A-Croc-Alypse Now, Call, Church Life, Emerging, New Church

Thought for the Day

"The time will come when the Christian faith will have to fight for the right of way among crowding antagonists as vigorously as in the times of Athanasius and Augustine. And in thoughts like these all genuine Christians must rejoice. Without the call to high adventure, the faith has never flourished."

~Vida Scudder, 1912

(As cited in "A People History of Christianity," by Diana Butler Bass)

Mulling this over, friends.

Call, Midway, Ministry, Ministry of the Meantime, New Church, Preaching

Mind, Fully

(Thinking about Proper 18B, Mark 7:24-37)

Even though I used to say I was a "writer who preaches" rather than a "preacher who writes," I find without the deadline of preaching I did not write much this week. That may be in large measure because it was a busy week with a lot of meetings and conversations and the beginning of high school, which in itself was a source of things about which to write.

Maybe those things would have found themselves in a sermon, some of them, anyway. I try to live mindful of Sunday, sorting what might work from what will not.

Even though I wasn't preaching this week, I read the scriptures for tomorrow, studied them with my preacher group and used one of them at a gathering of Sunday School teachers on Thursday night. We used the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman as an opening for talking about times when we didn't want to listen to or talk to anyone anymore, a time we brushed someone off and later wished we hadn't.

I met with people to talk about trying to do church in different ways, both within an existing church and in potential new communities of faith.

I met with my successor at Small Church. He has been there for a year, and we both had a sense that the timing was finally right to compare notes.

I watched "For the Bible Tells Me So" with Y1P's ONA committee and attended a workshop sponsored by the MCLU and put on by HRC on how to talk about Marriage Equality.

I also watched a video clip that made me wonder if I should call myself any kind of a preacher.

I met with two candidates for ordination at different points along the journey, read and discussed one ordination paper and one senior project (Hi, RevDisco!).

Really, it was a full week even without a sermon to prepare. And I had a great, quiet Saturday, spending lots of time with Pure Luck, who leaves in two weeks for a two month job in the Southwest.

But. I miss it. I miss the feeling of completion when various threads of the week weave together into 1500 or so words with (hoped for) meaning.

So instead of a sermon tonight, I'm posting this somewhat self-serving recitation of the week's events, to make a shorthand record of them. I suspect it was a week that I will say mattered, when I look back from some distance, but in the midst of it there was no room to review what happened, what was said, what was heard, what was felt.

Which brings me back to Jesus. He wanted to get away, to be alone, perhaps to pray or to process or just to stop thinking and giving for a little while. LP read somewhere that Jesus was an INFJ (her Myers-Briggs type, too, as it happens), and if he was an introvert, then I can understand his need. But I am not, and what I need is a friend, or friends, who will let me talk it all through until the pieces of whatever it is I need to learn will fall into place.

And really,that's what happened to Jesus, too, one of those moments, except the conversation took place with a stranger and he figured it out faster than the ordinary mortal bird seems to be doing this week. It's Chapter 7 of 16 in Mark's gospel, and the man who works wonders, then escapes to rest and recuperate, will be pushed to the next level of his life and his ministry and his self-understanding. He'll heal a little girl at a distance, and she will represent his recognition that God's love is for everyone, not just Israel. He will hear, I believe, what God wanted him to hear all along, and he will go right on to help someone else be able to hear, too.

If this were a sermon, I would be asking where the Good News is in this story, but it seems to tell itself: there is more to learn, to realize, to internalize and metabolize and embody and enact. We're not finished yet. I am grateful for that, even as I struggle to sort through it all on a Saturday night, late, mind and heart full of possibilities.

New Church, Prayer

A Prayer of Jesus

Tonight I went to a bittersweet celebration for my friend, RevFun. At the same time we marked the 25th anniversary of his ordination, we looked ahead to the closing of the church he founded, which will worship together for the last time on September 13th.

Lots of new church starts don't make it, in the sense of becoming numeric or financial successes. You have to hit a sweet spot of demographics and energy and skills in the congregation and who knows what else. RevFun and I learned all about that at the New Church Leadership Institute last summer, and we whapped ourselves in the heads and said, "THAT would have been good to know!" More than once.

But what they did so well at Open House is something the rest of us need to learn and make part of ourselves and our churches.

The old way of doing church will not sustain itself forever, and it's just possible God is calling us to new life, not just with new vocabulary for the things we do and but with completely new ways of being. We need to welcome people not just with a handshake and a nametag but by talking together about what we do and why we do it, and maybe by deciding what we do is no longer what pleases God if it leaves people cold, people who won't have the experience of Christ's loving community because the way we worship feels like, well, nothing to them.

At Rock 'n Roll Church, they rewrote The Lord's Prayer. Heresy, right? I remember wondering, what the heck? Why'd they do that? But tonight I heard their words, the ones they discussed and chose together, set to music, and they moved me. They moved me. I hope they'll move you, too.

 

A Prayer of Jesus

Dear God who is everywhere

You are pure and perfect.

May this world become entirely yours.

 

Help us to do what you want,

Completely and perfectly,

Until earth is like Heaven.

 

Sustain us in life and spirit today,

And forgive us the harm we cause,

As we forgive those who harm us.

 

When we are tested, keep us in the light

And don't let us be lost to darkness.

For to you belongs the whole universe

The mighty strength and everlasting love.

 

Let it be so.