Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Pierre Gui

“How do we get more kids in here?”

“How do we make church more ‘hip’?”

“How can we be more ‘relevant’?”

I don’t really know.
But what I do know is this…

A lot of people are going back to vinyl records these days.

I don’t want a watered-down church for ‘the hip young people’. A lot of churches are still stuck in making church like CDs or (God help us) MP3s.

I want vinyl church and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

Now, we can’t be assholes any longer. We must ditch the exclusionary tone of the Christendom of yesteryear. Hospitality is where we need to live now, dear church. But reverence is good. Not being everything for everyone is fine. There will be plenty we’re just not for. And that’s fine (great, actually). …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Roman Mager

There’s a meme going around that I’ve seen that says this…

“Mathematical law is the only true God.”

Let’s see, where do I start?…

I like smart people. I’m so glad there are people way smarter than me doing things that solve complicated problems for humanity. So, in this regard, I totally get it and can get behind God-as-mathematical-law. A God that’s logical. That figures things out and shows up in rational ways.

I particularly like this God when I’m in a comfortable place. I don’t need a God of faith, I just need a God who solves problems (or, even better, who helps ME solve problems). Everything is figure-out-able, so get to work, God. And show us your answer key so we can take it from there. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Mat Reding

What if humankind is alone in the universe with nothing but our own courage and ingenuity to see us through?

To the ego, this sounds like a dream.
Like an encouraging notion.

It seems to be our collective ethos at the moment.

No wonder so many of us are exploding like spent comets in recent years. What a heavy yoke to be burdened with such self-centeredness and grandiosity.

Turn us to you, oh gracious God.
Extract our trust in our egoic ambitions
and put our self-centeredness to death
so that we may surrender into you, our only Source
and be made anew

Amen.


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jonathan Simcoe

A new liturgical year is here. Advent has arrived. (I can’t believe it.)

Advent is my favorite church season of the year. I love the music. I love the mood. I love the delayed gratification of Christmas. A church that sticks closely to the liturgical calendar will hesitate going all-out on Christmas until the big day arrives. Because, in the church, it isn’t Christmas yet. This is a time when we watch and wait for the arrival of Christ incarnate.

But for now, it’s a little somber. It’s a time for lament. While the world outside is bursting with faux holiday cheer, church provides a respite from the madness. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Andrés Canchón

The ‘nones’ say they don’t need religion to (I’ll quote) “live a good life.”

Well…
I agree with them
They’re right.
(In fact, I was one of them. For a long time.)

I don’t know if church should (or was intended to) be a place to learn how to live our best lives.

Rather than a place to strive for betterment, I’d say that church better serves its divine purpose as a place for broken and hurting people to fall down without losing their sense of self-worth.

I say that church should be a sanctuary to safely trust-fall back into God’s grace along with a communion of sinner-saints, not a spiritual/moral/social/political gym. …


Happy Thanksgiving

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

[If you’re a subscriber to The Jonasletter, you’ve already received this and can discard this message.]

— —

We’re all getting hit with a million different Thanksgiving messages right now, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t add to the cacophony.

I’m grateful for you…

I’ve been writing these blogs for over five years now. It’d be an exercise in futility without you on the other end of them. Being able to keep this thing up is a privilege that I take extremely seriously.

So… Thank you.

On Gratitude…

As with all good things, we’ve turned gratitude into law. Gratitude is now a ‘practice’. It’s a gazillion-dollar (give or take a few bucks) industry fueled with gratitude playlists, meditations, journals, cards, candles, courses, etc. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Baptiste Gousset

Here’s the good word for the day. It’s a quick one…

Jesus frees us from concern about our relationship with God.
There is no more conflict between the human and the divine.
It is finished.

This conflict was never really real.
But in the human mind, it became so.

The new covenant undid that conflict. The divine reconciled with humans by slipping into our flesh and dying to the unreal. It made all things right and ushered in a new creation.

So, my fellow earthlings, the question begs (just for fun)…

Now what?


Image for post
Image for post

If faith is based — to any degree — on me and my ego, there will always be at least a lingering doubtful question…

Have I done my part?

Everything God wills is certain. But with this question at the center of my faith, it’s anything but.

It will never be enough.
I will never be enough.

In Christ, our doubtful selves are killed off and the entirety of God’s love is swapped in.

We are made wholly new. It’s an act of total imputation, not just a little spark in us that we feebly have to help light.

Christ is the founder and perfector of our faith. Not us.

Thanks be to God.


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Fabian Betto

In the world (especially in the US), freedom is equated with independence. I am free when I can be a self-functioning and independent individual.

When the child moves into adolescence and becomes aware of the oppressive religion of her youth, freedom is independence from that thing when she finally escapes it. In her mind, freedom is independence from God.

First of all, we must assume that her religion was likely not a gospel-centric one (or, at least, it didn’t hit her heart that way). It was likely based on God-as-law. On Jesus as the cosmic rule keeper and guilt tripper.

And so, yes… If that’s the case, her independence from THAT was indeed freedom. …


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Bakir Custovic

Here’s my inner dialogue more often than not…

Hey, God… Sorry to bug ya. I just need a little help here. Now, don’t worry… I’ll get out of your hair when you get me over this hump here. Just a little nudge and I should be good. Sorry for putting you out, God.

There it is, case in point… It’s easy to slip into thinking that God’s job is just to get us back on our own two feet. We’ll take it from there.

The spiritual discipline here isn’t to prove to God that we can do life ourselves (with just a little help sometimes). Or to just do a few good things in order to appease God and get God off our backs, so to speak. …

About

Jonas Ellison

Writer. Lutheran Theologian. Super hard to write with this plank in my eye. | Daily(ish) email newsletter at jonasellison.substack.com/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store