joseph of arimathea  Today marks the feast day honoring St. Joseph of Arimathea.  Scripture teaches us that he provided the tomb for Christ, but his story goes far beyond that one event.  Church legend has it that he was a tin and copper merchant, and traveled widely across Europe in his trade.  He was also believed to be the great-uncle of Jesus, who is reported to have accompanied him in his travels.  It’s believed that the young Christ came to what is currently England with his uncle, and that Druid priests sat and learned at his feet.  It’s also thought that as a young man, Christ and his uncle constructed a chapel together on the island. Today, The Lady Chapel stands on the site of the original structure, on the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey.  This rich tradition led William Blake to write his beautiful poem, “And Did Those Feet In Ancient Times…”, which has been adapted into the hymn, “Jerusalem”.

Undoubtedly, St. Joseph of Arimathea is the father of British Christianity, coming to Glastonbury and establishing the Church there following the death and resurrection of Christ.  There is some thought that he brought with him the cup of Christ, the Holy Grail, to England.  It’s of note that Glastonbury is also believed to be the burial site of King Arthur and Guinevere.  For today, enjoy reading Blake’s great poem, and have a listen to “Jerusalem”, a beautiful and stirring hymn.  Also, take a moment to learn more about Glastonbury Abbey here.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming.” -Frederick Buechner

I spend a good deal of time thinking about the church and faith on various levels.  I love church history, and looking at trends, practices, and the evolution of what we call Christianity.  It’s impossible for me to remove my own personal experience from that equation, as a guy who grew up in a liturgical, United Methodist tradition; who viewed the rise of the religious right in the 1980’s and 1990’s; who was a part of the seeker-friendly, post-modern mega church movement in the early days of my own ministry;  who experienced being a part of church plants and splits (better spoken, I was a part of a church split that called themselves a plant…I didn’t realize this until I had been on staff for quite a while);  who had great moments of triumph and equally emotional moments of defeat as a pastor; who ran from post-modernism to historical Christianity; and who eventually wound up right where I started…In the little United Methodist Church in which I grew up.

All of those things combined together make quite of pot of hash.  If you don’t know what hash is, just imagine taking all the meat you currently have in your freezer, throw in a hogs head, onions, tomatoes, and whole lot of spices, and let the mix simmer in a black cast-iron pot over an open fire until it tastes good.

That being said, I’m going to do the best I can to describe what the hash is going to taste like once you get a spoon in your hand.  The aforementioned faith ingredients are all mixed up, and I wanted to take a few moments over the days to come to make my best attempt to tell you what I believe the flavor of Christianity is going to be over the next few years.

There are some trends and cultural phenomena that must be considered as you take a whiff of what I’m cooking.  Consider these things we’ll be looking at as the spices that I’m throwing in the pot:

1) Ministry as a “career” vs. “calling”.

2) The evangelical response to growth in orthodox denominations.

3)  Return to liturgical practices:  Here to stay?

4) Fundamentalism vs. Mysticism.

5) Church planting: Evangelical fad or built to last?

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