25 Things Religion Should and Shouldn’t Do


Full Definition of RELIGION  (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion):

a :  the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion>
   b (1) :  the service and worship of God or the supernatural
      (2) :  commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
:  a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
archaic :  scrupulous conformity: conscientiousness
:  a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

“Religion” gets a lot of bad press these days. Here is my view of what “religion” should and shouldn’t do:

1. Should bring you into community with others
Shouldn’t isolate you from others

2. Should help you find purpose in life
Shouldn’t be meaningless to your life

3. Should help create identity with others
Shouldn’t destroy others’ identity

4. Should strive for peace
Shouldn’t strive for war

5. Should be about service
Shouldn’t be about consumption

6. Should help you see the world with fresh eyes
Shouldn’t blind you to the world

7. Should open you to appreciate other people
Shouldn’t make you skeptical of other people

8. Should bring generations together
Shouldn’t drive generations apart

9. Should respect all people
Shouldn’t denigrate some people

10. Should help you bless others
Shouldn’t make you curse others

11. Should draw you to reconcile
Shouldn’t draw you to divisions

12. Should help you forgive
Shouldn’t perpetuate grudges

13. Should make you grateful
Shouldn’t make your entitled

14. Should make you generous
Shouldn’t make you greedy

15. Should help you ask questions
Shouldn’t give all the answers

16. Should apply to everyday life
Shouldn’t last just an hour

17. Should inspire joy
Shouldn’t inspire hate

18. Should bring comfort
Shouldn’t bring despair

19. Should be guided towards change
Shouldn’t be guided by what is trendy

20. Should admit when things go wrong
Shouldn’t pretend they always go right

21. Should protect children
Shouldn’t hurt children

22. Should care for the vulnerable
Shouldn’t neglect the vulnerable

23. Should call people into the future
Shouldn’t be all nostalgia of the past

24. Should free people to live
Shouldn’t focus solely on shoulds and shouldn’ts.

  1. Should focus you on God                                                                                                             Shouldn’t focus solely on you


Add your own insights to the list. Peace,


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“Which Way?” a sermon on Mark 14:1-11

Lent 1
Mark’s Passion, Part 1
Sermon on Mark 14:1-11
“Which Way?”

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT

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Couch Church

On Saturday evening the snow started to fall heavily and the wind began to howl. The forecast for the morning looked dire as a blizzard approached. Consulting with our leaders here at St. Paul we decided to cancel worship Sunday morning – which is never a decision to take lightly as it is our primary time to gather together as a community.

photo by Jennifer Bielek Lightfoot. Used by permission

Photo by Jennifer Bielek Lightfoot. Used by permission

Sunday morning however, something extraordinary happened. Our congregation along with so many others in New England were invited to join in online worship led by Sanctuary Church; an ELCA/UMC congregation in Marshfield, MA. The leaders, Mark Huber (a pastor) and his wife Sarah Huber (an Associate in Ministry) put together a worship service from their living room and called it “Couch Church.”  Unlike so many of the religious programs one can find on television, this worship service was both interactive and participatory. Through a Facebook event page, worshipers were invited to download the lyrics to the songs we would sing together from their church homepage. (We mirrored them on our television screen though my iPhone and Apple TV while we used my laptop to interact in worship.) At the beginning of our time together we were encouraged to post a picture of ourselves and say hello to others. (Personally, I thought this was the best part of the morning as the shared images bring us together into a community.) There was also an opportunity to read the scripture online and follow along during the message. A thread started at the beginning of the prayer time on the Facebook event page invited participants to list their joys and concerns as we prayed aloud and music played in the background. When worship concluded we were also invited to linger online and interact with one another – as sort of an “at-home coffee hour” which was also brought people together. Overall I would say the experience was a success, and was a wonderful way to share our faith together on a snowed-in Sunday morning that would have gone without corporate worship otherwise.  As a participant, I was grateful for the opportunity and my perception was that the hundreds of others that also joined-in felt the same way.  

Thank you Mark and Sarah! Great job.

our couch

Our couch – with a friend

After it was over I wondered if this could be sustained as an ongoing opportunity.  Perhaps leadership could be shared by multiple congregations/locations as to not burden one community’s time, leaders and resources, as the idea of it was really great and had me longing for more.
At the same time I do not believe that anything can replace the community experience of physically being together. The idea of sharing the same space, of sharing the peace with real handshakes or hugs and  sharing the Lord’s Supper together in person cannot be done fully (at least not yet) in a digital way. I’m not ready to suggest that we ditch our in-house gatherings of Word and Sacrament because we could just get it online somewhere else.  However, “Couch Church” (or something like it) could present new opportunities for outreach and connections that might not otherwise be made.  For example, it could be a great way for visitors who are little shy to see what this “Christian thing” is all about. It could be a great way for those who are traveling or are homebound to stay connected. It could also be a place of healing, for those who have left the church, who still long for some kind of a connection or spiritual expression, but have real difficulty crossing the threshold back inside.  There is something meaningful to explore here as we consider doing church in a whole new way in the 21st-century.It must also be said that “church” is more than worship. There is community-building and community-outreach, friendships formed and deepened, discernment and planning that takes place, interactive learning of what it means to follow Jesus together in the here and now that longs for physicality. The digital community in and of itself cannot replicate those relationships and faith expressed in real time and space. Yet an opportunity like “Couch Church” can open an otherwise perceived shut door. It can keep the connection and conversation going among the diaspora and distractions that fill 21st-century life. New community can form where there was none before. Connections can happen where there is isolation. Comfort, forgiveness and peace can be shared where there is anxiety, guilt and uncertainty. Something like “Couch Church” can remind us to look beyond ourselves even when all other indicators suggest we are snowed-in and out of touch.
Now that I am dugout, I’m looking forward to getting back to church in person. I miss my people. There are relationships around my neighborhood to foster and develop; and while I’m inside, I’m missing out on them too. But I’m also looking forward to the next time when I can be part of the church while on my couch, knowing that God also meets us there: pajamas, coffee mug and all.
—-“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20)Sanctuary Church:www.sanctuarymarshfield.orgFrom the Boston Globe:http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/02/16/churches-get-creative-offer-sunday-services/aOQRepUxbtGtITaP53KdZN/story.html#comments

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“Sent People” an Ash Wednesday Sermon on John 20:19-23

Ash Wed

Sermon on John 20:19-23
“Sent People”

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT

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“You can never unsee that” a message on the eve of the Transfiguration

IMG_0656 (1)2/15/2015
Mark 9:2-8
“You can never unsee that”

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:2-9)

Pastor Geoff T Sinibaldo

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Old Saybrook, CT


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Opening things up on a snow day

While snow days can be joyous occasions to celebrate for children home from school, for adults they are often unwelcome interruptions.  

Benson after our last snow. Who is Benson? See "Merry Christmas Benson" https://sinibaldo.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/merry-christmas-benson-a-christmas-eve-sermon-on-luke-28-16/

Benson after our last snow. Who is Benson?                         See “Merry Christmas Benson” https://sinibaldo.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/merry-christmas-benson-a-christmas-eve-sermon-on-luke-28-16/

Snow days threaten with the extra work of snow removal and hazardous road conditions, and they also displace routines and anticipated activities. For example, over the last several weeks I have had to reschedule a lunch meeting with a friend a few times, and it is still not clear that our newest agreed upon date will come to fruition.  Meetings get cancelled, work piles up, and the calendar gets scrunched up to meet fixed deadlines that are not concerned about the weather.  Snow days can be downright stressful.

Snow days can open new opportunities.

A snow day can also allow for tending to things that are important that don’t seem to work their way up the queue that often.

For starters, I read two novels during the last couple of weeks. Then there is that closet to reorganize, those stacks of papers to go through, reports to write, taxes to file, and other responsibilities that lend themselves to accomplish on days when it is difficult to accomplish anything else.

During our latest snow day we decided to move the furniture. We only moved into our house in October, but we placed things in areas without knowing our needs or soon to be traffic patterns.  We moved beds and dressers to face in new directions and open up floor space. We relocated dressers and end tables that would be utilized better in other rooms. We cleaned out closets. We liberated the flat surface on top of a desk that was being used to store loose ends. It was a productive day that renewed our living space. We even made a big meal and lingered around the table as we talked and enjoyed it.  It was a day we would have not have had without the snow.

Maybe our churches could use a snow day.

0 St.Paul.19Every church building I have ever worked in has had a very limited amount of storage space. When was the last time we cleaned house, purged our spaces of unnecessary build-up, and really made decisions about the things we won’t let go of for no other reason than clutter or nostalgia? We could really renew our space and open things up if we took the time to move some things around and throw some things away.

The challenge is that we usually think that we are too busy to deal with the piles. Or we feel too stressed out think about things openly. We are too complacent to ditch old habits that are no longer helpful. We could use a snow day. Maybe then we could slow down, regroup, re-purpose, listen and discern where God is leading us.


As the snow threatens again…dream with me.

What  could happen if we did the same with our programs, structures, and ways of thinking through challenges? What could happen if we saw our basic assumptions and the furniture that goes with them as movable? What could happen if we removed the clutter, moved things to more productive use, and opened things up to live differently together?

My guess is we would pray for more snow.



Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure. (Proverbs 4:25-26)


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“Have you not known? Have you not heard?” a sermon on Isa 40:21-31 & Mark 1:29-39

Epiphany 5
Sermon on Isaiah 40:21-31 and Mark 1:29-29
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?”

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Old Saybrook, CT

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