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God on Tap Tomorrow Night: What Makes a Christian?

God on Tap Tomorrow Night: What Makes a Christian?

Join us this Tuesday, February 23rd at 7:30pm, upstairs at Forest & Main, for our next God on Tap. Our topic: What Makes a Christian?

Did you see the headlines last week about the back-and-forth between Pope Francis and Donald Trump?

When asked about Trump’s suggestion of building a wall at the Mexican border, the Pope responded, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” Trump responded, “I am a Christian and I am proud of it," and "For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful." (Catch the whole story here in USA Today.) 

Politics aside, the exchange between the Pope and Trump raises an interesting question: What Makes a Christian?

The answer may not be as obvious as it first seems.

  • Is it being baptized? But what if someone were to reject their baptism? To some, she is still a Christian; others would say not.
  • Is it, as some evangelical traditions demand, “Accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior”?
  • Is it being a member of a church?
  • Following a set of beliefs, like the creed, or political policy positions? Yet most people don’t accept everything in any ancient or modern creed entirely.
  • Is about it following Jesus? And what does that look like? How do you tell?
  • Is it just self-identifying as a Christian apart from any Christian institutions? Is it a feeling?
  • Can one be Christian but also Buddhist? How fluid can religious identity be?

Other religions have similar considerations. Judaism is an ethic identity, so things are a little clearer. However, within Judaism itself, people differ on what makes a Jew. Orthodox and most Conservative traditions say that to be a Jew one must be born of a Jewish mother. Reform and Reconstructist traditions would say that it can pass through the father as well.

As you can see, religious identification can be a tricky thing. And its a timely question as people (maybe you!) don't identify with religious traditions and institutions in the same ways as they once did.

Hope to hear your ideas on Tuesday night!

God on Tap Tonight: Starbucks Red Cups and Keeping Christ in Christmas

God on Tap Tonight: Starbucks Red Cups and Keeping Christ in Christmas

Join us for our next God on Tap, tonight, Tuesday, December 15th at 7:30pm, upstairs at Forest and Main. We’ll be talking about Christmas and the complicated intersection of Christianity, culture, and consumerism.

The start of the 2015 Christmas season was heralded not by songs of heavenly angels, but rather by a social media-fueled furor over the design of Starbucks’ red holiday cups. A rant posted on Facebook by Joshua Feuerstein, a self described “American evangelist, internet and social media personality,” on November 5th, complaining that Starbucks had removed any allusions to Christmas from its holiday cups, quickly went viral. This rant spawned a passionate debate over not only the design of the cups, but also the complicated relationship between capitalism, culture, Christianity, and the church.

We hear different variations of these complaints and concerns all around. Bumperstickers that say keep Christ in Christmas. Laments from some about saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”

Are these part of a “war on Christmas” as some have said, or a needed correction as we live in an increasingly pluralistic, religiously diverse world?

Must we depend on corporations like Starbucks to prop up our Christmas observances, or is that the work of the church and individual Christians?

How do we keep Christ in Christmas? Is it by what appears on our coffee cups, or keeping Christ in our hearts, and letting the love of Christ flow through us in our words and deeds—as suggested by the image below.

Has Christmas become too consumeristic? Too focused on stuff? Too busy? How do we get to the heart of this season—a child born in a manger because their was no room in the inn—a simple and beautiful scene and story.

Let’s dig into it when we gather tonight. See you there!


What are You Grateful For?

What are You Grateful For?

Join us on Tuesday, November 24th at 7:30pm for our next God on Tap. Our topic will be on gratitude, asking "What are you grateful for?"

It has become a tradition for us in the month of November to talk about gratitude and reflect on the things we are grateful for in our lives.

This year, I was reminded of this great quote by author Anne Lamott.

“Here are the two best prayers I know: 'Help me, help me, help me' and 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.” - Anne Lamott

Most of the time, we focus on some version of the first prayer: asking for help and praying/worrying about all the things that are wrong in the world—and all the things we wish were different in our lives.

In this season of Thanksgiving, we are invited to turn our hearts toward gratitude and to remember all the things that are good and right in the world and in our lives.

And boy, do we need to be reminded of that this week, with attacks in Paris and stories of suffering around our world. It has been heartbreaking. Sometimes it seems that evil and the powers of darkness have the upper hand. But coming back to gratitude reminds us that "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5).

So, what are you grateful for? What are the barriers you find to practicing gratitude? Have you ever found yourself feeling grateful even in the midst of challenge or suffering? Are you giving thanks on Facebook? Do you keep a gratitude journal? How do you cultivate gratitude? What difference has it made for you? Where are the lights that shine in your life?

See you on the 24th!

God on Tap Tuesday: Who are the Saints in Your Life?

God on Tap Tuesday: Who are the Saints in Your Life?

Join us for our next God on Tap on Tuesday, October 27th at 7:30pm, upstairs at Forest & Main. Our topic: Who are the saints in your life?

Each year on November 1st Christians observe "All Saints Day," where we remember those loved ones that have died over the past year. It's also a day—and this is a time of year—to give thanks for those people (both passed and living) who have been saints in our lives—people that have touched, blessed, enriched, and shaped our lives for the better—our friends, family members, mentors, colleauges. Other spiritual traditions have similar times of remebrance and gratitude. 

Now, saints are not perfect people. Far from it. In her new best-selling book, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, Nadia Bolz-Weber writes,

"I have come to realize that all the saints I’ve known have been accidental ones—people who inadvertently stumbled into redemption like they were looking for something else at the time.”

Even the best among us are all faithful and flawed, but we all have the ability to impact someone's life for the better. Oftentimes it is through sharing our own struggles and challenges.

This month I've been feeling rather nostalgic about the people that have made me the person I am today. I think of all the people who invested in so much in me and expected nothing in return. I think of pastors, teachers, friends, grandparents, and others that I consider saints in my life. When I stop to think about it, I'm amazed at how powerfully their lives shaped my own.

Who are the saints in your life?

Let's remember them, share their stories, and give thanks on Tuesday night. See you then!

Next God on Tap: Pope Francis' Visit to Philly

Next God on Tap: Pope Francis' Visit to Philly

Join us for our next God on Tap on Wednesday, September 30th at 7:30pm, upstairs at Forest & Main! Our topic will be Pope Francis and his visit to Philly. 

Most of the talk leading up to Francis' visit to Philly has been about all the traffic and parking problems—even affecting roads in Ambler and Ft. Washington—but soon we will see and hear Francis close up as he speaks and celebrates mass in Philly as part of the World Meeting of Families.

Pope Francis has quickly become a popular and, for some, a beloved figure in the religious landscape, especially for his advocacy for the poor. He has visited prisions, washed the feet of teenagers in juvinelle detention, and shared meals with the hungry and homeless. He has eschewed many of the trappings of the papal office, riding in a simple car and living in the simple Vatican apartments rather than the papal residence. His first papal encyclial called people to greater care for the environment. He has repeatedly warned about the dangers of war and greed. He recently relaxed rules around annulment and seems to have a more open stance toward those previously shuned by the church.

What is it about Francis that fascinates, inspires, or perhaps repels you? Does he cast the Catholic church, and the larger church in a new light? What is our responsiblity to the poor? What has he said or done on his visit to the U.S. that speaks to you?

See you Wednesday night! 

Forgiveness: The Hardest Part of Faith?

Forgiveness: The Hardest Part of Faith?

Join us for God on Tap tomorrow night, Tuesday, July 28th at 7:30pm, upstairs at Forest & Main. Our topic will be forgiveness.

If you ask me, forgiveness is one of the hardest parts of faith and yet is absolutely central to the teachings of Jesus and many other spiritual teachers.

To forgive someone or a group of people for real or perceived wrongs they have done to us is a challenging thing. We often harbor the hurt others have caused rather than forgive them. It can do as much harm to ourselves as to the others involved, perhaps more. As Malachy McCourt once said, "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die." 

Sometimes forgiving ourselves is even more difficult.

Forgiveness can seem so hard, and yet Jesus forgave the people who had crucified him even as he was hanging on the cross. And just recently the family members of those slain at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston forgave their killer. A Washington Post article entitled The Power of Forgiveness in Charleston it reads, 

That is the right phrase to summarize what we have seen in Charleston: the strength to love. Forgiveness is not something soft or passive. It demonstrates spiritual maturity, strength of character, depth, discipline and steadiness. It is the sign of a determined faith, fighting against every natural human inclination. “I acknowledge that I am very angry,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, the sister of one of the victims. But “she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating.”

A daughter of one victim told an interviewer that everyone, including the killer, deserves a “second chance.” She made her point confidently and without bitterness. Forgiveness is also a form of freedom — a refusal to be ruled by anger or resentment. It is like laying a burden down.

Some questions to get thinking:

How would you define forgiveness? What does it look like, feel like?

What has been your experience in giving, receiving, or withholding forgiveness—for yourself or others? 

People often say that the hardest person to forgive is yourself? Is that true?

People say, "Forgive but don't forget." What is the relationship between forgiving and forgetting?

What can we learn from the example of the members of Mother Emanuel AME?

Why did Jesus talk so much about forgiveness?

Get in Touch

God on Tap is hosted by members and friends of Upper Dublin Lutheran Church. Contact Keith Anderson for more information.