Fallow Ground: Fallow Makes Fertile

“Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.” -Hosea 10:12 I grew up in small-town North Dakota. My father, who was a rural preacher, grew up on a farm. Each Sunday afternoon we would have to go for the “Sunday drive” around the countryside to “look at the crops.” I rarely saw the weekly changes that my father found so interesting. It was during those rides, however, that I learned what different crops looked like, what a “dirty” or “clean” field was, and the ongoing effects of too much or too little rain. We also talked about the farming practice of “fallow fields.” Before the current practice of field-design planting, farmers would rotate crops in a field year-to-year in order to prevent depleting the soil of certain nutrients that was caused by growing the same crops year after year. Yet the wise farmer, my dad told me, let a field go fallow every few years. Although there was no income from that field for that year, the benefit of “letting the ground rest,” as he described it, enabled bigger yield crops in the following years. Fallow ground becomes fertile ground. “It’s just like everything,” he said, “Performance is always better after a rest.” This summer, for the first time in my 24-year ministry, I am taking a Renewal Leave. For three months, June 4 – Sept. 2, I will not be engaging in any pastoral duties at Forest Hills Church, and I will be attending worship elsewhere during this time. Read more…



Burning Churches

I remember singing in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris when on our college choir tour in 1992. Our last note hung in the air as if attached to the high Gothic ceiling as our choir director kept us on cue waiting for the sound to fade. It seemed like ages, but it was perhaps more like 10 seconds. It was a magical moment. We had sung Ave Maria, a fitting song (meaning “Hail Mary,” the first words that the angel Gabriel said to Mary) to sing in the cathedral whose name means “Our Lady” (referring to Mary). I remember thinking that my voice has been added to the countless voices raised in that consecrated structure to bring glory and praise to our God. Besides its spiritual legacy, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of such a huge church building! Actually, the cathedral is rather small for a medieval cathedral. It was one of the first cathedrals to be built in the newly innovated Gothic style (pointed arches, stained glass windows, and flying buttresses, an architectural style developed in northern France in the first half of the 12th century). Notre-Dame was started in A.D. 1163 but was not completed until A.D. 1345. Over the next few hundred years, the architectural style was pushed to the extreme, until vast cathedrals–one-and-a-half and even over twice its size–were built in Seville, Spain; Milan, Italy; Cologne, Germany; and York, England. Although not as big, Paris’ Cathedral of Notre-Dame is perhaps the most famous of Gothic churches, in no small part to Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and it being a central landmark in the world capital of Paris (Napoleon was crowned emperor there in 1804). Read more…



What Does Unity Look Like after General Conference 2019?

Last blog I wrote asking for prayers for the Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church that was being held in St. Louis, MO. This Conference was held to determine the United Methodist Church’s stance on homosexuality.  The General Conference is the international body of representatives of the global United Methodist Church, and it is the Church’s highest authoritative body. It sets the official positions and rules of the United Methodist Church, which are then published every four years in The United Methodist Book of Discipline. In 1972, the General Conference added the exclusion of homosexuality, stating that homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and forbidding clergy from performing homosexual unions or marriages, and forbidding people who are self-avowed, practicing homosexuals from serving as clergy. A special General Conference was called in St. Louis last month to hear proposals to change this position. What was called “The One Church Plan” proposed the elimination of any prohibition on homosexuality and allowed each church body, congregation, and clergy to have their own position based on their own conscience. Read more…



 
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