Archive for March, 2015

Onward and Upward

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Although we are in the midst of the solemn days of Holy Week, I was cheered to read that Malcolm Torry, a British expert on church growth and secularization has concluded from his research that long-standing pastors bring more change than new ones. Since I am especially looking forward to parish renewal as a result of Incarnation 2020, our recent strategic plan, I’m glad that–statistically, at least–my thirty years at Incarnation won’t be an impediment to change.

Speaking of change, the same author also says that congregations firmly rooted in the Bible are less religious than those that are not, and that congregations change most when they fear change most. Interesting food for thought for us at Incarnation as we await the celebration of the New Life we have in Jesus Christ. —J. Douglas Ousley

Easter Cliches

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Every priest I know struggles with Easter sermons. Everyone has heard it all before; it’s hard to say anything new.

But, in addition, it’s also hard to wrap our minds around the event that Easter celebrates. What was “the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead?” What does it mean to us, 2000 years later? What new life do we have now?

Perhaps it’s worth noting that Easter is not so much to be thought about as to be experienced. And in the experience of Holy Week and Easter, the imagination is as much an engine of inspiration as the reason.

That’s why we walk the way of the Cross with Jesus from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper, to Good Friday and the Cross, and to Easter Eve and the New Fire before we arrive at the joy of Easter Day. In doing so, we go way beyond the cliches.

Happy Holy Week. —J. Douglas Ousley


God v. Allah

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

At the Men’s and Women’s Group meetings at Incarnation this week, we are discussing the differences between the Christian God and the Muslim Allah.

The standard philosophical view in recent years has been that all major religions ultimately worship the same Divine Reality, though that reality is conceived in different ways and described in different language. Keith Ward, for example, says that the major religions all present “Images of Eternity;” John Hick says that the different faiths worship the same “Real.”

This benign view of the different religions has been undermined, however, by the violence of some Muslims in the practice of their faith. Allah seems to order them to do things that God would never ask Christians to do. (I have never heard of a Christian suicide bomber, for example.) This leads one to ask whether Allah really is the same God as the Christian Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

One thing is certain: skeptical journalists for whom all religion is nonsense can’t be relied upon to make theological distinctions! —J. Douglas Ousley

Don’t Postpone Joy

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

I remember reading this sign years ago in a toy shop: “Don’t postpone joy.”

While the slogan has a kind of 1960’s feel to it, the idea that we should enjoy the present moment as far as we possibly can is surely good advice. As we discussed in our Lent Class on Monday, it is recommended by the new happiness theorists such as Daniel Kahneman and Paul Dolan, who use social science to recommend ways to make ordinary life more pleasing. And of course such statements as “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will be glad and rejoice in it” are plentiful in the Bible.

I also spoke in the Lent Class about how Christian faith can help us design our lives so that we maximize joy. Not a bad subject for meditation during this season. —J. Douglas Ousley