Two Words: Spirituality & Religion

Tom EmmettRev. Tom Emmett, Senior Pastor of MCC Omaha

People throw these words (spirituality and religion) around a lot, but do we know—really know—what they mean in our cultural context?  Even the dictionary definitions seem vague and incomplete, so here is what these words mean to me…

Spirituality = Our personal inquiry of life’s Great Questions:  Why does the world exist?  Why am I here?  What is the meaning of my life and life itself?  What is the nature of God?  What happens when I die?  You get the idea.

Religion = Individuals coming together to ask Great Questions in the context of community.  Within the bounds of safety of a good and healthy religion, like here at MCC, people can consider some of the most important questions they will ever ask in the company of others and benefit from the insight of others.  Just as importantly, we can engage in service for the benefit of others, our community, and our planet.

I believe it is very important for people to be both spiritual and religious.  History has shown us that it can be dangerous to be just spiritual or just religious.  We have all seen how very dangerous religion can be when people don’t ask deep, penetrating spiritual questions and instead blindly follow some priest or pastor.  Just the same, if we keep our walk with God only to our self (that is being only spiritual and not religious), we will tend to create our own private God based solely on our personal experience and understanding.  This God will be too small and look too much like our own likes and dislikes.  A God we made in our own personal image is no God at all.

People need spirituality and religion together as part of a balanced unified whole.  The two should complement each other allowing us to be fully integrated human beings.  In MCC congregations, we deeply value the individual and the community.  We deeply value your natural human expression of both spirituality and religion.  Both are beautiful, just like you.

Under Construction

Colleen DarraughRev. Colleen Darraugh, 2013 PPMCC Retreat Speaker

Have you ever watched a house being built?  Recently, I’ve been watching the process on my street.  For weeks, we watched them digging this big hole and moving dirt around.  After a couple of weeks, the land was all smooth and level and you could tell they were getting ready to build.  Weeks of labor and all you could see was the flat landscape!  What preparation does God do with you and me before we begin to realize we are under construction?

The next phase of work involved the foundation, critical to any construction project.  The plumbing connections must all be placed correctly before the foundation floor is poured.  The entire house must be imagined/seen resting on this foundation.  This phase of the work can appear slow to those driving by, much of the detail cannot be seen.  How does God prepare the foundation of your life?  Do you spend time and energy investing in a solid foundation prior to building?

The frame of a house seems to go up overnight!  You can drive by in the morning and see one wall being hoisted into place and come home to see a fully framed house.  One day there was no house and now there is.  It may not be live-able by today’s standards, yet it would offer shelter even at this stage of construction.  Spiritually, there are times when we feel like we have been under construction for ages with little to show, and then all of a sudden there is a spurt of growth.  Our developing faith is able to provide shelter even though we are still under construction.

The passerby watches to see what the exterior will look like—will it be brick or wood or something else?  There is a new personal interest in the appearance of the house at this stage.  When it is not our home, we care more about the external appearance than the internal details of the shelter.  Spiritually, many are interested in the external appearance of a Christian or of a Church.  It is what people see.  It is not the home.  However, if one has not invested in good design and construction, a pretty exterior can cover up a multitude of problems.  It might look great yet not be solid and not last long.

At this point, it can seem as if construction has ceased.  Driving by, we see little if any changes.  The detail interior work is under way, and it cannot be seen on the outside.  Plumbing and electrical work continue.  Walls, floors and ceilings are finished out.  What is going on in the interior life of a person under spiritual construction?  We might see the exterior and think they are “complete” when they are still very much under construction.

Then comes the day when the construction trucks are gone and moving vans appear.  The inhabitants are moving in!  I’m reminded that a house is not a home; people and relationships make the difference.  People can live in a house, but it is not a home unless love is there.  Large or small, extravagant, modest, or simple, it is love that makes a home.  How much love have you put into your spiritual construction?  Does God dwell there with you, or have you attempted to build by yourself?

At retreat we will be thinking about all of this and more as we consider our lives as “Buildings Under Construction.”  I can’t wait to join you and be a part of this exciting and transformative weekend!

Reflections on “In Remembrance 2012”

From the Cast of In Remembrance 2012

One of the great things about American Musical Theatre is its ability to express emotion in ways nothing else can.  While I am very proud of our original concept for this show, the music, and the script, the real power comes from the people playing the characters.  Unlike any previous year, we have created new characters and allowed our cast to make them their own.  So instead of telling you why I love this show, I have asked the cast to share their insights (below).  ~Kyle Jensen, Co-Director



Kevin Sullivan (Jesus):  Jesus spends this entire show torn between his own human emotions and needs and the greater good of humanity.   Especially during the Last Supper, I am struck by the fact that this struggle is relevant to any time period and how much we still  have to learn.



Kevin Rorke (Judas):  My favorite moment in this show has to be the betrayal scene.  I love Judas’ dark side…and the character change that occurs in him by the end of the show.  I was raised Catholic.  So I grew up with the stations of the cross during lent and Holy Week.  This is way more fun!



Kerrin Mullen (Mary):  So often shows like these have such a strong message of tragedy and shame.  What I have discovered is that this show isn’t like any other!  Instead of leaving us with despair, this show has a message of hope for all people.  And we could all use a little hope.



Mathieu Burton (Peter):  Last year as Judas I was really told what my character should and should not do.  This year I’ve been able to create my own Peter.  I am so emotionally attached to this show and I know you will be as well.



Siobhan Downey (Destiny):  The end of the show has always had a reverent “make you cry buckets” mood.  This year, Beth and Kyle were brave enough to go in a completely different direction.  I’m pretty stoked about the result and I have a feeling you will be too!  The show lives up to its tag line “There’s only one love in the end.”



Melanie Mahaffey (Valarie):  So many people spend their lives trying to figure out God’s will.  Every character in the show struggles with this concept as they try to figure out who this Jesus person really is.  Peter, for instance, is ready to take up arms and run head-first into the rebellion  because he thinks that’s what Jesus has come to do.  Instead we hear Jesus teach love.  I think God’s will is pretty simple.  Love each other.



Laura Starcher (Reporter):  I have wanted to be apart of this show for the last couple of years and I am so excited to be involved!  Its been so interesting being the one that tells the story.  It has given me a much different perspective on Jesus’ life.




Jarrett Rivera (Pod-Caster):  I have never looked at this story from this viewpoint.   I love seeing the different sides!  This is a fantastic show with an important message.