Friday, December 21, 2007
"Let the Son rise again on Christmas"
When gifts grow expensive and money grows tight
In a world growing hard to afford,
And more than a bandage of lead-painted toys
We wish for a hope shining bright
Remember the life that was given for free:
A baby born eons ago.
His wealth we inherit and kingdom we own
By faith we gain eternity.
Let the Son rise again on Christmas!
As years of success become lost days of old
When main street with dreams was aglow
When milking brought profits and work better pay
Yet now children flee from the cold
Remember the glory that does not depend
On anything built with our hands
And trust in the one who comes down from above
To bring ev’ry woe to an end.
Let the Son rise again on Christmas!
When souls weep with sorrows no doctor can hear
And limbs cry with voices of pain
As bills stack up higher than letters and cards
And hope seems a debtor to fear
Remember our master whose touch cures the ills
Of everyone who would draw near:
Lord Jesus our saviour, physician, and friend,
All cups of desire he fills.
Let the Son rise again on Christmas!
When mem’ries fade slowly in sepia tones
And bright crowns of youth turn to grey
When dreams of the rest at the end of this race
Preserve us from dining alone
Remember the one who flung grace open wide
Who carries our burdens above
Who giggled first under the starry night skies
To show us that he’s on our side
Let the Son rise again on Christmas!
No magic elixir can keep at the door
The sufferings and sin of this world
But promise and miracle call in the voice
Of Jesus our lives to restore.
This infant so lowly, this swaddled young boy
Who later rose king from the grave
Revealed that God loves us and all through this life
We walk with the master of joy
Let the Son rise again this Christmas!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
We have many Separations Of Church And in our present world. We have the tirelessly cited Separation Of Church And State. We have the less widely publicized Separation Of Church and Politics. There is the comforting Separation Of Church And Money; and the insidious Separation Of Church And The Other Six Days Of The Week. My new favourite, after this morning, is the Separation Of Church And Sex.
I preached from a scripture passage that addressed sex. So the sermon was about sex. I spoke to all the parents of young children the week before, informing them that, at their discretion, they might elect to have their young children step out of the sanctuary during the sermon. I wanted to make sure I did not brooch a topic with their younger children that they preferred to postpone until later. I even had a gracious member of the congregation offer to tend these young ones until the sermon was over.
So right after the scripture reading and before I began the sermon proper, I made the announcement for dismissal of young children. Several left; one tried to leave but was asked to stay by a parental unit. So far so good.
Now, I've never preached on sex or sexuality so directly as this morning. And any time I brooch one of the Separation of Church And topics, I assume there's going to be some resistance in the human heart, and maybe some comments suggesting a little more modest presentation. But I wasn't quite prepared for what happened about a minute into the sermon.
Presbyterians don't move during a sermon--our western European congregational culture generally doesn't allow it. (Laughter can be OK; I think guffawing is off-limits, though.) So my eyes quickly found the movement when an older elementary-age child made his way out of the pew and towards the door. Now, you ought to know that the door from the sanctuary to the Parish Hall--where food is served, coffee is drunk, and young children are corralled during racy sermons--is at the front of the sanctuary. So this young lad had to walk right through the view of the congregation as he departed.
I had said the word "sex" or "sexuality" probably five times by now. That was enough for this one: as he left the pew and headed for the door, he had his fingers in his ears. No lie: his elbows were high, his fingers straight, plugging up those delicate receptors from any mention of the bad word I was uttering. (What I could see that the congregation couldn't was that his face was screwed up like I had made him suck a lemon!) The sight struck us all as funny, and frankly, when the sermon's going to be about sex it's not a bad thing to crack the anxiety with a little laughter. So we stopped and giggled for a little bit, then got back to business.
But this young man wasn't having any of this business. He was determined to keep his ears pure of this preacher's scandalous words. And so he did.
I can't complain; I can recite with laughter (instead of tears) the first time someone walked out because of my sermon.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
I am thinking we need a play date -- maybe in January in NYC (because we can all get there). Any takers?
Also, the smoke you see coming from this part of New Jersey is our church (proverbially) burning down so we can see what happens next. Today letters will hit mailboxes announcing the session's decision not to have our major fund raiser this year (the 50th annual oyster supper was the last), and next week is the final discussion about merging the board of trustees with the session of the congregation so we have a unicameral board. Anyone have a spare fire extinguisher?
What is new in your parts of the world?
Monday, August 20, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I (with the blessing of the worship committee) decided to make this Pentecost my annual sermon with clearly proselytizing content. So I prepped the congregation by preaching a 4-sermon series on evangelism, and told them way in advance that Pentecost would be invite-a-friend Sunday.
Those aren't the parts that are significant to me. They're just background.
I led a candlelight service (at the end of May). Everyone got a candle on the way in. After the sermon, I invited all present to come forward and light his or her candle from a candle held by one of the elders. When they lit their candles, they received blessings from the elders (prepared beforehand, because my elders are generally nervous about leading any part of the worship service).
Long-time members of the congregation affirmed their confession in Christ and received a blessing of affirmation.
Lapsed members confessed their intention to recommit and received a blessing of strength and will to do so.
Non-believers came forward and stated their desire to be found by the Lord, and received a blessing of new faith.
At the end of the ceremony, everyone's candle was lit, and I reminded them of the Pentecost story: that the Holy Spirit had come down on all of them by faith in Jesus. When we extinguished our candles, I framed it not as a "blowing out" but as a "spreading the light" throughout the world--our calling as disciples. (I think I may have got that idea from one of y'all. Thanks!)
Most everyone I talked to found it to be a moving worship service. I'm glad I did it. Perhaps we'll have to light more candles again at Pentecost next year.
Or maybe we can get those Burger King crowns (remember those?) and tape candles to them, then light them--"tongues of fire coming to rest on them" and all that. Maybe for a Children's Time . . .
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The summer flies by like an albatross, bothering not even to put its feet out. The illusion of stopping for a moment would deceive no one. And the wind blows so well and so high that pausing seems like tom-foolery. Yet drifting on the cool courses of jet-stream brings its own serendipitous serenity. When you get far enough away from the surface of the earth, things slow down. The whitecaps become flecks of dust lolligagging around a smooth blue calm.
Vegetables explode (especially that squash), Japanese beetles devour. Beds hunger for water, soil thirsts for shade. The Lord hungers for justice, the Spirit thirsts for righteousness (lectionary text: Isa5.1-7, praise the Lord!). How will we taste on the tongue of our God? Will we have the sweet bouquet that presages a brilliant vintage year? Or will we sting the palate of our Saviour with a bitterness that makes the Spirit gag? This is my question for the week.
Shalom, chaverim; shalom, chaverot!
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
This is the gospel lection for today (a part of it, anyway):
They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, " Can you see anything?" And the man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, "Do not even go into the village."
~ Mark 8:22-26
I am getting ready for a big transition: I will be preaching on August 26 for a congregation that may call me to be their designated pastor. I am very excited by this development, and also aware of the newness of this call, after these four years of work in interim situations.
We have above an average, workaday miracle of Jesus'. I love the messiness of it-- saliva!-- and also the not-perfect-on-the-first-try nature of it as well. I pray for all of us that we might embrace our messy lives and ministries, and that we may engage in holy persistence in all our efforts.
Emrys is building a treehouse... and enjoying squashblossoms!
Julie is enjoying quiet mornings before VBS.
I saw a curious item in the local paper. (I wonder if she "accidentally" burned the wedding photos too...)
Tell me where you are.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I wanted you to be aware of the following press release, which I received from the Synod. It involves one of our own, Nancy Asbury. Please keep her and the entire region in your prayers.
Roscoe, New York, in Hudson River Presbytery, experienced significant flash flooding earlier this week after a storm dumped 8" of rain in two hours last Tuesday night. It was reported that least two lives had been lost, a search for mission persons had begun, and people have been displaced - this on top of last summer's flooding in this Catskill area.
Acting on the report from HR's Congregations Connections Specialist, Rev. Chris Shelton, Executive Presbyter Susan Andrews requested a $10,000 grant from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which has been authorized. Additionally, PDA offered assistance from PDA-trained volunteers. The Red Cross is on the ground and active.
The Rev. Nancy Asbury, who is the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Roscoe (who is being installed this weekend!) was interviewed by the local cable news channel following the flooding. She advised that the Presbyterian Church will serve as a place where people can come for help. They have already received donations of clothes. A recovery center was being established in Monticello, but that pastor was afraid that people would not be able to travel there due to washed out roads and cars destroyed by the flooding. Nancy is hoping to set up a more local distribution center. We ask you to keep the people of Roscoe and all river communities, the church and pastor, in your prayers. We will make information available as we receive it about ways other presbyteries and congregations may be helpful to the recovery effort.
Monday, June 4, 2007
I was going to post my fundraising letter here, because I am looking for suport, but wasn't sure it was in the proper spirit of the blog. So, instead, I am going to shamelessly promote that I knew I needed a break and have taken 2 weeks off. If you want more details, send me an e-mail and I'll get them to you. if you want shrimp, come with me to the lowcountry of SC. We have room!
And for another question -- anyone want to try to take a fieldtrip this summer? NY is probably the easiest for all of us to get to for a day trip, but I'm open to suggestions.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
It's Pentecost - -the Church's Birthday! I'm stealing Nancy's idea for a children's sermon with cupcakes, and this has me wondering about birthday traditions.
1) What was your favorite birthday tradition as a child or as an adult?
2) How will your congregation celebrate Pentecost? Any traditions that you think should or should not be happening?
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
I drove his wife to the hospital, and stood with her through her goodbyes. The funeral is Saturday. I could use all the prayers you can muster.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I participate in something called "RevGalBlogPals." It is a webring open to woman pastors and their friends--i.e., everyone. It is moderated by a team of about ten women. They create community on the web by a number of activities throughout the week, including something called the "Friday Five." Friday Five is essentially a game-- a meme whereby folks reveal something about themselves around some theme (you can click on the link above to look through the archives to see how they do this).
So, I was wondering about a fun way for us to do some of the same things, and I was wondering it on a Tuesday morning, so...
Introducing the Tuesday Two! I will invite those who have an interest to take turns with me thinking up simple pairs of questions that we can post on a Tuesday morning (or Monday night). Hopefully this will be both fun and a conversation starter. I will get things started today by posting my answers to the questions. I invite your answers in the comments, and then a conversation, if you like, again, in the comments. Again, participation is entirely optional (though, obviously, it would be fun to hear from all of you!).
Tuesday Two: Games, Games, Games
One of the things my family loves to do is to play games... board games, card games, word games while waiting for a table in a restaurant... you name it. As my children have grown we have moved from "Life-Junior Edition" to Scrabble and even chess (at which they outpaced me pretty much upon learning how the pieces moved). So I ask each of you:
1. What games do you remember playing as a child that gave you great joy (and is there any reason you can't play them now? Emrys, this is pretty much a shout-out to you...)?
2. What "games" have you encountered in congregational life, either as a pastor or as a member? I do not assume these are all negative in nature (though they might be).
Pat's Tuesday Two: Games, Games, Games.
1. I think the best games I played as a child involved whole groups of kids playing hide and seek over the space of a block on which we all lived. We hid under stairways, in the alleys between houses, in our own houses (though that became sort of obvious). But it was a great adventure-- the game had permutations involving themes (there was Peter Pan hide and seek, there was its cousin, Pirate hide and seek, there was Cinderella hide and seek). Imagination, running around, the thrill of discovery. It was great.
2. It has just occurred to me (and honestly this was not in my mind when I started this post) that congregation members can play a version of hide and seek as well. Hide your (strong) feelings about something from the pastor, and hope that she can figure it out. This seems to be a pretty common congregational dynamic, if anecdotal evidence is at all reliable. This doesn't always have a negative outcome... sometimes folks will talk openly if approached directly and pastorally, using our CPE training and listening, listening, listening. But sometimes, the person doesn't want to be found-- that is a tough moment.
There you have it. Friends, I hope you are all well. If you can't get to this today, try to post when you can. Peace, Blessings.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Hello Friends, and thanks so much to Julie for creating this blog! It is my hope that this will be a kind of well-- filled with the Spirit, the Living Water, and reflections on the Word... not to mention our gripes, complaints, and earnest requests for prayer and solace in dark times.
I offer this prayer, composed by Hildegard of Bingen, (as well as this illumination of hers) as my "hello" to all.
making life alive,
moving in all things,
root of all created being,
cleansing the cosmos
of every impurity,
You are lustrous
and praiseworthy life,
You waken and re-awaken