Monday, August 31, 2009

Thanks Be To God

I am very grateful for an open congregation that welcomes new approaches and is willing to try new things, even when that means getting up out of one's pew to visit worship centers. Yesterday's worship was different and it appeared that the only people who didn't engage the centers (beyond the visual one) were the three folks over 90.

It was a lot of work and the sermon this week will feel easier I think. But first a service of dedication for educators and students on Wednesday. Bubble wrap being provided to dance away the apprehensions for the year ahead, and a "blessing of the backpack" to start us off right. (Or as someone said, to exorcise the demons from past years.)

It is nice that today feels so fresh outside. Now to live with driving the truck (standard transmission) and hope I'm after the worse of the traffic.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The end of summer

I can't believe tomorrow is August 30! It has been a full summer with fun and challenges. Tomorrow's worship will introduce the emerging worship idea of engaging worship as a verb with centers. This is a good thing as much of today got consumed by emergencies of the appliance and vehicle type. Now if I can find a way to post my slides of James 1, I'll be able to move on to complete the details for tomorrow.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Joy of Living

A weekend home with the whole family is a delight to savor. Daughter's bridal shower yesterday was a chance to see many friends and work with some very mature young women who put together an awesome shower. The maid-of-honor is amazing.

Today I worshiped at the church I served as Minister of Congregational Life for almost 5 years. I previously met the current pastor who is there as interim while the colleague I pastored with is on sabbatical. So I cleared my attendance with him as its been less than a year since I left. (Dec.) We have much in common as he used to co-pastor the church I currently serve. It was good to see old friends and get perspective on the stages of life. Another friend was having her baby shower today, I saw a newborn that I'd only seen on Facebook. There was the opportunity to watch a young woman lead worship who I baptized a few years ago. She's completing a summer internship in ministry. Isn't it special to see how God works in people's lives?

Tomorrow I'm back to work and planning for a special Sunday on the 30th with worship centers instead of a sermon. I also travel to Elgin for a two-day retreat this week. Full days ahead and special treats along the way. The gifts of God are found in many places.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How Can I Keep From Singing?

The Ephesians text was tempting to the worship team and my monthly worship advisor and so we are going to do a service of singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Well, we won't be singing psalms unfortunately, that would be a fun challenge for Brethren. And we won't actually be singing what you'd call "spirituals" altho we've looked at a few lately. (Not sure we can do them justice.) BUT, we will be raising a joyful noise.

I love the psalms and they are at their best when they remind us to join our voices in joyful praise. With two short meditations, I won't be 'taking the week off' as you might think. I actually want to toy with the idea that praise and singing changes our very nature. Off to visit some websites on endorphins and maybe spend some time at my blogger friend's site who does a wonderful job incorporating music with God's good news.

Other ideas for my meditations are welcome. The worship is laid out and the hymns chosen and all but one reader in place. Maybe there will be time tomorrow to sing a tune on the golf course. Ah, to praise God and swing my driver. How could I keep from singing?

And then there's the Beach Boys who can always hear music. (1969)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Loving Bread

I haven't been preaching from John and so I welcome the opportunity to read the multitude of resources and develop the sermon for Sunday on John 6:35, 41-51. Yet what else can be said about bread?

I find it troubling that it used to be easy to give up bread for a diet but now I miss it terribly when I do. There's the multi-grain chewy delicious rolls from Wegmans that I've been lightly toasting lately. So filling and so delicious and if, Dean Ornish is correct, they are actually good for me.

Then there's Harris Teeter's whole wheat baguettes that are so nutty flavored and perfect to wipe up the last few drops of sauce. And bagels from Shoppers or Einsteins at Target's food center can't be beat with either 'lite butter' (actually omega 3 oil margarine) or with cream cheese.

And then there is Panera's, full of not-so-good-for-you breads and pastries. Salty breads and sweet baked delights all call to me at this stage of life in a voice I didn't hear when I was younger. Were the options less then or my needs different? How was it that I experience bread differently in this stage of life?

Jesus' as the "I am" of life, the "I am the bread of life" sounds to me like simple nutrition. Take in Jesus and you will be nourished. Eat your fill, its/he's good for you. Maybe at this point of life Jesus, like the bread I love to ingest, offers more than simple nutrition. Maybe I'm in need of a greater filling.

I love the smell of the bakeries in today's large stores and I love the chewy, nutty taste of the many multigrain breads. It's more than nutrition, its pure enjoyment of the taste. Is Jesus saying he offers more than what I need? Can I have something that is both good for me and delicious?

I think that concept will be worth exploring on Sunday because Jesus likes to surprise us with good things and eye-opening statements. Ingest me, he says and live forever. What's not to like?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Equipment or Equipping?

I enjoyed working with David's difficult story last week but it feels good to come back to the NT and Ephesians 4, one of my favorite passages. I used it in my theory of Christian ed., about our responsibility for helping each other grow "into the One. ." But this week I was surprised to look deeper into the Greek (thanks to some exegetical writing by G. Porter Taylor in Feasting On The Word) and spent some time with the word καταρτισμον. Here's the definition I found that echoes Taylor's summary, "a process of adjustment that results in a complete preparedness". But that didn't go deep enough so I went to other sources including Zerwick and found the reference to setting a broken bone. So equipping is about alignment or even getting adjusted by the chiropractor. hmmm

Being in alignment with God is one of my favorite metaphors because I hate it when my car gets out of alignment and veers out of the lane. Perhaps because I am all too likely to be using only one hand. (They passed the law against texting while driving for me. I don't do it now.) Currently I think my car pulls a little to the left, which can take you into the stripes of the road, or the little raised reflectors. When I hear the thump, thump, thump of tire over reflector it's time to straighten up- and quickly.

Maybe that's what the author of Ephesians is doing, providing a bit of a 'thump, thump' warning for us and reminding us to 'straighten up'. Yet Taylor points out that its not us who do the aligning. God is the master mechanic, all we can do is make ourselves as pliable as possible. This concept challenges my theory of Christian education a bit. How do we loosen our tight grip on life and become more pliable so God can align us?

The rest of the letter may help by reminding us that we are in community and meant to live that way. "Walking the life"( περιπατησαι ) together and practicing the rituals of our faith. When we participate together, worship together, commune together we are bound to soften up and be better prepared for Divine alignment.

Now I'm imaging the bumper cars of communal life softening us up with lots of jerking around. I think that will be another post someday.