The Multiplier

When Jesus prayed, he was conscious that, in his prayer, he met the Presence, and this consciousness was far more important and significant than the answering of his prayer. It is for this reason primarily that God was for Jesus the answer to all the issues and the problems of life. When I, with all my mind and heart, truly seek God and give myself in prayer, I, too, meet His Presence, and then I know for myself that Jesus was right.”  – Howard Thurman

Not many of us are familiar with the Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman. He was an African American theologian and mystic who served as spiritual advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the American civil rights movement of the 1960s. Dr. Thurman played a vital role in developing peaceful resistance as an alternative to violence in the struggle to overturn racial injustice in America. (To learn more about this fascinating man, join us at the August 18th adult education classes taught by Paul Evenson.)

Reflect on his statement. Let it wash over you. What does it say to you? Does it change the way you think about prayer?

So many of us resort to vending machine prayer. Drop in some change; press the button; pull out a candy bar. Our prayer life is our personal list of needs and wants and grievances, and it diminishes God to the role of Divine Butler.

Dr. Thurman tries to shake us out of that kind of moribund prayer life, introducing us to a vibrant, life-giving way of engaging with God. And, as it did for him and other civil rights leaders in the Sixties, it empowers us to go out and do the tough stuff our faith calls us to.

As always, Jesus provides the model.

But notice that Jesus chooses different settings for prayer – alone (see Matthew 26:39, 42) and among others

(Matthew 26:26). He shows us that this prayerful

engagement with God and entering into God’s presence is both solitary and communal. It may be about me, but, more importantly, it’s about us.

Weekend worship at church offers communal prayer on steroids as Christ’s disciples come together to give themselves in prayer to God and to one another. How life changing is that! We begin to understand that worship is more than a sermon, songs, receiving the Eucharist and then visiting with friends over a cup of coffee

afterwards. It’s a way in which we join our hearts with one another and with the Almighty.

The result is life- and culture-changing, as it was for those civil rights leaders.

Talking with a friend a few weeks ago he observed, “When the sermon isn’t good, you’ve wasted a good Sunday morning.” I pointed out there’s a reason why that hour is called “worship,” not “sermon.” And praying together is a vital part of that worship.

In the communion of prayer we become emboldened to become Christ’s ambassadors to a world that badly needs more Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:20). Prayer feeds the spark that the Holy Spirit plants within us. And not even police batons, fire hoses and attack dogs can stop those who have

become ignited by that spark.

But it takes a church – a community that joins hearts in prayer, song, reflection and, yes, a good sermon or two – to embolden us to be Kingdom bringers.

Some say the church is dying. But some things are worth saving.

© Ed Klodt, 2019

(Views from the Pews is written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension)

The Journey

Few succeed when traveling alone on a journey.

Meriwether Lewis needs William Clark to help settle the American West. Edmund Hillary relies on Tenzing Norgay in conquering Mount Everest.  And Barnabas accompanies Paul to help bring the Gospel to far-off places.

It’s that way in our faith journeys, as well. We need each other to navigate the steep peaks and plunging slopes that inevitably confront us as we translate our faith from mere words to powerful action.

And a church provides the perfect platform to equip us with those who will journey alongside of us.

I am Exhibit A.

When my family and I joined Ascension more than 30 years ago, my intent was to be a casual participant in the life of the church while our children went to Sunday school. Maybe a couple of Sundays a month and whatever pocket change might find its way into the collection plate. I was clueless to the idea that one could live out a Christian faith in ways that could be life changing and world changing.

But I couldn’t embrace this new Christian life on my own, not even with family and friends alongside. I needed others to teach and encourage me. A multitude of other Ascension members have come alongside of me over the past three decades to help shape and challenge me. Turns out Proverbs was right – “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another” (Prov. 27:17).

I have been burnished by countless pastors, lay people and others at Ascension who saw my faith journey as an important part of theirs.

That notion became an important part of my first book, The Jonah Factor®: 13 Spiritual Steps to Finding the Job of a Lifetime (Augsburg Fortress, 2006). In it I explored the notion of how church can play a vital role in helping us discern our vocation, regardless of what season of life we are in.

I continue to leverage my engagement with Ascension and its pastors, staff and members, especially now that I enter the season of retirement from fulltime employment. They continue to show me things I didn’t realize about myself and provide me with countless opportunities to grow. Maybe that’s why we call ourselves a congregation, which is defined as “a body of assembled people.” Did you catch that? A body. Assembled. United. Each part looking out for the other parts. All interested in the health and success of each of those other parts of the body

Like you, the success of my faith journey requires others to come alongside of me. And Ascension provides me a steady stream of people who love me and want me to keep growing and succeed. This church can do the same for and with you. I promise.

Some say the church is dying. But some things are worth saving.

© Ed Klodt, 2019

(Views from the Pews is written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension.

Roots

Who are you?

You might respond with a description of your physical attributes, your hobbies, your vocation, the school you attend, your job.

Nothing wrong with that.

But notice how your description centers only on you.

It’s a reflection of our culture, where individualism is prized, where each day we go out into the world to make our mark, to get the best deal for ourselves, to do things that make us happy.

We carry that me-first perspective into our spiritual lives. In fact, most of us Jesus People think the reason for our faith is to get us into heaven – a personal get-out-of-jail-free card to an eternity with God. “Outta my way; I’m getting into heaven. The rest of you are on your own.”

Yet Scripture points toward the importance of us.

While Jesus did spend brief periods in solitude, most of his ministry was spent among his disciples and others. It was in community that Jesus did his greatest miracles and shared his most profound teachings. Ministry was never intended as a solitary pursuit. It was always done alongside of others.

The Rev. Billy Graham, arguably the most effective preacher of the 20th Century, built his ministry on an important concept. He believed that those who answered the altar calls at his massive rallies had to connect with other Christians for their faith to take root. Right away! So, at his rallies across the U.S., he always partnered with local churches to make sure that those new to the faith could be planted in those churches and flourish in their newfound relationship not just with Christ but with other believers, as well. Graham knew that a faith journey was most fruitful when traveled with others.

We are in danger of losing that.

Hopefully that doesn’t surprise you. In fact, you saw the fruits of this Christian individualism during the Easter season, where attendance at most church services during Lent was marginal, only to swell on Easter Sunday, and then settle back into marginal on the following Sundays. It’s difficult to build community at a church when most of us are Christmas/Easter Christians.

Aspen groves are said to be the largest organisms in nature. These groves – many of them covering miles – have massive root systems that interconnect the individual trees. In fact, these aren’t individual trees at all. They are offshoots of that one organism. If the root network dies, the trees die. If it flourishes, they all flourish.

The physical root system for Christians is the Church. (Importantly, the spiritual root system for us is Christ himself. Remember his vines and branches analogy?) Despite all of its imperfections and the sin that exists in parts of the Church, this institution is the cradle in which all of us can learn and grow and serve a loving God who wants to be in relationship with us and for us to be in relationship with one another. We need each other in our journeys of faith.

Some say the church is dying. But some things are worth saving.
© Ed Klodt, 2019
(Views from the Pews is written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension.)

Alone

“You’re an interesting species; an interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone – only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.”

“Contact” (1997)

In the movie “Contact,” scientist Read more

Keeping 90%


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That’s from Martin Luther, who knew a thing or two about human nature. Luther understood that even those who have given their life to Christ and accepted salvation still have difficulty sharing their Read more

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