“We do not bring people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how long they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” — widely attributed to Madeline L’Engle
It’s easy, during the Christmas season, to see the truth of this statement. The trick for those us us who follow Christ, is to hold onto that truth all year round. When someone who is not a Christian has encountered with you, do they see the light of Christ or darkness?
There are a lot of different ways to understand the purpose of the church. This is a great one:
“The Church exists to keep alive in people’s heart the memory that God loves them. It exists to tell everyone, even those furthest away: ‘God doesn’t forget you, He cares about you’.” — Pope Francis on Twitter 
 Pope Francis, Twitter post, November 30, 2019, 6:30 a.m., http://twitter.com/Pontifex.
I’m working my way through The Character of Virtue by Stanley Hauerwas. While doing so, I came across something that I know in my heart to be true, but something I can’t fully wrap my head (at least not yet).
We [Christians] believe that in the crucifixion of Jesus, God refused to defeat our rebellion by crushing us. Instead, the Father’s love of the Son overwhelmed our violence by refusing to end our violence violently. 
 Stanley Hauerwas, “Patience” in The Character of Virtue (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2018), Kindle Edition.
“Evil is our doing, not God’s. We should not, therefore, seek to explain evil by including it in God’s plan. God does not will evil. God does not cause evil. God allows it, temporarily, while God is wooing us toward God’s self. On the cross the death toll for evil was rung, its ending begun. In this time between the times, then, evil roams about like a raging lion, chaotically spilling over the brim, causing destruction, mayhem, and death wherever possible. It does so because it knows its days are numbered. We must endure. We must hope. We must love. We must worship the one who is light and in whom there is no darkness.” — Rustin E. Brian 
 Rustin E. Brian, Jacob Arminius: the Man from Oudewater (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015), 109.
A tweet from the theologian Miroslav Volf (there are occasionally some good things on Twitter):
“Repentance is not a mere neutral zone between evil and good through which those who have committed wrongdoing must pass in order to return to the good. In repenting, I am differentiating myself from my wrongdoing; I am embracing the good in renouncing my wrongdoing.” 
We repent of our sins not to dwell upon them or wallow in them; but to confront them head-on, to separate ourselves from the evil we have done, and most importantly to turn to God.
 Miroslav Volf, Twitter post, October 4, 2019, 5:51 p.m., https://twitter.com/MiroslavVolf.
Another good point from James K. A. Smith, this time about the purpose of repetition in worship.
If you think of worship as a bottom-up, expressive endeavor, repetition will seem insincere and inauthentic. But when you see worship as an invitation to a top-down encounter in which God is refashioning your deepest habits, then repetition looks very different: it’s how God rehabituates us. In a formational paradigm, repetition isn’t insincere, because you’re not showing, you’re submitting. This is crucial because there is no formation without repetition. Virtue formation takes practice, and there is no practice that isn’t repetitive. We willingly embrace repetition as a good in all kinds of other sectors of our life—to hone our golf swing, our piano prowess, and our mathematical abilities, for example. If the sovereign Lord has created us as creatures of habit, why should we think repetition is inimical to our spiritual growth? 
 James K. A. Smith,You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Publishing Group, 2016), 80, Kindle.
My theological book study group recently read You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith. He makes this important point:
“Worship is the arena in which God recalibrates our hearts, reforms our desires, and rehabituates our loves. Worship isn’t just something we do; it is where God does something to us. Worship is the heart of discipleship because it is the gymnasium in which God retrains our hearts.” 
One of the ways worship is a gymnasium in which God retrains our heart is through repetition. Just as repetition is important in learning to play an instrument or mastering a sport, so repetition is important in shaping us as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
 James K. A. Smith,You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Publishing Group, 2016), 77, Kindle.
“[Wise souls are] aware that the texts of Scripture, on the one hand, and the interpretive process, on the other, are not the same thing. They recognize that Christians fiercely committed to Christ, Scripture and truth, frequently do differ. They acknowledge that anyone’s interpretation of a text or an issue at any given moment may turn out to be quite wrong. They understand therefore that humility and charity are called for when engaging in theological and moral argument.” — David P. Gushee 
 David P. Gushee, Changing Our Mind: Definitive 3rd Edition of the Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians with Response to Critics (Canton, Michigan: Read the Spirits Books, 2017), chap. 9, Kindle.
I recently found the following tweetstorm by Austin Fischer in my Twitter feed:
“Why settle for being conservative or progressive when you can be conservative and progressive?
Reject the binary choice. It is not a decision Jesus has asked you to make.
Christians must be conservative. Ours is a received faith, which means we don’t get to make it up. We must tie ourselves to historic orthodoxy.
Christians must be progressive. Ours is a nimble faith, which means we must be responsive to the surprising work of the Spirit of God.
It’s like flying a kite. We need an anchor, but we also need some slack and a mighty wind.” 
I don’t know Austin Fischer from Adam (apparently he’s a pastor), but I certainly agree with that.
 Austin Fischer, Twitter post, September 5, 2019, 2:52 p.m., twitter.com/austintfischer/.
I wanted to share this great quote on what the scriptures are actually for by Eugene H. Peterson:
“By and large the Christian community accepts the position that the Bible is the authoritative text by which God reveals himself. I don’t intend to argue that here; it has been well argued and thought-out by our theologians and Scripture scholars. … Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into your lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.” 
Let us listen carefully to the public reading of scripture in our worship services, let us join in the corporate study of scripture in Sunday School and Bible studies, let us attend to the private, devotional reading of scripture in our homes, let us take it up and metabolize it “into acts of love” and “cups of cold water.” For if it doesn’t become those things in our lives, we need to ask ourselves if we have really taken it in at all?
 Eugene H. Peterson, Eat This Book: a Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 18.
“There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.” — Attributed to Oscar Romero
As the Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero was known for speaking up for the poor and marginalized. He was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980.
I was going to share the quote below in tomorrow’s sermon, but it ended up on the cutting room floor.
“Providence, God’s goodness and blessing that keeps us alive, is often confused with God’s providing for us whatever we think we want or need.” — Eugene Peterson 
This is well put, I would only add that at the end of this life (whenever that comes), God’s providence sees us through death and out the other side.
 Eugene Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir (Harper Collins e-books, 2018), 154, Kindle.