Sunday, March 10, 2019


“You’re an interesting species; an interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone – only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.
“Contact” (1997)

In the movie “Contact,” scientist Dr. Ellie Arroway (played by Jodie Foster) travels through galactic time warps and wormholes to encounter an alien being who makes that observation. In spite of her intellect, education, passion for life and Hollywood looks, Ellie Arroway feels very alone.

The alien knows this. The alien knows the human condition. He’s been watching. His words speak to the heart of every human who has ever lived.

It’s terrible to feel alone, isn’t it?

A growing number of studies shows that more and more of us feel lonely. Despite an explosion of social media, busy work lives, overcrowded classrooms, active families and youth sports leagues, more Americans say they feel lonely than ever before.

Interestingly, this uptick in loneliness corresponds with a downtick in church attendance and membership. While most Americans still identify as Christian, a growing number don’t see the value of belonging to a church. Could there be a connection?

Think about those moments in which you have felt alone. Perhaps you feel that way now.

But you know you’re not alone. Certainly, God is alongside of you. However, you can’t touch God or see God. It takes other people for us to experience God at a visceral level . . . You and me. Me and you . . . We were created in the image of God to be in community – with him and with one another.

We can get community anywhere . . . Softball leagues, knitting circles, Rotary club, Thanksgiving dinner. That’s physical community, where being in the presence of others with similar interests lifts us.

But a church community engages us on a spiritual level.

Think about it . . . Church is the only place where we can experience an invisible God. We can actually see that hidden God at work in the lives of others, become agents of that God in touching the lives of others, and allow ourselves to be touched by that God in the community of others.

A recent sermon by Pastor Steve was titled “Christ’s Glory is Seen in Your Face.” That’s it, isn’t it!!! In community we see Christ in one another. Right there in our midst. He ministers to us directly through others who sit alongside us in the pews. And we minister to one another and those outside of our circle through our church community. It’s a perfect symbiosis. We are ministered to so that we can minister to others. And it all starts at church.

Some commentators have written off the traditional church. “Too outdated.” “Not needed in this age of social media.” “Something people no longer have time for.”

But they’re wrong.

One more thought . . .

Several months ago, I traveled across the country to testify on behalf of someone I love deeply. I was a stranger in a strange land; I didn’t know anyone else in that town or in the courtroom. If you looked up “alone” in the dictionary, that was me.

The court proceedings went as well as they could have. Perhaps better. However, when the individual was sentenced, it grieved me profoundly. I hunched over and wept in my seat as the individual was taken from the courtroom.

Along came Neil, who put his arm over my shoulder and prayed with me. Right there. Right in the courtroom. Completely unexpected. Completely unasked for. Neal is a member of a local church that does outreach into that town’s jail. He’s a Jesus Guy. Sees his work in the court and jail system as the ministry God has called him to. He was Jesus to me that day. Christ’s glory was seen in his face (and experienced in his hug).

That’s the power of church – even when we’re thousands of miles from home.

Some say the church is dying. But some things are worth saving.

© Ed Klodt, 2019
(Views from the Pews is written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension. Questions and insights can be addressed to him in the “Views from the Pews” blog at or at

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Lighthouse

In California’s Big Sur stands a lighthouse. The Point Sur lighthouse, standing 270 feet above the waves, was constructed in 1889. It’s one of the oldest lighthouses in California still in operation today, helping mariners steer clear of the rocky coast.

Whaaat? A working lighthouse in this day of pinpoint GPS and sophisticated radar systems? Isn’t that so . . . 1889?

Some things stand the test of time.

There’s growing evidence that churches are dying in the U.S., especially those of mainline denominations like Lutheran. While most Americans still believe in God, more and more of them reject any religious affiliation and less and less of them attend church.

This doesn’t bode well for an institution – the Church – that for most of American history was an important part of the fabric that kept America and Americans together. While denominations may have squabbled about certain theological distinctions, churches (especially at the local level) were places where people generally put aside their differences, came together and showed how even the big issues could be addressed by putting Jesus’s words and example into action.

In a sense, the local church was that lighthouse to help steer us away from the rocky shoals of divisive politics, discrimination, border security and income inequality. Coming together for weekly worship helped neutralize the many friction points that naturally developed in the home, the workplace, the community and even the nation. People are people, after all; we don’t always get along in everyday life. Worship became a gathering place in American life as Christians focused on their Creator and reflected on how they could make the world better.

We are on the precipice of losing that, aren’t we?

Critics often argue that we don’t need churches to worship God and to live godly lives, that encounters with the Almighty can just as easily come in solitary moments of Bible study and prayer or even in a sunrise hike. Yet they overlook the importance of being together with other followers of Jesus. There is power and grace in gathering with others. God just seems to work differently – more tangibly, more powerfully – in group settings. Perhaps, in those settings, the Holy Spirit amplifies the power of the individual, much like individual atoms gathered into a critical mass create nuclear fusion.

We know that’s true, don’t we? One of the not-so-surprising facts in church life is that worship attendance swells in a crisis. Remember 9/11? Even the balcony at Ascension was filled in the weeks after the attacks on American soil. There was something comforting and powerful in coming together to grieve and hope for the future.

If the data are correct, there’s a good chance of losing that blessing of community through the Church within the next two decades as more and more churches either close or become irrelevant. Perhaps Joni Mitchell was right: “Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you’ve got/Till it’s gone.”

Spanning centuries and geography, the local church has stood as a lighthouse. Even when we can download the Bible on our iPhones or take Communion online or watch sermons on YouTube or reach out to others on Facebook, we still need each other . . . in the flesh. Much like the triune God in whose image we were created, the need for fellowship – being together – has been built into each of us.

The writer of Hebrews was onto this: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, emphasis added).

A lighthouse to one another and to the world.

© Ed Klodt, 2019