desk when people make stupid posts). Here's the progression...



Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Oh boy, what a day...

Sunday started off well enough. I preached on Romans 7: 12 - 25 and even got an "Amen" from out in the crowd (a loud one, too). Normally I don't put much stock in stuff like that, but I was preaching on the need to not hide from our sins so that the tension between what we "wish to do" and what we "actually" do can drive us into the arms of Christ. A lot of people apparently felt some freedom as a result of the sermon - we'll see what comes from it.

After worship we went out to lunch at one of our favorite 50's joints with some friends who are a newer couple at Central. I got a decidedly un-fifties lunch (Grilled Caesar Chicken Steak sandwich, yum) and we got to spend some time with folks who are becoming really good friends. Then we hopped in our car and drove to Morgantown, PA to pick up our daughter (who was at my wife's folks for the weekend). We got out to Morgantown early, so we found a Sonic Drive-In and got some fruit slushies (the lemon is tasty).

After we picked up my daughter we decided to travel part of the way home via a back route because it was a nice day and we were feeling adventurous (Route 23 from Morgantown to Valley Forge is a fantastic drive that I recommend to anyone). When we got to King of Prussia we were feeling all relaxed and hopped on the Schuylkill expressway for the last leg home. This is where our fun began.

Now the sure-kill distress-way has a particular portion that is always backed up, insane, or both. It's called the "Conshohocken Curve" and, frankly, it's a sucky portion of road that I'm intimately familiar with. Just as we entered the curve we heard a pop, a crash, and a clang from our under-carriage and then white smoke started pouring out from under our car. We got to the breakdown lane, pulled off, and turned on our hazards (I'm getting flares). I got out, went to the front of the car, and looked underneath. A huge pool of fluid was forming under our car, and it looked like a line had broken.

This was not a good place to be (in many respects). So we called AAA and 911 because we were afraid some 18-wheeler was going to annihilate us. AAA said they didn't have an extended cab, and my family wasn't answering their phones (I grew up about 20 minutes from the Curve), so the State Trooper packed my wife and kids into his cruiser and took them to the auto-shop that AAA said they worked with (if Jen had a blog she could tell you that story, oh boy). With the family out of harms way I got into the car, called qohelet on my cell, and cringed as cars missed nailing me by a couple of feet. About 10 minutes after the family left, Jen called me and said that the auto shop was closed and that they were presently at a gas station. I renewed my efforts to call my family and thankfully one of my cousins answered my parents' phone (no one in my immediate family answers the phone, it's weird). They went to get Jen and the Kids, and I tried to say alive on the Schuylkill. As the auto-shop was closed I called AAA and told them that we'd need to change our destination to Riverton, NJ (where the mechanic we normally use is located).

After about an hour and a half the dispatched tow-truck called me and said he was 10 minutes out (apparently AAA hadn't told them to stop looking for an extended cab). With a sigh of relief I watched as our car was put on a flat-bed, and hopped into the air-conditioned cab. The driver apologized for being late, and then told me, "Believe it or not, but the next exit to turn around is 7 miles from here." Now, (a) we were 50 yards from the Conshohocken exit that he was perfectly ok backing up to and (b) I didn't want to turn around, I wanted to go home. When I informed him that I had called AAA and told him that I wasn't going to Conshy, but was rather going to New Jersey, the driver looked at me and said, "Uh, I can't do that. We've already got 2 trucks in New Jersey and that would leave this region without a truck. AAA never told me about the change." So he got me off the Curve and took me to Plymouth-Meeting Mall (where, incidentally, I used to work). It was about 6:30 when I got dropped off, and AAA (after trying to weasel out of the fact that they screwed up on the dispatch) agreed to get another truck to me "within the hour."

Now, around here Malls close at 5:00 on Sundays, so by the time I got there the place was closed up tight. There was a mini-mart near-by, however, so I was able to get a drink and a bag of combos (never mix combos and green-tea when you're dehydrated, bad idea on my part). I got back to my car and figured I'd have about 30 minutes to wait. My family was safe, and I was reasonably comfortable, and it wasn't that big of a deal.

Then, to paraphrase a Monty-Python sketch, "absolutely nothing happened." An hour rolled by, my family was on their way home, and it was getting dark - more importantly, there was no tow-truck in sight. I waited 10 minutes, and then called AAA to figure out what was going on. The gentleman who answered was relatively pleasant, and told me that the truck had marked "on site" in their box and he didn't know why I wasn't seeing him. He put me on hold (for several minutes) while he tried to contact the truck. They didn't answer their phone. He left a message and an e-mail and told me that he expected that I would be contacted within 10 minutes. It was 8:00. It was dark. All the cars had left the lot and I was there, very much alone and feeling rather grouchy. I called my dad and we agreed that if the truck didn't come by 8:30 he was coming to get me and AAA was going to get an ear-full. At about 8:10 I watched a cop about to do a bust across Germantown Pike, with Mall Security at the end of my parking aisle to make sure that the busted didn't run in our direction. This didn't make me feel very good (especially since the people they were busting had just walked right by me and almost got into a fight with a car that was driving circles around them). So, at 8:25 I called AAA and they got an ear-full.

You have to understand, I used to work a computer help-desk for some of the dumbest computer users on the planet. I know what it's like to be first-tier support and so I try to be nice to these folks as a matter of shared experience (not to mention it's just a good thing to do, but with telemarketers all bets are off). I'm nice to these people, and I got mean. I said I knew that there was nothing this person could do, but asked that it get passed up the ladder that I was, frankly, pissed. We had broken down just after 4:30, it was 8:30. It was dark, it was not a nice place to be, and I wanted to go home. I told the service-rep that I was now dictating terms and what was going to happen was that I was going to get a ride home with my father, and that the next day I was going to get a private tow-service to tow my car home and that AAA was going to pay for it. Before my 4 hour insanity I was happy to pay the $3.50 a mile to get my car back to my area but after having AAA drop the ball I wasn't paying a cent. The service rep said, "Yes this is totally unaccetpable." I agreed and said, "And please understand, you've lost us as a subscriber, we're done, we're through." I was told that I could indeed submit a reimbursement and that she'd send the form out immediately. Then she asked, "So, just to confirm, you would like us to cancel your service call for tonight?" That was too much, so I growled, "You mean the service call for the truck that is marked 'on site' but is apparently in another dimension because they aren't on this site? Yes, I'd like to cancel that call - and if you can fire the driver while you're at it, that would be great." I hung up the phone, called my dad, and got a ride home. I got home at 10:00 PM.

But wait there's more!

It turns out that a gear had broken in our transmission, and managed to shatter the casing for the drive-train. So, it turns out that we'd need a new transmission, and that cost would be....$1600. We had just put $900 into the car a couple of months ago and $1600 was well over the value of our 1998 Saturn SL2 so after all this we ended up having to junk it, and go out car shopping. Last night we came home with a 2002 Toyota Camry and a car payment. The week started out so well...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

PersonalDNA

Well, some friends (here and here) have listed their "PersonalDNA" so I figured I'd chime in:


I wonder if my personality has changed a bit since I've been in a pastoral role - I used to score as introverted in personality tests.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Senate Antics

I'm not a fan of the whole "Christian Nation" idea. Really, to me it's just a really bad idea that doesn't have a really good track record. What concerns me with the whole "restore our Christian Nation" movement is the sense of entitlement that these folks have. It's believed that Christians have a right to expect to be in places of power and control, and also that they have the responsibility to protest aggressively whenever that "right" appears to be threatened. Such as when a guest chaplain offered a Hindu prayer recently as the opening of a Senate session.




I'm sorry, that's just wrong. And to this chaplain, I deeply apologize for the actions of these people. Folks, we have no intrinsic right to privilege in the country or this world. When protests such as this one are leveled against people it tells people that Christianity is not about grace and redemption, it's about holding on to power. I can't say it any stronger than this, when we act out of a desire to hold on to the power we possess, we are in sin (whether it be in a local Church or in the US Senate)- and the only appropriate response is to repent.


Lord help us.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Seeing Is Believing?

I know people have been pointing this out for years, but I'd like to reiterate it with a cool image re-touch I did from our Williamsburg, VA trip. We can't believe what we see anymore, folks (not that we ever really could), test things out to see what fruit it bears.






Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Theological Musings

I'm planning on hosting the Eastern University Student Chaplains for an over-night retreat in January 2008 (yes, there are times when I plan this far ahead). Last year's retreat was structured around the Making Space devotional study I wrote for our congregation, this year I'll be leading Central through a series of events contemplating what a Church could look like if it's structure emerged from it's mission. So I thought, "Gee, what would a mission-structured life look like?" After some musings with my friend, Frank, at a local Panera (no, not that one Byron) - this is what came out. Enjoy.


A Mission-Structured Life

The purpose of this retreat is to enable participants to re-evaluate (and renew) their life-style in the context of being missionally structured. Often times in our daily lives events seem to bounce us along in a particular direction, whether we wish to go along or not. In the torrent activities which are meant to bring freedom, structure, and joy to our existence end up being the debris which pummel us into hopeless submission. We become lost in a maze of impossible expectations, feeling as though we should somehow be doing more. Or, perhaps, that life should be about more. Yet this “more” always seems just out of reach because we are continually being tossed about by the waves of events that seem to be beyond our control – and following promises of safe harbors that in reality only add to our burden1. In this torrent we remain as napes, never really able to mature in the faith and hope and love of Christ our Savior.

Life, it seems, needs to be re-imaged from the destructive flood of tasks and distractions. We need a way to imagine our lives as more than keeping our heads above water – a way to structure who we are, and what we do, in a way that brings the freedom we need to become the people we are called to be in Christ. The proposal of this retreat is that the way to experience this freedom is to deliberately structure our life around the mission which we have been given.

Imaging The Mission

If we are called to structure our life around mission the question first needs to be asked, “What mission are we talking about?” The only mission given to Christians in the New Testament is what is commonly called “The Great Commission2.” In this commission, Christians are called to be a “disciple-making” community. While “disciple-making” often conjures up images of screaming corner-prophets or intense knowledge accumulation, the image for disciple-making used in this retreat is less intimidating3 – we like to think of the Mission of the Church as a stream.

The mission of the Church is much like a stream that wanders through the country-side, enriching what it touches and calling people to take pleasure in it’s movement. Christians are called to be moved by the stream, and to call others to join the steam as well. The current of this stream comes from the working out of our salvation with fear and trembling4 – the ethic behind this “working out” springs from Jesus’ summary of the Law, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments5.” Thus the mission of the Church, and a life structured by that mission, springs from faith (that the stream is life-giving rather than life destroying), hope (that the current is taking pilgrims somewhere good), and love (the desire to bless the One who created the stream, as well as both those in it’s current and on the banks)6.

Simply entering the stream, however, doesn’t mean that we are a healthy part of it’s ecosystem. Just as people in a physical stream can act as a polluting and destroying influence, so too can people who are floating in the Church’s stream of mission be a toxic presence. The goal of being in the stream isn’t simply to be taken along by it’s current to a better place – but rather to become part of the stream’s live-giving presence.

Learning To Be The Mission

Just as people need to learn how to swim, so to do new disciples need to learn to move in the new reality of the missional stream. This learning comes from conversations and relationships which are developed as we move through the stream. It is as fellow travelers model the ethic of Loving God and Loving neighbor (as themselves) that new disciples find the freedom to move with the group down the steam. Just as no two individuals physically swim in exactly the same way, people who are moving in the mission stream use different “strokes.” Individuals in a group move differently, according to their particular calling or giftedness, for there are many parts to the Church, but only one body7. In a similar way, groups of travelers may take on different forms and movements which vary from one another as they are moved by (and move in) the current of the stream of mission.

The key to this shared journey, in which disciples’ individual callings compliment the whole, is trust. While typical descriptions of discipleship focus on the passing on of knowledge (which, in itself, is not a bad task), the image of the stream forces us to re-think that nature of disciple-making. It’s not simply about learning how to swim (knowledge), but also about learning that our fellow traveler are worth swimming with. Disciple groups which have knowledge, but do not trust each other, quickly fall into fighting and discord about trivial matters (and, when the matters are not trivial, often with trivial motives)8. Knowledge without trust is a dead end. Knowledge molded by trust, and worked out in love, however images God in a way that highlights the mission – pointing to a reality beyond the fear of judgment, which is the fear that keeps trust from developing in the first place9.

Ramp Building

Besides being conversation with people in the mission stream, disciples are also in continual conversation with those who are not part of the stream. In this way, individuals and groups may become aware of (hopefully) unintentional harm they are doing to the stream’s ecosystem, as well as find the best places to call people to join the stream themselves. Disciples are called to construct these entry points, or ramps, through their works of love, charity, and caring10. In this way, Jesus is not only served by his disciples, but is also imaged through his disciples. Without the deliberate creation of ramps into the mission stream, traveling groups (and individuals) turn the journey into a voyage of privilege for a few, rather than the image of calling grace that it’s meant to be11.

Entering The Mission Stream

The mission call to make disciples, as well as call to develop entry ramps for people who respond to the call of the mission, requires that there be in place a way to truly enter the mission stream. Indeed, the Church has affirmed over the course of it’s existence just such a ceremony – the sacrament of baptism.

Jesus commanded the disciples, “...make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit12.” Baptism is the entry-way into the life of Jesus Christ (that is, life in the mission stream). Though this immersion into the waters of the stream, disciples become joined into the death and resurrection of Jesus himself13. The existence that once resisted the call to join the mission is killed, yielding a new life through which the likeness of the Lord is seen14. Thus, baptism isn’t so much a momentary event, as it is a new reality that is continuously experienced and presented to the world.


1Ephesians 4:14

2Matthew 28:16 – 20

3That is, if you can swim

4Philippians 2:12

5Matthew 22:37b – 40

61 Corinthians 13

71 Corinthians 12:12 – 25

81 Corinthians 1:4 – 16

91 John 4:9 – 21

10Matthew 25: 31 – 46

11Romans 4:13 – 25

12Matthew 28:19b

13Romans 6:1 – 11

141 Peter 4: 1 – 11

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Christian Leadership Interviews

The Church I pastor, Central Baptist, is really starting to hit stride and do some great things. At this point the culture of the Church has changed enough that people are beginning to see that the structure of our Church doesn't match who we are or what we've been called to do. This is an exciting time for me, as I sometimes wondered if we'd survive the journey to this point! The problem with restructuring is, however, that 90% of the people at Central have never been part of a Church that was set up any differently than the structure we have (think, "business"). This creates a problem because the danger is that we'll just change the names of things and keep doing what we've always done (which we can't afford to do). To give people some more "tools" to work with in the coming year I'm hoping to bring in a dozen or so Pastors/Church Leaders to Central Baptist so we can have a conversation with them about the nature of their communities - especially about how their communities are structured around the mission they are trying to accomplish.

Part of this process will be an "interview" I'll being doing with our "guests" each month. Here's the questions as they exist right now - can you think of others you'd like to ask?

  1. How does your community designate who is a “member?” Is there anything that “members” can do in your community that “non-members” cannot?

  2. How does your community make decisions which affect the whole? How are those with dissenting points of view addressed? In what ways does the community ensure that decisions are carried out?

  3. Are there any specific qualifications to be a ministry leader in your community?

  4. In what ways do you keep ministry leaders focused on the mission of your community?

  5. Can you give an example of when your community was faced with a ministry opportunity, or a negative ministry issue, that couldn’t readily be fit into the way you were structured? If so, how did your community flex in order to deal with the new reality?

  6. Does your community have boundary markers? If so, what are they? If not, why not?


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Addendance Required

Ever wonder why worship all of the sudden seems like a town meeting once announcements start getting read? Well, it turns out, that's exactly how the dang things started. It turns out that the reason Church attendance was required by law wasn't to enforce morality (that was the duty of the household in that era, btw). Rather, people had to attend worship once a month because after worship is when what we call public service announcements were made! Two hundred years later we're still shifting into town meeting mode - only now we don't speak for the town any more. Weird.

Is Tolerance Enough?

I just got back from Williamsburg, VA (video and thoughts to be posted soon). My wife and I fell in love with the historic re-creation on our honeymoon and have gone back any chance we've gotten (this was our seventh time down). I can honestly say that we've not seen everything there is to offer at the site, and also that it gets better every time we go down.

One of the things that I like to do is explore the religious life of people from that era - and given that I've done some reading on the subject this year I had what I felt were good questions to ask some of the presenters in various buildings. During a conversation in the courthouse the idea of dissenters (people who did not consider themselves part of the Church of England) came up. One of the things that I've known, but became more real to me being in that place was the idea that even though dissenters felt that they were not part of the Church of England - the Church felt very differently about that idea and everyone paid a tax to the Church regardless of their religious affiliation. The refrain that came up several times in my discussions down in the historic area was, "We have toleration in Virginia, not religious freedom."

That stuck with me - and while we watched some of the extras on the Bridge to Terabithia DVD on of the interviewed teachers pointed out, "It's never to early to teach tolerance." When I heard that I instantly linked it to the refrain from Williamsburg, "We have toleration in Virginia, not religious freedom," and I thought, "What if Tolerance isn't enough?" I'm wondering if the idea of "Tolerance" (which is a better thing than oppression, let me be clear) is enough to strengthen a people-group long term. If tolerance is subtly being used in a similar way to how it was used in the English Colonial Empire than I'm afraid that we might be aiming our arrows a bit shy of the mark. Tolerance, in that sense, basically means, "While we put up with your silly little games of liberty - you and I both know who is really in charge here, pay your taxes or else." While that is better than being actively oppressed, it's far from freedom. Tolerance, after all, is really meant to give people enough rope to let people get out of ear-shot, but not so far that they can't be yanked back in line (like adding a second worship gathering at a Church). It's gives wiggle-room, but the cards are stacked against the tolerated.

I'm not so sure that Tolerance is the thing that we need to teach our children. On the other hand I'm not so sure that Freedom is what we should be teaching them either (if, by "freedom," we mean not having to answer to anyone). In place of Tolerance and the pursuit of a unbound freedom I think we Christians need to go back to the heart of our faith and teach something truly radical, how to be bound to people who are unlike us (and maybe even hate us), through love. See, in the end that's what I think Bridge to Terabithia is about - not about "Tolerance" with its underhanded acknowledgment of current power-structures, but rather about the power of love to heal slights, work for justice ("free the pee"), and bring about forgiveness and life - that's love. We Christians say that "God is Love," and that this love can be seen in the giving of his only Son Jesus for our redemption. How can we allow that redemption to flow through us beyond Tolerance and in to a bound freedom that is realized only through love?