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Pr. Dan Forsgren Pastor Dan Forsgren

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Pr. Forsgren

From the Desk of Pastor Dan Forsgren

April 2018

Our Culture

When I flew back to Minnesota this past February, I flew on Southwest Airlines. When I took my seat, I did the usual getting settled into my little personal space. A part of this process for me is to check out what is in the pocket on the seat back in front of me. I found an issue of Southwest the Magazine, in it an article written by Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly. The article was entitled: An Appeal for Civility.

In it Kelly writes about the culture of Southwest reflecting that of the Golden Rule, embracing civility and delivering heartfelt hospitality. I thought this was interesting; that this business in the secular district is embracing what I would hope that as a church, congregationally, locally, and nationally we might find at our core as well.

I think religion and church carry a stigma with them, often undeserved, and misinformed, but yet present because of one person’s bad experience, shared with another, and another, until the church is seen not as a place of welcome, or a place that strives to reflect God’s love in the world, a place that takes the Great Commission from Matthew 28 seriously and seeks to bear God’s amazing grace to a world that is often dark and hurting. That is the church at its best, I suppose, a community, a culture that strives to enrich the lives of others through the sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

What I have heard about the church however is often quite different from this ideal, and standard we try to set for ourselves. What I have heard is a wariness of the church, a fear of what they think the church might represent…a place not of love but of judgment and hate; a place that looks down on someone because they might have made a mistake in their lives. Certainly the sexual abuse scandals that have come out over the past 30 plus years have not done any good in the eyes of those who were already wary of the church as an institution. If we take a good hard look at the church as an institution we can understand where some of the skepticism and anger directed towards the church can come from.

I liked the message I read in Southwest the Magazine…they seem to get that in order to be successful, especially as an airline with the recent issues of passenger mistreatment - I’m referring to instances where people have been physically removed because a plane was overbooked - if they hope to embrace to live a culture that is hospitable, and civil…and to use a Christian term loving. If an airline can do this, can we take a look at ourselves and hold ourselves to the same standards?
I am writing this during Holy Week. This Sunday we will celebrate our Lord’s triumphant victory over death. We celebrate the life that He has given us…life abundant. What does the Easter message mean for us as we engage with a secular culture that can often look at the church with suspicious eyes? The resurrection does not make any sense unless you are a Christian; we cannot assume unchurched people will understand the baseline from which we operate.

I do believe, however, that there are characteristics that transcend both the religious and the secular realms; a place where these two cultures can agree on some things. Those things are hospitality, civility, and the Golden Rule. We love because God has first loved us. He loved us when “we were dead in sin” as our confession liturgy affirms; that is the love which we must bear to the ends of the earth, that is the message that we must proclaim through our words and our deeds, without any expectation for anything in return…that is an Easter love we all have experienced and can hope to reflect in our lives.

In Christ,
Pastor Dan

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