February 23, 2017

Without breaking any confidences, allow me to share some slightly edited versions of a few of the questions I have been asked, as well as the answers I gave, in recent days. I trust that they will give you some insights into the life of your pastor and into the multi-textured experience we call faith.

  1. To me, the king in the book of Esther, King Xerxes, doesn’t come off as that competent. Is this the correct perception?” The primary purpose of Esther is to encourage the Jewish people living in diaspora to uphold their values and to be brave in the face of persecution and misunderstanding. A secondary purpose is to poke fun at the ineptitude of the powerful. Thus, King Xerxes is portrayed as short-sighted, given to drink, easily influenced and not all that admirable. So your perception is correct and the lesson is that we do not have be overly impressed by anyone simply because of their station in life.
  2. Is the church going to get solar panels installed anytime soon?” To be good environmental stewards we certainly need to consider it. However, we really need someone to help us do an honest assessment of the risks and rewards. Who that person or group is, is not yet clear to me. I tend to distrust the promises of sales people and being interested and/or well-intentioned is not a substitute for good research or reliable insight. I am open to discussion but solar is a field where there is ample opportunity to go astray.
  3. My nine year old nephew likes to wear dresses. Would he be welcome, wearing a dress, at Lakeshore?” One of our most important identities as a church is that of a safe place for all, so my short answer is yes. While gender identity is a very complex subject and there is still must research to be done, we know enough to say that it is more of a range or scale than an either/or proposition. Further, it is generally more helpful to be supportive of safe exploration in this area than it is to be restrictive. Speaking theologically, our goal is for each and every person to understand that they are precious children of God created in the image of God. We proceed to that goal very gently.
  4. Why do we focus so much on the death of Jesus? Is that what crosses are for, to remind us that Jesus died?” Jesus death is an important part of his story, but it is far from the only part of his story. The gospels teach us that while Jesus died a cruel death, he also lived an amazing life, that he faced all kinds of struggles and questions with grace and hope, that he never stopped loving us, that the grave could not hold him and that he would send his Spirit to remind us of his love. Thus, try letting the cross remind you of more than Jesus’ death, let it be a symbol of the power of his life. Also, remember that in Protestant churches the cross is always empty, a reminder of the resurrection.
  5. I was talking with a friend, and he asked if Lakeshore is providing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. Where do we stand in this regard?” We are not an official sanctuary congregation, but we are supportive of the sanctuary movement and are open to consideration of what might be required of us. This is likely to remain a very important concern as none of us knows how all this is going to unfold.
  6. Are you planning on retiring anytime soon?” No. Why? Did Karen tell you to ask me?

Peace,

Jim H.