Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tending the Lamps

I canceled youth tonight because earlier this afternoon I felt like crap. Had a fever, which the woman who took Wesley for us this afternoon told her daughter is "sometimes God's way of saying to you--"You need some rest." That I did. I slept this afternoon for a good long while, and Lara called the youth who usually come to tell them to take the night off.
After resting, I felt much refreshed around the time we usually have youth, so I went over to make sure no one showed up who didn't get the message. While there, I went through the church turning off lights and marveling at the classrooms and recognizing God's work within a couple in particular which house thriving Sunday school classes. I ended up raising my hands and asking God to work to make the other classes stronger too, asking God to bless the pastor's office, and so forth. When I got into the sanctuary, I cleaned up the communion elements and made sure the candles were all out. We've recently started offering communion in the prayer chapel after every service. I just consecrate the elements before the hymn of invitation, then invite the congregation to come and partake if they will during the hymn of invitation or after the benediction. So far no one has come forward during the hymn of invitation, so maybe I'll stop including that in the times when people can come forward. Or perhaps I'll start having the elements prepared before the church service so people can go in before or after the service....hmmm. Anyway, I didn't ask our communion stewards to take responsibility for setting up for this quite yet because I wanted to only change a few things at a time.

Anyway, putting the elements in the yard for the birds and squirrels and all the benedicting before had put me in a priestly mood, so I also decided to tend the lamps. I had noticed one of our candles running low on oil, and also the sanctuary lamp in the prayer chapel had evidently gone out on its own (it's a 7 day lamp, but we only burn it when folks are in the building.) So I knew we needed to re-oil.

As I was doing so, it occurred to me that tending the lamps must have been a priestly Levitical duty because it is relaxing. It may be "God's way" of helping the priests get rest. I realize it was ascribed to the priesthood in a very different context than mine, and probably involved more than just grabbing the bottle of oil and making sure the wick wasn't sticking out to far, but for me this afternoon it was a blessing. I was always captivated by the idea that simple tasks such as preparing tea and washing the dishes seem to hold such attentiveness in Zen Buddhism. (Actually , the tea ceremony is a central ritual). Tending the lamps gives the priest the opportunity to be in the sanctuary, to check up on things, and to take care that the worship space of the congregation is being maintained and beautified. Maybe this is a pleasure that is prone to "delegating away" in most churches (my chair of trustees also keeps tabs on the amount of oil) but if you are in a ministry context where these kinds of tasks fall to you, the pastor, I'd suggest thinking of this kind of task being in the sphere of the priesthood.

* you may be surprised to see that this rural Oklahoma Methodist church has sanctuary lamps, but indeed we do, and they were here when I got here. (Not the one in the prayer chapel. That has been a project that I've been here for.) But for whatever reason, this church of Methodist/Baptist families has some high church DNA somewhere in it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

General Conference Opens with Druidic worship service :)

Looks like it has Marcia McFee written all over it!

Just kiddin----i think it looks beautiful, although I wonder if a circle of bishops blocked out the view of the elements?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Earth Day Youth Skit

The youth are helping me in church on Sunday since it will be "Earth Sun Day" I couldn't find a skit on the internet, so I wrote one. If you'd like to use it, feel free to change the names and adapt to your location.

Carson walks to sanctuary from back. Notices the overhead lights are off as he walks down the aisle


gets to the front, turns around

CARSON: LET THERE BE LIGHT! Gestures up in dramatic fashion.

(Lights come on, (turned on by Byjou in the prayer room))


Carson points at the ground:

Carson: Let there be a million dollars!

(Nothing happens. Byjou laughs from the prayer room. )

Byjou: You didn’t know I was in here, did you?

Carson; Well……

Byjou: Hey, you know where light really comes from?

Carson: The light bulb? (Sarcastically)

Byjou: No, like where the electricity comes from—you know, like we were talking about in youth last week—where our tapwater comes from, where our toilet water goes. Where the cheese on our pizza came from….

Carson: Oh yeah—well, I’d say it probably comes from a power plant somewhere.

Byjou: Yeah, I was noticing that power plant outside Muskogee on the way to Camp Egan the other day. It was a really clear blue day except for the brown haze that was coming out of the plant.

Tori and Kassy enter with a Bible

Tori: Hey guys, get a load of this!

Offstage voice (Kendall) speaks into cordless mike from prayer room when Tori opens the Bible.

Kendall: I love you guys!

Byjou and Carson: Whoaaaaah! What was that?

Kassy: I think its God.

Kendall: That’s right! (Pleading) I’ve been telling ya’ll!

Carson: Hold on, God’s talking to us?

Kendall: Well, you’ve got the Bible open, don’t you. What did you expect would happen?

Carson: uhhhhh.

Byjou: Words! But—words on a page. This is weird.

Tori: God told me to come over here because ya’ll were discussing something important.

Carson: I was just kidding about that million dollars thing, God. Um, sorry!

Kendall: But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

Carson: Oooooookay?

Kendall: That’s 1 Timothy 6:9. That’s kinda how this “Me talking to you” thing works—you’ve got the Bible open, so the things you find in it you apply to your own life, and that’s one way I can speak to you. I really know you were kidding about the million dollars thing, I’m just pulling your leg, man!

Byjou: Man? (a little surprised that God is speaking to them so informally, like teenagers speak to each other)

Kendall: Well, almost man, I guess. But it’s really just a colloquialism. (ko-lo-kwee-al-ism) Like, “what’s up?”

Byjou: You!? (Kendall and Byjou laugh heartily)

Kendall: Oh, Byjou: You slay me! You’re not of Roman descent are you? (Laughs again with Byjou. Rest of teens are simply perplexed)

Tori: Well, what was it that you thought was so important, God?

Kendall: It was what Byjou was talking about the power plant. Kassy, why don’t you read Psalm 24: 1

Kassy: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the earth, and all that dwell therein.”

Kendall: ITS MINE, ITS ALL MINE! Mmmuuuuhahahahahah. Just kiddin! It’s actually kind of yours too. You hold it in trust for me. I needed some janitors for Creation, and you all seemed pretty handy. Check out Genesis 2: 7 and 15

Tori: “Then the Lord formed Adam out of the dust of the ground…The Lord took Adam and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”

Kendall: Exactly. You kind of missed a few things from the original Hebrew. I like to play with words from time to time, but you sometimes don’t catch the brilliant little double entendres. (on-tawn-dras) The Hebrew word “Adam” simply means “human.” And “adamah” means “dust.” “Adam” comes from “Adamah.” Like it?

Carson: Cool!

Kendall: It is cool Carson! It is cool! But what do you expect, right? Anyway. What I was trying to get across by pairing those words together is that you humans are part of the earth. You are pretty deeply connected. That’s something you tend to forget, especially these days. Kassy, read Isaiah 24: 4-5

Kassy: 4The earth turns gaunt and gray,
the world silent and sad,
sky and land lifeless, colorless.

5-13Earth is polluted by its very own people,
who have broken its laws,
Disrupted its order,
violated the sacred and eternal covenant.

Byjou: So, you’re saying you care about that coal plant in Muskogee because we’re connected with the earth and we’re not really paying attention to how we’re polluting it?

Kendall: It’s not just one power plant I’m concerned about. It’s the whole system. It’s hard for you to see the big picture sometimes, but from my vantage point, well, like I said to Job one time, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”

Tori: That’s Job 38, isn’t it?

Kendall: Well done, my little padawan.

Tori: What?

Kendall: Woah—not a Star Wars fan? Well now you know I am! A padawan is a young Jedi…oh nevermind.

Byjou: So, basically, you’d like to see us put less pollution in the atmosphere?

Kendall: Yes indeed. Read Ezekiel 34: 15-19

Kassy: And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest. I'll go after the lost, I'll collect the strays, I'll doctor the injured, I'll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they're not exploited.

17-19 "'And as for you, my dear flock, I'm stepping in and judging between one sheep and another, between rams and goats. Aren't you satisfied to feed in good pasture without taking over the whole place? Can't you be satisfied to drink from the clear stream without muddying the water with your feet? Why do the rest of my sheep have to make do with grass that's trampled down and water that's been muddied?

Kendall: See, there I’m making a little metaphor. You all are like the sheep. When you foul up your environment, you affect others. And in this day and age, the ones who are hurt the worst by pollution and the climate change that results from it are the poorest people in the world already. And you know what? Matthew 25:40!

Tori: “Whatever you have done unto the least of my bretheren, you have done unto me.”

Carson: What can we do? We don’t own the power plant. We’re just “almost men” and “almost women!” Should I command all these lights to turn back off?

Byjou: Well, we’re using these lights while we worship, but we can at least turn off the lights when we leave a room. Then we’ll be using less electricity. And if we use less energy and convinced others to as well, then the power plant wouldn’t have to burn so much coal to produce electricity.

Kassy: Or I’ve seen those windmills west of Oklahoma City and they produce energy too! We could write our legislators and tell them we’d like to see more of those collecting energy without polluting the air rather than building more coal or gas plants. We’ve got plenty of wind, after all!

Tori: Or we could turn up our thermostat one degree, turn down the fridge one setting, or switch to those swirly new light bulbs. All those things aren’t that big of changes that add up to save energy.

Carson: Or right here in church we could start using glasses instead of Styrofoam when we get drinks at youth. That’ll take less energy, and we won’t be throwing away those cups that don’t decompose.

Kendall: Right on, guys! “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Peace out!

Friday, April 11, 2008

"I would forgive anyone, if it just meant I could count on them."

I was struck by this radio broadcast on all things considered today. Star Diaz speaks about the prospect of aging out of foster care. I was on the way to pick up Wesley and was just captivated by the story, especially the quote that is in the title of this post. I was thinking about the scriptures for this week and what kind of sermon I might prepare. Maybe I'll use this this as an example of a voice of the shepherd/someone who is struggling to hear the shepherd.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Coffee Cup Police

I'm thinking of infiltrating the Sunday morning coffee club soon with the suggestion that they use regular coffee cups instead of deathrophome. My initial idea is to say to them that I'd be happy to take the ceramic cups home and wash them in my dishwasher so they don't have to worry about doing dishes. That may set it up to be only a short term change. I've tried to lead by example without necessarily "preaching" about it, but I think the first step we could take on this front begins with this group because it is the smallest group and would take the least energy to "correct." Do people enjoy drinking out of styrofoam cups? We have enough ceramics for all of them, but they go right to the styro--laziness! Any input from fellow eco-messiahs in our own minds?

My big thing these days is to help encourage lasting change in the congregation instead of simply taking the reigns and altering behavior, thereby making it "the pastor's thing." I think I've "earned enough capital" (to daringly quote a phrase from the former gov. of Texas) to convince the people by my own witness, but worry that simply changing their behavior for them is too heavy handed and won't be long lasting. When do I put away the subtlety and just say "quit using the damned styrofoam?" This is also an issue with moving this congregation toward weekly communion. I know we need it, they aren't overtly opposed to it, when do I just take the initiative and make the change? I've been here 2 years.