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The Rev. Dr. Debra Samuelson The Rev. Dr. Debra Samuelson

The Rev. Dr. Debra Samuelson is the senior pastor of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Minneapolis, MN.

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The Church

April 23, 2009

The sermon for last week on Day1 was based on the Gospel of John, the 20th chapter, beginning with the 19th verse.  I loved Dr. Mendenhall's sermon, imagining Thomas as a grandfather talking to his grandson about the time many years ago that he wanted what the other disciples had received -- an experience with the Risen Christ.  Part of Thomas's instruction to the young boy was the importance of community -- the importance of the church. 

Thomas instructs that "the church can help you live in Christ's mercy and help you extend mercy to others...(it gives) a word of hope in a time of distress, (offers) forgiveness to those who hurt us, (helps us to share) our resources with others even when we are unsure we will have enough for ourselves, (seeks) unity with one another in spite of our differences, (and proclaims) the crucified Jesus as the living Lord and God."  (Dr. Laura Mendenhall, Day1, April 19, 2009)

According to studies and blogs I've been reading, people's greatest needs today are for relationships, authenticity, meeting the needs of others, social action and service. 

My experience of the church is that it is a community that genuinely and authentically cares for one another and is deeply involved in social action.  The church reaches out to people in all parts of the world, works in disaster relief, works to develop programs and strategies that help people in poverty, and is an advocate for the poor and downtrodden.  It seems what Dr. Mendenhall is saying about the importance of the church community, and my experience with the church, corresponds to what people are saying they most need in their lives.

And yet, in David Kinnaman's book, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity, he states that young people see Christians as judgmental, anti-gay, and hypocritical, among other things.

I am trying to make sense of the disconnect.  It is huge!  How is it that the church I experience as caring, is seen by others as judgmental?  Certainly there are hypocrites in the church -- and in most other places (!) but how is it that hypocrisy is all some experience, in a church in which I experience genuine commitment to social concerns and to justice?  I am looking forward to feedback and discussions around the very different ways people experience the church, and why that is the case -- and what the church can do to be more obvious about its response to the hope we know in Jesus Christ. 


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